The 40 Year Old Bat Mitzvah

Gone Campin’

Posted in personal growth by Juliet on May 27, 2010

The Grossmans are going to camp!

From everything I’ve heard and read, Jewish camp is a great experience.  Indeed, many adults consider Jewish camp to be a defining experience in their young lives.

I never went to Jewish camp as a kid.  My sister and I went to an East Coast-style horsey camp in the Santa Cruz mountains, and as later in high school I went to tennis camp.

For his part, my East Coast-bred husband went to a secular camp with large Jewish clientele.  He camped for years and even returned as a counselor.  He made lifelong friends there.

Because we live in a predominantly non-Jewish area, I view Jewish sleepaway camp as an important immersion for Eva (and Jane, when she’s old enough. )  It’s kind of like the religious version of moving to Tokyo to learn Japanese.

Maybe a more apt comparison would be the feeling I have when I  – a vegetarian – eat at Native Foods or Real Food Daily.  I can order anything – ANYTHING! – from the entire menu?  Really?  Not just one small section of one small column, or a “regular” dish prepared with four modifications?  Wow.  Wow!  WOW!

I want our girls to have the experience, even if it’s just for two weeks, of being in a place where every single person surrounding them is Jewish.  Moreover, it’s an environment of complete and utter Jewish pride:  the songs, the games, the shabbat rituals (they dress up), the Hebrew, the food…the very spirit of the place.

We chose Camp Ramah for Eva. There are Ramah camps all over the country (in fact, there’s one in New York near where Scott grew up, though he never went there), and the one nearest to us is in Ojai. It’s right down the road from Sheila Cluff’s famed budget-friendly spa, The Oaks (when I have gone to Ramah on women’s retreat weekends in the past, we’ve done early morning walks alongside Oaks ladies. Cluff has another budget-saver, The Palms, which is out in the desert.)

Ramah offers a family camp over Memorial Day weekend, and we figured not only would it be a fun activity for us to do together, but it would be a good way for Eva to get the lay of the land and be familiar with Ramah before heading there on her own as a camper in a couple of months.

Eva gets to bunk with kids her own age, while Scott and I will be in a lodge (hotel room-like accomodations.) Jane will be sharing our room. There are activities for the kids during the day, babysitting at night, and adult activities planned as well.

I’ll be back, with plenty of pictures. Someone say kayna hara for poison oak for us!

History Buff

Posted in synagogue life by Juliet on May 24, 2010

I am hard at work on B’nai Chaim’s Wikipedia entry, and I’m having a great time.  Here’s an example of some of the pictures in my research material:

When B'nai Chaim settled into its current location, the founding members walked the torahs down the hill in a group procession.

Is NOT Being Connected the Ultimate Luxury?

Posted in personal growth, philosophizing by Juliet on May 20, 2010

Over lunch with friends the other day, we got to talking about the next thing.  First there were My Space and Friendster, then there was Facebook, and now there’s Twitter, and now there’s the age-related Facebook/Twitter divide, plus the My Space art crowd….what’s next?

My personal theory — and nobody else at the table agreed with me so maybe I’m all wet —  is that the next thing is going to be a giant pendulum swing backward to being less constantly in touch.  Less connected.  Less reachable.

People are going to purposely seek out a calmer, less rushed, less now-now-now text-me-back tweet-me existence.

They are going to opt out.

You know how more and more people nowadays are foregoing landlines to strictly have cellphones?

We are going to see a possibly small yet significant and important movement toward no cellphones.  No texting.  No email.  No Facebook or Twitter accounts.

There has been for several years now a craving for simple times.  A reverence for retro.  Check out the Restoration Hardware catalogue:  page after page of beautiful, well made items from 40 and 50 years ago.  These aren’t sold as novelties like the old-fashioned candy at the Vermont Country store.  Items on the pages of this fancy catalogue and others like it are meant to encompass an entire lifestyle.

Or open this month’s Vogue, which features ten simple pleasures (things like riding a bicycle or eating a sundae), all of which are comfortingly retro.

Even mass market megaplayer Target is in the act, with two aisles of retro-look toys:  the same Fisher Price xylophone and jack in the box, lovingly recreated exactly as 50 and 60 year olds today (grandparents buying for grandkids, perhaps) remember.

There will be a movement, and these people will be important because they will be wealthy, and they will be decision makers.  In a world where every American has Tivo and texting and Tweeting, existing off the grid becomes the ultimate lifestyle choice, and the ultimate luxury.

Soulfish: Trial by Snake

Posted in philosophizing, soulfish by Juliet on May 19, 2010

I don’t like snakes. (It’s the rare woman who does.)

So when we came across this three foot long garden snake wriggling in the driveway of Jane’s preschool, I was tested.

Act like I’m not totally freaked out.

Act rational and calm.

Act — because it’s a busy driveway and this snake is going to get nailed sooner rather than later if I don’t step up to do something.

A few people stopped. Some drove their cars in a wide circle around the snake. One man wanted to park his truck blocking the driveway, but that idea was rejected because there are too many people coming and going in the morning.

The building secretary came out. “Oh, we get those all the time in the summer. Five feet long sometimes.”

“It’s not poisonous, is it?” someone asked me.

Apparently everyone decided I was in charge. And all the while I was hyper aware that my four year old watched from he car seat, analyzing my every move.

Is the world safe? How do we care for the world and the things in it? Do we act, even though we’re scared, or do we walk away?

People were asking me questions: what do we do? Who do we call? “We need an experienced snake handler,” someone said. “How do we get one here?” Someone else suggested calling 911.

“Does anyone have a long stick?” I asked. “Or a pole?”

The secretary went in search of a push broom while another man rooted around in the back of his truck and came up with a long-handled measuring gauge.

The snake wriggled off across a palm tree and into the bushes. (Note to self: should my eight year old be climbing around in bushes?)

It might sound dramatic, but it is the small moments that define us as parents. I think today I did okay.

Mid-Century Style

Posted in Uncategorized by Juliet on May 19, 2010

Like many Jews of their day, my grandma’s dad was in what Grandma calls “the junk business.”

He would buy up lots of irregular, damaged, or otherwise strange merchandise, salvage what he could, and sell it.

Grandma told us she remembers sitting as a toddler with her sisters on tall stools sorting weevils out of barrels of rice.

“Weasels?”

“No! Weevils. Boll weevils. Totally different from weasels. Don’t you know what weevils are?”

Here is later era company letterhead with a kinder description than “junk.”

Why were Jews disproportionately represented in the junk business? Probably for the same reason Malcolm Gladwell explains how Jews rose to dominate personal injury law: they were barred from other trades so they made their living where they could. (Gladwell’s long analysis of how Jews were barred from the “better” schools and white shoe law firms so they had no choice but to carve out their own niches is brilliant and very entertaining.)

1950s version reads "liquidators of general merchandise stocks"

I salvaged this letterhead from a pile of old junk. I remember playing as a young kid with envelopes, ledger books, old check registers, and assorted other supplies with the Grossman logo on them.

And remember, I am a Grossman by marriage (Grandma’s maiden name was Grossman.) Now I’m a Grossman too and I really want this to be MY letterhead today.