And people wonder why I make fun of Boro Park…
Author Archives: TooYoungToTeach
It was E’s upsherin on Sunday, and I still can’t stop looking at him. My son is transformed into a new person it seems. Until of course he opens his mouth and as my grandmother said you’d realize he’s “still the same brat”. But such a cute brat. Now that his distractive (and so beautiful) hair is gone, I’m drawn to his eyes. They are soulful. Wide, asking, deep, framed by long lashes, they are the entrance to his soul and world. And I think he’s gotten more mature. Even if I know that that’s all in my head – maybe it’ll turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Cutting his hair was very difficult for me. I was surprised, considering that I hadn’t wanted to leave his hair uncut and do the whole upsherin thing in the first place. But it wasn’t about the hair, it was about the person I knew to be my child. This is a transformative haircut. E doesn’t look like anything I know. I couldn’t even imagine what he’d look like afterward. While they cut his hair, yes, we all laughed that it was a shame for such beautiful hair to be wasted on a boy, but I preoccupied myself with taking pictures the whole time, lest the tears on the edge of my eyes break free of the rim. I did feel like I was losing my child as I knew him. And even though I know it’s the same E, with his finitive language, and inquisitive nature, on Sunday, he was a different person.
There we two moments where it crystallized and I had to turn my face away from the crowd. One, after all the men took their turn snipping off locks of hair, I stood in the back and looked at his hacked hair, and a loud flashing sign in my head read “It’s OVER. This stage is over”.
Naturally there’s a gradually passing from one stage of life to another, a shade of gray, or green, where the red and blue are changing, a mixing of the colors, with the shades starting lighter, fading into on another and gradually being completely transformative in hindsight. It happened in a moment here. It was hard.
And then about a minute into the real haircut, my mother in law (also the barber in this case) had trimmed away enough so you could see the curve and actual shape of the back of E’s head. It was so round and perfect. And I thought, I don’t this part of my son. I don’t know this boy.
Now of course logically, I recognize that he is the same exact person he was the day before, sans hair. He still manipulated his toilet training to get more candy, he still jumps off any surface possible, and still speaks in finite terms of, can’t and need. But he looks so different. So beautiful, yes. But so different than the child I know, that I can’t help but feel I need to get to know him all over again.
I want to write something and people will cry.
They will cry at my sorrow.
Marvel at my strength and depth.
I want to write something and people will laugh.
They will laugh from my wit, wish they could be me, or at the very least, hang out,
So they can hear some more.
I want to write something and people will change.
They’ll be inspired by my insight and perspective.
The world will be a better place, and when pressed why,
people will point at me as the source.
I want to write something smart, and people will nod.
They will quote me.
People will refer to my knowledge and authority.
I want to write something and people will smile.
They will pass it along to their friend,
because the sun will be shining brighter, the moon deeper, and laugh lighter.
I want to write something and people will point.
They’ll say they knew me when.
Want to know me now.
And maybe then,
I’ll feel accepted.
“I don’t know where he gets it from,” She said half laughing. “It’s not me, and it’s definitely not my husband.” We were talking in the teacher’s room about our children, and where they pick up their fashion sense. “My son shakes in front of the mirror watching the creases in his pants and how they sway. If they move too much, get thee to the cleaners!”
We laughed, and laughed again when the next teacher told of her 18-month-old, with no hair to speak of gazing adoringly in the mirror smoothing out her “tresses” with a brush. But the swaying pants, it struck me, and reminded me of someone else – my little brother in law.
At 19, he’s super put together, and polished. I always wondered what it was that made his lines so crisp; it couldn’t just be his Brooks Brother’s collar-stays, because my husband has those too. Then one Shabbos meal, while waiting for my husband to finish washing and return to the table, I observed my brother in law, in those few idle moments, what did he do (I’m a people watcher, sorry).His shirt cuffs were preoccupying him. He tugged at them a little, one edge of the cuff, was a millimeter off, not completely aligned with the opposite side. He adjusted it, then readjusted his cufflinks, which had moved a “ma – she –hu” in the tweaking. It took seconds, but I knew in that moment that I would never be it. I would never be super polished, and sophisticated, with my sheitel perfectly coiffed.
And then there’s my sister-in-law, who of course I love dearly, that really solidified my despair of ever being the enviable “How does she do it” Superwoman. A little before her wedding, she gave me a tour of her soon to be inhabited apartment. It was brand new, and really pretty, even without her little touches. I really liked her kitchen; there was a lot counter space, and two sinks, none of which my own apartment possesses. I absentmindedly reached to turn the water on.
“Don’t” she said quickly.
“What? Why?” I asked, “Worried about waterbills already?” She laughed,
“No, it’s just that I dried the sink before you came and I don’t want to do it again.”
My eyes squinted.
“Dried the sink?” I wasn’t familiar with the concept, wiping yes, drying, no. And I’d been running my own kitchen for a very long time by then: six months.
“Ye, I don’t like water droplet in the sink, so I dry it.”
And I knew then that my kitchen could never look like hers.
Yes, I can dry my sinks too with an extra strength Bounty paper towel if I choose to (and I do on occasion, it makes such a difference, it’s crazy). And if I were a man, I can sway in front of the mirror, and realign my cufflinks. But it’s all expo facto. I saw them do it, saw the results, and I’m just imitating. I’d have never thought of it on my own. And the thing is—they didn’t think of it either; it came naturally. These small idiosyncrasies, they weren’t planned, developed and executed. They evolved out of the person’s need: a need for presentation, for cleanliness, for structure and symmetry. There’s a kind of neuroticism they possess for the areas they excel in, an attention to detail that the average person would never even think to address.
And I’m not that. Or maybe I am I realized after I received quite a few phone calls that sounded like this:
“Esther, I’m looking to buy a buy a double stroller; I know you just bought one, tell me all the makes, models, reviews, features and which one I should buy.:
“Esther, I’m looking to buy a drill.”
“Drill? I’m not Bob the Builder, I don’t know Adam about drills.”
“Ye, but hypothetically, it you were buying a drill, which one would you buy.”
“Hmmmm…Challenge accepted. Call me tomorrow.”
People call me up to help them research products and decide which one to purchase. I’m not trying hard when I read all reviews, comparisons, the maintenance, the warranties, understand the components, the everything. I just do it. I enjoy it. I don’t know any other way. Nor do I particularly want to.
So is that what other people experience when we gaze at them in astonishment and thinly veiled green eyes, just the wonder of them being themselves?
A long time ago, Little Duckies nominated me for the Liebster Blog Award. Of course I was very flattered, and wanted to respond right away. But I didn’t and then life got in the way, blah blah blah, but now I am now ready will an able to accept the award. The Liebster Blog Award is given to new bloggers with less than 200 followers. The rules are:
1. Tell 11 things about yourself.
2. Answer 11 questions from the blogger who nominated you.
3. Nominate 11 bloggers, and post 11 questions for them to answer.
4. Contact those bloggers whom you nominated, to inform them of their nomination.
11 things about me
- I’ve been teaching High School (10th & 11th grade) since I’m 17. Been teaching 12th grade for the past 2 years. This has always been my dream job. Except for the pipe dream on opening my own school.
- I love reading cookbooks and cooking shows (Top Chef is my favorite), actual cooking – not so much so – unless there’s no deadline (so supper’s never fun)
- I have been coveting a Hermes scarf for years. My husband bought me one after we had our first kid, and it is as awesome as I always imagined it to be.
- I can spend hours in my closet putting together new outfit. But it usually works out that the days that I have no time, I don’t like what I’m wearing, and then I spend time I don’t have, getting it right.
- Ever since I read Pride and Prejudice in 12th grade, I’ve always related very strongly to Mr. Darcy. Particularly the fact that everyone thinks he’s a snob, when he’s really just uncomfortable in the environment. And then I took a personality test (one of those free ones online)– and after I got the results it says “Famous people who are…) and Mr. Darcy was listed among others who share the same personality profile as me!! I’m not crazy (it’s an INTJ btw).
- Recently (as in January) I was published for the first time ever – in the Mishpacha magazine. It was validating, but even more super validating is that they’ve accepted another piece of mine. Hood-ay.
- I’m an optimistic pessimist. I expect the worst, always. So when it doesn’t happen, life is wonderful. I’m constantly in state of happy surprise. You should try it.
- I love to do research. Research a product, a condition, a topic; I love it. So much so that at my family’s Channukah party, we played a game and part of it was that we each had to offer something of ourselves for someone else to potentially win – I offered to research something, anything for someone. All the people in college were disappointed that they didn’t win it.
- I’m have a seriously hard time coming up with 11 things about myself. I’m either super private or super boring – which is it?
- I was a Harry Potter freak when I was younger. So much so, that I actually applied and was accepted to write for MuggleNet (didn’t do it in the end). And I got suspended in 11th grade because of Harry Potter. Fun Story.
- I love children’s books. So impactful. Some of my favorites: Ish, The Dot, Love You Forever, The PaerBag Princess, Yo! Yes!, The Giving Tree, The Gift of Nothing, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus…and loads more. (Btw, I cry for real every time I read Love You Forever out loud)
My Answers to Little Duckies questions.
1) What do you consider to be the three most important things in your life?
My husband, my children, myself (I have to value myself, before I can truly value anything else)
2) What made you decide to start blogging?
I wanted an outlet for my writing other than my own word files. I wanted the feedback, the acceptance, the push to write more. Not sure if I achieved all that, but I love my blog all the same
3) Books or television? Why?
Books – they are more engaging and at the same time leave for room for interpretation.
4) If someone accused your child of bullying theirs, how would you react? Why?
I’d probably go quiet, nod my head listening, and say something like “I’m sorry this happened, I’m gonna go talk to my son and hear what he has to say. I’ll be in touch with you, so we can resolve this.”
5) What subjects do you enjoy reading about?
Sociology and History
6) What do you consider to be the most important factor in a marriage?
The marriage itself. When I was single I read William Glasser “Choice Theory” in marriage. What he said stayed with me, I thought it was brilliant.
When there is conflict in a marriage – each side is wary of giving in, apologizing, conceding. They don’t want to be perceived as weak, that they condone whatever happened, or that they were the wrong party. What you need to realize is that your marriage is more important that you as an individual. You choose your marriage over yourself. And when you apologize to your spouse even though you don’t think it’s totally warranted, you’re not weak – you are giving into the marriage not to him. It’s not a concession, it’s a choice.
7) There are many, many older (30+) singles today, as well as a high rate of divorce. What do you think is the cause?
I think every marriage has its moments. The moments where we are truly fed up with certain aspects of our spouses, and we think if only for another moment “I don’t have to put up with this.” And then what happens in the moment after that moment is what makes the difference – do you voice that, do you shelve it, do you resolve it (through many different means).
People keep saying it, and no one wants to hear about it anymore – but we are a generation of instant gratification, and of “I” am special. So making a clear choice in that third moment becomes more difficult. In a time that celebrates “me”, the “we” in marriage is secondary and it’s easier to choose yourself over your marriage then it was in previous generation.
As for singles, in not all, but many cases, the same concept can be applied.
8) Why did you choose your city of residence?
Didn’t really choose… My husband was learning there, I choose to support my husband’s learning efforts, and ergo landed here – even if I’m not particularly fond of the place.
9) How do you and your spouse handle finances?
He takes care of the bills, but I know what’s going on. We talk about big purchases. We budget. We save. We try. So far so good.
10) What is your favorite household chore? Why?
I can’t answer this question. Is there even such a concept as a chore being anything other than a detestable necessary – why else would it be called a chore? I suppose I like to read cookbooks, not the actual cooking, but the planning before it. (useless I know)
11) The classic: If you won the lottery, what would you do with the money?
I’d buy an old country house, with a wraparound porch and the most impractical layout ever, but possess all these little nooks and crannies, and stairs leading nowhere. And of course it’ll have lots of windows. Big windows, glorious windows, with sun raining in. I don’t want to ever flick on a light switch. And then I’d hire a housekeeper, so that I don’t have to look at a Clorox toilet wand again in my life. Maybe I’d start a hachnosos kallah organization, or donate a lot of money to one. I’d go back to school, get a degree in English for interest sake. I think I’ll open a high school, always wanted to do that. Also I’d buy my husband a few presents he’s been dying for – a megilla, a tur, a second car. Other than that, I think I’d keep everything the same. I might buy 2 sweaters a season instead of 1. Or buy meat once a week instead of none. That’s it. I’ll probably end up doing most of it without winning the lottery – it would just make it easier and happen sooner.
11 Questions for my Nominees
1) Chocolate or Vanilla?
2) Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings?
3) Who was your favorite/influential teacher, and why?
4) What did you wanna be when you grew up. What are you today (or are you still growing up)
5) What’s your favorite (or one of your favorite books) and why?
6) What is(are) your pet peeve(s)
7) What is the biggest problem in the Jewish Community today?
8) Do you have any proposed solution to the previous question?
9) Where do you see yourself in 20 years?
10) People who __________ are idiots. Fill in the blank.
11) What can always make you smile?
And now for the Nominees (I only have 5, sorry)….Drumroll Please…
“Who should I make it out to?” I asked.
“Zichron Yaakov Tzedaka,” she answered, her hands fumbling around one her many manila envelopes finding change for another teacher; she was always doing some chessed thing or another. I crouched over the desk and wrote out a ten dollar check. She handed me three red tickets.
“Write your name on it; the display’s past the double doors; put the tickets in there.
I nodded smiling; I had seen the display for the last week. Every day when I walked to class, the opportunity to win a set of linen or aMarc Jacob watch mocked me.
“You know this money is going straight for tzedaka,”
She nodded, “Ye, I know, that’s what I put this auction together for.”
I shook my head and laughed,
“No, I meant this money is lishma, yeah, I’m putting a ticket in, but I never win anything ever, Publisher’s Clearing House doesn’t even send me letters”
“Really, nothing? Ever? Most people have won something or another, even if it not a Chinese auction, but a scratch off lotto or the like.”
“Nope,” I said almost proudly, “Nothing. If it’s based on luck, I’m sure to lose. I’ll win you any game of spit. War, I lose every time.”
She shrugged lightly. “Drawing’s this Thursday.”
She left the teacher’s room. I left too, I was running late already, I had to pick up the kids, but make a stop first. My sister organized abone marrow/stem cell blood drive, and was harassing me to be swabbed.
“You have to show support for my effort” she said.
“I don’t have time.”
“You could save someone’s life,” she changed tactics.’
“The likelihood is small, and really, I just don’t have time.”
“I’ll pay the extra $10 dollars at the babysitter that you keep your kids there a bit longer and just do it.”
“Fine,” I conceded. “I’m doing this for you. Because, really, you know the odds, you’re the coordinator, and keep your 10 bucks, I’ll do it lishma.” I winked.
The whole thing took five minutes. Swab here, here, here, and here. Lost all my lipstick to the q-tip, but I got a nice membership card telling me I’m a donor, and did my second good deed for the day. Then I walked back to my car all the way across the parking lot, because there are never spots up front when I arrive – plenty now, but none then.
It doesn’t even bother me anymore, it’s my mazal, I’ve come to accept it. Am almost proud of it at times. and it keeps me from doing stupid things, like trying incessantly to call into the radio station, praying to be the 107th caller and win a new cd, a free pizza or something of the sort. I don’t hope for rain, or to make the bus, I plan ahead instead. It’s ok, don’t pity me, I’m happy, I just have nosort of luck when it comes to any sorts of odds.
My chicken soup was up, and the fish already made, when her name showed up on the caller id Thursday night.
“I won I won I won!!” I shouted by way of answering the call.
“Ummm, actually,” she started.
“You can’t tease me, calling Thursday when you’re supposed to be drawing the Chinese Auction.”
She laughed, “We drew the winners for the auction, have no fear, your streak is still alive.”
“Phew!” I joked, “Close call. So what can I do for you?”
There was a moment’s pause, and when she spoke again her voice was more serious, earnest, concerned,
“I volunteer for Gift of Life, you’re a match to someone, would you be willing to go for further testing?”
It took a moment to register.
“You won.” She said softly.
I guess I did.
“I won, I won, I won!” I repeated my opening line.
I broke my streak on the mother load.
(Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction, though inspired by real events)
a discussion in class about choices,
and if you could do it over
said many students
wishing when it happened,
that it had gone differently.
that I said something else.
that some things didn’t happen at all.
those moments with the pause
smiles not meaning happiness
“Why do bad things happen to good people?”
“Only the good die young”
“She’s so sweet, but suffers so”
the unsatisfactory answer:
they can handle it
G-d loves them
it’s a test
i don’t know
if i’m a “good” person
if i “handled” it
if i’ve passed
i do know i’m here
because of what
for better or worse,
the good with the bad
the joy in the sorrow
i am me,
and i kinda like me.
I hope I don’t turn out like my father.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my father.
Tonight we were doing an early spring-cleaning, just one closet. Out came the old coats, the worn out shoes, the broken kitchen appliances, and assorted memories.
There was a large leather portfolio that I dump unceremoniously on the side. It was just waiting to be placed in an organized allotted space. My father passed the wreckage that was the cleaning, and spotted the portfolio.
“My old stuff!” he said excitedly. He picked it up, cleared whatever was on the kitchen table with the sweep of his hand, laid down the portfolio and opened it.
Inside was my father’s old work. His work as a graphic artist, years before computers were standard. Where the artist actually had to be one, and not rely on the manipulations and clip art of present day (not minimizing today’s graphics artist, but it’s a completely different field with a different set of skill requirements).
He pulled out papers where he created an accountant’s sheets. He drew ALL the lines. Perfectly. He pulled out posters he created for concerts where all the elements where pasted on top of each other and then printed together. Brochures, where he drew the products, and the simulation of person trying it. He pulled out a yellowed New York Times, where an ad he created had ran. He pulled out several envelopes and letterheads in which logos he created graced. And then he just took out fun things that he drew with an advertisement theme. It wasn’t just, oh I put together the logo or I worked on it; he CREATED it.
“Ta,” I said. “You were amazing. What happened?” He just laughed and said something like,
“I’m so busy just printing now, I don’t have time to patchke on this stuff, besides, this is not how it runs anymore.”
“But, you’re so good!” I protested. He smiled for the compliment but sighed slightly.
“Maybe when I retire I’ll go back to it.” He said optimistically.
I always prided myself on having some artistic skill, I knew I got it from my father, and I’ve seen plenty of his personal work. But seeing today how he utilized his talents for business was successful and loved it, made me feel a bit inadequate in my dabbling in the arts.
But he’s not using it anymore. He loved it. He was great. But real life gets in the way.
I don’t want that to happen to my talents. I want to use them, for them to be me, not for me to tell my children years from now,
“Y’know I had blog when I was younger….”
I generally ignore WordPress’s daily prompts, except today. It wasn’t an exceptionally brilliant or intriguing prompt, but my mind responded to it, not on a logical level, but a very emotional one, and I feel compelled to write about her.
My 12th grade Navi teacher changed my life. Well, not she herself, I did that, but she was a very large catalyst. I can’t say she was brilliant educator; I slept through most of her classes. She was though an exceptional teacher.
After yet another period resulting in drool pools on my desk and line patterns on my forehead, she called me over.
I stood there hand on hip waiting for her chastisement.
“The Navi speaks to me, TYTT,” she said. “It doesn’t do it for you. And that’s ok. Everyone has different things that pull and inspire them. I can’t have you sleeping through my class though.”
She had started off well, that spoke to me, but not sleeping through her class, wasn’t really an option, my eyes would just glaze over, I couldn’t fight the boredom.
“I’m giving you this sefer,” and she handed me a non-descript book, with a picture of stone staircase on the jacket cover. “I want you to read it, and take notes on it. Summarize it, jot down your own opinions, if you agree, disagree, any questions you have. This will be your curriculum. And your notes, your test. Ok?”
I looked at her questioningly, this seemed too easy, just read a book and take some notes, but I accepted the book, and the task.
The book was R’ Akiva Tatz’s “Living Inspired”.
And that book answered all the questions I never knew I had. And I felt secure in knowledge and not just faith. Things, religion, mostly, made more sense to me.
Thought is one thing, action another though.
I still slept through all my other classes, Historia, Chumash, Beer Tefillah, Hashkafah, Parsha… none of them got through to me, not like that book did.
But I graduated High School realized quite suddenly that no one was telling me what to do. No one was telling me what was right and wrong appropriate or not. I’d have to live my own life, make decisions and choices on how to lead it. And the thoughts finally translated to action.
I chose to be a teacher, and I chose to marry a man like my husband, and chose to live the lifestyle I now lead. And a whole lot of other smaller (and medium sized) choices too. My life wasn’t happening, I was making conscious decisions to make it so, spurred on by the contents of that book. I was living inspired.
I had clarity on the cycles of life, on daas torah, on the conflict between hishtadlus and bitachon and other big ticket questions.
I read his other books, listened to his shiurim and I my life changed, for the ever better.
I owe my wonderful life to my 12th grade Navi teacher. When I invited her to my wedding, I slipped in a little note,
Dear Rebitzen ——-,
I don’t think I’ve ever fully expressed, and explained how much I appreciate what you did for me in 12th grade. I know, it seems simple enough, a good idea that panned out: Give a disinterested student an interesting book, have her be involved in something Jewish during your class instead of her drooling on the desk in slumber.
But had you not done what you did, I would not be who I am today. And I would not be marrying the person I am; I have you to thank for that.
By just being the shaliach, introducing me to the works of R’ Akiva Tatz, and from him, R’ Dessler, I am forever indebted to you. Those books changed my perspective on everything, it explained so much, and my life, outlook and actions reflect that.
I hope to share in many more Simchas with you. And anything good, anything of merit, anything I or my husband, or children, or generations to come accomplish, is all because of you.
I would have never came across R’ Tatz and his work if not for her. And even if I would have, I don’t think I would have had the patience to fully concentrate on what he was trying to convey. Twice a week, I had 45 minutes of intense depth and inspiration that I got to comment and question. And today whenever I need a little pick me up, when life starts feeling monotonous, I go back to the book – she let me keep it.
I’m a 12th grade teacher now, and on the short Shabbosim, with the long Friday nights, I have my students over for a little oneg. Together we learn Living Inspired, and I love seeing the light behind their eyes, when it clicks for them, the way it did for me back then.