Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Yes. Gymnastics in a Skirt

This past week, Allison Josephs of Jew in the City published a piece of mine about my 12-year-old daughter and her synthesis of gymnastics and modesty. You'll need to read the piece in order to follow this post, so go ahead and read it. I'll wait.


Sunday, October 11, 2015

Movie Review: Apples from the Desert

I don't usually review movies, because I'm not much of a movie-goer. But when the Jewish FilmFest comes to town, I sit up and pay attention, and usually try to attend something. Sadly, many of the movies paint religious Judaism in a negative light, and I've almost come to expect that in any movie made by secular Israelis. The religious/secular divide in Israel is palpable, as one movie-reviewer noted, and it's no surprise that these themes will dominate many Israeli movies. Plus, how many religious Jews in Israel are making movies? So their perspective is rare.

Last night I went to see Apples from the Desert. True to what I anticipated, the religious guy in the story is an abusive ogre, and the guy from the kibbutz is a soft-spoken, sweet guy who doesn't take advantage of the naive religious girl. But I'm getting ahead of myself.


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Why and How We Homeschool

Shana Tova! Happy Jewish new year to you all. I've been doing a bit of vlogging on Facebook, and decided to do my next post in this style too. We're homeschooling our son who has Asperger's and I've been getting a lot of questions about that. So here I explain. It was easier to do verbally than in writing. One thing I forgot to mention in the video that the scholarship we use for homeschooling here in Ohio is called the Autism Scholarship, and is available to kids who don't attend public school. Enjoy! You can also subscribe to my YouTube channel and get notified whenever I post a video.


Monday, September 7, 2015

To My Grown-up Kids

Is it normal
that when I say goodbye, a huge chunk of myself leaves with you?

Is it normal
that I'm happy, thrilled, relieved, excited, depressed, sad, confused, conflicted, all at the same time?

Is it normal
that I wondered for so many years what this moment would feel like, yet was utterly unprepared?

Is it normal
that I'm so fiercely proud of you for your independence, for your mistakes, for your successes?


Sunday, August 30, 2015

My Story

For the past ten days I've been a participant in a "Nourish Your Soul Telesummit." Each day I'd get an email, and a posting in its corresponding Facebook group, that a new interview was up and available for listening. Each day one interview would broadcast. The interviews were conducted over the phone by professional storyteller Devorah Spillman and broadcaster Joelle Norwood. They featured ten inspired and inspiring Jewish women. Each morning on my daily walk I'd click over and listen. Today was the last one and the interviewers became the interviewees.

I didn't have time for Joelle's yet (tomorrow's walk!) but Devorah said something that jarred me so deeply, and it affects everything I do, especially here on the blog, that I'm so grateful for how she crystallized it for me.

Devorah is a professional storyteller, and storyseller. She helps others tell their stories in the corporate world in order to achieve greater heights in their respective fields. One thing she said today was that the old corporate brand involved people's stories. The small mom-and-pop shop on the corner had its story; the milkman had a story. That story created bonds and relationships and was a strong emotional component in why people supported businesses.

Then corporate went big - think K-mart, WalMart, Best Buy, Amazon. The new brand involved whitewashing our stories. Leaving our stuff at home when we walk through that corporate door. Faceless stores that are all the same no matter which city you're in (greeter notwithstanding). The story of WalMart is not one, when it's told, that we find inspiring. We find it distasteful. We ignore the story so we can shop the low prices without feeling too much of a pinch. We order books on Amazon instead of buying them at the local bookstore whose owners send their kids to our kids' schools because we're Prime members - and we close our ears to the story so we can maintain our cognitive dissonance.

But Devorah maintains that the pendulum is once again swinging. Joelle piped in that at Lululemon the associates wear little bios on their tags ("Lisa has two dogs and a child and loves chocolate") to humanize them - a snippet of their stories. Think of Sheryl Sandberg's story in her recent bestseller Lean In. As the CEO of Facebook, many people appreciated her story, even while disagreeing with many concepts in her book, and even while hating Facebook as a big business sticking its nose into our habits and tracking everything about us! The story humanized her, and, shortly after, when her young husband died suddenly and tragically, people everywhere mourned for her. She had become a person with a story, not just a faceless CEO to hate.

Deep breath.

Over the last few days I've been embroiled in several difficult online conversations about why Orthodox kids leave observance. One of the main points that resonated with me is that kids who are struggling with their faith or observance have a deep, visceral hatred for anything that smacks of hypocrisy or dishonesty. Teens in general are incredibly sensitive to this, especially smart, thoughtful ones, but teens in a religious upbringing bring this tendency to how they think and feel about religion.

I think we've been making a mistake about our stories.

This blog started four years ago as a response to the "tell-all exposes" about how awful religion is. I wanted people to know my story - that I grew up Orthodox, liked it, am treated well, am respectful of others, and am proud and empowered as a religious woman today - because I didn't feel enough people like me were telling my story. I didn't think my story was being told, or told well. I realized that it wasn't as interesting a story as those who are dissatisfied - it never will be - but I wanted to tell it.

But when you look back at the early posts, they are one-dimensionally positive. And this is starting to bother me. Because that's not the whole truth. I have nuanced thoughts about religion, and specifically about how it's observed. Maybe it's kind of like when your kids are little and ask the tough questions, and you give them short, abridged answers, because they're too little to handle more. And when they get older, you'll give them more, and when they're teens you can have real and honest conversations about the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Maybe this blog is growing up, then.

One of the reasons I've sort of fizzled out in my desire to publish my posts into an e-book is because I'm uncomfortable with some of my earlier posts. I've deleted some that really gave me angst, but the content, tone, and writing are not so reflective of who I am anymore. I struggle, in general, with what to share, with whom, and how much. Sometimes I edit too much and sometimes too little.

But I don't want to present, in Devorah's words, a whitewashed me. I want to present my real story. That sometimes observance is hard. Sometimes I feel marginalized as a woman. Sometimes people I love and respect act racist. There is good Hasidism and bad Hasidism; yeshivish people who are impassioned, inspired, and selfless, and yeshivish people who are, in the words of a friend, vacuous narcissists; Modern Orthodox people who are on fire about Judaism and Israel, and those who are just lazy. That I believe passionately in a God who loves us but admit that we don't always do a good job conveying that to our kids. That I pray often but not enough and don't always know where my prayers are going. That sometimes I do things out of habit and sometimes to impress others and sometimes out of guilt.

That I will continue to live and share, and tell my story.

That it is imperfect and messy and sticky.

That I believe, with a perfect faith, that God loves me in all my imperfection.

Thanks for listening.

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?

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?