Childhood, Family, Learning Hebrew, Letting Go, Living in Community, Love, Making Friends, Memory, Mindfulness, Parenting, Religion, Spirituality

I cry at bar mitzvahs

There is nothing like a lifecycle event to open my heart. Combined with the penetrating power of song and prayer, these moments make me so feel so vulnerable, so very aware of our humanity, of life’s fragility.

Since we moved to Hannaton in late 2010, I’ve been present for six bar or bat mitzvahs, five brises or baby namings. I’ve cried at all of them. Sometimes I’ve cried, too, at Shabbat services during the mishaberach prayer for the ill or during a minyan enabling one of my neighbors to say the mourner’s kaddish. Seven have lost a parent since I’ve lived here.

This past weekend — as our oldest child became a bar mitzvah in the synagogue on Kibbutz Hannaton — it was our family’s turn to be at the center of the community’s attention. My body still reverberates the joy that filled every inch of it on Saturday, as our friends and family welcomed my son into symbolic “adulthood.” At some later date, I might share my reflections on the immense gratitude I feel in response to the volunteer efforts of our friends and extended family so we could simply be present for this occasion. It was a gift like no other.

For family and friends who were not able to attend, and for readers of this blog, below is the dvar torah (a reflection on the weekly chapters of Torah read this past Shabbat) I offered to the community on Friday night in advance of the bar mitzvah. The torah portion, the beginning of Shemot, should be familiar even to non-Jews as it’s the story that is the basis for the film, The Ten Commandments.

I welcome your own reflections in the comments.


 

If Moshe had a bar mitzvah, I wonder what language he would have given the dvar torah in?

We learn in the parsha this week, that Moshe was a Hebrew by birth and in his early years, as he is nursed by his mother, is part of his Hebrew family’s household. Presumably, he learns their language, their traditions; becomes accustomed to them. But — though, we don’t know when exactly — Moshe leaves his early home and grows up in the royal palace, among Egyptian family, and Egyptian friends.

It could be, if Moshe had to give a dvar torah in young adulthood, he might have preferred to speak in his Egyptian language.  This was a revelation to me, and a comfort. That Moshe — one of our greatest heroes — was also a person who lived between two languages, two identities.

We also know Moshe questioned his ability to speak in front of a crowd, to be able to move the people God intended him to move.  He says to God in chapter 4:

“God, I am not a man of words … for I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.”

Maybe that difficulty with speech had something to do with his living between languages.

Recently, inside an old cardboard box, I found the dvar torah from my own bat mitzvah  There it was, my speech, typed up and printed out on 1980s IBM printer paper, marked up first in red by the rabbi and then in blue in my mom’s cursive handwriting.

I read the speech. The words didn’t sound like they came from me. They were the rabbi’s words, and my mother’s. But not mine, not really.

I wondered then, reading my speech from 1987: Do we even have our own words at 13?

Of course we do. Except everyone is trying their hardest to make us say everything else but what we really want to say. They’re trying to shape our words in the same way they’re trying to shape us. In the hopes we’ll grow into smart, kind, loving, good people.

They — our often well-meaning parents, teachers, rabbis — might say to our face, “We love you just the way you are.” But then they act — we act — in a way so counter to this statement. We monitor and evaluate our children’s behavior, we narrate and judge their choices, we edit their words.

I wasn’t very good at speeches when I was 13. Probably because I hadn’t yet found the courage to speak in my real voice, with my choice of words. Since then, I’ve discovered the thrill of sharing my own words with others. Of writing what I think, of investigating my beliefs, of challenging people, of learning others feel the way I do or don’t.

A few weeks ago, however, when I started thinking about writing this speech in honor of Tobey’s bar mitzvah, I got nervous. I found myself asking, What am I going to speak about? What language should I speak in? Would only half the room really be listening if I spoke in English? Would I embarrass Tobey if I spoke in Hebrew? Would I sound like an idiot talking about Torah? Who am I to talk about Torah? Is that really me?

The questions, I realized, were not unlike those of a young person becoming a bar or bat mitzvah.

 

*  *  *

 

There’s a movie I used to love as a kid called Freaky Friday. For those of you who don’t know the movie, it’s about a teenage girl and her mother who one morning magically switch places for a few days. As a kid, I loved this movie for the reason most kids love this movie: Wouldn’t it be awesome to get to be a grownup for a day? To switch bodies with my mom and get to be the one to make all the decisions? To CHOOSE the way my day goes, the way my life goes? When to wake up? What to wear? Whether or not to even get out of bed in the morning?

The irony — all of us grownups realize — is that being an adult is a lot harder than a child imagines it is.

But what’s also true — and what grownups often forget — is that being a child is a lot harder than we adults remember.

Being 13 is hard. You’re straddling adulthood and childhood. And you’re not sure, not really, in which direction you’d prefer to travel. Back to fourth grade, when homework was easier and friends were kinder. Or forward, where there is more freedom, but also more responsibility, confusion, and uncertainty.

I’d argue, too, that this splitting of identities is accentuated for a 13 year old living in two languages, two cultures.  English at home but Hebrew at school or on the soccer field. You often might find yourself asking, Tobey, as I often do, who am I? Am I the me in my own mind? Or am I the me out loud? And is there any way to blend the two?

What I want to say to you Tobey is that life is like Freaky Friday. There are days — like in the beginning of the movie — when you wish you were in the body of somebody else. And there are days — after all the madness that ensues — when you realize just how good it is to be you.

And usually we spend more of our time wondering what it might be like to be someone else instead of getting to know better and loving the person we are right now. This is not something that gets much easier in adulthood, but my wish for you this year Tobey and onwards is for a greater awareness of your true you right now.

Who was Moshe really on any given day? What propelled him that day in the fields to strike down the Egyptian? Who was he in the moment he did? Was he a Jew protecting his own? Or a compassionate Egyptian with a general care for humanity?  And what frightened Moshe afterwards? Was it only the idea of getting caught or was it the guilt of hurting someone who was a member of his own community?  Of one of his communities?

Moshe, if you think about it, was both an insider and an outsider wherever he went. There came a time when he had to decide, however, which of his identities was stronger, and that happens to us too, sometimes.

Tobey: I wish for you …to know who you are… and to love who you are. I wish for you self-compassion on the days when you question who you are (and there will be days when you question who you are). I wish for you the wisdom to distinguish between what others want for you and what you want for yourself. Not just in the short-term, but in the long-term. And so I wish for you also patience.

I wish for you a peaceful, quiet place for those times when you need to consider your choices and I wish for you the courage to choose to be YOU in the face of self-doubt or criticism.

You’ve shown us since you were a little boy that you have the makings of a leader. Being a leader is not always easy, though, as you’ve seen both at home and outside of it. I want you to hear today — in front of everybody who loves you  — that Dad and I are proud of you. We trust you and we believe in you.

There is light inside of you that shines so brightly, Tobey. We see it most clearly when you’re playing rough with your brother and sister. We can hear it, even, when you’re laughing with your buddies upstairs.

May your life continue to be filled with that light and may you continue to shine it upon others. Our lives are fuller with you in them.

Shabbat shalom.

 

 

Community, Food, Kibbutz, Living in Community, Technology

How crowdfunding is like high school pre-calc

Did you know that the success of most crowdfunding campaigns rides on the contributions of extended family and friends?

And did you know that Hannaton’s winery, Jezreel Valley Winery, launched an indiegogo campaign last week?

By the transitive power of equality (or something very similar) YOU are the key to our crowdfunding success.

I live on Hannaton. So does the winery. The owners, Jacob and Yehuda, are my good friends. You are my good friends. So (here comes the part where Cherry Hill High School East feels as if pre-calc wasn’t wasted on me).

I drew this. That's you and me and wine. And, of course. love.
I drew this. That’s you and me and wine. And, of course. love.

 

You are the winery’s extended family and friends.

Your contribution — even a small one — will make a big difference in our success. (Disclaimer: I say “our” because I am on the winery’s team for this crowdfunding project. I do not own shares in the winery.)

What’s crowdfunding?

Only the best thing to happen to entrepreneurs since  free wireless.

Crowdfunding let’s you pitch your business idea or social initiative to your friends, family and interested strangers, and in most cases, offers a “perk” or a “return” in product instead of actual shares in the business.

People have written and published books using funds from crowdfunding campaigns; produced documentaries; and even funded a 3D printer pen that allows your drawings to become real! The most popular sites for crowdfunding business ideas are indiegogo and kickstarter. There’s even one specifically for Israel tech start-ups called Our Crowd (it’s equity-based and geared more towards traditional angel investors.) Friends of mine in NJ started Umojawa, a crowdfunding platform for educational initiatives and programs for youth.

Crowdfunding, to me, is a huge opportunity for people with ideas, with dreams. It’s one of the best things about the internet. And a little bit addictive.

So … please take a minute to click through to the Jezreel Valley Winery campaign page on indiegogo. What you’ll get in return if you contribute?

For $25, you’ll get a Jezreel Valley Winery winestopper and a 10% discount on wine for the rest of your lives! (The winery ships to the U.S.)

It only gets better above $25 (more discounts, more wine … and event a free wedding or bar mitzvah hosted at the winery. A great perk if you’re planning your kid’s bar mitzvah in Israel anyway.)

Why does this campaign matter? Contributing allows you to connect to Israel in a very meaningful way. The winery is a true start-up based on a dream. Two guys had an idea. Shook hands on it. Got it up off the ground running, grew some grapes, made some great kosher wine, won some awards and now they want to expand their operations.

For me, that’s inspiring and motivating.

Invest in their success!

Jezreel Valley wine in my kitchen

 

 

 

Community, Family, Food, Kibbutz, Living in Community, Mindfulness, Parenting, Relationships

Smells of Shabbat

One day in the future
My son will need some air.
He’ll leave home
Seeking solace
If only for a minute or two.

On his journey toward temporary peace
He will come upon
The smell of roasted potatoes with rosemary
Two minutes to go til burning
The scent will float beneath his nostrils
And he will remember tonight…

Walking with me
Up and down emptying streets
Through quieting paths
Around quickly passing cars
Parking on the other side of the gate.

A walk
A gasp for air
A last chance to let go of all that was
And open to
what will be
This week

Health, Living in Community, Love, Making Friends, Mindfulness, Relationships

I’m happy and I know it … clap your hands

I giggle.

I work hard to make others giggle.

I dream…and enjoy analyzing my dreams.

I engage on social media.

I innovate (at work)

I create (at home)

I write.

I share my writing with others.

I bake cookies.

I surprise the people I love with small treats or notes.

I want to be around people.

I want to know them.

I want to learn more about them.

I want to discover what we have in common and how we can help each other.

I sing.

I kiss my husband.

I take beautiful pictures.

Or silly ones.

Mr. Sunglasses Face

This isn’t a list of the things that make me happy.

It’s a list of ways I know that I am happy.

That life is working for me.

These are ways I know I am doing what is required to care for myself so that my life is one I enjoy … or, at least, feel reasonably satisfied by.

Often times, we think  — if we think at all — about the things that make us happy.

Ice cream.

Sex.

Vacation.

Money.

Baseball.

Air conditioning.

We make mental or actual lists of all the things we need in our life in order to be happy. Or we delineate end goals or possessions we are convinced will make us happier if only we reach them or one day have them.

Better job.

Better wife.

A baby.

Older kids.

A degree.

More sleep.

More quiet.

Less stress.

And while some of us are good at being grateful for what we have– and even acknowledging the good in our life — I don’t often hear from my inner voice listing off the ways I know I am happy now.

Right now.

Or what happy looked like back when it colored my life.

What does happy look like?

Who are you when you’re happy?

If we don’t know what happy looks like, how will we ever get there?

I’ve noticed over the past few weeks that my happy evidence is somewhat missing from the scene.

This was a red alert for me to DO SOMETHING.

So I started thinking about my list.

The list of things that act as evidence that I am happy.

And I started doing those things.

Even though I wasn’t yet happy.

And today, I’m happier.

(I didn’t say HAPPY.)

But

I’m writing.

I’m baking.

I’m spending time with real live human beings.

And engaging a little with the imaginary real live human beings on my screen.

What does happy look like for you?

How will you …

How do you…

recognize it?

Community, Kibbutz, Learning Hebrew, Letting Go, Living in Community

How I accidentally on purpose became that mystery girl

I have a tendency to say things I don’t mean.

Or, rather, say things I mean, but wish I hadn’t said or wish I had thought through before saying out loud.

This is not a new tendency.

It’s a delightful and attractive trait I’ve possessed since the 2nd grade when my teacher Ms. Levin aptly, but inappropriately, nicknamed me Motor Mouth.

Since moving to Israel, however, I’ve developed — like a nervous tick — a pause between thinking and speaking.

At first, I resented this seemingly cowardly pause.

I’ve always liked being quick and clever and as I met new people here, I was often disappointed that Israelis  weren’t able to get to know the clever me. She was always hiding behind her immigrant smile, trying to figure out exactly how to conjugate her joke into past tense.

By the time I figured out how, of course, it was two Tuesdays too late.

But once I made a few friends who I could speak freely with in English, and who appreciated my less-than-sophisticated humor, I no longer resented the pause, but relished it.

I relish it still. This is truly an added-value of aliyah. (This, and the fact that my kids have all learned to dance with no help from me.)

The pause I’ve developed in between thinking and speaking allows me to be more compassionate. Caring.

Mysterious, even.

I’m like Michael in the parking lot of the bowling alley of Grease 2.

Of course, my English speaking friends are capable of destroying my mystery girl image in an instant; if and when anyone cares to find out more about mysterious ole me.

But for a few days or weeks or months, when new people move in to my community, let them think of me as “the lovely girl who thinks so carefully before she speaks.”

Not motor mouth.

Not compulsive, impulsive, chatty, sometimes accidentally on purpose offensive Jen.

That mystery girl

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.

Community, Family, Kibbutz, Letting Go, Living in Community, Making Friends

How dog poop can change your life for the better

Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a post about pet love.

I got no pet love to give.

Unless you are a fish.

Then I’ll give you the best three weeks of your life.

I am many things, but I am not an animal lover.

More specifically, I am not a dog lover.

Don’t worry. I’ve never hurt a dog. Or a dog owner. Try as I might with my evil eye.

I get dog people, though. I get that you think your dog is cute, small, harmless, like a brother, like a son, like a burglar alarm, like a fireman.

But I don’t. I really don’t.

To me your dog is a poop machine. A scary menace when I’m trying to jog, which is hard enough without your dog chasing me.

Your dog is loud at night when I’m trying to sleep.

And there are times when I really, really wish he would disappear.

This is not something I often share with people other than close friends and family.

If you are a dog lover,  you can understand why.

You probably noticed your head sway from side to side in disbelief as you read my words.

You probably noticed the muscles in your neck tense up.

I know the feeling.

This is how I feel when your dog comes walking down the street toward me without a leash,

and you are nowhere to be seen

* * * *

Somehow, though, in the years since I moved to a kibbutz in Israel, my antipathy towards dogs has lessened a bit.

I didn’t realize that until earlier this week, when I scanned a thread of more than 100 comments by upset mothers on Facebook.

Kveller.com, a blog and community forum focused on Jewish parenting, asked on their Facebook page for reactions to a recent Tumblr written by a mom who brought her dog to the playground.

The mom is upset that another mom “tattled” to the park police after her dog “accidentally” peed in the toddler playground sandbox.

Ewwwwwww…

Kveller wanted to know: who was right? The mom with the dog or the mom who told on her?

FB kveller dog

I read the comments with interest, because I was totally and completely that tattle tale mom, once upon a time.

Ask anyone in South Orange, NJ where I used to live.

There was a dog park there, which– in my humble, non-dog loving opinion — was the only public place your dog should ever be off a leash.

Those that dared an afternoon frisbee throw with their canine best friend in a “no-dogs-allowed” park would certainly be on the receiving end of my wrath if my kids and I were there too.

I’m that kind of mom.

Heck, I’m that kind of person.

At least, I was until I moved to Israel.

* * * *

Dog or no dogs, I have always been more or less a rule follower.

If it’s against the law, I’m pretty likely not going to do it. And certainly not in public.

If there is a sign about not doing it, I am even more likely not to do it.

And when it comes to dogs — which I admittedly and unabashedly fear — I am rigid and unbending.

But then something happened.

I moved to a dog-loving community — by choice.

Sure, I didn’t realize how dog-loving my community was before I moved here, but looking back it should have been reasonably obvious that moving to a small community in the country would put me within spitting distance of lots of dogs.

Now, I live in a neighborhood of about 110 families — and at least 1/3 of them are dog-owners. And about 7/8 of those dog owners let their dogs off leashes in our public spaces quite often, despite it being against the law in Israel. And of those off-leash dogs, 95% choose to pee and poop in one of the three neighborhood playgrounds.

I kid you not.

Our playgrounds are poop-colored.

An unassuming guest may think those are just multi-colored decorative rocks — but no, it’s dried out dog poop.

For a few months when I first moved here, I was angry a lot.

Angry about the poop.

Angry about the dogs wandering in packs late at night.

But angry got me nowhere.

Angry has gotten no one nowhere.

Fast.

2 1/2 years later, the dogs are still here and walk around a lot more confident than I do.

And 2 1/2 years later our kids have been trained to play around the poop — barefoot, mind you, since that is how Israeli kids go in the playground. They’ve even designed careful games around the poop mines scattered beneath the slide and lining the ground in front of and behind the swings.

The littlest of our kids will even sit in the pebbles at the playground and scoop up with her bare hands rocks that are surely covered in dried dog pee. Probably wet cat pee too. Maybe even kid pee.  Israeli kids pee outside a lot … and not always next to trees or in grassy patches. Some just whip it out or squat into the sand.

We adjusted, I guess.

To the dogs… and their poop.

And their law-breaking mommies and daddies, many of whom are my friends.

At some point over the last 2 1/2 years, I had to make a choice: bend or break.

I bent.

Don’t get any false ideas. I am not reformed. My kid will likely never get a dog no matter how much he begs me.  Last week, in fact, I sent a text message to the county reporting a pitbull wandering around the neighborhood off a leash. An off-leash dog, a few months ago, attacked a girl in a Southern Israeli town.

But bending allows me to still dislike dogs (and their poop), but continue living here, and loving my friends.

I’ve learned to live with dogs. Or, in truth, their owners.

With some tolerance and compassion.

Which is what I think both moms in that “playground pee pee tattle-tale” tale were truly seeking:

Tolerance and compassion.

playground

Family, Letting Go, Living in Community

Which would you rather do?

I used to love playing this game in high school.

A friend and I would challenge each other.

“Which would you rather do? Eat someone else’s boogers or your own poop?”

I know: Gross.

But it was a fun game and you really learned a lot about a person when they tell you they’d rather walk barefoot over hot coals than over vomit.

Sadly, I don’t have time for that game anymore.

And yet, I still play it.

With myself.

What would you rather do?

Go out on a date with your husband or get three hours more sleep tonight?

Get up early before work to jog or get fatter and fatter?

Find a babysitter for tomorrow night or fall asleep to American Idol?

It’s… a bit of a bummer.

And I often find myself almost as disgusted by my choices as I used to when I’d choose booger over poop.

Why? Because I often find myself choosing my to-do list over my life.

For instance, I made plans to have coffee with a friend. Didn’t want to.

It was nothing personal. Frankly, when it came time to meet up, I was tired. I wanted to do the dishes instead.

Yes, you read that right. I preferred doing the dishes over having coffee with a friend.

In fact, I so wanted to do the dishes I think I might have even groaned internally when I realized having coffee with the friend would mean I couldn’t get to them until later.

Does that make sense?

No. But I bet at least half of you know what I’m talking about and could easily replace “dishes” with “laundry.”

Later, my daughter asked me to read her a story. Didn’t want to.

I wanted to do the dishes.

(I know… I have a problem.)

The next day, I was invited to participate in a community brainstorming meeting. Didn’t want to.

I didn’t feel like I had the time for yet one more thing.

And, you guessed it:

I really wanted to do the dishes.

I did all three anyway: Coffee date. Story. Meeting.

And, as has happened many times in the past, I was glad I pushed myself.

After my coffee date was over, I finally did the dishes. But I did them with a lighter head and a lighter heart, having spent the last hour engaged by my friend’s stories and feeling that someone was listening to mine.

After I finished reading the book to my daughter, I was struck by the worn binding and reminded of how much my oldest son used to beg for this boring book. It’s why we’ve kept it, despite it being so bad. I was reminded of the 3-year old version of my now 10-year-old son and I sighed. I looked at my 4-year-old daughter — my baby — and realized soon there would be no little ones left to beg me for a story. They’d all be big ones.

After I left the brainstorming session, I found myself once again so grateful for the community in which I live. For the people who not only support me personally, but who volunteer their time to grow this place. And for the opportunity to contribute in a way that’s meaningful not just to the community, but to me.

I walked home smiling. And then, of course, washed the dishes.

I realized, over the soapy sink, that winning is not the goal of “would you rather?”

The goal is to challenge yourself. Push yourself. Imagine yourself out of your current situation until you are.

And hope that boogers taste better than poop.

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.

 

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 http://instagram.com/theculturemom
See more http://instagram.com/theculturemom

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.

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.

Family, Living in Community, Love, Making Friends, Middle East Conflict

I can’t remember growing older

When you’re a parent, each day is a struggle not to live in the future.

What if?

What will be?

What will she look like?

How will he make it through?

And some days are harder than others.

The days when fear grips you.

When headlines make you want to keep your child locked inside a bubble-wrapped, sterilized room forever.

You want to be locked inside, too.

This morning, my 10-year-old son and his friends are enjoying a weekend morning.

They’re playing Playmobil and singing as they manipulate their imaginary worlds.

They’re chilling out, numbing their minds in front of the Wii.

As I hear their squeaky pre-pubescent voices belt out a mix of Shabbat songs and Rhianna, I laugh.

For a moment, I’m in the present.

They are cute.

But a moment later, I’m in the future.

They are tough. Or pretending to be.

These boys?

These four boys?

They’ll be soldiers some day?

boys playing

I don’t believe it.

I can’t picture it.

I wish it away.

How many other mothers in Israel have wished it away?

Countless. As many as there are mothers.

How many other mothers saw 10 turn into 18 in an instant?

How many other mothers can touch 10? Taste 10? Smell their 10 year old boy’s sweating, dirty self walking in the door at 6 o’clock?

They scream!

Someone has fallen into an imaginary Lego hole. Someone has knocked down a Playmobil brigade.

Oh please.

Please let those screams,

please please please,

always be screams of play.

Always be screams of who gets the first turn

Not screams of agony.

Let this moment last.