Dinner for Four

My son, Andrew, has eaten dinner at his girlfriend’s house many times in the past year. From what I hear, her mom is an amazing cook. She not only serves the main meal like filet or pork loin but also a plethora of side dishes to choose from. She also makes homemade bread and desserts which she often generously sends home with Andrew to share with us.

A few things here. In my house, side dishes are typically a canned vegetable or applesauce. I’ve always had trouble with side dishes. To me, side dishes are for Thanksgiving dinner, not Taco Tuesday. Also, it takes me a while to make the main course and side dishes mean more work and more dishes to clean.

Second, I’ve never been much of a baker. Sure, I will whip up the occasional batch of chocolate chip cookies and, of course, hamantaschen on Purim. When we have company, I like to buy dessert and the local bakeries (and probably the fire department) thank me for supporting them.

Recently, I decided to invite her for Shabbat dinner. I asked Andrew to set the bar a little lower for me and set expectations accordingly. I cannot compete with her mom and definitely don’t want to. But, I can certainly pull off a Friday night dinner. I will make her the food of our people – brisket, sweet and sour meatballs, and push myself to make a side dish of honey carrots (fancy, right?!).

One question – does sweet kugel count as dessert? I hope so.

I enjoy a good challenge such as having a special occasion to cook. They are only 17 so this isn’t a dinner that means anything more than wanting to spend more time with them. And in the end, I hope it is my conversational skills that will win her over where my culinary ones likely will not.

And maybe – just maybe – she will bring home a few pieces of kugel for her parents to try.

COVID Will Not Cancel Christmas

I know people are worried about COVID-19 canceling or at least changing the holidays. It is true that our holidays –  like everything else in 2020 – will be different, but honestly, I think Christmas is the one thing that is too big to be ruined by a global pandemic.

Yes, you will have to make adjustments. Christmas dinner may be safer with just your immediate family in attendance. Church services will probably take place via Zoom. As a Jew who has been on many online Shabbat services and most recently Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur – our holiest of holidays – I can tell you that I still felt connected to my community despite not being able to pray in our sanctuary. I hope and pray it will be the same for you.

And as a bonus, you don’t have to get all dressed up. I watched my son read HafTorah from the comfort of my family room couch wearing my pajamas and fuzzy slippers. While I did miss the fall fashion show that coincides with the holiday every year at temple, I was able to focus even more on the meaning of the holiday instead of which hat Mrs. Levin was wearing this year. I do love her hats!

And let’s face it. Christmas is EVERYWHERE! To get into the holiday spirit, make some egg nog and turn on the Hallmark channel. Blast Christmas carols throughout your home and in the car. Decorate your tree and include those special 2020 ornaments to commemorate the historical year we are having. And surely, twinkling Christmas lights and decorations will still deck our Facebook halls – I mean walls.

Regardless of what holiday you celebrate, the spirit of joy and giving won’t go away. There are plenty of charities to donate to and volunteer your time. Just make sure to don your holiday masks and COVID-themed t-shirts. For my fellow Jews, I haven’t heard of a chocolate gelt or dreidel shortage, so we should be able to celebrate Chanukah just fine.

No matter how or what we celebrate, may we be safe, healthy, and even more grateful and thankful for everything good in our lives. And pray for a more normal 2021!


For The Undecided Voters

This morning, I woke up and couldn’t figure out what to wear. I searched my closet for the perfect outfit. First, I put on a pair of shorts and a cute t-shirt. I soon realized it was going to be much cooler, so I opted for jeans instead. And then, I switched my top for one that was more appropriate for my morning Zoom meetings. Thirty minutes later, I ditched the whole ensemble for a cute dress and big hoop earrings because I decided I needed a pick me up to motivate myself to start the day.

Finding the right outfit to wear is never an easy decision for me, but you know what is – who I’m voting for in the presidential election. I guess I am fortunate in knowing which candidate represents my values, and which one I want to be exiled to a deserted island for all eternity.

I guess it is also why I’m so baffled when I listen to people who are still undecided. But instead of criticizing them, I’m trying to understand what’s going on. And the more I read, the more I learned.

For instance, a voter who has been a Republican their entire life–raised Republican, parents were Republicans–can’t wrap their head around the idea of voting outside their party, I totally get that. I couldn’t imagine voting for anyone but a Democrat. To them I say, maybe this time is different. Maybe it isn’t about what party you belong to but about putting your country before party.

For Democrats who didn’t want Biden to win the primaries, he wasn’t my first choice either. I liked Pete and Kamala and Cory myself. But then, I decided that a Biden/Harris administration won’t consistently lie to the public, dismantle trusted systems, or disrespect and publicly ridicule and bully those who are different based on their race, religion, or sexual orientation. I’d much rather go to sleep at night knowing we are a beacon of hope for the world instead of a laughing stock in the global community.

For those who wanted to vote for Kanye West, sorry, I have nothing for you.

Here’s the thing. I’m not trying to tell you how to vote. These are my own feelings that I’m lucky to have a platform where I can share them with you. But, if you are registered to vote, please, please don’t sit this one out, cross your fingers, and hope for the best. It shouldn’t be that hard to match your values to the candidate. You are a smart cookie and you know what you believe in. You know right from wrong. You love your country. You want us to continue to be a leader in the free world. You want to help others in need. You want to succeed in business. You want to provide for your family.

And maybe like me, the most important issue to you these days is having a safe, scientifically-based, and effective vaccine to treat COVID-19 so that you and your loved ones can live a healthy life to the fullest. You want to travel again. Go to the movies or a concert again. Attend a wedding or a graduation party with all of your loved ones. Or just go back to school or work or leave your house and go out to dinner without risking your life.

So, here is my question — with 13 days left to go, what will you decide?

Always Working

When I graduated from college, I had three jobs. I worked as a receptionist during the day, a stringer at a newspaper at night, and a sales associate at a clothing store on the weekends. I was 22 and full of energy. I loved being busy. Years later and not much has changed, except I have less energy and I’ve lost count of how many jobs I have these days. I can tell you that it’s a lot more than three.

Thanks to COVID-19, I was furloughed from my job at Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation and started looking for a new one. Job hunting was a full-time endeavor. (Don’t let anyone tell you differently). From 9-5, I attended networking several events over Zoom, scheduled 1:1 networking calls, posted articles on LinkedIn, and worked with a career coach on developing my personal brand and a career plan. And yes, I applied to jobs too, but only twice a week. Why? Because I customized each cover letter and resume to the job I wanted. I did my homework by studying the websites, reading between the lines of the job descriptions, and crafting my application accordingly. I filled out the on-line applications, looked within my network for someone who had an “in” at that company, and prepared for phone and Zoom interviews. It was a full-time gig.

Thankfully, it paid off! During this pandemic, I was able to find a new job that I started a few weeks ago. Onboarding was thorough but didn’t last long and now I have plenty of great and challenging projects to work on. I’m happy about being able to contribute early on, but also nervous I will fail miserably when I’m trying to make a good first impression. No wonder I’m so tired at night.

But, that’s not all.

On the side, I’ve networked my way onto a few speaking panels. I never thought I’d be a public speaker, but I love sharing my experiences and dropping some knowledge to those starting out in their careers or to my colleagues who are looking for new ideas. I need a slide deck for each presentation, so I’m constantly working in PowerPoint and getting pretty good at it. Last weekend, I spoke to an organization based in Nigeria about storytelling and fundraising in nonprofit organizations. Yep, I went global! That was pretty cool.

Did I mention, I’m also a student? Digital marketing was not something they taught in college 20 years ago because it didn’t exist! So, I’m enrolled in night classes to earn an Integrated Digital Marketing certificate from Penn State. No homework or tests–thank goodness–but being a student takes a lot of brainpower.

But the most important job is the one I’m not being paid for. I’m a wife and a mother. Even though my kids are teenagers now, there is still plenty to do. I don’t have a large house, but keeping it running can be a full-time job in itself. My spare time is taken up by laundry, dishes, and cooking. I’ve recently decided that whoever deemed this “women’s work: was just too damn lazy to do it himself!

About a month ago, a human resources manager asked me what I like to do for fun which turned out to be the hardest interview question I had to answer. Getting time to myself is the biggest struggle I have had lately. Between career, school, and housework, there isn’t much time for volunteering, reading, or blogging let alone binge-watching The Crown on Netflix. My version of downtime is falling asleep on the couch by 9:30 pm, but I don’t think that answer would have landed me the job. I may have said something about jigsaw puzzles – exciting, right!

But, I know I happily chose this lifestyle and would do it again. I’d much rather be busy than bored – as long as it doesn’t lead to burnout. I just hope I can find some time soon to stop and smell the roses.



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