Wednesday, November 19, 2014

From Left to Write: J by Howard Jacobson

To be one of the chosen people of God. I've had a fascination with Jewish culture since my family moved from Chicago city proper to its suburbs. All of a sudden half my classmates had the last name Cohen, Finkel, or the like. They talked frequently about the shenanigans they pulled in Hebrew school. Somehow Korean school wasn't as glamorous or exciting. The year I turned 13 was filled with friends' bar and bat mitzvahs, elaborate over the top parties where kids would get carried in chairs in the air and everyone would dance holding white napkins together in a circle. Throughout my formative years schools were closed for every Jewish high holiday (but not Good Friday) and we frequently talked about seders and Hannukah in class. I wanted to be Jewish. It looked like such a cool club from the outside.

College and life in New York afterwards expanded my love affair with Jewish culture in the form of food and life-long friends.  The Kosher Kitchen was one of the best dining halls on campus and it was part of the meal plan. Manhattan's offerings were even better--Artie's deli on 83rd street with its sides of cole slaw and pickles, Cafe Edison for matzoh ball soup, and Zabar's to pick up everything else, to say nothing about the deliciousness of real bagels! Many Jewish girlfriends and boyfriends enhanced my appreciation for a people that have endured so much hatred and oppression for thousands of years and yet have persevered to excel in education, the arts, medicine and every field of business.

While I ultimately did not end up converting or marrying in, my belief that Israel was given to the Jews by God has never been diminished. So imagine the horror I felt when I found out that, on Tuesday morning, two Muslims from East Jerusalem armed with a gun, knives and axes burst into a West Jerusalem synagogue shouting Allahu Akbar and then proceeded to open fire and bludgeon praying men with axes. Of course, this made me think of J, the novel I had been reading for the From Left to Write book club. I had read a review of the book that it was not realistic that another Holocaust would happen as suggested by the book. I beg to differ--in a world where Jews in Jerusalem can get massacred in a synagogue, is the possibility of another Holocaust really that far fetched? I had originally been planning a different post, but how could I not comment on the fact that most people in this world are not outraged by what happened, and it did happen! Why is the flag not lowered to half staff for the Americans that were killed in this tragedy? Why doesn't the POTUS come out stronger against the incident? Does he even care?

I am praying that God will comfort the families of the three AMERICAN and the other victims of this travesty. If it is God's will, I pray that he will help Benjamin Netanyahu carry out his vow to "settle the score with every terrorist."  Whenever things like this happen, I question whether it is the end times. More and more I agree with the answer my pastor recently gave to this query, "it's been the end times ever since Jesus returned to Heaven." If you live in a place where there are no Jewish people and the problems of the Middle East seem far away, just think about how Hitler was able to affect the life of every human being on Earth during World War II. Ignoring the issues will not make them go away, please spare a thought for these issues today.

This post was inspired by the novel J by Howard Jacobson, about a world where collective memory has vanished and the past is a dangerous country, not to be talked about or visited. Join From Left to Write on November 20th as we discuss J. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Halloween: Jaded Mom Recap

Non-scary Children of the Corn
Stephen King eat your heart out
When the boys were little, I was a bit crazy about Halloween. I took them to ten different parties in October and multiple pumpkin patches. I loved the cuteness they oozed out of their costumes. Maybe it's the fact that they don't wear cute costumes anymore (no more pandas or Tigger), but I'm definitely over Halloween. We did go to our first legit corn maze, making the trek to Dublin with out community group. It was hot, it was long, it had trivia questions that told you which way to go. E and I went back to the car after the first half. There was also a corn box (instead of a sand box) at the corn maze pumpkin patch. The kids loved it. I immediately thought,  "This is why the rest of the world hates the U.S." People are starving and we are wasting bushels of corn for the amusement of our children. They were also charging $$ for the opportunity to shoot ears of corn as part of target practice. All the endless talk about the drought, yet we don't flinch when food that was made possible by the use of the precious liquid is used as entertainment rather than as sustenance. Of course, I'm as guilty as the next person since I was there!

I missed the Halloween carnival at their elementary school because I just happened to have a lunch appointment at Chez Panisse that day. Even if it had been at Jack in the Box, I think I would have picked the lunch over the carnival. Apparently, it turns perfectly normal girls into zombies. And out of all the activities at the carnival, their favorite was "eating chips." Parents and high-schoolers spent three hours setting up the carnival, putting up games and decorations all over the multi-purpose room. The boys and I were there for an hour before I had to leave for Berkeley stretching out cotton to resemble cobwebs and hanging it on the walls. So much effort for a four hour event, what if all those volunteers had instead picked up the garbage in the school playground and fields? A better use of time and volunteer manpower but not quite as fun for the [young] adults channeling their inner Chucky.

The kids (and E and I) paraded around the school on Halloween in the rain. E had protested her original costume (Snow White) to join the army of Stepford Elsas. I ordered it off eBay and we had received it well in advance of the big day. The weather on Halloween morning, however, required E to take off her Elsa costume since it would have dragged in the rain. Instead she was very practical and put on a hoodie sweatshirt to protect her head. I couldn't understand why the school didn't just cancel the parade. I never had Halloween parades at any of my five elementary schools in Chicago. It may have been too cold on Halloween to do so; coats would have hid our costumes and defeated the entire point.

Halloween night was pretty uneventful. We went down the street instead of roaming the hills near my mother in law's house as we had done in past years, seeking out the neighbors known for giving full size treats. Sanity for the full-time working mom won out over the Hostess cupcakes and Costco size chocolate bars. They went through a decent number of houses and got a decent amount of candy (which will be going straight into the Operation Christmas Child boxes). Halloween, done. Does anyone need an Elsa costume?