A Life is a Life is a Life

Hey all.
This is me – checking in. I’m okay.
Except, I’m not okay.

I was so excited to write a new blog post. Mostly because I haven’t written one in a month, and a coherent one with pictures and stuff in longer detail.
I was gonna regale you with all the exciting changes happening to the RestlessMama family; about how school is over for the semester, and I’m switching programs; about the holiday of Shavuot we just had and the three cheesecakes that I baked; about how we’re MOVING to a bigger apartment (because, reasons*) and the necessary stress that entails.

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The bitter, and the sweet

*Tonight marks the start of Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Memorial/Veterans’ Day. Tomorrow night will be Israel’s Independence Day, Yom HaAtzmaut. Here’s what’s going through my head right now.

It’s already somber outside. You can feel it oppressively smothering everyone.

And there’s still 20 minutes to the preliminary siren, bringing the next 24 hours to the fore.

Tomorrow the “real” siren will sound, calling everyone to a halt, to stand at attention, to remember, to commemorate, to never forget.

As if we need a bone-chilling, two-minute long reminder.

As if walking down these streets every day isn’t enough.

As if knowing, in the deepest recesses of my heart, that every single person i know in this country – has lost someone. Parent. Sibling. Child. Friend.

Tomorrow, for two minutes, the country will stop.

Two minutes is too long, but also not enough.

There is no siren that ends the next 24 hours. Just fireworks and the smell of grilled meat. Oh, the irony.

And instead of standing still, we move – we tour the country, we hike, we meet with family and friends. We drink, and eat, and drink some more, and maybe get sunburned too.

We dance and sing, and wave our flags.

We relish our culture, our country, our heritage, our home.

But this dichotomy happens every day. All the time.

For the next 48 hours we separate them, divide them, distinguish the two.

It’s hard.
But i wouldn’t have it any other way.

#HappyBirthdayIsrael

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

So last week I met up with a friend visiting this country and we spent the better part of the early afternoon wandering that holiest of tourist destinations, Jerusalem.

While wandering and gossiping and catching up and eating food, she mentioned quite nonchalantly that she reads my blog (woohoo!). Which segued quite naturally to my most recent post about changing jobs and restarting and blah blah. I started to tell her about the new job when we were distracted by a budding photographer (no, for real), which naturally segued into some other topic and the next thing we knew it was time to part ways.

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It’s Time for a Fresh Start

Happy New Year! (she said on January 23rd)

So, it’s a new year. Filled with all the requisite promises and hopes for goodwill towards man, reaching goals, and money. Or sex. Whatever floats your boat.

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With an auld acquaintance that I forgot, whatever the hell that means…

I am delighted to know how you spent your New Year’s Eve-slash-Day. (no, really – post in the comments!) Mine was spent sleeping. Because I’m old, and a parent, although the two are not usually mutually exclusive.

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Round Pegs in a Square Building

Hi all you lovely loyal literati! Happy Festival of Lights! I think it’s high time for an actual post, don’t you? (Also, side note, what is it with the changing of the layout again?)

SO…..

The other day I received an email from my high school alumni association, but it wasn’t your standard money request email. Or the unfortunate-yet-not-really-unexpected Death Notice. (What, your former place of education doesn’t tell you when grandparents of former/current students die? Must be a Jewish thing…)

Instead it was a Dedication Invitation, that started with “Come Say Goodbye to our Old Building!” The rest of the email was boring so I didn’t read it, but I didn’t really want to.

For the last few years, my old stomping grounds were slowly giving in to the inevitable demise of its 50+ years,  as new stomping grounds were being broken, dug up, filled, and built up a couple miles down that-a-way *points in random direction, possibly in a northwestwardly fashion*

Yeah, the building was old and quite possibly the textbook definition of the opposite of “state-of-the-art”. In fact, if you opened a dictionary to look up the phrase “crotchety old building” – you’d see a picture of my high school.

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If only such a phrase actually existed…

The outside was brown brick, with bronzed letters spelling out the name of the school, and the various organizations that were also housed in it.

There were three stories, with the bottom story depressed into a hole in the ground that was affectionately dubbed “The Moat” and which, many many times, students tried to flood. I think the best attempt was that one time when students put blue tarp on the ground and called it a day.

The walls were yellow, the lockers were an uglier shade of yellow, the classroom doors were pale-green, and there were benches around the perimeter of the second floor with extremely-worn forest-green fabric. Even the trim around the windows in the rooms were green. The donation plaques in each room were a very dark shade of green, although some people refer to that color as “black” (but we all knew better)…

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Yup, that’s my school: “50 Shades of Chartreuse”

The only bit of character that the school had was a mural on one of the walls that had the words “Knowledge” and its Hebrew counterpart “Da’at” in bright reds, blues, and oranges.

But it wasn’t much to look at.

There was history in the building, to be sure. Thousands, if not tens of thousands, of Jewish teenagers wandered the hallways, and maybe even learned something too. Personally, at least 30 members of my own family received the equivalent of a GED certificate there.

But, being the bastion of co-ed Jewish/General education for pretty much the entire Chicago-area Jewish population (and some out-of-towners, too) – well, that’s a lot of pressure. There needed to be guidelines, structure, a format to the well-roundedness that would be applied to anyone who walked up the metal stairs and through the two sets of glass double-doors, even if only for a semester.

And yeah – that happened. Kids were kicked out all the time. For reasons varying from getting caught* drinking and doing drugs, to wearing vaguely inappropriate clothing. Like, a shirt that hit 3 inches above the elbow. Or pants under a skirt.

Because everyone was expected to leave school with not only a deep-rooted association with sunsets and science labs, but as a replica, a copy, of those thousands of students who came before. We were continuing the well-honed tradition, the belief, that we could retain our Jewish identity and still interact with the world out there.

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The only problem with this was that we didn’t all have the same background coming in. The other only problem was that we were expected to question and question and question authority, until our questions were exhausted and we felt satisfied with whatever answers we had been given. Which is not the problem. The problem was that many times the answers weren’t all that satisfying.

Of course, there were the others who were more easily molded into the type of person we were expected to become. Who accepted the expectations without questions or doubts or second-guessing, and currently live the life that was predetermined for them.

And then there were those who questioned some of the information we were taught – out loud or quietly. There were those who rebelled secretly; others did so out in the open, by wearing clothes that were not deemed “acceptable”. And there were others who epitomized “fake it til you make it” before it was a thing on t-shirts being sold for $15.

Some of us just wanted to march to the beat of our own drums, regardless of whether we accepted the answers or not. I preferred skipping down the hallway, but that’s me.

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Sometimes I even sang the song. And by sometimes I mean “always”.

The problem with marching to a different beat is that you no longer fit into the mold, and you are therefore singled out. For detention, for expulsion, for long talks with administrators about “what would your grandmother think?” Or, you were just given looks of disapproval.

There was one time in particular when I realized what was happening. I had expressed my desire to not go to Israel for a gap year, and received laser-eye daggers from the dean.

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And it wasn’t just the administration who made us feel unwelcome. Because the school was small, and everybody knew everybody. In my day there were maybe 350 kids in the entire school – large by other Jewish school standards, but tiny when compared to the public schools in the area. If you had been singled out, everyone knew, and there were some students who made it their business to remind you of it. Constantly.

So why would I return? Why would anyone who had similar (or worse) experiences feel the need to come back to say goodbye?

We already said our goodbyes – the day we graduated. There is no lingering sentiment, or memories that need to be revisited. If anything, we would go just to help with the destruction of the building.

And I know that if I had gone to public school I wouldn’t be where I am today, and blah blah blah. But why would I go back to something that holds more not-so-great memories than great memories?

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But there is also a third option – to run from it AND learn from it. And that’s what I’m going to do.

I went to that square building and came out a misshapen quadrilateral. I understand and I appreciate the education that I received. But I still question the methods and motives of certain administrators, and I don’t need to say goodbye.

Besides,  I don’t have anything appropriate to wear anyway.

Currently Grooving On: music by fellow alum David Draiman

 

*To get caught you had to be A) really stupid, B) really desperate, C) both.

Look What I Stumbled Upon!

Apparently this is real…

 

Legitimate instructions include:

  • Release the penguins
  • Balance your chair on two legs
  • Remove cattle from stage
  • Like a rolling stone
  • With much passionfruit
  • Inflate the circus clowns
  • Play real zippy-like

Also, it seems that this was “Arranged by Accident” and if you can’t play it, you should call your mommy.

Oh internet…

H/T The Ablestmage Press

Veterans of a Different Sort

It was Veterans’ Day yesterday in the States. Which meant absolutely nothing was different and you can go about your lives, citizens.

Which is kind of sad.

In Israel, Veterans’ Day is a national holiday. People are excused from work and many companies consider the day lost, because half of their employees need to leave early because schools and day cares end early that day. Continue reading