Sunday, August 9, 2015

How Motherhood Made Me an Introvert

"Please don't come in."

"I'd like to stay home."

"Think I'll make it an early night."

Could these words possibly be emerging from my mouth? Me, the uber-extrovert who could never bear FOMO?? I was the one who could never stand to miss a party, and more, couldn't stand the thought of others having fun without me. Yet, increasingly, I'm finding it delightful to be alone.

Has mothering a busy household maxed me out with talking and constant company? Whenever I move to another room, the entourage seems to follow me. While I like to believe this is a sign of doing something right as a mom, I do confess it wears me thin. The sound of silence has never been so lovely.

It could be it's my advancing middle age. In my younger years "me time" would have always included adults I love: husband,  sibling, friend. Now it's total solitude I crave. Me and a book. Me and nature. Me and a pillow. Me and my tablet.

I had my handwriting analyzed in Israel this year. One thing the (surprisingly normal) guy said was "you're not really an extrovert." I said, "I'm not??" He said, "No. You like people, you're very social, but your true energy comes from getting things done." BOOM! It totally clicked.

This is where my work is. When my people want me. And I want solitude. When my people want me, and I want to get things done. Boom. That's my life's mission. Understanding and stretching myself. No one said it'd be easy. It took four years for me to even be ready to have my handwriting done. I was afraid to have my flaws exposed. My weaknesses. But truly God gave me these traits and they are neutral. My drive to get things done is both my greatest weakness and greatest strength.

And that's why my newly discovered introversion is fascinating to me. Another puzzle piece. Another step in my journey.

What's yours?
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Sunday, July 26, 2015

Lamentation for Faigy

in the spirit of Tisha b'av



Oy, Faigy.
Another sister gone, lost to suicide.

They ask:
But WHY? Why did she die? (whose fault)
Was it mental illness?
Her family and community who shunned her
for leaving her Hassidic life?
Her Hassidic life itself, as she indicated in a letter?
Pressures of the tech sector?
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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Sharing

This week I found myself embroiled in something that's been simmering for a long time - since I started this blog. I had been tagged on Facebook in a conversation on a group where someone mentioned that she'd been going through a hard time as her 11-year-old had just been diagnosed on the Autism spectrum; another reader linked my post on the subject. Another reader (herself on the spectrum) wrote that she hopes my son never, ever reads what I wrote.

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Monday, July 13, 2015

How to Eat What You Love and Not Get Fat... even if you keep Shabbos and every holiday and have a bar mitzvah every week

Looks like this is "how to" month here on OOTOB, but this is a follow up from my post about intuitive eating, and I think it's important to address here because a few people have observed the "frum 10" (also known as the "frum 15") which is the weight you gain when you become Orthodox and start eating Thanksgiving dinner twice a week plus a bar mitzvah or wedding thrown regularly into the mix.

So I'm here to tell you that you can enjoy your Shabbos, and your holidays, and your bar and bat mitzvahs and weddings and engagement parties and fundraising dessert receptions and not get fat. It's true! How?

In my other post, I said this:
...it basically involves paying close attention to your stomach and to how hungry you feel. If you feel hungry, you eat. If not, you don't. But you only eat things you really love to eat - and you stop when you're satisfied. It's not a weight loss program, it's a lifestyle. I've moved far away from calorie counting and am loving this. Don't eat dinner just because everyone else is, or because it's there. Wait till you're actually hungry and eat the things you love. I find I've become way less into food and way less likely to overeat. On Shabbos, I eat a little past "satisfied" - and that's OK too.
If you're a sugar addict or have an eating disorder, I don't know if these rules will work for you. Thank G-d I do not struggle with those things (just your garden variety doughnut obsession) so I can't comment. Otherwise, here's the drill.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

How To Make Awesome Challah (even if you hate to bake)

Regular readers and those who know me in real life know that I'm hardly the domestic goddess. Yet, I must modestly confess that I make a mean challah. The reason I would like to share my challah tips with y'all is this: I don't make ANY food unless it's EASY. I don't have the time, interest, or talent. So if challah wouldn't be EASY I wouldn't make it. It's actually that simple. People have all these intimidational fears of challah and frankly I just don't know why. You don't even have to separate eggs.

Here's my step-by-step guide on making idiot-proof challah that tastes like you're a domestic goddess... even if you aren't. I'm giving you the recipe for the full 5 lb. batch. It makes six medium challahs, and it's the amount needed to "separate challah with a blessing" (more on this later). Feel free to halve, double or whatever. It's very hardy.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Where I'm At

Hey OOTOB readers,

Haven't blogged in a little while - for good reason. Here's what's been up.

1. SPLITSVILLE FOR SMART AND PHONE... MAYBE

My smart and my phone are getting a divorce. Kind of. I've been tinkering for awhile with the idea of separating my essential smartphone needs (phone, text, calendar, camera, sticky notes) and my non-essential-but-addictive ones (email, Facebook, Instagram, Words With Friends). In this way my phone with essential needs will be on my person, and my other items might be on another device that is available, but not tethered. I'm still working out the kinks and if I like it, it'll become its own blog post. If I don't, I'll skulk away in smartphone-addicted anonymity, if that's OK with y'all.


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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Orthodox Women Talk: Marriage

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I'm super excited to host this installment of "Orthodox Women Talk," a revolving blog-hosting co-op by some of my bloggie friends. Each session features a different question, and we all pipe in with our respective views. Today's question is:






How does Judaism shape your marriage?




Melissa Amster:

profile0891.jpgI met my husband shortly after I went to Israel on Birthright. I had put a note in the Western Wall asking for a good relationship and he came into my life less than a month later. Bashert, right?!? I had wanted to do more with Judaism after I came back and his friend (who set us up) told me he went to synagogue every Shabbat. At the time, I was Reform and he was Conservative. When we first started talking, he asked me if I'd like to go to Shabbat services with him sometime. After we had started dating a few weeks, we went to a Shabbat morning service together and then it just became a regular thing. We also went to a monthly Shabbat dinner program in Chicago called Makor and later tried to start a program like that for the suburbs. While the program we planned didn't work out as well, we eventually just hosted our friends for Shabbat meals every so often. We also started searching for a synagogue to start attending regularly. While all of this was going on, we had attended his brother's wedding in early 2003. His brother is Ba'al Tshuva and frum. We liked a lot of the rituals and traditions from his wedding and took on most of them for ours. We also started gradually easing our way into keeping Kosher after we got engaged. Our wedding was completely Kosher, as a symbolic way of how we wanted our marriage to start out. After we got married, I took family purity lessons from a local Chabad Rebbetzin. With family purity, we also slowly eased our way into the process. When we started having children, we gave them all Hebrew names and while we revealed my older son's name to a few close family members and friends, we didn't tell everyone we knew and let them first find out at the bris. When we saw how meaningful it was for my mother-in-law to first hear his name at that time, we decided to completely withhold our younger son's name until his bris. We also let our boys grow out their hair and had upsherins. The other process we slowly eased our way into was becoming Shomer Shabbos. After we moved to a more observant community, we became completely Shomer Shabbos and there was no turning back at that point. Overall, I love that our marriage has been so entwined with our Jewish growth. We grew together at a pace we were both comfortable with, which I feel allowed us to appreciate each step of growth along the way. I sometimes take it for granted how our marriage to each other and our path to our level of Jewish observance is all connected, so it was nice to have an opportunity to talk about it here, drinking in each step of the process once again and looking back at how far we've come in the 13 years of our courtship, engagement, and marriage.


Melissa Amster lives in Maryland (DC Metro area) with her husband, two sons and daughter. When she's not reading and interviewing authors for her book blog, she works for a Jewish non-profit. In her spare time (what's that?!?), she likes to watch her favorite shows on TV, bake challah and desserts, and host meals and other gatherings. Check out her personal blog and follow her on Twitter.


Ruchi Koval:

ruchi.jpgJudaism shapes my marriage in so many ways, I don't even know where to start.  

OK, I'll start with the value of marrying young.  Not everyone who wants to marry young can, but I was blessed.  My husband and I were each other's first date.  We literally grew up together.  I mean, I think we're grownups now... I was 18 and he was 22 when we  ventured on our first "shidduch" date - a date set up by family or friends, vetted by parents, for the purpose of marriage.

Here's another: the value of marriage as a holy thing, a thing of eternity, of supreme, spiritual value.  A thing that comes before your kids, before your friends, even before your parents. A thing that's worth working on every day.  There are literally hundreds of classes available in Jewish communities on marriage and working on it.  It even has a name: shalom bayis - literally, peace in the home, but used mostly to describe marital harmony.

Our marriage is compared in Jewish tradition to the Holy Temple, to the Divine Presence, to the giving of the very Torah at Sinai.  Whoa!  How does Judaism shape my marriage?  

How doesn't it?

Ruchi Koval is the co-founder and associate director of the Jewish Family Experience, a family education center and Sunday school located in Cleveland, Ohio. She is also a certified parenting coach, runs character-development groups for women, and is a motivational speaker, author, and blogger. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, writing, putting on an Israeli accent, playing piano while singing loudly, and organizing closets.  She does not enjoy cooking or sweeping the floors.  She loves doughnuts and is currently trying not to eat them. Ruchi's first book, "Service of the Heart," is due out this fall.

Find Ruchi on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google plus, or email her at ruchi@outoftheorthobox.com.


Keshet Starr:

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Judaism is the foundation underlying our marriage in a huge way. When my husband and I met, we were both ba’alei teshuva, or people who had decided as adults to live an Orthodox lifestyle. We were looking for someone to help us form the frum (religious) family we had never actually been part of, and talking about our religious values and how we wanted to live our lives was a big part of our dating process. 

I really admire the way my husband has taught himself so much about Judaism in just a few years--people usually have no idea that he didn’t grow up religious because he has “caught up” so much in terms of textual knowledge. Judaism is the shared dream we had in mind when we stood under the chuppah (marriage canopy) almost seven (!!!) years ago, and it’s the dream we still chase, day after day, even when life has gotten more stressful over the years and that dream can feel far away. Ultimately, the two biggest relationships of my life have been with G-d and with my husband. Both of those relationships have challenges, and ebbs and flows, but they are both the foundation of who I am and what I’m trying to do in this world.

Keshet Starr is an Orthodox wife and mom who works as an attorney and moonlights as a scrapbooker, blogger, photographer, baker, reader, writer, and lover of all things creative! She lives in New Jersey with her fellow-attorney husband and two young children. When she isn’t taking care of her to-do list, indulging in a hobby, or sipping a hot latte, she likes to think about the deeper things in life and connect with others. Keshet blogs at www.keshetstarr.com and Instagrams at @keshetstarr.

Rebecca Klempner:

Rebecca Klempner headshot.jpgI met my husband because we were two out of only three people who kept Shabbos in our teacher-training program. The program made a special make-up class on Sundays just for the two of us to replace a class that met monthly on Saturdays.

After the class was over, we stayed friends. My sister and I lived together at the time and invited my now-husband over for Shabbos along with other singles, and for holidays, too. When he finally asked me out, then popped the question, it was only after checking to see if we were on the same page in how we wanted to integrate Judaism in our lives (planning to keep a kosher home, keep Shabbos and all holidays, educate our children in day schools, etc.).

From the get-go, we attended classes about Jewish marriage and read books by rabbis and teachers with expertise on the subject along with the secular titles that our teachers suggested.

I have to say that a big difference in our marriage vs. the marriage a couple whose marriage isn't Torah-centered is Taharat HaMishpacha (the laws of family purity). Because we cannot touch for half the month (with exceptions like during pregnancy and nursing), we've had no choice but to learn how to communicate verbally. If we have an emotional need at those times we can't touch, it has to be verbally articulated, or shared in writing or in non-sexual action. Taharat HaMishpacha can sometimes be annoying, but more often it adds excitement to the "touching" half of the month.

Also, the existence of Shabbos makes sure we have a day every week to connect without distractions. My husband sings Eishes Chayil, and it makes me feel that the housework and cooking and childcare that I do is truly appreciated by him, even if some people look down upon these tasks as menial.

Something that observant Jews share with devout members of many other religions is that our marriage has a mission. In our case, that mission is to create a home that brings G-dliness into the world and for each of us to help the other develop our unique paths to serving G-d. While this mission-orientation is something we share with members of other faiths, my husband and I have largely worked on our mission through a particularly Jewish tool, the study of mussar.

Rebecca Klempner is a wife, mom, and writer living in L.A. Her picture book, A Dozen Daisies for Raizy, appeared in 2008, and her short stories and essays have appeared in publications including Tablet Magazine, Binah, Hamodia, and Ami. Her current serial for teens and tweens, "Glixman in a Fix," appears weekly in Binah BeTween.

Skylar Bader:


Skylar Bader.pngHonestly, I'm not sure how much it does shape it other than being a marriage made up of two orthodox Jews with certain religious obligations. Judaism shapes our priorities and our actions, but that would happen whether I were single or married. If anything, Judaism has provided the "do we make aliyah or not?" discussion, which continues to challenge us as a couple. If I were single, I could make my decision without worrying about someone else. I don't think many non-Jewish couples have to seriously face the question of whether they should (or may even be religiously obligated to) move to another country, language, and culture.

Obviously, Judaism does limit our physical relationship, but I think "how does niddah affect your life?" is a different question altogether and doesn't always involve my husband. Most of the problems there are solely in my head or alone in my bathroom.

Judaism affected how I dated and what I valued in a potential mate, but that's not specific to Judaism: the evangelical Christian movement for "courtship" reflects many of the same goals and expectations. I think that friends (and even my therapist) are surprised that such a short and non-physical relationship could create such a good match and happy marriage (which I'm very lucky to have!). But when I explain the emphasis on deeper issues and carefully considering whether this person is compatible with your future, they have all agreed that my approach sounded very pragmatic. Maybe not romantic, but practical. And there was still plenty of romance because you can never totally negate the effect of hormones! I'm lucky I found a great husband so quickly, but if it weren't him, I could have used the same strategies to find someone else I could love and respect the rest of my life and build a great relationship with. I believe love is grown over time, though I didn't expect to love my husband as much as I did when we married after knowing each other only 8 months. Was that a true love or infatuation? Probably a little of both despite the short timeline, since I knew I had found someone with good character and a compatible personality.

As always, I'll include the disclaimer that we don't yet have children. However, I don't see how children would change the perspective I describe above. We'll approach parenting in a Jewish way with different priorities and actions, but essentially no different from any other loving parent and no different than we would if we were single parents instead of a married couple.

Skylar Bader is an orthodox convert living in New York City. She wears many hats, which you can check out at www.skylarbader.com. She blogs at crazyjewishconvert.blogspot.com, teaches conversion candidates and kallahs, and is also a lawyer for small businesses. Originally from the South, she has four pets and an addiction to books.

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