Wednesday, June 29, 2005

[Insert happy Carlebach nigun here]

We closed this morning. It was quite an experience. The seller's agent, as I have mentioned, is incompetent, Middle Eastern, and a jerk. His lawyer, not surprisingly, turned out to be Middle Eastern and a jerk, although I can't say anything to his competence, not being a lawyer. So there was much shouting in Arabic among the seller's party and more shouting in English in our direction, and lots of threats and insults and that kind of thing. And once each point had been settled, everybody was buddies again. Barak, who loves watching people more than anything, was entranced. He sat in my lap for much of the time, helping me sign the papers ("Your hand's probably tired, Imma. Here, give me that pen and I'll do it for you!") and then toodled up and down the hall investigating the title office with my husband trailing after him. All in all, not terrible or horribly stressful. No last-minute derailments or surprises, which is what I was really worried about.

One thing that did surprise me, though, was how worked up their lawyer got over various things (that, frankly, they were trying to get away with). His voice shook. His hands shook. He had an incredibly strong facial tic that seemed to be trying to wrench his eye out of its socket. I started wondering, uncharitably, what his blood pressure was like and what would happen to the closing if he had a stroke, and whether there was a set policy for what you did at a closing if a lawyer keeled over dead in the middle of the proceedings. Fortunately, we did not have to find this out, as we all survived. And not only that, they did not get away with anything they tried to get away with, because they needed to sell more than we needed to buy and everybody there knew it. The staring contests were fun. I am very good at staring contests. I can even beat my cat.

So now we need to pack.

And I get to shop for appliances.

Mmmm. [In voice of Homer Simpson on doughnuts.] Appliances.

I'm old, aren't I.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

What my husband hates about me

I love tomato sandwiches.

On white bread.

With miracle whip.

Just thought I would let you all know.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Sunday morning

Yes, that's right. Not Saturday night. Sunday morning.

Not because I didn't try to blog on Saturday night. I wouldn't disappoint my legions of readers without my regularly scheduled Saturday night post. No, not me, no no. So even though we had guests, and it was the latest Shabbos of the year, I faithfully logged into Blogger and wrote a post.

And not just any post. No no. It was the post of kings. (Queens? Do any men actually read this blog?) You would have laughed. You would have cried. You would have gained new insight into the deepest workings of my mind and soul, which I know is just what you wanted. (Isn't it? Isn't it?) It took more than an hour, deep thought, sweat (well, it's hot) and much brow-furrowing. Much brow-furrowing, I tell you.

You would have found out why I like my SIL so much, and why she thinks we don't want her to visit, and why I think my in-laws think I'm a terrorist, and just how many ways there are to be neurotic, all in one family.

All this would have been yours. All this and so, so much more.

If it hadn't been for (*$&#(*$&%*($&%(*@$ SBC DSL, which cut out at just exactly the wrong moment and ate my post.

Feh on you, SBC. Feh on you and your fancy DSL. I'll take dialup. No, feh on dialup too. I'll take smoke signals.

And don't go with any of your logical advice about composing in word and pasting into Blogger. I'm past all of that. I'm quitting this century. I'm going to go hang out with my spinning wheel and a pot of... of gruel. Yes, that's right. Gruel. Me and my gruel, in a cauldron. And my spinning wheel. And some cloth diapers for Barak. No plastic pants either. Nope, not for us. Nosirreebob. Gruel and spinning wheels all the way.

Gonna go weave my husband a loincloth now.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

All together, now:


It's all over. The big event for which I wrote speeches. Right now, tens of thousands of folks are on their way home. No more speeches. No more crises (we hope). No more having my cell phone posted in everybody's office next to a hammer and a sign saying "In case of emergency, break glass."

Over the course of these events, I was called upon to serve in several capacities, in addition to my speechwriterly one. One thing I was asked to do was escort some VIPs around the office, showing them the sights, as it were. I spoke their language, they spoke mine, it was all good.

Except it wasn't. Because they were jerks.

You see, I am young. And female. And I work for an important man. Which means, clearly, that I am his secretary. And of course, it is perfectly acceptable to treat secretaries like dirt.

So when we got to the president's office, and they starting poking around his desk, they ignored me when I asked them (politely) to desist. And when they started moving around the furniture so that they could all sit behind his desk, they didn't seem to hear anything I said on that subject, either. (Politely--always politely.) And when one of them, seated behind a desk that was not his in a chair that he wasn't supposed to have moved, holding a pen that didn't belong to him and pretending to sign papers that he shouldn't have been looking at, actually

handed me his camera and told me to take a picture of him,

I think it is evidence of incredible self-control that I did take his picture. With a smile on my face. And, when instructed to take another one, because he'd come all the way from his country to get this picture, and his friends would die of envy when they saw it, I obediently took another one.

And they're both lovely shots.

Of the practical, neutral, utterly generic beige drapes just to the left of his ear.

Monday, June 20, 2005

The report (blush)

So, the speech went well.


Okay, it went quite well, really.

Six interruptions for spontaneous applause. Six. And I know he only thought he'd get one--the rest were surprises.

And a standing ovation.

And people were crying at the emotion of it all. Men too. I saw them.

And when I got back to the office, someone else, who is giving his speech tomorrow, asked if I could ratchet up the drama in his speech a little, too.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

eerie quiet

My husband left town this morning for four days. We were both invited to the wedding of the son of some very close family friends, in another state, that was this afternoon. I couldn't get time off from work, so my husband went on his own, and is extending his trip by a few days to spend time with his parents, whom he hasn't seen in about six months.

So it's quiet.

Now, it's not like it's any quieter than it usually is at this time of day. My husband has, officially, three jobs. As of September, he will be doing something he gets paid for every weekday from 5:40 am (yes, that really is 5:40 am) till 5:45 pm. He usually gets home in time to give Barak his bath (their official father-son bonding time) and if we're lucky we get to eat together. And more often than not, he goes back out again after dinner to learn with a chavrusa (study partner) or attend shiurim (classes). And except for in the winter, when the sun sets early, he always goes out at least once at night for maariv (evening prayers). So we don't see a lot of each other during the week, and it's quiet around here a lot.

But there is something qualitatively different about the quiet when your husband is in another state. It's a lonely kind of quiet. Barak is asleep, or getting there, and the door is double-bolted. I have a lot of packing to do, and will probably get quite a lot done tonight with no distractions. Since it's just me, I didn't bother really cooking dinner, and am taking advantage of my solitude to eat things my husband thinks are dangerously unhealthy (read: hot dogs and Diet Coke). And he did all the laundry before he left, because he's the best. So really, the evening is my own. This is a good thing--there's a lot to be done before we move (IY"H) in a few weeks.

So I really should get going, rather than sitting here and blogging about wanting my husband back. Now. Not on Wednesday. Now.

Sigh. Okay, off to pack. Think good, organized thoughts for me, please.

Saturday night

Well, here we are again, Saturday night. And I am posting, not because I have anything to say particularly, but because I always post on Saturday nights, which is a good enough reason to post on this one.

My husband is going away for a few days tomorrow. There is a wedding we would both like to go to tomorrow afternoon, and I can't get away because of work. His parents live near where the wedding is, and he hasn't seen them for about six months, so he'll be staying a few extra days. I need to pack for him--he could do it himself, but frankly, I'd rather do his packing so he can finish the dishes.

And on Monday, while my husband is off visiting, something very very strange will happen.

Forty thousand people, give or take, plus however many more via the small screen, are going to watch someone give a speech I wrote.

I comfort myself that if rotten vegetables are thrown, they won't know to throw them at me.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Drumroll, please...

But first, a little housekeeping. Due to my total ignorance of all things html-related, some of you may have been emailing me at a gmail account that isn't mine.

So if you've been sending me email and I haven't replied to you, it's because, well, I never got it. If you want to send me email, it's

And my friend is doing some geeky things to my page, which will I hope result in a nicer page, but in the meantime is causing funky things to happen to the layout. Bear with us, please.

And finally...

The moment you've all been waiting for...

The answer to the question that's been burning in all of your minds, namely (in case you forgot), "What was behind that wet drywall in the basement?"

And the answer is...

No mold. None at all. Not a scrap.

Yishtabach sh'mo!

Following up

Those of you who have been with me since my late lamented blog (the blog is dead, long live the blog) may remember that along about January I found myself with a rather unusual assignment at work.

Those of you who haven't been with me since then will of course not remember this exciting episode, and may even wonder what it is I do for a living. I'm a speechwriter, as it happens, for the president and senior leaders (but mostly the president) of a large NGO. Think Red Cross, though that isn't it. I like what I do. I don't have to talk much, which is good, because I'm shockingly incapable of intelligent speech when it isn't channeled through a keyboard. (I actually tried to communicate this idea orally today. I couldn't. Because I couldn't come up with the word "articulate." Because I'm not. Unless my mouth is shut and Word is open.)

Anyway, as I said, I like my job. I like the current president, who is a very nice person. I like the fact that my hours are flexible, that my boss is highly competent and extremely pleasant to work with, and that, as I said, I almost never have to actually open my mouth.

How did I get off on this tangent? And did I mention that it's 1 am and I can't sleep?

Sigh. Well, what I started out trying to say was that back in January, my boss called me into her office with an unusual request. She asked me to write a speech for the president. No, not that president. The President.

I don't think anyone from work will find this blog, but if they do, I don't really want to get fired. So I won't give all the details. But I will say that the tape of the speech came back last week, and I went down to AV and watched it.

And it was, well, one of the most surreal experiences of my life.

That's all I have to tell you tonight, really.

Tomorrow: More thrilling bulletins from the Land of Mold. Or maybe not. Stay tuned, as always, to this exciting channel.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The Situation

Read the above with the heavy Russian accent, okay?

I didn't let it ruin my Shavuos. I'll go that far. But it wasn't fun.

So, about the mold, or at least, the mold-that-might-be.

There is a wet spot in the basement ceiling below the main bathroom that has clearly been soaking wet for at least a month and has obviously been patched with new drywall at least twice. The toilet has either overflowed multiple times, or the plumbing is leaking. The inspector told me this was a mold hazard, and I should get the seller to rip out the drywall and let me look behind to see what, if anything, is growing back there. There's no evidence of scary mold, but then, I can't see through the drywall, and anything that has been wet that long probably has wildlife in it. Nothing is growing on the outside, and I can't see anything through the cracks, but I want to be sure. So the seller is supposed to rip out the drywall and let us look.

However, the seller keeps not getting around to opening up the drywall, because (he says) the tenant, who has a small baby, does not want it done while they are home, and there hasn't been a good time.

I would like to think that this is the truth. I would like to think that he has not been re-patching the drywall over hideous black death. However, I have not seen this for myself, the attorney review period ended tonight, and since I could do nothing Monday or Tuesday due to Shavuos, Sunday was a very stressful day of trying to, finally, get in there to see what was going on. Nobody returned calls, and throughout the day, nobody continued to return calls. So finally I called my agent, and we just showed up at the door to see the basement ceiling which... had not been opened up. Two hours before candlelighting, and the point at which I could do no more.

Frantic calls to attorney. Frantic email to attorney. No success in reaching attorney. Gritting of teeth. Lighting of candles. Futile attempts Not To Think About It. For two. Whole. Days.

When yom tov went out, an hour and a half ago, I checked my phone, which had been beeping for two days. The message was from my father-in-law. I looked at the land line messages, since that phone had also been flashing. Nothing. No email. Called agent, and she told me that she had a letter from attorney that she had not seen before Shabbos (gah! this was all avoidable!) that was written in such a way that if the house turned out to be riddled with mold and we pulled out, they would have to give us our money back. Probably. She thinks.

Did I mention that she got this letter BEFORE I wrote the check for the $9,000 balance of the earnest money? So now, if it turns out there is mold, I will be trying to get back not one thousand dollars, but ten?

No mold. No mold. Please, please, please, no mold.


Saturday, June 11, 2005

Saturday night

It's Saturday night, and since I always post on Saturday night, here I am, even though I have very little to say and a whole lot to do. Shavuos, the great Jewish Holiday of Cheesecake, starts tomorrow night. It's a two-day affair, four festive meals, and we are having guests, and I have not yet shopped or even really planned menus, so there is, shall we say, what to be done.

I did have a little surprise waiting for me tonight, though, once Shabbos went out and I turned on the computer to check my email. Now that I have this new Blogger blog, I also have a sitemeter, which of course must be checked obsessively at least... ummm... let's pretend I only check it once a day, okay? So I did my daily check after reading my email, and was somewhat surprised to discover 26 hits in the last 24 hours.

Why is this surprising? Well, the truth is that I am probably one of the least insular Orthodox Jews I know. Of my closest (non-family) friends, two are Chinese, one is a gay Baptist, one is a Texan Methodist, one is a spectacularly tolerant Protestant with a Catholic daughter, and one is Korean. But truthfully, I don't tend to get much email or site traffic on Shabbos, since most of the people who email me and read my blog are, well, observant Jews. So I was rather surprised to discover, on checking my sitemeter (for the first, last, and only time today, really!) that I had 26 hits, and some of those visitors read my site for more than half an hour.

And all of those people came from Sarah's site. Which means that they all think I'm a serial killer. No fancy html for me, but Sarah's site is here:

So, for those of you visiting from Sarah's site, I'm not a serial killer. Really, truly, I'm not. I like babies and small furry animals. I don't yell. I'm lousy at holding grudges. I never ever ever get violent (okay, so, fine, in the interests of full disclosure, there was that one time when I had just gotten pregnant and was mad at my husband and threw the broccoli kugel across the kitchen, but I didn't hit anyone with it, and it was an isolated incident, I swear.)

I am so not a serial killer. I can't even kill mice. And when my cat got a bird in the basement a few years ago, it sent me into utter hysterics such that my roommate thought someone (person, not bird) had been murdered in the basement. I can stomp on roaches. That's about it. And I only learned to do that in cold blood after I moved to New York and realized that living in New York meant living in a state of cockroach war.

I just thought you should all know.

And with that, it's time to go make some cheesecake.

Friday, June 10, 2005


I just posted my new gmail address, which I obtained courtesy of an invite from Renegade Rebbetzin (thanks, RenReb!) So feel free to email me, everybody, but only if you have nice things to say, because it's not been the best week and if you're mean I'll probably dissolve in a puddle of misery and then take it out on my husband, and truthfully, the poor guy deserves a break.

I must comment on this. I chose the name "uberimma" because it is part of a little pun on a legal term meaning "complete good faith." I tried to be

And it was TAKEN.

So was

Now that's weird.

Good night.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

And now for something...

Yes, I have more news on the real estate... situation. (Let's start putting that in quotation marks, shall we? And from now it will just be "the situation." With a Russian accent, like the one the KGB agent used while threatening Mikhail Baryshnikov in White Nights. Sounds suitably menacing, no?)

But I can't handle thinking about it, much less blogging about it, right now. Instead I will point you to this:

And this, a post I wrote some months ago on TBTINM (that would be The Blog That Is No More)


A rant

I just sat down thinking that I had nothing to talk about today, but then of course many possibilities occurred to me. It's funny--back in the days when I journaled, or wrote long single-spaced typewritten letters to faraway friends, I would think of what I wanted to write and how over the course of the day. And I'd always have to stop myself from putting together the actual words, because then when it came to it I wouldn't have them anymore. That's what happened with the stroller story--I had written it in my head all day and then when I sat down at the computer I wasn't interested anymore.

In recent years, I haven't been writing much of anything for my own interest, and have cheerfully returned to writing things in my head that will never be committed to paper (okay, or pixels, but you know what I mean.) I guess if I want to keep this blog up I'll have to get strict with myself again. Funny.

So, about that rant I just promised... My friend W emailed me today, with an article about how babies who are considered underweight by current charts are probably just fine, and babies who are considered just fine are probably overweight, and kids who are considered overweight are probably obese, and we need to rewrite the charts. She sent it because my kid has been hovering around the 9% mark for weight, though he is around 44th for height. He's fine and healthy and happy, B"H, and hitting his milestones in a reasonable if relaxed fashion, so I've more or less stopped worrying and don't try to cram avocadoes down his throat anymore. Why did I bring this up, you ask? Well, I'm glad you did ask. Because at the bottom of the article (this was in the Guardian online, here:,6903,1396599,00.html )

I saw something I see often at work. Namely, someone (nearly always male) bemoaning women's reluctance to breastfeed, despite the wealth of evidence that it is the best for everybody--babies are happier and healthier, smarter, and less inclined to obesity, at lowered risk of everything bad from allergies to asthma to ear infections to heart disease, and breastfeeding is free, and women lose weight faster, and bond with their babies better, and gee, why don't they do it? Most of them start, but most of those stop between six weeks and three months. Gee, they just must not get it. I know the answer--let's educate them so they know why they should nurse. Now excuse me, but that's just about the most ignorant and idiotic thing I ever heard. Talk about being blind to the obvious. Women in this country have to go back to WORK at six weeks or maybe at three months if they are very, very lucky--lucky enough to be able to take their FMLA leave unpaid. If they want to keep their health insurance and continue paying their rent, mortgage, credit card bills, student loans, car payment, whatever, well, it's daycare or a babysitter for the little one. There's a REASON why women stop nursing between six weeks and three months--that's when they have to go back to work! And although I am fantastically lucky and am not only employed part-time but have a sympathetic boss and an on-site lactation room, I probably represent fewer than 1% of the employed female population in this country (okay, fine, I made that up, but honestly, of the places you go in a day, how many of the female employees you see do you think have access to a lactation room and the freedom to hang out there for half an hour out of every three?) I have a friend in Boston who is at MIT, and was totally committed to nursing, and loved nursing, and just had to stop pumping at four months because it was too hard to keep crouching in the bathroom like that and hoping nobody in her lab wondered where she was or what the weird squirting sounds were that kept emanating from the handicapped stall. She still nurses at night, but how long will it last? And this is at MIT, not WalMart. I don't think any cashiers in this country are getting lactation breaks! And of course they are the ones least able to afford the formula, or the doctors' visits for the babies' ear infections either.

This "educate the ignorant women" take on the situation doesn't reach the level of willfully obtuse, though, until you hear, "Women in Europe [usually Sweden] nurse much longer than American women. X% of Swedish women are still nursing at six months, while a pitiful X% of uninformed American women who care more about their freedom to go shopping than their babies are still nursing then." All right, so that isn't an exact quote, but you get the idea--and the figures are around 80% for Sweden and 20% for the US. I have a funny feeling that those numbers correlate rather highly to the percentage of women who are still at home full time at six months. In Hungary, women get three years with full pay per baby, and if they have a third kid they can stay home till the third one is EIGHT! (There is a perceived population crisis in Hungary, so the lawmakers are pushing for more red-, white-, and green-blooded babies.) And you know what? The women there nurse their babies.Could you be any more stupid, guys?

Excuse me while I catch my breath.

Okay, I'm breathing again. So another thing. Let's talk about going shopping while nursing. Most babies need to nurse every 2-3 hours, so that necessitates some serious planning before you leave the house for any reason at all, unless you're the type who can put up with the glares and rude comments occasioned by nursing in public (these folks you can educate, guys!) Can I make it to Target and back before he's hungry? Is there a place to nurse him where I'm going? Can I stop by at a friend's and borrow her couch for half an hour so I can feed him? Will he fling the blanket off if I try to nurse him under one in the airport lounge, shul hall, restaurant, or department store? And how am I going to get there? Can I take the stroller on the bus, or will I get dirty looks for blocking the aisle or a driver who tells me that he won't help with the stroller because it's not his job? Will I get a wheelchair-accessible bus, and if I do, will there be people sitting in the seats that flip up to make room for the stroller?

Oh, but you can't solve all those problems at once, says you. No? Well, in October Barak and I went--just the two of us--on a bit of a trip. We went to Hungary to visit my granny and great-aunt, and to Vienna to visit a couple of good friends, and to Birmingham, UK, to visit Den and Ol, the sweetest kinda-Welsh people in Birmingham you'll ever meet. When we were in Birmingham, my buddy Sarah came by to visit, and we talked about going into town, and I said that we needed to get going right after he ate if we wanted to get home before he was hungry again. She was confused. "We'll just take him to a mother and baby room." A what? "A mother and baby room." What's that? "Rooms for nursing mothers." Huh? They have those? "Sure. [Duh! Silly American.] They have to! Otherwise how would women with babies go shopping?" How indeed...

So the point of this story is that in the shopping mall in Birmingham, not just in one place but on EVERY FLOOR, there is a mother and baby room. This is a small room with not only a changing table and a toilet, but a door to the outside world that locks from inside, room to bring in a stroller, a seat to sit and nurse in, and--get this--a child-height toilet in case you also have a toddler who is toilet training. AND--this just blew me away--over the safe deep clean changing table (more of a changing tub) there was a mirrored disco ball, with a motion-activated light, so that when you put the baby down to change his diaper a light went on, the ball started to rotate, and hundreds of dots of light appeared and started to move enthrallingly along the walls, ceiling, and baby. Barak, when this miracle commenced, stopped his usual diaper-changing protest mid-howl and was totally, utterly, completely transfixed.

Corporate leaders of America! Are you listening? Do you want stay at home mothers (the only ones who are still nursing, it seems), who need lots of baby equipment and probably a whole new postpartum wardrobe as well, and are otherwise stuck at home all day, to be able to visit your place of business? Put in one of those!

Oh, and one more thing. The buses in Birmingham? The new ones are built so that the bottom floor (they're double-deckers) is at exactly curb height. So you can just roll your stroller right onto the bus with no help from anybody. And the stroller/wheelchair bay? There aren't regular seats in it that are down by default, right by the door where they're the first seats to be occupied. Instead, there's one very uncomfortable flip-down seat that you would only want to sit on if every other seat on the bus was taken.

And that, my friends, is the real reason why American children are fatter than Europeans. Because their mothers have to stop nursing them because they can't take the bus and there are no disco balls for their babies.

I guess I had what to talk about after all.

Piercing, hysterical screams

I have one word for you all.

And that word is mold.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Deep breath

Well, the inspection was this morning. It could have been better, but it also could have been a lot worse. The furnace needs to be replaced--it works, but it's ancient, and it's an oil heater converted to gas so the efficiency is probably the pits. The hot water heater (really the cold water heater, because you don't need to heat water that's already hot, but that's beside the point really, isn't it) needs to be replaced too. The toilet in the main bathroom is leaking and the drywall underneath is soaked, but that's the current owner's responsibility to fix, which it's now in the contract that he has to do. And a couple little things--a loose cabinet here, sticky door there.

I decided beforehand that if there was nothing that couldn't be restored to happiness and safety for five thousand dollars or less, we would be good. And it seems like we're there. Even with the ancient furnace and a stay-at-home mother with newborn, the maximum heating bills were $192 a month. No fire hazards, except that one sticky bedroom door that's easy to sand down. No wiring problems. No calcified pipes. Windows with the built-in child locks.

So we're going ahead, and the closing is scheduled for June 30. I am only beginning to get the tiniest bit excited now, as I allow myself to browse the delights of the washing machines and dryers and (ooh! ooh! can I stand it?) chest freezers on the Sears site.

But really, I'll believe it when they hand us the keys. And I hand them a check for my annual salary.

And throw up all over everybody.

(P.S. In case you're wondering why my beloved husband is totally absent from all of these real estate postings, it's because he's been absent from all of the real estate proceedings. This is not a criticism, dear, just something I feel the world needs to know. Like the fact that even when we were actually standing in front of the very building that held the very apartment on which we had just signed a contract, while there was an open house going on for the entire place, you did not feel any need to go in and, say, take a peek around. Nope. Why bother? It's got a roof, right? And four walls? Space for sefarim? A washing machine that scoffs at the notion of quarters? A bathroom to fill with comic books and Captain America posters your wife won't let you put anywhere else? Well, then, what reason is there to look at it? No reason at all, dear. And that's totally understandable, that you wouldn't want to waste a whole five minutes that way. Completely, totally understandable. And absolutely normal. Right, everybody?)

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Hot. Tired. Cranky. Did I mention cranky?

I'm feeling extremely grumpy tonight, for a few reasons, none of them really sufficient for the degree of my grumpiness. Barak took two hours to go to sleep tonight, howling the whole time, and every time I walked out of the room thinking he was out and he stood up and screamed again I felt my nerves fray just a little bit more. After an hour and a half I had completely had it and just walked out the door (yes, my husband was home) and went for a walk around the block, coming back an hour later when he had just, finally, conked out.

Please don't give me advice on getting babies to sleep. I have read all the books and usually I have a system that works, but tonight it just didn't. I don't like letting him cry. I think it's heartless, under most circumstances, and ordinarily I don't resort to it. But tonight there was just nothing else to be done. He was overtired and overstimulated and could not fall or stay asleep, and no matter what I did he howled and howled and howled. In the end, I felt like Hagar, but I just couldn't listen to it anymore. I'd sit and rock him forever, if it worked... but the only way he stays asleep is if he falls asleep in his crib, and he just wasn't doing it. Argh.

Okay, so, for those of you who haven't been around since the beginning, the real estate situation in a nutshell.

Oh, who am I kidding. [Imitating Inigo Montoya] Is too much for nutshell. Let me give in coconut shell.

We put in an offer, a few months ago, for a condo we could just barely afford. Had inspection, which revealed what inspector mildly termed "multiple major defects," of the hazard-to-life-and-limb variety. Withdrew offer. Put in offer #2, on another condo a block away, for ten thousand dollars more. Discovered that there is no insulation in roof, winter heating bills upward of $300 a month set at 65 and off during the day. New furnace needed, and pipes calcified to the point that they all have to be replaced (meaning ripping out walls in both that unit and the one downstairs.) Since after buying condo we would have no money to fix anything, this was not manageable. Withdrew offer and put in new offer for unit below and across building, where pipes are fine and there is an upstairs apartment to heat, not the great outdoors. Ah, and that's where it got interesting.

Because, you see, the seller's agent is both Middle Eastern and a lunatic. One or the other would have been bad enough, but the combination is, well, let's just say it's more than the sum of its parts. He's also incompetent, which doesn't help. He didn't read the contract, thought I wanted a different apartment, didn't notice lines in contract referring to washing machine (apparently owned by tenants) and home warranty (what home warranty?) Has rescheduled inspection three times now, never more than 12 hours before inspection was to have occurred. Oh, and did I mention that inspections cost $400 each, and this is our third go-round, and we don't have an apartment yet?

And there is nothing to be done, because this is absolutely the best thing out there in our price range, and I know, because I've been looking all year. And every time my agent starts to negotiate, he offers to break the contract. Jerk.

You know, I really don't feel like getting into all the gory details. But there is a silver lining to having to redo all the ghastly mortgage paperwork yet again, which is that apparently rates have gone down a titch. And a titch difference in your interest rate, over a 30-year mortgage, because that is how long it will take to repay this horrific loan, does add up to be quite a lot.

I just can't think about money now. How much this will cost. The legal fees and inspection. The washer and dryer and home warranty that we now have to pay. The flood insurance. The movers. Oh, *(*&$%*#$, and the moving, the packing, the heat, the all of it.


Why can't we just live in some nice cheap suburb or less expensive neighborhood? Why can't we buy one of the gorgeous old apartments with high ceilings and crown moldings and wood floors and cavernous closets that cost far less than this place, a mere two miles away?

Because we're Jewish, that's why. And the shul is here. And the eruv is here. And the kollel is here.

I really have nothing to complain about. I know this. What, I'm complaining that we're in the middle of buying a nice three-bedroom, 1.5 bath apartment with a fenced yard and parking right near work and shopping and the bus, with a nice big kitchen and lots of light in a safe neighborhood? For slighly less than a quarter of a million dollars?

Excuse me while I go vomit.

You know, I think I am just too cranky to blog tonight.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Saturday night

I always post on Saturday night, don't I.

My husband's boys are here, having a malava malka and pretending they're having a review session for tomorrow's gemara final (and yes, it's on Sunday.) Really, though, they're just eating lasagne. Soon they will also be eating cookies, which I just finished making. I'm debating with myself how many to put out, and how many to hide for myself in the freezer.

Real estate update #234: we are in contract. Again. Inspection this week, sometime, once I schedule it. As always, further bulletins as events warrant.

They sound like they're having a lot of fun in there, but I don't hear a lot of Torah...

Friday, June 03, 2005


Note: this is a post from The Blog That Is No More, reposted here for your reading pleasure. I know, I know, the magnamity...

There is a takeout restaurant near where we live that has famously great kosher hamburgers. I like it there, for many reasons, principal among them: a) it's cheap, b) they're nice and love Barak there, and c) they have a quarter machine, so I can go there pretending I'm on a mission to get quarters for laundry and then happen to get fries as well.I went there yesterday with Barak, on a quarter run, and saw something that just confused me utterly, and my husband too when I told him later.

Well, before I launch into the story, I need to backtrack and give a little background. Orthodox Jewish men, to the uninitiated, dress something like Amish men. Black pants, black jacket, white shirt, black hat, often no tie, usually a beard. It's easy to spot the Amish guys, though, because they don't wear moustaches, never wear ties, wear suspenders instead of belts and don't wear buttons on their jackets. Amish women are very easy to spot, since their dresses are homemade and quite distinctive, whereas Orthodox Jewish women often blend right in (although we frequently look insane for wearing long sleeves, long skirts, and stockings in August.) So, there's your background.

When we walked into the restaurant, thoughts of burgers on our (okay, my) mind, I saw a family that on first glance I assumed were Amish or another brand of Mennonite, because I saw the mother and daughters in very Amish-looking dresses. Then I looked again, and saw boys wearing black kippot--now, that's not Amish at all. I ordered my food, and sat nearby because I was just way too curious not to. And got even more befuddled. The girls and mother had dresses that were hard-core Amish, to the extent that they were fastened in the back with a straight pin, not a button. But the mother's head was covered with a headscarf, not a white Mennonite-style prayer cap, and the daughter's head not covered at all (which would argue for Jewish, since Jewish girls don't cover their hair, at least not in this century). But (again but) although the mother's headscarf covered all her hair (=Jewish), it was not tied in a way that I would consider normative in this community (=probably not Jewish, but not necessarily). On balance, they looked not Jewish. Now, to the boys. Suspenders on all of them. White shirts. And yet those kippot! And the father had buttons on his jacket--definitely not Amish. Add to this that I distinctly heard the father address the mother as "Imma," twice. That's Hebrew. And just when I had finally decided that they were just some unique Hebraically-oriented but not actually Jewish religion they'd come up with all their own and they were the only practitioners of, I clearly heard them switch into a Germanic dialect--but didn't catch enough to know if it was old/high German or Yiddish. Now, you don't normally make your own religion and then learn a new language to go with it, though who am I to say, really. They'd clearly gone to a lot of effort making their own clothes. (Which, I might add, were lovely. I like Mennonite dresses, and these were particularly neatly made.)

I briefly wondered if they were Hutterites, or Hutterian Brethren, but that wouldn't help with any of the Jewish markers, and the girls' clothes weren't Hutterite either (I know a lot about Hutterites--long story.)

In short, I was and remain confounded. And hoist by my own polite petard, because even when the father actually struck up a conversation with Barak, and made every sign to be friendly, and we chatted a bit about the fat and calorie content of what we were all eating, I simply could not muster up the rudeness to ask, "Excuse me, this is killing me, I must know. Are you Jewish or what?" I did not see them say a Hebrew grace after meals, but they might have done it when I wasn't looking, or they might not have eaten bread (which allows for a shorter blessing).

Gah. Now I will never ever know. Unless I go back and get a hamburger tomorrow and just wait for them to show up again. Which is another excellent reason to go and get a hamburger.

Well, I never

It's surprising what happens to your site traffic when Shanna plugs you. You start having some, for starters.

I may pull some old posts from my now defunct old blog and repost them here, just to make things make more sense. The Amish family post, for example, if Mr. Terror on the floor there lets me have enough time on the computer.

And since part of the point of the reborn blog is not using all of our real names, and Mr. Terror is not a nice thing to call anybody, especially not a very sweet little boy, I think it's time for an official cast of characters. Hmm. Let's see.

The baby--let's call him Barak. That's fitting, and what my husband wanted to name him. (I refused.)

Me--well, I don't really need a name, do I. I just work here. I can just be the uberimma.

And my husband. Hmm. Well, let's call him my husband. Because he is.

Barak, however, calls him Abba. And this morning, disproved my husband's ongoing suspicions that he was just yelling ba, ba, ba, having nothing to do with him. Because when he put Barak in the playpen for a minute this morning, to go to the bathroom in peace, the moment he shut the door I could hear Barak stand up. Pause. And then, "Abba! Abba! AHHHH BAAAAAAA!"

I think he's convinced.

An actual post

It's just after midnight, so it's Friday morning now, officially. I can't sleep. The apartment is dark, and I can hear three sets of gentle snores behind me--the baby, the husband, and the cat, in a snuffly sort of harmony.

I thought of a number of things this week that I wanted to blog about, and didn't, mainly for lack of time. I thought of blogging about the internet, and blogs, and what a difference a blog would have made to my life in high school, and how computers must now be completely rewriting the social landscape of adolescence. If I were still in grad school, it would be something genuinely dissertation-worthy. (Unlike the topic of my actual abortive dissertation, still in limbo on the laptop that was stolen from my apartment in 2001. The dissertation is dead, long live the dissertation.)

I also thought about blogging about the title of this new incarnation of my blog, which is an attempt to convey the strangeness and surprise of my life--in most ways a good, positive, happy surprise, but still generative of substantial number of moments. Moments that don't come with an adjective. Moments when you stop in the middle of what you're doing and wonder when the stage manager will yell "cut," or when the person who's actually living this life, who you're just filling in for while she's out on leave, will get back to take over. Moments. You know. Moments like that.

Instead, I think I feel moved to talk about identity and the nature thereof. [And since it's my blog, I can talk about anything I want. So there.] I started thinking about this while writing my post on the Amish/Jewish family... about how all of those tiny little markers of dress, the way you tie your headscarf, whether you wear suspenders or a belt, the buttons on your jacket, the freedom with with you chat with strangers of the opposite sex--all of those, in the right context, can carry the weight of so much meaning, so much identity. Within the spectrum of Jewish observance, the minutiae of dress can take on so much importance, rightly or (mostly, in my opinion) wrongly--whether there's a slit in your skirt, how much hair your show under your hat or whether you wear a wig instead of a hat, what kind of a wig or what kind of a hat, where the headband sits, the length of your sleeves, how you dress your children of what age, what color your shirt or suit or kippah is--all of that.

I was thinking about this again last night, while reading Renegade Rebbetzin's blog--which I've been reading, off and on, for a while. She's got a post on there about the word rebbetzin, and what it means in various contexts to various people. I myself, oddly enough, am a rebbetzin, for all practical purposes. (About those bechinas... shhh. He'll pass them soon, really.) My husband teaches religious subjects in a yeshiva. His students call him Rabbi, or, occasionally, since he's their teacher, rebbe. This makes me, his wife, a rebbetzin.

Now, something I should point out here. My husband is identifiably, visibly, Jewish and religious. Most of the time, while out of the house at least, he wears a white shirt, black suit, black kippa. The works. He has a beard, he has glasses, he has a very respectable-looking nose, he has tzitzis outside his clothes. I, on the other hand, am not so easy to spot, unless you know what you're looking for--if you know what the hat, and the sleeve length, and that kind of thing mean. My husband lives almost entirely within the Jewish community--he works at a Jewish school, goes to synagogues at least once and often more times a day to pray or learn, does most of whatever shopping he does in Jewish places of business. I, on the other hand, work in a secular office, have no Jewish co-workers, take the bus twice daily with almost all non-Jewish passengers, bring my son to a non-Jewish daycare, and generally am out in the world much more. Most of the time, nobody calls me rebbetzin or even Mrs. I'm by my first name, or nothing, and I could be anybody. I'm certainly nobody who gets any unusual degree of respect for being, uh, extra-specially holy or anything.

Maybe that's why the moment I had last winter, at the Chanuka party we had for my husband's students, struck me so utterly. I hadn't met any of his students yet, though I'd heard about them. I am uncomfortable with most teenagers (fallout from how I felt about them when I was one myself), so stayed in the kitchen most of the time, frying latkes and moving them out into the living room. The boys were very polite, cleaning up after themselves, asking for paper towels when one of them spilled some soda. Clearly on their best behavior, all of them. They were all busy with each other and my husband, and I didn't have much to say to them, so smiled and hid. And they ate latkes. And ate and ate and ate. And after a little while, one of them popped his skullcapped head through the doorway and exulted, "Rebbetzin, these latkes are AMAZING!"

Now, I must admit, I do make rather fabulous latkes. But that's not my point. My point is, that if anyone had asked me, fifteen years ago, to rank the likelihood of ever hearing this sentence addressed to me, I probably would have placed it somewhere between, "Repeat after me: On my honor, I solemnly swear to uphold and protect the Constitution of the United States" and "We are pleased to offer you the part of the Sugarplum Fairy." Just completely, randomly, impossible. Like winning the lottery, failing a spelling test, pleasing my mother, getting a tattoo, becoming a homeless cocaine addict. Not even positive or negative, an aspiration or a fear--just not something that would, could, ever be applied to me.

And now I am the rebbetzin. Latkes and all. It's taking some getting used to. It's not what I ever expected. Truthfully, it's a lot better.

And with that out of my system, it's time for bed.

Thursday, June 02, 2005