Home is Solid

"Mommy, where are we going when we come home from St. Louis?" Tanya asks me tonight as I'm washing dishes. 
"Where are we going? " I assume she means when are we coming home. "We are going tomorrow and we will be back next Wednesday. 7 more days. "
"NO, Mommy," she insists. "WHERE are we going when we come home from St. Louis?"
I study her face. I have learned that when Tanya asks a question, she has a really good critique, observation, or point, that is hidden behind her 3 year old inability to bring it out. 
"Where are we going?..... " 
Suddenly I understand. Last time we took a trip, we were back for a few days before everything went haywire and we were forced out of our apartment, apartment hopping for two months until finally finding a home. I realize that with all the Pesach cleaning and me putting most of her toys away in a closet, she might think the same thing is happening again. The ground is shaky. 
"We're coming HERE!" I exclaim. "This is our HOME! We're not moving again, silly!"
She laughs, and with a bright grin of relief, runs away to play.

Mitzvah Tanks

My first time at the Children's Rally for the Rebbe's birthday. I come bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to be taken to great heights. I sit with Tanya next to me, Naomi on my lap, feeding them potato fries every so often to keep them content. There's nothing like some food in the purse to keep a mother feeling like Everything Is Going To Be A-Okay. There's nothing like potato chips shaped like fries to capture children's attention. 
The excitement soon descends into mild enthusiasm. The roll-calling of all those young children who have done amazing feats of memorizing Tanya and Mishnayos ( of which I could only imagine, and I do start to, and start to realize that my daughter could be doing this one day) nevertheless starts to drag on me. The promise of prizes for their achievements has me crinkling my nose a little, just a little. I mean, c'mon, it IS amazing. But where's the fire? Where's the heart? Where's the love of Torah beyond what it can give to me? Where is the singing?The objective, the man at the microphone states, is to reach 300, 000 something lines memorized from Chabad schools throughout the world, some multiplication of something Rebbe-related that falls from my memory. As they roll-call through all the schools, of all those hundreds and thousands of lines of Tanya and Mishnayos these children have learned BY HEART (what?!) , I watch the three girls in front of me reacting to the numbers applauding and giggling with each other. "50 THOUSAND?!" they mouth to each other, and then "12?" when it inevitably comes up to a probably smaller school. And then one girl, the middle one, about eight years old per my guesstimatation, in this super fashionable short haircut most women get when they are 20 years older than her and certainly not in frum circles, grabs their hands and stops them, abruptly but cheerfully. "You guys, it's not a COMPETITION! We're in this TOGETHER! We're trying to win TOGETHER!" And there you have it. That's life. That's Jewish life. In a sea of people trying to do the right thing and somehow clumsily celebrate and reach truth and find the fire, there are the lamplighters. The girls and boys and men and women who stop others short of their judgements and bring them to the higher perspective. We're in it together. Let the mitzvah tanks roll. I'm sure the Rebbe would be proud.

When Gd Needs To Stop

When You arranged for the kidnapping of three Israeli youth, hitchhiking for a ride home, I walked around in a cloudy haze praying for their rescue, and was crushed when it was found to be impossible. When You allowed the shooting of four Jews in a kosher supermarket in Paris, killed simply because they were Jews, I was terrified.

When You took away the life of a dedicated Yeshiva bochur, who suddenly couldn't wake on Purim day, to the shock of his study partners and friends, I was saddened and confused.

When You took away the life of a upstanding father of four, who was celebrating at his son's siddur party, I was deeply pained and scared.

But when You created a fire, from the very hot plate that was used to ensure no cooking happened on the Sabbath just like Your Torah commanded, from a frum woman who dedicated her life to raising eight Yiddishe children, and as the flames erupted and the mother jumped out the window with one child, standing, yelling for her children's rescue as the screams of "Mommy, help me!" rang through the night, I could not take it.

When we fight against enemies and we lose our best and brightest, there is pain. When random things happen to good Jews, there is also great pain.

But when a mother, who toils her entire life to raise her children, spoon by spoon, word by word, loses those children, to witness her children screaming for her when she can't save them, a mother's greatest nightmare, the deepest void within our hearts screams in unbearable anguish.

Gd, it needs to stop. Tell us what we need to do, very clearly. We are willing and able to change our lives, to ensure tragedy doesn't befall us again. Show us the revelation immediately, for the sake of us and the sake of the dear, poor parents, of why this happened, like you did with the Israeli youth, from whose lost lives we revealed the sinister plan of Hamas's underground tunnels intended to infiltrate the Israeli kibbutzim. Let us see the revelation and the deep, meaning. Concealed good may be the deepest kind, but it's time for the unveiling to begin. Put us in motion, tie our hearts together, move our feet forward in the right path, and heal the world from this tragedy.

Baruch Dayan HaEmes 16-year-old Eliane, 11-year-old Rivkah 6-year-old Sara 12-year-old David, 10-year-old Yeshua, 8-year-old Moshe 5-year-old Yaakob

May your memory be a blessing.

Our Vows

I doDo you promise to accept me, when I talk out of turn, when I embarrass you in front of your friends? Do you promise to remember the person I could be, when it seems I have abandoned myself for another? Will you remember that I do my best, even when things are a chaotic mess? Will you reserve your critiques for another time, when my undulating heart settles in? Will you remind me on repeat of good qualities and merits, so when I look in the mirror that’s what I see? Will you stick up for me against all accusations, both internal and external, even if your own irritation at my actions has you throwing daggers as well ? Can you remember to laugh and laugh with me, so that our home becomes light and strong? Will I be the last thought on your mind before your head hits the pillow, the first image that crosses your mind when you sit down at your desk? Will you build with me, invisible and true, the fortress of our souls and home? Do you promise that our home will be a safe dwelling place in which things in this reverberating world finally come to rest and the Shechina rejoices? Will you work on these vows every moment of our lives, revising and reworking them in our hearts? I do. For all of these and more, I do.

It's All About You

It's All About You

One thing I absolutely love about Chabad ( besides children screaming pesukim, which is my slice of I've-Died- and-Gone-to-Frum-Heaven) is it's ideological focus of getting beyond oneself.
I'll never forget my interview for Mayanot Yeshiva. I went expecting to do what I always do at interviews: pretend to be super-confident and interesting, say quirky, thought-provoking statements that reveal my intelligence and sense of humor, and impress them with my fabulousness, while knowing in the back of my mind that once accepted, I couldn't keep up that all-star facade forever. But that's what interviews are, right? Right?
Except that this rabbi who was interviewing me, wasn't getting impressed. "Why do you look so... so.. wary of me?" I finally trembled at the end of the interviewing process. It actually seemed like I wasn't going to get in! Into a baal teshuva seminary! Was that possible?
He smiled in a wary way that wasn't comforting at all. "I'm not wary... " he replied, showing me the way out.
I left. And yes, I went into a back alleyway and cried in confusion. What was going on? How did my impressive shtick that always landed me jobs not work?
I ended up emailing him that day, mumbling something about how I was so tired and that's why I was acting strange, and BEGGING him to let me in. I received no personal reply, but a formal acceptance letter.
Later on, I understood. He saw through me. His whole religious outlook was about getting beyond the ego. My ego was on fire and dancing before him and he called it like he saw it.
That was my first experience at Chabad-seeing-through-and-looking-down-at-egos. So contrary to my societal upbringing.
As I went to the seminary, I started to appreciate it more. "Get beyond yourself!" the Rabbi would thunder, explaining methods and reasons for doing so, beginning with the reality of Gd and his beyondness and how we could know Him in that way, and I would feel this beautiful feeling of weight being taken off of my being. Davening become delightful.
"Imagine Gd beyond the world," the rabbi demanded one day. and I asked him- how? How do I imagine Gd beyond this world? I think of Gd and I think of this world, that's all I know. How do I think of that which I have never seen? How do I think of that beyond me?
"Think of your mother without thinking of yourself," he replied, and I protested:" But I can't! By default when I think of my mother I think of myself by extension. She gave birth to me..."
" Oh no, " he interrupted, amused in a way that bespoke deeper knowledge of the psychological and existential underpinings of my intellectual quandry. " Your mother has a whole life that has nothing to do with you... so too with Gd. He has this whole life that has nothing to do with the world, nothing to do with you..."
I was blown away.
Chabad's focus on getting beyond oneself, letting go of "yeshus" of "sense of self" , of "sense of disconnection from the great oneness of  Gd that is Everything ( for aren't we all but rays of the sun, and within the sun itself, you are not even aware of the light but in reality, there, in the sun,  it is at it's strongest, and aren't we all trying to realize in our perceptions how truly we are all already connected and part of this greater Being, and isn't that the greatest inheritance of all) is essential. Essential for Yiddishkeit, essential for simcha. Essential for moshiach.
But I think sometimes, when that message of beyondness is given over, we forget about ourselves as well. We start to think that a sense of self is not important. A sense of internal weight, inner voice and direction. We start to throw out self-nurture and self-discovery because it doesn't seem holy enough. We don't know how or if to care about ourselves, and our "separate existence".
Yesterday I was listening to a shuir by David Sacks, former writer for the Simpsons. He was asking, what's the deal with us learning Torah and forgetting it in the womb? Weren't we all already at Mt. Sinai? Didn't we already experience all of the Torah there too? Why again? and Why to forget?  He explained from other sources that there are two redemptions, two truths we have within us- a communal one, and a personal one. The Torah we learned at Sinai is our communal one, that we can all collectively relearn over our lives, that is our part of our deep heritage. The Torah we learned in the womb is our personal story of our personal shluchus, how we can become that powerful soldier, that radiating ray of light, in the world ( my words of his). We have two destinies intertwined; and the struggle to fulfill and live both of them is the challenge of life: how to be the greatest Jew in our society in going beyond oneself and connecting with the communal Truth, and how to be the greatest me-Jew, how to relearn who I am and what I'm meant to do in this world. How to be the most- me. How to go the most beyond-me. What a predicament. I am reminded of the dual- relationship once again now of motherhood, myself in the position. How to have a life devoted to my family. How to have simultaneously a life that has nothing to do with my family.
And that is very confusing. I think it's very confused in the frum world:
Example: I live in a place without an eruv. While this may be okay for some mamas, I go batty. So I asked a very special, spiritual woman advice on how to enjoy Shabbos so that I would give over to my children the sense that Shabbos is actually enjoyable and not a day of dread. I explained to her that growing up, I would walk every Shabbos 2.5 miles to shul, by myself, in silence, and I loved it. I need that silence, that space, I told her. To be within four walls, going in circles with two little ones.... "Listen," she responded, trying to be kind and gevurahdik at the same time, " You're not 16 years old anymore. You need a grown up relationship with Gd. It's not about you. It's about Him. It's His day. Focus on that, and even if you don't enjoy it, you're doing the mitzvah. And you can get pleasure from that mitzvah. That's the greatest pleasure, getting pleasure from giving someone else pleasure. Like calling your parents and getting pleasure from the fact that it gives them pleasure."
You know what, she's right. But she's also wrong.
While I think that that approach is right on and should be our avodah, and to try to meditate on the greatness of what we are doing beyond ourselves is crucial, but we also need to recognize that we are a human being. And to just negate our feelings and desires, seems dangerous to me. What I wish she would have added in was the element of myself. For I am 16 years old still, within me. For I  found some very easy solutions to satisfying that younger child within me that craves solitude to just stare at the sky and walk slowly in her own way without thinking about anyone else for an hour a day. Like hiring a babysitter for an hour every Shabbos so that I can take care of me. That way I can meditate on what the day truly is about and try to get beyond myself and give Hashem pleasure, but also come to the table feeling refreshed, rejuvenated, full.
Another example: I'm very into Julia Cameron's artist way. She has two absolute necessities for artistic self nurture: morning pages and an artist date. An artist date is hard for anyone and especially hard for those schooled in the frum-get-beyond-yourself mentality. Because an artist date is about becoming a child again. It's about learning how to play again. It's about doing something seemingly crazy on a whim without purpose ( may I remind you however, that "farbreng" does mean "to waste time", which highlights the actual feeling Chabad feels about the importance of just being and embracing the fullness of ourselves and not just the doing or the forced "bittul"). My artist dates usually consist of me buying really ridiculous candy corn bags and walking around munching on them and going into stores and staring at all the different clothes, toys, or whatever I could buy one day. I start to get ideas of different types of things I want to do, make. I start remembering my desire to be a fashionista. I start daydreaming and  feeling light and imagine people doing synrochnized dancing down the streets of Brooklyn to the tune of Lion King melodies .Many times I go to a quiet spot I know and stare at the trees for an hour, phone off.
These types of "purposeless" activities are very confusing for frum women to take on. "Can I go to a shuir?" was my greatest response when I formed an art program that mandated artist dates. I very much doubt the child within us desires to do something crazyily whimsical and playful like sit in on a shuir, though shuirs are wonderful and rejuvenating too. For our adult selves. But the thing is that if you give yourself an hour of wandering-candy-corn fun or whatever is that floats your boat at the moment, then you can return and dress  up in your adult suit as well to take on the world.  It seems it is hard for us frum people to figure out how to balance living a meaningful, dedicated life, and relaxing, of inhaling, of taking in, and then exhaling. Again and again. It is hard to come to terms with the complex reality that we are also a child. Because we are. We are also children. And that's okay. It's just about learning how to nourish, embrace, and also direct our inner child.
We want to be soldiers. We want to fight for a higher cause. But we can't fight unless we know that we too also exist and have worth. We have needs and wants and desires. No, it's not all about you. It's also not not about you. It's about you and it's not about you. And when we embrace the fullness of ourselves and the fullness and depth of Gd and take care of ourselves in all ways, when we can self-nurture ourselves and have real, honest to goodness  fun as well as pushing beyond ourselves to the Greater Truth, the Greater Sun that we are part of, then we can become the best Soldiers of Hashem this world has ever seen.

My Baby Wanted To Cry It Out

rivka baby After you give birth to your first child, make sure that you've prearranged with an older experienced mother ( preferably in her 50's or above, before society condemned anything less than nursing and rocking a child to sleep for all time) who is trained in a simple method:

"Just put your baby down, while they are fed, nappy cleaned, and drowsy, in a dark room, but awake. She might make a little squeak, and then she will just go to sleep."
Sounds crazy to us rockers and nursers, right? But time and time again, I'll meet these women who are convinced that this is how they taught their children to go to sleep on their own and their children barely cried at all . 
I also have a conspiracy theory that as things started to get easier for mothers in recent history ( read: dishwashers and being allowed to climb in the work world, two great inventions of our time), we made up some extra things to make it super hard for mothers (read: making women feel like they should be able to juggle all of these roles at once without extra extra help and convincing women that their babies would be traumatized if they cried at all without their mama around to reassure them).
When my first angel was born, I couldn't bring myself to hear any cries. A slight squeak and my body went into fight or flight, knees and feet hitting the floor, arms swinging wildly to get to her crib in time. And at night, at night. She liked to cryyyyy. I came up with a special method- I would hold her and shush her in complete darkness, singing song after song, while she would cry and cry and cry. On my shoulder. Sometimes, half way through, my husband and I would switch off.  It took usually around three hours every night.  And usually an hour before each day nap. Without exaggeration. It got to be a little meditative, actually.
My girl was AWAKE the minute she was born and was not the type to fall asleep in the stroller. I would stare longingly at all of the Yerushalmite mamas with their babies dozing in the carriage, and everyday, hope that Today Is the Day that Tanya would stop staring enchantedly at the world, and just close her precious eyes so I didn't have to do another shushing episode that day.
I tried methods. I read books.  I tried to be home precisely when she would get drowsy, I would see all the signs and.... sometimes I could get it down to 20 minutes shushing during the day but at night..... at night.... my three hour minimum dark singing marathons.
It got to be a full time job, literally. I shushed Tanya for 5 hours a day minimum, seven days a week. 35 hours of dark shushing. My shushing to prevent any crying-without-mama. It was, without saying, a nightmare. Add in being in a foreign country with a husband gone from 530 am to 9 at night and no close friends around and... a recipe for disaster.
We ended up moving back to America. Once we are settled, we kept on chanting, we will do cry-it-out. We just need to be fair to her. I tried patting and pick-up-put-down. To no avail.
Finally, when she was nine months old, it was officially Too Much. My full-time shushing job just was too heavy of a load. The night had come.
I put her down. I left the room. She wailed. I stood outside the door, disturbed, frozen. My husband, nodded, himself a little shaken but determined to see this through.  We sat there, together at the dining room table, staring at the door from which behind our precious child was first encountering abandonment.
Suddenly, the terror peaked within me, rising. "Maybe she's caught under the sheets!" I shrieked to my husband.  " I need to go, I need to make sure."
He raised his eyebrows. " It's just going to make it worse..."
" I  need to. "
I went in. She was not caught under the sheets. She was standing with her face streaming in tears, her nose running. I  took a sharp breath and started to turn around.
She, overcome in frustration and confusion, threw up.
Luckily, as traumatic as it felt, I was prepared for this. " If your child throws up", a CIO booklet had taught me , " Just clean it up and continue on with the plan."
I cleaned it up, and left. She wailed bloody murder for an hour and half, while I lay on my bed staring at the ceiling.
After an hour and a half, my husband and I glanced at each other, in silence. It was silent.  The deal was done. She had, for the first time in her life, gone to sleep on her own.
I lay in bed for a long time afterwards, my body still shaking with nerves. I didn't know what to do with myself, with my free time.
The next day, she cried, just a little, maybe twenty minutes, and that was it. I would just put in her bed, and at night, instead of crying for three hours straight, we would hear her talking to herself, laughing, for an hour and half, before the beauty of children-sleeping silence would fill the home.
Her sleep improved tremendously. She would sleep through the whole night 12 hours, waking up once, and take 2 2 hour naps a day.
Now, knowing and understanding her, it's pretty clear. Those night- time battles and day- resistance were also against us, to us trying to force her to do something. Tanya, our strong-willed, adventurous, independent child, just wanted to be left alone. In the end, crying it out was her wish.
So find that woman, who knows about the whole put-the-child-in-the-dark-when-drowsy method and skip all other steps. I say we've shushed enough in this generation to tikkun the world three times over.

Be Careful Who You Invite To Your Judgement Parties

party-dog-balloonsLittle kids got it. When some other child  offends or hurts them, they stick up their emotional wall and declare: "You're not my friend anymore !" 

That's pretty clear cut. Rather than take it in, and let the criticism or betrayal or rejection crush into their insides, they keep it outside, at their former bestest friend, and draw a line in the sand.
While this approach may not work for relationships above the age of three, it gives us adults some guidance on how to deal with our inner bullies, whether they are disguised as our friends or not.  And some friend-outting and weeding-out of the internal scale has got to occur.
Recently, I returned home from a big project I had worked on, after showcasing it, feeling fairly dejected about my performance. But I had little time to swarm obsessively over feelings of self-pity for perceived failure before I had to cuddle my little 14 month old as her chest heaved from difficulty breathing during croupe. There's nothing quite like a sick child of your own that does wonders for perspective- readjusting. I wouldn't recommend having one just for that reason, but if it does occur, savor that humbling process.
For as I held her, praying for her recovery, hurting as she hurt, I realized that all of these voices inside of my head knocking down my performance were coming from mutated forms of people I knew. But these people I knew had taken up and migrated to my mind and were sneering and folding their hands in contempt and given me well-meaning and debilitating feedback.
And as I held my most precious, I realized we could not all live in the same mental space together. What's more, I started to look around and question who I had invited to my Judgement Party. Of all the people in the room, the only opinion I cared about was my little girl's. And being a 14 month old, I was pretty sure she was saying - " Mommy mommy! Mommy mommy!" (which I translate as "Mommy, I'm so proud of you!".  I also realized that there were so many people missing from my judgement party. Like my husband who undoubtedly was giving me the thumbs up sign and shouting- "You did  it!" and my real friends, who were waving to me from outside of the Judgement Party windows mouthing- "Way to go Rivka!!". Why did I invite all of the people I thought did not truly get me or support me to my Judgement Party?"
I reflected on each one of the mirages of the inner bullies, realizing I did not truly care, deep down, what they thought of me. They did not know me or embrace me fully. "You're not my friend anymore!" I finally put my foot down.
As the long night wore on, I psychologically shooed them all out, one by one, those people whose unholistic and uncompromising opinions of me brought my inner forces down. And instead, I opened up the door to  a small select group of true friends, and my family, who all gathered around on comfortable couches and raises their glasses for my accomplishment. Not even caring about the product, but about me, about my guts, my attempt, my process.
And through that wholeness, I nursed my daughter and myself back to health.

Rule of Thumb: Choose Dignity Over Convenience


Convenience beckons and tempts us with thoughts of future pleasure, of relaxation and contentment. Of the universe being in sync with our plan in life.

And yet, on a more subtle scale, waving quietly in the background, is our actual need and desire, for dignity.

We run after convenience but we inwardly thirst for dignity.

In our last apartment, it got to the point that with two little kids running around, I felt like I could practically stretch out my arms on both sides and touch opposite walls. I was a monster in a tiny room, running around in little toddler-shaped circles. The list of why this place was a disaster could go on for a long time, but I will refrain from going over every single ridiculous thing that happened there and the fact that it felt like we were living on top of a garbage landfill. I will just briefly mention that I always felt this sensation of being watched( I remember discussing this at a Shabbos table at our home, which first received some laughter around the table, then as I continually exclaimed- " Don't you feel it? ! Don't you feel like someone is always watching you here ? Like you're not really alone? Don't you feel like you're on stage?!" the guffaws slowly faded into worried grimaces, glancing at one another. The subject was shortly changed.)

But it was so convenient to feel like we were on some Big Brother Landfill of Brooklyn, because we were one block away from not one but two produce stores, all the kosher and Jewish shopping you could dream of, a trendy flower shop, two blocks from the Subway, two and a half blocks from 770. I mean we were in Prime Real Estate. That was one of the big reasons why we took the place, and the main response we got when we told people where we lived :" Great location!" It was a great location. It was so convenient. Yes, it was kind of Very City, but with the cost of moving, we couldn't move, could we? We couldn't find a better location than this, could we? So we stayed, surfing the landfills in DisasterLand. I never felt alone or completely calm a day in the almost three years we lived there.

By the Hand of God, we were plucked out of Big Brother Apartment, and pushed to the streets. Through a diligent search, that ended with Gd selecting our current location despite us, we signed a lease for our current home.

Let me tell you something, sit down New Yorkers if you're prone to anxiety: We live FIFTEEN long minutes away from my daughter's school. That's right. We have to walk 15 minutes to get to her school EVERY DAY ( New Yorkers seem to find these types of times and distances excessively alarming). However, it's true, this location is not as convenient as our last place, and it's true that with the sidewalks only slightly paved in the middles, and 3 degree weather, going back and forth is not that pleasant. Honestly, during the snowy winter, it takes me half an hour each way. Which can add up to two hours a day if I take her both ways. It's good you're sitting down. It's true, our new home is not as convenient. It's true, it's harder. It's true, it's not easy.

But dignity-wise? I feel like a normal, breathing human being. I feel like I can walk around in my own home. When I close my door at night and sit down to write, I feel beautifully, gracefully alone. I feel like I have gone from walking on all fours to heaving myself upwards and joining the human race. And it's all worth it.

Similarly, I have begun to question my decision to stick it out financially and not buy trendy but comfortable footwear , and just wear my super sassy neon colored sneakers. Back where I came from, wearing sneakers and pajama pants was acceptable. You could make pjs cool. People would go out to the store in their workout clothes before a long run. Or after. Or during. You do not do these things in New York.

So, in the name of convenience, I strut around The Block in my workout shoes and basically a neon sign that says : I Am Not From Here. M'Karev Me.

Yet our clothing, our homes, speak to us. It gets inside our head. "C'mon", it smirks, as I neon-strut, " How much better would you feel with nice shoes? Is it worth it? "

There is nothing convenient about a lack of dignity. It eats us up. The things we own, own us. They worm into our sense of integrity, our inner malchus, and began to erode our center, our foundation. We lose critical energy trying to fend off and argue with its attacks, its destabilization attempts.

Choose dignity over convenience I to try repeat to myself, a physical/spiritual mantra.

Just last night, I complained to my husband about a recent fairly terrible doctor appointment I just had. " You have to find a new doctor," he wisely advised.        "But it's so conven-" I clamped my mouth shut.

Convenience is a tricky creature. Be advised and stay on guard. And invite some dignity in for a cup of tea. She's quiet, but she's so so worth it.

Seperating B/w Me and You

I would always stare at the way the girls in class's hair would lie, stick straight. No static. Once, at Allison's, her mom brushed my hair with what seemed like a very fancy brush that poofed in the middle, and I looked so great. I was convinced it was the brush, and tried to get a similar one. But that one broke apart, and that original hair-day effect seemed to be a fluke, or something that only Allison's mom could pull off. I was always looking at other girls, trying to be neater, cleaner, straighter. I didn't even see who I was, what beauty graced my own face, I just saw what I wasn't.

So dropping you off at school, though only 3, I do the same. I check out all the other girls, with their bows exactly in place ( one day I'll buy you headband bows) and fur vests and I glance at you, \ballet slippers getting muddy, hair in pigtails that never seem to align ( how do people align things anyways?), and my eyes crinkle in disdain at the dainty judgement of preschool city, as I try to emotionally wrap my arms around you and protect you from ever feeling the pain of not measuring up.
But it's me who's not measuring up again, now isn't it? Me who's worried I'm not doing enough. Me who thinks you can't handle it.
But you, you stride in there with a smile so wide, and a defiant attitude. You who is unassumingly friendly to everyone you meet; you've been that way since day one, since month 6 when the flight attendents gathered you in their arms and cooed with you for hours in the backroom, since year 2 when you hugged every single one of your school friends goodbye each day.
That's not to say you don't feel it. I see the way you emotionally start to grasp the complexity of relationships, friendships. You do cry after all.
But you're resilent, Israeli -born, your heart sings with gratitude'-Wow, thanks Mom! -you exclaim at everything I buy you.
You can handle this. And you'll take me with you. Protected by your inner strength we will take on the world.


Why You Should Paint


Saying you don't draw because " all you can draw is stick figures" is like saying you don't blog because " you don't know how to use pronouns and adverbs correctly". It's like you saying you don't dance at weddings because you never took any professional dancing lessons. 

People. Since when has art become this elite thing that one can only enjoy once has gotten to a certain level?
Before we learned to crochet and cook and play golf and watch movies, we drew. We painted. As little children, our parents all probably set us down with some clumsy paintbrush and junky brightly colored paints, and we just splashed color this way and that and were happy. So happy. Why? Why were we happy? Because painting is fun.
I don't paint because I consider myself "good" ( though valuing one's own work does have its time and place and is an important, compassionate avodah ). I paint because when my mind excitedly chooses which color to use next, a little happy bomb goes off in my head. And then another. And another. "Yes! I love this magenta!" my head screams. "Ahhhhh this light shade of turquoise green" , I whisper joyously to myself. "Yellow! Yellow! Use that yellow!" And so on. It's like this whole happy dance party in my head.
I could probably take some more classes and learn different techniques, and that would be good too. But besides the point.
Brush aside any notions that you must be in order to do painting. You don't have to be anything other than a person. Tonight, when your kids are asleep, steal into their art drawer and whip up a little something, enjoying the process and not the product. And if you're super- ambitious, you could enjoy the product as well.
Blogging has become a way for the everyday person to express their inner selves. Painting could become that way too, if only we would let go of those elitist notions. We all have something beautiful to share with the painted-life. What's more, we all have something to gain just from enjoying painting. Let those happy color bombs go off tonight. Let those creative fireworks fly.