Sunday, November 22, 2009

Shutting the door to San Francisco

So, bye. First few seconds of movie are weird. Gets better after that.

Monday, September 21, 2009

L'shanah Tovah

Ben and I composed this "drash" and I shared it in Rosh Hashonah services at Beyt Tikkun on Saturday. What a milestone for us a family and an honor to be asked to speak. Last year at this time, the congregation danced and sang their way around us, to welcome and bless our then weeks old Asher. I could barely form a sentence then, the smile inside me radiating out. Feeling so deeply with hardly a word to match.

What a difference a year makes. This year, we reckon with the possibility and challenge of parenting and of being whole and generous in the bigger world. This is the work of a lifetime, to be sure.

May all of us know love and peace in this new year. L'shanah tovah!


It is one of those lines we all know from old Westerns – “There ain’t room in this town for both of us….” Swinging bar doors, barren dusty towns, rolling cottonwood , cowboy boots and silver pistols. But, more than these icons of the pioneering Western spirit, this line reflected the attitude of an era – We can’t both succeed here. There isn’t enough. One of us has got to go. And that one is not me. Its you. Its not us. Its them.

Why does Sarah order Hagar and Ismael be banished? It was Sarah who had encouraged Abraham to impregnate Hagar, to father Ishmael, when she thought she couldn’t have a child of her own. At that moment, Hagar and Ishmael were included in Sarah’s us.

No more. Sarah orders Abraham to send Hagar off into the wilderness with only a parcel of water and her son on her back, and, G-d permits it, tells Abraham to honor her will.

Why would the miraculous conception of Isaac, a joyful reminder of the fertility and generosity of the universe, become a catalyst for Sarah’s stinginess. Sarah looked around, and like the dueling cowboy, saw the town had shrunk. Hagar was a threat, a threat to Isaac’s place in line to lead and therefore, a threat to the Jewish people. Hagar was now the “other,” less than the people in Us, and her destiny was her concern.

Why is this story told on Rosh Hashanah, the New Year? Why is this joyful day marred by a parsha of such stinginess, contraction and ill will? Why couldn’t the birth of Isaac have been a happy story, inspiring generosity in Sarah the way the universe was generous with her?

We don’t do banishment anymore, but how often, in a moment of recognition, or in the glow of achieving a long sought goal, why do we so easily believe there isn’t enough to go around anymore? Why does expansiveness inspire us to relegate other people to simply other, even to a kind of non-human status? It is Banishment 2.0 – our modern shared ,open-source version of an ancient practice.

On this Rosh Hashonah, as we reflect on who we are, individually and as a people, it isn’t hard to find examples of people rendered “other.” Banished. In Israel, of course. In torture chambers. Within the reach of a vest packed with explosives. In bad business deals. In stony and silent marriages. Plans broken. Commitments unfulfilled. When we shake our heads in wonder at how Sarah could do these things to Hagar and Ishmael, and ask why she didn’t feel their pain, we also know we don’t have to look very far for an answer. All of those examples out there, while the urge to estrange originates inside of us. Here.

There was a miracle in our lives this year – this past year, Ben and I gave birth to our first son, Asher . Many of you who were here last year danced and sang his blessing and welcome. Thank you. He was just weeks old then. He has now celebrated his first birthday and, as his name would suggest, he is a blessing to us every day. Asher. So, we got our miracle, right? I wasn’t quite nearing 100, but 40 isn’t exactly 20. I’m sure every parent feels their own child’s birth is a miracle. Sarah’s story challenged me: who have I banished?

Where have I let my own desire to protect this little boy become a suspicion that there just isn’t enough for us, so you, you’ll have to go without. Where have I put a wall up around this new capacity to feel, to love so deeply? Where have I lost faith that there will be enough for my family, if I am generous with all those children out in the wilderness? Where have you, like Sarah, outstretched your arm, pointing Hagar’s way out of town

I am also reflecting on this G-d – this G-d I choose to believe in and how she could allow Hagar and Ismael to be exiled, swiftly sent to what appeared to be their deaths. And, yet, they didn’t die. They WERE provided for. G-d heard the boy’s cry and a well appeared. The failure of generosity and of empathy was Sarah’s. It is not the way things are.

It isn’t always true. Plenty of people die in deserts every year. In times like ours, who isn’t worried about an economy in turmoil, war, deep uncertainty? I’m not na├»ve. But the lesson of this parsha, for me, today, is that the world is generous when we act generously. When we live simply and passionately, and have the faith to cry out -as Ismael did-when we need help, then we are not leaving it to G-d, we hold G-d as our partner.

I have begun to pray more this year, to seek to control less and to listen more. Boy, do I have a long way to go. And, still I aspire , on this Shabbat and through this new year, that we may count faith as our ally when we despair and generosity as our practice when we are most convinced there is not enough.

Because, like our G-d and her reflection in Sarah, I am flawed. I do not and will not always have faith that things are going to work out, I will stray from my commitments, from my deepest beliefs. I will not always be generous with my neighbor or even my husband when I feel like I am not getting something I need. There are certainly a LOT of examples of this behavior. But, as we do each year at this time, I can cast off fears and habits of mind and spirit I no longer need, and I can embrace, as if for the first time, a new way. I can walk into town and say “Welcome. May we all be successful and peaceful and happy here. Welcome. This place is for ALL of US.”

L’shana tovah Umetukah

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Small Step for a Boy

Soon appearing on a coast near you.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

I dunno, I still don't see it

I still struggle to see the resemblance

Mikaela says that we most look alike in mannerisms and facial expressions. I could believe that this would be true, since I don't really know what my face actually looks like out there to you all in the world, just a rough outline.

It reminds of this section of Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud

I see how Asher resembles me in spirit and attitude. In the way he devours the world. I'm thinking that I may have a clearer internal picture than external picture of myself. So I'll turn to the experts: all the people in the world who can see my face and Asher's face. What do you see?

Pictures taken by my lovely wife Mikaela at Echo Lake

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You can't see his face here. I just love it.


Friday, September 4, 2009

Asher turns one

Hi. Hi. Hi. Hi. Hi-eeeeeee.

He never tires of saying it. Each time he gets a smile, a response, a moment of connection with someone who had been busy tying her shoes or looking to see if the bus was coming.

Even as we sat in the waiting room of the Urgent Care Clinic in Santa Rosa, his fever still rising and his irritation with each degree, he greeted each new patient coming in the door. "Hi-eeee" he called before crying again or squirming in discomfort. August 31. The eve of his first birthday and he had a 102 fever. We didn't want to take any chances and whisked him off to the Urgent Care in the Sonoma town where we were vacationing, arriving 16 minutes before they closed the doors. A year ago at this time, I was the one crying and squirming in discomfort - and I was definitely not stopping to greet anyone along the way.

A year.
A whole year had passed since I labored on Labor Day.

Here we were reminded of rule #1 of pregnancy and birth and everything thereafter - let go of expectation. His birthday would be the way his birthday would be -- with tears and doses of Motrin replacing giggles and sweet treats. Asher wouldn't let us forget the rule. Nor would he lead us to believe that one year meant sleeping through the night and relying on what had now fallen into a pretty regular schedule around naps and eating. Again, everything is temporary, Asher was letting us know. Keep getting used to it.

We returned from the Urgent Care several hours later, having learned that, yes, he did have a fever and that, no, there was no cause for alarm. Motrin and Tylenol would become our best friends for the next 48 hours. Exhausted, I nursed him to sleep at about 10 o' clock and Ben and I scoured Netflix for some comic escape. Say Anything was available to stream. Funny, nostalgic, and I was pretty sure I had never seen it. We were in. For 10 minutes. Until our little boy woke up for the first time that night. The remainder of his wake-ups, pretty much every hour, would be beside me in bed. So sweet. So rough on him. So like the early days when I just stared at him sleeping, and rejected sleep myself. And not like that too --- now, he thrashes and pulls and pinches and slams a whole lot more than he did at 2 days old. That, and I just wanted to feel his forehead and have it not feel so hot to the touch as his body worked to fight off this infection.

Still, his birthday was filled with some Asher smiles and a special birthday treat (photos and video to follow -- thanks to Ben and Nannie!) and the wonderful gifts of his grandparents and great grandmother and doting aunties. We sat him down in his throne (read: highchair) to open his gifts (read: watch us open them and play with the boxes). All a birthday "should" be - especially when the only people who are really celebrating it are not the ones who were born on that day. He would now have a story to tell - probably just about the only thing he would remember later from all his parents' retelling over the years.

Nearly four days later and today is the first day he is really showing signs of feeling himself again -- he ate a whole banana at lunch, tried to squirm off the diaper table, babbled his way from building block (Thanks Aunt Viviane!) to power cord to the broiler - looking up at me with knowing wide eyes as he attempted to open it - again and again and again.

And, of course, "Hi-eee." He already made more new friends on a neighborhood trip to our local rec center this morning.

One year later. Happy birthday little boy! We are all glad you feel better.

PS -- Thanks to all of you who expressed concern after seeing Ben's Facebook post. He lives inside of so much love.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


Surprise. It isn't being surprised about something specific really. It is just that pretty much everything is surprising, Filled with wonder and awe. Asher studies faces and the pages of books, looking not for new knowledge, but for how they respond to him, what they have to give. Then, he crawls furiously to find the next challenge. Surprise isn't found in one place.

Asher's first visit to Nannie and Pop-Pop's

Asher loved the tile floor. Cars skid sideways across it. It feels cool to warm little feet. It is near the door. Simple tastes. Hope that lasts a while....

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Asher's New Skill

Asher has a neck. He can control it. Like all things he can control, he uses it mostly for fun.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Our Little Mischief Maker: Right on Schedule

From Your 11-month-old's development:

Your baby probably thinks it's fun to push, throw, and knock everything down. She'll give you a toy as well as take one, and she likes games where she can put things in containers and dump them out again. This works well with blocks in buckets or boxes and with pots and pans, which she can nest inside one another. She'll thrill to the loud sounds of those pots and pans banging together, too.


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Apple Bag

When he cut his first teeth, the best way to soothe him was to fill these teething bags with a cold apple chunk

He sucked on it.


He chomped on it


And he even offered me some.