Love is as close as the refrigerator door

When I was a girl, our refrigerator was stocked. Not just with food, but with memories.

My mother liked to collect magnets from places she had visited — and while it’s difficult to remember exactly from where and from when, I do distinctly recall a trail of experiences splattered like paint across the front of a series of refrigerator doors of my childhood.

It’s a tradition I’ve, without much serious intention, carried forward. It started when I moved in with my now-husband. He already had a few refrigerator magnets that predated me, but we began building a refrigerator of love of our own. The first addition was a magnet we found at a gift shop in Hoboken where we lived at the time.

We loved the quote so much we incorporated it into our wedding invitation.

Marcel Proust let us be grateful

A few weeks ago, after a bunch of dreams of messy houses, I realized my home was in need of attention. In the middle of mopping up the kitchen floor, I noticed how dirty, disorganized and jumbled our refrigerator had become. We had been mindlessly putting up A+ exams, beautiful art class drawings, and promotional magnets from every local business, from the hairdresser to Pinchi the clown, birthday party extraordinaire I don’t ever remember being entertained by.  I don’t have “before pictures,” but imagine a Leap Frog alphabet game scattered in more than 26 places; a Made in China set of Hebrew letters ready to be choked on by a visiting baby; and hidden beneath five field trip permission forms was the Marcel Proust quote.

I held it in my hands — saw how smudged and worn it had become in 13 years — but smiled knowing it remained. Intact, across continents and seas; still stuck to my refrigerator door.

I spent some time then sorting, throwing away, and putting the dusty alphabet letters in a bag to give to a friend whose children would use them — mine had grown too old for them while I wasn’t paying attention.

I filed away some papers, recycled others. I organized the promotional magnets in a big square on the hidden side of the fridge.

Afterwards, I pulled out the Marcel Proust quote — made it a centerpiece holding up a series of photographs that represented experiences we treasure, times and places … faces almost forgotten in the everyday rush of life.

I made love, once again, the focus of the refrigerator door. And said a quiet prayer that Proust’s words would continue to carry this family forward in 2014.

“Let us be grateful for people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”

Yes, our days, if only we are lucky, will still be filled with exams to study for, dentist appointments to run to, and permission slips to sign, but somehow, in spite of it and in light of it, let us be grateful for the people who make us happy.

Guns are just a metaphor

This is not a post about gun control. It’s not a post about violence prevention in our schools or in our towns.

It’s a post about growing up — my growing up — as a mother.

And the single greatest lesson I have learned in my ten years, 364 days of parenting.

Ready?

I know nothing.

Absolutely nothing.

If I look at myself now from the future, this will always be true.

Each day, as a mother, I am growing and learning and changing. And when I look back at the mother I was two years ago, five years ago, 10 years ago, I understand instantly how little I know. And in knowing this, I know everything.

When my son, who is turning 11 this weekend, was a little boy and started to amass little boy toys, we had a rule (my rule): No guns in the house.

As my son transitioned from dinosaurs to Playmobil, the rule shifted a little: No handheld toy guns in the house. But Playmobil policemen were allowed.

And as he grew, in a house that didn’t allow guns, he still played with imaginary ones, as boys do. I could’ve attempted to enforce a new rule, “No pretend guns with clothes hangers,” but by that time I started to realize, just a little, that I might not be able to prevent imaginary gun play and so I instated a new rule: No video games or computer games with guns.

This, I knew, would prevent my son from turning into one of those scary people on the 6 o’clock news; I just knew it. Video games and TV were really the culprits in the downward cycle of violence in America. If our children didn’t see it on TV or in video games, we’d all be safe. I was certain of it.

But, as you probably have gathered by now and mothers more seasoned than I already know, my son grew older. He started to do things on his own — when I wasn’t around. He played shoot ’em up computer games at friends’ houses where rules didn’t get in the way, and watched Clint Eastwood movies on YouTube. And one day, last year, got a Nerf gun as a gift from his classmates for his birthday.

On that day, I had to choose: Would I rescind a parenting decision I had made 10 years prior? Or stick to my guns, so to speak?

I let the Nerf guns in.

I held up my palms to the air that day and looked skyward and said to someone (or no one) in that defeated mother’s voice:

“What, really, do I know?”

And an answer came down from somewhere or nowhere: You know nothing. And yet …

And yet, my son seems to. He seems to know something.

A year later, the kid has amassed a Nerf collection — guns, foam bullets, a vest.  And despite this, seems to know the difference between right and wrong. Play and reality. Seems to be able to function appropriately with peers — completely against my assumption 10 years ago about what happens to boys when they start playing with guns.

In a twist that feels unfathomable to me — a woman who once thought her sons would never handle a toy gun — my son is hosting 20 of his friends today at a paintball party. It makes me uncomfortable a bit; it does.  I find myself asking this morning: What does this say about my son that he wants a paintball party? Worse: What does it say about my parenting that I am allowing it?

And the only answer I can come up with is:

I know nothing.

This is my BIRTH-day gift.

This knowing does not release me from fear or from self-blame for whatever my son may choose to be or to do in the future.  But, rather, allows me to be free to love in the best way I know how … today.

I am certain that I will keep making rules for my children. Just as I am certain I will always be afraid for them.

But, I suppose, that with each passing year, as I understand more and more how little I know about what my raising them will ultimately lead to, I will allow myself to let go.

To trust them to raise themselves.

And hope that my loving them was enough.

Because really, I know nothing.

gun cake

Happiness is a warm, crisp chocolate chip cookie

It’s pretty cold for Israel. Damp, too, and muddy. We’re in the middle of a patch of rain and about to get hit by a storm that will likely bring snow to parts of the desert. Just the right kind of weather to put me in a bad, bad mood.

But I’m not … yet. I’m working from home today and feeling really, really thankful for that.

And because I’m working from home, and because we still have electricity, I did two loads of laundry and made chocolate chip cookies. I’m a prepper, after all, and I wouldn’t want to be stuck with a power outtage and no cookies.

As soon as the cookies started to bake and I could smell “home” wafting through the house, I started to feel thankful again.

In the sudden sea of gratitude flowing through my life this morning, the makolet was open (when I thought it would be closed) and milk was in stock (when I was certain there would be none.) The rain stopped for five minutes as I made my way to the store, and only really fell down again just as I was getting back to my front door.

A smile broke through my face, just then;  just as the sun pierced the cloudy sky; just for a moment.

Gratitude is like that:  a chain reaction waiting for a spark.

Inside, I lifted a warm, crisp cookie to my lips — fresh out of the oven — I thought I was going to melt from pure happiness. It was the best cookie I’ve ever had.  I am not exaggerating. I have been on a quest for the best chocolate chip cookie recipe for many years, and I have finally nailed it.

cookie

Now brace yourself for cliche.

It occurred to me that, even in the middle of a storm that was bound to put me in a bad mood, happiness could be found in simple things.

Like working from home and the best chocolate chip cookie ever.

This is my blessing for you today, whether you are in stormy Israel or somewhere sunny, but facing an inner storm: May you find joy in simple pleasures today. May you be wise enough to notice them.

Unconventional workout

I started running.

Yup.

I’m a runner.

A short-distance, short-time runner.

For almost a month, I have been running for 15 minutes every day except for Shabbat.

That’s it. 15 minutes.

And it works. I finally found an exercise regimen that works.

For now.

Maybe it’s not enough for everyone, but it’s enough for me.

For now.

I’ve also committed to writing more.

Tiny tidbits here and there.

A blog or the start of a new short story or a poem for fun spurred by a random writing prompt.

I find, the more I write, the more I write.

And the better I feel.

So between the running and the writing, my physical and emotional health seems to be on the up and up.

I know because my hormones say so.

They say so by being quiet when they are normally loud.

Quiet hormones. Quiet head.

Ahh….

But I think I could add a third element to my personalized workout:

Gratitude.

Gratitude, as we know, is such an energy boost. It’s a life lifter.

When we feel gratitude — the day after a violent stomach bug, or the minute after you avoided a tragedy or danger, or simple moments of love between you and your spouse or your child or your cat — we love life.

In the very moment we feel gratitude, we love life.

And loving life is all any of us ever want. It’s why we exercise. It’s why we write.

It’s why we exist at all — to love life.

So, I’m going to try to add 15 minutes of gratitude to my daily workout regimen.

If it’s that easy to love life, why wouldn’t I?

Want to join me?