diet recovery · family fun · Good Grief · waxing philosophical · weight loss · whine and cheese

Day 494: It Was “Only for Now”

I cried when I got this text message:

“Good news/bad news. It looks like I have a neighbor who can host our trampoline! She’s just measuring and checking on moving cost before she commits. Could you remind me of your address?”

Maybe it was PMS, or maybe I was bound to cry because I had a coaching session earlier during which I was holding back tears. But cry I did, over a trampoline.

“When the kids come home,” I blubbered into Mr. December’s shirt, “the trampoline just won’t be there. It’ll be, like, a giant gaping hole in our backyard.”

“It was never ours to begin with,” he reminded me, rubbing my back.

He’s right, of course. We’ve always said that we were “fostering” this trampoline until its family had space for it again. We were incredibly lucky to get it in the first place: it essentially fell into our laps at the beginning of the COVID lockdowns, when it was impossible to buy one because they were all backordered. I’m trying to remind myself to be grateful for the time we had with it, and not bemoan the loss. But it’s hard.

And re-reading the last paragraph, I’m feeling like there’s a bigger life lesson here. Is anything ever really ours for ever and ever? Or is it all, as Avenue Q said, “Only for now”?

Remember that coaching session I mentioned? “Only for now” would be an apt summary of what we talked about. I’m working on what some people call “diet recovery”—essentially I’ve been on so many different weight-loss programs, all of which worked temporarily, and binged so much in between, that I don’t even know what and how to eat anymore. Hunger cues? What are those? After overriding my body’s instincts for so long, I’m not sure what’s left. What I do know is that I could try to lose weight again, but in two years I’d likely be right back where I am now. Yo-yo dieting is very bad for your health, as it turns out; I have no desire to wreck my body any more than I already have.

Anyhow, my coach and I talked about “grieving the thin ideal”: accepting that my body doesn’t want to stay thin and won’t unless I punish it. I need to make peace with that. Being slim was definitely better than being fat, whether because of our society’s fatphobia or because of actual physical limitations, but it’s not really something I can maintain in the long run. I need to say goodbye to that dream of one day finding the perfect “lifestyle change” (because “diet” is a dirty word, you see) and getting and remaining slim forever more.

“Listen,” my coach pointed out, “our bodies are only for now. We age, we gain or lose weight, we slow down. We have to get comfortable with constant changes, because otherwise we’ll just be miserable. And we have to accept what our bodies are right now, instead of always dreaming of what they could be, if only there was a magic wand to wave.”

She’s right. It’s just really damn hard. And losing our trampoline on the same day didn’t help matters. But as the song goes, everything in life is only for now.

family fun · Keepin' it real · Kids · waxing philosophical

Day 491: It started out so well.

This morning I discovered a new beach online and decided to try it with E, who is turning out to be an excellent partner in beachy crime. I made the required reservations (because COVID) and even rented a tandem kayak for an extremely reasonable fee ($10 including tax for 30 minutes.) We drove out to Professor’s Lake, singing along with the Hamilton soundtrack the entire way.

It was unlike any of the beaches I’ve been to before: we entered through a building that housed bathrooms, a snack bar, and a boat rental desk, and came out to a tiny beach with three lifeguard stands and a roped-off swim area. It’s not a big lake (although probably similar in size to Kelso,) which meant calm, warmer-than-your-average-lake waters. The bottom was sandy all the way out and the water was chest-deep at the far limit of the “shallow end.”

E and I frolicked in the water for a while until it was time for our kayak rental; then I paddled us around the lake, sticking close to shore so I could see the backyards of the houses that back onto it. I had no idea that Brampton had subdivision houses with a lake in their backyards; most of them had some kind of watercraft and some even had small docks at the water’s edge.

(Note to self: I want a lake at the bottom of my backyard.)

On our way back to the boathouse we saw the lifeguards’ pontoon boat speeding towards us.

“I need you guys to go back to the boathouse right away, because it’s going to rain soon and also something else.” The lifeguard shouted to us.

Also something else? I thought as I paddled hard back to shore. This can’t be good.

It wasn’t until we got close to the dock that I heard the sirens and saw the flashing lights of an ambulance. We were directed to exit to the parking lot, unless we had things on the beach—which we did—in which case we were to pack up and then leave.

You might not know this about me, but I have strong feelings about what people should and shouldn’t be doing when there’s an emergency situation. As we were packing up and leaving I was telling E that when there are first responders coming towards you, you hop aside as quickly as possible because an extra couple of seconds might save a life; that you should follow their instructions first and ask questions much later, if at all; that we’re so lucky to live in a place where we have police and medics and firefighters who come to help as soon as they’re called.

In the parking lot I saw two women walking away from their car.

“Do you know,” I asked, “if they’re letting cars out of the parking lot? Or are we blocked?”

“They have to let us through,” one woman said in an exasperated tone. “They can’t keep us here.”

“Actually,” I whispered to Ellie as we walked away, “I’m pretty sure they can. And I’m certainly not going to interrupt them in the middle of a rescue so I can get out of the parking lot a few minutes sooner. We’ll just take our snacks and sit on that bench.”

Honestly, what are people thinking when they get upset about this kind of thing? They were planning to be at the beach longer anyhow, so they don’t have any other pressing engagements. What could possibly be more important than saving a life?

Which reminded me: I shared this thought with E and taught her the Hebrew term Pikuach Nefesh, which is the Jewish principle that you can (or must) transgress any law in the Torah if it is a matter of saving a life. She repeated the words Pikuach Nefesh a few more times, rolling it around her mouth.

After twenty minutes of sitting on the bench (I couldn’t stand how people were gawking through the fence at the scene unfolding on the beach) we took a walk down the path that circles the lake. E squealed in delight as we found a playground, and she started climbing while I added this park to the Playground Buddy app.

Our car was no longer blocked in when we finally returned to the parking lot; the firetrucks had all left and the ambulances were packing up their stuff and leaving. Only a dozen police cars remained, the officers all gathered in a tight circle on the beach—to debrief, I assumed.

Later I read that a man had drowned in the lake. In the face of that, more mundane issues seem so unimportant, don’t they? And yet life goes on at breakneck speed, I reflected upon seeing that my beach access fee had already been credited back to my VISA card.

On any given day there are tragedies great and small, personal triumphs, births, and mundane everyday transactions, all happening at the exact same time. I’ve tried to wrap my mind around that before; I’m still trying to.

Tonight I’m thinking of the lifeguards who handled today’s emergency with such professionalism, the first responders who were unable to save that life, and the family of the man who drowned.

Folks, please… learn to swim. Teach your children to swim.

And for heaven’s sake, do not complain about minor inconveniences when there’s a life on the line.

Camping it up · Kids · Sartorial stuff · waxing philosophical

Day 460: Heirlooms

After my post about needing twenty-four towels for three kids to take to camp, my parents and my in-laws offered me stacks of towels. Curiously, among the stack from my in-laws’ house was a towel with my younger brother’s name on it. I actually remember this towel as one of those my parents sent to camp with my older brother—the very same camp my kids are going to, as a matter of fact. It probably ended up at my in-laws’ house after one of the canoe trips Mr. December and I took with his friends in university. Whatever the reason, my kids will be taking their Uncle G’s towel to camp this summer. I’ve never heard of an heirloom towel, but there’s a first time for everything.


I could actually send someone to camp with a sleeping bag used two generations ago; forget about printed labels, this one has my aunt’s name embroidered into it (by hand, not machine.) I’ve opted not to because sleeping bag technology is way better and the bags pack up much smaller than the old ones, which matters when you’re taking it on a canoe trip.

K had her pick of three sleeping bags. The one she chose had my maiden name on it in Sharpie marker—it’s the one I took on canoe trips and to overnight camp as a counsellor. I didn’t try to cover over my name or black it out, I just wrote hers in under it. Very briefly, I had a vision of K in twenty-five years’ time, writing her child’s name under her own.


My kids view this stuff much less sentimentally than I do. K was in need of a fourth sweatshirt for camp and I offered her one that I stole from Mr. December’s closet in high school (because it smelled like him.) It’s a vintage Roots sweatshirt, the kind that was all the rage in the 1980’s and 1990’s, that Mr. December wore in his teens—it quite possibly went to camp with him. It definitely went to camp with me in my early twenties, because it has my name tag sewn into it. Kali admired it, tried it on… and pronounced it “kind of scratchy.” Any dreams the shirt had of making a camp comeback were crushed.


If nothing else, what I’ve learned from these reflections is that some things actually are made to last. Some people’s family heirlooms are things like an ugly vase that everyone wishes would fall and break, but nobody has the guts to just throw out; our heirlooms are sleeping bags, sweatshirts, and (apparently) towels. I can live with that—I value function over form, after all.

Jewy goodness · Keepin' it real · waxing philosophical

Day 459: This Week’s Rabbit Hole Is…

On Sunday I was following (and participating in) a Facebook conversation about code-switching. Someone made the claim that it is a term used only for the way Black American people have to alter their speech to fit in with white folks. There was an immediate backlash against this, with plenty of people chiming in about how their own ethnic groups also code-switch when communicating with people outside their group.

A few of the people who piped up with this information said they were of Romani heritage, which got me wondering exactly where the Roma people came from. Google and Wikipedia had the answer to that: Northern India. Wow. I had no idea. I had assumed the Roma were one of many tribal cultures originating in Europe. Nope.

Somewhere in one of the articles I read, there was mention of Ashkenazi Jews (peripherally, not directly related to the Roma in any way); my brain jumped to the genetic studies of where Ashkenazim came from. As you know, where my brain jumps, my internet browser soon follows. It occurred to me that it would be really cool to see how far back I could trace my family history.

So I tried. I didn’t get very far, possibly because I can’t read Polish or Romanian and also because I wasn’t ready to plunk down money to access some of those websites. What I really wanted was just to find records of births and marriages and keep on working backwards from there. Maybe that was naïve of me. I’m sure I’ll attempt it again, but for now I’ll have to shelve it in favour of more immediate concerns.

But if I couldn’t find official records of my ancestors, maybe I could understand a bit more of their migration route. So I looked up the history of the town my grandfather was from, and then the history of Jews in Poland more broadly. And then there was an article about Jewish merchants and trade routes that went all the way from France to China in the eleventh century, which was interesting, and led me to read up on Khazars, which led me to Mountain Jews and the language they speak—Judeo Tat. And all because someone mentioned the Roma.

Come to think of it, this is how my mind works pretty much all the time. It jumps from one thing to another in a matter of seconds, so that I can be talking with Mr. December about summer camp and then say, “I just realized that trepidation and intrepid are from the same word! Why have I only just realized it now?” Admittedly, my conversation can be hard to follow.

But oh, my brain—and the hyperlinked internet world—takes me to so many interesting places. Thank God for the internet.

blogging · education · fame and shame · Homeschool · Jewy goodness · lists · waxing philosophical

Day 455: Not as bad as you think.

I hear a lot of bad things about social media—probably you do, too. And there are a lot of downsides: comparing your imperfect life to someone’s touched-up selfie, getting angry because “someone is wrong on the internet!”, seeing humanity turn ugly behind the anonymity the internet affords. There are definitely days when I think I’d be better off without Facebook.

Duty Calls
You can find an image description here.

On the other hand, Facebook has some very good points:

  1. It’s my proverbial front porch. I sit there in the evening and catch up with the people I know. I get to hear about all the mundane things, all the frustrations, all the celebrations—just like I would if we lived in a close-knit neighbourhood and sat on the front porch every evening, chatting with each other.
  2. It can be a great resource. Both Mr. December and I are members of a few homeschooling groups on Facebook. Through those groups we’ve discovered some of our favourite curricula and courses. We’ve also been able to get a sense of what homeschooling looks like for many different families. I’m also a member of a neighbourhood group, from which I learn about traffic issues, why our city councillor sucks, and who’s giving away free stuff.
  3. It reminds me about birthdays. If I wished you happy birthday this year (or any year, really,) you can thank Facebook for that. Every day it pops up and tells me whose birthday it is. It even lets me post a birthday message directly from the notification. I do realize that some people do this with their own calendar—digital or paper—but Facebook makes it so easy for me.
  4. Some people do use it for the betterment of us all.

Point number four is the one that gives me hope for our society. I’ve recently joined a group dedicated to being a space where people can ask good-faith questions about all kinds of social issues and receive honest, thoughtful answers rather than scorn and derision.

(If you don’t get why a question would be met with scorn or derision, think of someone asking about transgender issues and being labelled a TERF because of that honest question. It happens all the time, and it’s ugly.)

I have learned so much from this group. People have taken the time to post complex answers to questions about racism, gender issues, disabilities, etiquette… it’s an excellent read and very eye-opening, as the group members come from all over the world and from all walks of life. I’m enjoying it immensely. Even more incredible than what I’ve learned from that group is the simple fact that so many people want to ask questions, learn, and improve the way they relate to people who are unlike them.

I have similar feelings about the group where non-Jews can ask questions about Judaism and Jews answer them. I’m fascinated by the things non-Jewish people don’t know about us; from the big stuff, like the fact that we don’t revere Mary, mother of Jesus, to the minutiae of why inviting a Shabbat-observant friend to a wedding on Saturday is more complicated than just making sure they have accommodations within walking distance of the venue. I also enjoy being able to answer people’s questions and see their responses when they’ve read all of the answers.

People are learning, reaching out, connecting, and supporting each other in ways that would never have been possible without the internet (and social media in particular.) To me, that almost makes up for how social media also makes it easy for people to foment hatred, recruit people to radical organizations, and spread misinformation. Almost. Maybe if enough of us participate in groups like the ones I’ve been part of, education and enlightenment will replace the ignorance and hate.

I hope so.

Jewy goodness · Keepin' it real · mental health · Uncategorized · waxing philosophical · whine and cheese

Day 427: Fear

I broke my own rule, and now I’m sorry.

Scrolling through my Facebook feed, I noticed a post about Israel, by one of my FB friends. He said something about how nice it is to see the Jewish community starting to come around to the pro-Palestinian movement. A lot of other things were said, too, to which I responded with a few pointed questions about why the rest of the world is not engaged in this level of protest or demonization with regards to, say, China’s treatment of the Uyghurs, or the Syrian civil war. Could it be because Israel is the Jewish state? Could Antisemitism be a factor? I don’t even remember what was said in response; I do remember that one person’s comment ended with “shame on you!”

She also accused me of being too snarky and aggressive in my post. If I was Black and posting about racism, that would be called tone policing. If I was LGBTQ, I could say that any support for people whose goal is to kill all the Jews is a complete non-starter, because my right to exist is not up for discussion. If I was a university student I could claim that this kind of talk makes me feel ‘unsafe’, and I would receive emotional support for it. But I’m Jewish, which means that none of those things applies to me.

There is a degree of cultural and generational trauma for the Jewish community that often informs our view of the current (and ongoing) conflict. There is a lot of fear of what would happen if Israel backed off (because, you know, Hamas wants to drive us all into the sea.) The recent rise in Antisemitic attacks in North America doesn’t help. If the supporters of the Palestinians insist that their position has nothing to do with Antisemitism, how do they square that with the fact that Jews outside of Israel are being attacked because they are Jews? Is there an explanation that doesn’t point to Antisemitism? If there is, I’d desperately like to hear it and be able to believe it.

The whole situation in Israel/Palestine confuses and disturbs me. The situation of the Palestinian people, living under the thumb of a terrorist organization, is deeply saddening. And I hate that my Israeli cousins and friends have to wake their children in the middle of the night to run down to the bomb shelter. Beyond that, I’m hesitant to make any analysis, partly because I feel like I can never do the situation justice and partly because it won’t help anyway. There’s precious little, if anything, I can do to influence the situation.

I should probably just snooze posts from this friend and anyone else who posts things that upset me. It’s probably naïve of me to believe that if we can speak openly with each other, maybe we can find common ground and move closer to peace for everyone. But if I shut out the voices that make me uncomfortable, isn’t that also part of the problem? I don’t want to live in an echo chamber. I do, however, want to live without the anxiety that these encounters cause me. I want to live without fear. And right now, I don’t think I can.

blogging · Keepin' it real · mental health · The COVID files · waxing philosophical

Day 424: Public Service Announcement

At times it feels to me like the world has gone just a bit insane. Everybody is outraged about something, it seems. And before you dismiss that as a “privileged” statement, remember: this is my blog, I do have some privilege (but not all, what with being Jewish, female, and not totally able-bodied and all,) and if you don’t want to hear about it nobody’s forcing you to read it in the first place.

Now, with that disclaimer in place, I’ll continue: everybody is outraged about something, everybody thinks the world is going to hell, and if you listen to them long enough, you might start to believe it, too.

So please, take a breath. It’s okay to not “do the work” all the time. There’s plenty of beauty in the world.

There are bunnies living in our garden who hop around in the evenings.

The weather is getting warmer and the days are longer. Flowers are blooming and the bees and butterflies are out.

There are children running around in the park, playing as children have always done.

There is music to be heard, played, and sung—and not just by professionals. Humans are hardwired to participate in music. Try it sometime, if you haven’t lately.

There are “leave a book, take a book” little libraries popping up all over the place. How nice is it that people take the time to build those, and others take the time to drop off books instead of just throwing them in the recycling bin?

People are resilient, and as tired as we all are of this COVID thing, we’ve seen lots of innovative ways to remain part of our extended family and our community. I can attend a Purim party without leaving my comfy chair. What a time to be alive.

It’s okay to stop reading the news, stop “doomscrolling” on social media, stop immersing yourself in other people’s outrage and pain. It really is. The news will still be there tomorrow (and there’s never really anything new) and you can pick it all up again anytime. I promise.

It’s okay to put it down and feel peaceful and happy. Your impotent rage probably won’t change the world (unless you’re actually taking some kind of action) but your happiness, kindness, peacefulness? Those are contagious, and they can change everything.

crafty · Homeschool · Kids · waxing philosophical

Day 410: Life Imitates Art Class

Having given up on making a proper pot or urn, I tried to extend our study of Ancient Greece in a different artistic direction: mosaic.

First off, a warning: a certain big-box craft store sells large jars of mosaic tiles. At least, they look large on the website… but they’re not. It’s a good thing I’ve hoarded so many craft supplies over the years.

Just like every art class, we had the dubious pleasure of watching R descend into perfectionistic madness, cry, storm off, and then come back and get to work. K worked seriously and enthused about this new art medium. E and I worked together (it’s the one with the elephants, in case you couldn’t guess.) N worked quickly and precisely to place all of his tiles; then he groaned and quit when I pointed out he had to actually stick them to the board, not just rest them there. I suggested that he use a sheet of adhesive plastic to keep the tiles in their arrangement, making it easy to move the tiles so that he could apply mastic to the board.

It’s interesting to see how their personalities are evident in their art (and in how they make it.) I suppose that’s why art (like music) is such a good therapeutic medium. I keep hoping I can use R’s art class experiences to teach her about working with what you have instead of crying about what you don’t. The message hasn’t gotten through yet, but surely after she experiences the same thing another dozen times there will be sufficient evidence to convince her, don’t you think? As for N, he always does what he’s asked to do, as efficiently as possible, and nothing more. I pray that one day he’ll see how much better his work is when he does more than just the bare minimum.

Maybe the kids will appreciate the parallel between mosaics and life. Some of them are made of uniform materials (all tile; all conventional milestones) while others are a hodgepodge of materials and found objects. Each could easily have just been a pile of junk, broken tiles, or stones, but they’re beautiful because someone took the time to arrange everything just so. Life doesn’t have to be just a bunch of stuff that happens; if we take a bit of time to really look at what we have (rather than what we don’t,) we can craft our lives into something truly beautiful.

family fun · mental health · parenting · waxing philosophical · weight loss

Day 399: Picture Me

I’m very picky about what pictures of myself I allow to be seen. They should be taken from slightly above me, so I don’t have a double chin, and never in profile, because then my belly looks huge. These are the things I look at first every time I see a picture of myself.

I’ve learned to get creative when posing for family pictures. Having small children helps, because they’re so willing to stand in front of me and be hugged. I’ve hidden behind my kids, my husband, my guitar, and my bike. Even then, I demand veto power before any photos are shared. At least, I try to.

I don’t want to do that anymore. I don’t want my great-grandchildren to look at me and say, “Why do we only see her from the shoulders up?” and then learn that I was ashamed to let my body show because I was fatter than the current fashion. It’s reasonable to assume that at least some of my grandchildren and great-grandchildren might resemble me, right down to body type. Am I being ridiculous to think that if they see me effectively hiding my body in every picture, they might infer that there’s something wrong with our shared shape?

Maybe the opposite is true, too: maybe they’ll see me, with a double chin and a belly, and say, “That was my great-grandmother. She did so many cool things—music, and building stuff, and quilting, and homeschooling my grandma—and look, she’s got the same chin as me. And she had a belly, too, like I do. And she’s so pretty. That must mean I’m pretty too.”

Of course, I’d be even happier if it didn’t occur to my great-grandkids to judge themselves based on where they carry their extra weight. But in order for that to happen, I first have to raise kids who know better, too, which means that I have to step up and model how I think we should relate to our bodies.

That means no more asking, “Do I look fat in this dress?”; not obsessing over or cataloguing every morsel of food I ingest; not calling myself “bad” for eating an extra slice of cheesecake; and not acting like my body shape and size is so unacceptable that I have to hide it. Not that I plan to wear skintight, revealing clothing from now on—that’s never been my thing, even when I’ve been slim—but I don’t have to choose clothes solely based on how well they hide my fat. My body isn’t wrong, it’s not broken, and I’m not less deserving of being seen because I wear a size fourteen or sixteen instead of a six or eight.

Which brings us back to pictures of me. This evening after dinner we took R and E to the park. I was wearing the dress I bought from eShakti, which might well be my favourite piece of clothing. It’s super comfortable, it has a huge pocket, and the skirt is flowy. I was sitting on the bench with Mr. December, the breeze playing with my hair, and all at once I just felt… pretty.

“I’ve got a dilemma,” I told Mr. December. “I feel so pretty right now, and I think I want you to take a picture of me. Then again, what if you take the picture and I see that I don’t look nearly as pretty as I feel?”

Which is ridiculous, because that would be conflating beauty with size, which are not mutually exclusive. I have quite a few friends and relatives who aren’t thin, and many of them are just gorgeous, full stop. I love and admire them. They don’t need to change their bodies. Their beauty isn’t conditional on their weight. Why, then, have I always felt like mine is?

In the end, the joy of the moment won out over my fat phobia, and I posed for a few pictures. I’m sharing them with you here, deliberately including the ones that I would normally edit out, because I need to learn to see my own beauty with the extra chin and the fat, instead of seeing my beauty despite it.

bikes planes and automobiles · family fun · Kids · The COVID files · waxing philosophical

Day 382: Siblings and Friends

One of the greatest gifts the pandemic has given us, I often think, is that the kids relate to each other as friends. Sibling rivalry doesn’t seem to be much of a thing anymore (although it could just be in the last week or so; My memory for such things doesn’t go much farther back than that.) Instead I’ll glimpse moments where they’re encouraging, comforting, entertaining, and supporting each other—moments that are so sweet they take my breath away (or maybe I just need to use my blue puffer. Not sure about that one.)

Today we went on a family bike ride, the first one where E has ridden her own bicycle instead of being on a tandem trailer behind mine. She’s still a bit wobbly, but she rode three kilometres before we stopped to play at the park (and a final kilometre to get back home.) As the rear guard, I got to watch as R cycled alongside E, shouting encouragement and advice as they went.

“You can do it, E! We’re almost there!”

At the park R immediately climbed up a freestanding rock wall and then called to E to try it. As I spotted E from below, R called out pointers and persuaded E to keep trying when she wanted to quit. Eventually E made it to the top where R congratulated her and showed her the most secure place to sit up there.

After dinner I refused to give E more screen time. “Go do something else!” I instructed before sticking my nose back in my book. She came to me some minutes later with a dominoes game, asking how to play, when K sauntered into the room. I offhandedly suggested that K could play with E; after telling them the basic rules I went back to my reading. I thought K would play maybe one round with E—but they played four or five games before deciding to do something else. K spoke softly, patiently, and she treated E as an equal.

I store up these moments in my mind and in my phone, greedily, against the day when they go their separate ways, each with their own peer group. I often comment that it’s wonderful being married to my best friend; it’s pretty wonderful that the kids get to grow up as close friends, too.