Leila

Sleepy sleepy

Baby Leila is here! Born just a week ago, she’s been an absolute joy. S and I are completely and utterly in love with our little girl.

I’ll admit I was hesitant about being a parent at first. What if I didn’t know what to do? What if I did everything wrong? Could I be responsible for someone? Could I be okay with changing up my life so much that it revolves around someone else? Even with S’s constant love and help, could we do it?

Obviously we decided that we could, that we wanted to. It was a natural decision. We took our time and I think that was for the best. Because now we’re ready. And, yes, we’re still petrified of doing something wrong, and yes, we’re not sure what we’re doing, but we know it’ll all be okay. Because we’re in it together. The three of us now.

It feels right.

Before Leila, I considered TNWSY to be my baby. In a way, there are similarities. I birthed it, nurtured it. It sometimes made me stressed or sad, but also extraordinarily happy and proud. And, when it was ready, I put it out into the world to create its own life.

I still consider TNWSY to be my baby (it will always be!), but it’s different now that I have an actual one. When TNWSY comes out, if someone doesn’t like it, it won’t be the end of the world. Sure i’ll feel rejected and sad, but it can’t force someone to like something I wrote. But if someone says something negative about my girl, I will come at them with the fury of dragons. I will do everything I can – everything in my power – to protect this little human. I will show her a good life. I will keep her nurtured and loved. I will love her every single day as she learned the highs and lows of the world. I will hold her close through everything.

It’s amazing, looking at this little girl as I am right now, and realizing that S and I created her. She’s ours, all ours. I never thought I could love someone I barely know – yet someone know so well – so much.

March 2006

Permit me to be sentimental for a moment.

This week marks eight years of S and I being together. It’s weird that eight years have gone by – I mean, that’s practically 1/3 of my life. How did the time fly by? How did we get so much older? (Or, the question S asks me frequently, how am I still listening to the same music?)

Eight years isn’t a milestone like 10 or 20, and we never celebrate this dating anniversary, but I found it to be different and important because it’ll be the last that we’re just a duo. Next month we’ll be a  trio.

S and I met during college, in the fall of 2004. We had the lit class Contemporary American Popular Culture together. (Note: This class did not contain any contemporary American popular culture books – we read international detective stories, and it was awesome.) I sat next to him, and when he introduced himself, I had already heard of him. We were both involved with a few extracurricular activities that somewhat overlapped – in other words, we had  mutual friends. He ran the campus movie theatre and performed improv comedy. I was in the circus, and recreationally did some film projects.

To this day, I still don’t know why he liked me at first. I had a rather crappy boyfriend at the time (we lasted 2 months – it was not good), I was late for class, and I made fun of him for using the word “ostensibly.” But, worst of all, I was always coming straight from circus practice, so I was sweaty, wearing hideous workout clothes, and more than likely bleeding from my ankles due to a missed trick.

The thing about college is that you make a lot of friends in class, but they don’t always last. This was before Facebook and Twitter, so if you wanted to keep in touch, you exchanged phone numbers, email address, or AIM screen names. Most people, though not on purpose, would fall by the wayside. You clung to your base group (my freshman year dorm mates, my circus friends), and lost others along the way. The thing is, I never lost S after that. Sure, we took Shakespeare together the following semester, but we didn’t share another class after. Instead, we became friends, real friends. We merged our groups together, and he became a frequent guest at my townhouse. I drove him around (he didn’t have a car in college), we had regular places we’d hang out at. He became part of my college family.

But we didn’t actually start dating until March of 2006.

Yeah, quite a bit of time later.

By that time, we’d helped each other through good times and bad. We’d seen each other at our best, our worst. It kind of just made sense.

So when we started dating, friends said “of course.”

And when we got engaged, friends said “it’s about time.”

And when we announced our baby, friends said “finally!”

Because they clearly all knew something we didn’t. But I think that unknowing that we shared brought us even closer together. I know that we took time to get here, and I know that i’m all the prouder of it. Of us. We worked hard for each other.

So I don’t know what the future holds, I don’t know how we’ll grow and change, especially with a third in the equation, but I know we’ll continue being just as strong, and just as…us. Because for almost 1/3 of my life, it’s what i’ve known. And for almost 1/3 of my life, what I’ve loved.

Explorations in Religion (Or, Yarmulkes and Saris on Christmas)

(There have been a lot of articles recently written on millenials growing up with two religions. Most have been sent to me by friends saying, “hey, you can write about this, too!” so after hearing it, I’ve decided to share my story of a bi-religous household. In doing so, since religion is a tricky thing to write about, I want to say that I do not intent to insult anyone. I do not think my upbringing and beliefs are the Right and Perfect way, though they were right and perfect for me. I do not think one religion is better than another. So. That said. I’m going to start by sounding extremely intelligent and referencing an old text, and end by quoting a scandalous and mildly inappropriate musical.)

The Third Tale in Boccaccio’s novel The Decameron (think an earlier, Italian Canterbury Tales-esque book)  perfectly represents my idea of religion. In it, a man tells a story of king who had one ring and three virtuous sons. The king says upon his death that the son who receives the ring will receive his estate. Unable to make a decision, the king had two copies of the ring made, thus, at his death, each son had an identical ring and no one knew who had the real thing. The story is compared to religions, saying that they’re all, in a way, identical, and there’s no way of deciding which faith is the true one.

I read that story in college and remember it to this day. Being raised by a Jewish mother and Italian Catholic father made me think about, and question, religion a lot growing up. Which was right? Which was wrong? And does it matter? The story made me see that no, no it does not.

Though I was a product of two religions, my parents raised me mostly without religion. We didn’t go to church or temple. We didn’t pray at dinner or before bed, and I never went to Hebrew school. Instead, they gave me tales and ideas and culture. I learned about god, as this omniscient being. I knew the stories behind Hanukkah and Christmas, and we celebrated them both. I played spin the dreidel with my brother while watching the Muppet Christmas Carol. We had Santa and latkes.

It never bothered me that I didn’t have a single religion, even as my friends proclaimed theirs (with new middle names after confirmation, or giant bat/bar mitzvahs). In fact, it made me feel unique and special that I could see both sides. I got both December holidays (toys!), and though, sure, I might have wanted one of my own celebrations (have you seen some of the bat mitzvahs?!), I was okay knowing that I was this sort of inbetweener, both on the inside and outside. I liked feeling like I was part of two things, instead of one.

High school was when my friends nicknamed me the Cashew (Catholic Jew) and I found myself siding more with my Jewish upbringing. There wasn’t any specific reason, I just enjoyed the culture, the stories, the beliefs. And, perhaps, I read way too many Holocaust stories. I suppose it came to an apex in class one day, when a very brash girl told me that, because I was Jewish and therefore without Jesus, I was definitely going to hell.

To understand how much that affected me, you have to understand the kind of person I was. I was small and very timid. I didn’t speak out, I didn’t love attention. So, with red cheeks, I looked at her and said, “Jewish people don’t believe in hell.” It was my one and only drop-the-mic moment.

She kind of solidified my feelings towards Judaism.

College came, and with it questions. I was becoming someone new, and I wanted to see what that meant. I made an amazing group of friends that were all part of the same Christian organization. I figured since they were good people, there must be something there. So I went with them to a social, and met other really nice people, but didn’t quite fit in. I didn’t have the same beliefs, and didn’t like the idea that that was the only way. I loved that it worked for my friends, and I loved my friends, but it wasn’t me. Similarly, I went to Hillel, the Jewish organization, for a seder and didn’t find myself quite there, either. It was nice and lovely, and I felt more in touch with my Jewish side, but I never went back. I was still part of and not part of both.

Yet every year I had a Christmas tree and a menorah. I didn’t eat yeast for Passover. I sometimes prayed at night, when I needed to feel that someone was listening. 

It was after college that I realized I didn’t need just one religion. As a child I was happy being a part of everything, so I decided, much like a high schooler, that I didn’t need a label to define me. I was fine defining myself. Because I believed in something, and to me, that was enough.

So it wasn’t a shock to anyone when, after many years of dating, I married S, who just so happens to be Hindu and British. A third religion and more culture! It was in planning our wedding – and most importantly, our ceremony – that I realized what was most important to me…culture. Not religion, but the culture behind it all. We had a lovely non-denominational ceremony where we walked around a candle seven times (as in Hindu tradition) and S stomped on the glass at the end. We stood under a combination mandup and chuppah (because, as it happens, but cultures have a canopy you’re married under). We did the Hora, and then danced to Bollywood music. My dad toasted everyone in Italian, Hebrew, and Hindi. It was, to us, perfect.

Now we’re about to have a child. Our daughter will be born to three religions and I couldn’t be more excited. Because she’ll learn all three stories, and all three beliefs. She’ll get all of the holidays, all of the celebrations, and all of the love. And, like me, she’ll have the chance to experience everything and decide what she wants out of religion (or, if she wants religion at all). She can be open minded and understanding. She can decide. 

Because, honestly, it’s all about what makes you feel good, isn’t it? The musical The Book of Mormon ends with the idea that believing in something is important, not necessarily a specific religion. Belief is what motivates us. Faith in something, whatever it is, is important. And that’s what I believe.

Because here’s what I’ve learned – being a part of many religions is fun. Though I still consider myself more Jewish (perhaps it’s the maternal instinct), I’m so happy I have every other part of my makeup. I’m happy I have S with me now, telling me his culture. Because, much like the three rings showed, they’re not all that different. Sure, the stories are unique, but it equates to one thing, right? Just be good.

Tales from our wedding: The father/daughter dance of doom

Father/Daughter Dance

Our one-year wedding anniversary is coming up in a month. Crazy how fast time goes by. To celebrate, I wanted to share some little-known stories from our wedding. Stories that most of the guests don’t even know. Stories that, to me, are just as memorable as the I dos.

—–

It’s not surprising to anyone that I was a huge reader growing up. My happy place was at the library. And while I was a regular, cheery, well-adjusted child, I loved sad books. Seriously. I remembering reading A Summer to Die in our kitchen, and silently crying through each page. I loved books that made me feel, even if that feeling was sorrow. 

Being Jewish, I obviously had to go through my Holocaust stage. I wanted to know more about my culture’s past, and see how much we suffered (as I was constantly reminded). Holocaust books were fascinating to me. Depressing, terrifying, I couldn’t believe they were true. So, of course, I had to share them with someone. 

Every time I read a new book, I’d tell my dad all about it. It became a game, really. I’d start talking, and he’d audibly sigh not because he hated hearing me share, but because he hated sad books. He hated being depressed. He hated when I told him if the girl/boy survived, and what became of their families. Unlike me, he didn’t want books that made him feel. He wanted books that were a distraction from everyday horrors, and I understood that, too.

The thing is, my dad is a very emotional man. You wouldn’t know that if you didn’t really know him. I mean, he’s very Italian, and born and raised in Brooklyn. He can fix a roof in an afternoon, and lift hundred-pound boxes up fights of stairs. He watches football and drinks beer, he golfs. But he was also the first to get teary eyed when I moved away to college. He was the first to sob when my mom was okay after her operation. Incidentally, he gets it from his dad.

As the Big Day drew nearer, we placed bets on how long it would be before he cried. While walking out? During the I dos? In all honesty, I don’t know if it happened during the ceremony. To this day he swears he didn’t cry, and I have no proof to justify otherwise.

But then the father/daughter dance came. And we all knew he’d lose it during that. All waited for it. He looked a little misty when we walked out, but as we turned, he murmured…

“Remember those books you used to read? About the girl who was running from the Nazis…”

To which I replied, “Dad. Are  you talking about the Holocaust at my wedding?”

And then we cracked up. Because of course he brought that up. He didn’t want to cry, so he brought up books I read. Depressing books, but still a distraction from the tears that might have come. He knew it would be funny. He knew I’d have a laugh.

And I did.

Some girls might have hated that their dad brought up such a horrible situation during such a memorable moment. But me? I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Full Disclosure

(I rarely write about very personal situations, but I felt this one to be important. Plus, it’s how I dealt with it, really. When I don’t know what to do, I write. So here’s what I wrote.) 

There’s a line in a book, I don’t recall which, where the main character uses the phrase “my traitorous lungs.” I kept thinking of that, running the line through my mind over and over again, as I felt the lump under my arm. It was right on a lymph node, I suspected, having seen how far they stretch, how vast they run. And despite being scared, I just kept repeating the word over and over again – my traitorous body, my traitorous skin, my traitorous muscle – until it made just as little sense as the situation did.

You hear about these situations and assume they’ll never happen to you. I’m 28. I’m relatively healthy. I shouldn’t find lumps the size of the tip of my pinkie finger hiding out under my skin, polluting everything around it. I shouldn’t – and yet I did. So I called my doctor, scheduled an appointment for later that day, and logically planned my attack. Also, I cried.

Samir was out of town, and really I didn’t want to tell anyone about my will hopefully be nothing situation, so I took myself to the doctor after leaving work early. He felt the lump, confirmed my suspicion. It is, in fact, there. It is, in fact, a random mass. It definitely should be looked at. So that’s when I started to make the calls.

Having just gone through this with my mom – a year of breast cancer treatment  which, thankfully, is finally over – I was well accustomed to hearing the stats, scheduling the appointments, and, really, just playing it cool. That’s who I was during her time. I was the observer who jotted notes down to research later. Who asked the questions that needed to be asked. Who kept everyone calm. I resumed that role again as I scheduled my mammogram, as I told my mom, as I researched my situation. I played it cool because it was the only thing I knew how to do.

I hated referring to it as a mass, as a lump, as an anything thing that shouldn’t be in my body. So I named it Fred. Fred sounded less frightening. Fred wouldn’t hurt me.

Two days later, yesterday, I had my first mammogram. Most women start later, at 35 or 40. I started at 28. I sat in a room wearing a blue cloth gown tied tightly around myself as I noticed each woman walk in. Each woman was almost double my age. They all gave me the same “oh, poor you” face that I hated. I didn’t want sympathy. I wanted to leave.

My mammogram went smoothly, if not uncomfortably, and then the ultrasound was cold and wet and weird. I figured my first time having one would be when I was pregnant. I assumed wrong. I took a picture to text Samir, who was waiting for me patiently in the other room.

The black jellybean is Fred, my mass.

I waited, waited, waited for the results. It’s cliche, but it did feel like it took a full day. A week. A month. But the doctor came in and showed me the films, showed me the pictures.

And I was right about so many things. Fred was on my lymph node. Fred was quite large, 5 mm. It was smart to get Fred looked at.

But despite all that? Fred was nothing. Fred was, in fact, simply an enlarged lymph node.

And I was completely fine. 

I think I asked her if I was okay at least seven times. Perhaps eight. I think it took me at least seven minutes to process the information. Perhaps eight.

Of course everything was great after that. I called my parents, my friends who sent me encouraging texts throughout the day. It was over, and I was fine.

But here’s the thing – while everything was fine, and Fred was just something I’ll live with, I’m really glad I still got him checked out. Because he could have been worse, he could have been horrible. There’s a part in The Art of Racing where the wife refuses to go to the doctor because she knows there will be bad news. I didn’t understand that when I read it – why refuse to know? But sitting under the ultrasound, I understood. Sometimes not knowing is easier. Especially when you know it will be bad.

But easier isn’t always better, and not knowing is not always the right way to go. We got my mom checked out just in time and it ended up being bad. I got myself checked out in time and it ended up being good. You really don’t know which way it’ll end, but in the end i’m so lucky that my mom is okay now…

…and, yeah, so am I.

Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I know this is supposed to be the post when I wax poetic about my first year of marriage, declaring how wonderful it is and how in love I am. While all of that is true enough, I’m not great at expressing emotions. In fiction, SURE! But on my blog? Not so much. So instead, here’s one of my favorite romantic quotes:

“here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)”

-e.e. cummings

When S & I got married, we didn’t have a religious ceremony. (With him being Hindu and me being Jewish/Catholic, it would have been 7,000 days long.) So, instead of a traditional Bible reading, we had my cousin read that e.e. cummings poem. I found it to be more us. 

However, I’ll admit,that was my second choices. My first choice was far too long. I tried cutting it, but it lost so much meaning that way. So, we went with that beautiful poem and no one knew about my original idea.

So I’m letting you all in on it now! While there are so many writings on love that I adore, one of my unexpected favorites is…(drum roll please)….the essay “The End of the Affair” by David Sedaris (found in his book Dress your Family in Corduroy and Denim). Weird, right? Have you read it? It’s fantastic. The basic premise is that large attention-grabbing dramatic gestures aren’t needed in true love. While, sure, they’re nice, sitting close to someone in a cafe may be just as lovely. Here’s my favorite part:

“Movie characters might chase each other through the fog or race down the stairs of burning buildings, but that’s for beginners. Real love amounts to withholding the truth, even when you’re offered the perfect opportunity to hurt someone’s feelings…I pulled my chair a few inches closer, and we sat silently at our little table on the square, looking for all the world like two people in love.”

Which is kind of like us, after all. I can’t wax poetic in my blog about him, but he still knows I care.

What’s your favorite romantic bit of writing, unexpected or cliche?

M.A.S.H.

The other night while discussing the game M.A.S.H. with a friend (something we talk about regularly, of course), I had a strange realization. You know how in the game you choose different cars, jobs, husbands, honeymoons, etc? I thought: “Oh, my future honeymoon will totally be in Italy.”*

Which is kind weird to think considering…I already had my honeymoon.

You guys…i’m married.

It’s not like this is new information, of course. I’ve been married since September. We had a honeymoon in September. I’ve had quite some time to process this  new development. But sometimes it’s weird to think that this big, huge, momentous occasion I’ve, to some degree, thought of my entire life…has already happened.

Not that I’m in any way sad about it, or wanting to re-do it (believe me, I’m not). I loved our wedding. I loved our honeymoon. (Heck, I even love my husband.) It’s just weird to not have that on the horizon anymore.

I later told S that I forgot we were married, and he gave me his normal response of “well, it was just a practice wedding.” And then I shoved him off the bed because honestly, one wedding is enough.

*We did in fact go to Italy for our honeymoon!