Environment, Kibbutz

Gem in the Galilee

My dad and my husband have this routine:

My dad, an archaeology enthusiast, always keeps his eyes peeled for the undiscovered artifact when he visits Israel. My husband always ribs him, “They’ve already found everything there is to find, Paul.”

I take my dad’s side on this one and whenever archaeologists make a big discovery in our area in the Lower Galilee, I’ll usually send the article to my husband and my dad with the subject line: “So there’s nothing left to find in Israel…”

I am reminded today, too, how much there is still yet for me to discover here in this region — not ancient artifacts, necessarily, but unexplored paths, little known attractions, charming exhibits and people.

I wasn’t the one to stumble upon Hemdatya, a particularly special bed and breakfast in the Lower Galilee; my husband (the one who says there’s nothing left to find) did. Ilaniya, the historic community on which the b & b is located, is across the street from where he works and the company often recommends the place to out-of-town visitors.

My husband was so charmed by Hemdatya and by the owner, Atalia, when he was there recently with his colleague, he invited me to breakfast  there to see exactly what a gem in the Lower Galilee it is.

I was smitten.

Atalia (l) owner of Hemdatya Bed and Breakfast, and me
Atalia (l) owner of Hemdatya Bed and Breakfast, and me

With Atalia, yes, who was a gracious, sweet and entertaining hostess (not to mention an amazing chef!). But with the grounds themselves, and more so with her vision for Hemdatya, which is a haven for any traveler interested in ecotourism, organic agriculture, or permaculture. It’s also a charming, potentially romantic retreat for both foreigners and locals looking to get away for some low-key relaxation.

Hemdatya is located on a historic Israeli village about 15 minutes from the Sea of Galilee called Ilaniya, originally a farming community and agricultural training center for long-ago pioneers. The stone buildings of the b & b —  renovated with both historic conservation and sustainability in mind —   are constructed much from nearby materials.  Hemdatya installed and employs a system for collecting rain water and recycles gray water throughout the site. The water from the rooms (bathrooms and kitchens) drains into a biological purification system and from there irrigates the orchards that grow vegetables, fruits, and grapes for wine.

We ate in the main kitchen — a traditional Israeli breakfast of breads, salads, cheese, and shakshouka. The cheese was from goat milk; gifts from the local goats. And the eggs in the shakshouka were from the local chickens.

Breakfast at Hemdatya
Breakfast at Hemdatya

Many tzimmerim in Northern Israel can claim goats and chickens, but not many can claim the fruits and veggies grown not just organically, but according to the ethics and principles of permaculture. No pesticides in her gardens, says Atalia. No need.  Using permaculture, the gardens grow in harmony with the “pests.”

After breakfast, Atalia gave us a tour of the five guest rooms (each with a small kitchenette and eco-friendly bathroom) which are so delightful in their decor, you can tell attention was paid not just to construction and conservation, but also to aesthetics. I gushed to Atalia (and I meant it), “I am sure all of your visitors are as struck as I am at how enchanting these rooms are.”

Last, we toured the grounds. Vegetables grow everywhere, from little gardens in front of the farm-house guest rooms

Peppers grow on Hemdatya in Israel
Peppers grow on Hemdatya in Israel

to the grape vines that overhang the entrance to the jacuzzi room.

Grape vines at Hemdatya in Israel
Grape vines at Hemdatya in Israel

The gorgeous stone pool sealed the deal and I am already planning in my mind a getaway in the near future:  a writer’s retreat, let’s say, just me, my laptop and my thoughts. Or a birthday weekend.

Hint, hint. 

 

 

 

 

 

Books, Climate Changes, Community, Environment, Food, Health, Modern Life, Relationships, Religion, Survivalism, War, Writing

What I imagine when I imagine the end of the world

Short Fiction

When I imagine the end of the world, I am alone at the edge of a cliff. It’s evening and God Only Knows by the Beach Boys is playing on a box radio I looted from my neighbor’s basement.

If it were a movie, I’d be gazing out over the city lights of Los Angeles just as the electricity went out, as one by one the skyscrapers lost power, and the city fell dark.

A blazing comet approaches.

Or a neon green burst of light from beyond the reaches of time.

Or a giant tidal wave shimmies up the coast.

If it were a movie, my heart would swell as I accepted my fate. I would open my arms and embrace humanity’s extinction for I knew I had lived life to its fullest.

But it’s not a movie.

It’s my real life.

In which almost every day is the end of the world.

* * *

 

I have a disease without a name.

If it had a name, it would be called something like redemptionitis or zombisteria or hypotrychtapocalypse.

The closest anyone has ever come to labelling my disease was in the years leading up to the much-publicized end of the Mayan Calendar in December 2012.

Doomsday Phobia, they called it.

Anyone who stocked their basements with toilet paper and canned sardines in preparation for Armageddon; anyone who hoarded books of medicinal herbs or learned how to forage for mushrooms in a weekend workshop held in the back woods of Westchester County, NY; anyone who stocked in the back of the medicine cabinet antibiotics from their child’s most recent prescription for strep throat: We were all quietly laughed at and labeled “preppers.”

Back when it was cute, the way a touch of crazy is cute, as long as it doesn’t lead to a shootout in a movie theater.

Back then, I wondered to myself if I was on a CIA watch list. Did they suspect me? A suburban New Jersey mom of two? A college educated professional with a real job and a real paycheck?

I certainly didn’t fit the profile.

I wore Ann Taylor suits and took the NJ Transit train every day from the suburbs into the city where I walked six blocks to my midtown workplace. In our open floor plan, I had the closest thing to an office – a transparent cube looking out over the East River, made from glass walls so others could look in. It was called the Rainbow Fish Bowl because of the stickers my daughter once placed on the sliding glass door. Every other Friday, I got a pedicure at Trudy’s Green Nails on Lexington Avenue. I was in a book club. I volunteered at the preschool. People liked me.

Each day, I put effort into smiling at my coworkers as if life wasn’t about to abruptly end by Avian Bird Flu.  I’d make jokes over the phone with the sales consultants who’d ask me if I thought wheatgrass was gluten free. I played along. Drank Nespresso in the coffee room with the writers; made snide remarks with the editors about our wacky advertisers; especially the ones who placed ads offering organic MREs (meals-ready-to-eat) purported to last 15 years. Secretly, I wondered if it made sense to pay for organic canned food when the cans were probably lined with BPA.

Could my coworkers view my computer monitor, however, they would have noticed I spent half the day reading headlines on alternative news web sites, corresponding in code with people named “Zen Grower” about the latest UFO sighting over New Mexico or the best price on bulk dehydrated food. I read blogs from people living in half-completed bunkers in the mountains of West Virginia; with strangers supposedly privy to knowledge that was never reported on CNN.  “The ‘Illuminati’ kills scientists, you know,” wrote Jade, my telepathic friend. She communicates with an alien race who is trying to save us from another alien race who’s been trying to destroy us since the Revolutionary War. “All war,” says Jade, “is the fault of the Reptilians.”

I would search “new world order Russian scientists reveal underwater pyramid” and “fourth dimensional beings plot to reprogram our brains” because I knew the search results would give me the intel I required to plan. And I planned. I had one to-do list that included vaccinations, playdates, and dentist appointments. Another to-do list for the end of the world.

My day job, I guess, was a ruse.

It was a way to satisfy my compulsion and still remain a member of society. Or so says Dr. Solomon. I saw it as a healthy way to educate myself on tactics I would surely need for the post-apocalyptic world I was certain was looming. Easily-learned skills like:

  • Reiki for when we no longer had the option to see surgeons for bone breaks or muscle sprains;
  • Acupressure, which I would use in the place of the anti-inflammatories we so depended on in the Before Times for headaches and menstrual cramps;
  • Nutritional supplements and herbal teas — like Chia and Flax seeds; dandelion and feverfew — I’d grow in a rooftop urban garden, where I’d herd my children before the Flood.

Back then, I was Advertising Director of a major national healthy living magazine. I courted and secured advertisers from multiple sectors: home and garden, health and wellness, exercise and fitness, diet and nutrition. And, of course, our bestsellers: classifieds from personal vegan chefs, Hindu tantric sex practitioners and Henna artists.

I was really good at my job. I was good at selling ads because I really believed all of the service providers and multi-level marketing professionals.  When they heard acknowledgment and acceptance in my voice over the phone, they eagerly placed half or more of their advertising budget in my hands.

I understood them, after all. Their fears. Their hopes. I knew intimately what it felt like to want to survive, but more so to want to be listened to and believed.

In my own experience, though, there were therapies and products that worked, and those that didn’t. Quackery, some might say. Except in my business, we never use the word quackery. This would alienate the chiropractors and homeopaths who placed half-page color ads for their self-published e-books.

Reiki, for instance, didn’t cure me of recurring yeast infections, as promised. But my Thursday afternoon sessions with Liane, the psychic massage therapist did help identify a sugar addiction. She also told me I had powers like hers; that I could, if I wanted to, study to be a healer.

She was right. I am a sugar addict. But she was also wrong. I can’t seem to heal anyone.

I kept seeing Liane on a regular basis and even believed most of the stories she would tell me: How her client was miraculously cured from testicular cancer by shiatsu and a six-week juice fast. How her deep tissue hot stone massage helped a couple overcome infertility. How the couple now had triplets – all girls.

I believed Liane. Except for that one time she told me that my migraines were the key to time travel, and that I should stop taking the Relert when the auras came on. I also believed the magazine readers who emailed testimony after testimony to our editorial staff profusely thanking us for publishing stories that changed their lives.  I believed the clippable lists we elegantly designed for ease-of-use, like “Pema Chodron’s Top 5 Mantras for Mindful Sex.”

I believed we were helping people.

I believed the jacket copy on the bestseller of contributing editor, celebrity physician Dr. Joel Willey– a book I personally reviewed for the magazine last December — promising increased sexual desire and stamina for peri-menopausal women by switching to a vegan, carbohydrate-free, anti-inflammatory diet.

I believed it all.

Which, apparently, is a symptom of my disease.

I have a disease without a name; without a designation, but with a host of exhibiting symptoms that collectively, for the past fifteen years, I called “conscious living,” but collectively make up a manilla folder of evidence against me, sitting on an antique desk in Dr. Solomon’s office.

All these “symptoms,” which were formerly advantageous qualities on a resume when applying for a job at a natural healthy living magazine, are now being offered up as evidence of my insanity. My inability to continue as a functioning member of society.

My disease is without a name. It’s as lonely as a woman standing on the edge of a cliff waiting for the world to end.

But, as it turns out, no name is necessary.

* * *

 

This work of fiction is an excerpt from an original short story by Jen Maidenberg, “What I imagine when I imagine the end of the world.”

Environment, Family, Food, Food allergies, Letting Go

Cookie cutter approach to food activism

As we enter the period before Passover, I’m thinking about how eat, what we what, with whom we eat and why. I am meditating on freedom and gratitude.

No, actually, I am not.

I’m thinking about the store-bought chocolate chip cookie I just ate.

For breakfast. (Actually, I had a vegetable wrap first. The cookie was for dessert. Breakfast dessert.)

As I ate the cookie with deep pleasure, I thought to myself.

This is happiness.

Of course, there are chemical reasons why the cookie made me so happy; the main one being white sugar in abundance.

This I know.

And this I shrugged off.

Instead of acknowledging the sugar and the wheat and the likelihood that both would incite the candida surely camping out in my gut or inflame the inner lining of my intestines, I ate another cookie.

I think it was even better than the first.

I’m thinking about eating another one.

But first I’m blogging: To clear my proverbial throat because what I want to say is unclear right now.

What I want to say is that I spent the last two decades a bit too food-focused.

Not without good reason.

I believe, firmly, that food can be harmful. I believe that food is a direct or indirect cause of chronic illness. I believe food is addictive. Food is a commodity that corporations use to control people. Food has been made an idol that we in the #firstworld worship.

I believe food may be used to heal if used properly, but has become deified also by wellness professionals (especially those with books or vitamins to sell) in the guise of healthy living. So many of us are self medicating with chia and gobi and wheatgrass in the same way people are self medicating with xanax and marijuana and vodka on frozen lemon juice ice cubes with mitz petel (I call it “the Hannaton.” It’s amazing and totally gets me through the homework to bedtime madness.)

I consider myself a food activist, and yet I question my focused attention on food.

I question my focus.

I question it.

It’s important to question our obsessions.

For even those of us with good intentions, food has become an obsession.

And I question that.

This is what I want to say.

It’s important to have passion.

It’s important to be mindful about our behavior and

conscious about the consequences.

It’s important to support causes.

And it’s important to share ideas — loudly and powerfully.

But it’s equally important to question our motives.

And the returns on our investment.

I spent three years dairy free. I didn’t eat a drop of cow product. I read labels religiously. My motive, at first, was to nurse my son so he wouldn’t have bloody poop. After I weaned him, I kept it up because I noticed I didn’t have as much mucus in my life. And as anyone who has a lot of mucus in their life knows, mucus-free lives are happier lives. And probably less-likely-to-have-stomach-cancer lives.

Since moving to Israel three years ago, however, I’ve found it increasingly difficult to not eat dairy. Let’s put it this way. Dairy has re-entered my life with a passion. And the passion is called “bulgarit.”

We had to make an adjustment to our lifestyle. No longer was there a Whole Foods nearby to offer us 15 different varieties of gluten free bread. No longer did we have the budget to spend on those items even if there was one nearby. No longer could I find grass-fed beef. No longer could I feed myself and my kids turkey bacon for breakfast anymore. (Ironically, there is pork bacon in Israel but no turkey bacon.) Nut and seed butters are not an option for us. Therefore, the dairy. Oh, the dairy.

My point is: As my life changed, so did my diet. And so did my relationship to food. At first, this created enormous upset in me. For a good year living here, I lived with anger, resentment, and disappointment — all related to food.

I still carry some of that. I carry it on Shabbat when I go to kiddush at our community synagogue and my nut allergic son always ALWAYS hides on the playground because kiddush is not safe for him. I carry it with me in restaurants, on the rare occasion we go out, and realize there is nothing on the menu for my kids because everything comes with sesame or nuts. I carry it with me when I see the planes flying overhead spraying the beautiful vegetable fields with pesticide. I carry it with me when I hear about childhood cancer and in the back of my mind I know it’s because of the water pollution and the air pollution and the planes that fly by.

The activist in me is not dead.

She lives … but a little more quietly.

A little less all-consuming.

She allows chocolate chip cookies…for breakfast.

* * *

When I started to give up my commitment to food a little, I started to notice some things.

There is something inside activism that is closely connected to anger.

There is something inside healthy that is closely connected to unhealthy.

And there is something inside not eating that is closely connected to desperately needing to be full.

For a big part of food activism — if we look deeply and honestly — is about controlling a life that is terrifying. It’s about trying to be certain in a world that is only certain in its uncertainty.

I still believe in activism. And I believe in sharing information.

But sometimes all we have is what makes us happy in this very moment.

And that is enough.

 

 

Community, Culture, Environment, Kibbutz

My little Garden of Eden in Israel

There is a place I idealize here in Israel:

Kibbutz Harduf in the Lower Galilee, an anthroposophic community with a unique approach to intentional living, and Israel’s largest producer of organic food.

Before we made Aliyah I first learned of Harduf  from my (now) friend Haviva’s article in Zeek about local, organic living in the Galilee.  At the time, I was running my own consulting business in New Jersey, the main focus of which was on educational and marketing efforts in the area of holistic health and green living. When we started researching communities in which to live I looked into the possibility of moving to Harduf.

I reached out via their Hebrew web site, but received no response. And when I asked our Nefesh B’ Nefesh regional Aliyah consultant her opinion on whether she thought Harduf was a good fit for our family, she advised against it, indicating it wasn’t the best place for new immigrants unless we were all very focused on living the “hardcore anthroposophic” life.

This was wise advice.

It wouldn’t have been a good fit for our family.

But, wow, it would have been a good fit for me — in another life. And sometimes I wish we lived there.

The beautiful campus is set upon a hill which overlooks in the distance the bay of Haifa and the Mediterranean sea. The residents, in the 30 or so years they have built up the kibbutz have put obvious effort into making the explorer’s experience of their home one peppered with wonder and teeming with vitality.

Harduf is itself alive.

I don’t live there, but I am lucky enough to live very close — just a 15 minute drive away. Recently, I joined the health clinic there (the physician, an M.D., is trained in both conventional medicine and anthroposophic medicine, which emphasizes homeopathy over medication.) So I’ve been spending more time there and try to build in an extra 10 or 20 minutes to wander every time I have to go there.

This morning, I brought my two youngest children over to Harduf to walk through the gardens, smell and touch the fruit trees, wander through shaded paths that lead to unexpected structures, and play on their gorgeous playground, a wonderland of thoughtful planning and handiwork.

yellow house

It was a two-hour slice of heaven.

Only after playing on the playground for an hour and on our way out to the restaurant and store that is open on Shabbat did I see this sign:

harduf sign

The sign basically says, “Entrance to the park is forbidden to non-residents of Harduf. The use of the playground is for children supervised by parents.”

The sign was new. It wasn’t there the last time we visited.

Still the new immigrant, I couldn’t pass by the sign without a thought, leaving the rule following to others.  I’m still very American, and I felt bad for a minute that we had unknowingly defied the sign.

But only for a minute.

Soon after, I was angry. Insulted.

Confused.

Harduf?

Telling non-residents to “Keep Out!”

How could this be?

I quickly snapped a photo of the sign and ushered my kids out.

I silently generated all sorts of indignant responses to this sign:

“Oh, they’re happy to have my business at the organic vegetable market or at the restaurant, but they aren’t willing to open their playground to me and my kids?”

“What if I was a tourist? Or a visitor to one of the families who lived here? How rude!”

“Would we ever put up a sign in Hannaton telling people who didn’t live there that our playground was off limits?”

I took the kids to the restaurant, which has a quaint little gift shop inside and we browsed for a bit.

Outside the Harduf organic vegetable market, Israel
Outside the Harduf organic vegetable market, Israel

As I approached the cash register to pay, I saw the owner of the restaurant and a long time Harduf resident, Jutka, there. I don’t know Jutka well: I’ve just had a few conversations with her a couple of times that I’ve been in the restaurant. (Jutka is also the author of this family-friendly vegetarian cookbook.)

I asked her in Hebrew about the sign at the playground, “Why is the playground off-limits to outsiders?”

She grumbled in response, “It’s for security reasons.”

She didn’t mean security in the traditional Israeli way, I quickly learned. The signs weren’t a warning to unfriendly neighbors, people who might want to hurt us. Those “security risks” don’t pay attention to signs.

What I understood from her was the signs were to protect Harduf from lawsuits. They were placed there to inform people of their personal liability.

She didn’t mention specifics, but I wondered if something had happened to spark this decision.

I told her I was disappointed and a little hurt to come upon the sign. I told her that I consider Harduf a paradise, and was taken aback to see such a harsh statement at the entrance to a park I love so much.

She sighed. I understood from this and her from eyes that she’s proud of the paradise she’s helped built, but she said,

“Even in this paradise, there are reasons to be concerned. Even in Gan Eden, there was the serpent,”

Jutka said this with a sly smile. (Jutka is someone I’d like to get to know better some day.)

I breathed in deeply and nodded, her words hitting me. Even in paradise there are problems to solve; hard decisions to be made. And Harduf is no exception.

Suddenly, I wasn’t angry anymore — it helped that Jutka invited us to be her guest at the playground, should anyone ask — but I was a bit disheartened:  Reality bursting my bubble once again.

I shook it off — and instead accessed the gratitude I had felt for the few hours on Harduf before I discovered the sign.

“You can sense the spirit here, can’t you?” Jutka asked.

I nodded again.

“Come back here whenever you want,” she told me.

And I agreed that I would.

Environment, Kibbutz

I see beauty

When I first moved to Israel, as when I first fell in love with my husband, everything was beautiful:

The early morning mountains which framed a glorious sky peppered with misshapen clouds.

The herds of cows that grazed by the side of the road in fields glistening with morning dew.

The herb garden I grew from seedlings and the lemon tree i tended in my front yard.

All instilled me daily with wonder.

But as with any new love, the extraordinary faded into the ordinary, and over the past two and a half years, I have slowly become a woman who no longer feels compelled to sigh as I drive on the beach road from the lower galilee where I live south to Tel Aviv.

I no longer breathe in deep and breathe out the question:

I live here?

I am able to see the waves crash on the shores of the Mediterranean without being overwhelmed with delight.

I am able to see a lone camel walking along the busy express highway without grinning.

Yes, i live here.

And with my acknowledgment comes a price. My vision shifts slightly.

But even in my nonchalance,

Even in my hurry to get home to my kids
To make dinner
To clean the dishes

i still stop for the cotton fields.

There’s something magical about blooming cotton.

I can’t explain it.

Is it the absurdity of seeing — there sprouting from a plant — a material I know only as a sensation against my skin?

Is it the contrast of the billowy white puffs against the dried out greenish gray stalks emerging from the ground?

I don’t know.

But I am always caught surprised by the cotton fields.

As if someone has transported me back

Somewhere else but now.

cotton

Environment, Health, Middle East Conflict, Mindfulness, Work

An Israel Story Only I Can Tell

The title of my blog references my aliyah.

Aliyah is the Hebrew word used when a Jew moves from somewhere outside Israel to Israel.  If you have been to a synagogue on Saturday, you might have heard the word also used to reference someone being called up to the Torah for a blessing. The word aliyah literally translates as elevation or ‘going up.’

My going up was from New Jersey.

Depending on how much of a Jersey fan you are, you might not have difficulty seeing how moving to Israel from New Jersey was ‘elevating.’ (I’m staying out of that debate.)

On the other hand, depending on how much of a fan of Israel you are, you might have a lot of difficulty understanding why my husband and I picked up our three young children and moved here. (I’m staying out of that debate, too.)

We’re not particularly religious. Nor are we ardent Zionists.

We are reasonably observant moderate Jews from New Jersey, emphasis on the word reasonable.

This — reasonableness  — is what Israel, and the world that talks about Israel, needs more of. So, you can say, we’re contributing to that cause.  When I blog from Israel, I hope to share stories that most people outside of Israel never hear. The stories of the people who live here: Our daily lives, minus the conflict, minus the politics, minus the fear.

I don’t blog often about what I do during the day when I’m not blogging. I’m the Chief Marketing Officer for an investment group that invests in and develops start-up companies.

A lot of new olim (immigrants) try to break into high tech when they move here because a) it’s a great marketplace for English speakers and b) Start-up Nation is where it’s at.

Not me, though.

That wasn’t my plan at all.

My plan was to move here, get adjusted, learn Hebrew, grow an organic garden, and write a few freelance articles for The Jerusalem Post.

However, a few months after landing here a job opened up at a nearby company and the job description basically described me. My husband encouraged me to apply for the job. I did. And that’s what I’ve been doing for the past 2 1/2 years all day, 5 days a week — helping grow start-up companies.

I never write about my job because it’s not what I think about when I am not working. I like to leave my work at work.

Mindfulness, and all.

But last night, something incredible happened that is still with me today.

Two companies who I’ve worked with — portfolio companies of my employer, The Trendlines Group — won awards for best start-ups of the year. Out of dozens that were eligible, the award was offered to three companies, and two of the companies were from our group.

That in and of itself is something to take pride in — companies who I’ve worked with are now award-winning companies. But my greater pride comes from the types of technologies the companies are developing. One, Sol Chip, has created a tiny chip that harvests energy from the sun in a way that’s going to change how we use electricity everywhere from offices to farms. The other, ApiFix, has revolutionized treatment for adolescent scoliosis. It’s literally going to change the lives of hundreds of thousands of young girls with severe curvature of the spine.

These are the kinds of companies Trendlines invests in — companies really poised to improve the human condition.

These are the kinds of ideas and technologies that come out of Israel.

Not just technologies that help you find your way from the bar to the post office.

waze

But technologies that will save your life some day. If not yours, than your child’s or your neighbor’s.

Technologies that will one day be used not just in Israel, but everywhere.

Even in countries that are anti-Israel.

This. Is. Quite. A. Story.

And so, I blog about it.

You see: The Israel story — and my story living here — is even more complex than you ever thought.

When I moved to Israel, I braced myself for potential backlash from friends who, for reasons of politics or ignorance, might see my move to Israel as a statement, or worse, as a mistake.

But that didn’t happen.

What did happen was a door opened.

I got to be a part of an Israel that people who live outside Israel hardly ever see.

And I got to be someone who shares that story.

So, thank you.

Thank you for reading.

And thank you for letting me be a reasonable voice in a very noisy, and complex world.

team at awards jm
Part of the Trendlines team with Chief Scientist Avi Hasson and Israel’s Technology Incubator Program Director Yossi Smoler, June 2013

ocs award

Climate Changes, Community, Culture, Environment, Family, Living in Community

This is best use of social media for social good I’ve seen in a long time

#Litterati

 


 
And I'm playing in Israel.
I hope you join us.

Education, Environment, Family, Food, Letting Go

If i was a lawmaker, but then again no…

Today’s Daily Prompt:

You have the power to enact a single law. What would it be?

Wait for it.

Wait for it.

Wait for it.

I would make a law that allowed me to make three more laws.

Ha!

Don’t ever try to limit me to just one anything!

I will beat you

at your own game

every time.

But, in all seriousness, as much as I love laws — and I do, I’m one of those irritating rule followers — I have a hard time coming up with the laws I would enact first if given the opportunity.

I would certainly enact one law that would benefit mothers.

And enact another that would benefit the Earth.

Somehow both of the above laws would trickle down to benefiting children.

Not just today’s children, but tomorrow’s.

Because I think the Earth, mothers, and children are often the ones who suffer with a lack of laws in their favor.

I would enact a law, I think, that would allow one parent to choose to be at home to care for his or her children, if he or she chooses, for at least two years full-time, and then supplementary after that until the children leave home.

My new “Family Leave Law” would not emphasize the LEAVE, but the STAY.

It would make a case for staying.

So staying is something a parent could choose to do, as opposed to making a major financial sacrifice when choosing to leave a full-time job in order to care for children, which is the situation for most people.

My law would reward and support parents for choosing to take on the job of caring for, educating and nurturing their children before and after school, for which we now pay others to do in a daycare system or through paid childcare.

My law would use taxpayer’s money to offer the parent caring for the child financial benefits and significant tax breaks for the time spent caring for the child.

In many countries (not the U.S.) laws like this already exist in some form.  The existing law is not as supportive as my proposed law, per say, but it’s better than what exists right now in America under the Family  and Medical Leave Act which basically protects no one and supports nothing, but the employer.

Really.

It’s a joke.

If you have ever been pregnant, you know what I mean.

Unless you’re a teacher, a union member, or work for the state government — those guys, from what I hear, have it pretty good.

Of course, there are cases to be made for not doing this.

Israel is one such case.

People here have lots of babies.

For a long time.

I’m talking 6, 7, 10 children.

My new law could potentially create a financial hardship for the government.

Which then may lead to the government putting a cap on how many children they will subsidize.

Which then will lead to anti-government people getting all up in arms about government regulating what we can and cannot do; how many kids we can or cannot have.

Which would lead to a media frenzy.

Which would lead to an outcry. And then a backlash. And then, maybe a reversal of my law.

Which makes me really glad, for once, I’m not the one making laws.

It’s really not as easy as it appears, is it?

What law would you enact?

Climate Changes, Community, Environment, Family, Middle East Conflict, Survivalism, Terrorism

An imaginable future

When we first moved to Israel, I felt uncomfortable sitting on buses and in cafes.

I would casually look around, trying to avoid notice, to see if there were any suspicious people or packages about; not sure, exactly, what my reaction would be if I spotted one.

Over time I have found myself less and less suspicious. More at ease in public places, as it so happens, but still not at ease.

“At ease” is not a behavior I was born with — or maybe I was — and was just spooked one too many times by a mischievous friend or traumatized by too many VC Andrews novels.

The world, for me, has almost always been a scary place.

And I have almost always been easily startled.

While here in Israel, I cautiously scan the room for bombs; in the States, I cautiously scanned darkened evening streets for rapists and quiet alleys for thugs. I walked quickly through empty hallways and avoided elevators with lone men. I double and triple locked my doors, and was known to sometimes sleep with the lights on. Especially the night after The Blair Witch Project.

I remember being in a bar watching a band perform in New York City once, in the months just before 9/11 but fresh enough after Columbine to still be jumpy, and leaping off my seat at the sound of a small explosion in the back of the room. Someone’s hair had caught fire accidentally on the tea light candle intended for atmosphere, and instead of atmosphere we were treated to dramatic special effects.

After I caught my breath, I laughed out loud at my reaction, but internally asked myself what I had been so concerned about. What immediate danger did I think the noise indicated?

A gun shot?

An explosion?

A brawl?

It’s the first time I remember my unease extending from mild anxiety to a heightened concern for my immediate well-being and the well-being of others.

From then and there, unfortunately, my unease has only become gradually uneasier.

And not because my anxiety has worsened, and not because I moved to Israel.

In fact, my anxiety has significantly improved in the last decade since I started acknowledging it and paying attention to it and using focused breathing, meditation and mindfulness.

Moving to the slow-paced countryside of Israel, in some ways, has helped, too.

But no matter how significantly my anxiety has improved, the world hasn’t. Since 9/11, the way I see it, we have been witness to more violent crimes like those in Aurora and Newtown and Boston and have experienced the communal aftermath of incomprehensible tragedies like Katrina and Sandy and are becoming more and more awakened to the devastation of our planet and the resources we have taken advantage of all our lives.

And suddenly I am no longer a minor statistic in a clinical journal.

It’s not just me and my world viewed through an anxiety-colored lens.

The world itself has become anxiety-colored. The world itself is on edge.

I watched this video of grown men jumping out of their seats; seemingly reaching to hug each other at the sound of thunder booming loudly over Yankee Stadium during a rain delay.

At first, I giggled. It was cute. Funny.

And then I paused, and realized, it wasn’t funny at all.

Grown men — baseball players, even, symbols of fearlessness and recklessness — jumping out of their seats at the sound of a …

Boom!

We are living in a world in which we are now, clearly, all easily startled.

scaredy cats

I know I’m not the first to make the claim that the world is growing bleaker and blacker.

There are voices much louder than mine that have come before.

And even though my voice is not the first.

There is always a glimmer of hope it can become one of the last.

The year I was born poet and activist Shel Silverstein wrote:

“There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.
Yes we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.”

(Where the Sidewalk Ends, by Shel Silverstein)

Those children are now grown.

Those children are now us.

And it’s indeed possible we have come to where the sidewalk ends.

And we need to choose in which direction we will continue.

We may continue to jump at loud noises, and then numb ourselves to an unacknowledged shared pain.

Self-medicating with food, technology, entertainment, drink, drugs, sex, consumerism, waste, whatever — silently signing the same consent form to ignore, to waive liability.

Or we may create together a world in which we can imagine its future.

A future not out of a dystopian film, but one lined with the vibrant green grass of my childhood memories and narrated by Shel Silverstein.

I want a future lined with colorful sunsets for my children to fall in love under.

And I want to hear thunder… and scream,

then giggle.

Knowing my fears are only imagined.

Climate Changes, Community, Environment, Family

A simple Earth Day in Israel

I remember my first Earth Day experience.

It was 10th grade and someone came up with the idea to boycott styrofoam.

The lunch room, of course, used styrofoam trays. And despite the efforts of a few forward thinking, future activists, the school administration refused to reconsider this earth-unfriendly decision.

So the students revolted. At a coordinated time in the afternoon, which happened to fall in the middle of Biology class, we watched the minute hand move slowly towards the 3. At 1:15 pm precisely, a handful of us stood up (after confirming with our eyes that we wouldn’t back out) and walked out of the classroom to the grassy field in front of the school.

We stayed there — despite warnings from the hall monitors and the lunch aides– shouting “No more styrofoam! Heal our Earth!” (or something powerfully catchy like that.) When the bell rang for the next period, I headed to Spanish class. And that concluded my career as a teenage environmental activist. This minor act was the only rebellious thing I did in my entire high school career. And I regret that. I should have staged more walk-outs or at least pierced more extremities.

Nothing changed in the lunchroom after the protest; not at least during my four years at Cherry Hill High School East.  The styrofoam trays hung around  — long after our protests. I bet they’re still hanging around… in a dump somewhere.

20 years later, I hope someone’s wised up and reinstated washable, reusable trays. Even wiser would be to bring your own lunch considering trans fatty french fries and carcinogenic hot dogs are still the stars of the lunchroom and that school lunches are linked with obesity. But I digress.

20 years later, I’m still the good girl I was in high school.

I can’t help myself.

The most rebellious act I’ll be pulling on this upcoming Earth Day, Monday, April 22 is blogging about other people’s trash.

Or picking some up.

Frankly, that’s better than doing nothing, which is what most people will opt to do on Monday.

Nothing.

Earth Day, for most, is just another piece of colored in line-art in a child’s backpack. It’s just another front page feature in Parade Magazine. It’s a photo op.

Surely, some will visit an eco-themed art exhibit or see an eco-film. Some might even take part in a small protest like I did once upon a time.

Not me.

I propose we all do something simple on Monday.

Pick up a piece of trash. Someone else’s trash.

Put it in the proper receptacle — paper with paper. Plastic with plastic. Food stuff in a compost pile.

This one simple act doesn’t require group think. Or a ticket stub.

Just you.

Pick up some trash.

If you want to take one extra step, consider not buying anything on Monday that’s meant to be thrown away.

And stop throwing stuff away. Keep it. Reuse it. Pass it on.

Teach your kids all of the above.

Make Earth Day simple this year.

Be a lone activist … and see how even a quiet, obedient good girl (or boy) can make a difference.

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.

Oops.

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.

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.