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

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



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

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., 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.


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.


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.


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.