A Time to Consider

The Jewish holiday of Rosh Ha Shana is just about upon us. The New Year or head of the year as it is literally translated is an exciting and challenging time of the year. 

R.H. has the bells and whistles that each Jewish holiday has – food!  The customary foods people eat at this time of year are rounded challah with raisins and apples dipped with honey.  Neither one of them leaves me swooning for more, but I make sure to have them.  After all, I do like traditions. Sweet foods in general will permeate holiday tables to remind us to pray for a sweet new year.  Unfortunately, we might not get the idea until too much of the food has been eaten, so it is not a good holiday for diets!

I find R.H. to be one of the more difficult and challenging holidays of the year.  This holiday begins a process which is focused on repentance (actually pretty much any re word would have worked there) and hope.  We are instructed to pray and ask G-d to forgive us for our misdeeds of the year.  We pray that the coming year should be one where we are blessed, recognize those blessings, and fulfill the promise of those blessings.  

As I have gotten older, I find I have more to pray for.  It’s not just my sports teams winning (by the way, terrible loss for the Eagles last Sunday), doing well in school, and for it to be summer again.  I think of my family, friends, work, and the world in general which seems to have gotten both bigger and smaller as I have aged. However, I believe one of the major themes is internal introspection (I wonder what trend therapists have noted about this time of the year).  I strive to consider what I have accomplished during the past year and what I would like to accomplish during the coming year.  I review my personal growth – both my successes and failings.  I am one of those people who is his own harshest critic. Maybe, it is a form of conceit, but I believe that I can and should strive to accomplish great things and do it while being a great person.  In the end though, I see that as hope and that is the overriding theme of the holiday and the 10 day period that leads us into Yom Kippur. When I hear that shofar blast on Yom Kippur, I feel invigorated and hopeful that I can make the coming year better than the last. Of course, it will all start with the bagel and lox waiting at home for me. Shana tova.

Ready. Aim. Fire.

I am a neat person. I like things in their proper place. Clutter makes me uncomfortable, affects my thinking process. This fixation on neatness is one of those things my wife and I bond over.  I’ve seen her cringe upon entering a place which is particularly messy. My wife is more organized, and I am more neat. It is truly a great combination – not quite peanut butter and jelly but certainly crackers and cheese. 

Despite this strange yet useful personality trait that we possess, our bathrooms smell like urine. I see this as a failing and a painful one at that. It is neither my fault nor hers. It’s the children’s fault – really. It’s not like one of those times where you use the children as an excuse.  “Sorry we couldn’t make it – the boys were not up to it. Long day – you understand.”  Yes, I’ll admit it – I have used the excuse above or something like it before, but this time it really is the children’s fault.

Both of my children did not become fully potty trained till they turned 4.  We were happy to take diapers off the shopping list.  Due to this joy, aim or lack thereof was overlooked. However, their aim has worsened as the novelty of going on their own has worn off. Now, it seems the only thrill is seeing how quickly they can go in order to miss as little as possible the television show they are watching.  Often, they will put off going to the last minute, so when they actually go not only are they in a rush but are at the point when the urine is nearly ready to burst out.   In fact, my younger son often runs to the bathroom because he has waited so long. While running, he is screaming pee pee like a kamikaze fighter who screamed bonsai. It was cute and funny the first time or two and worrisome due to the fact I did not know if he would make it in time. At this point when I see it, I shake my head, sigh, and say, “Why did you wait so long? Hurry.”   I am left wondering how much urine actually is going to make it into the toilet. My wife says it is my responsibility to make this situation better. “You have the same body parts. Show them how to aim.” I pride myself on being a good teacher, but I am not sure what would work in this case.  I could try and break it down into a few easy steps.

  1. Make sure both parts of the seat are up.
  2. Pull your pants far down so it won’t interfere with the trajectory (an opportunity to learn new vocabulary – now, we’re getting to my area of expertise.)
  3. Put both hands on your private part.
  4. Look at the toilet while you are peeing.
  5. Make sure you are completely finished before pulling up.
  6. Check for any droplets of urine.  If so, wipe up with toilet paper.
  7. Flush.
  8. Pull up your pants.

I think that about covers it. Maybe we should write these steps down and laminate them and put a sign in each bathroom.  Of course, if we did that it might start to clutter up the bathroom. I’m not so sure I want to do that. I do like neatness you know.

TV Time

It is that time of the year again. No, I don’t mean the leaves changing colors, school starting back up, or the opening of a new football season. I am referring to something truly irrelevant – the new season of television shows.

I enjoy the whole couch potato thing as much as the next guy.  However at this point in my life, I rarely get the opportunity to melt into the sofa – too busy!   Despite that, I like to read the reviews of the new and returning television shows.  When I come upon a show that piques my interest, I keep it mind. However, I rarely actually watch the show. I go through a 2-step process. The first step is me deciding that I want to try and make time to watch the show.  The second step, which is nearly as important, is remembering to actually watch it if I somehow find the time.  Despite these time and memory constraints, I do manage to watch some shows.

There is one show, however, which I go out of my way to make time for – Modern Family.  The show comes on ABC at 9:00 on Wednesdays. No, this is not a paid advertisement. Anyway, the show revolves around 3 families who are connected by a 60ish man named Jay. One of the above noted families is Jay’s  which consists of his younger second wife and her 11 year old son. The second family is composed of Cameron and Mitchell (Jay’s son) and their adopted daughter. The third family which is the traditional nuclear family comprises Phil and Claire (Jay’s daughter) and their three children.  As you may have noticed, two of the families are the non-nuclear family which seems less and less common these days – hence the title.  Anyway, I find the show to be hilarious. There have been a number of episodes or scenes which have left me guffawing so loudly that I had to remind myself to be quiet (my wife’s shush and smack also help), so that I do not wake my children. 

So, when 9:00 Wednesday rolls around, I strive to make my appointment. Yes, I do occasionally miss the appointment due to some real life obligation such as mopping the floor, marking papers, or putting a child to bed. However, if the responsibility can be put off, “No I don’t hear him choking,” I watch my favorite show. Life and the bills can wait.

Value Added

As parents, we try to inculcate values into our children.  I don’t mean ensuring they support the same sports teams as you, or that they enjoy the same music as you. No, while both of these things would be nice hobbies to share, they are not essential. I mean those types of values that make our children decent people that we can be proud of and point to them with pride and say that one’s mine.

My mother-in-law passed away over 5 years ago. Don’t wait for any in law jokes. We got along just fine. She was loyal, supportive, and funny. My father-in-law, her husband, died nearly 15 years earlier. The two of them met later in life and were only blessed with 28 years together. From the way, she spoke it was so clear just how much she adored and appreciated her husband.  Just two and a half months after my wife and I married, I lost my job. Some parents might have questioned their children’s decision. Can he support you?  This never came up in conversation, and I am certain my mother-in-law never even thought it.  When I was considering and ultimately decided to become a teacher, she was thrilled. She had been a teacher herself and assured me that I would be very good at it. She loved to hear stories from the classroom.  It is always awkward when figuring out how to address your in-law. One day I simply asked her what should I call you. She smiled and said, “mother-out-law.”  I snickered a bit while she laughed heartily at her own corny joke.

When my wife suggested that we participate in the pancreatic cancer walk to honor my mother-in-law’s memory, I was all for it. However what most piqued my interest in regards to the walk was the chance to have my children participate in it as well. The walk was only 1 mile and a short drive from our home. The walk gave my wife and I a chance to not only talk with our children about helping people, but it provided us a tangible method for doing so. Throughout the whole week leading up to the walk, we talked about what the wonderful thing that we were doing. While my older son was confused about why we had to give the money away that we raised, he was excited for the opportunity to bring in a mitzvah note to his teacher on Monday. I explained to the children on the drive to the walk, “This is a great thing we are doing. By doing this walk, we are helping people. I’m proud of you guys. You should be proud of yourselves.”

So, we had a productive day. We took a meaningful walk with over 500 other people, raised nearly $800 dollars for The Lustgarten Foundation, and my children got to learn what it means to give of oneself. I hope they retain some memory of this day, participate in many more charitable events, and I get to point to them with pride.