Passover is traditionally a holiday that is shared with family and friends. I’ve attended Seders with more than 100 people in attendance.
Last night, I held a Seder for myself. Yep, just me. (I did set out a cup of bubbly, non-alcoholic water for Elijah, and even though I left my door open, he didn’t show up and hasn’t shown up yet. <– maybe because eventually, I had to lock the door?!)
To celebrate the first Seder of Passover, there are soooooooo many places I could have gone and been welcomed with open arms. Alternatively, I could have invited a few wayward Jewish and non-Jewish friends over to my home to share in my lil’ Seder. I did neither of those things…
Here’s why I had a Seder for One:
These days, I so rarely get any time to be by myself and last night, I just had to take advantage of the calm and quiet peace in our home. It was absolutely beautiful.
I did veeeeeeery minimal preparation (thanks to Max’s Deli,) and read through A Global Justice Haggadah with my furry friends beside me. I guess I wasn’t really alone because my pets, Erin, Kishke and Polly were all begging me for food. I could also feel the presence of my amazing grandma, Faye Lazar, as I do often and especially on every meaningful Jewish holiday. With every bite of matzo ball soup I slurped, I could feel my grandma judging because there was dill in the matzo balls which she would have seen as an absolute shanda!!!!!! “Dill in matzo balls?!?!?! Fish from a jar?!?!?!?!” Faye Lazar forgives my shortcuts and I’m sure G-d does too.
I did have a moment where I wondered if G-d was cool with how I was doing the first night of Passover this year. I’m pretty sure G-d was good with it and maybe even applauded it a little.
Cyclic Supercell: A thunderstorm that undergoes cycles of intensification and weakening (pulses) while maintaining its individuality. Cyclic supercells are capable of producing multiple tornadoes (i.e., a tornado family) and/or several bursts of severe weather.
Sick-lic Supercell:A storm that undergoes cycles of intensification and weakening (pulses) while not caring about individuality. Sick-lic supercells are capable of producing depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, PTSD, bursts of mania, overeating, undereating, recovery, tentative single-parenting, severe guilt, financial stresses, perfectionism, people-pleasing and a buncha other stuff.
In 2019, one of my daughters seemed really down about something. Like most moms, I worked hard to help her get to the bottom of it. After incessant (and “very annoying”) prodding on my part, my daughter finally shared that she was devastated to realize I wasn’t the pretty princess heroine of a mother she once thought I was. The jig was up — She knew the real skinny; I was actually just a human being with all sorts of imperfections, quirks and challenges. She was most obviously disappointed to learn of this truth. My other daughter was also grieving “the old me,” and I was grieving my daughters’ idyllic perception of me. All of this inspired a blog post titled, “The Practice for the Panicky Parent.”
After the dust of this harsh news settled, I assumed we’d all get on with our lives per usual. It never dawned on me that we might remain in a storm that at times, became increasingly more unpredictable and severe.
I could rattle off a whole slew of reasons as to why our family has been in a cyclic/sick-lic, perfect/imperfect storm. I’m not going to do that here. Instead, I’d rather focus on how, as a family, we are learning to take shelter. What really matters is getting okay around co-existing with and accepting a sometimes brutal storm system that will likely hover and surge in perpetuity. On occasion, it may pelt us with thunder, heavy rain, and hail damage, for good.
Even still, I am grateful for the peace, love and hearty laughter that occurs when we find ourselves in the calm eye of the storm. Sometimes, we can even hang in the eye for a good chunk of time. When there are signs that the wind is shifting and precipitation may increase, my daughters have learned to take care of themselves. They must. Oftentimes, this means leaving me to contend with my own storm surge, without them. Then, it is up to me to reach out to the meteorological masters who know best how to help me brave the harsh elements.
I’m not going to lie. As someone who has been coined, “Supermom,” (even though I have NEVER thought of myself that way,) I have walked through an almost unbearable amount of shame and self-judgement. On the upside, I have learned a whole new level of forgiveness of self, the understanding of and forgiveness of others and effective methods of course adjustment. Naturally, all of this wavers. I am, however, deeply grateful for my commitment to daily practice. I do not always succeed and I will neveralways succeed. The acceptance of this fact is a welcome gift for this perfectionist.
Through practice and A LOT of practice, I am starting to figure out ways to make it through inclement weather, erosion, sinkholes and other unforeseen circumstances.
For some time, (which felt like an eternity), there were no breaks in the cloud cover. I was nearly sure I’d never see the sun again and while I want to write an inspiring blog post about how I rose from the darkness and emerged into the light, the truth is, sometimes I do and sometimes, I don’t. I never stop trying and practicing and I can’t do it by myself no matter my level of tenacity and will.
Some good news is that I do understand a bit more about how my cloud patterns move and where the breaks might be. This may not sound like much, but it’s improving my personal weather forecast and in turn, benefits my beautiful family, friends and colleagues.
Several years ago, I was taking a walk with someone and she said, “Pam, It’s like you have a dark cloud over you or something!” While I was taken aback and couldn’t believe anyone would ever say this to someone, I responded, “No I don’t have a dark cloud over my head and I don’t ask why certain things happen. I mean, we can’t REALLY know why, right? Asking “why?” doesn’t help.”
Today, my response wouldn’t be that different except that sometimes, I really do have a dark cloud over my head and even inside of me. I still don’t ask why it is. I just do what I can to remember that I am enough in any kind of weather and may my kids know they’re enough no matter what. NO MATTER WHAT.
Through action and a commitment to practice, I find myself capable of believing there will eventually be a break in the clouds. In absolutely any kind of weather, the sun is above and bigger than the clouds.
Also, the sun is patient.
It’s just waiting there, excited to shine once again.
…when kids asked me if I was Jewish, I usually told them I was French and Catholic…
In the 50+ years I’ve been alive, I’ve kept my own internal turmoil over my Jewish journey, pretty close to the vest. It was buried deep within my kishkes for a long time.
I was adopted at birth from the Jewish Children’s Bureau (JCB, now known as JCFS.) Even though I was adopted by Jewish parents from a Jewish organization and attended Jewish preschool, I had this idea that I wasn’treally Jewish.
As a little girl, when kids asked me if I was Jewish, I often told them I was French and Catholic. (Just for a frame of reference, I also told them I had an elephant living in our family room.)
It’s not that I didn’t want to be Jewish or was ashamed of being Jewish, I just didn’t believe I was Jewish. At the tender age of five, when my parents told me I was adopted, it hadn’t occurred to me that it didn’t matter if I was Jewish via my bloodline or not.
Like so many adopted kids, I felt really confused.
disclaimer: My parents did an excellent job of telling meI was adopted.I felt loved, special and taken care of... andalso, confused.
As I grew, I didn’t believe I could simply choose to be Jewish. My parents were obviously raising me Jewish, in a Reform temple that I went to for what seemed like an eternity. (I was confirmed at 16.) Why in the hell didn’t I think I was Jewish? I wanted to tell my mom I didn’t feel Jewish. I thought about telling my rabbi I didn’t feel Jewish. I was so ashamed of not feeling Jewish. So, I just kept “acting” like I felt Jewish.
I grew up in Skokie just north of Chicago. Skokie was once coined, “The World’s Largest Village.” Back in the 1970’s when I was a kid, Skokie was home to approximately 7000, Holocaust Survivors. I vividly remember the incident that made Skokie famous. I was there and they even made a movie about it… — Neo-Nazis wanted to have a rally and march in my village.
I was terrified; worried for my family, friends and all of the Jews who lived peaceful lives in my little, “big” village. By now, antisemitism, racism and other inequities infuriated me. I remember yelling when The Phil Donohue show had Nazis and Ku Klux Klansmen on his show…ON HIS SHOW!!! I screamed at the TV at the top of my lungs at how wrong it all was. (I imagine my mom still remembers this. I was 12.)
Between the Skokie Nazi rally fiasco and that “Donahue” show, I quickly learned that injustice mattered to me and that it was my obligation to do all I could to fight injustice, racism and antisemitism. I had no idea how “Jewish” that was at the time.
Over the years, I rarely dated Jewish boys. It just didn’t seem that important as long as I was in love! (insert eye roll.) Ultimately, I went on to meet the non-Jewish man I would eventually marry and after two kids, divorce.
Before I got married, I made a decision to hire a private investigator to find my birth family. We didn’t have much information and I wasn’t very hopeful I’d get any answers to health history, who I looked like, and….. was I Jewish?
Three days after I hired the private investigator, my birth mother and family were found. “WOW!” followed by, “EEEEK!”
I was fortunate to meet my wonderful birth mom and from her, I learned that she’d converted to Judaism from Catholicism when she was pregnant with me.
I embraced and celebrated my Jewish-ness except, I still didn’t know if I had any Jewish BLOOD in me. Why this mattered, I will never understand.
Maybe you have to be adopted to totally get this, but not knowing what other blood relatives can know so easily, was hard! And, even though I knew my birth mother, I didn’t know anything about the other half of my bloodline. No one else in my birth mother’s family was Jewish and by the time I met my birth mother, she wasn’t Jewish.
Was my birth father Jewish? For reasons, I won’t get into here, I do not know who my birth father is and probably never will.
So, this past year, once and for all, I decided to take a DNA test to find out more about my ancestry. When my results arrived, I glanced at my surprising and unique genetic combo…
As a reader, you might be thinking, “Why in the hell does this even matter to her?” I can’t explain it. When I saw that I had genetic Jewish roots, I cried tears of joy. To this day, I can’t explain why it mattered so much, but it mattered to me and that’s all that matters.
I know in the deepest core of my kishkes, I was born Jewish, have always been Jewishand will always be Jewish. For much of my life, I didn’t know I had Jewish genetics or a converted Jewish birth mother. As I obsessed about “not feeling Jewish,” through all of my questioning, I lived Jewishly and still live Jewishly today.
And like most Jews, I have personally experienced both blatant and “subtle” antisemitism; not just from strangers, but from friends and family who could really benefit from a commitment to education on what is simply NOT kosher to say or do.
When I worked in Jewish social justice, in accordance with the organization’s mission and values, I was loud and proud about working to fight racism, poverty and antisemitism in Chicago. I loved this work and the organization, (JCUA,) and still do.
Today, I am still that same girl who was yelling at Phil Donahue on the TV in 1978. We must continuously fight poverty, racism and antisemitism, together. If you’re not doing anything on Monday, April 4th at 5:00PM CDT, I urge you to attend, ORT in Conversation – Combating Antisemitism Through Education: A Global and Local Perspective. (It’s being held on Zoom and is a free event. Once you register, I will personally send you the link.) I want you to be there and ORT wants you to be there. If you think this is an invitation for Jews only or Jews in St. Louis, think again. More than anyone who makes it into this virtual event, I want my non-Jewish readers to join. It’s only by working together, through our differences, that we can chip away at antisemitism, racism, poverty and really, all societal inequities.
I wrote the letter that follows today’s entry, to Juliette, exactly five years ago, one day before her 11th birthday. It’s interesting to look back to see what’s changed, what hasn’t and what will likely never change.
There’s so much in the past five years, no one could have ever predicted, but we walk through and not around. This is something I so love about you and our little family.
You are without question, one of the smartest, most empathetic and beautiful human beings I know. I’m not even being biased about it because I’m your Mom.
Tomorrow, you turn 16. This is an age I’ve been warned about from many sources. I don’t know, but I am really enjoying this time with you and witnessing all of the many ways you’re blossoming into an extraordinary young woman. (Okay, but you still live under my roof and follow the rules!)
While you’ll always be my baby and the one who made me a mother, I respect the very mature young person you’ve shown yourself to be.
And I won’t even get started on your singing. Your vocal gifts blow my head off of my neck. When others compliment you, believe them.
I love you endlessly and this is something I know you know. I’m so grateful that no matter what doubts we may have, we never doubt that one essential fact.
Happy Sweet 16! I hope our homemade Ramen and purple cake will bring you joy. You know that experiences are everything and stuff is just, well… stuff.
During this transition into 5780, I decided to do an exercise: to sum up this past year and vision for year to come, in less than five minutes.
I forced myself not to overthink, but to fly through a list that I believe is the truth – the good, the bad and the ugly. There was a lot of ugly in 5779, but toward its close, my family and I experienced more hope in our “Happy House.” May it represent better things to come for me, my family, you, your family and humankind.
You (Yeah, YOU.)
Shana Tova. Even if you feel it more sour than sweet, may we have the patience to wait out the sour until it transitions into sweetness.
The past several weeks have been rough. Without going into detail on what’s happening in my little family, I’d rather focus on what this time period has evoked:
Are we safe?
My daughters and I have openly discussed safety, identifying safe and unsafe scenarios and spaces, not compromising our safety, so that someone will like or accept us, and finally, how we practice self-soothing when we are afraid. Like any parent, my daughters’ safety and empowering them to know how to get/stay safe, are of the utmost importance.
While in the midst of walking through private issues over the past several weeks, epic mass shootings, scores of hate crimes and the disastrous fires in California, also plagued our country.
After the shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill, PA, like so many of us, I was shocked. No matter how many times I hear about or experience anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, racism, homophobia, transphobia, etc, the shock value never, ever lessens.
My daughter and I discussed the Pittsburgh tragedy after a few days had passed. I couldn’t believe how matter of fact she was about it.
I fervently exclaimed,
I absolutely refuse to let this be the new normal!
She responded to me very calmly,
Mom, we’ve been having lockdown drills for as long as I can remember. At first, when I was little, they were really scary, but now, this IS our normal.
My mouth was agape. I felt like I couldn’t breathe…
I had the “aha” moment I have never wanted to have.
I went on to validate what she’d said to me. I told her that her response made me sad and then, she said,
It is sad, but it just is. Mom, we have to live with what is.
A part of me wanted to argue against what she was saying, but I didn’t. The truth is, I was in awe of my daughter’s composure and graceful example of how to live life on life’s terms.
Just this past week, I came home from work and as I prepped dinner, I shared with my daughters that ORT’sKfar Silver Youth Village had to be evacuated because there weren’t enough (or close enough) shelters, for the kids to be safe.
At dinner, my daughters were wide-eyed and glued to everything about Kfar Silver. They wanted to learn more about the “really cool” place the Kfar Silver Youth Village is.
My daughters asked so many questions:
How can these kids ever feel safe with rockets being launched nearby? How can they not have enough shelters? Do adults help them feel safe? Who helps the adults feel safe? How can the world be this scary?
And then, the same daughter who told me about needing to “live with what is” said,