Expat life: Eleven years.

As of today I have spent a third of my life living as an expat, having made the choice to leave what I knew and start over somewhere else, with specific goals and ideology fueling the decision. And 11 years later I really don’t have much to complain about, which I appreciate is incredibly fortunate.

Sure, over a decade later taxi drivers still balk at the fact I left New York City. Even other olim balk at the fact I left New York City. But I maintained during year one and I maintain now that I was born in the wrong city and it took me (only) two decades to find the right place to grow, breathe, build, and live.

The one thing I tell people and grows truer every day is that the cost of leaving family never goes down; it gets more and more taxing as you build a career, settle with a partner, have another kid, watch your siblings and parents move on without you.

For myself, I made the right decision 11 years ago and it set my life on a course I’m proud of. Not all my goals have been met yet and the ideology that fuels my perspective and life has transitioned. And no matter where I am, I always feel like an outsider and, oddly, that’s where I’ve realized I operate most naturally.

But I’m happy feeling as natural as I can as an inside-outsider here in Israel rather than an inside-outsider back in New York.

10 things about turning ten (celebrating a decade of lizrael update)

Where’s my cake? lizrael update turns ten-years-old today!

That’s six months longer than I’ve lived here. That’s two more years than I’ve been married. That’s five more years than I’ve been a parent. That’s as long as I’ve been out of my first university.

It’s the longest-running project I’ve ever undertaken, with no deadline or end in sight. I’m proud because as a kid and past my teens, my creative pitfall was (and still is) not finishing what I started. I’m probably a bit insane because… really? Who’s blogged for ten years? Who is still blogging in 2014??

Finally, not finishing what I start is worth something.

Here’s to you, once-newfangled writing format I was skeptical of back in 2004 and needed good friends to convince me to try! Thanks for all the good times, the learning times, the up-till-4am-fixing-this-goddam-thing times!

Here are ten things I have to say in honor of my blog turning ten:

  1. In the beginning, I was tracking my move across the world. What I quickly realized was, it was also a way to exercise my writing chops without feeling like homework.
  2. My advice to others: If journaling feels good to you, and you stick it out for those tough first 3 months, I mean three years, I mean forever – it just becomes part of who you are and how you communicate and relate to the world.
  3. ^That said – blogging has majorly evolved in the last decade; that’s probably an understatement. So now you might consider photoblogging, microblogging, Twitter, public Facebook profile, or 39573485 other ways to build your space online in the way you like.
  4. I’m in a relationship with this thing. Sometimes I want to hug it. Sometimes I’m disgusted and want to look away. Sometimes I want to twirl in a field of lilies with it.
  5. Reading old blog posts is like looking in a really distorted mirror.
  6. So much has changed! I started with a private site on LiveJournal, converted over to Blogger, then WordPress.com, and finally WordPress. I did open a Tumblr account ages ago, but didn’t it feel it would work for me.
  7. In a way, getting into blogging turned me on to my career. Among other things (hi, thefacebook), it was part of a greater culture I joined when I graduated from university with my first degree (in nothing practical).
  8. Thanks to all the people I’ve met over the last decade! Seriously – I’ve met tons of readers, fellow bloggers, fellow expats, aliyah-curious – some of whom I’ve spoken to from across the world and met for coffee, some of whom I’ve corresponded with for months till meeting them in person, some of whom have become friends. Like, real-life friends (hi SG!).
  9. I’ll admit: there’s a lot I don’t say. There’s been an internal conflict about being private vs public. Gave up privacy years and years ago. You a pay a price.
  10. I’m glad to be creating some quirky/fun/sentimental footprints for my kids to discover one day.

Blogging may be in or may be out. We can call this something else from now on… content creation, sure. Living online. Personal branding. (It used to be an ‘online journal.’)

Whatever it is…

Whether it’s out there for the world or in a word doc…

Whether it’s for kids or friends or no one…

Whether it’s proofread and polished or riddled with typos…

I do highly recommend carving out a space, sharpening your style, building a bit of yourself in some corner of the written world.

Aright, back to blogging.

lizrael update: 4 facts till I reunite with coherent thought

Happy March! Since it’s been quiet around here, I’ve provided a few quick facts:

  1. Fifty-Two Frames isn’t the only thing going on in my life, but I have felt uncharacteristically quiet for a long while now.
  2. I haven’t been working since beginning of February. More on that another time.
  3. Sometime in the next few weeks we plan to get a baby out of me. Pretty much as ready as.
  4. I miss running! It’s the season and every time I see a Tzur Hadassian making their rounds, I really miss it. I’d like to do the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem half marathons in 2015.

There. I hope that unblocks things a bit.

lizrael update: the expat-makes-a-visit edition

Living in Israel (and probably many other countries as an American expat) is an exercise in being happy with what you have, and I feel lucky to have even scratched the surface of that sentiment.

Occasionally the conversation comes up with fellow expats here and I’m no longer surprised to admit that I’m happier here than I imagine I would be in the States.

Last week I returned with the kids from a trip to the US where we mainly visited with family, which is actually the sole serious issue I have with living far away from the place I grew up. The family aspect was lovely. It’s soaking in as much familiarity and nostalgia and new memories as I can in as little time as two weeks out of the year.

Each time I go back for a visit, I feel a certainty that I made the right choice, which I think is so incredibly valuable when you’ve made a life-altering decision. This time, it barely even crossed my mind to contemplate it; it was a given.

Some of the time, I view America the way lots of people who don’t live there view it. The politics creep me out. The culture shocks me. The values confuse me.

And when I’m in New York, I’m overwhelmed. The supermarkets are heavy. The malls are filled with stuff for sale that makes me sad. The maternity and daycare situation is dismal. The nightly news is frightening. I’m looking over my shoulder. I’m filled with mistrust.

I think maybe I was always overwhelmed until I left. Surely not every born New Yorker has a New York soul. Not every American feels at home. A lot of the reasons people cite for what’s great about living in the States don’t compel me.

I’m happy to be lucky to be happy with what I have.

Life lately.

Enjoying the summer blooms.

Soaring through the superhero phase.

Ate through a 2-week baking craze.

Acknowledged July 4th in Jerusalem, USA.

Devouring a Song of Light and Fire, games of thrones, crows, feasts, cravens.

Inspired at the home office.

Welcoming new friends.

Uncovered a long-lost treasure.

Attuned to the start of Ramadan season.

Fifty-Two Frames: Self-Portrait

First off, I started participating in Fifty-Two Frames exactly 52 weeks ago, January 2012, and this week I completed it, in time for a new round called 2013.

Secondly, this week’s theme was a good one. It had the potential to be awkward, narcissistic, lame, or reflective. Sighofrelief it became the latter.

This week I was lucky to find myself in the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo. You know that wonderful mosaic statue park, right outside the kids’ petting zoo area? It’s my favorite part of the entire zoo. The statues are beautiful, kids can climb on them, and just eyeing the colorful tiles makes me feel creative. While there last week, I noticed a few of the abstract stone creatures had mirrored mosaic tiles so I took advantage and experimented. 75984758461 photos later, I had a few to choose from.

Now for the reflective part… I’ve been around a little while. Three decades. I’m a lot of things. I’m a writer, an amateur photographer, a blogger, a student, a former junkie of a few left-behinds. I’m a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter. I’m a dual citizen, split down the middle by an ocean. I’m a lot of someones.

Week 52: Self-Portrait

I’m a lot of things, but I’m not broken. I'm a lot of things, but I'm not broken. Fifty-Two Frames is a collaboration of artists, sharing the best of their work to a weekly theme. Want to join? Contact Yosef.

My NYTimes debut: experience of an expat Staten Islander during Sandy

My New York Times debut: A journalist found my post on my experience of helplessness as a Staten Island expat, far away during the Hurricane Sandy disaster. After some emails and a phone call, my Staten Island-based mama and I became the lede of his article on New York expats taking action during crisis.

Here’s the article, in this weekend’s paper in the New York Times Giving section:

Tied by Heartstrings to Calamity

It was kinda cool to be on the flip side of reporting as the interviewee. Probably made it a lot easier for the writer, too. And I also got a kick out of collecting info for him to find other local Israeli resources.

The experience reminded me of my old reporter ambitions (which, since abandoning them, I’ve partly pursued here for the last 8+ years; so one might say). It got me thinking that I might want to revive that old life a little, perhaps staying online, maybe starting with guest posts? Might be fun to give it a shot.

Next stop… byline somewhere!

Back to school (again).

Move over Billy Madison, I’m going back to school (again).

Had my first class at David Yellin College in Jerusalem, and looking up at the giant stone arches ushering me and dozens of other students through, I felt home again. Classrooms piled on to other classrooms. A little sandwich kiosk at the entrance. Students walking around with steaming coffees between their funky nailpolished fingers.

Everyone texting as they walk. Everyone talking to someone. Arabs and dosim salt and peppering the yellow hallways.

Ahhhhh. Academia.

So it’s not a university. I’m not in Dublin and this isn’t the psychology degree I sometimes wonder if I’ll get.

But it’s so refreshing to have one night a week to myself every week for the next two semesters. To pretend I’m in university again. To soak up every word of learning like it’s extra whip cream on the frappuccino at the coffee bar downstairs.

Walking through yellow hallways, texting and smiling, getting struck up in conversation by a young backpacked guy who has no idea I’m not really one of them.