Time Of Our Freedom- From Dirt, From Dust, From Free Time

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This is the time of year when practicing Jews the world over are preparing for the upcoming holiday of Passover. Among Jews who are strict in their observance, one of the major things we do to get ready is to rid our house of all leavened products. Lest you think this is as straightforward as merely going through the food in the house and getting rid of those containing yeast or other rising agents, let me assure you that it is quite, uh, not that.

In order to be super extra careful that we don’t own so much as a stray Cheerio, we go from room to room searching in drawers and under beds, in pockets and at the backs of closets, in cabinets and behind books on shelves. We vacuum and spray and wipe, and if this sounds funny to you I will assure you that there are few things less funny than finding what you think is a several weeks old peanut butter and jelly sandwich in your husband’s unused briefcase, only to discover upon closer inspection that it is in fact a several months old grilled cheese sandwich. Ya, that really happened.

When my kids were of the putting-toys-in-mouths age, I used to clean each bigger toy individually, but put lego and smaller toys in mesh lingerie bags and throw them in the washing machine (#Jewishlifehacks. You’re welcome.)

The bigger issue, though, is this: because many of us have large-ish families and don’t get a ton of time to do deep cleaning like this, Passover is a wonderful time to really deep clean. As long as there is a religious mandate to pretty much touch every single object you own, it seems like a great time to simultaneously spring clean. So while you are moving the items in your closet to vacuum it out, why not sort things for Goodwill? As long as you are opening the blinds on every window to wipe down the sills, why not scrub those pesky windows too? And once the cleaning products are out it is certainly a fantastic time to clean each crystal on your chandelier, right?

Well, wrong.

Believe it or not, the time when you are already busy with your normal packed day full of responsibilities, and then you are adding the more-than-full-time job of more-than-OCD-level cleaning in preparation for the upcoming holiday is NOT the best time to add extra tasks to your to-do list like sort, label, and catalog every piece of spare electronic equipment that has been hanging around your house since the early 90’s. Sure it sounds like fun to watch those random DVDs and then take any that are scratched to the cute little store you passed once on your way home from somewhere only 28 miles away that repairs scratched DVDs. But maybe you could do that, say… during summer vacation?

A famous Rabbi once said, “Dirt is not chometz (leavening) and your family is not the korban Pesach (the Passover sacrifice).” That’s a great thing to remember. Your walls might be filthy, but unless that dirt is made out of flour and water, you are good to go as far as Passover. Your toilet bowl might be dirty, but if you have limited energy (and unlike me you don’t consider cleaning to be a leisure activity) then your time for Passover cleaning is better spent scrubbing a kitchen cabinet than taking a toothbrush to the hardware that attaches the underside of the toilet seat to the rim (okay, yes, I’m guilty of this, but not for Passover, and not a toothbrush that we use for mouths, obviously!).

The to-do list for Passover cleaning is already so exhaustive that when I tried to make up things to be tongue-in-cheek I actually couldn’t think of things that were outlandish enough without running up against things that people actually do. Short of saying things like re-roofing your house (and truthfully it wouldn’t surprise me too much if someone posted a comment on here and said, nope, my in-laws do this!), one can find people who go to almost any lengths to be Pesach-Perfect.

You’ve gotta give them credit for trying. They have the right spirit. They want to do the right thing. The commandment is to get rid of leavened products, and by golly by gosh, they are darn well going to do just that. The things is, at a certain point, we have to ask ourselves how much of what we do is about fulfilling the commandment and how much about fulfilling other people’s expectations or our own egos. If my neighbors see my walls are dirty (Well, not MY walls, said with 8 trillion degrees of haughty arrogance, please, and a whole lot of laughter!), will they think that means I slacked off on cleaning properly? Will they think I’m lazy about other important religious tasks? In a religious-based community that can have far-reaching negative consequences, so that is not to be taken lightly. And then there is straight ego. If my neighbor, who teaches school full time and has 34 kids, can still find time to clean 9 hours a day and have a shining sparkling home, then why should I do the bare minimum? Just because I don’t have to wash the windows in my shed, does that really mean I shouldn’t? And we drive ourselves into the ground by shoulding on ourselves (ya, read those last few words out loud, okay?). I should do more. I should be better organized. I should stay up later. I should work harder. I should be everything I think everyone around me is, which is funny because they think the same about me. So everyone loses equally.

Well here’s a news flash: my toilet is still cleaner.

So now you can all rest easy.

You have no hope of ever competing, so just go to bed early.

You can thank me another time.

πŸ™‚

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Raw Emotions

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One of the nice things about living in Seattle was the ease of obtaining raw milk. In Michigan it is illegal to buy raw milk. People get around this by doing something called a cow share, or a herd share, by which they purchase part ownership of a cow or cows. Since it is not illegal to drink raw milk from a cow you own, you can then drink your own cow’s milk without a problem.

For people who are convinced that raw milk is a healthier alternative to pasteurized milk, this is a great way to deal with certain states’ laws that don’t allow for responsible consumer choice in this area.

I don’t want to digress too far from the topic I intended to discuss, but I will say briefly that many (if not most) of the people I’ve met who have objections to raw milk are coming from a place of ignorance (ignorance meaning they don’t know about something). There are so many misconceptions out there about safety or lack thereof, and cleanliness or lack thereof, so I would just urge you that if you find yourself having a knee-jerk reaction to something like raw milk please at least look into it. Give it a fair chance before you make a decision one way or another; the facts may surprise you. You can make a change or not, but don’t let rumors or propaganda dictate your thinking, especially on an issue that could impact the health of you or your family.

And that is actually a pretty good segue into the issue that is bothering me right now. One of my older kids made a comment recently about how they really didn’t enjoy the consistency of raw milk (It comes with the cream on top, and you shake the bottle to distribute the cream throughout the milk when you use it. Even if you take off the cream, though, it has more of a creamy texture than store-bought milk. I actually think this is way better, but I guess it’s an individual thing…). Last night I was looking into where you can get cow shares in Michigan and another of my older kids asked if we could get store-bought milk for him because he really “hates” raw milk. When the kids were younger it was pretty much I shopped, I cooked, I served, and they ate. What was in the house was in the house, and with the exception of very egregious things (super icky foods, very gross flops when I would make something new, etc.) the kids were expected to have what was in the house. Certainly in the area of health decisions, we made the decisions and the children benefited from our research.

But now the kids are bigger. And with bigger kids come bigger ideas and bigger opinions. Those opinions need to be respected and taken into consideration. It isn’t always wise or simple to just dismiss their desires or preferences “because we said so”. Yes we are the parents and we pay the bills, and sometimes that has to be enough. In some cases our rules are our rules and that is the answer. Period. But where we can be flexible we try to be flexible. And here several of our kids have told me that something I think is to their benefit is not to their taste.

So something which I feel strongly is good for them and is in their best interests to do just doesn’t light their fires. I think that raw milk is far superior. I think that raw milk gives them benefits they can’t get otherwise. I think that for various reasons a few of my kids could really really use this milk in their diets. And if they don’t enjoy it as a drink maybe they should suck it up and think of it as medicine.

But… I don’t think regular milk is dangerous. And life is full of things that are unpleasant for them already (homework, waking up before they would want to, not having all of the material possessions they want all the time…)- so do I really want to pile on one more without a super compelling reason? And do I want to be that mom who is such a downer that she doesn’t listen to her kids because her own personal crusades are more important than her children’s voices?

Believe it or not this is not such a simple question.

As parents we are often in a position where we have to be parents before we are friends. It isn’t easy to weigh up what is my own shtick and what is a legitimate use of my parental powers. You have to hold yourself to a pretty high standard of honesty to stay clear on what you are doing to validate your own agenda and what you are doing because it is genuinely for your kids- and often there is overlap, which certainly muddies the waters! In general we make tons of mistakes, and in general we can only hope that the relationship with our kids will be strong enough and trusting enough that both sides know that those mistakes are unintentional. At the end of the day, we only want the best for our kids. The only question is what that road ends up looking like.

So, will I end up buying raw milk in Michigan? If I do, will I end up offering an alternative, or will I just ask my kids to absorb this as a minor casualty of life in the Bass household? I haven’t made a final decision yet, but I am certainly leaning in one direction. If you have a similar issue you have dealt with in your own life, or in your own parenting, I wold love to hear how you dealt with it!

New Underwear

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Someone close to me swears by the value of buying new underwear to make you feel like a million bucks. She is pretty convinced that the nicer your undergarments, the nicer your outlook on life will be. So from time to time she will go on a shopping binge where she will treat herself to a new set of underthings, designed to lift her spirits and make those around her appreciate her even more (although they will be none the wiser as to the reasons for her newfound happiness).

Another friend is a sock fanatic and has multiple drawers full of socks. It’s not that this person takes particular joy in actually wearing the socks, and it isn’t like they coordinate with outfits or are of a certain brand or quality. But there is something in the rush of the buying that makes him inordinately happy, so he buys with abandon and that temporarily lifts his mood.

But a conversation with one of my dearest friends a few days ago brought all of these “fixes” into perspective. This person suffers from seasonal depression. When he is sad it is more than a feeling of, “Gee maybe I should go out for ice cream and cheer up…”. it’s worse than, “Oh rats, someone took the parking spot I wanted and now I have to walk a few extra steps. I’m so bummed…”. Real depression is so pervasive and so heavy it isn’t something you can cure with a nice outfit or a decadent treat. As much as he wants to be out from under it, he is just buried by it.

It’s so tempting to look at someone in the throes of depression and offer suggestions. Have you tried exercise? Do you get enough vitamins? Maybe you should listen to some music! (Insert your perkiest voice for maximum effect!) Sleep less! Sleep more! Wear brighter colors! Get out into the nice weather!

I could go on and on but the point is the same. For those of us on the outside, it is both seductive to try to fix and too easy to oversimplify. To compare sadness to depression is to like comparing a splinter to a nail gun being shot through your face. Yes, I think true depression is that bad.

So what is there to do? For those of us who aren’t trained mental health professionals, I think the best thing to do is just to be there. Check in. Check on. Don’t leave people you care about to hang out in the breeze because you don’t know what to say or do, or because it can be too draining. Just say hello. Don’t stop showing up. Don’t smother someone, but the worst thing for a person with depression is the isolation that comes along with it. So don’t let them be alone in their misery. Have their back. Have their front. Have their side. Do what it takes to be the person who doesn’t let them down.

And remember that if depression could be fixed by a new CD you’d have a lot more music and a lot more easy solutions in the world.

I wish it was that simple.

Rooftop Garden, And An Alpaca In A Cherry Tree

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If I had to say the most common question since we moved back to Detroit, it would definitely be, “So where are you going to put the garden?”.

It’s interesting to me that people for the most part aren’t that curious about life in Seattle, or what we’ve been doing the last few years, or any other random topic. But next to, “Oh, where are you from?” (Which always makes me laugh, because my response is, “Uh I’m from here. Where are you from?” And then the person looks perplexed…), we keep getting people who assume that since the Basses are in town, trouble is sure to follow. It’s never a conversational, “Where are you putting your garden?” (Like where do you get the best sun in your new yard?) but rather a conspiratorial/mischievous, oooh let me get in on the ground floor of the next scandal…

So, just to put it out there: The garden thing has been done already πŸ™‚

We are allowed to have backyard chickens.

I want an alpaca in the worst way, but we don’t have enough land.

We planted several fruit trees in Seattle- what we hoped would be the first of many- and in what I confess are some of my very few only regrets about leaving there, had to (obviously) leave those trees behind just as they were getting nice and mature. So I would like to plant some fruit trees here, but I am still not settled enough to even begin to contemplate something like that.

There are some projects I would like to do around the house (both outside and inside), but again, my head isn’t there yet.

I will probably never be the person who settles into a quiet life of oblivion. But I just want to sort of remind everyone that when the garden thing happened I wasn’t looking for trouble, either. My family has earned some measure of peace. The question that remains to be seen is how peaceful can life with Julie Bass really ever be?

I was going to say more in the post, but instead I would like to make a comment after the Powerball lottery drawing. Something about it really touched me, and I wanted to bring it to your attention, in case you didn’t hear the same news reports as I did. This morning when I woke up they had established that winning tickets had been sold in three states (with smaller winners in others). But instead of the usual hedodism that usually follows: namely, what would you do with that kind of money? there was story after story about people cheering for the winners. People standing outside of stores where the winning tickets were sold and congratulating the store owners who had sold the tickets. People being interviewed who had nothing but good wishes for the folks who had won the lottery. Not a single person who said, “Oh if only I had won instead…”. Perhaps this will be a harbinger of things to come in 2016. Perhaps this will be the year of good news and wishing each other well. Perhaps this will be the year where we can appreciate each other’s good fortune instead of envying each other’s every asset. Maybe this is the beginning of a trend onward and upward for all of us.

I really hope so πŸ™‚

Some Humor- Why Not?

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So why did the chicken cross the road?

SARAH PALIN: The chicken crossed the road because, gosh-darn it, he’s a maverick!

BARACK OBAMA: Let me be perfectly clear, if the chickens like their eggs they can keep their eggs. No chicken will be required to cross the road to surrender her eggs. Period.

JOHN McCAIN: My friends, the chicken crossed the road because he recognized the need to engage in cooperation and dialogue with all the chickens on the other side of the road.

HILLARY CLINTON: What difference at this point does it make why the chicken crossed the road?

GEORGE W. BUSH: We don’t really care why the chicken crossed the road. We just want to know if the chicken is on our side of the road or not. The chicken is either with us or against us. There is no middle ground here.

DICK CHENEY: Where’s my gun?

BILL CLINTON: I did not cross the road with that chicken.

AL GORE: I invented the chicken.

JOHN KERRY: Although I voted to let the chicken cross the road, I am now against it! It was the wrong road to cross, and I was misled about the chicken’s intentions. I am not for it now, and will remain against it.

AL SHARPTON: Why are all the chickens white?

DR. PHIL: The problem we have here is that this chicken won’t realize that he must first deal with the problem on this side of the road before it goes after the problem on the other side of the road. What we need to do is help him realize how stupid he is acting by not taking on his current problems before adding any new problems.

OPRAH: Well, I understand that the chicken is having problems, which is why he wants to cross the road so badly. So instead of having the chicken learn from his mistakes and take falls, which is a part of life, I’m going to give this chicken a NEW CAR so that he can just drive across the road and not live his life like the rest of the chickens.

ANDERSON COOPER: We have reason to believe there is a chicken, but we have not yet been allowed to have access to the other side of the road.

NANCY GRACE: That chicken crossed the road because he’s guilty! You can see it in his eyes and the way he walks.

PAT BUCHANAN: To steal the job of a decent, hardworking American.

MARTHA STEWART: No one called me to warn me which way the chicken was going. I had a standing order at the Farmer’s Market to sell my eggs when the price dropped to a certain level. No little bird gave me any insider information.

DR SEUSS: Did the chicken cross the road? Did he cross it with a toad? Yes, the chicken crossed the road, but why it crossed I’ve not been told.

ERNEST HEMINGWAY: To die in the rain, alone.

GRANDPA: In my day we didn’t ask why the chicken crossed the road. Somebody told us the chicken crossed the road, and that was good enough for us.

BARBARA WALTERS: Isn’t that interesting? In a few moments, we will be listening to the chicken tell, for the first time, the heartwarming story of how it experienced a serious case of molting, and went on to accomplish its lifelong dream of crossing the road.

ARISTOTLE: It is the nature of chickens to cross the road.

BILL GATES: I have just released eChicken2014, which will not only cross roads, but will lay eggs, file your important documents and balance your checkbook. Internet Explorer is an integral part of eChicken2014. This new platform is much more stable and will never reboot.

ALBERT EINSTEIN: Did the chicken really cross the road, or did the road move beneath the chicken?

COLONEL SANDERS: Did I miss one?

Hello, Jesus

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Last week *h was in an airport in the Midwest when he found himself standing next to a man in a T-shirt that said “Jesus”.

I told him that he should ask for his autograph, since he had never met Jesus before. That’s a pretty big deal, right?

*h agreed in theory, but before he could put our plan into action, he found himself surrounded by multiple “Jesus” claimants. Then hoards of “Jesus”. It seemed the airport was full of “Jesus” pretenders.

But then something even more perplexing happened. A bunch of folks appeared on the scene with shirts that read, “If found return to Jesus”.

So I asked *h, “Does that mean they want someone to kill them?”

Because if you believe Jesus is God and you want to be returned to him, doesn’t that kind of imply you want to, um, meet your maker?

Clearly *h is not the type to kill random strangers, much less in an airport in the Midwest, but it was odd that on an ordinary regular day everyone seemed to have a Jesus fascination.

It turned out that the two groups belonged to competing Jesus camps, which still didn’t completely clear up my confusion as to what the shirts were about. Was the first camp called Jesus, or were they encouraging the campers to rename themselves, or was this a camp slogan? And was the second camp located in a place called Jesus, or was the head counselor perhaps Hispanic, or was this just something a Jewish family would never understand?

All I really know is that was a lot of Jesus for just one day, and after thinking about it for over a week I am still no closer to untangling the mystery and none the wiser after knowing there were camps involved, although that seemed to put *h’s mind to rest somewhat. If I wear a shirt that says “Michael Jordan” I obviously don’t think I am Michael Jordan, but if I go around claiming to be the son of God people just might think something is a bit off with me.

For what it’s worth, though, I still think *h should have gotten an autograph, because in this day and age you just never know who you will meet in an airport…

Julie In The Hood

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Some of you raised some interesting points in the comment section of the last post, which I plan to go back and address. But for now I want to try to shed some light on how I feel about Detroit (and the surrounding areas). By the way, if you have an inkling of where exactly we may be moving, I will just ask you now to please not mention it by name on the blog for the sake of my family’s privacy, either to ask me if you are right or to just drop the name… I would prefer to keep the exact location private, at least for now, and I hope you will respect that…

My love for Detroit is somewhat akin to some people’s love of their first car. It may have been a beater, with dents and rust, but they will always look back fondly on that car and what it represented to them. Similarly, I will always hold an unnatural love in my heart for Detroit (and yes, even Oak Park).

Forgive me if these places mean nothing to you, but they mean a lot to me. I learned to drive on Woodward Ave. I went on dates to Rudy’s Chicken Lips. My friends and I went to Belle Isle on hot summer nights to sit on our car hoods with the rest of the ghetto kids who had nothing else to do but watch each other watching each other. We scoped out houses in Sherwood Forest and pretended one day that we would all be successful something-or-others and buy houses there, and then we went home to whatever crappy housing projects or lower-middle-class suburbs we really lived in and called each other and talked til all hours of the night. I went to divey bars in Cass Corridor to hear my friend’s band play and another friend’s poetry slam and see another friend’s art exhibit at a gallery he started. I remember the magic of driving to visit someone on the East Side, even though I was a West Side girl and as a point of pride we never actually crossed Woodward…

We skipped school at Taco Bell in Ferndale and shopped at Northland Mall back when Swatch watches were cool, but only the white kids in the suburbs had them (read: not me or any of my friends πŸ˜‰ ). We thought we owned Oak Park park, but only certain sections (we weren’t greedy, and we never would have monopolized toys that little kids needed), and we definitely owned the library (but only the nerdy ones of us, and the ones who had no way home after school. I had my first kiss, my first crush, and my first of pretty much everything in either Oak Park or Detroit proper, and there is no memory that shaped who I am as a person that doesn’t harken back to some place in Michigan.

There is nothing about me that doesn’t carry the stamp of my home state. I am every bit a Midwest girl, from my speech patterns to my mannerisms to my expectations of other people’s behavior. And the West Coast just has never lit my fire.

My kids were all born in either Detroit or a suburb of Detroit, and now like baby turtles it seems they are finding their way back to the place they were first launched.

I have missed Detroit like a Victorian lover missed her beloved. Chastely but pervasively. I have yearned for it and idealized it and built it up to be more than it is. I have become more of a Detroiter in Seattle than I ever was in Detroit. I have bought shirts proclaiming my Detroit-i-ness and renounced ties to Seattle at the slightest provocation (sorry, Seattle). I have forgotten my early happiness with the simple pleasures of Seattle and vastly over-rated the delights of Detroit. But that’s how it is with past loves. They are always especially ensconced in your heart.

But truly I am Detroit and Detroit is me. We have been separated for too long and it’s time for a reunion. I need to be where I am the most wholly myself, for better or for worse. Each of us has a foundational element to who we are, and if that foundation is somehow corrupted then our essence does not shine its brightest.

It’s time for me to shine again.

I hope Michigan will welcome me home πŸ™‚

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