Family, Letting Go, Parenting

When we grow up, will I be a lady?

Today, while driving my kids to the playground in the next community over (the only thing I could motivate to do on this 169th Day of Passover vacation in Israel), I found myself in deep discussion with them about Jesus and parenting.

Two topics I know almost nothing about, but pretend like I do, sometimes.

The conversation began with my realization that today is Easter Sunday.

You wouldn’t know from the look of things around here that Jesus died for our sins in this neck of the woods some 2000 years ago.  This is what it’s like to live in the boonies of the Jewish State.

Easter is just another Sunday in Spring.

I don’t know much about Jesus, and I certainly told at least three partial untruths, unintentionally contributing to the spread of blood libel I’m sure. But it all made for an interesting enough diversion to keep the backseat from being a war zone for five minutes.

If that’s not a Passover mitzvah, I don’t know what is.

It’s been a long, tough school break.

One that only looks perfect in pictures.

annie on rope swing

zombie oliver

tobey cafe

The last 16 days is the longest I’ve been alone with my kids since I went back to work full-time two years ago.

And I haven’t even been alone that whole time. I’ve been lucky enough to have my mother in town visiting; my in-laws taking over for a day or two; and my husband around for the Seder and the weekends.

In the days leading up to the long break, I mentally prepared. I even convinced myself all this time alone with them was going to be kinda fun. I must have forgotten the agony of those long holiday vacations back in America when I was a stay-at-home or work-at-home mom. And I completely forgot a basic life lesson:

16 days together with anyone — no matter who, no matter how much you like them — is TOO LONG AND ENOUGH TO MAKE YOU HATE YOURSELF, AND EVERYONE ELSE, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO ADORABLY CUTE BABIES AND BUNNIES.

No, this vacation wasn’t perfect, and made me doubt at times my parenting, my career, and our decision to move to Israel.

But it wasn’t without its moments. Teaching moments. Learning moments. Loving moments.

Like the moment today after we finished talking about Jesus and the Jews.

We had just entered the gated community with the cool playground.

I openly admired the houses there. One in particular with solar panels across the roof, a fat wooden tree house in the shaded backyard, and a porch swing gently embraced by flowering vines.

“Wow. Look at that house. I want to live there when I grow up,” I said aloud mindlessly, still in my imaginary future.

“But, Mommy, you are already grown up,” stated the middle son, who depending on the day can be both the wise, the simple, and the son who did not know how to ask.

“True,” I said. “But, the part they don’t tell you in school, is that you are always growing up. That’s basically, I’m afraid, your life’s work.”

Groans and denials from the back seat as we arrived at the playground.

“Not true!”

“What are you talking about?

“Grownups get to decide everything!”

(After 169 days together, you could say that a few punishments have been handed out and threats thrown around.)

“You think they teach parenting at school?” I pressed my kids, cranking my neck around to give them my most serious, yet loving advice face. “Every single decision I make when I’m with you guys is a potential HUGE mistake, or at the very least a big, fat lesson for me to learn for next time. I’m growing up the same as you! Living, learning, figuring stuff out.”

I park the car.


And then they open the doors and run off to swing from a rope tied to a tree.

So much for teaching moments.

I start to say something to them — to shout at them from the open window.

“Did you hear me?!

“Don’t run!”

“Be careful!”

“Take turns!”

But I can’t quite get out the words.

I’m too busy growing up.

Climate Changes, Community, Environment, Food, Health, Mindfulness, Politics

Environment is not a dirty word (and being green doesn’t mean being perfect)

There’s a story I’ve shared quite a few times over the past six years since I became an accidental activist for holistic health and conscious living.

The story goes like this: I used to roll my eyes at environmentalists.

I used to snore that obnoxious snore that one inhales at the back of one’s throat when one thinks that someone else is holier than thou … naive … peace loving … do-gooding…world saving.

I was like, “Give it up, poser.”

And then one day I became the person other people roll their eyes at.


It happened sometime in 2010.

After denying for years I was an earth loving, peace seeking hippie, I realized that all the efforts I had made to be healthy; to protect my kids from toxins in their food and surroundings; to connect people to wellness practitioners that allowed them to avoid a life spent on medication  — all those things — also helped the Earth.

And what did I understand soon after that?

If there was no Earth for my children to live on, it wouldn’t matter how organic, how natural, how toxin-free they were.

They’d be homeless.

And just like that I was an environmentalist.

Not the kind of environmentalist that saves otters or spends two years in a treehouse in the Amazon.

Just a simple environmentalist:

One that stops and thinks before she buys something; before she throws something away.

One that reads food labels.

One that brings an extra plastic bag on a picnic for trash — and then feels a little guilty she has a plastic bag in her possession to begin with.

jen pick up trash

One that teaches her kids that killing ants is cruel and eating animals is something I wrestle with.

I find that many people think that being green means being totally and completely careful and sure about every single thing you do, eat, buy. As if going green means going whole hog, vegan, hemp-wearing, off-the-grid hippie.

It doesn’t.

Truth telling time:

My kids own plastic toys.

Sometimes I throw them in the trash.

My community doesn’t recycle glass.

Sometimes I pack the glass bottles up in bags with the intention of taking them over to the next community for recycling.

Weeks go by. I throw the glass bottles in the trash instead.

I eat non-organic food.

Sometimes that non-organic food is called McDonald’s.

I like long, hot showers.

And sometimes I take them — in spite of the fact I live in a country where water is a luxury.

I don’t like dogs.

Sometimes I fantasize about kicking dogs. (I don’t kick them, but not because I like them).

I am human. But at the same time, I am a thinker.

I am someone who thinks green… by default, at first. And now, on purpose.

I think; therefore, I am.

I am someone who acts green.

Not because it’s politically correct or trendy.

And not because I think that my one or two or ten choices will mean that there will be a planet for my children to live on in 20 years.

In fact, some days I find myself banking on Mars.

Some days I think we’re all just f-ing doomed.

I am an environmentalist because once I started thinking, I realized it was impossible for me to be anything but…

an environmentalist.

Living in Community, Mindfulness, Parenting

Community isn’t just a funny show on the TV

Living in community is hard.

It’s also engrossing, fulfilling, heartwarming, and at times, heart-breaking.

More than anything, living in community is a sure-fire way to be present at any given moment to your self-worth, your self-esteem, and self-sufficiency.

Living on top of each other — which is what you do when you live on a small kibbutz, at least — means you are every day faced with fitting in, belonging, needing, giving, taking, believing, doubting, judging, questioning, accepting, committing, avoiding.

Your heart just sits there in the front seat of a roller coaster ride.

Some days trekking slowly slowly to the top — excitement building. You can hardly breathe. Other days, a swift ride to the very bottom. You can hardly breathe.

But in a different kind of way.

Who chooses this life? This togetherness?

Who forfeits the privacy, the independence, the safe separate-ness of living in a large city or a large suburb with long driveways and electric garage door openers?

There are days when I want to run away to that large city; hide inside a dark suburban garage.

You can’t do that on kibbutz.

You can’t avoid the neighbor who insulted you.

Or the friend who disappointed you.

Or the child who bullied yours.

You can certainly try.

But as you cross paths time and again, each time reminded of the injury, the insult, the suffering, you have a choice to make.

Be with the suffering,

Or heal.

There’s no avoiding. Not for long, anyway.

There’s just choosing to suffer or choosing to heal.

Living in community is hard.

But no harder than life.

Living here, in community, is like living in a petri dish of evolution. Of social innovation. Of personal development.

Of love and compassion.

For yourself and for your neighbors.

And it’s hard some days.

Other days, though, miracles happen .. right before your very eyes.


Family, Love, Mindfulness, Parenting

My life in pictures

When I was a girl, I imagined my life a movie.

In fact, I have a few distinct memories of moments in which I felt very present to the experience of being watched.

This makes me sound crazy. Paranoid. Egotistical.

I know.

But, nonetheless, every once in a while I’d be walking down the street with a friend or engaged in a song and dance with my brother, and suddenly sense an observer.

I’d look around. Nobody was there.

Over time, I resolved this to be an inexplicable sensation I labeled, “My life in pictures.”

Now, as an observant adult, as a mindful lifer, as a humbled human being awed by her children, terrified by her own mortality…I find I am a member of the audience, instead; with one greasy hand inside the popcorn box and the other gripping the side of the aisle seat wondering…

How will it all end?

Meanwhile, I’m also the excited, but cautious cinematographer.

Struck breathless by extraordinarily poignant scenes

moti penina piano

Obsessed with capturing light

lights tangled

and angles

boys in the grass

Wondering all the time if other people can see what I see…

If other people feel the love and the loss inside a half-eaten cupcake


Or the extraordinary sadness of a broken plate


I sometimes watch my husband chase the children and know that once there was someone who watched me.

Someone is still watching.

A critic, a fan, or just a curious spectator of my life in pictures.

Letting Go, Mindfulness

The gold buried inside a rejection slip

I got rejected today.

I opened my email this morning to find a very nicely-worded rejection letter in response to my application to participate in a young Jewish leadership conference.

I know what you’re thinking: You’re not so young anymore.

This is what I thought, too, when I opened the rejection letter.

I mean could there be any other reason why the evaluation committee would ever in a million years not choose me?

I mean, come on.

I’m passionate. Energetic. Creative. A proven innovator. A success story.

Who wouldn’t want me to be a part of their project?

Okay, it’s possible I’m a little past my prime. Maybe I’m not the rising star I used to be.

But…reject me? Who would ever do that?

And yet, someone did. A whole committee. A whole group of people sat around and discussed my worth, my potential for contribution, my adequacy.

And they decided:


Why am I sharing this with you? Who goes around and admits she’s a loser?

Someone who wants to convince her heart of what her head already knows:

There is no deep meaning concealed between the lines of a nicely-worded rejection letter.

A rejection is a pure and simple, “No, thank you.”

A rejection is not, “You suck;” “Never in a million years;” or “As if!” and I think many of us — even those of us with a history of success — often over-interpret, over-internalize, and over-analyze rejections.

We make them mean something.

About us.

About our work.

About our worth.

The truth — the gold — is we reject people and things a hundred times a day and attach no meaning.

The phone rings. We don’t answer it. Rejection. Without meaning.

The telemarketer calls us up to offer a special deal. We say no. Rejection. Without meaning.

The cashier offers us a club card. We shake our heads. Rejection. Without meaning.

Our spouse makes a move … okay, this is where it gets dicey … but you understand, don’t you?

It makes no sense to say that one rejection has meaning when another doesn’t.

Either rejection means something or it doesn’t.

And I suggest it doesn’t. And we’re better off believing this reality than the one that says rejection is proof we’re losers.

Rejection means someone said, “No thank you.”

And it only makes its way into our future when we bring it along for the ride.