Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Niddah Difference

Since most of you probably aren't familiar with Deaf culture, let me begin by explaining that the Deaf community is a very touchy (physically) community. I've heard various reasons for this. Part of it seems to be the loss of one sense, sound; so we make it up by using more of another sense, in this case touch. There are lots of hugs, pats, nudges, etc. Another reason for this is that we, of course, can't hear. Say you need to get by John Doe, but he's in your way. A simple "excuse me" won't do much good, it's noisy and his hearing aids are overwhelmed (or he can't hear anything at all). How do you get by? Sometimes it only takes a light tap on the shoulder, sometimes it's a little bit more of a moving of the other person's body (giving a slight push to the side, or putting hands on the shoulder and moving them over a little). Now, all this isn't to say that the Deaf are a community of people constantly groping at each other, not by a long shot. But I've seen that people who aren't comfortable with touching are often unnerved when around a lot of Deaf people. For Deaf folks though, this is the norm.

Now let's add in the Jewish concept of Niddah. Ah, now things become more complex! I see this often with one rabbi I know. He's a Baal Tushvia, a hearing, religious son of deaf, non-religious parents. But he's very active in the deaf community. I sometimes see that he makes a slight move, as if he is about to hug someone, then suddenly remembers and stops himself.

That's the general picture. Now it's on to my own experiences. Before we were married, my wife (modern orthodox her whole life, also deaf) and I really didn't get into a deep discussion on Niddah issues; and after the wedding, sort of fumbled a bit to figure it all out. During the times of Niddah, we still touched to alert each other to things, plus a quick hug hello and good bye, and after a, shall we say, heated discussion, to signal that we are okay again.

But as I began to become more religious myself, we started re-evaluating things, and decided to try and completely keep from touching during this time period. There were some small challenges. For example, I could no longer just tap on her shoulder if I wanted her attention and she didn't have her hearing aids on. Instead, I would now stomp on the floor (for the vibrations), or reach around and wave to her if I was close enough. Those were easily overcome.

No, the place where I noticed it took the most analyzing and adjusting, for me, was the "after heated discussion hug." I came to realize that I was using this as a crutch to calm my wife (and myself) down. Maybe even unfairly. It seemed that if I hugged her tight enough, or long enough, the tears would soon dry up and she'd be feeling better. But now there were times I couldn't give the hug. Now what to do??

I soon learned that when the occasional flare ups would occur (nothing MAJOR, just the usual issues here and there that all married couples with active kids face) that I would need to talk and discuss the issue completely in full length and depth until it was truly resolved for both of us, and we were both feeling better. While this approach takes much longer than the "hug-the-problem-away," I think the solution we come up with is better and longer lasting, not another temporary patch. Now even when it's not a period of Niddah, we do spend more time talking about the issues in detail until they really are resolved, and only then do we close things up with a hug. (After all, they are still nice!)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Relying on Modern Technology

I admit it, I love modern technology. For the past several years, I've been using a GPS, even though I usually know where I am going. I like the benefits though, such as knowing how far it is to a particular turn, where the next gas station is, etc. Plus the GPS I have also has XM Radio and an MP3 player in it, and it receives traffic information. If there is a traffic problem along the route, it can alter the route to avoid the problem. It also becomes very handy when going to places I don't know. For example, when visiting my wife's sister and her family in Ottawa, I let the GPS route us all the way up and back. I didn't even have a set of directions written down.

Then yesterday I loaded up some routes into the GPS, since we are all going to NY this weekend for a Jewish Deaf Shabbaton. This morning I hooked the GPS back into the car, and turned it on. Imagine my shock when I realized that the detailed map, all waypoints and routes were GONE!! Not good! I'm glad I caught it a day before the trip, so I can write up some directions, and see if I can possibly find a (paper based) map somewhere. I talked to the Garmin tech, and he thinks they can get everything up and running again this afternoon (I have to call when I have the GPS hooked up to my home computer and the internet). But even so, I realized that I've become complacent with technology. The first few years I always had a set of directions written down as a back up. About a year ago, I stopped. This time, while I knew the general route, I didn't have specific directions, especially to the actual hotel we'll be going to. A nice little jolt certainly took take care of that!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Wearing my kippah full time.

This is a post that I wrote that was published on BeyondBT. I wanted to share it here as well.

I’ve been slowly ramping up my level of observance for the past several years. Really, in the past year it has been almost an exponential growth. Each time I added something new (starting to use Tefillin, starting to wear Tzitzits, etc.) I kept wondering what would be the next thing I would do. None of these were preplanned. I would get an inspiration, start reading up on it to understand it better, then pick a day to bite the bullet and start.

Now I have to admit, I just said that none of these were preplanned, but in the back of my mind, I always started to wonder when, if, I would start wearing a kippah all day every day. I figured that would be the ultimate “outting” of myself. Everything else that I had been doing was pretty much internal, where nobody else would know that I was doing anything different. (except the few times someone walked into my office when I was davening Minchah)

Turns out the inspiration hit me after the Holiday season (Rosh Hashana through Simchat Torah). I think the reason it happened then was I finally went completely kosher outside the home as of Rosh Hashana. (I have been kosher in the home since getting married over 5 years ago) My conscience couldn’t justify me wearing a kippah when still eating non-kosher food. Still, this was the nerve-wracking change for me. This would be the one that shouts out to the world (or at least the people in my office) that hey, I’m Jewish, and I’m not quite as quiet about it as I used to be.

I calculated it carefully. I would begin to wear my kippah in the week between Christmas and New Years. Two reasons for this: 1) I would be in Brooklyn the week before this, and could find a kippah that doesn’t quite stand out, i.e. matches my hair color a little bit. 2) This is usually the time that the least amount of people would be around the office, most were on vacation. I could break this in slowly.

So after returning from Brooklyn, I started wearing my kippah 17/7. (I only get about 7 hrs of sleep a day, and roll around to much to keep one on while sleeping)

For the first two weeks, I was uncomfortable. (Understatement!!) It felt like I was wearing a 50 pound flashing neon arrow pointing directly at my head. I would wear a cap when I went to the cafe downstairs for my daily bottle of orange juice. When I took the cap off and moved around the office, it felt like everyone was staring at me behind my back, I could hear them commenting to each other on it. (For those who don’t know me well enough, I’m deaf/hard-of-hearing, and usually can’t hear people talking unless I’m right in front of them, looking at them; this shows how much my mind was playing with me) When I glanced back, everyone was doing their usual work, talking to each other about business, etc. No one was looking at me, or discussing the kippah at all, it was all in my head. I only received two questions about my kippah; my boss asked how I kept it from falling off (bobby pins or clips, plus now I’m letting my hair grow a little bit longer than I did before, no more buzz cuts), and someone I worked with in a previous project asked if it was called a yarmulke or something else, and was I becoming more religious. Errrr… yes, I guess I am!

I’ve noticed several immediate benefits. Now when I do Minchah in my office, I don’t forget to put a kippah on, nor do I feel guilty taking it off as soon as I’m done. It just stays on the whole time. Also, the other day I found my division head’s ID badge on the floor. That’s a “donut offense” meaning he has to bring in donuts for everyone. So he brought in a box of donuts from Dunkin Donuts. After he showed me the box, he took a closer look at me, and I could see the light bulb come on… He confirmed it when he said “Oh wait, you can’t have these, can you?” Next time I’ll print out a list of where to find kosher donuts in the area!

Really, the only problem I’ve run into with wearing my kippah full time occurred at home. Twice now I reached up when in the shower and realized I still had the kippah on. As Homer Simpson would put it… D’OH!!

Monday, May 14, 2007

I'm still here, and sneek preview

It's been a while since I posted. I was away several days for the Jewish Motorcyclist Alliance's Ride to Remember, then when I got home, I was slammed with work (they actually wanted things done!), and busy at home as well. We moved Ahava into Tikva's room. My wife wanted to try having the girls share a room since when they were separated, there were various things that would set them off crying. Also, when they were with my parents during the Ride to Remember, they shared a room, and my parents thought they got along fine. Pretty soon I'll post some pictures and write ups from the ride itself, but I'll just quickly say here that it was great. We had over 100 Jews on Motorcycles crossing over the GW Bridge into Manhattan, they actually shut down the top deck, so we made the crossing by ourselves. It was a really cool feeling! Here's one photo of the crossing:

More of a write up and photos to come.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

I scream, you scream....

As I mentioned I was going to do before, I brought my motorcycle to the shop to have the new footpeg bracket attached. When I went to pick it up, I got a nice grin. It was a hot day (mid to upper 80s), and the area the motorcycle shop I go to is full of car and motorcycle repair shops. Right in the middle of all of them was the neighborhood ice cream man! (same one who comes to my townhouse community, a few miles away). There was a line of mechanics getting ice cream. And I always thought the ice cream man just covered places where kids hang out!

By the way, the shop did a great job mounting the footpeg bracket, and only charged me $40 for it, that's about a half hour's labor. The manager said he believes that whoever installed the bolts last (another motorcycle shop I no longer use) probably installed them with an air gun.