Gratitude

I’ve been feeling…I’m not sure the word. Mentally floppy. All over the place. Spread unevenly. A little lost.

I’m trying to change my mental attitude. This is yoga: Vitarke Badhane Pratipaksha Bhavanam: When doubt arises, cultivate the opposite mental attitude. It’s been, for years, the yoga sutra that speaks to me the loudest. It works for more than doubt, of course.

I am grateful for all of my first world-liness. I do not have to worry that my children will die of starvation or diseases (actually, I do worry that my children will die of diseases, since so many people have stopped vaccinating their children, but that is a different conversation for a different day). I do not have to worry about freezing to death in the cold weather or even not being able to dress appropriately for the weather.

This doesn’t mean I am free from worries or concerns. It doesn’t take away my experience. But I want to work on cultivating a different mental attitude, especially since my basic and above basic needs are met. Instead of swimming around in the muck, I’d like to emerge from it onto the shore. It’s still there, but I don’t have to let it drown me, right?

So: 3 things I am grateful for.

  1. Yoga. I got to go to class with my teacher last week, and after a few poses she said, once my shoulders we back and my spine uplifted, “there’s the Vicki we know and love!” I was there all along, and I always am.
  2. Eating together. My growing up family and my married into family eats together. It’s nice to sit together regularly and talk about things large and small.
  3. Quiet. At the end of the day, everyone is asleep and it’s quiet for a little bit before I go to sleep. It reminds my mind to be quiet too.

What are you grateful for? How do you keep yourself from getting stuck in the complaints?

Bubby

Bubby and Abraham

These are things I don’t want to forget:

  • I always tried to sit by Bubby at meals and holidays. I liked helping her open the Sweet-n-Low packets for her tea when her arthritis kept her from doing it herself.
  • Bubby loved to take me shopping when I was a girl. She would circle the parking lot, looking for a close place to park. I remember being 12 or so and wishing I could just sneak in a little driving, drop her off, and park in the back.
  • Also on shopping: she was disappointed that I stopped wearing sparkly clothes. I am 32 now, but when I bought a sparkly shirt (for a show) recently, I thought of her.
  • Bubby came to nearly every performance of every production I was in in Pensacola. She and mom came to opening night of my first show in college, Carousel. I knew they were there because I couldn’t reach either by phone that day, which was very out of character.
  • Bubby loved giving gifts. One day, I went to Penko (the family business), to meet her (and probably my dad) for lunch. I was a teenager. She was wearing a pretty necklace that I had never seen. I told her I liked it, and she smiled and said, “It’s for you.” I’m sure I told her I didn’t mean to take her necklace, but she had worn it so I would see it, and she could give it to me.
  • My favorite thing she ever gave me, tangibly, is a necklace with about 6 inches of tiny pearls. It is small and beautiful and it was hers. She gave it to me at my Bat Mitzvah (and I wore it then) and I wore it at my wedding. Othertimes too, but those I remember.
  • At my Bat Mitzvah, at the end of my speech, I referenced members of my family who had died, honoring their memory. I happened to look at Bubby as I mentioned Yay, what we called my grandfather, her husband. She had tears in her eyes. I began to cry and couldn’t stop for a few minutes.
  • When we were little, we used to spend the night at Bubby’s (and Yay’s) house. We would wash her dog, Little Man, a toy poodle, in the sink. We went to the Taco House or Sonny’s BBQ. We slept in her bed next to her. In the morning, she’d make cinnamon toast for us. Or we’d go to the Village Inn.
  • Bubby used to knit a lot. A lot. She made me a sweater with three rabbit fronts on the front and three rabbit backs on the back. Cotton tails and all. And she made me a cardigan with acorn buttons. Now I have several sweaters, bags, wall hangings, and a coat that she knit or needlepointed. I can’t knit without thinking of her.
  • When I was a girl, I thought Bubby was so tall, so regal. I kept growing, and she started to shrink, and we met in the middle.
  • When Abraham was tiny, Bubby and Mom came to visit me. Abraham fell asleep in her arms right away. She’d wake up early in the morning and Abraham and I would go into Zoe’s room, where she was staying to talk with her (and let her hold him).
  • Bubby always made her bed.
  • Bubby never, until the very end, let anyone know she was in pain, though she almost always was.
  • Bubby loved deeply and fiercely. She always ended a letter or conversation with “I love you…the most” and what could you really say to that.

DAVID & VICKI GRAFF'S WEDDING 12.25.08 042

Bubby, I love you the most. And I miss you the most.

Reflections

As is the custom at the end of a year and the beginning of a new one, I’ve been reflecting. Really, tonight is no different from any other night. Tomorrow, Abraham will wake me up around 7 or 7:30 if I’m lucky. I’ll make some breakfast for the kids. We’ll play, chat, read. I’ll say no, change diapers, and smile. Hopefully a lot.

But, why not take advantage of a free, structured reflection?

I don’t think I could characterize this year as a whole. I barely remember last winter. Or spring.

What I do remember is that this is the year that I finally feel like Reading is home. David and I have been married for 4 years, and being the virtuous, old fashioned folks we are, I didn’t move in until after our wedding. I was still commuting back to the Lehigh Valley for work and yoga (although that isn’t over, just diminished).  But now, I work fully in our area. If it weren’t for the hills, I could ride my bike everywhere I work (or if I weren’t such a wimpy bike-rider {I can’t call myself a cyclist, that’s how wimpy I am, although I do have toe-clips [thanks, Husband]}). I teach in the city, the suburbs, and our Temple. I write in the in-between times. And I am the Artistic Director of a Theater Company. (For more info, or if you want to share your hard-earned money with us).

But work alone, even theater, isn’t enough to make a place feel like home. That takes friends. I had my family; David is my dearest friend, but a husband-friend is different from a friend-friend. I have people I can call to stay with Abraham when my temperature drops in the night and I need to go to the emergency room (That was weird and scary, but it went away. Maybe it was a migraine?). I have people who will come over for lunch and talk theater while Abraham builds trains. I have people who walk in the house without knocking because they know they are always welcome. I have people.

It is hard to live in a city without family nearby. We have worked hard to create a network of people we love and trust, and I think we finally have that. And that is home. That is our family.

In 2006, before I went to Israel, a piece of song came to me. I’m not really sure how to describe it, but it just popped into my head: I go so I can return home. At the time, it was deeply meaningful for me related to my travel to Israel. I never had the intention of making Israel my home, but being there helped me find what was important to me, Jewishly and otherwise, and when I came back, I was better able to make my place my home.

Now, it carries a different meaning. I, for some strange reason, despite being a bit shy, have continually put myself in new places where I didn’t know anyone else (or very few people): summer camp, a new middle school in 8th grade, college, moving to Bethlehem, and most recently moving to Reading. I knew David, but otherwise I was starting from scratch. “I go” – I had become comfortable in Bethlehem, in my communities there, but I knew I needed a change, I needed to go. “So I can return home” – I knew this time would come, though I sometimes doubted it, and I am so grateful that it has.

2012 was the year of home. What was it for you?

The Pull

I just pulled up Howlround.com, a online theater journal, to get the link for an article to post on my theater company’s page, when whose little photo did I see by an article but my very favorite professor.

I may have cried a little as I read it. In part because she is so bright and articulate, and reading this reminds me of why I loved college and the constant artistic inspiration and mentorship.

But mostly, I cried because I really fucking love theater.

I love to make theater, I love to see (good) theater, I love to talk and think about theater. I love to teach theater to kids, and I love to teach kids through theater. I love to write for theater.

I also love that she was able to use a discussion of theater to digest her experience. I want to make theater that digests experiences. I want to make theater that makes people think and feel, that puts people on the inside and the outside of an experience at the same time.

In this small town, I am finding people who want to do the same thing. It is a slow process, but the surprise that a neighbor worked in theater for years and wants to join the company or that members in the community want to see our show and give us their support moves me every day.

Now I’m all fired up, but I have to get ready for bed. I’m looking forward to tomorrow.

Challah

There are so many things I want to write about, but at the end of the day, I usually just want to rip out my contact and sleep.

But.

It was just Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year. This time between the new year and Yom Kippur, the day of Atonement, always get me thinking. We are taught that the book of life is open over this time and on Yom Kippur it is sealed for the upcoming year. I take this as a metaphor, and instead think of myself as an open book, wondering what to write on the empty pages for the upcoming year.

Last year, I decided to take on the ritual of making (and eating, of course) Challah on Fridays for Shabbat. I was able to most Shabbats. In addition to just making (and eating) Challah, we actually celebrated Shabbat. We made a nice dinner, we lit the candles and blessed the wine. We sat together as a family (which we do during the week too, but it felt a little different). I was honored to share my Challah with our congregation’s students cantor when we had him for dinner.

In my open-book-ness, I was thinking about this Challah making ritual. When I began, I made the Challah with Abraham in the sling, putting him down for a rare moment to put the Challah in the oven and take it out again. Now, he helps with the egg wash and sesame seed sprinkle, he dutifully watches the Challah in the oven, and he eagerly lights the candles and sticks his fingers in the “wine” (which is what we call grape juice, which is what the kids have in PA) so he can get to the Challah.

I’m always trying to get back to the feeling of being Jewish that I felt at Camp. Though I cried many tears of homesickness while I was there, I cried many tears of camp-sickness upon my return home. I credit camp with my commitment and continued interest in being Jewish. I can’t wait for Abraham to go to camp. For me, making Challah is a little like camp. It is experiencing being Jewish, experiencing being part of a long line of people (women) who have made Challah and a long line of families who have delighted in eating it.

So I’m wondering, what do I add now, what will I write in my book for this new year. We have been talking about taking on the practice of Havdalah, the ending of Shabbat. We haven’t because we don’t have a set (spice box, braided candle, wine glass…). But that is a cop out. We’ll just do it. And I bet with the frame of Challah and Havdalah, we will be more aware of Shabbat in general. Maybe this will be the year that we all learn to step back, turn off, and truly relax.

L’Shanah Tovah!

Wean-ee

So, after a lot of stress and love, Abraham weaned himself. A week after his 18 month-iversary, he pulled my shirt back over my breast when I offered it to him before nap. And again before bed. And again the next morning. And then I didn’t offer. And he didn’t ask.

It is bittersweet, but mostly sweet. We ended our nursing relationship on his terms, which, I believe, is the best way to nurse at all. It was for him, not me. I just received the benefit of hours of sweet baby time.

The only bitterness is selfish. I wanted to be a person who nursed a 3 year old. I believe in that, and I wanted to live it. I also wanted to hear what he called nursing. His (older) nursing friends say “Milks” or “Mommy Juice” or something, and I was curious to hear what he’d say. These things are not big deals at all.

He still puts his hand on my breast when he is tired or upset, which is sweet. I see it as part of the weaning process. He started his life inside of me, and he is slowly making his way away. I hope I can be present for him but let him find his own way.

Toddlers

Abraham busted his lip for the first time. He’s had skinned knees and assorted bruises, but today there was blood (only a little) and tears (many). He only runs from place to place, which means that busted lips are bound to happen.

I keep thinking about writing a post like “How to Fly with a Toddler” or “How To Avoid Tantrums (Most of the Time)” but I don’t think I need to. There are tons of bloggers doing that well already, and I don’t know that my readership (small, but mighty!) is looking for that. I don’t know that I want to be an “expert” about toddler-ness.

Which makes me think: why do I have this blog? What do I want to say publicly, to friends, family, and a few strangers?

I’m sort of a blogging toddler. I have been writing for about 2 years (ish), off and on. I used to keep a private journal. I kept a blog when I went to Thailand. Now I sort of bumble along, bumping into ideas, busting my lip when I post something possibly inappropriate, pointing out what makes me laugh or cry. Like a toddler, I want your attention and your feedback. Like a toddler, I want to know that you are there beside me, even if I’m just exploring for myself.

I don’t really have an agenda. It’s just a little space to play.

Why do you blog? Why don’t you blog? Let’s have a chat in the comments!