Thursday, October 16, 2014

How to make friends

My eight year-old recently confided in me his newly-gained insights into the world of friendship, after striking up a conversation with a boy in a neighbor's sukkah.

"I used to think it was really hard to make friends with new people, but now I know that it's really easy," Puriel tells me, barely above a whisper.

And now I shall pass on this wisdom, because he's actually really smart and right about the whole thing:

1. "First I ask what his name is." Pretty simple so far...
2. "Next I ask how old he is, what grade he's in." Leave this part out if you're talking to a woman over 20.
3. "Then I ask what things he likes to do, games he likes to play. And then I see if we like any of the same things and then we do them or talk about them together."

It works. Go on, try it out on someone new today and see if you don't make a friend...

Friday, June 20, 2014


Picking up the pieces of myself
Trying to rebuild myself
Some pieces are missing
I think you took those with you
No matter, I'll make new ones
This tower will be taller and stronger
No more looking over my shoulder
Life isn't easy, but it's better now

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Worth It

I stood in the kitchen this morning and broke into tears.

Some days I'm really on top of everything, and some days I'm just not.  It was 8 o'clock in the morning and, despite being up for 2.5 hours already, you couldn't tell by looking.

I had someone's spilled milk on my pajama pants, and someone else's snot on my shirt.  One kid lost their shoes, and another lost my keys.  The lunches were made and two kids were out the door to school.  Two down, two to go.
Getting ready for Shavuot
with flower crowns and fruit baskets

My keys.  Where were they?  Puriel had taken them to unlock the storage shed and pump up his soccer ball.  But his bus came and went.  He went.  Where are my keys?

I turned the house upside down and inside out.  It was actually already upside down and inside out, but it certainly didn't get turned right side up and out in the process.  Twenty frantic minutes passed.  The baby was randomly shrieking as she toddled after me through the house and my preschooler still refused to get dressed in his nice clothes for the Shavuot festivities at school.

I'll be late for work again...  Where are my keys?! My hair isn't even brushed yet and I'm still in those nasty pajamas.  [Sniff]  What's that?  Time out from searching for a diaper change.

Snap the snaps, wash my hands, straighten baby's clothes and she gives me a surprise. Shalva wraps her arms around my neck and says, "Ima. Pretty."  She plants a kiss on my cheek.

Right there, in that that precious, sweet's all worth it.  There could be an earthquake, or a tornado, or anything(!) happening and I wouldn't notice.  At 21 months, she somehow magically knows what it takes to make my day.  In that moment I find the strength and fuel to smile, finish dressing everyone, finally find my keys (they were in the boys' room), get everyone out the door, put in my hours at the office, take my elderly neighbor shopping, make dinner, get the kids to and from soccer practice, bathe them all, then tuck them in with a kiss and the bedtime Shema.

It just takes one little special moment, to see once again that it's all worth it.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

How to Heal a Broken Heart

Last week we remembered the victims and honored the survivors of the Holocaust.  Those who made it through and started over to create a new life for themselves are incredibly inspiring to me.  After all, if they can do it then how can I not?!  It's a long journey back to being whole, but no one is ever too broken to start again.

I find myself being "reinvented" as of late.  I rather like the new Shayna, though sometimes she catches me off-guard.  Trying to stay positive and make it through the legal battles and material struggles, the late nights alone and mountains of housework, the exhaustion and occasional despair.  I've become more aware of how many people experience these same conditions and wanted to share a few things that have helped me...

Stop and smell the flowers.  Not just roses, but all flowers: the jasmine growing over that fence, the geranium climbing up the rocks, the lemon blossoms bursting on your neighbor's tree, the rosemary by the bus stop. Stop for two seconds, close your eyes, and take a deep breath get back to whatever you were doing and notice how big your smile has become.

Drive with your windows down.  Sing at the top of your lungs.  Watch out for flies.

Every once in a while, just give in to the hurt.  Curl into a ball in a dark corner, lock yourself in the car and scream as loud as you can, climb to the highest peak, spread your arms to the heavens and bawl "why G-d, why?!"  Then dry your tears, get some sleep, and start the next day with a new determination to count your blessings and be truly grateful for the good left in your life.  It could always be worse.

Go to the cistern of the ancient crusader fortress in Tzfat, or sit in a bathtub, or find some other acoustically amazing spot.  Sing the saddest heart-break songs you can think of for at least a good two hours, then sing as many love songs as you can remember.

Meditate for five minutes every day, and if you don't have time for five minutes then meditate for an hour.

Grow a garden, learn an instrument, try something new...try ten new somethings!  Don't stop until you've acquired a new hobby that you wonder how you ever lived without.

Wear mascara.  Put on your nicest clothes.  Yes, your baby might wipe her nose on them, but that's just a risk you've got to take.  Dress for the job you want, not the one you have...and don't we all want to be princesses?

Gather up all the candles you've ever been gifted and burn them at once.

Find out where the local tourist attractions are for your area and visit them.  Pretend you're from out of town, wear khakis and a funky sun hat, take lots of pictures.

Go through your Facebook chat list and randomly send nice messages to friends who are online.  You just might make someone's day amazing.  You could even save someone's life.

Turn off technology for a day.  Have real face-to-face conversations.  Take your kids or dog, or your neighbor's kids or dog to the park.  Run and sweat like there's no tomorrow.

Get an ice cream cone, sit on a wall, swing your feet and hum while enjoying the sweet, creamy goodness.

Compliment someone you meet today.  Compliment yourself, out loud.

Run outside barefooted.  Watch out for glass.  Wiggle your toes in the dirt and pretend that you're a kid again.  Where is the best spot for a tree house?  Could you make a good pretend salad with those weeds?

Stuff yourself silly one day with cake and cappuccinos.  Juice the next day.

Sit outside at night and get comfy.  Now watch the sky until you see a shooting star.  It could take a while.

Purge.  Forgive but don't forget; shake out the pain and anger to make room for new love to grow.  Hold onto the memories only enough to keep lessons learned the hard way, so that you don't have to learn them all over again.  Let go of things that don't fit you anymore, whether feelings or music or clothes.

Write a poem, paint a picture, sew something new. Whatever your preferred medium is, just create.

Volunteer.  'Cause the more that you give, the more you've got to give.

Take a hundred selfies one day in the widest variety of poses, but don't share them with anyone on any platform.

Lock the doors and make sure your blinds are shut tight, then dance naked in your living room.  Laugh plenty.

How do you get through the tough times?  Share your best remedies in the comments below:

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Red nail polish

"For the first time ever" is something I've been saying a lot lately.  Turning over a new leaf in life, I'm encountering and seeking out new experiences, tastes, sights, etc.

I painted my nails red for the first time, then green.  I ate a black radish and some weird fruit that tasted like a pine tree.  I also discovered some new trails around here and the fact that I like guavas.  I sang in front of a crowd for the first time in over a decade.

And last night I had my first flat tire.

Definitely not an experience that I sought out, but it happened and all's well that ends well.  Boy did it end well...

I was picking up my mom and sister from Tiberius.  They were at the grand opening of ARC (Aliyah Return Center) and my mom was coming to help with the kids in the morning so I could leave early to accompany Teneya to her school concert.

Just after Migdal, we heard a bang of sorts and then an obnoxious dragging/grinding sound.  I pulled over and went right to work.  Hauled out my jack and looked over the directions (in Hebrew, without diagrams) then tried valiantly not to look like I had no idea what I was doing.

Someone stopped to help.  A man.  An angel.  An Arab.

He was kind, quick, and spoke sweetly of the need to put our differences aside and care for others. Life is hard enough. This country is hard enough. We don't need to be hard on each other.

A friend, who we had called when the incident first occurred, showed up and helped finish off the job.  It didn't take long for us to be on our way, but this encounter is one that I'm sure will stay with me for some time.

There is so much good in the world, and so many wonderful people.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

My Upside-Down Life

So many changes, so little blogging.  I hardly know where to begin...

I'm on my way into the eighth month of separation and grateful each day for the chance to finally breathe, do, live, laugh, explore, etc.  "Isn't it hard?" some ask.  Sure, but who ever said life wouldn't be?  I've been through a lot of tough times and I'm sure there are more to come.  It's hard, but better.  The important thing is to keep smiling no matter what comes my way.

I left Livnot.  That's probably been one of the more difficult changes.  Livnot is my second home; was, and still is.  Although I never did the program myself, I saw the transformation of participants--the joy, awe, self-discovery, fear-conquering, root-finding, vision-revealing, goodness and took steps along with each group to taste those things too.  Positivism.  There's lots of that at Livnot, and it's contagious.  I like being positive.  Life is just so much better that way.

Like most non-profits, budgets are tight and each employee wears multiple hats.  I enjoyed the multi-tasking, but am doing a little too much of it in my personal life to do it other places as well at the moment.  I needed a job where I would clock out and not think about work again until the next day, so I could just go home and focus on my kids.  I'm working part-time at a winery now and loving it, except for the occasional dish-washing.  Meeting great people, having adult conversations, expanding my knowledge, and enjoying the most amazing cheeses and wines.  Working is healthy for the body and mind.  

The Israeli unemployment system is pretty fantastic.  I was signing off weekly at the employment office in Tzfat when, one day, they said there was a suitable job for me in the Dalton Industrial Park.  "The owner is out of the country," they said, "but send in your resume and see what happens."  I admittedly dragged my feet a bit while trying to get in a bit more organizing with the kids' schedules and order of the house before locking in to a new work routine.  Popped in one day to see if my email was received and met a pleasant English fellow who gave me the impression that this would be a lovely environment.  And it is.

It was the first Thursday of January when I went in for an interview.  That same night I had been encouraged to sing in Tzfat.  Not having a television, and being way out of the loop on pretty much everything other than work and home, I didn't realize that the evening was an audition for a reality TV show.  So I called to sign up for an "open mic night" and the lady on the phone asked "you mean the auditions?"  Yeah, I guess so.  Eventually I Googled it and discovered what it was all about.  Woah!

I hadn't sung in front of an audience for over a decade and was terribly nervous.  I was in a rock band, school choir, and black gospel choir in Germany when I was 16.  I also grew up in a very musical family and always loved to sing.  When I was 18, I became religious and moved to Israel and got married...all in the same year!  Life was moving fast.  I held on tight, closed my eyes, and rode the roller-coaster as long as possible.  The singing stopped.

Religious Jews are rather obsessed with a little thing called tzniut (aka tznius), which is translated as modesty.  Anything that is normally covered, which becomes uncovered, is nakedness.  So if my shoulders are normally covered and I'm wearing a tank top to bed, then I'm sleeping partly naked.  But if I wear 3/4 length sleeves, then long sleeves one day, and then roll them up while washing dishes, you're not seeing nakedness because my forearm is not a part of me that I habitually cover.  Am I making sense so far?

Modesty is a really beautiful idea that protects our dignity and consciousness.  It's not just our bodies that we take care to treat with modesty either.  Think of a sefer Torah (scroll of the five books of Moses).  We give it a beautiful garment and build it a nice home.  We only take it out in a special place, at the right time, with the right person who has good intentions to use it for holiness and connecting to the Divine.  And we should of course treat ourselves with the same respect that we show the sefer Torah.

So what's up with kol isha?  A couple thousand years ago, not just in the Jewish world but all over, women were treated very differently from today.  The discussion in ancient texts about whether or not a woman's voice is nakedness wasn't limited to whether she was singing, but even speaking!  Women's voices were covered, stifled, muffled.  Many men just didn't want to hear them at all.  Period.

The Torah is a tree of life, always growing to keep up with the times.  Now the trunk and roots pretty much stay the same all the time, but branches are pruned or fall off, newer and stronger ones grow in their place, with leaves and fruit popping up seasonally.  Change is slow but does happen.  Women have a voice now!  Women are leading countries, sitting in the Knesset, directing schools and hospitals; women are judges, lawyers, doctors, professors, and really just about anything we set our minds to be.  Women are no longer relegated to the kitchen and seen as good for nothing more than baby-making.  The voice of a woman isn't normally covered and women are not naked just because they voice their views.

Or so I see it...what do you think?  In short, yes, I sing again.  No, I don't do it to be against the Torah.  I think we're returning to the place we were when Miriam took up tambourines, and inspired the other women of Israel to do the same, after the parting of the sea.  Do you think they put up a mechitza?

It's never too late to pursue your dreams and do what you love.  The audition went well and I got called back to Tel Aviv twice.  It seemed a sure thing but some weeks after I read through and signed the ginormous contract they suddenly called again.  "Sorry, but we're not going to have you on the show this season.  Maybe next time," she said.

"Can I ask why?"  She told me that a committee makes the decisions and she didn't know.  Sorry.

I'm not gonna lie, it really killed my day to receive such news.  Although part of me is also relieved that I don't have to worry about how to juggle work, kids, and filming this summer.  "This isn't the end," I told myself.  And it's not.  I'm never again going to stop singing.  I can't!  I will simply find another stage.

So there's a bit of what's going on in my head lately.  And life is indeed a bit upside-down and crazy still...but better than ever.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Israeli Standard Time

Well it's taken me nearly 11 years, but I think I'm finally getting the hang of it.  If you are visiting, or a recent immigrant, take a moment to review this handy guide I've worked up to save you the time and embarrassment of figuring it all out the hard way like I had to.

If an Israeli says...
"I'll be there in a few minutes." really means...
"If I come, it could take me at least another hour."

Not my picture
If an Israeli says...
"Another 7 minutes." really means he'll be there in half an hour.

If an Israeli says...
"Another 5 minutes."
...expect him in 20.

If an Israeli says...
"Another 2 minutes."
...expect him in 10.

And if an Israeli says...
"I'm here already."
...he's only 5 minutes away.

The other thing you should know is that events never ever start on time.  Unless it's a preschool event and the teacher is over the age of 60, then you'd better be punctual or you'll get a phone call two minutes after the time listed on the Hanukah recital invitation asking if you're still alive and well.

But all other events take their time getting off the ground.

Weddings especially.  I was recently the designated driver for the family of the sister of the groom at a wedding near Haifa.  She tells me the day before, "We'll have to get there early, you know, for family pictures and such."  The invitation says Kabbalat Panim (reception) at 7:30 and it'll take over an hour to drive there.  "So do we need to leave at a quarter to six," I inquire.  "What?!  No we'll leave at a quarter to seven."  It was nearly seven o'clock by the time we dragged their teen-aged girls to the car, nail polish still drying, and very few people had arrived before we got there.

What other differences have you noticed while on Israeli Standard Time?