December 16, 2018

Chanel No. 5 and Butter Tarts

My mother just went back to Toronto after visiting for nine days. When I dropped her off at the airport, for the first time in 27 years of visits, I didn’t cry when I said goodbye. I gave her a kiss, hugged her close, and waved goodbye. She cried, but I didn’t. I went back to my car and burst into tears.  I wasn’t sure if I cried because she left, or because I didn’t cry with her, but I wept uncontrollably. I simply could not stop crying.

 

My mom on the other hand, actually starting crying the moment I picked her up at LAX. When I asked why she was crying, she said it was because she was sad to leave. She was sad to leave the second she arrived, which is classic. I love her very much and we had a great visit. She spent a lot of time with Charlie, which is important to both Charlie and me. She also cooked for us like it was her job.

 

After she left I could still smell her in my home. Her perfume lingered and I found myself crying as I went room to room to find where the smell was strongest. Today as I drove to work, excited my housekeeper was coming, I started to cry as I realized the lingering smell of my mother would be gone. I will go back to a spotless home, but no smell of my mom, so wish I would’ve pushed the cleaning.

 

I’ll be with my mom in February, when we celebrate her 75thbirthday. I am going to make a note to take some pillowcases with me to Canada so she can make them smell like her, so I can bring the smell home.  It is a mixture of love, Chanel No. 5, and butter tarts. If I could bottle it, I would, and when I get home this evening I am going to desperately try to find something that still smells like her.

 

If I can’t, I will simply make butter tarts, spray Chanel No. 5 all over the place, and hug Charlie while crying, which is what I think allows the smell of love to come out. My mother speaks of waving goodbye to her mom when she left Israel, promising to come back, but my grandmother passing before she could. I remember telling my mom I would be back when I left Canada, but I never did move back.

 

I often wonder where Charlie will make his home when he has a family of his own. I pray I am close by and able to see him more often than I see my mother. Important to note that when I say I hope I live close by, of course I mean I hope I live in his house, taking care of his kids, and get to see him every day. While I am quite certain that is a nightmare for Charlie, I am keeping the faith.

Rest in Peace Stephen Hillenburg

When you are a single mother who works full time, you sometimes rely on television to help you care for your child. By sometimes of course I mean a lot of the time. I have no shame in saying that my son watched television growing up. He was not allowed to watch a lot of things, but he watched. I would make dinner while Charlie watched Barney, Caillou, or Sesame Street. There was also one show we would watch together, and that was SpongeBob SquarePants.

 

We would watch and laugh, holding hands when he was little. Charlie also remembers us watching, which makes me happy. I think we have seen every episode, with “Rock Bottom” being our favorite. I loved SpongeBob and Patrick, Squidward and Mr. Krabs. I remember the first time we met Sandy and Mrs. Puff. I remember Charlie seeing snails on the sidewalk after a rain and moving them to the grass, calling them all Gary. This show will always hold a special place in both my heart, and Charlie’s.

 

When I heard that Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of SpongeBob and all his friends, had passed away passed, I was reminded how big a part his imagination played in Charlie’s childhood and my life as a single mom. He mattered to me, and helped me raise my son. He not only kept my son still for thirty minutes so I could make dinner, but he created a world Charlie and I could enjoy and discover together. He was a babysitter and teacher in my home. He was also a friend who allowed a tired mom to sit down and relax quietly with her child for 30 minutes each day.

 

I called Charlie right away and told him the news, and he said it was a very sad day for the people of Bikini Bottom. He then told me about how Mr. Hillenburg taught marine biology, and had worked as a fry cook in a restaurant, which ended up being SpongeBob’s job. It made me happy that Charlie knew so much about the man who had been such a big part of his childhood. We reminisced about the show and it was a lovely moment for me and my baby.

 

I made a donation to ALS research today in honor of Stephen Hillenburg. I hope he knew how important he was to so many people around the world. He brought characters to life that we love and care about. Characters that have meant something, especially to this single mom and her son. I send my heartfelt condolences to Mr. Hillengurg’s family and friends. To our beloved SpongeBob, Patrick, and everyone in Bikini Bottom, we are keeping the faith.

Home with my Mama

My mother came to visit me from Toronto on Thanksgiving day, which was my beloved dad’s birthday. We raised a glass to Bobby Angel, and are having a wonderful visit.  She will be staying until Saturday. I love her very much. I sleep better when she is close. I definitely eat better when she is close. I see Charlie more often when she is close. My heart feels full when she is close. She is fun, and funny, and lovely, and frankly the most annoying person I know.

 

She likes to freeze everything. Everything. She will buy a fresh loaf of bread, still warm from the oven, and freeze it so it stays fresh. She will bake a cake, then freeze it so it stays fresh. It is truly fascinating, and I have never seen anything like it. She is quite certain freezing things keeps them fresh. Bless her. I am not big on freezing things, other than vodka of course. I like things fresh, and organic, and never frozen, but my freezer is now packed full of food.

 

She likes to talk over the television. She asks a lot of questions, and likes to ask them over the person who is actually providing the answer to her question. She watches CNN all day long, thinks Anderson Cooper is wonderful, Don Lemon is everything, and Chris Cuomo is her friend. She also thinks everything said on Entertainment Tonight is true. She speaks about celebrities like she knows them. She loves Jennifer Lawrence and Khloe is her favorite Kardashian.

 

My mom will be 75 in February, which means Charlie is the same age now, that my mother was when she had me, which is crazy. My mother had 4 kids by the time she was 28. I had my only child when I was 30, and it was hard, so I cannot imagine what she went through having 4 at such a young age. Not only did she have all her kids young, she left Israel with my English dad and raised her family in Canada, arriving without knowing how to speak English.

 

She is a remarkable woman and I will miss her when she goes home, but look forward to seeing her again soon. By Thursday she will start picking a fight with me, so on Friday we are angry with each other, so on Saturday she can leave annoyed with me, which will make it easier for her to leave me. It is hilarious, and tradition. We will fight so going is easier than goodbye, then cry like babies that we will not be together.

 

I came to Los Angeles 27 years ago for a vacation. Neither one of us could have imagined things would end up as they did, and I would stay here. She thought I would be home in a few weeks, and in the end I made LA my home, and never moved back. I have now lived in the United States longer than I lived in Canada, but Canada is always home. For this week however, home is Los Angeles because both my mom and son are here with me. It is perfect.

 

I am currently sitting on the couch, while my mom tells me what a nice guy Eddie Murphy is, and how wonderful Jennifer Lawrence is, while I eat her delicious rice and beans, knowing that tomorrow she will make her world famous butter tarts, and Charlie will once again find his way home. I am blessed to have such a wonderful mother and can’t help but wonder if I am annoying to Charlie. Probably, but at least I don’t freeze everything. That could change, so I am keeping the faith.

Happy Thanksgiving 2018

Today is not only Thanksgiving, it is also my dad’s birthday. He would have turned 80 today, and my heart remains broken by his passing. My dad died when was only 63 years old, never having had the opportunity to be old. He was only ten years older than I am now when he got sick, and passed away only months after being diagnosed with cancer. It is a sad day for me because I think about everything he’s missed over the past 17 years. It is tragic, but I also feel blessed to have had 35 years with my beloved dad. Happy Birthday Bobby Angel. We love and miss you.

I have never really celebrated Thanksgiving, and think I have been to less than a dozen Thanksgiving dinners during my 27 years in the United States. I got divorced when my son was a baby and since my ex-husband was from LA and had a large family here, Charlie would spend Thanksgiving with his dad and his family, and I would have Charlie with me for the Jewish holidays. I have generally spent Thanksgiving at home, resting and being reflective, or shopping and pampering myself. For the past few years I have written down things I am thankful for, so since I am 52 years old for Thanksgiving 2018, here are 52 things I am thankful for.

  1. Memories of my dad
  2. Seeing my dad in my son’s eyes
  3. Having my mother come visit me today
  4. My brother Mark and his family
  5. My sister Roni and her friendship
  6. My mother Rena
  7. My son Charlie
  8. Every single thing about Charlie
  9. My friendship with Charlie
  10. My job
  11. My assistant Jordan
  12. Fiddles the cat
  13. Fiddle’s boyfriend, Gopher
  14. Manicures
  15. Pizza
  16. Dr. Donna Cashdan
  17. Synthroid
  18. Cosmopolitans
  19. Red wine
  20. iPhone
  21. The Jewish Journal
  22. Vodka
  23. My car
  24. My bed
  25. My Oncologist
  26. My cancer free life
  27. My entertaining dating life
  28. My belief I will find love
  29. My sense of humor
  30. My kind heart
  31. Kleenex with lotion
  32. Bacon made from soy beans
  33. Rabbi Naomi Levy
  34. Nashuva
  35. Prayer
  36. Laughter
  37. My son coming home
  38. Scented candles
  39. Potato chips
  40. Chocolate
  41. Therapy
  42. Forgiveness
  43. Being a mom
  44. My blissful pregnancy
  45. My healthy child
  46. My health
  47. Idris Elba
  48. Celine Dion
  49. Trips to London
  50. Time at Beckham Manor
  51. Vegetarian options
  52. Writing

I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you will take time today, even for just a minute, to think about what you’re thankful for. Make a list. It is important to acknowledge your blessings because life is short and there are no guarantees. Writing down what you are thankful for gives those things life. Be safe. Be kind. Be grateful. Know that I appreciate you for coming here and value our friendship. As I head to LAX to pick up my Mom, please know that I wish you joy, health, and happiness. I am thankful we are all keeping the faith.

Motherhood 101: Kvelling

My son told me he wanted to be an actor when he was four years old. He is now twenty-two and in the past eighteen years he has never wavered. Not one time. He has been focused on his goals and worked hard. There has been success and failure. There has been joy and disappointment. There has however, never been doubt. Being an actor is all he ever wanted to be.

 

It has been challenging as a mother to watch my child pursue a career in the entertainment industry. The highs are high and the lows are low. My son sees each booking and each rejection as a lesson. He’s stayed on his path with a slow and steady stride. I’ve thought his life could be easier if he made a different career choice, but I’ve never discouraged him from chasing his dreams.

 

He works hard and supports himself. He is motivated, dedicated, driven, and ridiculously talented. This week he accomplished two things he’s been working on for a very long time. He submitted a film he produced and co-stars in to the Sundance Film Festival. He also took a giant step forward as a comedy performer. Both accomplishments leave me keeling. I am very proud of my son.

 

He is a wonderful actor and can make me laugh like nobody else on the planet. The kid is not only funny, but has perfect comedic timing. He is kind and sweet, handsome and charming. He speaks of his successes not in money or praise, but in how he wants to take care of me. It is lovely and makes me proud of not only him, but myself. We are very close and I appreciate our relationship.

 

He’s been working hard to get to where he is and we’re celebrating and going on holiday. We leave Wednesday night after Yom Kipper for our favorite city of London. We will also visit Scotland for the first time, and I cannot wait. He is my favorite person and I treasure time with him. It is an exciting time in his life and having a front row seat is a blessing that comes from keeping the faith.

 

 

Motherhood 101 – Travelling

My son Charlie is wrapping up a 17-day vacation in Japan. He is with one of his best friends, and they are traveling around the country not only seeing the sights, by experiencing the culture and meeting the people of Japan. They have encountered nothing but kindness and generosity. I am impressed with the beauty of not only the country, but her people. Thank you to this enchanting place and her residents for taking such great care of my son.

Charlie has taken me with him on his trip, which has been simply thrilling. Thanks to modern technology I have walked through the bamboo forest, seen a sumo wrestling match, watched a blue fin tuna auction, fed monkeys and deer, and lit a wishing stick in a Buddhist temple. I have been on a bullet train and strolled in the rain through busy and exciting streets. I believe seeing the world is important and am so happy my son is able to have these experiences. It really expands your world view to actually see the world in person.

Sidebar: Important to note that while I’m sure I sound like a supportive and loving mother when it comes to Charlie traveling, in the interest of full disclosure, you should know I am actually a crazy person. I track the movement of his flights and train rides, I ask him to text me when he is in for the night, and I have asked him 422 times if he has his epi pen with him.  Each time he goes away I relax a little bit more, but I am a Jewish mother through and through and the truth is there will ever never be a trip where I don’t worry and that will be not only with Charlie, but with his wife and kids too when come along. Luckily he takes it all in stride, humors me, and includes me in ways I haven’t even demanded. I am thankful he is such a good boy, and grateful for vodka.

I am sending best wishes to the people in Japan who are dealing with the heavy rains and flooding. I hope you stay safe. To my Charlie, enjoy the last few days of your wonderful trip. Be safe, have fun, eat strange things, be kind, take pictures, and be aware of how blessed you are to see the world. I am so thankful you have included me on your adventure. I really enjoyed Japan and can’t wait to see Scotland with you this fall. Travelling is a wonderful reminder to keep the faith.

 

 

Introducing my Son and The Father Complex

I have been writing Keeping the Faith for almost a decade. During that time, I have shared my life, including and most importantly, I have written about being the mother of a wonderful human being. Over thousands of blogs and columns, I have never once mentioned my son’s name. He has approved every word I wrote about him, but there have been no photos or words to say who he was. I have always been careful to protect his privacy because writing about me has been my job and my choice.

My son was 13 when I started to write for the Jewish Journal. He was a big part of why I started this blog, and the reason I am fearless with my sharing. It has been a love letter to him, and a documentation of my life as a single mom. It is a window into my heart, soul, world view, fear, hope, joy, and sorrow. It is a never ending search for things to help me keep the faith. My son doesn’t read every post, but one day he will, and he will understand the profound love I have for him.

My son is remarkable. Even if he were not my son, I would still think he is remarkable. He is funny and smart, kind and fair. He believes in equality and justice. He does not judge anyone based on color, religion, or sexual orientation. In fact, he simply does not judge. He is generous of spirit and works hard to make the world better, even if it means helping one person at a time. I am proud of him. I am impressed by him. I have watched him grow up and find his way. He is amazing because of me and in spite of me. I love him with every fiber of my being.

I never thought I would share my son’s name or face here. In fact, I was sure I wouldn’t. Until today. The funny thing is that many people who read my blog have seen my son, they just don’t know he is my son. He is an actor and has done a lot of commercials, guest stared on Nickelodeon, and been in countless student films. He is a talented actor, writer, and producer. He has perfect comedic timing and is a brilliant improv performer. He supports himself in his chosen profession and even though faced with rejection, has never given up on his dreams.

My son met his best friend in middle school, which means they have been best friends for as long as I have been writing this blog. They are like brothers. They both attended a performing arts middle school, then the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts together. They have been collaborating on projects since they met. The first time they performed together was when they sang Michael Jackson’s Black or White at an open house at middle school. They have been fiercely loyal to each other and always chased their dreams together.

Last summer they told me they were going to make a movie together. Not surprising, so I simply wished them well. Things have changed since they casually mentioned a movie in my kitchen. Since then they travelled across the country making their film. Today a trailer for the film The Father Complex was released. It features Tyler Cole and my son, Charlie Burg. The film is directed by Tyler and produced by Charlie. It is being released in partnership with Jaden Smith and his team at MSFTSrep. These boys have made a brilliant film and I’m proud of them.

I cried when I watched the trailer. I cried with pride at what they had accomplished. I also cried because I immediately understood that with this film, things would change. I will continue to write about my life, but my mentions of Charlie must be different now. With this film people will know I am his mother, so there is no more keeping it private. My son, Charlie Burg, will now be known on his own terms, by his own art, and his stories will be his to tell. I will watch his career with pride, finally sharing his accomplishments with all of you here.

It is my distinct honor to share the trailer for the film The Father Complex. It will be released later this year and I am excited for people to see it. It is a wonderful movie and I marvel at the talent of these two young men. It has been a blessing to have a front row seat to the process of making this film. To my beloved Charlie, this is the beginning and the end. The beginning of a wonderful new road for you to travel, and the end of your days being known as Snickerdoodle. Thank you for letting me share our lives here. I appreciate your endless kindness to me.

You never complained I shared too much. You never asked me not to post something. You stood up for me when trolls appeared. You held my hand when I shared personal and difficult things. You lifted my spirits through cancer. You promised me I would find love after my heart was broken. You never asked for anything when money was tight. You only ever asked me to spend money on myself when it wasn’t. You have been my child, friend, teacher, and inspiration. You are my heart. You are my sunshine. You are the reason I am keeping the faith.

 

Motherhood 101: The Jurassic Movies

The original Jurassic Park came out in 1993. I remember seeing it and being scared to death. I’m not one to see big budget action/adventure movies like that, but it was a big deal movie so I went. It was the only one of the trio I saw in the theater. My son was born in 1996 and I watched Jurassic Park 1, 2, and 3 with him at home on VHS tape beginning when he was about 5 years old. 

I thought he was too young, but we watched, he held onto me occasionally, but overall was more fascinated than scared. He thought the dinosaurs were everything. He became an instant fan and obsessed with the T-Rex. We bought books, action figures, clothes and posters as his love affair with all things Jurassic began. I was even scared watching it years later on TV, but my son was mesmerized. 

When the first one came out I was working at Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation, which was located on the Universal Studios lot. My son waited a long time to meet the height requirements for the park’s Jurassic Park Ride. When he was tall enough he rode it a lot. By a lot of course I mean the operators knew my kid by name. He would ride 10 times in a row. I could manage 3 rounds, then he’d go over and over again by himself, waving as he plummeted down.

My son had seen the Jurassic Park movies countless times, but never on the big screen until Jurassic World. It is a moment in my motherhood I treasure because we saw it together. Now with the arrival of Jurassic World 2, I can tell you we saw it last night and it was great. I jumped a lot, but my son simply sat in wonder. It is a very good movie, Chris Pratt is great in it, and I recommend seeing it.  It makes me happy that these movies continue to be something special that is just ours. Ours and a gazillion other people, but you know what I mean.

With so many movie franchises during his lifetime, there were some we went to, and others he went to with his dad, but Jurassic has always been just ours. We have shared these movies together and still talk about watching them when he was little. He still has some of the toys from his childhood, and remembers his dinosaur themed birthday parties. I remember like yesterday when he realized Barney was just a Jurassic Park wannabe.

It feels like just yesterday that I watched Jurassic Park with my son and I can recall with real clarity his expression of wonderment as he never once took his eyes off the screen. I remember buying him Jurassic Park toys for Hanukah and him being so excited he screamed out how much he loved me and jumped up and down saying he could not believe what was happening. I have a real affection for these movies as they have helped define my life as a mother.  

My baby boy is 22 years old now, but when I look over at him watching the dinosaurs, I will flash back to him being 5, sitting on the couch, holding my hand, and staring in wonder as if they were real. He may never understand how important seeing these movies is to me, and probably thinks I’m ridiculous for insisting we see them together, but that is okay. My heart will be full, my pulse will be racing, dinosaurs will arrive, time will stand still, and I will be keeping the faith.

Happy Mother’s Day

When I woke up this morning I went into my son’s old room, crawled into his old bed, snuggled up with his old cat, and let my old body go back to sleep. It was fantastic! This is the first Mother’s Day in 22 years I didn’t wake up and see the face of my delicious boy. He has his own apartment now, but will be here any minute. We are spending the day together and I cannot wait.

He is taking me out for lunch at the beach, followed by some painting at Color Me Mine (our Mother’s Day tradition), then we are heading to the LAFC game. He has it all planned out and I am excited for every minute we will be together. I love my kid. I have raised him on my own and it has been the most challenging and rewarding experience of my life. He is a wonderful human being and my absolute favorite person.

I have learned to love my empty nest, but look forward to his coming home. I am blessed that he comes home often, usually with laundry, but that is cool. We are very good friends, always have been, but have managed to keep a respectful line drawn in the sand that maintains my role as his mother. I am a very lucky girl, but also an awesome mom. Yay for me! Yay for moms on our day!

To all the mothers, enjoy this day! Be kind to yourself. We can be tough on ourselves, and are our own worst critics, but we must take time today to be proud. Proud of not only our children, but of ourselves. Being a mother is hard. Being a single mother is tough. Being a Jewish mother is exhausting. We are remarkable. Happy Mother’s Day! Be safe, enjoy your kids, and keep the faith.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Ode to Motherhood

Photo from PxHere.

When I was in my early 20s, I gently placed motherhood into the realm of: There is no question I want to do this, but later, much later. First, I need to explore and change the world. Oh, and I also need to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am equal to men.

This was part of the message I was ingesting from feminist leaders at the time, and it felt OK because I was nowhere near ready to “settle down.” There was another part to the message, though, that didn’t feel right: Women shouldn’t value motherhood as our mothers and grandmothers had. Bearing children “reduces women to their wombs.” Motherhood, we were told, was “unfeminist.”

Compared with the intersectional mess that feminism has now become, this theoretical gobbledygook — which was not even remotely part of original feminism — almost seems quaint. The problem is, it affected a generation of women. Women who put off child-rearing until it was too late; women who had children, but then spent too much time away from them; women who would preach to other women that motherhood “destroys one’s identity.”

Perhaps because I, too, waited until it was almost too late, perhaps because I had a wonderful career before I had my son, I think I am able to look at all of this with some objectivity. And I would like to send to women in their 20s today a very different message: Motherhood — in all of its beauty, glory, wonder and exhaustion — will compare with nothing else you will ever do in your life. But it is not for every woman. It doesn’t make a woman a woman, but precisely because it is a role, a responsibility that is so profound, only each woman can know if it is right for her.

What is unfeminist? The devaluation of motherhood and, as a result, children. One of the saddest sights I see every year in New York City: A beautiful day at the park, strollers are lined up one after the other — with kids old enough to walk unhappily strapped in. A bevy of nannies sit and chat, seemingly unbothered by the miserable state of their charges.

Motherhood — in all of its beauty, glory, wonder and exhaustion — will compare with nothing else you will ever do in your life.

There are, of course, wonderful nannies who love the children they care for as their own. But let’s be honest here: They typically work for women who don’t “privilege” their careers over their kids.

It’s true: motherhood, especially in the early years, wears you out in ways you never thought possible. (I remember evenings of binge watching “The Good Wife,” not because I loved it but because I literally didn’t have the energy to find a better show.) But if you make it central to your identity, you will experience levels of joy and fulfillment that no job or no career can possibly touch.

And the effects of good mothering on children are profound. Can a father make up for a deficit of good mothering? Sometimes. I have met extraordinary fathers. But, in general, mothers and fathers bring different, often overlapping skills to the parenting table.

When I see a great mother, I don’t care what career she had before or will have after her kids are grown. (Motherhood is a lifetime role, but the in-house years are roughly 10 to 15.) When I see a great mother, I am in awe of her ability to tap into layers of patience, compassion and empathy that other women just shout about. I am in awe of the magnitude of her emotional capacity, an emotional intelligence that can understand the 1,500 different types of crying.

Yes, we can all laugh at overprotective Jewish mothers. But perhaps it’s not a coincidence that there’s a surfeit of Yiddish proverbs on the subject: “Mothers understand what their children cannot say.” “One mother achieves more than a hundred teachers.” “God could not be everywhere so he created mothers.”

I remain in awe of my own mother, who provided me with an ability to see every moment of motherhood — the good, the boring, the sleep deprived — as precious, as a gift from God. And although she was able to experience only the first two years of my son’s life, I believe I am honoring her memory by trying, each day, to reach for the highest ground that she herself provided.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Karen Lehrman Bloch is an author, cultural critic and mother living in New York City.

Cocktails and Motherhood

When my son turned 21 we went out for a drink. It was strange to have a cocktail with him and it didn’t feel as cool as I thought it would. I watched him drink a beer and all I could see was a baby drinking. It actually made me a little sad. When you have a drink with your kid you are forced to see them as a grown up, which is bittersweet. It was uncomfortable to drink with him, but at the same time I was proud my delicious baby was now a remarkable man. I am blessed to be this human’s mother and I thank God for every single moment we have together, but drinking with him was a hard pill to swallow.

I turned 52 last week and went to San Francisco for the weekend with my son. We walked, ate great food, and had a few drinks. I love a cocktail, as my readers know, and since it was my birthday, I enjoyed several libations. I started with a drink at the airport and ended with a drink at the airport. My son drank too, but it was different this time. He was still my baby, but also my friend, and it was lovely. He isn’t a big drinker, but enjoys big boy drinks. His cocktails of choice are a Negroni or a Whiskey Sour. I think they taste like cough medicine.

We sat in great bars and talked about life, love, politics, and plans. We laughed and debated, and were also happily quiet together. I love him very much and he is simply my favorite human being. He makes me happy. He makes me think. He makes me grateful. He makes me want to be better. He makes me feel better. He heals me. He eases my sorrow. He is my sunshine. He is my closest confidant. I trust him. Being a mom is hard. Being a single mom is really hard. Having a 22-year-old son allows me to celebrate not only my child, but also myself.

I have spent over twenty-two years being his mother and he is a wonderful human being both because of me, and in spite of me. I have had moments of real greatness as a mother, along with moments of epic failure, but all of them led to now, and now is good. My son is terrific and he loves me. He enjoys my company, asks me for advice, heeds my advice, and makes good choices. I won’t make a habit of having cocktails with my boy, but when it does happen I will embrace the moment. We worked hard to get here and having a cocktail with my son is all about keeping the faith.

 

 

Happy Shabbat Birthday to Me

I am turning 52 this weekend. While not one to make a big deal about my birthday, this one feels important. It has been an interesting few years. By interesting, of course I mean difficult and enlightening. I dealt with cancer, neck surgery, my son moving out, changing jobs after a decade, and a very close friend of mine passing away after a valiant fight. It was all rather exhausting and to add insult to injury, as each challenge was tackled and overcome, another challenge was placed in front of me. I am a tough girl, but even I was brought to my knees on more than one occasion.

April 7th, 2018 will mark a new beginning, and it has been a long time coming. As I begin my 52nd year, there is nothing looming over me. I am completely healthy for the first time in three years. I am embracing my empty nest in ways I never thought I would. I have learned the important lesson of never coloring my own hair or cutting my own bangs, instead leaving it to the professionals. I have mastered the art of making the perfect Cosmopolitan. I am aware of my own worth. Most importantly, I know I am a wonderful human being,  terrific mother, and getting better with age.

My life is blessed and I have nothing to complain about. How awesome is that? I am going to go to services tonight and pray with my rabbi because she brings me real joy. Tomorrow I will celebrate my birthday in San Francisco with my son. We will explore a city that matters to us, have an amazing dinner, do some birthday shopping, and have dim sum lunch in Chinatown. A 24-hour getaway with my favorite human. I will walk in the rain, and pause long enough to count my blessings between the martinis I’ll be enjoying. Shabbat Shalom and Happy Birthday to all who celebrate this weekend. Be safe and have fun. I will enjoy the weekend while keeping the faith.

Motherhood in Black and White

My soul is crushed each and every time I hear of the senseless murder of an innocent person at the hands of law enforcement, but the murder of Stephon Clark has left me heartbroken in a different way. Stephon was the same age as my own son and I cannot wrap my head around the way he died, so close to being home safe with his two little kids. This one hurts in a way that feels personal.

Of course they are all personal because we live in this country together, and I cried for Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Gregory Gunn, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, and countless others who were murdered but those who were meant to protect them, but I can relate to the Clark family in ways that bring it into my home. Had it been my son in the same situation at Stephon, I can promise you he wouldn’t have been murdered. This is racism, plain and simple.

My son would have been offered a conversation. A chance to explain who he was and what he was doing. My son wouldn’t have 20 bullets blown into him steps from the safety of his home. It is black and white. Stephon Clark was killed because he was black, and when it comes to black people in America, we shoot first and ask questions later. It is 2018 and being black is America is very dangerous.

My son is a proud Jewish man, but if he was in a situation where anti-Semitic things were happening, he could join in the rhetoric to remain safe and get himself out. He would be able to come home because he can become what he needs to be. That is white privilege. That is a blessing afforded my son. I am able to watch him go out into the world with a level of comfort black mothers don’t have.

Ever since my son was very little I would send him off to school or out with his friends with the words, “Be safe out there and make good choices”. Those have been my parting words to him for as long as I can remember. I don’t have to tell him to keep his mouth shut, put his hands in the air, or get down on the ground without answering back. I haven’t raised my son with a fear of authority.

I worry about him 24/7 because I am his mother, and that is what mothers do, but I do not have the same constant fear that black mothers have. It is exhausting to just think about it. I would never want my kid to go outside. It would simply be too big a risk. The black and white reality is that this is about black and white. I cry with every black mother who fears the death of their beautiful children.

We have many problems in this country that need attention. Tomorrow I will march with the students of Parkland in support of changes to gun laws. I will march knowing that Black Lives Matter. I will march because when we unite our voices we can make change. We have to do better. We cannot think we are the greatest country in the world when this keeps happening. Wake up and start keeping the faith.

 

 

Motherhood, Surgery, Reflection & Faith

I’m having surgery on my neck tomorrow, and look forward to finally feeling better. It has been a long road to get here and even with all the challenges and difficulties I have faced, this is the first time I feel scared and nervous. I kicked cancer’s ass, but screws in my spine is daunting and has thrown me into a place of deep reflection, mostly about my job as a mother.

Motherhood is a remarkable thing. I remember the moment I was told I was pregnant. I made all these promises to myself about the kind of mother I wanted to be. I had so many plans and dreams for my son before he was even born. I wanted to be a mom from the time I was a little girl and always thought I would have a lot of kids. Life can change dreams.

I have one remarkable son who is a truly wonderful human being. Both because of me, and in spite of me. I am proud of him and it has been my greatest honor to watch him grow up and become a good man. He is 22 years old and has a very bright future. He is a smart kid, but I worry he’ll never fully understand how much I love him. Perhaps he won’t get it until he is a dad.

The anticipation of my surgery has me thinking, and no good can come of that. I remember every time I was unkind or impatient. Every mean thing I ever said about his dad. The times he took care of me because I was sick. The times he watched me cry because my heart was broken. The times I couldn’t afford to get him what he wanted. All of it is vivid and feels heavy.

He will drive me to the hospital and be there when I get out of surgery, which makes me feel both grateful and sad. It is my job to take care of him, but over the past few years he has been taking care of me, and that is hard for a parent to come to terms with. I don’t ever want to be a burden on my child. I want him to be free to live his life and follow his dreams.

I want to hold him tight and tell him a million things, but that seems somewhat morbid. I’m not dying, I’m just having surgery. It is a procedure my surgeon has done hundreds of times with great success. There is nothing to worry about, and tomorrow when my neck is repaired and I feel amazing, I will have forgotten about how scared I was and focus on my blessings.

I will check in with you over the weekend when I am home, and appreciate your prayers and good wishes. I asked the hospital if I could have a rabbi come say a prayer with me before the procedure and they were surprised. Apparently they are not allowed to offer a clergy visit because it is an invasion of privacy, which is a shame. I pray and welcome the visit for a prayer.

The hospital said they would make the request. I let them know if a rabbi wasn’t available any member of the clergy, regardless of their religion would do. I just want a person of faith to pray with me. We all pray to the same God and I asked for an act of faith not religion. How different would our world be if people were able to have faith without religious judgement?

If I can get through the day without crying it will be a miracle. I feel emotional and happy, yet at the same time feel sick to my stomach and am unhappy. To be expected, but not at all a comfortable feeling.  I am going to count my blessings, believe everything will be fine, trust my brilliant son knows how much I love him, and hope he knows he is the reason I am keeping the faith.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miss You Dad

February 13th is the day my father passed away. It is a day of sadness and reflection, but also joyous memories of a man I loved very much. My dad was a wonderful human being and I miss him. He was my go to person for everything, and it is impossible to understand he has been gone for 17 years. I wonder what he would be like if he were alive today, and turning 80 this year.

This is always a strange day. I started with a few tears, lit a candle, said some prayers, and headed to work. On the way in I received an email from a man online. I decided to reply since he wrote on this day, and perhaps my dad had a hand in it. We exchanged numbers and by the end of the afternoon we spoke on the phone. He didn’t seem like a match, but I tried to find common ground.

He is Jewish, divorced, 53, and felt compelled to tell me he does not like blow jobs, so I can date him with the comfort of knowing I don’t have to worry about that. As I listened to this truly tragic man spend five minutes explaining his sexual do and don’ts, and how they would make my life better, I started to laugh. Not a chuckle, but hysterical laughing that made my stomach hurt. Perfect.

My dad totally had a hand in that. I ended the conversation with the man and thanked my dad for the laugh on a sad day. By ended the conversation of course I mean I hung up on him when he got to his thoughts on anal sex. Oy vey. My dad sent a true idiot my way, to make me laugh on a truly sad day. I am now having a Cosmo, sitting on the couch with the cat, thankful for many things.

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day and I will have dinner with the love of my life, my son. We will raise a glass to my dad and hold the memories of him close on a day that shines a light on love. I will look across the table and see my father in the eyes of my son, and count my blessings. Thank you for the laugh today Dad. We all love you and know you are watching over us. You are missed and we are all keeping the faith.

Happy Birthday Son

Today is my son’s 22nd birthday. I don’t really remember what my life was like before he was born, and every single day I have been blessed to be his mother, has brought me joy. I have not always done a great job, but he has always been a great son. He is a true blessing to not only me, but to everyone who is lucky enough to know and love him. In honor of this special day, I would like to share 22 things I love about this wonderful human being. In no particular:

  1. He makes me laugh daily.
  2. He is a fantastic chef.
  3. He is compassionate.
  4. He is talented.
  5. He is funny.
  6. He reminds me of my dad.
  7. He is socially aware.
  8. He works hard.
  9. He appreciates me.
  10. He follows his dreams.
  11. He is going to change the world.
  12. He respects women.
  13. He is a Dr. Doolittle.
  14. He is fearless.
  15. He respects the planet.
  16. He is brave.
  17. He makes good choices.
  18. He is a great friend.
  19. He is my sunshine.
  20. He lets me take a lot of pictures of him.
  21. He forgives me when I misstep.
  22. He is a feminist.

Happy Birthday Son! I love you very much and am proud of you. I hope this year brings you all you wish for yourself, plus more. Having a front seat to your life is my greatest blessing and I can’t wait to watch your dreams come true. Thank you for everything. I wish you health, happiness, and peace. Mahashooshoo. Always remember that life is better when you are keeping the faith.

My New Reality

Last week was the first time in as long as I can remember when my schedule was not dictated by reality television. As someone who has blogged about reality TV between 2 and 5 times a week for years and years, it was liberating and brought me real peace and happiness. I did not rush home to watch a show, I did not interview a reality celebrity, and I did not spend any time with Jose Cuervo.

I went out for dinner with friends, I went on a couple of dates, I spent quality time with my son, and I wrote about my own reality. It has truly been life altering and I found myself wondering why I didn’t retire Keeping it Real sooner. I did not realize how it had consumed my life until I stopped doing it. I watched a couple of the shows I used to write about, and enjoyed them more as a regular viewer.

The most interesting discovery is that while I enjoyed watching, I did not feel invested, or have any great need to watch them again. It is fascinating how important I thought these shows were. Not only are they not important, they are not particularly entertaining. Don’t get me wrong, I am not knocking reality television, I am just viewing it differently now that it is not part of my job.

It turns out my reality is much more interesting than what I was watching. From my dating life, to exploring my faith, to my newly empty nest, to wanting to spend uninterrupted time with my son, my life is reality television worthy. I would never do a reality show of course, even though I have been asked, because some crazy blogger would come and share her unsolicited opinion of me, so no thanks.

Last night instead of watching Real Housewives of Atlanta, I watched 60 Minutes, and I must tell you it feels better. I have not engaged in social media other than to post pictures of sunrises, sunsets, cocktails, and food. It is a whole new world and I am happy. Instead of waking up and checking my Twitter to see the reaction to my blog, I woke up and celebrated the announcement of a new princess.

Keeping the Faith has been a very important part of my life, and she has been neglected due to the demands of reality television. That stops today. I look forward to posting often and welcoming you back into my life in a bigger way. My longtime readers have been through a lot with me, and I take comfort in knowing you are out there, wishing and praying for good things to come for me.

You carry me through. I went back to read Keeping the Faith over the years and it is wonderful to see how many people have come into my life through this blog. People who matter to me in profound ways. I’ve made friends, dated readers, battled hate, embraced love, and defined who I am as a Jew, mother, friend, daughter, and partner.  My life is truly blessed because I am keeping the faith.

 

Happy Thanksgiving Jose Cuervo

Five orange pumpkins sit in a row in front of a distressed, wooden background.

This time of year inspires people to reflect on their lives. We take the time to say thank you and count our blessings, even if it is just for a day. Thanksgiving is a lovely holiday, but as a woman who gives thanks each and every day, saying thanks is just a small piece of the pie. In the spirit of the holiday however, each year I like to pick one thing or one person in my life that has gone unappreciated, and say thank you. This year’s selection happens to be both a person and a thing.

My son has moved into his own apartment and it’s been hard. Even though we talk all day and I see him regularly, I miss him so much it aches. I am not ashamed to share I have cried every day since he left. I have also slept in his room twice, and sat in the middle of the floor weeping. By sitting, of course I mean I was in the fetal position while looking at baby pictures with my boyfriend. By boyfriend, of course I mean Jose Cuervo, which leads me to my special thank you for 2017.

Thank you to Jose for helping me through this difficult transition in my life. I have spent almost 22 years preparing my son for this moment, but sadly forgot to prepare myself. The truth is that even if I had prepared myself, I still wouldn’t have been ready. He stayed at home longer I did when I was young, but I could have used a little more. Another five years would have been nice. Pathetic to be sure, but still nice. It has been him and me for so long it feels strange when he tells me he is going home after dinner, but it is not our home.

He was six months old when I got divorced and so our bond is special. It has been him and me against the world so long, I guess I’m just scared about how I will do it on my own. It would keep me up at night if it weren’t for Jose. He relaxes me so I can stop thinking and get some sleep. I love him. Important to clarify I don’t love him so much that we are together all day, but I do love him some evenings and imagine it will be a couple more weeks before me and my tequila boyfriend cool off.

Being a mother is the highlight of my life and most important job I will ever have. I am proud of my son for taking this milestone step in his life, and proud of myself for raising such a wonderful human being. He is living his best life and his successes are mine. I respect and admire him. I also trust him. He makes good choices and that is because of me. He is fearless, compassionate, aware, and kind. In the interest of full disclosure, it has not been all bad. There are blessings.

My home is always clean! There are no clothes on the floor, there are no dishes in the sink, and there is something quite liberating about walking around your home naked, just because you can. I am actually writing this while naked on the couch with Jose. I’m not sure I will ever get used to my empty nest, but with Jose by side I will learn to embrace it. Happy Thanksgiving! Count your blessings, acknowledge someone worthy, and raise a glass to keeping the faith.

Happy Birthday Dad

Today, November 22, 2017, marks what would have been my father’s 79th birthday. He passed away when he was only 63, and I often wonder what he would have been like had he been blessed with old age. I wonder how my life would be different had he been here to guide me, and how different my son would be, had he had his influence for longer. It makes me sad and I feel cheated by his dying so young.

Robert Angel was an amazing man and I loved him very much. He took care of me not only when I was a child, but when I was an adult and had a child of my own. He and was the kind of dad who always had a story, or an answer, or a solution, and a joke. It did not matter what was going on in my life, he was able to help me, even if it was just to listen and offer quiet support. I miss my dad more every day.

My son reminds me of my dad. They have similar mannerisms, the same sense of humor, and the same full head of fabulous hair. I can look at my boy and see my dad, which is a blessing. I am thankful my father got to meet my son and get to know him a little bit. He has eight fantastic grandchildren, but sadly didn’t get to meet them all, so I am lucky I have memories of my dad and son together.

My father loved my son and they had a lot of special little things together. He would have been close to my boy had he lived to see him grow up. He would have been the grandpa with pictures on his phone, ready to show anyone who wanted to see his grandchildren. I am certain that just like me, he would have watched my son on television and cried. He was strong, bold, and brave. A wonderful human being.

I will go out tonight and raise a glass in my father’s honor. I will say his name out loud, and thank him for watching over me. I will talk about him with my son so he never forgets him. I will be happy to have had such an amazing dad, and sad to have lost him too early. Happy Birthday Robert Angel. You are loved, and missed, and still the head of our family. I will see you again, so I am keeping the faith.

Motherhood 101 – Growing Up

I survived week one in my empty nest. It was really hard, but I did it. The simple truth is I really miss my son. We talk several times a day, and I saw him during the week, but I miss having him at home. Not only do I miss him, but so does Fiddles the cat. When he came over today she about lost her mind. She followed him around like a dog and could not get close enough to him. When he left we both cried. Literally. We sat together on the couch and cried like a couple of babies.

When he said he was coming over I started to cook. I cooked as if I was having a dozen people over for dinner, even though it was just us. He walked in with a load of dirty laundry and I was so happy I thought I would burst. I did his laundry, fed him, watched Fiddles snuggle up, and stared at my grown up baby. He is a wonderful human being and I am proud of him. There is a piece of my heart that will always wish he was still with me, but a larger piece that is happy he has gone out on his own.

We are both out on our own for the first time and it has been bonding. We are going through the same changes and emotions. If you want to gage who is handling this time in our lives better, and make that decision based on the number of tears shed, I lose. He is thrilled about being on his own and I don’t think he has cried. I on the other hand still cry a lot, but for different reasons. I cried in the beginning because I was sad, and now I cry because I am so proud and excited for him.

I also cry because I am proud of myself. I have raised a good man. He is very much like my beloved father, and has all the good parts of his own dad, but at the end of the day this kid is just like his mom. I don’t have to worry about him because like me, he will always land on his feet. Maybe that is why I love Fiddles so much, we share that skill. My son is going to be fine and I am quickly realizing that so will I. My life is blessed and this time is important for a variety of reasons.

Life changes when you are not cleaning up after someone. I don’t have to pick up clothes off the floor, because I never throw my clothes on the floor. I never find dishes in my sink, because I put them straight into the dishwasher. I don’t have meat in my fridge, which as a vegetarian matters. Important to note I cooked a vegetarian feast for my boy on Sunday and he loved it. This are all really good things. Plus, there is the joy of walking around naked, simply because I can.

I am ready to shake things up. It is time to live my life out loud in new and different ways. I am going to slow things down so I can properly enjoy everything that is happening. My Rabbi taught me to meditate and I am going to implement her teachings into my everyday life rather than just my religious life. It is time to not only take a deep breathe, but listen to the air going in and coming out. I want to live a purposeful life, all the way down to my breathing. Listening to not only people, but things, matters.

The truth is I am lucky my son stayed at home as long as he did. He was ready to move out a long time ago, and only stayed to take care of me when I got sick. He did more than was required or expected, and I will be forever grateful. His leaving means not only have I done my job, but I have kicked cancer’s ass. I look forward to seeing my boy embrace all life has to offer. We are both growing up. It is time to count our blessings and focus on keeping the faith.

 

 

 

 

 

Getting Naked in an Empty Nest

After living together for almost twenty-two years, my son has moved out of our home. The countdown to his leaving was long, and though I tried to write this blog every day for two weeks, I couldn’t bring myself to finish it as I felt that if I didn’t post a blog about it, it wasn’t true, and therefore he wouldn’t leave. Genius thinking really. It has been very difficult for me to accept he was leaving, and even harder to understand why he would want to. I cried more in the past month than my entire life.

I am not ashamed to tell you I would spontaneously burst into tears daily since he started to pack. I would start crying for no apparent reason. I didn’t have to be talking to him, or even thinking about him, I just started crying. Not a pretty or ladylike cry either. A snot pouring out of my red nose while I was heaving cry. It wasn’t cute. I’m sure people thought I was not well as I looked truly horrible. If I saw myself on the street I would cross to the other side. I was scary and found myself talking out loud to myself quite often.

I was 18 when I left home, and beyond ready to go. I cannot imagine what my mother thought sending her baby away, and she did it with four children. It has just been my son and me so there is the additional bond of being a single mother to an only child. We are connected in special and important ways. We take care of each other and his fear and nerves are the same as mine. He was nervous to leave home and worried a lot about how I would be on my own. He is a wonderful human being and I am a lblessed mom.

In anticipation of his leaving, I purged my home. For every box he packed, I got rid of two. Each day I would take a load to Goodwill and they’d ask me how I was doing since I turned up with swollen, red eyes. It was rough and an aching I had not ever experienced before. I love this young man more than anyone or anything, and aside from knowing I would miss him being in my home, I have never lived alone in my entire life. It is the beginning of a new and unchartered life for me, which is both exciting and scary.

When he left last weekend I cried like a baby, but each day since Saturday has been a little bit easier. I find myself wondering where he is, and if he is home safe, so I haven’t been sleeping very well. Yesterday was a turning point for me. As I was sitting in his empty room, wondering if I would ever get used to his not living with me, my girlfriend called to check on me. Before I told her what I was doing, she asked if I was sitting in my son’s room crying. She knows me well.

I told her I was whimpering not crying, which was a big step. She told me I needed to snap out of it and the first step to embracing this stage in my life was to get naked. She pointed out I had a child in my home for over two decades and with him out on his own, it was time to be a grown up in new and exciting ways. She insisted I take all my clothes off and walk around my home naked. I told her she was nuts, but I did as instructed, mostly to be able to mock her stupid idea. I was suddenly crying and naked.

I then spent the next hour walking around naked. I made a cup of tea, straightened up, had a chat with the cat, organized my closet, and chose a new paint color for my room to brighten things up a bit. There was something very liberating about being naked in the comfort of my own home. I felt like a grown up in a whole new way. It was great. Really, really, great. It was also the moment I stopped crying and started to appreciate what an important time in my life this is. Stripping down put things into perspective.

I have raised a man all by myself. He is funny, smart, rooted in his faith, compassionate, empathetic, and supporting himself financially. He is almost 22 years old, working, pursuing his passion, finding his way, and unaware that the last three times we spoke on the phone, his mom was naked. My nest may be empty, by I’m naked, and it is all very exciting. I am embracing being alone. By embracing, of course I mean I am trying really hard to embrace being alone. Change has begun.

I will worry about him every minute of every day, but the truth is that I would worry the same way even if he still lived with me. That is how motherhood works. I love him and am blessed that he loves me back and left because he wanted to spread his wings, not flee the nest. We are close and his leaving will only make us closer. Important to note I did hire him to help me with something at work so I get to see him during the week. Don’t judge. I really needed the help and why not him?!

In the interest of full disclosure, I am writing this blog while naked. I am in my bed, naked, and it is fabulous. I put a chain on my front door so should my son come by unannounced, I can grab a robe. You think of these things when you begin a naked life. This has been the hardest two weeks of my life. I honestly did not think it would hurt so much to have him go. I have put all my energy into preparing him to leave, but never prepared myself for the day he would go. Motherhood is tricky like that, always throwing surprises your way.

This weekend I will paint, reorganize things, and turn his room into a guest room/office, rather than the shrine it has been since he left.  I will always have a room for him, and he will always know he can come back any time he wants. He just needs to call first because chances are I will be naked. I am happy today. Happy with my accomplishments as a mother, happy my boobs look so good at 51, and hopeful that one day I will have a great man here with me, naked, and keeping the faith.

Motherhood

I am blessed to the mother of a wonderful human being. My son is a remarkable young man and I love him very much. Every mother thinks she loves her kid more than every other mother on the planet, but I’m certain I do. I adore this kid and am proud of him on all levels. He makes me happy and I don’t remember what my life looked like before he was in it. He means the world to me and I love watching his life unfold and his dreams come true.

I am blessed to the daughter of two wonderful human beings. I lost my dad quite a few years ago and miss him a little bit more everyday. My mother is amazing and has been visiting from Canada for the past couple of weeks. She will be in LA for another 3 days and the thought of her leaving makes me cry. I literally start crying if I think about taking her to the airport. She makes me happy and loved in a very profound way. She is both fun and funny.

It is an interesting revelation when you realize your mother loves you in the same was you love your child. I have had many revelations about my relationship with both my mom and my son this week, and with the clarity comes deeper levels of love for my mother. My son is moving out of the home we have shared for almost 22 years in 17 days. I am anticipating his leaving with pride, fear, happiness, and sadness. The countdown has begun has put me on edge.

My mother had four children move away from her. I don’t know how her heart handled it. I feel sad about his going, and she felt that sadness four times. I feel worried about what his life will be like without me there. My mother felt that worry four times. I have actually never lived on my own in my whole life. I went from home, to school, to a roommate, to a husband, to my son. He has been my roommate for over two decades.

There is joy of course because this is the natural progression of life. I am blessed to have a healthy and accomplished child. I suppose one could look forward to walking around home naked, not having to do another person’s laundry, and not having to clean up after anyone but myself. I may get to a point where I enjoy those things, but all I can do now is cry at the thought of them. I don’t want him to go, but at the same time I am ready for him to go.

He is my only child and I raised him on my own, so there are multiple levels of connection between us, which makes it all just a little sadder and harder.I will be sad when my mother leaves this week, and sad when my son leaves at the end of the month. I will wonder around my home, probably sleep in his room for a little while, call him nonstop, worry nonstop, and call my mother for comfort as she has been through it all herself, four times. It will be a challenging couple of weeks.

I am emotional on a normal day, but every emotion is now on high alert. I am willing myself to not lose my mind when I get home and see moving boxes everywhere. I am praying that when he walks out the door I don’t grab onto his legs and beg him not to go. I am hopeful that not only will he spread his wings and fly, but so will I. Motherhood is my greatest blessing. Being a mother and loving my mother combine into true happiness. Everything will be okay if I just keep the faith.

 

 

My Mid-Life Crisis

New car gift. Clipping path included.

A few weeks ago I decided to buy a new car.  I have had my car for 10 years and even with 115000 miles logged in, she had plenty of life left in her. I am not really a car person, but it was time for me to do something special for myself, so I went with a new car. I found the perfect little car and ordered it exactly how I wanted. I hit a rough patch with the first car salesman I met, but I was set on getting a new car, so when the dealership called to right his wrong, I appreciated the effort and listened.

After going back and forth on the car, I eventually decided against it. I figured the glitches were a sign I wasn’t supposed to get it. I was going to set the car aside for a bit and revisit it another time. Then on Thursday I went to see my doctor, and two and a half years after my cancer diagnosis, there is a little situation that needs to come out. I cried for five minutes, then I sent an email to the owner of Keyes of Van Nuys, Mr. Howard Tenenbaum, who had reached out the week before.

I let Howard know what I needed to be able to pull the trigger on the car. I heard back from him the same day, letting me know he took care of everything. The Sales Manager, Lewis Cook, went above and beyond for me. He worked with my schedule and budget, making it a priority to show me the customer service Keyes strives to provide. I was treated with respect and kindness, and left the lot on Saturday with my new baby. She is beautiful and made me happy on a sad day, which is good because I ain’t got time to be sad.

Louis Venegas the Finance Manager walked me through the process quickly and with expertise. Lewis Cook kept an eye on my signing of the papers and ensured I got VIP treatment. Even Howard came in to thank me for my business. It was a great experience and I will now remember the day because of the car, not because of the medical update. The gentlemen of Keyes were wonderful, having no idea what I was going through, simply wanting my experience to be a good one. Bravo.

Tomorrow I will hit the ground running on my medical situation and get it sorted. There will be tests, and surgery, and God willing many more anniversaries to celebrate. I am fine and my life is blessed. If you pray, throw my name in if you wouldn’t mind. I will keep you posted on what is happening. I am looking forward to driving to my appointment tomorrow in my fantastic new car. It is important to look cute while you kick some ass, and I look super cute in my super cute new car.

Please note I reserve the right to continue my midlife crisis after I deal with the current pain in my ass. Surely a new car won’t be the only thing I do. Maybe I’ll jet off to Australia for dinner. Again. Maybe I will change my hair color. Again. Maybe I will adopt a dog! Maybe I will find the man of dreams. Maybe I know him already! At the end of the day I feel good and my life is blessed. I am thankful, grateful, hopeful, and keeping the faith.

 

The Highs and Lows of Paris

I have spent the past 12 days in Europe with my son. He went to Greece and Italy, then joined me in London and Paris. It was a wonderful holiday and watching the joy and wonder on his face as he discovered parts of the world he has always wanted to see, was everything. Thanks to Facetime, he was able to take me along on his adventure and it was spectacular.  I will treasure this time together always.

We took the Eurostar from London to Paris and spent 28 hours walking everywhere. We strolled endlessly and saw amazing things. We had lunch atop the Eiffel Tower, ate crepes under the Arc de Triomphe, drank wine on the Champs-Elysses, and said a prayer at Notre Dame. It was magical and that I shared it with my beloved boy was special. I am the mother of a remarkable human being.

I look at the pictures today and I smile because it was a great trip, but also because there is proof of the trip. When my son was young there were no selfies, just me and a camera. I have a ton pf pictures of my son growing up, but very few of us together. I was always taking the pictures, so the shots of us are limited. It is sad, but makes the pictures I’m able to take now even more important.

I look at the pictures from Paris and can remember what we were talking about as we strolled along. It was very special and I am happy that when my son visits Paris again with his wife, or takes his children, he will be able to tell them that he went there with his mother for the first time, and is happy to share it with them now. Perhaps that is silly, but it matters to me that we build a history together.

I cannot think about our time in Paris and not think of the unbearable sadness we also saw. No matter where we went, there were Syrian families on the streets. Mother and fathers with their young children, looking broken, but hopeful. They would smile and one could see the pain and humiliation in their eyes, while also seeing the hope and relief. It was tragic and demands serious attention.

Watching a woman breastfeed her baby on the street, surrounded by wealth, when it is clear she needs a shower and a meal herself, is heartbreaking. In what world does it make sense that living on the street with your children is safer than living in your home? We live in a time when we can see everything that is going on in the world, but when you see it in person, it touches your heart in a different way.

Paris is the most romantic city in the world. From every location, every direction, every time of day, there is no view that is not beautiful. It is a city that inspires love, and she has now inspired me to be more loving. Me and my son left Paris wanting to do more, wanting to help, wanting to not pretend that the problems of the world are not also our problems. We need to make changes, quickly.

I am inspired by my son’s view of the world and the work that needs to be done.  Paris was the highlight of my trip for a lot of reasons. I saw my son as man, not a boy. I looked into the eyes of a woman sitting in the street and heard her ask for help, even though she never spoke. I was inspired to not only appreciate the love I have, but want to spread it. Paris has demanded that I keep the faith.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My London Life

I have been spending a lot of time in London over the past year and I love it here. I am sitting in my room, looking out the window as the sun is desperate to break though, watching people walk past, and feeling very happy. This city is alive and hopeful and even though there is palpable stress and fear, my soul is at peace here. On many levels, and for many reasons, it feels like London is home.

To clarify, home is ultimately where my son is, so with him in London with me this week, it truly is home. We have had a terrific time and he feels the same way in London that I do. It is a great city, with great people, namely our friends J and S, who I have written about often, and call Victoria and David Beckham. They are wonderful human beings and we truly love them and their children.

We spent last night at the Beckham Castle and I slept like a baby. I have not slept well since I got to Engalnd because internal clock has been screwed up due to all my traveling. I went from Los Angeles, to London, to Los Angeles, to Las Vegas, to Los Angeles, to Toronto, to Los Angeles, to Melbourne, to Los Angeles, to London, all in 10 days. Sleep has been elusive, last night however, I slept like a baby.

I went to bed at 10:00 pm and was Sleeping Beauty for a divine 9 hours. I don’t worry about anything when I am there, and that peace invites sleep because I’m very comfortable and happy there. Today my son is at Wembley stadium with the oldest Beckham son, watching two football teams compete to get into the Premiere League. It makes me happy when these two young men hang out.

My son spent the past week on holiday in Greece and Italy. He went on his own and it was a great adventure. It takes courage to travel on your own and his bravery inspires me. (To be clear, it also scares the crap out of me!) I am seeing my son in a new light following his trip. He has grown up somehow and it is exciting. He is 21, and will always be my baby, but he is also an amazing man.

Tomorrow I am going to take my favorite person on the planet to Paris. We’ll spend a glorious day walking around, seeing the sights, and eating the perfection that is French cuisine. It has been over 30 years since I was last in Paris, and to take my son there for his first time is special. We’ll be there for 28 hours, so will jam pack as much as we can into our day and I hope it doesn’t rain!

I love my London life and being here has allowed me to have my son come over and see parts of the world he has wanted to visit since he was little. He always wanted to see the world and it is an honor to watch his face as tells me about what he has seen and done. He is a remarkable child and being even a small part of his dreams coming true is the greatest gift I can receive as his mother.

Israel is home because I was born there and it is where my parents met and fell in love. Canada is home because it is where I grew up and where my family is. Los Angeles is home because my son was born there and it is where he is building his life. London is home because it makes me comfortable and happy. I’m a lucky girl to feel connected to so many places. I’m grateful and keeping the faith.

Prayers for Manchester

Last week I flew to London with my son, where we spent a day together, then he left on a wonderful adventure. He is spending 6 days on a whirlwind European trip. It freaks me out of course, because the world is scary, but I am happy for him. He is travelling alone so he can make his own schedule, see what he wants, and do what he wants, when he wants.  I am thrilled he is brave, and very proud he gets that quality from me.

Following the attack this week in Manchester, I feel frightened all the time. I walked to the market in London today and was so nervous I went home before making it there. I watched kids on scooters, enjoying a sunny London day, and I wanted them to all go home and stay safe. It is horrible to be on edge like this. I worry about my son being on his own, but am thankful he’s not here, where we are on a high terror alert.

Last time I was in London there was an attack on Westminster Bridge, and now innocent children have been murdered in Manchester. My heart is broken and I want to look away, but find myself unable to turn off the news. I am on edge, which makes me angry. The attack in Manchester makes me really angry. The targeting of children is beyond horrific and my heart breaks for the families who have been touched by hatred in this way.

From the mothers who were killed while waiting to pick their kids, and the kids who saved up money to see their favorite singer, I am unable to process what it was like for them. The world is dark and I am seeing it from a scarier perspective in London. There are police and armed guards everywhere, which is comforting, but they are in the same danger as those of us they protect. How can we feel safe when these attacks come with an element of surprise?

We are living in a time of great unknown and it can be paralyzing. I want to empower myself to be brave and not let terrorism dictate how I live my life, but I am a mother and so it does. My son has been checking in every few hours while he is on holiday, and it is keeping me sane. In the end he does it as much for his sake as mine. He is worried about me being in London when there is so much going on. The communication matters.

My boy will join me in London on Saturday and we will spend another few days in Europe together before returning to Los Angeles. It will be wonderful to be in London with him as this is my favorite city and he is my favorite person. We will be cautious, and we will be together. Life goes on, but we must never forget these attacks and never forget the souls who were lost. To the amazing people of Manchester, my prayers go out to you. I am holding you close and keeping the faith.

Rape, Recovery & Celine Dion

Las Vegas - April 7. 2017

When I was in my 20’s I was the victim of a violent crime while living in Toronto. I spent a year in and out of the hospital, followed by a year in and out of court. My attacker was convicted of kidnapping, forcible confinement, aggravated assault, and rape. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison, never received parole, and when he served his sentence, was found to be a continuing danger to society and deported to his country of birth.

I have never written in detail about what happened, and never will. It was violent and continues to haunt me. It changed who I was, and while the scars will physically and emotionally never go away, I was not broken and have managed to not only survive, but do things I thought would be impossible, including getting married and having a son. I invested in myself, and years of therapy, to build a life blessed beyond measure.

Important to note what I went through is not the subject here. I share it only to give context. I do not share the details because they don’t matter, not because I am ashamed. I fought hard to recover from my attack and my advice to anyone with a similar experience, is to get help. There are people who will support and believe you. Do not carry it on your own. Be brave and get the help and justice you deserve.

When I was taken to the hospital, going in and out of consciousness, I was aware of what had happened and was trying to get as much information to the police as possible. I remember being naked on a table, having a rape kit done, and crying. It is the moment I remember most vividly. The nurse was trying so hard to make the situation manageable. She put music on to bring calmness to the room. That choice changed my life.

I heard what can only be described as the voice of an angel. She was singing in French and even though I did not understand anything she was saying, it felt as if she were singing directly to me. As I floated above my own body, watching it being violated again, I listened to the singer and felt embraced. I didn’t know what she was saying, yet felt like she was there to help me. It was the exact moment Celine Dion became a part of my life.

When I was in the hospital she was all I listened to. I learned all the words, to all her songs, in French. I don’t speak French, but I can sing in French! I made up the translations of what she was saying. Sometimes the songs were loving and encouraging, other times they were about revenge and killing my attacker. It was quite fabulous. Without any hesitation, and with complete certainty, I can say Celine Dion saved my life.

Since that fateful day, she has been a constant companion. Every milestone since then has included Celine. I danced to Celine Dion with my father at my wedding, and I listened to her when my son was born. She sang the mother-son dance at my son’s Bar Mitzvah, and is the background music on his montage video. She sat up with me the day my son got his driver’s license and I waited for him to get home. She walks with me every day.

I listen to Celine Dion when I am happy, sad, worried, tired, energized, strong, and weak. I have literally not spent one single day in the past 28 years without her being a part of it. Sometimes for just a minute, and other times for hours, she is always with me and I listen every day. I love her in ways only I will ever understand. She was the light on my darkest day and I will love her for the rest of my life. She matters to me.

When I was first married my husband took me to see her in concert. She was opening for Michael Bolton and it was the first time I was going to see her in person. I cried throughout her show and found it difficult to breathe. Being so close made me happy, but sad. I don’t remember much of the show, other than the fact I knew every word, to every song, and looked like a creepy super fan who was certain nobody loved her like I did.

I never saw her in concert again. It made me nervous to be near her, and ultimately gave me flashbacks that were very difficult. I loved her privately and continued to share my life with her. I sent her gifts to mark the birth of her children, and sent a birth announcement for my son. I wrote her when she married her beloved Renee, and again when he passed away. I wrote her when my attacker went to prison, and again when he was released.

It never bothered me that it might be weird or stalker-ish. I was simply reaching out to the person who brought me back to life. When I was diagnosed with cancer I decided to go and see her in Las Vegas. I was certain if I saw her she’d help heal me again. Ridiculous to be sure, but I knew it would make me feel better. My cancer was a beast, and I never made it that year. I turned 50, and again planned to go to Vegas to celebrate.

The ultimate gift to myself after surviving cancer would be to see Celine, but cancer returned and I was sidelined. I felt everything would be okay if I could get to her. Months ago I told my son I was finally going to see her, on my 51st birthday, and he wanted to come with me. He knows how much she means to me, and why, and wanted to be there for what would be an important moment in my history, so we made plans.

I bought airplane tickets, booked a room at Caesar’s Palace, and counted down the days until my birthday. I had waited years for this moment, and to share it with my son, the most important person in my life and the reason my heart beats, was everything. The day finally came and I was so excited I could hardly stand it. I was working in London and flew back just for 3 days so I could make the trip to Vegas with my boy. I was tired, but thrilled.

When we walked to the theater and I saw the first glimpse of a picture of her, I started to cry. I cried walking in, I cried when I sat down, and I cried continuously for the next 5 hours. Long after the show was over, I was still crying. Celine was remarkable and I would go back and see it every day for the rest of my life. Celine has an incredible voice and my son and me sat in awe of how wonderful she looked and sounded. Amazing.

I sang along with Celine and at the end of the show the woman next to me said it was impressive I knew all the words as there were songs she wasn’t familiar with. I sat holding my son’s hand, taking in the powerful moment. I had waited so long to see her, and wasn’t disappointed. She was everything I knew she would be and felt proud when my son told me she was insanely talented and he was blown away by her. It was a magical night.

At one point in her show members of the audience were able to go up by the stage. She shook hands and engaged with the crowd, but my legs were frozen and I couldn’t do it. I somehow felt I could not be that close to her or I might faint, or perhaps vomit. It was hilarious. All these years later, being close to her was overwhelming on some levels, and beautiful on others. It left me feeling thankful and excited for many things.

I’m not sure why I shared this today. Perhaps it is just as simple as wanting to say thank you. Thank you to Celine Dion for everything she did for me. I have always had the ability to count blessings and pride myself on being a compassionate and empathetic human being. I feel proud of the life I have built for myself, and my son, and now look at life with a new perspective having seen Celine.  I am better for having loved this woman.

If my sharing today helps one person, that squashes the fear of writing it. I am listening to Celine’s Falling into You album and feeling brave and free. It feels good.  I will probably regret writing it at some point, and want to delete it, but I will try to remain brave because I hope this inspires someone else to be brave. Trauma can be debilitating, but only if we allow it to be. It is important to let others know that blessings will come.

Thank you Celine. You saved me and I am grateful. It was an honor to see you in person, am blessed my son was by my side, and thrilled he is now a fan not only because of what you did for me, but your amazing talent.  I wish for you and your children all that you wish for yourselves, and more.  I still think I probably love you more than anyone else, but am happy so many love you. With love, admiration, and thanks, I am keeping the faith.

I’m tired of people thinking I ‘retired’ from my job as a rabbi because I’m a mom

If I had a dime for every time someone asked me why I “retired,” I would be a very rich woman. Please, let me set the record straight: I am not retired, I did not retire, and I don’t plan on retiring any time soon. Since when does leaving your job to take care of your family equal “retirement?”

I would say that this transition, if it had a (good or appropriate) name (and don’t get me started on the term “off-ramping”), is quite the opposite of retirement.

It’s been almost three years since I left my post as a rabbi at a dynamic and vibrant congregation to be a mother full-time. My third child had just turned one, and I felt a profound tug towards home. I wanted to spend more time with my young children; I wanted to be a firmer anchor in their lives. And so I decided to change gears and veer away from the path I had paved since ordination.

At the time, I wrote:

“I am not retiring or taking leave of the rabbinate. On the contrary, I will continue to be a rabbi in every respect of the word. My pulpit may focus on different issues and my congregation may be a bit smaller, but it is a vital rabbinate all the same. The Torah I teach will likely be rooted in sports and toys and imaginary friends; it will be filled with itsy bitsy spiders and twinkly little stars and soaked in laughter and tears.  It is the Torah of motherhood, and while I’ve spent part of my days studying it up until now, I’ll now spend all of my days immersed in it.”

These days, I am wholly immersed in the Torah of motherhood, from the moment I wake up until the moment I go to sleep, and often many moments in between. And as magical as so many of these moments are, there are just as many that feel, well, not so magical.

As the primary caregiver, I am the point person for all things child-related and, most often, the first responder for diaper duty, tantrum defusing, meal prep, and all the other glam aspects of stay-at-home parenthood. And while I don’t adhere to any particular dress code or leave home to go to an office, I take great umbrage when the totality of what I do is not classified as “work.”

Parenting is work. Motherhood is work. Raising children is work. It must be understood that leaving a paid position to take care of one’s family is still a transition from one job to another. One job may be part of the “work force” as it is most traditionally defined, but the other is also, most definitely “work,” despite the lack of benefits, the absence of any salary to speak of, and the general lack of esteem given to such domestic roles. Child rearing is intensely challenging, utterly demanding, and downright exhausting work.

Full-time parenting is certainly not akin to “retirement,” and any mere suggestion of the pairing is actually quite offensive. (If only a full-time parent could fill his or her schedule with golf and tennis, pickle ball and pinochle!). Moreover, just because a parent leaves his or her job to care for family doesn’t mean he or she is abandoning their career! Leaving a job doesn’t mean vacating the work force forever. The path out is not one without a return; and yet, far too often, the return is near impossible to find.

It aggravates me when people assume that I left my career forever when I stepped away from the pulpit. It frustrates me when I find myself fielding questions as to why I “left the rabbinate,” and how I’m taking to “retirement.” It’s maddening, it’s demeaning, and it’s short sighted. Not only do I picture myself returning to the rabbinate, I don’t feel like I ever really left.  I am still a rabbi, even in my primary role as a mother. I am still a rabbi in the way I think and the way I act and in the way I raise my children.

I may have stepped away from a traditional career path, and I may have left the every day work of a pulpit rabbi to do the every day work of a “mother rabbi.” But far from diminishing my rabbinate, it has enhanced it tremendously. I believe I am a better rabbi now than I was three years ago.

And yet, until we as a society legitimize the work of the parent, I, and many others like me will remain on the outside, looking in—when we never should have been ushered “out” in the first place.

This article was reprinted with permission from Kveller.com, a fast-growing website for smart, savvy moms looking for a Jewish twist on parenting. Follow Kveller on Facebook and sign up for daily digests here.

Parenting: The Torah of motherhood

My road from twice-a-year Jew to Torah-study groupie took 40 years. With the heady days of the High Holy Days, Sukkot and Simchat Torah still fresh in my mind, it’s worth examining how I got here. 

During my youth, my family and I attended synagogue only during the High Holy Days. Even then, like most adolescents, no matter the Jewish preschool, Jewish summer camp, bat mitzvah or confirmation, the rabbi’s sermon was my cue to flee the sanctuary with my sister to find the other kids in the parking lot tearing into a purloined challah snatched from the synagogue kitchen.  

As I got older, I began to appreciate the meditative, communal experience. After every High Holy Days season, the spiritual renewal that filled me had me vowing I’d be back the very next Shabbat. But, inevitably, by the next week the excuses came readily — “I’m too tired,” “We’re out of town” or “I’ll go next week” — until the weeks piled up and the High Holy Days were back again.

So what happened to make me a Torah- study groupie? Eleven and a half years ago I became a parent, which means I am now the mother of a middle-schooler, and I need as much help as I can get. As kids get older, the problems get thornier. I pine for inspiration and guidance, for clues to being a better parent than I often feel equipped to be. When a friend gushed about Torah study, calling it her weekly “vitamin,” I decided I had nothing to lose. And while I have dog-eared my share of parenting books, ranging from sleep training to sibling rivalry, I have found that the biggest questions are answered in The Great Big Parenting Book — Torah. 

It’s a best-seller, but it’s not an easy read. It doesn’t give away its wisdom to those hoping for a quick skim. For example, during the High Holy Days, we read one of the Torah’s grimmest parenting stories — the Binding of Isaac. Those are pretty words for a nightmarish chapter — a father leading his son up a mountain, tying him to a rock and preparing to sacrifice him with a blade through the sternum. What parenting advice could I hope to get from that catastrophe?

At my synagogue, Kehillat Israel Reconstructionist Congregation in Pacific Palisades, Rabbi Amy Bernstein, who is also a mother, gleaned something positive out of this horror story. “God stopped Abraham,” she said, “before he hurt Isaac. Sometimes we need a voice from God to stop us from hurting our kids.” 

To the sanctuary full of well-meaning parents, she wasn’t talking about physical hurt. My mind catalogued those moments when I wished I could take back certain words I’d uttered. Greeting my sixth-grader after school with, “How much homework do you have?” instead of “Hi, kiddo, it’s great to see you.” Nagging my second-grader to finish his homework instead of paying attention to the imaginary world he is creating with Legos. Sharing with my friends stories I considered “cute” but that would embarrass my kids. Telling my children in any given moment what they are doing wrong instead of what they are doing right. These are the times I need an inner voice counseling restraint, an angel on my shoulder advising, “Don’t criticize. Don’t pile on the stress. Bite your tongue.” I know my sons would appreciate it if I were to bite my tongue during baseball games, instead of singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” from the bleachers. (Restraint is so hard!) I resolved to try harder.

With the new school year well under way, there’s another kind of hurt I am even more troubled by — the pain inflicted by their peers, the slights, ribbing and put-downs that can penetrate guileless thin skin, or even thicker skin. My son’s friends engage in banter that tiptoes along the line of insults, jokes that cut, a contest of one-upmanship, which my son frequently reports in dejected tones. One boy gets made fun of for the color Gatorade he drinks or for wearing glasses. Another is ridiculed for liking the Clippers or for the color of his shorts. They toss the word gay around as pejorative. Did I mention that these are their friends? I struggle with how to handle this not-quite-bullying-but-hurts-just-the-same comments. I need ancient wisdom to tell me how to be a loving guide through pre-adolescence and beyond, to salve the injury of having your feelings hurt by those you know best. 

I think back to the story of Isaac’s near-catastrophe and find two more clues. First, God didn’t intervene until the harm was imminent and irreparable. By the time God stepped in, things looked pretty bleak for Isaac. Barring Isaac pulling some sort of superhero moves, bursting through his restraints like the Hulk, kicking Abraham’s weapon down the mountain and shouting, “What the hell was that, Dad?” God had to intervene. But only at the last possible moment.

Great. I need to wait until there’s a metaphorical knife at my kid’s chest before stepping in? That seems too much. But since my Jewish mother’s instinct is to jump in at the slightest hint of a problem, it’s good to set a high bar. Usually I’m ready to call in the cavalry when he’s over it. It’s not easy to see that kid struggling on the rock, but if my kid can get out of the mess on his own, I have to let him. 

Second, I think about what to do with hurt feelings that linger. I imagine what a modern therapist might tell Isaac to make sense of what happened: “What Abraham did had nothing to do with how he feels about you. He loves you! He had his own issues.” I can tell my son the same truth, that when people say mean things, it usually means they are suffering. It has nothing to do with him. I can show him his power, praise his good heart and instill in him the self-reliance to tell his friends to knock it off, to stand up for himself or to walk away. And the choice is his. 

A of couple months into the school year, the reports of meanness are getting farther apart. I’m quite sure that, as usual, his bruises hurt me longer and deeper than they bother him. I need to remember that he is more resilient than I am. Like Isaac getting up off that rock, brushing himself off and walking down the mountain, he is moving on with the rest of his story. 

I may not have appreciated what Judaism had to offer when I was a child and all I wanted was for the services to be over, but I am grateful to have kept the connection to my family’s faith all these years. It’s there for me now when I need it. Every week, I’ll be back in Torah study with the group of intelligent, curious souls, mining more of our ancient stories for modern parenting gold.


Laura Diamond is the editor of the anthology “Deliver Me: True Confessions of Motherhood” and is working on her first novel. She is a member of Kehillat Israel Reconstructionist Congregation of Pacific Palisades.

Learn to listen to your own kid, not the voices in your head

There is some unwritten statute of limitations on how long one can whine about a crappy childhood, a negligent parent, a few too many chicken pot pies, summers with the grandparents, days spent on Greyhound buses and with dubious caregivers and creepy neighbors. There is just a moment in an adult’s life when the complaining and sad-sacking about how our parents got divorced, or lost custody, or bailed, or otherwise stank up the joint is just kind of pathetic. Let’s face it, that moment had come and gone for me.

Then I had a child myself, and twinges of pain in that amputated leg known as my relationship with my mother started to send fiery jolts into my nervous system. I thought I would get a do-over (as opposed to my childhood, which was a do-under), but instead I got something unexpected: When my son was around 18 months old, I started to freak out. Whatever it is that made her look at the job of motherhood the way an angry teenager views a Friday night shift behind the Frialator, whatever she had, maybe I caught it. 

This is the day, I would think, driving my toddler to day care, or swinging him at the park, or slipping a Grover T-shirt over his giant, blond head, this is the day it happens. This is the day I start to suck at this. This is the day I start to hate it. This is the day of reckoning, when I realize that I’ve been judging my mom for not enjoying my company or any part of raising me, but I’m no better. And this is the day the symptoms start manifesting in me. This is the day I realize that while I see other mothers having moments of both great struggle and magical, indescribable delight, I will only experience the former, because there are just some bullets you can’t dodge.

When I started to panic about my ability to be a parent, it wasn’t about physically being there or providing, it was about something else; it was about the ineffable ability to enjoy my child, because as sure as I won’t forget the phone number of Haystack Pizza down the street, or the smell of the back of a city bus during Indian summer, or the look of abject boredom on my mom’s face across the dinner table, I also won’t forget the feeling of being a tedious wretch, a burden that was ruining everything.

Here’s where having an OK childhood rescues you. Most new moms, I gather, realize early on that the venture isn’t wholly exalted.

They catch on to the reality that normal might mean 17 thrilling, awe-inspiring minutes in a 12-hour day of parenting. Kids can be annoying, they can dawdle, they can cry uncontrollably at what to us is nothing (the green cup is dirty, here’s the yellow one; see you in 27 minutes when you have come back from the brink of insanity). They can be scary, flying off couches and spiking high fevers. They can be, as a matter of course, a bit dull, unless watching the same video of a garbage truck dumping a bin of trash into its hopper repeatedly on YouTube is somehow gratifying for you.

It was about a month into my panic when I turned the ship around. And by the ship I mean my Honda. My son, on the way to day care, uncharacteristically moaned from his car seat, “Don’t want to go to school.”

We pulled over into the parking lot of an Albertsons. I stared back at him.

“Want to ride train,” he said. A tear fell onto his puffy coat.

That was the moment, wedged between a meth-head blasting classical music from his station wagon and a Mini-Cooper glinting in the sun, that I became not a women running from a fear that she will fail at parenting, but a woman running toward one simple day at the mall with her baby. And off we went to the indoor mall in Sherman Oaks with the Ladybug train that runs past the chain stores all day long. Phoning day care to say we wouldn’t make it, cancelling any plans I had for that day, I knew that nothing could make me happier, and in knowing that, I was at least partially free.

If I love being with this boy, even just to share a Wetzel and ride a rickety indoor train for hours, if I love this more than anything else I could possibly imagine doing today, then I can stop worrying. If I had been playing tag with the bogeyman that was “turning into my mother,” this was one very small, yet somehow enormous, “NOT IT.”

No one in my family is sentimental, and I think that’s OK. I don’t have a baby book for my son, I didn’t keep track of when he got his first tooth or tricycle.

That’s why lately, pregnant with my second boy, when I have syrupy thoughts about the baby I can only just now feel moving and kicking, it’s like a million cars turning around in a million parking lots. I love you already, I think, as I rub my hand over my stomach. Sappy. However, when I find myself thinking that this little being is good company already, and enjoying him even now, before he is born, I feel myself turning and turning in the right direction.

In a way, it’s not about my own mother anymore. I may not honor her, specifically, but as I think about that commandment I think the best I can do is to honor motherhood in general, and I can only do that by letting myself get better at it as I go. It’s on me now, as it has been for a very long time.

It’s on me to know that sometimes it’s OK to be less than thrilled with the minutiae of motherhood, the ordering of diaper cream online, the scraping of uneaten carrots from an Elmo plate. It’s OK.

As long as there are days, and they will come when I can’t predict them, when my main function in this life is not to drive my babies forward, but to turn them around. If I can find supreme usefulness in sitting on a train to nowhere, just staring at my baby as he stares into the world, just taking him in and letting the smell of his hair and the feel of his chubby hands fall into the pages of the baby book in my mind, I am not just avoiding becoming my mother, I am getting to stop at all the stations she missed. “All aboard,” says my son to the mall conductor. All aboard.

Teresa Strasser is a Los Angeles Press Club and Emmy Award-winning writer and the author of “Exploiting My Baby: Because It’s Exploiting Me” (Penguin). She blogs at ExploitingMyBaby.com.