Saturday, August 29, 2009

A helpful diagram

This is floating around the internet and I find it to be pretty cool. I spent a little more than five minutes trying to find the original source, to no avail.

If only I could use this new knowledge to find happiness with one of the three sewing machines I have. I used to only have one. Then, two got donated to me for yarmulke making purposes. After the wedding, I will donate them to a friend of the family's who works with African immigrants to teach them to sew for extra income. I love the features of the two new ones, but even after being taken into the shop, I can't seem to make the bobbin happy on the one I like in theory the most. The other just doesn't jive with my energy, somehow. I suppose I'll just stick to the simple one that has served me well.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A delicate question

Let's talk about weight, shall we?

The other day I had a completely irrational moment of outrage when a friend who I don't see very often commented on a status I had posted to Facebook. It went something like this:
R. just kicked her own ass working out.
Friend: 30 day shred?

Upon reading that, the rage flared up inside of me at the idea that someone would think I was doing something so predictable as losing weight before my wedding. That would be as bad as growing out my hair to fit some sort of romance novel fantasy of myself. I mean, that's what brides do. And I'm not a regular old bride! I'm a divorcee, damnit. I know better than that!

I fully admit that there were a few personal insecurities fueling my internal response. However, I contained myself and wrote:
R. Nope, just a regular part of staying healthy.
I'm not sure if that reads as bitchy or not but in my head I wanted to add, "And I just cut my hair, too." Of course, that is bitchy.

But the thing is, I am trying to lose weight. I'm just not losing it in order to fit into a dress made for a shape other than mine.

Grad school made me pudgy and slow. Now 9/10 of my clothing no longer fits, including all of my business clothes, which are very expensive. Plus, I know from experience that when I'm 10 pounds lighter than I started the summer, I have a lot more energy. And while I'm unemployed and the weather is nice, it's the perfect time to jump-start an exercise routine.

So, I've been riding my bike every day it doesn't rain and watching my caloric intake. You know, losing weight. Like every other bride on the planet.

And I'm jealous of the blogs that I'm reading about women with healthy body images who refuse to be someone other than themselves even though the vendors and family that they talk to indicate that they should think otherwise. A. writes in her recent post:
But for all my love for wedding blogs, it is shocking and contemptible that you so rarely see overweight brides represented online, as though by our very size, we cannot possibly fit the archetype of “bride”.
Offbeat Bride directed me to Natalie's post of advice for brides that don't fit the common mold where she gets to say things like:
For some reason, I had it in my head that my wedding day would be a celebration of love and happiness between Nick and I however it seemed that foolish me had little idea of the true wedding agenda - basically some kind of reality tv show where the ugly duckling turns gorgeous siren.
She follows this great demonstration of her correct priorities with some great advice and her commentors are pretty awesome.

I can't write those kinds of posts where I give a big efyou to the WIC but I'm sure glad those women did. Check them out.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Mugging on Lake Street

For my degree, I took a Crime Policy class with Jens Ludwig, who wears awesome sport coats. He was fantastically enthusiastic but also completely realistic in his expectation of our ability to enthusiastic about the topic. I was impressed by his ability to successfully walk the line of introducing humor to leaven tragic subjects without being disrespectful in any way to parties involved. I also appreciated his willingness to devote a portion of most class sessions to explaining the statistical mechanics of the studies we were reading. He would go so far as to make up simpler data sets and write them out on the board so that he could mathematically manipulate them in ways that were parallel to the ways the data were manipulated in our research. I liked that dedication.

Jens had two overriding morals in every discussion that we had: the data is ambiguous AND this is the best research we have on any particular topic.

In other words, there is no truth about why crime occurs or how to stop it that any group of experienced, knowledgable and educated people will agree upon.

In other other words, who knows?

This morning I read a first-person account by a white investigative journalist about a random attack he suffered while biking on the west side of Chicago, a predominantly poor and black area of the city.

It was terribly honest in its reluctance to make public the internal searching he has to to give meaning to this experience and, ultimately, ends up with the same conclusions that Jens voices. It's all ambiguous. There are no answers yet.

I appreciated his willingness to be honest about his anger for the kid who did it but also to recognize that anger won't answer the question, "why?" Anger will only lead to repeating stereotypes and will tear the world apart further. So he does research to answer the question in an attempt to mend his own soul (although he never speaks in spiritual terms) by talking to police officers and his friends and other victims and his attacker and the kid's mom and experts on hate crime and members of the juvenile justice bureaucracy. He listens to his friend who is also a pastor who suggests that he examine how much he wants to invest in the rehabilitation of his attacker. He displays his own thought process as he moves through his analysis.

Through it all it is clear from the tone off his writing that his statement early in the article is correct:
At a moment when millions of Americans set race aside to vote for an African American presidential candidate, I've been forced by juveniles to look it square in the face. Last February, Attorney General Eric Holder said that we are a nation of cowards when it comes to addressing race. I plead guilty. There is no joy in writing this.

The article is in this month's Chicago Magazine (September 2009) but it isn't online. However, it is worth purchasing the paper version to read "A Mugging on Lake Street" by John Conroy. For me, it was the perfect complement to my class that studied the quantitative data analysis regarding crime. It uses one crime as an object lesson to analyse the wisdom of experts and eyewitnesses: sources that are just as valid as numbers.

The conclusion of both sources of knowledge are the same. What we know is not enough. If problems must be solved by digging out the roots, we still have a long way to go to discover the extent of the underground tendrils and branches that crime grows from.

Friday, August 14, 2009


So, my wonderful Bridal Brigade threw me a wedding shower on Sunday. It was so nice to be the center of attention. Right now it feels like this wedding is about everyone but me. My friend Mark tried to cheer me up by reminding me that your wedding is the one day when it's all about you. I laughed a tired laugh of derision. If it were all about me it would have happened in a courthouse 3 months ago or a small ceremony in my parents' backyard. I think big events must only be for first-time brides. This wedding is a day that's all about Jacob's family, from the scale of the event to the way I am struggling to treat his parents to the $800 impersonal rabbi. I'm not complaining. It's important to Jacob and I chose all of it because I want our marriage to start off on the good foot of compromise and because I know the relationship between he and I will be better for the next 40 or 50 years if his family feels included, loved and wanted. It's a worthwhile thing to sacrifice for.

Plus, I know it will be a rocking party. We've got a great band with a phenomenal band leader. If I want, I can dance the whole time and not talk to anyone. I've planned lots of quiet into my morning. My dress will be gorgeous and fun to wear. The ceremony will be full of God and I'm sure the hugeness of what Jacob and I are doing will move me in meaningful ways. I will be happy.

But the shower was especially lovely.
It was truly moving that so many women from so many different aspects of my life came together and gamely threw themselves into the process of entertaining themselves with each other, asking, "So, how do you know Rebecca?" I hate being at parties where I only know one or two people, so this party was especially appreciated since this was a party where all the attendants had the potential to feel on the fringe but came anyway.

I felt loved.

I felt celebrated.

It was held at my mom's house since she has enough room. However, they don't have air conditioning and this past weekend was the hottest so far this summer. Lots of sweaty faces and glasses of homemade limeade. I went early just to hang out with my mom and to help her with any last set-up things. Once other folks started arriving, she disappeared and read her book for most of the time. Perfect since I knew that made her happy.

And did they start arriving!

With armloads of casserole dishes and tupperware containers. With pineapples and dip. With balloons and flowers. With presents.

I was a little unnerved as I opened presents since at most showers, that's sort of a side activity while the women kibbitz. But my ladies were quiet and all of them watched me. So, I told stories. No need to rush this thing. I told stories about the givers. I told stories about the presents and why I had chosen them. I told the story about my grandma offering up a bottle of astroglide as hand-sanitizer at a picnic. It had been left on her bathroom sink by one of my cousin's and she mis-used it unknowingly for weeks before the picnic.

I asked my friend Susan why they were all so intent. She reminded me that I didn't have a traditional registry. I'm using and have simply listed the types of things we would like rather than specific products. We also emphasize heavily that folks should feel free to shop in their own cabinets and at thrift stores. Susan pointed out that at a normal shower, everyone has seen all of the gifts before on the store registry. At this one, each was a surprise. Also, Susan was kind enough to tell me that I was interesting and had interesting friends so the gifts had even more potential to be interesting.

And they were, in fact, interesting. One woman bought us a teapot and serving dishes from a cooperative of women in Africa and wrapped it in boxes she hunted up from all over her house. My brother's girlfriend found us a great serving tray. I got a gift-certificate to a fair-trade bead store. I got yoga props and a used sensual yoga book. The giver told the story of realizing too that maybe we would be grossed out more than appreciative of her desire to fulfill our wishes not to contribute to our world's hunger for more new things. We all laughed and I assured her that I love it. I got an assortment of spices from the local freshly-ground spice store including cinnamon that my friend's two toddlers chose by seriously smelling all of the offerings. My sister-in-law gave me a water-boiler that we want because it uses so much less energy than boiling on the stove or in the microwave. My other sister-in-law brought a fun game that involved competitively cataloguing the items in our purses. My 4th grade Sunday school teacher and now-friend gave me a 1976 cookbook published by the ladies in the church who watched me grow up. I was especially moved by my friend Carrie's present from Crate and Barrel. For my first wedding, she had made special effort to track down bowls we had registered for but that had gone out of stock. My ex-husband got those in the divorce and I've always felt bad about her wasted effort. But she didn't hold it against me went back to Crate and Barrel for a beautiful glass bowl for this wedding. Another friend gave me one of her family heirlooms that I've known the story of since high school. Her family in Germany had sent a desperate letter to "Daniel Pinkham, Cicero, America" during WWII begging for the scraps from their tables. The family sent weekly shipments and received lovely things in return because the Germans didn't want to accept charity. Elena gave me one of the lovely little demitasse cups. A friend who couldn't make it sent a bowl made by an artist local to their family's hosue in Michigan. Add to these stories lingerie, potluck paraphenalia, massage oils and gift certificates to IKEA and I feel completely showered with the love that the intimacy of sharing experiences creates.

We didn't get around to making our quilt squares but seeing the fabric I had brought and the examples up-close and in person spurred a lot of folks to say they were getting started. Then, those of us that could stay cleaned up and replaced all the cold bottles of Mexican coke that we had drunk so my mom never even knew we were there.

Thank you, ladies. Planning a big event is totally worth it if I get to swim in the smaller eddies of gatherings like this.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

This made me laugh very hard.

Both the music minister who treated me so hurtfully and the 33-year-old boyfriend who admitted later he was actually 38 and then had the nerve to break up with me by not returning my phone calls I was making to ask when the flight was leaving for the trip he mischievously asked me to let him surprise me with. Both have attempted to friend me on Facebook. Although I sent a message to both to give reconciliation a chance, their responses were so deficient that I quickly hit "ignore." Kudos to the men who have broken my heart and kept far away from my profile.

Thanks to Breakup Girl for the video.

Saturday, August 08, 2009


Over the past couple of days, I've made an interesting revelation that is liberating in its own way. I was having tea with a good friend of mine and admitted, without really intending to, that I hate being at home all day from 9-5. I don't enjoy either implementing the wedding plan or finding a job. In fact, trying to find a job actually makes me feel bad. But that's what I need to be doing all day from 9-5. This generally involves being at home on my computer. When I have a job and I have a shitty task, it's OK because I have at least one co-worker that I like hanging around with on breaks and stuff. But at home, there is only me. Feeling crappy about the work that has to be done. Sometimes, I cope with this by not doing the work and surfing the internet or taking a nap. This does not get the work into a more completed state and generally makes me feel worse about the whole predicament when I realize how unproductive I've been all day. Especially when I realize that Jacob spends all day doing stuff he'd rather not do but he gets paid. Now, everything sucks AND I'm living off a sugar-daddy whom I fear will ultimately resent the mis-match.

This kind of thinking has a tendency to spiral in a downwards direction. When that happens, I try to go for a walk or do some yoga. Sometimes that works. Otherwise, I give up for the day and read a book or watch a DVD. That's at least productive int he sense that my creative muscles get a work-out.

But it liberating to actually name this thing that makes me feel so bad: I don't like being at home all day.

Hopefully, the next step is being able to say to myself, "OK, that's stinks, now suck it up and get some work done."


Thursday, August 06, 2009

Digging wells

On Monday night, Jacob and I went to a support group for interfaith couples who are not yet married.

I don't know how to sum it up.

I liked it in that way that I like humanity and I like it when people are vulnerable to each other. Many of the personalities that I got to observe were enjoyable. I felt like Jacob and I were super-advanced and my ego likes that while my soul hangs its head in premonition of the work its going to have to do to clean up that mess.

We're in a very peaceful place right now and I am reveling in it. The wedding still has to be implemented and a job still has to be found but we're no longing fighting and having quite so many discussions. My mom says she can hear a difference in my voice when she talks to me. There are still things to be worked out about how our interfaith life will look but, honestly, Jacob's doing most of that work right now, examining his insides. He recently read the book Nothing Sacred and I think it blew his mind a little. He keeps quoting it in different formats, like the interfaith group and at Torah study on Saturday morning. I am reading Common Prayers, even though I protested it for awhile since no one ever seems to recommend any inverse books by Jewish interfaith partners who find their spirituality deepened by their exposure to Christianity. After two different people responded sarcastically to my complaint with "Oh, wah. It's hard being part of the dominant culture, isn't it?" then I decided I should actually read it.

So, with all of this reading and the research we did before we got married, we are very prepared with answers to dilemmas that get brought up in a group like the one on Monday night, which I am glad about personally. However, in the context of the group, it really reinforced to me that every interfaith couple has to come to its own decisions; there is no template that works for everyone. One couple had been dating since high school with a long-distance interval during college and are starting this conversation now that they are considering marriage. It was interesting to listen to their concerns about baptism and conversion and their struggle since it is important to them both that children undergo these rituals and that both of them considered the rituals mutually exclusive. This isn't an issue for Jacob and I and so I had no wisdom to offer. I could only tell our story.

I also interjected at one point in the large-group discussion and commented on the repetition of the word, "belief." I didn't want to be too much of an evangelist for the emergent movement but did want to share the sense of liberation that I feel because I've stopped focusing so much on beliefs and shifted my attention to practice and transformation. So, I told my story.

I was attending a hip, young evangelic church in the city that emphasized social justice. To become a member of the church, you had to download a form from the website that had a list of 12 statements that you had to "believe." If you could agree with these statements, you signed on the line at the bottom, met with someone to discuss it and were then considered part of the club. I couldn't agree to all 12 and, in fact, outright disagreed with several points. I sat down with the pastor to discuss this and said that I believed in this community of people and what they were trying to accomplish. Could I still participate in community activities? I specifically mentioned continuing on the worship team and starting a nursery for all of the babies that were being born. To both he told me that he would be uncomfortable with me being involved because there was a fear of "wrong teaching." That hurt a lot because I was starting to feel like I was forming real relationships with some of the people at that church. To be pushed to the fringes because of "beliefs" seemed unfair and contrary to the truth of the bonds we were forming as fellow human beings. In attempt to heal this pain, I did research and found a movement of people who were trying to explore spirituality in a post-modern context that acknowledged that all of us see God differently because we're all looking through the lens of our individual experience. To expect everyone to believe the same things in counter-productive since it negates the commonality we have as humans in that most of us are all trying to move toward God in whatever way we can. I described this article that uses the metaphor of Australian cattle ranching versus American ranching. Americans build fences to keep cattle together since the boundless lushness lures them to wander. Since Australia has so little water, ranchers dig wells to keep cattle in one place. They never wander far from their source of life. This metaphor allows spiritual communities to redefine who is a member. Instead of those who have all come to the same conclusions banding together for safety and putting a fence (or numbered list) around those conclusions, a community can be defined as people walking toward the water. You can be part of the community if you are in the process of exploration and transformation because knowing that God is bigger than our vision means that you have no choice but to keep discovering new ways that we are wrong about what we believe. People on different paths can reach across the paths and hold hands while they walk.

This is incredible liberating to me and makes an interfaith relationship very easy to consider. My struggle is making sure that I keep my behavior with Jacob loving by making room for his struggles since he comes at this from a different place.

I wish that I could reach into the heads and hearts of all interfaith couples that are struggling and shift their spiritual paradigm in the same way that mine was shifted. Once beliefs become secondary to building community (while remaining primary for personal practice) discussions regarding rituals change and become less combative. Of course, I don't have the power of paradigm shifting, only the power of storytelling and storylistening. I tried my best at both.

I loved listening to another couple that described attending another young, hip, urban church. When there were a couple of sermons that made it clear that the Jewish partner wouldn't be welcome, the Christian partner immediately agreed to find a new church home but was still concerned about doing as God commands him in his practice. This kind of flexibility reflects how good Jacob has made me feels when he adopted my organic lifestyle, despite its increased costs and the intensification of his spiritual journey that he chose in order to accommodate my presence in his future.

We'll keep going back to the group after we're married. I'm curious to see the transformation in the lives and perspectives of these people and I like the atmosphere that affirms raising children in both religious traditions since, like being bi-lingual, this will only enhance their ability to communicate with God.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009


In the process of rounding up RSVPs, I found three families that didn't make it from one spreadsheet to another. Luckily two are local and one of those got a save the date. However, one is out of town and probably won't get to come now.

This sucks.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Mend yourself

I have nothing really to write but I feel like I owe you folks an update. I have been feeling that sense of soul tiredness that I described before pretty intensely. It sort of hit its peak yesterday morning when Jacob and I went to temple. Temple is a really interesting place full of strange and interesting people, real spirituality and unique worship experiences. But I was just bored. As we talked about it in the car afterwards, I realized that I had been super-cranky even before we left. When we got home, I sat on the couch to read my interesting novel, I felt bored. I went to finish the tabouleh in the fridge and put it down after two bites because I was bored. As I examined myself through conversation with Jacob, I realized that my neck and shoulders felt like rocks and remembered that that's where I store all of my tension. Then, as a result, the lack of circulation and flat-out pain affect my moods. This happens all the time when my life is stressful.

In our pre-marital counseling session on Thursday night and my therapy session on Friday, we talked about spiritual Valium, which would be something I could do to make me care less about the seemingly urgent relationship issues that must be worked out RIGHT NOW and focus a little more on living in the moment. I realized yesterday that getting someone to loosen up the ropes in my neck might be a source of that.

So, I called Thousand Waves Spa, made an appointment for a massage, went an hour early to sweat in the sauna, soak in the hot tub and breath in the eucalyptus in the steam room. I drank water and sat quietly in the relaxation room then barely spoke to my masage therpist, who understood my needs perfectly.

I came home feeling like a new woman. I was affectionate to my fiance and I got a bunch of crap done for the wedding. I fixed the printer/scanner that has been broken for nine months. I spent some time with one of my closest friends and she told me first that she had gotten engaged. I was able to be excited for her in a way I would not have been that morning, for which I am very grateful.

Today has been an extention of this feeling of wholeness. Soon, I'll start the casserole that we'll take to church with us. Jacob has been playing Final Fantasy 3 non-stop every hour he's been home this weekend. This marriage and wedding are about tikkun olam, mending the world. Part of that involves mending ourselves from time to time.