Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Dropping a line

I've been falling behind on posting about stuff.  What's been happening since thanksgiving? Mostly I've been working my butt off. I have a big article coming out in April that I've very excited about (Basically the main argument of my dissertation) and which I think may take my career to the next level, in which the media actually pays attention to my research. :)  It is a big breakthrough in my subfield and overturns a couple of decades of research and common (wrong) beliefs in the general population.  I'm working on a press release about my research, and have been talking to some friend of friends who work with the media a lot, about how to best frame my press release so my message gets through clearly.  And a friend from middle school who is a journalist for a big newspaper.   But there's been a lot of very short notice deadlines for that related to copy editing and reading over the page proofs.

I talked to my parents a few weeks ago about a bunch of stuff. I was working on a new research project and some of my research is related to people who dissent (as part of studying social change).  So I got curious whether my own personal experiences as a dissident matched some of my research, and ended up talking to both my parents about a lot of stuff that happened in the past and that we went through.  Too much to go into.  I also think I have been building up to this and finally had out a bunch of things that we never talk about and that it pisses me off that we never talk about. And in the process found out my mom has some bizarro twisted view of reality that has little to do with mine. But some highlights:

1. My mom claims the letter she sent me before my wedding about how we can never have a real relationship if I marry my husband was not a letter disowning me but she was "warning me" about what people like my aunt would end up doing

2. I expressed to my mother how mad I am about the way my Aunt is treating her and how ungrateful I think she is being considering everything my mother has done for her and her kids. She started to defend her, and I made clear this was not about religion, it was about being a decent human being. I think she had never even considered what a bitch her sister is being to her and I made clear to her that I think her sister is an ungrateful bitch who doesn't deserve a sister who has done half the things my mom has done for her.  I don't think she had ever considered that perspective.

3. I also basically told her that I don't think me and her are that different, that we are both very passionate people, who, when we believe things, feel we have to live our lives according to them. The problem is we believe different things- she believes that judaism is true and i don't. But we are both living according to our beliefs, no mater what the consequences (so we are both kind of dissidents in that respect).  And it's not that we don't care about each other, it's that we think living according to our beliefs is the most important.

I think my mom has thought all this time that I am not being religious because I hate her, or am rebellious, or I think she is dumb.  But I expressed to her that none of those things are true. That I am not religious because I just don't believe it's true. Which is something we have never ever talked about.

I also told her some stories that I think have influenced why I didn't believe it was true- like that for me, the reason I thought it was true was because I was trusting that rabbis were passing down information  and then i got screwed over by a school rabbi/principal in first grade, Rabbi Goldstein, who forced me to lie and say a teacher had not hit me, which made me realize he was a fucking liar.  He was the head of the yeshiva I went to, Yeshiva of North Jersey, so the head of the "School of jewish thought" I was being indoctrinated into, who was basically saying to take things he said in his big assemblies on faith.

My high school principal Mrs. Bak was like that woman in harry potter who wears all pink and has kitty plates, who reveled in publicly humiliating me because she could never answer my tough questions.  As did many teachers in my high school. In Bat Torah once I challenged a GPA policy that prevented a very responsible friend who had been stage manager of the school play from running for school president, by arguing to the principal that only allowing honors students to run for school government gave us a student government that didn't represent the students of our school. I got sent to the teacher's lounge where a teacher asked me what I wanted to do as a grown up and when I answered (that I wanted to be a musician, which was my ambition at the time- I started off college as a music major, and my flute teacher had been encouraging me to apply to juliard in high school), she screamed at me in front of everyone that I would always be a failure in life, and I should just shut up and give up, because I would always fail at anything I tried. I gotta say, my desire to prove that bitch wrong got me through some dark days in grad school...and she is now the head of the Michlalah school in Israel. Devorah Rosenwasser.

I couldn't trust Pia, the head of my sleepaway camp Sternberg, to know what she was talking about, because even though she knew all these great ancient jewish songs, and we learned some neat jewish crafts, she kicked me out of Sternberg my second summer after falsely accusing me of cutting open the counselor's suitcase because I was the bunk 'troublemaker', because I was always going hiking into the woods during rest hour instead of sitting in my bunk gossiping with the other girls and the counselor didn't like that.  What I was doing was hiking across this awesome stream to this clearing I found where I built a little tent out of branches and ferns, where I would go hang out and read books by myself.  I always loved going on random adventures, and still do- at home I biked to go hiking in the woods in a nature preserve near my house, and my parents had led me to believe that this was something I would do in sleepaway camp, so I just went out and did it during rest hour, which infuriated my counselors (because they thought it was dangerous probably).  My dad also sent me some matches because he thought I would actually be camping out at some point (we did a couple of times, but in pre-built tents). These two things got me labelled a troublemaker, so when someone cut open my couselor's suitcase, I got accused, and nobody would believe I wasn't lying about it.  So I couldn't trust them to know the difference between a truth teller and a liar. So how could I trust them when they said religion was right?  ("Them" could easily also include my parents come to think of it).

And then when the rabbi of my shul, Rabbi Yudin, who I always trusted, and who was friends with my parents and the dad of my good friend growing up (so he was like a second dad to me- I saw him in his bathrobe eating shabbas breakfast after sleepovers as a young child) started protecting a fucking child molester (Baruch Lanner) who had kicked my ex boyfriend in the balls several times, which only me and my ex knew at the time as far as I know (he was never one of the public victims). I was just like "Fuck this guy, he don't know shit."  My rabbi supporting a child molester was just the final straw. Because at that point, he was the only rabbi or authority figure in my life left who I thought might have any good judgement at all. And he most definitely didn't.

 And once I didn't have the rabbis to give me trust that it was correct, I started looking for some other proofs. And couldn't find them. That's when I went from being secretly OTD and not breaking shabbas, after experimenting and finding that god didn't strike me down as a teen, to openly OTD.  That's when I went from trying to live within the "spirit of the law" like playing video games on shabbas because that is what I do to relax, to writing papers on shabbas even though it was work.  That's when I went from eating vegetarian food without a hashgacha, to eating non kosher meat and not keeping the torah at all.  It was when I went from thinking that some rabbi's had it wrong but it was pretty much a good religion, to thinking it was all bullshit, and that even the well meaning nice rabbis and people were misguided and wrong about it. That's when I realized you didn't have to be a bad or a dumb person to be duped by religion, just like my Rabbi, who was not a bad or a dumb person, was duped by a child molester and abuser. And religion. Suddenly he was all too human to me.

My mother never knew any of this stuff, because I never had an open relationships with her, because I was always afraid of her judgement (and rightly so, as I pointed out to her). But to her religion was never about the rabbis (it was about her family's mesorah).

And what I didn't add was that I started looking more into religious proofs, because I couldn't trust the rabbi I grew up with, or the principal of my school in elementary or high school or my teachers.  And then all I found when I looked for proof the religion was true was the documentary hypothesis, and nechemya perek 8 where ezra "reteaches" the tanach (destroying the kuzari proof) and the Cohen Godol (jewish high priest) who magically "Found" the book of vayikra. Eventually, when I went to other jewish communities, and couldn't find a group of people or a marriage partner who agreed with my radical leftist political values in which I wasn't even the slightest little bit a sexist and racist, I eventually gave up on all jews entirely and stopped keeping even the holidays.  I didn't tell my mom or dad this stuff in quite as much detail. I don't know that I want to destroy their faith the way mine has been destroyed, because they like the community. Plus they themselves are pretty sexist and racist, and they don't like when I point it out to them (which I do every time they are, since I was a teen). But once you know it's fake, if you are a person of principle, like I know my parents are, you can't go on living that way. And even though I'm not sure I could convince them judaism is not true, I don't really even want to risk doing that to them unless they come to me asking about it. Their careers and social lives are built on their religion, and they like the community.

4. My mom apparently thought I was some weird pathological messed up liar as a teenager.  Because I was constantly being caught lying to them. Because I was trying to hide the fact that I was secretly not religious and had secret boyfriends they would not approve of because I  knew she wasn't about to let me go off to spend weekends hooking up in hotels with my boyfriends, and I figured she would hate me for not being religious and dating boys she clearly disproved of because they were never religious, like me (I always dated other OTDers). Which kind of came true. Plus all these other incidents where I got accused of lying because I saw through bullshit, or would not back down when I was abused by someone, or got accused of messed up things when they happened, because I refused to just fit in and do things I thought were stupid. And I was a weirdo who liked reading in the woods (ha, that so describes me now as well). But I explained to her that that whole time I was secretly OTD and that was why she was always catching me sneaking around, and that she and my dad are actually the only two people I have ever lied to, and it was mostly about being a horny teenager and wanting to date boys.  And I didn't do any of these things I was accused of doing, and was not lying about that. And that I actually hate liars (due to all these experiences).  And I don't think she has ever considered our history in that light before either.

5. I talked to my dad about a whole bunch of different things me and my brothers went through as kids because people in our family didn't really care what other people thought - like for instance, my little brother wore a tuxedo to school for an entire year as a kid  (and got really bullied for it) because he really liked them. Now he works at a job requiring a lot of fancy uniforms and has a side job doing musical stuff where he dresses in fancy tuxedos frequently.   In retrospect I think that was about him wanting to be like my dad, who he saw wearing a suit to work all the time. He just thought that was what men did when they left the house- they wore a suit. Ha.  My dad interpreted this as me reminiscing about the past, and I was like "Hey, that's what normal families do. It's nice, aye?"

So in a word: PROGRESS!  Massive progress.  Saying things that needed to be said and clearing up misconceptions that have been around for 17+ years.

There are several misconceptions they have about B too. They say they can't get any read on him. I know it's because B hates them after the way they have treated the two of us (and especially me) for the past 7 years, and they have poisoned their relationship. So he is afraid of saying anything around them, because he is afraid he will tell them what he really thinks, and he knows I want to get along with them. Meanwhile I pointed out that they are not themselves around him either. Another thing they had never considered.

Some day I'm going to break it to them that when you reject people because they weren't born to the right vagina, and ask them to get a quicky fake conversion just for the sake of being a "jew," and then won't even meet them when they don't do it despite the fact that they are marrying your daughter,  and refuse to go to your daughter's wedding, when everyone knows if his mom was jewish none of this would be an issue, it comes off as super racist and bigoted to most normal human beings. And that when you don't come to weddings, and act like a bitch to your daughter, her husband doesn't feel kindly towards you.  But somehow in a nice way.

I actually think I will one day have to take more of a stand on this. That day will probably be when my brother gets married to his girlfriend (Who he lives with- she is awesome and not jewish).  My parents know about her and have already said they will not come to the wedding.  That was their first reaction to finding out he has had a secret girlfriend for 3 (now 3.5 or 4?) years that he is terrified of telling them about, and they had moved in together. But if they are going to be like that, really, how am I supposed to let them get to close to C?  So they can not come to her wedding when she inevitably marries someone who isn't jewish?  So that is when I will make my stand. And if not, they can know her as well as B knows his dad's dad- they met for the 5th or 6th time at his dad's funeral, and it didn't even occur to us to invite him to our wedding. 

But meanwhile, progress for now, and hopefully things for my parents to think on.  And next June we plan to drive up there- all 3 of us. I invited my parents to come to the bronx zoo with me, B and C. So far no response. We're staying at my OTD brother's place (with his now not secret GF).

We all went to the midwest for christmas. It was out first christmas without my father in law, which was a little bit sad. But C's first christmas, and our first christmas with our new brother in law being married and officially "in the family" which was nice.  My mother in law finally purchased a bed for the second bedroom, now that everyone can sleep with our partners. Ha!  C was showered with presents. All 5 of the adults played a few nerdy rounds of Munchkin, which we bought for my brother in law for christmas. Like intense all night games for 3 nights in a row. Yay for new brother in law nerds!

We used to have a christmas eve tradition of appetizers that my father in law always put together, but this year we went out for chinese food and watched a movie. which is kind of my christmas tradition from when I was younger- I used to have a christmas eve jew open house party at my parent's house (without their knowledge) when I was a teenager and young 20something and my parents went away for christmas for vacation every year.  Later I hosted similar parties at my apartment in Philadelphia before I started celebrating christmas for real with my husband. My friends from back home in NJ would come down to visit for christmas or new years, one year my best friend from back home (the boy I met the night before my 15th birthday, the first OTD I ever met who introduced to me the idea that it was even possible to go OTD) came to visit, and we want to get chinese in chinatown with a bunch of friends and then went to see the Life Aquatic at the indie movie theater in philly. Another year he brought a couple of other OTDers with him. A couple of years these visits ended with going to a hotel hippie party and show with a bunch of our friends. One year it coincided with chanukah and we fried up a bunch of latkes to bring with us.

B and I have decided our christmas tradition is going to be christmas eve chinese food and a movie, presents christmas morning, and dinner in the afternoon. And then we'll have appetizer new years, where we will try new foods (as per our rosh hashana tradition).  Tonight we are trying two types of caviar (I've never tried either) 2 new types of cheese (Champagne cheddar and fontina) and 2 types of champagne.  We're having "2013s": Champagne with strawberry-white cranberry ocean spray. C is having a bottle and night 2 of sleep training. 

B got into a minor fender bender with C while in the car today, so it's like 2013 is giving us a little "fuck you" kick on they way out. But this was an epic year. Pregnancy, the loss of my father in law in January, the June o' 5 paper submissions, not being able to walk most of the summer, C entering the world on July 26th, learning how to be a parent, and a new brother in law in October. I went on trips to Wilmington NC, Asheville NC, Atlanta, St. Louis, and Indiana. I stepped foot in Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Georgia, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, North Carolina, and South Carolina . Only one new publication came out this year (an encyclopedia entry) but my favorite article (based on the main thesis of my dissertation) finally got accepted for publication after many years and revisions (I've been working on that paper since 2007!) and I just sent back the final page proofs. I finally successfully grew a pumpkin (but just one) and was able to eat my first homegrown asparagus, blueberries, meyer lemon and saffron from my perennials.

2014 will be the year of toddlers, blackberries, more asparagus, research, beach trips, zoo trips, and more.  Happy new years!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgivikkah Holiday Ambivalence.

On facebook I've been talking to a friend about growing up not celebrating christmas, and the cultural ambivalence that she feels comes with celebrating it as a result. Also about the torment she always felt in December from her parents (Highly educated muslim immigrants from India- her dad is a professor) who kinda let her do some christmas things but mostly didn't let her do them, and doesn't like her celebrating christmas now.

My response:
Is the torment because you didn't/don't celebrate Christmas? I didn't either as a kid, and I'm ridiculously into it nowadays (when I celebrate with my husband's family). Same thing with Halloween (didn't celebrate it as a kid, love it now). But I always super loved thanksgiving cause it was the only holiday we celebrated as a kid that all the "normal" kids celebrated...so the only time a year I felt that kind of group solidarity you get from doing the same unusual thing everyone else in the country is doing, that's just not the same when it's only your small subgroup doing it and everyone looks at you like you're weird.

I get that cultural ambivalence too and it is 90,000 times worse now that I have a kid. Especially since for me culture and religion are so closely tied together that it is hard to separate what I might want to pass on (culture- but not all of it) from what I don't (religion, the sexism/xenophobia/tribal bullshit, the fact that a good large wing of her family including her great aunt and great grandparents and to some degree her own grandparents think she is something to be ashamed of because her father isn't jewish, and that like half her second cousins don't know she exists as a result). I mean we are 100% for sure celebrating christmas with her (I've celebrated christmas every year for the past 7 years with my in laws) but what do we pass on from my side? And do we celebrate things like easter, which seem very religious to me, but to my husband was just a holiday involving chocolate and a fun egg hunt that he did as a kid? 

In a way it's like the opposite of my friend's problem- she is still ambivalent about celebrating christmas and wanting to keep her parent's cutlure, I love christmas and am ambivalent about my parent's culture. For instance my parents just sent me a bunch of channukah stuff for Calliope.  It's funny- when I was a kid one thing I always resented around christmas time was my parents would always say that we couldn't get gifts for channukah, that people who did that were just "trying to be like the goyim" (non jews) so they would give us a very impersonal 20 dollar bill for chanukah.  But now that they have a granddaughter, and jewish culture is competing with secular culture.  Or maybe as they must view it, it's them vs. my mother in law, who they met right after C was born a few months ago, and who is super awesome and nice, so pretty hard to compete with just as a person, especially given the way they have treated us in the past. 

 So here's my awesome mother in law with christmas, showering gifts on my daughter (as she most definitely will cause she's a grandma!) while if they don't send her channukah gifts, it's not like B and I are going to go out of her way to get her anything. Especially in my case, having been taught by my parents that doing this is just a way to try to compete with christmas, and has nothing to do with the holiday at all.  And also to be honest, how many gifts around december time does one kid need?  We're not huge into consumeryness as it is, Christmas we tend to get more personal things, like last year we gave my FIL a framed photo of our ultrasound, I think my MIL who loves tea and snowman got a nice unique snowman mug made by some local pottery crafts people in our area, my brother and sister in law got this beer they love that you can only get in the south, my SIL and MIL both got these awesome wire wrapped amethyst necklace pendents that my husband made out of stones we dug out of a local mine, stuff like that.  Which reminds me, we need to start getting on that stuff for this year.

Anyways I was super not careful about this stuffed dreidel they sent us even though the dogs eat everything stuffed they get their hands on...and they ate it not surprisingly they ate the handle off, so not it's more of a ball than a dreidel (and not safe for babies cause stuffing is falling out). And now I'm like "Was that some unconscious passive aggressive thing on my part because I don't want my daughter playing with a stuffed dreidel and getting to like jewish culture?"

Baby's first jewish cultural indoctrination: The dreidel toy shortly before it's death

In addition to the dreidel toy they sent us a whole bunch of (not judaism related) baby books, a big plastic dreidel filled with chocolate coins (For the grownups I'm assuming), a foam menorah baby toy that she is too young to play with (it says age 3+), and a bib that says "Baby's first channukah" that I took pictures of her wearing yesterday morning but feel ambivalent about her wearing today. Also 2 books about chanukah- one that I remember from when I was a kid that's about a girl who has the same first name as me (same copy) and one that is a baby pop up book about the holiday. I read through it and it doesn't seem to have anything offensive, it mostly talks about the tradition, the only thing about the history is that judah the macabee defeated the greeks which I guess is technically historically accurate?  But I haven't read it to her and I'm not sure that I will.

Meanwhile I called my mom a couple of nights ago- first time I called her directly in probably over a year.  And we talked for a while. Mostly I called her because after driving 13 hours each way to my sister in law's wedding last month (which we still haven't unpacked from), we've decided to spend Thanksgiving at home with just the 3 of us, making our first ever family holiday.  And I wanted some of my mom's  recipes because if we're going to start making our own family traditions, I want to make my mom's thanksgiving stuffing dammit (I also wanted to make chestnuts but for some reason the store only had the ones in jars).  Anyway me and my dad are supposed to skype later this morning and she reminded me 3 or 4 times to make sure it's not "too late" ie. when my bitch aunt is probably going go be there.  Awesome.  

I feel like if my aunt was dead, or a little less of a bitch,  oh and I guess my grandfather would probably have to stop being such a jerk in this scenario too, B and C and I would all be up in NJ right now, celebrating our daughters first thanksgiving AND chanukah.  Or at the very least, we would be skyping much later today, when everyone is over, so that my grandparents (who don't own a computer) could at least see their new great granddaughter. Who in this scenario, would be happy to see her. The way last month, her great grandmother on B's side was super happy to meet her, and during my sister in law's wedding, C was passed around by her grandmother, great grandmother and all her great aunts all night so B and I could have a night off of getting tipsy. The way normal families behave when a new member joins in.  Fortunately B also has a big family, although I wish we lived closer to them.  After the wedding last month, I'm seriously contemplating going on the job market again next year and making another run at finding a job in the midwest for 2015. 

Last night as I watched my facebook page light up with pictures of all my jewish friends who have had babies this year, for a minute I seriously contemplated going up into the attic, where I think my old menorah is- in some box I imagine my great great grandchildren finding one day and being like "OMG we didn't know our great great grandmother the famous sociologist was also a jew! - and digging it out to light for my daughter's first chanukah or whatever.  But talking to my mother reminded me that I really do not want to get my daughter into a religion that makes her own family treat her like a pariah.  Hence my ambivalence.

Friday, November 22, 2013

OTD mom realization of the day

The love I feel for my daughter has something in common with the love I feel for my husband, and the love I felt for 1 or 2 past boyfriends,  that it does not have in common with any way I ever remember feeling towards my parents. 

I think it's been so long since I've truly loved my parents that I can't even remember what it felt like.  I can't remember any time that I didn't feel hurt by them, they've been douching it up since I was around 14 because of religion (which is when I first started going OTD) and now I'm 31.  I always was desperate for them to love me and be nice to me, but I don't think I ever genuinely liked them and wanted to be around them at the same time. Like the way I always want to hang out with B and C.  I haven't been to my parents house (a place I no longer call "home") in over 5 years now, and even when I was going there, I was always leaving as quickly as I could to avoid them as much as possible

My dad has actually been super cool lately compared to what he is normally like, and is warm again in a way that is vaguely reminiscent of the relationship I can at this point barely remember us having before I was a teenager...but he is still distant and douchey in some ways because of religion every once in a while.  My mom is just distant, the last time I talked to her was when they were here when C was 3 weeks old (She is now 17 weeks old).  Maybe I will suggest to my dad that we skype on Thanksgiving or something (although maybe they will be having a big party of all the people who don't know C exists so they won't want to skype with us).  This Thanksgiving will be 2 years since me and my mom supposedly 'reconciled' when I called her after 3 years of not talking.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Advice to women about to have their first baby

As of today C is 15 weeks old!  This week was a very exciting week in C-ville.  On Tuesday she came with us to vote in her first election (well, I chose the candidates, but she helped push the button that said "vote"!).  And then when we came home from elections, I put her down on the floor for some tummy time, and she flipped over for the first time!  It was crazyness! Both me and B saw it, which was awesome.   One minute I was looking  at the back of her head, the next minute I could see her face! And then she did it 3 more times in a row- we managed to get a video of the 4th time (Seen here) which was the first time she flipped over to the right instead of the left. After the 4th time that day she just started crying hysterically when we put her back on her belly, but she's turned over around 4 more times total in the 2 days since then.  She also pretty much started laughing this week, and B spent about 10 minutes yesterday making faces at her so she would laugh.  Speaking of B, today is his 30th birthday!!  Yay! I'm no longer hooking up with a 20-something undergrad at my college (since B goes to my college now and is in a post-bacc program there)!

Two weeks ago B's sister got married in St. Louis. With C it took us about 13 hours to drive each way (We decided driving would be a better idea than flying with a 3 month old), but she was surprisingly chill in the car the whole time.  The day after we got back she had a meltdown every time she had to go in the carseat though.    It was a really lovely non-religious ceremony.  Me and the groom (now my brother in law) got to talking about how when I met B's sister she was working in a church, and it was interesting how their ceremony was completely not religious- and he was like "yeah when I first met her she was working for a church too, and that's why we didn't start dating until many years later!"  Ha! The more I learn about my new brother in law (who I've only met 5-6 times at this point) the more I think we will get along. :)

While we were there C also took a trip to the St Louis zoo with her second cousin, whose name also starts with a C come to think of it. :)  They were freakin adorable together, with cousin C constantly kissing her on the cheek and trying to hold her hand all day.  It makes me sad we don't live in the midwest so C can spend more time with her second cousins, since she has no first cousins yet, and her other second cousins (on my side) either live in Israel, or are part of the group of cousins in NYC who apparently are not allowed to know she exists.   Maybe I will apply to some jobs in the midwest next year again..I'd only move for a job that was as good or better than the one I have now in terms of salary and research productivity (I'm at an R2, would move to another R2 or an R1 but not down to a non-research focused university) but if I could find a job like that in the midwest that would probably be ideal.  Ideal for C at least, I hate the cold and love the warm weather down here, but I could probably sacrifice the awesome weather/long growing season and our sweet house if C could grow up closer to her cousins..as long as I didn't have to sacrifice my career too.  :) It's probably just speculation anyway, the chance of getting a job at a university that is as good as mine that ALSO is right near B's family is pretty small at this point given that there are a very limited number of schools of that caliber, and most are not hiring sociologists at all, let alone sociologists in my specific subfield- there are probably less than 5 jobs that fit that criteria (hiring someone like me/as good as or better than my school in terms of salary/research productivity) that are posted nationally each year.

Speaking of C's second cousins, yes I send that letter to my aunt (her great aunt).  And my aunt never wrote back. But I also CCed a copy to my dad, and it led to us having a very honest and open conversation about how me getting married has affected all of us, and how a lot of that is the fault of my douchey aunt who wants to keep me and my husband a secret from her kids and grandkids.  It turns out my aunt made my mom cry by basically saying something similar to her (she can't tell my cousins about me getting married/having a kid) and I think in a way that's gotten my dad much more on our 'side.'  It's ridiculous that my aunt is making people choose 'sides' at all.  But whatever, if she wants to be a bitch that's her problem. I grew up not knowing a whole bunch of my second cousins very well for various geographic/family fight issues, so C can too I guess. Sigh.

Anyway getting back to the original point of this blog post, which was that I also saw B's cousin N at the wedding, who is expecting her first child in January. And we got to talking as new moms/about to be new moms do, all about the experience of giving birth and having a new kid. Which made me think it might be nice to share some tips I have for new moms, based on my recent experiences as an "experienced" (ha!) mom of a 3 month old.

Advice to women about to have their first baby

Regarding the birth:
Don't be too obsessed with any birth plan you come up with, cause things will change on the ground.  My birth plan was "avoid an epidural as much as possible, must ask B at least 3 times to get one,  avoid an IV until medically necssary (I have something called a "hep lock/saline lock"for the first two hours I was in the hospital, which is where they put the needle in your arm but don't hook you up to an IV- that way it's there if they need it, but you aren't hooked up to a bunch of wires at first), donate cord blood if possible."

Before I gave birth I was a bit obsessed with the idea of having a natural birth and learned all sorts of breathing/pain management techniques to avoid pain meds. I also was secretly terrified of having an epidural- my birth class teacher made it seem really scary by describing huge needles going into your spine, etc.  At the same time, I think it was this kind of  'macho' (ladies version)  idea I had- that I could tough it out, that I could give birth without any pain meds and come out the other end being like "I did it!  I didn't need meds! I'm awesome!"  Hey, I have gotten around 8 piercings over the years, and I thought those hurt a lot, I used to donate blood on a regular basis which requires lots of needles, I think of myself as a tough lady, so I thought I could totally deal with it.  I went into labor 90% sure I would not have an epidural. Even when we got the hospital (after 34 hours of labor) and they asked if I wanted one (they were not pushy at all despite scary movies telling you all hospital staff is evil) I turned them down at first.  Eventually I got it, and girl, it was AWESOME.  I went from rocking back and forth in pain not being able to talk,panting/moaning incoherently , having 10 minute contractions, to getting the epidural (which didn't hurt at all) to blogging, calling my parents to tell them I was in labor, and even trying to take a nap! (although I didn't really succeed cause I was too excited to sleep).  I think it was good to wait as long as I could take it so I could progress as far as I did on my own (6 centimeters) but don't  feel bad if you have one, they are great.

By the way, the epidural takes around 10 minutes to kick in, and lying down makes it kick in faster, even if it hurts (I couldn't lie down at first for around 3 minutes after I got it because I was still having super painful contractions and it hadn't kicked in yet).  Strangely, after you give birth you remember being in pain but the memory of what it felt like went away really quickly, like some kind of strange amnesia..i can remember being in pain but not really what it felt like anymore. 

Get an ipad/smart phone app for timing your contractions and time them when you first think you are going into labor.  Don't call the doctor until they are 5 minutes on average for at least 1-2 hours or you are in so much pain that you feel like you have to go. The doctor will say 5 minutes *regularly* but my contractions never got regular, even when I was in the hospital after my water had broken.  I had false labor 3 times where I was sure I was in labor but my contractions stayed around 12 minutes apart (by the way there are no such thing as fake contractions- they are all real contractions, just some space out, and when you are actually in labor they get closer together and more painful). Then when I actually went into labor my contractions were 12-30 minutes apart for around 14 hours before getting 12 minutes apart for like 8 hours...I didn't end up feeling in enough pain to go to the doctor until around 30 hours after first starting to have contractions.I would say to put off going to the hospital as long as possible.

Definitely eat something before you go to the hospital because once you are there they won't let you eat anything real- at my hospital they had like clear broth and ices and juice but that was it. But you'll probably want something light because you'll be having contractions and feeling kinda nauseous. The first day I was in labor I ate normally and had a somewhat light dinner (IIRC it was spinach and cheese quessadillas with guacamole).  Right before I went to the hospital I had a muffin and a strawberry/banana/kefir/OJ smoothie.

Definitely get the mirror when you're giving birth.   You don't want to miss seeing that, it's only a once or twice in a lifetime opportunity for most of us, and even though it's gross, it's freakin amazing.

The birth is only 1 day, don't think about it so much that you forget to plan for what happens afterwards (like a wedding!)

Things to do prior to giving birth: 
Definitely make some easily re-heatable food and freeze it so that when you get back from the hospital you have something easy and hearty to eat in between/after when people bring you food. I know some people who just make double of everything they cook for the month before they give birth and freeze the second one, and that's not a bad idea if you have the freezer space and time.  I have limited freezer space, but I made about a gallon of broccoli cheddar soup and a few pounds of meatballs that could easily be reheated + a bunch of stuffed shells that just needed to be sauced and stuck in the oven. Also stock up on things that you can eat when you have 2 seconds in between the baby crying and crying again, like granola bars /protein bars and maybe those protein/smoothie drinks, because there will be times that you are starving (nursing makes you starving) and have nothing easy to make and you'll want something.  I was not well prepared for this and ended up eating a ton of ice cream bars because they were high calorie and I could eat them really quickly...and I gained back basically all the weight I lost from giving birth in the month or two after giving birth.

If people ask if you want handmedowns, say yes, even if they are boys clothes (baby girls like blue too!)! If people offer to throw you a baby shower, say yes! If people ask if you need help with anything after the birth, really, say, "yes, I would love to see you a week or two after giving birth, maybe you can stop by to visit for around an hour, and i wouldn't be upset if you brought along some food with you."  It's weird to ask for help, but ask for it.  Ask for food especially.  Right after birth people might pop up asking if they could come by and if they can bring anything (Random work colleagues, other moms especially).  Say yes, always ask for food if they ask if they can bring anything, and schedule people bringing food to come every 2-3 days because you will probably have leftovers and you don't want those to build up (plus you don't want to have too many visitors at first).

Buying all the stuff you need for new babies can be overwhelming. Have a recent mom friend look over your baby registry (and definitely register- people will want to buy you stuff.I used this list of things to register for: http://www.lucieslist.com/ .  I especially recommend the velcro swaddlers- get the 4-6 month size because you can use them as early as 2 months, and before that they are small enough to swaddle in a small baby blanket like the kind they have at the hospital.

 Don't register for clothing since you'll get more than enough of that as gifts both before and after you give birth.  Don't buy any newborn clothes if you can help it, you will probably get more than enough as gifs/handmedowns, and newborns don't need too many clothing changes because they can't really move without you holding them, and they don't drool that much yet. If you do end up needing to buy any clothes, shop consignment- it's not worth the money to buy new clothes that they will only wear 3 times before they grow out of it, when there is perfectly good clothes for sale that have only been worn 3 times!  Footie pajamas with zippers, not snaps, are the best for cold weather, short sleeves onesies and later rompers are great for warm weather. Remember they will be different sizes at different seasons so buy things of the appropriate season.

Every mom I know swears by the ergo baby carrier.  We didn't bother with the newborn insert- we used a rolled up blanket  (here's a Video that shows you how) We did get this before giving birth and used it when she was around 2 weeks old to go on walks to the park.  Speaking of which, don't overdo it too much right after giving birth- that walk to the park when she was 2 weeks old was too much and I couldn't walk for like a day afterwards. So we got that prior to her being born.

You'll need more burp clothes than you think. Hold off on buying a lot of pacifiers and bottles until you figure out which types they like. Although do buy the large size bottles that plug into your breast pump (which you should also get before giving birth) for storage of breast milk.

After birth/at the hospital:
Breastfeeding is hard and there is a learning curve both for you and the baby since neither of you really knows what you are doing at first. if there is a lactation consultant at your hospital who talks to people right after giving birth, definitely have them come by, because you don't have any idea of what you're doing- I took a breastfeeding class and I still had no clue what I was doing when it came down to it. Also don't be afraid to call a lactation consultant just for reassurance- I did when C was making this weird lip smacking noise the first few weeks she nursed (The LC said it was fine as long as she was gaining weight, which she was, and she eventually stopped).

They have this water spray bottle thing at the hospital- fill it with warm water and spray it on yourself while you are peeing.  If you have to get stiches (like I did) they will sting really badly if you pee without diluting the pee with water at the same time. But you only have to do that for a few days, it heals really quickly.

In the hospital they will probably be stingy with the giant after birth sanitary pads/ice packs/disposable underwear.  Definitely hide some away in your suitcase and ask for more, and if one nurse won't give you more ask another nurse. For some reason one of my nurses was super stingy with the ice pack sanitary pad things, but those are super awesome- I managed to get 4 to take home (and by then I didn't even really need them, they were just awesome).  Also ask for a second bottle of the numbing spray they have to spray on yourself - definitely useful the first couple of days.  Things HURT down there for the first few days after giving birth naturally, especially after the epidural wears off if you have one. :)

After you get home:
If you are taking maternity leave and then going back to work after a few months and hoping to do a mixture of pumping and breastfeeding (like my cousin): Don't introduce bottles right away because they won't breasfeed if you do, but do introduce them by around 3-5 weeks if you want them to take a bottle.  Introduce pacifiers around 3-4 weeks if you want them to use them (they are a blessing and a curse- they are great for when they are young before they can suck on their thumb, but them they get used to them and scream if they fall out until you come and put them back in).  The tommy tippy bottle is good if they won't take a regular one at first. If you use the same kind of bottle all the time at first they will probably only drink from that kind of bottle, but if you vary the type of bottle they might be more willing to drink from different kinds.  Or they might just prefer a specific type of bottle, so try different types if they don't seem to like the first kind.  Same for types of pacifiers (silicone vs. latex, straight nipple vs. orthodontic nipples- C will only use the ones that are latex with the not straight nipple)

When you need to leave the house (Which you'll have to do almost immediately after you get home to go see a doctor) plan to start getting ready to leave 20 minutes earlier than you used to. Maybe even 30 minutes at first

Watch this video on baby language.   I was skeptical at first but it really is accurate and helped me figure out what my baby wants when she's crying

The baby will have several growth spurts where she eats round the clock and you'll think you are running out of milk, but that's normal. C had an especially bad one at 8-9 weeks old.  Think of this as the baby leveling up- at the end of each growth spurt you will either see them physically grow (suddenly clothes that were too big will fit, or with clothes that fit you can suddenly see their wrists/ankles) or they will learn to do something new.  Around 4-6 weeks they will first start waking up and taking notice of the world and they can be very cranky during that time.

Don't have guests over the first few weeks, unless they are bringing you food and staying for an hour or less.  Don't have out of town/overnight guests over the first month and have them stay at a hotel, not in your house. The exception is close family members (parents) but they must first agree to help you- and helping doesn't mean holding the baby while you do a bunch of housework, it means doing the housework while you hold the baby and maybe holding the baby while you take a shower.

Keep track of every gift you get and send a thank you card.  A birth announcement with a handwritten thank you on the back works pretty well.

There are websites where you can get weekly info about what stage your baby is at and what they should be doing that week. They are fun to read but don't feel bad if you fall behind cause it's very easy to do so.
Here are some links:

Any tips to add readers?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

10 years

10 years ago right around this time of year, my life was in total flux. I was living in NYC and in the process of applying to 10 different phd programs all over the country, and had no idea where I would be living the next year, let alone in the long term. That was right around when me and my ex fiance, who I had been dating for 4 years, parted ways. I had just been laid off from what turned out to be the last non-academic job I would have, and had recently started working on my first paid research gig, while finishing up my last year of college. I was just starting to meet some of my hippie friends who I would turn out to spend a lot of my 20s hanging out with, and right around then was when I stopped keeping kosher altogether, after having only eaten kosher food my entire life. I also 'came out' as no longer being orthodox jewish to my family, and stopped attending orthodox services around that time.

Since then, I moved to Philly, lived in a some horrible apartments, had several questionable romantic entanglements, went to around 25 music festivals and probably around 150-200 shows, grew dreadlocks for a year, stopped being religious entirely, met my husband, moved in with him, got married, somehow accumulated 2 dogs and 3 cats, finished my phd, got a job as an assistant professor, moved to the South of all places, bought a sweet house, and a few years later had a baby girl.

What a long strange trip it's been...
Webcam Selfie in my dorm room in Manhattan, around 10 years ago

 Halloween 2004 with a friend from grad school,on a weekend trip to the NYC Halloween Parade
 Halloween 2013

Me with dreadlocks and my friends N and J at the Gathering of the Vibes music festival at around 3am after drinking several mojitos, NY, August 2006

Me and J after both being up at 3am the night before trying to put our kids (aged 3 months and 11 months) back to sleep, my place, October 2013

Friday, October 4, 2013

Draft of response to Aunt E.telling me I must keep my husband/child a secret

And now for another episode of "Ridiculously long emails I write and sometimes send to my family members to try to teach them to not be such douchebags!"  It's been a while, amirite? This may change as I tweak it...

Dear Aunt E.,

This will be long but please read the whole thing and take at least a few days to think about it before deciding how to respond.

First off, let me apologize.  It was rude of me to not fill you in on my important family news over the past few years, and I'm sure you've had to find out about a lot of changes in my life through the grapevine.  So let me catch you up on what I've been up to so that you can hear it straight from me.

First, I am not religious anymore, and I haven't been for over a decade.  I openly went "off the derech" when I was in my early 20s.  This caused my parents a lot of heartache, which I felt really bad about, but ultimately after many many years of living a double life and trying to keep secret my true beliefs to protect their feelings, I was miserable about having to lie to my family and pretend I was doing something I wasn't.

Yes, I am married. I got married a little over 4 years ago (May 2009) to a man named B.  We got married in a small non-religious ceremony in a state park in Pennsylvania with about 20 of our closest friends and family members there.  I'm sorry we didn't invite you- ultimately we didn't want to deal with the heartache of possible reactions like the one you just had while we were going through such a happy time, so we decided to not invite extended family.  I'm sure you heard my parents didn't come to the wedding, and for a long time me and them were not on great terms, although we are talking and visiting more now that I have a baby.  You see, my husband isn't jewish. Like me, he isn't religious at all.  He grew up Catholic, and he also had a lot of fights with his family when he decided he didn't want to practice religion anymore, but they ultimately resolved their issues and have a relationship that is stronger than ever today. 

B is a great guy. He followed me down here to the south so I could get my dream job. Neither of us were super thrilled about moving to the south, but we like the how cheap everything is- we were able to buy an awesome 3 bedroom house in a great public school district- and we feel like it'll be a good and safe place to raise our kid(s).   Right now B is back in school again in a post-bacc program, working on getting a teaching license to teach middle school science.  He also does a ton of housework and changes almost all the baby's diapers which is awesome! :) We are very happy together and he is a great dad. 

Speaking of which, we also just had a baby! Her name is C.  She is 10 weeks old today and really adorable. She has this kind of half smile sometimes which makes her look just like your son Y and when she frowns she looks just like Bobbi. :)  She also has Zayde's (And your/my mom/my) eyes. Being a mom is amazing.

Now as for your response to my email.  When I read it, I was deeply hurt and very disappointed.  B and I are sending out birth announcements to his family, and since there are plenty of people on my side of our family who are very happy for us, several of whom have sent us cards and gifts, I am sending announcements out to those people too. I thought it would be rude to send baby announcements to some cousins/aunts/uncles but not others, and I thought it would be a nice gesture to send them to cousins and my aunt and uncle (namely you and uncle A) who I have been out of touch with in a while.

I didn't expect to find out that you had been keeping my marriage and child a secret from your children like I'm some sort of shameful pariah, just because I made some different life decisions than you did.  It's not like I'm a murderer, I just married someone I love who follows the same religion as me (none) for goodness sakes, and having a child is always a happy thing. 

If you don't want to give me the contact information of your children of course I can't force you to give it to me.   But how do you expect this to work in the long run? Do you think I will never see your children again, or keep my husband and child a secret when I do? Some day my brother E is going to get married (and he is still religious), are you going to keep your children from attending? Are you going to pressure my parents to make sure I'm not invited? What happens when chas v'shalom bobbi and zaidy pass away? And when my parents do?  Am I supposed to not go to the funeral of my own grandparents and parents so your children won't find out about my secret husband and daughter and any future children I have?  Should my children not attend their grandparent's funeral, or will you somehow keep all your kids from attending my parents'? Despite our differences in thought, we are still family, and even if you try to sever ties with me, there is no way to actually do that.  And meanwhile you are putting all the rest of our family in an awkward position where feelings are going to get hurt, by trying to keep this a secret.

And how are your children going to feel when they find out that I am married and have a child then? What are you afraid is going to happen? It's not like their heads are going to explode or they are going to throw off their hats and sheitels and run off with a non jewish person or something.  You should have a little more faith in their ability to handle the truth. They will be surprised I'm sure, like L and another one of your other children were when I told them.  I doubt they will be very hurt, unless they are hurt that I didn't tell them before, because your children are mentches, and there is no reason to be 'hurt' that another person has different religious beliefs than you, or that they are happily married and have an awesome child.   There is also no possible way that finding out I am married to a non jewish person and have a child could hurt them a fraction as much as your response has hurt me.

 Do you think they will all be happy to find out that their mother decided that we could no longer have a relationship with each other? Because by refusing to give me their contact information, you are cutting off any relationship I can have with them.  And yes, they are your children, but they are also my cousins, and we are all adults.  My relationship with my cousins is independent of you, and I really don't think it's appropriate for you to be making that decision on our behalf at this age.  Am I supposed to keep that a secret from them too, on the day they inevitably find out about my husband and child?

Finally, even if you don't care about me and my family, I really wish you would consider the implications of your attitude for my mother, your sister, who I presume you care about.  She cares about your opinion and I'm betting that she feels enormous pressure to distance herself from me and my family because of your attitude of trying to keep this all a secret.  But I also know she wants to have a relationship with her only grandchild.  You have 8, you can't let her enjoy her only 1 by turning this into some huge shameful secretive thing?  Are you going to ask her to hide pictures of her only grandchild if your children come over to her house, instead of fawning over the pictures of her grandchild the way a sister should? Knowing my mother I bet she has done a ton of nice things for your children and grandchildren over the years. Have you even wished your sister mazel tov on becoming a grandmother?  Or were you too busy trying to make her feel ashamed about it? The sad thing is I think she might come to believe you and feel like this treatment of her, her daughter, and her granddaughter is warranted or acceptable.  She deserves better then that, and so do me and my daughter.

I really think it would be better for the entire family if we just told everyone the truth now and got it over with, and then went back to being a happy family again (as much as we were before, anyway). Then your kids can decide for themselves how they want to react, and it won't be a huge secret anymore, since the fact that it is a secret is what is tearing our family apart and causing so much hurt feelings.

Yes this is very difficult. It is difficult when your family turns their backs on you. It's difficult when the people you thought loved you, the people who helped raise you and who you spent countless hours with you throughout your childhood, distance themselves from you, and let you know that they will only love you "unconditionally" as long as you live a lifestyle that makes you miserable. It is difficult that even though I want my daughter to know about her jewish heritage, your insistence on keeping her a secret may prevent her from experiencing jewish holidays with my side of the family, since you and my parents spend so many holidays together.   It was difficult when my mother wrote me a letter disowning me, and it is difficult that even though we have reconciled to some degree, there is still a great distance between us, which you are helping to reinforce. It is difficult that every single time I have a major life event- when I got engaged, when I got married, when I had my first child - the times when decent people are happy for their relatives - I've had relatives popping up acting like I should be ashamed about it instead of celebrating with me.  Can you imagine what it has been like to go through all that?

But you know what? I am happy and proud of the life choices I have made.  I have an awesome life, I have a great husband and  a beautiful daughter, I own a great house and I have a successful career which I love, and I am happy with my life and the way I live it, and I will not for one second be ashamed of my happiness.  The only thing I am ashamed of regarding my family are the people in it who don't know how to act like family members should, and who use religion as an excuse to be heartless and cruel.  Do you really believe that God cares more about the length of your skirt or the food you eat than about treating your own flesh and blood family members with basic human decency, let alone the respect and unconditional love they deserve, regardless of what those family members believe or who they marry?  Or who their daughters have married? I have many off the derech friends who are married to non jewish people, and a lot of them have very good relationships with their orthodox jewish family, even with families that are much more religious than you.  Why are their families able to stick together, I wonder, while ours seems to be falling apart?

You are my Aunt and I guess part of me will always love you, but I could not be more hurt by your words.  I truly hope you will reconsider your treatment of me and my family, and especially how that treatment impacts my mother, since in the end I think she is the one being most hurt by all of this. And if you choose to continue to go down this path, I hope that on the day that you inevitably meet my family, that you will do the right thing and keep any hateful words and sour expressions to yourself, especially around my daughter.

Attached is a picture of your new great-niece.  Mazel tov on the new addition to your family. 

Abandoning Eden

P.s. The last time I saw P  (at N's wedding) she found out I was moving down south, and she begged me to come back up North to come to her eventual wedding, and I promised her I would. When I heard she was engaged, the first thing I did was think about the best way I could travel to the wedding, given that I will have a 5 month old baby who will still be nursing.  I am very upset that she will think I didn't keep my promise (Since I'm assuming you are going to prevent me from keeping it by not inviting me), and I hope she is not too hurt by it.   

Thursday, October 3, 2013

When is this hurtful crap going to end?

After being married for 4 years and running the whole gamut of rejection back when I got engaged and then married, and then actually reconciling with my parents after several years of hardly talking, I truly thought that the worst was over, and I was not going to have to deal with that hurtful crap anymore.  A couple of years ago a publisher contacted me about writing a memoir and I told them I don't think the story would be over until I had a kid so I wanted to wait until I was older, if ever.  And recently the thought crossed my mind that if I was to write a memoir some day I could now write about how me and my parents reconciled when I had a child, like 70 bajillion people predicted they would. As my husband put it, I had let my guard down.

But of course it never ends!  Every time I have a major life event I am super happy about, some family member has to act like a huge asshole and make me feel bad because they're an intolerant religious asshole who can't deal with the fact that I made different life decisions than they did. 

C is 10 weeks old tomorrow and we have finally gotten the baby announcements designed, printed, and sent to us.  I emailed my dad asking for my Aunt's and her (adult) children's addresses.  My dad said he didn't have them but I could email my aunt, and gave me her email address. I emailed asking for the addresses and this is the response I got. Keep in mind my cousins are all adults, ranging in age from 19-31, and 3 of them have kids of their own.  Growing up I was pretty close with them and probably saw them 4 or 5 times a year despite living 2 hours apart. This woman is my mom's sister and is yeshivish, one of the most religious families in my extended family.  I've heard she keeps a picture of me next to her shabbas candles and 'davens for me' every time she lights.

Hi Abandoing Eden
Thank G-d everyone is well.
I heard that you had a little girl.  I hope you and the baby are doing well.  Besides L, I don't think any of my children know that you are 'married' and had a baby. I would prefer that it remains that way.  I don't think anything is to be gained by their knowing.  I think it would be hurtful to some of them if they knew the life choices you've made for yourself.  I sincerely hope that you will respect my request.  I don't intend to be mean, but this is difficult.  
If you would like to call me for any reason, my phone  # [redacted]
Take care of yourself.
Aunt E

My first impulse was to write a nasty letter back about what an asshole she is being and how I wouldn't want my daughter to know her racist bigoted ass anyway (and she is a racist beyond even the jewish stuff- last time I talked to he she was throwing around the N word and saying Obama is a Muslim). Actually my first impulse was to tear up a little cause when the fuck is this bullshit going to end already, I've now been dealing with this shit for almost 7 years, and how could anyone, let alone a several people in the same family, be this hurtful to their family members?

But instead of writing back to her I forwarded the email to my dad with a note attached that said "Well this is the response I got from her...lovely "family centric" religion you got there....with this kind of love its' a wonder I didn't stay.  I'm not writing back to her for now cause the only appropriate response I can think of is "E you are a self righteous bitch and i hope you die in a fire"..-AE.  He didn't write back but wrote back to another email I sent him recently instead..he probably doesn't know what to say. 

(me and my dad are actually on much better terms these days, since I got pregnant really. I don't think this will insult him too much since he doesn't love E either).

It's funny, the last time I saw my cousin P, E's daughter (not L), I was telling her about how I recently got married to a non jewish man and was about to move south, and she was telling me that I had to promise to come back up north to go to her wedding.  I hear a couple of weeks ago that she got engaged and had been contemplating using her wedding as an excuse to go visit my parents/brother with C.  But now I'm thinking an invitation is probably not forthcoming.

I love how she said "married' in quotation marks.  What a fucking cuntloaf. The sad thing is that my daughter kinda looks like her a little. Hopefully she'll grow out of that.

Maybe I was naive to think I should send my family birth announcements like we're a normal family.  But things have been going really well with my parents, and until now most of my extended family has been much cooler  than I expected them to be about me marrying a non-jewish guy/having a kid, so I thought it would be nice to send them out since we're sending a bunch to B's family (his extended family is super into birth announcement and christmas cards with updated kid pictures, which I really like).

I didn't invite any of my extended family members to my wedding because I didn't want to deal with a wave of rejection. And after that, so many people were cool about it that I thought maybe I had made a mistake by rejecting everyone before I could be rejected by them and not inviting them to my wedding.  I actually have a bunch of family members I keep in touch with on a semi regular basis now, and I thought this would be the opportunity to reach out to a bunch of people I haven't talked to in a while and say hi and send along my good news, and give them the chance to be cool about it.

What the hell was I thinking.I can never let my guard down with my family.  Every major life event, one or more of them has shown up to shit all over it. I bet when I'm like 60 years old and going to my parents funeral there will be random relatives popping out of the woodwork to be assholes.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The death of an OTDer

Yesterday a woman named Deb Tambor committed suicide.She was 33.

I didn't know Deb in person, but she and I posted on the same Off the Derech facebook groups for several years. Deb was a lovely woman who often posted encouraging words to others struggling with leaving the orthodox jewish religion, and posted about her own struggles. The last time I heard from her was when she was congratulating me for having a child.  And I got to know some details of her life over the years.  How she had several children with an orthodox jewish spouse whom she divorced. How her own father testified against her in the child custody case because she was no longer religious, and she lost custody of her children. How her children were told negative things about her because she was no longer religious, and how they began to treat her with the same disdain shown towards her by her former chassidic community.

I hesitate to post these details becasue Deb posted them in a protected group, in confidence. But I felt it was important for the world to know that these type of things happen, and continue to happen. And what the consequences sometimes are. And these aren't the only consequences. The consequence of the threat of having this happen keeps many people in unhappy marriages, or hiding their true religious beliefs, sometimes for decades .

Now I'm not saying that these things are the reason she committed suicide. I don't know why she committed suicide and I don't really know why she lost custody of her kids, other than what she said about it. Maybe she was depressed in general, although that's no reason to lose custody of your children unless she posed a threat to them. Maybe she did pose a threat to them. I have no idea.

What I do know is that if there is an all powerful sky being, and that sky being is just, then there's a special place in hell reserved for people who encourage parents to turn against their children, or children to turn against their parents, in the name of religion or lack thereof.

What I do know is that if court systems are ruling in favor of religious spouses and cutting off custody of non religious spouses due to religious reasons, whether that is because of some misguided idea that keeping children in the same religion is more in their best interest than regular visits with both parents, or because witnesses are giving false testimony due to the religious beliefs of a parent, then they are making unjust decisions.

What I do know is that the off the derech community has more and more been turning into a real community in the past few years, due in no small part to facebook groups, and before that, the writing of many bloggers. Along with things like footsteps and cholent.  We've organized protests against child molestation and have visited courts to support victims of the orthodox community.  And maybe it's time we started using that community power to organize something more. Maybe a non profit that provides free legal aid for those going through custody cases with religious spouses or who need other sorts of legal help related to leaving their religion? Maybe a phone line to connect you with another OTDer for those who need someone to talk to or advice? I'm just throwing out ideas here.

Please use this post to throw out some more ideas.  I may not be able to respond right away because things are crazy right now but I would love for those who have more time and who are geographically closer to centers of jewish life to begin organizing themselves, and I will help in any way I can.  I will update with more info as I know it.

ETA: I've just learned that a young man named Yoeli Speilman, who had grown up chassidic and become modern orthodox, and who was disowned by his family as a result, killed himself the day after yom kippur.  I don't even know what to say. I'm not saying his family situation is the reason he killed himself, and unlike Deb I never interacted with him him personally or know anything other than what people are saying on the grapevine, but f it's true I think it's telling that two people in similar situations killed themselves over the jewish holidays. What can we do to help people who are thinking of committing suicide?

ETA2: Some other posts about Deb from other OTDers and Jewish bloggers: 
My Derech, On and Off: A Mother's Murder 
I am Acher!: For Deb: A very special eulogy 
Hayley Amanda: for deb. for life.  
Stop Kiruv Now: Turning families against each other  
Y-Love: Stolen too soon: In memory of Deb Tambor a'h 
Kol B'isha Erva: Why do we assume that when a marriage ends its because one spouse went otd

ETA3: Sunday 5:04pm (eastern): Rumor is that the funeral will take place on roosevelt ave. in New Square tonight at midnight.  Other rumors say she was already buried in New Square without a real funeral.  A third rumor says the funeral will take place there within an hour. Either way there are many people heading to New Square right now and there is talk of a candelight vigil tonight. I'll try to post more as I find out about it

 ETA4: Anyone who is thinking of taking your life, please first take the time to call someone on this list and tell them about it.

ETA5: I hear many OTDers who wanted to attend the funeral of their friend Deb Tambor (who many of us knew in 'real life') went to new square yesterday with some staying until the wee hours of the morning, but the new square shitheads wouldn't tell them where or when it was going to happen, and she ended up being buried this morning in Long island with only her family present. I am told she was not buried in the new square cemetery because she was not shomer shabbas(??).  Also someone has posted a poem written by Deb before her death: Can a father hate his child? Deb's last poem

ETA6: Deb's boyfriend told me that he was notified about the funeral location by Deb's family as the funeral was starting, and that they knew he was an hour and a half away.  I feel sick to my stomach over the way this has played out.  One thing I will be doing in the very near future is writing a will. 

ETA7: Failed Messiah has A good summary of the situation which has more sickening details of what happened to Deb. 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

8 weeks old

For the first time tonight, C actually paid attention and looked at the pictures in the book when we read a bedtime story!  Last night we read the first half of The Cat in the Hat.  Why half?  Because those Dr. Seuss books are long and I really had to pee. Since C wasn't paying attention to what I was saying or doing even though I was pointing her towards the book I didn't feel too bad about not reading the whole book. But then today we picked up where we left off (around when the cat brings in Thing one and Thing two) and she totally paid attention to the book and the pictures while I was reading it to her!  And then we read goodnight moon (which we've read about 15 times already) and she paid attention to those pictures too!

She also spent several minutes this morning petting  and smiling at durkheim the cat, who has decided she should be his buddy.  Later today she was sitting next to him and put an arm around him:

She's decided she likes being lifted in the air (or at least she smiles a lot when she lands) and she likes tickling.  She also likes when I go get her when she's been fussing in her crib. She smiles a lot now, and it's awesome, because it's the first she's showing of her own personality- smiling when she likes things. She can sit up when someone hold her around the waist and hold her head up on her own. She can roll over on her side, and in the past few days has started paying attention to toys, so we've been having fun showing her all the toys that she's gotten as gifts, one at a time. She's making new sounds and staying awake more during the day, although she's still waking up 1-4 times a night, and so far has only had 3 nights, not in a row, where she only woke up once to eat in the night.

I guess I never really updated about my parents coming to visit. When we were arranging the visit I told my parents that my mother in law was planning to come visit when she was around 3 weeks, and she was planning to stay for around a week (which she did) and told them they could come before or after. My dad was like "actually we've always been curious to meet B's parents, and unfortunately we never got a chance to meet his dad."  Ha. They were 50 feet from each other at my phd graduation 3 years ago, and I offered to introduce them to each other, and my parents turned down the invitation (I had 2 graduation ceremonies- one for the entire school, one for the graduate school of arts and sciences. My parents when to the first an my in-laws to the second. That was the day my parents met B, but they turned down the chance to meet B's parents- at that point we had been married for a year).

My parents decided to fly in to a city about an hour and a half away from here and drive from there to here.  We have an airport here, but with the connection it would be about the same time apparently. It took them 2 hours to drive here. They got here around 2pm on a Sunday and stayed until around 6pm. Then they drove back to the city they flew into, because they had booked a hotel room there.  They ate dinner there at a kosher restaurant (something we don't have in my city) and flew out the next morning. Once again they only stayed here for a few hours, this time even though they were staying in the state overnight.

They were nice when they were here although of course they had on their "fake personality" because my mother in law was here and she's a stranger.  My mom asked me to email her a scanned picture of C's footprints so she can use them in the design for a baby quilt for her. :)  They took a million pictures with C and my dad invited us to drive down to visit them in florida at their condo down there that they are going to for new years.  But we are driving to the midwest for christmas at my mother in law's house, and I don't think we're going to come back and then drive another 12 hours to florida a few days later, that seems crazy with a 5 month old.  I told them maybe in a couple of years, since we are planning to start having christmas at our house once C is a couple of years old so then we wouldn't be traveling (and they always go down to florida for new years).  Maybe in a few years we'll drive down to visit them and spend a few days in disney land or harry potter land on the way back. I secretly dream that when C is older we'll read all the harry potter books together at bedtime and then watch all the movies and go to harry potter land when we're done with the entire series.

Speaking of christmas, one of my favorite cousins who is around 22 years old just got enagaged to a guy she's known for 2 months, and they are considering having a wedding on christmas eve. When I moved here a little over 3 years ago I saw her right before I moved, and she told me I should come back for her wedding. But I don't think I could deny B C's first christmas with his family, so I'm not going to go if they have it then.  They may not have it then though, and depending on the timing it might be a good time to go up and visit.

A week after my parents were here my brother and his live in girlfriend came to visit for a couple of days. It made me kinda sad that I live so far from them, since my brother really liked reading C a story and spending time with her and he was saying that the next time he see's her she will probably be a toddler.  That's really why I'm considering going up for my cousin's wedding if it's not on christmas, and also why I'm getting together some research to send it to a conference that will be in NYC next summer.

Speaking of research, I heard back a few weeks ago that I got a "conditional accept" on a journal article- meaning they accepted my article for publication but wanted me to make a few last changes. They gave me a month to make the changes, so I ended up "going back to work" (working on research from home) a little earlier than planned, and sent in those revisions this week. That's #3 out of 5 of the articles I need to get tenure (only peer reviewed articles published since I got this job count towards the 5- this is my 6th peer reviewed publication in total).  I also received a "revise and resubmit" decision on another article which is due in 2 months- they actually initially asked for it back in 60 days, which would have been right around now, but I got the decision 3 days before my due date and I asked them for a 2 month extension. I'm going to be working on that starting on Monday when I get a bunch of stuff my coauthor has been working on. I also have the research to get together for that conference in NYC, and some other research to get together for another conference which is going to be held locally in the spring, both with extended abstracts due in mid October.  Not sure about my work schedule after that, except that I have 2 articles that were rejected from journals that I want to revise and send out to new journals, and a dissertation chapter that I want to revise and send out too, along with 2 articles I want to get started on writing.

It's hard to know how much to work since I am technically on "research leave" right now and not maternity leave. My maternity leave didn't cover a full semester- it covered 2 out of 3 of my classes.  But I also had a "research leave" due to me this year as part of my hiring contract (to make a final big research push for tenure) and planned my pregnancy around it.  So my choices were a) go back to work 3 weeks after giving birth but only teaching one class this semester, and then take my research leave in the spring semester and have no teaching in the spring or b) take my research leave this semester and not teach and then take my maternity leave in the spring and teach my one class then.

Of course option b made more sense, but now I worry that I am 'wasting' my entire research leave on maternity leave stuff and therefore hurting my career, since other people at my stage in their career have a semester to work on research full time.  I extended my tenure clock by a year so I have 3 more years until I go up for tenure instead of 2,  but I really want to publish enough that I can go up for tenure "early" which is actually on time, since tenure comes with a raise and yearly raises (when I get them) are based on a percent my current salary- so forgoing that raise for a year can really impact my salary in the long run.  I figure since my maternity leave covers 2/3rds of a semester I shouldn't worry about only working on research for 3-4 hours a day for 3-4 days a week at the most right now, and should probably not even be working right now at all. And then I can go back to work full time next semester during my 'maternity leave' when I only teach 1 class, and make up that research time then. But depending on B's work and school schedule next semester, I may also be watching C a few days a week then, and it'll be harder to work when she's older and awake for more of the day. Argh. As I said, it's hard to know how much to work, but for now as long as I'm getting a few things done research-wise every week, and meeting my deadlines for journal editors and conference organizers, I'm going to try not to worry about it too much.

I was reading a mommy blog today and realized...I guess i am kinda a mommy blog now? Weird.