Books, Community, Kibbutz, Middle East Conflict, Politics, Spirituality, Survivalism, Terrorism, War, Writing

Not quite the end of the world

I just finished reading Station Eleven, a post-apocalyptic novel by Emily St. John Mandel. I highly recommend it. It’s the one of two five-star ratings I’ve given on GoodReads after going a long stretch without being able to give more than a three-star. (The other recent five-star was Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld, more to come on that soon.)

Whenever I read a dystopian novel — and moreso when I read a well-researched, well-written one like St. John Mandel’s — I can’t help but examine my own life and my own “what ifs” in the face of some future life-altering catastrophe I somehow survive.

Lately, as my mind has been busy with the America vs. Israel conversation (a two-sided dialogue I engage with myself at least once a day exploring the pros and cons of leaving or staying in Israel), I considered the events of the novel. The Earth is ravaged by a pandemic, killing off 99% of the population. Those who are not sickened and killed by the flu are left figuring out how — and more existentially, why — to survive. Some survivors are stranded in an airport far from home. They understand quickly they will never return. And this, today, is the question that occupied my mind:

What if I knew I would never see America again? Would never see my parents? My brothers? Any of my friends who live there?

Could I be happy, or satisfied at least, living in Israel, remaining here on Hannaton?

What if it weren’t the apocalypse (meaning: what if I abandoned the upset of knowing my loved ones were ill or gone), but an event that meant the end of international travel?

Could there be such an event? After which my parents were still alive, but inaccessible? Following which we in Israel still lived a somewhat normal life, but simply could not fly anymore? Or buy passage on a ship, even?

No. All I can imagine is disaster. There is no in-between in my imagination. There is no mild cataclysm. Either things are as they are now or the worst-case scenario.

*  *  *

However, if I were to play fiction writer, for a moment, I might say, “Hold on now. Let’s consider Donald Trump.” 

Donald Trump as American president is possibly the in-between disaster I can’t imagine; the wonky future in which the world still runs on electricity and internet and Dunkin Donuts, but international travel is forbidden. Let’s say, for instance, a Trump presidency leads to a law being passed in which American immigration is on hiatus, but citizens living abroad have a brief window to return. Once they do return, however, they are required to remain on American soil for the next four years. America, in this fictional scenario, is testing out a new policy for the duration of Trump’s term. It’s called something like “No American Left Behind.”

“The In-Or-Out” law, the talking heads dub it.

Would I leave then?

Would we pack up our belongings and run back home?

What if there was no time for belongings? Only time for the five of us with one-way tickets and that which we could fill in our suitcases?

Would that be a home we would want to live in anyway?

What’s scarier? I considered. America as a gated-community? Or the idea of being stuck in Israel for an indefinite amount of time with no certainty of ever seeing my family again?

What kind of decisions, I asked myself, do we make in the face of black-and-white? Of choose this or that?

And what kind do we make in the face of seeming interminable uncertainty?

*  *  *

To be honest, I’m not paying too much attention to the U.S. presidential election, but I noticed on Facebook today someone saying they planned to vote Republican in the primary — vote for Rubio — as a way of derailing Trump’s run. But what if that was the plan all along? Democrats, for all their intellectualism, can be pretty stupid. Conservatives are wiley. Strategic. Cool cats. Liberals, with all their free love tend to act irrationally, emotion-based, don’t think enough before jumping in heart first.

Then, on Twitter later in the morning, someone wrote they thought the media hype equating Trump with Hitler was an exaggeration. I don’t quite align myself politically with this person, so I can’t put my faith in his ease. But as a reader of post-apocalyptic fiction I can say with certainty that there is always the guy on Twitter who thinks it’s not as bad as everyone says it is. This is classic disaster narrative. Bad guy/bad storm/bad killer disease. Makes no difference. The experts keep it quiet at first, but then feel compelled to reveal the danger to the masses as they realize their calculations were too understated. Upon learning of the now likely unavoidable danger, half the masses freak out, and the other half cry hysteria. Usually, there’s the goofy teenager who makes fun of the hurricane/flood/asteroid (he’s the first to go), and often, the old guy saying in his old guy voice “I never thought I’d see the day.”

No matter what, though, there’s always the guy who — just before the shit hits the fan — says most assuredly, “It can’t be as bad as people are making it out to be.” This is the point at which you should start storing water and supplies. 

I haven’t started shopping, though. In fact, my storage room/bunker is as empty as it’s been since we’ve lived here. And I wonder why. I wonder if it’s acceptance or if it’s resignation.

And does it matter? Am I saner if I am accepting or saner if I am resigned?

Acceptance: Yes, this is the world we live in.

Resignation: Yes, there will be disaster.

Acceptance: There is no certainty.

Resignation: Why bother? You will likely not survive the apocalypse, anyhow.

I don’t know which it is. What I do know is that reading Station Eleven has me grateful for my flushing toilets, and for my Google search, and especially for my at-home, self-grinding espresso machine. It had me abandon for a few hours my ongoing, inner turmoil over where to live now or next; which direction to choose.

Neither decision, I suppose, would be the end of the world.

 

Family, Love, Poetry, Survivalism, Terrorism, War

Head Shaking Madness

This war    this war    this war    this war

This  world    This world    This world    This world

My kid’s food allergies.

This world.

 

This war    this war    this war    this war

This world    This world    This world     This world

Cancer. The bad kind.

This world.

 

This war    this war    this war    this war

This world    This world    This world     This world

The boogeyman’s make believe.

This world.

 

This war    this war    this war    this war

This world    This world    This world     This world

My husband on a plane somewhere.

This world.

 

This war    this war    this war    this war

This world    This world    This world     This world

I can’t throw up like that again.

This world.

 

This war    this war    this war    this war

This world    This world    This world     This world

Miss you.

This world.

 

This war    this war    this war    this war

This world    This world    This world     This world

Money in the way.

This world.

 

This war    this war    this war    this war

This world    This world    This world     This world

I killed the cat. That was       THE CAT.     FUCK.

This world.

 

This war    this war    this war    this war

This world    This world    This world     This world

Gotta make it before the siren.

This world.

 

This war    this war    this war    this war

This world    This world    This world     This world

How many miles til Hadera?

This world.

 

This war    this war    this war    this war

This world    This world    This world     This world

She’s going to die. She’s dying.

This world.

 

This war    this war    this war    this war

This world    This world    This world     This world

These people      These pronouns

These words            These words

This world.

Books, Survivalism, War

Review: How to Survive a Sharknado

Book Details

Title: How to Survive a Sharknado (and Other Unnatural Disasters)
Author: Andrew Shaffer (with contributions by Fin Shepard & April Wexler)
Publisher: Three Rivers Press, July 2014


Review

In 1999, when Chronicle Books published the first in what would eventually be the popular Worst-Case Scenario book series, I was an early adopter. I can’t say for certain where I purchased my now worn copy (it’s still in my personal library after six moves, including two cross country and one cross planet), but I have a feeling it was at the Urban Outfitters on 6th Avenue in Greenwich Village.  It was my go-to spot for specialty books typically displayed and marketed as kitschy gifts. The display table in the front corner of the store by the window was the table I often hit first, with the intention to buy for keeps. (The Book of Spells: Over 40 Secret Recipes to Get Your Own Way in Love, Work, and Play was another purchase.)

sharknadoI’ve been planning for disaster almost my whole life. Certainly since the first time I watched the tornado sweep Dorothy away from Kansas into Oz. But I took a more serious interest leading up to Y2K and then again in advance of the yet-to-be-realized Mayan Apocalypse.

Like the author of How to Survive a Sharknado, I tend to approach my prepping with a blend of earnestness and humorous self-deprecation. After all, there’s a fine line between prepared and crazy.  (Prepared, for instance, is a safe room in my house in Israel stocked with two weeks of food and water for me and my family. Crazy, on the other hand, is the underground bunker in West Virginia stocked with MREs for 15 years. I am prepped, but I only dream of being crazy.)

Of course, there’s a reason for Shaffer’s humorous approach to disaster in How to Survive a Sharknado: He’s writing a fictional movie tie-in book, as opposed to a true reference handbook a la The SAS Survival Handbook by Lofty Wiseman (which I also have in my personal library and which Shaffer references in the introduction to Sharknado.)  How to Survive a Sharknado is part of the Syfy Sharknado brand, a made-for-tv film franchise I’ve — regretfully? —  never seen. (Watch this trailer for “Sharknado 2” starring Tara Reid.)

Like any good B-movie horror flick, How to Survive a Sharknado is rooted in truth.  Bizarre one-off disasters do indeed happen (See 7 Global Apocalypse Scenarios That Might Really Happen and After Hundreds of Bee Stings and Thousands of Volts, Tree Trimmer Eager to Get Back to Work) and people — not just preppers — go bananas on social media when they do.

But, as far as I can tell, Shaffer’s book is as fictional as the Sharknado movie, a humor book mocking real-life disaster coverage and promoting, in a way, a host of B-movie disaster flicks on SyFy, such as “Arachnoquake,” “Mega Python vs. Gatoroid,” and “Sharktopus.”  Shaffer plays it so straight in the book, however, I almost believed some of the stories were real until I got to “Dinonami,”

How does he do it? In addition to leading off each “unnatural disaster” chapter with a table of vital statistics, Shaffer also offers “reports” of incidents and commentary by “real-life” witnesses and experts.  In the section for Extreme-Weather Vortex, for instance, Shaffer references “the morning of May 18, 2008” when “the air in the lower atmosphere above Manhattan began swirling.

“The first sign of trouble happened in Central Park. Six-foot-tall whirlwinds filled with subzero air whipped through the park. Children chased these ‘mini tornados’ around — until the tornados started chasing the kids back…A twister formed near the Liberty Island, killing dozens and ripping off the Statue of Liberty’s raised arm.”

Shaffer goes on to “quote” meteorologist Cassie Lawrence,

“At the site of one funnel touchdown in Midtown, I found evidence of lightning. It made perfect sense. Planets with high and low atmospheres are lightning machines. If the storm continued to build, I calculated the lightning would increase in frequency exponentially, building to a crescendo the likes of which we’d never seen on Earth before.”

I laughed out loud towards the end in the section called “Unnatural Disaster Kit” as I read the list of “tools and supplies,” which includes:

“Cash, coins, and Chuck E. Cheese tokens

and

“Packaged snacks: Although not very nutritious, most processed foods like crackers and snack cakes have shelf lives longer than basilisks”

(Basilisk is total insider geek speak. It makes me feel loved and a little less lonely.)

The book is cute and clever, but would be funnier, I think, if I was a bigger B-movie fan (like my husband, for instance, who dragged me to Piranha 3D) or if someone bought me this book at Urban Outfitters on Sixth Avenue as a gift for my upcoming birthday; as a way to gently, but lovingly mock my zombie apocalypse obsession.

As I said, there’s a fine line between prepping and crazy: I prefer laughter to lunacy.

Disclaimer: I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.

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.”

Culture, Food, Food allergies, Survivalism

Classified: In need of better ice cream in Israel

I made my own ice cream last night.

I did this out of despair.

I do not like store bought Israeli ice cream. It’s awful. Even the halavi (dairy) ice cream (as opposed to the soy-based parve) is gross.

A complete waste of calories, if you care about that kind of thing.

I don’t.

I just want some decent ice cream every now and again.

For a while, I would splurge on the Ben & Jerry’s you can find occasionally in the supermarket, but the last five times I bought it, I opened the carton to find the ice cream melted and refrozen into an icy gelatinous mess. So, in addition to having no ice cream to satisfy my already salivating glands, I had to plan a trip to Shufersal to get my 48 shekels back.

Not easy when you live in the middle of nowhere.

Grrrr.

I exaggerate. I live in the outskirts, but Israel is not a third world nation.

We do have high-falutin “Italian ice cream parlors.” However, I have no taste for Leggenda or Dr. Lek (which is spelled the same as Dr. Lick, but is apparently pronounced Dr. Lek, go figure) or any of these gelato type places that charge you 18 shekels for a cone (that’s $5, my US friends).

Even if they didn’t charge so much, I can’t go there with my nut allergic kid.  I found a peanut in my vanilla ice cream there just the other day, which successfully proved my  theory in the company of my husband that ice cream parlors are not at all safe for nut allergic kids.

So last night, for about 6 -7 shekels (the cost of cream, milk, sugar, salt, and vanilla), I made a pint of my own vanilla ice cream following these instructions and using this recipe which totally worked.

homemade ice cream

The recipe is super easy, and while a bit time consuming, does not require an ice cream maker.

Which is quite a relief.

There’s nothing more infuriating than searching like mad for a recipe on Google, finding one, only to realize it requires some expensive piece of equipment or a brand of soup mix only found in New Zealand.

Quite the opposite with this recipe, I had everything I needed  … even the ice (which was the hardest of all the ingredients to come by in Israel).

So, finally, one ice cream discontent in Israel may now be content.

Until the container is finished.

Health, Parenting, Politics, Survivalism, Terrorism, War

What’s worse? Jet lag or war?

As if jet lag, back-to-school prep, protecting my kids from a polio outbreak and returning to work after a 2 1/2 week long digital detox wasn’t stressful enough, now I have to worry about a Syrian attack before Thursday.

Wait.

TOMORROW is Thursday?

Holy crap.

HOLY CRAP.

I should have bought more Tums while I was in the States.

Or I should have taken a longer vacation.

Either way, I am in deep doo doo because my stomach just can’t handle the stress.

Last night was the first full night sleep I have gotten in three days. THREE DAYS.

And tonight I have to attend a women’s birth circle on Hannaton. (Don’t ask.)

I have no time to clean out the MAMAD!

No time!

No time before Thursday!

Do you hear that John Kerry! No time!!!!!

Okay, I’m breathing.

And eating Tums.

And hoping all of this goes down the way of the Japanese dinosaur prank.

It’s scary for a few minutes until you realize the dinosaur is wearing jeans.

Mindfulness, Relationships, Survivalism

We’re all gonna die!

What do you think causes the majority of our existential angst?

A. Knowing we’re going to die (and not wanting to)

B. Not knowing exactly when we will die

C. Not knowing exactly how we will die

D. All of the above?

I struggle with all of the above.

But today I was having a conversation with myself that went like this:

Let’s say we are somehow able to accept we will die.

Not just understand it intellectually, but actually accept it.

And let’s say, by some magical twist, we are able to learn exactly when and how we will die…

Would we really live our life any differently than we do today?

And, what would World Order look like then?

(I don’t really talk to myself in the third person, by the way.)

There is a phrase:

live_each_day_

But the essential problem with that advice is that gleefully dancing as if nobody’s watching is not really an option if the machine is to keep running.

Quite the contrary, living each day as if it’s not our last is what allows us to pack the school lunches and separate the laundry and spend an hour with the accountant without feeling as if our life is completely pathetic.

We count on tomorrow being better.

= = = =

Most of us live –because we must — as if we have an endless supply of days.

And, yet, we’re terrified each and every day because we know that we don’t.

That is quite a quandary.

No one wants to be a machine.

Yet no one feels comfortable abandoning everything and everyone so they may live their last day every day.

This is the majority of our existential angst:

Finding the absolute perfect balance between living your last day and living as if you have an endless supply.

Letting Go, Love, Mindfulness, Parenting, Relationships, Survivalism

Fast or Slow, This is Life

I read and sighed and groaned with interest this morning, “The Day I Stopped Saying Hurry Up” by Hands Free Mama.

Her words resonated with me and stabbed me like a fork in the heart.

I know I hurry my kids too much.

I hurry through life too much.

And I know I don’t deserve an award for the fact that I hurry them a lot less now than I used to.

Or that I hurry life a lot less since I moved to the country.

But maybe I do deserve a pat on the back.

Just a little one.

Because there are certain people that have a really, really hard time slowing down.

They have a hard time sitting still.

They have a hard time being far away from action, from access, from information.

Because action and access and information make those particular people feel as if they have control over their very fast-moving, often frightening and sometimes frustrating lives.

I am one of these people.

Our busy, busy world of  24/7 cellphones, emails and carpools only accelerates my in-born madness.

I was born running.

Running my mouth.

Running my head.

Running the world the way I want it to run.

Running away from scary ideas or circumstances.

Running towards change, adventure.

For people like me, slowing down is infuriating and unnatural.

Until we do it.

And reap the very quiet rewards.

It’s still unnatural, but we can be trained to understand how slowing down sometimes works better and faster than running.

= = = =

I sometimes fantasize about the End Days — the day after the solar grid is taken down by a Coronal Mass Ejection and we’re all forced to live Frontier House style.

I’m sure I’d still be running in the End Days, but less like a lower paid, less inspiring Sheryl Sandberg. and more like a nicer Mrs. Olesen

Little House Mrs Oleson

I have this fantasy that if the world was forced to slow down, I would slow down too.

Because I want to experience life.

And I realize that running past or through life, blurs the experience.

But I also accept (with bitterness) that not all of my real life (the one I chose, and built, and need to maintain) can operate on slow, as much as I do appreciate what Hands Free Mama illustrates as the benefits of slow living.

My challenge — above and beyond trying to live slower — is to acknowledge that THIS is life.

Fast or slow

THIS is life.

This making-the-lunches

This sitting-with-my-daughter-for-ten-minutes-at-preschool-before-heading-to-work

This watching-my-son’s-school-performance

This taking-the-car-to-the-shop

This scheduling-the-parent-teacher-conference

This waiting-for-bloodwork

This wrapping-the-present-for-my-daughter’s-friend

This making-sure-all-three-kids-brushed-their-teeth

This listening-to-my-husband’s-day-at-work

This showing-up-for-book-club

This calling-the-plumber

This schlepping-the-kids-to-that-experience-we-really-want-them-to-have

Sure — I can and most definitely should– SLOW DOWN.

Because the slower I live life, the better I process it.

The deeper I experience it.

And the more vividly I remember it.

Slow works wonders.

I, too, have found that living life slower   (…and taking pictures with my camera or my mind)

MAKES LIFE LAST LONGER.

pee wee

But slow is hard.

And there are days I simply wish I could wind the world backwards the way Superman does

and there are days I wish I could simply freeze everyone and everything in it like Piper Halilwell.

Because that’s the only way I can imagine slowing down.

But then, there are days — moments of unexpected presence and awareness and awe — when I fully realize that THIS is life.

Fast or slow

This wanting

This noticing

This fixing

This laughing

This burping

This farting

This regretting

This missing

This needing

This freezing

This sweating

This balancing act

This being alive in this very awkward, too short, not-exactly-as-I-planned-it moment

THIS is life.

= = = =

Handsfree Mama, in her poignant and beautiful post, writes “pausing to delight in the simple joys of everyday life is the only way to truly live”

YES!

But this begs a question in my mind: how do we move through the less than simple (but required), the less than joyful (and often scary) parts of life?

May we move through those moments quickly?

Is “fast”, not “slow” what these moments call for?

Or do they also call for slow?

Dealing with the rotten eggs life sometimes throws me is where I tend to struggle the most

I want to run past those moments as quickly as I can

I want fast. not slow

= = = =

Will I one day, on my deathbed, understand that

THIS

too

is

life.

Those moments I ran through?

Will I suddenly smell the sweet smell hidden deep inside the rotten eggs of life and will it smell like cookies baking?

I don’t know.

Born a runner

I am trying to stop running

I am trying not to wish myself out of this moment.

I am trying not to judge this moment either.

THIS life.

Which is easy when you are in the middle of something magical, but not so easy when you are moving through something hard.

Fast or slow,

rotten or sweet

THIS is life.

Born a runner, I am trying to say those words

slowly

with a smile

with conviction

THIS is life.

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, Food, Survivalism

I’m really the farthest thing from a gardener

My photos on instagram paint a pretty picture.

broccoli 2013

The above broccoli and cabbage are part of the harvest from our backyard vegetable garden. We took advantage of the beautiful weather today (70 degrees and sunny) to weed and pull.

It’s the second season we planted; and the second season we’ve tasted vegetables we grew ourselves.

And, yes, our broccoli tasted delicious. And yes, it was exciting for us and for our children.

Truly.

And, while I am so proud of us; because even a backyard garden takes effort and intention and love, part of me judges me in a way I imagine some of my Facebook friends silently judge me:

Like:

“Oh how quaint. Look at us. We grow our own vegetables. Look at us. We teach our kids how to get their hands dirty.”

I can see how people might say that when they see my posts.

I can see it…because … um … sometimes I have thoughts like that about you.

Facebook tends to make you look like a braggart, a goodie two-shoes, a whiner, or an asshole.

But the people who really know me, know that I grow my own food as practice.

Practice being the perfect mom I’ll never be, but moreso practice being Caroline Ingalls … for the day when the grid goes.

My green lifestyle … the green gardener I play on TV?

It’s still practice.

Every day I am practicing how to be less dependent on stores, stuff, and things.

Less dependent on electricity; less dependent on gas.

Less dependent on the internet, too, though that proves to be a bit more challenging.

I’m just a formerly semi-spoiled Jersey girl looking for meaning and hope on a semi-vanishing planet.

If I can do it, so can you.

Start small.

Buy less. Recycle more. Eat less. Grow more. Take less. Share more. Drive less. Walk more.

Find five minutes to talk to your kids about the impact of trash.

Find five minutes to talk to your neighbor about the impact of pesticides.

Find five minutes to strategize with your partner about taking small steps that make a big difference.

Then actually take those steps. Do something. Anything.

And then write about it. Talk about it. Paint about. Blog about it. Scream and shout about it.

Pass it on.