Hello! In these weirdo times, The Forward has relaunched A Bintel Brief, which was its original advice column from 100 years ago. Now, Abby Sher and I are dishing out advice about, well, everything: love, family, living in a Christian world, Judaism, anti-semitism — and, of course, Covid-19 (ugh). This is us, drawn by the amazing Liana Fink (I’m on the right, obvs):
Send us your Jewey questions! We will answer them! Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I wrote a gazillion thank you notes and cooked religiously (or that’s what it felt like) for a month. Then I wrote about it all for The Forward. (And if you haven’t gotten yours yet, it’s coming! I promise!) This is my manifesto against ambition.
So: everyone knows the wonderful books Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls, yes? If you are a parent of a young girl (or boy!), you should. They are a collection of tiny biographies of important, daring women — everyone from RBG to Serena Williams, Harriet Tubman to Aung San Suu Kyi. The art is something to behold.
And now, the company has launched an online site called Rebel Girls Boundless — for which I am writing a series about parenting abroad.
Oh, hi! I totally forgot to mention to you all here that I’ve started a newsletter — or as I’ve been calling it, a letter from me to you. Really, it’s a love letter.
So far I’ve been sending out weekly dispatches about life, love, food, politics, books, TV, podcasts (so many podcasts!), motherhood, and I’d be delighted if you wanted to sign up. My mom wrote me a long email with all the questions: Why a tiny letter? Why not do it here, on your website? Can I write you back there? Are my replies public? Do I need to go find your gmail? Do you think people will find it and sign up!?
So: The reason it’s a Tiny Letter and not here, on my website, is because, as you can read in the first email, I love letters. Love them. It’s how I’ve always communicated with my friends and family, it’s how I met and fell in love with my husband. It’s how I think through problems and work out essays. There’s something intimate, precious and private about them, even when they are not written out by hand. When I found Tiny Letter I thought: what a quaint and lovely pocket of the internet. (Rare thought.)
And to answer the more practical questions: Yes, you can write me back directly on Tiny Letter. No, your replies aren’t public. Yes, I do write everyone back!
I’m standing outside my local fire station in West Los Angeles, while my 5-year-old runs in, a bag of warm homemade cookies in her small hand.
Twenty-four hours earlier we were at the beach in Playa Del Rey, having one of those obnoxiously California moments — a gathering of families lounging near the ocean with coffee, watching our kids dig in the sand and run from the waves. It was unseasonably warm (what else is new?), and we could see the smoke from the fires all around us, but it all felt rather far off.
I wrote about what my daughter and I do when the world is falling apart and we are desperate to help. Thanks to the Washington Post for publishing this one. Read on here. (And here are some other ways to help.)
What now feels like a gazillion and a a half years ago, I gave birth to a baby girl in Vienna, Austria. (That’s her about to fall out of the sandpit.)
A few weeks ago, the lovely and brilliant writers/podcasters Edan Lepucki and Amelia Morris interviewed me about the joys and travails of having a baby abroad for their fantastic podcast, Mom Rage. We talked about everything from figuring out how to find a doctor in a foreign country, to the fantastic maternity leave policies, to the Austrians’ very entrenched ideas about motherhood. It was a total joy to chat with them. You can listen here. (Interview starts around 29:00, but do listen to it all; their banter at the beginning is always one of my favorite parts.)
If you listen along and think, I must move to Vienna and have a baby! (I do recommend it), here are a few essays I’ve written on the subject (not sure whether they will convince or dissuade you, but anyway, you decide):
For months my daughter has been taking ballet and tap at the local recreation center, and she recently came to the requisite end-of-year performance. My kid is only four, so her part was minimal—a few short, absurd appearances, flanked by all the other little giggling girls in her class. The real show started and ended with the older girls. I knew I wasn’t in store for something professional, but I still didn’t expect what was coming.
It’s summer, August maybe, and our family’s boxy purple Peugeot is parked at a rest stop gas station. My father pumps gas in his leather sandals. My 13-year-old sister, Rachel, slumps in the backseat, listening to her Walkman with her hood up over her ears. My mother, in a billowy fuchsia sundress, stands next to the passenger’s side of the car with the door open, one sandaled foot propped up on the runner, one palm resting on the top of the car, waiting. Her gray hair is cut very short. Her oval glasses take over much of her face.
I’m five, and have gotten out of the car to dance around on the cement for a few minutes, my white Tretorns, striped T-shirt, and shorts glistening in the sun. I skip over little puddles of oil between the cars, making a game out of not getting my feet wet.
There are several adults clustered around the pumps, filling their cars. I hop over to one of them, look up and say, “My Mommy had babies that died.” Then over to another: “My Mommy had babies that died.”
My mother did, indeed, have babies that died; so did my father, of course. I guess my sister did, too — baby-siblings. But these babies — a boy, a stillbirth at 23 weeks, and a girl a year later, at 24 weeks, both big enough to swell my mother’s belly but small enough to fit in the palm of my father’s hand — died seven and eight years earlier, respectively. I came next; I was the one who made it.