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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

index1

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.

Continue reading

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

Actual Reality

I feel that I should apologize.

That last blog post was not my usual writing style, other than the fact that it was all over the place. But it was lacking in the sardonic sarcasm, and for that I’m sorry (actually sorry) (should that be a hashtag?) (eh, whatever).

But – how can you describe a fairly horrible situation to people who live too far away, and in something of a bubble? Is there any way to describe it in a way that they will understand, and relate to? Or, at the very least, somehow maybe perhaps comprehend?
You can’t. It’s just not possible.

But I was trying to write something anyway, because there was too much going on and I therefore needed to get some of the crazy off my chest. But it was all over the place, because the situation is really all over the place.

And then – my high school did the thing it always does when something is going down in Israel. I mean, other than the charity and the sharing and the liking and the support from TOO FUCKING FAR AWAY.
It asked alumni living in Israel to “tell us about it.”

Here, they said; put into words how you feel when you don’t know if the person sitting next to you on the bus is good or bad.
Tell us how it feels when you see an explosion of messages on your phone from your kid’s day care and have no idea if it’s about the crappy temp. assistant or because someone tried to break in.
Tell us how you feel when you hear about another attack in the neighborhood where you have relatives and you don’t immediately hear from them, and start thinking the worst.
Tell us that this ever-present SOMEONE is out there right now and is causing undue stress, anxiety, panic, and disorder.
Tell us – but only in 500 words, because we have limited bandwidth.

This is not the first time I wrote something for them. It is the first time I submitted what I wrote, though. Mostly because I didn’t think I adequately portrayed how I felt in previous attempts, but also because I didn’t think they would appreciate what I had to say.

See, my high school doesn’t really do the sardonic sarcasm thing. They like silver linings, and hope, and a firm grip on the religious values they instilled in us. They want to know how us alumni maintain those beliefs during hard times, and they want it short and concise and in monosyllabic words.
Um….

For a long time I’ve known that I had a unique writing style and voice – and occasionally it would get me into trouble. But at the same time I always felt compelled to write an alumni perspective about what’s going on, if only to have a different voice telling the same story. But I also had to understand that my target audience is full of people who kind of like the status quo.

So to do this, I had to dig deep down and find my old self, who wasn’t as sardonically sarcastic, and instead was only slightly smart-ass. I had to find my short, skinny, somewhat optimistic, semi-hopeful, pre-9/11 self. I had to channel my insulated, bubble-dwelling, former “me” and not lose my uniquely witty writing style.
I had to find my 17-year-old self and write in a way that would A) meet those requirements, and B) not get not-posted at all.

And what I ended up with was, well, that. The good news is they didn’t edit it in any way. The bad news is – I don’t think it was enough.

It’s really not easy, you know? How does anyone describe what they are going through to people who have never experienced it?
If I asked my friends in Elsewhere how they’re dealing with all the shit that’s happening right now, you know what they would say?

Because the crap that’s going down in ‘Murca (and everywhere) is just part of their lives. They don’t even realize it’s happening, and it doesn’t even register with them.
That’s exactly how it is over here. The sad truth of all the crazy going on in the world right now is that it doesn’t register with anybody. Either because there is no frame of reference and we therefore can’t relate to it, or because there is simply TOO MUCH going on in the world.

I can’t possibly put into words what I’m going through, because there are not enough words. Even if I could find the words, they have no frame of reference. Just like I don’t understand what it’s like when there’s another school shooting.

But….while I was searching for my former self, I remembered this one time….

About 17 years ago, in the summer of ’99, one of my classmates was shot in the leg by Benjamin Nathaniel Smith. I was away at summer camp, but naturally the news reached us fairly quickly (and in the days before technology too, no less). When the school year started a few months later, he came with a crutch, a noticeable limp, and a picture of him with Sammy Sosa.
Because that’s what happened back in the day of terror attacks – you got to meet your hero. Now you’re lucky if you don’t meet a therapist once a week for the rest of your life.
He also came back with a byline that, if anybody started saying it, the entire class would join in to complete it.

Just like how you all finished saying this line in your head...

Just like how you all finished saying this line in your head…

Because that’s how we dealt with the fact that he could have died.

I remember talking to him one day about it – about the actual event of the shooting. And of course, we all read the newspaper articles that interviewed him. He was our mini-celebrity.
Because back in the day, if you got shot in the leg by a white supremacist terrorist, you became a celebrity. You were special.

Now, not so much. Nobody is special, because everybody is terrified. And the entire world is going to hell in a handbasket.

Wow, you really CAN find anything and everything on Google.

Wow, you really CAN find anything and everything on Google.

The world is full of terror – good and bad. I did mean that bit, and in all sincerity too.
There’s good terror when you take your first step. Or learn to ride a bike without training wheels. Or know that you’re about to win your school-wide spelling bee.
There’s good terror when you lean in to kiss a boy you like. Or when you say “I love you” for the first time. There’s also terror when you wait for the reply. (not to mention anxiety, but one emotion at a time here…)

There’s good terror all the time; way more than the bad. But the bad terror gets noticed because it is so rare. Like, tornadoes and hurricanes get covered extensively, even if they don’t actually do any damage. But nice, sunny days? When’s the last time there was a Discovery Channel special on those?

Maybe instead of Shark Week, or something.

Maybe instead of Shark Week, or something.

So because we are inundated with all the crap that’s going on, no amount of effort or trying will amount to anything remotely worth writing about to my fellow alumni living NOT in Israel. Because they wouldn’t get it.

And yet, for some inexplicable reason – I try anyway. Because I have this feeling that if I didn’t end up here I wouldn’t understand. And I honestly just don’t know if I would want to understand.

I would be busy with my own life, over there in that alternate reality. I would be working, and hopefully I would be passionate about it. I would probably be married, with a kid (or several, because who knows).

But – I would still be living in that tiny bubble, with people I grew up with and knew for my entire life, only thinking about my friends in Israel during the difficult times, and wondering how they were dealing with what was going on.

I wonder if I would read the things they posted.

Israel; Just the way it is

It has been such a while hasn’t it? #sorrynotsorry 🙂
Semi because of holidays and work and term papers (which I finished!), and semi because of technical issues with the Site-Twitter-Facebook love triangle. I hopefully have figured it out, but probably not, because there are some technical issues that just fly right over my head. You know, like airplanes over Cleveland.

I'm fully aware that this is Nebraska. Humor me.

I’m fully aware that this is Nebraska. Humor me.


And there’s really only one way to find out that the tech issues are resolved, so on with the post.

There’s been a ton happening, so let’s just jump right on in to the thing that seems to be dominating everyone’s mind.

Israel is a shit hole right now. Wait, maybe “shit hole” is too strong…cesspool of terror? Yeah, that’s better.

There are crazy people wandering around with knives hidden in combs, my Facebook feed is filled with questions about where to buy pepper spray and offers for free self-defense courses, and threats abound on my Whatsapp groups about Arab women possibly sneakily making their way into day care centers (YES!) to hurt and possibly kill children.
I find myself alternating between going on the internet because I need to for work, and getting off the internet because it’s filled with images that you can never unsee.

Everyone is suspicious of everyone else, nobody is happy, and there is a vise around this country that gets tighter and tighter with each passing millisecond. Because we are waiting for something to happen. We’re waiting for the news report that somebody else was injured or killed. We’re waiting for our friends/love ones/coworkers to tell us they’re okay. The tension is so thick you could cut it with a knife (WORST. CLICHE. USAGE. EVER.) And I want to just stick my fingers in my ears and shut my eyes and ignore it all in the hopes that it goes away.

Precisely.

Precisely.


But I can’t, because it won’t. This never goes away. Because it’s one of those endless cyclical sibling rivalry types of things, that each time it comes up everyone else just sighs and says “Not again, won’t they ever learn?” There doesn’t seem to be any let up to the crazy that is going on right now. And it’s enough to seep into other parts of our lives and make everything a little less sensical, and a little more absurd. At least, that’s how I see it.

So instead, I write about it.

My high school does this thing where they ask alumni living in Israel to write about the conflict du jour – so about twice a year there are a slew of contributions to the Alumni Blog. I guess they like my writing style.

You can read it here: http://www.icja.org/2015/10/living-with-the-good-and-the-bad/

The Fast Track to Adulthood

A few years ago a friend of mine asked me why we fast on Yom Kippur. Which is a serious question in normal standards, but he happened to ask me this at 3:30 in the morning while we were driving home after working a night shift.

In my sleep-deprived and exhaustion-laden state, I was mentally preparing myself to give him something resembling a half-ass answer, when I was rudely interrupted by errant sprinklers hitting the windshield and scaring the bejeezus out of me. So instead I burst into hysterical giggles, which made him start laughing, because we were in a matzav kapit.

A brief pause for translation:
matzav – Hebrew; literally “situation”
kapkit – Hebrew; literally “spoon”

A slang term that means you are so whatever, that even mentioning the word “spoon” will set you off in uncontrollable fits of hysterical, and sometimes maniacal, laughter.

Of course, I’m writing about this which means some part of my subconscious still wants to provide him an answer, despite the fact that we don’t work together anymore.
Also it’s a question that many people ask each year, regardless of age and level of religious observance.

So, disregarding the fact that he may not even read this – why do we fast on Yom Kippur?
Answer: Because the Torah says so.
This is kind of such a cop-out answer; there are lots of things written in the Old and New Testaments which lots of people don’t do all the time. Let’s be honest – it’s the kind of answer that parents give to their toddlers after a 35-minute Q&A session.

Just shut up and eat your french fries.

Just shut up and eat your french fries.


It’s also the kind of answer that he wouldn’t approve of, and would result in an eye-roll and “no, really”. And I would have to either delve deeper into that answer or provide another one.

So why do we fast on Yom Kippur?
Answer: Because Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement.
True; that is the literal translation. It’s a day to atone for our sins and purify ourselves. But do we really need to devote an entire day to apologizing for past wrongdoings?
I remember a situation many years ago when I was at a friends’ wedding. It turns out one of my former high school classmates was also there; we hadn’t seen each other in about 7 years. After genuine surprise at seeing each other, and the obligatory “hey what have you been up to?” had been exchanged, he looked me straight in the eye and said “I’m sorry I was such a jerk to you in high school.”
It took me completely by surprise, but I readily accepted because he was really sincere. (Also because he wasn’t one of the worse ones, but we’ll let that pass)

People are capable of apologizing for things they did or said throughout the year, and many times those apologies are done on full stomachs. Sometimes those stomachs are full of alcohol, but the point remains – we don’t have to fast to apologize. And we don’t need a special day to apologize either.

So why do we fast on Yom Kippur?
Answer: Because Yom Kippur is a day for our soul
Yom Kippur is the day where our souls are weighed and judged, and everything we did during the past year is held against us (for good or bad). As such, souls are purely spiritual and don’t need food or water to sustain themselves.

Just, you know, a really heavy feather for the afterlife.

Just, you know, a really heavy feather for the afterlife.


Because this day is primarily for our souls, we put our physical needs aside for one day. We don’t eat or drink, or wear comfortable shoes, or shower (you get the idea) to show how serious we are about this whole thing. And the more religious ones spend the entire day praying for our souls even though by the end we are so deliriously hungry we can’t concentrate on the prayers we’re saying, much less stand up straight at all. The prayers lose none of their importance or significance, but the hunger and caffeine withdrawl make it really hard to focus.

So why do we fast on Yom Kippur?
Answer: Because fasting makes us weak
Physically, emotionally, mentally, psychologically – across all boards we are not strong. Blood sugar plummets, mouths go dry, spots appear in our vision, extremities get light and shaky – we become very uncomfortable and start to behave rather stupidly.

Yeah, pretty much.

Yeah, pretty much.


Without complex carbohydrates and dihydrogen monoxide, our synapses don’t fire the way they usually do – and that’s when it isn’t 90 freaking degrees outside and the AC doesn’t work.
Studies have shown (and dystopian YA novels have confirmed) that weakness is a bad thing. It is not good to be perceived as weak, because then you are seen as young and stupid. You are not trusted with certain pieces of information, because if you are weak there is no way you can deal with [fill-in-the-blank here].
Just like in most coming-of-age novels, the person in question must go on a journey of some kind whereby they undergo a transformation of sorts in order to prove to the naysayers and haters that they really are capable of understanding what is going on around them.
Most of the time, said journey involves admitting the said weakness. And that makes them strong.

So why do we fast on Yom Kippur?
Answer: Because fasting makes us strong

When you admit that you are weak, it shows understanding of yourself, and that in turn shows strength. It shows that you have turned a corner (or whatever phrase you want to use here that means the same thing). You’ve matured; you’ve grown up; you’re a real boy/girl/alien life form.
Admitting weakness allows you the opportunity to grow and get to listen in on all the juicy secrets that the grown-ups didn’t think you could handle. Admitting your weaknesses brings you one step closer to adulthood.
It’s also one of the most difficult things that everyone faces in their life. And it does not get easier over time. One only hopes that, as time goes on, we don’t have to do it as much because we learn from past mistakes, which means we have less to feel sorry for. But even so, we still have to apologize for the things we did do.

So why do we fast on Yom Kippur?
Answer: Because we are adults and understand that we are accountable for our actions
There’s a reason that fasting the full day only starts once you celebrate your Bar/Bat Mitzvah. It’s because you are now responsible and accountable for your actions and therefore must admit when you did something wrong. (Up until that point your parents fasted for you in addition for themselves, so chalk that up to parental love and devotion.)
Now I had no idea what I was atoning for when I was 12, even with my stellar Jewish-Day-School education. And despite the inter-linear translation now available to me I still don’t get it. But that doesn’t remove me from the ritual or revoke my responsibility.

But there is something that I never liked about apologizing in public and as a group, even though it makes us strong like a mighty faggot.

I will admit that I may have taken this too far...

I will admit that I may have taken this too far…

It’s because apologies are only as powerful as they are individual. When you apologize en masse the apology becomes diluted. Especially when the list of transgressions is decades-old Hebrew that most people don’t understand, much less actually transgress, leading many rabbis to translate and put them into a modern context.

So why do we fast on Yom Kippur?
Answer: Because it’s embarrassing

Atoning in public where everyone can see and hear does seem a bit forced, and there is no small amount of embarrassment involved. I know it’s how Nooshkin feels when I make her apologize for being not nice to her friends, especially in front of said friend’s parent/s and whoever else happens to be there. But we live in a day and age where if there are no witnesses then it did not happen, and this idea is not novel.

Observing Yom Kippur in public, and not in private, shows our strengths and weaknesses to everyone in our community, and it allows us to acknowledge theirs as well. We fast and pray (and wander the empty streets of a pseudo post-apocalyptic Israel) together.

As adults we carry that responsibility with us, regardless of how uncomfortable we may feel. And, especially in a group setting, there is a lot of power that comes with that kind of responsibility.

So why do we fast on Yom Kippur?
Answer: Because we are Spiderman

Doing whatever a spider can.

Doing whatever a spider can.

We fast on Yom Kippur because we are just trying to do whatever we can to get by, even if it means swinging around in our underwear from time to time.

And I can live with that.