Monday, December 6, 2010

letters I daydream about sending

Dear Abba,

I wish I could say mazal tov on your recent acquisition of a sefer torah, but I wouldn't want to give the appearance of condoning your decision, especially when that decision further increases the social distance between us. I've learned from you that it's more important to express my disapproval of your religious decisions than it is to feel happy that someone in my family is happy.

I do love that you've decided to include the name of an Apikores on your Torah scroll. Also glad to see from your photos of the Torah dedication (that you felt the need to send me) that you're still friends with that sexist douchebag S, whose constant put downs directed at me as a teenager (based on my gender) definitely contributed to my complete disgust with your religion and the members of it. The irony is delightful on so many levels. I also like that comment about this being a "family heirloom"- you might as well say it's a gift for E, since we all know that 2/3rds of your children are not religious and will not raise their children in your religious tradition. Well, at least you found some good use for the money you would have spent on my wedding if I had married a Jew.

No Love,
Abandoning Eden

P.S. Please stop sending me dvar torahs, I could not care less how a book of mythology written 3000 years ago can be interpreted to apply to contemporary issues. In fact, I can do without the pictures of religious ceremonies too- I don't send you pictures of my Christmas tree, and I would appreciate the same courtesy from you.

This is probably why I haven't been writing back to my dad's emails in the past few months.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

I'm the rabbi's rebel daughter...for reals

When I was around 10 my dad started a gemarah shiur on Shabbas afternoons in our house as preparation for my bat mitzvah. A gemarah shiur is a group of people who get together to "learn" (basically read and talk about) a book of the talmud, and usually read it slowly, in this case a few pages a week, meeting for about 1-2 hours a week. After the shiur was over the guys would all walk over to the shul for shabbas mincha (afternoon prayers). At first it was me, my dad, my brother, and 2 orthodox jewish guys my dad's age who lived on our block. A few of their various kids (all boys) eventually joined the group, as did some other local guys, and my other brother.

The first couple of years we learned Gemarah Brachot (the first book of the Talmud), and my Bat Mitzvah was a siyum (religious celebration for finishing something) for completing that book. I attended the shiur for several years, until I was around 17 or 18 and one of my dad's jackass sexist friends basically drove me out of the group by calling me "princess" and making dismissive comments whenever I opened my mouth. I was the only woman in the group at that time, and as far as I know I am still the only woman member who was ever in that group.

About a decade ago my dad decided he wanted to be a rabbi. Not a pulpit rabbi (at first?) but he wanted to get a rabbi degree. So he took a bunch of online rabbi correspondence courses, went to israel to take some final exams, and he was made a rabbi by some big rabbi in Israel. This was around 6 or 7 years ago.

I think it was partially an ego thing, he's the kind of guy who likes buying fancy cars and gadgets (i-phones, motorcycles, kyacks) to show his status. I think this is fairly common among people who grew up working class/poor and came into money later in life, and my dad certainly fits that profile- his dad was a taxi driver and mechanic and his mom worked in a sweat shop, and he put himself through college and grad school by driving his dad's cab at night. Now he is a small business owner and makes a pretty decent living running a private practice.

The rabbi degree seemed to me like something similar, he wanted to be able to call himself rabbi and get the respect that came with that degree. He loves going around giving dvar torahs (short sermons on the torah) to people and having them listen to him as if he is saying something wise. And who can blame him? I mean, heck, I'm a professor, and I can say that having people listen to me both in class and in my office when they come asking for school/career advice is very rewarding- I like to think I give good advice, and that I'm helping people, and having my advice taken seriously and feeling as if I have helped people improve their future life chances, even if it's in a small way, is probably the best part of my job. Even if I feel as if the advice he gives is hokey and may not be in people's best interests and relies too much on a book from thousands of years ago, it's essentially the same type of thing.

But I think as me and my brother became less religious and more open about our lack-of-religiosity, and as I eventually went and married someone not jewish, this rabbi thing became something more for my dad. With his own children rejecting his religion, he started clinging to it even more tightly. In recent years, the shiur has grown. And instead of walking over to the area's shul after the shiur, he has Mincha in the basement. With him as Rabbi.

And today my (non-religious) brother texted me to say "parents in full jew mode...yay for having to pretend I'm religious for the sake of guests!!" Apparently my dad bought a sefer torah. A freakin sefer torah. Bought. These things cost like 20k+ (another status symbol?). And apparently it has my name on it. It say my dad's name and says "l'zechut yeledim" (For the merit of his children)and then my name and my two brother's names. Not B's name of course, ha. So a freakin sefer torah is dedicated to my merit. Great. (it's also dedicated to the memory of my grandfather).

So now my dad's basement has a Torah. It's a Shul. My brother joked about the tax write offs, which I've no doubt my dad is taking full advantage of. And I'm the rabbi's daughter, who nobody knows is married to someone not Jewish. Oh they know I have a PhD. And they know I'm a professor. They know all about my professional success. They probably know my parents and I don't get along too well, since I never visit. But they have no idea I'm married, no idea my husband isn't jewish, no idea he even exists. I'm the rabbi's secret rebel daughter. I'm the skeleton in my dad's closet. Ha!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween: Bestest holiday evar!1!

Today was Halloween and I got to actually celebrate it in a meaningful way for the first time in years!

As a child of course we did not celebrate Halloween, my parents would put out a bowl of candy and keep all the lights off in the house so it looked like no one was home.

When I got to college I started going to college Halloween parties, and for two glorious years I went to the Halloween parade- once while I still lived in NYC, and was able to walk back home after the parade, and again my first year of grad school, when me and a girl in my program from the midwest (and not the very populated area of the midwest) who had never been to NYC before went on a trip to NYC that weekend. The Halloween party is like nothing you have ever seen...all the freaks in the city come out to play, and as a card carrying member of the freaks, it's like a city suddenly full of my people. Plus they have awesome giant puppets of skeletons and stuff (if anyways watched the rally for sanity/fear on Saturday, the puppets are kinda like the stephen colbert puppet, only more scary stuff).

They year after that I had a Halloween costume party at my apartment in grad school, and dressed as a witch. I think the year after that me and Quiet Girl carved pumpkins. This one was mine:

But after that I didn't really celebrate the holiday for a few years- I was busy in grad school, didn't have many friends celebrating, and you don't get many trick or treaters when you live in an apartment.

Anyways now we live in a house, in a neighborhood full of kids, and B and I decided to dress up and sit on our porch and give out candy! I have this dress I bought in high school...well there's a backstory to that too, see in high school I was kinda the "freak" of the school (hence my card)- nothing too crazy, but I wore black a lot, and was basically as goth as one could be in a school with a strict dress code where you are not allowed to wear make up until you're a senior (and then only "natural" colors). When I was in high school this new store opened in the mall- Hot Topic- and somehow I managed to talk my dad into buying me a dress from that store for a Purim costume, along with an awesome set of black wings made with fluffy crazy feathers. This was back when hot topic sold a bunch of fancy dress up goth clothes...nowadays I think they are more of a punk/emo/t shirt place. Sadly I lost those wings when I moved out of my parents house- well not lost, I bet my mother hasn't thrown them out- but I left them behind because I didn't want them to get crushed in the move, and since I never had a car I never had a chance to get them back.

But i still have the dress! And I have a witches hat from when I had that Halloween party. And I have a bunch of jewelry from when I was goth(ish) in high school, and some old black lipstick, so my costume was born. B already had an old Halloween costume in a drawer somewhere.

We sat out front in our costumes and gave out candy to kids- and there were a LOT of kids, some very little kids came around 6ish, and then there was a lull, and then after dark there was a crazy amount of kids coming through! We got lots of compliments about our costumes, and one of our neighbors stopped in his tracks when he saw us and was like "dear lord!" before taking a bunch of pictures of us (And he says he will give us a print! Some of my neighbors are pretty cool- this guy is a retired professor from my school, and we've had a bbq with him and our next door neighbor who is also a retiree). We also met a lot more of our neighbors from our block and the surrounding neighborhood (I suspect some of the kids came from other neighborhoods though- some arrived in cars). B may have scandalized some of them- I bet they don't see a bunch of crossdressing nuns with beards down here- but most everyone laughed, because it's ok, because it's Halloween! And that's the beauty of this holiday, you can really let your freak flag fly, and for this one day a year, it's ok! With everyone!

It's a shame I never got to trick or treat as a kid- I really had fun giving out candy to kids this year, my first time involved in trick or treating. I guess I'll have to wait till we have our own kids to get to see the other side.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

My version of a holiday season...

I've been on a real jewish food kick lately- last weekend I made cholent with vegetarian kishka (the cholent was my mom's recipe, the kishka recipe I found by searching through a great forum to search for jewish food recipes). Today I'm having matza ball soup for dinner.

And just now I was really craving my grandmother's old rugaluch. They sometimes have rugaluch at the grocery store, but the pastry part is all wrong, it's like this croissant type thing. The type my grandmother made was like this cookie..almost like a hamentash dough type recipe, but less crumbly. She would make Cinnamon ones and chocolate ones and ones with jam and they were liked rolled up cookies almost. She would make dozens and dozens of them in all different flavors when we would go down on our once yearly trip to visit my grandparents for a week in florida, where they moved to when I was 3 or 4.

The recipe died with my grandmother in 2007; my parents later went through all the documents in that house when my grandfather moved back up to the northeast to live near my parents after my grandmother died. They didn't find it.

My dad is going to send my some of my grandfather's paintings when they pack up his small apartment in NJ near where my parents live. In addition to being a NYC cab driver, a radiator repair man, an author (of a memoir about the holocaust), a survivor of 10 different concentration camps, and an avid fisherman, he was a painter. It'll be nice to have some of his stuff to remember him by.

The condo in Florida is now my parent's vacation home, soon to be retirement home. Apparently they've redone the whole place because it was depressing my dad to be there when it reminded him of his mom all the time. Things change. The childhood I remember isn't there to go back and visit anymore, even if I wanted to.

Does anyone have a rugaluch recipe that might be like the one I'm describing? I'd love to try out a few and try to reproduce it.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Not going...

Thanks for all your well wishes.

I've decided not to go to the funeral. I was never particularly close with this grandfather, since my whole life he lived in Florida and I saw him at most maybe once a year for a few days. He also has had no idea who I was for at least the last 3 years (he had severe dementia), and we never talked on the phone since I was a young child, and even then, I mostly talked to my grandmother and he would say hello at the very end of the conversation, and that's about it. I did attend her funeral because I felt like I had a personal connection with her. While I'm sad about my grandfather's death, I don't feel that I need to attend his funeral in order to get a sense of closure.

If anything, I know if I attend his funeral I will be angry about it, because my parents are not giving him a eulogy because it's Erev Sukkot, and because every single time I see my parents I end up feeling resentful and hurt by the end of the meeting. I would rather attend his unveiling in a year, and hopefully there will be some kind of eulogy at that point.

And all you people telling me to go to support my father...are you new to this blog? I've barely spoken to my father in years, by his choice (not mine) so why should I go for his sake? You can't stop talking to your children and then expect them to support you through difficult times. You can't tell someone they are no longer part of your family and then expect them to act like your family when times get tough.

My grandfather had been living with my parents for the last 3 years, and not once did I see him at their house. You know why? Cause my parents haven't invited me to their house in over 3 years. I'm not welcome there.

As for "he must really want me to be there if he offered to pay for B", well I moved the date of my wedding to a Sunday (rather than a Saturday which was more convenient for me and most of my guests) because I really wanted my parents to be there. They didn't show up to that either.

And yes, they did come to my PhD graduation- because my dad's parents (including my grandfather who just died) didn't come to his PhD graduation and he decided that he would come to mine even though we were barely talking. I think that was more about him not wanting to be like his parents than anything about me. Even then, they scheduled a flight that afternoon (which they didn't have to do at all- they could have taken a later flight or gone the next day, and it was a vacation, not even a business trip) so that they would only be there for the ceremony and about 20 minutes afterward, and then they high tailed it out of there.

But this is not about revenge on my dad, although I still am angry at him for many things. This is about my lack of connection with my grandfather. I don't feel like I would get anything out of attending his funeral other than a lot of stress, and having to work all weekend because of all the work I would miss. My job isn't the type of job you can just take a few days off from-if I don't work this week, I don't have lesson plans prepared for next week.

I went to my grandmother's funeral, in the same place, and I pretty much know what to expect. I'm glad I went to my grandmother's funeral, because my grandfather was very upset and I was able to help him out and hold his hand during the funeral. But now he is gone, and funerals are not for the dead- they are for the living. And in between my grandmother's funeral and my grandfather's funeral, all the living people I know who will be there have told me I'm no longer part of their family (my non-religious brother isn't going either), and have stopped talking to me or contacting me, except when people die (and my once yearly phone call from my dad on erev rosh hashana). So I don't feel particularly inclined to help make them feel better. Does that make me a bad person? I don't think so. I think it makes me someone who has been hurt on so many occasions of trying to get along with certain people, that I just can't show up and get hurt again.

Monday, September 20, 2010

My grandfather passed away today.

I am completely in shock. While still adjusting to the news that he was dying that I got in a text message this morning, I got a call from my dad that my grandfather had passed away at around 3:45 this afternoon.

The funeral is in 2 days in Florida...I don't think I can go, cause I teach Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon...but is that the kind of thing you cancel class for? Probably. But I don't know if I want to go anyways, because of that whole "horrible grandmother funeral experience" I talked about in my last post. And apparently at my grandfather's funeral they are not even having a eulogy, because it's erev sukkot or some BS like that? How can you have a funeral without a eulogy??? And if it's not a eulogy it's going to be jewish prayers and basically burying my grandfather and that's it. (and apparently my dad doesn't sit shiva either because it's sukkot??? so he's only sitting shiva for a few hours between the funeral + sukkot).

When my grandmother died I went to the funeral so I could be there for my grandfather. But now they are both dead, so I would be going for my dad...who just told me he is kinda relieved he's gone (my dad has been 100% responsible for his care since my grandmother died 3 years ago, and my grandfather had a severe case of dementia to boot. My dad has been taking anti-anxiety meds lately cause of all the stress related to taking care of him). So yeah, I don't know.

Mostly I'm just in shock. Still have no idea what I will do, but I should probably make a decision pretty soon since I would have to cancel class tomorrow and probably Wednesday as well (and book a flight for tomorrow).

My dad also said he would pay for both me and B to go down to the funeral...probably won't happen with the dogs and our lack of dog sitters, but I appreciate that he offered that.

ETA: Hmm, looking at flights, there is a 5:20am wednesday flight that would land in florida at 9:17am, and the funeral is at 10, about a half hour drive from the airport. Am I insane to consider teaching my Tuesday night class (the one that only meets once a week and is graduate level) from 6-9pm, waking up at 3:30am the next day to shower and do my hair and leave at 4:30- the airport being 20 minutes away and bound not to have any people in it at 5:00am on a Wednesday morning, giving me approximately half an hour to make that flight, then getting a taxi to the funeral and making it in the nick of time (if nothing gets delayed and it all goes well), only to return home later that day on another 4 hour fight (both of which include a connection) since my parents prolly wouldn't be cool with me staying there over night and flying back on sukkot morning if they are paying for tickets...and then possibly attending a 6pm dinner with the president of my school after landing around 5:20pm, thus attending all my Tuesday meetings, the dinner with the president, and only missing one day of my undergrad class (that meets twice a week). If I missed wednesday's class I would have to delay the quiz they were supposed to have next monday, since it's directly related to stuff we were supposed to do this week wednesday, and I might need to rearrange the midterm too...

Recieved via text from my dad this morning:

Hi. Hope the holidays went well for you. On a sadder note I wanted to inform you about Sabba's condition. We hospitalized him erev yom kippur. After completing a CT scan of his abdominal area they found that he had gall bladder cancer which had spread to the liver. The doctors say that there is no effective treatment for this. He only has weeks, maybe a couple of days. He is in no pain. I'm hoping he can come back to his apartment for hospice care.

For the non yiddish speakers among you
Sabba= Grandfather (in this case my father's father)
Erev Yom Kippur- the day before yom kippur, last Friday.

So basically, my grandfather is dying. This is the guy who was married to my grandmother, whose death inspired this blog when my dad spent approximately 75% of the eulogy talking about how he has to honor his mother's memory by making sure his kids turn out to be religious jews. I had been running around for two days, making sure my brother's got on their correct planes at the correct time, dealing with random people like the rabbi and the funeral director, I canceled long standing plans to attend the funeral, and after all that I was incredibly hurt when my dad spent the whole eulogy basically shaming me (at that point I had been dating B for about 8 months, and my parents knew about him).

I don't know if I will go to his funeral if/when he dies. If it's in the middle of the semester, there's just no way I can feasibly go and keep up with my work load. Also, not sure if I would want to go after my experience at my grandmother's funeral. I suppose if he happens to die around fall break I might be able to go. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Busy like a bee, feeling kinda homesick.

I've been working pretty hard and pretty long hours. I've finished the first 4 weeks of teaching, and while I feel I finally have a handle on the lesson planning aspect (I'm preparing 2 entirely new courses, one of which is graduate level statistics which is a bitch to prepare for), I haven't gotten much research done at all- but I keep becoming more and more efficient, and I've found a few shortcuts (like an awesome website at my university that has videos on pretty much every academic subject) so hopefully I will be able to fit some research in soon.

For about the past month we've been doing school- and neighborhood-related social activities nearly every weekend (new faculty events for 2 weekends in a row, a party that second weekend at a prof's house, a small gathering at another prof's house the weekend after that, and then a neighborhood block party last weekend- we also have a dinner at the school president's house this wednesday). This weekend I finally got to just veg for the whole weekend. Of course when I veg I get bored, and when I'm bored I get kinda lonely...while I didn't have a lot of close friends in the city I last lived in by the time I moved away (almost all my closest friends had graduated or just moved on before I did), I was only 2 hours from my "real" friends- my friends for life- the people I first met in high school and who more or less went OTD with me. I was also within 2 hours of several of the friends I made during grad school who had moved on. Now they are 10 hours away, and I've finding being 10 hours away from my friends a lot more lonely than being 2 hours away. The worst part is that my 3 closest friends in NJ (one of which is my brother) all live with their parents, who probably definitely would not welcome me for a sleepover, especially not with B, let alone our 2 dogs. They all used to come visit me cause I had a place everyone could crash at. But 10 hours is a little far for spur of the moment visits, and I'm really feeling that.

I also am far from my whole music scene, and the music here is not super great- I don't have any of my music friends who go to shows with me living close by (which is part of the reason I like going to shows so much- always seeing the same awesome people over and over again), and good music doesn't really come through the area that much-there's only a show I'd be interested in seeing maybe once a month or once every other month. In my old city I could go to shows by great bands at least 2-3 nights a week if I had the energy.

At least I have B though. When I first moved to grad school (that 2 hour move) I was completely on my own and didn't make any friends for about 5-6 months. Now I have B, and we go out to restaurants and such- we've been doing a brunch tour of our new city (we like brunch) and so far have tried out 4 different restaurants for brunch. We have a resturaunt guide and have basically decided we will slowly work our way through most/all the resturaunts in town. There's some pretty great food here, and we can afford to go out to eat fairly frequently now that I'm not a grad student anymore (our usual expenses haven't risen much at all- our mortgage + insurance + taxes is about 20$ more a month than our rent was before- but my salary has gone up)

But it would still be nice to have some friends beyond B...I've been kinda friendly with this one adjunct prof in my department, and me and B went to a gathering there on labor day, which we had a lot of fun at...but we are still colleagues, so there is still that professional distance thing I feel like is always there. I have no idea how I will meet any friend possibilities beyond my job though, as the only people I really come in contact with are my colleagues and my students. We've met a few of our neighbors at the block party- most seemed to be retirees or couples our age with kids, not a lot of other kid-less couples. Not that people with kids are uncool, just at a different phase of life than we are.

Anyways when I get homesick I cook comfort food, and I have a whole comfort food plan for the next week. Today I'm making my old favorite, baked mac and cheese (only fancier with 4 kinds of cheese including smoked goat cheese from the awesome farmer's market goat lady and lots of herbs) then I have a whole plan that involved grocery shopping, 3 days of eating a rotisserie chicken + brown rice for dinner, then using the rotisserie chicken carcass + some more chicken to make a ton of chicken soup (to mostly freeze, but also to eat that night). Might make some matza balls, if we can find matza meal at the local grocery store- but I doubt we will. I'm going to try to find some I can order online so that when we defrost some of the chicken soup later we can make matza ball soup with it.

While making the chicken soup I'm also going to make kishka from a very well reviewed veggie kishka recipe I found on and soak some beans and defrost meat for cholent, and then next day I'm going to make cholent with my mom's old recipe (which includes a marrow bone that I also got at the farmer's market) with kishka in it. At some point I'm also going to make my mom's meatball recipe- possibly after the cholent.

We might not have spoken to each other since her and B met at my PhD graduation in May, but my mom's food still makes me feel better, and it's been so many years since I've had cholent (and kishke!)- probably 6 at least- that I have really been craving some lately.

I've had pretty much no contact with other jews or jewish culture anything here since moving here, and I'm a bit nostalgic for it. It's especially noticeable now during the high holidays when my facebook friend's list is exploding in talk about rosh hashana, yom kippur and sukkot, while in my real life things continue on perfectly normally. Even in grad school I went to a school with a huge orthodox population in it, so even though I never participated in anything (at least for my last 4 years of grad school) there were still jews around, doing visibly jewish things, like a comfort blanket. Now I gotta make my own chicken soup and cholent with kishka it is! :)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Sink Hole'd

This week a contractor came to fill in our sink hole and finish off the fence. They are installing 2 gates-one on the side of the house to finish off the fence, one in a back corner where the fence was damaged by a fallen tree, which will give us access to the ravine/sometimes creek that we own part of, which we have named "Kitty ravine" after the feral cats that use it as a kitty highway. The gates won't be ready until at least Monday though.

I didn't think to take a picture of the hole, but it was anywhere from 1 to 3 feet deep at various points. To the left is a picture of it filled in with rocks. They took some old fencing that we found behind the shed and attached it to the bottom of the fence and laid it across the bottom of the sinkhole so that it formed a wall/floor. Then they filled that with these giant rocks pictured here. Then they covered the rocks with landscaping cloth and attached that to the fence, and covered the landscaping cloth with about 6 inches of dirt, which I promptly planted a bunch of grass in so that the dirt stays together. Sometime soon we'll go find a nursery and find a bush that has nice deep roots to plant at the edge of the fence there to keep the side of the hill more firmly together, and to prevent the dogs from digging at the edge of the fence.

In other news, we're pretty much settled in, everything's unpacked, we've started to get our bearings and know where stuff is. We've been slowly checking out various restaurants in the area, some of which have been quite excellent. I had new faculty orientation all week this week and met some pretty cool other new faculty members. We start classes on Monday. I'm excited! :) Although not fully prepared for all my classes next week- I still have to finish off my Wednesday Lecture (But Monday and Tuesday's are done).

Also I made grits:

Max is still settling in and still having accidents in the house unfortunately, although we are having longer and longer stretches of days between accidents. This morning we checked out the local dog park which is pretty awesome- the enclosed area is huge and half of it is woods. The people there were also pretty friendly. The only annoying part is that the park it's in is closed to traffic on weekends, so it's a bit of a hike to get there from the parking lot.

Barkley and Max are still trying to figure out who is going to be alpha dog. I think Max might be winning, although Barkley is not willing to concede just yet.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A new addition to our family!

Is that Barkley looking into a funhouse mirror?

Nope, it's our new dog max! Max is an 8 month old Treeing Walker Coonhound (possibly a mix) that we adopted this morning. He is very skinny and came to us with 3 or 4 dog bites- he was staying in a house with 10 dogs, and apparently the other dogs (pointers) were beating him up a bit. He was also completely covered in red mud when we first met him- he's already had 2 baths this morning and doesn't seem to be terrified of water the way Barkley is, which is awesome. He's also a lot more chill than Barkley- in fact we've had no problems at all with him, but had a few problems when Barkley kept trying to hump him in the face. :) But we crated Barkley for a bit and now they are getting along and happily chewing on toys together. :)

This is Max's story as told by his foster mom:

I work at a Veterinary ER clinic in town. When Max came to us, he was the runt puppy in a litter of Walker Coonhounds. So runtish, that he weighed 2lbs at 6 weeks and his littermates topped the scales at 9lbs. We thought for sure he wouldn't make it, but I decided to try and foster him to get better. He did. I typically have all dogs neutered before going out to their new homes, but a gal I worked with had this great friend that was dying for a puppy. They swore they would have him neutered when he got old enough, and they had 3 young kids and 2 cats (which were indeed already altered), so I relented. When max was 10 weeks old, and 10lbs, he went to his new home. That lasted until about 2 months ago, when I caught wind that the fabulous family had been evicted, leaving poor Max alone inside. He was returned to me, intact, of course. They did love him but apparently ran thin on funds and then separated, so Max was more burden than he was worth. (lesson learned for me, though). Anyway, he is socialized with children - all 3 of theirs were very young, less than 6. He was around cats there and hes around our cats here. He does very well in the house - has had zero accidents while here, but he's always supervised. He is crate trained, and thats where he sleeps at night and stays when we're gone. He is socialized with other dogs - we have 10. He is a submissive boy, and definitely not a fight starter. His only behavioral problem that I know of is baying at the neighbors. When they are doing something noisy, he's all coonhound. FOR SURE. That said, I do believe he's mixed with either a beagle or some other stumpy creature. His color is lemon/white, which isnt standard for Walker Hounds, and his size is much smaller than a normal walker. Max is about 8 months old, so he wont be growing any more. He's topped out at about 40lbs. Id imagine he might fill in with a couple more pounds, but I'd be shocked if he reaches 50lbs. We just had him neutered, so he's ready to go!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Participate in a research study!

Received via email:

My name is Sruly Bomzer and I am a 5th year doctoral candidate in the CW Post Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program. I am currently in the initial stages of collecting data for my dissertation, which involves examining common childhood experiences of Jews raised in the Orthodox tradition (regardless of current affiliation). This study has been approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) of CW Post, and is being supervised by Jill Rathus, Ph.D. I am writing to you to request your help in disseminating the online survey that is my primary means of collecting data. The survey, available here (, is completely anonymous and takes no longer than 10-15 minutes to complete. I have followed your blog and believe that your readership represents an ideal sample of participants. Because this project is not funded, I cannot offer you any compensation, however any effort you could spare to inform you readers of my study would be greatly appreciated. If you have any questions regarding this research, feel free to contact me at

Thank You,

Sruly Bomzer

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Southisms part 2

Check out this awesome spider I found in my backyard! This lovely lady is a writin' spider (Supposedly if you mess up her web she will write your name in the new one, which is where the name comes from) AKA a black and yellow garden spider. There's actually two I've found so far, but this one is the bigger one- about 2 inches long. They are harmless to humans but like to kill mosquitoes, so she can definitely live here for now (every time I go out to the backyard if I don't douse myself in bug spray I get several bug bites- I'm working on pulling out all the crazy ivy back there so hopefully that'll cut down on all the bugs).

I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before, but B and I have different last names. Apart from being a professional feminist (I've published in 2 feminist journals, so I think I can claim that title) and changing my name being against my deeply held beliefs that people shouldn't have to do things a certain way because of their gender, and the thought of changing my own name seeming super weird (like I'd be giving up my identity), I've actually begun to get some name recognition in my field -when I go to conferences people look at my name tag AND THEY KNOW WHO I AM AND HAVE READ SOME OF MY WORK!! Holy crap! So I didn't want to have to start over with that...building an academic reputation is hard enough as it is. Also, changing your name is a super huge pain in the ass, and I don't generally do things that are a pain in the ass when I don't necessarily agree with them to begin with (although having the same name might be nice, so I'm ambivalent about the whole thing). So I didn't change my last name when we got married.

In the northeast this was never an issue, but since moving down south it's like I've moved back in time 50 years..apparently no one in the south has ever heard of a married couple having 2 different names. My mortgage guy asked us if "we were *really* married" which I found incredibly rude because I had just told him we were married like 2 seconds before. Our home insurance/car insurance agent has now been informed on FOUR separate occasions that we have different last names, and yet when we needed proof of car insurance to get our drivers license yesterday she faxed over proof of insurance for "Abandoning and B Eden." B had to sweet talk the DOT into letting him get a license since they require proof of insurance, and it was technically not in his name. Luckily I brought our marriage license with us, and they were able to verify it was him by that + his birthday (which was listed on the proof of insurance).

Other southism (or maybe a "not a huge city-ism?")- when I'm walking Barkley, everyone driving by in their cars waves at us while passing! It is actually kinda annoying, cause I like walking and getting wrapped up in my head, and now I feel like I have to pay attention to all the cars that are passing to see if they wave to me, so that none of my neighbors feel like I'm slighting them.

People down here seem super nice in general. On Tuesday 3 of my new colleagues showed up to help us empty the last of our moving pods, and one brought over a bunch of freshly baked bread and muffins from the local bakery- and I'm meeting up with her again on Saturday morning to go check out the local farmer's market. We haven't really met anyone so far other than those colleagues and 2 of our neighbors. I seem to have chosen a very academic neighborhood, as at least two of our neighbors on our block are professors at the university I will be a professor at. Speaking of which, next week Monday I will officially have started my new job as an assistant professor of sociology! Monday I'm rearranging furniture and getting my computer set up in my newly-painted sage green office. Tuesday I hit the ground running, cause classes will be starting in 3 weeks and this semester I'm teaching two entirely new courses that I've never taught before- and all I have right now is a rough draft of a syllabus for each course. I like to prepare my lectures a few weeks in advance so that I'm always a few weeks ahead of my students- so I want to get at least the first 3 weeks of class prepped before classes start.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Well, I live in the South now

None of our furniture is here yet, but we made it down South a couple of days ago. Yesterday we went to target and I dug this patio out of our backyard (using a broom). The patio was about 3x bigger than it first appeared to be, so that turned out to be pretty awesome- the other 2/3rds of the patio was buried under a few inches of dirt and tons of vines (about 3 garbage bags worth of vines). I've discovered that yard work is fun and awesome, and I think it's my new favorite hobby- there's something so satisfying about making my yard look awesome, and I don't mind the work or the crazy amounts of sweat at all. After that (and after a shower) we went out to eat at this awesome hippie upscale southern pizza chain place called The Mellow Mushroom. I had the "Magical mystery tour" which had 2 kinds of mushrooms, spinach, feta, hot peppers and a pesto crust. I also had a bottemless cup of sweet tea. It was farking awesome. We also checked out the 'downtown' area of this place, which is actually a lot nicer than I thought it would be- I guess the hippie pizza place must be in the hipster neighborhood cause we walked around and there were all sorts of hipster stores.

Today we bought a "Chofa" (chaise lounge/sofa- basically like a 3 person sofa with the third person having a chaise lounge- it's not going to get delivered for 8 weeks, but I think it will look awesome- we are getting it in a sage green microfiber thing that we know the kitties don't like to scratch), met with a contractor about filling in the sink hole in our backyard and fixing the broken pipe that caused the sinkhole, went to target again and got a whole bunch of stuff for the house including a bunch of stuff for the yard and a desk for B, went shoe shopping (I threw out a lot of my busted up shoes when I moved- I keep comfy shoes way past when I should, and several of them had holes in the soles so when it rained my feet got soaked), went grocery shopping, spent about 2 hours raking out the path to the back patio that I cleared out yesterday, seeding the path with grass seed (most of it used to be covered by overgrown bushes/vines/yard waste so no grass was growing- but now the bushes are like 1/3rd their previous sizes due to the awesome landscaping people who came last week), bagged up all the yard waste from yesterday and today (6 garbage bags worth) and then chilled out in the jacuzzi for awhile.

Tomorrow I think I'm going to take it a little bit easier, since the moving pods arrive on Monday and that's going to be a crapload of least we don't have to move in as much furniture as we moved out of our apartment, cause that would suck. Moving our old scratched up crappy couch to the curb required super human feats of strength from both me and B and took about half an hour to get out the door. This picture is from right around when it got totally stuck and I briefly gave up and paused to take a picture. During this picture B is trapped outside the apartment in the hallway (and trapped in the hallway, cause the door to the outside was blocked by that couch too.) Right after this picture came the super human strength part.

We also got rid of tons of Ikea furniture (come to think of it, we got rid of nearly all my old ikea furniture except my desk and bookcases- got rid of a coffee table, tv stand, bed, dresser and B's desk, all from ikea). Now that we have a new desk for B and a couch we are all set on furniture for a while, although we will get a new coffee table after we get the couch delivered and see how much space it takes up/how big a table we want. Eventually we will prolly get a new bedroom set too. Oh and a tv stand, and tons of outdoor furniture (we have a backyard and a side deck and a front porch, and I want places to sit in all those places!) and a grill, and definitely need a lawn mower within the next week or so cause the grass ain't getting any shorter...ahh moving/home ownership, you bleed the money right out of me...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

I am so smart! S-M-R-T!

Intelligence is a tricky thing. Some might say I have it. They would probably determine this based on evidence such as my ivy league doctorate. And if enough people give you admiration and respect for being a smart person, you might actually start to believe it. But I didn't always think of myself as a "smart" person. In fact, I spent many many years thinking I was stupider than most other people around me. Mostly because I can't speak Hebrew.

I'm bad at languages. I'm pretty good at some other stuff- I'm great at math, and I always did really well in english class too. In fact, I did pretty well in all my "secular" classes in school. But from a very early age, knowing the hebrew language matters a LOT in Jewish school, and I was never good at it.

I don't remember all of elementary school, but I remember spending a lot of time in the "resource room" AKA the special ed room. I got put there because I was bad at Hebrew, and was therefore doing terribly in my jewish studies classes. So I spent pretty much all of elementary school thinking of myself as belonging in the resource room classes, and therefore as a not-too-smart person.

In 7th grade my parents switched us to a different school cause the first school tried to argue that my little brother was autistic, and my parents decided they didn't like that. In the new school I got put in the 'stupid' track again after horribly failing a chumash exam [This was not the lowest of the 3 regular tracks, but a completely separate track that had a class size a third of the size of the other tracks and met in a special classroom area]. I still did fairly well in my secular classes, but being in the 'slow' track for half the day made me think of myself as a stupid person.

In middle school though I got some hints that I wasn't as stupid as I thought of myself. In 7th grade I took an IQ test, and the test showed that I had a 146 IQ, and my parents decided to send me and my brother (whose IQ was a few points higher than that) to a "genius" (non-jewish) camp in our neighborhood for the summer between 7th and 8th grade. The camp had academic type classes in the morning and sports in the afternoon So I spent a summer hanging out with geeky genius people and thinking of myself as pretty smart. That was nice. :)

So around 8th grade I started feeling really good about my intelligence level. Then I went to high school and again got stuck in all the lowest tracks for hebrew classes. I think I was the only person in my grade who was in the lowest track for hebrew studies and the highest track for secular studies, and for 2 years they arranged the schedule so that the higher and lower secular tracks were on completely different schedules- for those 2 years I just took all my classes at the lower track level.

Then we took the PSATs and I got a 1520, and tied for the highest score in the school. I was a semi-finalist for a merit scholarship and the principle started bragging about my PSAT score to parents of potential students and announced my score to everyone during the morning assembly after davening.

And then I nearly flunked out of high school because I failed three (hebrew studies) finals in my senior year. My school refused to give me a diploma until I retook 3 finals the summer after I was supposed to graduate.

By the time I got to college I no longer thought of myself as being of below average intelligence, but I didn't really think of myself as anything special. But I found that once I was able to CHOOSE the classes I wanted to take, and especially once I discovered sociology, that studying for class was actually enjoyable. I started to really like school. And because college was actually challenging (unlike high school, which was mostly boring) I started to study/work really hard, because I wasn't sure I could skate by the way I dd in most of my secular courses in high school. And then my first semester, once I had started putting in a serious effort, I shocked myself by getting straight As in all my classes and landing on the deans list.

After that, it's like my opinion of myself completely changed, and it because a self fulfilling prophecy. I got straight As throughout all of college, entered the college honors program, applied to grad school and got into 8 out of 9 schools I applied to (everywhere but Harvard, those bastards, although even there I made the short list). I really shone in college.

My parents seemed very surprised when I got into all those grad schools. I guess after all those years of me being in the stupid track, they didn't realize that I might be good at some stuff too. In fact my dad outright said to my face when I got into grad school "I thought your brother was the smart one." (He never failed all his hebrew classes the way I did).

Of course in grad school I was back to being 'average' again, since grad school is full of brilliant people and it's impossible to out-brilliant them all.

So now what? Well now I'm about to become a professor, and every once in a while I get the sinking feeling in my stomach that no, I can't really do this. I'm not really a smart person- I was in the freaking resource room for goodness sakes, I can't teach college students, let alone GRAD students!! I have some ideas that I think are innovative when it comes to teaching the grad class I'm going to be teaching this fall- but what if my ideas are not innovative and they're just STUPID and I'm just too STUPID to realize it?? There is actually a name for these feelings- it's called imposter syndrome and it's especially common among women in academia. Knowing what is it doesn't make my occasional panicky feeling any less panicky though.

I wonder how different my life would have been if being bad at languages only affected one thing- a language class. Would I have thought of myself as a smart person my entire life, and how would that have affected my self esteem, and my friendships? Cause I gotta tell you- thinking you are an idiot and being in the lowest track for everything does a number on you, and I do think that some of the social problems I had as a kid were due to extremely low self esteem on my part.

By social problems I mean I really had no friends until 7th grade, and then my only friend was another person in the "stupid" class until 9th grade when I began to come out of my shell a little more (weirdly enough, that friend made aliyah and is extremely religious now). And I think a large part of that was due to thinking of myself as a stupid person in a culture and family that valued education and intelligence highly, and therefore feeling bad about myself, and that no one would want to be friends with me, which became a self fulfilling prophecy of its own- at least for a while.

Even when I started making friends, it was only with other people who were on the low end of the social scale of the jewish community- the OTDers, the "yeshiva rebels," the kids with behavioral problems, the kids with mental illnesses, the kids who actually did have learning disabilities, the kids who had been kicked out of NCSY, the kids who didn't dress the way everyone else did. We made up a large mishmash of social misfits, and that's where I felt most comfortable. Now don't get me wrong, I am friends with these people to this day, and I love them to death, and as we grow older it becomes more and more apparent they are the most creative, interesting, awesome people around and I am thrilled that I ended up in this crowd. Many of them are now doing fantastically well for themselves, and I'm not the only one from that crowd with an ivy league PhD in an unusual subject.

But I wonder how things would have been if I had gone to public school instead of Jewish school, and hadn't been branded as 'special ed' would I have hung out with a different kind of crowd or would I still have been one of the 'freaks?' Would I have ended up being one of those people who got married right after high school and never had a career? Would I have dared to do something as different as becoming a Sociology professor? Would I have even gone OTD- as it was my association with this particular crowd that first opened up that possibility as being a possibility?


Reading over this post, I wonder how much of my failure in regards to Hebrew language/Jewish studies courses has to do with the fact that I have absolutely no interest in the subject matter. And if thinking I'm "Bad" at languages is a remnant of those years. Cause when I'm interested in something, I will study the hell out of it, and spend hours looking up stuff online, and (in one case) get a freakin phd in the topic. If I cared about jewish studies I probably would have actually studied once in a while, in which case I might not have ended up in the highest track, but might not have been in the lowest track either. But because I had no interest in the topic, I didn't even bother- most of the reason I was failing all my jewish studies courses was from not handing in assignments and not studying for exams.

In fact, due to the juxtaposition of my publicly announced PSAT scores + being in the lowest track in school, my high school yearbook says that my future career will be a "counselor for underachievers." I sure showed them. :)

Monday, July 12, 2010

a NJ Yankee in the south

We have arrived! We close on the house tomorrow morning! We have a walkthrough tomorrow morning right before the closing..was supposed to be tonight, but the previous owners "haven't quite moved their stuff out yet." Well they better finish in time for the closing, cause we are staying there tomorrow night! We have a bottle of champagne left over from my doctorate, and it is here with us waiting for the closing tomorrow. Then on Thursday we go back north, finish packing, and a week from Friday we come down for good!

Things about this state that are different from the north (so far):
1. All the sandwiches from room service come with mayonnaise on them
2. The ground all seems to be red clay. It's turning Barkley's feet funny colors since it just rained...
3. Steak and Shake! B's favorite fast food place from the midwest is also in the south! (but not in the northeast) Speaking of which, we're about to go to Steak and Shake for dinner and drive by the house on the way...not sure about my internet access over the next few days, the cable guy is scheduled to come by the new house tomorrow afternoon, but not sure how reliable they will be.

Wish us luck! Next time I blog we will be homeowners!!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

letting go

When I was a kid, my parents kinda treated me like a prison guard would. During most times, when I was behaving myself, we barely interacted at all. But when they caught me breaking one of the millions of rules...then there was drama, fighting, being grounded for months at a time.

When I was 15 my parents caught me breaking the rule of "no boyfriend before you are ready to get married," one of the myriad rules that I think they thought I would take for granted, but that I didn't. See, my parents grew up yeshivish, so they took a lot of things for granted, like dating for tachlis. Then they moved to a more modern orthodox community. For a while, when I was very young, they were more liberal and truly *modern* orthodox- my mom didn't cover her hair, and she and I wore pants. Then when I was around 10-14 years old, my parents gradually became more religious again, as did most of the town I grew up in. The town gradually became more yeshivish, and now is a mix of right wing modern orthodox and black hatters. My mom stopped wearing pants and started covering her hair, and all my pairs of pants mysteriously disappeared.

Meanwhile, I didn't know all these community rules that my parents took for granted from their childhood, and I frequently got punished for breaking rules I wasn't really clear on. Like the first night I went out with friends on a saturday night, my dad came driving up in a fury at 10pm because I had "stayed out too late." Only no one had ever told me I had a curfew, or what time it was. Not dating boys before I was 'ready to get married' was another one of these unspoken rules that I broke.

You could see why I would be confused...we lived in a mixed community of modern and less modern MO jews, and while I was friends with many of the more modern folks, who COULD do things like date and stay out past 10pm, my parents wanted me to follow a stricter set of rules- but never directly communicated that to me, because we never really talked and had normal conversations with each other. Something I only recently realized, having hung out with B's family and actually having normal conversations with them...that kind of talk just never happens with me and my parents- we just never sat around and chatted with each other the way B and his parents do.

So my parents once again took on their position as prison guard, and grounded me for 4 months. No tv, no computer, no phone no going out with friends, no going out at all- only going to school and going home and sitting in my room. Only I didn't know it was for 4 months, as far as I knew it was indefinite- cause that's what my dad basically said at the beginning, when he found out about my secret boyfriend, and he didn't relent on this until 4 months had passed.

During these 4 months I tried to kill myself once by eating a bunch of pills (I didn't take enough and just ended up falling asleep for 2 days) and I also started cutting shapes into the back of my hands with safety pins. My parents never even noticed.

Looking back, I see a pattern of mild neglect except in times of crisis. When we were kids, my brother was always getting in trouble at school, and there was always some kind of drama going on with him, so he was always getting lots of attention. My other brother had drama when his school said he might be autistic and my parents sent him to like 20 different specialists to prove to themselves that he wasn't (I think if this had happened 10 years later he might have been diagnosed as on the spectrum). While I guess my parents figured I could fend for myself since I wasn't getting in trouble. Mostly I was just an extra pair of hands to help out with chores- which my brothers were never asked to help with for some reason probably related to gender expectations.

It's probably why I read so many books as a child..I just spent a lot of my childhood alone, until i made some friends in high school. Whenever I did have friends, my parents seemed to take a hostile stance towards them, and had the attitude that my friends were bad influences leading me to be less religious. I hardly ever had people over at my house as a result.

As I got a little older I noticed when I could get attention from anyone in my family- which was when I was arguing with them. Arguments got attention. Throughout my college years my parents forced me to come home every shabbas, otherwise they would stop paying my tuition- they wanted to make sure I was keeping shabbas, and they never gave me any kind of financial help without some kind of religious string attached to it. So I would come home- at that point I was completely OTD and my parents knew it- and we would spend shabbas meals arguing. Arguing about religion mostly. For the first time, I felt like I actually had a relationship with my dad- cause we actually had conversations with each other, involving arguing about religion. My mom took all the arguing about religion very personally and whatever small relationship we had fell apart at that point.

Is it any wonder that I am now an intensely argumentative person? Me and B argue pretty frequently- not in a bad way, but we're both very argumentative, and very opinionated, and we have like these little debates about things all the time, and sometimes they get heated. We probably have several arguments every week. How much is that due to my parents teaching me that the only way to have a relationship with someone close to you is via arguing? I don't want to be like that...

I think back on stuff like this and wonder how much this has affected my life now. Yes, being argumentative has actually helped my career, but on a personal level being super argumentative is not very advantageous- I can definitely look back and see some past relationships that ended because I was just too argumentative all the time. Meanwhile, stuff like this makes me even more worried about the possibility of having kids, cause I'm sure my parents didn't think they were doing anything wrong, and yet I turned out all argumentative because of how they interacted with what things am I going to do unconsciously that will fuck with my future kids? I read Tikunolam's tips on not fucking up your kids, and there are so many bad behaviors she points towards that I would never even have thought of...and that my parents always did to me.

I try not to be too angry at my parents for how they treated me throughout my life, but it's hard. I know the anger only really affects me (they don't even know about it) but this blog exists because the past still affects me, and I feel angry about it nearly every single day. How do I stop that?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Radio Silence

Since B met my parents on my graduation day/1 year wedding anniversary (May 17th) I haven't heard a word or email or phone call from either of them. Not that this is unusual, as that's pretty much the way it's been since I got engaged to B- only hear from them every few months or so (usually when someone dies).

Also, in 10 days this will be our backyard! And Barkley's daytime home! :)

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

13 days till we close

house picture o' the day:

The deck on the side of the house. The deck opens up onto the driveway, and we'll prolly be using this door as the entrance to our house instead of the actual front door. I'm thinking this may be a good place to hang out when grading papers. I'm also thinking some sort of porch swing may be in order...

Monday, June 28, 2010

Top 10 things I WILL miss when I move

Two weeks from today we will be driving down south for the closing of our house (Which is 2 weeks from tomorrow!!!). Our mortgage has gotten it's final approval, so all we have to do now is wire an obscene amount of money over to our attorney for the downpayment and closing costs. After the closing we'll be coming back up north, spend about a week packing up whatever is left, cleaning our apartment, and loading up some pod things, and then we'll drive down one last time with all our pets.

We still have a pretty big list of things to do moving-wise, but many are things we can't even do yet (apparently you can't cancel your cable service in advance you have to wait till 2 weeks before you move cause comcast is a bunch of bastards). Mostly I've been sorting through things and putting lots of stuff out on the curb, and packing up the non-essentials. I finished packing the books yesterday- and we have about 20 boxes in total (but at least half of those go to my office). We also took apart my old bed frame and put that outside yesterday (it was gone within an hour). Today I started on the kitchen stuff that we don't use frequently.

Anyways, without further ado, 10 things I will miss about living here:

1. The music scene
The city I live in has a great music scene, and I've taken full advantage. Since moving here 6 years ago I've been to over 90 shows, the vast majority of which were small local bands in small local venues. For a few years when I was single I went to a show nearly every weekend.

2. My festival friends
This is related to the first- by participating in this music scene I've met a great many people, and I count many among my good friends. At a Phish show I went to the other week I ran into at least 20-30 people that I know. Down south there will still be music festivals, but I know that in the northeast if I went to any music festival that involves jam band music, I am guaranteed to run into someone I know- and usually someone I know and LIKE and who I have hung out with before. And at every festival I go up here, I have a built-in group of people I can camp with and have a great time with. Not so in the south. They have festivals there, yes, but I don't have a group of festival friends built up there. I can and likely will build up a new one, but that will take a few years- I've been hanging with my current group for 7 years, and I know them pretty well, and I'll miss them.

3. The sunflowers on my block
there are 3 places near my house that grow sunflowers, and I like walking to visit the sunflowers with barkley. It's a little thing, I know, and I can grow my own sunflowers, but these are just particular sunflowers that I have visited regularly for the last few years, and I'll miss them. Fortunately the heat wave we've been having brought on a few early blooms this year so I got to see them again before I leave

4. My officemate
Some people might see it as a good thing to move into an office by themselves, but I always work better when my office mate is around- having someone who can look over my shoulder makes me less likely to mess around on my computer when I should be working. Plus my officemate is super cool and is great to bounce ideas off of. And he's German, and his wife still lives in Germany so he goes to visit her quite often, and always brings me back German chocolate.

5. Food Trucks
My school's campus has an amazing assortment of food trucks where you can get incredible food for really cheap- including the standard egg sandwiches, but also chinese, vegetarian, crepes, indian food, korean food, japanese food, greek food, mexican food, and there is even a cupcake truck that only sells cupcakes. My favorite is the greek special from the vegetarian truck- feta cheese, olive and balsamic salad with a piece of spanakopita and 3 stuffed grape leaves. I also really like this egg truck where I get a egg white and cheese sandwich on whole wheat nearly every morning- and they already know my order when I get there.

6. Sidewalks
My neighborhoods has lots of sidewalks, my new neighborhood has none at all! But the streets are very quiet, so it prolly won't be so bad.

7. The crazy garden of the lady down the block.
My neighborhood is made up of old Victorian rowhouses, each of which has a small garden plot out front that's about 8 feet by 8 feet. One of my neighbors has filled her plot up with an incredible collection of flowers, that bloom during every season. Last year she started expanding the garden to those little strips of grass they have between the sidewalk and the street - she started planting more flowers up and down the street in front of some of the houses that have renters and/or are empty.

this isn't that garden, this is my neighbor's veggie garden.

8. being close to my friends
Actually, most of my close friends don't live in the same city as me anymore. But I'm only 2 hours from home, so I have lots of friends/my brother who come visit on a semi-regularly basis. It'll be a lot harder to visit when I'm 10 hours away instead of 2 hours away. :(

9.My local coffee shop
Best bagels in town! I lived less than a block from this place when I first moved here, and when I moved I purposefully moved within walking distance. They are the only place I've found that has GOOD bagels, and they usually run out of them by around 10am. When I first moved here it was a very small convenience store with great coffee and bagels, a few years ago it got bought by someone else, and now they have fancy pastries and fancier coffee instead of the convenience part. But it's still great. I usually walk barkley there, and they have a little hitching post with a bowl of water next to it for tying up your dog while you go inside.

10. being a student
yeah, i suppose it had to come to an end at some point. Counting Kindergarden and Pre-k, I've been a student for 24 years. It has it's drawbacks, but it also is pretty awesome- discounts on movies, being able to take off pretty much whenever, not working full time hours...yeah I'll miss it. Profs still have a pretty flexible schedule (other than classes and meetings) but as they can work any 70 hours of the week.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

discrimination against atheists

It's weird how I switched from a religion with a major persecution complex to religious views that are actually discriminated against. As a jewish person I never suffered from clear discrimination. There is nothing I think I can't do due to me being jewish at this point in the US. Yes, my house got egged when I was a kid cause the neighbor kid next door was an anti semetic douche, but I never felt as if my opportunities were actually restricted due to my religious views.

Today in Philadelphia the boy scouts won the right to continue renting land from the city at the dirt cheap rate of $1 a year. The city was trying to kick them off their land (or start charging them real rent) because the Boy Scouts' policy on not accepting homosexuals violates municipal anti-discrimination laws. The jury decided this was an infringement on freedom of speech. I think the city has a right to rent or not rent to anyone they want, that they should have the right to not rent their land to private companies that violate their anti-discrimination laws, and I hope they appeal this decision.

But that's not really the point of this post. The point is, I think everyone knows that boy scouts don't let gay people in at this point. But in one of the article comments, someone mentioned that atheists and agnostics can't join the group either. That I hadn't previously known about. So I went over to wikipedia to check it out and found this:

The Boy Scouts of America's position is that atheists and agnostics cannot participate as Scouts (youth members) or Scouters (adult leaders) in its traditional Scouting programs. According to the Bylaws of the BSA, Declaration of Religious Principle:

"The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God. In the first part of the Scout Oath or Promise the member declares, ‘On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law.’ The recognition of God as the ruling and leading power in the universe and the grateful acknowledgment of His favors and blessings are necessary to the best type of citizenship and are wholesome precepts in the education of the growing members."[6]

During the membership application process and as a requirement to obtain membership, youths and adults are required to subscribe to the precepts of the Declaration of Religious Principle and to agree to abide by the Scout Oath and Law, which include the words, "do my duty to God" and "reverent". Youths are also required to repeat the Scout Oath and Law periodically after being accepted as Scouts. The BSA believes that atheists and agnostics are not appropriate role models of the Scout Oath and Law for boys, and thus will not accept such adults as leaders

So the rule is that gay people can't be LEADERS in the boy scouts. But apparently, atheists and agnostics can't be leaders OR scouts. So that seems even worse! But no one gives a crap about that part of the rules apparently, because people don't think about atheists as a discriminated-against group that merits protection?

I'm sure there are other examples things that you can't do if you're an atheist (that you can do when you're jewish). One example I can think of offhand is that one of the steps of alcoholics anonymous is that you have to accept a higher power (AKA god)- so atheists can't really take part in alcoholics anonymous (or they can, but not to the same extent- and I would be super uncomfortable joining that kind of program, presuming I needed that kind of help). I checked the internet, and apparently there are a few non-god-centric alcoholic support groups/programs, but they are extremely rare and it's hard to find meetings for them.

So two services that are not available to atheists: your kids can't join the boy scouts and it's harder to get help if you're an alcoholic. What other examples can you think of? FFTA in the comments.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

In unsurprising news....

A new study examined the brains of religious Pentecostal Christians and what happened to their brains when they heard a prayer spoken by a regular christian, a non-christian, and a "healer." (they were all actually just spoken by regular christians)

Meanwhile, when they were listening to prayers that they thought were spoken by regular people not much happened. But for the religious folks (but not the non-religious folks):

Parts of the prefrontal and anterior cingulate cortices, which play key roles in vigilance and skepticism when judging the truth and importance of what people say, were deactivated when the subjects listened to a supposed healer.

So when this group of people were told that someone with special spiritual powers (rabbi's anyone?) was saying something, the parts of their brain that are responsible for skepticism SHUT OFF. Now that explains a how my mother, who is one of the most skeptical people I know 95% of the time, just seems to have a giant hole in her skepticism when it comes to anything her rabbi says. She seems to have passed the skepticism on to me, but not the belief part. Maybe it's genetic- I just don't have the brain for religiosity.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Things I am soo looking forward to once we move:

Top 10 things that will be awesome about our new house that are major annoyances in my life right now:

1. Central Air! These stupid window units don't do shit! Also Air conditioning in our bedroom! Right now we have a fan aimed at the bed. I can't sleep as well when something is blowing on me, but when it's not blowing directly on us, it's hot as balls. We can't have an AC in the bedroom cause there are bars on the window (although we can have AC in the living room and office cause we have those air conditioning bars on the windows in those rooms).

2. A washer and dryer without having to go outside! Right now we have to go outside to our backyard to get into the basement. When it snows we have to dig out the basement door to do laundry. Sometimes, if it snowed a few days ago, the door will be completely frozen over. Of course there is no back door to the house..we have to go out the front door and navigate the glass and trash filled alley to get there! And don't pay too close attention to what you're stepping on, cause you can easily bang your head on those air conditioning bars that stick out into the narrow alley!

3. Not having to dry my clothes 3x to get them dry! Not only do we have to go outside to do laundry, right now our bullshit washing machine doesn't actually spin during the spin cycle, so our clothes come out sopping wet and need to be dried 3x or else it stays damp forever and sometimes starts smelling like mildew. The landlord doesn't believe this happens cause once 2 years ago he did a cycle with 1 towel and "everything worked perfectly." So he basically refuses to replace it. I've been dealing with this bullshit for approximately 3 years, and it sucks. Especially since every time we want to put another dry cycle on, that's another trip down the alley to the backyard.

4. Not having to save up/go to the bank to get quarters for the washer and dryer! One wash cycle + 3 dry cycles @ 1.50 per cycle= $6 in quarters for every load of laundry. That's 24 goddamn quarters per load.

5. A dishwasher that actually washes the dishes! Ours can make them really hot, but won't clean anything. Also it occasionally leaks all over the kitchen floor for some mysterious reason.

6. A full sized modern refrigerator! Our is like 3/4th sized now and is really old so needs to be defrosted frequently or else the tiny freezer turns into a solid block of ice and paradoxically stops cooling all the rest of the food, which then spoils much quicker than is normal. This gets especially bad in the summers when the humidity in this city is unbearable.

7. Toilets that actually flush all the way the first time! Ours need to be flushed at least twice.

8. Not having to walk Barkley 6-9 times a day!! We will have a fenced in backyard so we can just let him out to pee! Is it weird that nearly every morning I day dream about being able to just get up to let Barkley out the back door? The back door which is (awesomely) right next to the master bedroom in our new house!

9. Being able to set up B's office right next to the living room! so we don't have to yell at each other back and forth all the time! Right now his office is all the way in the back of the house and the living room (where I hang out with my laptop) is all the way in the front of the house (There's a twisty hallway and a bedroom and bathroom in between), so we end up yelling back and forth and not hearing half the things we say. Which really annoys both of us. Especially B. :)

10. A driveway!!! Not having to wander around for half an hour looking for parking any time we come home after 8pm! Not having to wander around for at least 10 minutes the rest of the time! Being able to park right in front of our house all the time! Not having to move the car every 2 hours because of stupid parking rules!!

It's the little things, really...

Friday, June 4, 2010

purging the clothing from my orthodox jewish life...

One of my favorite things about big moves is the chance to go through all your stuff, figure out what you want to get rid of, and then throwing out/donating all that stuff.

My favorite thing is the clothes. The past 2 days I've been going through all my clothes and separating it into 3 piles- donate, trash (for stuff horribly stained/torn) and keep. The donate pile is almost as big as the keep pile at this point.

When I first moved away to grad school I got rid of 22 years worth of junk/clothes that had been sitting around in a closet in my parent's house. During that move, 6 years ago, I was still in a pretty ambivalent place religious-wise. I was not keeping kosher/shabbas at all at that point, but was still occasionally attending some orthodox jewish events, like Friday night shabbas meals/onegs at my parent's shul. And I was moving from my parent's house, so I couldn't exactly just chuck out all my skirts without my parents being all weird about it. So I moved over a whole bunch of skirts. And suits. Skirt-suits to be exact. The type you wear to shul and not anywhere else.

When I teach I don't wear a suit (I usually wear a blazer and/or a nice shirt with some fancy pants). I have one nice pants suit for job interviews (even though I hope to never go on any of those again) and other fancier business-type occasions. I have my wedding dress to wear to fancier non-jewish occasions (one of the reasons I didn't get a traditional white poofy dress- so that I can wear it again!).

The only time I NEED to wear a skirt at all is at orthodox jewish events. The orthodox jewish events I go to nowadays are all weddings and funerals. At weddings over the past few years I've always worn the same blue skirt. At funerals I have a nice long black skirt.

Meanwhile I moved all these skirt-suits down here to grad school, and they've been sitting in the back of my closet the entire time I've been here, and I haven't worn them once. So those are all getting donated. Also going are nearly all of my skirts- lots of gothicy type skirts that I wore in high school when I was kinda goth-ish (as much as you can be in a high school that doesn't allow you to wear make up). Some hippie skirts that I don't wear anymore. And lots of a few-inches-below-the-knee and ankle-length skirts. Those are almost all black for some reason, so I basically have around 15 nearly-identical skirts. I almost wish I had some orthodox jewish friends in this city so that I could give them to someone who could use all this stuff.

The high heeled shoes I wore to shul with my skirt suits...those are also all going. I never wear heels at all nowadays, and if I do want to I think the one pair of nice black heels that I'm keeping and my navy blue heels (left over from my wedding) are enough for the amount of times I need to wear them (0-2x/year)

But yeah. This feels good. Especially getting rid of all those's been like weird baggage from my religious days taking up space in my closet. Before now I felt like I shouldn't get rid of them because they were expensive suits (although it was my parents who paid for them), so they have just sat in my closet, a reminder of my former life every time I got my clothes. And the skirts just sat there because I told myself that I might need to wear one at some point, and also I've been just too busy/lazy to go through them. But with the move, I finally have the excuse (and motivation) I need to donate it all.

It'll be really nice to not have that stuff around anymore.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I graduated. B met my parents. Everyone survived.

So yesterday was somewhat momentous....I officially graduated with my PhD in sociology and demography, it was my one year anniversary with B, and B met my parents at graduation!

I wasn't actually there for most of the meeting. In the morning I walked over to campus (in my cool doctor robes, which was fun- lots of people I walked pasr said congrats!) and met up with all the other graduates, including a couple from my program. We all marched through the entire campus, to the football field, where all the parents and family people were waiting. My department's secretaries threw a bunch of confetti on me when I passed them. :)

Meanwhile, B and my parents and my brother met up in the audience, without me. I saw them when I marched past them into the football brother sat between my parents and B. According to B they made some small talk, my mom barely looked at him the entire time, and only spoke directly to him once- when B said something about how lucky I am to have gotten a job in this terrible market, and my mom apparently was all "it's not luck, she had publications even when she was an undergrad and she's really smart!" So apparently my mom is proud of me after all. :) Just wish she would say something like that to me seems all we can do is snark at each other these days.

Meanwhile they made some small talk, B restrained himself from making any offensive jokes, and then we all met up for all of 20 minutes after the first graduation ceremony (because the second graduation was an hour after the first one and it took a while for us to find each other). My parents walked us to the second ceremony area where I was all "there are my inlaws!" when I saw them in the front row of the tent for the second ceremony (my in laws only came to the second smaller ceremony), and my mom made a face, so I didn't press for them to meet each other.

But anyways, it happened! My parents have met my husband after 3 and a half years of us being together and exactly a year after we got married! Nobody died! My brother's curse has not been fulfilled! I mentioned something about that curse to my parents and they were all "that rabbi was a charletan!" I was very proud of myself for just staying quiet and refraining from saying "and the other ones aren't?"

I probably shouldn't have brought up the curse thing at all, but I'm just so awkward around my parents now..we really have nothing to talk about, cause the only interaction we've had for the past 3 years is like them trying to convince me that I shouldn't be with my husband. I did show them pictures of my new house during our 20 minutes though and my parents told me they were proud of me, which was cool.

The second ceremony was even better, we got to hear about this astrophysics guy talk about the joy of research and then they called my name and gave me a fake diploma! The real one arrives in July or so...but as of yesterday my transcript now says I've been awarded a doctor of philosophy!! :) I finally got to send my transcript out to my new job so they can give me an official official contract (instead of a less official job offer letter), cause the job offer was contigent on me finishing my degree.

My in laws flew in for that second ceremony which was totally awesome of them. :) My in-laws and my brother and I also went to this southern restaurant for dinner on Sunday, since ever since I was down south a couple of weeks ago and my real estate agent took me out to local southern food places for lunch almost every day we were there, I have gotten crazy southern food cravings. I LOVE southern food! The food at this place was pretty good, but I had cheesy grits on the side and they just weren't the same as they are down south....they were like pureed so it was like smooth grits pudding, but I like the chunkier type of grits you get down south that have some texture to them. Oh well, I guess I will have to wait a couple more months until I can have real grits again...and then I can have them all the time, yay!

Anyways my parents aren't BFFs with B now, and I doubt they will come to visit us down south, at least not for a good long time (maybe till we have kids as everyone keeps saying, but that won't be for a few years yet), but the ice is broken! They have finally met each other! I no longer can say my parents have never met my husband! Yay!!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Almost here...

So, on Monday it is mine and B's one year wedding anniversary. Which means that if B doesn't die or leave me by Monday, my brother's rabbi's prediction that within a year B will either convert, we will break up, or he will die, will be proven false.

Also, Monday is my graduation.

Also, my parents are coming to my graduation. As is B. As are my in-laws, but they won't be meeting my parents (there are two graduations, my parents are going to one and they are going to the other). But B will be meeting my parents. For the first time. My brother will be there too, and since he is a big scary guy used to dealing with criminals I am hoping that if my parents start doing something crazy (like trying to fulfill that rabbi's prediction) he will be there to intervene. Since I'll be off graduating and all.

Stay tuned...

Sunday, May 9, 2010

We're buying a house!!

I've been down in *southern state we are moving to for my job* for the past week looking at houses, and I found a house that is AWESOME, and we are now under contract to buy this house!! We will be closing on July 15th!! This house is great- and here's some pictures of its awesomeness:

Master bedroom suite

The other side of that room

Master bathroom- Shower

Master bathroom- crazy awesome bubble bath



another bedroom that will probably be an office for now

living room

It also has a pretty big backyard that is mostly fenced- just need to add a gate at one end and it'll be great for Barkley to run around in.

I AM SO FREAKIN EXCITED!!!! I can't believe I get to own a house as awesome as this one!!! And we can actually afford it too, yay the south!!!