Monday, September 21, 2015

High Holidays host or guest: It's all good.

This year the High Holidays have gone, and will be going, a little differently then usual. I usually am the person to put on meal after meal inviting friends, community members and students.

The First Night of Rosh Ha Shana was spent at a wonderful dinner at a friends house.  It was one of the first Rosh Ha Shana's, Jewish New Year, that I did not spent the day cooking and cleaning. Usually I would have been getting ready for friends to come and spend the dinner celebrating the holiday. 

We were glad to be invited to friends this year as, like many American's, our financial condition made making big meals for many people less possible than last year.  Not to say we would not have made it happen if we had not choice.

Realistically ,I usually drop several bills to make each feast happen.  I probably don't need to make as much food as I do, but I can't help myself.  I like to put on a feast when it is time.  I learned this at my mother knee and am glad of it.  Anyway, I digress, as I often do, which you know if you read any of my stuff.

As I was saying, I was reminiscing about what this holiday stuff is all about.  As a kid I remember my folks getting us ready for the high holidays.  I think my mother and father, as immigrants, wanted us to be well turned out for the holidays.  This was their tradition and it symbolized a successful year and a family well managed.  It portrayed a people in progress and a general acceptance of our position as Jews.

No matter how close to the holidays my parents waited, we inevitably grew between when our clothing was purchased and when we needed to fit in it.  We, as a family, did not have the extra funds to buy more than we needed or better than we could.  This was always a challenge to watch how it was to be managed, letting out hems or making a last minute run to the mall.

I remember the joy and the stress my family would take to make a lovely Rosh Ha Shana dinner. My parents would invite friends, and family both Jews and non Jews. My mother loved putting on an organic, locally grown, delicious meal that would make everyone go away feeling loved and well fed.  
My mother was not much of a cook so I took the chef role.  Making food for 40 seemed like just the best way to do it.  There was no point in making small portions.  Once the adrenaline started pumping it just felt right and all worked out...usually. 

This year when paychecks were a little scarce, making these huge meals was not the right call.  But we did decided we would do one lovely meal for Yom Kippor,'s breaking of the fast.   Making this call was hard but it felt right.  All my guests volunteered to bring something to add to the feast letting me know I had made the right call. It also told me that we love our community and our times together, at my place or elsewhere.

Of course there will be too much of everything and it will be great.   Hopefully we will all fit into this small house and enjoy our times together. There are 23 people coming with 10 of them kids.  We are serving smoked salmon, salads, fruit, and other milk related dishes.  I am looking forward to doing this holiday well.

May you and yours be written in the book of life and may you have a sweet year.  

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Toco Family Festival 2015

For the last few years a friend of mine has been encouraging me to go to TOCO Family Festival with my boys.  TOCO, a family focused music festival was held in a Jellystone park near St. Louis Missouri.  The fun started Friday afternoon and went through Saturday night ending quietly Sunday morning. It was held the weekend before labor day. 

TOCO was a fundraiser for Tapestry of Community Offerings.  Check out for more info on this great organization that does good and gives to people in need. They operate a re-sale shop and give funds to help all sorts of people in need through the shop, a food pantry, and other efforts.  This festival was both a big fundraiser and gave back by providing everyone with a great time.

My boys had watched me go off to Wakarusa year after year with an envy in their eyes.  All they really knew was what a great time I said I had, and how relaxed I seemed when I returned.   They saw pictures of crazy 30 foot octopus dancing in the crowds and imagined the rest.  Each year they would ask me if they could come.  Each year, I said it was not an appropriate environment for the kids and that it was my time to relax.  

So this year I decided we were going to do TOCO.  The kids would get to have a festival experience and I would show them a good time.  I managed to encourage a friend of mine to join me with her kids and even got another friend to let me take her kid.  So we were two adults and 6 kids between the ages of 5 and 14.  

I spent all day on Friday running around doing all the things one needs to do before camping or going to a festival.  The running about went from oil change, to groceries, to glow sticks, to camping supplies, etc etc etc... Yet between picking up all the kids and packing up everyone we did not get out of town until 6:15.   

We made a caravan, taking the scenic route on hwy 50 through to the park.  We got there after dark and used our headlights to set up the tents.  The kids were so excited, it was like herding cats to get them to help set up camp before running off to discover and experience their first festival evening.  

The most unique aspect of this festival is it was created by people that really love festivals and kids, and it is attended by that same types of people. Everyone there had kids of their own or were cool with kids.  There was more kids than adults and the kids all ran free and enjoed the festival.

This is not  usually the norm when you have kids. Most often, when you have kids, you must confirm a situation is kid friendly and then spend all your time making sure your kids do not offend the non-kid people.   There is often this energy that you are imposing your wild, loud, messy, crazy, and annoying kids on everyone else.  Usually you are riddled with fear, that these kind, somewhat patient friends, have just decided where the line is are are about to kick you all out and cross you off all future invite lists. 

At TOCO,  the first things we saw was a story time nook, fire dancers, lights installations, and tons and tons of kids running around with costumes and smiles a mile wide. Parents were running after kids, chilling in chairs, dancing in front of the stages and having a great time.  I can't say I had ever been to anything that was as welcoming for the entire family as TOCO.

My kids got a real taste of a festival. They got to camp, plan games, do great activities and see fabulous performers.  Some of the great classes my kids participated in included tie dye bandannas, bird house making, hula hoop classes, stick juggling classes, and lost of other engaging activities. They were never board and came home with lots of great memories and stuff to prove they were there.  
The spirit of TOCO was present through the festival in many ways. My husband biked to the festival, doing the 137 miles in two days, joining us by Saturday afternoon. He was recognized with a trophy for his long ride and sustainable method of transportation.  This made his day. The trophy was his for one hour and then he passed it on to someone else making other people's day as the communal trophy modeled TOCO's giving spirit.  There were silent auctions and lots of great opportunities to support TOCO's mission throughout the festival.

I will be taking my family next year and hope that others will join us in this fantastic family focused time.   Well done TOCO and thank you for everything.  Thanks to all those that put in so much work to make this happen.  We really appreciated it.