Choosing a Gan Chova in Jerusalem

This morning, I posted the following on my personal Facebook profile:

“Six intensive weeks. 8+ ganim visited. 10 gannenot, saayaot, machlifot and bat sherut grilled both in person and over the phone. Countless of parents that I know and don’t personally know called and interviewed. Finally, in the wee hours of the night, we made a decision and signed Sivan up for Gan Chova for next year. It was as intense as applying to college. Now I’m going back to bed. Thanks to the countless of people who had tremendous patience with me during this process, especially my husband – I drove him to eat dessert!”

And then I promptly fell into the deepest sleep I’ve had in literally six weeks. I felt like an intense weight has been lifted from my shoulders and now I just hope that my daughter will get placed in her first pick.

I’m blogging about the process because it has been such an intense couple of weeks in my home, and I’m hoping maybe my experience will help other Anglos living in Jerusalem who have to go through the process of selecting and registering their children for Gan Chova.

Gan Chova is kindergarten that – usually – is public and run by the municipality of the City you live in in Israel. Our Gan Chovas are run by the Jerusalem municipality, although don’t bother trying to use the English site to actually register your child for Gan Chova. Personally, I hate that Gan Chova is not attached to the school you plan on sending your child to in 1st grade. I prefer knowing that my Kindergarten is attached to the elementary school where I want to send my children. I have no idea if that has ever been something the Ministry of Education would consider changing but I would certainly make a case for why it’s important to not have these Kindergarteners have two stressful life transitions: first to an independent Gan Chova from pre-school and then again to a new school for Kitah Aleph (1st grade). But I work in PR and Social Media, so really what do I know?

Since Gan Chova is public school, for the most part, you have a number of options to select from in your Ayzor (district). You get a list of ganim in your neighborhood based on your religious affiliation. We were looking – again, for the most part – at Gan Chovas that are Mamlachti Dati which is roughly translated as “Orthodox observant or Religious National.” We were interested in Mamlachti Dati since we are Modern Orthodox and we are only considering Mamlachti Dati elementary schools. That being said, there is a Mamlachti gan Chova we also looked at, considered and really liked, for multiple reasons that would have been good for our child.

We live in Arnona and so I looked at schools in Arnona, Armon HaNatziv, Baka, and Mekor Chaim area. Most of the ganim I looked at were listed in my Ayzor, some were not. When it’s time to register, you get three options. You have to put in 2 options but can leave the third blank if the first 2 options are in your Ayzor. I believe if one of your first two options are not in your Ayzor, then you must select a third option in your Ayzor.

Over the course of six weeks, I literally ate, slept and breathed finding a suitable Gan Chova for my child.  I created a mental criteria with a score for all of the positives and negatives of each gan. I spoke to parents at the pool, in the nut and spice shop, at the supermarket, on the street, at the post office, in shul, on the phone, at Gan drop off, at school pick up for my older daughter. I attended every Open House listed on the site for almost all of the Ganim I was looking into and when there was a Gan I considered that didn’t have an Open House, I called the Ganenent and asked when I could come meet her and look at the Gan. I posted questions on Facebook and read and weighed each response. I sent personal messages to people on Facebook I didn’t know who wanted to tell me things privately about Ganim they didn’t like. I asked friends to introduce me to friends who have had experiences at Ganim in the area so I could speak with them about their personal experiences. I spoke with the schools where I am hoping to send my Kindergartener for First Grade and asked which Ganim in my area send to their school. I only received the list from one of the schools but it was enough to help me narrow my choice. I made sure, during Open Houses, to speak not just with the Ganenet but with the Saayat (assistant) and the other parents considering sending their children to that particular Gan. I toured both inside and outside each facility. I looked for the bomb shelters, observed the children during play time and meal time, spoke with the Ganenet about experience with food allergies and made sure to ask the ratio of boys to girls and the number of children to staff members. I asked about Gan trips and other enrichment activities, I asked about their preparation for Kitah Aleph and their philosophies about learning vs. play in Kindergarten. I asked about Tzniut (modesty) and dress code for girls, how they approach Tefillah (prayer) each morning and the role of girls during Tefillah. I badgered my Mother and husband each time I learned something new about a Gan and was close to making a decision. I spoke with other parents at my daughter’s current Gan to make sure I also choose a Gan where she would have friends – both girls and boys – so the transition to a new place would be easier. And, most importantly, I spoke with my daughter’s current Ganenet to make sure I understand her needs in a school environment and how she works best in a Gan situation.

Phew, right?

And then I made the charts and I weighed all the pro’s and con’s of each Gan and the lists grew and grew. In the end, I had narrowed it down to two very good options in Baka but selected one over the other based on a call I had with a parent of a child currently in that particular Gan Chova whose child also went to Gan with my daughter last year. Her personal testimony about how the Ganenet works with her son – who in personality is similar to my daughter – helped us make the decision to select that particular Gan.

Now we wait to see where the municipality will place our daughter and hope she will be placed in our first choice, and that her friends will also be placed there along with her. We won’t know anything for a couple of months.

The purpose of this blog post though is to share a couple of observations that I had during this intensive process: So, here are some things to consider when looking for a Gan Chova:

1) Facebook – Think carefully about things people post on Facebook, especially if you do not know that person. There was one Gannent who received a particularly scathing review on a Facebook group and I know multiple people who automatically didn’t even consider looking at that Gan because of one testimony from one person they never even met. Give every Gan a chance before making the decision. You could be crossing off a really good Gan that might work for you and your child, based on feedback of a complete stranger. My daughter was at a Gan Chova in Baka a couple of years ago and we did not have a good experience. I always prefaced that we did not have a good experience with that I’ve heard things have improved, and that I recommend people go and meet with the Gannenet themselves to formulate their own opinion.

2) Speak to Other Parents – This might sound like you being a stalker, but literally stand outside the Gan at pick up if you can’t find anyone you know who has a child in the Gan you are considering for your child. The best thing to do is speak to parents whose children are currently in the Gan you are considering. They are really the best people to speak to because their children are in the Gan right now. Sure, you can speak to parents who have sent in years past, but it’s also really good to get the impressions from parents who are dealing with this Ganenet every day. Things change from year to year: new staff members, pregnancy and birth that has the Ganenet out for a couple of months, etc. so you’ll get a better impression from parents.

3) Speak to your Child’s Gannenet – Consult with the person currently in charge of your child’s education as she/he knows things you might not know about your child: how they react to discipline and structure, personality with staff members, how they interact with kids, if they are shy/sensitive in a school environment, can they sit during circle time, are they immature or mature for their age, are they ready for an intensive learning environment or would it be better for them to spend another year with a lot of free play, other sensitivities from sound to smell to light, etc.

4) See the Gan, Meet the Gannenet – It’s so important to go and observe the Gannenet and look at the facility. I immediately crossed off two Ganim based on the fact that the facility was way too cramped to handle the 35 kids that were crammed into the room. If the yard was just dirt and slide with no other toys and/or outdoor play area. I ranked another Gan higher if it was a newer facility with clean bathrooms and an upgraded play area with jungle gym, sand pit and plenty of outdoor toys. I watched the Gannenet closely as she greeted children in the morning, responded to those that came to interrupt her while she was speaking with parents, saw how children responded to her as they came into the room. I watched how she interacted with her support staff, and how they in turn interacted with children.

5) Religious Aspects – Don’t be surprised if the Ganenent is not someone from your own religious community. I’ve found that most of the Ganenot from the Mamlachti Dati Ganim are more “observant” than we are in our home. I grew up with a Chazan and a Chazanit leading the Tefilla every morning. I’ve given up on that ever happening in a MAMAD Gan Chova in Jerusalem and until there are some Open Orthodoxy Gan Chovas in our neighborhood, this is going to be something I would categorize as “to be taught in the home.”

6) Special Needs – My daughter has food allergies and so it was very important for me to be able to work with a Ganenet who has experience with children with food allergies. I did visit a Gan during meal time where there was a child who qualified for a special Saayat because he has food allergies and I was really surprised to see not that the child ate on a separate table by himself with just the Saayat but that they were seated facing the wall! Meal time is such a important social interaction time period for children and while I understand how dangerous it can be for a child with anaphalaxic food allergies to share forbidden food, there is no reason he needs to face the wall and not at least be involved in the normal interaction that takes place at Gan during meal time. I’m hopeful that the seating arrangement was a one off that day.

And if you can recruit a friend to join you in this process, that will make it a little less stressful since you’re in it together! My friend Tami was the perfect person to visit Ganim with since she has more experience than I do when it comes to Gan Chova, and she made it fun!

This is a long enough blog post but I hope some find it helpful! What has been your experience with Gan Chova in Jerusalem? Let me know!




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Finding myself again


Last night, I walked into Bug at the Hadar Mall, in search of a Bat Mitzvah gift and a new pair of headphones for myself. I go through a lot of headphones for work, especially once my kids get a hold of them. I really like the Skullcandy brand, even though I’ve already gone through a pair  of Rastafarian style, bright green headphones. I grabbed a pair of Skullcandy headphones in pink and black for the Bat Mitzvah girl, and the ones pictured above for myself.

At the check out counter, the sales guy helping me asked if this pair of Skullcandy Inked, neon yellow, grey and black headphones were for my son. I laughed, told him that my son was only two, and that these were for me. He stared at me in shock. Literally, stared.

I couldn’t figure out what was so offensive to him about my purchase. Was it my color choice? Do women only select “female” colors, like pinks and purples?  Perhaps the packaging featuring a tattoo skull and bones seemed like an odd choice for a religious woman in her late 30’s, wearing a wig and beret, a jean skirt and tights. Was I too old for such a “young” pair of headphones?

Mostly, I wondered, did I stop being cool?

I spent the majority of my single 20’s getting to know myself. It took a decade, but I finally figured out who I was. I became comfortable in my own skin, and I enjoyed my own company.  I had hobbies and interests. I loved going to movies alone and preferred foreign films to big budget action flicks. I worked out daily, weekly with a trainer, and barely missed a boxing class. My bookshelf groaned with a variety of novels, memoirs and philosophy books from Kierkegaard to Kundera. I had different buckets of friends: Bowery Ballroom for a Black Keys concert with Julie, Sunday afternoon NFL with Jeorjie, Shabbat dinner at Cousin Neil’s. Beer and hockey with Melissa at Dive 75, margaritas with Tommy, a press contact, at Rosa’s, Ulpan and cupcakes with Rob. I took guitar lessons with my friend Mark, and listened to some incredible ambient object music created by my friend Zeke, I dated, a ton! I rallied for Israel at the UN and experimented with Indian cuisine. I planned dream trips to Barcelona and Scotland, and took my nieces and nephew to the swim club in the summer. I wrote fiction stories about the Jewish enclave of the Upper West Side, and blogged about every single aspect of my life (including annoying food pictures). I collected black boots and rock t-shirts, never missed my monthly facial, and fell asleep listening to Radiohead or Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.  I formulated opinions and views, and argued and defended everything from religion to taxes. I was a liberal thinker in some aspects, and conservative in others. I kept my politics to myself, but never missed voting in an election. I read Out and The Atlantic, coveted my Michael J. Fox cover of George magazine and scoured the 75th street Flea Market for vintage prints. And I dreamed, about the parts that were missing from my life: a family. I imagined how much better a trip to Paris would be with a man I loved, or how I would cook Indian food for my children (and they would eat it!)

Thankfully, my move to Tel Aviv brought me closer to my amazing husband. And, we have been so blessed in the eight years of marriage, to have three healthy, beautiful children. I threw myself into the role of wife and Mother, co-provider and homemaker. I’ve spent eight years trying to figure out this whole in-law thing (that’s a whole book!), and living in a Country with a culture foreign to my own. I’ve nursed and weaned three children, survived first grade, summer vacations, and making Passover by myself. Sadly, I’ve also experienced too many wars, missile and terror attacks to count. I’ve drifted apart from old friends and made new ones. I stopped writing and blogging, using whatever time not dedicated to my husband, children, home and job, to sleep.

And in my zeal to become the best wife, mommy, and homemaker, I lost myself. I tried to be the person I thought the ideal wife, mommy and homemaker should be, and in the process, I gave up the person I had spent so many years becoming.

And now it’s time to find myself again. I know that the new me won’t 100% resemble the old me, but I’m really looking forward to melding the two together.

So, if you’ve seen me at school pickup lately, you’ve probably noticed some differences. I’ve been going through some changes. You might have noticed that I have been inconsistent about covering my hair, or that I’ve been wearing a touch of makeup. You might have missed me at book club, or noticed a change in the tone of my Facebook posts.

I’ve embarked on a new journey of self discovery, and I’m looking forward to seeing where this road will take me, and to the woman I hope to become. #fitby40




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Old ladies at the gas station

This week, my husband and I took our 18 month old son out for breakfast. It was rare for us to spend a quiet morning together, the girls settled at their schools, and my cleaning person busy stripping the beds and scrubbing the floors after a necessary extermination to get rid of a horrible ant problem. We decided to walk a couple of blocks to a restaurant behind the gas station in our neighborhood. It’s really a great brunch place in the middle of a complex that includes a burger joint, pizza place, the nuts and spices shop, a supermarket, and some office buildings.

We meandered, watching our son enjoy his rare freedom outside of his stroller. His belly leading the way for his feet to catch up, a smile plastered across his face, his gap teeth on display. He tripped and ran forward, chasing the brown birds already looking for some shade from the sweltering Middle Eastern sun. We approached the restaurant and were met by a waitress, her genuine smile and youthful skin made me pull self consciously on my sweat stained bandana and adjust my over-sized sunglasses over my baggy eyes.  She gestured to the outdoor tables, discretely hidden from most of the foot traffic but with a generous view of the gas station attendants already hard at work on the morning flow of traffic. We chose a table out of the way of people, unnaturally tilted by the slanting of the concrete to keep water from flooding the restaurant and flowing down the mountain to whatever streams swell in the winter at the base of Jerusalem.

As our server hauled the highchair over to out table, I placed my feet on one of the wrought iron legs to keep the table steady for our breakfast. We ordered brunch fare: cold decaf coffee and freshly squeezed juices, Mexican shakshuka and French omelettes. A child’s meal that came with butter and milk drenched biscuits that I had to hide beneath the napkins and out of reach of my baby’s excited hands. His dairy allergy always at the forefront of my mind, I plied him with french baguettes schmeared with avocado spread and tuna fish. My husband and I listened to the 90’s track piped through speakers, the Breeders cannonballing through the last splash. Our conversation ebbed and flowed smoothly, while our hands danced through the motions of having breakfast with a toddler. A swipe of food off the nose with one hand while lifting a glass of juice to take a sip. Blowing the heat off of slightly overdone scrambled eggs before allowing his chubby fingers to shovel food into his already stuffed mouth.

The meal ended quickly, and we signaled our server for the check, glancing at our watches to see how much longer until the baby’s morning nap. I felt relaxed and at ease for the first time in ages, living in the moment as opposed to dwelling on the pressures of work and life. I apologized to our server for the trail of food that generously littered the floor beneath our table, a treasure map with the X squarely beneath my son’s highchair. She laughed it off with a wave of her hand, and thanked us for the tip. I did the Mommy count before leaving a restaurant, making sure I had all the baby paraphernalia we constant travel with, before catching up with my husband. He pushed the umbrella stroller gently with one hand while keeping pace with our son, whose gait slowed slightly by the later hour and the food in his belly. The baby’s gap toothed smile wider than ever as he navigated the walkway like an impish drunk.

I almost missed them, my gaze trained forward on my son. But something caught my attention, and I stopped to glance in their direction. Perhaps it was the motion of this cushioned swing that seemed out of place in the gas station. The large brown swing belonged in a private garden, next to a pond surrounded by deer sculptures and pebble pathways. They swung gently, back and forth, back and forth. The old ladies at the gas station were related, a familial resemblance obvious by the bone structure of their noses. The younger one controlled the motion of the swing, pushing off with one brown sandaled toe. Alone, she would have blended into the crowd, camouflaged by her coffee colored pants and tan shirt.  Her wrinkled skin and blunt haircut with reams of grey creating an ashy hue that came from drugstore boxes of hair dye. Next to her, sat the woman that held my attention, her feet dangling inches off of the sidewalk. Her hair was washed and blown dry to resemble cotton candy fresh on a stick, while her white clothing were clean and pressed. You could tell someone was taking very good care of this 93 year old woman; she was clearly very loved. Her facial expression was downright blissful as she enjoyed the rocking motion of the swing, and the chocolate ice cream cone in her hand. A shmudge of chocolate the only colored line on her alabaster face, she licked her treat without a care in the world, or the slightest self consciousness of a dirty face.

“May I take your photo, please.” I asked.

“No,” came the curt, quick response from the caregiver.

“OK, thank you,” I said, and smiled.

I hovered for a moment and then continued on my way, devastated that she wouldn’t allow me to take a picture. To capture a moment that I fear words would never be able to fully express.

I caught up with my husband, oblivious to anything but our child, and gestured behind me at the ladies at the gas station. Stop, I told him, and look. Take in this moment. This is what I want out of life.

And as the missiles resume in the South of Israel, and my children wrestle on the floor over a silk scarf they both want, as I take a step off the scale and sigh at the number, as my spouse shakes his head over quarrels with the neighbors, and as we look at our bank accounts and our expenses and wonder how it will all get paid, as we prepare for another 100 degree weather week and one car, as we wonder if we are heading for another War with our enemies, as we think about how in vogue Anti-Semitism is throughout Europe and the US, as we watch our children reach milestones, as we dream of summer cottages we can never afford, and family vacations, and Shabbat meals with friends, and attending events in Israel without thinking about security, or how our children will one day serve in the army, as we navigate our way through all of life’s stresses and aggravations, and life’s uncertainties and life certainties.

I think about the old ladies at the gas station. Swinging gently on the swing, having lived a lifetime. The cold, sweat taste of ice cream on their lips at 10:00 a.m., and not a worry or care in the world.

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Why I stopped writing

corbis_rf_photo_of_blood_pressure_checkIf you follow my blog you must realize that I haven’t had an updated blog post in more than a year. I know all too well that I took a hiatus from my blog and it’s been a real challenge.

Before I talk about why I’ve stopped blogging, let me tell you why I’ve decided to start writing again. This week, my Doctor started me on blood pressure medication after a grueling two month period of testing. My pulse and blood pressure is very high for someone my age, and it’s also extremely sudden for me to have high blood pressure. I’ve had a rough winter, health wise, and had strep twice and numerous upper respiratory infections. I had my tonsils removed when I was six, so strep has been a nightmare. My doctor discovered my high blood pressure during my first bout with strep. I spent the past two months going for multiple tests: EKG’s, renal artery ultrasounds, eye exams, urine exams, blood tests. All to rule out a secondary reason for high blood pressure that could be a reoccurance of pseudotumor cerebri that I had back in 2004 to a tumor (g-d forbid). The tests all came back normal, which means that I have developed sudden high blood pressure. And we don’t know why. I’ve recently dropped 30 kilos since my baby’s birth, I don’t eat too much salt, and I exercise. I called my Aunts and cousins to find out if there’s a family history of high blood pressure on my Mom’s side and was told that my maternal Grandmother’s side of the family tended towards high blood pressure. Hitler took care of my paternal side of the family, so I can’t really call around there. But, genetics aside, it’s baffling that I should suddenly have high blood pressure.

Until I thought about it. About the stressful year I’ve gone through: from last summer’s “war” to the fall’s terror attacks in Jerusalem. Combined with work stresses, lack of sleep, and some family issues, and there are days where I find it hard to take a breath. And through it all, I’ve had no outlet. Sure, I have my DH and my best friend to talk to, but sometimes those conversations just aren’t enough. And, in the past, I had my writing as an incredible outlet for my stress. I would open up to my WordPress platform and write the things that were on my mind and when I would hit the publish button, I felt this tremendous sense of relief.

But I stopped writing for an entire year. And what I’ve discovered is that I lost my outlet, and my health has suffered for it.

So why did I stop writing? Primarily, I stopped writing because I felt torn about the things I was sharing with the ethernet. Mostly, I felt that I didn’t have a right to share personal stories about my children with the universe. I mean, I don’t ask them permission to blog about their cute stories or challenges, and that’s not fair. It’s not fair of me to decide to share their personal lives with strangers. I spend a lot of time reading other Mommy bloggers and sometimes, I’m surprised with some of the stories they’ve chosen to share with the world. I wonder how their words will one day impact their children. As we all know, once it’s out on the internet, it’s there for life.

I thought about all of the bullying I endured as a child. I remembered some of the nasty names I was called, some of the horrible experiences I went through (getting locked in a 7 minutes in heaven closet with a guy I had a crush on while the rest of my “friends” laughed and held the door closed), or when YK at Camp Moshava drew a giant picture of a cow with an arrow towards his ass with the words “Shira Cowass” in big letters and then dropped the picture into my lap on a Shabbat afternoon. Then I thought about those experiences living on YouTube or Instagram, and it’s too horrific. For me, those horrible stories live in my memories alone. In today’s day and age, those videos and images are posting on social platforms for the world to see and laugh at. I thought about what would happen to my children if some of the stories I shared about them on my blog were used as fodder for bullying. How terrible I would feel is an innocent story would be used to tease or ridicule them, all because a nasty classmate Googled my blog and read some of these stories. I wondered what would happen if a potential employer read my blog and saw some of the challenging posts and deduced that it must be a character flaw and decide not to hire them.

So, I decided to stop blogging about my children. I already had a policy to not blog about my spouse, and suddenly I wondered why anyone would bother reading what I was writing. If I wasn’t writing about my children or my relationship anymore, what would I write about? I don’t blog about politics, and there’s really only so many blog posts I could write about challenges living as an ex-pat in Israel.

And so months went by and my fingers would itch when I sat down at my computer and the words would race through my brain and I mentally composed blog post after blog post. I mentally wrote about my feelings running with my children to our sealed room during missle attacks, and my heartbreak when the three kidnapped teens were discovered murdered. I mentally blogged about my decision to carry a cell phone to shul in Jerusalem during the fall, when terrorists were using their cars as weapons, or stabbing strangers in our city with meat cleavers and knives. I mentally blogged about cash flow problems and the astronomical cost of living in Israel. I mentally blogged about the challenges of an immigrant parent with a child going through first grade, and all the ways I was failing her. I mentally blogged about the Israeli Taxes Authority, who decided that I owed them money and went into my personal bank account and withdrew almost 3,000 shekels. This put us into minus at the bank and, for the first time in my life, I had to put our groceries on a payment plan. I mentally blogged about the sudden death of my beloved Grandmother, and how I spent 10 weeks crying every Friday night after dinner. I mentally blogged about new recipes, the latest Yotam Ottolenghi cookbook, and my secret desire to open a pop up restaurant. I mentally blogged about food allergies in Israel, and the struggles we’ve been having trying to figure out how to feed our children.

But I never put these words to paper. I never wrote them down in public or in private, and they went through my mind and were forgotten the next morning. The emotions remained bottled up inside.

So, here I am. I’m tired. My choices for blood pressure medication included a side effect that included swollen ankles or one that made me tired. So, I opted for the one that makes me tired. I figured, I’m already really tired, I might as well keep my skinny ankles.

And, I’ve decided along with continued diet and exercise, and watching all the sodium that I eat, to resume writing again. I’m still going to avoid blogging about my children, and my spouse, but I’m going back to writing about my feelings. My experiences as an immigrant Mother living in Israel. As a small business owner trying to grow my business and find fulfillment in my career. As a foodie, who loves to experience new and exciting cuisines that Israel has to offer. And as a crusader, as I work to improve Israel’s attitude towards food allergies.

I hope it will be the catharsis that I so desperately need, and I hope you’ll do me the honor to follow me on my latest journey towards a health life.




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How Pinterest Killed Purim

Cute Purim Craft Ideas from Cook Kosher

Cute Purim Craft Ideas from Cook Kosher

Pinterest has killed Purim. Or, at the very least, it has killed the Purim of my youth.  Today, Purim has become a holiday of coordinating family costumes and themed Mishloach Manot. The Seuda requires a color scheme, funky centerpieces, and labeled place cards using templates found on Etsy. And don’t get me started on the price tag.

For weeks, my Facebook feed has been cluttered with costume requests, food item suggestions to work within a certain theme, and links to Pinterest and the various kosher and Jewish blogs where one can find everything from how to make rainbow hamantaschen to how to make dinosaur feet out of tissue boxes.

And I’m just as guilty as everyone else for buying into this new Purim. For spending weeks trying to come up with a themed mishloach manot, and a coordinating family costume that worked within our mishloach manot theme.

But it makes me yearn for the Purim of my past.

My parents never dressed up for Purim. Weeks before the holiday, we took a trip down to the Lower East Side to visit my Zaydie at his paper goods store where my Dad would stock up on brown handled paper bags. We each got to pick 5 friends to give Mishloach Manot to, since there was no way my Dad was going to drive all over Queens delivering Mishloach Manot to my entire class. We were handed crayons and told we could decorate the bags and so, the Sunday before Purim, we sat at the dining room table and colored away. As for Mishloach Manot itself, we gave the same thing every single year. My Mom baked chocolate cakes in mini loaf tins weeks in advance, filling up the freezer in the basement with stacked baked goods. While my Dad’s job was to pick up the mini bottles of Kedem grape juice and the giant box of pineapples.

Yup, you read that right. An entire pineapple.

In America, it’s probably not such a big deal but pineapple in Israel is extremely expensive. It would cost me a small fortune to actually replicate this Mishloach Manot here. And besides, my Dad knew someone in the pineapple business, so he got a nice discount.

That was it. No big exciting theme. No rainbow colored hamantaschen. Truth be told, I’ve never actually even made hamantaschen. My Mom didn’t make them, she baked chocolate cakes instead.

As for the costume, we’re talking about the days before Amazon and the Internet. When the only children’s toy store in our Kew Gardens Hills neighborhood was called Gaffney’s and they carried three types of costumes: Queen Esther, Mordechai and King Achashverosh. The Queen Esther was a dress and an actual mask. Oh, and you could also buy a couple of animal masks and I think a ninja, but that was it. No Barbie or Spiderman. No Disney or Marvel. Nothing. If you wanted a creative costume, you had to make it yourself.

Which is how I ended up riding down Main Street in the local Purim parade (what, your town didn’t have a Purim parade? Ours was awesome!), dressed as a “hobo”. Complete with black handlebar mustache drawn onto my face using an actual magic marker, a blue pea coat, scratchy wool blue hat and my Mom tied one of her shmatas to a stick she plucked from the tree in our front garden. It would be a happy memory if I hadn’t won a writing contest about my beautiful Purim costume, which I had described as the most glorious, elegant, colorful, Strawberry Shortcake Princess at the ball gown. The judge for the contest gave my outfit the stink eye as I hauled myself onto the back of the horse drawn carriage and asked what happened to my beautiful Strawberry Shortcake Princess gown. I’m pretty sure I told her what my Mom told me: “Aint nobody got time for that!”

I blame the hobo instead of strawberry shortcake ball gown incident on the reason why I bought costumes for my kids three weeks ago. How I made sure to get to the Red Pirate at the Hadar Mall and buy the Elsa from Frozen costume for my eldest before it sold out. Actually, because of my Hebrew language skills, I mixed up the words for “costume” and “maxi pad” and ended up asking the shopkeeper for Minnie Mouse’s maxi pad in a size 3T.

Do you see the lengths I will go to for my children and Purim?

And my husband is already despising the joyous holiday. It’s partly because I’m making him crazy to find freezer space so I can bake the cupcakes in advance, and mostly because I told him he has to go as Batman again this year. I warned him 6 years ago after we got married that I would only spend more than $100 on a Batman costume if he promised to be Batman every year. And, for the past 6 years, he has dutifully donned the costume and hasn’t complained once. All of a sudden, this year, he wants to switch things up and go as Captain Picard from Star Trek. Well, he should have thought about that before I bought the Plus Sized Batgirl costume two months ago.

Are you getting the clear picture here of how crazy Purim is making me?

And you know I’m already thinking about the family Instagram photo! I mean, why else would I have spent a nice chunk of change on the baby’s Spiderman costume? These are childhood memories that will last a lifetime!

Instead, I decided it’s time to get off of Pinterest.  I can calm down about  my mustache themed mishloach manot complete with finger mustache tattoos and how I don’t really have a rhyme or reason for the mini liquor bottle. That I won’t be able to send my daughter with a costume on Native American day at gan (seriously? I’ve got Belle, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, I do not have Pocahontas. Is it so much to ask for her gannenet to work with me??). And that our gluten free hamataschen won’t be rainbow colored.

Maybe instead of Etsy designed labels, I’ll just hand out the mustache handled white boxes, give my kids some crayons, put on festive music, and let them color to their hearts content.

Now that could make for some really nice family/holiday memories.

Has Purim gotten a little out of hand for you and your family? Do you find yourself battling with the perfectionist in you over the tiniest detail on your Mishloach Manot? Do you think Pinterest killed Purim? Let me know in the comment section?





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What’s your Mommy style?


I have a confession: I’m a closet Mishpacha reader. For those unfamiliar with Mishpacha magazine, it’s a Jewish magazine for the family (mishpacha literally means family). Each week, a shrink wrapped package arrives at our door (thanks to my DH who finally just got me a subscription) and inside is a magazine for the Dad, a magazine for Mom, and one for the kids. My DD’s like to “read” their magazine and look through the photos while my DH refuses to touch the magazine for Dad with a 10 foot pole. And me, well, I like to read the Mommy magazine for the recipes, some creative ideas about holiday preparation and decorating, and often times to read just how out of touch with reality some of these people are. Recently, Mishpacha went through a design change that I personally think it a huge mistake, but I haven’t cancelled my subscription.

Last week, a reader wrote a question that was responded to by three different people. Truth be told, I don’t really remember who exactly these three people were but they tend to be Rabbis, Shadchans, female educators from seminaries, and psychologists, who are all frum. The question was from a young woman currently Shidduch dating who is ashamed of her Mother’s appearance. She said that her Mom dressed slopped, didn’t put on make up and had an awful sheitel (wig). She feared that the reason she wasn’t getting set up on as many Shidduch dates was because of her Mother’s slovenly and sloppy appearance. When she approached her Mother with these feelings, her Mom apparently told her she was being ridiculous and refused to dress better, wear makeup and get a more expensive and “nicer” sheitel.  She was aggravated and frustrated with her Mother and needed help getting through to her, so she could understand just how hurtful her appearance was to her chances of getting a wonderful Shidduch.

I’m not living in that world, but this question did resonate with me. I won’t say that I dress sloppy, but I certainly don’t wear my Ann Taylor suits, a string of pearls, and my Russel&Bromley suede boots to do gan pickup. In fact, I would say that my style hasn’t really altered much since my teens. In seminary, I got into a fight with my Madricha because she told me that it was time to grow up and dress nicer. She wore a new Hermes silk scarf wrapped around her neck practically every day, and according to her, I looked like something the Gap threw up on. At 17, my style was sporty and comfortable.

And, truth be told, I will always choose comfort over fashion. I have never worn stilletos nor have any desire to. I prefer chunky platforms, and went through a Spice Girl platform stage that would have rivaled Ginger spice. When I entered the work force, I realized quickly how I needed to up my style. Working in PR, appearance is everything, and no one wants to hire a publicist to manage their brand and be their face and representative if they look sloppy.

So, I hired a personal shopper and went to Saks and started learning how to dress for my figure. I was a Salon Z patron for years and years, and lost many a paycheck on Marina Rinaldi apparel. I stopped wearing color and stuck to a wardrobe of blacks, browns and grays. I selected clothing with horizontal stripes, plunging necklines to accentuate the positive (drawing people eyes upwards towards the face and away from any “bulge”) and heeled boots and shoes since the taller I looked, the slimmer I appeared. And this was just work clothes. I had different styles based on where I was hanging out at night. At a concert at Bowery Ballroom, I went in my “Hipster gear.” Shooting pool at Prohibition? Jeans, a rock n roll t-shirt, boots and a smokey eye. Margaritas at Citrus with a Producer in the summer? A cute floral dress, curly hair, big hoop earrings, fun green eye shadow, and wedges.

In my single 20’s, I had a facial once a month at Aveda salon and spa on the Upper West Side, sported a fabulous cut and color that I maintained every two months, took care of ladyscaping, and would go for weekly manicures and pedicures. My makeup style was sparse but effective: moisturizer with SPF, some undereye concealer, eyeliner and mascara, and a nude lip for work and something a little darker and more daring for after hours.

I might have been overweight,  but no one could ever say I was sloppy.

Which brings us to today, and my new Mommy style. 11 weeks postpartum and I’m still wearing maternity clothes. I’ve only lost 11 kilos, and I gained almost 20 so I’m no where near fitting into my clothing. Once again, I’ve embraced sporty and comfortable gear. I wear New Balance sneakers, cargo pants, and long sleeve shirts to do gan pickup. I still struggle with head covering, which you all already know about. Everything I own is covered in spit up, everything. My son is like a pigeon, he takes aim and misses the Aden + Anais muslins that I have thrown over my shoulder to catch his spit up. I have no time to do any “ladyscaping”, my nails are a ragged mess, my hair is in desperate need of a cut, color and a blow out, and if I remember to brush my teeth in the morning it’s an accomplishment.

I look at other Mommy’s in awe. Like my friend Rachel, whose hair is always brushed and tidy, and her manicure never seems to have a chip. Granted, she doesn’t have a newborn at home, but still. My husband’s cousin had a baby 4 weeks after I did and she showed up to his bris with a manicure & pedicure and a killer blow out. At my son’s bris? My swollen feet were shoved into too tight shoes since I refused to wear slippers, my eyeliner shmeared under my eye and no one bothered to tell me so that in all of the photos, it looks like I have a black eye, and there was spit up on my white sweater.

And when DH and I do go out, and I manage to put on a nice outfit, shoes, my wig and some makeup, I get such a reaction from my DD’s that I’m ashamed. Last Saturday night was our first date night in 11 weeks, and my eldest couldn’t stop telling me how pretty I looked. She wouldn’t stop sniffing me because I was wearing perfume for the first time in months and she loved the smell.

I know it’s a long way away from when my kids are dating, but I don’t want them to be ashamed of their Mom for the way I look. And, I also want to be true to who I am and be me. Right now, who me is as a Mommy is yet to be determined. Lately, I think my sense of style is closest to Modern Family’s Clare Dunfy. She’s comfortable casual during the day, and simple and classy at night.

One day, I hope to rock a LBD with a nice pair of heels (kitten) for a night out. I aspire to leave my house without spit up on my clothing (I swear, I get dressed in clean clothing and just when I’m about to walk out the door he lets it loose). In the meantime, maybe I’ll take a page out of my Grandma Rose’s book. She told my Mom that a lady never leaves the home without lipstick.

It’s a start.

What’s your Mommy style?


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Are you my baby?

imagesIn Central, I had a wonderful Biology teacher named Mrs. Fried. She was enthusiastic and animated, encouraging and fair. Truth be told, science was never my strongest subject, and I’m pretty sure I got a 75 on my biology regent. Ninth grade was the last time I took a biology class, and that was almost 2 decades ago! So, when our baby was born a couple of days ago, I surprised myself by remembering something important I learned regarding blood type.

I should back up and explain that I’m very into blood. Not in a freaky, vampire sort of way, but in a medical way. You see, I have a condition called APLA, which causes blood clots primarily during pregnancy. In order for me to carry a healthy baby to term, I take a regiment of daily shots of a blood thinner called Clexane, and a dose of aspirin.  After the baby is born, I continue the injections of Clexane for six weeks, and then I have a couple of other restrictions but otherwise thank g-d, I live a normal life.

It’s not fun injecting myself in the stomach. I’ve had four pregnancies and I have three children, so there was actually a point in time where I was doing a daily injection for more than an entire year. I end up with a belt of bruises and have to be very careful about cutting myself since it takes a really, really long time to stop the bleeding.  My biggest fear is that my children will inherit my genetic condition and will g-d forbid have problems with fertility.

So, it’s a complete miracle that I was able to carry three children to term. And, when our baby was born a couple of days ago, I was surprised to hear that he was jaundice because of something called ABO incompatibility.  When I asked the nurses to explain what that meant, they told me that our baby was blood type A+.

And that’s when something I had learned in Mrs. Fried’s class came to mind. I told the nurses that it was impossible our baby was blood type A+ since I am blood type O+ and my husband is B+. They agreed that if I was O+ and my husband was B+, there is no way that our baby could be A+. It didn’t change the fact that he was jaundice and needed phototherapy, but I did insist that they retest his blood type.

A couple of hours later, they returned with the results: A+

So, there are three things to think about in this very moment:

a) One of us had the wrong blood type. Now, we knew that my blood type was O+ since both my parents are O+ and I was retested during one of the million pre-natal blood tests that I’ve done. We knew that the baby’s blood type was A+ since we retested him. Perhaps, someone made a mistake when they did the blood type test for my husband years ago?

b) I cheated on my husband and this was not his baby. This option was laughable but apparently, more than one person had this thought when we told them the story. To my husband’s credit, he is a tremendous mensch, and he didn’t question my fidelity. But, I saw a couple of awkward smiles from nurses and doctors when we asked how our baby could be A+ when we were both O+ and B+.

c) This wasn’t our baby. This was the most terrifying of all options.  I started looking at him differently. Where I used to think some of his features resembled his siblings, I started questioning myself and wondering if I was just telling myself that he looked like my other children when in reality, he didn’t resemble any of us. I started getting even more suspicious when a nurse returned him to me after taking him to an exam room to do a blood test, and she told me that his wrist bracelet had fallen off but that his ankle bracelet was still on so I didn’t have to worry. I started wondering if perhaps he had been switched with another baby during the two hours I was in recovery post c-section.

Since I knew that b was not an option, we decided to tackle the first option and got in touch with my husband’s doctor. We explained the story and she immediately issued a blood type test order for my husband. But, right when we thought he could go take the test, they discovered that the baby had a heart murmur and we were immediately sent down for an EKG. Between the jaundice and EKG, we forgot about the blood type and just concentrated on getting the baby home and making sure he was healthy.

I thought about his blood type again days later, while standing next to the bima at his bris. And, as the Mohel started singing and calling each person up to perform his task during the ceremony, I said a little prayer that I was not just about to allow the Mohel to cut someone else’s baby.

The next morning, my husband left the house early and went straight for his blood test. I spent the next 2 days (I don’t know WHY it took 2 days to get the results!) in a stressed state. We imagined all of these worst case scenarios, which included that his blood type came back B+ and that we would have to then ask for a paternity test. I held myself back from fully bonding with my baby, afraid that he wasn’t really ours and that I would have to give him up. That was probably the hardest to do, since I was falling in love with him each and every time I sat down to nurse him, when I stroked his hair, as he slept scrunched up on my chest with his tiny fingers curled around the straps of my tank top.

And just as I started to wonder where my baby was, if this was not my child, my husband got an SMS from our health insurance provider.

His blood type: A+

I cannot explain the relief I felt in that moment. We both felt such relief that this was, in fact, our child. That no one would come and take him from us. That we could finally put everything behind us and truly focus on bonding with our baby.

And that’s exactly what we did.





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What’s in your medicine cabinet?


I’ve been thinking a lot lately about clutter. And, more specifically, how I really want to just declutter and simplify my life. I look around at our apartment and it’s clean, but cluttered. Stacks of papers, children’s drawings, letters, and medical papers have taken over the dining room and kitchen. The kids toys are in bags and baskets on a living room chair and underneath the TV. Neat piles of children’s books are stacked high on what used to be our coffee table, and don’t even get me started on laundry. The guest bed in our Mamad is my laundry bed, where piles of clean and folded laundry never seem to make it back into drawers.  I’ve got boxes full of paper goods underneath tables and in our dining room and, truth be told, I don’t even know what I’ve got in those boxes. I have no idea if I just keep on buying more and more napkins, or if I have enough plastic forks to last us a year!

This morning, though, I decided that I’ve had enough. I want one of those homes where there’s a place for everything, and everything is in its place.

But, the problem is that I’m a serious pack rat. I’m attached to my stuff and, every time I sit down to actually get rid of what’s probably not necessary anymore, I just can’t do it. DH is, unfortunately, the same way.

Know what happens when one pack rat marries another? Yup, you guessed it. You’ve got loads of stuff and lots of clutter.

This morning, I decided it was time for a change. And, armed with two giant black garbage bags, I decided to tackle the medicine cabinets in my bathroom. I was literally astounded by what I found in there and am very happy that our guests always use the other bathroom when they come over. I couldn’t even IMAGINE what they would think had someone opened up those cabinets.

You see, I’m a product loving girl. I am a beauty and health product marketing manager’s DREAM! I love products. I love trying new products, and I love stockpiling the products that I use.

Case in point, anything from Kiehl’s stayed. I should actually be a brand manager for Kiehl’s, that’s how much I love their products. But, what I discovered while cleaning this morning, is that I own FOUR tubs of their creamy eye treatment with avocado. That will last me more than a year. I also discovered a giant bag of Kiehl’s product samples that I collected at Saks more than two years ago!

Remember how I said that I’m a beauty/health product marketing manager’s dream? Well, the four boxes of never used Almay eye makeup eraser sticks (how clever of a product is this!!) can attest to that. I’m pretty sure I read about them in a magazine and then went to and ordered a ton of boxes to try. Sad thing is that I really do want to try them, but I’ve worn makeup twice in the past six months! And, what did I use as my eye make up remover? Not the Almay sticks, since I didn’t even remember they existed!

Those bottles of Mama Mio anti-cellulite, stretch mark prevention creams that didn’t work when I was pregnant with my eldest? Tossed!

That giant container of Kama Sutra honey dust that I have NO idea where I got it and think it was probably some sort of bachelorette present that I never even opened, and let’s be honest but I would never use it anyway? Trashed!

Boxes and boxes of Tampons that I have no idea when I bought, and haven’t used? After reading that nightmare story of the woman who found mold on her Tampons? Chucked!

Folks, what if you find contraception that doesn’t have an expiration date but you know you bought it more than six years ago? Throw it away! Unless, of course, you want to get pregnant.

If your hair care products have elements that have separated out of the actual product and now resembles curdled milk? Time to get rid of it!

Why do I need SIX containers of silk dental floss by OralB? Don’t know, but I’m pretty sure I won’t need new floss until at least November.

I’m hoping Johnson & Johnson baby powder doesn’t go bad, since I found 3 unopened containers! Same for J&J body cream. THREE bottles, still shrink wrapped!

The colorful, flannel hot water bottle still in its bag was a nice little surprise. Lord knows why I needed FOUR boxes of disposable underwear, although I’m pretty sure it was some wild time that I must have missed out of!

And, if a bus load of seminary girls, all with synced cycles, suddenly broke down in front of my apartment and for some reason they ALL forgot to pack feminine hygiene products? Well, let’s just say that I’ve got them covered.

I felt so much better looking around the bathroom. I admired the marble counter, which I could suddenly see! I enjoyed looking at empty cabinets that, knowing me, will be full with other products by the end of the month. And, I was content knowing that I’ve got enough bars of soap to last me until after Rosh Hashanah!

Tomorrow, I’m hoping to tackle our book problem! Perhaps I’ll even find the coffee table!

Are you spending time this summer cleaning or just organizing? Share in the comment section!



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Summertime challenges with hair covering


I’ve been covering my hair for almost 6 years.  Truth be told, it was a bit of a struggle getting started since my husband wasn’t really on board with the whole concept of covering hair after marriage. So, I didn’t push it and after our wedding, I didn’t cover my hair. About 6 months after our wedding, my husband told me that he was okay with me covering my hair. I remember being so excited when he got on board with it!

The next day, I went into town to a hat store that sold different types of head coverings. And, I was like a kid in a candy store. I tried on hats and berets, half scarfs and full scarfs, fedoras and even some snoods. Since it was February and quite chilly, I decided I liked the whole beret look. I liked the way it felt on my head, and how it looked on top of my straight fall.

I convinced myself that covering my hair was going to be super easy, and for about 4 months it really was. Until I encountered my first Israeli summer covering my hair. The beret and fall combination was just way too hot for the 90+F heat. I started searching around for a hair covering I could wear that didn’t require a wig underneath. And, I settled upon the colorful bandanas that I could wear with my hair up in a ponytail or wrapped tightly into a bun.

But, after 6 years of the summer bandana being my staple, I’m finally ready to admit that it just doesn’t work for me. Somehow, on my head, it makes me look like I’m either ready to go out and milk a cow, or that I’m about to perform as one of Tevye’s daughters in Fiddler on the Roof.

If I’m really being honest with myself. I don’t just dislike the way I look wearing a bandana, I miss my hair. I miss walking around with a nice blow out, running my fingers through my straight hair with the sun beating down on it. And, if you know me at all, you’d realize how shocking this is. I have spent YEARS fighting with my hair. I was born blessed with curly, frizzy, light brown hair. I’ve spent majority of my life fighting my hair in its natural state. I’ve cut it short and grown it long, I’ve had bangs and layers. I’ve highlighted, straight out dyed it, and chemically straightened. I’ve been blonde, blonde with brown highlights, brown with blonde highlights, brown with red highlights,  Goth black, and last year – on a whim – I went black with purple streaks. That little experiment was just an absolute disaster.

In high school and college I would fantasize of the day when I would be married and I could wear a really, really nice straight wig and be done with worrying about my kinky, frizzy, curly hair. And, I am lucky that I own a really, really nice wig. But, living in Israel, my nice wig is worn only during special occassions like conferences, work meetings and weddings.

I remember laughing when we learned the Halachot (laws) of hair covering after marriage. My hair, I exclaimed, was not a body part that was particularly attractive to men. Especially not in its natural state.

I have never had a man come up to me at a bar to tell me that he had to buy me a drink because my hair was so gorgeous.

I’ve never had a man tell me that he wishes he could spend hours just running his fingers through my hair.

I’ve never had a man turn away from me because my hair was just too darn beautiful to look at.

But, even though I didn’t think that my hair was particularly beautiful, these days, I absolutely love and miss it.

So yesterday, when I was so frustrated with my bandanas that I just threw them on the floor, one by one, I stopped and considered walking outside sans covering. Of course, I totally chickened out.

Instead, I grabbed a pink baseball cap my in-laws bought for me while they were on an Alaskan cruise. It was 95 degrees yesterday and, when I walked the couple of blocks to gan to pick up DD2, I was sweating. By the time we got home, my hair was drenched and my face was bright red from the heat. Baseball caps just won’t do in the Israeli summer heat.

So, I’m at a crossroads. Do I continue wearing my coolest (in terms of weather, not style) option of the bandanas and just not care that I look like I’m about to go to work on a dairy farm, or do I search for something new?

Truth be told, it’s starting to be really difficult to keep my hair covered when I just don’t like what looks back at me in the mirror.

Most days, I feel like I want to just rip off my bandana and let my Jewfro hang out.



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The One that Broke My Heart

They say you never really forget your first love. I don’t think it’s the love part you don’t really forget, I think it’s the heartbreak that you remember. That pain never really fully goes away, and it sometimes resurfaces at inconvenient moments in your life. And, no matter how happy, satisfied, or content you might be in the here and now, you might still feel diminutive pain. It could be negligible, but it’s still there.

On Friday, DH and I were paying a shiva call in the neighborhood. The avel (bereaved), ever the hostess even in her time of mourning, introduced us to the rest of the visitors and the name of one of the guys seemed so familiar. While walking out of the shiva house, I asked him what year he graduated from my brother school, and we realized that we were the same grade. It immediately clicked how I knew him, and so I played a quick game of Jewish geography with him. I asked him if he knew Motti (not his real name) and, when this guy said that they were friends, it all fell into place. I told him that Motti was my “ex-boyfriend” and then I asked about his wife and kids. I told him to send my regards, and revealed my maiden name. We parted ways with a hearty “Good Shabbos” and DH and I walked back to our car, where I promptly began to wish the conversation never happened.

I laid awake from 3:15 a.m. – 4:30 a.m. on Saturday morning, thinking about the encounter. Thinking about Motti, and how he completely shattered me. How he spent years playing with my head, giving me false hope for a future, when he knew that he was never going to marry me.

I met Motti when I was 16 years old and we were both junior counselors at Camp Mesorah. His sister was my camper and, coincidentally, my brother was his camper. We immediately had plenty to talk about. Over time, I became attached to him – in that 16 year old way. We would spend more time together, going on regular evening walks up and down the road. It took a while for me to  become attracted to him. But, after a while, that all changed. It wasn’t long before I had fallen for him, and I fell pretty hard. I loved his quick wit, his sardonic smile, his intellect. We were really close that summer, and when the summer ended, I was devastated. I didn’t know how I could sleep at night without seeing him.

We kept in touch Senior year of High School mainly through late night phone calls. It was pricey since he lived in another State and my Dad wasn’t willing to upgrade to a better long-distance plan. That changed, over the years. The summer before seminary, we finally got together. We went out on two “dates” that were really special, and then he left for Yeshiva and I went to Michlalah. After Succot that year, I called him at Yeshiva and gave him the ultimatum the Rabbi’s had advised us to give to our “boyfriends.” I told him that I would only continue talking to him during the year, if he promised we would get engaged when we got back to the States. He couldn’t/wouldn’t promise, and so we said our goodbyes. But, after a couple of months, I missed his voice. I missed talking to him, I missed the things we talked about. And so, I caved, and I called him at Yeshiva. We decided that we would only talk if we had a phone Chevrutah, and he was willing to give me a 3:00 a.m. slot once a week. We decided to learn The Book of Job together, and each week I set my alarm to wake me up for our early morning learning session.

It didn’t really last too long. We were both tired and, truth be told, I didn’t really want to spend that time on the phone with him learning Torah. We ended our Chevrutah about as quickly as it began, got into a fight, and I walked away. Until Michlalah ended, and I got back to the States, and heard he was having surgery. About a week before his birthday. I caved, and called him to wish him a happy birthday and to see how he was feeling.

It was just so amazing talking to him. I didn’t realize how much I missed him, how much I missed our chats. And thus began a four year phone relationship with a guy I was hoping would one day be my husband.

Four years. It’s a really long time to talk to one person, practically every single night, for hours on end. But, that’s exactly what we did. We talked. And talked. And talked. In my head, he was my boyfriend. We just never got together. We never met in public. We never went out on a date.

My Mother would beg me to walk away. She would spend hours pleading with me, saying that this was not a relationship. That he was not my boyfriend. She said it’s not dating unless a guy was spending money on me. I brushed her off, telling her that she was old-fashioned and we were more modern. I refused to let her words penetrate. I didn’t want her to be right, I wanted to continue to live in this warped fantasy of mine where the man on the other end of the phone line cared about me as much as I cared about him. My friend Shulamit would tell me that I was delusional, she would point out that she saw Motti frequently at the Stern dorm, going out on Shidduch dates. I ignored her, and said that he was just testing the waters. I convinced myself that he was dating other people but that it would be okay, he would realize just how right I was for him, and we would plan our future together. But, I was really hurt when Shulamit told me he was dating, and so I started dating, too.

And that’s when his roommate started talking to me on the phone. It started innocently enough, we would chat a bit when Motti wasn’t in his dorm room. Pretty soon, though, I would call to talk to him as much as I would call to talk to Motti. And suddenly, I started wondering if he was interested in dating me. After months of spending hours on the phone with both Motti and his roommate, I broke down. I demanded to know if the roommate was talking to me because he wanted to date me. He admitted he didn’t, he just really liked “the practice” of talking to a girl. He was naturally a bit shy, and talking to me was helping him come out of his shell. And it was helping him while he was dating.

I decided to walk away, from both of them. I wasn’t attached to the roommate, and I was angry at Motti for letting him talk to me. So, I stopped calling. I hit the gym harder, lost weight, straightened my hair, went out with guys who I wasn’t interested in, and waited for Motti to come back.

I read “The Rules” and promised myself that I would use them if Motti ever called again. And, sure enough, the phone rang one night and it was Motti. And, after 15 minutes, I sighed and said that I had to go. I was vague as to why I was going and, after a couple of nights of following the rules laid out in the book, I felt it working. I heard his frustration when I hung up after 15 minutes, and I felt a thrill. I thought that this was going to take us to the next level. We were finally going to just go out and get engaged. And, as with most of the people I know who followed “The Rules,” I gave it up and went back to my old, needy, ways. Because, as many of us have learned, if you need “The Rules” to get a man, then he isn’t really the right man for you.

We got into another fight about not dating, and once again, I stopped talking to him. It was just another one of our breaks, I thought, and he would come back to me sooner or later. But, I guess I wasn’t really that surprised when I got a phone call at work from a friend, with the news that Motti got engaged. We had decided on a phone chat break 2 months earlier. And, in those 2 months, he managed to get engaged.

I was just shocked. I looked up at the photos in my cubicle, at the picture of us taken on the last night of camp. I wondered how on earth he could be engaged to someone else, if I had our picture hanging up in my cubicle. I slowly took the picture down and hid it in my desk drawer.

And then, I walked. I left the office, crossed the street to Lite Delights, and ordered a burrito. It was my first non-kosher meal, and it was just the beginning.

For years, I thought that I left religion as some sort of post-adolescence parental rebellion. This Friday night, I realized that I left religion because of Motti. Because of his roommate. Because I let two YU guys, “top of their classes,” treat me like shit. Play with my head and my heart. Use me for whatever it was that talking to me did for them.

And, I realized, that as long as I kept living in this sheltered world of Orthodox Judaism, I was never going to grow up. So, I walked away from religion. And, I grew up. I dated non-religious and non-Jewish men who treated me badly, and those who treated me like gold. I also dated Orthodox Jewish guys who played with my head and my emotions, and I dated religious guys who were the male versions of my naive self. I toyed with them as Motti toyed with me and, while I am not proud of my behavior and how I treated them, I managed to justify it at the time.

Over the years, I developed a sense of self worth. I discovered self confidence. And, just when I finally realized that I mattered, I met DH. And, I thank G-d every single day that I didn’t end up with the slew of men who mistreated me, and that I managed to find the man who truly loves me.

If I could take back Friday’s meeting with Motti’s friend, I would. I can just imagine him talking to Motti, and Motti laughing his head off. Laughing that I called him my “ex-boyfriend.” He must think I’m pathetic. Truth be told, I felt pathetic. If anything, the years have taught me that our phone relationship was not a relationship.

But, the memories of those years still stings. I have so many unanswered questions, and I wish for closure that I will never, ever, get. I wish I knew why he did it. Why he spent hours upon hours just talking to me. Leading me on, perpetuating this delusion of a relationship that I clung to. What on earth did he get out of those hours on the phone? I was in love, but what was he doing if he wasn’t interested? What was the point?

I tell myself that I had to go through the Motti experience to appreciate the gem that is my DH. I tell myself that the Motti experience was part of life, a painful part that I had to endure in order to learn about myself, to discover my sense of self worth.

In a couple of days, any residual thoughts of Motti will fade from my mind. I will go back to living my life, in the here and now, without those painful memories. But I will never forget the thorns on the road.



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