Family, Letting Go, Mindfulness, Parenting, Religion

Purim lots

My husband and I fell in love and got married quicker than you can say “Who moved my cheese?”

Almost as quickly, if not quicker, we got pregnant with our first kid.

We didn’t take the time to have the important parenting conversations like,

“Do you mind if our kids eat candy for breakfast?”

“Is it important that our kids go to college? Or is GED good enough?”

“Is it okay if our son marries his cousin?”

Somehow, we’ve made it this far without divorcing or selling one of our children on the black market.

Eventually, we had a lot of those crucial conversations, and luckily see eye-to-eye on most parenting issues.

Our values line up.

When we disagree, I can usually persuade him.  Sometimes it takes a few years…Like the time he refused to switch from Heinz ketchup to the organic Whole Foods brand.

Three years later the organic brand was in our fridge door.

(Now, in Israel, we’re back to Heinz. It’s a specialty item, which in Hebrew means “practically organic.”)

There was this one time, however, when my husband was right in the first place.

We were talking about our kids as teenagers and how comfortable we would feel if one of them decided to dress “Goth.”

My husband was insistent that we would be flexible about piercings and black lipstick and long leather jackets. He said we needed to foster their sense of creativity and self expression.

I could see his point, though I was hesitant and reluctant.

Truth is: I don’t want my kid to be the kid teachers and other kids are afraid of.

Also, I’ve never been good at not being scared of people who dress scary.

I don’t want to be scared of my own kid.

Our kids are still too young to be expressing themselves with their outerwear just yet, but one day a year, my oldest son wants to show off his dark side.


The other kids come to the bus stop in homemade Mordechai costumes, or walking clever references to pop culture.

But my kid?

Year after year, he wants to scare the bejeezus out of you.

scary purim costume

My husband usually goes along with it.

But this year, concerning the above nail-impaled zombie mask, my husband was himself reluctant.

At first, he considering forbidding my son to wear the mask. (It was a gift from Saba and Savta.)

It’s not appropriate, my husband told me. Purim is not Halloween.

He’s right.

Or at least maybe he’s right.

Who am I to know what’s Purim appropriate? I’m still a Jew in progress. Still an immigrant mom. Still figuring out how not to embarrass myself on a daily basis.

But what I do know —  what I’m sure of — is that my husband was right when we first had that conversation 8 or 9 years ago.

We absolutely, positively want our children to feel free to express themselves.

As long as they aren’t hurting themselves, or others, we want them to be comfortable showing the world who they are.

To dance.

To sing.

To frolic.

To feast.

To be free.

This is Purim spirit, I’m sure of it.

This much I know.

Letting Go, Love, Mindfulness, Writing

And Yadda Yadda Yadda … I got nominated for an award

My first chain letter experience was during Freshman year of college.

It involved underwear.

You remember chain letters pre-internet, right? You received an invitation in the mail (usually handwritten on notebook paper) and were invited to participate in a “totally super-fun project.”

The deets on the one I said Yes to?

Send a pair of sexy underwear to a stranger — a girl whose name was written at the bottom of a list sent to you by a girlfriend. Then you were asked to invite 5 or 10 more girls to join the super-fun, and within six weeks you’d get 30 or so pairs of new sexy underwear in the mail.

Back then, I was actually spending some of my discretionary funds at Victoria’s Secret, so this proposition seemed like a good idea.

Lo and behold, I ended up with 30 or so new pairs of sexy underwear.


Or course, sexy is a very subjective term.

And lace irritates my thighs.

But, it was, at the very least, really fun to get packages Freshman year of college and it was a hoot to open up the padded manila envelope and be surprised by the contents.

liebsterThe Liebster Award process is a little bit like a chain letter: Someone chooses you. You feel acknowledged…a part of something.

If you choose to accept, you’re required to do something that takes a little time and effort. But you do so with the hopes that your small time and effort will reap rewards for many.

Thanks Miss Corinne, for the letter in the mail. Now I get to prepare the virtual padded manilla envelope of love.

Here are the instructions and the contents.


I answer 11 questions Miss Corinne provided. I add 11 random facts about myself. Then I create 11 questions for my nominees to answer. Then I link to my nominees’ blogs. Who will I nominate? Blogs I think deserve more attention. Bloggers who are writing mindfully. Bloggers who are trying to create community. Bloggers who make me laugh, think, or smile hopefully. Blogs that I think are poised to make an impact on other people’s lives as long as they’re read. Here goes:

Questions I Was Asked To Answer:

Do you think social media and communicating online is helping/hurting human connection?

Overall, I think it’s helping human connection. Personally, it’s my mission to use social media for good — to make people think twice; to make connections that make a difference, both to me and others. But in some smalls ways, as referenced to in a recent study linking Facebook to depression, we’re suffering a little too as a result of social media. We compare our lives to others. We don’t let go of old pain, old baggage. We sometimes learn about tragedies we’d be better off not knowing.

What does “being green” mean to you?

Five years ago, I would never have called myself “green.” In fact, I would have gone as far as saying, “I’m not green. I’m healthy. There’s a difference.” But there is no difference, and that’s what more people need to understand. I understand now that what I do for my or my family’s health will be pointless and useless if I do not also act for the sake of our environment. We can’t have one without the other. So for me, “being green” means understanding that the health of the planet is related to my own health; and vice versa. If health matters so much to me (and it does), I need to do what I can on an individual level to stop hurting the planet (make better choices) and on a community level, to inspire and educate my friends and neighbors to make more conscious lifestyle choices.  Specifically, lately for me that looks like: recycling more, buying less, and in general redefining the word “trash.” Stopping to think before I throw something in a trash can. Walking more, driving less. Living closer to the land, appreciating it, caring for it, and teaching my children to do the same. And not in a Farmer Brown sorta way — not yet. In a “I’m still figuring this out” sorta way.

Do you do any gardening (indoor/outdoor, rural/urban)?

We have a backyard vegetable garden and an herb garden. If I can do it, anyone can. We also live on a kibbutz. I count that as gardening — anyone who lives in constant cow stink gets extra points.

You get to fly anywhere for free – where do you go and why?

Hawaii. I’ve always wanted to go … surf, climb mountains, dip my toe in a volcano.

You get a large sum of money, but have to give it to one charity – who do you give it to?

I’m a rule bender. I’d create my own charity — it’d be dedicated solely to finding a cure for food allergies (and a little bit of lobbying). It’s beyond ridiculous that with all our medical technology that we have not yet found a cure for food allergies.

You get a large sum of money, but have to spend it on yourself – what do you buy?

Luckily I was educated in the 1980s-era school of Richard Pryor films (Brewster’s Millions, The Toy) so I could easily spend lots of money on myself without thinking too hard. I wouldn’t buy a baseball team or a live human toy. But I’d start by hiring a stylist. She’d help me buy a new fashionable wardrobe.  I’d pay lots of extraordinary service providers to service me: health coach, cook, massage therapist, personal yoga instructor, life coach, hypnotherapist, dream coach, writing coach. Then, since it’s a “large sum of money” (which in my mind means GAJILLIONS) I would quit “working” and start “healing.” Solving the problems I feel like I can’t solve right now because money is an object.

Favorite movie and why?

If I have to choose one, it’s The Princess Bride.  It’s storytelling perfection with a moving soundtrack by Mark Knopfler.

What guilty pleasure song/album can be found in your iTunes or movie in your DVD collection?

Yeah, I don’t have ITunes which might explain why my guilty pleasure is Barry Manilow. Enough said.

Favorite artwork and why?

Cheesy answer, but authentic: My 6 year old son’s.

mommy and oliver meditating

And my husband’s:

jen bug

Best advice you ever got?

This is where I wish I had a personal film flashback function – so I could tell you exactly what was said, by whom and when. But I don’t. I’d say I am most grateful to my friend Devora for suggesting I take a weekend self-development course called The Landmark Forum. It put me on the path that I am on now. And I guess if I were to go backward even more, I would thank my son’s first pediatrician Dr. Keith Dverin for “advising me” to be friends with Devora.

What has inspired you lately?

My surroundings as seen through the filters of instagram. I feel as if I can finally show others what I see in my mind’s eye. Mostly the sky. Cloud formations. Unusual trees. Unusual people.

11 Random Facts About Me

1. I grew up addicted to All My Children. I could tell you story lines and characters from the late 1970s. And when I was in college, my mom won for us a visit to the set in New York City. It was awesome. (Tad Martin was dreamy. And we got to see a young Sarah Michelle Gellar, before she was Buffy, rehearse a scene over and over again.)

2. I never really cared for Sarah Michelle Gellar’s acting on AMC, but nonetheless quickly became addicted to Buffy the Vampire Slayer soon after its debut. My first “blogging” gig (paid!) was for a site called The WB Scoop. My job was to blog about Buffy episodes. The site is long gone but some entries are archived here. I actually had a bit of peanut gallery.

3. I have a brother who is 2 years younger than me and one who is 12 years younger than me.

4. I have very vivid dreams … every night.

5. Sometimes my dreams come true, but usually only the boring ones.

6. I am a science fiction nerd. In addition to All My Children, I grew up on the original Star Trek. I hated “Trouble with Tribbles,” but loved the episodes where they go back in time.

7. I lived in NoHo when I was in my twenties and right before it was super chic.

8. I used to see celebrities all the time walking up and down the street. I once semi-stalked Jared Leto by following him into Dean & DeLuca; I also sat next to Matt Dillon in a bar and — on a dare — touched his butt.

9. I wish I was two inches taller than I am.

10. I was a White House intern.

11. My favorite ice cream flavor is Java Chip.

11 Questions for My Liebster Nominees

1. What does mindful living mean to you?

2. How do you deal with people in your life you think “bring you down?”

3. Do you believe in reincarnation?

4. Do you think world civilization is doomed or on the path to enlightenment?

5. Name one person who changed your life forever (first name okay) and why.

6. Name one person whose life you changed forever (first name okay) and why.

7. If you could have one super power what would it be?

8. What’s your earliest memory of your parents?

9. How is the town where you live now different from where you grew up?

10. How are you making the world a better place?

11. What’s usually the last thing you do before you fall asleep?

And finally, the moment you have all been waiting for! The Nominees:

Exploring Mindfulness and Reality Beyond

New Day New Lesson

Counting Ducks

Dr. Susan Rubin

Generation X-pired

Lizreal Update

From America to Australia and back again

Clothilda Jamcracker

The Kasdan Family Blog

The JackB

Triumph Wellness

Nominees … don’t forget. In order to play, you need to choose your own nominees and paste the Leibster ribbon on your blog post. Nominees are supposed to have less than 200 followers — smallish, less well-known blogs. My nominees range from smallish to medium. I have no idea how many followers you really have but I do know I want more people to follow you!

Environment, Love, Mindfulness, Relationships, Spirituality

The Abundance Tree has sprouted

Seth Godin.

That man has a gift for producing nuggets of wisdom. Little snippets, little treasures of thoughtful brilliance that may equally apply to your personal life as they would to your career.

Today, his wisdom nugget was a metaphor plucked from nature. Here it is in its entirety:

seth godin plant seeds

It’s a lesson on abundance of which I need constant reminding:

The more unreservedly I give, the more abundantly I receive.

Thank you, Seth Godin. Message received. Seed planted. Abundance tree growing.

Soon after reading Seth’s nugget, I wrote … a bit reservedly… a rather vulnerable post. It was one of those that make me hesitate to hit the publish button.

In my hesitation, I heard the online voice of James Altucher who writes all the time that his most well-read blog posts –the ones that most touch a nerve — are the ones he almost didn’t publish.

So, feeling vulnerable, I hit publish anyway.

I published the vulnerable post because somewhere deep down beneath the fear and apprehension was a belief that some good would come from hitting the publish button; some good would come from sharing of myself; someone’s head somewhere would nod along with me; someone’s heart somewhere would swell with compassion or fellowship.

Hitting the publish button was me planting the seed.

A half hour later I saw a comment come in from Miss Corinne at A Green (ish) Life responding to my vulnerable post (positively) and telling me, by the way, she nominated me for a Liebster Award. I’m not sure what I was more excited about — that she liked my vulnerable post or that she nominated me for an award I never heard of before.

Either way, I felt all warm and fuzzy inside.

Abundance sprouting.

The very essence of the Liebster Award, it turns out, is unreserved giving. The trophy? Paying it forward.

Thank you, Seth Godin. Thank you, Miss Corinne. Thank you, James Altucher.

Stay tuned for my Liebster acceptance speech and nominations … and watch my abundance tree grow.

Letting Go, Love

Sylvia Plath doesn’t scare me anymore

“I may never be happy, but tonight I am content,” writes the young Sylvia Plath in her journal. (The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath)

What does that road look like?

The road from “content” to put-my-head-in-the-gas-oven?

I can’t think about this for more than a minute. When I do, I myself get consumed.

Sylvia Plath is usually off limits for me.

As caught up in life as I get sometimes, so I get caught up in death. So I stay away. On purpose.

I first heard about Plath from my friend S., who was always much deeper and much more mature than any of my childhood friends, and who was reading her mother’s copy of The Bell Jar already in eighth or ninth grade.  When I saw the book on her bed one day, S. told me of Plath’s depression and her rocky relationship without much fanfare. But I couldn’t get the image out of my head — the 1950s era housewife with her head in a 1950s era gas oven.

Perhaps because of how impressionable I was when I first heard about Plath, the image has been ingrained in my head ever since and so I’ve never read Plath.

I avoid her.

Yesterday, however, attracted by a well-crafted tweet, I clicked on to and found myself faced with Sylvia Plath.

I almost didn’t read the article, but I love BrainPickings so.

I really really love it.

So I dared.

In a post commemorating the 50th anniversary of Plath’s suicide, Maria Popova pulls out entries from Plath’s journals that I can relate to. Entries, as Popova writes, that give us “a record of [Plath’s] incessant oscillation between hope and hopelessness;” Plath’s own “conflicted relationship with life and death;” and Plath’s apparent joy of life and her deep, thoughtful examination of the human species and her own humanity.

Screenshot from
Screenshot from

The excerpts from Plath’s journals are exquisite and extraordinary.

And something I want to read more of.

But in order to do so, I need let go of my fear of Sylvia Plath.

I need to let go of the unknown. Of what I don’t understand.

I need to let go of the choices others make — the actions I have no control over or the reactions I can’t relate to.

Can I do this?

Can I let go?

Can I do this?

You understand why the answer must be, “Yes,” don’t you?

Why letting go of Sylvia Plath is good for me.

And why letting her in is scary…

But good.


The difference a falling rock makes

This morning I was planning to write about love and light.

You know Valentine’s Day. Love. Mindfulness. Kumbaya.

But as soon as I turned on the computer, and before I logged into WordPress, I quickly scanned the latest in my Twitter feed.

Big mistake.

toi meteor

Distracted by the End of the World, I found my creativity a bit…muted.

It’s a good life lesson in how quickly our minds and hearts can turn from love and light to fear and darkness.

And how ultimately, it’s up to us to decide which track to follow.

How one weekend I can be so intensely caught up in the extraordinary beauty of my life.

And how one weekend later I can be in a state of panic about its very existence.

How one use of one medium may embody all that is good and peaceful about social media

serenity rocks

And how another use of another medium can illustrate how social media may incite and invite mass panic.

facebook jen meteor

And how very much

we are the drivers of










Family, Love, Making Friends, Parenting

When life is full, shep nachas

I’ve been lamenting lately a perceived lack of time to write new blog posts.

An idea will pop into my head, for instance, but in between the idea and the publish button is a perceived lack of opportunity to sit and transform the idea into a story.

Too busy at work. Too tired at home. No time in between.

Life is full.

Can you hear my voice?

How does it sound?

“Life is full,” she said with a sigh.

“Life is full,” she whispered as she let her head fall heavily onto the pillow.

“Life is full,” she grumbled as she hastily prepared dinner for three hungry, irritable children.

“Life is full,” she thought to herself as she watched her husband chase her daughter around the grassy field.

When I put aside my frustration and my lament, I can acknowledge that I am so very lucky that — blog posts or not —

Life is full.

*  *  *

So while I only have three minutes today in between this and that, I will use it to shep a little Aliyah nachas.

Purim at Givat El

That little guy in the top hat is my middle son.

He’s six years old.

When we arrived in Israel two years ago, he didn’t speak a word of Hebrew.  He was cute, but shy.

Lovable, but sensitive.

January 2011, at Gan on Kibbutz Hannaton
January 2011, at Gan on Kibbutz Hannaton



For the first two weeks at Gan, he didn’t speak a word to anyone.

In fact, one day he pretended he was blind.


He walked around with his eyes closed all day.

The kids ran up to me at pickup time to ask me if it was true, “Is he blind?”

No, I told them. Just shy. Nervous.

When I asked him later why he pretended to be blind, he told me he didn’t want anyone to notice him.

It took him only three weeks to turn those confused children into his best friends.

He’s older now. Adjusted. Still cute, and a bit shy. Still sensitive, yes, but…

More Israeli.

When it comes to song and dance — this kid is Israeli through and through.

It doesn’t matter what the holiday, what the occasion, this kid’s got the soul and spirit of a sabra.

Purim in Givat Ela ceremony

This morning, my heart burst with joy and pride as his “Kitah Aleph” (first grade) class performed a Purim presentation for the rest of the school and for parents.

Yup: The middle guy in the top hat memorized his line in Hebrew, recited it flawlessly in front of the entire school, and sung and danced his little heart out.

Everyone noticed him.

Especially me.

My life is full.

And lucky for me it takes no time at all to shep nachas.

Just a moment to change your tune.

Letting Go, Living in Community, Love, Making Friends, Mindfulness, Relationships, Spirituality

Life is hard work and other things that make me feel tired, but alive

I am struck by the pictures my friend Holly is sending back to us from Hong Kong and Vietnam.

See more
See more

She’s feeding her wanderlust with banana pancakes, dim sum, and gorgeous panoramas, while feeding our desire for travel photography “porn.”

I love instagram.

Almost in the same moment that the drool drips down my chin,  while mesmerized by the lush green mountain ranges and Buddha statues, I long for the eyes through which I saw Israel in the first months I lived here.

The virgin immigrant eyes.

The virgin immigrant heart that burst with joy each and every day…at the beauty of this land; in curious awe of her people.

Cochav Hayarden, March 2012
Cochav Hayarden, March 2012

When we first made Aliyah,  every drive was emotionally equivalent to a stroll through an art museum; every hike through a national park was a new adventure in a foreign land.

Every day I would find myself saying out loud: “Do I really live here?”

And I meant it in the same way a mother whispers over her newborn baby, “Are you really mine?”

Two years after making Aliyah, I find that my eyes and my heart are still capable of wonder.

But  it’s an experience that does not come as naturally and as automatic as before.

I need, instead, to make those moments happen.

And that takes a lot of work on my part.

I need to see the trash fire in Kfar Manda

smoke in kfar manda

— and turn my anger into compassion, and then activism.

And that’s really hard.

It’s much easier to be angry.  To rant. To shake my head.

I need to remember, in a moment I feel frustrated by my community, when I am outraged by their seeming indifference to the trash that peppers our fields

how grateful I am for my community.

How my community supports me.

How my community allows me the freedom to be a Jew in Progress. To be curious. To be a novice at living in this country.

Acknowledging my community as a gift, however, is really hard work when I am stuck in a moment of discontent.

It’s much easier for me to assume. To judge. To wish myself away from here.

It’s really hard work — and a huge emotional commitment — to be present in your life all the time.

To notice. To stop. To redirect. To be who you want to be, not your raw-emotion-of-the-moment.

It’s exhausting — living your best life.

It’s much easier to feel alive when you are on vacation — separate from the drudgery that often clouds your intentions.

It’s much easier to feel alive when you are first in love; experiencing a newness; your senses overwhelmed by glorious colors and smells.

I recognize this.

And I acknowledge that some days I am too tired to live my best life.

But on the alternate days — the ones in which I work hard for happiness, the ones in which I allow my heart to be open and my mind to be free — I find beauty that surpasses any landscape, any painting, any colorful market scene.

A vacation awaits me.

In my regular boring life.

And yours.


There’s a 90% chance I will never rush anywhere again

I’m fast.

Not short mini skirt and red lipstick kinda fast.

The kind of fast that shows up 15 minutes early no matter how hard she tries to be late. The kind of fast that needs you to get to the point…now. The kind that grits her teeth when people here in Israel say to her, “L’at l’at.” (slowly, slowly)

It’s kind of ironic — when Israelis tell me “slowly slowly.”

Most of them are trying to be kind; encouraging.

But is this really authentic?

Israelis, stereotypically, are the last people with patience for doing anything slowly.

Especially driving.

Israeli drivers, notoriously, are maniacs.

“Yes, we know,” you say. Maybe you follow it up with the “Ain Ma La’sot?” shrug.

What can we do about it other than drive defensively? you ask.

It’s a good question.

The other day a man was killed during the afternoon rush hour in a car accident on the road I take to and from work.

It was raining. There was oil on the road.

It could have been me.

I don’t know if recklessness was involved or not. But I wouldn’t be surprised.

Every day I drive like my life depends on it. Not because it does. But because all of my fellow drivers seem to be so focused on getting somewhere fast, they are unaware of the fact that I want to live.

Every time I am on the road, driving the speed limit or a reasonable level over — drivers pass me at lightning speed. They take over the opposite lane so they can pass the tractor trailer. They drive up my rear as if there is a free gift in my trunk.

What are they rushing to?

Death, obviously.

In my humble opinion, there are only three non-life-or-death reasons to rush anywhere in your car — and they all involve an orifice.

You need to pee. You need to poop. Or you need to push a baby out.

Not in that order.

Yes, Israeli drivers as a rule drive dangerously, but there IS something we can do.

Be one less dangerous Israeli driver on the road.

Be mindful of how you perceive your deadline.

Do you really need to get to work exactly on time?

Will the world end if you are late to that meeting?

No, it won’t. So keep your rage at bay, your phone in your purse, and your eyes on the prize — living.

And — slowly slowly: be the change you want to see on Israeli roads.

Community, Mindfulness, Religion, Spirituality

Finding religion in a Saturday morning buffet

Today is Saturday.


What did you do?

I went to Shacharit for the first time ever on Hannaton.

I sang.

After the 50 minute special chanting service, I snuck out before the Torah was taken out.

I walked home.

I drank coffee.

I meditated in the morning sun.

I grabbed my phone, put it on “silent” and walked back up the hill to meet my neighbors for Kiddush.

I got there only after the prayers were spoken.

I chatted with a friend. About Facebook.

I continued my walk with my phone in my pocket, took it off “silent.”

I meditated in the afternoon sun.

I waved to my neighbors walking their dog.

I found God … in a patch of flowers.

kalaniyot with containers

In a moth resting along a forgotten wall.


I thought about my yesterday and my tomorrow.

I said out loud quiet prayers of gratitude that my children are healthy.

I breathed in deep.

I said “thank you” to the sun.

I ate a quiet lunch alone.

I moved closer to the computer.

I opened up a window.

I moved my fingers across rows of raised letters.

I reached out to you.

* * * *

Is this Judaism?

Is this religion?

Is this observance?

Is this prayer?

Is this devotion?

What do you call this religion of mine?

I call it

A Saturday-morning buffet

Family, Letting Go, Living in Community, Love, Making Friends, Mindfulness, Parenting, Uncategorized

I wasn’t always like this

A well-thought out middle name is an underused tool.

My middle name should be “in progress.”

Jen In Progress.

In my case, In Progress would remind me to be compassionate, to others, but mostly to myself.

Mother In Progress

Wife In Progress

Friend In Progress

It would remind me that I will always be a novice no matter how expert I might become at a skill or a task.

Employee In Progress

Coworker In Progress

Marketing Goddess In Progress

It would remind me that self-expression is a gift wrapped in complicated responsibility

Writer In Progress

Coach In Progress

Community leader In Progress

And that how I define myself is as temporary as it is permanent

Jew In Progress

Israeli In Progress

Kibbutznik In Progress

If my middle name was In Progress, every time I made a serious decision, committed myself to a long term action plan, said Yes or said No, I would acknowledge that I am doing so with the purest of intentions as well as the greatest of uncertainties.

That I am always “in progress” means that I may always forgive myself.  I may always start over. I may always assume that tomorrow will be better.

Even when it’s not.

In Progress reminds me to be in motion. To repair that which I may have broken. To rediscover the gratitude I may have misplaced. To reignite the passion I have let wane.

To progress.

To journey.

To grow.