That person….

October 30th, 2013

chalk-on-groundI once had the honor of enjoying a shiur by Rabbi Shimon Green from Jerusalem who was visiting New Jersey. He said that everyone has “that person”;  ” That person that drives you up a wall, that you simply cannot stand. That every little thing they do is so annoying it is like fingers on the blackboard – just for you…. but don’t worry he went on; you are undoubtedly that person to someone else!”

I burst out in the laughter of surprise and recognition.  I am a second wife who has been dealing with a first wife, who hates my guts, for many years. Enough said, but far be it from me to assume I am only “that person” to her. I may be that person to a lot more people.

I also think, however, that the flip side is true. Many of us have “that person” that has made some huge, life-changing impact on our lives.

And quite often, I believe that “those people – ” the angels that appear as humans to us –  don’t think of their own actions or behavior as anything much at all. Just as the people who seem to have no raison d’etre other than annoying us often aren’t even considering us for one instant, those that have a hugely positive impact on our lives aren’t trying to change us, or our lives, or even inspire us. They are just living.

My now 8-year old daughter had to go through the difficult process of aliyah only 15 months ago. She went from a small school, 5 minutes from home, where the staff were also members of her shul and community, were her Ima’s friends, gave her hugs, and were her extended family, to a huge public school with 30+ kids in a class, over 200 to a grade, and not a lot of personal interactions between individual students and staff…. all in a new language, of course.

Idit is one of the secretaries in the office, and I very much doubt that she realizes just how much she is “that person” for my daughter.

Shira began last year surprising Idit with hugs. While it certainly wasn’t the norm in her big Israeli public school, it was definitely my daughter’s norm from New Jersey. Idit responded with cookies. She didn’t realize that we don’t give our children cookies, except on Shabbat. It was most definitely the way to my daughter’s heart, as well as the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

The cookies have stopped, but the daily hellos – and hugs –  have remained. Shira knows she has a friend, a go-to person, a safe harbor in the storm that is aliyah.

I had to drop off a forgotten assignment this week, and since I couldn’t find Shira, I gave it to Idit who assured me that she and Shira would find each other before the next class. She called me in before I could leave to tell me how much she loves my spunky daughter. She also wanted to add that Shira often comes to the office during recess, or stays inside, saying that she doesn’t know who to play with.

One of the hardest parts of aliyah is getting past kids being friendly to really making friends. (It’s true for the adults making aliyah too – a different blog post…) Idit suggested that I send Shira to school with a toy from home for the playground or something new that she can share with friends – or potential friends – that will both give her something to do and attract her peers. What a simple, easy idea. The next day Shira went to school with some sidewalk chalk in her bag and I am already hearing reports of improvement in her social life at school.

The teachers are busy, dealing with 30+ kids throughout the day, and they are not  assigned to monitor the playground every day. When they do, they are literally watching hundreds of children. They are watching out for fights and violence (I am not confident they even catch most of that) but certainly are not on the lookout for the lone immigrant child that quietly opted to stay inside. Idit noticed. And her quiet, quick word to me was all that it took to bring a little more sunshine into my daughter’s life.

I will continue to try to convey to Idit how much more of an impact on my daughter she is having than she realizes, and I hope there is a point in her life where she comes to understand that by doing what must be a relatively thankless office job in a public school, she is meriting being an angel on earth for at least one little girl, and by extension her family.

… So what does that mean for me? It means yet one more reminder that I need to live my own life consciously, trying to be “that person” in the lives of others, rather than “that [other] person”….

 

 

Related Reading:

Post-Purim post…

March 12th, 2012


 

I didn’t blog about Purim this year. Those of you who have read my earlier posts know that it is not my favorite holiday.

But this year is different; we are in the midst of a move. A big one. To Eretz Yisroel. I am excited about it, and looking forward to every aspect, every challenge, every hill we have to climb. (ND’ers, get it? Hill?)

That doesn’t make it easy.

Catching up on doctor’s visits has meant a slew of diagnoses and challenging follow-up for the next few months.

The children have started to manifest all of the anxiety and mixed emotion expected with any move. At the end of the day, I am taking their stuff and moving it around and putting it in boxes…. Painters have come, cleaning off their decade of marks – and permanently removing their art from the walls.

Some of their possessions were even on the front lawn for a yard sale. The tension is coming out in all sorts of interesting ways. Fever for one, hostility for another, worry for all… and migraines for me.

I gained tremendous chizuk from Trip’n Up’s recent post about grief and her interactions with her son. Her piece was a stark reminder that my children are going through a grief process and how important it is for me to manage it as such.  I know that as the Ima I set the tone. That my positive attitude is needed to carry us all. I know this deep down, and have seen it in action so many times. That doesn’t always make it easy.

 

Bombs raining down on our brothers and sisters over there hasn’t made it easier, either.

So Purim for me this year felt like a backdrop of  noise, partying and chaos while I quietly tried to embrace safek – doubt -and to breathe through the pain of limbo knowing this is all for the good, part of a divine plan and that Hashem will always be there, behind it all.

In Adar we celebrate the triumph over Amalek, which is related to safek, and lack of faith. Only Amalek could doubt Hashem’s hand when the Jews left Egypt and it was clear to the world who took them out. I am trying, for my children and for myself, to model an ability to live within this stage of limbo. I try so hard to empathize with the sadness that the children feel despite knowing so much better than they do just how excited we all should be.

The irony is that they do not yet comprehend that they are moving to a new home where everyone must master living with safek. Where the conversations about doing so are clearly and deeper and certainly more frequent, but the emunah that goes with it will be B”H  all around them.

I hope they can have emunah in me as I keep reassuring them that it all will be good in the end.

Related Reading:

Ima 2 seven meme

February 19th, 2012

Okay, so this is my version of what I do. It isn’t perfect, but it’s mine. Enjoy. :  )

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I would love to know what you think; my friends say this works if you have 4 or more kids… If you want the link to a template to make your own, it’s here!

Next, I want to work on a “Stepmother” one…..

Related Reading:

Piercing

December 30th, 2011

I have seven children. (You might have picked up on that by now.)

Five of them are of one mold. Of course they have their differences. Of course they are each their own individual “soul print” on the world, with unique traits, quirks, strengths and challenges. But five of them look so much alike it is almost eerie. Those five get similar report cards, feedback from teachers, and I hear consistently “they are all just like your husband. They look like him and act like him, it’s amazing.” They have their ‘Ima moments’, but they are their Abba’s children.

One of the other two is my stepson. He actually looks more like his Abba than all the rest. Many of his differences from the other kids are an interesting playing out of nature vs. nurture. But genetically, I cannot claim any likeness in form or substance. He did claim he got his singing voice from both his Abba and me when he was much younger….as flattered as I was, I can only claim influence.

But then there is my six year old. She is built like me. Her report cards read like mine did. She is the child my mother “blessed” me with. She is more like me in every way than the whole clan combined. This makes her the easiest and hardest child of the bunch for me to parent – for all of the same reasons. I understand her in a way that I never will my other children. At the same time, a complaint of her behavior can feel like a criticism of my six year old self, still dwelling inside. I constantly work at letting her blossom into her own being without expectations that she will do what I would have done. As much as I see the similarities, I don’t want to fall into a trap of a self-fulfilling prophecy. She is already miles ahead of where I was in so many ways.

When I give her what she needs, it is redemptive for me. Because I am giving her sipuk, but I am also giving my childhood that sipuk – oftentimes sipuk I didn’t get the first time around. I can’t advocate for my own misunderstood little self, but my advocating for her, my understanding her is more than parenting… it is a tikkun

Sipuk is the Hebrew word for satisfaction, although I understand it to mean the satisfaction of our soul’s needs. Stunningly, if one removes the yud and vav, both of which are associated with Hashem/Godliness, one is left with safek  – which means doubt.  Tikkun means “repair” in Hebrew, but the concept of repair, again, is an idea of repairing our souls, and in doing so repairing a piece of the world. So when I get it right (occasionally) with this particular little one of mine, I am nurturing her, nurturing me, fixing our souls, and fixing the world.

One of my daughter’s unavoidable and unfortunate similarities to me,  is her hair. Hers is much lighter than mine ever was, but the fine, thin baby hair that oils faster than everyone else’s and is impossible to brush – yup, it’s the same. And she is the only one of the bunch to have inherited it. The rest have the beautiful, thick hair my husband has had. As for eventually losing it? They are doomed on both sides of the genetic aisle, so I hope they enjoy it while they can.

I tried to grow my hair as a child and the tears and fights weren’t worth the locks that just didn’t grow in nicely anyway. I tried to grow it out as an adult — and it still caused me tears to brush out! I was actually rather gratified to learn from our hairdresser that it isn’t me; it’s the hair. That my daughter’s similar lack of cooperation in the hair department is with good reason.

It means that she, like I, is destined to a life of pixie cuts, Dorothy Hamil styles, and little bobs. And like me, she will probably be quite grateful to finally cover it when she B”H gets married.

This week, my six year old and I both cried defeat on trying to grow her hair for the second time. She knew she wanted and needed a short cut, but she came to me “worried that children will tell me I look like a boy.” Her worries were that little child inside of me talking again. I was mistaken for a boy often as a child, and it hurt more than I ever let my parents know – at least until this very minute. ( Being flat chested until 16 years old didn’t help, I must say.)

So I offered her that which had been [understandably] forbidden to me. I asked her if she wanted to pierce her ears the day after we chopped her hair. So the Ima who doesn’t like makeup and jewelry on little girls went off to the mall to pierce her ears. With girlie little pink rhinestone studs. I have rarely seen her so incredibly happy.

6 yo's newly pierced ear

 

 

 

 

 

 

And you know what? My six year old self is jumping up and down right alongside her.

 

 

Related Reading:

Mother’s Day

May 4th, 2011

I have been asked what I want for Mother’s Day this year. The only thing that has come to mind so far is sleep. We will see if I come up with something better.

There are a number of resources out there with good ideas for Mother’s Day, as well as some giveaways. For those of you not yet following me on twitter, I would like to share just a couple:

Hello Giggles has a very funny video posted about what NOT to get Mom for Mother’s Day. My favorite line: “This is like a size… Toyota”.  It still makes me giggle, so I guess the site is aptly named.

Blogger extraordinaire-children’s book writer-awesome role model-friend Amy Meltzer has posted a giveaway on her Homeshuling blog.  It is for a piece by artist Emily Rosenfeld, who I would also like to plug, because I think her pieces make great Jewish Mother’s Day gifts!

I am not a big celebrator of such days… when the kids are old enough to be party planning I will happily accept a big to-do. In the meantime, I think I will stick with hokey cards, handmade crafts from school that I don’t need, and of course, sleep.

Related Reading:

Purim

March 17th, 2011

I haven’t been posting much on the progress towards Purim. I have pretty good reasons, both compelling and dramatic. I was a “key” witness in a high-profile case in another country. Yeah, that sounds like a whopper of an excuse, right? Well, it happens to be true.

I prefer the drama of seven children and a first wife, frankly. I haven’t written about it because I couldn’t- can’t. It was a suprising, excrutiating and emotional experience, and I hope I can write about it at some point.

But now isn’t that point, now is the “oh my gosh, I lost the two weeks before Purim to some nutty trial and now I don’t have time to get ready for it, never mind blog about it” point.

Here is my run-down. What should be several posts is rolled into one.

1. One son wants to be a robot. I made very cool malleable costume by putting silver duct tape on shopping bags. It wasn’t my idea; I scoured on-line for non-cardboard box robot costumes, until I found one. I added glitter foam with adhesive backing as buttons. My super amazing architect brother has made a light up board for the front. When it gets here I will post a pic.

2. One of my sons has decided on Indiana Jones. I did ruin a Shabbat shirt, but it was pretty gross already. I had to make a sidebag out of brown construction paper, but he doesn’t seem to mind.He has a gun…and the whip is a jumprope.

I know he's my kid, but couldn't you just eat him up?

3. For some reason, every single year my first batch of hamentaschen are awful. I have just accepted the need to have a starter batch. I don’t know if it is just me. This year I made three batches with two recipes. The second dough was the best one I have ever made. It was easy, but made really good cookies.

This is the first batch:

The yucky batch.

The recipe for the  second set came from the Jewish Hostess.   The look much better, don’t they?

4.  Every year I go to a good dollar store to buy things for Mishloach Manot and to save money. I NEVER save money; I always wind up finding lots of cool stuff and spending money. Maybe since I am now blogging about it, I will remember next year and finally wise up.

5.  This year the megillah reading at night is quite late.  I wrote last year that lack of sleep on everyone’s part ruined my Purim, so we are trying something new this time. One of us is going to stay home and put the littlest guys to sleep before Purim even starts. The lucky parent will go to a late megillah reading. Wish us luck – I hope it works out a lot better.

I hope to put up some after-the-fact Purim costume pictures, but I don’t think that will help anyone much for Purim, it just might make me feel good about having them recorded.

6. I want to leave you with one beautiful Purim idea I learned this year from Rabbi Aba Wagensberg: Why do we say “Mi Shenichnas Adar Marbim B’Simcha” – One ushering in Adar should increase their joy? Not be happy, or revel, but increase one’s joy. He explains that the Rabbis tell us that we need to be “b’simcha”, joyful because we have the gift of Torah all year round. We simply increase that joy in Adar.  Given the horrendous tragedy in Israel this week and the suffering going on in Japan right now it helps me to have a reminder that we are supposed to remain joyful of Hashem’s Divine Plan, even when that seems hard.

May you have a Purim filled with joy, non-cranky children, and Mishloach Manot that contain things you actually like!

Related Reading:

Purim

February 22nd, 2011

Last year I posted three Purim posts. One on hamentashen, one about costumes and the third an after-the-fact accounting as to why I had a rotten Purim. This is a reprint of #2. Please re-visit #’s 1 and 3 as well. The third one is my advice to myself on how not to screw it up this year!

Enjoy:

Costumes.

I am not very artistic. I have a long standing script with my mother that seems to keep repeating itself to no end:

“Mom, I did X.”
“Really? Don’t tell me you aren’t creative!”
“I never said I’m not creative, Mom, I am just not artistic.”
“Well, I think you are very creative.”
“Okay, Mom. Thanks, Mom.”

… Homemade purim costumes need both I think. I do okay with the creativity, and I can help my kids figure out how to use what we have around to become what they would like.

But I can’t design anything, sew anything, draw anything or make anything….

… and I see this year that as we have gotten closer to Purim they have changed their desires to meet with more realistic expectations from Ima.

15 yo – too cool for costumes, of course. I think he might come to Purim as a person with a text message addiction.  : )

10 yo – VERY artistic, and decided she could cover that area better than me a long time ago. She has decided that it would be very humorous and in the spirit of “naafochu” (turnabout, or doing things “opposite”) to dress up as a candy shop. We have a no candy ever policy for our kids. (Cookies and cake are allowed on special occasions, but no candy. That’s a story for a different blog post.)

Candy Shop
Candy Shop costume

8 yo #1 wanted to make a very elaborate costume to be a “joke box” that involved writing down a lot of jokes and being able to emit them at will… he has since changed his mind and in lieu of complicated has chosen evil; he is going as Haman.

8 yo #2 wanted to make a “Star Wars Clone” costume from scratch.

StarWarsCloneTrooper
Star Wars Clone Trooper

He suggested that I could make him the mask myself, or of course buy him one with my limitless funds at a store…. he has switched to going as a doctor.

The 6 yo. stuck to elaborate and complicated. He has to paint it himself. He is going as a confetti box. His idea. He says people won’t get it and will ask him what he is, at which point he can throw confetti at them as he explains. Pretty clever  6 yo right? Those are the ones they say to watch out for. By the way, don’t tell anyone who lives near me the secret or you will spoil all of his fun.

My 4 yo, who is a cross between Junie B. Jones and Olivia, said she wanted to be “a pit”. No, I don’t know what that means. She had to come up with a queen costume for a pre-purim activity at school, and I convinced her to just stick with that for Purim, too. It only worked because I promised to let her wear lots of Ima’s makeup.

The 1 yo will be a lion. All of the rest, except for dss (dear stepson) wore it. It is frayed and the zipper is completely broken. I am quite certain that I would have been horrified at the thought of my first little one doing such a thing. Now I am thrilled when he gets raspberry hamentashen filling all over his front I won’t have to worry so much. After he completes this rite of passage I think we finally get to throw the darn thing out.

I have a huge chest FULL of premade, prefab, store bought costumes. A LOT. I mean it. Wolverine, Superman, Spiderman, Spongebob, Snow White, Pirate, Soldier (x2), ballerina, Harry Potter robes, wands AND broomsticks (3 each!), The Incredible Hulk, Power Ranger,  Batman, Clown wig, kimono, ninja, and those are the ones I can name off the top of my head.

Of course none of those will do for anyone.

It isn’t about authenticity; it is about two things, I think: 1. The never-ending contest for Ima’s time and attention. The more elaborate the costume, the more time I have to stop everything else and devote to it, right? 2. As the clever 6 yo recently said about hisPinewood Derby car (it’s a boy scout thing; also for another post.) “The fun is in the making it.”

And knowing that is why I bother trying to make a confetti box, or putting my makeup on a 4 yo, or helping a 10 yo go to the store just to buy fabric to make a candy shop, running around town begging for used medical supplies for my dr., and revamping a gold satin robe for Haman. As for my little lion, he will jump into the competition soon enough, and broken zipper and all, I am happy for him to wait!

P.S. – Yes, you are all welcome to come to NJ and shop for Purim costumes in my playroom.

Related Reading:

I  have an old friend (can you say that after nine years? What if it feels like you have always been friends?) that I rarely get to spend time with. We are different ages,  at different stages of our lives with different schedules. Recently we got a precious hour to catch up over some of her delicious warm soup.

Her company feels like “comfort food” as much as the soup.

Yet the conversation we had, like so many that we do, was not a comfortable one in some respects, and did not involve much in the way of what our respective children are up to lately, or any small talk. We wound up in a debate of sorts, that was, for me, enlightening, refreshing, challenging and real – the precise words I would use to describe this friend.

She and I come from very different Jewish backgrounds. While we arrived at an observance that is quite similar in a lot of ways (we have both studied at the same women’s beit midrash, davened at the same shul… ) we very often disagree about aspects of Orthodox Judaism, especially as it relates to women.

This particular conversation revolved around the idea that Traditional Judaism is a Patriarchy, one that has not created a suitable status for women with an expertise of Torah knowledge, one that has not created a voice for women’s thoughts and ideas on the Torah, one that has arbitrarily unilaterally* dealt with women’s observance of certain halachot without their say, and one that has not sufficiently encouraged and inspired women to learn, teach, interpret, think, or speak out.

That is what I believe is her opinion… you see, it isn’t mine. [ Dear friend if you read this and I have gotten it wrong, please forgive and feel free to let me know, comment away, and clear up the misunderstanding. ]

How much we need to “trust” the male sages of our Talmud that their decisions are what are best for women as well as men is a real source of disagreement for us.  I don’t want to see women as Rabbis. I don’t want more access to “male” halachot, and I don’t want to spend time exploring if some of them actually should also be my obligations as a woman.  I think there is a lot of wisdom in many of the decisions that the male sages have made about women, many that are antithetical to modern sensibilities of women’s roles in families, societies and Judaism.

Of course I believe that when it comes to gender issues(as well as lots of other things) there are problems within Orthodoxy. There are lots of groups of people who are serving Hashem in lots of ways that I may think are, well, misguided. There are also whole religious societies that have certain areas that need a lot of work…. but I think they are parts of a body that need healing, not an affliction from within that must be uprooted or defeated.

She did make an interesting and very compelling point to me, one that has stayed with me: we live in an age where women live more years than every before with grown children. Those children customarily don’t live around the corner, meaning in our times women have more time available for Torah study than ever before. More time to attend shul, more time to sit in a beit midrash.

This huge shift was pointed out to me several years ago by another friend and amazing woman who is the past president of her Conservative Temple. She said: ” I don’t have to be home to take care of anybody. I have time now. I am not a mom to young children. I am not a grandmother. My children didn’t get married after high school, they are busy pursuing their careers. So I have time as a Jew – and what is the Jewish world offering me to do with that time? Where is the establishment putting that decade of my life to good use as a member of the Jewish people? Why are they telling me not to use it to be Shul President? Were would they like it to go? Away?” I had a momentary desire to drop everything at that moment and write a book. Because what ARE we doing with that new-found decade (or more) in the lives of Jewish women? What are we offering them to help cleave to and serve Hashem? And what is the establish doing to work on the problem?

One answer is that we have more resources for Torah learning for womenthan ever before.  In Israel, in New York, and on-line. I have friends in this in-between stage who are consuming Torah classes at places like Naaleh.com at an astounding pace — because they simply have the time.

So a woman who is a true expert in Torah? My friend is right when she says that there are now scores of women with far more Torah knowledge than an average Talmud Torah 3rd grade male teacher bequeathed with the title “Rebbe”.

So, what are we to do?  I want women’s roles to stay far away from those that men have. I have stated before on this blog that I am a sexist, and with strong reasons. I don’t think women encroaching on male territory is good for men, and therefore I don’t think it is good for the perfection of our society. But these women have accomplished something that is often taken seriously by the people who know her, yet isn’t acknowledged in any systematic way.

Personally, I like the idea of a “Hachama“, which could be translated as “wise one”.  I would like to see “hachamot” in schools. I think it would confer an understanding that some women – like this friend of mine – are head and shoulders above the rest of us in their Torah learning, due to the hours and years of study that have been put in. I would like Yoetzet Halacha Shani Taragin, for example, to be “Hachama Shani Taragin” because at the end of the day, she is an expert. She cannot perform the duties of a Rabbi, and she cannot give halachic rulings, but she certainly can teach Torah rings around most Rabbis and Torah scholars I know.  She certainly could be consulted as an expert on a lot of Torah topics. And she should be called something other than Mrs. when she teaches at the many Torah institutions that she does. She will soon be a “Dr.”, but do we really want our Torah credentials coming from the world of secular academia? I don’t think so.

So, while we may not agree on the solution, at least I was positively persuaded of the need. I hadn’t missed it, not being a hachama myself, but when pointed out to me, I do understand the lack.

Long after arriving home from this visit with this debate still percolating in my head, it occurred to me that one reason that we have such different viewpoints is because we arrived to a similar spot from opposite directions… with one thing in common. We both have a Jewish voice that was silenced in the past.

My friend grew up in a traditional household with a traditional education….if you can call moving around the world going to zillions of Jewish schools traditional. I don’t know much about her family life growing up and I would never presume to describe how her parents taught her to view women in Judaism. But I do know that she had a lot of experience with women learning Torah… for the purpose of teaching their sons. Or girls being limited in what they could learn – and what they could say – within Orthodoxy.

“Don’t speak, don’t think out loud – you have to fit our mold“.

I grew up in the seventies, with feminism at its strongest, including within the Conservative Jewish world I lived in. I was encouraged to daven, read Torah, learn Torah, wear a tallis, be a Cantor – forge ahead in helping women being everything a man could be in Judaism.

But I wasn’t taught women’s halachot. And I was told that it isn’t okay to want to stay at home and raise children, or change diapers rather than make it to shul. (Not only is it not okay to do, but it really isn’t okay to want to.) It wasn’t okay to let my husband’s career take precedence, or to view myself Jewishly in any way different than a man. When I chose to be Orthodox I was told I was “chaining myself to a stove”. Why would a woman want to do that to herself? It would not have been socially acceptable to admit I am a sexist in my former life. To say such a thing was a “shanda“.

For the record, I have spent a great majority of the last decade barefoot, pregnant and/or nursing and cooking! Because I want to and I love it. It nurtures my family, it has made me happy – and I resent being told that it simply isn’t a valid option – it is only a symptom of oppression!

“Don’t have those goals or desires – you have to fit our mold“.

So, I want a place for the traditional woman’s role to be elevated and valued by society, including secular society. And my friend wants a place for women to do more, take on more, say more, be heard more and have it elevated and valued by society, not just secular society. But I think both desires come from a place of being invalidated.

The Girl Scouts have a saying which has become a life-mantra for me: “Always leave a place better than you found it.” I think they must have gotten that from the Torah somewhere,  Tikkun Olam and all.

This friend? Well, a short get-together over warm soup leaves me better than she found me.  And I think that is a sign of a great friend and a real “hachama“.

*the wording where crossed out was changed at the request of this friend.

Related Reading:

Commenting on my last vacation post, Miriyummy pointed out that when we go on a family vacation I am “the facilitator of fun” much more than I am actually having it. At least most of the time.

I have found over the years that I have to find the pockets of pleasure for myself within the family vacation.

Sometimes I leave the kids with DH and a mother’s helper (and/or my parents) and I steal off for an hour. It can be window shopping, getting a pedicure or sitting with a friend, but I have to leave the family for a while and go indulge.  I confess that while on this particular annual vacation the indulgence is often Ben & Jerry’s or ‘bake yourself’ frozen chocolate chip cookies; this doesn’t help my figure much.

Sometimes I have to make the family agenda what will make me happy… and of course since my mood sets the tone for better or worse, this usually does work.  This can mean we go to the park instead of the ocean, or play the board game together as a family that I want to play.

Sometimes making it feel like fun for me means plunging in and deciding to have a great time doing what we are doing anyway whether it is what I would normally enjoy or not.

Mostly this means enjoying little – sometimes tiny – pockets of serenity that pop up in the midst of lots of effort. For July Fourth I sat on the neighbors’ lawn with a neon multicolored sunset over the water off in the distance, twenty different fireworks displays visible in towns miles away on the shore line, and our own private display by the family one lawn over down the beach. A wine cooler, pleasant company and the perfect summer beach night weather (the bugs weren’t so perfect.) While enjoying it I let it infuse me; making it a memory while happening.

It isn’t three days of solitude in Bermuda, but in those few minutes I was alone, in peace and serenity… and bliss.

When I am lucky I have enough little dots of vacation to connect at the end, so that in the end, I feel that I too had a enjoyable getaway.

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Last week, Marjorie Ingall wrote an article in the online Jewish magazine Tablet that made me quite upset. I wanted to scream from the rooftops via this blog. While I expressed my opinion quite unequivocally there in the comments section, I deferred writing about it myself.

First of all, I have never seen anything good come from writing out of anger and actually hitting “send”  or “publish”.  Second, I was angry enough that I definitely did not want to respond to the article by sending it lots of extra traffic. Note that I haven’t yet put in the link. You can look at it since I have no doubt made you curious, but I am going to add the link at the end of this piece, because I would rather first get my say.

The title of the article is “Blogorrhea: Why I Don’t Read Mommyblogs”. Had she written about why she personally doesn’t choose to read mommyblogs, I do not think I would have gotten upset.  However, she wrote that someone else included her in the category somewhere as a mommyblogger and this “horrified” her. The article is primarily explaining her horror, dumping on mommyblogs all along the way.

I found this to be off-putting and I felt angry because of the tone of intellectual superiority, which always pushes my buttons. “I am so much better than you”, regardless of the reasoning – or even the veracity of the statement – will always upset me. The fact that a professional would choose to write an article about why she is superior to mommybloggers as a “real writer” does not seem to be a great topic with which to demonstrate her own point.

Having said that, so what?  Why write a post about it? Why not choose to think she is an annoying and bad writer and no longer read her stuff, right?

The reason is I think that she chose to make her point by choosing the highest common denominator of her self-defined category and comparing it to the lowest common denominator of mommybloggers in order to demonstrate said superiority. I think she mentioned a tiny number of exceptions to her own rules about mommybloggers, presenting them as the only few gems in a vast sea of trash, and because I think she is dead wrong.

So, while far, far, far fewer people will see this than her article in Tablet magazine, this is why I do read mommyblogs:

There is without a doubt a great number of mommyblogs that are personal diaries stored on-line. While I am sure that they are posted for good reasons, almost none of them ever get my attention. There are a lot of other mommyblogs, however, that confront issues very differently than parenting magazines and personalize them for me in a way that helps me reflect, learn and improve.

There are incredibly talented writers who chose different priorities than a writing career – in many cases their mommyhood – that channel that talent into sharing about issues that matter very deeply to me and inspire me to be a better mother and a better writer.

Many women cope through sharing, and I am one of them. I have found community in the world of blogging in a way that I never could in the real world. There are women whose lives or interests intersect with mine in different ways, with whom I have connected in a way that has changed me forever. While “article writers” may choose to feel that they are “real writers”, they are also distancing themselves from their audience, and are talking at the reader.  Many mommybloggers are engaged in a powerful cyberdiscussion that flows through many different blogs and cumulatively has an impact on the participants. In my case, that impact has been profound.

I think that there is a very long list of extraordinary, talented, articulate women out there who are passionate about raising children the best way they can. Some are passionate about other things I also love, such as Judaism, Israel, music or the increase of one’s knowledge. They are teaching me and inspiring me and helping me do a better job, exposing me to ideas, challenging my assumptions, inspiring me with photos, poetry, reflections and even sometimes sentimental stories or gripes. They are talking and listening, and the conversations are a part of my growth.

I feel sorry for anyone who isn’t proud to have the title of mommyblogger… she must not know most of you out there that have become my latest heroes. You know who you are.

*As mentioned above, here is a link to the article written by Marjorie Ingall.

Addendum: I wanted to add this link from TrueSlant, with a different take on the issue.

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