What We Spend Our Time On

So I took two days off mid-week to celebrate a holiday that most people never even heard of.

Thankfully, it was gorgeous weather in Southeast Michigan, and the kids and I reveled in our time alone together, the beauty of the world around us, and the meaning of the moments. Today, it’s back to business as usual for us all – except for me, there is no one standard type of day.

For instance, this morning, I am speaking to my daughter’s class about my new book, The Flavors of Faith: Holy Breads, before going into the office. To facilitate a true understanding of what it takes to write a book and get it published, I will share my process with the 4th-graders, share some stories I collected along the way, and of course, as is the basis for this book and for all meaningful transmissions, I have food for them to taste, too.

Last night, the kids and I drove to Dearborn, to the Islamic Center of America, the largest mosque in North America, to pick up just-baked breads featured in my book. The kids will sample these, challah rolls and coconut cake muffins we baked yesterday.

The trip to the mosque was, of course, enlightening and mind-expanding – as this book is intended to be for all who dive inside. My Jewish children and I saw glimpses of a Muslim house of worship. I hugged Fay Hamood, my contact there, a lovely woman who spearheads the bread-baking the women of the mosque have done for more than half a century.

When we left, the kids said, “Wow, it was so beautiful. They were so nice.” Until silence fell over our car as they dug into the huge, still-warm breads Fay offered them each.

Yes, I write, and yes my writing gets published. But what I intend to convey to the kids is that what I really do is carve out meaning in this sometimes confusing world.

My work focuses on the beauty of life and the ways we come together. The ways we are similar. The ways we find peace and inspiration. And the flavors that help us get there.

The book hasn’t even launched, and people are saying their favorite chapter is the Muslim one. I understand completely – it’s the only one when I immersed fully in the reporting and a piece of myself got into the writing.

The rest of the book is based on incredible conversations – me at my computer, the other person across the telephone line many miles away. I did my best to share the details of the meaning in their worlds, but there is something special about being there, digging in, embracing another’s traditions and knowing the secret spices first-hand instead of estimating what they might be.

The bread last night was soft and light. I smeared cream cheese on my piece; Eliana coated hers in strawberry-lemon jelly from the farmers market. In our Jewish home, we savored Muslim bread. All the many ways we are similar. Let’s not focus on what keeps us apart.

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