Sunday, June 21, 2015

Choice. Chose. Choose. Chosen.

No description needed.
The day of Youngest Son's Bar Mitzvah was Perfect. I rarely describe anything as Perfect. A day of family celebrating faith, tradition and hope.

We chose a less traveled path for Youngest Son to complete this important Jewish milestone. Rabbi Evon of Adventure Rabbi ( was Youngest Son's teacher. They met weekly for three months on Skype to learn together and to talk and to find meaning in this moment. Two days prior to the Bar Mitzvah we met Rabbi Evon in person in South Lake Tahoe ... we were reminded of Rabbi Adam and that was a good thing indeed. Rabbi Evon made it all so comfortable for us.

The next adjective I have for the day is Personal. We envisioned a day on the mountain surrounded by nature. The same prayers, the familiar melodies and the sacred words of Torah have been and will be said countless times and were repeated by Youngest Son. How can this be Personal? Our literal chosen path up the wooded mountain with our chosen Rabbi with friends who are our chosen family defined the bold lines of the day. As we hiked up the winding path, Rabbi Evon gave all an opportunity to provide Youngest Son with their stories or thoughts. Oldest Son described how his brother always chooses his own different path even on this day; there are so many layers to that one simple commentary - too much for this simple blog post.

Youngest Son chose the right spot for our group overlooking the blue lake beside the rushing waterfall and on the rocky edge. Then came the three original writings from Youngest Son about Shabbat and Social Action and then his D'var Torah. Rabbi Evon, Commuter Husband and I all spoke to Youngest Son about his past, his present and his future framed by our observations and our wishes. This Bar Mitzvah was a shared experience with all parties who chose to travel to this spot and actively participate in this moment of Jewish community.

And Youngest Son sounded his Shofar! This is the Shofar that Youngest Son chose in Israel and that traveled to Dallas and had journeyed with us to South Lake Tahoe. This is the same Shofar that Youngest Son blasts on High Holy Days at Temple Emanu-El in Dallas.

A form of the word "chose" is used many times in this narrative. We are a family of Jews who chose this religion; Jews by Choice. It is only fitting that this religion allows us to choose our own path literally and figuratively. We will respect the traditions and the teachings of Judaism while honoring our individual voices. One of my wishes for Youngest Son on that day was that he will continue to choose Judaism as the foundation of his spirituality.

My Youngest Son is 13 years old and this independent, strong-willed, determined, smart, creative, thoughtful, giving, beautiful person will have no problem making his choices and having a loud clear voice ... thank you G-d.

At the trail head for Cascade Falls Hike
WOW ... our first great view
Rabbi Evon gathering us to share our thoughts with Youngest Son 
Sam with Kiddish - like that water bottle of wine?
This is the Torah!! In the "Ark"
Song and Prayer and Nature
Youngest Son leading service
Rabbi Evon always there to help and Commuter Husband looking on ...
We Sit ... and ...

We Stand
The Torah
It is super small Hebrew!!
A picture worth a thousand words ...
Emotional Dad 
SOUND the SHOFAR! Perfect and Personal.
Our great photographer Brandi ( hiked up with us to capture these breath taking photos ...

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Morning of Bar Mitzvah

I have watched the sun rise over the Lake Tahoe mountains and the fog roll through the valley. I am listening to the birds sing to each other. I am filled with emotion to see Youngest Son Bar Mitzvah later this morning.

The past couple days have been Perfect.

We met with our truly amazing Rabbi Tuesday afternoon over latte, coke and local brew beer. We planned the service and Youngest Son practiced from the Torah that we will carry up the mountain. Commuter Husband, Youngest Son and I left feeling confident and excited.

Wednesday morning was cloudy and rainy. We had planned a morning boating adventure on Lake Tahoe. Youngest Son made the call to "go for it." On Baldwin Beach, we met our Boat Captain as the rain sprinkled down. We were the ONLY people in sight! We donned wet suits and headed out onto the lake that was smooth as glass.

We water skiied and tubed for three hours on the frigid, clear blue water. The sun peeped through for a few minutes. SO FUN - We are warriors for sure!! The two moms even rose up on the water skis on  the first try - ha!

We returned to our crazy, fun house and sat in the outdoor hot tub for  two hours telling stupid jokes and eating berries. Our house clearly used to be  a ski bum crash pad. It is large and winding and has a nutty lay out. However, we have a pool table, ping pong table,foosball table, huge kitchen, clean comfortable beds for all and stunning views.

Most importantly has been the continuous sounds of laughter. 


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

A Shofar

This morning we leave for South Lake Tahoe. Commuter Husband, Oldest Son, Youngest Son and I will  board our Spirit flight with four backpacks and one shofar. The shofar is cloaked in a black velvet case with an outline of Jerusalem. This particular shofar was purchased for Youngest Son in Israel when Oldest Son had his Bar Mitzvah. This shofar will journey with us to a mountain trail and Youngest Son will announce his entry into Jewish adulthood with the startling yet familiar blasts. Youngest Son's Bar Mitzvah reaches its destination this week.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

More Seaside in Gdansk & Sopot

Saturday afternoon strolling along the Baltic Sea
Lunch at Bar Przystan included fresh baked Zander which is a popular fish in Poland and considered a delicacy due to the difficulty catching it. I also had warm beet borschet sipped from a mug - a new favorite soup since traveling through Poland over past few months.
The marina in Sopot which is the town right next to Gdansk - literally - meaning walking distance.

Watching the boats sail out ... 

Did I mention this is the longest pier in Europe!?!

Quite long ... we sat here in the sun dozing.

Walking back from Sopot to Gdansk ... 

Gdansk, Poland

I am in Gdansk, Poland at the Baltic Sea. The first 30 minutes ... Walking to Sopot:

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

My Feminist Soapbox

Here is what I wish:
  • Women would refuse to work at the breastaurants.
  • Men would refuse to spend money at breastaurants.
If either of these things occurred then breastaurants would go out of business.

Instead I just read this discouraging sentence and the article that goes with it is just as depressing:

"By channeling the lust and gluttony of its patrons, these restaurants have delivered blockbuster growth in an industry that has struggled to move the sales needle."

Many will feel I should lighten up. However, I am not going to come off this soapbox. There is nothing positive that comes out of breastuarants. 
  • Women are oversexualized and the focus on body image is unhealthy. This has a negative ripple effect (an understatement.)
  • My teenage sons are exposed to a paradigm that creates unrealistic and undesirable attitudes towards women. 
  • The large amounts of money being spent on these establishments are taking profits away from restaurants that provide quality dining experiences in which friends and family can share a wonderful meal. Sharing a meal is more than just sustenance, it is a precious moment in which people connect.
Just my opinion.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Mirror

I have never written poetry. I do not know the rules or the format or the syntax. Forgive me.

I see you
Face so fair
Body growing strong

I listen to you
The words are confident
Some of them a smoke screen
Covering a softness undetectable to most

I hear you
Sounds meant to strike
A false front is there
But only a few can detect the pain

I feel the sturdy exterior
Anger wells up too frequently
It seeks a target with uncanny precision
But it is acrimony young and misplaced

Grit is innate
Along with tenacity
No obstacle exists in the idyllic universe
All desires are achievable

Sensitivities are concealed
The extrovert always in front
Popular and amazing you are
Intellect and cunning together

The swings are epic
The capacity to love and be loved enormous
Fierce instincts to protect thyself lie in wait
It can feel like an abyss

Prodigiousness is not subtle
It comes at a wonderful price
Perhaps it is a privilege to share the space
With such a soul

I see you
The mirror is there always
I know you all too well

Monday, April 13, 2015

Swirling This Way and That

Oldest Son at the DMV ... the one in the grey baseball sweatshirt and white socks ... just moments from a life changing moment: the legal right to get behind the wheel of a car.
We are walking beside our teenage boys while standing back at the exact same time. How is this even possible?

The last few weeks seem to be an avalanche of teen life.
  • Oldest Son turned 15 and Youngest Son turned 13
  • Oldest Son showed his kid side by having a rollicking bubble soccer birthday celebration
  • Youngest Son showed his grown up side by choosing a girl/boy fondue birthday dinner party
  • Oldest Son got his Driving Learners Permit by barely passing the test
  • Youngest Son's Bar Mitzvah for early June (2015!)was changed from Israel to Lake Tahoe
  • Oldest Son made choices for sophomore year that make us both proud and anxious for him 
  • Youngest Son has presented us with interactions forcing us to rethink our parenting paradigm; he will ensure we become our best parenting selves for sure
  • Oldest Son has faced some tough decisions and responsibilities square on showing a maturing young man
  • Youngest Son is working with an organizational tutor (other than his mom - go figure) to help him make sense of deadlines, papers, projects gearing up in Middle School
  • Oldest Son is playing baseball
  • Youngest Son is playing select soccer AND lacrosse with the craziness of rescheduled rain outs
  • Oldest Son's mid-trimester comments made us smile because teachers are seeing his intellectual, direct self while also picking up on his humor 
  • Youngest Son is acting in an Upper School play with a lesbian theme (go diversity!)
  • Both boys tried out for the Maccabi Games (think Jewish Junior Olympics); Oldest Son will play 16U baseball and Noah will play 14U soccer 
  • Both boys started with a new Spanish tutor and there seems to be mutual admiration between students and teacher (the boys have worked with an amazing tutor since our return from Mexico to maintain their fluency)
Commuter Husband and I have been recalibrating how we manage all the above and the heightened emotional noise in our life from both the normal teen issues and the new challenges that are real and all around. For example, I attended a disturbing yet enlightening school meeting about teenage addictions to drugs and alcohol. I am still processing that whole topic. At the other end of the spectrum are conversations about colleges and SATs. Fill in the middle with all the other teen topics.

And we have hit a place where being a Commuter Family in two cities is an extra layer of hard.

So I am reading "Yes, Your Teen is Crazy! Loving Your Kid Without Losing Your Mind" by Michael J. Bradley. Books help me. Books are my friends. This Book is changing my parenting approach. It is tough but I am determined. 

This resonated from the Book:
" ... try to become comfortable with a new and uncomfortable parenting concept: Your goal is not to create perfect adolescent behavior. This is not possible, anyway. Your goal is to build unprecedented parenting skills so you can respond with discipline, strength, and love to your kid's imperfect behaviors in order to inoculate him against the greater insanities awaiting him in the world."

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Adventure Rabbi: Post #1

Youngest Son's study materials
I have added a new label to my blog: Adventure Rabbi

Commuter Family was planning a return trip to Israel for Noah's Bar Mitzvah. However, we have changed directions. I sent this out via email today:


Hi All,
We have had an exciting change of plans for Youngest Son's Bar Mitzvah. We have decided not to go to Israel in June this year - we are disappointed but anticipate going at a future time.

We will be celebrating Youngest Son's Bar Mitzvah on June 11th on a mountain in South Lake Tahoe, CA! 
Pretty sure it will include a hike too :)

Rabbi Evon who lives in South Lake Tahoe will be helping Noah and conducting the service. We are excited that Youngest Son's Temple Emanu-El Tutor will continue assisting Youngest Son with his Hebrew studies. If you are curious about Adventure Rabbi – more info here:

We know all of you will be with us in spirit and love. However, if any of you want to be there or will be hanging out in California around June 11th then you are welcome to join us on the Mountain Top.

Feel free to pass this along or share the news with any one that has been a part of Youngest Son's 13 years. 

We wish all of you a Happy Passover or Happy Easter or a relaxing weekend!

We are excited to explore this new and progressive approach to Judaism with Adventure Rabbi. I will capture our thoughts as we go ...

Already it has been a new kind of experience. Last Friday afternoon, I submitted on online request to Adventure Rabbi to explore options for Youngest Son's Bar Mitzvah. Since then I have been on the phone with Rabbi Jamie Korngold (Adventure Rabbi founder) twice and exchanged 11 emails. One week later, we have a fully approved Bar Mitzvah plan with Rabbi Evon and I signed a contract for the June 11th service in South Lake Tahoe. Every decision and every discussion has been about meeting Youngest Son needs and making this important Jewish experience one that fits Youngest Son and our family. All this with Passover starting tomorrow!

Next Wednesday Youngest Son will schedule his 10 virtual sessions with Rabbi Evon. I will start working on logistics. And we will have this amazing opportunity to continue defining our Judiasm and learning about this synagogue without walls.

In that spirit, here is your invitation without envelopes, stamps or formal RSVPs. If you want to join, please do. Really.

CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO - 1.5 minutes

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Teen Days Are Here

I have sat with the blank screen in front of me for several minutes. I am not sure how to write about a topic in which I likely have nothing new to add: living with a teenager. Mothering teens is the same and different for all of us. It is a journey of giant highs and crushing lows and everything in between.

Of all my difficult journeys, this one may be the toughest thus far.

  • I need more patience which is laughable. Patience is something I have never had much of and it seems to lessen as I age. 
  • I like control - very much. Not sure whether to laugh or cry on this one because the battle for control is ON but the winning move is when I no longer need to be in control. This sentence may need to be read a few times to process.
  • I like to think about problems and solutions in a linear fashion. Laugh Out Loud! Teenager and linear thinking do not belong in the same sentence.
  • I am incredibly self-aware. However, that does not prevent me from making mistakes. It feels like an out of body experience. I see exactly what is happening and am often helpless to stop the motion.

This week has brought tremendous pride, mounting frustration, too many tears, genuine smiles, long-awaited break throughs, disappointing set backs, unwanted confusion, moments of clarity - notice a pattern of infinite fluctuations?

So today I am comforted by this quote:

"The women whom I love and admire for their strength and grace did not get that way because shit worked out. They got that way because shit went wrong, and they handled it. They handled it in a thousand different ways on a thousand different days, but they handled it. Those women are my superheroes."
- Elizabeth Gilbert 

Happy Teen Moment: Oldest Son turns 15 years old with our traditional breakfast in bed. Yes there is that awful syrup in which the males in my family keep bringing into the house! There is organic in the cabinet - I swear!