Saturday, September 29, 2007

Fight Back Against Censorship of Breastfeeding Mothers and Babies

I too am stepping up publicly to support the League of Maternal Justice in their fight against unfair and completely inappropriate censorship of one of the most beautiful acts in the world - that of a mother feeding her baby the way nature intended - by breastfeeding. It is unconscienable that a site like Facebook, which hosts an astronomically large number of photos of barely-clad barely-women, not to mention over 250 pro-ana (pro-anorexia - is this what we want our children exposed to???) sites, would delete or ban pictures of mothers and babies simply doing what mothers and babies do - breastfeeding.

My children are beyond their breastfeeding years so I cannot participate directly in the League's upcoming cyber nurse-in at 10:00 on 10 October, but I've done the next best thing. I sent them these pictures of me nursing Maya while we were boating on the Hudson River during a trip to the States and an earlier one of Itai nursing on an Israeli mountaintop for inclusion in the virtual nurse-in. (Sorry they're so small, for some reason I'm sure was completely unrelated to censorship I had trouble uploading them.)

I've also deleted my Facebook account permanently in protest and explained exactly why on the delete request form. (Not that I ever used it anyway, but it's the gesture that counts here.)

Visit the League of Maternal Justice's website to see how you too can help, either by participating yourself or just by helping to spread the word.

LC and proud mother of two breastfed and gently-weaned children (well, Itai was. Maya weaned herself very traumatically (for both of us) at 18 months when she contracted hand foot and mouth disease and was in too much pain to nurse, but we had a good run while it lasted.)

Up and Away

The woman in the blue suit trudged through the airport, her carry-on bag and briefcase wheeling along behind her. She couldn't help but wish that the rest of her life was gliding along as smoothly as those two wheeled cases. Her mind was filled with images of her weekend at home - the screaming matches, the slamming doors, the angry husband, the sullen children. That phone call with her mother and her recriminations.

"You should have known this would happen when you chose a career that would keep you away from your family all the time. You missed your daughter's thirteenth birthday, what did you expect, a medal? Of course they're angry. As well they should be. That damn job always comes before your family." She felt her shoulders sink a little lower. They just didn't understand. It wasn't fair asking her to choose between her family and her job. Of course she loved her family, more than life, but these were the demands of the job. She might just as well have tried to swing the moon out of its orbit as insist on being home that day. Yes, it was a tough job, a demanding job, but she had worked damn hard to get there. Clawed her way up as one of the only women in a man's world. She wondered bitterly if her coworkers' wives berated their husbands for missing a birthday, or if they just accepted it as part of the job and celebrated when they got home.

Her thoughts were heavy as she moved towards the gate, and the smile she gave to the flight crew as she boarded was lacking some of its usual luster. Nevermind. Later. It was time to push all thoughts of home out of her mind and focus on her job again.

She knew that in a few minutes her troubles would begin to fade into the background as the powerful jet engines hummed to life and lifted the 747 high into the sky.

She stowed her bags and sat down, then pulled out her paperwork. She turned to the men sitting around her, her smile stronger now, "Okay guys, time to get started. Everyone ready for the pre-flight checklist?"

"Yes Captain."

here for more powerful writing.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

TT#32 - Sukkot

The Jewish holiday of Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, began this evening. Since Sukkot is not that well known a holiday among the world at large I thought I'd take the opportunity to share 13 facts about it:

1. Sukkot begins 5 days after Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement.

2. The holiday lasts 7 days and is then followed by the joint holiday of Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah (joint here in Israel that is, outside of Israel each gets its own day), which are generally thought of as part of Sukkot.

3. The word sukkot means "booths" - temporary huts that Jews build outside for the holiday in remembrance of the time our ancestors spent wandering for 40 years in the desert before reaching the promised land. Technically, Jews are commanded to "dwell" in these huts, but in practice most people just eat their meals in them. People build their sukkot in their backyards, on their balconies, or outside communal apartment buildings.

4. Having a ground floor sukkah when you live upstairs means a LOT of shlepping (food, drinks, chairs, tables, etc. up and down.

5. In the US the word Sukkot is often given its Yiddish pronunciation - Sukkos, pronounced to rhyme with "book-us".

6. A sukkah must have at least two and a half walls covered with a material that will not blow away in the wind. Why two and a half walls? Look at the letters in the word "sukkah" (see the graphic in the heading): one letter has four sides, one has three sides and one has two and a half sides. The "walls" of the sukkah do not have to be solid; canvas covering tied or nailed down is acceptable and quite common in the United States. A sukkah may be any size, so long as it is large enough for you to fulfill the commandment of dwelling in it. The roof of the sukkah must be made of material referred to as sekhakh (literally, covering). To fulfill the commandment, sekhakh must be something that grew from the ground and was cut off, such as tree branches, corn stalks, bamboo reeds, sticks, or two-by-fours. Sekhakh must be left loose, not tied together or tied down. Sekhakh must be placed sparsely enough that rain can get in, and preferably sparsely enough that the stars can be seen, but not so sparsely that more than ten inches is open at any point or that there is more light than shade. The sekhakh must be put on last. Note: You may put a water-proof cover over the top of the sukkah when it is raining to protect the contents of the sukkah, but you cannot use it as a sukkah while it is covered and you must remove the cover to fulfill the mitzvah of dwelling in a sukkah.*

7. Here in Israel the sekhakh used is cut palm fronds. Municipalities around the country send their gardening staff out to trim the trees before the holiday, leaving the fronds in piles for people to take to cover their sukkot.

8. People decorate the inside of their sukkot with their children's artwork, tinsel, garlands, and fruit.

9. Arbat HaMinim - The Four Species - While in the sukkah observant Jews say certain prayers to "rejoice to the Lord" while holding what are known as the Four Species. The four species are an etrog (a citron, a lemon-like citrus fruit native to Israel), a palm branch (a lulav in Hebrew), two willow branches (aravot) and three myrtle branches (hadassim). The six branches are bound together and referred to collectively by the name of their largest member, the lulav. The etrog is held separately, often in an ornate silver box. Religious Jews put great store in procuring top quality examples of each species and will reject any that are less than pristine.

10. Each year there is a "Four Species Market" in Jerusalem where people go to buy their lulav and etrog.

11. The first and last days of the holiday are what are called "full holidays" where stores close, people are off from work, etc. The days in between are considered half-holidays with fewer prohibitions and obligations. Many offices and stores open often but work just half-days.

12. Israeli children are off from school for the whole of the holiday.

13. We don't build a sukkah, but we're often invited to the neighbor's for a meal, and my kids contribute most of the Sukkot artwork they bring home to their sukkah, since their own children are all grown now.

* This was taken directly from Judaism 101 - it was too long and involved to try and rewrite correctly. Thanks for the loan of the text.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

The Hardest Part Is Turning the PDA On

As if yesterday morning wasn't enough, here's a little tip I hit on after yesterday afternoon:

It's not enough to write important events down in your pda/calendar/planner, you actually have to then look in the flippin' thing to know what you have on for the day, or you might mix up your days and miss an important appointment. I'm just sayin'.

That's the way my week is going. Sorry, other than that I've got nothing this week.

Look here for tips from people more together than me.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Key To The Parenting Closet

I wish I had a key to the magical closet that holds the parenting manuals. You know, the special ones that tell you how it's really done. If I only had that key, I could have read the manual and understood that this morning when my son suddenly dropped his backpack in the middle of the schoolyard, stuck his fingers in both ears, and ran off that he wasn't misbehaving but rather was scared of an older child who had cursed him a few weeks before. I would have known that it would be best to simply pick up the bag and go talk to him instead of angrily racing after him and demanding (publicly, thus creating a whole other issue that we will have to deal with later) that he go back and get it. I would have trusted him enough to stop and ask why he'd done something so out of place, rather than jumping to assume it was misbehavior or at the very least carelessness and responding in anger.

If I had the key to that magical closet full of parenting manuals I wouldn't feel like such a lousy parent this morning.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Monday Meme Madness

I've been tagged for two different memes recently. I'm busy working this week and don't have much time for blogging so I figured this would be a good time to fall back on a meme instead.

Grace from Sandier Pastures wants to know 8 facts about my mother:

1. My mother went away to college after 10th grade. She skipped 11th and 12th grades because her small town high school didn't have that much to offer.

2. She's missing the lower joint on both of her thumbs and didn't know that was abnormal until she got to college, where she thought her roommate was double-jointed.

3. Because of that she can't snap.

4. She loves music but her own musical talent is limited to playing the "squeaky magic marker".

5. She looks a lot younger than she is. (Unfortunately, I didn't inherit that particular characteristic. I got her hips instead.)

6. She made my sister and I great birthday cakes when we were growing up and my desire to give my own children those same kinds of fun memories is the reason I got so into birthday cakes for my own kids. Of course my mother now claims that she never worked as hard as I do, that I've embellished my memories.

7. My mother put up with a LOT of crap from me during my teenage years and still never faltered in her love and support.

8. Today my mom is one of my best friends. She (and my dad) are coming for a visit in a few weeks and I can't wait!

Shelly over at This Eclectic Life also tagged me, this time for the middle name meme:

1. You have to post these rules before you give the facts.

2. Players, you must list one fact that is somehow relevant to your life for each letter of their middle name. If you don’t have a middle name, use the middle name you would have liked to have had.

3. When you are tagged you need to write your own blog-post containing your own middle name game facts.

4. At the end of your blog-post, you need to choose one person for each letter of your middle name to tag. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

5. Don’t forget to link back to the person that tagged you in the beginning

Thankfully I have a short middle name. I hated it growing up because it was too different (and because one mean little girl called me "heinie" to make fun of it) but today I'm grateful for my parents' choice. My middle is Hani, which is Hungarian for Hannah and which was my great-grandmother's name. My grandmother's entire family was wiped out in the Holocaust, so it's a great honor to be able to carry a small piece of it forward.

H - heart. I'd like to think that I've got a lot of heart.
A - animated. I'm always talking or gesturing. I find it nearly impossible to not fidget.
N - night owl. Yup, that's me.
I - independent. I do like to go my own way, whether it's fashion, music, choice of career, whatever. I like to do what works for me, not what's trendy.

There, done, time to get back to work. Whoever would like to do one of these, consider yourselves tagged and have fun with it.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Hello! Hi! Remember me? Yes, me, over here on the shelf.

Hi, my name is Someone To Run With. I'm a novel by David Grossman. You know, the one you're supposed to be reading for Book Club, which will be held in about a week and a half in YOUR house, Robin. I'm very good you know, I've got great reviews and I've even won prizes. All in all, I'm supposed to be a pretty nice read if I do say so myself.

So why am I just languishing on your shelf? You've been neglecting me for that Dante Club book, haven't you? The same one you said was pretty good but incredibly slow-going and didn't really begin to pull you in until page 230-something. Or is it all that blogging you've been doing? The internet has sucked the life out of so many readers. You used to be so trustworthy. All the older books on the shelf say you devoured them in just a day or two, three if they were really long, then came back and read them again and again. They say they were all exhausted from being read non-stop, cover to cover. I was so sure when you brought me home that I was done languishing on that cold basement shelf and had finally come somewhere I'd be appreciated, but no, it's been weeks and I'm still sitting here unread. Different shelf, same story. No love, no appreciation, not even the faintest glimmer of attention.

My only comfort is knowing that that book club meeting is fast approaching, and that you never could let a deadline go by without scrambling to meet it. Maybe when it gets a bit closer you'll finally buckle down and see how wonderfully I fulfill the promise of my reputation. Until then, I'll just sit here and wait. Ho hum. Don't mind me. I'm just a book after all. An inanimate object. It's not like I have feelings or anything. I'll just sit here and wait patiently until you get around to picking me up. Not in a rush. I'm not going anywhere after all. Does anyone have anything I can read while I'm waiting? Should we send out for pizza?...

Visit Sunday Scribblings for more introductions.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Yom Kippur Eve, 2007

The Yom Kippur holiday will start in about 90 minutes. Already you can feel the pace of life slowing down. All the windows are open but there is little noise. Traffic is becoming more sporadic. the airport has already closed and with it the noise of the planes. Tones are more muted. The most prevalent sound is the quiet clink of dishes in the kitchens of those preparing their final pre-fast meal. Soon that too will be replaced by the quiet conversations of strolling adults, the whirr of bicycle wheels, and the happy sounds of children let loose on the streets.

The mood is becoming more introspective, more contemplative. Neighbors wish each other a "good inscription" for the coming year, or an easy fast. Fasting or not Yom Kippur lets you, even encourages you, to stop for a day and take stock. We could all do worse.

Oh, and the bicycles are all tuned up and ready to go. The only questions are which will get pride of place this evening - the bike or the rollerblades - and how much will the tricycle be pedalled versus how much pushing the parents will have to do.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Call it serendipity

You'll never guess what happened after I posted about not wanting to go the gym. I did in fact manage to drag myself over there (I try really hard to go at least times a week) only to discover that they were in the midst of a power failure! It was surreal, quite dark with hulking shadows of machines and only the quiet whirring of the few cross-trainers (do you call them elliptical machines in the States?) being used by people too stubborn busy to come back another time.

Since my mp3 player is temporarily dead and the power failure meant no tv a cardio workout would have meant staring out into the blackness for 45 minutes. I couldn't quite face that so I just did a full circuit on the machines instead. The only people there, other than little old me, were obviously serious fitness buffs. There was none of the laughter and joking around you'd expect (except occasionally from the staff). All you heard were weights being placed and the occasional grunt. It was very odd. Also, I don't know if it was the dark, the quiet, the lack of music in particular, the lack of a/c or what, but the workout itself was pretty damn difficult. It shouldn't have been, I've been doing it for ages, but somehow without anything to focus on but the task at hand it felt a lot tougher.

Seems that's what I get for griping about not wanting to go. And to top it all off, I now have to go back tomorrow to do the cardio bit.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

13 things I'd rather do than go to the gym today

I don't usually mind going to the gym. I don't love it, but I will admit to hating it much less than I expected to. On occasion I even sort of like it. More importantly, I know that I need to go. I neglected abused my body for enough years and I'm not getting any younger. Those aches and pains are starting to kick in, I can't take a healthy body for granted any longer. That said, I just plain don't feel like going today. In fact, I'd rather be doing just about anything else, including:

1. Getting a massage. I am in dire dire need...

2. Going out to lunch and eat something sinfully rich. Of course then I'd need to go to the gym even more.

3. Taking a nap. Why don't adults get to take naps?

4. Going out for a coffee with a girlfriend.

5. Working. Nope, I think I'd pick the gym over that one.

6. Going shoe shopping. Much as I hate to admit it, summer is winding down and I'm going to have to pack away all of my beloved sandals for another year.

7. Making a Thursday Thirteen list. Oops, I've already done that.

8. Visiting others' Thursday Thirteens and following up on all the interesting blogs I find. Yup, much more fun than the gym.

9. Making Sun-Dried Tomato Aioli Dip for tonight's GNI.

10. Making Spicy Dill Dip for tonight's GNI.

11. Cutting up vegetables to go with the dip.

12. Packing Itai's roller-hockey gear for this afternoon's practice, including a bag of tricks to keep Maya occupied in case we stay.

And last but not least, instead of going to the gym today I'd rather be doing...

13. Just about anything.
But wait, it gets better. Go here to find out what actually happened today...

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Bug-Free Flour

It's probably happened to all of us at one time or another, especially to those of us who live in warmer climates. We bring home a bag of flour or other dry good only to discover later that it's arrived with friends in tow. Lots of little creepy-crawly friends. The only question is did you catch it before they spread to everything else in your pantry.

Obviously if you find bug-infested flour (and you aren't living in Mauritania) the immediate next step is to throw out the flour, but what if the bag had been sitting on the shelf for a while? How can you be sure they haven't gotten into something else?

Every time we bring a new bag of flour home (and we go through a LOT of flour in our house), we either stick it in the microwave for 10-15 seconds on high, or if we have room we just store it in the freezer. Either method kills any bugs that might be in there and ensures that they won't get into anything else before you've found them. You'll still have to throw the bag out, but at least you won't have to dump the whole pantry and call the exterminator.

Visit Rocks In My Dryer for more helpful hints.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Some gifts are better than others

Splatter on laundry
Hung to dry in the sun
Damn bird

Hockey to be played
Goals to score

A gift so precious
Unexpected, unasked for
I love you mommy

Visit Writers Island for more gifts given and received.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The World's Worst Mannered Blogger

Umm, that would be me.

I have been shockingly and horribly remiss in publicly acknowledging and passing on the blog awards some of you have so generously given me. The most recent, the new You Make Me Smile award, has now shocked me into action, so without further ado:

The "You Make Me Smile" award from Jo of A Broad's Thoughts From Home. Thank you Jo for such a sweet award, you make me smile too.

This one I'm going to pass along to a blog I've only recently discovered - Phyllis at Imabima. I start smiling when I see her header graphic and continue when I'm reading her latest posts.

whether it's a new look at the holidays or a cute kid, there's always something there to make me smile. I'm also passing it along to ALL of you out there. You each make me smile just knowing you're out there.

Thank you to Mom Not Mum for this one, which she awarded for this post, saying that anyone so concerned about the subject in question just had to be thoughtful (either thoughtful or very good at self-preservation I say). No contest here, this one goes to Jen M. over at Get In The Car. Philanthropy Thursday is her brainchild. Speaks for itself, doesn't it?

This one comes from the wonderful Planet Nomad. I love this blog because she makes every day seem like a grand adventure, whether it's in Mauritania or at the mall. Gorgeous writing and gorgeous pictures. (I was also mortified to discover that I never posted a thank you comment for this one, after it was given to me for commenting! Very embarrassing and hopefully very out of character, but I assure you completely unintentional and due only to my incredible lack of organization in my life.)

The Schmooze award I'm passing on to Jen from Never A Dull Moment and Nancy over at Marie Millard, who are both always popping in with a kind word and a friendly wave. I don't know if it can compete with Nancy's recent Cat's Ass award (sheer brilliance that one) but it's my thank you for always brightening my day and my blog.

Grace of Sandier Pastures gave me this one for bloggers “who have been an encouragement, a source of love, given you an impact in some way”. What a lovely, touching thing to say. Thank you Grace.

This one I'm giving to Jo. She's a fairly new blogger but an old friend, who's finally let her inner muse free again. Not only is her writing wonderful in and of itself, but by virtue of it being there it's inspiring me to reach higher too.

A very heartfelt thank you to each and every one of you, for the awards and just for reading. I've said it before, knowing you're out there is why I do what I do, and how much sweeter it is to know that you're not just out there but actually enjoying it.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Collector

I thought I'd try my hand at fiction for this week's Sunday Scribblings. Be gentle, I'm way out of my comfort zone here...

The man turned up the collar of his trench coat against the cold winter wind. Huddling in the doorway of an abandoned building, he squinted in the pale light from the corner's last remaining streetlight and read the next name on his list. Just a few more names and he could return home to his warm armchair by the fire. Nights like this he really disliked his job. He was really getting too old for fieldwork and longed for a desk job back at headquarters.

Mrs. Gertrude Spinner, age 83. The paper said she had 4 children, 7 grandchildren, and a cat. Her husband had died 16 years earlier. A long, full life well-lived. Good, this would be an easy one. It was time now. He put away the paper and rang the doorbell, speech at the ready.

That one done, he turned to the next name on the list. Ben Jackson, a 26-year old bonds trader living on the Upper East Side. He was still single, his long hours at work followed by long hours at the local bars had conspired to keep him that way. Too bad, but it was too late now. Mr. Jackson, courageous with drink, had felt invincible when the mugger approached him as he stumbled back home late this evening. The collector would have to meet him at the hospital.

Another name, this one a 62-year old with an unpronounceable illness who knew that his time was winding down. Sad, but necessary.

One more.

Oh no. Not this. A child. An innocent. Just 3 years old. Victim of a terrible accident. This one would be rough. The child would probably scream and cry, wanting to stay. The parents would be screaming and crying, or worse, shocked into comatose silence by grief. This is not what I signed on for, the man thought to himself. This was supposed to be an easy job. More of an escort service than anything else, they'd said.

He really did need to put in for that transfer. This field work was getting to be too much for him. That wouldn't help with tonight's assignment though. It was too late for that. With a heavy sigh, the soul collector pulled his coat closer against the cold and started walking to the child's house, ready to collect the last soul on the evening's list.

Look here for more collectors.

Bicycling for Atonement

Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, came to a close this evening, which can only mean that Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is soon to follow.
For observant Jews, and for most Jews living outside of Israel, Yom Kippur is a very solemn day, the most important holiday of the year. It is on Yom Kippur that God's decree for the coming year is inscribed in the Book of Life. Who will live and who will die. Observant Jews spend the day in prayer, fasting. Many Jews who do not practice their religion on a day to day basis observe this one holiday even if they do nothing else all year long.
Things here in Israel are a bit different. Commerce comes to a complete halt. All businesses are closed, radio and television broadcasting ceases. It is the one day of the year that the airport is shut down completely. No one, observant or not, drives anywhere, and in secular towns and cities all over the country Yom Kippur is known as the festival of bicycles.

Because custom prohibits driving on the holiday, the moment the sun sets on Yom Kippur eve the entire country takes to the street. While the adults are walking though, the children take to their wheels - bicycles, scooters, even rollerblades are brought out and hordes of happy children start freewheeling their way through the city streets. They ride right up the middle of major thoroughfares and even highways, enjoying the one day a year when everything stops.

Reflection and introspection is left to the adults walking on the sidewalks. For the children, it's all about the bicycles. Yom Kippur in Tel Aviv and all over Israel is truly a day unlike any other. Come join us one year and see for yourselves. Just don't plan to take a taxi anywhere, there won't be any.

Yom Kippur on Tel Aviv's Ayalon Highway, Photo by Isabel Maxwell

This post was written for the upcoming Carnival of Cities, being hosted by the lovely Grace of Sandier Pastures.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Family history as seen through a rolling pin

16 years ago I was about to get married and was busy collecting all the items I would need to set up my new home. We'd received various things as wedding gifts, my mother had been buying me little odds and ends for months, I had some craftsy things I'd collected, and most of the rest we bought. We would be shipping all of our worldly possessions from New York to Israel in a freight container and it was nearly time to deliver everything to the freight forwarder's warehouse so it could be loaded into the container and put on a ship, ready to cross the Atlantic and join us in our new home.

As my mother and I sat in her kitchen packing things up, we realized that I didn't have a rolling pin. This certainly wasn't a calamity, I didn't anticipate making all that many pie crusts (certainly not in the early weeks when we didn't even have an apartment of our own yet), but my mother thought I should have one and offered me one of the two she had.

One was a fairly standard rolling pin - a cylinder which spun along an axle as you held the handles on each side. Perfectly serviceable. Fairly new even.

The second one pulled from way in the back of the shelf looked different. It was much longer and much thinner, and tapered at each end. There was no rolling cylinder, no spinning. It was little more than a long thin dowel. I'd never seen one quite like it, it certainly wasn't the one my mother used when she baked.
I learned that that second rolling pin had belonged to my great-grandmother, who had died when I was five. I vaguely remember a very old woman in a nursing home, but I was much too young to know her when she was still living, and baking, on her own. She'd had a reputation as an incredible baker though. The kind who made wonderful things without a recipe, using only her special glass to measure - a glass of this, a half a glass of that... (Years later my grandmother, deathly afraid that she'd accidentally break the glass one day and lose all her mother's recipes, decided to measure it. It was exactly one cup.)

There was no contest. That old piece of wood was just calling out to me. It needed to be used, not left languishing on a back shelf.

The rolling pin was over 100 years old when I got it. I often imagine my great-grandmother carefully rolling out her pie crust or her dough and wonder what she would think to know that her old rolling pin had crossed the ocean and is now rolling out crust for quiches and pizzas and even the occasional Rosh Hashana apple pie for her great-granddaughter's family in far away Israel, a country that didn't even exist yet when she was using it, but a land that her husband always dreamed of seeing someday.

I think she'd like it.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

TT #30 - 13 things on our Rosh Hashana table

Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, began last night and will continue until Friday evening. It is a time of reflection, one of the most serious holidays in the Jewish calendar, and marks the beginning of the High Holy Days, the period between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, which comes 10 days later.

Religion aside though, it is also a major family holiday and an occasion for stuffing yourself silly at a huge holiday meal. We don't have any family here in Israel, but over the years we've developed a tradition of spending the three major holidays in our own Israeli/American calendar (which are of course Rosh Hashana, Passover and Thanksgiving - living outside of the US is no reason to give up on turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie!) with two other "anglo" families. Both are old and dear friends and our children have grown up together like cousins. We're not family but after so many years together it almost feels that way, just without all the latent drama that goes with so many gatherings. Last night's festive dinner was held at another home, but as usual the menu itself was a joint effort.

Here are 13 different things that were on the table for the holiday meal:

1. Challah - braided egg bread traditionally eaten for Sabbath and festivals. For the High Holy Days the bread is made sweeter and is in a round shape instead of the traditional braid, to represent the continuity of years. This time of year the bread is dipped in honey instead of the salt used the rest of the year.

2. Wine - both for ceremonial purposes and for drinking

3. Apples and honey - it is traditional to eat apple sections dipped in honey for a "sweet" year

4. Pomegranate seeds - an Israeli holiday tradition. Some say it is because it is a "new fruit" representing the new year, others say it represents the good deeds you've done during the year. I just like the way they taste.

5. Soup - chicken soup and matza balls is traditional, but my friend's husband has been traveling to Korea quite a bit the past few years, so she decided to combine the usual chicken soup and the (gefilte) fish course which usually follows into a Korean fish soup instead. I don't like fish personally but everyone else said it was good.

6. Roast lamb

7. Roast chicken

8. Yam souffle (this recipe came from a friend of my grandmother's from Georgia back in the forties, but "Margie's yams" have since become a holiday tradition in my family. My surrogate family in Israel now request them each holiday too.

9. Rice

10. Creamed spinach (not at all traditional (and not kosher since it had milk in it) but oh so good)

11. Baked beets

12. Apple pie (mine, and quite delicious if I do say so myself)
13. The world's best (and oh so easy!) flourless chocolate cake - I originally found this recipe when I was searching for a cake to bake for Passover, but we all decided it was too good to be kept just for Passover! Skip the extra sauce if you make it though, it's more than rich enough the way it is.
There were other odds and ends like salad and roast potatoes, but since I only had room for 13 I left out the more boring dishes.

Happy TT everyone, and shana tova u'metuka (a happy and sweet new year) to everyone celebrating.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Shana Tova - Happy New Year

Shana Tova U'Metuka - A happy and sweet new year to all celebrating today.

Tonight starts Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year and one of the Jewish year's most important holidays. As we do for all three of the big holidays, Rosh Hashana, Passover and Thanksgiving (that last one obviously big only for us, not for the rest of the country), we will be celebrating with two other families, both very old and dear friends who have truly become our surrogate family here in Israel.

We will be minus one tonight though when we sit down at the holiday table. My dear friend B has just received word that her father is extremely ill and is flying back to Australia right now to be with him. Please spare a thought for her, that she makes it all the way home in time.

Spare too a thought for Gilad Shalit, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, whose families have been waiting so very long without even a small sign of life from their kidnapped sons.

May this year bring only good things to all.


PS I would have put up the cute picture of my kids and sweet New Year's greeting (Israel's answer to Christmas cards), but again this year I didn't have the chance to make one. Story of my life. Hope you all have a wonderful holiday and a new year full of peace and joy anyway.

Highchair as art space

So many people are in a hurry to get rid of their highchairs and reclaim that valuable kitchen real estate.

I'm not one of them.

My younger child is nearly four and our highchair is still in daily use. I got a fairly solid, durable one, and I'm guessing from the way children much too old for highchairs argue over it that it's fairly comfortable. (No, she's not strapped in. In fact, she climbs in and out -- over the top of the tray -- completely on her own, which nearly gave me a heart attack the first hundred or so times.) I would have gotten rid of the highchair years ago if I hadn't discovered it's alter-ego - messy art space. Young children have a tendency to ignore conventions like "please don't draw on the table" or "the paint belongs on the paper". Having them do these messier art projects while they're in a highchair keeps that mess contained, and when they're done the whole tray gets popped right in the sink to be hosed down. Those little wells for cups make great holders for cups of water for painting too, and they're much less likely to be knocked over that way. The tray even keeps all those little tiny bits of playdough fairly contained.

Check out Rocks In My Dryer for more great parenting tips.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

My Imaginary Life

My imaginary life has taken many twists and turns over the years.

The first significant chapter began at age 10, when I decided to join the Peace Corps and move to Africa (that one ended soon after when my mother informed me about living conditions for your average Peace Corps volunteer in Africa). Later, I did an complete about-face and wanted to grow up, live in Manhattan (the promised land that I could only vaguely see from the haze of the suburbs), carry a briefcase and "go to meetings". I would work in "international business". This future was nothing if not well planned out.

Later my imaginary life involved following the Grateful Dead up and down the East Coast. Oh wait, that one was real. It's just a little dreamlike and the details are more than a little fuzzy.

When I got to college and met my husband we soon began imagining a life together - in Israel. That one my parents wish had just been imaginary, because Tel Aviv is so very far away from the suburbs of New York City.

I later found myself actually living in Israel, working in international business, going to meetings (with briefcase in hand!), traveling abroad to do "very important things", the whole nine yards. And it wasn't quite as I'd imagined it.

I began to imagine a different sort of life. One that involved children, and didn't involve endless hours on countless airplanes. I held on to the corporate job for a while, in fact, I spent most of my first pregnancy working in Turkey, but I learned to downsize, to say no.

As I grew in my own journey, I began to imagine new and different paths - a second child, a new career, an opportunity to work from home.

I still wonder sometimes about the life I might have had had I pursued some of these other paths, and I still fantasize about the life I could have if money wasn't a factor. (I was born to be a wealthy jet setter, if my tastes are any indication. Too bad my pocketbook doesn't match my proclivities.)

At the end of the day though, I sit and look out at the life I do have, and smile. Because I know I wouldn't want it any other way.

Visit the new Writers Island for more glimpses into imaginary lives.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

A lesson too late for the learning?

Or is it?

I don't talk much about politics on this blog. In fact, I don't talk much about politics at all. I used to be a bit more political (not tremendously so, but a little bit), but since having children the primary focus of my world has shrunk to the size of my family and friends. I just don't often have the energy left over for the very serious business of politics. And serious it is.

Politics here in Israel is a life or death issue, with both sides believing that the very fate of the country hangs in the balance. With so much at stake, passions in this wonderful but tremendously argumentative country (as the expression goes, two Jews, three opinions) understandably run high. At the same time as the country is split right down the middle politically, there is also a huge, yawning gap between those who classify themselves as secular versus those who see the world through the eyes of religion. The size of this gap is difficult to comprehend to those of you who live in countries where there is separation of church and state. Here there is not, and the battle being waged is for the very souls of the citizens - will Sabbath observance be mandated by law or can individuals decide for themselves whether they wish to spend their day in prayer or in the mall? Do the ultra-orthodox deserve a government stipend paying them to study full-time and exempting them from the draft? Is their studying Torah in fact a higher calling so worthy that the secular majority should be financing it, or is it exploitation? Or worse, blackmail?

There are so many differences in this country. Jew and Arab. Religious and secular. Left wing and right wing. Hawks, doves. Ashkenazi or Sephardi. Rich or poor. It never ends. Everyone somehow ends up feeling like a persecuted minority for something.

Here in the blogosphere, differences can be seen in the mommy wars we hear so much about. Working versus staying at home. Breastfeeding versus bottle-feeding. Co-sleeping versus cry-it-out. Bloggers who accept paid ads versus those who don't.

So many ways to distance ourselves from each other, so many ways to define ourselves as "not them".

Several years ago I decided to become a lactation consultant. Everyone I asked said the best course, the only course worth taking, was taught by one particular woman. The year I took it, she offered the course in both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The Tel Aviv class, held in a classroom at a local hospital, was nearly full, one short of capacity at 29 women. Full in fact of women very much like me - in background, in belief systems, in approach, in appearance. The Jerusalem class was given in a tiny room in the teacher's own clinic and was limited by the size of the room to just nine women. I debated which class to join. Jerusalem was much further away, but by the time I factored in traffic and (extremely expensive) parking I realized that the difference in commuting time would be a mere 5-10 minutes. At that point there was no question. The intimate Jerusalem setting was infinitely more appealing (albeit colder, MUCH colder, but that's a story for another day), sitting on rocking chairs and couches in a small circle, instead of in a sterile classroom in the hospital. I didn't realize when I made my decision how profoundly it would come to affect me.

For next eight months, I made the drive up to Jerusalem once a week, to spend 6 intensive hours (and that's before you factor in the clinical time) learning the foundation of my new profession. We could not have been a more diverse group. The teacher was an American-born ultra-orthodox grandmother. Three of the students were ultra-orthodox, extremely traditional religious Jews who try to lives their lives with minimal contact with the world at large. One was even from one of the world's most closed societies - that of Jerusalem's Mea Shearim neighborhood. This mother of ten, from a society so different from my own that I can barely conceive of what her life must be like, was one of the gentlest, kindest souls I have ever met. Three more women were modern orthodox, meaning they were observant Jews but lived and participated willingly in the outside world. The other three of us were secular, or non-observant, Jews.

We were all learning the same course materials, but we came at the discussions from wildly different places. I had never known for example, or for that matter ever even wondered, whether mother's milk is considered "pareve", which means neither milk nor meat, and therefore not affected by the Jewish dietary laws requiring the separation of the two (it is in fact). My religious fellow students had trouble grasping some of the issues secular mothers might face, things like how to balance a high-powered career with the needs of a breastfeeding baby.

We couldn't understand why they would turn to a (male) rabbi for the answer to an intimate personal question, they couldn't understand why we wouldn't. There were dozens of issues like this, when the chasm between us seemed unbridgeable.

And yet, as the weeks and months passed, something happened. We became closer. We became friends. We began to call each other between classes to discuss cases and share opinions. We talked of a monthly coffee meeting to keep the connections strong.

On the day we turned in our final exam the teacher asked each of us what we felt we had gotten out of the class.

I looked around the room at my classmates on that last day and saw not a group of fellow students but rather a group of women I was proud to call friends. Yes, friends. More than any counseling method, or breastfeeding technique, or knowledge of physiology, that realization was the most important thing I took away from that class. It was the ability to say "my friend from Mea Shearim", and to mean it.

What I learned that day, and what I strive to remember every day since then, is this:

What unites us is much, MUCH stronger than that which divides us.

As a society, we need to learn that lesson. It's still not too late. We can't let it be too late. Real progress, real healing, can only begin when we stop seeking to define ourselves as "not them" and start seeing ourselves at part of a greater but wonderfully diverse whole.

This post was written for Scribbit's September Write-Away contest. The theme for this month is "learning".

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Why I Write

This week's Sunday Scribblings prompt is "writing". I thought about how to approach it, what kind of angle to take, which anecdote to share. I decided instead that I'd rather step out of the prose for a moment and talk directly to the audience. Hi audience. My name is Robin. I'm a mother. And a wife. And an editor. And a lactation consultant. And a blogger. And a daughter and an employee and a colleague and a neighbor and any one of a hundred other titles.

What I'm not is a writer.

Writing is not my avocation, nor to be honest is it my truly my passion. Don't get me wrong. I enjoy writing, crafting words and verbal pictures, but the writing itself to me is a means, not an end.

I write to share my life and my experiences with others. I write to be part of a community. Many different communities. To be part of something larger than myself and my own small life. I write because I truly believe I would explode if all the words inside of me had no outlet. I am a "verbal" thinker. Where some people think in terms of pictures I have a constant stream of dialogue running through my head, just begging to be let out into the light of day.

In my "real", non-internet life, I'm sure it won't surprise you to learn that I am a talker. I'm always happy for a chance to share a story or an interaction. I find it hard to sit quietly and not jump into a conversation. I'm not looking to talk in a vacuum, though, or to dominate a conversation. The verbal give and take, the taking time to be silent and really listen, is just as important as the information I want to put out there. To me, writing, and this blog in particular, is another version of that same conversation. It's a way to put myself out there, but even more, it's a way to invite you all in. I didn't enjoy blogging nearly as much until I knew that there were at least a few people out there listening, and even more, responding. I think at heart I'm a closet exhibitionist. I get much more satisfaction out of exposing myself publicly when I know that there is someone out there watching. (I'm betting the search engines are going to have a lovely little time with that last sentence. Boy is someone going to be disappointed...)

So please, come in. Pull up a stool (they're actually pretty comfortable) and find yourself a seat around the island. The food's good, the coffee's fresh, and the conversation is flowing. All that's missing is you.

The perks of parenthood, and very cool (and potentially very fattening) news

There are definitely perks to parenthood, especially as children start to get a bit older. Maya helps herself to her snack, carefully taking out two peach yogurts and a spoon and then sitting nicely in a chair to eat them, Itai made pancakes this morning (with some help from dad) , lots of fun things. This morning takes the cake though.

After years of participation in various after school activities ranging from rollerblading to yoga (that was a short one - once he realized he was the only boy he lost interest), Itai decided this morning that he wanted to conduct his own class, and of all things my sports-obsessed boy chose "relaxation". He had me lie down on his bed and spent 15 minutes gently rubbing the tunnel piece (or rather one half of it) from his old Thomas the Tank Engine set over my back and legs in a strangely relaxing form of massage. It would have been practically blissful had the entire 15 minutes not been accompanied by a running dialogue: Mom, you have 8 minutes left. Do you like this? Mom, you have 8 minutes left. Do you like this? Mom, you have 8 minutes left. Do you like this? Mom, you have 7 minutes left. Do you like this? Mom, you have 7 minutes left. Do you like this? and on and on and on and on and on and on and on.

He then went on to do the same thing for his father, and announced that there would now be weekly sessions. Next week's session will involve the flat side of a pen, and the following week a tennis ball (my suggestion that one, as a veteran of back labor).

Of course, my wonderful relaxed mood has been slightly marred by the manic beach ball soccer game that is currently underway in my living room...


On a completely unrelated note, I recieved an e-mail at 4am last night (this morning?), and no, please don't ask why on earth I was checking my e-mail at 4am, that my name was drawn in a contest held by A Year In Bread and I've won (or more correctly my bakesallourbreadhimself husband has won) a signed copy of Daniel Leader's new book Local Breads: Sourdough and Whole-Grain Recipes from Europe's Best Artisan Bakers! Considering that when they told me I'd won there was a bag full of olive rolls sitting on my counter that Jay baked last night using a recipe they'd posted from this very book I suspect it will get a LOT of use around here. Hi to everyone popping over from A Year in Bread by the way. Kick off your shoes, help yourself to a roll and a freshly made iced coffee (my contribution to this morning's brunch) and stay for a while.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

At first glance

I parked my car on my town's main street today so that I could run to the ATM. A few feet in front of me I noticed a well dressed man sitting on a bench. He was wearing a jacket and tie and a baseball cap. The cap was a bit incongruous but hey, the sun is strong here in Israel and maybe he was bald and wanted to protect his head. He was talking. There was no one else on the bench so I assumed he was using a bluetooth earpiece. I saw all this in the few seconds it took to get out of my car.

When I finished at the bank and came back across the street, I notice that the man's pants and his shirt and jacket were horribly mismatched. I started to wonder. Who wears a long-sleeved shirt in the midday sun, let alone a jacket and tie too? Even our prime minister almost never wears a tie. It's just not necessary here for most jobs, and certainly not for sitting on a bench.

Then I noticed that he didn't have an earpiece.

Then I noticed a sort of odd cyclical pattern of illogical words and rocking movements.

Apparently this wasn't some businessman waiting for a client.

My city does not have a homeless problem (in general Israel doesn't have all that many homeless, though of course even a few is too many). He didn't have any bags, so hopefully this man, who is apparently suffering from some type of "something", has a clean, safe place to call home.

Still, looking at him, realizing how much I had missed at first glance, made me wonder just how much of the world am I missing as I go racing by. What else, or even who else, lies hidden just under the surface, waiting for someone to notice.

TT #29 - 13 Best ShapeShifter Concerts

Something a little different for you all this week...

If you still don't know what ShapeShifter is all about, get on over to West of Mars and get in on this international phenomena! Quick! You don't really want to be the very last one to know, do you?!?

I'm a live music kind of girl with fairly eclectic tastes - everything from classic rock to folk to blues to good ole rock'n'roll. I can be equally happy with a tiny smoky club venue as with a huge stadium show. If it live and it's GOOD, bring it on!

When it comes to metal, no one, and I mean no one, can beat
Trevor and the boys for pure electricity, I admit, I'm a groupie through and through and I've been spendthrift lucky enough to have the chance to see them in concert many times. So, when it came time to choose a subject for this week's Thursday Thirteen, what better than the 13 hottest ShapeShifter performances ever. I've been following these guys since the early days, so some of these go way back.

1. The Back Door Club,
Riverview, way back in the dark ages: I was out in Riverview visiting a friend who'd found herself at the city's Art Academy (no, she didn't study with Kerri) when she suggested we go check out this hot new band that had started making the rounds of the college hangouts. One show and I was hooked.

The Stone Pony, Asbury Park, NJ: this was ShapeShifter's first east coast tour and let me tell you they were SMOKING. I think by now they'd gotten a hint that something big was brewing.

3. Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ: a few days after the Stone Pony show I found out they were hitting my very own home away from home of the time and dragged half my dorm off to the show. Many new fans were created at that show, and the "artificial enthusiasm" we'd imbibed before heading over certainly didn't hurt. Bonnie even ended up throwing her bra up onto the stage, but I think the roadies got it. (Note from the band: Nope, it's in our wall of fame, along with Rhian's.)

4. Roseland Ballroom, NYC: OMG, ShapeShifter's got a gig in a real NYC venue - and I had tickets!

5. After that they were back to the West Coast again for a while, so I had to make do with recordings, but oh baby, that live show in LA that I recorded off the radio - priceless! I swear I'm gonna find a way to meet them some day, just to tell them how much that show rocked, even through my crappy "just out of college and can't afford any better" speakers.

6. By the time ShapeShifter hit the East Coast again it was opening for that big metal band, you know the one I mean, at Madison Square Garden. The Garden people! The epicenter of rock band success!! My boys are hitting the big time. Holy crap! Susan just reminded me - it was Rises the Night. They're a bit more rock than ShapeShifter, more like the Chili Peppers, but it was a great tour.

7 & 8. I went to two more shows on that tour, just to hear Mitchell's golden voice singing straight to me. Ok, I admit it, to hear Mitchell's voice and to daydream about what I would do to Trevor if I ever got him alone. (This was back at the Meadowlands, back when it was still called the Meadowlands, and somewhere up in Connecticutt. That was was quite an adventure - we got lost for damn near 3 hours and nearly missed the show!).

9-12. I was off working in Europe for a while and almost peed my pants when I found out that ShapeShifter was coming over for a European tour of their very own! You KNOW I took time off that summer and just followed them from country to country. I think Paris was the highlight, but Prague was a very close second.

13. The last ShapeShifter show I caught was back on my own home turf - Madison Square Garden - headlining their own show this time, and what a show it was. They
nearly blew the roof off the Garden!

Sadly for my future as a groupie I'm now married with two kids and living in Israel, so I had to stop blowing all my money trailing the band around, but I still live in hope that someday soon they'll come on over here to play the
Sultan's Pool - and I promise, I'll be right there in the front row. Hell, if that happens I might even throw my own bra. (Note from the band: Put your name on it so we can thank you properly later, since we know how to reach you. Reply from Robin: damn straight I will, with an invite like that! I'm too old and too married for a fling, but I can sure as hell still party with the band.)

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

WFMW Brand-Loyal Edition - Tiny Love Toys

Living in Israel many of the product tips I could give wouldn't be relevent for most of you. I originally thought of recommending Ecover washing up liquid (which is great - gets your dishes nice and clean without undue damage to the environment), but then I had a better idea -- the Tiny Love line of toys for babies and toddlers.

This Israeli company produces an excellent line of high-quality, innovative soft toys for children ages 0-36 months that are available throughout the United States (and no, they're not paying me to say that). Their Gymini was an early favorite with both of my children, and there was a time when I didn't dare leave the house without their squeeky ladybug. I only wish that their car mobile had been around when my children were babies - it could have saved me hours of off-key singing!

My children have outgrown their Tiny Love toys now, but I still bring them out whenever babies come for a visit, and their crib mobiles are one of my favorite new baby gifts.

Tiny Love - great toys, and an Israeli company to boot - it works for me. Go here to see what works for other moms.

Sunday, September 2, 2007


Motherhood is messy. It's sticky and grimy and sweaty. It's sacrifice. It's holding a sick child, knowing that that very holding will likely get you sick, and then leaning down to kiss their fevered brow anyway. It's reading Pat the Bunny for the 400th time, and still smiling when your child says "ooh, it's soft". It's diapers and potty training and sleepless nights. It's scraped knees and fevers and flu. It's tantrums and crying (sometimes even your children's). It's endless loads of laundry and constantly dirty floors. It's countless hours and vast sums of money spent in overly loud, garishly lit places with no windows watching other people's sugar-high children crash headlong into yours.

Motherhood is first smiles, and laughter, and that milk drunk look babies get after they've gotten their fill at your breast. It's butterfly kisses and learning to jump. It's abc's and twinkle twinkle and look what I drew mommy. It's licking the beaters. It's snuggles and hugs and a tiny hand in yours. It's learning to swim and new backpacks for school. It's fostering self-confidence and new skills. It's jokes and laughter and love. More than anything it's love. All powerful. Transcendent.

It's holding on tight. It's learning to trust. It's letting go.

This was written for MamaBlogga's September group writing project, on the theme "motherhood is".