The LULAX is Official!

WE DID IT!

The LULAX

We got hitched went on a fabulous honeymoon in the city of sin and now we’re trying to get back on track with “normal” life. The wedding was absolutely everything we had hoped for. It was definitely worth all of the hard work that went into it from everyone involved. This event challenged Alx and I to analyze, digest, and ultimately accept whole heartedly the differences between us much deeper than we ever had before.

It gave us the opportunity to truly understand each others beliefs as well as incorporate each others’ as our own in our own way. Our Rabbi was key in this process. We couldn’t have done it without her. She taught us how to appreciate the small things in each other and it was those small things that got us through the stress and anxiety of not only the planning of the wedding but especially the planning of the interfaith aspects of the wedding.

The day was absolutely gorgeous and a miracle in itself. It rained for weeks before and for weeks after but on our wedding weekend it was clear skies and in the high 70s to low 80s the entire time! The garden setting was stunning and the semi-circle arrangement of chairs around our huppah made us feel completely enclosed in a circle of love with our friends and family.

Huppah and Chairs

Our ketuba sculpture that I’ve lovingly named Beetlejuice Bonzai was perfect and filled with blessings when we took it home. Alx and I will have the honor of reading them on our first anniversary. In the mean while, we enjoy looking at all of our guests initials as witnesses that are signed on each beaded leaf that dangles from our tree. Within its hollow trunk lies our written ketuba with our signatures along with our Rabbi’s.

For the wine blessings we drank from a beautiful handmade silver kiddish cup straight from Israel. This was special for Alx to have that connection and what can I say, I got a really cool cup out of the deal! All kidding aside, I am proud to have such a wonderful kiddish cup that we can pass down through our family to maybe even be used at our children’s weddings.

LULAX Ketuba

The ceremony was flawless. It embodied so many of the things that Alx and I hold precious separately and as a couple. We were surrounded by our friends and family on a gorgeous Spring day. The ceremony was happy, relaxed and full of humor…Alx cried, I laughed. One of my most favorite moments was the Seven Blessings. Rabbi Berman said the tradition ones in Hebrew and they were accompanied by seven of our friends’ and families’ blessings. These modern blessings were in haiku form as a nod to my Japanese roots. It was perfect. They were heart felt, gave advice, cherished the moment, and of course had humor.

  Weeping Alx

Our wedding was completely filled with little surprises that made it very LULAX. From the handmade favors by each member of our wedding party that fully expessed them as individuals and why we love them to the hand painted cake toppers that my Maid of Honor designed for us.

  Cake Toppers

Most importantly, our wedding was about family, our family. Our son, Raiden, was included in every aspect of the ceremony. He walked the aisle with us. He stood with us under the huppah adding his own rendition of the Rabbi’s words at various points. He cut the cake with us and he party like it was 1999 with us.

  Cake Cutting

He is the reason we tied the knot. Raiden is the embodiment of everything good that Alx and I could give to this world and in the spirit of that, we made it official. Cheers to you Rai guy. Way to make the love go ’round.

  The Rai Guy

I Have Warm Feet

I can’t believe that I am sitting here writing my last blog post before the big day.  We’ve hit the final countdown and I’m reminded of it as the weather forecast moves from the 10 day into the 5 day.  5 days until the wedding!

I’m set to leave on my big Mikvah trip in a few hours.  Well.  Ok.  Bachelor party.  I’ve just decided to see my upcoming three day adventure as a way to cleanse myself of any feelings of anxiety or stress.  I am going to use my time-with-the-boys to ground myself and walk down the isle with a clean mind and spirit.  I don’t think that I can think of anything more comforting than spending time with people whom I would trust with anything.  They have always been there for me, since we were kids, and will continue to be there for me no matter what happens.  They are the people that I am most comfortable around and I’m happy to have them put me in the mind frame to push me out of this liminal space and into married life

We have so much going on that my whole body is spinning (not just my head anymore!) Although the plans are shaping up, I can’t forget that there is always going to be more to do.

The benefit to being us is that we don’t stress too easily.  This is one of those times where we both understand that if it gets done, great.  If not, we will still have the best day ever.

I will be totally ready.

I’m excited to start this adventure, and honored to be a part of Lula’s life.  I’m just so glad that it’s her.

Let’s just say, I have warm feet.

-Alx

The Final Countdown

Eleven days to go!

All of the details are starting to fall into place and it’s actually looking like we’re going to pull this wedding off. We’ve done so much work and there is still some to do. Clean the house, meet with the caterer, get the stuff to the venue…my gosh, it’s like running a marathon. Just when you think your cool for the home stretch, you come up against “the wall” gasping for breath with stabbing pains in your ribs. Well, it’s not quite that dramatic but you get the picture.

I’ve run into a little bit of a hurdle in our home stretch. Traditionally in a Jewish wedding vows are not said like in the movies when the blushing bride and groom look into each others’ eyes and proclaim their love before saying “I do”. The ketuba pretty much serves as the vows. Alx and I decided to go with reading the ketubah out loud before signing it to serve as us saying our vows. We wrote it together and it’s beautiful; however, we felt that something needed to be said when we exchange our rings. Maybe I’ve watched too many romantic comedies but whatever the reason I just couldn’t exchange the rings without saying something.

Herein lies the hurdle. What the hell am I supposed to say? Don’t get me wrong, I love the guy with all of my heart but how do you express that in a few sentences without sounding like it came straight from a cheesy romance novel? On top of that, there’s no “do you take this man/woman” stuff to fluff-out any literary shortcomings that my proclamation might have.

The real kicker is that I always bounce my writing off of Alx before putting it out into the great wide open but we decided it would be sweet to not know what each other is going to say. Damn, I didn’t think that one through.

So, I figured I’d hit-up the next best thing and ask you all what you think. Did you say something to your significant other? Is there something someone has said to you that you’d like to share?

In other words, HELP! My wedding is in eleven days and I’m supposed to say something earth shattering to the man I love and frankly, my mind is so bogged down with random details about everything else in life right now that I just can’t get it out. Your insight will be much appreciated. I look forward to being inspired.

Making the Grade

 

So we got our marriage license today.  May 7th.  Exactly one month from the wedding.

How nutty is that?

One month.

Our list keeps getting smaller but for some reason it feel like it never ends.  When I worked in the bookstore it felt like no matter how often I alphabetized the stacks or cleaned up the kids section, it would never be done.  The next day I would have to start all over again.  You know.  Like homework.  Well.  That’s kind of what it’s like planning for a wedding.  You turn a corner and boom.  Double boom.  Two more corners to turn.

 long-list.jpg

I hated homework.  In high school it was a chore.  In college it was busy work.  Now.  Homework separates us from our wedding day.

We meet again with Rabbi Berman in a few days and I haven’t even looked at the list of things that we are supposed to have prepared. (She’s reading this now and thinking about how interesting our conversation will be when I tell her that we did it all last minute—Hi Rabbi Berman.)

And we’re talking important stuff here.

Since Lu and I just outright refuse to take things at face value it means that we will be crafting our own 7 blessings.  We will be writing the Kettubah.  We will be tweaking the language and we will be happy with it.  But, man.  There’s a lot to do!

So as I sit here knowing full well that the next month is going to be a rough ride I can’t help but think that I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The other night Lu and I talked about how it would be if I were marrying a Jew.  Well.  I probably would just take it all at face value.  Jew to Jew means that you can kind of roll with the punches and take the easy route.  I could take what was handed to me and just let it be the Jewish wedding that has happened for centuries.  The fact that we are trying so hard to make sure that there is meaning in it for both of us makes it that much more awesome.  I’m proud of what we are doing.  We are taking a Jewish ceremony and making it have meaning for me, Jewishly and non Jewishly, and crafting the ceremony that Lu has always wanted.

Granted, we could never do this without the wonderful guidance of our Rabbi and community.

It’s a wonderful ride and I have every expectation that we will get an A+.

-Alx

And the Real Work Begins

Our wedding is right around the corner. We’ve done the leg work: the venue, the DJ, the invites, the catering, our attire, and on and on the list goes. Here I’m thinking that all the hard work is done so now we just kick back and work out some little details. Whew, was I wrong! The real work has just begun.

I’m talking about the nitty gritty details of the actual ceremony. Being a non-Jew, I just had absolutely no idea what kind of intensity goes into the structuring of a Jewish ceremony. Yeah, I knew there would be ritual but my gosh. There is so much history behind each and every aspect of the ceremony. It makes my head spin trying to sort it all out. Thank goodness that our Rabbi is as awesome as she is or we’d be completely lost.

Here in lies the thick of it. Because Alx and I come from such different backgrounds and various other reasons, we have chosen to dissect every piece of the ceremony to make sure that each element that we choose to include has meaning for both of us. Well in order to do that, we have to understand the reason as to why the specific ritual is done in the first place. That’s where our Rabbi comes in and a handy little guide by Anita Diamant called The New Jewish Wedding. They both really break-it-down in an efficient, effective way.

So far, we’ve decided to include: the chuppah, the badeken, the ketuba, the giving of the rings, the seven blessings, the breaking of the glass, and the yichud.

The chuppah, or canopy, was an easy call. It symbolizes the home that the new couple will build together. We both thought this was a nice sentiment and it also adds a beautiful visual element to the ceremony especially since we’re having it outdoors.

We were a little wishy-washy on the badeken for a while but decided to include it in a more modern way. I’m not wearing a veil because really I just don’t do veils. It also isn’t happening before the ceremony. We decided to have a public private moment. It’s going to happen when we first enter the chuppah. Basically, we are going to have a moment of silence with our Rabbi and each other to take a breath and center ourselves.

One of the harder decisions for me was the ketuba. Long story short, I wasn’t jazzed about officially getting married in any sense because I really don’t need a piece of paper from the government or anyone else stating who I love. So on that line of thinking, why would I need or want a ketuba? In steps the genius of our Rabbi. She pointed out that if I thought about the ketuba simply as a piece of paper stating that we were married I wasn’t giving it the chance to be all that it could be. Our Rabbi challenged us to think of the ketuba as something we could mold to represent who we are and what our relationship means to us. We really went outside the box on this one but you’d have to read my other post, It Lives, to get the skinny on that.

The giving of the rings was a no-brainer. Come on, what girl doesn’t want to get a lovely bit of bling? Materialism aside, this held meaning for both of us. I can’t speak for Alx but I’ve always associated being married with wearing rings. I guess, for me, it’s a way of publicly showing my commitment to my relationship without having to say a word. Not that I need to do that but it’s also a little piece of Alx that I carry around with me wherever I go. Well, you know, besides our son.

We’re going to do the seven blessings because well, why not? Who wouldn’t want blessings and well wishes? This is one of the parts that we still need to work on. The traditional seven blessings have a bit of a disconnect for us so we are trying to come-up with something to supplement them. I know that there are a several things that could be done like asking friends and family members to give blessings and such. We just haven’t settled on anything that seems appropriate for us. Any ideas? I’m all ears.

Another easy call was the breaking of the glass. From what I understand, this has numerous meanings ranging from a symbolic gesture as a reminder of the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem to symbolizing the breaking of the hymen and the consummation of marriage. Whatever the symbolism, it’s simply something Alx has always wanted to do because it’s just cool. I’m down with letting him have his moment.

The yichud seemed very practical and just made sense to us. Traditionally it’s directly after the end of the ceremony when the new couple are escorted to a special room where they are left in seclusion for a short time which signifies their new status as husband and wife. For us regardless of what the history of it is, it really seemed like a good idea. After literally being married, why wouldn’t one want to stop for a second and just be in the moment with the person that you are going to spend the rest of your life with? I actually think this ritual is kind of genius in recognizing the need to just breath and take it all in.

All-in-all, we’ve done a lot of work in sorting out the details but we still have so much to do. The most important thing to us is to make sure that each ritual that we include has significance for us. I think that we are slowly but surely headed towards a beautiful ceremony full of love and meaning for us both as well as for our friends and family.

All the parts

Gosh.

Eight weeks left until the big day and I feel like we have barely gotten started on what needs to be done.  Life just flies by so fast now that I know June will be here before we know it.  Between the invitations that haven’t gone out and the Ketubah that is yet to be made, I feel like we have more on our plate now than when we started.  How did that happen?

Decisions.  Decisions.

Lu and I have taken every step to internalize each piece of tradition and make it our own.  It is a big task to be able to separate ritual from tradition and I often feel that life would be easier were we to take things at face value.  But hey.  What’s the fun in that?

Tradition ends where the new age begins.  Right?

I mean.  There comes a point where a chuppah is just a chuppah and a ketubah is just a ketubah.  But why not make these things ourselves?  Why not create them so that they don’t create us.  I feel like we spend a lot of time internalizing and a lot of time in conversation about these traditions.  We make each piece a challenge.  And the truth is: I love it.

It makes me feel closer to Judaism.

We have spent the better part of a year planning this thing and the more that we have to learn, the more I feel connected.  The more that we have to figure out together, the more I feel connected.  The more we meet with Rabbi Berman, the more I feel connected.  The more I write this blog, the more I feel connected.  It’s like I’m creating a new relationship with an old friend.  My Judaism is fresh.  It makes me feel good.

I know that we have much learning to do.  And just like when our son, Raiden was born, I know that we will never be ready.

The best that we can do is to do our best.  We will begin our life together knowing that we didn’t just take what was prescribed and that we are in every capacity to carve out our own path.

Life is such a wonderful journey.

-Alx

Love Thy Mother-In-Law

Where does one put her individuality and feminism aside for the greater good? This is the question I face.

I’m talking about our processional at our wedding. What I didn’t know is that it is Jewish tradition for the parents to not only walk their child down the aisle but to also stand under the huppah with them. For various reasons mostly dealing with logistics, we had decided that only us, our son, and the rabbi would be under the huppah. Needless to say, this was quite the punch to my mother-in-laws gut. However, she accepted this with the consolation that she would still get to walk her son down the aisle.

That’s where the issue begins. I didn’t want my parents to walk me down the aisle. As a thirty-two year old mother who has been on her own in the world for quite a while, I felt that no one needed to “give” me away. I am giving myself to Alx. To add to this, there is some heavy water under the bridge when it comes to my relationship with my father. I’ve come a long way in life emotionally but on this issue I’m torn. Do I put aside my issues and let my parents walk me so Alx’s parents can walk him?

From what I understand, in Judaism this is a symbolic gesture of releasing their child into adulthood. They’ve supported and cared for them under their own roof and they are now escorting them with love to the new home that the child will make with his/her spouse. It’s actually a heart warming ritual but what about when there is unresolved issues between child and parent(s)?

I guess this would be easy if I were Jewish as well because then it would just be. The choice would be made for me out of tradition and ritual.

Alx and I have talked about this intimately and I’ve even spoken with my mother-in-law about it. She understands my position and has selflessly left it up to me. Even though it breaks her heart, she is willing to give up this ritual if it is going to make me uncomfortable. I have to say that I really lucked-out with mother-in-laws. Miki is caring, understanding, easy to talk to, a bit bossy at times but always, always puts her children’s well-being before anything.

She has accepted me as her daughter with open arms and an open heart. This is why I’m in the process of reconciling the issues that are stopping me from participating in this ritual. It bothers me to have my parents walk me but that pales to the heaviness in my heart at taking this away from Alx and his parents. Jewish or not, Alx is extremely close to his family and they are active participants in every aspect of his life. I want to accommodate but I don’t really know how to do that without compromising myself.

Our rabbi says that this situation is a paradox because it’s all in the viewpoint. I can have them walk me and see it as a healing moment or I can focus on the negative and allow that to ruin the moment. I can not walk with them and it might be negative since it is in reaction to the unresolved issues or I can not walk with them and retain my current viewpoint of individuality and self-sufficiency. I think it all boils down to what I’m ready to accept, forgive, and move past.

If I’ve learned anything from Alx’s family, especially his mom, is that love knows no bounds and for family we gladly sacrifice to ensure the happiness and well-being of our loved ones. For my mother-in-law, I am willing to sacrifice. I am willing to endure the pain that it will take to resolve my issues and move-on so that on our beautiful wedding day she can walk her son down the aisle. The thought of this makes me happy. Maybe this was the stimulus that I needed. The last little nudge to take those last painful steps towards forgiveness and closure on a not-so-great chapter of my life.

So, thank you Miki, for being you. For being caring, understanding, easy to talk to, a bit bossy at times but always, always putting your children’s well-being before anything and for being the little nudge that I needed to strive to become healthier, happier, and whole.

Water Not Included.

So I’m faced with the question as to whether or not I will take a dip in the Mikvah —figuratively or literally.  I’m left to ponder both the traditional and the contemporary and what either of the two would mean to me.

When we take a look at what a trip to the Mikvah means in the traditional sense, I am left almost speechless at how central it is to Orthodoxy.  You see.  The idea is that with full immersion into a body of water, one can find ritual purity.  That is to say, you are washed clean of the things that make you impure.

Traditionally, it has different uses for men and women, but in the end it boils down to cleansing your self/your soul after one journey and before the next.  It sets you up with Tabula Rasa—a clean slate.

So why wouldn’t I want a clean slate before the wedding?

Can I achieve that without the traditional bath?  Is there something else that I can do that would achieve the same goal for me spiritually?

Would skydiving feel the same to me?

It’s not that I am against this tradition.  It is, in fact, something that seems beautiful and honest and something that I would be TOTALLY into—if it didn’t feel so stuck in the past.  The thought of a woman bathing herself in the Mikvah after each menstrual cycle before she can resume sexual relations with her husband just doesn’t sit right with me.  I think that it boils down to my egalitarian views on what a relationship should be and the inequalities that I see between matriarch and patriarch in organized religion—not just Judaism.  It’s traditions like these that I feel solidify gender roles in the past and don’t look to our modern day for guidance.

There I go again.  Leaning left.

I have some thinking to do.  How can I achieve what I will perceive as a ritual cleansing without the tradition?  If I don’t follow tradition, should I even bother?

So.  Friends of interfaithfamily.com.  Please feel free to offer me some guidance.  Maybe through conversation I will have my Aha moment and figure out what I need to do.

-Alx

My Own Shabbat

Christmas, Hannukah, New Year’s, Rai’s first birthday, Alx’s mom’s birthday, my brother’s birthday, Purim, St. Patty’s Day…The list goes on and on and just keeps on going. On top of all of these extracurricular activities, there’s daily life. Not to mention trying to transition from mom back to business woman or more accurately, a finely balanced mixture of the two. Then, to pack on just a little bit more to see if it’ll all come tumbling down, we’re trying to plan the perfect interfaith wedding. Oy vay! Do I need a break.

It just hit me. Judaism figured this one out a long time ago and it’s called Shabbat. Of course. It’s so simple yet so meaningful. So I’ve decided to create my own Shabbat. It might not always be on Friday night but I’m going to make a concerted effort to respect the Shabbos. Miki, Alx’s mom, is an observant Conservative Jew and she takes Shabbat weekly. No one bothers her. We leave her be to a day of quiet and rest. The biggest point of all is that she doesn’t work. She doesn’t even talk about work!

In the footsteps of Miki, I’m going to put aside one day a week where I don’t talk, do, or even think about work. Or for that matter, all of those little things that create so much chatter in the back of my head. One of the bigger voices being the wedding since it’s right around the corner. Taking Shabbat will allow me to take a step back and see things with refreshed and rested eyes.

I think no matter what you call it or from whatever faith it’s rooted in; we all need to remember to take a step back and breath. Life is too short and there are too many more important things than what color your table cloths are at your wedding reception. We have life, we have love, we have each other. Happy Shabbos.

It Lives!

Yes, yes indeed, the ketuba was ultimately not killed off and is going to be very much alive and present at our wedding ceremony. I was put off at the thought of a ketuba at the beginning. As stated in my previous post, Ketuba or Not to Ketuba, I relentlessly swayed back and forth on the idea. What changed my mind you ask? Well, it started with finally letting go of the traditional meaning of the ketuba and embracing it for what it could be.

Our ketuba won’t look like a ketuba at all. For one, it won’t be two-dimensional. It also is going to serve as a written document announcing and confirming our marriage as well as double as our vows. So instead of having a ketuba and separate vows, we’re going to make them one-in-the-same. The reading of the ketuba will be us saying our vows. Besides, that’s what the essence of a ketuba is anyways, right?

And to make it even more multi-functional, it will also serve as a sculpture and interesting conversational piece for years to come.

What is it you ask?

Plain and simple, it’ll be a tree. But not just any tree. A tree sculpted by us and embroidered with the wonder of our relationship. Each leaf signed by a loved one on our wedding day serving as witness to our union. My favorite part is that the tree will be hollow. Upon our wedding day, we will ask each person to write us well wishes, blessings, advice and wisdom. These will fill our tree just as our loved ones have filled our life with their warmth and caring.

It just goes to show that if one lets their mind and heart open up without bias, amazing things can happen.