Nesting on Empty, Redux

So I got a call from the camp last week. It sounded like this:

“Hello this is Shani from camp it’s not an emergency.”

Like that, all in one breath, before the neurotic Jewish parent on the other end can plotz.

Ok, now that we’ve established that I don’t need to shriek or pee in my pants, what I can I do for you?

It seems that after a week at camp, Little Yenta Girl, who as a first-timer was supposed to only stay for 10 days, wanted to extend her stay for the rest of the session with her older brother. Apparently, she really likes camp, which I know from the one piece of correspondence we have received from her, decorated as it is with exclamation points and hearts.

“She’s very happy and she wanted me to ask you if she could stay,” said the nice college student.”All the counselors love her. She’s a real leader.”

I gulped. My baby girl doesn’t want to COME HOME?

“Also, the only other girl who was supposed to go home is staying. But no pressure,” added Shani.

I told her to call back that evening. Then I went and cried for an hour. Then I ate half a tub of salted caramel ice cream. Then El Yenta Man came home and I cried some more.

“She doesn’t *sob* even miss us AT *sniff sniff* ALL,” I moaned. “She likes a cabin full of total strangers better than us. We are BAD parents.”

El Yenta Man patted my head, avoiding the snotfall of my face. “Actually, I think it means we’re pretty good parents.”

I blubbered. “How? How can you such a thing?”

“Because we’ve raised her to be independent and to get along with other people, and look, she is,” pointed out my sagacious husband, gently peeling my fingers away from the tub of ice cream. “Also, she doesn’t want to miss out on all the adventure. Sounds just like her mama.”

I considered this. LYG has always followed her brother into the fray, even though she’s four years younger. She’s a jubilant—and tough—little cookie.

When she was 3, she would strip down to her underwear, tie Chachi bandanas around her knees and chase his friends around the house with a wooden sword. At eight-and-a-half, I guess our Warrior Princess is ready for the whole time in the woods.

“I guess that means two more weeks of quiet,” I whispered. “I really, really miss them.”

EYM hugged me. “Of course you do. Me, not so much. They’ll be home soon enough and making us crazy.”

The phone rang.


After figuring out that we could apply for a partial scholarship for the balance (hello, staying twice as long costs twice as much. Thank you, One Happy Camper!) I gave our blessings. I prepared a little care package with some extra socks and extra stationary and a lot of kisses tucked in a letter detailing every cute thing the dog has done since she’s been gone.

I was still feeling a little mopey until I came home from work to find EYM in nothing but his boxer briefs and Chachi bandanas, waiting to chase me around the house with his wooden sword. On with the adventure!





Not-so-much fan mail

Over at the day job, I wrote about Savannah’s burgeoning business relationship with Israel in this week’s Civil Society Column.

I tried, probably to my detriment, to keep it apolitical, even though Israel’s always a touchy topic. Look, I only have 800 words. I thought it best to keep it light.

No matter, someone found issue with it. Yesterday I received the following email. In the name of decency and other people’s litigious tendencies, I didn’t include the sender’s name:

Mrs. Lebos,

I just sat down to eat lunch and opened the Connect to thumb through as I nibble on my sandwich. I began reading your article about the mayor visiting Israel.

I stopped at the 6th paragraph.

I know it is all the rage to treat Israel as some special place that can do no wrong and is super awesome. But your statement about it being the Middle East’s only democracy and most thriving economy are not accurate.

Turkey, the nation from which the boat and citizens on board came to attempt humanitarian relief to Gaza and were beat down by some cute IDF guys came, is the largest Middle Eastern democracy both in population and size. Established in 1923 verses Israel’s 1948. The economy is ranked 15th in the world, raking in over one trillion a year compared to Israel’s 50th place ranking and their $240ish billion.

Coupled with Turkey’s proactive international relations and better progress in granting autonomy for their Kurdish population (verses how Israel treats the Palestinians), your statement is either a slight to the 74 million Turks or pure ignorance.

Which is it?


Huh. Do I hate Turkish people or am I just stupid? Gee. What a choice. I sent this back:

Mr. XXX,

Your hostility, as well as your presumptive and sexist “Mrs.,” almost prevented me from answering your email, but your accusations of ignorance are worth examining:

While Turkey is certainly a democracy, because of its unique geographic position it is not necessarily included in the Middle East region that includes Syria, Iran, Iraq and other Arab countries as well as Israel. It’s an associate member of the EU; perhaps you lump it with its neighbors because it’s a (secular) Muslim country.

Economics certainly are subjective; numbers can be presented in plenty of ways. Israel’s GDP per capita is over $31K, while Turkey’s is $12.3K, indicating a higher quality of life for Israel’s citizens.

Accounts of the tragic flotilla incident are incredibly varied. The UN report released last year cited fault on both sides: the Turks were found to have an “organized and violent resistance” against whom IDF soldiers defended themselves; the soldiers were accused of using unnecessary force.

And today’s New York Times has much to say about Turkey’s humanitarian stance:

Delighted to write a story when the mayor visits Turkey.

Enjoy the rest of your lunch.


I won’t pain you with his reply, but if emails could sputter, his would.

In the meantime, what say you, readers? Was I correct in my assertion that Israel’s is the Middle East’s only democracy and its most thriving economy? Or do I need to examine some latent hostility towards the Turkish? Or—and I’m willing to accept this—am I actually kind of a dummy?

T-Shirt of the Week: Cluck you, Chick-Fil-A

Look, Chick-fil-A’s feelings about gayfolk have never been a secret.

The corporation has been giving gobs of money to anti-LGBT groups for years, and has been accused of asking nosy questions in their hiring practices.

But Chick-Fil-A’s PR department blew up last week after CEO Dan Cathy gave his little “guilty as charged” shuck-and-jive when asked about his company’s views on gay marriage, and now EVERYONE’s pissed, including Miss Piggy.

The Yenta family has enacted our own personal boycott for many years, partly on the basis of tolerance for all as well as the fact that two stale pieces of white bread and fried piece of cardboard are really not worth eating.

We’re delighted to be joined by so many friends, including the Boston Michael Mennino who released a letter yesterday telling bigoted ol’ Cathy and his franchisees to take their business where the sun don’t shine. Then there’s my main man, mayor Rahm Emanuel, supporting Chicago alderman Joe Moreno on his attempt to block new franchises from popping up in the city.

Wait a minute. It’s one thing for consumers to choose not to eat at Chick-Fil-A because we don’t agree with the company’s sad and hypocritical views (or, just because the food is gross.) But it’s a whole different animal to prevent them from doing business in the first place. What happens when someone wants to open a Super Gay Jewish Unicorn Emporium in Chicago or Boston or Savannah? Are city leaders allowed to block that, too?

I never thought I’d agree with an asshole like Michelle Malkin, but perhaps it’s best to leave the boycotts to the people.

In the meantime, eat more kale.

(By the way, Chick-Fil-A tried to sue the maker of this t-shirt. Douches.)

Nesting on Empty

Shhh. S’very very very quiet in the Yenta house right now.

No bickering. No interrupting. No one using my bathroom mirror to style his purple hair and no one kvetching about how walking the dog is an unreasonable chore.

I expected this vacuum of sound after we dropped both children at sleepaway camp yesterday.The build-up to that moment — frantic weeks of packing and stamping their underpants with their names and debating whether they actually needed two toothbrushes or could get away with one — was only devoid of beatings because it contained the promise of ten whole days of silence.

Looking forward to this block of peace, I handled the complete neurotic chaos of several sets of Jewish parents helping their 8 year-old daughters unpack in a 20’x20′ cabin quite well, although I may have had to get all Mama Grizzly at a dad who tried to muscle in on all the shelving. (Dude, there are THREE shelves alloted per person so get your freakin’ Hannah Montana towels OUTTA my kid’s territory before I show claws, k’?)

Knowing I would have hours upon hours of calm in the next week and half, it didn’t even bother me that El Yenta Man ordered the treyf-iest item on the menu while at dinner with the kosher-keeping parents of Yenta Boy’s friends the night before camp. (EYM chastised himself, afraid that he might have embarrassed our son, who turned out to have also ordered the bangers and mash. The other parents just shrugged and ate their shrimp cocktail.)

After we met everyone’s counselors and gave a last family squeezy sandwich hug, we tried not to sprint with glee to the car. I’ll miss my monkeys, especially my baby girl, but seeing as she was already engrossed in a game of Go Fish with her bunkmate I think she’s going to be plenty occupied. I’m pretty sure we left skid marks when we left.

So the shmo who wrote the blog post “Sleepaway Camp is a Dumb Idea – Unless You Hate Your Kids” can suck it: I love my kids, I loved camp – especially Jewish camp – and I’m so happy my kids get to make friends with people from all over the world and learn songs and enjoy a little time where making massive amounts of noise is encouraged. And yes, Helicopter Blogger Dad, it never hurt anyone’s marriage to have a little break from the kids.

Except it turns out a quiet house might be more nerve-wracking than a full one.

“This is weird,” whispered El Yenta Man last night while we were eating a dinner of champagne and cut-up cucumber and potstickers from Trader Joe’s. (See that? No main course. PARENTS ON THE LOOSE.)

“Totally,” I whispered back, distracted by sort of background thumping and squalling with occasional snippets of 80s music. “Do you hear that, though?”

EYM cocked his head. “That’s the dog breathing.”

“No, not that…What is that noise?!” I jumped up and checked the fan. Nothing. TV? Off. The AC? Its usual low hum.

That’s when I realized: Oh my gawd. I can actually hear myself think.

And I’m not sure I like it.








Diggin’ Up Arafat

Gawd, why won’t sociopathic meglomaniacs just stay dead? Eight years after PLO powergrabber Yasser Arafat finally vacated the planet, his widow wants his decomposed remains exhumed. Just what the world needs: Terrorist zombies.

Reuters reports that after “surprisingly” high levels of radioactive polonium-210 were found on Arafat’s clothing, Suha Arafat is lobbying the French courts for another autopsy. The French doctors who treated him while he was in a coma never did file an official cause of death, and accusations swirled that he’d somehow been quietly been murdered.

The list of possible suspects is very, very long: The Israelis, with whom he gleefully baited with peace treaties that he then refused to sign, of course; us Americans, for whom his disingenuous nonsense and bald-faced lies caused myriad diplomatic kerfuffles; his own Palestinian brethren who starved, died and otherwise suffered under the greedy facism he flouted as beneficent reign. Not to mention a long line of mistreated servants, mistresses, bastard children and other discontented folks who didn’t agree that blowing up buses and schools was the best strategy for brokering a better life.

So fine, dig up the keffiyeh-head’s decomposed remains. Really, is anyone going to be surprised that this hateful piece of shit was poisoned?

Todos Es Gracia Even Though I’m A Hot Mess

Fabulous article in the Forward featuring Ladino songstress Sarah Aroeste:

“For Ladino Musicians, The World’s A Stage: Artists are Forging a Global Sephardi Culture”

I’ve been a fan of this spicy Jewish singer ever since my mother quoted her lyrics in her novel The Blind Eye (currently being re-released on L’Image Press with an awesome new cover.) We like to call her our Spanish cousin, though I’m not sure she wants to own our Eastern European DNA.

Along with a handful of other artists, Sarah has breathed new life into Ladino, the quirky Judeo-Spanish dialect last heard in the streets of Portugal circa the late 15th century, mining its rich, round sounds. Her new album, Gracia, shakes up the old with new things that the Sephardic rabbis probably hadn’t planned on, like sick beats and feminism and Sarah’s sultry, sexy tones, all of which place what was one a dying language quite firmly in the NOW.

Check the new single with samples from Gloria Steinem and raps by Hebrew Mamita Vanessa Hidary:

The song was inspired by Dona Gracia Nasi, a 16th century writer and activist who stood up to the forced conversions of the Jewish people in Portugal and Spain (her JWA profile is fascinating.)

“All is grace” is also the perfect mantra for me at the moment, as I’ve just discovered that I somehow overlooked the full-on tax code of summer camp forms and health history and character assessment worksheets that warn the counselors that your kid might be a little freaky and not the best sleeper but has above average leadership skills and hates lima beans. All these were due four weeks ago. Camp starts in a week. And the doctor’s office is closed today.

Fifteen minutes ago I opened up the monster PDF and decided maybe they didn’t have to go to camp after all.

Now that my inner castanets are clicking, I think I can deal.