I’ve always felt the weight of the world on my shoulders.
Even when I was really small.
It hasn’t been easy to * see * things so differently than the culture I was raised in.
I never understood how people hated other people for how they looked or how they prayed. That always perplexed me. I remember my first hazy memories of hearing of or witnessing racism and how it didn’t make sense to me. Between the reading about near death experiences and getting sick at 17, I was drawn to Eastern philosophy by college. It resonated with me on so many levels.
But it’s still not easy, even now, to un-do years of downloaded scripts.
It takes concerted effort and determination to remain open and not to see others as separate.
The goal of many in the meditation communities - though I can’t say this with any expertise or anything - is often to achieve that ability we have at young ages to see beyond “separateness.” This is why small children often play together without noticing disability, skin color, or other differences.
That is all taught.
What I wrote about Buddhism is the core of my belief even if I haven’t been diligent about developing a meditation practice or any other Eastern practice - instead of trying to “achieve” something isn’t the point. Instead, the goal is to let our judgments, our assumptions, our false belief systems to fall away so that we can access that inner joy and innate knowing that we are no different than anyone else - like we are as small kids.
I think of the videos that we all obsessively watch where the little toddler goes around hugging everyone. She isn’t thinking: oh, you’re poor, I’m not going to hug you. Oh, you’re a different gender, I’m not going to hug you. You’re in a wheelchair or you have different skin color, no hugs for you!
I think of the smile my dad gave me when I said: you’re going to a beautiful place. It makes me feel more peaceful to know he felt safe, even at the end, in the midst of the scary hospital.
I then think of how many people showed up at his funeral. People from every corner of the city - Jewish, non-Jewish. I’m pretty sure that people who have barely spoken since the election stood together, as we mourned.
Who would have thought my dad would end up being a little Buddha that brought people together?
If I don’t talk about these things, who will? If for no other reason, I don’t want the kids to be afraid of death. Though I’m a Jew by blood, and a mere Buddhist voyeur, I don’t delve into this aspect of my beliefs in public. It’s more terrifying than writing anything about mental health or physical pain or poly or sex or so many other things considered personal.
I’ve tried to move as slowly as possible through all of these things. Giving people time to adjust to my haircut, my podcast, my outspokenness.
This. This other aspect of who I am that I’ve kept carefully buried as much as possible, wants out.
I don’t want to talk about it.
I’ve had this photo moving around my space for awhile. I wasn’t sure where it’s home would be. I thought Instagram, but that didn’t feel right this week.
I never know what I’ll feel compelled to share. I have to see how I feel each day.
I never know quite where these posts will take me. I have all these ideas running around my head, and like I’ve said, I open my computer and often, what I plan on writing vanishes.
The words. Always at the mercy of the words.
Also I’m at the mercy of the healthy and strong. I don’t know if they realize how much power they have. I don’t think many do.
One thing I want to ask on Facebook: why do the sickest have to work the hardest in this country? On our teeny tiny checks while the financially stable, able bodied get to live life as they please? This confuses me.
Why do the weakest be forced to work so damn hard?
So many adjustments to make. So much waking up to do. I have to focus on my own work. That’s always the key. It’s just so fucking hard! And it feels so much easier to point and yell.
I have to remind myself: I have to be the change if I want to SEE real change. If I’m sharing my anger on the Internet in a world full of angry people, it won’t make a damn bit of difference.
I’m not sure which podcast will come out of me next. I think it will be: Grieving my Dad. I’ll record it on Saturday which will be a month since his death. I gave myself the 30 days - which is a common marker for mourners. My family is holding a service on Monday evening at this house.
I’m just not feeling drawn to that tradition right now. It doesn’t feel authentic to me, or how I want to mourn. I asked one family member to respect that we’re all going to mourn differently and to please not shame me for not participating fully in the Jewish traditions.
I go from a little photo from the 1970s which unfortunately doesn’t have my dad and his ‘stache. I don’t think I’ve shared a photo of him with his mustache yet. It was pretty awesome.
Somehow, mustaches belong to our dads and the 1970s.
He used to pick me up from Hebrew School in that blue Toyota Celica - the year has always alluded me, I’d have to ask my friend’s dad, we both drove our dads’ old cars in high school, because of that car, I can drive shift stick in even the hilliest of hills - when I was little, with his mustache and the empty Winchell’s donut bag wadded up in the backseat. Maple bars are his favorite - I bought them for him, even when he was barely eating. Then jelly filled. Then chocolate covered with white filling.
I like knowing people’s favorite desserts - always have.
I remember the day he picked me up and his mustache was gone. I felt…bereft. I have no idea why. He only had one when I was very small so it must have felt like the end of an era. I don’t know where my brothers were in these memories. There was always one on one side of me throughout my entire childhood. Or a cousin since they lived across the street.
We used to all take baths together. Three of us kids in the bath at a time. Lord, I can’t imagine that now. Bath time.
Before the surgery, when I started to feel pangs about not having kids, I’d go to my sister’s house at bath time - she had three kids right in a row - and that pang would immediately go away.
Love them! So so much. I’m glad that part of my life worked out so well.
It was amazing to catch up with the kid yesterday. I’ve come to the conclusion that we’re making so much of working with kids more complicated than it needs to be. I know, I know pretentious as fuck. What the hell do I know?
This is my pretentious conclusion: the best thing we can do for kids? ESPECIALLY teens / adolescents?
Ask some key questions, of course, and try to active listen (sorry, kiddos, even your auntie starts to space out sometimes, but I love you and want you to keep talking to me!).
They just want to feel heard and seen.
I should have made a notation about what I said about them leaving.
If we do it ok - again, a lot of luck involved, sometimes people have a hard road mapped out and that’s their dharma and no amount of awesome parenting can change that, it’s how we learn, and sometimes we learn through the trials of our loved ones - they also come back.
I know this. That’s the only reason I can stand still. I should explain that.
It’s my personal belief that babies and kids need a lot of…kind of exaggerated responses. Oh wow! You drew that in class! That’s amazing!
They’re always looking for cues, that’s how they assess WHO they are in the world and model appropriate responses for them to mimic to others.
it’s ok sometimes if we don’t react with positivity to something uncool that they do - geezus, that’s not good either because that skews their perception of the world and doesn’t prepare them for rude professors and immature bosses - it seems like it’s forgotten that our job is to prepare them for the real world. Teach and protect. That’s the job.
Our reactions our crucial - there is plenty of data on this regarding babies, they need lots of interaction or they literally wither away and die, most of the data involves not being touched but I fear that being sucked into our phones too much has also deprived both adults and kids lack of emotional intimacy, something we already struggled with in our culture before smartphones - to children as they create a narrative about the world and who they are.
So much of what I’ve done over the years is due to instinct, but also a lot of reading on teaching and working with different age groups. I’ve created trainings and curriculum for educators for many years.
Just to be clear: I do know what I’m talking about! It gets a little hairier when you get outside the classroom, but my philosophies always the same. I’ll have to create some teacher training guides based on my How to Teach Cooking to Kids that is more general, so that I have less anxiety about it living only in my head. Really. So much of this is to just get the gd content OUT of my head.
My three categories that I consistently enforce, btw, are safety, hygiene and manners. No matter what kid, ho matter their cognitive abilities, relatives, classroom, rando kid about to jump off play structure with no parent in site (safety). I’ll get into that another day. Consistency is very important.
Every once in awhile, someone would show up in my program and suggest changing something in my cooking class structure.
I’m open. I’ll always be open. Like I’ve said: I like to collaborate. Always. I think two brains is better than one. Three brains better than two. Even if I’m opposed to someone’s views in a lot of ways, I’m still so interested in hearing their perspective.
That is not happening in our culture thees days (i’d personally love to engage with people who have completely different political views, I find it fascinating, people think that’s odd, but it’s just me).
I’d listen to the suggestions, but I’d always stick to a certain routine with my students. They knew exactly what to expect when they walked into the room. I never diverged from my rules, I always enforced them - these two things very, very important. The kids knew that they had to wash their hands when they came into the classroom, then put on their aprons, and if they were small, they could draw (I’d overlook the germ-y crayons because it was more important that they feel safe in the routine and had something to do while the other kids entered).
I taught the 2 and 3 year olds every Thursday morning for five years. I never, ever had anyone else teach that class. I often had others step into my other classes, but that one was all mine. I love that age group, though my favorite is 4-6 (they are little acid trippers, and still sit in your lap while asking cool questions) and then teens. 7-9 is probably my least favorite because that’s when they start to get mean. Sorry 7-9 year olds, I still love you. I’ve had grumpy, mean years as an adult.
It’s part of being human.
Anyway, some parents would bring their very small kid - only 2 years old - and the kid wouldn’t want to wash their hands.
The parents would try to negotiate with me.
I said: if we keep insisting every week, they get used to it. They can get used to anything at this age. Even learn a new language in a matter of weeks.
I’d often trot that line out, because it was a reminder that even if they INSISTED that their kid hates a food, I’d try to remind them that they weren’t done yet forming their tastes and in fact, their taste buds were just as immature as their bodies. The kids, indeed, do get used to the hand washing. Consistency. Key.
Every once in awhile I’d get a stubborn parent.
Hahaaha i remember one who was dismayed to find that I insisted on every child following classroom rules. Her kid sprawled out on the floor. It was always tricky in the early days - how much I could step in and instruct the child to get up in that case, or let the parent handle it - took me awhile to get a handle on it.
In that situation, I just stepped over the kid and kept teaching the class. So often, people reward poor behavior. I just kept on teachin’.
She called me - the director of the program - to complain about me - the teacher. It was a hysterical conversation. I just sat on the other end as I realized she didn’t know it WAS the director who was the teacher.
I said: yeah that was me and I did not insist that the kids make their pizzas in to a circle (seriously, she wasted Manhattan minutes complaining to me about something I never did which was FORCE the kids to make a pizza into a circle. For real.).
As she continued to try and bullshit me, I realized she still wasn’t putting it together that I was the teacher from the classroom. I said: you do realize that was me as the teacher right? I run the program and I’m also the teacher of that class.
Well, my kid has sensory issues! And she tried to go down a different thread.
As I’ve been very open about: I can tell when people are lying. Every once in awhile, someone does a decent job of bullshitting, but eventually they give themselves away. Have I also mentioned that I’ve been studying body language for years? Yes. I have. I’ve read books written by former operatives. Fascinating stuff.
I won’t share how I know when people are lying over the phone - can’t give away all my trade secrets - but it’s still possible.
Anyway, I did NOT give her a refund because it’s too late a few weeks in to find another student and since the classes had to be small, I didn’t allow refunds after the first few weeks.
They’d try the first couple of years I ran the program but soon enough, word got around that I ran a tight ship and wasn’t going to indulge them unless the kid seriously had to be taken out of the class.
Some of the parents were FUCKING amazing and friends of mine to this day. Let me be clear about that. Some of the coolest people I’ve ever met were the parents of my students. Truly extraordinary people with fantastic children. Oh gd those kids aren’t children anymore are they?
Back to standing still with the teens. You thought I forgot, didn’t you?
One of my assistants at that culinary program would be so annoyed with how I worked in the kitchen. I walked in circles - literally - and pulled out equipment as I remembered what we needed. If I remembered we’d need cheese out, in the middle of pulling out the little graters, I’d stop that task and grab the cheese. It really bothered her! It seemed so inefficient but it worked for me.
Sometimes I have to run in a few circles, and go down a couple of tangents before coming back to the main point. I loved working with her. She was more particular about things than me which allowed me to be the more relaxed one.
I visited with the two oldest last night - we love to sit around and shoot the shit about random stuff, it’s the best part of growing up with brothers, I know how to fall into their let’s-not-make-any-sense and joke about things that are probably not funny to anyone else, and one said: I still follow all of Papu’s rules!
I was like: honey he just left us what are you talking about?
Well you know how he was so anal about the kitchen and the couch. I still follow his couch rules!
What couch rules, I asked?
I said: not eating on them? Not putting feet on them? What?
He was like: yeah those two things.
So much for remembering Papu’s rules 3 week weeks after he passes away.
I’m glad they don’t remember. That means my dad wasn’t being THAT strict. He was very particular about things - especially the kitchen - my mom is too, but my dad and I would do things like leave the cupboards and drawers open a little bit.
She said: if he didn’t do the same thing, that would drive him crazy.
I never noticed either. I think I had a couple co-workers comment on it. We had a lot of little quirks in common like that.
I still clean the kitchen to his standard every night. Habit. I used to be much messier when I lived alone. But I do try to be a good roommate and I’ve found I prefer going to bed with a clean kitchen. Something I mention to the teens all of the time (do other people do this?) be a good roommate! Make sure you’re going to be a good roommate! The world will have 2 billion more people on the planet by the time you’re my age, you’ll likely have to live with other people by then!
They just stare at me. Ok, Auntie Julie.
The reason I think it’s important to NOT be reactive and stand so still with teens is because they are trying to figure who they are. Let’s see if I can explain this. Man this blog is random, nutrition, teaching, kids, poly, men, women, politics, medical! This is why I’ve struggled with figuring out what to do for so many years - too many topics I find fascinating.
Quick kitty hug - if I don’t, he’ll try to walk all over my keyboard - I know I don’t have much longer with the grumpy guy so I try to hug him as much as possible.
Teens are hard-wired to figure out who they are - in order to do that, they push a lot of buttons! They experiment and try out different things.
Let’s say a kid is trying out being a slacker or rude. It feels like an obvious thing to do is to try and STOP that from continuing.
It is my personal belief that they need to walk down those roads, see how it feels and decide if that resonates with who they truly are. Let’s say a kid really, REALLY hates traditional academics and they aren’t truly “testing out” being a slacker - it’s hard to discover that if we resist their experiments too much.
It’s tricky though. I think about how I essentially did whatever I wanted as a teen - I was very responsible but it might have led to some issues in my life, it was MY signature on file at the high school, my mom’s name which I’d perfected, she didn’t mind, she preferred that I just handled it, I used to practice it over and over again, I’ve also studied how to analyze hand-writing, i’ve studied some weird shit peeps! I took a continuing education class in my twenties but obviously that’s not so relevant these days - and teens do still need a lot of guidance.
When I teach them, I try to ask a lot of questions, not talk at them. So I’d say: why do we not want to leave the oven open too long?
Get them to think, and have to formulate an answer rather than just say: close the oven door!
This works for all age groups but is especially important with teens. They get talked AT all day long. So engaging them in conversation and doing more inquiry based education has always been my default.
Standing still is important because they are LOOKING for a reaction - often they’ll do the opposite of what you want so…yes, I’ll admit sometimes I’ll gently nudge them in one direction or another, sometimes using reverse psychology though that can backfire so must be used cautiously. They smell things. That’s why I love them. They hate lies. If you lie to them even once, they remember.
That’s why I try to be so open and honest in my podcast, man, I would hope some young people are listening, but I have no idea. I know of a few 20ish non-relatives who follow it which makes me so happy.
I just share what I wish I’d had more information on when I was young, and even now. I wanted so badly to hear how to walk through this life without following the script I was handed.
Standing still, and not saying much with teens, allows them to discover themselves without judgment or censure. It also allows them to reveal things that they often would shut down about if asked directly.
I stand still so that they know I’m there, I’m always always there, at their back, as a support, but they get to wander off and when they look back I’m stoic. Small kids, venturing onto a playground or new classroom, need to look back and see a smile and maybe even an exaggerated thumbs up, you can do this!
Teens need to feel like they can do whatever it is they need to do without too much.
That’s not to say that I don’t act as their biggest cheerleader. That’s what my mom and I call ourselves when we’re “pumping” one up, giving them lots of specific praise (you’re so thoughtful and caring when you take care of younger kids is specific praise - that came about in the teacher world awhile back). But I’m much more judicious with this praise. If they hear it too much, they don’t believe it. Like I said, they’re always wary, especially of adults. So being stoic the majority of the time, and then praising them when they need a boost, and calling them out when they’re being disrespectful (I’ll tolerate a lot from teens because they’re inherently confused and bumbling around but disrespect is never ok in my book), allows them to say oh i can walk down this road (look back, no facial expression about them dying their hair), or this road (look back, no facial expression about them joining young Republicans, oh shit, I don’t think I could do that now, maybe 10 years ago).
It allows them the space to keep exploring who they are.
It allows them the space to do something called “differentiating” - which means they are creating their OWN script - sometimes incorporating some of what their family did and maybe some things their family did NOT do, and that’s ok! That’s healthy for them to create this script that is authentic to them, as long, of course, as they’re not hurting others or themselves or the planet.
It’s important that they feel like they can create this script without people constantly telling them what they are doing is right or wrong. Hence the standing still. Not easy though. And they still need guidance! So much! But in the form of inquiry is best: do you think it was a good idea to stay out so late?
I am a little worried about the young person who called me recently. I worry for their safety while they experiment.
That’s always the worry. I just try to keep an open door, so they know they can ask me ANYTHING. Drugs, sex, orientation, gender, career choices, all of it is on the table to discuss.
But FUUUUCK it’s hard when it’s someone you love.
I have to keep the panic inside though. Or they won’t come back. That’s another reason for standing still (oh, oh you chugged beer all night and then did what? Ok, tell me MORE inside thinking OMG OMG OMG what do I say - that didn’t ever happen but I have had some disclosures that are like SHIT, just years of teaching, fall back on the: Oh, that’s interesting, tell me more. What else happened? Buy me some time to figure out what the best response would be - never know - damn it’s so hard these days, they know so much so young).
So that’s what I meant. Fuck I write a lot in here.
WHY OH WHY do these words keep me hostage? I don’t know what to do next!!!!! Have I mentioned that? I have so much STUFF IN THIS HEAD OF MINE!
Do I really focus on the podcast? Gut health? Nutrition posts? Mental health? Kids? Teens? In person classes but which ones? And for who? WHAT THE FUCK DO I DO NEXT!?!?!?!?
(Where is my adult to turn around and give a questioning look? I guess a therapist would say, it’s ME, I have to imagine looking back at myself, and seeing what feels right.)
I need to get ready for my appointment. Whenever I say that, let me be clear about what that entails: going to the bathroom, throwing on some work out clothes and grabbing a protein drink - all of which I do in less than 5 minutes.
It’s one of the main reasons I really love this haircut. I don’t do a damn thing to fix it and I LOVE THAT.
Ok I really need to go even though I still haven’t worked out what the hell I should do next. Or how I should use the little energy I have. Like I’ve said: the pairing of this brain with this body….ugh.
Happy teens make me happy. We discussed how they both seem happier since they’ve been outside so much and I reminded them that nature is so important. My outside walks boost my spirits like nothing else. I really need to find a way to get into nature during the winter.
For now, I am thinking about how I can honor my dad. I think stories will be my way for now. Let myself have some more time to mourn, and allow the next chapter to reveal itself. Always better that way. Whenever I try to chase it down, it slips out of my grasp.
It’s hard. To stand still. And let things come to me.
But it’s the only to authenticity - for the kids, and for myself.
Stand still and let the answers arrive on their own timeline.
Fucking Zen. That’s how I feel sometimes. I try to be Zen and then that punk rock side of me is like Bust the walls down! Find the answers in there, no there! No over there!
I can’t afford to be wasteful of any time, or ANY energy now that mine is so limited. I’m going to need people to help me work through this, and to also go inward.
It’s the only way.
I wish my dad would visit me in a dream. I’ve had only one. He was curled up on the black couch - not his usual beige one - and I asked my mom: is asleep or is he dead?
That’s all I remember.
Come visit me Dad! I miss you! Come be grumpy about the finger prints on the kitchen cupboards! Or that I let the oil get too low in the car! I don’t care! Just. Come. Back.
Funny what we end up missing.