What Lies In the Stillness

I. Love. Fall.  Terry gets her groove back.  Even as a child I always felt like a new person the day I could wear my first sweater.  My whole outlook on life changed.  (Here in Cali, I have yet to wear my first sweater … )

Terry and the Sears Christmas Catalog

After I outgrew the Sears Christmas catalog, the fall issue of Seventeen magazine became my new seasonal love.  I would spend hours looking at wool skirts, leggings and over-sized sweaters (it was the 80’s) dreaming about living somewhere with seasons.

To me, perfect weather means you are wearing shorts and a sweatshirt.   Socks with sandals.  Heaven.  Not really socks and sandals, except when you’re in Vermont or Maine.

I remember reading The Preppy Handbook and begging my Mom to send me to boarding school in Massachusetts.  Instead she sent me to Young Jr. High.

1909465_1085959905967_5652_n

I love nothing more than swimming in a pool heated by the Texas sun after the sun goes down.  But there is nothing more draining than the Texas sun in the summer.  It sucks the life out of you.  I feel the same way in Woodland Hills.  By the time the last heat wave breaks I am begging to move anywhere.  Please get me out of here.

I watch specials about hotels made of ice on the Travel Channel.

Fall has always felt like the beginning of my year.  The actual beginning of the year always felt like the second week of Christmas vacation.  I stay up late and watch the ball drop.  Or something worse on another network.  But new year?  No.  From a calendar perspective I really can’t argue with it, but I am convinced we do not keep new year’s resolutions because the new year happens in the middle of a sentence.  After all you spend the first day of the new year possibly hung over and waiting for this huge new year’s day meal.  Then you say, “I’ll start after all of the bowl games are over.”  By then it’s Martin Luther King day, so you decide okay, I’ll start after that weekend.  Then it’s the Super Bowl … so by the time you get around to any resolution you may or may not have made, it’s February.

What’s the point?  You might as well wait until spring.

I have not made a new year’s resolution in so long I cannot even remember.

Fall is the beginning of a sentence.  You start school.  You switch your closets.  Your yard changes.  All sorts of decorating begins. You dress up.

1909465_1085959865966_5248_n

I do make resolutions.  This year, I want to learn to make Challah, but depending on my schedule I might have to settle for Texas Toast.

There is a break from that heat.  That unrelenting heat.

It wasn’t until after I converted to Judaism that realized the new year – Rosh Hashanah always fell in the fall. Perhaps I have been following the Jewish calendar all along?

1970846_10204220418247394_599048785926424718_n

This year as the new year began all four of us flew to Madrid.  Non-stop.  12 hours.  There and back.  Yes, it was insane to fly with one-year old twins, but if I had it all to do over again … I would do it again, but I would rent an apartment rather than stay at a hotel.  Hotels are hard with two babies.  Vacation Rental By Owner is my new best friend.

Rosh Hashanah came and went without much fanfare.  But I thought about it a lot amidst the nine million other things I was thinking about while in Madrid. This year represents the most monumental amount of change ever in my life.  New mom.  New job.  Constantly feeling pulled in all directions praying I don’t screw everything up. Sometimes I still screw everything up.

I take multi-tasking to a whole new level.  I am constantly failing and forgiving.  Failing to get it all done.  Forgiving myself and getting up the next day to do it all again.  I’m not sure how my Mom or grandmothers or great-grandmothers did it.  There is a certain amount of Texas grit I inherited in my ability to put my head down and power through.  I am grateful for that.

I am told all new moms feel this way, with or without the new job.  I still go to yoga when I can.  I eat gelato often.  Both of these things help.  Talenti Gelato is my new addiction.  Sea Salt Caramel.  German Chocolate Cake.  Oh. My.

While in Madrid, I began to think about the traditions I wanted to implement when the boys were old enough to participate.  I’m not a go through the motions kind of gal, so everything I do has to come from a place of authenticity.  Kids can feel when you’re going through the motions.  I’ve been dusting off all of my Anita Diamant books.  Specifically, this one.

I will never speak Hebrew, but I will sing in Hebrew. I will never keep a kosher kitchen, but I will cook kosher meals.  Unfortunately, my chicken n’ dumplings — even if made with kosher chicken — will never be kosher.  I will make it anyway.  I’ve always said it’s not as important to follow every rule as it is to know the rules and then choosing which ones to break.

As their Mama, it is my job to make sure they know the rules, understand the traditions and hopefully love the rituals I create for us.  So, I contemplate if chicken friend steak is an acceptable Rosh Hashanah meal?  I determine it’s probably a little too out there and look at brisket recipes.  Brisket I can do.

This year I went to my first Kol Nidrei service with my in-laws.  Kol Nidrei is the service held the night before Yom Kippur.  This is where the prayer is recited that ushers in Yom Kippur.  We went to services at Temple of the Arts.  I was exhausted.  We were there for three hours.  Even though I loved the service — the music (my favorite part), the pagentry, the theatricality — by the time we left I was half asleep.

The next day we went to Yom Kippur services.  Famous people like Sela Ward and Mary Hart came to the bimah and read various words of wisdom. As enlightening as it all was (and it really was) my mind wandered.

Day of Atonement.

Even through the beautiful music and the poignant words of many, I “left” the Saban Theatre more than once during the more than three hour service.  I sat quietly amongst many, silently atoning.  My mind scrolled through all the things I wish I had done better since the dumplings arrived.  I thought about how I am constantly over-extending myself in ways that are unsustainable.  I breathe.  I contemplated the times when I was unkind or thoughtless, especially to those I love the most.

Those we take for granted.  Those who love us in spite of ourselves.

At one point, I stopped and focused on the stage as whoever was talking said, “God is not in the storm He is in the stillness.”

It was in that moment the day became clearer.  I opened.  I shifted.  I connected.  I took a really deep breath and vowed to be more still.  That was where I would find my answers.  My kindness.  My calm.  My truth.  All there, living in the stillness.

I cried through the Yizkor service silently thinking about the loss of my cousin David, Selma and my brother-in-law.

Even on the drive home, as I was sweltering in the un-air conditioned car (my husband is convinced he is “allergic” to air conditioning … which is another blog), I was still rocking my new-found stillness.

I walked in the door to two beaming little boys playing, smiling and jumping up and down at the sight of me.  So much joy entered my heart.  Don’t get me wrong, it was complete one-year old chaos.  Jackson ripped my glasses off of my face and James started trying to kiss bite my knee.  In a moment of heat-induced desperation I tried to convince myself that a Dr. Pepper was kosher on Yom Kippur.  I did not give in.

I had a iced tea instead.  Know the rules and then choose to break them.

That night after I sang my nightly rendition of Edelweiss to the Dumplings, I added a new ritual.  The Shema.  The most beautiful of all Hebrew songs.

Of course, James truly still prefers Princess of the Prairie and Wagon Wheel — but I’m sure it will grow on them.

by month:

by Category:

Happy Birthday, Dumplings!

One Year Pic

Dear Jackson and James:

I wish I could say that I wrote this post on your birthday — September 16th.  I did not.  I wish I could say you had perfectly up to date baby books, frame worthy pictures from every birthday month complete with themed stickers stating the month, and a complete log of your miraculous existence.

You don’t.  Instead you have this blog.

I know you have a lot more than most second and third children born in any century (and for any kids after the third … I think they just show those poor kids pictures of the first, second or third and say that’s you … ) … but I fall far short in some areas.  But where I do not now — nor will I ever — fall short is in the magnitude of my love for both of you.  I love you so much it hurts when I think about it.  A most amazing kind of hurt.  If I find myself thinking about the possibility of my life without you, I end up in a puddle of my own tears.  If nothing else ever happens to me for the rest of my life, I’m okay, because the greatest things already have and their names all start with the letter J.

I know your Daddy feels that way, too and I can tell you that our mutual love for you, our family and the life we are trying to build for you is what moves us out of bed every single morning.  And no matter how many things I forget to do or don’t have time to do or just don’t feel compelled to do (smash cakes and first birthday parties come to mind) I hope you will always know that.  My love for you knows no bounds and it gets stronger every day even as you pull my hair, rip out my earrings and pry my glasses off my face.  Even on days when you would rather be in your Daddy’s arms than mine — like here:

MADRID, SPAIN – September 2014 (blog coming soon)

DSC_1772

DSC_1770 DSC_1774

Jackson, you could technically walk before your first birthday, but you still prefer to crawl.  You like to take 5-10 steps at a time, you prefer to have me put you down on your feet and you use a pacifier more than your brother.  You are impatient.  You are extremely curious.  You make a noise when you want something that sometimes feels like nails on a chalkboard.  There are days I pray for that sound to end, and yet I know when it does I will probably cry.  People mistake you for a girl because you are so handsome, and we have yet to cut your beautiful hair.  Your smile is infectious.  So is your laugh.  You have a truly wicked sense of humor, even at 1.  I love it when you crawl in my lap and bury your face.  I love how you sleep with your head cocked back.  I love when you try to run away from me with your super-crawl.  I even love how you torment me by rambling Da-da-da-da-da even though I know you can say Mama.  Your Daddy and I have decided that you are so curious, so adventurous and so independent (except when you won’t let me put you down) that you will probably be “Skyping” or “Vibering” (if these do not go the way of the 8-track tape player) us from Belize or Macchu Picchu on your 21st birthday.

James, in the words of a very wise pediatrician (yours) — you’ll walk when you have somewhere to go.  You look at the walker, but you still find it easier to navigate it on your knees.  You use a pacifier because your brother does.  You enjoy sending him into a fit of baby rage by taking it out of his mouth and putting it into yours.  You are curious in a more methodical way than your brother.  You are incredibly musical and can keep a beat whenever music comes on.  You are not impatient, until you are.  Then everyone should definitely take cover.  Your red hair is amazing.  I can’t believe I have a child with such a mane.  Your smile is infectious and so is your laugh.  This is something you share with your brother.  I feel as though I need to carry around a recording of you and Jackson laughing — titled Claire de Dumplings Laughing.  The sound can change the course of an entire day.  You have a fairly dry sense of humor, quite different from your brother.  He’s Steve Martin and you’re a little more Louis CK.  I love it when you hug my leg as if I am the only person in the world worth knowing.  I think your first word is going to be ball or Bali or babble. You love saying Ba-ba-ba-ba-ba very loudly with the occasional Da-da just to irritate me.  Your Daddy and I have decided that you are slightly more reserved than your brother, at least right now.  You do not tend to go catapulting off of things and operate from a much more tactical and careful position.  On your 21st birthday, you will come over from your apartment across the street and Skype or Viber your brother with us — or perhaps we’ll all get together by connecting via our watches?  Who knows …

Just know all silly parental assumptions contained in the above paragraphs are subject to change daily.  What we most hope is that both of you grow up to be exactly who you are meant to be.  You will not be good at everything.  No one is.  You will suffer disappointments that will seem unbearable at the time.  But you’ll bounce back.  Most of us do.  But when you find the things you are good at we hope you do them with the kind of passion and energy that comes from doing the things we love.  We hope you strive for excellence in all the things you choose to do.  We hope you can lead and follow.  The best leaders can.  We hope you’re a good friend, not only to each other, but to all those you choose to call friend.  We hope you bear hug life when you get out of bed most days.  We hope you work hard and play harder.  We hope you love books as much as we do.  We hope you love music as much as we do.  Mama hopes you continue to love fish, eggs and avocado.  Daddy is not allowed to tell you what he thinks about this.  We hope that we can teach you enough about life to help you navigate the rough spots, and perhaps not make some of the same mistakes we did. We hope that no matter how far you roam or where the world takes you — in your heart you will believe there is no place like home and there are no chicken n’ dumplings better than your Mama’s.

We also hope that you become neater eaters as time goes on …

10679535_10204179978116416_4712177546623492374_o

For the record — on your first birthday I made you homemade blueberry pancakes and your Granny and Grandpa brought you some Texas-style brisket (the only style worth eating) and macaroni and cheese for dinner.  I let you have Nothing Bundt Cake for dessert, which you thought was awesome.

Love you to the moon,

Mama

P.S. I made this not-at-all-short picture montage video of your creation into your first year.  For those willing to sit to 16:51 of adorable pictures of my children, you must do so on a desktop computer.  I love this music, which is why I use it.  I hope you love it too. Thanks, Brad Paisley, Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, Uncle Kracker and Rascal Flatts for making montage worthy music and not completely silencing it on YouTube.

by month:

by Category: