Thursday, January 27, 2011

Two Out of Three Ain't Bad

Hi all....

Our revels now are ended. The lunacy that has been my life over the last several months has reached a conclusion. The Navy actually did not have a legal way to keep me in Okinawa as long as they wanted. The result of that is that they cobbled together various types of orders to keep me there as long as possible. They ran out of money.

As such, on January 26th, I boarded a plane, then another, and then another. I arrived in Toronto on a flight from Chicago last night. I am sitting at my kitchen table. There are icicles outside my window. As well, there are snow flurries.

The driveway is shovelled.

Two interesting notes: the duty free store at Narita Airport allows you taste samples before making a purchase. If you ever get there, I recommend the local plum wine. It was wonderful. Nonetheless, I purchased one of the Japanese whiskies. As concerns the free sampling, let us just say that I was in a wonderful mood when I got on the plane.

The other interesting note: I called a taxi to take me from the lodge to the airport. I very specifically told the taxi company that I was paying with a credit card. The machine in the taxi did not allow my card for some reason. I think it only would accept Japanese cards. Because I knew I could pay with my card, I had no cash. I am now home. Over the next day or two, I will go to the bank and get a check made out to the tune of 7946 yen. I will then mail it to the driver. It never occurred to him that I might do otherwise. Luckily, I am the type of person who would not even consider doing otherwise.

As concerns the title of this blog, one of my three suitcases liked Chicago so much that it decided to stay there.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Jennifer's Emotional Exhaustion and the Gorman Children

First of all, Jennifer - squirrels do not do laundry. I am sorry that I had to be the one to break it to you. You need a couple of dwarves. With Snow White finally hooked up with that two-timing Prince Charming (you all forgot about Cinderella), the dwarves are primed to learn some serious life skills. Given the way I feel about laundry, and the hour at which we usually end up folding it, may I suggest hiring Grumpy and Sleepy?

The Gorman children...Jesse has always been verbal. I have a list on my computer at the Pride of the 41 reasons to have children. I wrote it as a response to the waste of paper that the therapist and mother of two in France/Belgium wrote on the 40 reasons not to have children. At some point, I will have Jennifer send me that list, and I will publish it here. Anyway, one of my reasons has to do with marvelling while watching a child speak for an hour without inhaling. Yes...I had Jesse in mind. He spoke early. He spoke clearly. He had (and still has) an exceptional vocabulary. I remember an incident prior to his second birthday. He had dropped something on the floor, and could not get out of the high chair to reach it. He said something to me, which I missed. He said it again, and again I missed. He finally pointed at it and said "can't reach."

Gavi came out looking for a meal and a fight. Of the three children, he is the most adventurous eater, always willing to try something new. He enjoys spicy food, and is now learning the art of the barbecue. When he was crawling, I was still wrestling with Jesse. Suddenly, this little baby is in the middle of it. That rough-and-tumble nature has not left him. He got in trouble in pre-school for wrestling with one of the other boys (it was mutual. The other kid got in trouble too). He has had more black eyes than the other two children, combined. I walk into his room in the morning. He awakens instantly, with a stuffed animal flying through the air towards my head.

And then there is Keren. Keren is more expressive than Gavi. At her age, Jesse would still throw tantrums. Keren's expressiveness sometimes locks out reason. Yesterday morning, she was reading at the kitchen table before school. It was time to go. She had not finished. She threw a tantrum, because she could not go - in someone else's car - until she finished her homework. Reason would not sway her.

In short, my faith in genetics extends only as far as looks. The three of them look alike. It is clear that they are siblings. Temperament...focus....specific intelligences...disposition...logic suggests that they should have something in common, given that the 46 chromosomes that are at the root of their genetic matter came from the same place.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Lord I Was Born a Ramblin' Man

So I guess you will all permit me to ramble just a little bit...or a lot.

I am watching "The Big Chill" right now. I first saw the movie when I was 19 while spending the year in Israel. In Israel, the title of the movie is "Haverim shel Alex" - Friends of Alex. It was badly cut. The opening scene was missing. I had no clue what the movie was about. Since then, I have seen the full, uncut version. It is remarkably different at age 21 (that's how old I am now) from what it was more than two decades ago at age 19. As I get older, the movie gains a certain amount of poignancy.

On a different note, when I saw the scene when William Hurt, Meg Tilley, Kevin Kline, and Michael Goldblum were looking at the house that Alex and Chloe were renovating, the first thing that went through my mind was that Jennifer would love to have a house to renovate like that.

Did you know that Alex was played by Kevin Costner? All of his live scenes were cut. You only see him being dressed prior to the funeral.

I took a walk to the beach on Shabbat. I had been there a few weeks ago. It was high tide. Beaches at high tide are wonderful places. The waves are strong against the rocks. There are places it is impossible to walk.

When I got there on Shabbat, it was low tide. All of those rocks that were the crashing points for all of those waves were exposed. Some of them were HUGE. It was amazing to see how different the shoreline was with so much visible.

I have read now two chapters of Anita Diamant's "The Red Tent." The writing is captivating. Despite the writing, I must tell you that I am going to have to force myself to finish the book. The reason is that I have never felt less like the target audience for a book than I have for this one. It is a gender issue.

The list of things that have been nutty in my life since getting out here is really long and annoying. I will be happy to tell the story, after several shots of tequila. In the meantime, several things have gone exactly right. I would like to mention them. First, as you remember, we were involved in the prevention of a suicide in Korea. Second, we got a kitchen kashered, and another one is in progress. Third, I am down about 2.5 kilos. Fourth, the congregation here met every other Friday evening prior to my arrival. Now, there is a contingent that wants to meet every Friday evening. Last, the mother of one of the owners of the kitchen we kashered has decided she should start looking at her Hebrew again. Her son-in-law (owns the kashered kitchen) is in process of converting, and she does not want want to be outdone by him. Ripples in the pond are wonderful. This one ripples all the way out to South Bend.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Jennifer and Me at 17.5 Years

Over the last few days, I have had two chuckles. The first was when I realized that Jennifer and I react so differently to the same events. To read our respective writings on the death of Debbie Friedman or the fact that a friend is really quite sick, you would never know that we knew each other, let alone the fact that we share a life, a home, three children, and two cats. The second chuckle was when Jennifer told me that a couple of people who are following both of our blogs pointed out the same thing to her.

When you see either one or both of us in the parking lot after school, or at services, or anywhere else, you are seeing a finished product. You are encountering us after whatever issue of the day has been discussed. You see us with our kids, with the rules of parenting hammered out over almost 14 years of being parents. Presently, we have been apart for several months. The differences in our makeups appear more readily than they might when we are together.

A little information about our backgrounds is in order. Jennifer's parents sold the home in which she grew up, her very first home, the home they purchased ten months before she was born, only over summer 2010. My parents are in their fifth residence since she met me 19 years ago. Maybe it is the sixth residence. One of them was twice. I also might have missed one anyway. Jennifer grew up on Jewish Long Island. I am a southerner and a Navy brat, having grown up in military housing in Norfolk, Virginia. Jennifer went to Brandeis University, where she was accepted early admission. I went to State University of New York at Buffalo, on which I decided by process of elimination. All of the universities to which I applied save SUNY Buffalo eliminated me. SUNY Buffalo's largest dormitory was bigger than all of Brandeis University.

A funny, telling story: we spent the first year of married life living in Israel. Rabbinical School required one year in Jerusalem. In January 1994, it was winter break. I wanted to go to Turkey. We could rent a lounge chair on a ship for $30 each way. It would have been quite the adventure. Jennifer wanted to know what we were going to do there. I said we would figure it out when we got there. She wanted to plan it, and was not interested in traveling without a plan. Ultimately, we ended up purchasing an Ebgi.

I admit (begrudgingly) that there is probably a lot of room for some element of planning when considering travel. Jennifer would also likely admit that the ability to fly by the seat of one's pants will usually not result in torn jeans. We do well together in this regard.

Jennifer can cry when she is overwhelmed. I pick up my pen (well...keyboard, but you know what I mean). Jennifer looks for the communal meaning of Debbie Friedman's work. I find solace in words I studied in Talmud over a decade ago. I learned those words from one of Professor Lieberman's students, a teacher with whom Jennifer never studied. Jennifer cites Professor Heschel in her writings.

Most of you know us as Jennifer&Sean. It is interesting and amusing to see us as Jennifer & Sean. For what it is worth, I have enjoyed watching that as well. As marriage goes, 2=1. That is why the kids are not allowed to play us against each other. Still, I do not often take the time to think about how different we are. The last three months have certainly afforded that opportunity.

Jennifer - here's looking to the next 17.5 I love you.

If you have been following our blogs over the last several months, we will shortly send you a bill. Just kidding...

Tiyul - day 2

Hi all....

I decided to bike back across to where I was yesterday. There were a couple of stores I had wanted to see that were closed when I was there originally. They were still closed.

During my time here, and especially today, because I was looking more carefully, I noticed three things that the Japanese do for pedestrian and traffic safety. We should learn from these in North America.

1. There are landing lights that mark dark curbs. The flash in a procession, and are remarkably helpful on dark, stormy nights.

2. When the light changes and it is safe to walk, the sign indicates as much. As well, the noise sounds in order that those who are visually impaired will also be able to go. The timing and the sound of the noise are offset from each other. This means that you hear noise in front of you and a different noise behind you, clearly sounding out the straight line in a way that is not confusing.

3. Speaking of straight lines, I had noticed 3 cm bumps in the sidewalk. The bumps are in four long columns, a total of 30 cm wide and follow the sidewalk as it goes its way. When I am walking the bicycle, I like to put it in the grooves. The bumps change texture when you get to an intersection. I tested it this afternoon. I was able to close my eyes and walk the sidewalk without bumping into anything. Again, that is a stupendous idea for the visually impaired.

Related to today's tiyul, I have a habit of playing the instant lottery wherever I go. To date, I have a winning record in West Virginia, where my only ticket, purchased on the way through, won $8.00. Jennifer and I may retire there. Anyway, I regret to inform all of you that my record in Okinawa is that I am down 400 Yen, roughly $3.20 USD.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Words That Do Not Exist in English

Some words do not exist in English. One of them is 'tiyul.' 'Tiyul' is a Hebrew word in the gerund form of the verb 'l'tayel.' It means to 'take a day and bounce around town.' 'We are tourists here. Let's tiyul around and see what there is to see.'

I tiyuled around today. It was a nice trip, about 10 kilometres each way by bicycle. I stopped off in different stores. These were stores out in town. There was an arts and crafts store (avodat yad). I went into a musical instrument store. I know these are stores that cater to Americans. Still, they were run by real Okinawans. The things I bought were made by real Okinawans. It was a nice day.

I found a set of Okinawan castanets for the boys, and a tchatchke for Jennifer. As well, there is something new to hang up in the sukkah this fall. You should add one new decoration to your sukkah each year. Now, I only need a fridge magnet. Best of all, I got to meander. We are on yet another 96-hour weekend due to Martin Luther King's birthday. If I got back late, it did not really matter. I can sleep in tomorrow.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Feeling Philosophical

It has been a strange weekend. I am not at liberty to go into the details, but it has left me feeling philosophical.

Please note: at no time should you infer anything about my health. I promise you that I am quite healthy, and see no indication of that changing.

I started writing letters yesterday. These are letters to my kids and to Jennifer. I intend to type them out, and then video them. It is my sincere hope to update those letters yearly. I wish I could do it by hand. The fact is that to hold a pen and endeavour mightily to produce penmanship that anyone can read has always been painful. I may do one paragraph by hand a day until the task is finished. The letters will be put in the safe downstairs.

In the meantime, "life's...a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage" (Macbeth, Act V). We do not know how long our hour is. Neither do we know how that hour draws to a close. It might draw to a close like a light switch, or like a dimmer. What I do know is that those who survive us quite naturally will remember our closing days more easily than our full lives. When my time comes, I want my wife and my kids to know that my life with them is so much more than the naturally self-centered way in which we all depart. I want them to know that if I lose my memory and cannot recognize or communicate, that any inability is insignificant as compared to their roles in my life.

So I am writing down my memories of who they have been as they grew up. These stories have been funny and poignant. I have learned some about the kids in the process of writing.

I recommend everyone consider doing this. It is not too late, but it can be rather quickly. Our last words to those important to us should not be about who gets the china and how to divide out the sale of the house.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Original Rules of Marriage.

I want to thank DKW for asking me nicely to post my other rules of marriage. Even if you have seen them in the past, they are worth rereading. By the way, there has been at least one significant addition in the last month.

1. Marriage is not 50/50. It is 100/100. You are each 100% responsible for the success of your marriage.

2. Do not go somewhere to find a spouse if you would not want your children hanging out there.

3. Take 30 minutes with your spouse every day. “Date night” is also critical, especially after you become parents.

4. One rose 12 times will speak more loudly than 12 roses once. Remember the little things. Do them often.

5. Call, text, or e-mail your spouse from work once a day, just to say hello.

6. When you get married, you can no longer be single. Act married. This means the following:
a. Most of your friends should be married people.
b. Do married things. This means not hanging out in bars. See #2.
c. Your parents are now second on the priority list.
d. In a conflict between your spouse and your parents, your spouse always wins. This holds true even if you disagree with your spouse.
e. Once you’ve made the decision to be married, act married. Engagement is not your last chance to sow wild oats.

7. Never put yourself in a situation where your honour or integrity might be called into question.

8. Never let anyone call your spouse’s honour into question. Your spouse always gets your trust. No one is ever allowed to say anything bad about your spouse.

9. Talk about your spouse with respect and love. Do not make jokes about your spouse. This holds when your spouse is present, and when your spouse is not present. Talk to your spouse with respect.

10. When you get married, it is no longer “his money” and “her money.” The money belongs to both of you. Trust the values that you and your spouse share enough to trust your spouse with the money. Inability to trust your spouse with money is a sign of much deeper problems.

11. Arguments are a normal part of marriage. It is not okay to bring all the past misdeeds. A matter forgiven is a matter ignored. It does not matter who wins or loses an argument. It matters that you are both equal partners.

12. Say three nice things to your spouse every day. You should also flirt with your spouse. Do not let your conversations focus only on who is driving carpool.

13. Your religious values and beliefs are more important to you than you realize. Think carefully about those values and beliefs. Choose a spouse who shares them.

14. Laugh and sing together.

15. Never, ever use the “d” word. Do not joke about it. Do not threaten it. Never let it enter your mind, and you will always find other ways to solve problems.

16. Making love is a vital part of your marriage. Set time aside for making love. Set enough time aside for more than just a “quickie.” Experiment. Have fun. Do not be perfunctory. Whipped cream has uses beyond the kitchen. Pornography is visual adultery.

17. We purchase starter homes. There is no such thing as a “starter marriage.”

18. Your spouse should know your status prior to your facebook friends. Your spouse should know more about your status than your facebook friends.

19. If either one of you thinks you need marriage counseling, seek marriage counseling. Your spouse’s opinions deserve consideration even if you disagree.

20.  Your spouse cannot read your mind.  Tell your spouse what you are thinking.  You cannot read your spouse's mind.  Ask.

Chaplain Gorman’s Rules for a Successful Military Marriage - Deployment

Good evening all.

Many of you are familiar with my "Rules of Marriage." I send it around every once in a while. It has undergone some revision since I am here. I have also written a new one specifically focused on the military. I would like to thank Rav Jen and my mother for their input. Since most of you have seen my original "Rules of Marriage," I will not post that document unless someone asks very nicely.

Feel free to comment. I will likely place some of my own notes in between.

1. Marriage is not 50/50. It is 100/100. You are each 100% responsible for the success of your marriage.

2. Take 30 minutes with your spouse every day. It may not seem like much, but you will think of nothing else in the middle of a deployment.

Remarkably true.

3. Plant little notes around the house before you leave. Plant notes in the luggage before departure. Do not pack the cat.

Jennifer filled my luggage with tootsie rolls. I was finding them for days. The world is a notably better place with kosher supervision for tootsie rolls.

4. Call, text, or e-mail your spouse every day. Use skype when you can. Send pictures. Do this especially if you have been out on a patrol or if the command has had to shut down the internet. Even with the internet, the handwritten word has value in this world. Send letters home. Keep a dummy e-mail account. That is the one you use when you write an angry, frustrated e-mail. Having a dummy e-mail account allows you the catharsis of hitting the ‘send’ button without causing distress to your spouse. If you are going to be “outside the wire,” do not compromise operational security in letting your spouse know. Remember: as much as your spouse wants to know, your spouse does not want you to compromise the mission. Your spouse understands that your life, as well as the life of your unit, depends on operational security. Make contact as soon as possible upon return, before taking a shower.

We have been pretty good. We skype almost daily. There is plenty of e-mail. We have had no issues of operational security, although I have a list of code words that I will send home immediately if that changes. We have not done spectacularly with the written word, although Gavi sent me a postcard.

5. Talk about your spouse with respect and love. Joke with your spouse. Never joke about your spouse.

6. You are on deployment. Whether you like it or not, the chequebook must stay at home. Trust your spouse with the math and with the details. You have to.

This was difficult. Jennifer can handle a chequebook. However, it had been my responsibility since we moved to Toronto five and a half years ago. It was difficult to let it go.

7. The six weeks prior to and the six weeks after deployment are the hardest times in a military marriage. Fighting is a normal part of gearing up for a deployment. It is easier to be openly angry than it is to be openly sad. It is easier to be angry than to realize that the “rules” of your marriage have shifted during the separation. Decide in advance how to handle these “quarrels.” Remember that these are quarrels from sadness, and not from anger.

8. Plan your return. You should plan together, and you both should plan little surprises.

At this point, my plans have gotten me as far as unpacking. I need to think about this more.

9. You can flirt with your spouse even from a distance of 10,000 miles. Do so. Write an erotic note or letter. Use graphic, but clean language. “Erotic” and “pornographic” are not the same thing. Be romantic. Even when apart, spouses should continue to be lovers.

I have no comment here. A gentleman never writes and tells.

10. Remember that spouses need physical contact. Even stepping on a toe accidentally is a reminder that you share a life. Absence of that contact can be a sub-conscious source of insecurity. You need to make up for the lack of direct contact any way you can. One of the joys of the internet is that you can send flowers. Do so. From home, send food to the field, as well as other little odds and ends.

I have sent flowers, once. It is getting to be time to do that again. This has not been one of my strengths anyway, but I am trying.

11. Write notes to your kids. They miss you too. Tell them what you are doing. They are interested. Listen to what they are doing. They want you to be part of their lives as much as possible.

We have been very good here. Outside of the fact that Gavi really needs me to wrestle him into submission, the contact has been fantastic.

12. Never put yourself in a situation where your honour or integrity might be called into question.

13. The old adage of “what happens on deployment stays on deployment” should never have existed. In this day of incurable, fatal, and highly contagious diseases, that adage really needs to go away. Remember rule #12 as written above.

14.  Those of you who are home: your spouse is carrying a 50-pound pack, a weapon, and a huge amount of responsibility.  Please do not assume that the spouse can come back and readjust overnight.

Those of you who are deployed: while you were away, your spouse got kids up every day, changed the oil on the car, had a really bizarre incident with the iron, changed the kitty litter, and did everything else that goes into running a home alone.  Do not assume that just because you were carrying a 50-pound pack, a weapon, and a huge amount of responsibility means that your spouse did not work very hard also.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Unscripted Movie Scenes

Four movie scenes come to mind that were not in the original scripts. The first is from 'Raiders of the Lost Ark.' Early in the movie, we find Indiana Jones running around Cairo trying to find Marian, who has just been kidnapped by hired goons. Suddenly, the crowd clears. There is a man with a rather large scimitar doing all sorts of sword gymnastics. Indiana Jones just shoots him.

The next is from 'My Cousin Vinny.' Marisa Tomei's character is complaining about her 'biological clock tick tick ticking.' She stomps her foot on the deck as she says it. You can see Joe Pesci hold back a chuckle.

The third is from 'When Harry Met Sally.' In the beginning of the movie, Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan are talking in the car. He is eating grapes. He spits out a seed onto the closed window. He turns to her and says "I'll open the window."

The last is from 'Sleepless in Seattle.' Everyone is sitting around the table talking about crying at movies. Tom Hanks says that men do not really do that, but then says that he cried at the end of "The Dirty Dozen." The next two minutes are completely unscripted.

With that introduction, I must tell you all that I like 'chick flicks.' Last night, I watched "Shall We Dance" with Richard Gere, Jennifer Lopez, and Susan Sarandon. Towards the end of the movie, he comes up the escalator and hands a rose to Susan Sarandon. The two women who work for Susan Sarandon were crying. I have to admit that I got misty-eyed.

I elected to check the movie out of the library today, so that I could watch it without the editor's cuts. The same thing happened at the same scene in the movie.

I really like a happily-ever-after romantic comedy, particularly where no one even flirts with the idea of doing something to violate the marital vows.

Echoing My Bride

When I went to summer camp in 1984, we took a day trip to New York City. We were only about two hours away. I remember the bus ride into Manhattan. I was humming Debbie Friedman's 'Oseh Shalom' to myself. I had just learned, and could not get it out of my head. It remains my favourite. We have worked very hard at the Pride both Erev Shabbat and at Shabbat Mincah to be able to sing with the counterpoint harmony, and we usually get it right. As well, we have put a variation on Debbie Friedman's 'Mi Shebeirakh' into our Shabbat morning service.

The Jerusalem Talmud in chapter 3 of Moed Katan teaches us that when we cite the words of our teachers, their lips quiver in the grave. Debbie Friedman's influence in the world of North American Jewish music will keep her lips quivering for millennia.

May her memory be for a blessing.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

More Musings and Amusings

Hi all....

It is Friday afternoon. I have to change clothes for services. I have to say Minchah. I have some other things to do. Naturally, I am typing to you.

I believe it is incumbent on all clergy to assist anyone in seeking that which is holy. I have reached the conclusion though that sometimes this is not a good idea. For example, the sharp piece of metal that made my bicycle tire holy I would rather not have found.

Many of you have heard me comment on the differences between brave and foolish. There are two interrelated differences. 'Brave' lives to tell about it. 'Foolish' does not. Also, 'brave' is in the first person - I was brave. 'Foolish' is in the third person - he was foolish.

It would appear that I was brave today. When I am in the field, I get to eat MRE's. There is some debate as to the exact meaning of 'MRE.' It is supposed to mean 'meals ready to eat.' Some say it means 'meals refusing to exit.' Some believe that it is 'meals rushing to exit.' Anyway, I have only had the kosher MRE's. They are pretty good. When I could eat dairy, the florentine lasagne was delightful. Most of my colleagues like the chicken noodle.

I found a couple of boxes of kosher MRE's in the closet. The thing is that the individual boxes did not look like the ones I know. I could not find a date on them. I copied down all the gobbledygook codes I could find and e-mailed the president of My Own Meals (www.myownmeals.com). We e-mail back and forth from time to time. She was able to tell me that the codes date the packaging to 1993. She also said that they are probably still good, and quipped about whether or not to try one.

I was brave. I tried one. The good news is that I was brave. After 17 years, packaging for MRE's works.

Do not try this at home. I would not.

Shabbat Shalom.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Good Parenting

Hi all.

There is a young couple currently across the hall from me. She is pregnant. Good for them. For the second time this week, I found her outside having a cancer break (cigarette). I asked about it. She said she is stressed, but would not elaborate.

There are certain habits for which I have zero tolerance. Cancer sticks are one of them. Apparently, I have less than zero tolerance for them in certain cases. I asked the mom to answer the following: when the baby is out, will you place a pillow over its face when you are stressed? The answer, thankfully, was no. She did not answer me though when I asked her why she was doing that now.

It is now time for a sermon. First though, we have a multiple choice question.

When do we become parents?

A. When the baby comes
B. When we find out about the pregnancy
C. When we make the decision to have a baby

If you chose 'A', read on. My answer is 'C'. It is at that point when we must start thinking past our own wants and needs. The pre-natal vitamins must start. Alcohol consumption must drop precipitously. Dimmer switches and cabinet locks must go on the proper places. As well, we must look at a much bigger vision of the future. We must take active steps to be healthy. Bringing a child into the world is the biological part of becoming a parent. Biology is not the only ingredient though.

'B' could be the correct answer also. Not every pregnancy happens with planning.

End of Sermon. We continue now with Ein Ke-lo-heinu on page 167.