muddy puddles

Our four year-old local granddaughter said that over and over the other day. It was not quite an appropriate term to use for the mixture of the water puddle created by ISHI washing our car, with our granddaughter throwing sand from a nearby construction site to the puddle. She was insistent in her use, and I later realized it comes from Peppa Pig, a show she is allowed to watch online, mostly as an electronic babysitter every once in a while. She was having the grandest of times, throwing sand that ended up, of course, defeating the purpose of cleaning the car. But c’est la vie. Clean never lasts for more than a second.

And it led me to a great insight, much bigger than the cleanliness issue.

It was about my mother. Her yahrzeit was yesterday, the anniversary of her death 11 years ago already, so I have been thinking about her a lot. I had noticed that the holiday closest to the passing of a person always informs about that person. I guess that’s why there is something particularly holy about someone who is born and dies around the same time, beyond a sense of completion of a cycle, but also a deep connection to the season. My mother died two days after Shavuot, when we commemorate the giving of the Torah. My mother never had much of an education of any sort, and certainly wasn’t given a Jewish education, which went to her brothers only (not that they did anything particular with it, either). So the drive for knowledge must signify something different for her, in my memory, at least.

What my mother taught me, today, 11 years after she passed, was her ability to handle the muddy puddles. She didn’t care about pretenses. She did care about propriety, but she knew quite enough to know not to put on airs. What you knew, you knew. What you were, you were. She knew enough fakers to keep as far away as possible, and she knew that nothing was guaranteed. If you did not please her, she would let you know, although often without speaking.

Apparently, I have inherited that from her.

Most of all, she had no need for protection from the Imposter Syndrome that I fall prey to, because she was in no way pretending that she was anything other than who she was. She tried to “better herself” by going to classes, but that was not because she had to prove anything to anyone but herself. She had to catch up with all the opportunities she wasn’t given. I don’t think she was bitter about it; it just was. (I wrote about her pursuit of travel here.) But she didn’t muddy anything about.

I am grateful for her sincerity, that she knew she shouldn’t/couldn’t/and really wouldn’t want to compete for the spotlight. Those around her who did burned out quickly enough. And yet…

Not that I’m looking for the spotlight, either! But I must admit I haven’t found my comfort level with the whole imposter syndrome. I often enough wonder about my successes, whether indeed I have worked hard enough for them. But I also get frustrated when I see so many other people who I would call frauds enjoy unwarranted success. So maybe really I’m the Imposter Police, with no power and no ability even to say the emperor’s not wearing any clothes…

Would you believe that there is a test you can take to find out if you “suffer from imposter syndrome”? There seem to be many, but this was the one I had seen last year in Science of Us column of NY Magazine.

Here’s the funny part of it all. Today I read another article on the same site: “Pretending You’re Someone Else Can Make You More Creative.

Are we searching for Creativity or Honesty? I certainly know what my mother would have answered, just by looking at her face.

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Status qvo

Or, if you prefer,

סְטָטוּס קְווֹ

Boy, that Wikipedia is wicked smaht:

Status quo is a Latin phrase meaning the existing state of affairs, particularly with regards to social or political issues.[1] In the sociological sense, it generally applies to maintain or change existing social structure and values.[2] With regards to policy debate, the status quo refers to how conditions are at the time and how the affirmative team can solve these conditions.

It is the nominal form of the prepositional Latin phrase “in statu quo” – literally “in the state in which”, which itself is a shortening of the original phrase in statu quo res erant ante bellum, meaning “in the state in which things were before the war”. To maintain the status quo is to keep the things the way they presently are. The related phrase status quo ante, literally “the state in which before”,[3] means “the state of affairs that existed previously”.[3]

Someone who I don’t see that often saw me last Friday evening. “You’ve lost weight, haven’t you?”

Um, “no.”

“But your face, it looks much thinner.”

How to answer this? Sorry I didn’t know how fat I looked/or/Did you really think I looked that bad that now I look better, even though, for sure, I haven’t lost an ounce, nor do I even bother; just keep on truckin’?/or/Thank you and leave it at that.

I said thank you and left it at that.

I realize that she does it to get the upper hand in a conversation, to disarm someone, so to speak. I didn’t want to play along, so I tried not to engage there. I had tried to wish her a mazal tov on her new granddaughter, putting us on the same level. She would have none of that. But it begs the question of what level do I want to be on?

We have entered into the second half of our first year in Israel full steam ahead, working hard on checking off the things on the to-do list.

  • learning Hebrew–our Ulpan actually ends at the end of February, so now we have to use the street studio method of learning (although yesterday, in class, we learned that parasite is basically the same in English, Hebrew, and Russian!)
  • converting our drivers’ licenses (it sounds weird, but it actually is weirdly accurate, going through the paces and getting rejected, as one is supposed to have done when trying to convert to Judaism)
  • and looking for a place to live, longer-term

Each step is necessary in making things work here. The way we have scheduled our lives, we do have to do a bit of driving around the country, pretty much as itinerant preachers/teachers, so we require flexibility in that respect. And flexibility is perhaps the overriding theme here. Once again, we are learning about ourselves to know what is important, what is essential, and what would just be nice.

Speaking to people and understanding people (maybe even more than speaking!) is essential. So, when we were at a meeting yesterday with someone with American parents, we stuck to Hebrew. He needs to practice his English, but he can do it with someone else. And when we don’t know something, we ask.

That is a good quality to keep.

Now, in terms of the housing, we are asking ourselves many questions.

  • Do we value quiet over busyness?
  • Do we want light, space, room, views, over convenience?
  • How important is it to stay with the community we have started to get to know?
  • Will we feel comfortable in the synagogue that will pretty much be just a place to pray and not a community? Will I be able to say kaddish for my mother there, for example?
  • Should we be smart and cautious, thinking of when our knees won’t want to do steps, or should we take the chance to have breathtaking views every day?
  • And of course, how much money should we sink into a house, or should we be smart and save?

Now, we can’t go back to how it was before the war. What is our new normal and how do we embrace it, with our broken Hebrew and all?

what the hashtag is it all about

what the hashtag is it all about

I started an Instagram account because I wanted to follow some photographers who had been mentioned in a few places. Or maybe it was a contest for travel that I wanted to enter. Or some combination. And I started also because it was a distraction from my lost and broken camera. For whatever reason, you can only post via smartphone, so I would take my photos and post them along.

Only a few people saw them at first, which made sense, slow learning curve and all. Part of which consisted of me applying hashtags to my photos. I don’t know what draws people to different sites. Me? It’s when a general site features a photographer who I admire, so then I follow that photographer as well. But the hashtags turn out to be fun, especially doing them in English and Hebrew. After all, I found this photo of the outside of my house by searching for #tzfat, or was it #צפת?

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Looking back at my work, I think I have improved. But, as here, what is appreciated by the public is not what I value the most. That’s okay, since I do know that the game on Instagram is to “follow” someone in order to draw them to follow in return.

I am following the advice given freely by who knows who to do something artistic every day.

Wait a sec–

Oooh, I like this one:

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep
Scott Adams

The next step is that I sometimes have chosen to showcase some of the Instagram photos on Facebook. And that’s where the title of this post comes in.

This is the response to a photo of us with our Israel kiddies that I sent my father:

Very good photo and a very good print.
I forgot to ask.  In your last letter, Why did you need so many #   #   #  ?  Take care . Love, Dad
I will mention here that my father is (poo-poo, kanna hara) 91 years young.
He gets overwhelmed with computers and technology on a regular basis. He also has more confidence that I will know how to fix things than I do, especially since he is working on a 9 year-old Mac, and I do PC. I wouldn’t even start to tell him how I downloaded it from a WhatsApp group photo. I guess I’m somewhat amazed that I can figure these things out, to a point.
My father also claims that every single ad in the LA Times is about hearing aids, which frustrates him to no end because his doesn’t work effectively, and his doctor says there’s nothing to be done about it. I cannot effectively prove to him that the reason he is noticing the various ads is due to his frustration, not the reality. So I understand that what is salient to him is what he cannot control. So we look for things he can control; being with people, enjoying people.
We ran into our neighbor Ima Esther yesterday on our way to a meeting. You don’t tell Ima Esther that you are late; you stand patiently while she tells you about her daughter who finally got permission to move away (not really sure what was the delay and where she went, but I didn’t want to start asking questions that would make us later than we already were), and a few other things. Her often-repeated phrase is ?מה לעשות; What can you do? in the most existential Camus (North African, after all) manner.
Que peut-on faire?
But here, of course, is the point:

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Because the 84 year-olds and the assorted under-the-attachment to technology kiddies will show you in a heartbeat what really matters. But you need them both.

On my way back home today, I was stopped by an older man who was whistling. He asked me,

“Is it okay for me to ask you a question?”

“Of course,” I answered, just a bit skeptically.

“What happened to your smile? Did you lose it?”

Of course, I smiled in return. It was a lovely way to get me to react, as opposed to how others have tried to impose a smile on my face in the past…

I told him I would be very happy to let my father know what he said.

He added, “After all, it says

Serve G-d in happiness; come before Him in singing.

 “עִבְדוּ אֶת-ה בְּשִׂמְחָה;    בֹּאוּ לְפָנָיו, בִּרְנָנָה

And he went whistling along the path.

the power of invisibility

for good and for bad.

I realize now that the same way I needed to have a physical barrier protecting me from the world to keep up a literal facade of privacy in our old American home is why I can be so comfortable being on a main thoroughfare of Tzfat today.

Yes, the physical was a row of trees, and nothing is so main in Tzfat, but the point is that I was supposed to be somebody there as the rabbi’s wife, and now I am comfortable being nobody. Privacy is over-rated, especially since it’s impossible.

But invisibility?

I recently finished reading what I thought would be a lite book that would be a pleasant interlude from this awfully brusk world. I am pleased to say that it was lovely and important enough for me to look for more of the author, Jeanne Ray, for further reading.

The book is called Calling Invisible Women. I won’t give away the plot, but you can figure out that it has something (or a lot) to do with more than one woman feeling/being invisible. It’s quite a delightful exploration of a category of women who may feel put aside, as they get older, not really visible to their families, disappearing into their roles as mothers/wives/caretakers. But she develops the story well to be one of empowerment, so bully for her.

I was happy to have it turn out that way, since I have been feeling very invisible, as a woman of a certain age, and having done this move across the world, out of my comfort zone, re-establishing myself, and yet…

My SIL was concerned for me, after this election mess in the states, that I was going to be as depressed as all these other people, mourning and a’cryin’; I had let him know in no uncertain terms how this new president-elect is a bully of the worst kind, and that the US and the world deserve someone who is a better person. I still feel that way, but I’m also glad I am here in Israel and not living in the states anymore. I was not going to let it bother me, because that would mean he won. And so I will not let his way take over my consciousness.

I thought it was more than unnerving, however, that the glass ceiling remained intact on the commemoration of Kristallnacht

and Lam Woon-kwong from the South China Morning Post writes:

Seventy-eight years on, right on US soil, the candidate who openly exploited racial and religious conflicts has just been elected president. It does beg the question: have we learned from Kristallnacht?

Perhaps more than invisibility is the danger of not being heard. And the combination of both is overwhelming. The they say that people voted for this guy because they felt they weren’t being heard by the establishment. Pity those who think it’s going to be any different now. And people justifying the rioting because they are different from the other side, who promised to riot? Really, this is the only way they think they will be heard?

I, too, recognize my need to be heard. I have used blogging as a way to get responses. When I was posting as an angry woman with my first blog, people responded. When I tried my hand as a wise woman, some still did. Now, as someone who has tried to move into another country, change perspectives by literally changing my life, not so much. People sometimes like my photos; my Instagram account gets likes from people all over the world; but here, again, radio silence. I guess it shouldn’t matter, but I would be lying if I said it didn’t.

Today, someone who knows us here expressed awe of us getting things done on the outside,whereas she sits inside an office, feeling powerless. Of course, this is when I get lumped in with my husband, who is the do-er. I am the power in the booth, perhaps. But it’s not my voice that gets projected. So is this true power or not? This remains open-ended.

Sort of like why did this bird not cross the road?

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why doesn’t he join his friends and family?

keep dancing

We continue to attack our boxes slowly slowly. You wouldn’t know we’re making progress, if you came into our house. I’m in a bit of a panic because I’m nervous that someone we know might want to come into the house to join us in the Klezmer Festival (do you watch or listen to a musical performance?) and wander into a forbidden room in search of a bathroom and never come out…

No, the house isn’t that big, by any means. We are trying to keep one room as the Dark Room, and that’s not for developing photos. The only windows are to other rooms, not to outside, the overhead light isn’t working and the lights that do work are ‘way on the other side of the room, blocked by massive amounts of boxes.

Except that I went into that room yesterday to look for certain items (where are my pillowcases? Where is ISHI’s pillow?) and started tackling it. So it’s not finished, by any means, nor are any of the other rooms done.

The kitchen is not bad; only two, no, three boxes, okay four boxes remain. One of them is a very large wardrobe box that needs to be moved into the Dark Room. So, yes, we need to make space in there for that. One step forward, one step back. A puzzle, like those sliding puzzles we used before the onslaught of personal computers/smartphones.

But really, it’s a new dance to accompany the music. Yes, let’s say that.

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Yes, a bit blurry. I was dancing, too, you see.

How fantastic is this? The music was jumping; the young people all around us were jumping (literally); and he was up out of his seat doing his thing. He’ll live longer than the rest of us because he clearly knows how to make the most of his days. We were enjoying Aharon Raizel and Daniel Zamir playing and singing and yes, playing, but working very hard to bring happiness and joy to so many. Yes, I see that the faces around this happy gentleman are not so reflective of that. But look at the variety of people! And they were the lucky ones to get seats.

Yes, the older people looked for seats; the young people were happy to stand and yes, dance.

Stand and dance. Stand and dance. Stand and dance.

Jules Feiffer‘s dancers, anyone?

or

(quoting myself quoting the song “Come From the Heart” by Susanna Clark and Richard Leigh

You’ve got to sing like you don’t need the money
Love like you’ll never get hurt
You’ve got to dance like nobody’s watchin’
It’s gotta come from the heart if you want it to work.

 Or from Anne Lamott on Facebook:

You know the famous Footprints image, where, in heaven, a person sees their footprints in the sand? My pastor mentions the times where there are two sets of prints, where we’re walking with a power of Something–love energy, let’s say– and the times where there is just one set, where that love energy, carries us when things are too hard. But Veronica also mentions a third pattern, of crazy squiggly bouncy lines. The person, looking them over with God asks, “Oh, and what were those times? And God says, “Those were when we danced.”

the dolls have come home

Opening all the boxes is a process I understand will take much longer than packing them. And I have learned and I really really get that we need much less than what we have to get along just fine. As I have said before, there are just a few things that I want to locate to make me feel at home.

Oh, maybe I didn’t say that exactly, but I’m saying it now. This is the process; finding out what is essential and what is valuable and what is delightful.

One of the things that I wanted to locate was a basket of dolls and stuffed animals that my mother bought as gifts to my kids while she was traveling around the world. She had decided to become a travel agent at one point later in her life to give her the opportunity and the wherewithal to do this kind of grand travel. My father never has forgiven himself that he did not go with her more often; she chose not to wait for him, which was one of the ways she showed her wisdom.

My kids were not really appreciative of the dolls at the time. Or they were as much as they could, since they weren’t really the kind that you could play with. They were from China, Japan, South America (Peru, probably), Germany, Russia, Spain, India,

not even sure where some of these are, truly.

I did try to hand them off to the grandkids. And the Aussiettes really did connect to them, until they broke some of them and I realized that, no, these are just dust collectors and should just sit on the shelf somewhere.

And that’s when I realized they should sit on my shelf somewhere.

In Israel.

My mother was very proud of being Jewish; she would not have thought to move to Israel because she knew that the language barrier would be too much for her, but she was supportive of my sister when she and her family went, and she was supportive of the grandchildren (well, the 2 that she was aware of) going to learn there, and she was the one who insisted on visiting our daughter when she was there when ISHI was undergoing chemo and we couldn’t travel. The supreme irony was that she had already had some kind of stroke earlier that year that the doctors didn’t detect; they called it a Parkinson’s onset; and that she would suffer a larger debilitating stroke the week after ISHI finished radiation. And that when we were going to go visit the kids in Israel a few years after that, she said, in her broken way, she wanted to go with us.

So, Mom, this is the way that you get to go with us.

The dolls have been located and the dolls are here at home.

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work in progress

In my mother’s honor and in her memory and in honor and memory of all those who would have come home if they had the chance. And that this be the last Tisha B’Av, where we mourn the destruction, and we build something awesomely new.

:תְּקַע בְּשׁופָר גָּדול לְחֵרוּתֵנוּ. וְשא נֵס לְקַבֵּץ גָּלֻיּותֵינוּ. וְקַבְּצֵנוּ יַחַד מֵאַרְבַּע כַּנְפות הָאָרֶץ. בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה’, מְקַבֵּץ נִדְחֵי עַמּו יִשרָאֵל

Blow the great shofar for our freedom, and gather us from the four corners of the earth. Blessed are You, G-d, who gathers the remnants of His people Israel.

I have everything 

Like Avraham who was blessed with everything, Yitzhak from everything, and Yaakov everything.

כְּמוֹ שֶׁנִּתְבָּרְכוּ אֲבוֹתֵינוּ אַבְרָהָם יִצְחָק וְיַעֲקב, בַּכּל. מִכּל. כּל. כֵּן יְבָרֵךְ אוֹתָנוּ כֻּלָּנוּ יַחַד בִּבְרָכָה שְׁלֵמָה. וְנאמַר אָמֵן

 (from Birkat HaMazon, Blessing after the Meal)

But I have to figure out what to do with it all…

I found my phone charger. It was in plain sight, really, just blocked by two enormous boxes. I have a new Kindle on its way from America, already loaded up with new books (Book Bub!). I have no camera, but a mystery to solve of what became of it, and what will become.

My friend asked if we are making new friends. I found a handyman who helped us with putting some of our furniture together. By the time he left the other day, we felt like we could depend on him. He told us to consider him a friend.

He cut himself pretty deeply while using ISHI’S pocketknife. He asked for coffee grounds and asked me to put a spoonful in his hand. He dipped his finger into the grounds for a few minutes until the bleeding slowed down.

חכמת סבתא, he called it. Chochmat Savta; Wisdom of the grandmother. I listened. This is part of what I need to learn, since I never really knew my grandmothers. I’ve been making it up as I go along myself.

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from Beit HaMeiri, Tzfat
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See more about this museum here at https://olddogwitholdtricks.wordpress.com/2015/07/02/technical-difficulties/

He told me how, when he was a youngster and he fell out of a tree right before Shabbat, cutting himself right above his eye, his mother calmly took turmeric and put it as a compress on the cut. On Sunday, she took him to the doctor to get it stitched up.

Yup, turmeric and coffee both check out. I think I’d avoid using glass, though.

I don’t need most of the glasses I brought. I don’t need all the coffee mugs, either, so  I repacked them away; I certainly don’t want to wash all the glasses that I have unpacked; I’m the dishwasher, so I will have pity on me. Fair warning to those guests who visit us during this next year of transition; we will use disposable. Lord knows I brought enough of those…

I’m not even opening the good dishes, although I would like to know where are my candlesticks. My knife block was in a box marked”office supplies”. So it’s anyone’s guess.

ISHI did find our new living room rug! It was marked “MBR”. How would the movers have known it was for the living room, if that’s where they found it? Any metaphors come to mind? Yes, no sweeping anything under anywhere.

We went to a funeral on Sunday. This was not a terror incident; this was a simple tragedy, if anything was simple about it. A young man, 26 years old, on his way home right before Shabbat after going to the mikveh, was hit and killed. A pure soul, in all senses of the word. He was on his way to getting engaged soon, to another pure soul who we also know. The father, upon seeing his never-to-be daughter-in-law, broke down even further than he already had been.

His grandfather and his mother was extraordinarily calm at the funeral. The grandfather spoke first in what would turn out to be a 2 1/2 hour funeral, not counting the burial. He spoke without notes, not missing a single one, sending his grandson off to his world-to-come with poetry, with dignity. The mother stayed at everyone’s side, dignified and steadfast. Someone who went to see them at the shivah house mentioned that she has learned the same method of focusing that she has studied; and she was already connecting to her son in his world-to-come.

No, I am so very grateful I already have enough mysteries to last a lifetime.