Why I won’t be doing Teshuva this year

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I already did Teshuva (repentance) last year and the year before and the year before that.

I KNOW I did Teshuva because ever since my spiritual cleansing a few years back, not much has changed.

What was my spiritual cleansing like?

Well, let’s see.

I took stock of the spiritual burden I was carrying around with me, the physical burden, the emotional burden, the religious burden, my fears, hopes and  cares and I came to the realization that the burden I was carrying, well, it was too damn heavy for one person to bear alone.

And so I removed that burden from upon my shoulders and stopped to rest for awhile. I rested those responsibilities, worries, cares and overwhelming sense of self awareness against a strong and stable tree and sat in its shade and rested my weary body and soul for awhile.

And as I sat, disconnected from everything around me, it was at that moment that I finally had a sense of what it felt like to run free.

Running free without any burdens, it felt good and young and oh so carefree.

But it meant that I was missing out on building up my strength, my connections and my overwhelming sense of humanity.  It meant feeling alone and not truly experiencing more than just a carefree sort of existence.

Of course I wasn’t ever completely burden free, I was really only free on some holidays and every third weekend, but who’s counting.

Even pseudo-freedom counts for something. It is like holding onto a dinghy in the ocean, knowing that you still have a long way to swim, that your journey is far from done, but still feeling a sense of relief, even if it is only for a moment.

Then finally, when I was ready to carry the burden again that I had been carrying before on my path called life, I stood up and tried to resume my journey. It was then that I realized that much of what I had been carrying was unnecessarily weighing me down, making me feel more tired and more worn out than I needed to feel. And so I left much of my previous burden resting there, in the shade of that tree and took with me only the most important loads as I ventured out once again, on that continuation of the path called my life.

Which of those peckalehs (packages in Yiddish) did I choose to take with me, you may ask? I took my children, love for my family, love for Israel, honesty, integrity, happiness, self preservation and love for God in a way makes both me and God feel ok (right God?).

And so now as I walk along with a spring in my step and my head held high, approaching each and every new year with a feeling of overwhelming gratitude, determination and self preservation, I know that I have willingly chosen a path that I can happily call my own.

So to all of you who are walking along the path with me: some holding me up, some keeping me company, some carrying similar burdens to mine, some carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders,  whomever you are, you are part of my new found Teshuva, my life. It is to all of you that I wish a happy and healthy new year.

All about bikinis and why diets don’t work

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If diets really worked then there wouldn’t be a multibillion dollar industry (in the US alone) of diets and dieting products. It would be simple.

You would go on one diet. ONE.

You would lose the weight and then buy a bikini. Truth be told, if diets really worked then the bathing suit industry, specifically bikinis, would be the booming market, and not dieting.

The dieting industry sucks you in with weight loss success stories and pictures of people who look happy, trim, accomplished and who make you think that there is no reason why you can’t be like them if only you were 20 pounds thinner. To quote a nutritionist whom my sister Deena learned with years ago when she was studying Nutrition at Hebrew U,

“There are always those 5 pounds that stand between me and true happiness.”

I know for a fact that diets don’t work because I, along with most of the western world, spent a large portion of my life battling my weight and striving for that feeling of ultimate elation that only someone who is thin could ever really understand, or so I thought. Teenage anorexia, weight watchers, nutritionists, liver cleansing diet, Suzanne Somers and I am sure there are more than I can even remember.

Sure diets make you lose weight…at first; those beginning pounds drop off like apples from the tree in the autumn but that sweet crunch of weight loss success is oh so fleeting as things start to go rotten faster than you can say “winter harvest”.

Those group meetings that you thought were there to offer support and encouragement now only make you feel pressured and create feelings of shame and guilt because you only lost half a pound that week while being forced to watch those lifetime members, now on “maintenance”, sitting in the front row gloating as you hide somewhere in the back (preferably behind someone wider than you to distract attention away from yourself while pretending to show interest in that new recipe with one MORE thing you can do with watermelons).

The next step is when you start making excuses as to why you didn’t attend your weekly weigh-in or why you weren’t able to lose the weight that THEY expected you to lose that week. You eventually lose motivation or just get plain sick and tired of being hungry.

What ensues is a slew of yo-yo dieting, every new diet a reflex response to the overwhelming feeling of being sick of the status quo, wanting to gain control and wanting to commit to a new and healthier lifestyle. Which then inevitably leads to feeling hungry and fed up and discouraged and so it continues: the circle of fat to fit and everything in between.

So what is it about dieting that condemns you to failure?

Sustainability

The reason people keep dieting is because whatever it was that they were told to do the first time around wasn’t humanly possible for them to sustain long term.

Deprivation

When I go to work I bring with me a large sized shopping bag of food filled with lots of fresh fruits and veggies which I cut up and snack on during the day. I try not to eat out or to eat fast foods but I just don’t have time to prepare much in the morning when trying to get five kids out the door. So I keep high fiber, low calorie bread in our office freezer, chocolate in my desk for an emergency and fillers in the fridge for different sandwich options.

Most diets do the exact opposite. They try to take away things you are used to eating instead of re-creating and re-addressing your approach to a complete picture of health. Most of the time it means not eating carbs, fat, chocolate, ice cream, and whatever other forms of modern day torture they can think of. This leads to cravings and hunger which of course goes right back to the issue of sustainability. How long can you live without bread? Chocolate? I give it a week. Maybe two.

Attitude towards food

You haven’t really changed your way of thinking about food; you have just been told how you are supposed to be thinking about food while on a diet. You still have not learned how to become more in tuned with your body and you never really worked out the issues of what agrees/disagrees with you, what gives you energy or brings you down, what true feelings of hunger are, what makes you eat and how to recognize when to start or stop eating as needed.

Confidence

Many people don’t need a diet, they need to learn to love themselves, love their bodies and not let it affect their feelings of self-worth and self-esteem. Diets just feed on that ideal body image, widely promoted in the media, which inevitably encourages further feelings of inadequacy and failure for many people, especially women.

Happiness

Dieting won’t make you happier or solve your problems.

Good health will.

Healthy living means exercise, proper nutrition, good energy and a healthy mental state. Dieting means ordering a huge portion of hunger on top of your already full plate of overwhelming personal issues towards food.

Messing your body up

Let’s face facts. You are screwing up your metabolism. Dieting means losing muscle mass, which means a lower metabolism and a hell of a hard time burning calories. The end results in less muscle in your body which means ending up with a higher percentage of body fat then before you even started dieting not to mention the increased chances of recurring weight gain

Dieting is time limited

How many times have we said:

“That’s it! Tomorrow I will start my diet.”

or

“This diet only lasts for six weeks? I can do that.”

or

“When I get to my goal weight I can splurge.”

These attitudes are setting you up for failure right from the get go. Small changes are much more achievable.  For starters, why not commit to eating just one more portion of fruits and vegetables a day, park further away from the office and maybe just try to walk an extra ten minutes daily. And most importantly: Drink. Water. and if you must, save those sugary drinks for the weekends (you might not even want them at that point).

Post Script:

During the writing of this post I momentarily had a computer blitz and thought I had lost my draft to hard drive heaven in that great big cyber in the sky. The stress of possibly losing this post elicited quite intense emotions of stress and despair and, considering that I am a “stress eater”, left me with two options: to either commit a heinous crime against Microsoft executives or eat lots of chocolate.

Chocolate won out.

Now tell me, which diet accounts for that kind of predicament I ask you??

Please note: No Microsoft employees (including, but not limited to Bill Gates) were injured or assaulted during, or as a result of, the writing of this post.

It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to

But I don’t want to.

Why should I?

I live in Israel, the most amazing country in the world. (Sorry Canada. I love you too.)

Here in Israel I work to live, not live to work.

I make connections with my neighbors, sometimes in the stairwell in the middle of an air raid siren or when a renovation has gone awry and leaks into our apartment and sometimes just because I won’t make it home in time to meet the kids and just need someone to watch out for them until I get there.

In Israel good fences don’t make good neighbors. I don’t like being secluded and I definitely don’t like building fences.

My kids go to a Bar Mitzvah wearing their “good jeans” and they feel overwhelmed with excitement when I take them to eat out in a restaurant. When they get something new or if I take them somewhere, anywhere, they are ecstatic.

Granted, we all work hard but even if our work is not the self-fulfilling life prophecy we envisioned for ourselves, we fill our glasses to overflowing with other things like hobbies, social groups, events, political and religious endeavors and lots and lots of friends and family.

In Israel friends are like family.

Many people have left their families behind when they made the big Aliyah trek and moved here. We feel connected to our friends not only based on proximity but more importantly, because we all share similar goals, we can relate to each others struggles and we love to celebrate the good stuff with each other as much as we can.

I may get a case of the blues from time to time but I know that when push comes to shove, my party has an Israel theme, lots of friends and family and an overwhelming sense of gratitude.

Thanks Micky for this great birthday picture

Thanks Micky for this great birthday picture

The single working mother’s slump turned rant

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First let me tell you about the slump.

Why have I been writing blog posts about plastic surgery and birds? Believe me, I already know that people love to hear and read about other people’s misery. Even when someone writes about their happiness there is someone out there who doesn’t really believe it. Sometimes all of that happy sunshine bores people. Give them a good war, a good fight, some gory accident or an attempted suicide, but happiness? I mean, she can’t be real, can she? Nah. It’s all a front. She’s such a whore, always smiling and prancing. Yah, she’s such a happiness prostitute.

The funny thing is that people respond even more crazily to unhappiness. So screw the judging, I will let it all out because believe it or not even single, working mothers gets into a slump every once in a while.

I am not sure what came first, the chicken or my eggs. My doctor keeps telling me that I am tired because I do too much. I tell her that I have always done too much so since when did things change? Maybe it’s because I am turning 36 in a month? Now how’s that for adding a little insult to my aging eggs.

My typical day lately seems to go something like this. I wake up to a pile of laundry to fold and one to put into the machine, beds to make, and three billion lunches to prepare. Somehow through all of that we are still finishing up some left over homework from the night before because either I got home too late, they were too tired or a combination of the two. One of the kids keeps asking me the same question over and over again but I can’t hear them because I am busy talking and listening to two other kids already.

Then finally, when I can concentrate I realize that the question was simply, “Can you give me water?” and unlike the mother I should be, I become the mother I don’t want to be as I lead my poor innocent child over to the fridge and show them the built in water tap on the door and say, “Now why couldn’t you get some water yourself? Huh?” And I know, in my heart of hearts that my kids want me to be the one to give them water because it makes them feel cared for and loved but with everything going on around me I can’t help but be a bit cynical.

That is a typical morning for me and I eventually reach the point where I am standing behind the counter serving breakfast to the kids who are sitting across from me and making lunches on the counter in front of me. I have already been awake for two hours if I was lucky enough to hear my alarm the first time at 5:30 and get up for a run. If not, then I got up at 6:30 and I am still wondering why I am so tired if I went to sleep at 10 the night before. Oh right, I know why I am so tired. Because at the end of my work day, after picking up my car from the garage, taking my kid to a doctor’s appointment and dealing with a leaky ceiling at work I came home to find backpacks by the front door that needed dealing with, a sink full of dishes, tons of laundry and a pack of hungry kids looking at me with those puppy dog “feed me” eyes.. This pack of kids are MY beloved hungry kids and I need to feed them.

And when I got home from work I couldn’t even concentrate on what they were saying, because I could only think about how much I wanted to get upstairs and kick off my heels and my work clothes and slip into my jogging pants a t-shirt and flip flops. After kissing everyone hello, I finally do the classic Israeli hand motion of regah (just a second) with my thumb and fingers touching each other and climb the stairs to my room, place my heavy laptop backpack and purse down, kick off my heels and do the switcharoo from working mom to just plain working mom.

When I go back downstairs, I start to cook dinner and the kids start to chatter. I love to hear them talking and they already know what I am going to say, since I have said it a million times before, “If I had a shekel for every time someone said mommy, I would be heading for early retirement.” Alas, I don’t.

Which reminds me: money.

I hate money and I love money but money seems to hate and love me too. I can’t stop thinking about how my oldest is going into high school next year and her tuition has now gone up tenfold. I am making supper while trying to figure out in my head where I can cut corners to make it possible for her to attend high school, which isn’t really a debate anyways, but since I am not going to start sewing my own clothes, growing my own wheat (sorry people) or walk around with a uni-brow, there is a limit to where I can cut back. But nonetheless that’s how the money part of my brain works.

Maybe I should get rid of my 13 year old car. I am so super fancy shmancy, I know. But then I cringe at the thought of living without a car again, which I did for 2 years after my divorce. I remember what it was like every time I had a sick child or they were stuck somewhere and would call me, their mom, the queen of solutions, who sometimes had no solutions. So I would then call someone who was close to me and ask them to help me out but even asking for help wears thin after a while and if you have any pride at all, you just get sick of asking.

And so I brush aside the thought of giving up my car and think of other ways to make those overdue payments this month. But even with my innovative mind there is no freaking way I can come up with the thousands shekels needed to pay for the kids summer camps, the overdue payments to the ganim, the apartment maintenance, the car license renewal and the down payment the high school asked for while still paying payments for the current school year’s tuition.

And through all of these thoughts going through my mind I feel this shooting pain in my neck which I forgot about momentarily with all of the other things going on around me and that has been plaguing me since I woke up this morning. This pain probably developed as a result of my car being in the garage yesterday, having to carry my heavy laptop bag too much and totally doing myself in. I keep waiting for the pain to subside because it freaks me out and reminds me of the car accident years ago that is the source of this mostly dormant pain I endured and which I always fear might make a comeback.

I would just like to mention that somewhere in between morning and evening, I tend to somehow miraculously make it to work.

And then there is today while packing up to head home it hits me that I have a year-end party for my 4 year old at preschool and not only do I need to prepare myself emotionally because I will be going alone and sitting alone but I also need to prepare myself physically for the mad insane rush of running home from work and through the door at 5:30 PM, putting my stuff down and running out again with my four year old in tow leaving everyone else at home alone without a chance to really connect. Now I may be the solution queen but even her royal majesty hasn’t yet found a solution for working mothers everywhere on how to feed your kids and spend time with them even in your own absence.

Case in point.

Now if that wasn’t rant enough, let me just tell those of you who think I need to have more faith that you are not George Michael and I HAVE faith so you can keep your faith to yourself. I am a realist so instead of sitting around hoping for the winds to change, I just adjust my sails accordingly and sail on. And if something does possess me to go and visit the Kotel sometime soon, it is most likely that I am going there to stuff my unpaid electric bill into the cracks between the wall with a little note to Nir Barkat or Yair Lapid that says, “You cut back on my child payments so pay this one for me and maybe we can call it even”

And don’t offer to lend me money because that just messes things up between us and makes me a debtor and you the creditor of me. No no no. That just won’t work.

But I do believe in myself and in the future.

I do believe this time will pass, sometimes so fast, too fast, that I am scared of missing out.

I do believe that every step I have made up until this point has helped build and strengthen me as a person and in so much as I am strong, I will overcome this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

I do believe that everything I am doing is because of the love I have for my beloved children and for myself.

I do believe my rant is over.

Creating our own personal freedom

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There is life.

Life is that every day monotony of chores and work, cleaning and shopping, running and sleeping, debts and responsibility.

And then there is living.

Living, I love you!

It is when your soul is free; when your body is a slave to your soul and not the opposite. Those blessed moments of drinking coffee on the patio with friends, listening to music, meditating, exercising, loving, dancing and celebrating those moments when life lessens its death grip on you and allows you, even if only for a moment, to feel free.

Living is the reason that I tolerate life.

We work hard and struggle with our daily responsibilities for the simple god damn reason to be able to live our lives.

My grandfather lived by the basic principle of life that he felt encouraged the nurturing of happiness and satisfaction in our lives:

“If you can’t do what you like then like what you do.”

He died of a heart attack when I was 12 after servicing a community as their Rabbi for 36 years. He loved being a Rabbi but it took its toll on him. Life was different then. I know that. Still I used to wonder if maybe it is indeed possible to like what we do and maybe (oh just maybe God) to do what we like? Does one really need to be exclusive of the other?

My sister Deena is an inspiring example to all of us Humanoids on knowing how to live life. She has travelled the world over, to Japan, Vancouver and back to Israel again all with the basic life goal of doing what rocks her world. Recently she quit a stable job to pursue her love of writing even further. Life isn’t dictating it’s rules to her; she is dictating her rules for living.

Freedom of speech.

Freedom of religion.

Freedom to be.

We are free and not free. Why is it that we tend to live our lives in a self-induced state of bondage?

This concept is painfully real in Adam Baker’s TedxTalk where he explains his own journey towards freedom.

In his video he quotes the following:

“There are thousands and thousands of people out there living lives of quiet, screaming desperation who work long, hard hours, at jobs they hate, to enable them to buy things they don’t need to impress people they don’t like.”

-Nigel Marsh

I don’t have the freedom to open the uncertainty door like my sister does. I know that. Many of us don’t. I, personally, look after 5 kids who need me and need the simple basics such as food in the fridge, heating, clothing, education, shoes and oh so much more than just the basics. Sometimes it becomes so much that the responsibility hurts.

That’s when I make sure to look around and count my blessings. Counting blessings is liberating.

My kids.

My work.

My family.

My health.

My home.

Check check and check. Blessings counted.

All such enormous blessings that I am terrified to ever take any one of them for granted. Those blessings are all part of what signify a certain part of my personal freedom.

It also seems to be that I DO love what I do. Maybe it’s because I have been raised, instilled and constantly surrounded with the basic principles of positive thinking and personal responsibility or maybe it’s just because my life really is so freaking wonderful. Whatever the reason, I make sure to like what I do because what I do is good. Truth.

Positive attitude rules! So before you can let the good in, you need to let the bad out, or to quote Bob Newhart “Stop it!”

The first step is to STOP giving a rat’s ass about what anyone thinks. Make sure you like what you see in the mirror. Live according to your own rules. Our personal accountability is oh so personal. You are the one who lays your head on your own pillow every night; No one else, just you. Remember that.

Secondly, STOP doing the “right” thing. Do the good thing. Do what is good for you, your family, your kids and your world. Going to pray in synagogue is the right thing. Playing cops and robbers with your boys in the living room is the good thing. I do the right thing too sometimes. Trust me. I do it even if it means that I am like a little sulking kid who is forced to wear boots in the rain. But I do it because sometimes I just have to. It’s not the default plan but it’s a part of the overall plan.

Thirdly, STOP wasting time, money, energy on the wrong things. Remember that our resources are limited. Make the most of the time you have. The world is a gym so save the money you spend on those ridiculous monthly health-club memberships and go for a walk. Don’t keep upgrading your life with purchases that you don’t really need. Don’t spend time around negativity and do allow the people who make you soar to be a part of your life.

It took me time. A lot of time. But I did it. I finally figured out how to live and how to be free.

It is a constant, never ending battle but it is worth it.

Stop being a slave to life and start living.

(Originally published on the Times of Israel March 14, 2013)

Why I won’t buy a subscription to Israeli playboy

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Growing up, I had a friend whose Dad read playboy.

Playboy symbol (Playboy magazine)

 

We all knew it too. His big bad secret was hidden under his mattress at home and in his bathroom cabinet. He was a figure head in the Jewish community and I judged him. Oh boy did I judge him as only a 12 year old girl could. I thought that he lacked the spine and integrity that a Jewish man should have by reading such a sexually oriented piece of media.

Sometimes his son got hold of one of those oh so forbidden Playboy magazines and brought it in for all of us to peruse during recess in a secluded corner of the schoolyard. We all gathered around that one measly, outdated issue of Playboy and poured over it with such concentration that it would have made our parents proud if only we mirrored our devotion to the study of the weekly Torah portion as we did to those Playboy bunnies.

It was forbidden and bad and exciting.

Even today when I imagine us all huddled around that one measly magazine, hanging on the every last word of the questions and answers hoping to get a glimpse of that oh so forbidden centerfold it makes me smile a naughty “I know something you don’t know” grin.

That was then, this is now.

My first response to hearing that playboy was coming to Israel was one of intrigue.

But after much debate I realized that I won’t be buying a subscription because I don’t think that they will even make it past 6 issues.

Period.

I read about Playboy “making Aliyah”, and the recent post in the Times of Israel by the founder of Playboy Israel Daniel Pomerantz, an Oleh from Chicago called Why I started Playboy Israel.

This naïve Oleh entrepreneur from Chicago is underestimating the fact that the Israeli porn industry is run by the ruthless Israeli mafia. How long do you think it will take for the Israeli Playboy office to have work stoppages and to have threats against them unless they close or start paying up for some mafia “protection”?

Is it possible that he doesn’t understand or just doesn’t care about the Israel machine he is up against. Not to mention that his new reality of “between a rock and a hard place” has only just begun. From now on, he won’t be sandwiched between Candy and Cherry. He will be squeezed tight between the religious right and the mafia left.

Unfortunately, he will learn all this the hard way.

Furthermore, Israelis are spendthrifts and will consider themselves “fraiers” if they pay for something that is readily available for free online. I mean, when was the last time you saw a skin flick in the movie machine at your corner shopping mall. It isn’t there because people won’t rent it openly. They will watch their porn online IN PRIVATE. There is porn galore available online (yes, even Sabra porn).

Internet porn is discreet; you don’t need to meet your neighbor at the makolet (corner store) while buying it. Do you think that Dudu wants to have his nosy neighbors stop by for a coffee and see his latest Playboy issue on the coffee table?  Of course he can start to fumble around for the right way to explain that he only bought it for the articles but his neighbor already knows that Dudu doesn’t read.

People don’t want to pay for porn even if it does have a tag name on it. This fact is obvious if you look at the Playboy company value that went from $1 billion in 2000, to $185 million in 2011. Furthermore, to save money, Playboy merged its July and August issues. Last week the full extent of the company’s financial crisis was made public when it reported a second-quarter loss of nearly $9 million, more than double the loss of $3.2 million for the same period the previous year. Revenues fell by 15 per cent.

Why he started Playboy Israel is not of great interest to me, what he plans to do with it is. If it will be a publication that is truly as diverse as the Israeli culture we live in then it may have a sinking chance of success. Taking socially relevant topics that are both controversial and interesting and exploiting them is what Israeli marketing is all about.

For example, taking the women of the wall and wrapping them in a prayer shawl (and only a prayer shawl) with a Kotel background or posing some female security guards on Obama’s limo or maybe even having a group of Playboy bunnies go ice skating at the Ice World in Jerusalem as a Passover outing. These are things that would capture the attention of many different levels of society and that are ideas unique to Israel.

If the extreme religious segment of the population doesn’t torch his car and stone him to death first, of course.

His mundane first issue will be featuring Israeli women such as the Israeli model Nataly Dadon on the cover and the Israeli dancer, Marin Teremets, as the Playmate centerfold. (Yawn)

I mean, really????? I can already see all I want to about them on their Facebook pages and in the Paparazzi videos on YouTube. Why would I spend money on such a mundane exploitation of an already tapped market?

If you have reached this point and even after reading all of what is wrong about Playboy Israel you are still interested in being a more active Playboy supporter (and you aren’t scared that your overprotective religious/Sephardi/Muslim/Christian family won’t kill you or disown you) then you can submit your eligibility to be a bunny on their site.

Or just buy the magazine…because at this point, it is an act of charity.

(Published originally March 23, 2013 on the Times of Israel)

A modern day game of Gladiators

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Off with their heads!!

No, no, wait! That’s not right.

Let the best man win!!

Much better…. Because that’s what jousting is all about even when the game is a game of love?

But it makes me wonder.  Does the best man ever win in the game of love?

So here is where my latest game of love started.

Over the weekend I found myself sitting in Ein Kerem, with one of my close girlfriends, drinking my cosmopolitan, eating oily, cheesy gourmet pizza and feeling like life couldn’t get much better than this: a small piece of heaven.  All of a sudden we notice a male friend of hers across the street. We go over to say hi, flirt a bit, and then return to our table to finish our crucial girl talk and our yummy food.

After we finish our earth shattering conversation about…stuff, which concludes with the fact that all men suck, we go to join “those that suck” across the way. Ok, maybe not all men suck. Both of them are cute, funny and intelligent guys. One is a lawyer, we’ll call him Dudu, and the other a runner (like me) we’ll call him Shuki. Both are fathers, divorced and living in the Jerusalem area. Both gainfully employed, over the age of 35 and not bad looking at all. This is a momentous occasion. I think they even both have hair. No, on second thought, they don’t. But what’s all the fuss about hair anyways.

We sit and chat and have a grand old time soaking up those rare spring rays of sun, knowing that soon the sun will set and the Jerusalem night chill will force us all to bundle up on and head back to our cars.  Out of the blue the lawyer Dudu turns to me and says, “Isn’t my friend Shuki great? Why don’t you guys go out?”

So of course both Shuki and I both blush, knowing full well that we will probably do just that even if his directness caught me off guard. Damn that directness. I love it.

Later on that evening we all act surprised when we become friends on Facebook (oh, are you on Facebook too?) since that’s just the polite thing to do. Now as “friends”, we start to fan our feathers, strut around, chat, and check out each other’s online profiles.

But it doesn’t end there.

Dudu continues the dialogue with me and continues to promote the possibility of a date with his friend Shuki. Truthfully, if Dudu were the head of a PR company, his friend would have hit Platinum record sales by now.

So Dudu and I continue to chat. We continue to laugh. And then the first compliment slips out: Devora, you are a great girl. A true sport.

Thanks. I chuckle, not sure if he meant just that and only that.

The ménage a trois of chatting and flirting continued on until the inevitable first date is presented.

Or should I say dates.

Both Dudu and Shuki decided to ask me out knowing full well that this was some kind of a competition between them.

I believe in honesty. I let them both know that they are both vying for my heart, or at least a cup of coffee. Mind you, I just don’t have enough room in my five-seater Mazda so I guess I better decide on one.

I think my subconscious was looking for a mischievous adventure and so within the span of two hours I had succeeded in inviting them both to join me at the same place on Thursday night where I was hanging out with my friends. Right then I felt like a princess sitting up in the spectators’ booth watching both knights charging each other simply to win my love.

I would hope that modern day love would have a happier ending than the brutal and deathly end that gladiators meet.  Because love is different today so why not be easy on myself and go with the flow. Don’t know if the traditional approach still works the way it used to (if it really ever did work or just existed) and love isn’t what we grew up watching in fairy tales.

Because love is whatever works.

P.S. Shuki won…for now

Independence means…

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We rely on the fact that the sun will rise in the east and set in the west.

We rely on the fact that our car will start in the morning.

We rely on consistency of life, dependability and routine.

We are all reliant and dependent on someone or something.

It’s not a bad thing. It is part of being human. Dependence gives us the opportunity to do more and to go farther.

So what is independence and why is it so important to us?

Independence is a condition. It is not a state of mind. It is a real and tangible state of being.

It is about self governing. Being able to make decisions that are for your own well being. It is about creating and maintaining a status-quo that works for you and those you care about around you.

It’s about sovereignty. Being the one who controls your belongings, your shit. You know, what you do with it, where you put it. What you get rid of and what you keep. It’s about moving it and tweaking it and everyone around you knowing that IT’S YOUR SHIT. You are the sovereign owner and ruler of the stuff that says your name on it.

Sometimes to reach that point of independence we need to fight for it. Fight to keep it. Fight for our rights to have and hold it.

Sometimes it includes violence. Sometimes the violence is legitimized sometimes it is condemned.

We feel a need to declare our independence when it is attained. We need to document it and celebrate it and never forget what it means for us to be without it and to finally have it.

Today we celebrate our national independence. Let us not forget what it means to us to have and to hold it tight.

Israel I love you.

Let the barbecuing begin!

(Published originally in the Times of Israel April 16, 2013)

Giving it up for love

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As I held the little bundle in my arms, a brand new baby girl, I looked down at her and knew that she was mine. All mine! I continued to purvey her little hands and feet the size of my thumb, that oh so delicate nose, and I knew, without a doubt, that I had no freaking clue what to do with this baby!

The years have gone by, and now I am a mom of five kids. Five rambunctious, personable, make me laugh out loud, sweet, infuriating and all consuming little people. I still don’t know what I am doing, but I do know today that the mamma love that I had when they were small, is not even comparable to the love I have for them today. Truth be told, back then, at a time when I had three little kids under the age of 6, I probably didn’t have enough consciousness about me to even decipher any grander thoughts than when my next nap was going to be. As a new mom you really don’t realize that these little delicate creatures are going to become people one day. It is only a matter of time and invested energy coupled with mutual experiences that will allow you to learn to love them in an unyielding way.

But there is something else that I have learned about love. Something that was staring me point blank in the face. I had to experience this for myself to truly believe. (Life Epiphany number 33)

It is not those who give to you that you love the most, it is the ones YOU give to that creates within you a drop dead, do anything for them, never stop until you die, always thinking about you LOVE.

Now it seems so obvious (slap my forehead) as I look at all of the evidence pointing to this fact. Our ancient language seems to have figured it out already since the word for love in Hebrew, “Ahava” is based on the root “hav” which literally means: to give.

Giving is what love is all about.

Tell this to all of the people who write on their dating profiles that they are looking for a woman/man that knows how to pamper and give to them. Tell that to couples who fight because they don’t think the other one is doing enough for them.Tell that to parents who can’t connect to their children because they don’t feel like their kids are giving enough back to them or appreciating them for all of their efforts.

I think about my role models growing up.

The love I saw that was all about giving, not about taking. My grandmother who supported my grandfather’s rabbinic post, who looked after the kids and the home, who loved unconditionally. When my grandfather would arrive home and he would see her looking distressed he would sit her on his lap and play with her hair while she spoke to him about the problems and issue she had dealt with that day.

From the first time my father met my mother he let her sisters borrow his sports car, he gave her whatever she needed and just continuously took pictures of her all day long. I love to look at those pictures of young love, of my mother brushing her long, thick hair in the mirror with the reflection of my father in the background. Just the other day I was sitting in the kitchen with my parents and my mother offered my father soup. His response was one that I have heard over and over again throughout the years, “Whatever makes you happy!” because although he loves her soup, he knows that when she serves it to him it makes her oh so very happy. My father doesn’t buy my mother things simply because she wants them, he does it because he truly wants to make her happy. They allow each other to live out their own lives and yet, they are joined in a way that is truly a blessing.

Ma and dad

Love is my Mom and Dad

Even when I went away to University, back to Toronto, I lived with my Aunt and Uncle whose love had never diminished over the years. This was a true example of that type of giving with no holds barred. When it snowed and my aunt had to get into the car, my uncle would reverse the car into the driveway so that she wouldn’t have to walk all the way around to get to the passenger side. Every week she would bake his favorite cake for him and every week without fail, he would exclaim wholeheartedly that this was the best cake he had ever tasted in his life!

Even the older generations such as my great uncle loved my great aunt oh so much. But he was not a shmoozer and after a family get together he would say goodbye and leave. He knew that my great aunt was one of “our kind”, and loved to say goodbye for half an hour, so he would sit patiently in the car and wait for her.

That was love.

And my other aunts and uncles whom I spent a lot of time with growing up were in love from their youth, they had grown together, were best friends and were used to giving to each other for many, many years.

There was no account balance that was tallied daily in their lives. In their minds, there were no withdrawals. Love was all about those never ending deposits, day in and day out.

I want to tell you one other little secret that I have discovered about love. When you give, it can’t be in order to receive in return. It has to be true giving, straight from the heart, no strings attached. You don’t need to be a doormat, but you need to realize that the account balance for love is not about your half in the pot.

I don’t give to my children because I hope that one day they will look after me in my old age, (after all, there is a huge excess of retirement homes in existence for a reason people!). I give to my kids because I want to, because I love to, because it makes my bond to them even stronger than you can ever imagine is humanly possible. I give to my siblings because I know that it makes me love them more and, as an adult, I try to give to my parents in the same unyielding, unconditional way that they gave, and continue to give, to me. I know that I will never be able to reach the level of love that their kind of giving entails, but I will damn well try.

Because love means never checking your account balance.

Don’t count your love, make your love count!

(Published originally in the Times of Israel, February 2013)

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