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I am Calvin’s mom

Zogwarg

Bathtime

I don’t ever want to be one of these “KIDS, TODAY!” people, because we were all KIDS, TODAY! once, yes?

But I realized that one thing my kids are really cheated out of are newspapers. We consume our news in all kinds of ways – radio snippets, podcasts, online articles, television. However, I recall sitting down with sections of the Sunday paper from when I was in elementary school. I lived in the DC suburbs, so we got the Washington Post. Possibly also the New York Times because my parents are  East Coast liberal elites, despite moving away from it in 1991. I definitely remember reading Parade Magazine, and the Washington Post magazine — Dave Barry’s column! — a gateway for The New Yorker.

And there were the comics. I felt so sorry for people who only got The New York Times. Because no comics.

I feel like the “funny papers” helped me develop my sense of humor. Before Buzzfeed or Cute Emergency were available 24 hours a day, there were daily strips, which parlayed to full-color and fabulous on Sunday. The late 1980s seemed to have really glorious comics for a kid like me, smart and sardonic and constantly feeling like a fish out of water.

It wasn’t just me. My 7th grade English teacher showed up one day with now-famous Far Side “Midvale School for the Gifted” panel, posted it on the board, and laughed about it for the rest of the year. (It was an accelerated English class. Of course it was.)

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As much as this applied to me, Miss M would probably win the prize for this.

Nothing could hold a candle, though, to Calvin & Hobbes. Calvin seemed to contain an entire universe within him. So wise, but all id. Hobbes the long-suffering companion, smarter than his best friend but trapped by his own physical restrictions. It was a siren song for all the junior high school lovelorn kids who confessed their secrets to their dog or cat, or covertly continued to sleep with a stuffed animal. (Who, me? Yeah, me.)

Over time, several Calvin & Hobbes collections accumulated in my library. They moved with me to college, to New York, to Israel. My kids came to love them as much as I did.

I hadn’t opened one in years; my reading time is really reserved for novels. But the other night I picked up The Revenge of the Baby-Sat from my floor (one of my kids had been reading it in my bed and dropped it next to the bed, instead of putting it back on the shelf or on my bedside table, which really tells you a lot about both me and them).

And goodness me, guess who I am? I am Calvin’s mom.

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What parent among us has not tried to civilize a child?

Yes, and no. My kids have never had the streak of maliciousness that Calvin does; I haven’t had to worry for their personal safety in the same way. But wow, the rest is quite identifiable. Tempting to eat a new food, begging to do chores, coaxing to look normal for a photo FOR ONCE, OH MY GOD. Calvin’s mom looks pissed in the middle of the night when summoned to answer philosophical questions or wash clothes (!). She looks resigned when paying the babysitter. She looks startled when she realizes it’s been quiet and she’s been sitting down for too long. She looks determined when she’s prodding Calvin into the bath.

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How evergreen is this?

All of these things are universal parent experiences, but of course, you may have missed it upon your first read at 9 or 12 or 20.

It is a rare gem of pop culture that can be delivered on more than one level. I have always cited Sesame Street as one example, but now I officially appoint Calvin & Hobbes to this firmament.

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Purim, 2 years ago

And, as I was composing this post in my head too late at night, I realized that, yes, dumbbell, I have been Calvin’s mom…for a long time.

 

Part the second, in which Gila and Kate try to be helpful but instead pull back the curtains of their brains and the results are…messy.

Now that we’ve sent you over the edge, we are going to have to pull you back. We will feed you kosher for Pesach snacks and everything. Hope you like palm oil in your chips.

Seriously, we don’t want to leave you with the idea that this is insurmountable. You too, have the ability to make Pesach. (Although if your money tree is more like a grove, you can go to a hotel!)

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For the month of Nisan – evergreen.

Actual Real-Life Tried and Tested Tips

So here are Kate’s tips:

  • Spend 10 minutes mentally scrolling through your regular recipes. Pick out anything that can be made without modifications to ingredients or prep methods. Make those things for Pesach. (This works especially well for soups, salads, and some vegetable sides. Plus plain baked chicken – can’t lose.) (We just make the same dang thing every single year. “Monotony is the spice of life” is a thing you often hear.)
  • Be Israeli or just visit. Even if you are super Ashkenazi and don’t eat anything that was ever kitniyot, you can eat kosher for Passover for Sephardim foods up until the last minute. All the rice cakes and Bamba you could possibly want! Although this distinction is apparently growing in America, 20 years ago on erev Pesach you tended to have options like potato chips and yogurt and ??? (Cottage cheese mixed with that canned fruit cocktail is the stuff of my erev Pesach memories.)
  • Another (bazillion) point for Israel: One Seder
  • I didn’t start seriously making Pesach until 2009 (because we were in a different country than our usual Seder hosts), so only then did I start on the LISTS and the SO MUCH EXTRA STUFF IN BOXES OH DEAR. For a couple of years I was diligent about making notes to myself for the following year. Like in 2012 I noted that I would never, ever, ever find Ashkenazi-acceptable cumin. (Still sad about that.) But I am ultimately more of a fly-by-the-seat of my pants sort of person.
    (Translation: There are many, many extra trips to the store. But now my kids can bike to the local shopping center themselves, so it’s less of an issue.)

Gila’s Tips:

My tried-and-tested shopping list saves me. I just print my list, go online and buy exactly what it says on the shopping list. It doesn’t matter if I don’t understand the list now. I will understand it later. Don’t ever go off list. Don’t ever think, “Oh we don’t need [this item].” Because when you’re doing the all-day cooking marathon, and you don’t have the raisins/5 bottles of oil/hot pepper/5 avocados, you will be sorry. Except for broccoli and cauliflower. Here is a note from my shopping list: “Broccoli & cauliflower – why are we buying this? Don’t buy unless we have specific plan for it.” I think this is in reference to the Year the Vegetables Molded.

(Kate says: Roasted broccoli and/or cauliflower is great! Unless you need that oven for a week straight – rest, plus kasher, plus cook – in which case I can see why these would molder.)

We also have a general “Pesach notes” list that we update every year. Right after chag, we add to the list, writing down what we purchased and what we’ll need for next year. Actual excerpts from the List:

Notes for Pesach 2007:

Stop buying cheese graters! We have 2!

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Are you lonesome tonight?

 

Notes for Pesach 2012:

Remember – large black ladle is fleishig. (Because there I was, staring at this ladle, willing it to unlock the secrets of its kashrut status. Either the chalavi/besari sticker fell off or we stupidly thought, “Of course we’ll remember that! OBVIOUSLY black is besari.” We should have noted at that point that as we have to pause before speaking to our children to get the name right, we clearly cannot be trusted to remember which ladle is the chicken soup ladle.)

Need new peeler (this will become important later)

Notes for Pesach 2013

Still need a new peeler! (Seriously, what is wrong with you… can’t you get one?) (told you it would be important)

Notes for Pesach 2014

Take vegetables out of plastic bags or they will get moldy (the above-mentioned Incident)

Notes for Pesach 2017

Milk pitcher (for heating milk) – it’s just fine, stop complaining. (Sometimes we need to slap our future selves in the face like that.)

The Purim-Pesach Timeline

Gila has a plan.

Here is my timeline of How I Get It All Done:

Immediately after Purim: Oh nonononono, we cannot think about Pesach yet. We must sit and recover from the two-week-long holiday of Purim. Must sit. Must rest. Just for a minu-zzzzzzz.

Week after Purim, Sunday/Monday: Yep, this is the week I start to do stuff. For sure. I unearth my shopping and cleaning lists and spend a few moments with my eyes closed, imagining myself getting it all done. “Mmmmm … pantry … sparkling clean … yep, get under the fridge, wow, that was tough but you did it …  scrub that bit off the countertop there, very good … seder plate is all ready and chicken soup is just about come to a boil … good work, everyone!” Imaginary me is very productive. (Me too! Gila and I are spiritual twins. Real me has been known to leave clean, wet clothes in the washer for…a long while.) I wish she could be real-life me. Real-life me is eating all the good chocolates from Purim before the kids come home.

Week after Purim, Tuesday/Wednesday: What? Did I say I was going to clean something this week? Oh god I’m way too tired to do stuff. What was I thinking? I halfheartedly start perusing the Pesach goods online at Shufersal. Actually, I do one thing – I call the butcher and make my meat order (just going off that list, God bless it). Because I have a recurring Jewish mother nightmare in which I call the butcher and they tell me “Oh no we are ALL OUT OF ALL OF THE THINGS THEY ARE GONE PEOPLE BOUGHT THEM ALL BEFORE YOU NEENER NEENER. Enjoy your cheese sticks!”

Week after Purim, Friday: In a rare burst of energy, drill sergeant me rounds up the kids and we clean out the toy drawers and baskets. The kids fight over using the vacuum and tire of the cleaning process in general after about 5.3 minutes and wander off to their electronic devices or to whack a sibling in the head just cuz. (Also my children have learned how to weasel out of helping: Instead of refusing to do something, they just “In a second, Mom!” me until I give up.) However! They have forgotten that Friday is already Yellingday, and I will not give up, so I just continue to yell till it’s all done and now we’re alllll kvetching crying and yelling. Phew. That was exhausting. While the kids are distracted I help myself to more chocolate. (A much-overlooked benefit of too much screen time: Kids are much more distracted, making it easier to access the chocolates.)

Two weeks after Purim: This is it folks. The buying begins for realz. I start to fill my online shopping cart with one of everything from my list. I like to start with buying stuff. Compared to cleaning stuff, buying stuff is relatively easy and painless, until the credit card bill is due and you realize you may have to sell one of your children to pay for it and then you realize, Omigod! Do you think we can sell all of them???

Week before: Now the “stuff” is getting real. (I am using “stuff” instead of a less nice word, if you catch my drift). I am on my hands and knees, becoming imaginary me from a few short weeks ago. Scrubbing grime off the floor behind the oven. Toothpicking the chairs. Scouring the sinks, pantries, countertops, fridge, freezer, omigod I’m so tired just writing all this I need more coffee. No, a nap. JUST GIVE ME BOTH. But when we reach the point where we are tossing boiling water on our counters (guys this religion is WEIRD, yo), we know the end (of the cleaning, at least) is it sight. Yippee!

 

“She likes me, she really likes me!”

Let me take this minute to say something that may not be quite obvious to those reading this vitriol-filled diatribe: I actually love Pesach. If you asked me – go ahead, do it – what my favorite chag is, I would say, “Pesach.” I actually love the holiday and hosting seder and the moment when you sit down at the table and you’re like “Wow, we made it!” It’s kind of like childbirth, but without the option for an epidural. (Pesach epidural; someone get on that!) I love chol hamoed and family tiyulim with the kinder and eating the special foods, at least until we are sick of them (the foods; the kinder seem to stick around no matter what). But in order to get to the special lovely parts, you gotta yank year-old pretzel crumbs and other unidentified, eww-why-is-this-thing-wet substances from in between your couch cushions.

(Kate’s favorite holiday, though you didn’t ask, is Sukkot.)

So, dear readers, if you’re still reading, I wish you the best of luck in your pre-Pesach cleaning/cooking/yelling endeavors and may we all merit to get to the “Wow we made it!” moment with some of our sanity and all of our matzah balls intact (except for the few we sampled while we were cooking).

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What you’re really sampling during cooking. Not matzah balls.

Kate’s Obsession Trap

Rather than focusing on the list of lists (cleaning, shopping – food, new clothes/shoes, disposable products, what am I missing, I must be missing something, help!), I have my own problem. Almost every year I hyper-focus on THE ONE THING I must do or have to make all the things perfect.

Upon making aliyah, I discovered that I could not get a shankbone for the seder plate for love or money. I think I visited every butcher in my fair suburb. I finally consented to use a chicken wing. Lo and behold, that is what normal people do. I did not have to waste so much time and energy on this.

But I am quite slow in the lessons-learned department.

My must-have this year was something that I never dreamed could have existed. A rabbi wrote a Hogwarts/Harry Potter haggadah. My kids’ “desert island” books would be, I’m sure, the Harry Potter series. So naturally I HAD TO HAVE THIS. Amazon doesn’t deliver here; I couldn’t think of a relative who was coming in this direction before Pesach. So when it was announced that a bookseller in Jerusalem would have copies, I stalked various Facebook feeds.

I was literally the first person in the country to own it, less than 12 hours after it was unboxed. (Shh, my kids still don’t know.) Like drop everything, blow off Friday responsibilities, and go to another city, where I asked the very bemused proprietor for 10 copies to distribute among my people.

Totally normal, yes?

(Note: Because I resolved this issue with OVER TWO WEEKS TO GO, now I am on to curry powder. I need curry powder to make my “magic sweet potato soup.” The magic part is that every person in my immediate family eats it. There is no other vegetable soup that fits this description, and I make many, many kinds of soup. So this soup is important to me. Many elements that make up traditional curry powder are things that Ashkenazim cannot have on Pesach (see above for my annual CUMIN LAMENT), so I am debating making my own mix. But this is of course another shopping trip or six. Let me stew on this for another week or so.)

Now I can get back to the lists. As can you! Happy matzah, friends.

 

In which Kate and Gila procrastinate like a boss. Two bosses.

Note 1: Lest you think we have a giant chip on our collective shoulder, we…might. See our Shabbat takedown.

Note 2: This is not a “how to Pesach,” though there will be some helpful tips for the scatterbrained in our next post. To learn more about the actual laws and customs of the Pesach kitchen, try Chabad or the halachic authority of your choice.

Note 3: Kate is in regular text; Gila is in italics. Except for Gila’s Facebook-related meltdown, which Kate is going to fix with some cookies. (The edible kind, not the Internet kind.)

We have been reminded by Ms. Jamie Geller’s instagram that the festival of Pesach (Passover) is soon approaching. AND YOU SHOULD LOOK YOUR BEST (full makeup, natch) AND GAMIFY EVERYTHING.

Are your cleaning pearls on? ARE THEY???

Not just a plan/prep/cook fiesta, (did you mean fiasco?) Pesach also involves ridiculous amounts of cleaning. As any Jewish authority figure will tell you, there is a wide gulf between dirt, sand, dust, or pet hair and smashed sandwich bites, Cheerios, cracker bits, cookie crumbles, pulverized potato chips, or couscous.

As in, the former list is ok to have around on Pesach; the latter is not. HOWEVER, there are some visual similarities between them. Rather than playing “grain of sand or leftover dried couscous,” (“A game of chance that’s fun for the whole family!”) you spray everything with bleach. Everything. (Even the children. No, especially the children). There’s also an extraordinarily long list of other chores that you’ve probably ignored for the past six to twelve months:

    • Silver polishing
    • Ironing table linens (Not in my house. When is a good time to iron, you ask? At never on your life o’clock.)
    • Scrubbing out the fridge
    • Sorting through the junk drawer* in the kitchen (*drawerS)
    • Cleaning under the kitchen sink
    • Moving the oven and/or fridge to sweep behind it
    • Wiping up the spills in your pantry (this is a good time to get rid of any items that say “Kosher for Pesach 5776” on them)
    • Organizing … anything
    • THE CAR: COULD IT BE ANY MORE GROSS? (omg can we talk about the Car Wash of Shame? When I go with my crumbs-on-wheels and I get a look from the car wash guy? “You need to bring this in more often!” he chides me. The dental hygienist of carwashes. Because in addition to feeling guilty about not nurturing my neshama (see below), I also need to have guilt about not providing for my car sufficiently. Hey buddy, sometimes the twins eat leftover gan cookies they find on the floor and so my car is providing necessary nutrition for my babeez!! What I’m saying is that my car is basically a crockpot.)

 

 

The Giving Tree

But let’s start at the beginning. The day after Purim (which deserves its own post), you must go out and harvest from your money tree.

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Hope you’ve been taking good care of this.

 

Even before you get to the seder, which is two meals in one (two for the price of 15!), and having a “Pesach set” of food items, and a “Pesach set” of kitchen items, the things that make Pesach prep livable cost money. For instance, camp.

“Camp?” you say. “Isn’t camp for summer?” Why, yes. But Israeli kids are out of school for 9-10 days before Pesach even begins. Do you want these endlessly demanding and troublesome short people underfoot as you are trying to work your regular job AND clean all the things? We assure you that you do not. Not. Not.

The people who run these “Pesach camps” are well aware of this and wisely offer to take your elementary-school age kids off your hands for about 5 hours a day. For a price. That price varies from place to place, but as a general rule it is expensive.

“Hey, can you reach the shekels on the highest part of tree, darling? I think they are just about ripe. The kids already used the low-hanging shekels for haimom.” (Haimom = Hey, Mom, can I have 10/20/50 shekel for [it doesn’t matter what is at the end of the sentence, just that you have no cash left.])

More expensive things: Eating regular food the week before Pesach. Because as your available area for prepping, eating, and washing up due to regular meals gets relegated to about one square foot, you are much more likely to say I CANNOT DO THIS ANYMORE WE ARE GOING OUT FOR PIZZA/BURGERS/FALAFEL/BAGELS/SUSHI. (Breakfast is cereal on the porch or front steps in plastic bowls, thank goodness.) You know you’re doing it right when you run into at least 10 people you know every time you do this. (Kids: Yay! We love the week before Pesach! We go out to eat all the time! Parent: [whimper sob])

You’ve Been Doing This For Years; Shouldn’t You Be Organized By Now?

Hahahaha, no. There are planners and panickers. Pick one. (The Planners usually eat kosher for Pesach food for a lot longer, so enjoy those potatoes and eggs!)

I am actually both. My robust shopping/cleaning list that I use from year to year is extraordinarily helpful, yet I ignore it for a good long time (I don’t want to rouse it from its deep slumber in Word) and meander leisurely through the Forest of Procrastination, smelling the flowers (or unwashed children, either way) until I am forcibly ejected into Panic Lake and I do not have a parachute, or whatever you would use to save yourself during a forcible forest ejection and I am not sure what this metaphor is doing anymore, but it’s not helping me toothpick the kitchen chairs, that’s for darn sure.  

But really there is no good way to do this. It’s a huge balagan to swap two kitchens’ worth of things. Unless you’re supremely organized to begin with (mental inventory of freezer, pantry, fridge, cabinets), it’s going to be rough. (Are we missing a way to put a good spin on this? There is just no nice way to have this happen.)

Example:

Mental inventory of freezer: One lone pan of frozen pizza, because we eat them in pairs but one week it got messed up and this poor pan is growing icicles on its “cheese” particles. Plus a few packages of “Oh we had that?”, a container of Freezer Burn and some leftover “We should eat this at some point, prolly.” Also a half a bag of french fries. And some ice pops that have managed to coat everything in stickiness despite being frozen. Oh, you wily ice pops!

Pantry: A box of lasagna noodles with a single noodle in it. A bag of rock-hard raisins. Last Pesach’s potato starch. A few containers of tomato paste that may be older than some of my children. All The Things That Spilled.

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Just hours upon hours of mind-numbing chores until you can bring these babies home! Also requires money tree maintenance for these yummy treats.

Gila’s Facebook Frenzy: An Invitation to Insanity

For me, Pesach starts with some chipper li’l post on Facebook. Usually ridiculously, cruelly early, like waaaaay before the Pesach-is-in-two-weeks mark. “Pesach is coming! Don’t miss this super inspiring workshop about how to make Pesach e-z pee-z!” (Hint: They are lying or going away for Pesach. There’s no e-z, and definitely no pee-z. Instead of going to the workshop, just stay in your pajamas and prepare for Pesach the old-fashioned way: By ignoring everything, watching TV and dripping cookie crumbs into the couch cushions.)

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Be very afraid

Or maybe it’s a Facebook invitation to some sort of spiritual pre-Pesach shiur, in other words, a way for me to feel bad about how all I do is clean/cook/yell, or sometimes cook/clean/yell, or sometimes just yell, and then we get to the seder and I’m like, “Oh right! The Haggadah! The story of Passover! Forgot all about you!”

(Kate studiously avoids any Facebook post with the word “shiur” in it, preferring instead to contemplate others’ parenting dilemmas. Silently problem solving for other families is low-stakes, unless it cuts into Pesach Panic Time.)

So to save my soul, these lofty women want me to come to some sort of pre-Pesach shiur so we can sit together and learn things and make our seders meaningful and increase our general spiritualness. The problem is I have sort of forgotten how to be spiritual. The closest I get to communing with God is invoking His name while parenting my blessings: “Ohmigod!!!!! STOP FIGHTING AND OR COLORING ON THE WALL!” [depending which children I’m speaking to] I’m not entirely sure He appreciates being dragged into our family fights like that, actually. (“Please leave Me out of this! Just put the markers out of reach, for gosh sakes!”) Oh, and I do take a moment when I light candles before Shabbat (who am I kidding, on Shabbat) to thank Him for allowing us all to survive each other for another week and seeing if He’ll be so kind as do it again next week, but there’s not much more time for convo with God because by this point the twins are helping themselves to the matches.

 

So I blame Facebook for my pre-Pesach panic. By the time we’ve hit that two-week-before mark, Facebook is in full-blown Pesach mode. The shiurim, the “where can I donate food?” posts, the pre-Pesach camp options, the apologists (who are Planners but want to seem like Panickers so the true Panickers won’t stone them with tiny Facebook pebbles (please someone, make tiny Facebook pebbles a thing) “I know it’s still early, but I’ve done all my shopping ….” — THWAP!) and the actual Planners who are sharing their menus (THWAP! THWAP!) …

Well, it cannot be avoided. The time has come for me to … think about thinking about Pesach.

[Pause]

Done.

Soon to come: Even more March Madness: Pesach edition

 

 

In these trying times …

…it is a relief that the natural world doesn’t care for politics.

…it is a relief that rain and sun just do what they do.

…it is heartening that flowers can be cheerful and coexist.

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Happy February, everybody. Take a walk outside.

American Struggles Are Enough

Like a lot of Americans, worldwide, I have been pretty fired up over the 2016 election and its repercussions.

I am not going to sit here and get snotty over my socialized healthcare for all citizens while I know people who depend on the ACA to cover their pre-existing conditions or mental health care, or Planned Parenthood for their pap smears or family planning.

I am watching in horror as freedoms seem to be literally eroding before the eyes of the world, as the press is under attack and Russian interference seems to be like a sniffle – something that is pesky for a day until you have some tea and shake it off.

It feels like there are too many points under fire to list. The women’s march this past weekend highlighted so many – wage gap, rape culture & sexual assault, affordable health care, shady business practices, public education, climate change, the arts, treatment of people of color and religious minorities and queer people.

I want to be there, invited in to protest. I knitted a hat and everything.

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What my poster would have said, had I marched.

But then the images and words from the marches come rolling in. And what do you know, the “Free Palestine” narrative showed up. Just like it did in the platform of Black Lives Matter.

I want to be 100% behind the women’s march and BLM. They will help bring change and bring attention to people who are marginalized.

But I can’t readily shoot myself in the foot. The “Free Palestine” movement is connected with entities that are disinterested (/understatement) in a two-state solution. They would FAR prefer a one-state solution. (Hint: Israel isn’t it.)

Free Palestine talks a lot about Israeli oppression (which can and does exists – there are serious security issues), but seemingly not at all about Palestinian oppression of its own people at the hands of corrupt governments (like Hamas or Fatah) or Palestinian oppression at the hands of other Arab governments (such as Jordan or Syria).

So why is the Palestinian narrative worming its way into these American protests? (Which isn’t to say that all of the issues of the women’s march, racism, violence, and more don’t exist outside of America. But there is a lot of cultural nuance in different places.)

I don’t know. It is a beloved left-wing cause, seemingly more than other struggles for independence. (Would these same Americans throw themselves behind Biafrans, for example, who also want their own state, have a regional language and religion? Is the Free Biafra narrative strong enough?)

But anyway, my point is that America has its own racial, religious, economic, and educational injustices happening. Some for many, many years. There is no need to pick up a snazzy slogan about a complex international conflict that officially reaches back 100 years to boost left-wing credibility. This is not a time to divide American Muslims from American Jews with this narrative, although many liberal-leaning Jews have simply washed their hands of the Israeli idea and left it to the right-wing Republicans. (It is a weird thing, to be honest, because the mix of liberalism, socialism, and Sharia here should make Republicans’ hair stand on end. I DO NOT UNDERSTAND THIS. Don’t they know we have high taxes, national insurance, and abortion? And queer people?)

My own feelings about Palestinian statehood are so complex I’ve literally shared them with nobody.

I want no part of the simpering movement to bring the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.*

But I’m still a Zionist, and an Israeli, and a Jew, and a woman. I am also an American. I don’t think I would be altogether safe in the current America, where a neo-Nazi has the ear of a misogynistic and narcissistic president.

So can’t we be in this together?

* (The capital of Israel is Jerusalem; who cares where some buildings are? Tel Aviv / Herzliya has the beach, so I understand the motivation. Let’s believe Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the rest who are loudly mulling revenge if this were to happen. People I love are in Jerusalem all the time, and I don’t want to worry about them more than I already do.)

 

 

The last year has felt like the world has been tilting wildly and weirdly, and often not in good ways.

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The first six months were emotionally tortuous, as we applied to high schools for Miss M. Her brightness and quirkiness have not diminished over time, and her official Aspergers diagnosis from a couple of years ago was refreshed by a new round of professionals. There didn’t seem to be a school that suited her within commuting distance. Not having an answer to “where is she going for seventh grade?” as May 1, then June 1, rolled past was…stressful. As usual, I dealt with my stress by not sleeping much.

The school question was finally settled, then RESETTLED at a different place OMG LIFE ARE YOU TRYING TO KILL ME? just in time to deal with the final birth pangs of her bat mitzvah. (Which was, admittedly, super great .)

Then the whole election debacle-slash-world-upside down. I still have a lot of anger about this, which spills over into things like discussing with Taxman in front of the kids why I shouldn’t call him a rapist in front of the kids but sexual assaulter is ok because he’s admitted it. Incoming president of the United States. I just. (For my utter bewilderment, see my Twitter feed.)

Also not a lot of sleeping happening in October and November. Because time zones, and who is driving this plane; are we crashing?

So when an acquaintance announced on Facebook that she was going to run an eight-week knitting for beginners class, I said please, please pick me!

Knitting was something my mom did, and my aunt. I have no idea where they learned – maybe their grandmother? (I certainly never saw MY grandmother with knitting needles in her hands, unless by knitting needles you mean cigarette or gin and tonic.) When I was old enough to have enough patience to learn (an early attempt had been quickly shelved), my brother was a baby and then a toddler. I think my mom, who worked full time, put away her own knitting for years.

As an adult, I’ve realized I have a ton of friends who knit, enough so that I felt I was really missing out on a generational experience.

So I’m learning now.

I’m not as terrible as I thought I’d be, although I’ve managed to break two sets of not-great circular needles.

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But I’m being propped up, sometimes literally, by Miss M, the ringer I drive to knitting class. (The kids’ class didn’t fit with her schedule.) She’s a natural at this stuff, if a little overly ambitious, so has saved my ass many times with her nimble fingers and multiple crochet hooks. She can’t really keep up with the “bitch” element of the class (a lot about parent teacher meetings and planning bar mitzvahs), but she’s spot on with the “stitch” part.

So that’s a skill I’m hoping to take with me into 2017 and beyond. I’m seeing the beginning of how it becomes A Thing – beautiful yarns, complex patterns, different equipment, but at the same time a way to really turn off the world and concentrate on what’s literally directly in front of you.

I’ll be here with my in-house knitting coach, hoping to finish my hat before winter ends. (In the meantime, I had to buy myself fingerless gloves because we keep the house at like 60 degrees.)

PS This blog turned 11 today! Crazy.

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Seven years, two months, two weeks, and three days ago, I got on a plane with my family.

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We had eight suitcases, containing clothes and shoes, linens, toys, books, laptops. Everything we would need to sustain us until the rest of our things – our beloved dining room set, bookcases, kitchen items, even more books and toys – arrived at our new home, that we had previously selected and rented. We had assistance on the ground from family and friends as we got through what I jokingly deemed “the worst vacation ever – we’re spending it in banks and offices.”

But my immigration story is not like many stories. It started in safety and comfort and ended in safety and comfort. I have two passports. My new government offers me money for my children, gives me health insurance at affordable rates, and allows me many freedoms.

My old government also allowed me many freedoms. I lived there in safety, had jobs and friends and a place to live. I worshiped as I pleased. Privilege can cross continents.

This isn’t about me.

This is about the people who are fleeing for their lives because their countries are literally burning down around them.

This is about the people whose religion, gender, race, orientation, political affiliation, or status are persecuted in their hometowns.

The people who just want to be able to see the sun and walk around without fear of being hurt. Who want to be able to get a job and put food on the table. To practice their religion, raise kids, love, learn, and live.

While my privilege as an immigrant is so obvious it’s nearly blinding, I think these are some things that I share with other immigrants:

  • I want to “do right” by my new country.
  • I want to serve it.
  • I want to make it better.
  • I see its flaws, but I am nevertheless so happy to be a part of it.
  • I want my children to be a part of it, to be fully fluent in its language and culture in a way I will never be.
  • I want to be from here, not see this place as a way station.

The idea that immigrants, especially people who are seeking refuge, are poison is poisonous to me.

#nevertrump