Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Fat Kid in Dodgeball

As a new housewife, I find myself watching more TV than I have in a very long time. Of course, this is aided by the fact that we now have cable, which I haven't had since I moved out of my parents' home in 2005. Of all the channels, I find myself watching the Food Network the most. I prefer the shows that showcase specific recipes, because I always end up being inspired to make something new, like the pesto-stuffed chicken I made for our 2nd anniversary. I also started watching the final episodes of Top Chef Masters, and enjoyed it more than I had thought.

Until recently, the only cooking competition show I had ever watched was Hell's Kitchen. We followed season 5, but only because an old summer camp buddy was a contestant. If it hadn't been for him, I don't know that I would have watched the whole season. The entertainment value of Gordon Ramsey swearing and insulting the contestants wore off fairly quickly. Since that was my only experience with cooking competitions, I'm not sure why I started watching Top Chef Masters, but I enjoyed it. I even enjoyed it enough to watch the season premier of Top Chef D.C. yesterday.

The show reminded me of a problem I'd had with the first episode of Hell's Kitchen: someone gets voted off in the first episode. Why not have an episode of small challenges, where the chefs win immunity for the next episode? It makes no sense to vote off a person before the viewers have a chance to feel any kind of loyalty or even curiosity about who that person is. We get introduced, and then poof! They mysteriously vanish, never to be seen or heard from again.

I feel really bad for those contestants. Obviously, they knew it was a risk when they signed on the dotted line, but being the first out can't feel good. In some ways, it seems worse than not making the cut to be one of the original 16. At least the people who didn't make the cut weren't humiliated on TV when they were sent home. The first one cut doesn't even get any bragging rights. How would that conversation play out?

Loser: I was once on Top Chef.
Normal Person: Wow, I'm impressed! How far did you get?
Loser: I came in 16th.
Normal Person: Aren't there only 16 contestants?
Loser: Shut up.

I know someone has to be the first to lose, but somehow I doubt that's very comforting.

My Child is a Miracle

Okay, I know every parent must think this. But really, every day my baby seems to do something new, or does something a little better than he did the day before.

He can now shove his fist into his mouth on purpose. He rubs his eyes when he gets tired. He's trying to roll onto his side. He can almost grab his toes. He makes new (adorable) noises.

The list doesn't really end. I know that every single thing I just described is something that every baby learns to do. I can't even claim that my kid is doing anything faster than normal. Or at least I can claim that honestly. But it doesn't matter, because I'm still convinced that my child is a genius, and a miracle.

I can't wait to find out what tomorrow brings.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Becoming a Suburban Housewife

It's not something I ever thought I'd be. In fact, I'm pretty sure that, in my former life, I made disparaging comments about living in the suburbs. I mean, they're just so... suburban. Doesn't the prefix "sub" automatically imply "lesser", as in "subzero" or "subhuman"? Therefore the suburbs are inherently inferior to the city, right?

When we moved to Kew Garden Hills, I felt like I'd moved to the suburbs. It took an hour by subway to get to Manhattan, and the neighborhood was filled with tree-lined streets of single-family homes. Granted, the playgrounds were still made of concrete, and there were just as many apartment complexes as homes, but the neighborhood still felt far more suburban than what I had been used to in Lakeview.

Side note: As I write this, I realize that West Rogers Park is full of homes and tree-lined streets, yet I never considered that area suburban. It's not exactly a hip urban neighborhood, but I never would have called it suburban. So I do acknowledge the inconsistency in my thinking.

And now I'm in Ottawa. This, friends, is truly suburban. Long winding streets, children riding bikes, lots of green grass, houses with yards. This is the Smallville to my Metropolis. Stranger yet, I'm not currently working, due to both motherhood and pending immigration status. So not only have I landed in the suburbs, but I'm technically a housewife.

As I said, this is nothing I ever foresaw as ever being remotely possible in my life. The weirdest part of all is that I'm enjoying it. I like the quiet, winding streets, and seeing kids playing or biking outside in the street. I like that, unlike Queens, my neighborhood does not smell like garbage. I like that I can take my son for a walk in his stroller down a bike path, and hear birds and crickets chirping. Most of all, I like being home with my baby, without having to balance work and family. My job is to be a mommy.

So no, it's not something I ever thought I'd say about myself. But I think, for the next few months, I'm going to be a great suburban housewife.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The More Things Change...

With all the changes that have taken place over the past few years, you'd think I'd find it easy to come up with blog posts. To be honest, part of what made me decide to start this thing back up was that I've been thinking a lot about the current shul politics from my old shul in Chicago, and wanted a forum to vent. I probably will anyway, but it's been dawning on me that it might be a little weird for me to be so obsessed with the going-on of a shul I no longer belong to. Granted, my family goes back 5 generations at that shul (6, once my infant niece starts going along with her daddy), so it's not that incomprehensible, but I find myself more interested and animated about the politics of a shul in Chicago than those of my new shul here in Ottawa.

I don't know if this means I'm stuck in the past, or if this is part of my way of retaining ties to a community I love. As much as being a member of the Board had been a headache, I kinda wish I still was, so that I could have a voice in the current events. I'm realizing more and more that I really just want to feel connected, because I haven't had a community to connect to since we moved out of Chicago.

Queens never felt like home. As strange as it sounds, given the incredible number of Jews and Jewish establishments and institutions in Kew Gardens Hills, I never found a community there. We met some amazing people, and made some good friends, but we had no shul, no home base, no particular group or community. Some of that was undoubtedly our fault, because I know we could have tried harder. But the truth is, I felt lost there. Overwhelmed by the number of shuls and micro-communtities to choose from. And I think I had a bit of a chip on my shoulder, and in some ways didn't really want to fit in. The neighborhood was so yeshivish, that I felt a kind of pride about being too modern, too left wing for the neighborhood. I didn't want to fit it with the aidel maidels and kollel wife types, who lived in their cozy frum bubbles. Can you hear the snobbery? I was proud of being different, of working outside the community in one of Brooklyn's poorest neighborhoods with HIV+ individuals. I was an individual, refusing to fit the cookie cutter mold...and I don't think that's a bad thing, necessarily. But I think it may have prejudiced me against meeting new people and seeing them for who they really were, and not just how they seemed to be. After all, someone walking past me on Main Street probably would have put me in the same category, based on my appearance.

I'm rambling. Sorry. I guess what I'm trying to express is that the whole time I was in Queens, I was comparing it to Lakeview. Not that Lakeview didn't have its flaws, because there were plenty of things that I didn't like. I went from being on the far right of one community to being on the far left of another, and it was a jarring change. Now that I know we're not moving back to Chicago any time soon, I think it's time for me to put my Lakeview affiliations on a back burner and focus more about where I am now. I don't want to make the same errors here as I unknowingly did in Queens. This is my home now, the community where I'm going to be raising my children. I have to keep reminding myself that.

Friday, August 20, 2010

CarasWorld: Take Two (or Three?)

It's been about two years since I've posted, and even longer since I posted on a regular basis. Somehow getting married and working full-time not only took up my time, but also my inspiration for blogging. As I started getting ready for shabbos this afternoon, it suddenly occurred to me that perhaps I was actually interested in reviving this blog.

I don't expect to have any readers. Maybe, just maybe, CarasWorld is still on someone's RSS feed, and they'll suddenly see me pop up again, after vanishing into the void. Maybe some people will stumble here by mistake. And maybe no one will ever really read it. Truth is, I don't know that it matters so much anymore. When I first started blogging, I wanted readers. I would check on my site stats to see how many people stopped by that day. I would try to think of catchy post titles and posts that would be relevant to others...and that eventually led to my cessation from blogging. I couldn't think of anything interesting. I couldn't figure out why anyone else would really want to read this thing. After all, my world isn't all that fascinating to anyone who doesn't already know what's going on in my life (unless I have a stalker I don't know about).

But right now, I really just need a place to express myself. The past few years have brought so many changes in my life, and it would be nice to have a place to talk about them. When I started this blog, I was a new college graduate, single, living with my parents in Chicago, and trying to figure out who I wanted to be. Particularly with regards to my Jewish identity. In the time since then, I've lived on a kibbutz and gone to ulpan, lived in Jerusalem for a few months, gone back to Chicago for graduate school, lived on my own, gotten a masters in social work, gotten married, moved to Queens, had a baby, and moved to Canada. Big changes.

So here's where we are now, as I try for a fresh start: I'm Cara. I'm 29 years old, have been married 2 years, have a 7 week old son, and have been living in Canada for 3 weeks. My current occupation is being a mother. I have a lot of down time in which to think. Let's see where this takes me...

Monday, November 10, 2008

My Buddy Rahm

Apparently Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and I have a few things in common. He went to the Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School, and so did I, albeit several years later. He's a member of Anshe Sholom Bnai Israel, and so am I. I think I trump him on ASBI membership, though, as I've been a member for 27 years and have somehow wound up on the Board of Directors.

I find it fascinating how many people have commented on, via phone, email or Facebook, the fact that Rahm Emanuel is a member of my shul. It's not as though I see him every shabbos. I wouldn't know his wife or kids if they cut in front of me at the kiddush table. He's a famous, increasingly influential person that happens to pay dues at the same shul as my husband and I.

The bewildering part is that so many eyes now seem to be on ASBI, and Rabbi Lopatin. It's as though the shul is now a reflection of Rahm Emanuel, and vice versa, and I'm not sure that this makes all that much sense to me. How many of us go to shuls where we frequently find ourselves disagreeing with something the rabbi said? Or that another member said? Paying dues to a shul does not mean that you henceforth vow to agree with every statement and stance uttered by everyone else associated with that shul. Or does it?

On a personal note, while I'm excited about a Jewish Chief of Staff, I wish he did not belong to my shul. ASBI has been in the spotlight in Jewish (and occasionally non-Jewish) media for cutting edge ideas and practices that cut more edges than I'm comfortable with. I can't help but wonder how this added publicity will affect my shul. To be continued...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Alive N'Kicking

I still haven't figured out whether to keep this thing, or let it moulder in the blogosphere, but for the time being, I feel like posting. My life is so very different from where it was when I last posted in January. I graduated, got a job, got married.

The job part pretty much sucks, and I'm looking for a new one after 4 months, but the marriage part is wonderful. Even my mother says I'm almost like a different version of myself now, noticeably happier. I don't really like the notion that I was noticeably unhappy before, but when people now tell me that I glow, I believe them.

So, while I figure out what direction to take this blog (and I'm open to suggestions), if anyone still reads this, they can rest assured that I'm happily married and doing phenomenally well.

Monday, February 11, 2008

T-186 Days

Yay! Step One of Wedding Planning is complete.

We'll be getting married, IM'H, on August 17, 2008. We have the location reserved, and can now begin filling in all the other details. Like caterers, band, flowers, dress, invitations, benchers...

Actually, it's already feeling less stressful. Just having one detail finally pinned down (and by finally, I mean a whole 2 weeks after getting engaged) feels like we're moving forward. That, and I'm blessed to be engaged to a man who can communicate. We're both learning quickly how to help the other cope with stress in ways that don't increase our own stress.

I'm on a roll. If it weren't so frigidly cold outside, I'd go leap tall buildings in a single bound...

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Twelve Days of Engagement

I've always considered myself a fairly stable person, emotionally speaking. I experience ups and downs, strikes and gutters, just like anyone else, but I feel like I generally manage to maintain an emotional balance.

And then I got engaged.

It's been 12 days since the day H-Bomb went from boyfriend to fiance, and I cannot even begin to count how many different times my emotions, thoughts and perceptions about the wedding (read: wedding planning) have flipped, spun, tied themselved into tangled knots of confusion, and done impressive gymastic moves inside my head. There are a moments when I optimistically believe that I can single-handedly plan my wedding without mortgaging either my soul or my first-born child (which I think I may have already pledged to my alma mater anyway). And then there are moments when a cold, harsh reality comes crashing down, and I begin to think that it is impossible. There don't seem to be that many in-between moments. They might be there, but they get so overshadowed by the extreme highs and lows that I can't be certain.

H-Bomb (and he will need a new nickname, but I can't think of one yet. Or, to be more honest, I can't think of one that I'm willing to post online) and I are both in agreement that we do not want our engagement to be 6 months of Supreme Suckiness. We both recognize that it won't always go smoothly, but we would like to be able to enjoy this period of anticipation. It is supposed to be a simcha, right?

So far, the one thinkg I've learned is this: do not start discussing wedding plans when one or both of you is running on an empty stomach. Do any of you wise, married folks out there have any real advice or suggestions on how to make engagement less sucky? (And by "real advice", I do realize that I've just rejected the immediate responses from just about anyone who graduated from OTI. Sorry guys.)

Monday, January 28, 2008

Happiest of Happies and Most Joyful of Joys

By now, most of the people who still read this thing will already have heard. But, for those of you who have not (and you're not that behind the times, as it's been just about 24 hours)...

I'm getting married.

I'll try to post more soon, as I will most likely need a place to express my whirling thoughts on engagements and wedding plans. At the moment, I'm so excited and so eager to hit the ground running that I wouldn't even know what to post. For the ladies, I'll try to post the proposal story. For the gents...sorry guys. This just became wedding central.

And just because it's so much fun to write and read:

I'm getting married! I'm getting married! I'm getting married!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Welcome to the Jungle

I'd meant to blog more humorous posts, in the aftermath of my great and hilarious weekend in Toronto. I'd meant to post sooner. But for the past few days, my mind has been occupied by a totally unanticipated and unfunny situation in my shul. Despite my deep dislike of shul politics, I've found myself smack dab in the middle of it.

The Background
The shul General Meeting, during which new board members are elected, will take place in a couple of weeks. In past years, the number of nominees has been exactly the same as the number of open slots. According to the shul by-laws, additional candidates can be nominated by petitions receiving a requisite number of signatures. A current board member circulated petitions adding three additional nominees to the slate. This year, therefore, there are more candidates than positions, meaning that some of those running for re-election may not win.

What Does This Have To Do With You?
I am one of the three additional candidates. I did not ask to be nominated (although I am honored to now be on the slate), so I really had nothing to do with the petitions.

No, Really...What Does This Have To Do With You?
One of the other nominees sent out an email to members of the community directly attacking me. He indicated that I was somehow trying to stage a coup and pull the board "to the right", and that I was the ringleader of this plot to add myself and "two of my friends" to the slate. He implied that I am immature, and lack commitment to the shul. He didn't even mention the other two write-ins by name. It was just about "Cara and her friends".

Yeah, that's what I said. It was an unwarranted, unprovoked attack. Don't ask me why he chose to single me out, because I honestly do not know. I don't even know who he sent his email of lies to initially- I only received it after it had been forwarded to those who thought I should know what was being said about me.

What Happened Next?
I immediately wrote to this individual, calmly and maturely defending myself against his accusations. The rabbi and shul president were copied on that email. One of the other maligned write-in candidates also wrote to him, copying the entire shul board on the letter, asking that the three of us be given a public apology.

It's now been two days since I sent my reply. I've received private replies from the rabbi, the president, and various members of the board, all of whom have sympathized with me and distanced themselves from him. The only public reaction has been a letter sent to all board nominees, offering us a chance to write position statements that will be sent out before the election.

There has still been no apology, or response of any kind, from the person responsible for sending out lies and insults.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Wedding Dance Mix- Limited Time Only!

Having never had to plan my own wedding, I can't speak from personal experience about the weird phenomena that are DJs and wedding bands. However, I have been to many weddings, and noticed that whenever secular music is played, there are always selections that I find odd, inappropriate, or downright disturbing. Sometimes insider information reveals that these questionable musical melodies (maladies?) have actually been chosen by the bride, groom, or family members who could not be refused. Other times, it seems as though the DJ or band has abused their authority or whimsically added to the play list. An example of the latter scenario would be when the band opted to play "Brown Sugar" during a secular dance set. I guess nothing is more romantic than a master taking advantage of his slave girl.

Recently I attended a wedding where it seemed that practically every secular song played was questionable. To protect the innocent, we will say that this wedding took place in a city called "Sporonto". The medley included:

* I Will Survive- a romantic solo about getting over the man who screwed you up for so long and not letting him back in your life. Key lyrics include: "I should have changed my stupid lock/ I should have made you leave your keys/ if I had known for just one second you'd be back to bother me" and "I'm not that chained up little person/still in love with you".

* Bad Bad Leroy Brown- this soulful ditty tells the story of a man who gets his ass kicked for hitting on another man's wife in a bar. Is this meant to be a reminder for the wedding guests? "Hey, fellas, you see the pretty girl in the long white dress? She's married now, scumbag! Stay away!" And is the groom supposed to be Leroy, or the guy who beats Leroy? (Note: This song is also great for simcha dancing! Separate, of course.)

* Build Me Up Buttercup- sure, this one sounds upbeat and cheerful. Perfectly appropriate for a song about a dysfunctional, one-sided relationship. Key lyrics include: "Why do you build me, Buttercup baby/ just to let me down/ and mess me around" and "Although you're untrue/ I'm attracted to you all the more".

Here's your opportunity to weigh in and offer up suggestions for the Inappropriate Wedding Songs Compilation CD. This item not sold in stores.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

In the House of J-Smoov

After giving in to the overwhelming requests from my dubious Canadian fan-base, I find myself sitting in front of a computer late at night, feeding their egos by "being brutally honest" and telling them what I think of them. Really, it's J-Smoov who wants the shout out, and wants to be publically known
in my world by the aforementioned code name.

Honestly, it's a lot of pressure. I mean, it's hard to be funny on demand. For me, at least.

However, there are a few things I can say with certainty:

* Gustav and Javier are great names for Jewish boys.
* The best way to make someone feel comfortable in a room full of strangers is to sit in complete silence and stare at her when she walks in.
* Gaby looks amazing in tights. Great legs. I mean, we're talking phenomenal.
* It's very easy to be accepted if you start making jokes about H-Bomb's weight and the amount of food he can consume (see postscript)
* It's very easy to be accepted if you start making fun of H-Bomb. Period.

There will, of course, be more to come. But if I don't post something soon, some of H-Bomb's friends will wear themselves out by all the constant running to the computer to see if I've posted.

Postscript: H-Bomb is not, in fact, fat. There's just a lot of him to love.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Oh, Canada

I realize that it's been nearly a month since I last posted about not having anything to post about. Obviously, not much has changed. There have been moments where a potential topic flits through my brain, but there really just hasn't been time to flesh it out, type it up, and post.

I mostly blame H-Bomb for this. In a good way, of course. Since I've been so happy with my life over the past few months, I have nothing to kvetch about. And since I'm nowhere near sick of his company, I'd rather hang out with him than sit in front of my computer and blog.

But really, I think it's more of the first reason. Even things that habitually bothered me in the past, like stupid shul politics, don't rile me up to the point where I need to use this forum to vent. If something does happen that gets under my skin, I can vent to him, and it instead becomes a conversation instead of a frustrated rant. If I'm grumpy or cranky about anything, he magically knows how to make it all better. So, in effect, he may be the best thing that ever happened to me, and the worst thing to ever happen to this blog.

In other news, I am excited to meet many of his friends this weekend in Toronto. And if any of their wives happen to know of a decent place to get a pedicure on Sunday before Eli's wedding, I'd appreciate the feedback. My normal places were all mysteriously closed today. And does anyone know if the kosher gluten-free pizza place is still open?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Why I Don't Spell My Name With A 'K'

Props to H-Bomb (or, more specifically, to his friends who went in search of my blog and mispelled my name) for discovering the truly bizarre and disturbing rants of Kara.

Her world scares me. I'll stay here in mine.