Answer any question, honestly.

If we’re being cynical, the propaganda machine is running in full force at my house. If we’re being honest, I’m just trying to protect my offspring. If we’re being optimistic, the hope is knowledge will lead to creative, original and practical solutions.

This Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, hit me hard. Harder than in years I can count on both hands. I think there are a few reasons for this:

  • Syria.
  • I have a lot more responsibility, suddenly. I’m waking up from a very intense few years of having kids.
  • My boy is a bigger thinking, processing human and asks bigger questions.

Who were the good guys? Who were the bad? Why is there a shirt hanging on the stage? Why did they have to wear those clothes? If you’re grandma is that old why wasn’t she in the shoah? Oh did she fight in the war then? The Russians were good and then they were bad?

What side was Israel on?

Wait, what?

We have a problem.

“Ima, why do adults always look at their phones?”

“Oh, I… um… it’s…”

Because if you think kids have no self control, you’re kidding yourself. Because adults have no self control. Because it gets lost over time. Because we’re so misguided. Because we’re just awful.

Because we adults get addicted to things. Because we are needy and insecure. Because we cannot control our basic instincts to become completely absorbed and obsessed and self centered. Because instant gratification is a too sweet. Because too much of a goof thing may make you sick but sometimes you just keep doing it because you’ve lost the ability to feel good or bad. Because we make a lot of rules but don’t follow them. Because we learn but we don’t internalize. 

“And then I see them looking at their phones and then I look too and then after a few minutes my eyes hurt and it doesn’t feel good… so why do adults always do it?”

Because your eyes are young and hopeful and capable of seeing the brightest of bright colors, colors we cannot even see anymore after years of sitting at a desk or reading books or watching TV or becoming cyborgs, staring at phones. Your eyes are young and your brain is youthful and you have everything ahead of you except eventually it will be staring at phones. Or whatever that comes to mean. But it won’t be color. Not these colors, organic wholesome natural colors. LED colors. Artificial coloring. 

Because I used to be able to sit in a car or a bus for hours and think and day dream and plan and focus and wonder. And now I can’t even go a minute or two without feeling for the phone. 

Because deep, personal, intimate creativity has been cut off for so many of us by broad, global innovation. 

Because adults have no self control. Because adults feel they must be in constant control.

Because we’re screwing it up everywhere we turn. Because a generation ruins it all for the next one. Because we are a species that denies nature and facts. Because we don’t deserve nice things and we’ve evolved to sabotage ourselves. 

Because even though your question is a punch in the gut, I don’t know how we will stop. 

 

 

It’s time to normalize pumping at work.

I work full time, and there are days when I’m in back-to-back meetings all day. There’s never enough time to get my work done, because if I’m not at work, I’m picking up my kids and starting the second half of my day. And when that’s over, preparing for the next one.

The reality is there are days that I end up with a rushed 20 free minutes midday and I have to make a choice – find food because I’m about to collapse, or pump.

Why am I bringing it up? Because I feel like when we talk about working moms and how insane it all is, we don’t get into the messy awkward stuff. Like boobs exploding in pain in the workplace. Like having an extra personal, physical thing to take care of during the day aside from feeding ourselves. Like feeling disappointed if I didn’t pump one day because I prioritized meetings over having extra milk for my baby. Like getting over knowing that all my coworkers know where I’m going when I walk away from my desk with my bag, and the answer I give is ‘no’ when they ask if I’m leaving for the day.

I guess I’m sharing this because 2.5 years ago I decided I wanted to normalize pumping in the workplace to help the next set of moms coming up under me. It was harder last time around (I was the first and only one doing it, hello freezing server room), but this time I do feel change, both in myself and the company.

Today, my workplace is very pump friendly, and there are four of us now, and though it gets crowded, they keep adding new locks and shades to close off private offices.

So here’s to normalizing pumping, friendly workplaces, and hungry, tired moms overcoming the added daily challenge of exploding boobs.

Homeland insecurity: An expat on the labor of love and land

An expat is neither here nor there, not completely. An expat has their heart in two places. An expat has passports updated, ready.

An expat’s fomo is just another part of the gig.

United States of America:

I don’t know if it’s an apology I owe. It’s an acknowledgment, at least.

Over the last five years or so, I started feeling really, significantly disconnected from America. I started giving up. The feeling I’d never move back there by choice developed into more than a feeling; eventually a ‘known’.

I felt if I ever moved back, I’d be relocating to a new unfamiliar country. I mean this on a personal level. I came to feel I didn’t fit in the landscape. The culture.

I had fallen way out of love, way out of like, with my country, my people, my culture. Not a government thing – an everything thing. The whole picture. The inaction. The action. The priorities. The sensitivities. The personalities. The close mindedness.

I had cared so much but then I just couldn’t invest any more care.

And then this happened. A year and a half ago, everyone started talking about 2016. And it was ridiculous and I laughed. And I still couldn’t make the feeling come back. I stood by and watched. Until I started watching closer, until I started thinking again, until I started caring again. Until I realized I have something to say and for me, there’s still a place in the conversation.

And I didn’t have to ever want to move back to know that I do care and always will. Being away is what keeps me with you. Being away helps me be the best version of a patriotic citizen I can be. It’s an acknowledgment of the kind of relationship we have. It’s an odd but honest one.

Being away keeps me American.

Israel:

It’s time.

For too long I’ve used the American elections as an excuse to ignore you. The fact is, 2015 was so devastating and I just couldn’t pour anything else into this. Ever since, I’ve been angry, and ‘busy’ was a fine excuse.

But what if I was angry and busy, but for you, and not at you? I came here to be counted, I came here to cast my lot. There’s value in that and I will find it again. I will uncover it again.

I always wanted to come back around to political activism. This place is a fucking disappointment. It’s too painful to get involved but I don’t want to look back and know I didn’t do enough to show my kids what could be if we only work towards it.

America taught me that about my adopted homeland. After everything there in the past year and a half, I still care. I care about a place where my heart doesn’t beat.

Surely it is time to pivot back to the here and now. To where my heart beats in real-time. To where I chose to live. To where I’ve built a home. To where I cast my lot.

So what’s next?

One last thing: Consider why your mothers, sisters, daughters wear the veil

The first time today I was able to really consider it all – how to verbalize the anger and frustration and loss – was after I passed a couple male colleagues in the hall, after a joke was cracked, and I lashed back that this was not the time to speak to me about elections.

I didn’t even realize I’d feel such a loss before it happened.

I was on the verge of losing it all day, of letting out a verbal barrage of why their offhanded remarks or cable-tv inspired thoughts were not the reason why so many of us are so hurt and disillusioned today. Why it’s more personal than a party thing or political leaning thing. A why-do-you-even-care-you’re-an-expat thing.

I felt raw and I got raw. I showed my rawness. It was open and I wasn’t privately licking the wounds. I let them show.

That is never my strategy at work. It never has been in all my career.

And maybe it was because I never really believed this outcome could happen, that it took me so by surprise, that suddenly I was so so incredibly, deeply, painfully sad today. Sad for her. Sad for Hillary.

Because she may be flawed; she may be toxic; she may be power hungry; she may be criminal – but one thing she is, that I am too, is veiled. We women are veiled.

We veil ourselves in the workplace. We veil ourselves because it’s the extra credit we have to fulfill to be on the same page as you. We veil ourselves to help alleviate the pain and progress the potential of decreasing that pay inequality.

We veil ourselves so we avoid the pain and hypocrisy of being called bossy or nasty or bitch. 

The veil is invisible, but the fact is, every woman I know in the workplace wears one. Some are thinner than others. But it’s been taught to us, ingrained in us, through the way our parents spoke to us, through the education system, through religion, through society.

Be good.

Be perfect.

Put on a smile.

Don’t complain.

Don’t say no.

Even if all things were equal – paychecks, experience, power, chances of winning the presidency – the woman still wears the veil. All things being equal, she’s ten steps behind.

Hillary wears the veil.

I wear the veil.

A world where a presidential candidate can claim he’s great for women, and then threaten to sue every woman with a story to tell, is a world where we still wear the veil.

A world where a presidential candidate advises victims of sexual harassment in the workplace to find new careers, is a world where we still wear the veil.

The veil is thin, it’s sheer. You can’t see it unless you know it. That’s why the men who are disappointing me don’t even know why.

I grew up in the 90s; I only knew a strong-headed first lady. I grew up in the 90s; I attended Bring Your Daughter to Work Days. I grew up in the 90s; I believed wholeheartedly the glass ceilings were being shattered and I’d get a taste of that one day.

I was fed this by parents, education, society. But I knew the only way to do it was don the veil.

I button up my feelings at work. I’m complacent and cooperative. I don’t let my anger get in there. The 25-cent difference in my paycheck is eaten up by being agreeable and tame and a woman.

So when I passed the colleagues in the hall; when I swatted away stupid comments by privileged clueless well-meaning men; I lost it, when I let feelings out through my pores; when I got nasty – I thought of her.

All things being equal – and so many of you made that point – ‘they’re both horrible’ – as if all things were indeed equal – you don’t see what it’s like to be marginalized, veiled. When your whole life you lived the experienced of being marginalized, and one of your own is up there breaking down the way for you to follow – you have no idea what that means, how it reverberates. The ripple effect of knowing the veil paid off.

Privacy. Secrecy. Coldness. Power hungry. Overprotective. Flippant. Elitist. Pantsuits. Not a hair out of place. No home baked cookies.

It’s not all the work of the veil. But so much was born from it.

We can’t just be. We have to be in comparison to.

We have to lean in. We shouldn’t come off too strong.

We have to have it all. We can’t possibly achieve 100% at everything we do.

We live up to a standard. But we were asking for it by living up to that standard.

It was a strong, tiring try. I wanted a reason to put the veil away. Or peek out from behind it. Or know that maybe my daughters have a shot at not needing one.

Hillary made a crack in the ceiling. She did it with decades of veiled attempts.

But I think the truth is, the woman who becomes the first she-president of the United States will not wear the veil.

 

Summer of mom.

I’ve been having the best time and I want to tell you about it.

But first, a disclaimer – there’s a lot of grief out there – sanctimommies and all that – but I’m being completely honest, no-holier-than-thou, and you can trust me because my kids haven’t really had lunch in a couple weeks and just today the seven-year-old watched 3.5 consecutive hours of unsupervised youtube clips, and that’s the 513586th time in 513586 days.

I’ve been having the best time just being a mom, constantly. I’m on maternity leave, and this has been the most fun by far. The last two I spent job searching, and the first is the first but it’s different. This time, I’m getting to spend the summer with my two older kids in what we’ve dubbed Kaytanat Ima (mom camp), since we aren’t sending to any official (and expensive, jeez c’mon) camps.

And every day I start out so grateful that I get to spend the day with my kids, and I’m  not stressed about work, and I’m not checking my phone for emails, and I’m not cursing out a perfectly nice work colleague. I’m not debating how to handle a ‘crisis’ and I’m not taking care of anyone I didn’t give birth to.

I’m not doing any of that while trying to hang with/feed/bathe/love my kids.

Also – I’ve been making dinners, like full food groups dinners.

I’m asking what they think about stuff, we’re discussing life, we’re laughing over stupid jokes, we’re making up songs, we’re cursing out the drivers in front of us together. We’re seeing new parts of the country we hadn’t seen before. We’re doing science. We’re doing good deeds and volunteering. We’re getting wet. We’re learning how to photoshop. We’re uncovering fairies. We’re learning new skills together. We’re making snow happen in July. We’re painting while wearing socks. We’re seeing our first movie in the theater together. We’re spending hours playing with 6-shekel flashlights. We’re enjoying coffee together. We’re poking a storm trooper in the eye.

I don’t want it to end, this may actually be the first time I’ve felt it like this. Whole picture, not just I don’t want to leave my little baby. But I think part of it is I work myself too hard so when it’s time to play, with no work in site, I can appreciate it to a degree I’ve never felt around my kids before. So the contrast has made these past months so much more wonderful.

Part of it, is of course, their ages.

And it’s killing me that it has to end eventually, at least in part. I’m not going to dwell too much on that right now because I’m still feeling rainbows and kittens from two paragraphs ago.

Tell me, how do I keep a taste of it for the long haul?

You love us, so listen: Here’s why we need a parade.

I’ll answer the question again and again.

It’s exhausting, and I don’t even have to answer it that often.

But I’m going to answer it again.

Even – especially – the most well-meaning people, including loved ones, ‘allies’ and beyond, ask it around once a year.

For the moms and dads, siblings, relatives, friends – who want us all to be happy but don’t want to understand or accept what that entails.

Or don’t want to ‘see it displayed in public.’

The question –

We love you. We accept you. But why do you need a parade?

Because all lives don’t matter yet. Because it’s natural for us to pay attention to lives similar to ours and disregard the others.

Because sometimes, a lot of times, to teach our children the values we keep close, we have to do something. To take action. To speak louder than words.

Because it’s not just about extremists; it’s not just about hate. It’s about turning a blind eye or not trying hard enough to grasp the idea of acceptance and tolerance.

Because it’s about the mainstream happy citizen who may just not understand yet. May not have met someone different yet. May not have a loved one who has come out yet.

Because this is for people with flexible minds. The kind of person who might be open to trying a new food they always thought they hated, but is capable of even higher levels of understanding and deserves to have that chance. It’s for people ready to have a discussion even if they prefer to have their heads in the sand.

Because the parade is an invitation for people with similar values who just may not see the light yet to come and meet other people living other lives.

Meet them in person. Meet them as people.

Because there are people in our schools, offices, supermarkets, post offices who are not that different to us.

In our families. Maybe in your living room, right now.

Because ‘live and let live’ is important in modern democratic societies.

Because society doesn’t work if we’re not reaching out to others instead of creating Others.

Because discomfort doesn’t equal right to prevent.

Because free speech is critical to progressive society – the same one in which we can shop, travel, learn, love freely.

Because your sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, office mates, congregants need you to understand. To support. To love unconditionally.

Because we are only as good as we treat other people. Even if they don’t look or act like us.

Because there’s a difference between different and evil.

Because we don’t live in a theocracy.

Because we don’t get punished in society for not keeping kosher or not keeping shabbat or not tithing.

The parade is to help explain that. The parade is to help introduce you to the faces behind your fears and disgust, and to help you let down your guard a little if you dare to be open to it. It’s to show off what you claim are shared values. It’s to prove we all exist, differently, together, with the right to be heard and, if we’re good at what we do, to be better understood.

It’s the right not to remain silent. It’s the right to speak up in a society where a teenage girl is stabbed for existing. Where men and women are gunned down for existing as they are, where they are, where you have the right to choose not to be.

Now let’s go back to this for a second – those of you who ask – We love you. We accept you. But why do you need a parade? 

Can you glimpse the reason, just a little?

Can you understand why it hurts to hear the question, over and over?

What about this one: But why do you need to get married?

Maybe, just maybe, go to a parade – a parade in the spirit of the Jerusalem Parade for Pride and Tolerance – a parade featuring women, men, children and families who just want to live freely.

Women and men who want you to see that they have professions and hobbies and values and beliefs that you may share. Accountants. Tour guides. Programmers.

Children who don’t want to experience bullying for who their parents are. They want friends to come over. They want to stay innocent. They want to feel safe coming to you to talk when the time comes.

Moms and dads who want to believe their kids will have it easier some day.

People who just want a moment of peace, a moment not to hide.

Meet them. Remember their faces.

Then see if you can answer that question yourself.

pride rainbow sticker

On hope, afterlife, dreaming.

A couple months ago Koala and I had a ‘yom kef’ together and visited the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem, where a central feature is Ancient Egypt and of course, everyone’s favorite – the mummy.

We read the signs. the child-friendly materials, we saw the coffin, we saw pictures.

For a few weeks after that, Koala kept asking about it – how they died, why they stay like that, who are they.

 

And what’s up with afterlife?

For a few weeks he had been bringing up the possibility of afterlife again. He had thrown in bits and pieces about mashiach since school ended in June. When he does, I smile, I nod, I ignore, and I always – always – tighten up.

Why does it bother me so much? So many personal issues. So many specific peeves, built just for me, by me. Nearly 34 years in the making and still moving and making and coming to life.

Soon after, the Bastille Day truck attack in Nice happened. I woke up and saw the headline and felt ill, like everyone else. The details rolled in and at some point, I didn’t want to know any more. It’s too much. Families going to celebrate. Families mowed down.

That same day, he asked again – what happens in the afterlife? Is it real? Will we ever know? I tightened up as always but I loosened up just as quickly. It hit me, strong, like coffee – this is his time. His time to dream and wonder and think and, eventually, conclude. At seven years old, I also worshiped the thought of messiah, of afterlife. Who better than a child to dream and fantasize and hold on to eternal hope?

It felt better for me, and he held on to his questions, laid them out on the table, and we both wondered, together.