Connecting to Judaism Through Picture Books (Even if You’re Not Jewish!)

I’m going through our mail from when we were away, and the most exciting pieces are books from PJ Library. We are lucky to get free books from them every few weeks for all three of my daughters. The books help us to get a little glimpse into Jewish culture and holidays. And honestly the books we have received thus far make Judaism so exciting – from Passover to journeys to Israel, my girls are definitely engaged in each book because they are so celebratory and have great illustrations to boot. This generosity came from connecting with a PJ Library table at the Boston Children’s Museum. It seemed too good to be true at the time – free picture books! – but the books keep on showing up in our mailbox. Mazel to PJ Library for “doing a mitzvah” for our family!

Baltimore to Boston Road Trip Library

Some professional reading, a memoir because I’m on a Mary Karr kick, Lonely City bought from the Baltimore Museum of Art and some books to browse that I picked up from a Little Free Library in my Mom’s neighborhood. Plus I printed out a Wikipedia article on the 7 Deadly Sins for a project my Mom and I are doing. (Music = Pixies!)

Oh, the Places I’ll Make Art

I purchased this gem of a D.I.Y. book yesterday at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore.

After a wonderful “artiful” school year, I am growing back into an artistic identity and exploring ways to make art as much as possible in simple ways.

This book is so full of possibility. Will I seed bomb a neglected lot of Boston? Will I make fortunes to leave in random places? Or should I place found photos in my favorite places?

I look forward to getting in touch with my inner Guerilla Girl. Stay tuned!

“She anxiously nodded yes and we ate Mexican.”

Do you like to read aloud to your friends and family? I do. And this week, a trio of articles served as a catalyst for discourse and especially for wild gut-busting laughter during some family car trips.

The Article: How We Are Ruining America by David Brooks

The premise of this piece is that upper middle class Americans deliberately move their families away from the other half (read: “the poor and less educated”) and therefore limit opportunities for inclusion. This essentially bars class mobility. Basically, it is a caste system – locking out the untouchables, with little access to the upper classes. Education is a key part of this, and the system for college admissions is rigged to prioritize children of parents who are wealthy enough to play the game.

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While Brooks’ premise is aligned with my experiences with my own education and my profession as an educator, he makes a BIG MISTAKE – a paragraph so distracting that it is ripe for parody, and, well, just pretty dumb.

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Here it is – in all its glory:

Recently I took a friend with only a high school degree to lunch. Insensitively, I led her into a gourmet sandwich shop. Suddenly I saw her face freeze up as she was confronted with sandwiches named “Padrino” and “Pomodoro” and ingredients like soppressata, capicollo and a striata baguette. I quickly asked her if she wanted to go somewhere else and she anxiously nodded yes and we ate Mexican.

This is a lesson in writing – reread and ensure that your discourse is aligned and on message. The paragraphs before and after are written with on message and with academic language that fits the tone of the rest of the article. Brooks attempts to use a personal anecdote to connect with the reader – but it is an incredible distraction from his message and drew enormous critical responses about this single paragraph (see the fun part below). The poignant parts are forgotten as America reacts to the mention of delicatessen.

Also interesting to note that Italian is perceived as sophisticated (a change from just a century and change from when Italians were outcasts and even lynched) whereas Mexican is clearly just a step above a Miller High Life,  a bag of pork rinds, and some stale circus peanuts.

And now for the fun part…

Exhibit A: From the poignant blog The Outline, an  op-ed piece by Alex Nichols

Stop patronizing the working class: Why are pundits obsessed with Applebee’s and farm workers?

BOOM! Here’s the question on everyone’s miss after reading the sandwich shop story:

“First of all, how does someone so stereotypically provincial manage to befriend a high-profile Times columnist?”

And the following paragraph (definitely read this one aloud to a friend!) rips the equally-obsessed-with-how-the-lower-castes-handle-food columnists anti-gay conservative Rod Dreher and Bloomberg columnist Meghan McArdle a new one:

There is indeed a pattern here, but it isn’t that working-class Americans universally break out in hives when confronted with food other than hamburgers and mac ‘n’ cheese — it’s that no one wants to go out to lunch with any of these pompous hacks.

BOOM! Ain’t that the truth!

Exhibit B: From The AV Club‘s Sean O’Neal

Explaining David Brooks’ column to a stupid coworker who’s scared of fancy meat

This article is an absolute gem. And a single sentence had my husband and I laughing so hard that my daughters all laughed along with us:

“Indeed, I said single-malted-scotch-ily. I explained how this column serves as yet another clarion call alerting us to America’s slow sinking into a morass of cultural decline, which David Brooks and others like us—we who thoughtfully chew our piquant charcuterie while brooding over the Proustian reveries of ourselves it inspires—can only look upon it sadly, gazing down at our bologna-smeared consorts and lamenting the many bloviating, condescending, overpaid butchers of language and meat that are driving us apart.”

“Single-malted-scotch-ily” – who writes like this? Amazing. Just meet a friend for lunch (antipasto, anyone? or maybe just a gas station pickle in a bag)  and read this article to them. You are giving them a gift, seriously.

 

Mommy Self-Care Tip: Psoas Release

All creative people, all people who read and write, need to take care of their bodies for maximum concentration. Since becoming a mom, and as a person who struggles with bipolar II disorder, it is essential for me to do the best to take care of my body – just to be able to think straight and focus on the essence of my being – creativity expressed through writing, movement, music, and cooking. Working with my hands and brains requires a will to maintain a healthy body, mind, and spirit.

So here’s a tip from me to you:

If you are a mom who is constantly lifting heavy toddlers, this video from Yoga with Adriene is really the best. Somehow it released all the tension from where my body is tight from all the lifting and repetitive motion of pushing my kids on the swings, helping them with monkey bars, carrying two kids at a time on the way back from a walk. I felt truly relaxed for the first time in years – it’s only twenty minutes, but it made a difference in my day, and it inspired me to write a quick blog post without worrying about too much length and perfection.

A Rule of the Park (Boston Tales)

My daughters wandered off the playground and onto a path at the park. Francine was playing with the water fountain, and Carolina was curious about two dogs running nearby. She toddled over to see the dogs.

The dogs were with a woman – she was wearing a sweatshirt with a large red H – Harvard. I saw another woman walking nearby – she was wearing a Yale sweatshirScreen Shot 2017-06-04 at 7.08.46 AMt. I never know any fashion trends. I had on a plain black top, plain black pants, and flip-flops.

One of the Harvard woman’s dogs went really close to Carolina – the dog’s mouth looked disgusting. Large pointed teeth, drool, and matted fur (from the drool). The dog was grey – it wasn’t that big. I picked up Carolina, and Francine continued playing in the water fountain.


The woman turned to me.

She said,”My dogs are really friendly. My 2 year old niece plays with them all the time.”

I said,”It’s not that – it’s just that it’s a rule of the park to have dogs on a leash.”

Signs are posted all around the park that say: Leash, curb, and clean up after your dog. Each sign has a visual of the silhouette of a man with a do
g on a leash and a bag in his hand.

The woman turned to her dogs,”Come on. Come on.” She leashed her dogs and brought them to her car in the nearby parking lot. My daughters and I stayed at the water fountain. The woman then walked back towards us and approached me. “You know – it’s not a rule of the park, but it’s a complete waste of water to let your daughter play with that fountain.”

I just looked right at her, but I didn’t say anything. I was wearing sunglasses, but I still did my best penetrating stare.She walked back towards her car. As she was opening the door, another car pulled up. The driver was a woman, and she had a dog in the backseat.

The Harvard woman began to talk to the second dog lady who was getting out of her car. She was talking loudly – she was broadcasting from the parking lot, and she wanted me to hear her

“You better leash your dog. This little mom over there is hyper about her kids being by a dog that’s off leash. She’s going around saying it’s a rule of the park. I’m actually leaving. Maybe you want to go to.”

Harvard woman then got in her car and drove off. The second dog lady walked her dog to a field a ways away from the water fountain. She played with her dog, off leash. She was not near us. We went back to playing with the water fountain.

A Bookworm’s Boston: May 2017

Now is the winter of our discontent

And all the clouds that lour’d upon our house

In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
– Richard III
May has been a wonderful month for this bookworm to come out of hibernation. One habit I begun over the wintertime was solo dates with my daughters while maintaining my husband and I’s catch-as-catch-can solo dates. And the dates have improved along with the weather.
All of the dates involve city walking and public transportation – a writer’s dream and a form of relaxation.  I interact passively or directly with potentional characters in the setting of my Boston community. I capture snippets of dialogue while delighting in the rhythm of the city around me. My professional work as a Boston Public Schools teacher involves thousands of decisions and inserts me centrally in the lives of others, so bopping around town is a relief and a contrast. The decisions I make while out and about- to take Gloucester Street or Hereford, to write in a notebook or just hold hands with my husband or daughter – are inconsequential.
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The other commonality that these dates share is that they are relatively inexpensive. A recent favorite date with my husband was a Pay-What-You-Want afternoon matinee of “peerless” by Jihae Park at the Boston Public Library’s beautifully renovated Rabb Hall. (Note: The Kiersten Business Library is  now located right alongside this hall. It has transformed from a dusty little room with cassettes of foreign language materials into an open study hall with alcoves, white boards, and comfortable couches and chairs). I absolutely loved this rendition of the Scottish play in which a pair of murderous twins plots to kill their classmates who have taken their coveted spots at the college. The sparse sets and the ruthless lack of empathy by the protagonists, paired with rhythmic dialogue, evoked the question: Why is so much value placed on the American Ivy League university? Admission comes at great cost – not only in a fiscal sense, but also in the cost of losing one’s identity in search of admittance to an elitist and exclusive, rather than democratic and inclusive, institution that values lineage and wealth over intellect and creativity? I had the chance to ask Ms. Park in post-show conversation about how to promote a new American ideal away from these preservation institutions, an ideal that values democratic principals and reflects the cultural diversity of young adults across our country. Her work increased my awareness of just how incredibly difficult it is for racial “minority” groups to obtain access to these presupposed American Institutions.  I found Ms. Park’s work to be radical and supportive of true democracy, and the Company One‘s pricing model enables Bostonians across class differences access to a professional (and provocative) theater production. Shows are still available tomorrow and next weekend. 
A second wonderful date was today – I took my middle daughter (almost 3 and younger than her older twin by 14 minutes) to IAM Books, one of my most beloved Boston bookstores and the very first Italian-American bookstore in the country. There was a special I Piccoli Lettori (Little Readers’ Group) from 10:30 – 11:30 am. I am not Italian, but my daughters are the great-granddaughters of an Italian immigrant from Genoa who fled Mussolini at age 5 and came to San Francisco, attended an almost exclusively Chinese school, worked as a garbage collector, and eventually became a wealthy restauranteur. A pre-school teacher from Florence, Ms. Adele, conducted a small group of Italian and Italian-American families with young children in a song and then a reading of Il piccolissimo Bruco Maisazio who eats, among other comestibles, prugnefragoleun lecca-leccagelato, and salsiccia.  And consequently, this piccolissimo becomes very fat. The children passed a piccolisimo to one another during the reading and then used glue and construction paper to create their own piccolisimo. I was touched when another family with a beautiful daughter invited us to Umberto, where we dined cheaply on arancini and pizza. Afterwards, I sat in the grass while Sofia ran back and forth on the Rose F. Kennedy Greenway.
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