Thursday, October 2, 2014

yom kippur

When I was a child, I loved going to Yom Kippur services at our synagogue for one very specific reason: I got to sit next to my father for an entire day.

I was minimally interested in the service itself. Rather, I relished the experience of being close to him all day long, running my fingers through his tzitzit (the strings on the corners of a Jewish prayer shawl), twisting them into braids. Just before the service started, he would lean over to me in the pew beside him and, as we are instructed to do on Yom Kippur, ask for my forgiveness: "Gab, if I have done anything in the past year to hurt you, I am sorry. I hope you can forgive me."

"I forgive you, Daddy. Do you forgive me?" I'd ask, breathing in his freshly-shaven cheeks, scented with aftershave I bought him for Father's Day at Bath and Body Works.

"Of course I do, sweetie."

In that moment, everything would be right in the world. And there would be no place else I'd want to be. For me, he was the conduit of an entire religion, culture and people. Sitting next to him in his just-pressed suit, listening to his recitation of the prayers, using the Ashkenazi pronunciation of Adonoy instead of Adonai (meaning God), just as his own father had, was the closest to God I had ever felt.

Until I was twenty-nine, it was the only place I wanted to be for Yom Kippur.

Almost three years ago, I fell in love with a man who also attends Yom Kippur services. In fact, he attends services, colloquially known as shul, nearly every week. In our first year together, I felt ready to be with him for High Holy Day services, here in San Francisco at his progressive but traditional shul, instead of with my family at their Reform temple, an hour outside the city.

In lieu of a traditional mechitza (a curtain separating men and women during prayer), my boyfriend's shul has a men's section, a women's section and a mixed middle section. He is a longtime davener (pray-er) in the men's section, and so I found a seat for myself in the mixed section. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the service, and by how good it felt to pray surrounded by people I knew and liked. What I wasn't prepared for was how much it made my heart ache to spend a whole day in synagogue without my father by my side.

Yet, tomorrow evening begins the third Yom Kippur since we began dating, and I will continue to attend shul in San Francisco with my boyfriend, where the services are nice but still not entirely comfortable for me, instead of at my hometown synagogue, where I know all of the prayer melodies, the Hebrew is transliterated, and I can sit with my family, next to my father, as I did for so many years. But despite my longing for my family, our San Francisco shul is where I want to be.

And with each year, it's gotten a little bit easier. The prayers have become more familiar; I love the collective, inviting spirit of the community. I have found friends and a place for myself within it. And on Yom Kippur, in the early evening, when I start to get bored or tired, or too hungry to focus on the service, I'll slip out for a few minutes, walk down the block and call my parents to wish them a gut yontif (good holiday).

When my dad gets on the phone, he'll tell me, as he always has, "Gab, if I have done anything in the past year to hurt you, I am sorry. I hope you can forgive me."

And, just for a moment, it will be as if he is right beside me in a pew, smelling of Bath and Body Works cologne and toothpaste, with his arm around me.

Of course I'll forgive him. And I'll hope he can forgive me, too.

Monday, July 21, 2014

things i know (this week, anyway) #33

- In addition to its karmic virtue, and the fact that it's just the right thing to do, the world is very, very small, so be as kind as possible to everyone you meet.

- Emily Gould's Friendship is the best book I've read this year.

- Cats do LITERALLY NOTHING BUT SLEEP all day long.

- There are few things that make a person feel older like the moment when someone whose diaper you have changed adds you on Facebook.

- Arguing with people on the internet is like arguing with a racist grandparent: nobody's stance gets changed and you just feel pissed off for the rest of the day.

- What fairytales and rom-coms don't tell you is that a huge component of romantic love is making space for the other person to be him/herself.

- I don't think I will ever get used to seeing my cookbooks in bookstores or commercials for Young & Hungry. It's weird every time.

- Net Neutrality is very important. Read up on it.

- The easiest way to step up your culinary game is to use an extra virgin olive oil that actually tastes good. My pick for a budget-friendly bottle is this one.

Monday, May 26, 2014

things i know (this week, anyway) #32

- Taking criticism well is an art, and one which I am still trying to master.

- The above stated, it's important to know whose criticism to write off.

- As it turns out, there is no better preparation for using a teleprompter than reading books aloud to children. It requires exactly the same skill set.

- In case you didn't hear, you should change your eBay password.

- The need to end the gun violence in this country is dire. Let's start by reexamining the state of gun control and support of the mentally ill. And, most importantly, let's continue the conversation until we start to see progress. Though we may sit on opposite sides of the subject, we can all agree that too many people have died. 

- An important part of being a freelancer is reminding your client (nicely but firmly) when they still owe you a check.

- Anonymous internet commenters are the inside-the-car road ragers of the new Millenium. 

-  Having your hair and makeup professionally done and your clothing professionally styled is a lovely glimpse into how you are capable of looking. At the end of the day, it requires much more time and energy than I would be willing to devote to my appearance on a daily basis, but it's nice to know it's there. 

- There is a noodle dish for everyone

Monday, May 5, 2014

cooking for one

Of all reasons I've heard from people for why they don't cook, perhaps the the most common one is that they're a party of one.

"It's just me," they'll say. "Why should I bother when there's no one else eating with me? I can get takeout delivered to my door, and not have to do any prep or wash any dishes." Or worse, they'll make the case for a microwaved frozen dinner.

There is, of course, a litany of reasons why cooking for oneself is a good thing to do: it's healthier and more cost-effective than the aforementioned options; when you control what goes into your food, you control what goes into your body. Fresh ingredients are not only healthier, but also usually cheaper than take-out or frozen meals. Those are valid points. But they're not the main reason I do it.

For me, cooking for myself is one of the most deliciously indulgent, deeply satisfying pleasures available. It's "me time" in the best possible sense: I get to cook exactly what I feel like eating. I can season my food precisely to my liking. I get to take my time chopping, basting and roasting, not worrying about anyone else's schedule or level of hangry-ness. I can sip wine while I stir, and listen to whatever music I please. I can set a beautiful table and enjoy my dinner formally, or I can eat on the couch, while I watch Law & Order: SVU--it's totally up to me. After dinner, I can sit at the table and read for an hour, or, if I feel like it, I can abandon the dishes and go take a bath.

Don't get me wrong, I love cooking for others. Most nights, I cook dinner for Evan, and it's my favorite part of the day. But, on the nights we don't eat together, I relish my time in the kitchen alone. The importance of the quality of my dinner doesn't diminish because I'm the only one eating it.

I hope to have a family someday, and I hope to cook them incredible food every night. But I also hope that, occasionally, I'll find myself on my own for dinner. I'll pour myself a glass of Pinot, turn on some Smokey Robinson, and chop, stir, and nurture my body and soul with a special meal made just for me.

Why wouldn't I bother?

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

things i know (this week, anyway) #31

- Smoothies are just about the best thing ever. Need breakfast in a hurry? Better make a smoothie. Worried you won't get a chance to eat as many fresh fruits and vegetables as you should today? Sounds like you need a smoothie, my friend. Maybe add some kale for good measure.

- From the time we are little, girls are instructed to always be nice at all costs. But as women, we must remember that always being nice is just too expensive sometimes.

- Even when you know you're right, being in conflict is hard.

- If you insist on reading the comments, take them with several grains of salt, and possibly a shot of tequila.

- Spend the extra dollar or two and buy yourself a high-quality, good-tasting bottle of extra virgin olive oil. Trader Joe's California Estate Olive Oil ($5.99) is hands-down the best olive oil available for the price. It's equally good for cooking as it is for salad dressings and bread dipping.

- There is no one right way to eat. Pay attention to how food makes you feel, stop when you're full, and get plenty of exercise. Everyone is different, so figure out what works for you and stay true to that. Your diet is nobody's business but your own.

- It's not the whole point, but it feels amazing to be acknowledged for hard work.

- Learn to love your grocery store bulk section. It's great for when you need a lot of something (no packaging means the product you take home is much cheaper), or a little (why buy a twenty-four-ounce package of walnuts when you only need a quarter cup of them for a recipe?). Buying in bulk means you can buy exactly how much of something you need, for the lowest price possible. It's worth the annoying twelve seconds it takes to wrap a twist-tie around a plastic bag and write the product code on it.

- There's nothing like the look of relief on a barista's face when you say, "Just a regular cup of coffee, please."

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

a letter to my 22-year-old self

Dearest Gabi,

Oh, you beautiful, wonderful, brilliant girl. I wish I could travel back in time and squeeze you and hug you and tell you all about the amazing adventures you're going to have. I know things are very uncertain right now. You're about to graduate from college, but beyond that you have no real plan. Real life seems both light years away and scarily fast-approaching. 

People like to say that your twenties are the best time of your life, and I'm here to tell you (and I think you already know) that they're absolutely wrong. Your thirties are going to be way better than your twenties. Because despite what Taylor Swift says (not that you have any idea what she says--if you're 22, she's in, like, third grade), being twenty-two actually kind of sucks. Especially for someone like you.

You like to have a plan. You like to know what comes next. You like to have both feet on the ground when you decide forge ahead. You've been that way since you were little: brave, but careful. And, unfortunately, it's almost impossible to live that way when you're twenty-two. If you want to get anywhere, you're going to have to take some risks.

You'll worry that your life is on a different track from your parents when they were your age. Your mother may have married your father at twenty-five and given birth to you at twenty-seven, but you're not going to do things that way. It's not that you're opposed to a life like that, it's just that you'll find you have a lot to do before you get there.

You'll try on different careers, moving on from some, but never fully discarding any of them. There are ways in which you'll always be a teacher, an event planner, a caterer, and more. You'll try many different things, but at the end of the day, it will all come down to words and food, and how you can use those two mediums to say what you have to say. It might not be immediately clear just how you'll turn those things into a career, but trust me, you will, and it will amount to more than you ever could have imagined. Stay the course.

There are going to be people who tell you you're not good enough. Not smart enough. Not talented enough. Not beautiful enough. Not thin enough. Let the pain they cause thicken your skin, but don't carry them with you; they don't deserve your attention. You have much more important things to focus on.

There will be men. So many men. So many completely-wrong-but-totally-right-in-the-moment men. There will be much older men. Men who have children. Men who kind of are children. Men with wanderlust. Men with a lust that wanders away from you. Men with no ambition. Men who aspire to run the world. Men you don't actually like very much, but think you should go out with anyway.

Some of them will hurt your heart, but I'm happy to report that none will succeed in breaking it.

And after more than a few runs of this, you'll think that maybe you're done with dating for awhile. Maybe you have better things to do. Of course, it will be at this exact moment that you'll meet the best man you've ever known.

Buddy Holly will be wrong: falling in love won't be easy. It will be scary and messy and complicated, but also exhilarating and beautiful and deeply satisfying. It will force you to be vulnerable in a way you've never been before. You won't complete one another, because you're both already complete, but you will make each other's lives better by being in them. You'll find yourself braiding challah every Friday and texting him photos of the cat. He'll bring you flowers every week and learn how to use Twitter. You'll figure out what it means to share your lives without absorbing one another's identities. And you will be happier than you ever knew possible.

So hang in there, kid. Things get better, I promise. You have adventure, success and love to look forward to. And that's just in the next decade.

All my love,

Gabi

Thursday, March 6, 2014

things i know (this week, anyway) #30

- Re-reading something you wrote long ago is a wonderful way to invoke deep tenderness for the young person you once were.

- It's totally OK to want (and ask) to be taken care of.

- Here's a quick and easy way to improve your life in no time: identify the assholes, and then immediately stop listening to what they tell you.

- You don't put a bra [or yoga pants] in a dryer!

- Like noodles? Try occasionally swapping them out for shirataki or kelp noodles instead. They're a healthful alternative, and if you cook them well, you'll hardly notice the difference.

- Fresh turmeric root is an incredible natural headache reliever. Puree it into a smoothie or grate it into hot water with ginger and lemon for a tisane. Its anti-inflammatory properties will make you feel better quickly.

- Put a little bit of coconut milk in your tomato soup. Seriously, just do it. You'll thank me.

- Writing is a job, and I don't work for free.

- My CSA box is changing my life. I highly recommend signing up for one today.

- Anytime the internet promises you "this one weird trick..." you should avoid clicking the link.

- Fairytale love is not real, but real, actual love is infinitely more satisfying.