Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Being Known for Something

Being known for something unique is something I think about often, at least since my son Reid said that one of his friend's mother's made a particular dinner dish that was really good, and
" she was known for it."

I replied that I could be known for the delicious coffee cake I had just baked or some of my other regular specialties like banana bread or shepard's pie. Now, don't let your mind get carried away. Anyone of you who knows me well, also knows that on most nights my husband eats cold cereal for dinner- a sore point with my mom and a secret we wouldn't dare share with my mother-in-law. So being known for cooking anything decent would be a great accomplishment for me and a real compliment, but it ain't happening.

But Reid's comment got me thinking. What else would I like to be known for... Kind of like family traditions( a blog topic for another day), children like familiarity and repetition, they like to know the people and things around them, it gives them stability, and a sense that everything is safe. Children don't do as well with change and upheaval. So it only follows that they like to label people and refer to them as being "known for something."

I remember, even as a young girl, I always admiring people that were "known for something." Like my high school friend's mom used to work with braille books for the blind and always had Charles Chips and Charles Pretzels delivered to her home. I knew her for that.

Also, my college roommate told me how her grandfather brought her grandmother flowers every Friday after work from the day they got married until he passed away. He was definitely known for that, in fact, I think he deserves a monument in his honor.

To me these people were consistent, predictable, they did something regularly because it was what they liked to do, and little did they know, that it would be that little something that defined them.

In our family, my mother-in-law is known for her chicken soup, and my mom for shopping and giving the kids candy.

But what am I known for? What defines me? I don't think we can know what defines us while we are going through the motions of life. I think it is when other's reflect on who we are, or when our children grow up and say, " my mother always..." , that we are defined.

I hope I am doing something consistently enough, and well enough so that it will define me, and I hope that whatever that something is, it is a really nice thing. I want to be known for doing something good and I hope it brings a smile to the face of my children, family, or friends when they think of me doing whatever it is that they think of me doing.

What are you "known for?'

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Time Well Spent

Last night I went to a Valentine's Party. I had to go alone since John was with Austin at a golf tournament and I was quite apprehensive about going.

I was nervous because I don't usually do well at cocktail-type parties. I'm just not adept at making small talk, and I inevitably end up standing alone by the vegetable platter, eating, eating, and eating. But last night was different.

Last night the guests were mostly Reid's friend's parents; many of whom I know, but not well.
I met some lovely people, and got better aquainted with others.
Reid stayed home with a few of his friends, and I am so grateful to have a son I can trust to do the right thing while I am out.

Its is also nice to live in a community where I can get out for a few hours, meet nice people, make new connections, enjoy interesting conversation, and leave the evening feeling that my time was well spent and that something good might come out of my being there.

I suppose that is a common thread running through all my birthday gifts. Time well spent.

I mean, isn't that what we would all like to know? That our time on this earth was well spent.
My birthday gift at this Valentine's Day Party and hopefully in all my days to come is
TIME WELL SPENT. That is something I strive for every minute of every day.

Today my son Reid and I joined our Rabbi and ten other congregants on a tour of the Jewish Museum and the Jewish Theological Seminary in NYC. It was a beautiful day to be in the big city and to walk around outside.

Reid's take on the day was that the Museum was interesting and he enjoyed seeing Columbia University, and Teacher's College where I received my MA, but he was less interested in the Seminary or the rigorous academic program of our student guide who, in a joint program, is receiving two degrees, one from Columbia and one from JTS.

I, of course, was much more intrigued with the Seminary, especially since our Rabbi, Rabbi John Schecter is the great- great grandson of the famous Solomon Schecter, who is memorialized for his contributions to Conservative Judaism not only at the Seminary but by the many day schools named after him.

We finished our tour with an Israeli lunch at Nana's, with great food and conversation.

The day brought back many memories and made me miss living in NYC.

Maybe its like when I hold a baby and think how great it would be to have a newborn, but then quickly, and I mean really very quickly, I remember all the work it took, and still takes, to raise my three sons, and I am happy to just enjoy holding the baby for that moment.

Maybe that's how NYC is for me. It is so wonderful to spend the day, the energy is inspiring, but there is also something nice in not hearing sirens out my window in the middle of the night.

Well, for now I live in Bernardsville, let's see where life takes me. Today's gift is that I got to spend the day with my youngest son, doing something interesting and enjoying the company of others. The sun was shining, NYC was vibrant and I felt invigorated.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

This past week, the Sistas and I( I will from here on out refer to my sisterhood friends this way), headed to NYC to listen to Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis give a D'var Torah. For those of you who are unfamiliar, a D'var Torah is an interpretation of a particular chapter of the bible.

If you remember from my previous blog, the Rebbetzin is the author of The Committed Life- a book which has changed the lives of so many of its readers. Rebbetzin Jungreis' messages that evening where similar to those she imparts in her book. And one that I remember most and repeat often is about the money we "earn" and the things we possess.

The Rebbetzin makes it clear that it is G-d who gives us what we have, and she points out that while others may work just as hard as we do, their opportunities or their earnings may not match ours.

The Rebbetzin argues that G-d gives us what we have so that we give it back in ways that make a better world, Tikkun Olam.

We do not give of ourselves or our money for a "Thank You" in return. We give of ourselves and our money because it is the righteous thing to do and because in doing so we are elevating ourselves.

This is a very important lesson and one which I take very seriously. We are all blessed with different and varied talents and riches and if we only hoard them- keep them for ourselves, if we do not use them to make this world a better place then they are waisted on us.

Giving is the most wonderful feeling in the world and is, every time, a birthday present to me the giver.
Valentines Day! Last weekend John and I celebrated VDay by spending a wonderful evening in NYC. In our usual, unplanned fashion, we called my brother Jordan and his better half Trisha to join us for dinner.

My husband, (everyone , but especially Trisha, gives me flack for calling John-"my husband"- when I am speaking of him even to those who know him well). Anyway, my husband John chose a great restaurant named FishTail which I highly recommend. The chef is the renowned David Burke and the food was delicious- especially the cake-in-a-tin dessert ( We'll have to return to try the cheesecake lollipops which also looked delicious.) The atmosphere was perfect-quiet enough for my "young ears"and good conversation-and hip enough to not put us to sleep.

Special nights, planned or unplanned are really, really great birthday gifts. Its great to get out, relax, reconnect, experience something new and enjoy life.

I have been so remiss in not keeping up with my blog and I do apologize to my small audience. Nancy Cook, the leader of our synagogue sisterhood and a new and dear friend to me, told me this week that she missed reading my blog. Thank you Nancy! And, Pam Ball, another one of my synagogue "sistas" told me this week that she spent the morning catching up on reading my blog. Thank you Pam!

I also need to remind myself that I am writing this as much for myself as for my sons who I hope will one day read this and be reminded of the person their mother was.

So, I will refocus my blog on its original intent of finding the birthday gifts in each day, and while I may not write each and every day, I do hope to record some of the moments that have brought light and meaning to my year.

Let's see, last night I was at services. John and Austin are at Duke for a golf tournament. John Connor is away at school and Reid had a lacrosse game. There was a guest rabbinical student who joined us for dinner and spoke at services about her experience as a student at JTS. Afterwards, Cantor Shana, one of my favorite people in the world, came up to me and "commanded" me to start my path toward Rabbinical School. (She was impressed because I had invited a congregant to services and they actually came).

Rabbinical School you ask? Yes, I have for some time talked about becoming a rabbi, not necessarily to practice as a congregational rabbi, but to have the rabbinic knowledge. The study of Judaism is the one subject that never bores me and to which I am constantly drawn.

Last night's rabbinical student spoke to the changing role of rabbis from strictly intellectual Torah scholars to a more pastoral role in meeting the emotional needs of their congregants.
This is something that interests me, because it is a combination of psychology, sociology and education, all subjects that interest me and come more easily for me.

The first step before pursuing rabbinical school is to become fluent in Hebrew. This is not particularly appealing to me, but I will try and see where it leads me. Today I will purchase The First Hebrew Primer, which Cantor Shana referred to me and I will consider it a birthday gift to myself. Let's see where that takes me- one step at a time.

But this discussion with the Cantor after services did not come out of thin air. In fact there were many signs and discussions leading up to this one.

Yesterday afternoon, while I was in studying Genesis with the Cantor, Edana and Amy,
we happened to be discussing the role of angels in Judaism. As you may well know, in Judaism, angels are messengers. They do not have the free will that man has. Instead, they are directed by G-d, and come to earth with one purpose; to do one job.

Edana shared with us a memory that was forever etched in her mind and heart. She was in the hospital, when just such an angel came into her son's hospital room to share a piece of wisdom and advice, and after affecting Edana and her son Bryan's life in a positive way, was gone as quickly as she arrived.

I can now recognize the angel that was sent last night. The disguise may have been the rabbinical student, to which I really made no emotional connection, or Cantor Shana, who so forcefully said," You are going to rabbinical school!" Either way, it was the catalyst to something that lies ahead. It may not be that I become a rabbi, but I will buy that Primer on Amazon today and we will see where the journey takes me.

Angels are birthday gifts, and when we are lucky enough to recognize them, we should be grateful and say, "Thank you G-d for sending me a messenger."

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

It happens quite often that I sit back to reflect on how fortunate I am to have my husband in my life. They say opposites attract and opposites we are! While like all people, he is not perfect, and neither am I, he is humble, quietly self-assured, wise, and optimistic. In a nutshell, he doesn't sweat the small stuff. So I sweat for the both of us!

This past week, John read my latest blog about "getting old, ( the one with the picture of the crazy old lady), and opined that my focus on turning 50 was contributing to my feeling "old".
Instead, he suggested, I should imagine I am turning 40 and in doing so, I would feel, look and act like I was 40. Wow, the fountain of youth right here in my own mind. What a novel idea. "Why not 26", I replied. "Exactly", he said.

Reflecting on his words, I think he is absolutely right. While I have been trying to accept the inevitable, trying to embrace my 50 year old status with a nod and a chuckle, I have also been dreadfully watching the approach of the years beyond, subconsciously fretting the onset of "old age".

If, as I wrote in a previous blog, perspective is everything, then I am probably much better served heeding John's advice by perceiving a younger image and lifestyle while still accepting my age.

So, Rather than focus on what is failing, I will try to highlight what is working well and looking good. I will still laugh at my foibles, but watch out world, a 26 year old Alicia is in the making. Now, I better stop writing and get moving, so that my mind and body match my new age.


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Maybe I should re-title my blog, "Getting Old".

This past week has been a rough reminder of what it really means to turn 50.

First, the Aarp card, need I say more.

Then, I went to the dentist as part of a long overdue repair project and, last night, the temporary replacement teeth, for ones that were knocked out when I was young, fell out! I sneezed and there they were in my hand. I love being reminded of my dear Grandma Rachel, but not in this way. Thankfully, I will return to the dentist this morning for a permanent replacement.

Also, I met with my youngest son's, soon to be, high school guidance counselor to choose his schedule for 9th grade. Nothing like a rude awakening, when your youngest child enters high school!

On top of all this, my eldest son received an official letter from the Selective Service arm of our US Government, to register in case of a draft. Scary!

So where's the birthday present you ask?

Well, it certainly has been harder to find these days, but last night Austin came home with some good news from school-having been selected to serve on the board of Peer Leaders. We visited my son John at Deerfield this weekend and he is having the time of his life, while maturing into a wonderful young man, and Reid traipses through life with a brilliant smile and a happy-go-lucky attitude.

My Mom is healthy and happy, and so are my siblings, their families and the rest of my extended family. My friends are really terrific- doing wonderful things, content with their own lives, and filling mine with joy and laughter.

And, while I'd rather it be warm outside, and not have the hassle of shoveling, I can still appreciate a snowfall that is clean, white and fluffy! And, more significantly, I can still give back in meaningful ways to my family, friends, and the community around me.

So, while my body defies me, the government calls me out for aging, my mind continues to slip-(this morning I couldn't retrieve the word syrup, having to call it "the stuff you pour on pancakes" for the few seconds before the appropriate word came to mind), and my children grow-up way too fast, I can relish the fact that the simple pleasures in life are still there for the taking and Thank Goodness, I can laugh at myself!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Yesterday I received my birthday gift in the mail.

Not a big package, but surely a huge surprise.

MY AARP CARD!!!!! I am officially turning 50 in the governments eyes. Yikes!!!!