Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Take, Take, Take

At the end of July I realized just what I had done in one month: gave Dad an excellent birthday outing, epiphany about technology at job, spontaneous trip to Israel with Mom, awful experience in Istanbul with Mom, quit job, helped Uncle get sorted for Lithuania, visited Dekalb, gone through months of school paperwork, looked at apartments, epiphany about my insanity, and prepared to go to California on August 4. That was all besides regularly going to yoga while in town and cooking all kinds of crazy stuff I've neglected to mention in the blog.

I re-read some journal entries and one from July 30, 2010 really struck me. There I was still filled with confusion and doubt when I wrote this:

Today I woke up and decided to read in bed for a while. Then I decided to cook sweet potato burritos. Then I decided to cook 2 banana breads with pumpkin seeds and cranberries. I also decided to take myself out to a movie. Why is it that some decisions big or small are so easy, so obvious that all you have to do, is do it? Take time to do what you want.

Despite questioning myself in this manner I continued to burden my mind with what ifs and maybe I shoulds. A few people said that it was possible that I just wasn't going to decide this year and that I need more time. Impossible. I have to try something and I have to try it now!!! NOW NOW NOW.

A friend asked me what I would do for free and whatever that is then I should pursue it. I told her it was impossible and ridiculous because then I would be broke forever. But after that conversation I remembered all the agony I put myself through in the last 4 years to find something "right" for me. I'm pretty sure now that you're not supposed to have panic attacks and tears when you're following the "right" path.

As I'm looking back on my July and what would subsequently come to be in August, I can honestly say that what's right for you is often right in front of your face. All you have to do is take it.

Which brings me to the fact that I recently saw the movie Eat Pray Fuck You. I mean Love. Love. I read the book a while back and I can tell you honestly that I am a million times more interesting than Elizabeth Gilbert. She can totally suck it.

Similar to the Julie and Julia project, Elizabeth Gilbert takes herself on a brilliant odyssey of self discovery. She travels to Italy, India, and Indonesia in order to come to terms with her divorce and re-gain herself. She does whatever she wants when she wants to do it. I admire this type of spirit and have done similar things in the past. However, I did them while being a waitress or I charged them on a card. I did not have a year long trip funded by my publisher, meaning she knew the entire time that this experience would be a book. Doesn't that take away from trying to live in the moment?

Ok she's not that bad. She did some really nice things for others during her journey and I have to recognize that. She also extensively wrote about what yoga meant to her which was good but completely glazed over in the movie. Boo. The movie did an excellent job of showing her experiences in Italy but then it was lost. Here is my review:

I watched Julia cry in the house
I watched Julia cry with a mouse
She cried on the floor
She cried by the door
On the rooftop and in the tub
On the dock and in the club
Julia cries at a wedding
She cries on her bedding
I watched Julia cry a lot
So for me, this movie was shot

It's not true that I hated it, in fact Bali is now in my top ten list of places to visit. I just find it funny that people see this type of trip as a fantasy or the escapist woman's pipe dream. That was exactly how this movie was marketed. She lost everything because she lost her man so watch her do all kinds of crying and crazy stuff and then find another one! One that cries and is a great father! Yea! Everything is better now!

Like I said about Israelis, they take trips abroad all the time and they only need to know where and when. For us it's this huge deal and totally crazy for anyone, especially a woman to do this type of trip, hence the popularity of Gilbert's story. Most of us at some point have spent money on huge televisions or gadgets or clothing or books. If you added up those yearly expenditures they might have taken you to an exotic destination instead. I have no idea why people think that they will never be able to afford a trip abroad. You find ways to pay for all kinds of other stupid shit, why not give yourself an experience instead? I didn't agonize or cry or listen to anyone tell me I was crazy when I took trips in the past. I just took the opportunity.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Passenger

If I looked at my career choices as if it were a hop on hop off bus tour things make more sense. You miss one ride so you get on another.

The other day I had dinner with friends that had been in the peace corp and I told them of my missed opportunities and confusion. I said that I wished I took my energy four years ago and poured it into law. Instead, getting out of Chicago and traveling were top priority and I regret that now. They said I was nuts for looking at things that way. They said that was what I was supposed to do. Granted, they are an adventurous bunch but it brought me comfort to think that things are as they should be.

Another friend recently told me that I am unable to make decisions because I am in an unhealthy environment. The demands on me are too high here. When I think of it though I remember making seriously bad decisions in Seattle. Bad decisions on men, money, drinking, job, saturated fat, etc. I hopped off that bus and landed back in routine and stability.

My career counselor told me that I was well on my way to being a Renaissance Woman. Immediately I had a vision of myself in a long flowing skirt and awful corset with fat bulging out of every seam wearing Birkenstocks and eating a turkey drumstick. Needless to say I was highly insulted until she told me it was a cliched term for the woman of many interests. That's not so bad I guess.

Since my New Year's resolution for 2010 was to be more honest with everyone I can't believe that I forgot to include myself in that. Everyone mentioned that they heard me say, "I should do this.....I should want this.......I might try and.....I think I'm going to..." This isn't honesty. I can't believe that I've been saying those things for years.

I hope that I'm not easily influenced but things happen where I get romanced for a moment and then it flies away. In Israel I went out with a group of people one night and had a lengthy conversation with a man. He had been a scuba instructor in Honduras for two years right after serving in the army. His favorite place to travel was South America and he learned to speak Spanish fluently. He moved back to Israel to do school but intends to work in the EU because his parents were from Sweden. There was a moment where I thought: I can't believe that I have never dated a guy like this. This was they type of guy that I should have met years ago on one of my own adventures.

I recalled some of my travel experiences and there were sexy moments but never a real connection with another interesting person. In Prague I had a wild ecstasy fueled romance with an American guy. I vaguely remember making out with him in the halls and on the floor of our hotel while people had to scoot around us to get past. Mr. America and I were so destroyed for the duration of that trip that somehow he ended up showing my passport to security at the airport. I never spent a sober moment with him.

I definitely remember my make-out session with an Irish guy after a brewery tour in New Zealand. He was going down on me in a public bathroom when two locals walked in and laughed their heads off. We left and went to the bar across the street but unfortunately that was were the guys had gone and announced their findings to everyone. I was mortified at the applause and Mr. Ireland said that he wished it was the other way around they had found us in. Thanks a lot Ireland.

So when I say that I "should have" met someone like Mr. Israel on my travels, the fact remains that I've met plenty of guys and tried plenty of stupid things and they were always wrong. The idea that I "should have" something better is a notion that really holds me back from making real decisions. I should have been a teacher. I should have volunteered at that kibbutz years ago. I should have blah blah blah. When Mr. Israel stood up from the table to say goodbye, I found out that he was much shorter than me. You can call it superficial if you want, but the fantasy went right out the window in an instant.

I should have moved to Dekalb? Nope. I got off that bus. It was going the wrong direction.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Add It Up

Somewhere in the midst of my personal drama my uncle decided to use his mileage to go to Lithuania. He was inspired by Mom to get a free flight so his itinerary was as follows: Chicago to Detroit, (7 hour layover!) Detroit to Amsterdam, Amsterdam to Vilnius. It was going to take nearly 24 hours to get there and he was leaving a week after scheduling this flight. The trip was set for August 2.

A couple days before his trip Grandma was agitated because the airline hadn't set him any tickets.

How he goin wizout ticket?

I'm sure he has a confirmation number.

No. You need it ticket.

Grandma, you don't need tickets anymore. A number should do it.

They said they send him.

Ok well I'm sure he'll get them in the next few days.

In few days he leaving!

I can look up his seat on the computer.

So my uncle came upstairs the next day and showed me the confirmation number. I found his flights and printed his itinerary, only they had everything up to Amsterdam and back. No Lithuania. He said that they were putting him on a small plane for that leg and he was sure it was ok. I told him that he better get the info so at least he knows when and where to board and I also said that he should do something about that 7 hour layover in Detroit.

He was going to visit and stay with family which is both stupid and exciting. Mom said over and over what an idiot he was for doing this. She said that he is gullible and they will coax him into giving them a bunch of money.

Uncle doesn't have any money to give them so what difference does it make?

They will give him a sob story you'll see. They've been doing it to me for years and believe me, they are better off now than we are.

I know but still. Just be happy for him. I'm sure it will be an interesting experience. I wanted to go a few years ago. I wish I could have met all of Grandma's sisters.

It's totally crazy.

Mom. We were in Israel a week and a half ago. Crazy is a relative term in this family.

The day before his flight Uncle walked up to me in his pajamas and handed me his phone.

Tell her to fax you the itinerary.

Hi. Ok well. Um hi. Yes I'm his niece........Right.........Yes we have a fax...Could you just email it to me instead?........Ok it's........

This interaction was beyond my uncle. He has nothing to do with technology whatsoever and was expecting tickets in the mail like it used to be. Grandma made him paranoid that he wasn't going to be able to get on the flight. He couldn't believe that it worked this way and blamed the airline over and over for being unorganized. I told him that he should probably get an email address.

It's ridiculous. They were supposed to send it!

I know but it will be fine with just this. This is all you need. You have a confirmation number and you know what your flight numbers are. You're fine.

What am I supposed to show them?

Nothing. You only need the number and your passport. You'll see when you check in. There are these kiosks and....

Aviva. You have to show them tickets and your passport.

Uncle, trust me. You have everything you need.

I want two copies of everything.

Then Grandma interjected that maybe I was right about how things worked in the airport here but things are different in Europe.

Grandma, listen. They have everything we have and once you check in for one flight they check you all the way through.

No. You're vrong. You no know what it's like zhere. He has to have ticket!

Grandma, I travel a lot remember? He is going to be fine with just the confirmation numbers and his passport.

How can it be? Just a number? Is ridiculous. When I trabel wiz your mama we have to show papers!

Yes I know. But you went to Vilnius in 1974.

I know you have to have it. Papers.

Sigh. This family is lost without me.

The "tickets" arrived after Uncle had left for his trip. Grandma asked me if she should send them to her niece in Lithuania but I convinced her not to.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Room of One's Own

Obviously my mental health deteriorated in July and I will admit this now. I talked the heads off of nearly all my friends about the situation and I talked to my career counselor for 2 hours! Looking back on all of this a month later I can tell you that I now know I am certifiably insane. Not only was I unsure and upset about Dekalb but back in March I was tempted by yet another program which I applied to and was admitted. I wasn't in love with either idea and decided on law in Dekalb. I'm tired of being the restless dreamer and want very badly to be academically challenged and to learn something useful. It seemed to be the best choice and make the most sense. Or so I thought.

The apartment search in Dekalb didn't help. I finally took a trip out there on July 28 and was astonished at the quality of apartments. A 19 year old guy showed me two buildings and ruled one out due to it being next door to a frat house. This was a tricky situation because I never lived in a college town and didn't know what to expect. This is also at a time in my life when I thought shitty apartments were a thing of the past. Not so.

It was lucky that I got the young guy to show me around because he was naive and not at all a salesperson.

What's going on with the ceiling?

Oh there was a huge flood but they've patched it up now. They'll have it covered up again before school starts.

Why does this room have all that plastic sheeting up?

Oh it used to be a computer room for the building but they had to close it due to vandalism.

Are they going to um, re-paint? Or is it like this?

They painted last week.

Words cannot describe the disappointment. I understand that once involved with classes you would probably forget or not care about the condition of your living space, but maybe I cared too much already. I found other nicer buildings, some of which were only for grad students and families and they were pretty good. I could see it. I saw the benefit of doing something like this and it drowned me in sorrow. I wished I did it 4 years ago when I really wanted to. I wouldn't have given a shit then about the apartments or the debt or the time involved. Something changed when I moved away. Something made me a huge snob that can't live like that anymore. There was a window in my life to do this and I may have closed it.

I took two applications home and they sat on my laundry bin for a week.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Chapter 5: Under Pressure

Several people have emailed and called worried about my sanity. Thank you for the inquiries but I assure you I am fine. Really. All I needed after the unexpected Israel trip and subsequent quitting of my job was to get an apartment, register for classes, move to Dekalb, IL, and attend a birthday party in California. I needed to do all of that in 2 weeks. No problem.

Immediately after leaving my job on the 23rd I checked online for apartment listings and made some appointments to see places the following week. Unfortunately some of the craigslist offers were way off the mark. For example:

Master bedroom with private bath available in a shared house......

This was actually a 16 room boarding house with tenants between the ages of 19-65. When I asked if the older people worked at or attended the college the answer was no. The landlord made mention having to work on the noise problem and needing to let some tenants go this year, hence the availability of the "nicer unit." All 16 rooms had one kitchen to share. Oh my.

Then there was this one:

1 roommate needed to share a 3 bedroom townhouse. Current tenants are clean, quiet, respectful full time students.

This was actually written by a parent who bought a town home for her 19 year old son and didn't live near the area. He was sharing it with a friend and his mom said that I would have to be interviewed by them to see if I was a good fit. I told her that it probably wasn't the right situation for me since I was 31 and a law student. She just laughed and laughed. Oh my.

I received a letter from my school on that weekend explaining how orientation was a mandatory 4 day experience lasting from 9-4 each day. It was to start on August 9..........but I was scheduled to fly back to Chicago at night on the 10th. Oh no. No no no no no. You see what happens when you have a million things on your plate? The first day of school was going to be August 17 and I thought that I gave myself enough time to do all of this. I was not expecting another major obligation.

I talked to the dean of admissions and she asked if there was any way I could change my flight so I could make it back in time. She said most schools didn't do this but it was a series of necessary workshops to prepare you for legal writing and research. She said the letters went out very late for this and several students had complained. Well that's just great!

Panic attacks started.

3am full on I am freaking out and this hasn't happened in years oh my fucking god what have I done what should I do I don't think I want all this stress I should have been more prepared for all this why didn't they explain this shit earlier I can't believe I agreed to go to California so last minute I have to stop doing nice things for everyone else I am so tired from this trip and finally so happy to have left that job and now am a wreck what do I do and what if I lose another opportunity and what the fuck what the fuck have I done how am I going to fix it I can't believe I was in Israel last week at least I have a back up plan but still this was supposed to work and I don't really want to change the flight and what is wrong with me I should do everything possible to make this work I don't know if I can handle this and why didn't I quit earlier I must be the most pathetic person in the world and who on earth would give up law school and I did really want it several times this year but not all year and maybe I should just do the other but no I always talk myself out of everything there must be a way and I am just going to have to I should do this I should.........

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Thanks a lot Giada

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Giada De Laurentiis for ruining my fucking evening! All I wanted was to make this beautiful apricot crostata pictured here in her book, Giada's Family Dinners when I notice not one but two errors in the recipe!!!

It clearly says in the ingredient list that the juice and rind of one lemon goes into this dessert, but then the juice is not mentioned in the recipe itself. AH HA! Gotcha you lousy editors you.

I would normally go so far as to say that they didn't even test this recipe but since I watched her make it on her show last week I know that isn't true. However had I not watched it or if I didn't know much about butter dough, I wouldn't know to add flour on the surface of the parchment paper before you roll out your dough. This also was not mentioned in the recipe. AH HA again! I didn't add enough flour and the dough was pulling apart on me. I managed to add more butter to force the splitting pieces together but what a mess. It looked nothing, NOTHING like the picture above. What a bitch.

I also believe the actual bake time should have been 35 minutes and not the 40 suggested in the book. I burned the damn thing. Luckily the family gobbled it anyway and saved me a sliver but still. That's not the point. I bet the skinny bitch doesn't even eat any of her own cooking, so how would she know if it's any good?

What the fuck? She gets to make millions and look all pretty on the cover of her book and yet give me false information? FOR SHAME! I needed something to work out and you know what? IT DIDN'T. It was simple enough so how come the recipe in the book isn't right? Huh Giada? Ok fine so now I know how to make a better one, still! Giada, you can kiss my administrative assistant ass wherever you are! And by the way, I am so much hotter than you so there.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

There and Back Again

In D.C. I felt ill. We had a short layover there until the last leg to Chicago. I barely slept on either flight over. We sat near four smelly men on our way to D.C. and I reached that point where you're uncomfortable no matter what. Can't sit. Can't stretch. Can't eat. So when I got to D.C. the rooms were spinning and I nearly fainted. I told Mom I had to go to the ladies room and she was asking me something about my bag. I said whatever and walked away and she insisted that she take my bag. No I needed to brush my teeth and I can't even talk anymore. I just kept the bag and walked on. It could have been hunger or dehydration or exhaustion but I felt very seriously ill. After freshening up I had to eat immediately so I looked for Mom but didn't see her. I figured she went back to the gate after walking with me to the bathroom.

I stopped for healthy snacks and an OJ and walked on to the gate which was about 25 feet away but she wasn't there. That was odd. I called her and she said she just went around the corner to call Dad and where was I? I told her to come back to the gate. D3. We had been there once already so I figured this was no big deal.

Too much time went by. I called her but she didn't have reception and it went to voice mail. The plane started to board. I called 5 times. Nothing.

I was about to ask them to page her when she called me crying.

Where are you? I don't know where I am!

What? I told you D3.

Why did you leave me? I don't know where I am!!

Oh come on. We're boarding. You were right down the hall, you couldn't have gone far.

You said B3.

No. D3. My god did you go all the way to another wing?

How could you walk away from me?

Just ask someone how to get here.

Mom arrived at the gate livid. She didn't even look at me. We had a little time if she wanted to get a snack too but she was too angry to grab anything and just wanted to get on the plane. I offered her my yogurt but she refused and blamed me for us nearly missing this flight as well.

No. No. No. I'm not taking any more drama. This is not my fault. I showed you where the gate was.

You shouldn't have left me alone. I wouldn't have walked out on you.

I didn't see you. I figured you went back to the gate.

I don't feel good.

You know what? I don't feel good either and I have nothing to apologize for. You should have been able to get yourself back 25 feet from where we started. Besides the gate was listed on your boarding pass.

I opened a book. She calmed down and tried to make small talk with me but I had snapped. I could no longer make conversation and please her. I thought we reached a good place sitting at that Gloria Jeans. We joked about how we would laugh about this someday and made fun of our flirtatious baristas.

We had talked extensively about the food in Israel: salad for breakfast and several white cheeses on wheat crackers, sweet yellow grape tomatoes to snack on, and Hana's wonderful home cooking. We went out to share a traditional Israeli breakfast one day and Inbar ordered Shakshouka for her son. I had never heard of this before and loved the name so much I had to have the recipe! Shakshouka is chopped tomato and red pepper sauteed in a pan with spices. Then you drop 2 eggs right in the middle and let the sauce cook them. It's delicious and simple.

I mentioned how much I liked it to Yanay and he said: Aviva, it's eggs and tomato.

I know! But it's so good. I've never made breakfast that way!

Aviva. It's eggs and tomato.


I thought of moments like that when I was on the last leg home. Something small to make me smile and realize that it was worth it to see these people and have a sense of family. It was overwhelmingly sad to have made it that far only to have Mom angry at me again for nothing. I wanted to have a special mother/daughter moment at some point during the ordeal but here we were in a perpetual state of drama. Some things can't be fixed and you have to accept circumstances the way they are. I wish I could help her be happier but now I know that I've done what I can.

There was talk of a real dinner when we got home but I was a wreck. Without saying a word to anyone I laid down and slept for 13 hours straight.

2 days later I went back to work and realized that I couldn't take anymore of that crap either. I gave notice that my final day would be that Friday, July 23.

The contract supervisor said: you know you're supposed to give a 2 week notice.

I know. But I'm not going to.

And on July 23 I finished my job and gained a little more freedom. Fuck them.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Hooray for Technology

And so I could either wait until Lufthansa re-opened at 4:00am to see if we could get on another flight, or try calling Dad. I went back to the 24 hour post office, this time nearly losing it myself, and after 3 tries was able to get Dad on the phone. I told him our predicament to which he said, "how the hell did you do that?"

It doesn't matter now. I need your help. First I need you to text Mom and tell her that I'm ok and will be back to get her soon.

I also have to cancel your hotel reservation in Frankfurt.

Right. Well ok. I'll wait here and call you back.

Dad was able to cancel the hotel. He was also able to text Mom and she responded while I was on the phone. I told Dad he would have to try and find the flight online. In the meantime I was going to have to find Mom and get her through customs since I was not coming back with a boarding pass. Only I had no idea how to get back. I tried a few ways but became more lost. The airport was shutting down in several areas and I became frightened that I fucked up. I asked security guard after security guard and it seemed like they all gave me the wrong direction. By pure chance I ran into a man that helped me find the ticket sales counter in the first place and knew of my situation. He lead me back to customs but not quite all the way.

So I went backwards through customs and was screamed at in Turkish by a security manager. He screamed and yelled and I was so shocked all I could say was, "No! Please! You don't understand. I have to find my mother!!!!"

Panic had finally seeped in and tears were brimming as I had to explain to the hundredth person with little English where my mother was and why I needed to get her and bring her through. One security guard confiscated my passport and held me by the arm as I directed us back to Mom. She was talking to a nice Malaysian man who hugged her goodbye once I was spotted. The guard demanded to see Mom's passport and she stupidly pulled out the Israeli one. He got more cross and asked us a series of questions. I told her to get the damn US passport out but she was annoyed with him and started to complain again. She was somehow told that Israelis didn't need to pay for a visa to enter Turkey and I said, "who cares damn it? It's $25!!!" Then he demanded to see our expired boarding passes and asked where our luggage was.

I had no idea where it was. Turkish airlines at the ticket exchange assured us that if we didn't get on the plane then our luggage didn't either but who knew? It hadn't been the priority to deal with this whole time and I had no idea whatsoever of how to get it. So the guard followed us through every step of the way back and ended up being really nice when he saw us finally together and hugging on the other side. I actually hugged him in thanks too but to my dismay he was jeered by his co-workers.

Of all things in the Istanbul airport I amazingly found a 24 hour Gloria Jeans where we could sit through the rest of the night. At this point it was midnight and I figured Mom needed to freshen up while I texted with Dad and got our tickets.

Dad was able to find tickets for $325 each online but needed my credit card to pay for it since Mom had maxed out theirs. So the vacation that was supposed to cost me nothing now cost me a lot. I paid and we were issued a confirmation number. Now all I needed was to find our bags. Once Mom got back and ordered a coffee I set out to do so.

The way they have it set up is to dial a number for lost luggage and an airline attendant will help you. I dialed about 4 times and consistently got a busy signal. I managed to find an attendant who directed me toward a crowd of people waiting to find their luggage. No one spoke English but after some hand motions and a half hour wait I was led to the holding area. Only staff is allowed in so once again they took my passport. It took some talking and waiting and sorting but since I kept the bag claim receipts it was easy for them to find it. (KEEP YOUR CLAIM TICKETS PEOPLE) This was the simplest part of the evening.

I went back to Gloria Jeans at 1:30am and rested there until 4am when we could check in. A long journey still awaited us.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Istanbul Airport

It got ugly. We had to get back to ticket exchange. They gave Mom the whole shpeal they gave me except when she asked if there was a return flight straight to Chicago, they said not until Wednesday because the flight on the 17th was full, and she had a total nervous breakdown. This one was larger than the first; wailing about having to start a job on Monday and how we can't stay the night here and refusing to get a hotel in the area and that her husband was out of work and she just wanted to see her friend!!!!!!

I kept asking her to be calm. Focus. All we need is to find a way out of Istanbul and then we will figure out the next step. They said that I could go through customs and up to sales and leave Mom there where she can sit. I could come back with the boarding passes. I convinced her to let me go without her and left her telling our woes to a nice Kenyan man.

After passing through customs I ran upstairs to the Turkish airlines windows and explained my situation slowly and calmly.

I can't help you.

I waited 60 whole seconds before I breathed, What?

I can't issue you another ticket. You got this through United Airlines. You have to contact them.



Oh my god.

Luckily Information had the information and I was off to pay for the most expensive phone call of my life. Even luckier was the fact that the post office inside the airport where I was calling from took dollars and didn't drop my call. Being on hold forever makes you seriously worried that you are going to lose the one guy that says he is going to help you so I welled up and allowed a couple tears to fall. The man waiting to use the phone offered me his assistance and gave me his name number and told me where he worked. Ahmet seemed sincere but then again could be a human trafficker so I got more upset. Finally the guy on the phone said there were no further flights he could put me on using the mileage and we would have to pay.

Ok. Fine. No problem. How much?

Lufthansa has room on a flight tomorrow morning at 5:55 am that would get you to Frankfurt in time for the connection to D.C.

Great. Ok. How much?

Ma'am, if you buy them from me they will be $1000 each.

Huh? Are you serious? What do you mean if I buy them from you?

Ma'am, they are listing a few other prices. I can see they have flights available for $500 each but you would have to go to the Lufthansa counter and buy them there.

You're telling me that you see tickets available for half the price but you can't sell them to me?

Yes ma'am, I'm afraid so. It's late there now so I suggest you head over to their counter. If you can't get them at the counter you can call back.

Oh my god.

I hung up and ran back to Information to find out where Lufthansa was. Then I ran to the counter.

They were closed.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Chapter 4: And Then

On July 15 we kissed and hugged our friends and family and we cried as a taxi pulled up to take us to the train. Hana held me for a minute and said "Your mother is interfering too much with your life. You must go now. If you wish to come here we will take care of you, but you must leave your home. It's time."

I tried to understand Mom more on this trip. It was the first time we ever vacationed together and I feel like I learned a lot. S ometimes the things we don't want to do end up being the best things we do. Mom is much more fragile than I realized. I knew I had to step up and take care of things during the trip and we were about to embark on an awful return trip: Tel Aviv to Istanbul, Istanbul to Frankfurt, overnight in Frankfurt, Frankfurt to D.C. and finally D.C. to Chicago on the 16th. This is what you get when the airline flies you for free.

The first flight was delayed for some time so we shopped at my favorite jewelry designer's store, Michal Negrin. The jewelry is a quarter of the price at the airport. Mom bought herself a simple but beautiful necklace and tried to spend crazy money on me but I convinced her not to. When we got back to the gate we still had time so I told Mom I wanted to check out some books, but really went back to buy her matching earrings.

In Istanbul we had about an hour and a half so we shopped at the old bazaar store for some trinkets to bring for friends. We had already gone through the flight connection checkpoint and I knew where our gate was. I needed to get something to drink and then Mom wanted to get some silly airport pictures of us and then I looked up at the board and it said LAST CALL for our flight. I was like, huh????? How was that possible? I had this taken care of!

Mom and I started running down to the gate while she screamed behind me, "You better not have made a mistake!" We made it to the gate at 7:40 with a boarding time of 7:45 and I thought we were ok. But, they had another security checkpoint I wasn't expecting and despite the boarding pass listing 7:45 as the board time, it was really the flight time. Turkish airlines has a 15 minute policy about this and did not let us on the plane. We could see the plane and we were about 5 feet from the gate but they didn't let us on. We weren't the only ones this happened to. Security told me to run upstairs and talk to the Turkish airline attendants in the office and maybe they could open the gate for us. I RAN.

Mom yelled, "where are you going?" I turned around quickly and said, I'm going to try and get us on that plane! Stay there! I'll be right back!"

The office workers were behind an unmarked door in a hallway that took asking 5 people about before I could find it. They were nice but said that I had to go to "ticket exchange" and get on another flight. They said there might be another flight with a different airline to Frankfurt and we'd be ok. Going back to ticket exchange meant a lengthy hike back to the area where we had the flight connection checkpoint. I had to show my passport and boarding pass to about a million people in order just to get there. Finally I had two friendly guys help me at the counter but I was embarrassed by everything and realized very quickly that it was getting late. If we didn't get on a plane soon we'd be stuck in Istanbul. The guys asked where I was coming from and I blurted out, "Tel Aviv. Don't be mad! I like everyone I swear!"

They smiled. They checked other airlines because that was the last Turkish flight to Frankfurt that night. They said I might be able to get on a different flight, maybe even a direct to Chicago, but I would have to talk to sales. In order to do that I had to buy a visa to officially enter Turkey, go through customs, get upstairs to the tickets sales area, and come back for Mom with the newly issued boarding passes. They said sales could help us find a hotel if the flight isn't until tomorrow. Good grief. I looked at the line for customs and realized I had been away from Mom for nearly an hour. I had to go back and get her. The guys walked me through and explained to other guards what was going on.

Arriving back at the gate I saw my mother in the arms of a fellow traveler, weeping uncontrollably. I waved but she was such a wreck she didn't see me. The man holding her said in a heavy German accent, "Look there! There is Aviva! There she is!"

She blubbered on about how she thought they were holding me in some cell and that she was never going to see me again. She said that she called and left me several voice mails begging me to come back to the gate. I told her my phone was still not working properly and thought she knew that. Then I said that she needed to sit down so that I could explain what we had to do. I shook the man's hand and thanked him for taking care of her.

Oh wow. I knew my mom had a dramatic streak but this was not the time! Luckily I had the sense to buy some water on my way back to her. She was shaking violently and could barely walk to a chair. She said, "I don't feel good. I don't feel good."

Ok. Try to calm down. I am taking care of this. I made a mistake and now I have to fix it. You have to come with me now.

No. There was a woman from Turkish airlines who saw me crying and she said she would get us on a flight directly to Chicago.

Mom, she was trying to make you feel better. We have to exchange our boarding passes and we can't do that here. Trust me I just talked to like a million people trying to fix this.

You're wrong. She said she could help us. She was a supervisor.

Fine, fine. Where is she now?

Upstairs in the office.

I already talked to them. Please you have to follow me.

Let's go talk to her. I know where she is.

We walked upstairs to the same unmarked door was was confronted by rude gentleman that barked at us to go down to ticket exchange. They couldn't help us.


Then they got really pissed and started to walk away. She demanded to talk to the woman. They said she was on her dinner break. Mom wanted to wait for her. I asked this guy if the woman could really get us on another flight or if we had to go to ticket exchange anyway, and he said we had to go through the same procedure anyway to get the new boarding passes. I said ok , thank you and then she lost it.

How dare you undermine me when I am speaking.

Please I've been through this already. You need to follow me now.

Fine. Fine.

We walked away from the door and back toward ticket exchange all the while she is muttering, She said she was going to help us. We could have gotten on a direct flight to Chicago. If you would have just waited....

Right before leaving the area we couldn't go back to, I calmly said that if she really wanted to go back and wait for this woman I would wait but that she had to realize that I just ran around trying to fix this and I understand what to do.

What's the point now? No I don't want to. You never listen to me. Forget it.

Don't hold this against me. I don't think she can really help us. There is a procedure.

Forget it!!!!

As I pressed the elevator button she said under her breath, we were right there and you walked away instead of listening to me.

And then I lost it.

STOP GIVING ME SHIT!!!! I roared right in front of a woman in full burqa and her children..............

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Over Too Quickly

7/14/2010: email to Dad

Hi Dad. Well the trip is pretty much over now. I am super annoyed that we wasted the free airfare to come here for such a short time! Now that I'm here I don't want to leave! This is one of the places I've been to that always feels like a mistake to leave.

Mom woke up with a serious migraine today but after taking 5 Advil in less than 3 hours she was willing to go to Tel Aviv. I told her that I was pretty sure you're only supposed to take 4 Advil in 24 hours but she claimed that it was ok. We spent a lot of time getting there and then finding lunch so I didn't get to swim. We had to see some long lost relative of Mom's today so we were at the gorgeous beach for a whopping 20 minutes. I could tell Mom was disappointed too. I put my feet in and walked a little and that was it.

Tel Aviv is incredibly interesting. I need to go and spend a whole week there. On the beach we asked one girl for directions in Hebrew but she only spoke Portuguese. Guys playing catch on the beach dropped their ball and when I handed to them, they said, "Merci." Two random women starting speaking to Mom is Russian. It's a fascinating place. Inbar did her push for me to move there. She says Ronan would have no trouble hiring me and it would be an interesting job with travel. It's nice of her to offer. If I wasn't concerned with the loneliness it might be something to consider.

I realized today that I understand what they're saying. Somehow, whether just through the exposure or what I realized that I understand Hebrew. I don't think I was ever immersed in it this much before, but I get it!

The relative we saw today is 91 and we totally made her day by visiting. Mom was overwhelmed that the woman recognized her voice on the phone immediately and was excited to see her. I'm concerned that Mom wishes she had a big family so much that she is living in the past. She wants me to help her look up all kinds of people now and she wants me to get to know them. I think Mom feels like moving to America robbed her of family ties. She kept on saying, "See? You have a family!" I don't know how to make connections like this. It doesn't feel real to me.

People here are really nice though. If you ask someone for directions they will be your best friend all of a sudden. We encountered a few people just today that talked and talked and wanted to be sure we knew where we were going. It was so refreshing. Really I keep thinking of getting on the CTA and I don't know how to face it now. Their train is soooo nice. Not the buses so much though. Driving in Tel Aviv is insane. People in the bigger cities have too much aggression.

I hope you're having a good time alone. Tomorrow we have to get to the airport at least 3 hours ahead of the flight. Wish me luck with this insane return trip.........

Friday, August 13, 2010

Otra Dia

In a journal entry on July 13, 2010 I wrote about the differences Mom would face if she were to live here. Currently Mom lives in a three bedroom apartment with a professional stove and oven, marble counter tops, has huge closets packed to the brim, and she owns a luxury car. This would all go if she were to move here and I think she is ok with that. Hana's flat is easily a third the size of my Mom's and she shares a car with her husband. She does not have a full bath, only a small shower and you have to squeegee the water from the floor into the drain. This is not a big deal and she has a nice place. She lives in a gorgeous neighborhood and can walk to various amenities, but the difference is incredible. So in the U.S. you have more opportunity to buy shit, so what? Does the ability to buy shit equal a better life?

Yanay mentioned to me that in all his travels to New Zealand, Australia, and several places in Asia, he did not meet one single American. I told him its because we don't have a culture that encourages world travel. He said in Israel it's not a question of going or not going, it's where and when. Each person takes an extended break from Israel usually right after the army. The "big trip" can last anywhere from a year to several depending on reserve duty. Yanay was called back during a trip to Canada because of the situation with Lebanon a few years ago. He can't imagine why on earth Mom wants to retire there. He thinks she might be having some sort of mid-life crisis. Yanay's best friend was killed in the clashes with Lebanon and each person we know in Israel has been touched by unspeakable tragedy.

His wife Shera said the army duty is the main difference between the Israelis and the Americans. They all have to serve and she believes it creates a resourceful and resilient population. She said you feel like you are doing something for the country and for the Jewish people. I never saw it like that. I always assumed that you would disagree with an assignment or feel conflicted or see it as a never-ending cycle.

Inbar took her family to the United States for six months this year. Her husband had a temporary assignment with a company and they got to experience real American life. They managed to go to Wisconsin Dells, Disney World, and suffered through an epic Minneapolis winter. I was impressed. She said that it was so funny how different things were. She felt that this was the first time her husband got to spend real family time with them. They do not have a 9-5 work day here and he often leaves at 7 and comes home at 8. They also have a 6 day work week, with only a half day on Friday for Shabbat and a full day off Saturday. Yikes!

Many people at her husband's work would say, "we should really get together sometime." And then it would never happen. Inbar said she learned this was a manner of speech and people didn't ever mean it.

No come on. Surely you made some friends with people at his work?

Not really. They all went home to their families and that was that. We eventually were invited over for a Superbowl party and there was another family we connected with but that was it.

Wow a Superbowl. You really had an American experience.

It was great! My kids were even taken to a "Little House on the Prairie" school so they could experience what it was like then. They were in an old schoolhouse and all the mothers and the kids had to dress up like back then. It was amazing!

Did you meet other moms there then?

Oh, same thing. I'll call you sometime. We should really get together. It took us a while but we finally understood it's just a saying.

What? You can't be serious.

Yes. Let me tell you, when I was traveling with Ronan in Argentina we worked for a company selling art and postcards. We would go to the shops and the owners would say, "otra dia." We know Spanish so it means another day. So ok, what day? Tuesday, Wednesday, you tell us when. It took us a while but we found out Otra Dia really meant Get Lost. So when Ronan came home from work I asked him if he made any plans and he would say, "otra dia." It was a running joke between us.

That's awful!

I felt truly terrible about this. She said that it ended up being a good thing because they had real family time and had wonderful experiences. If they had stayed longer she said she would have made more efforts also. I couldn't believe that they were so close to us for 6 months and we didn't bother visiting. I know we said that we should.....

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The People

7/12/2010: email to Dad

Dear Dad,

There is good news and bad news, well bad news from my perspective anyway. Bad news first: Mom is complaining non-stop, has cried about 8 times today and has blown up at me twice in public. I didn't do anything to provoke it. We spent the entire day today at a mall. AN ENTIRE DAY. First she was upset about not being able to find a suitable present for Hana. Then Grandma. Then she was angry the mall didn't have a place to do the eyebrows. I told her to let it go that we're only here for a week and she freaked out. The hand trouble is much worse, the allergies are much worse, the stomach is worse, the sweats are worse etc. I have no idea why we are here. This hasn't seemed to do anything for her yet. Mom doesn't know how to relax and let go of anything. Hana doesn't have any real plans for us so I don't get it. Hana commented to me yesterday that mom seems "not well." I feel helpless about it. So don't tell Grandma that part anyway. I thought this trip would help. She has said that she feels free though. It was definitely good to get away from Grandma and Uncle.

I asked Mom if we could spend a day at Haifa touring around or something but she intends to get the eyebrows, nails and toes done then go meet some long lost relatives that she hasn't called yet. She also needs to go to some office to deal with the passport issue. I'm trying to be a good sport and be along for the ride. She wants me to get together with Tania's son in Jerusalem but I don't know when.

The good news is that we watched the World Cup at Inbar's house with the whole family and it was really fun. They are such a nice group of people. I decided that they could be my honorary cousins because that's what it's supposed to be like when you get together with family. I like them a lot. Yanay offered to take me out tomorrow night which is really nice.

Honestly Dad besides the whole politics/enemy thing they have going on here it is a better quality of life. Hana owns her flat and there are no association fees whatsoever. No one fights with their pharmacy or insurance over brand name vs generic. No one is allowed an unaffordable credit line, and credit card companies don't stalk you to join them. The public transportation is efficient, clean, and easy to use. We took it today to the mall and it was a piece of cake. Everyone, I mean everyone speaks perfect English and look forward to the chance to practice it. Mom bought tickets for the train and spoke to the woman in Hebrew. After detecting another accent they switched to Russian. Then I asked Mom a question but the woman answered me in English. Switching languages was no big deal and it's something we think only linguists can do but here everyone does it like nothing. Going abroad reminds you just how much bullshit the US really is. If it wasn't for the security issue and political ugliness I would actually think Mom has a point about moving here. As it is, Hana watches the news about 5 times a day.

Mom says she misses you and wishes you were here. She also really loved the airline we took here. Continental is the way to go for international flights. It was comfortable, not packed to the brim, had good staff, decent food, and tons of movies to choose from. I finally got to watch Alice in Wonderland..........(etc.)

During a heart to heart at the mall I asked, "what are we doing here? is it really worth it just for a week?"

Yes it is. I want to be around my own people. Any amount of time would help. If I could just see what every day life is like for Israelis I will know what I can do next.

Bingo. I got it. She wants to live with people like her: people who switch languages, people who feel good in scorching hot weather, people who eat salad and white cheese for breakfast, people who have had similar families and backgrounds. It makes sense. After facing years of horrific prejudice from a nasty mother-in-law and dealing with disgusting customers at a thankless job, who wouldn't want to move somewhere they feel comfortable? I feel exactly this way during holidays, does it get worse? And so this feeling is why people move here. I always thought why the hell would you live in such turmoil when you could be in the States or the UK? I am starting to see why. I also thought she wanted to move to Israel instead of dealing with her situation better but no that's not it. It's possible that she never really liked or fit in to American life. Maybe she must move here. Maybe it would be nice if I visited more often.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


7/11/2010: email to Dad


We spent the day at a community pool today which was fun but could have been done at home. Mom is marveling at everything. Look a peach! A flower! Pomegranate trees! Oh boy.

I already have a small sunburn on my legs. Oops. Mom and Hana reminisced all day about their childhood growing up in Safed, and their parents, and kibbutz life vs Chicago life, and their choices later on. Hana dreams of retiring on a farm in Canada where it is peaceful and Mom dreams of retiring in Israel where she feels at home and at peace.

Hana says most of the country is in favor of giving away a piece of Jerusalem because there aren't any Jews living there anyway, so what difference does it make? Mom staunchly disagreed saying that it will make Israel look weak to give away a part of their capital. Hana laughed and said it would be the other way around and the more realistic choice. She said Americans feel differently because they don't live here and our media poisons us all the time. The only people in Israel that are against it are the deeply religious, people whom Hana believes are destroying the country more than any terrorist. Who knows what the deal is over there. I like Hana a lot.

Tonight we're going to Inbar's home and I guess we'll watch the world cup there. Hana and Arnon are routing for Spain. Luckily Hana's English is perfect otherwise I would just be listening to everyone talk in Hebrew. There was a lot of that yesterday.

I hope the census job is interesting and you're not in sketchy neighborhoods.
Enjoy the rest of the weekend.



An epiphany, the strangest feeling; a sensation of belonging. A real family, one with in-laws that wanted to spend time together. Siblings that enjoyed each other's company, and happy children trying to keep their eyes open to stay up later. This must be what it feels like to have cousins.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Chapter 3: Holy Land

7/10/2010 email to my dad:

Dear Dad,

Hi. I have no idea what time it is in Chicago but here it is 12:41pm on Saturday right now. I am so confused I feel like I haven't slept or taken a shower in like 2-3 days. How strange.
We are currently at Hana's place and mom is in the shower. I told her to text you right away but she was too busy chatting up a storm. My phone isn't getting a service provider here.
We are ok. This is ok. I have a feeling one week will be plenty. That was a very, very long flight. It's hot and muggy here. Their place is tiny but nice.
You can watch my Netflix movie if you want, it takes place in Swaziland. It's in the den. Sorry I left a mess there but oh well. Mom said over and over how happy she is that I came. I didn't realize that she hadn't been on a plane in a long time and didn't know how the whole security/checking in thing worked now. I'm not so sure Mom would feel confident to travel alone, so I guess I did a good thing. I am not looking forward to the work week on the 19th. The jet lag will be brutal.

After this it's time to move on. Living with the family after 30 is an interesting experiment but it's done.
Anyway I really don't know what we're going to do here. Hopefully they have some plans to take us around. It's really pretty and those flowers mom loves are everywhere. Bougainvilleas.
I am exhausted. Mom didn't cramp up on the plane which is good but she seems a little over heated and exhausted too. Hopefully she will call soon. I will try to take a little nap. Luckily they have a computer in the room we're in so I can do this everyday.
Enjoy the peace and quiet.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Final Answer

Oh no. No. No. No. No. No. Please. I can't.

Just go, what's the big deal? So you'll miss one week. You hate that job anyway.

That's not the point. I was going to give notice. Don't you care about my plans?

I don't see how one week is going to make that much of a difference. Just give them notice when you get back.

I really don't want to do that. I have plans.

Change them. It's just a week! I'm so excited. I can't wait! Can you believe I got the tickets a few days before?

What is the point of going for a week? With the travel days it will only end up being five days. What are your plans for five days?

Hana has plans for us. She said not to worry, just come. We could go for hikes, go to the ocean, the market...it will be beautiful!

That was the conversation on July 7th. Full of convincing and arguments and desire versus logic, something I am quite familiar with. My final answer was no. Dad told me not to feel bad and that it was her fault for just booking a ticket without talking to me and so on. She attempted to change the reservation.

United claimed that because she submitted the request as the two of us she would have to start all over and it was possible that she would lose her seat. As it was there weren't any further seats available and if they changed the seat to be ineligible for the use of mileage, there was nothing to be done.

Tears. Disappointment. Disaster. I spent the 8th of July thinking that I ruined my mom's plans by not being helpful and spontaneous. She spent the entirety of her day on the phone trying to work it out. All she wanted for her 60th birthday was to go to Israel and here was my chance to go with her. It was just a week. I could cancel my babysitting gig and tell work....what? Who in their right mind is going to believe that I needed a last minute luxury getaway to the Middle East?

I lied. I hate doing shit like this but it was never going to fly. Instead of telling my contract supervisor that I was leaving and my last day would be the 16th, I told her that my mom was ill. She previously had plans to go to Canada to visit family and was no longer sure she felt up to going by herself. Amazingly, a woman who I thought hated me and had previously given me a very difficult time, had simply said: "I don't see why not." I got the time off. It was a miracle.

Minutes after this worked out I received a text message from Mom that said she was able to get me off the reservation. I called back.

Are you kidding? I just got the time off? How am I supposed to explain this now?


Oh god. Look if you can't change it, forget it ok? I thought I was doing you a favor. I'll come up with something.

No! Wait! They're still on the phone........(background noise).......ok. You're back on. But you're flying through Frankfurt on the way back.

WHAT? Look let me call you when I'm out of here.

Later on I found out that they weren't able to get me on a return flight with Mom. Whether this was always the case or not I don't know. I have no idea why she was fine with me having to spend a night in Frankfurt alone but this really upset me. She wanted me to come so badly that she didn't care about what I'd have to deal with to do this. Normally I am ok with traveling alone but it was too much. I got pissed off because the point of going was to make sure she wasn't alone and now she would be alone anyway. I wanted to cancel. I wanted out.

Too late. The tickets had gone from "reserved" to "issued" and I was thoroughly upset; tears, stomach ache, the works.

Dad checked everything online to be sure it was ok. It turned out that they had me on the flights but not Mom. Another series of phone calls ensued and by midnight it was finally resolved. Mom and I were on the same flights, both staying overnight in Frankfurt on the return leg.

I didn't want to do this. That long of a flight so spend only a week is nothing short of insane. She wanted it though. She needed it. She needed me to go with her and by 9am the morning of July 9th, I was on a flight.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Three Days

On July 6, 2010 I went back to work after the 3 day weekend expecting to give notice to the job. However, the contract supervisor took the day off for a longer weekend and I had to wait until the next day. Technically that would mean giving a week and a half notice instead of a two week but what can you do? I was ready.

In the afternoon I received an email from Mom that said, "I got us tickets to Israel. Don't say no we are going."

I ignored this email thinking that surely she was kidding.

Then there were a series of text messages:

"Tell them it's an emergency."

"Say yes!"

"We are going to Israel! I am so happy!"

Either she had completely lost her mind or she really was under the impression that I was going to Israel with her, or both.

Finally I responded to the email saying that we will talk about it when I got home.

When I arrived I learned that she called United mileage and they were able to place us in two spots to go to Israel for free.

I explained to Mom that I had a plan and that this really wasn't in it. Would she be mad at me forever if I just didn't go ?

She cooly said that it was fine but she was sure that if my friends wanted to go to Hawaii I would go with them.

When would we be leaving?


Friday, in three days.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Of Parties and Plans

So we had an unexpected party on July 4 that lasted until 2am. There were plenty of guests and of course Mom ran around like a maniac. Since it was a three day weekend for me I intended to get chores done on Sunday so that I could enjoy Monday to myself. I told Mom that I did not intend to partake of this party and that I had things to do. She said, "I understand," in that sad defeated voice and then came inside every twenty minutes to tell me that people were asking for me. Then she said people were going to toast to Dad and I needed to be there. Then she said that my uncle James had arrived and I should really go see him. Great. That was the last thing I needed.

So I was stuck there and Dad felt that he was stuck too. He didn't want to spend the evening grilling and as far as I could tell he didn't want to spend the evening with his brother. I managed to have a decent evening and ate fruit to make up for the indulgence day before. I figured that I would spend time with myself on the 5th and focus on change and positivity then. That means that I cannot spend one minute inside the house, so I shopped, ran errands, and got together with a friend. Thank goodness for friends. Usually on Sundays I spend time journaling in a cafe but since it was cut off the day before I did that on the 5th.


give notice for job tomorrow (7/6/10)
put together picture book from Grandma's birthday
go over all school related mail
see career counselor
work on resume
look for apartments

Week menu:
make sweet potato burritos, key lime pie, pasta with scallops, turkey sandwiches, salad

When I got home that evening Mom jubilantly declared that she was hired for a job. They called her that day and offered her a job as a front end manager of a gourmet grocery store in Lake Forest, IL. Her start date would be July 19. I was excited for her since this will be her first job in a decade, but I don't necessarily think that a grocery store is the right environment. I don't see how she will stand all day and lift boxes and do things that her body might not want to do full time anymore. Mom has been suffering from very severe carpal tunnel syndrome and waited too long to do anything about it. She needs surgery but is determined to do the job anyway.

"I'm happy for you. I really think you should keep looking just in case though."

"Why are you always so...? Uh! I'm happy. Be happy for me."

"I just said I am happy for you, I'm just worried that 40 hours is too much."

"Don't be ridiculous. You don't even notice half the work I do around here. I'm stronger than you think."

"Yeah but that bakery didn't work out last year because you had to lift stuff remember? What if this is physically difficult? I'm just saying you have to do what's right for your body now."

"I need a job. This is a job. We have a situation. I'm not going to complain."

"Ok well I understand. I'm glad to see you so happy."

"I am happy. I'm thrilled. And since I have a week off, I'm going to take off to Israel!"


"Yeah. Why not? We have two free international tickets from United through mileage so I'm going to see if I can go next week! Want to go?"

"To Israel? Come on."

"I need a vacation. I want to see my friends. You should come with me."

"Oh mom. Let's not get ahead of ourselves."

"If I can get us tickets, we're going."

"Sure, sure. Whatever."

Again, sarcasm is not best to use when dealing with my mother.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Chapter 2: It's Never Enough

On July 4, 2010 my dad marched in the Skokie Parade carrying a flag for the local chapter of Veterans of Foreign Wars.

This was a proud day for him and while we were all tired from the day before we had to be sure to get there. He called a couple times to let us know when we should make our way over but of course we left at the last minute and almost missed him! I didn't really want to go and my mom spent the entire morning in the garden. I thought she knew what time to leave but when I went out to get her she was totally unprepared. Magically we made it. I wasn't expecting to go to the VFW offices afterwards but Dad wanted us to meet the gang.

For the most part the men are considerably older than Dad. They were in World War II and now talk about their ailments endlessly. Dad and a guy in his seventies are considered the "kids" there. The older members are always talking about how they need to get more young guys in like Dad. They actually borrowed some local active service members to carry the flags too because the old guys couldn't do it in the heat.

I went to the VFW with Dad once before. They had a dinner party that was going to announce Dad as their new member and Mom didn't want to go. She thought it was ridiculous for him to spend time with these old guys, but may have changed her mind since the parade. So I ended up as Dad's date to the party. I knew the crowd at VFW was older so I was pretty sure they were going to be decked out, but Dad said, no no. It's casual I'm sure. Nope! We were definitely the only ones there in casual clothing, (me in jeans!) while these old timers wore suits and evening dresses. Shit. I totally stuck out.

Wow can these folks dance! A man played the keyboard and the old couples got up to the floor to shake a leg. Some couples danced to every single song. I admit to getting teary when watching them dance to "Young At Heart."

There was one lady there that must have been in her 90s but she slowly danced with as many men as possible. Old flirt! I actually saw her sit on some "younger" guy's lap! I was worried she was going to come over and steal my dad.

During a break one of the men at our table came up to do announcements and then introduced Dad as the newest and youngest member. He mentioned that Dad brought his lovely wife, Aviva. Dad was completely humiliated worried that these guys thought he was a dirty old man, but in truth it was pretty obvious that I was the daughter. The guy making announcements just gets confused sometimes.

At the table we talked about how they want younger members to join. They have a huge space that can be rented for parties and they have a huge surplus of money that they'd like to keep in the community. For example, last year they donated enough money to extend the children's wing at a hospital. If they don't get more members headquarters will close their branch and the money will go to the national VFW fund. They said that they tried everything to get younger members in; yellow pages, mailings, etc. I asked them if they had a website for the local branch but they looked very confused. They asked Dad if it was legal for them to have a website and wanted to know how much it costs. Dad said he would help them out with this and also suggested having a booth at one of the many summer fairs in the area. They looked astonished. It was cute.

The guys said that they rented the space out for some children's birthday parties and baby showers but the caretaker protested. The smell of the diapers was too much for him and that put a stop to it.

I think it gives Dad something to look forward to during this time of unemployment. He gets to help out interesting people that weren't in his life before, and it's got to be a boost being called the kid of the group especially the day after his 60th birthday.

So on July 4th we hung out at the VFW for the afternoon but had to hurry home as Mom planned a surprise party for Dad. I asked her if she was nuts because I felt we did enough yesterday but she said that was my present and she wanted to give Dad a party. A party in which he will be doing all the grilling and she will invite all her Russian friends. We needed to get to the store and buy meat and do everything in access as usual.

"But Mom, we ate an entire animal each yesterday! Are you sure you want to do this? I feel exhausted."

"It's Dad's birthday and now it's the 4th. We are having a party and you are going."

It's never enough....

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Birthday

On July 3, 2010 my dad turned 60 years old. He didn't want anything. My hope was to send him and Mom to Washington D.C. so that he could finally see the capital, (a long time dream) and be in town for the fireworks on the 4th. I could afford some of this journey but not all so I asked him what he would like to do. He decided to see Chicago instead. I suggested an architecture tour and then he said he hadn't been to the aquarium since he was dating my mom.

Itinerary for Dad's b-day:

1) Chicago River boat tour run by the Architecture Foundation

2) Shedd Aquarium

3) Fogo de Chao dinner

If you don't know of Fogo de Chao it's a Brazilian steakhouse where they serve all the meat you can eat and they carve it right at your table. My parents always wanted to go there but it's pricey so I figured for this occasion I really must take them. Dad said it was the best restaurant he had ever been to. The salad bar alone was amazing and the sangria was perfect. The highlight for me was a papaya cream dessert. The waiter said that papaya has a natural enzyme in it to help aide digestion. It was outstanding but the entire meal was extraordinarily rich. I didn't feel great the next day and my dad has since tried to be a vegetarian. Go figure.

I wasn't thinking about the amount of tourists in Chicago for the holiday weekend so everything took much longer than expected. We all got a horrific sunburn and were completely spent by 8pm. Still, it was a tremendous success and I am fortunate to have been able to give Dad such a nice day. There were no arguments or bickering and it was the first good family day in a long time.My mom's 60th birthday is also coming up this year and I have no idea what to do for her. The only thing she ever says that she wants is to go visit friends in Israel. That is the only thing in the world that she wants for her birthday.....

Monday, August 2, 2010

More Compromises

Since the revelation of not hating being in front of the computer all day, things started to change little by little. I felt more positive about moving on with my life. The intention was to be in Chicago for a couple months, then a couple more, and then I wanted to stay for my grandma's birthday and my dad's birthday. Dad's birthday being right around the corner meant that I was nearly free to live my life.

Oddly enough I grew too comfortable here. Despite the aggravations, my bed here is soooo comfortable. My bathroom is perfect and all mine. The walls aren't drafty and there isn't a bug infestation. Every kitchen appliance is here and is in perfect condition. I have all the comforts of home because, it's home. And I fell into a routine that is extraordinarily hard to give it up even when the need to escape is there.

It's possible that I am bad at adulthood. I was doing ok there for a while reminding myself that starting over is hard, but then I regressed. I need help to move forward.

My mother thinks that this help should be in the form of a man. One which can take the role of "professional" that I so desire so that I can just buy nice things instead. After several disgusting conversations/arguments with her she said that she was going to find me one. I yelled out, "Fine!!!" which was unfortunately taken as an honest answer.

A month ago my mother was getting her nails done at the salon and sat next to an Israeli woman speaking in Hebrew on her cell phone. When she finished the call my mom befriended her. The woman asked all about the family and when I was found out to be an unmarried 30 something she immediately gave my mom the number of a man she knows. I don't know how many people this happens to but my mother actually called this guy and interviewed him to find out if he was good enough for me. Without ever meeting him, she passed on his number to me insisting that I call.

I won't be badgered into this. I asked Mom what is wrong with her, but she said that I had agreed to be set up. I asked her how she could possibly take a rage filled answer seriously but she just shoved the guy's phone number at me. Then she put a post it on my door. Then she asked me every single day for a week if I called the guy. My response was to walk away. This is horrific to come home to, especially when things have changed at work and you need to focus on positivity.

And then after a particularly awful day at work, I was sitting in the kitchen with Dad discussing our plans for his birthday when she came in talking on her cell phone. Out of nowhere she handed me the phone and left the room. She told the guy when I would be home and to call her so she could get me to answer.

The guy was nice enough. I told him that I was supremely uncomfortable with this and that she has ideas in her head that I simply do not understand. Then I found out he talked to her extensively and learned things about my dating history. (thanks Mom!) That's when I knew for sure that there is something wrong with this guy. What is he doing talking to some one's crazy mother without even seeing these people in real life? He also was not a business owner or Kellogg student like Mom thought she would find me, but the guy that gets you in your car when you locked the keys inside.

He requested to take me out sometime just to meet even though I said I wasn't available. He seemed not to care or think it was a big deal to meet up at a cafe and have a chat and didn't easily drop it. He suggested a kosher place in Roger's Park that has excellent food. A kosher place?

"Do you keep kosher?"

"Yes, I am Orthodox. Didn't your mom tell you?"

"Oh wow. You know I'm not at all like that."

"I know your mother told me she didn't raise you like this. It's ok. I've dated a lot of women that are not observant. You can eat whatever you want but for me, it's kosher."

"Sure, well I always thought what kind of a god doesn't allow you to eat scallops? (he didn't laugh) So.... why would you want to go out with someone that isn't religious?"

"It's ok just to date. If it's long term then some changes would have to be made."

Aha. I ended the conversation slightly rattled and didn't speak to Mom about it again. She asked over and over if I was going to meet him but I never responded.

"You should meeeet him. You never know."

"Aren't you going to meet him?

"I would have at least had a coffee with the guy."

"It's an opportunity. Just meeet him!!!"

Dad's birthday couldn't come soon enough.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The July Story

I didn't write anything about July because the month deserves a novel onto itself. It will be my attempt here to write nearly everyday of August to re-cap crazy July.



There is an Arrested Development episode where Michael is making compromises all over the place. I felt that this was me for a time.

In June I made a plan to quit my job and finish working by Friday, July 2. Exciting plans were taking shape and I needed time to myself. Two things thwarted the plan: my boss went on vacation and needed me in there while he was gone, and my dad turned 60 on July 3 so I needed the money anyway. I postponed quitting and figured on July 9, thinking that would be enough.

I mentioned my intent to leave to my boss and found out his vacation was longer than originally planned. He was going to be back in town on the 12th and asked me to wait to give official notice, meaning I would have to push the date again. He gave me a higher access than my counterpart and requested I do some necessary things in his absence. I grudgingly agreed and figured on leaving July 16.

Politically it's never a nice thing to give the new girl more access and duties than the person who has been running things there for years. I discreetly worked on these projects but she made it clear that it was his job and none of my business to do. What could I do?

Recently I had an interesting realization at this job. I always HATED office work with a passion. I felt it was stupid work and beneath me to copy, paste, data enter, file, fax, answer calls, and assist absent minded people that make triple my income. While daydreaming I thought about the time spent doing this stupid work. Seven years. Nearly seven years of doing work I hate.

I needed to change my outlook. I recalled how much knowledge I gained on various jobs and the fact that I made more use of it at this office than any other. Shortly after working here I became the go-to person for presentations and general office maintenance questions. With the supervisor trusting me more than my colleagues I was privy to more interviews and investigations. Once I got busier on the job and gained information my day went by faster. I didn't hate it so much. All this time I kept thinking that I needed something new or completely different. I thought I needed to work in a restaurant to be happy, or a physical therapy center, a museum, a law firm, a dance studio, television studio, etc. Maybe becoming great at something you dislike can change the way you feel about it.

That being said, this still wasn't the right job or the right environment for me but I learned a lot. I thought I was the biggest idiot in the world about computers. Needing to ask for help with seemingly simple computer tasks was always the most embarrassing problem for me. Now I'm thinking that I'm not such a dummy after all. Plenty of people came to me for help. Maybe I just need to get even better at the use of technology and then I will find myself in an environment that doesn't suck. It's possible that this was what held me back all these years.

Shortly after my boss left for vacation I was demoted to a different section because that is the way offices work. Why keep things running smoothly? I had to do both positions for a couple days to complete the tasks. My new supervisor complained about my finishing projects for someone else and adamantly stated that I will not be attending further training with that department. Then the receptionist went on vacation and they forgot to cover her. I was placed there and nearly lost it.

Just two more paychecks. I have a birthday to pay for.

to be continued...