Pictures

I can’t seem to write worth shit today. So here is a bunch of pictures from my weekend.

And since the awesomeness that is my iPhone WordPress app won’t let me put pictures in order with captions (WTF!?)

 

My five year old missing his first tooth.
My little cousin, who is now my BIG cousin.
A Nirvana lighter my husband bought me on a out “date” to the gas station, because, duh. Nirvana. (People with four kids know you have to qualify any outing together without kids as a “date”.)
My beautiful sister in law.
My daughter and my little nephew.
And my brother, dressed in my dad’s clothes and dish gloves, helping my husband fix the septic pump at my mom’s. (He would probably kill me for posting this. But, he doesn’t bother reading anything I write, so it’s all good.)

I’m sure you can figure that all out.

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Pictures I didn’t post:
My 2 year old biting his cousin on the foot because he was a manaiaclly, overly tired toddler.
My husband’s buttcrack hanging out while he fixed the pump.
The huge, red zit on my nose that made me feel like Rudolf.

NaBloPoMo Day 9 –

When I was 10 or 11 we had this truck that was a total PoS (piece of shit). Now, I’ve owned a lot of PoS vehicles and so I’m not quick to label anything as a PoS. But, this truck was like king of the PoS vehicles. If I recall, it was Ford F150, maybe a 77? Something like that. (I’m sure my mom will correct me on the correct year and model when she reads this.) Anyhow it was big, loud, and ugly. And the color? Well, mostly red, but it was like 5 or 6 different colors, including rust. It had two pretty comfortable bucket seats which would have been nice except there were three of us, so someone had to sit indian style on the floor between the two. I usually took that seat because I found that if you layered enough blankets you could could make a little reading nest. Coupled with the loud vibration of the truck to drown out the voices of anyone talking, it gave me an excuse to shut out the world and escape into my book. And at night you could stare through the moonroof at the stars.

Unfortunately, that moonroof wasn’t airtight so when it rained, it leaked and the person (again, usually me) sitting in the middle had to hold a trash bag over their head to prevent from getting wet.

It looked similar to this, minus the quality interior and that convenient little console:

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Anyhow, I tried hard to be big about it. I mean we didn’t have money. That’s just how it was. I didn’t have name brand clothing. I didn’t ever have the latest footwear fads like those high-top black Reeboks or K-Swiss tennis shoes I wanted so badly. And my toys were all off brand or bought from the thrift store. It rarely bothered me. But, this truck? It was just humiliating.

Earlier that year this boy, Ben, joined our class about a month into the school year. I thought he was cute, but I never told him because I was shy and dorky before shy and dorky was cool. He was one of seven kids and so his mom drove this huge van. Now, conversion vans were the shit in my school at that time. Complete with soft, cushy seats, plush carpeting and even curtains; it was like a family room on wheels. Everyone wanted their mom to get a conversion van. Ben’s mom, however, drove an old, brown van with tan interior which was quickly labeled, “Reese’s” –as in the the peanut butter cup–by the boys in our class. It was pretty clever, honestly. But, Ben was also shy and dorky, and so clearly mortified by the kids announcing the arrival of his mom in the carpool lane by yelling, “Reece’s!”over and over again in unison. Eventually his nickname became “Reece’s” and then the whole school was calling him that. I knew from experience how quickly these names could spiral out of control as I had a similar incident the year prior when a boy named Jackie decided my (maiden) last name sounded like “beast” and I was called “Laura Beast” for the rest of the year.

I wasn’t about to let that happen to me again so, I made my mom drop us off out of view of the other kids. On nicer days she dropped us off on a sidewalk nearby the school and we walked the rest of the way. On colder days she pulled into the staff parking lot and we basically sneaked out of the truck and beelined our way to the front entrance like a covert operation.

Today I was cleaning out my van because the inside, I’m sad to say, looked far too similar to what’s left in the bottom of the cereal box after you eat all the actual cereal combined with what the inside of a preschool probably looks like at the end of the day. Since I didn’t have any kids with me I was actually able to real–clean. Not just like “how much can I fit into the plastic bag from 7-11 while my gas pumps?–clean”. I even splurged and got a car wash so I can stop acting like my van just happens to be the color of dirt. Then, in true redneck fashion, I used Armour All to clean the dash and I was like holy hell this is clean! I should move into this van! And then I remember the van is just shy of being a PoS. And by “just shy of”, I mean it’s only because I CANNOT afford anything better that I refuse to let myself think of it as a PoS. And that made me think of the Reese’s van, and now here we are: my NaBloPoMo post for Day 9.

#NaBloPoMo Day 6

Once upon a time I knew this girl who went from being Mennonite, to goth, back to Mennonite, to messianic Christian, to Muslim and to, you guessed it, atheist. Last I heard she was also bi-sexual and an anarchist.

I’ve laughed at her antics a lot through the years. She is a complete nut. And open about it too. No fear over worrying what people might think of her constant changing. Like that’s she’s crazy. Because she is. And she just owns it. Or doesn’t know it. Either way, she’s happy. So, whatever. More power to her.

No, that wasn’t autobiographical. This isn’t about me. But, I do admit to being searcher. I once went on this kick of wanting to be Amish like ten years ago. I know, everyone says they want to be Amish. But I was so sure I really did. I read this book all about Amish life and I just knew it was for me. Eventually, I made Amish friends and realized they weren’t all that impressive. Just people who shopped at the same shops I did. Except they went home to gas lights instead of electric. And they didn’t own TVs. Which I guess is good–but I like TV. I mean a reasonable amount, anyhow. I like having it as an option, at least.

I spent a good year of my life pining over the idea of moving to Pennsylvania. When my husband actually got a job offer there I was thrilled. I had these ideals of how life would be so calm and nice in the middle of nowheresville. But, I have never been so lonely in all my life. And cold! It snows like very other minute in Lancaster county winters. And when it isn’t snowing, it’s threatening to. I sat looking out the window one day and I just cried. It was so ugly. Just winter deadness for miles around. The feeling of being alone was replaced with the realization of being isolated. By the time spring came I had a few screws loose. I didn’t realize I wasn’t an introverted as I had assumed. Honestly I’m kinda extroverted by nature. But I had this idea in my head at the time that being extroverted was like a bad quality. I don’t know. I can be neurotic like that I suppose. And so I was trying really hard to be an introvert.

When his job ended, I was so happy to move that I couldn’t stand it. So we got a cabin in the woods of central Va (a dream I fashioned after watching all 7 seasons of The Walton’s) right near the lake. It was so fucking beautiful, I can’t even explain. Just gorgeous. And we did have a good bit of happiness there. But, our stay was short because work there dried up for my husband and there was no longer a justifiable reason to live there. So, we moved again and landed back in our home state. And though it isn’t where I want to be, I admit it isn’t as bad as I thought it was when I was pining away for Pennsylvania.

I’m not saying our dreams aren’t worth investing in. I mean the grass is quite literally greener in Pennsylvania. It’s beautiful and lush. But, it’s still just grass.

Growing up means understanding the differences between ideals and reality. The ideal is how much better life will be when, if, because… The reality is that you can’t find yourself by running away anymore than you can by burying your head in the sand. Once the newness wears off, you’re stuck with the same old you, but in a new place. And if it’s the you who you don’t like, then it’s the you that you must change. Or , I suppose, learn to live with. Or love, if you’re that sort.

NaBloPoMo Day 4

You have to slip before you can fall
Take a chance before you can crawl.
You have to walk before you can run
.

And that’s where I got stuck on that poem. Another one of those I start in the back of my head as I’m watching TV or doing the dishes, and it feels so fucking perfect I can’t stand it, describing every guttural feeling I have in that very moment. But, later when I finally go write it down I realize how empty the words suddenly feel. And it comes out like terrible glam rock lyrics.

I’m not good at writing on demand. I once sent a pitch to a big publication and recieved back a request to write it for a decent sum of money. That was THREE years ago. I just freeze up the second I feel like I have to write. People often tell me that with practice, that gets better. But, I’ve been practicing writing since I could hold a pen, writing stories and in journals since I was not much older, and writing freelance for the last four years… and it has definitely not gotten better.

I was thinking about trying to explain how rebellious I am against any authority. And how that’s one part of what I liked about Judaism. Getting to choose for myself what authority I was under. But then I had Lana Del Ray’s Fucked My Way Up to the Top stuck in a loop in my mind. Only that one line. Mostly it sticks with me because I’ve never fucked my up to the top anything. I have no career, per say. Just a lot of jobs, of which I am more or less the boss.

And I’ve never fucked my way up to the top of social standing nor any other endevour. I mean, obviously. Or I did a really shitty job of it and would be too enbarrassed to admit it. But, that’s not the case.

Sorry, it’s after 8:30pm and before midnight, so my brain is essentially asleep right now. Later, I’ll shake my head in embarrassment of my own words. But, for now I’m just enjoying the bliss of exhaustion.

Someone once told me I had a serious problem with authority. Like it was a bad thing. It hurt because it was true, but more so because of how it was said. Like a deeply personal insult flung at my open heart. I think of it still nearly 20 years later with mixed emotion.

I have a serious problem with authority.I do. But, at the risk of being too honest, life teaches us lessons to prepare us for the future. And my lessons have all been about the lack of trust one can put in authority.

I always thought I would outgrow my suspicious, cynical, defense mechanisms, but I have not. Though I am better at managing them. I’m good at appearing like an open book, but I hold back a lot of my heart.

This struggle I have pushes many people away. Which, I suppose, is part if the idea. People who aren’t close can’t hurt me. For the rest of the poor suckers who stick around, they have to deal with my constant mood swings. Nothing unnerves me like someone being close. I want it so badly, but nearly every moment of it hurts. So I push them away. Ignore them. Pretend I don’t give a shit what they think. Later, I apologize and smother them with love. It’s a dysfunction I simply don’t know how to fix.

A lot of things have happened over the last few years of my life to bring out these issues I have.

Last Shabbat we were invited to lunch at a friends house. Now, first you gotta understand–these are fantastic people. Just really good people. And the food is delicious. Everything about this visit was perfect, but there I sat in my seat struggling with basic conversation. I actually apologized to my hostess for being such a quiet guest.

I’ve become to closely knit with people in my community and suddenly this thing has happened in our lives which has caused me in particular to feel extraordinarily unstable. The reality is I am scared to be close to people here. So those who mean the most to me often are met with a lack of warmth. And for that I feel terrible.

I don’t know where I’m going with this. Normally a post like this would be saved for my private journaling. But, I am under a certain pressure to meet today’s NaBloPoMo post. So, here it is. Public.

Nobody wants to be able to trust more than I do. And yet I don’t. Ever. Not for a moment. And if I catch myself relying on anything or anyone, I break away from it. I’m a much saner person on my own. But, you know, lonelier too.

God this is so depressing! So I will tell you a funny-ish story. My two year old can’t ever remember his own name when you ask him. He just freezes and then starts saying other people’s names. And I want to say, dude it is
same name every time. Come on! But, eventually he remembers. And then he laughs. And we laugh too. And it’s funny.

The things which are hardest to conquer in life are our own hang ups.

NaBloPoMo day 2/3

I have written (but not edited) a post which I planned to put up last night. Unfortunately, the wifi in coffee house where I was writing went out. I then traveled to my mother’s house to find hers out as well, but for a totally different reason.

Then I got on the phone to fix it and spent and hour and half becoming increasingly angry and ended up telling the poor guy that if he didn’t figure this out I might have to kill someone. Then I remembered the phone conversations are taped so I ended it with a light-hearted laugh to confirm I was indeed joking. (Or insane?) and promised not to actually kill anyone if he promised to help me.

He didn’t help me. But, I also didn’t kill him. So at least one of us kept our promises. (Uh, me. If you don’t catch on quickly.)

I will save that post for another day because I haven’t the time to handle it tonight.

But, here is something else on my mind–since all the shit hit the fan with the whole disgusting and sick RBF scandal, so many, many people have reached out to me. I’ve had countless people offer up their rabbis, their money, their time, their ears and shoulders. I’ve been astounded by the love poured out.

But, there is admittedly a part of me that wants to reply, “where were you when I needed you?” Even though it isn’t inherently their fault.

My family has dealth with this conversion the way most converts deal with it–predominately alone. Conversion is a lonely business. It just is. You never know that going into it and by the time you figure it out, you’re so far into it that you just duck your head and wait to come out on the other side–as a Jew.

Oh, but I never came out. We didn’t. Not yet. And we dared not tell a soul how frustrating an experience it often was because, as all converts know, if you complain about delays or misunderstanding or just the lack of guidance through the process–well, you find yourself out of the process real quick. And who wants to throw away all that hard work they’ve put into it!? We know to keep our mouths shut.

Unfortunately, bitterness, resentment, and deep feelings of rejection and isolation tends to grow in many of us who have been delayed for lengthy times. As much as people want to paint this picture that a person should be ready to go to hell and back to prove their loyalty to Judaism, the real result of overly lengthy conversions and other such delays, is psychological damage. It turns a healthy, happy perspective orthodox convert into depressed and anxious Jew, at best.

Conversion candidates are just regular old people trying to do their best in this life. We don’t have super powers. What would hurt any normal, rational person will also hurt us. And does hurt us.

There have been so many good people along this journey. So many. I love you all dearly. You are in my hearts. Unfortunately, none of those people were the ones in charge of our process. And so as often as I have heard, “if it were only up to me, you’d have been Jewish long ago”, here we are. Not Jewish.

The truth is this, my friends… My family and I have spent the last six years (four here in the DC area)ves trying to prove we would make good Orthodox Jews. And we would! We have. We have done all that has been asked of us, to the limits of our abilities. But, there is no loyalty between conversion candidate and Orthodoxy. At the end of the day, no matter how much you give of yourself, you ain’t a Jew if you ain’t a Jew. And you are guaranteed nothing. The loyalty goes only one way, and it’s emotionally draining to always be an outsider.

So, given the ultimate betrayal by RBF–which in my humble opinion only emphasizes and highlights the lack of loyalty and true love for the convert– I am taking a step back. My family is taking a step back. And for a change we are going to now consider if Orthodoxy is good enough for us. This, I know for fact, is not a question we are alone in considering. Converts and conversion candidates worldwide are both openly and privately questioning the same thing. And I think it would be wholly stupid of us not to, honestly. When you are betrayed, you should never run right back into the same damn situation without taking time to closely examine your life and what could prevent such a thing from happening again.

Look, my dear friends, respected mentors, and much loved readers–I understand the intentions of your heart when you say such things to me as, “you can’t judge Judaism by the Jews”. I really do.

But, that simply isn’t true. Judaism IS the Jews. Hashem was before and will continue to be long after the Jews. But Judaism? It is how the Jews connect to Hashem and to each other and to the world. Judaism, for all intents and purposes, IS the Jews. Plain and simple.

I know many of you want to help. And that many of you are hurting and confused too. I understand, and you have my sympathies. His betrayal has hit us all in different ways. The only ones who I don’t have sympathy for are those who pooh pooh how hurt the rest of us are. Now those are just people incapable of empathic emotions and I have nothing to say to them which would be polite.

But, please realize this hits converts — and those of us stuck in limbo between — in a very, very vulnerable place. We need time and respect. We need to step back and get some air. To consider if this is the life we signed up for. To make very personal decisions and to make peace with God and ourselves and Judaism in our own ways.

Everyone keeps asking me what we are going to do now. Everyone wants to lend me their rabbi. To offer a solution. To invite us to a new shul or comunity. But, we are not ready for that yet. Right now we have a lot to figure out.

I guess the best thing I can ask for the Jewish community is to look around and take stock of what is going on. Consider your leaders. Hold them accountable. Question them. Yes! Question them! Welcome converts with love, or at least respect. Listen when they talk. We see things with a different perspective and it might be just what you need to hear.

And seriously, please just give us time to work through all of our complex and confusing emotions.

NaBloPoMo

I have a habit of committing to things in the excitement of the moment and then later being like, oh shit. What the fuck did I do that for!? Then I get a stomach ache, smoke like chimney, and whine a lot to my husband.

I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo, because I haven’t actually worked on my novel in about 9 months. Yeah, yeah. I know. And I thought this would be a great way to start it back up.

Of course, over Shabbat I was like wtf was I thinking. This has been the month from hell. And though writing is my best outlet, I’m also really short on time as I have a lot of unexpected commitments due to the passing of my father and a few other things life has been kind enough to throw my way.

Tonight a friend (hi Aliza! I would tag you but I’m on my phone and really too tired to make that effort) mentioned she was participating in NaBloPoMo and I was like dammit! That’s a better idea. So, here I am jumping ship and swimming over to a ship that better suits me.

Swim, swim, swim.

This will have to count as my first post. I like to think future posts will be more entertaining. But, I can’t actually promise that. I only have one currently in mind.

Any any rate…

Good riddance, October and hello, November!

(I think I just outed myself. Yes, I have a bad habit. Don’t pick on me. I don’t wanna hear it.)

Ayeka?

I want to explain to you the depths of my passion for this journey, my willingness to put all things aside in order to reach my destination. The seriousness with which i searched and the commitment I had to do whatever it took… But, I believe it to be one of those things which a person can only understand when they, at that very moment, are in the exact same place. Even we ourselves cannot fully comprehend this state when we later look back in time.

It was when I heard this song for the first time that I knew what I wanted.

Now I sit here, five years later. Five years older. Another child born. Three more times moved. Less one parent, two cousins, a grandmother, and a friend. In worse financial shape than I can wrap my head around. Tired. Worn out. Confused. Defeated. Betrayed. Angry. So, so angry.

I ask again, where are you? But this time, lacking the belief I will even get an answer. That there is anyone to answer. Knowing it quite possible that there is nothing more than darkness out there. No life beyond this. That nobody at all is listening. Because all of the belief has been beaten out of me. My faith has been sucked dry and replaced by cynicism and resentment. My emuna is lost. My kavanah is gone. And if anything answered me back now, I would probably be far too angry to listen anyhow.

Everything and everyone I love is vanishing around me. Even my dreams no longer bring me comfort. And no matter how much I try to rationalize it and remind myself that bad things just happen–sometimes lots and lots of them all at once–I just don’t know how be okay with that. I want to. But, I can’t.

Yet, I still ask. Because I can still hope, even when I cannot believe.

Ayeka

(I can’t recall how to embed a video and I really just don’t care to figure it out. So click on the link.)