I am a little worked up over the Bad Art Friend piece. Two writers who have made questionable life decisions were mean to each other in an escalating fashion, and we all got to watch – unless you blessedly chose not to read this piece, go with God.

More successful (i.e., recognized and paid) writers than EITHER of these women had a lot of hot, allegedly funny takes on Twitter, “demanding” that their small donations to charity or small kindnesses to someone else be acknowledged. Hilarious. (Not hilarious.)

But leaving all of the drama, and there is much of it, aside, nobody should forget: a very minor character in this story got a kidney from a living donor.

I think that people don’t really have a great understanding of what this means. I don’t, fully, since I was only on the donor side. But in general – if the transplant is successful – this means that someone who is ill enough to be on dialysis will not need it again for a period of years.

Dialysis is amazing; it is literally lifesaving. It removes the blood and cleans it as the kidneys would and returns it to the body. But once someone’s kidney function is low enough to need dialysis, it’s not a casual thing. It is multiple times a week in a hospital for multiple hours each time. It causes great stress on the body. It is exhausting. Some people have “lived” on dialysis for many years, but it is risky and nobody’s first choice. A big “step forward” for dialysis was when patients were able to be dialyzed in their own home – but this literally ties them to a bed for 8-10 hours in a 24 hour period. There can be no deviation.

So while it saves lives in a very real way, dialysis is meant to be temporary. The ultimate solution is a donor kidney.

Deceased donor kidneys generally do not last as long as living donor kidneys.

Deceased donors are rarer than you might think, about 10,000 Americans in 2017.

In 2018 there were 6,442 living kidney donors in the US.

But there are more than 100,000 Americans waiting for a kidney, at last count. Probably more now, as COVID has affected kidneys as well as other solid organs (heart, lungs).

So the math here, frankly, sucks.

Kidneys are in short supply. The need is great. Perhaps you can understand how the entire concept of living donation being derided or minimized because of one donor’s personality flaws is…horrifying? Enraging? to me and a lot of other people. Seriously, forget these cries for therapy and zero in on this tiny success story.

There are thousands of stories of kidney donors, all of whom have their own sets of good and bad points, like every person. I am sure I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. Not everyone agreed with my decision to donate. I still changed someone’s life for the better. I didn’t demand adulation for it – I don’t really need to, because I have some lovely friends who to this day (today, in fact, at Pilates) introduce me to people by saying “This is OneTiredEma, she donated a kidney to a stranger!” – but I am ABSOLUTELY going to talk about it and ask you, internet friends and strangers, to think about it a couple of times a year.

I want it to feel like a slightly more complex blood donation. Takes more time and testing to get ready, and you only get to do it once, but it feels “normal” and “achievable,” for very many more people.

Even if you’re over 40. Or 50. Or 60. Even if you’re not in the best shape. Even if you drink a glass of wine with dinner. Even if you eat red meat. Even if you’re addicted to caffeine. Even if you curse. Even if you don’t return your library books on time. Even if you don’t like dogs. (This is a little questionable, but I’ll let it go.) Even if you read People magazine. Et cetera. It’s not an audition for an elite institution or MENSA or a third date or your dream job.

Just think on it.

Indeed, you probably are

(If you are inclined to read my story of donation, typing “kidney” in the search box will bring up links to the posts. The initial five are numbered and linked; a few random follow ups appeared later.)


I never know how to start again, these irregular posts that come bubbling to the surface.  So, hi, I guess.

Black and white photo. Old fashioned rotary phone with the receiver off the hook.
(Don’t call me. I only accept memes and emojis.)

(I was going to say “Hi!” but that seems aggressively cheerful and overly demanding for 2021. Instead: Hey, I hope you are alive. Breathing in and out. Occasionally able to sleep. Feeding yourself. A nice warm shower from time to time. Coffee.)

Anyway, I have recently figured out that something might be wrong with me. Not a physical thing but potentially a mental thing? I think the kids these days – and by kids I mean millennials who are about seven years younger than me – are calling it functional depression. Now, I have played this game before, about four (five?) years ago. But then I was ANGRY. So angry. Just unspeakable rage at everyone and everything.

(I did see someone, who was lovely, and encouraged me to be brave enough to make some changes and be more impervious to criticism from certain corners. It helped, and enough situations were modified that I did not continue to see her.)

I still have that rage, but it’s been overlaid by hopelessness. I mean, have you seen….*gestures*? (Getting The Angry Yam out of office was fantastic, but it’s like when you uproot a poisonous mushroom and get spores everywhere.) Extreme weather, extreme people, viral air. Anti-vaxxers, anti-maskers, anti-Zionists.

But I am FINE, basically. I got a third vaccine! My kids are vaccinated! They have not whispered one word of protest about masks! We have jobs! Our synagogue checks vaccine passports! We don’t have to fly anywhere!

We are alive.

So what’s all this? Why am I on here saying I am functionally depressed? Well, I realized that I have ceased to feel much of anything. The undercurrent of rage, mixed with hopelessness, is there – perhaps these two things are effectively blocking other emotions. I think. I don’t know; I’m not a professional. But I will say that I can express in words a lot of outrage but can’t match it with actions. I can’t cry. I can’t really be happy. I can barely cook food, wash dishes, or exercise. (Really, thank god for the idiot dog I walk every night or I’d get into bed at 3 or 4 or whenever my kids needed me to stop driving them places. Just lie down and doomscroll until late at night. Then have insomnia.) Reading fiction is hard. Concentrating at work is hard.

But the world isn’t stopping. It stopped in 2020 – and then we were lucky to get vaccinated, and now we have to pretend that everything is fine? (World: Yes! Be fine! We can’t enforce masking and some more people are going to die, but probably not you! Probably! It’s fine!)

This is the continuation of pandemic fine, where I am (probably?) physically ok but a mental shitshow. I am going to take care of that later. It feels like it should be later already! It’s not later, though, despite everyone pretending that things are normal. Sitting outside at a café with your mask around your neck is an extremely thin veneer of normal. But it’s what I have.

So The Great Disconnect is upon me. I’ve been to three weddings this summer. The last one was my kidney recipient. I was feted at this wedding. (I was positively appalled to be the center of attention for one second; it was not my intention, I am nobody’s angel. But.) I was so flustered I lost my ability to speak any Hebrew whatsoever, but realized later I was really just going through the motions of happiness. I watch tiktok videos of a very funny and sweetly sarcastic guy whose tagline is “Find Your Joy!” – but how? I have completely lost touch with that part of me.

I could go back to therapy, but I am just not special. We’re all here. Right? I am not alone in my absolute disillusionment with happiness? It’s ephemeral and worthless and just something else to get taken away. Everything is ACTUALLY terrible, just less terrible for me as a white person of means.

I would like to get my compassion back, though. I miss it. It made me a better person.

Is this the bad place?

Well, here we are again. Conflict with Gaza. Three thousand rockets in nine days. Because a fleeting taste of normal life, with in-person school, synagogue, and group exercise classes as we emerged from coronavirus anxiety, was too much to handle.

Signs of the times: directions to the bomb shelter overshadow the coronavirus safety requirements (Modiin mall, May 18, 2021)

Moreso than the rocket fire, which is mildly annoying where I live but crushing (15 seconds to get to shelter, nearly constant bombardment) to cities and towns to my south – “How do they get groceries?” I demanded of Taxman, “How do they go to the dentist?” – a few things have been different and worse this time, versus what I remember from 2014 and 2012. The racial strife within Israel has turned violent and is terrible. This will take a long time to recover from and needs a huge reckoning. The leadership vacuum is enormous here. I hope someone is willing to step in and try.

Also worse is how demoralizing social media is. It seems like many people cannot separate Israel from Netanyahu, Gaza from Hamas, citizens from combatants. History (50, 100, or 1000 years ago) from the present. Nobody wants to hear that Jews are also indigenous to exactly the land that Israel sits on. We have an archaeological record nonpareil, but it is inconvenient, so ignored or denied. Nobody wants to hear that the Palestinians got a raw deal from Israel but also from Jordan (anybody know they role they played in Sheikh Jarrah?), from Syria, from Lebanon. What a pickle, right?

That picture from Anas Baba for AFP is going to win a Pulitzer, I am sure of it, but now we have the liberal papers (Washington Post!) in America and the UK saying that the Iron Dome is doing too much heaving lifting. Saving too many Israeli civilians. Making the conflict longer. (If MORE buses had blown up in the Second Intifada this could have been resolved already, tsk, tsk.) I mean, really, it would be easier if 7 million Jews from here just up and vanished, but then how many journalists from the huge Jerusalem bureaurs of said newspapers would be unemployed? That would surely be a crisis of its own.

Iron Dome interceptions are loud; you can hear them from kilometers away. (Anas Baba, AFP)

Speaking of up and vanishing, I have a theory. A lot of people are disgusted by the courting of evangelical Christians to support Israel. After all, they want us here so we can die in their Armageddon or whatever. But here’s the thing: we, Jews, don’t believe in that. So we can have their support and they can think what they want; we aren’t obligated to manifest it for them. It’s like if your toddler decides they are a puppy and have to eat under the table. YOU know they are not a puppy, but you would like them to eat dinner, and if they floor gets a little messy, you just ride it out.  So again, we have the evangelicals hoping we “die” (at some future point) but a lot of liberals seem like they would be ok with us dying like today or tomorrow or fairly imminently — this is what free Palestine from the river to the sea means — so it doesn’t seem like that hard of a choice?

It’s looking very scary out there in the world for Jews right now. The videos rolling in from London, Paris, the US. At least here I have a safe room, where I will be holed up with my aging dog, my husband, and my kids, who are barely hanging on (one has seen some shit on Tumblr; the other one has been returned to zoom school, for his safety, and is surprisingly unhappy about it).

I am so full of rage and full of sadness, and I don’t know what to do. And I am tired.

Anyway, in closing, I don’t think I am the worst person you know? I might be, though. I haven’t justified my existence enough, I haven’t personally removed Netanyahu from office; I haven’t disarmed Hamas; I haven’t solved the conflict; and I haven’t been willing to die. Not for this.

* In case you do not follow me on Twitter, I need to state:

– I want the Palestinians to have their own state.
– I want Israel to take better care of its minorities, and I want loads more minority-majority interactions.
– Civilians should not be in danger at all, never mind dying. It’s awful. I hate it.
– Going from one trauma to another is a terrible way to live, no matter what the trauma is, who you are, where you live, and how you pray, or don’t.

At some point in the not too distant past, I changed my blog login infomation. That was super-smart, because there is clearly no way that I would have remembered my password from “x” number of years ago, where “x” is a number greater than 2. Frankly, I can hardly remember the passwords I require for my job things, and this is an outfit that pays me…like every month (it’s bananas, really)?

Nobody is actually peachy, are they? (Moshav Gimzo, April 15, 2021)

Anyway! Where was I? Right. In March of 2020, when my son went to quarantine for nine days and then didn’t go back to school, he co-opted my laptop. First for Among Us, then BTD Battles, then zoom school. The summer was games and chess lessons and watching other people play these games. The past seven months has been school + YouTube + Discord all at the same time; let it not be said that zoomers cannot multitask – from their messy beds, no less. My poor Yoga has been stressed to the max and now can only keep a battery charge for about 30 minutes. Naturally, we rewarded this hermit-like and vaguely obnoxious behavior with its own Lenovo in the guise of a 15th birthday present. So my POINT, and I do have one, is that I now have the privilege of using my own laptop for something other than ordering groceries online.

What have I been doing, now that my computer has been returned to me? Well, I ordered groceries. As one does. I’ve ALSO googled some recipes and managed to lock myself out of one of my gmail accounts, so it’s going great. I am totally going to edit that book I wrote. ANY DAY NOW. Really.

I hope all of you in the computer who are not on the Bird App with me are managing. Still able to laugh when things are funny. Still able to be angry. Or frustrated. Able to be empathetic. That you have an outlet of some kind, even if it just someone be on the receiving end of an angry face emoji who will help you through it. Whatever “it” is.

We are fine but not fine. So lucky – to be vaccinated (3/4), to be employed (2/2). We have been bewildered by the choices made by governments and by individuals. Enraged by the lack of concern for the elderly, disabled, kids, neighbors, friends, relatives. There’s an article going around that says that in Israel about 70 percent of eligible people (16+) are vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19, so the virus is running out of people to infect. Same article acknowledges 27% of the population is 14 and under. So….yes? But also no? There are almost no ADULTS to infect, but lots of kids? But how will they learn math at home??? To quote my children…WHO CARES? Ugh. Survival is first. Mental health second. Actual curriculum maybe tenth on my list. As usual, nobody asked me. The audacity!

It has been a year and a season of flat-out sprinting just to stay in place. The kids are struggling through their mandated studies and milestones. Shabbat and holidays keep coming. I’ve become an expert in cooking just enough, because we haven’t had any company, at the same time that I am so tired of cooking. And prepping. And cleaning. And shopping. I have no idea when I turned into a full-time adult, but if I had known Pandemic 2020 was going to happen I might have been a little more fun. (Probably not, but maybe a few more restaurant meals and hotel stays?)

So here’s hoping that by this time next year we, the collective universe, will be off the hamster wheel and on something that feels like firmer ground.

The One With All the COVID-19

A dispatch from real people who are kind of fine but also about to lose it

Perhaps you’re one of those people who has managed to use 2020 to make your life better: organize and clean your house from the ground up; turn your yard into a garden that your kids eat from, and keep chickens and goats who hardly poop at all; skip your children’s academic progress several grades under your loving one-on-one attention; make every meal from scratch; abandon your meds (no need for them!); and get a solid eight hours of sleep every night, because anxiety is so 2019.

This post is not for those people.

(We don’t think we know any of those people, in any case.)

For a glimpse into the witty repartee we exchange with each other on Messenger, we have decided to interview one another for pandemic survival stories, tips, and tricks.  

Questions for Gila

  1. How has it been working at home with so much, um, on-site assistance?

First, thank you for this opportunity to share my thoughts. I’ve had many of them but not time to articulate them. In fact, lately it seems like my thoughts have been dog paddling in the deep ocean during a storm, doing all they can to stay above water but often coming close to drowning. See? This analogy didn’t even make sense. That’s how bad it is, thoughts-wise, around here. For example, here’s a story about thoughts: Back in the summer, before we got quarantined AGAIN, Donny and I were taking Thursday Night Old People Walks. That’s because it was the only time to have a Conversation That’s Not a Family Conversation. As we headed to our walk, after not having spoken in a week, other than “did you want to add anything to the online grocery order,” and “never mind, I’ll just text you,” I opened our evening together time with: “So the electric toothbrush I bought for Yaakov today was on sale!” That was all my brain could muster.

Are the brain cells, and the romance, dead? Yes, yes they are.

(The other reason for the lack of coherent Thoughts is that most of my brain space is taken up with theme songs from children’s shows.) 

Anyway, I’m also so grateful you asked HOW things are going! So many people ask me FOR things, but never ABOUT ME. THANK YOU FOR CARING. And now to finally answer your question: I am dealing with working from home with 17 children underfoot with my usual aplomb. That is to say, terribly. My “usual aplomb” is more like “non-plomb.” Where can I get some plomb???? But for real, the trick to working at home is to work when the younger children are keeping themselves busy and entertained. This happens when: 

1. They are asleep. 

So your choices are midnight or 5 am. I myself am more of a 5 am person. (Kate: ME TOO!)  Which means that by 5 pm my nerves are in tatters and I’m like a giant bowl of Rice Krispies, i.e., EXTRA SNAPPY. I love knowing that my children will look back on these months (years? Please god say it’s not years) and remember how the warmth and love and patience of their mother helped them through this challenging time. They’ll probably recall this period in their life while sitting on couches during therapy.

Here’s an example of how aplomby I am doing. (To my work friends who may be reading this: HI I AM TOTALLY ON TOP OF THINGS PLZ SKIP TO NEXT SECTION.) So I opened a document and started editing it. So far so good. About 20 minutes into editing, I somehow thought to check the folder and realized I WAS EDITING THE WRONG DOCUMENT. But not quite the wrong document – a document I had ALREADY edited a few days ago. And I had no recollection. AT ALL. None of the words seemed familiar or rang any sort of bells. (Where are my bells? My bells are gone.) The good news (?) is that when I opened the original version of the document, the one I had previously edited, I noticed that both times, I made similar edits. Points for consistency? 

  1. But surely you’re practicing your housekeeping skills? 

To that end, I’ve become intimately aware of what terrible slobs we are. I have to rage clean so often. And we are also soooo lazy. I can’t even express the depths of our laziness, but maybe this picture can help:

See how we have two “kitchen item holders” in this drawer? And how the front one is super full and the back one is kinda empty? That’s because we’re TOO FREAKING LAZY TO OPEN THE DRAWER THE WHOLE WAY AND PUT THINGS IN THE BACK. We (and here, admittedly, I am speaking of just Donny and myself, because our children were sadly born without the puttingaway gene), open the drawer JUST ENOUGH to get in what we need to get in and then close it. 

Emergency layer cleaning has become the name of the game. You know the emergency layer, we’ve spoken of it before. This the top layer of dirt and mess that nearly makes your house unlivable. So even though my standards are lower than – and covered in – dirt, sometimes even *I* become grossed out by our living conditions. So I clean the top layer of mess while I pee-scream at the kids to help so I can feel semi-human again. You know who I channel during this time? OK hold on to your charm bracelet and hop into your Delorean. Remember Adventures in Babysitting? At the end, Elisabeth Shue’s character has just gotten all the kids back home safely after all the Adventures. And the parents are pulling up but the kitchen is a mess. So there’s a montage of her quickly cleaning the kitchen so it looks livable. (There is no clip of this; I looked. Seems this is NOT the most memorable scene of the movie for most people). Anyway, that’s who I channel in these moments. 1985 Elisabeth Shue. I mean this is also the same time she was in Karate Kid so not too shabby, right?. (Although now that I think about it … she was a babysitter … who also cleaned up? I should tell my children about this. The most I’ve ever attempted when we leave them in charge is to ask them “please make sure the house isn’t in worse condition than when we left.” PS It usually is.)

  1. So … you were in quarantine over the summer … and now again. Tell us about that. 

My emotional state varies at different points throughout the day. For example, sometimes I feel kind of “arggghhhhh” and other times I feel more like “ARGGGHHHH.” Also lots of times I have strong feelings of “[whimper].” 

I’ll tell you the real problem with dealing with yet another bidud and now yet another lockdown. At the beginning of the pandemic, a few decades ago in March,  “wake up and watch tv and color all day” was a NOVELTY. That novelty lasted a while, which helped the days pass. But by the summer, “watch TV and color all day” was no longer NOVEL. It’s EXPECTED. So they needed OTHER THINGS to keep them occupied and entertained. I even allowed Play-Doh in my house during our summer quarantine. That’s how bad things were. (Play-Doh, annoying as its tiny little crumbs of doughy mess is, fits the criteria of “art project they can do on their own.” Do you know how many art projects for 6 year olds require PARENTAL ASSISTANCE??? What do they think I am, “parent that does art with their child?” Have they met me, even once, for less than 5 seconds? Then they’d know. Anyway, it’s difficult to find things to entertain them all day. Who knew I’d be looking back at the early days of the pandemic WISTFULLY???? (Oh god does that means soon THESE days will seem wistful? Possibly, because every time I think we’ve reached rock bottom it turns out there’s more bottom under the rock.)

I even – god help me – taught them “Go Fish,” or “reviot” in Hebrew. Why do I do these things? I have never not rued the day I taught them something new. “LET’S PLAY REVIOT!!!” became the mantra beating inside my skull. 

During summer bidud, we even rented a bouncy house for a few days. And at first they complained it WASN’T BOUNCY ENOUGH. Oh the horrors! (“On the next episode of HaMefunakim: The bouncy house does not provide sufficient bounce!”) But once they accepted the bouncy level, they did enjoy it and it provided some much-needed entertainment. Unfortunately, since it was on our balcony and a million degrees outside, they could only bounce after 4 pm. 

After summer bidud ended, naive little me said, “Well, next time we’re quarantined it’ll be cooler, so we can get it again and they’ll be able to bounce for longer.” OH SWEET SWEET SUMMER GILA, YOU INNOCENT HOPEFUL THING. Our second round of bidud happened mere seconds into September, during “my body’s cool receptors have sweated into nonexistence” season. 

September bidud was similar – MINUS the bouncy house and play-doh but PLUS teaching first grade math (see what I did there?) and reading. For those of us who are short on patience and long on exasperation, it’s been a trying experience. “Mmm hmmm. That’s right. But you have to start at the top.” “No no look again at the first letter. Remember what sound it makes?” “Can you just finish this page? Please? Here is gigantic chocolate bar if you do.” “Why are you crying? Mommy, stop crying.” 

And here’s the kicker – our quarantine end just as the countrywide lockdown begins. Don’t worry – we’re planning on carrying “Bibi Go Home!” placards with us wherever we go, so in case we get stopped for being more than 500 meters from home, we’ll whip out the placards and say we’re going to a protest. (“In your bathing suits?”)

  1. Have you learned anything “essential” from your pandemic experience?

Here’s what I learned: If you had trouble dealing with life’s curveballs before this (hi there, it’s me) … well, I have bad news for you. However, I also learned that my children are much stronger and more resilient than I am. I think I cried more about their corona-related disappointments than they did. So … hope for the future?

  1. Have you found anything new to cook? Please share. 

I am so tired of eating my food. We started a google doc before pesach. It is titled “COVID meal schedule until Pesach.” Because during those early crazy weeks, we really needed to restrict our errands and outings. So Donny and I became super organized, foodwise, planning dinners and Shabbat meals for the week. But then we kinda got into the whole google doc. So we renamed it: “COVID meal schedule until Pesach and after Pesach until the vaccine.” It’s become part of our little weekly routine to sit down together and groan at the google doc and fill in the little boxes for the week. 

We did become experts in one new food item: homemade falafel. We tag team it, where I make the falafel batter and Donny expertly deep fries it. Most of the family even eats it, except for the child who has chopped salad in a pita. (“Falafel in a pita please. Hold the falafel.”) I can’t invite you over to try some, but I can toss you some falafel balls from my window. 

But: I am grateful that I 

A. have food to eat. 

B. have a food planning partner. 

Do we end up rotating the same 4 things? Of course. But we rotate them TOGETHER. 


  1. What’s your biggest frustration with “all this”? (waves around)

NOT KNOWING WHEN THIS WILL END. OMG. And so much frustration toward the people in charge that have brought us to this terrible point. 

I have learned that I am a control freak and this Not Knowing is killing me, but not softly. Loudly, like the Fireman Sam song. And unlike during Pandemic Part I, where I mostly just rotated between stress, anxiety depression, in Pandemic: The Sequel, I have now added “rage” to the Feelings Roster. 

I miss my regular stressed-out life! You’re familiar with the famous story of a man who complains about his nagging wife and annoying children and the rabbi tells him to bring in a cow, then a chicken, then a rabbit, etc etc until his house is full of animals and then the rabbi says “ok you can let the animals leave” and then he’s left with just his nagging wife and annoying children and he’s like “I LOVE MY LIFE WHAT A GREAT LIFE I HAVE.” So I want to go back to just having a nagging wife and annoying children. Get this cow and giraffe out of my house already! 

  1. What are your coping skillz to share with the group?

What you want to do is combine not enough sleep + doom scrolling + taking out your frustrations on your loved ones via snapping and shouting + extra-long showers (good for some alone time AND crying). I worry about water usage during the pandemic, between everyone’s Pandemic Pools and extra-long cry-showers.

Wait, what? These are not “coping skills” you say? You’re right, I forgot coffee. Also, I recommend trying not to lose things during these trying times. And when I say “things” I mean “calories.” Exercised in the morning? Treat yourself to a rugelach (or 3!) in the afternoon! 

Many of you may be familiar with our family song, sung to the tune of hey dum diddly dum. It goes like this:

Sometimes the answer is no/sometimes the answer is no/sometimes the answer is, sometimes the answer is, sometimes the answer is no

But one of the children, in their infinite wisdom, created an alternate version: “Sometimes the answer is … rugelach!” And so it is. Sometimes the answer IS rugelach.

Sometimes the answer is…

Well, I’ve come to the end without an ending. So I will end the Jewish way, with a blessing. Nothing so lofty as “have a sweet new year.” Goodness my expectations aren’t that high! 

How about: May you always know what day it is without having to think too hard. May the rugelach be plentiful and the emergency layer manageable. May your bouncy houses be full of bounce. And may you find a few moments each day to think your thoughts in peace.

Questions for Kate

  1. What has it been like going to work during these Trying Times? On the hand, you get to leave the house and see people! On the other – you have to leave the house and see people!!!!

So my workplace was actually unexpectedly flexible about letting us work from home when nonessential services had to reduce their staff to 10% back in the middle of March. I wasn’t able to do everything that my job requires, but I was able to fill enough hours that I got my full pay. That was honestly so helpful, because let me tell you THESE CHILDREN NEVER STOP EATING. Never. Only a fast day can slow them down. I am pretty sure that the “pandemic project” of every eighth grader — especially mine — was to have a gigantic growth spurt. (Now I am working to pay for the new wardrobe that is to come, if he ever leaves the house again. Questionable.)

Going back to the office to be with people was weird at first, largely because I had to reserve my pajama pants only for nighttime, but now I’ve resettled into a “work routine” that involves such fun things as “late morning coffee,” “gossiping with coworkers,” and “scrupulously avoiding that jackass, far more senior than I, that runs around the hallways without a mask, in clear violation of the posted rules.” (Every day! I hate him! Gah!)

Important mid-September update: That jackass has seen reason or been threatened (not by me, I am non-confrontational) and now wears a mask! Hooray! 

While at work, though, home is never far from my mind – and I can communicate with the people who are at home whenever I want, because everyone has a cell phone. The magic of technology! I am of course only kidding. Not about the cell phones, but that people deign to answer them. They do not. Nor do they check their WhatsApps. What is the point of being in not one, but TWO different WhatsApp groups with my children if I cannot properly distribute chores and instructions? I, however, must be constantly available to reply to things like “I was calling to ask you how to make French toast, but Abba helped me instead” [NB: Abba was in the same room from the beginning] and “What can I have for lunch?” Although frankly “What can I have for lunch?” is often reserved for when I get home, which can be as early as 2pm but sometimes not until 4pm. Apparently my children have learned helplessness instead of learning how to make themselves a scrambled egg or a cheese toast. This also leads to the famous “Well, I was waiting until after lunch to do the dishes! S/he didn’t eat yet, so I couldn’t start the dishwasher!” Oddly, this happens every single day, not once is a rare while or whatever. There is a lesson to be learned, but I don’t think it’s my lesson? Not sure entirely. What day is it? Blink twice if you know what day it is. 

  1. Tell me about how you structure a mentally and physically healthy day for yourself and your children.

Sleeping: My kids do a lot of it, and I don’t do enough of it. This makes them perky late at night and me exhausted all the time. My insomnia has reached new heights! Or new lows. I guess it depends on your perspective. (I am really so proud of this achievement! Always be improving, that’s my motto.) But, wow, for insomniac hypochondriacs of a certain age (mid-40s) this pandemic is just one of a million reasons to stay up perseverating all through the night. “Why does my back hurt? Why is my throat sore? Am I dying, do I have allergies, or am I just getting older?” “Why am I so hot at night? Why is my hair falling out? Is it my thyroid? Am I dying or just getting older?” “Are my children permanently damaged from something I did, or are they just being teenagers?” Even when I do manage to fall asleep, I wake up so tired. Good thing there is a shower and a coffee waiting at the other end of the night, or “night” as the case may be. Coffee doesn’t judge, you can drink it even if you haven’t slept. Have I mentioned I love coffee?

What’s not to love?

Exercise: One kid exercises several evenings a week. The other barely leaves the house, despite my regular entreaties. I have been trying to keep up with my pilates “practice,” as our beloved teacher would say. This means that a couple of times a week I go to pilates class and a couple of times a week I put on peppy music and do the equivalent of about 40% of a class by myself, which I tell myself is enough but probably isn’t. To make myself feel like I am really walking the pilates walk, each time I have a DIY class I force myself to do one exercise I really hate – I usually rotate between pelvic curls, the rocker, and the saw.

Food: I am so bored of everything I make. I miss eating at other people’s houses just for the experience of eating something I didn’t cook. We do not have an organized rotation, but also eat the same few things over and over during the week. For Shabbat I constantly think, didn’t we just have that? And the answer is probably yes, in the past few weeks, we did have that, because we have not eaten anywhere else all this time. The true highlight, though, is that once a week we go to a produce stand and drop an obscene amount of money on fruit and vegetables. Mostly fruit, because my kids are lukewarm on the concept of vegetables. (Less sweet fruits? Why would that be a thing?)

Showering: Yes, we do! All of us!

Teeth brushing: I have no comment at this time. (For the kids, not me; I am a tooth brushing fan.)

Hydration: Liquids are very important to my overall physical health, not only to keep hydrated but to get my exercise at work; I work on the second floor, the only story in a four-story building that does not have a bathroom I can use. Many trips upstairs or downstairs for me in the hours I am at work. I should get a step counter, maybe it would cheer me up.
Here is my approximate (weekday) hydration schedule:

6:30 glass of water
7:30 café latte (cold or hot, made at home and taken to work, as applicable)
9:00 water
10:00 herbal tea
11:30 sad instant coffee (at work)
13:00 water
15:00 seltzer
16:30 seltzer with a splash of juice
17:45 two sips of soda, sweetened iced tea, or blood from my stigmata
19:00 tears of Mitch McConnell
19:30 water
21:00 melted ice cream
22:30 water

  1. What do you think about screen time? Unlimited time? Or however many hours they want? Which is better and why?

I try to be crafty about this and limit time per device. So the kids move from phone to tablet to computer to television, and each movement restarts the clock, which doesn’t really matter because time has no meaning in 2020. They are not allowed to use their phones while sleeping or on Shabbat.

  1. What’s your relationship to cooking shows? Do you feel inspired to “try something different?” Or do you just feel grumbly because they’re eating something with a roux or confit or flaky and you’re making chicken AGAIN? 

Cooking shows are something we watch as a family. We binged a lot of Mischakey HaShef of late. We don’t draw inspiration from it because what they make is usually a direct line to traifin’ up the kitchen. But it’s good for Hebrew vocabulary, so I tell myself, as I make my children translate the very weird adjectives for me. We also watch MasterChef Israel – in all the seasons we’ve watched of that show I’ve made exactly two recipes (one very often – it’s red cabbage with tahini). 

For actual cooking I’ve recently discovered some new-to-me recipes on Smitten Kitchen. Which of course my children do not eat and opt for pita pizza or pasta and cheese for the billionth time that week. We also got a little ice cream maker back near the beginning of all this and have been using it a lot. I do a killer vegan chocolate ice cream, and everybody eats it! #winning

  1. You actually went on vacation this summer! Tell us how that was.

Was that this year?

Oh, yes, right, it was. June. It was good, not as beastly hot as vacation in August. Several things I had wanted to do were closed, so we did a lot of national parks and hiking. Sadly, it was already jellyfish season so the beach wasn’t a good option. We saw the very full Kinneret. In many places, I felt there were too many people for Coronatimes; this has been a very repetitive theme in my life since March: “There are too many people here, I do not want to be here with them; I hate people, especially those who are not wearing a mask.” The little holiday cabin we went to is great – it was our second time there. Two bathrooms, a washing machine, superb air conditioning, and a full kitchen. Maybe by the time we go again they’ll have a pool and charge even more.

  1. What are the best and worst parts of this pandemic, for you? 

The best part is actually sort of sad, and that is that my children have not resisted one iota. They are aware of how science works and have accepted that we can’t have a normal life right now. They properly cover their faces for long periods, even if others around them are not. They are very teenagery in many ways, but more adult than most of the actual adults at the grocery store and definitely more mature than the roving bands of young people that climb all over each other and gather together on a regular basis.

There are many bad parts, mostly stemming from “we have no idea how this fades away” and “people are behaving like selfish garbage humans instead of looking out for their fellow humans,” and as a result we will not have normal for a really long time. School fills me with dread; I imagine classrooms filled with coronavirus. NB: I am not wrong. (I don’t sleep anymore, ever, and send a lot of hotheaded emails that don’t get read by anyone.) Also, I know I tend towards the misanthropic, but I really miss the dozen or so people I very much want to see “IRL” instead of as whatsapp avatars.

  1. What types of “pandemic people” have you met along the way? Where do you fit in? Are you a sourdough gardener painter? Or a child ignorer coffee drinker cryer? 

Here’s my wise observation, based on my friends inside the computer. People who were already into something really drilled down. My friends who were already superb bakers did all sorts of amazing things with flour. My friends who already had a garden made things bigger and better. My friends who tended toward craftiness or home improvement or organizing really lit it up. And I am happy to say that I really leaned into what I was already quite skilled at: being snarky on Twitter, watching TV, and letting the house fall to shambles around me. Come hell or high water, I will leave dishes in the sink! So proud to have not only taught my children the trick about dishes but that they take it one step further, by not clearing their dishes away from where they ate – table, couch, whatever. I found a fork in the love seat today. #blessed

Anyway, I have tried to keep my chin up, largely by divorcing myself from my emotions and the sheer panic swirling around me. Thank goodness for Shabbat, of course, so I can get off Twitter and the Doom All Around, Have You Noticed The World Is Literally Burning? 

As the year 5781 is upon us, I have to think….are we being tested and found wanting? Wear your masks, stay away from people, then come home, wash your hands, and eat your apples and honey with only your immediate family. Please. Don’t make me turn this car around.

Wishing everyone a healthy, caffeine-fueled, dystopia-lite year ahead! 

Stay safe, friends.

images via Unsplash and Gila’s kitchen

Schrödinger’s cat

Hello there!

Is this thing on?

I have come to amuse you in your isolation, because PLEASE TELL ME THAT YOU ARE DOING THAT.

First of all, updates:

The kids, both of them, are taller than I am. Yes, this is normal. No, I am not going to stop talking about it; it’s weird.

I started working out of the house, half-time, in September. It’s really pretty great. Consistent paycheck, doing things I am good at, nice co-workers. It’s difficult to stay motivated from home, to be honest; chores are constant, and the kids are loud. But this is where we find ourselves.

Anyway, I have a story about a cat.

If you’ve been following me on Twitter, you know that a stray-slash-feral cat kind of settled in our building’s entranceway and has been hanging around for about a year now.  Female, relatively small and sleek, totally black fur. Our family calls her Ebony.

ebony path

Typical: Ebony blocks Miss M’s progress. Her head isn’t going to scratch itself.

She manages to feed herself pretty well from the trash (we suppose) and from hunting (lizards and birds). We occasionally give her food scraps or a little dog kibble; other residents of the building do the same. She is charming, if you can call persistent yowling charming. Loves to be scratched on the head. Will clamber on to your lap if you sit. She has gotten into our house many times by sauntering in, which ramps the dog into a tizzy and then there is yelling and a chase on par with a Charlie Chaplin film. Ebony comes running when we slam the front door shut, when we meow for her, or when we park in our spot. We choose to see it as cute instead of mildly creepy, okay?

ebony bus

In more normal times, Ebony waits for the #80 bus to the yeshiva with AM at the stop across the street from our house.

At the end of last week, we noticed we hadn’t seen her. Like she had vanished into thin air.

“Do you think someone finally adopted her?” AM asked me.

“Um,” I demurred.

“I don’t think anything good happened to her,” Taxman whispered to me. Ebony crosses the street on the regular and somehow has never managed to get hit by a bus, but luck like runs out — even though there is far less traffic than usual.

We continued to meow for her from the steps, but to no avail. She doesn’t belong to us, so much as we – the whole building – belong to her, so it was extremely odd not to see her. We asked the neighbors if they had seen her. Nobody had, and everybody had noticed she was gone. We discovered that she has a lot of different names. Apartment #2 calls her Levana. Apartment #4 calls her Tzippi.

When I took the dog on a circumscribed walk around the block, staying within 100m of home, I saw a black cat. The cat scrambled up a tree and eyed us suspiciously and silently. I knew it wasn’t Ebony, who has zero fear of the dog and who never shuts up. I sighed and turned for home.

After dinner one night, Taxman wondered aloud, “Do you think she maybe got into my trunk when we were unpacking the groceries?”

“We would have seen her climb in,” I said. “She’s done that to me more than once.”

But this idea continued to flit through my mind. We had been to the grocery store three days before and hadn’t used the car since. (Isolation, what can I say?) Oh, god, what if she were in the trunk? Hello, psychological trauma!

A few hours later, I took the trash out. Though I had no reason to go by the carport, I kind of casually wandered nearby. As I approached the stairs, I heard meowing. Persistent meowing that sounded far away. Like a cat that was trapped.

And there, yowling at me from the back window of Taxman’s car, was Ebony.

Holy hell.

I ran upstairs and reported this.

“Are you serious?” Taxman said.

“Why would I joke about this?!?!”

The entire family clambered downstairs with car keys. Yep, Ebony was in the backseat of the car, and she seemed mad as hell.

She was fine? A little skinny, perhaps. She gobbled a serving of dog food and a sardine, then yowled at our front door for hours. Back to routine.

So that’s the denouement of how the not-ours dead-alive building cat returned to her rightful place.


Anniversary season

I promise I meant to write up a whole thing for one year past my kidney donation. But it’s hot, and I’m tired, and [insert summer excuse here]. I am also transitioning to a new job and while I am enjoying it, the days that I go to the office just suck the life right out of me. I hope to get over that.


Please consider giving it away….

So, yes, the kidney. Or lack thereof. I had really gotten to the point where I didn’t think about it daily anymore – except in Pilates class, where sometimes I get a weird ping like “someone has messed around in here” – when Facebook started to serve me last year’s countdown to the surgery. (Not thinking about it isn’t exactly true, since I now consume so much more water than I used to. True story about my new job circumstances: I like my new coworkers very much, but ALSO very exciting to me is that the office bathrooms are kept pristine.)  Low-key thoughts, let’s say.

The anniversary came and went; we were going to go out for dinner, but we were busy; life goes on. I am privately mentoring a couple of people who are in the approvals process for altruistic donation. It’s nice and makes me feel like this is much bigger than just me.

Also low-key, but maybe we should make a bigger deal of it (?), is our upcoming TEN-YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF ALIYAH (!?!?!?!). This is super-crazy. We have officially lived in our current city longer than anywhere else as a married couple, and in our current house as a family longer than any other place by far. Sometimes I still feel brand new here, usually when I am trying to interface with Someone Official Doing Something On the Phone. But then there are other times….

Last week, I had a little medical incident (ahem), in which our broken bed footboard, which is very heavy, fell smack on top of my left foot. I iced it immediately, figured it would be an ugly bruise, and judged myself ok for Pilates as long as I didn’t put all my weight on that one foot. Cut to a few hours later, when I could put NO weight on that foot and spun out thinking about surgical plates because of the incredible pain I was in. I took myself to urgent care (“the useless left foot,” to quote a wise friend, does have its benefits) for an X-ray and possibly a mercy killing if I cried loudly enough?

I hobbled into urgent care, was cheered by the almost-empty waiting room, and then had a hilarious back and forth with the receptionist about planning to impersonate Kate Middleton and her bank account. I interacted with the triage nurse, the X-ray tech, and a doctor. I told the story of what happened multiple times. Ultimately I was judged to have nothing broken. Yay! I checked out, cleared up a misunderstanding with the receptionist, paid, and went home. My whole experience was conducted in Hebrew (95%, anyway), and it felt…normal.

calvin hobbes bike

My foot is loads better, but this is my mental state around the footboard. Giving it a wide berth.

I feel like we need to have some hoopla around this aliyah anniversary thing, but it is so easy for things to get lost in the shuffle of everyday life. Maybe we’ll celebrate when we’re in America on our second family trip of the summer, since we will be much likelier to all be together at leisure? Hello, irony.

So, as I almost never say but could, hypothetically – things are…sababa.

It’s been a rainy winter in Israel. All that water is precious in this desert land, but the storms and mud have put a bit of a kibosh on some of my usual spring adventures.

Thankfully, I was presented with the perfect antidote. I was invited to participate in Israel ScaVentures’ Shuk Dash. It wasn’t my first time on a ScaVenture – I’ve participated as a blogger (in the Old City of Jerusalem and Yemin Moshe), but I’ve also taken my family with me (Old City, for Miss M’s bat mitzvah), Neve Tzedek, Gush Etzion, and Yafo.


I came prepared to run. Matching socks were a bonus.

Israel ScaVentures has revamped its Shuk Dash to make it digital – you can either download an app or use their pre-loaded tablets. There’s a full slate of missions that are appropriate for a wide range of ages. I was part of a team of five (with Hadassah, who I had been teamed with on the very first Bloggers ScaVenture – back in 2012!).

We got a brief explanation of the Shuk Dash from Israel ScaVentures’ founder and director Tali, who gave a shout-out to tour guide and shuk expert nonpareil Joel Haber (Fun Joel). Joel’s shuk tours, which go deeper into the history of the area and include taste tests at many establishments in the market, would be an excellent companion venture.

The point of the Shuk Dash is to immerse us in the full sensory experience of the Machne Yehuda market, while having us interact with vendors and shoppers alike. We met Israeli natives, olim from various parts of the world, and visitors to Jerusalem.


My team! (We won, btw.)

How does it compare to the other ScaVentures?

  • It’s self-contained. Though we did a lot of back and forth “dashing” to complete the missions, the Machne Yehuda shuk itself isn’t enormous.
  • It’s fairly weatherproof. Much of the shuk has a roof, so even a hot, cold, or rainy day wouldn’t deter you from the race!
  • It’s very interactive. Dashers constantly have to work as a team, but also request information from others to complete the missions. Extroverts on your team would be a definite bonus!
  • It was reminiscent of scavenger hunts that I loved as during camp field trips as a child – a quick rush of information, interspersed with fun missions and a dose of silliness.

As with any of the ScaVentures, it was thoughtfully crafted and brilliantly fun. The shuk is a great place to be! The Shuk Dash is a terrific way to see a lot of it – make some mental notes about where you’d like to eat your next meal (Lisa and Robin and I, who hadn’t seen each other in ages, hit Crave for lunch afterwards) – and get a sense of who and what is there to experience. I even picked up fruit on the way home like a responsible grownup.

Check out the full range of Israel ScaVentures, both in Jerusalem and around the country!

Everyone needs a healthy obsession. Right? Not obsession, really, but it’s feels good to be a fan of something worthwhile. For some people it’s movies, or comics, or the Tour de France. Just a way to derive happiness from a good story, someone doing what you couldn’t do in your wildest dreams but seems completely awesome.

For me and about 70,000 other people, it’s watching the 2019 Iditarod. I’m American, and I was born after it started, so I’ve known about it in the vague sense of “this is a super-long race with dogs that happens in Alaska, ALSO DO YOU KNOW HOW COLD IT IS THERE?”

But, in the fall of 2018, I somehow stumbled upon the Twitter feed of Blair Braverman, a woman living in Wisconsin with a pack of adorable sled dogs that she races with. She’s a fantastic storyteller whose Twitter threads – including photos of the dogs – are instant classics that are usually some combination of informative, heartfelt, or hilarious. (She also writes for Outside magazine, among other outlets.)


Not Blair’s actual team but an approximation of her view for a lot (a lot) of days.

I am a big fan of dog Twitter – it helps to find joy to equalize the wave of upsetting and unsettling things that the rest of Twitter brings. So I had already been following Matt (@dog_rates and @dog_feelings) and Gideon (@IvePetThatDog) when I found Blair.

With Blair comes her fan base. The #uglydogs. (There’s a story behind that.)

They’re artists, writers, teachers. Data nerds. A composer.

Some have a background in sled dog related things, but most don’t.

But Blair has managed to make us all care about what she’s doing, and the team she’s doing it with. The UglyDogs have turned their nervous energy to fundraising for underserved Alaska schools while Blair is out of touch. (No outside help or contact allowed as long as you’re in the race.)

I, in addition to being awed by the idea of days and days in the freezing wet with minimal support, am honestly kind of terrified for her. She of course had to prove her outdoorsy mettle before even being accepted to this race, BUT STILL. I can’t believe how hard this must be.

The winner of the Iditarod has already rolled in to the finish (mile 998) (I watched a live feed – 2019 isn’t all terrible – and tearing up for Pete Kaiser), and she’s been sheltering in a cabin at mile 681 for…a while.

There’s been bad weather. There been a lot of water on the trail where there should have been ice. She’s returned four dogs from her team, and there is very little intelligence as to why. The press isn’t that interested in people at the back of the pack (although due to her rabid following we probably know more than we would otherwise).

Really, though, whether or not she finishes her race at 681 or in Nome, it’s an incredible achievement. Not just on the course, but that she managed to bring together so many people to “watch” and care about people and places far away from them. It is one the best uses of social media I’ve seen, and I feel so privileged that I’m able to watch it unfold.

Follow Blair @BlairBraverman and her husband, Q, @QuinceMountain for incredible content. You won’t be sorry.


Blogging Bar Mitzvah

I’ve been a blogger now for 13 years.


When I started this blog, this arm was jabbing me from the inside. Now it’s gone and grown up. (The arm. Not the blog.)  I mean, “grown up.” But still.

Even though I don’t keep it up as well as I should – the people about whom I used to blog a lot have their own lives, thoughts, feelings, experiences and can express them in multiple languages, up to and including emojis – having this outlet has been a great gift.

Reading the archives from my first month – January 2006 – I can see that while my life has changed SO MUCH, I don’t know that I have, per se. I’ve graduated to caring less what people think of me and my choices (though I will second guess them from here to next Tuesday); I hear that this is a side effect of turning 40, and I am maximizing it.

My kids continue to grow up. When I started to blog, I was pregnant with AM. Miss M was 18 months, communicating with a weird mashup of signing and speaking. Most things she did were adorable, except for poor sleeping. That’s never fun.

We didn’t have a clue that she was going to be brilliant, hyperlexic, and wind up both on the autism spectrum by age 10 and taller than me by age 14. With her we had the blessing of being able to ignore every piece of parenting advice we ever received – she’s her own person and parenting her has no manual.

Life with AM, the surprise baby, has unfolded in a more ordinary manner, though I keep wondering if he manifests more typical “first child” quirks that Miss M never did. It’s still a challenge to show up and do the right things for him, as there is shockingly no manual for him either. Not even one of those IKEA ones that’s just pictures of screws that all look the same! (Now I’d have to hold it at arms’ length with my glasses off, because did I mention middle age also comes with physical side effects?)

Honestly, I’ve considered shuttering this blog a few times. Nowadays, I spend more time consuming content than creating it – not necessarily a good thing, but it is what it is, for the moment. But then life takes an unexpected turn – aliyah in 2009, kidney donation in 2018 – and I’ve got my digital journal for the emotional spillage.

If you’ve been here for any length of time, thank you for reading. No snark! I really mean it. Virtual company is nice. Pull up a chair and have a hot drink; it’s January, after all.