Sunday, October 16, 2011


I sat down ready to blog about all kinds of things but for some reason when I clicked into the little Blogger box that says, "Title," my fingers put in, "Blah." Not sure why. Am I feeling blah and not realizing it? Or is it just a nod to the speeches I should be writing at. this. very. moment?


1. Lice. We have lice. I saw something horrible walking around in Barak's hair not a week after an obsessive full-family lice combing turned up nothing. Not only did he have them, but so did Iyyar. AND SO DID I. Dealing with lice in three little boys with crew cuts is unpleasant but mostly manageable. Dealing with lice when you yourself have waist-length hair that is fine, wavy, and prone to intense tangling is entirely different. I hacked off six inches before I even started and I think the lice comb pulled out at least half of what was left. Ew. Ew ew ew. Also, massive laundry.

2. I told Deb, when we were on the phone booking her tickets (to come! and visit me! in two and a half weeks woohoo!) that I planned to clean the whole apartment before she got here. My friends, she LAUGHED. She did. I take this as a challenge. Operation Get the Damn House Clean Already, 5772, has already begun: our bedroom is totally clean (I did that first because it's the one least likely to get messed up) and the closet is cleaned out and organized. Marika's room is next (I'm doing this in descending order of how likely something is to stay clean once I've cleaned it.) Next is the office, which, no matter how perfect I get it, is always trashed within 48 hours; the kitchen, well... yeah. I can do that the morning she gets here, I guess.

3. Succos! Succos is fun. The kids are all off school for two and a half weeks, which is OK because Mr. Bigfoot is off too. I am not even a little bit off work, however, which makes it all kind of exhausting. Also, the yom tov prep this year is... well.

I've sort of talked in general terms about where we live and the setup here, although I think if you travel in the same circles I do you've figured it out already. If you haven't, we're in kollel housing, which in our case is one large apartment building with about 30 apartments. Last year, there were two buildings, about 30 families and 4 single guys, one of whom got married during the year. This year, funding has been cut significantly. We are no longer getting meals at a dining hall, and we are paying our own utilities; this has been replaced by a stipend of $250/month which for us represents a little more than what we spend on a week's groceries. Stipends are the same regardless of family size. Not surprisingly, this change meant that far fewer families are here this year, and many more single guys, who can almost, if not entirely, make ends meet with a free apartment and that amount of money. Last year, the family: single guy ratio was 10:1. This year, it's close to 1:1.

Now. Why is this a problem for us? It's a problem for us because in general the expectation in past years has been that the single guys eat by the families on Shabbos. There was a dining hall during the week, and it closed on Shabbos, and then the families invited the single guys over. Last year, with the 10:1 ratio, it was no problem. This year, the single guys are mostly still eating in the dining hall--they can pay to do it and it's just about what they get with their stipend. However, the expectation still is that they will eat by the families for Shabbos. These days, that is harder. And this Succos, there are only four families around and seven single guys and also some other guys from the yeshiva we share our campus with, and a whole bunch of them just kind of showed up to the succah meals for which four families (read: four women) were cooking, expecting to get fed.

Some had RSVP'd. Some had not. Some had signed up on the Google Doc to bring stuff, but even those who had did not bring enough and did not seem to see why this was a problem. (If you signed up to bring X number of plastic forks, plates, table covers, grape juice, cake, and a woman says to you, "Where is it?" and you say, "I think there are still some forks in that bag" and walk off, she will want to kill you. FYI.) So by Shabbos lunch, when there were NINETEEN people, half of them single guys who had not contributed in any way to the meal, sitting there expecting to get fed... I was not pleased. The other women were not pleased.

And it's complicated, you know, because--well on the one hand it isn't complicated at all. They're schnorring and they shouldn't do that. But on the other hand, this is always the way it's been and no one has sat them down and explained that they can't expect the families to feed them anymore. And who's going to do it? And there's also this cultural expectation that most of them were raised in, that the women deal with the food. AND there's the cultural expectation that it's a mitzva to host meals, and while most--really, all--of us generally enjoy doing that, none of us can afford to feed half the kollel, and we don't like feeling taking advantage of.

Anyway. It kind of put a damper on my yom tov, wondering what kind of a mess was going to be in the succah and how many guys would be at the next meal and whether there would be enough food and plastic goods etc. And seeing 19 people there to eat the 24 rolls of stuffed cabbage I'd made, expecting 12 people. And knowing that I'd signed up for almost all of the meat, to be sure that there wasn't any with soy, and had ergo spent about twice what anyone else did.

Yeah. I think next time there's a communal meal, we'll be passing. And you know what? It makes me not want to host the single guys anymore. Even though individually, I really like them, and they're not really doing anything wrong. Because in order to keep inviting them and not resenting it, I'd have to sit them down and say, "Stop schnorring" and I'm just... not going to be the only one to do that.

3. I am trying really hard not to panic about a bunch of stuff. For example: I really want to move. I know I can't move now, but I want to at least plan/prepare for moving this coming summer. However, in order to do that I have to, you know, KNOW WHERE WE'RE GOING. Which I don't. Because Mr. Bigfoot doesn't have a job for next year, and we STILL do not know what is going to be with his teacher's license because--wait for it--the person who was supposed to give the final answer for what he was going to be required to do to get it, went on vacation the day before he'd promised to write the list out.

You got that right.

In the meantime, Mr. Bigfoot was offered work--poorly paid and part-time, but with potential. And he took it, because he wasn't about to say no to work because it might conflict with the program he doesn't yet know whether or not he'll be doing! But now... oh you see the problem already?

So we don't know, and it's more uncertainty than I can deal with.

4. Our condo in America. I'd tell you, but then I'd really have a full-blown panic attack and probably not be able to finish this post. So let's just pretend it's not there, mmmmmkay?

5. Yesterday, in the middle of the lice and the laundry and the aftermath of the whole yom tov food debacle, and the subsequent flying emails from all the politely enraged kollel wives, I sat down at my computer and bought a spinning wheel. Because really, what else was there to do?

It's a used Ashford traditional, which was my first wheel about, uh, oh wow... 16 years ago?! It's mass-produced, functional, and solidly built; it will survive the trip here in a box and I will again be able to spin. And somehow, I think that this will make things better.

Now, rationally, this makes no sense. I have almost no time to knit so why would I be able to find the time to spin? I don't really have anywhere to put a wheel, although that I think I can manage. But the wheel, somehow, is about normalcy. It's just something stable and settled and the way things used to be when we had our own place. I can't bring over my Hall and I don't know when I'll be able to, but a Trad... it'll be something.

6. Huh. I'm starting to see why I titled this, "Blah."

7. We had a really fun evening tonight. (I'm trying!) Took the kids on the bus, and attempted to take them on the train downtown, only to find as soon as we got off the bus (which would also have taken us exactly where we were heading, only not as exciting-ly) that the train was ON STRIKE. Didn't it just... start running two months ago? Anyway, we got back on the bus, and went to Ben Yehuda and all had Moshiko, and then walked down Yaffo as it got dark and saw all the succahs out and the people eating in them, and went down to Kikar Safra and went into the big giant city succah and saw the mayor (hi Nir!) who was the only guy there in a suit and tie, and then came back up Yaffo and got cookies to eat in the Holy Bagel succah, which was the only one that passed Mr. Halachic Man's test (if you saw a guy tonight squatting down next to a succah and measuring it with his fists, that was my husband.)

It was fun. The kids had fun. I did too. It was really special, being out there on a balmy October night with thousands of other people and dozens of succahs in Jerusalem. I know I'm sounding cranky now, but it really was.

8. My husband just walked in from the succah and asked me what I was doing. I told him I was blogging. He said, "You've got five minutes. Then go to sleep." He's right, of course.

(Now he's looking over my shoulder to see if I made him sound mean. I didn't! See!)

Trying to think of some good way to wrap this up but I can't, because he's right, I'm really really tired. Going to bed now, in hopes of better Perspective in the morning.


Jasmijn said...

Poor dear. There, there. Let it out, it's OK -- you're allowed.

1. Uck. Just what you need to make life easier right now.

3. I think one of the men with seniority needs to gather the young'uns and give 'em a talk on ideal situations vs real life. A man, b/c if one of the women does, it'll risk sounding whiny. With seniority b/c of the "this is how things are" approach. They may be not intending to add to all your expenses and trouble and shortfall, but they're doing it, and are blissfully unaware. They are part of the community that has opened their arms to help them. They need to reciprocate, even if it is just making sure they bring enough dam' plastic forks like they said they would.

So someone needs to sit down and say, look. We're happy to have you. We don't want you going hungry on Shabbos. We're honored you are with us. BUT we have had our income cut, there are fewer people to cook and it takes a long time, and if you show up without telling us or don't bring what you said you would you're making other people go hungry. None of this is fair. But this is how it is.

Or you can stay home and cook for yourselves on Shabbos, which is a survival skill for any young man away from his mother who does not already have a wife of his own (and no, you don't have a guarantee of getting one, especially any time soon).

(Yeah, easy for me to say, I know. I'm not facing any of these people, ever. But it needs to be addressed: what if all the polite kollel wives politely pushed their husbands? or something?)

5. Illogical but understandable.

7. I'm glad! There is a succah set up among the tents outside City Hall (Occupy LA). I saw it from the bus this morning and thought of you.

8. I don't have time to blog either -- I'll have to backdate last week's recap when I finally get around to writing it. All 3 of my readers must wait till then ;)

LC said...

Yeah; if there were "flying emails from all the politely enraged kollel wives", then I don't get why you would be the only saying "Stop schnorring". And I agree with Jasmine that the married men (or a spokeman) should bring it up.

If the stipend has no regard for family size, they are in a better position financially to host meals/provide paper goods/etc than the families. And if they don't even RSVP, then someone's child is most likely to be the one going hungry - or said child's mom, realizing. NOT nice. Everyone going a bit short due to unforeseen whatever is one thing, but just not advance planning is RUDE. The single guys would benefit significantly from having courtesy explained before they start looking for wives!

Occupy Boston also has a sukkah. Not sure which neighborhood, but the downtown one doesn't go up when there's rain forecast and only 2 weekdays of "full" chol hamoed.

shanna said...

Re #8: I wasn't aware we married the same man. (Including the parenthetical.)

Deborah said...

Re: #2. Yes, I laughed. But it was a "you are going to clean for ME?" laugh.

Only about 10 days now!