Saturday, February 25, 2012

Purim Polish! "Costume" Your Nails! :)

So with Purim right around the corner, I thought I'd lighten the mood here at LadyMama ;)

This post is for all the Ladies and Mamas out there who don't plan on wearing a costume but want to get into the loud, zany and oh-so-colorful spirit of Purim! What better way than to spend some time Purim-izing your nails?! Below are some inspirations—some for the royal Purimite... and some for the more, how shall I say, over the top drunk Purimite.  Some of these look easy while others would take some serious motivation to pull off. If you end up using your nails to express your Purim spirit, send your photo to! 

P U R I M   P O L I S H !
"Costume" Your Nails :)

Source: via Mimi on Pinterest

Source: via Mimi on Pinterest

Source: via Mimi on Pinterest

Source: via Mimi on Pinterest

Source: via Mimi on Pinterest

Source: via Mimi on Pinterest

Source: via Mimi on Pinterest

Source: via Mimi on Pinterest

Source: via Mimi on Pinterest

Source: via Mimi on Pinterest

Source: via Mimi on Pinterest

Source: via Mimi on Pinterest

Source: via Mimi on Pinterest

Source: via Mimi on Pinterest

Source: via Mimi on Pinterest

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Oprah and Us: Something Found

"The world didn't see intellectual prowess and passion of 
an articulate kind. But they saw good."

Oprah and Us: Something Found 

This past week, I published my reaction to Oprah's episode on "America's Hidden Culture" featuring the lives of Chassidic (Chabad) families. I shared my strong disappointment and embarrassment from what I felt was the interviewees inarticulate, uneducated and blind-eyed portrayal of a Judaism that I deeply treasure as relevant for all mankind. I blamed the Chabad organization that was contacted to help for missing an enormous opportunity to enlighten the world.

Entitled "Oprah and Us: A Lost Opportunity," my article has had me inundated with comments and e-mails from people of all walks of life, many whom share my cringing reaction but also from those who feel that the episode indeed made the right impact. I have since had a chance to more calmly consider the deeper truth of this whole situation. I have searched for insights into both Oprah's and the general public reaction. I have looked within myself to wonder what so deeply bothered me. 

So, for all those that felt I was speaking for them in my unrest over this episode, I have more to say that can hopefully quiet our nerves and encourage a bit more mindfulness. 

I must admit that, for better or worse, I am an idealist when it comes to conveying the essence of my Judaism. Like many of my Jewish brothers and sisters who have spent time studying Judaism to make it purposeful and meaningful in our lives, I have jittery legs when it comes to giving secular Jews and the world at large a beautiful glance at our nation, our faith. While I would never attest to know it all, I certainly have made it a point in my life to have the answers to hot-button questions and know just how to reveal a nicely packaged Judaism that overflows with relevancy, intellect and inspiration. To me, Mikvah and our structure of marital intimacy is a blessing with inherent truths applicable to all mankind. To me, keeping modesty should be unavoidable to women everywhere because it is not about covering flesh but revealing our divinity and walking through life as a healthy and empowered woman. To me, my role as a wife and mother is neither a "basement" nor a "foundation," rather a force to be reckoned with

I have an itch for people to know the deeper reasons behind our seemingly archaic and whacky customs. I believe as strong and sturdy as a mountain that Judaism is relevant to every person of the world. But alas, I was not chosen to give my take, to share my fiery quest to unearth and spread Judaism's depth. Instead, the family approached was one of a more simple, gentle and quiet obedience to the same Judaism I passionately embrace. 

And yet, as much as my peers and I cringed and protested from seeing our Judaism, our Chabad, being explained from the mouths of those seemingly unprepared women—there is something undeniable about Oprah's reaction. The world's reaction. 

Our reaction as Jews who "know better" is warranted, but it's important (even just for our sanity) to take a look at how the world saw this episode. The same world who is seeing Orthodox men on TV hurl stones at women, the world who thinks Chassidic men are all abusers, the world who see Chassidic women as subservient — the world that sees us as pariahs of a cold, scared kind. This same world, who sees all our invented garbage and believes it, finally saw a warm, gentle, intimate and unafraid "Orthodox" Judaism. I've perused the reactions. In short it goes like this: "Wow, they seemed so kind" or "I didn't know this about Hasidic people" or "I wish I was raised like that" or even "I'm not scared of them anymore." Blog after blog, comment after comment, and Oprah-fan after Oprah-fan has affirmed my happily-discovered sense that, from this episode, the world saw good

They didn't see intellectual prowess and passion of an articulate kind. But they saw good

I know that Oprah did not leave Brooklyn having a deeper understanding of the relevancy of our obscure laws and customs. On one level, it can be considered a shame. But, ya know, Oprah came looking and indeed something was found. She found goodness. She found warmth. She found commitment. She saw the beauty on the faces of G-d's children who cling to his ways with a "stiff neck" and a gentle heart. She saw humble vibes instead of high horses; a friendliness that tossed away the world's impression of us as cold and uninterested. 

And most of all, she saw in "us" the ability to reach a "stranger"'s heart, despite our supposed insular and strange ways. Now that is something.  Apparently, you don't have to be cool, articulate, worldly or even all that passionate to inspire another to truth. Just one taste, one touch of authentic Judaism — no matter how much the presentation lacks — is enough to shake a false impression, pierce another's soul and embed more healthy curiosity into minds all over the world. That, my brothers and sisters, is the true strength of our people. That, my friends, makes me beam with pride. 

So, really, to the Ginsburghs I am thankful. Because however deep and true and relevant I feel my own Chassidic lens might be to Oprah and her viewers, I am indebted to you for showing the world we have a heart. A completely caught-off guard, simple, indistinct...yet totally beautiful Jewish heart. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Oprah and Us: A Lost Opportunity

Her experience "breaking bread" with the Ginsburghs revealed a family that not only does not represent 
a norm even among the most insular in our community, but worse, was only capable of portraying what 
they don't have—completely neglecting to focus on the vibrancy and active pride inherent in 
most Chasidic, and certainly Chabad, families. 


After much anticipation, many of us have finally been privy to Oprah's show on "America's Hidden Culture," featuring an up-close encounter with the lives of Chassidim in Brooklyn. When word got out that Oprah visited Crown Heights and Boro Park to film for this episode, most of us were thrilled that the world's most powerful woman—a woman praised for her incessent and genuine search for the truth—was going to show the world what we're about. 

I myself was glad that her producers had specifically contacted Chabad, for whom meddling with the media is nothing new. Surely, we would get this right. Finally, the world would see the brighter, deeper, more worldly side of Chassidic life.

But having now seen footage of the episode, I, like many of my peers, am still cringing. Instead of my Jewish brothers and sisters effectively communicating anything positive and relevant about Judaism, they completely, and rather inarticulately, verified and cemented every stereotype the public has already accepted about observant Jews. 

Oprah's questions about love and marriage were answered with insecure and scripted phrases on the Jewish view. Her genuine interest in the Mikvah experience was met with the completely misguided words such as "cleanse." Her experience "breaking bread" with the Ginsburghs revealed a family that not only does not represent a norm even among the most insular in our community, but worse, was only capable of portraying what they don't have—completely neglecting to focus on the vibrancy and active pride inherent in most Chasidic, and certainly Chabad, families. 

Had someone just cruised the internet for some basic information on Chassidic way of life, completely devoid of any inner meaning and modern relevence, they wouldn't need to watch Oprah. Which is a crime, being that Oprah is celebrated as a human explorer with an uncanny ability to reveal the truth behind...well, everything. Apparently, we lost the opportunity to show the world what's truly meaningful about the way we live—why it's healthy, why it matters, why you should care.

I feel embarrassed. The entire world is talking about Orthodox Jews these days. And not in praise. How is it that, amidst that, Oprah—OPRAH!—contacted Chabad and we allowed Chassidic Judaism to be portrayed as an archaic, out of touch and blind-eyed community? Were Shluchim not contacted? What about the Chassidic role models in our community? Everyone knows that Oprah reached out to to aid in the episode. Perhaps had they expired every option to give Oprah educated and articulate women (of which we have a plethora!), Oprah would know why Jewish intimacy is a model for the world, instead of a whacky unexplainable custom. Perhaps she would have been moved by Judaism's compassionate view on homosexuals in our community, instead of seeing the clear denial of Jewish mothers (my response to Oprah coming soon). Perhaps she would have gleened insight into why and how women are the true champions, instead of catch-phrases that are easily mocked and taken apart. Had Oprah's visit been viewed as a tremendous once-in-a-lifetime chance to share our beautful truths, perhaps she would have walked away compltely floored at how the Chassidic mission of living and teaching a life where everything is infused with the divine can offer something for every human-being today. 

We are not the no-phones, no-dating, no-television Jews. We are not the "no" Chassidim. We are the "Yes!" Jews, saying yes to technology, yes to passion, yes to the divine world that G-d created just for us. And you know what, Oprah? What's so unique and unknown about us is that we embrace it all in a healthy, wholesome and utterly divine way that is—guess what!— one hundred percent relevent to every human being today. 

Had Oprah interviewed a strictly Mormon family, she would have walked away with the same impression: beautiful emphasis on family, living with G-d, no reliance on technology...and, oh, the values! Oprah walked away with a "realization" that the world over already knows we've spearheaded—Jews are values. She certainly already learned that much from her many interviews with Shmuely Boteach. Nothing new here. 

If Oprah was looking to uncover a mysterious and insular sec of Judaism, should have opted out. Period. And how awful that some amongst us agreed to give her access but couldn't uphold a respectable representation. 

How sad that Oprah encountered a Jewish community that has everything relevent to share with people of the world, and, for some reason, they couldn't give her the gift of truth, inspiration and meaning she has dedicated her life to pursue. We're sorry, Oprah. You looked in the right direction, but apparently we were too busy not looking at our phones and not touching our spouses to truly give a hoot. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Why I Don't Have a "Hubby"

It's as if saying "husband" would hold us to a higher duty that we just, well...can't live up to. 

Why I Don't Have A "Hubby"
By Mimi Hecht 

So, what exactly is a "Hubby?"

Is it a shorter husband? A chubbier, plumper husband? Is it an extremely cute husband? Is it a pet named after your husband?

I remember being taken aback when this abbreviation for "husband" emerged from the mouths of friends and was found splattered all over peoples' Facebook statuses. Watching the new lingo take on many forms—"Hubs," "Hubster" and so on—only deepened my alarm. I wondered, why isn't anyone calling this out?  Is no one else concerned? Why couldn't women call their spouses by their honorable title? What is this need to "cutesify" and shorten the appropriate title for an esteemed role? Why are women increasingly unable to say "husband" when this noble position is so central to their lives?

Potentially worse than "Hubby" or "Hubster" is the acronym "DH." "DH" stands for "Dear Husband" and is officially a part of the Urban Dictionary. When I first saw it going around, it took me a second to decipher. I refused to believe woman had resorted to referring to their husbands with two letters. But more telling is the way this acronym gets used. In my Facebook feed alone, I see at least one daily post from friends who are actually belittling and embarrassing their husband, yet refer to him by "DH."

In case you haven't seen these, here are some examples that reflect actual FB updates.

"DH said he would do the dishes. It's now 9:00 and he's passed out on the couch. Did he think I meant tomorrow?" or "My DH says he wants a Xbox for his birthday, but I can't bring myself to support such a habit! What would you do?"

Or from the blogger at "I know for a FACT that DH has seen what garbage cans look like, knows what their purpose is, and knows the general locations of said garbage cans in our house.  But for whatever reason, he doesn't seem to get the concept of actually USING them."

In all these examples, the wife is using "dear" as a way of excusing the belittling that follows. Like as if saying "DH" makes it okay or proves she loves him anyway. And even when the "DH" is referenced in a positive light, it's still insulting. Like, "DH bought me a diamond bangle for our anniversary! He's the best!" The wife is praising her husband, yet he doesn't deserve a respectable mention?

I couldn't see this as something inconsequential. The trend was picking up and, the more I thought about it, the more clearly I saw how it represented a bigger ill in the way we're treating our marriages.

Women today have this attitude that they are allowed to reference their husbands casually when sharing, complaining and relating. Made possible by the myriads of mom-groups and other public social outlets, this sense of entitlement is dangerous. For many women, it seems that sharing a new common term strengthens the camaraderie and opens the gates for them to let it all out. Saying "Hubby" of "DH" seems to give wives license to kvetch and publicize and overall disrespect—albeit often subtly—their spouse.

Perhaps more damaging is using "Hubby" of "DH" for the cutesy factor. I've had friends tell me they think it's sweet, endearing. But, for real people? Not only are you completely making a joke of something real, but you're using the same word that thousands of other women also use to refer to their husbands. How personal and meaningful can it really be? Moreover, what's with this need to be cutesy? Has our focus on publisizing our lives completely eroded the confidence in our marriages, to the point that we actually think saying "husband" is boring, dry...not good enough? And is this need to be "cutesy"not all too often a display of connection and confidence that may not actually exist behind the curtain? Sure, these are vast claims that surely don't apply to every "user," but its certainly something to think about.

It's as if saying "husband" would hold us to a higher duty that we just, well...can't live up to.

What well-intended woman with a dose of sensitivity can't admit that saying "Hubby" or "DH" (and certainly its usage) is making a mockery of something that demands all our sensitivity and reverence?

I mean, honestly, I would like to meet the woman that enjoys her husband calling her "wifey."

If we truly honored the divine nature of our marital unions, our sensitivity and focus wouldn't be something reserved for the bedroom. It would be reflected in all our gestures, actions—and certainly in our speech.

In fact, perhaps it begins with speech.

When I was twenty, I asked Manis Friedman how I can tell if a man, a potential suitor, truly honors and respects marriage. He answered simply, "It's in the way he talks." Does he say things like "his woman" when referring to someone's wife? Does he laugh at marriage jokes? Propagate stereotypes? In essence, Rabbi Friedman was telling me that if someone is casual about marriage in the way they talk, in the way they actually reference marriage, then it's likely that they lack the appropriate awe and reverence it requires.

As a writer, I couldn't agree more. I am sensitive to how words not only communicate a concept but actually contribute to a state of mind. I beseech women everywhere to consider the effects of their language when speaking of their husbands. It's the difference between respect and belittling; between casualness and importance; essentially between care and disregard.

On the eve of Valentines Day, when the world celebrates "love" with roses and chocolates, let's bring back the respect. With marriage getting bashed and humiliated at every turn today, it's all the more critical for us to be committed to its preservation. We can turn back the hand, starting with our speech. Call your husband what he is. Use his name. Have a little respect for a relationship that is more important than your pet. Start building up your marriage and the sanctity within it, right down to your words. Because if we don't start there, if we allow our very speech to minimize our spouse, how can we possibly say we're giving our marriage all that we've got?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Thought to Light By February 3rd 2012

This week's candle-lighting meditation. I write them every week for FridayLight

If you're human, chances are you've had a run in with jealousy. Maybe you're even challenged with it every day. Thankfully, we have Shabbat as a time to try and relish all that we have. Whether it's some peace and quiet, the company of family and friends or even just the roof over our heads, Shabbat says "The glass is half full." Light your candles and actually verbalize that you are happy and thankful for the lot you've been given. Jealousy is human, but sparking a flame is a wonderful chance to rise above. And oh, how good it feels!