Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Lately I have been telling lots of people that I blog.

Their responses have been pretty telling-those who don't blog don't think much of the blogging world. They can be downright skeptical. In fact, I had the same response just a few short months ago. I didn't understand or see the point of blogging.

But my views have changed a lot since I started reading blogs and then starting my own.

I am a naturally nosy person so reading blogs about other people's lives fits right in line with my nosiness. It was just a matter of time.

On the other hand, I actually hated writing when I was in school. I looooove to read and talk about books but I couldn't stand putting my own ideas on paper. I could never find the right words and I hated having to write a specific length just to get a good grade. Who had time for verb tenses or not using the word "you" in your paper?

I am reformed however. Writing this blog has helped me process things in my life that I would normally whine about or just gloss over. It has encouraged me to be "present" (my sister the yoga teacher is constantly encouraging this) during moments both big and small throughout my life. (Usually so I can write about them later).

I am reflecting more on those moments which brings me clarity and is what I like to call "free therapy." I feel calmer and more at peace with things as I write about them. And I get support from people I know and from people I don't. That support is huge, otherwise I could just write in a journal and keep it hidden.

I am also proud of what I write. Sometimes I read what I wrote a few times; I feel like I am in love with words I wrote. Maybe I sound a little crazy, does anybody else do this? Re-read what they wrote just because they like the way they said something? I have never considered writing one of my strengths and so when I write something I consider "good" I like to enjoy it and read it over a few thousand times.

So to all those skeptics out there: don't knock it until you try it!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Anybody need a good read?

I realize that is sounds like I giving away books but I am not. Sorry. I actually use the library so the books that I have read recently are from the library.

Good books I have read lately:

1. Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult

2. The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit by Lucette Lagnado

3. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

I'm not going to go into long summaries about any of these books. Partly because I read some of them weeks ago and lately my memory is not to be trusted. I thought all of them were very well-written.

Handle with Care is about a child with a bone disease and the ramifications that has on her family. It is a pretty typical Jodi Picoult book. Each chapter is written from a different character's viewpoint. Serious stuff and she always makes me think.

The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit is a memoir about a Jewish Egyptian/Syrian family that had to leave Egypt in the 1950's. I thought it was fascinating mainly because I know nothing about those countries and their role in recent Jewish history.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a story about the Japanese internment during WWII in America. Written from the viewpoint of a Chinese-American boy/man in Seattle during that time. It is fiction but based on historical events. Really well written, deep but not toooo deep.

As you can see, my interests encompass a broad range of topics. I might have said this before but I will read about anything as long as it well written. Even a cereal box. My eyes automatically search out print wherever I am. I will also read even if I only have 1 min of time.

I am in the middle of reading 3 other books right now so when I finish them I will let you know.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

It's a Diffferent World, than where you come from

Cue the music. . . Maybe this is an obscure reference but anyone who watched the sitcom "A Different World" in the 90's would know that it was part of their theme song.

I had an interesting conversation with a student today that really reminded me that even though we live in the same city, we really live in 2 DIFFERENT worlds. I am going to provide a little background because even if you know what I do, you might not really know.

I am a special education resource/inclusion teacher for students in grades 5th-8th. That means I pull kids out to help them and I also go into classrooms to help them and the teacher. I write IEP's, test students, and go to meetings. My students have many different diagnoses. They vary including but not limited to: learning disabled, ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, and other mental health diagnoses. I work in an urban public school that is primarily African-American and Hispanic. Many of my students get free or reduced lunch and the only food they eat for the day are the meals the school provides.

I have always known that we occupy 2 different worlds. I am married (many of their parents are not) and am part of a 2 parent household. I live my life according to religious principles which influence my values, morals, and ethics. These kids live by one word: SURVIVE (out on the streets). Whatever you need to do survive, that is how you live.

Today's conversation was even more eye-opening. Without going into any specifics or identifying details, an 8th grader told me that if the doesn't graduate 8th grade(he will have to go to an achievement academy-sort of preliminary high school) he will drop out. He continued talking and said that he is in an afterschool program( I think he is court-ordered to go, assume what you will) and he said that out of the 7 other boys that are there, half of them will be dead and the other half in jail in 10 years time. This was stated in a matter of fact way. This is his expectation for his life , his future. I told him it didn't have to be that way. His reply: "Mrs. B, everyone dies or goes to jail." Uh, not quite. However, in his reality that is probably true. Scary. I have been working this profession for years-it takes a lot to rattle me. The way he was describing his life RATTLED me.

He doesn't think he has choices. He doesn't think those choices influence his future. But he does and they do! It's pretty normal teenage behavior to think you are invincible. To think you can get away with things. But the stakes are so much higher when gangs, drugs, and violence are involved.

What I struggle with: How do I make him understand this? How do I help him see this? I am left with this feeling of failure about this boy who could make something of his life. The irony is that he is smart and very capable of learning. But already by 8th grade (probably even earlier) the streets have caught him.

I care about my students so much. Sometimes more than they care about themselves. Sometimes more than their parents or guardians care about them. I want the best for them but sometimes it feels like we live on different planets that speak different languages. I wish I could speak their language so they could understand.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Hot and Heavy, topic that is

Ok, I'm sure that what I am going to write about will stir up some controversy, just writing the title alone made me think twice. But I decided to go with it. The controversy that could result is just a by-product, NOT the purpose of this post. But I really feel like I need to get these thoughts I am having off my chest. That IS a reason that I started this blog.

Religion. That's what I want to talk about. And not just my religion. Which is why I think I might offend some people even though it is NOT at all my intention.

I have been reading other blogs on various topics that openly declare their faith. I think that is great. Talking and sharing about faith and beliefs help make up a person's essence and helps define who they are. For me, that is a reason to read blogs; I like reading about other people and learning new things. Also, I am nosy. I like glimpses into other people's worlds and their belief system is part of that.

However, what I don't understand or "get" is why other religions feel the need to make others believe the same way as they do. Why is my faith not as "good" as yours? Why do I have to be exactly like you? Diversity, including the fact that people practice many religions, are reasons to promote tolerance. Have good values. Live a moral life. When I speak about Judaism (to people who are not Jewish) it is not to tell people that they should be like me or that my way is the ONLY way. It is to educate and show that there is another way that people believe in G-D. I think it is important to be mindful that there are many belief systems that exist in the world and many ways to have a close relationship with G-D.

I chose to live the lifestyle of a religious Jew. I am not religious because I grew up that way or because it was the only lifestyle I knew. I had to make some hard choices that still continue to have consequences throughout my life. But I felt that I needed to live this way ( keep kosher, keep shabbos, etc.) in order to have the relationship with G-D that I wanted and needed. Maybe my background makes me too open-minded. I grew up in a small town where I was pretty much the only Jewish person in my grade. Passover? What's that? Chanukah, there was a little more exposure to because X-mas is around that time. I remember standing in front my class and telling everyone about these holidays and more. And not one time was I ever teased about being Jewish. I was teased about plenty of other things (I am very short-and my maiden name was Elfman, need I say more?). But I don't have any recollection of anyone making a rude comment about not having the same belief system as everyone else.

Another situation occurred recently. During this Pesach (Passover) holiday we are allowed to cook (unlike the Sabbath). However, our oven has an automatic shut-off after 12 hours and the holiday days were 2 days long. So after asking a Rabbi, we are allowed to get a non-Jew to turn on our oven. I asked my friend (love you E!) and she came over and turned on the oven. Well, she mentioned it to one of her relatives and he made a comment about how I am sending her to hell instead of me. And at first I didn't get it. What? Then I realized that he thinks that we consider everyone the same. And that is not true. I would never ask someone to do something that is wrong morally or ethically, or to do something that I would not do myself. But E had no obligation not to cook because she isn't Jewish. And she is not going to hell just because she is not Jewish. That is the obvious difference-we don't believe that everyone is supposed to be Jewish.

Of course, I am not any sort of authority on Jewish matters, so please correct me if I am wrong. I am just speaking my opinion and what I know to be true in my own life. Ok, getting off my soapbox. I hope I made sense. Lots of different viewpoints out there-Let me know what you think!

Monday, April 13, 2009


I'm sorry I haven't written for a while ( my sis got on my case) but for a while all I felt I could write about were complaints. And I don't want my blog to just be about complaints. Although it is my blog and I can write about whatever the heck I want even I was getting a little sick of myself!

So this is not a complaining post. It is about firsts. Pesach (Passover) started last week and it is M's first time celebrating the holiday. Of course, she has no idea what's going on-she's only 5 and a half months old, but still. She watched us during the Seder. She had some grape juice from my finger.

M also got her first tooth. We had absolutely no warning. Usually babies are fussy and uncooperative and you might even need to give them tylenol. Not this one. She has been drooling forever but that doesn't necessarily mean teeth are coming in the imminent future. Big T drooled for 9 months before she got her first tooth so I figured we had time. Well, I was wrong. At the second seder I put my finger in her mouth and felt sharp points on her bottom gum. I couldn't believe it and I might have to start to re-think this whole nursing thing. I don't like the idea of being bitten!

Another first: we gave M her first taste of food. She had applesauce and banana and even potato. Can you tell she's a 4th child? We didn't start with the baby cereal or test certain foods for a few days before starting a new one. I actually hadn't planned on giving her food at all until after Pesach but she seems sooooo ready to eat. She keeps grabbing cups and trying to put the food from my plate into her mouth.

Just today I gave some of my students their first taste of matza. They saw me eating it and were willing to have a try. Many of them have never met anyone Jewish and so all the traditions and customs that I keep are brand new and completely unfamiliar to them. Some of them liked the matza and some didn't but they asked me to bring more tomorrow so I take that as a good sign that I didn't scare them.

For the first time my husband and I cleaned our house for Pesach with no help. No cleaning help and no babysitting help. Usually I am scrambling around at the end needing something scrubbed or the kids taken away so that I can scrub something but not this year. We thought about our priorities and what we really needed during this holiday and that is all we focused on. We didn't clean anything extra (read: toys-just locked most of them up) and that helped. Also, being organized helped too!

Wishing everyone a Happy Pesach!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

In other business

Just a quick question-I don't love my template because I think it is hard to read. Anybody have any suggestions about where I can find a new template?


If moms ran the government

If moms ran the government things would be done a lot more efficiently. Why do I say this? Because we can multi-task. Because when we have only small amounts of time we make sure to use that time wisely.

Yesterday I had report card pick-up day at work. That meant that my hours changed, I didn't need to be at work until noon but I had to stay til 6:15. So I had the morning to either waste time or get some things done.

Here is a run-down of what I did yesterday BEFORE I even got to work:

1. Got my kids ready for the babysitter and school and drove carpool.

2. Cleaned a bathroom

3. Unloaded a dishwasher and reloaded it

4. Folded 3 loads of laundry

5. Pumped

6. Stopped at Jewel to get lunch.

Then I got myself to work on time and then did a full day's work. Now I am not writing this to show off although that would be nice. But my point is that I AM NOT a supermom. I am not any better than other moms-we all do things like this all the time. Moms multi-task and know how to get things done in the shortest amount of time possible. Because time is at a premium and should not be wasted! And if you don't do things that need doing then you are left with an overwhelming, crazy mess!

Which is what I keep trying to explain to my wonderful husband. Who after 10 years still doesn't understand fully. Which is not his fault-he's not a mom. He doesn't understand why I keep doing things around the house instead of relax. He doesn't understand why I do the dishes when there are only a few in the sink. He doesn't understand why I like to put things away where they belong instead of anywhere I feel like it. Because at the end of the day I am the one who is responsible for keeping our house in order. Now, I don't want to make it sound like I do everything and my husband does nothing. We both work full-time and we share the household responsibilities or we would not survive. He is immensely helpful in all areas pertaining to the house but he just doesn't feel the urgency the way that I do.

I am also making myself sound like a neat freak, which I am not (if you saw my house you would agree) but I do need some order. And that is why moms should run our gov't. Because we are all about order and efficiency. Imagine when something needs to be done-it gets done. Not in weeks, months, or years, but NOW when it needs to be done.

Okay, I'll get off my soapbox. For now. Because you know I can be on my soapbox and do ten other things at the same time.