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...