Still Here, Still Searching

I have been trying for almost a year to write this post. Every time I sit down and try to get my words down on paper, my mind begins to spin. How can I find the right words to convey exactly how I’m feeling? To talk about exactly what has happened over the past two years? My mind wanders further– what is this blog even for? Why do I want to write? What do I want people to know?

When I first started blogging, I wanted people to see my uniqueness, and to see my value. I thought that I had something important to say, and people needed to hear it. I felt that my opinions, my spiritual journey, even the mundane everyday experiences of my life were going to be meaningful to people on the internet. And then as I began to really explore and grapple with my spiritual path and made the choice to pursue conversion to Judaism, I had a hope that the could be a space for me to talk about what it’s like to convert, and how I navigated the process. Again, I thought my story was unique and interesting, that people would want to hear about what I was doing and learning. But I think deep down I knew that I’m just one person in this giant world, and my experiences both unique and common, interesting and also so boring. What I was seeking was validation. And that really blocked me from being able to write. It still does!

But what I was also seeking was community. Even as I saw my story as “special”, I was still searching for people with similar experiences to bond with. That never really materialized with this blog, although I have had other opportunities to build community in other online spaces as well as in person. I’m hoping to start writing again, sharing my experiences here, working through my feelings as my spiritual journey continues. I’m hoping that this could be another avenue for me to build community and find more people like me! So if you’re Black, queer, and Jewish (especially if you went through the conversion process), and you’ve stumbled upon this blog, please reach out! Leave a comment! Share your experiences, or advice, or whatever. Let’s celebrate together, and commiserate together, and learn together.

A Time Apart

2020 has been my year for full on commitment to Judaism. It has taken me so long to commit for a variety of reasons– most of them fear-based, but some simply logistical issues. When the pandemic hit the US, most of my life went online– work, social life, etc. And that has been a blessing because I now have the time to really investigate and participate in Judaism and Jewish Life. I took a class, I went “shul hopping” on zoom, I finally put a mezuzah on the front door. But the best thing I’ve invested my time in has to be Shabbat.

First of all, Shabbat is probably the one think that keeps me tethered to the concept of time, as working from home has caused the days to blur together. Is it Monday? Is it Wednesday? Who knows, but I definitely can tell you if it’s Shabbat or not! It’s a ritual that both roots me to the moment and gives me a space outside of time. Shabbat is when we light candles, say prayers, and eat homemade challah on Friday night (thank you to Kourtney for baking challot every week!). Shabbat is when we get up slowly on Saturday morning, go to Tot Shabbat on zoom and sing songs, and enjoy each other instead of focusing on all the worldly noise.

I’m not 100% observant yet. I use electronics. We cook meals. We watch TV shows together. But I am learning to define rest for myself and build on that. For me, rest means that keep my phone on but I put it on the counter for the day, out of sight. I don’t answer phone calls or texts, I don’t go on instagram or facebook. I don’t check the news. The world moves and things happen, but I stay out of it, unaware of major events until Saturday night. I don’t crochet (which I love), and I don’t write (which I also love). I try not to create anything new (besides food) until Shabbat ends.

Right now, this way of doing things works for me and my family, especially since we are an interfaith family. It wouldn’t be fair for me to demand that my wife stop cooking, or demand that no one turn on and off lights, or demand that we pre-rip our toilet paper every week (learned about that very recently, it seems like…. a lot).

Instead, I’ve reveling in the moments when Kourtney participates, the moments when Aminah claps along to songs during Tot Shabbat, the moments when we’re all celebrating Shabbat together and building a Jewish foundation for our family. I am grateful for those blessings that Shabbat brings.

Enjoying Shabbat and its Blessings

One of the benefits of having Kourtney at home (since she works in theatre and they are not starting back up anytime soon) is that she has been baking constantly. Last week she made apple pie, blueberry cheesecake, and puff pastry with strawberries. This week we’ve been eating strawberry shortcake, broccoli and cheddar pasties. But my favorite new tradition is the challah she makes every Friday, from scratch.

Kourtney is not Jewish, but she loves me, and loves creating new traditions for our daughter, so she has really jumped into weekly challah baking. And beyond that, she’s been helping me build out our weekly Shabbat traditions with Aminah. It’s been really gratifying to now see our daughter get excited as the sun goes down on Friday night, because she knows that it’s time for challah!

Continue reading

Old Words Revisited

I’ve been working from home almost exclusively since mid-march. For the last two months I’ve been logging in on my work laptop, sitting on my couch and sending emails, writing up documents, attending meetings on Zoom and Teams (muted of course, because I have a toddler who has no interest in letting me work without her input). When I worked onsite I feel like I rarely called or emailed IT for my own technical issues– I often sent in a ticket for other people, or for my office as a group, but I just don’t do a whole lot that needs troubleshooting.

Now that I’m at home, I am emailing them at least once a week to help me figure out why my computer is acting up AGAIN. The most recent issue arose when for some reason my documents weren’t syncing to OneDrive (anyone else using OneDrive for work? You know what I’m talking about). This had me suddenly obsessively looking at all my documents to see if they had synced or were still “pending”. I have hundreds of documents on my computer, many of them current, but certainly not all. As I was doing this obsessive search I found some of my own personal writings from many many years ago. I don’t know why they were even there, I think I just needed a spot to have them stashed until I could print them or email them to myself or put them on Google Drive where all the rest of my personal writing is. Continue reading

The Virtual Seder

For the last 4-5 years I’ve been going to my friend Bekah’s mother’s house for Passover. As someone who is not fully integrated into the community and very hesitant to do anything solo, I haven’t even bothered to try a Seder myself– why would I when Irene’s is already so great? And If I did host a Seder, who would want to come? I don’t know all the rules! I don’t know all the customs! I’m still learning!

Well, this year has thrown a bit of a wrench in my plans of continuing the tradition of leaving it to the practiced Jews. All of California is still under a shelter in place order because of the coronavirus pandemic, and even without the restrictions, most people would be loathe to leave their house when we all seem to have a risk of being infected or spreading the virus to others. How lucky it is, then, that we live in a time where we don’t have to be in the same room to gather together and celebrate? This year we’ll be celebrating Passover via Zoom!

This of course means that we all have to set up our individual houses ourselves, which I have never done before and to be transparent I am not at all prepared to cook dinner and set up my house in a way that is kosher for Passover. Despite my love for Judaism I have been slow to make my life completely Jewish. If I’m being honest, fear is mostly driving this. I don’t have a firm foundation to build my own Jewish identity on– none of my family is Jewish, I was raised in a fairly traditional Christian household, and I know few Jews that I can lean on to teach me how to be a Jew. Add onto that the fact that I’m queer and Black, and I just haven’t met a queer, Black Jew by choice who can share their experiences with me and make this process feel less scary…. it feels like my true desire, to feel like I belong in the community, is just beyond my reach.

It’s not that there are not people out there who are kind and open and willing to welcome me in. There are such people, I have met them, they are all very nice. But it’s hard to trust that the welcome is real, and not just a nicety, like when you and a friend say “We need to hang out more, let’s meet for dinner sometime!” but neither of you will actually follow through. It’s something you say but don’t really mean. I often fear that it’s all talk when someone invites me to come to Friday night or Saturday morning services, and if I actually take someone up on it they’ll backtrack, “Oh sorry, you wanted to come this Saturday? I can’t, sorry….”

So what does this sudden change in venue mean for me? On the one hand, I feel totally unprepared, and I worry I won’t be able to do this holiday justice. When Kourtney went to the grocery store today for supplies, the only remotely Passover-related product she could find was whole wheat matzo. Because we have no car, she had to bike to the store, and had no room in her bike bags for romaine lettuce (for the bitter herbs). I’m too much of a novice to make my kitchen the level of kosher it needs to be for this holiday, and when I looked online for Seder plates I couldn’t find any that could be shipped in time (April 23rd is not going to cut it this time, Amazon).

On the other hand, being able to do this in the comfort of my own home, without being worried that people are watching and determining if it’s Jewish enough. When they’re watching through a screen they only see what I want them to see, and there’s a lot of freedom to that. I don’t have to get everything ‘right’. I may not have the matzo I want, but it’s better than no matzo at all. And it turns out that you can substitute potato for romaine as the bitter herb (it’s doesn’t quite make sense to me but I’m willing to roll with it). And if I don’t have a Seder plate this year, that’s okay. That just means I have time to find one I really like for next year’s Seder. Maybe next year I’ll even go further and try out this African American Seder plate setup I found online (God bless the internet). Who knows? Maybe I’ll give myself permission to find my own Jewish identity without fear of doing it wrong or making mistakes.

Living on a Prayer

2020 has not been kind so far.

As I write this I’m sitting in my living room as my daughter naps. My wife is sitting on the couch next to me, creating art on her iPad. We’ve been home for two weeks, sheltering in place. Kourtney’s hours have been reduced to zero for at least another six weeks– you can’t really put on plays and musicals when all the people in your state are supposed to be social distancing. As a result, she’s home everyday, and I get to eat all of her lovely bakes because surprise, I am also home. My organization is considered an “essential business” because it provides services to the homeless and other marginalized communities, but my job specifically is non-essential so I am working from home most days unless they need me to support our front line departments serve meals, or create hygiene kits. I’m lucky, I’m getting paid. I haven’t lost my job. I now get to navigate working from home with a toddler who frankly doesn’t appreciate that I keep looking at my computer and not her.

This is our life in the middle of a pandemic. Continue reading

Listen to my Birth Story on The Birth Hour!

I’m excited to share that my birth story has been featured on one of my favorite podcasts, The Birth Hour! If you’d like to hear me talk about Aminah’s birth (or hundreds of other people’s birth stories, they’re all pretty great), you can find my episode here!

I really appreciate the opportunity to share my birth story on the show– I never tire of getting a chance to talk about my home birth experience, and I’m definitely a birth nerd so talking about birth in general is something I’m passionate about. I hope you enjoy the episode, and be sure to check out other episodes of the show. Thanks to Bryn at The Birth Hour for having me on the show and for giving so many people a space to share their stories!

Why Midwives Are Awesome

img_1052For a while now I’ve been wanting to talk about my experience with my providers during pregnancy. I actually had the opportunity to experience both midwifery care with Cynthia Banks and Hannah Weiss, as well as obstetric care through Kaiser. I think I received good care from both, but the care I received from my midwives was particularly thoughtful, compassionate and supportive so I thought I would talk a little bit about my experience and why I think midwives are so awesome. Continue reading

Our Birth Story, Part 2

Around 10:30pm my mom went home to get some rest, since it was clear I was not having the baby that day. My sister camped out on our couch, and Kourtney and I went to bed. And that’s when things started to get going. I tried to sleep, or at least lay down comfortably, laying on my side was very uncomfortable, and with each contraction I had to roll over onto my hands and knees, gripping our headboard to steady me, letting the contraction crest and fall. After rolling back and forth probably 5 or 6 times I just got out of bed and pushed away the thought of getting any rest. My contractions were about 5 minutes apart at this point and getting stronger. I probably could talk through them but I didn’t feel much like talking. I would stand next to my bed until I felt the start of a contraction and then I would fold over, head and arms on the bed, belly hanging low, until it faded away. Eventually I asked Kourtney to put counter pressure on my hips to ease the pain a bit. Little did she know, she would be doing this for HOURS. Continue reading

Our Birth Story, Part 1

First let me say a few things: I loved being pregnant. I had a very easy pregnancy, with all the typical “symptoms” and “side effects” being relatively minor and manageable. I spent my first trimester with a chronic stomach ache, I had strong aversions to most green leafy vegetables and towards the end of my pregnancy the acid reflux got bad enough that I woke up throwing up bile. And all of that sounds like a bummer but honestly it wasn’t that bad at all. I loved being pregnant, I loved my baby bump, and I was excited about getting to my due date. I had convinced myself that Baby Snow was going to be at least a week late.

38 weeks pregnant, my last day of work before I went on maternity leave

So I was really surprised when my water broke four days before my due date. Continue reading

Welcome Back

Well. It’s been awhile.


Clearly I took an extended hiatus from writing on this blog. There are a lot of reasons and excuses for doing so, which I’ll lay out here for my own sake, but let’s be honest, it doesn’t really matter why I stopped writing, it only matters that I stopped. One major reason was because I just didn’t feel well enough to write. And when I say that I mean emotionally well. Every time I thought about writing on this blog, just the thought made me feel just drained and exhausted. I love being able to “put my thoughts to paper” so to speak, but I felt like I had to present my best self, my best writing (what even is my best writing???), telling stories that were meaningful and made me feel important. But I wasn’t my “best self”. I didn’t know if what I had to say was meaningful, and I wanted this blog to make me feel big when I was feeling small.

When I first started blogging in college my goal was to put to words everything in my brain that I needed to get out. I had all of this creative energy bouncing around in my body and I didn’t know what to do with it, and I had hoped that by writing it down and sharing it I could both make space for other things but also somehow connect with people at a time when I was feeling isolated and alone. I didn’t want to go out into the physical world and interact on a regular basis because it was scary, but connecting on the internet felt like a great alternative. This is not to say that I NEVER socialized, I socialized often, but it was often emotionally draining and anxiety-provoking. I thought, maybe people will find me on here and I can make meaningful relationships without leaving my house. And then suddenly I had a blog, and it had a theme, and I was exploring new things I was interested in, particularly around spirituality.

But my life changed, my priorities changed. I stopped feeling like this was a space for my voice to be heard. I mean, who was reading this blog anyway? I felt like I was in a desert yelling and wondering if anyone could actually hear me. How far did my voice have to travel for me to be heard? And honestly it was a bit demoralizing. But that’s on me– I’m not promised an audience just because I have a blog. And is that the only reason to have a blog? No. If I truly want a larger audience, then clearly I need to do things a bit differently to achieve that desired result– and I’m not sure I’m willing to put in that work yet because I’m not sure that’s even what I truly want.

So I’ve been staying away. But now things have changed.

I got pregnant. I had a baby.

I’ve been dying to write about these new experiences, and not a day goes by without me thinking about trying to get my thoughts and feelings and recent memories written down somewhere– although as I have been thrown into the chaos of early parenthood, finding time to do this has been very difficult.

So I’m back. And I’m committed to getting this all written out so that I can come back and remember, and so my daughter can one day find these posts and read the the story of our family. This blog is for her.