That's me, Pattie Weiss Levy.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Word From the Weiss

        Ever since creating this site, some six weeks ago, I’ve been flirting with the idea of initiating an advice column on it. Readers could query me about all sorts of subjects, from parenting issues (Jewish and otherwise) to marital conflicts, family squabbles, and the full, gory gamut of life’s inevitable quandaries. All I need to get started is a (preferably juicy) question from someone out there... plus an injection of certitude, a smattering of self-righteousness, and an enhanced level of faith in my own pig-headed opinions.
        It’s not that I don’t believe I’m a good mother, or a good Jew. I do, I do. Nor that I doubt my own advice. I don’t. (I don’t!) It’s just that I sometimes suffer from self-doubt and indecisiveness. I also tend to see shades of gray, rather than clearly defined black and white, and to sympathize with multiple viewpoints. It’s like the story about the rabbi who listens to a husband’s side of a dispute and says, “You’re right.” Then he hears the wife’s version and tells her, “You’re right.” Then some innocent bystander overhears this exchange and protests that they can’t both be right, to which the rabbi responds, “You’re right!”)
Besides, right now I’m faced with something of a moral dilemma, and I could use some advice myself.
It all started a few weeks ago when my good friend “Nan” mentioned that the local branch of Chabad had asked if they could honor her at an upcoming fund-raising dinner. She conveyed this news to my husband and me with a mixture of embarrassment to be tooting her own horn and ambivalence about whether to accept. But the thinly veiled note of pride in her voice betrayed her unmistakable delight. After all, who among us wouldn’t be flattered to have almost any organization wish to honor us in a public way?
One problem in this case, my husband hastily pointed out, was that Nan hadn’t committed hours of her time to this Hassidic sect. Yes, she’s an accomplished, dynamic, admirable woman and a pillar of the Jewish community. But she belongs to my own Reform temple and hasn’t done anything especially significant to warrant this other group’s accolades. In his mind, their honoring her was simply a marketing strategy meant to elicit donations from her friends – including us.
He pointed this out to Nan, but his lack of enthusiasm seemed to do little to lessen hers.
        Sure enough, an invitation touting her name arrived in our mailbox a few days ago. The reply card listed many tiers of generosity, from corporate and diamond sponsorship down to mere supporter or “friend.” But even the least expensive option for attending was for very good friends indeed: $180 a head.
Now, I’ve often been asked to contribute to causes that my friends espouse, and in most cases I do. It’s not because I embrace or wish to support these causes myself. It’s because I want to support my friends. But there’s a big difference between donating $50 to battle a disease that’s afflicted a friend’s family and shelling out $180 to attend an event for a group you don’t support.
Meanwhile, let’s face it. In our household, like most, money is not unlimited, particularly at the moment. We’re now in the throes of our eighth year of paying full freight for two kids to attend private colleges. Add to that the rocky stock market and unrelenting pressures of the Recession, and we’re obliged to make some tough choices.
This doesn’t preclude charitable giving. But to be honest, like many people, we’ve had to cut back in that department, too. That makes me even more selective than usual about what I support. As a Jew, I make it a top priority to contribute to Jewish causes, my thought being that we’re such a small minority; if we don’t support each other, who will?
        Given my involvement with my synagogue and local Jewish Community Center, these groups take precedence for me over others. My passion for the arts also predisposes me to help promote cultural endeavors. So the annual Jewish Book Festival and Jewish Film Festival, both at the Greater Hartford JCC, are always recipients of my aid. We just anteed up a substantial donation to these events by re-enlisting in their Patron of the Arts program.
(Just saying those words makes me squirm a little. I don't mean “patron of the arts,” as pretentious as that phrase sounds. Ever since reading about the Renaissance in fifth grade, I’ve always aspired to be something of a Medici. What I feel awkward about is publicizing my own philanthropy. I’ve never made a donation in order to impress others. I've done it to do good. Then again, it seems misguided to give anonymously, since attaching your name to causes you espouse can motivate others to support them as well. But I digress.)
I've considered that my husband and I could forgo the upcoming 95th birthday bash at our JCC in favor of my attending my friend's Chabad dinner solo. The bash costs $95 apiece, so these expenditures are roughly equivalent. Then again, I’d much prefer to support the JCC (and would enjoy that event more). But this begs the question: What’s more important, supporting organizations that you believe in, or doing whatever is necessary not to insult your friends?
As controversial as the Hassidic sect known as Chabad may be, I would prefer not to malign it here. While at college and studying abroad, my son attended many a Chabad dinner and felt very welcome. Suffice it to say that as a Reform Jew, I don’t feel comfortable with its proselytizing approach to Judaism or many of its other policies. If my friend were not being honored there, it wouldn't cross my mind to give them a cent.
And yet… she is being honored, and I don’t want to disappoint her. She’s a very good friend. A true friend. And she has supported me.
In fact, she has been endlessly supportive ever since I started this endeavor. Self-doubt? She rubs it out. Whenever I need a friend, she has time to lend. We often spill our guts to each other about truly awful stuff and somehow always end up laughing. She’s had us over for dinner on countless occasions and many Jewish holidays. In fact, she’s actually taken me to dinner at Chabad.
One night, about a year ago, she invited me to a similar dinner there. She’d already bought two tickets, then learned that her husband was unable to attend. I declined the invitation, but she just wouldn’t take no for an answer. She called that evening to say she was en route to pick me up. I told her I wasn’t dressed and wasn’t going. She insisted we’d have fun and said that she’d wait outside my house until I came out. So I reluctantly threw on a dress.
As I'd anticipated, I did not enjoy the dinner, or sitting through endless speeches by rabbis in black Hassidic garb.  My displeasure about having been pressured to go was so perceptible, in fact, that my friend reached over several times during the meal and attempted to reshape the sour grimace on my mouth into a friendly grin.
This did not impair our friendship. It merely made me more forceful in the future when declining unwanted invitations. (Did I mention that I can come across as indecisive and wishy-washy?) But it also reinforces my reluctance to submit to this same experience yet again (this time on my own dime).
And so I dared to broach the subject with my friend, and to point out the hefty price tag. She immediately noted that the invitation offers one much more economical option: You can place a one-line salutation in the program for a mere $54 (three times chai instead of ten). This, of course, precludes actual attendance. No eating. Just a greeting.
Even though she said this, I know my friend. I know that she’s had some major tsurris this year and could really use some moral support. I also know that she’d love to have friends present to see her celebrated. After all, no matter how many people are there to applaud you when you accomplish something, it’s not nearly as meaningful if no one you care about is there to witness it and kvell.
So I decided to feel out a mutual friend, Amy, on the subject. If she was going, I figured, then we could go together. Or if she was going, maybe I wouldn’t feel as guilty about staying home because my friend would have someone to cheer her on.
 concurred that she also has no interest in supporting Chabad and asserted that she wasn’t going. “Do not feel guilty... I don't,” she wrote, adding, “We can honor her our own way by taking her out to lunch or dinner if you want.”
That's not a bad idea. We can go out the day after the event and let her give us a full accounting – what they served, what everyone wore, and what all the rabbis in black garb said. We can hear about it, laugh about it, and honor Nan for something truly significant that she has done: being a true friend. And if she seems disappointed that we weren’t there, I can always reach across the table and try to reshape her grimace into a friendly grin.
10:45 am 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Word From the Weiss
        While attending a wedding over the weekend, I was reminded of a lesson I‘ve learned too many times: How important it is to accept other people – friends, relatives, and strangers, but especially your children – for who or what they are.
The event in question -- uniting Cousin Robert on my husband’s side with his longtime partner, Charles -- happened to be my first gay wedding. Or, to be accurate, my first commitment ceremony, since it took place in New York City, where same-sex unions have yet to be legalized.
        This being a Jewish commitment ceremony, how touching it was to see their two widowed mothers join them joyfully under a beautiful lace chupa, then to witness the ecstatic grooms, officially allied at last, stomping on two napkin-wrapped glasses simultaneously.
What brought to my mind the lesson about acceptance, however, had little to do with the lead characters in this blessed event. Rather, it was the reception that followed, much of which I spent chatting with another cousin, whose 16-year-old son is a talented jazz musician who plans to go to a music college.
This is a dream that my own daughter harbored just a few years ago -- a dream that I fully understood and thoroughly sympathized with… and would have done almost anything within my power to quash.
Perhaps that makes me sound like pure evil to you. Or maybe it makes me sound evil and yet sensible. But before you judge me, let me explain.
I’ve always believed in getting a well-balanced education. I also believed in my daughter’s wide-ranging abilities. There are some people among us who are so gifted at something that they know practically from birth that it’s the only thing for them. My daughter did not quite fit this mold. She was gifted. And talented. But at many things. And I wanted her to develop them all, as well as to develop her mind.
This led to an embarrassment of riches when it came to enrichment activities, which has become in many homes, particularly Jewish ones, the norm. Allegra took lessons in everything from dance and piano to ceramics, drama and singing. (Not to mention Bat Mitzvah tutoring and confirmation classes, of course.)
Unlike many parents, I had no compunction about either of my children pursuing a career in the arts. Rather, I encouraged it. But I felt that graduate school was the appropriate place to specialize. College was where you expand your horizons and savor a smorgasbord of fields, from poetry to philosophy to finance.
On some level, my daughter concurred. Her brother, three years her senior, had gotten into an Ivy League school, and she gladly would have followed him there. “I really wanted to go to Brown,” she says. “All I wanted to do was go to some unbelievable liberal arts school where I could do everything my heart desired.” Those desires included a passion for acting, an interest in psychology, and a commitment to a wide range of social causes. But her ultimate obsession, from an early age, was unquestionably music.
Nearly every night during high school, I would call into her room repeatedly, “Honey, do your homework!” And she would call back insisting that she was doing her homework. Who knows? All I heard was singing.
Due largely to our town’s superlative jazz program, most often I heard her singing along to some CD featuring, not the latest hip-hop heroine, but Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday or some other iconic jazz giantess.
When we began discussing college plans, I took every chance to head her off at the pass by asserting that she should not even think about a music conservatory. Like it or not, liberal arts was the way to go.
But we soon discovered a problem: There are few liberal arts schools that have strong jazz programs. There are few music conservatories that have strong liberal arts programs. She couldn’t simply have it both ways. If she wanted challenging classes and to be competitive in her field, she was going to have to choose.
Countless college visits ended in frustration. It all came to a head, though, at my alma mater, Brandeis University.
I had contacted the head of its jazz program, who invited us to attend his class in jazz history, after which he would be happy to chat with us. We drove the 100 miles to Waltham, Massachusetts, and sat through his two-hour lecture. Then we followed him outside.
        “So, what instrument do you play again?” he began.
 My daughter said she was a vocalist.
“Oh,” he replied, his eyes instantly glazing over. “We don’t really need any more of those.” There was already a good singer in their jazz band, he noted, but she was “singing third trumpet.”
“Excuse me?” my daughter said.
He explained that he arranged most of the music that the group performed and couldn’t be bothered with lyrics, so this girl was simply singing nonsensical syllables to the notes written for a trumpet to play.
Allegra shot me a look of pure horror. “Could you excuse me for a moment?” I asked. Then I walked into the admissions office and looked up the number for New England Conservatory of Music. We spent the rest of the day at NEC, Boston’s answer to Juilliard, where the dean of the college spent an hour eagerly trying to recruit my daughter and effortlessly convinced her.
Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end there. The following day, we toured Tufts, where she was swept away by its professed commitment to social causes. She considered the rigorous dual degree program that Tufts offers with NEC, but eventually concluded that straddling the two schools, which are far apart, was unrealistic. So she ultimately applied to Tufts alone, along with ten other liberal arts schools.
In late December, my son’s friend Noah Preminger, a phenomenal saxophone player who was enrolled at NEC, came to visit and asked Allegra if she’d heard from NEC yet. With heart-wrenching sadness, she admitted that she hadn’t even applied.
        “You really wanted to go there, didn’t you?” I asked her after he’d left. She fought back tears and nodded.
I wrote to the dean instantly telling him I’d made a terrible mistake. He replied that their deadline had already passed, but they’d still accept her application. Soon after, she auditioned there live -- one of the most terrifying experiences of our lives. NEC has the most selective vocal jazz program in the country, and they only took one freshman singer that year.
She also got into several other schools, including Sarah Lawrence and Brandeis. And although my husband and I conceded that if a place like NEC wanted her, then she probably belonged there, there remained one dissenting voice, and a formidable one at that: Grandma.
My mother had been a teacher and was probably the main source of my sentiments about education. She also remained adamant that even if my daughter wanted a music career, she still needed to “have something to fall back on, just in case.” And so she began to wage a one-woman campaign, lobbying for liberal arts in general and Jewish-oriented Brandeis in particular.
        Before Allegra committed to NEC, she urged me to contact that professor again to make sure they hadn’t upgraded their program.
 Just to appease her, I did send an email, and soon received the following response:

Dear Ms. Weiss,
I am happy to inform you that, in fact, after meeting with you and your daughter, I decided to make an effort to attract a quality vocal jazz teacher to the program -- not just to give Allegra an option that would make Brandeis more attractive to her, but to bring the program into the 21st century.
Therefore, I am glad to tell you that we have hired a professional yodeler from Geneva and a gargler from Detroit, and they bring unique talents to the faculty that I'm sure you will respect. You may not know a lot about professional gargling, but I hear it's the next big thing in jazz, so I went out on a limb. I hope to hear from you soon.”

I quickly forwarded this missive to my mother, neglecting to point out that there are no such things as jazz gargling or yodeling, and that it had actually been penned by my husband.
She responded in delighted victory: “You see? They’re bringing in special people!”
We never received any actual reply from the professor, and Allegra entered NEC the following fall. She will graduate this May, having taken more than her share of liberal arts, studied one-on-one with some of the top jazz teachers in the country, and collaborated with countless incredibly talented fellow students.
        She’s also written many remarkable songs of her own and founded an activist group there called Musicians for Humanity, which aims to affect world change through concerts and other fund-raising events.
In the end, she could not be any happier with her decision. Yet she believes that her father and I remain disappointed. She also complains that well-meaning family friends continue to warn her that few jazz musicians ever become household names, then ask her what she’s really going to do to support herself.
I can’t answer for those friends, but she’s wrong about me. My only disappointment is in myself -- that I ever tried to divert her in any way from following her dream. I believe in pursuing dreams single-mindedly. I believe in my daughter. And I could not be prouder of who she is, what she is, or all that she has done.
12:02 am 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Word From the Weiss
        In the month since this Web site debuted, some people have expressed surprise that I’m willing to reveal so much information about myself. As a modern mother, I clearly don't subscribe to the old joke, "What do Jewish women make for dinner? Reservations." But why don't I have any reservations about sharing details that the average person deems private? Don’t I feel embarrassed to divulge dark family secrets, as I do in “The Ninety-Dollar Dress,” or to announce that my parents persuaded me to have cosmetic surgery as a teen, as I disclose in “On the Nose?”
Sure, I feel some embarrassment. I’m certainly not proud of these things. But now that I’ve put myself out there as NiceJewishMom.com, I consider such personal matters to be fair game.
        My life is an open blog.
Whether it’s fair for me to write openly about my husband and children is another story.
The morning after this site went online, I got a call from a relative. She’d read my account “Adventures on JDate,” about enrolling my son on the popular Jewish dating site. She was amazed that I would post such a thing.
        “Is he still speaking to you?” she asked.
Before I could reply, I heard a beep. “I’ll call back and let you know,” I answered. “He’s on the other line.”
In fact, I had asked my son for permission to post a story on this subject, and to my surprise he had acquiesced without hesitation. He hadn’t even requested to read it first. Had he since changed his mind?
The previous night, with some trepidation, I had sent him a link to this site. But he admitted now that he hadn’t gotten around to reading it yet.
Relieved rather than even remotely offended, I voiced my concerns about violating his right to privacy.
“Let me ask you this,” he responded. “Would it be possible for someone to Google me and have that story come up?” His only true concern was that a new girl he had just met and potentially begun to date might do an Internet search on him and find information about him on my site before getting to know him first.
I assured him that this would not be the case, that I would never put his first name adjacent to his last.
“Fine, then,” he stated. “As long as that doesn’t happen, you can write whatever you want about me.”
My son is 24, and like most young people – no, like most people -- he’s particular about nearly everything. Then again, he’s a writer himself and gets it. “So, you’re giving me carte blanche?” I asked, incredulous.
This was his chance to rescind the agreement, or at least proffer a proviso or two. Instead, he laughed.
“Carte blanche,” he echoed. “I just don’t want to know about it. And, no offense, but I don’t really want to read it, either.”
Obviously, I would never write anything to knowingly embarrass either of my children. Yet I must confess that I was not as direct in securing my daughter’s imprimatur. So I suffered a moment of panic when she logged on to view my new photo and began reading about her own misadventures in the Apple store. To my relief, she, too, began to laugh, then proceeded to fill in more gory details for me to use as fodder.
How I portray my husband is less of a sensitive concern. As a fellow journalist, he has his own column -- presumably read by thousands, since it’s in a daily newspaper -- and he writes about me in it routinely. He also routinely portrays me in a disparaging light. Or, to be more accurate, he portrays me as someone who portrays him in a disparaging light. Recently, for example, he referred to himself as my “wonderful punching bag of a husband.”
t when you marry a writer, you essentially agree not only to love and to cherish, but also to be used as writing material until death do you part. Or possibly beyond that, depending on who goes first. So I figure I can say almost anything about him, within reason, bearing in mind that there may be hell to pay, or at least tit for my tat.
        Even so
, there’s something comforting about having this new space in which to express myself. Perhaps the old guideline for good conduct – “Never do anything you wouldn’t want to read about yourself on the front page of The New York Times" – has given way to a new, updated ethical code: “Never do anything you wouldn’t want to read about yourself in your wife’s or husband’s blog.”
None of this satisfies my relative, though (who shall remain nameless, given her predilection for privacy). She continues to sputter every time a new story appears. “You are too much,” she emailed me after checking out my site last week, still baffled that I appear to be “insistent on disclosing everything.”
Maybe I’m missing that gene,” she ventured.
I don’t have a tell-all gene, I replied. I wasn't born with this. It came from having a father who was so obsessively private about everything that he often declared, “I don’t want other people to even know what kind of car I drive!” (an odd example, since he didn’t exactly keep his Caddy cooped up in the garage).
        It also
 came from growing up in the close-mouthed, pre-Oprah ‘50s and ‘60s in a suburban household infested with secrets, and being cross-examined frequently about what I might have told others… the subliminal message being that what was happening in my family was shameful, and not to tell anyone... or else.
But the truth is that few things any of us experience are genuinely shocking or shameful. Most ordeals we undergo are fairly normal, maybe even commonplace. Trying to hide your problems can be even more painful than the problems are themselves. At the very least, having to keep mum adds immeasurably to your stress. I'd just as soon let it all out. And now that both of my parents are gone, there’s almost no one left to stop me!
Speaking of which, when both of my parents were succumbing to cancer, several years apart, they didn’t want almost anyone to know they were sick. My mother attributed this attitude to something one of my uncles had told her years earlier: Once people learn that you have a terrible disease, most treat you differently, try to avoid you and may even drop you as a friend. So she kept her own illness hidden, assuming that she'd recover and no one need ever know. She lied to friends and relatives, and insisted that I lie to them, too. Many were shocked when she died.
On top of all this, as a journalist for several decades, I often was obliged to convince people who'd done awful things (or who’d had awful things done to them) to let me present their stories in print. One strategy I used was to argue that many people had problems similar to theirs, and that it's comforting for others to know that they are not alone. I didn’t just say this. I genuinely believe that. It would be hypocritical of me to hold back myself when I've persuaded countless others to tell all.
Despite all that, there are still things I tell no one, or almost no one, of course. We all have our boundaries with respect to privacy. Mine are just much wider than my horrified relative’s – or, possibly, yours.
12:31 am 

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Word From the Weiss
        No matter what happens in my life, I consider myself indescribably fortunate because I wake up each morning and am instantly overwhelmed by boundless love for the face I see resting on the next pillow.
        That’s because virtually every morning, my husband gets up earlier than I do and goes downstairs, or off to work, leaving the coast and the covers clear for my dog to jump up and deftly take his place.
        Hers is the first face I see every morning, and the one I always kiss goodnight. I would be lost without her.
Which is probably not such a good thing, because Zoe, my Portuguese Water Dog, turned 12 on Monday.
Please don’t ask if we held a “bark mitzvah” (realizing that girls are permitted to celebrate this rite of passage before age 13). Rather, we were planning a small party for her in the back yard, just a few close friends and their canine companions, but chose to delay until Zoe’s boyfriend, Carlos, gets out of the kennel.
I heard a shocking statistic the other day: Around half of all Americans consider their dogs to be full family members. Can you imagine… that there are any people, let alone several million, who view their pets as anything less than equal to the rest of the brood, if not possibly superior beings?
OK, I know I go slightly overboard in the “All fur one and one fur all” department. But try to keep in mind how much (as a Jewish mother or almost any other) I dote on my two human children (infinitely). Yes, this one may never make it into the Ivy League. But think of all the tuition we’ll save.
Having a dog, I’ve found, particularly one that hails from an uncommon breed, is the ultimate ice-breaker. On any given day, I meet countless strangers because few people can pass us by without asking what she is. (Having another Portuguese, First Dog Bo, move into the White House has only heightened this public interest.) Plus, there are few people whom Zoe will allow to simply pass. She long ago discerned that she can earn treats by performing simple tricks for children. So she makes a beeline for anything she spies that’s under three feet tall, then without provocation offers a paw, or both, until she’s duly rewarded.
        Unfortunately, w
hen you have an older dog, you soon find out that people are the real ones to whom you can’t teach new tricks. Given the opportunity, most will inadvertently but inevitably revert to their supremely insensitive selves.
Hardly a day goes by that at least one person doesn’t notice the progression of white overtaking Zoe’s once-black muzzle and inquire how old she is. This, in turn, invariably motivates the inquirer to tell me about his or her own beloved pet who just died, if not every single pet they ever owned who died at a similar age, or even younger. Others merely ask what the normal age span is for Zoe’s breed and solemnly shake their heads.
And so rarely a day goes by when someone doesn’t remind me that the creature I love most on earth could be snatched from me at any moment. This would be useful information, I suppose, if it led me to cherish her more now. But since that’s not humanly possible, all it really does is make me profoundly anxious and sad.
Considering the extent to which I do regard my dog as a full family member, this feels like the height of human cruelty. It’s as though I were out for a walk with my late mother, and complete strangers were telling me about their own mothers who had died, then announcing, “Guess what. She’s next!”
My pet sitter, whom I also consider to be a family member, urges me to either lie about Zoe’s age or have a good retort ready.  I’m working on that. How about, “And given the shape you’re in, how many years does the National Institutes of Health predict that you have left?” Or, “Gee, thanks for asking, but as far as I know dogs, unlike dairy products, don’t come with an expiration date.”
Where else will I ever find a creature, human or otherwise, who gives me a standing ovation every time I enter the house… even if I just stepped outside to empty the trash? Like most pets, she essentially just sits around all day, existing only for meal time and the sole purpose of pleasing me by being soft to touch and being there. No wonder I can’t look at her, or bury my face in her living blanket of fur, without welling up at her sheer wonderfulness. Neither can I discipline her with any semblance of conviction when she regularly chooses to rearrange all the throw pillows on the couch.
Then there was the little incident last weekend. I had just pulled out of the garage to drive to New York City when I realized that I had left my cell phone inside. After dashing back into the house to retrieve it, I leapt back into the car and reached for the two pieces of toast I’d wrapped in a napkin and left on the armrest for breakfast. Mysteriously, my hand closed around empty paper. I glanced into the back seat to see crumbs strewn everywhere and a wet muzzle grinning back at me, as if to say, “Any more of that?”
Which leads me to something I often wonder about: Can Zoe, my Water Daughter, truly be a Jewish dog if she feels no guilt?
By sheer coincidence, our “Pet Nanny,” as she calls herself, chose that particular day to bestow upon me a great gift, an invaluable little book by Ellis Weiner and Barbara Davilman entitled How to Raise a Jewish Dog.
        "Why is a Jewish dog different from all other dogs?” it asks. Like any Jewish offspring, it notes, a Jewish dog has many essential traits that ordinary dogs lack, including “an exaggerated sense of his own wonderfulness, an exaggerated sense of his own shortcomings, and an extremely close relationship with his master.”
The book then offers numerous ways to engender these qualities in your dog. For example:

● Instill in her “the knowledge that we have to be perfect or we’ll be very disappointing to those who love us."
           ● Pamper her with table scraps while intoning, “You think [Bessie/ Scout / Dizzy] eats this well? I doubt it.” Or “No, no, you enjoy it. I’ll have a piece of bread.” Or, “I don’t know why I’m giving you this. It freezes very well.”
● “Using a digital camera, take numerous photos of the dog. Document everything she does: sleeping, eating, playing, walking around the home, staring off into space. Send these photos,… copiously annotated with your adoring comments, to all of your friends and relatives. If possible, set up a Web site or a blog, making the photos and commentary available to everyone on Earth.”
There are all excellent ideas. I’ll have to try them… soon. For now, I’m busy celebrating the birth of Zoe -- “Best in Show Zo,” as I tell her she is daily -- and basking in the joy of what I feel toward all three of my children: undying, unconditional love.
1:37 am 

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That's me. The redhead on the right. But that is NOT my baby.

     No, sir, that's not my baby. How could any mother smile beatifically while her own child wailed? Never mind that neither of my offspring ever cried so plaintively, as far as I recall (not while I was there to nurture them through their every perceptible need... although my son still complains that I often dressed him in garish and girlish color schemes, scarring him FOR LIFE).
     Besides, I'm distinctly beyond prime delivery age ("Kitchen's closed!" as my mother might say), and my kids had departed the diaper stage by the dawn of the Clinton Administration. Now in their 20s, both are currently living on their own, in not-too-distant cities, although each manages to phone me daily. In fact, to be exact, several times a day, then sometimes text me, too. (That may sound excessive, and emotionally regressive, but I subscribe to the Jewish mother's creed when it comes to conversing with kinder: Too much is never enough.)
     Two demanding decades spent raising two kids who are kind, highly productive and multi-talented, who generally wear clean underwear (as far as I can tell), and who by all visible signs don't detest me are my main credentials for daring to dole out advice in the motherhood department.
     Presenting myself as an authority on all matters Jewish may be trickier to justify.
     Yes, I was raised Jewish and am biologically an unadulterated, undisputable, purebred Yiddisheh mama. I'm known for making a melt-in-your-mouth brisket, not to mention the world's airiest matzah balls this side of Brooklyn. My longtime avocation is writing lyrics for Purim shpiels based on popular Broadway productions, from "South Pers-cific" to "The Zion Queen." Then again, I'm no rabbi or Talmudic scholar. I can't even sing "Hatikvah" or recite the Birkat Hamazon. Raised resoundingly Reform, I don't keep kosher, can barely curse in Yiddish, and haven't set foot in Israel since I was a zaftig teen.
     Even so, as a longtime writer and ever-active mother, I think I have something to say about being Jewish and a mom in these manic and maternally challenging times. I hope something I say means something to you. Welcome to my nice Jewish world!   
In coming weeks, I will continue posting more personal observations, rants, and even recipes (Jewish and otherwise). So keep reading, come back often, and please tell all of your friends, Facebook buddies, and everyone else you know that NiceJewishMom.com is THE BOMB!
The family that eats together (and maybe even Tweets together): That's my son Aidan, me, my daughter Allegra, and Harlan, my husband for more than 26 years, all out for Sunday brunch on a nice summer weekend in New York.

Comments? Questions? Just want to kvetch? Please go to GUESTBOOK/COMMENTS.