Posted by Mihal Levy
Once in a while my son will stump me with a question that I don’t have answers to or don’t quite know how to answer. It usually can be resolved by a quick Google search, trip to the library or strategic distraction (which is usually not that difficult when you are dealing with a four year old), but this time it was different.
I was getting my son ready for bed. Pajamas? Check. Teeth brushed? Check. I had just promised him that he could watch the last few minutes of one his favorite shows before he went to sleep. Just as I was brushing his hair, he stumped me. Out of the blue.
He asked, “What happened to my Saba (Grandpa)? What happened to your daddy?” (Who had died long before my son was born.) I decided to answer with just the facts and nothing more. My voice trembled, I was taken aback. We had never spoken about what had happened or even the concept of death. Just the fact that he was “gone.”
“My dad is gone,” I answered with tears in my eyes.
“Did he die?” Again, I was shocked. We never talked about death. I always avoided the discussion, until now. But I answered.
“Yes, he did,” I said.
“So, he is dead?” my son asked.
“Yes, he is dead. And he is watching over us.”
“How did he die, Mommy? Was he sick?”
“Yes, he was very sick.”
“And no doctors could help him?” he asked.
“No, no doctors could help him.” Then he continued.
“I would love him, Mommy. I would want to play with him.”
“He would love you too. He loved you before you were born. I am sorry he can’t play with you.”
“Can we watch Netflix now?”
I stepped into the other room as my son watched the end of another episode of Diego and cried. My father had always wanted a grandson. He was like the father from My Big Fat Greek Wedding - “Get married, make babies,” he’d say, just without the “you look so old” part. He talked about all the places he would take my son; it is as if he knew I would have a son. He spoke of soccer days and park days, but never got the chance to meet his grandson. How do I explain this to a four year old? How do I explain losing the ones that we loved the most? How do I explain that his grandfather loved him even before he was born? How do I explain that he would have been an incredible grandfather that now he will never know? Long after my son fell asleep, I was still up. I was up thinking about our conversation and my son’s curiosity. I couldn’t get it out of my mind.
I should have turned on Netflix.
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September 7, 2010 | 11:00 am
Posted by Mihal Levy
September marks the new year for the Jews and double for me since it is also my birthday. But September really should mark a new year for everyone, don’t you think?
Literally when September 1st hits, there is something in the air. A feeling that things are beginning to slow down a bit. The weather changes as if on cue, leaves start falling and the days already seem shorter. Children return to school, vacations come to an end. Everyone just seems to be transitioning in one way or another. September marks a change. A change in the weather, atmosphere and ourselves in general. A time when we begin to become a bit more introspective and introverted. And Judaisim has it down, the mark of a new year - a new beginning.
What is so different about the secular new year? What is so different from December 31st to January 1st? The weather is usually the same. Everyone is still on vacation. And everyone must come up with resolutions to fill when they are still in the midst of winter gloom.
So, with the falling of the first leaves and the cool breezes amidst the declining summer heat, let us take the time to celebrate the change around us and within ourselves as well. Happy New Year to everyone! Shana Tova! (Whether you celebrate Rosh Hashanah or not.) And happy birthday to me - yet another change for me - another year older and perhaps even wiser. Perhaps…
September 1, 2010 | 11:30 am
Posted by Mihal Levy
Imagine waking up in a wading pool that is ankle-deep in your own bedroom. Then, finding out that the water you are stepping in is sewage. This is what I had to deal with almost two weeks ago, and the ordeal is still far from over.
I didn’t even have fair warning to grab two of everything and pack up my ark. (Doesn’t everyone have an emergency ark for times like these?) Honestly, I did have some warning at my husband’s expense, since he was the first one to get up out of our bed and step into the wading pool that used to be our carpeted bedroom floor. As he hobbled across our room to find dry land (or carpet, rather) and figure out what possibly could have happened (not knowing at the time he was stepping in sewage), I was planning my escape off the bed and out the bedroom door to check on my son in the next room. Thankfully, the wading pool had stopped at the entrance to his bedroom. He was safe, dry and sound asleep.
My husband and I laid towels over our carpet to step on, like cobblestones across a pond. Not a great idea. The towels were instantly drenched. Apparently, a sewage pipe had burst into our master bathroom, covering our entire bedroom and closet and making its way down the hallway toward the rest of the house. This all happened while we were sleeping, which wasn’t very long. I specifically remember going to bed in the wee hours of the morning trying to get things ready for my brother, who notified us the day before that he would be coming out with his family for a few days from back east. I had set the alarm early to pick him up from the airport, so the ordeal happened in less than three hours.
I left my son and husband at home to deal with the flood (not knowing at the time that it was sewage, or the extent of damage) and went to pick up my brother at LAX.
Needless to say, later that day the smell came through and my brother bought a return flight home (a sewage flood was probably not on his itinerary for a sunny Cali vacation). We shuffled all day between a local hotel and our drenched, foul-smelling home, dealing with the damage.
In less than twenty-four hours a flood came and went, as did my brother. Our belongings were packed and raised off the floor; a sanitation team came out, as well as a carpet cleaner and plumber. Our home felt like Grand Central Station, but looked and smelled more like a crack house.
The next day it was decided that all the carpeting was to be redone and could not be saved from the flood o’ feces. (Well, duh.) I was relieved, until I found out just how much work lay ahead of us. We had just a few hours to pack up all of our belongings and remove all the furniture from our home. We (with help) dragged all our furniture outside (yes, outside) as new carpet was installed. Later that night, after all of the new carpet had been laid, our furniture and belongings were brought in and stacked all over the place.
It has since taken me all this time to “unpack” (funny, because I am still in the same place) and recover. All has been put back into place except for our bedroom, which looks like a giant storage unit. Since most of our furniture was covered in, well…feces, we threw it out. So now we are sleeping on our mattress on the floor with books and clothes piled up around us. A trip to Ikea is due, but who has the energy after this endless ordeal.
The flood was a reminder that everything is temporary and can be gone without warning. Why do we spend so much time complaining or wishing instead of appreciating what we have?
Ironically, a few days before the feces flood, I wished for something. I told my husband that I wished we were able to get new carpet, since ours looked awful. (Okay, awful may have been a little harsh.) I learned my lesson…be careful what you wish for, because you might just get it…in a way that you least expected, and with much hassle. Had I known, I would have settled for our old carpet.
And just when I thought it was all over, an inspection today revealed the need to redo the dry wall in our master bathroom and closet due to water damage (a.k.a. sewage damage), which will take place this Friday right before Shabbat and a long, supposedly relaxing, Labor Day weekend. Wish me luck – I hope this is the end. (On second thought - no more “wishing.”)
August 30, 2010 | 11:00 am
Posted by Mihal Levy
This past weekend, I attended the Edvant Expo (an education expo) at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Much like the education system in our country, the Expo was a flop.
From the empty parking lot to the echoing of my footsteps through the vacant convention center, I should have known to turn around and go home, but curiosity kept me trekking forward.
I finally reached an area with a check-in booth and walked up to the “media check in” attendant, who was busy conversing with a friend. (Note to attendant: when you are working the media booth, you probably want to be nicer to the press personnel checking in, since you most likely will end up in their story.) The attendant asked three times if I was sure I was press. I told her I was sure that I was press. She checked her list while I dangled my identification in front of her. Finally, she found my badge and slammed it down on the counter with a “Here!” and continued conversing with her friend. What? No swag? No reusable shopping bag? I could handle the unwelcoming attendant, but not the lack of swag. I kindly asked her to point me in the direction of the expo. She smacked her lips. “Um, behind you,” she said, condescendingly.
What was behind me surely did not resemble an expo of any sort, but more of a low budget Purim carnival at a small synagogue, with “dentist-office-treasure-box” type prizes that end up broken or in the trash long before you even make it back home. But there were no pony rides or face painting booths in sight from what I could tell as I entered.
I headed inside Hall G of the L.A. Convention Center, which was the size of a large school gym with only a few booths near the front. There were less than a dozen people walking around in circles, perhaps trying to see if there was anything they could get out of the ten dollars they threw away at the entrance to get in.
It was as if our education system was staring me in the face. Can anyone say, “Lack of funding or care?” “Budget cuts?” There were a total of approximately ten booths, perhaps twenty at most, but who was counting? I was too busy thinking about how I would spend the rest of my day now that I had blocked out a chunk of time to use here. Sadly overrated.
There were four “booths” worth mentioning, however. The first booth I came across on my way in was Whole Foods. Whole Foods has never failed me yet. They have been at almost every convention I have gone to thus far (maybe I just choose the conventions with natural foods). They were giving away bananas and had a bicycle hooked up to power a blender to make smoothies, which would have been a great idea if there were actually people there to see it. Further in there was someone under a “Radio Disney” sign leading a few children in a “Hokey Pokey” type dance within hula hoops. This was probably more music education the few kids were getting here than they did in their own schools (if they were part of LAUSD, of course). Then there was the Los Angeles Zoo (with animals taken out of their natural habitats and caged in for our delight. I don’t know how I feel about that one, but we will leave that for another article). The last booth that stood out for me stood out not because it was a great idea, but because I wondered what they were thinking. “A1 Traffic School.” Was that what they meant by education? Educating teens and adults about getting out of traffic tickets?
The booths were random and I was disappointed. I expected educational resources, materials, books, games, supplies, teachers, speakers and lecturers. I was expecting McGraw-Hill. I am always expecting more from education and wind up disappointed.
I am an LAUSD survivor myself. During the time I attended, however, music scholarships were just as important as football ones. Classes were not overcrowded, however teachers were still overworked, underpaid and bitter. There were budget cuts that required that my high school P.E. coach be my Social Studies teacher and Drivers Ed teacher as well. (All in the comfort of her too-tight around the waist sweats and yellow pit-stained tees she must have had since she was in high school herself.) Still…things were a little better. Despite my LAUSD education, I went on to receive my Masters degree and teach. I became further disappointed with the limitations set upon teachers by the system and the poor quality of education. My younger cousins in Israel were learning things in high school that were not yet offered to me until my college years, go figure.
The expo was just a reminder of how poor the state of education is in our country. It is true that “No child is left behind,” but no child is able to advance, either. Mediocrity rules our schools. Expos? Our nation?
The expo was not all bad, however. It did reaffirm my decision to home school my own son. There are many opportunities to learn, just not through our education system or at our education expos, but through our own volition.
August 10, 2010 | 10:59 am
Posted by Mihal Levy
Prop 8 was overturned last week in California and was deemed “unconstitutional.” (It took an appeal process to realize this? Common sense from the get-go told us that it was unconstitutional since “all men are created equal,” right? Women, that’s another story.) I do believe, however, that there are still some people that shouldn’t be allowed to marry. I realized this as I was sitting at a bar a few nights ago in L.A.
There I was, sipping my ice water. (I don’t drink. Not because of some religious practice or lifelong AA affiliation, but simply because I don’t find a reason to. I drink when I am thirsty and that usually merits water. However, liquor-filled chocolates, that’s another story). I also usually don’t hang out at bars, by myself especially, but tonight was an exception.
My husband (a professional musician) was playing at this particular club in Lala land tonight. (It’s always painful to watch him play, and that has nothing to do with his music, and everything to do wth the bar scene.) So there I was, taking in the music and the lovely surroundings.
Single women (and myself) were sitting at the bar as men were casually lurking like wolves ready to attack their prey on the outer edges. (It reminded me of a bad high school dance, where girls were waiting to be asked to dance. I never attended those anyway…) And there I was, a married woman, with my husband less than ten feet away right in the middle of the singles scene. Since I was extremely uncomfortable, especially after answering a few “Do you come here often?” lines with “only when my husband’s playing, like tonight” comebacks, I decided to befriend a woman sitting next to me.
She was attractive and appeared confident and a little bored, so I started up a conversation with her. She said she was meeting up with someone and was really excited. I told her I was there to watch my husband play. We both agreed we felt like fish out of water.
She excused herself and stepped away to “freshen up” before her date arrived. Just then, a familiar face showed up. I was thrilled. One of my friends, whom both my husband and I knew well appeared. He was a family man and we spent a lot of time with him, his wife and lovely family. I was happy to see a familiar face.
Enter Bar Girl back and “freshened up,” as she greeted my “friend.” Apparently he was the “someone” she was meeting up with and excited to see. What a small world, I thought. Then as quickly as he had come in, he explained that he had to leave…with Bar Girl close behind.
They left the bar separately, but together, and then it dawned on me. (I am a tad slow with these things and frankly, naïve.) I felt my heart sink. Ok, now I needed that drink.
What could a married man and a single girl possibly have to do together at this hour? Where could they possibly be headed at almost midnight together? Perhaps to run late night errands? Xerox copying? I tried to give them the benefit of the doubt. I didn’t want to know, but I couldn’t stop thinking about them for the rest of night.
All I kept thinking about was his wife at home with their children waiting and trusting her husband, who was out to “support” a friend (supposedly my husband, not bar girl). I also could not stop thinking about the girl at the bar, who seemed intelligent, confident and beautiful. Is that all she wanted – a quick “meet up” now and again with a man who was clearly unavailable? Was it more exciting that way? Did she have hopes he would eventually leave his wife for her? Was she insecure? Lacking respect for herself? Or did she just always settle for “good enough?”
What was Mr. Suave missing at home? Why was he even married? There is no point in vowing to spend the rest of your life with someone if you don’t want to. There is no need to ever get married, if you are “not the type.” So, what is it that brings people to cheat, instead of just leaving? Isn’t it better to just walk away than live a lie?
In their defense, I do not know where they left together and wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt, but the writing was on the wall. After all, cheating is getting something elsewhere that you do not get with your spouse, even if it is just hanging out at midnight together..
Marriage is a beautiful thing when you find love and share your life with that one person always, but when it is no longer or never was about love and honesty, there is no reason to get married or stay married.
I think Beyonce was wrong when she said, “If you liked it you should have put a ring on it.” Marriage is not always the answer or the right choice for some, however it is good to know that we all now have that choice in California (regardless of sexual orientation). Whether or not some abuse that privilege is another story and unfortunate.
And to my “friend,” I dread having another get together with your family and mine, because I couldn’t bear looking at your wife with a straight face. Have I also mentioned that I hate Beyonce’s song? (I always have. I am not a Beyonce fan to begin with. Sorry Beyonce, nothing personal.)
Sometimes marriage is the wrong decision. Maybe there should be another unconstitutional proposition banning marriage from those that are the “non-marrying type” from ever getting married, gay or straight. It would bring an end to bar girls waiting around late at night for quick “meet ups” and stop girls who otherwise would never drink to start drinking. Just a thought.
August 9, 2010 | 2:25 pm
Posted by Mihal Levy
A bakery refused to print a child’s name on his birthday cake over a year ago, bringing attention to the Campbell family of New Jersey. The boy’s name - Adolf Hitler (Campbell). Not only did little Adolf not receive his personalized birthday cake, but was court-ordered to be removed from his home along with his sisters: Joyce Lynn Aryan Nation Campbell and Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie Campbell. And now, a year later, little Adolf will not be going home still.
According to JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) New Jersey’s appeals court ruled against Adolf’s parents for custody of their children. The cake incident brought attention to the Nazi-inspired family, but removal was based on evidence of child abuse and neglect according to the Associated Press.
The parent’s “subtle” naming of their children will have life-long effects on the innocent trio. Only this Adolf is a cute toddler, who will most likely grow up to be hated (by most). Hopefully the childrens’ names are changed soon, they get the little boy some cake, and place the siblings in a good home. Is Mel Gibson looking to adopt?
August 6, 2010 | 11:00 am
Posted by Mihal Levy
A few weeks ago, I got one step closer to being/working on Glee. (Ok, maybe not, but one can hope.) I was a guest at Paley Fest’s “Inside The Writer’s Room” with Glee, only I wish I was actually sitting inside the writer’s room as a writer or on the show singing, or both, but I was happy to be there nonetheless.
The event took place at the Writer’s Guild Theatre in Los Angeles and was filled with guests (me), press (me) and fans (me). (Do I get extra points for fitting into all three categories?) I had the opportunity to meet Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan. Now I can say I officially have almost met the entire cast and production team of Glee. (You would think that would land me a position on the show…or not.)
The night was filled with lots of Glee highlights and inside the mind of the writers with lots of mingling afterwards, but looking back in retrospect there are probably a few thing I should’ve done differently that night:
For starters, I probably should’ve stopped smiling so much. Perhaps I looked a bit overeager to work on Glee. Maybe I even seemed stalker-esque when I practically sat on Ryan Murphy’s lap choosing the closest seat to him. It was also probably not a great idea to take notes on my iPhone, giving the impression that I was updating my Facebook status every twenty seconds like most of the fans that were just happy to be there. For one, I don’t even have a Facebook account - I just ran out of room on the small notepad I was using.
And lastly, the biggest thing I regret is not having talked to Brad and Ian as we waited outside the elevator in the parking lot afterward. I tried, but couldn’t quite put a coherent phrase together in my mind - “I want to write for you.” “I want to write for Glee.” “I need to write for Glee.” “I can also sing…” - it was too late. Before I could get my thoughts together, the elevator doors opened. They were still standing outside chatting. I had to get in otherwise I would truly look like a stalker at this point.
“Have a good night,” was all I was able to mutter as I jumped in. I don’t know if they said anything as the doors slid shut. But you know what they say…where one door closes…
July 29, 2010 | 11:00 am
Posted by Mihal Levy
It’s all about perspective if you really think about it. About what? About everything. That’s how I am trying to live my life, by changing my perspective on things and the interactions I have daily.
Watching the traffic on the 405 freeway from an airplane makes it look like nothing but toy cars lined up in a row with shiny red tail lights. I started thinking that maybe if I started looking at people from a bird’s eye view or airplane they would look like a mere row of marching ants and I wouldn’t have to take the people that take themselves so seriously…well, so darn seriously.
I put my new plan into action and it truly worked. It really does make a difference when you try to see something from another angle. I put it to work at a recent playgroup play date.
There we were five or so mothers and our children - mostly boys and one girl that stood out in particular. There she was, all of three or four years old, in a peach colored ruffled dress with polka dots, ruffled peach matching socks, shiny white Mary Janes and two pigtails filled with golden locks tied in matching peach ribbons and an evil smile. The moms oohed and ahhed as the little girl entered the room. “She’s precious,” they said, almost in unison, ignoring the other boys who were crying, as Princess Peach snatched their toys and hid them behind her back, still smiling at the cooing moms. If I had to put my dusty old psychotherapist hat on, I would say little Peach was striving for her mommy’s attention, while Mommy was clearly too involved in her self-aggrandizing monologue and her cup of tea to notice the pigtails flailing by her in a race to steal all the toys.
Instead of getting upset, I simply changed my perspective. Perhaps Peach’s mom had had a long day with not enough time to stop by Starbucks for her Chai and simply had to get her caffeine fix before she could discipline her daughter. And perhaps Princess Peach was doing everyone a service by teaching the boys a life lesson early on: in the end, the one with the most toys DOES win and it doesn’t matter how the toys are acquired. They would have to learn soon enough. And all of a sudden, I was no longer furious, but felt a sense of calm I didn’t know I even had.
I will remember this at our next play date with Princess Peach. If one or all of the boys decide to fight back, Princess Peach and her Mommy will learn their lesson as well: b****es don’t always win.
I’m just sayin’...