Passover Perspective

Pesach is approaching, and in just a few weeks, I’ll begin rationalizing how long I anticipate that I’ll actually be able to keep kosher for Passover. We have seders to attend in the city, Westchester, and New Jersey, and yet I’m beginning to separate my connection with the holiday from the story and meaning from the Haggadah.

I don’t much like matzah, and the first seder always seems a big sluggish, but that said, I’ve always considered Passover a time for reflection — for walking a modernized day in the shoes of our ancient ancestors.

I’ve spent my entire life trying to understand where I fit in with my religion, and defining how I choose to connect to it.

As a kid, keeping kosher and being forced to attend Hebrew school were enough for me.

Now, though, I’m determined to derive greater meaning from the upcoming holiday. Each generation of Jews has known struggle and adversity — and instead of thinking of their struggle, and how they survived, I’d rather use their strength to overcome hard times to find a way to give back.

I’ve been toying with the idea of volunteering for B’nai B’rith Youth Organization (BBYO), or some other such cause/organization. At this point, I’d like to use Passover as an opportunity to pay it forward.

Sticks and Stones

I thought words would never hurt me. Until tonight.

I was taking the train home after a late dinner with cousins. I felt that in terms of “financial karma” — if I spend responsibly, bad things can’t happen — it was the right thing to do.

Cold weather be damned, I hopped on the Q train towards Astoria, and made it to the 39th Avenue stop before things took a bitter turn.

Five or six high school-aged kids came through one train car into ours, and their immediate rowdiness and crassness didn’t bother me. Until I became their focus.

Three of the kids pointed at me, and proceeded to call me all sorts of insults on the fat scale. Fat was the least offensive, so was ugly.

I’ve worked so hard to even be where I am now, and five or six disturbed youth aren’t going to ruin that, at least not after tonight. Tonight, I’m shedding a few tears, because more than being hurtful, it was scary. These kids showed no remorse for their comments directed at me, or anyone else on the train that became their target. I honestly didn’t know what their next move was going to be, and that scared me.

At the end of the night, even as I sit here writing this in tears, I’m coming home to a safe place, and to someone who loves me. I don’t know for certain that it’s the same for those kids, and maybe that’s even sadder.

Here’s What

I love Andy Cohen. I am a devoted viewer of Watch What Happens Live, and admire the way he has completely reshaped the way we view and experience late-night television, and honestly, the way we digest pop culture in general. In particular, I adore his “Here’s What: Three Things I’m Obsessed With” segment.

So, tearing a page from Andy’s book, for my own here’s what series.

3 Things I’m Obsessed with This Weekend:

1. BuzzFeed’s Ranking of SNL “Weekend Update” anchors: Amazing. I love Kevin Nealon, Amy and Tina (duh!), and of course Dennis Miller. I was never really into Colin Quinn’s stint. But I respect him, and his cameo on HBO’s Girls last Sunday.

2. Gothamist’s Compilation of Larry David’s insults on Curb Your Enthusiasm: This compilation was pretty, pretty, pretty good. Sometimes I re-watch episode of Curb for the sole purpose of pithy one-liners and zingers.

3. Food 52’s History of Cider in America: Those who know my happy hour persona, know that I almost always opt for wine. When the menu is lacking in sauvignon blanc or a good pinot grigio, I start the scan for a good Strongbow or other such cider. So naturally, I found this piece pretty interesting.

What three things are YOU obsessed with from this weekend?

Family Ties

I come from a family of relative dysfunction. I speak to less than a handful of my paternal relatives, and I have both grandparents, so that’s two right there. That said, I don’t like to treat family like a four-letter word. In my book, to love is to love unconditionally.

I’m close with my immediate family, and most of my maternal relatives. We had it easy. Much like my mother’s family and their days in Detroit’s shtetl-like Jewish neighborhoods of yesteryear, we grew up within one square-mile of each other. Each house had its respective open-door, open-fridge policy; cousins were more like siblings.

We had our drama, we had our arguments, but as my mother (and grandmother before her) liked to declare “you can choose your friends, but you cannot choose your family.” Her other favorite was “blood is thicker than water.”

I hold those sayings close, especially as I plan my impending wedding. It was natural to me, for example, to choose Michigan as the setting. My roots are there, and with three grandparents over age 80 and great aunts and uncles who played such a strong role in my upbringing, it would be so selfish to consider getting married anywhere else.

On top of which, it’s important for me to have my family as part of the bridal party. We tormented each other as kids. I share stories with friends about how my siblings (I’m looking at you, Dr. Kirsch!) would hold my arms back and scream, “free hits on Alex!” But, I love them. My sister and brother-in-law are gracing our family with a true simcha this February as they bring a baby boy into this world. My sister Anne and her fiancé Michael are starting their lives together in Miami. My brother (the doctor!) and his lovely girlfriend (also a doctor!) prove that love can flourish no matter the distance.

Our relationship as kids was fuzzy; we were so close in age that fights were inevitable. But, no matter how much we hurt one another with words or actions, my mother — learning a lesson from my father and his brothers — made sure we always spoke, and that we always made up and moved on.

My mother is my hero. She takes care of her father (my beloved Zaydie Sam), and my father — someone who suffers from a long list of conditions including diabetes and Parkinson’s. She is a giver, and a caretaker, and while I don’t always want to hear what she has to say — sometimes it’s because of how she says it — I love her most of all. She has spent almost no time caring what people think of her, and instead, has devoted herself to our family. To ensuring that we’re all in the loop on family ties, that we’re all happy and healthy, and that we have what we need – literally and figuratively – in life.

When my parents cut me off financially at age 21, I was preparing to move to New York. My father, who comes from a family where protocol and money are king, was determined to share that he thought I was meant for law school, and in publishing I’d end up penniless. My mother, on the other hand, didn’t share her predictions on my future. Instead, she said, “You’re meant for New York.”

She was right.

I’ve been here for nearly four years, have achieved great success in my still-short career, and am getting married in just over a year.

None of that matters though. Life is too short. Family has taught me in all part of life that you’re never too old to ask for help, or for forgiveness, and you’ll never be too old to say “I love you.” Three words, eight letters, endless good feelings.

Jag-U-Are

When I was a kid, I envied my Bubby Cryille’s personality. She was warm and welcoming, but also outspoken. She knew everyone — and everything about them — and she loved life. I remember her beauty routine most of all — second only to my memories of her Entertainment Books. She went weekly to a salon called the Magic Touch in Oak Park, where she went for her hair, her brows, and her nails. It was like Bubby HQ. Bubbies here, bubbies there, bubbies everywhere. Bubbies doing nails. Bubbies doing hair.

Her hair was standard Bubby — brushed back curls — but her nails…her nails were her creative outlet. My dad’s mother is much more tightly wound, but my beloved Bubby Cyrille – she went for red.

Jag-U-Are by Essie was her signature shade. For years, I thought she was simply mispronouncing the name “Jaguar.” It took years, and four years since she passed away, for me to realize I was wrong.

I spent Christmas in Westchester this year — a slight break in my “Jewish Christmas” tradition of movies and Chinese food in Michigan and Amagansett.

We made our way up with Adam’s father, but on the one condition that I could get a mani/pedi before going to the house. Adam and his dad dropped me at the salon before heading to the gym. I walked past its hair styling section to the mani/pedi room, and the first color I picked up was the shimmery red “Jag-U-Are.” It was at that moment that I canceled my shellac mani in favor of a regular manicure with this color as an ode to my late Bubby Cyrille.

The rest of the holiday was lovely — good food, future family, and we even squeezed a movie in there. Most of all, it was nice to have memories of my Bubby with me, even if just on my nails.

Jag-U-Are

American Hustle

I fell in love with David O. Russell over Silver Linings Playbook (they did an awesome job using social media to promote the movie, too!), and so when I heard he was banding Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, Amy Adams, and Christian Bale together for a new film called American Hustle, I was beyond geeked.

This movie had everything I was hoping for. Christian Bale (Irving) played a lovable conman, caught in a dysfunctional marriage with the wildly talented — and in the film, wildly delusional — Jennifer Lawrence. He meets Amy Adams’ character, and falls in love, and into a whole lot of trouble. Bradley Cooper was pretty good, but Bale and Lawrence really stole the show.

I really feel that Jennifer Lawrence is the modern Meryl Streep. She was so committed to her role as Rosalyn, the nail polish-sniffing Long Island housewife whose husband, a conman with a comb-over, spent his days making money with his mistress.

The movie had pieces of romance, adventure, and grit…enough of each to make it a great choice for date night with my non-moviegoer fiancé.

Cameos by Louis CK and Robert (I want to call him Bob…) De Niro were great, and while the movie did feel a bit long — longer than it actually was — the plot twists were well worth it.

See, there, I told you how I felt about the movie, without really saying very much about it. Even if you really want to see Anchorman 2, go see American Hustle first.

From Pinterest to Proposal

I work in social media, and so, it’s reasonable to assume that in addition to cataloguing my every move religiously on Foursquare and documenting my life through Facebook and Twitter, I plan my future with equal attention to detail on Pinterest.

My boards are appropriately segmented from recipes and home-goods, to beauty tips and generic lifehacks. And then, of course, there’s my wish list. This particular board has been so specially curated; I’ve dedicated several blocks of minutes — maybe even hours — to ensure that each pin reflects my taste, and things I’d actually use.

There’s a point to this prose, I swear.

You see, I got engaged on Saturday.

My boyfriend fiancee and I have been together for just about a year, and marriage had been a looming topic. We moved in together quickly, and so marriage felt like the logical next step.

That said, it seemed a proposal would only happen if Adam — said fiancee — had full creative control.

Had he met me? I’m controlling, type-A+, neurotic…the list goes on.

As the one year mark drew closer, I suspected he was up to something. Since when was he in a rush to do yard work in the suburbs on a Friday?

Hint: he was buying a ring.

What role does Pinterest play in the whole scheme of things, you ask? It all goes back to my wish list.

When my friend Janet got engaged, she mentioned to me BlueNile.com. And while Adam didn’t get my ring from BlueNile.com, I spent countless lunch hours and late nights perusing their selection of loose diamonds and settings, dreaming up what my sparkler would look like.

I settled on a simple, pave setting with an emerald-cut center stone. And it was from that pin, that had been sitting there stale for months, that Adam drew inspiration to have my ring designed.

The ring, however, was only half of the proposal.

We had dinner at Piccola Venezia in Astoria. He started with a caesar salad, and I had the minestrone soup. For his main course, he had a veal parmesan-type dish, while I opted for fresh pappardelle in olive oil with roasted garlic and eggplant. (HELLO DELICIOUS!)

After dinner, there was this lull of time where I wondered if a proposal was on the horizon. And, at the cusp of my wonder, the waiter placed a dish in front of me. I remarked that we didn’t order dessert, and then I looked down to see that “Will you marry me?” was etched onto the plate in chocolate.

Cue hysterical tears.

In the midst of my emotional eruption, Adam kneeled on one knee, and asked me formally to marry him. The entire restaurant was our audience, and the moment I said yes, the entire room trumped my tears with applause, and the waiter announced proudly, “SHE SAID YES!”

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I am so glad I gave up snooping, as now I enter into Thanksgiving with something even more special to be thankful for.