Blah Blah Blahg

A little of this, a little of that, and a whole lot of blah blah blah....

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Mother Working...

Before I was married, I taught preschool full time. I used to cover the nap room shift on many afternoons and if all of the children were fast asleep, I'd walk over to the CD player and put one of the lullabies, "You Can Close Your Eyes," by James Taylor on repeat. That was one of my busiest years not only teaching, but also meeting the man who is now my husband, becoming engaged, and planning a wedding. Cozy afternoons watching a room full of sleeping preschoolers were just the space I needed to clear my head. I could very abstractly imagine what it might someday feel like to hold my own little bundle of joy and rock that cozy bundle to sleep with these words:

Well the sun is surely sinking down, but the moon is slowly rising.
So this old world must still be spinning round and I still love you.

So close your eyes, you can close your eyes, it's all right.
I don't know no love songs and I can't sing the blues anymore.
But I can sing this song and you can sing this song when I'm gone.

It won't be long before another day, we gonna have a good time.
And no one's gonna take that time away. You can stay as long as you like.

So close your eyes, you can close your eyes, it's all right.
I don't know no love songs and I can't sing the blues anymore.
But I can sing this song and you can sing this song when I'm gone.

Those days leading up to our wedding sometimes seemed to stretch on forever, I recall. I'd watch the clock, and the hands may as well have just stood still. Now, just over a year later that all seems like a whirlwind. Now I am teaching preschool part time and I am a full time wife and mother. The days now often feel like a whirlwind and I long for the hours, the minutes, or even just a moment to stretch on forever. What I didn't know when I dreamily imagined holding that cozy little bundle of joy was how heavy and exhausting that joy can feel by the day's end. I didn't realize then that even though my baby boy might be excited, playful and ready to fly like a helicopter around the room at 10:00PM, I would be struggling to stay awake while I nurse him once more before hopefully getting five hours or so of sleep myself. What I never imagined was that I could put in 110% of my energy, intention and desire into working and mothering and still desire to give so much more however impossible that scenario may be. 

The numbers just don't add up; the hours somehow always fall short. It is all a much more delicate dance than I had imagined back in those days of waiting for the hours to pass. Now my steps are heavier and my feet a little more worn for the ware. Still this new rhythm moves all around me and within me and I try to dance between it all with pateince and with grace. I feel wholeheartedly that being a "working mother" is the right choice for me, for my son and for our family as a whole. I'd prefer to call it a "mother working," though, as I am first and foremost a mommy. Yes, I feel confident. And I feel ambivalent. I am excited, fulfilled, exhilarated and I still feel all of the guilt and anxiety as any other mother working. Teaching, I believe, shaped me into a more sensitive Mommy. Motherhood now shapes me into a more compassionate teacher. At the end of the day, I like to think that my students and my son go to bed peacefully exhausted. I know I do! 

And every night as his heavy eyelids fight impending slumber and as we both seem to sleepily long for those final moments to last just one more hour,  I want so much to sing these words to my son. I've tried on occasion, but every time I do a lump in my throat seems to get the better end of my voice. So instead sometimes, on a rainy afternoon like this one, I hold my smiley, sleepy, chatty little infant in my arms, rock him gently back and forth and let James Taylor do the singing. (Thank you, YouTube!) My son is almost four months old now. He does not yet have separation anxiety. I am almost thirty; I do. My greatest dream for my son is the same dream I have had for every one of my students. This world is full of friendly faces. In times of uncertainty, I encourage my children--both borrowed and biological--to find the helpers. Everything we could ever possibly need we already have. It is within us and around us and all we need to do is find those friendly faces. My little boy is loved by many friendly faces and I feel blessed to see him look lovingly into his babysitter's eyes or smile when a friend picks him up and holds him. And I feel blessed to feel him peacefully drift off to sleep in my arms each night and find him awake and smiling from his bassinet in the morning--because even if I can't muster the words to tell him that he can stay as long as he needs and no one's going to take our time away, I believe in the deep of my heart that my son already knows this to be true. It won't be long before another day and we're going to have a good time...

Friday, October 03, 2014

The (Now) Hilarious Thing That Happened Right Before Rosh Hashanah

Picture it: it's a couple of hours before Rosh Hashanah. My husband and I are feeling ecstatic and quite proud of ourselves. Even with an infant, half a work day for each of us, and a three hour trip to our destination, we are running early enough to stop at the bank, pick up a few items at the local grocery store, and my husband is looking forward to even having time to stop by the mikvah before yuntiv. We are cool, calm, and collected as we unpack our now slightly cranky car-seat passenger and the copious items of luggage we hauled along. We greet our lovely hosts, and I carry S up to the guest room. My husband mans the baggage. As he prepares to step out again and make his way to the mikvah, he double checks that I'm all settled.

"I'm good to go," I say. "I just need you to bring up the suitcase."
"The suitcase?"
"The suitcase. The one you said I shouldn't carry downstairs myself that has all of my clothes and S's things inside."
"The suitcase..."

It's two hours before yuntiv and the aforementioned suitcase is three hours away in our home. It took me three hours over the course of two days just to pack it! (Ever tried packing for a three day yom tov/Shabbos while entertaining a 12 week old baby, preparing seven preschoolers for Rosh Hashanah and maintaining some semblance of order and sanity in your home?) I lost it, just a little. Actually, I cried. S looks most adorable in any and everything he wears and it wouldn't be too hard to get extra diapers and wipes and probably even borrow some clothing for him from some friends in the area, but I was still in my weekday clothes from teaching preschool. Complete with some paint stains, spit up and who knows what else? This is what I had with me to wear for yom tov: A rain coat, rubber boots covered in orange and yellow flowers, pearl earrings and a pearl necklace, and my sheitel. My husband felt terribly, though it truly is no one's fault--we both worked hard, we both tried our best, and we both forgot together. Now, being the master problem solver he is, he took care of arranging for me to borrow an entire wardrobe from a good friend in the neighborhood (even better friend now that I've shopped through her unmentionables) and for S to borrow a few changes of clothing from some other friends. Another very generous friend went out in the midst of his own preparations to buy diapers and wipes for our little guy. All three of us arrived fully dressed (aside from my husband's hat, which we also left behind) and only a little worn out to our dinner hosts in time to enjoy a festive Rosh Hashanah meal. We dipped our apples in the honey and welcomed in a sweet new year, and as we did, I reflected a bit on what I could possibly learn from this situation (aside from making a list and checking it twice!)...

Everything I need, I have and everything I have, I need. Baruch HaShem, we had everything we did need with us. My husband and my son were here with me: that was most important. Also, any medications and medical equipment had made the trip successfully. The rest was really just more about comfort and sometimes we need to feel a little uncomfortable in order to make a change or remember something important. So everything I needed, I had. But on the other side of that is the lesson to be learned: everything we have, we need. This was a challenging situation and HaShem provided this challenging situation to me. If that's the case, then for sure it was meant to happen.

You can't take it with you; travel light! We're meant to enter Rosh Hashanah fresh and anew. This is when we take the time to reflect on the previous year and decide what's worth being carried forward and what should be left behind. We have those more difficult conversations with one another and ask for mechilla (forgiveness) when we've done someone wrong. We have those more difficult conversations with G-d and ask for His mercy in the areas in which we struggle spiritually. We have those even more difficult conversations with ourselves because at the end of the day, the one person who can be the quickest to anger and slowest to forgive is me. And we're meant to let go. To spend a set time in teshuva and self-reflection, but then to shrug it off, shake off the dust, and make a plan. This is not the time of year to be weighed down by old baggage; it's the time to travel light and move ahead.

The King is in the Field. It is said in the month of Elul preceding Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, that HaShem is most accessible. Throughout the year, He is, of course available, but at this time of year, He leaves His holy palace to reside with us in our mundane environment. He's ready to talk and ready to listen. We just need to be willing to start that conversation. Just as resolving a crisis of luggage left behind requires us to be humble and ask for help, so too are we called upon in the month of Tishrei to be humble and ask for help from HaShem. He is ever so willing to answer our call, we just have to be willing to dial the number.

And so with the excitement and drama of Rosh Hashanah behind us and the sweetness of that honey still fresh on my tongue, we are hours away from entering one of the holiest days of the year: Yom Kippur. While the haunting melodies of Kol Nidrei give forth a sense of somberness and severity, this is truly one of the most joyous yom tovim of the Jewish year. This is where we celebrate our deep connection to G-d and our true commitment to Torah values and mitzvot. It's the wedding anniversary, so to speak, of the Jewish people's marriage to HaShem. No longer are we weighed down by the struggles behind us. Nor should we feel burdened by the work that lies ahead. Tonight and tomorrow as we pour our hearts and souls into tefillah (prayer) and teshuva (repentance), we release the disappointments that kept us from moving forward and the expectations that hold us back. May this be a year of blessings, peace, and prosperity for all and may it also be the year of redemption. Wishing all a meaningful Yom Kippur and an easy fast. G'mar chasima tovah!