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Another American massacre due to guns is in the books, and the politicians at all levels, local to national, are telling people that thoughts and prayers is the appropriate response, not shredding the current gun policies and starting over with a 21st century perspective, outside the confines of what the NRA wants.

This sticks in my craw, but not just because I am bleeding-heart liberal who believes in strict gun control, but because I am a religious Jew and this idea of lying limp and letting God’s will wash over you (thoughts) and mentally/verbally responding (prayers) is not how we roll.

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Prayer has its place. But it is not a universally appropriate response.

(Note: I am not trained in Jewish thought; this is just a reflection of my experiences.)

So there is a concept that I’ve come to know in my almost 25 years of being religious. It’s called hishtadlus (or hishtadlut). It comes from the Hebrew verb that means, basically, “to make an effort.” The word is fancier that “to try,” in that you know you’re going to have to work for something.

I ran into this idea a lot while spending time on Orthodox Jewish infertility message boards. “We are doing our hishtadlus,” people would write. Meaning that while thoughts and prayers did not fall by the wayside in the quest to make a baby, there would also be blood tests and hormone injections; sperm counts and HSGs; egg retrievals and ICSI; phone calls and insurance fights; phlebotomists, nurses, doctors, and rabbis on call.

Thoughts and prayers, in fact, were something that you could delegate to people who were not in the thick of the fight.

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I know lots of babies that have been made this way. Thoughts and prayers alone were not enough.

The people on these message boards felt lucky that there were ways to attack infertility, medically speaking, and that it was approved in the eyes of religious authorities – sometimes with a few tweaks – and fully acknowledged that in a generation before ours thoughts and prayers, the only tools readily available then, most likely would have resulted in never becoming parents.

Failing to do hishtadlus doesn’t mean that you’ll never get what you’re seeking. (Also: Doing it doesn’t mean that you will.) But it seems to be an integral part of how you are meant to approach your life. Between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, we are called to implement specific changes. Prayer is one of them, but the others are giving charity and doing teshuva. Teshuva is repentance, but it has a more active component than you might think – righting of wrongs between people can require serious introspection but also verbal or written apologies, discussions, or compensation.

Whether or not the trio of prayer, repentance, and charity change our fate for the year is clearly unknowable, but you have to wonder — what if this combination of cerebral/emotional/physical modifications to our behavior were permanent, rather than being a feature associated with the “days of awe”? Would we be on our way to being better people, living in a better society?

Living at this level of consciousness is hard.

Saying “I’m sorry” immediately is hard, especially if you’re angry or sad.

Giving a lot of charity on a regular basis is going to have an impact on your bottom line.

Connecting in prayer on a deep level every day? Good luck.

But here’s the thing: 
Elected representatives are elected to do hard things. They are faced with difficult choices every day. They will never be able to please everyone, but there are people relying on them. When they take those steps back, pulling the curtain around them that says “thoughts and prayers,” they are hiding from the hard things, the hurt, the disappointments and grief. They are not making the effort. They are backing away from the fight.

I hope that the representatives who fail to make the effort will be replaced by those who are willing to try.

 

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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.

 

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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

 

 

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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.)

 

 

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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

 

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Note: Shabbat candles are supposed to be lit before sundown, generally 18-22 minutes before actual sunset. (In Jerusalem and select other locations, this extends to about 40 minutes.) At candlelighting, the restrictions of Shabbat are supposed to be upon you/your household. So technically, you have those extra 18 minutes or so to keep doing “weekday things” like showering or cooking or driving. But when the sun’s done, so are you.  

Cross-posted at Aliyah By Accident.

Gila’s note: Let us start by saying that we have nothing but admiration and respect for Jamie Geller, the doyenne of Joy of Kosher and its associated media. There need to be people like Jamie in the world – if everyone were harried flower-less people like us, the world would collapse in a great black hole of snark. Also it would be very, very messy. But while we aspire to one day have a holy, Shabbat-infused week like Jamie’s, in the meantime, here’s how it’s going for us…

Kate’s note: Gila and I have been discussing co-writing a post for a LONG time, but Jamie’s explanation about her Shabbat-infused (and very tidy!) week is the one that finally brought us together. So props to the kosher lifestyle guru for that.

Seriously, though, Jamie deserves our open-mouthed head shake of “I don’t know how she does it!” because she’s clearly hit upon something. She’s built an empire based on food and frumkeit, with a huge following. Maybe she’s inspired people to try Shabbat or keeping kosher for themselves, which is great.

But these two members of the hoi polloi have built a friendship on snark, so we all have to keep falling back on our strengths. AS ONE DOES.

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Here are the authors slacking on a long-ago Thursday evening, instead of being in the kitchen. We assume Shabbat got made anyway.

JG: Our entire week revolves around the holy Shabbos. It is the glue that holds the Jewish family together. It is a physical and spiritual recharge and the only reason we work for 6 days. Shabbos in our house is so beloved and so cherished that we make sure to do a little something in honor of and in preparation for Shabbos each and every day of the week. I alluded to this on my July 21st Q & A Thursday Facebook Live video and promised I’d write down my schedule for you in a bit more detail. So here it goes. 

Gila: My entire week, too, revolves around Shabbat. Usually because it takes until Friday to finally put away the tablecloth, throw out the leftovers (goodbye, lone two pieces of broccoli) and wipe down the challah board. Also, all week long Shabbat is on my mind. I’m like, Oh god, Shabbat. And He’s like, yes, I know, I created it, remember? So then I go, but it’s like, 25 hours, and the kids are all here, the whole time, and there’s mess and preparation and more mess and fighting! Actual punching! And insults! Also whining! SO MUCH WHINING. They can’t even sit at the table without reaching defcon 10 levels of whining. Then sometimes they whine while punching and insulting!!!! What were You thinking? Did You have kids when You thought up this grand idea? And then God’s like, No, not really, I was just kind of tired out from you now, CREATING THE ENTIRE WORLD and figured I deserved, like one day of rest. So stop being all, oh woe is me, kids, work, mess, oy oy oy. I had spent all of Thursday putting together cockroaches so I think a day off is not too much to ask.

Fine, God, you win; we’ll have Shabbat. [Now, please understand, I do like the idea of Shabbat. The resting and recharging bit. The togetherness. The unplugged-ness. But, just like “Come on kids, let’s bake something!”or “This is going to be an organized drawer for office and school supplies” it’s an idea that works better in theory, at least for me, right now.]

Kate: Don’t get me wrong, I am Shabbat’s Number 1 fan. Way back to my first semester in college, when I credit it with literally saving my life. Because that was the one day I couldn’t have panic attacks over writing up chem labs.

It’s still very nice all these years later. (Many years. I am old.)  There is reading time. And game time! And napping! (Which, of course, means that I get to start off the week with rip-roaring insomnia on Saturday night. THE BEST!) Friends, sometimes, when I can get my act together. And food. Lovely food. Usually even made fresh – sometimes from the freezer. Almost never takeout, because it offends my sensibilities to pay through the nose for SCHNITZEL and WHITE RICE (though it’s magically delicious, presumably from something like MSG).

And there is the weekly Shabbat fight between my children, when they are instructed to play together during Grownup Naptime. One objects; the other objects to the objection; everyone cries. It’s magical. Just last week we started a new project, where the one who demurs allows the other to accrue points that will be cashed in for special treats. It’s like extortion, but holy, because SHABBAT and NAPPING.

Saturday Night/Motzei Shabbos: The Table

JG: We put a fresh white tablecloth on the Shabbos table and place flowers down the center. Now don’t freak, but I’m a (good quality!) fake flowers girl — always in bloom, they brighten my table all week long.  

Gila: Saturday night: Thank God we survived another Shabbat. Where is the ice cream and TV? I am overcome by the urge to sell my children. Or maybe just pay someone to take them all and return them when they’re decent humans. I, too, like to put something down to brighten my dining room table all week long. Sadly, my bed + Netflix-that-works-in-Israel + Ben & Jerry’s is really asking a lot of my slightly sagging table. Plus the ice cream would just melt. So we just leave Shabbat crap on the table. That, too, is always in bloom.

Kate: In the dead of winter, when Shabbat goes out super early, we clean up enough to use a corner of the island and sometimes make pizza from scratch. At all other times, bedtime was five minutes before Shabbat was over; we wrangle the kids into bed (after more food filched from the fridge, because obviously there was not enough during the day). If we’ve had guests, we push the tablecloth to one end of the table, because we almost never eat dinner as a family during the week (I KNOW), so we only need room for maximum three people. If we haven’t had guests, we use wooden placemats, so these get stacked, sort of, and left at one end of the table.

Sunday: Menu Planning

JG: We plan the menu. Literally fresh off of Shabbos we will often decide to repeat faves from last week, reach back into the archives for oldies but goodies, and try something new — usually in the form of some recipe I have to test for the site or magazine. The menu gets taped to the kitchen cabinet (along with our weekly dinner menu — the kids simply must know what they’re eating when) and the week is off to a great start.  

Gila: Sunday night: Still recovering from Shabbat cleanup. Begin week-long efforts to beg children to do the jobs I pay them for (emptying dishwasher and folding towels). “But the Shabbat dishwasher is soooooo much!” she whines. See, the kids are thinking about Shabbat all week long, too!

Kate: Leftovers for dinner! Feeling the shabbat love! Especially since the beautiful wood challah board is still gracing the table.

Monday: Shopping Lists  

JG: We create a list of all the ingredients we need separated into categories much in the same way the supermarket is organized — fresh fruits and veg, shelf stable grocery items, frozen foods, etc. We often have multiple lists organized by location. So the butcher or fish store each have their own list. The more specialty fruits and veg will be on the fruit shop list, there could be a list for the health food store, and so on. (Oh and usually this is the night when we eat Shabbos leftovers for dinner, if there are any).  

Gila: This is where Jamie and I are samesy-samesy! I also do shopping on Monday. Well, I schedule my online shopping order to come Monday afternoon. I also make sure to get “specialty” fruits and vegetables like “apples and potatoes.” Whatever I can’t order online can’t be worth having is my shopping motto. Luckily the website organizes everything by section just like Jamie so we can continue being samesies. The difference is, that this shopping cart is only for the weekly food; Monday is wayyyy too early to think about Shabbat, unless during some clear lapse of judgment I invited people for Shabbat in advance. In that case I may throw in some vaguely Shabbat-related menu items to my online cart. If I’m feeling perky I’ll put something “interesting” in my cart to make a new and exciting food item. I’ll then carefully place it in the bottom drawer of my pantry to gather dust with the other “interesting” ingredients that were purchased during similarly perky/what was I thinking moments. (“Here you go, broad beans, come join your friends coconut milk and Worcestershire sauce.”) (Oh, and usually this is the night no one wants any leftovers anyway so I make a totally new thing they can all complain about).

Also the cleaners came today so for about 30 seconds the house was sparkling.

Kate: I ALSO tend to shop Mondays. But it’s way too early to think about the following Shabbat. Sometimes I try to end-run this by buying vegetables that are hardy, like beets and kohlrabi, but I never know what I am going to WANT to eat on Friday/Saturday so many days before. Also there’s a chance that we might be invited out. (More on this later.) I am honestly too busy worrying about what my kids will eat for the many days before Shabbat. My 12-year-old (a girl, just to break stereotype) will eat anything not nailed down, assuming she likes it.

If there are still leftovers, any mention of them to the kids in the context of dinner is met with a swift “I am NOT eating leftovers.” I usually am sick of them too, so they go to my long-suffering husband, who is not fussy.

Tuesday: Shop and Cook 

JG: On Tuesdays we shop for the non perishables and I actually cook anything I plan to make in bulk and freeze. I usually have some project or another — whether I’m making 100 carrot muffins, 10 dozen chocolate chip cookies, 25 quarts of soup, meatballs, kugels, cupcakes, brisket and more. Now mind you I don’t make them all on the same day but my crazy, busy, insane in the membrane schedule necessitates that I am able to pull some food from my freezer on any given Shabbos — especially when we find ourselves entertaining at the last minute.  

Gila: Tuesday. Ahhh. The last day before I have to start planning for Shabbat. The non-perishables Jamie mentions (mine arrived yesterday, slacker!) are marinating nicely on the floor in their shopping bags. See, eventually, groceries → meals, so they can go straight from bag to stove without the pesky middle step of pantry.

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Shhh, the groceries are resting.

Kate: We will not ruin the holiness of Tuesday (coffee) and the pa’amaim ki tov by discussing the work involved with making Shabbat. (My groceries are very tired from being hauled upstairs on Monday. Resting on the floor, right in front of the pantry. Did I mention we don’t have an elevator?) Challah board still on the table. It’s glorious.

Wednesday: Set the Table

JG: By Wednesday night we set the table for Shabbos. We do have the luxury of having a kitchen table where we eat all our weekday meals and hang out as a family. So the Shabbos table is reserved especially for Shabbos and that makes me happy. We do a full set — just in case Shabbos comes early we will be ready!

Gila: Wednesday: AHHHHH IT’S WEDNESDAY I HAVE TO START THINKING ABOUT SHABBAT! By Wednesday night my table is completely covered in crap art projects, scissors just within reach of the 2 year old twins, an empty Band-Aids box, a board game someone took out last Shabbat to fight over and never put away (see, there we go again, Shabbat on the brain all week long!),  a library book we’ll be looking frantically for later, and a cup of water that spilled but no one can see it because of the art projects so it is slowly meandering around the table and down the side and probably onto something important, like the library book. (We like to have strategically placed cups of water all over the house for easily spillage, no matter where you are). I grudgingly make a half-assed menu for Shabbat (Friday night – soup, chicken, salad. For the day – cholent and salad and whatever else I can cook easily and with resentment). I pretend I’m making a menu when really I make the same damn thing every week because omg who has time to cook new things???? [See aforementioned “interesting” ingredients and their dust-gathering properties.] Also, everyone just groans anyway!

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Here it the Wednesday table, in all its glory. Oh look, the packet of math tools my 6 year old will need for first grade in a few weeks is out there, all alone. Can’t wait to be desperately turning the house upside down looking for it!

Kate: Still waiting to be invited. Why does nobody return invite us? Nobody likes us? What’s wrong with us? (I exaggerate. We get invited out.) Grudgingly admit I need to get off my tush, but oh, wait, there’s something on TV. Ask my husband what he wants to eat. He’s not fussy (see above), which seems helpful but sometimes it’s not helpful, you know? From time to time, I throw caution to the wind and ask my children for their thoughts, which leads to discussions like: “I want lemon chicken!” “Ema (tears in voice), you know I can’t stand lemon chicken. You can’t make me eat it! I won’t!”

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This past Wednesday my table was so empty I thought it was End Times. (Nope, just kids out for many hours every day at camp. Also a new and very shrill regime of “Clear your damn dishes; I am not your maid.” Coffee cup is mine.)

Thursday: Cook, Bake, Challah Dough

JG: The bulk of the cooking and baking is done on Thursday with the exception of challah. We make the challah dough on Thursday and let it rise in the fridge overnight.

Gila: Samesies again! I also like to do most of the cooking and baking on Thursday, mainly because I need Fridays to clean, which takes the entire f-ing day. Entire. So the cooking has to get done as much as possible on Thursday. I also save the challah for Friday, in the form of picking it up at the bakery. If the bakery wants to make the dough on Thursday to let it rise, good on them. (I feel like I’m getting angrier as the week goes on, does anyone else feel that?)

Also Thursday night we usually always have time for Mommy Seriously Loses Her Shit at Everyone: the Extra Large version.

Kate: Sometimes I start things, especially if we have plans for Friday AND I’ve already gone to the butcher. But sometimes I am tired. Insomnia is not just for Saturday nights, you know. Or I have other things to do. Like work. Or Facebook. Or a makeup Pilates class.

(NB: In America, I was much more together, and cooked and baked on Wednesday night and Thursday night, because Friday wasn’t the weekend.)

Also on Thursdays I often have more awesome conversations with my kids, like: “Ema, can we make challah this week?” “Uh, no, I don’t think so.” “BUT WHY?” (From time to time the answer is yes, but never often enough.)

Once (ONCE!) we got an invite on a Thursday. From Israelis, of course. It was the best week ever. Like a midnight pardon from the governor.

Friday: Shop, Shape, Bake + Fresh Salads

JG: By 8 am Hubby is already home from the center of town with all my final fresh goodies. This is when we prep any salads and make fruit platters.  

By about 1 pm on Friday the kitchen is closed. The kids have had lunch. I’ve finished cooking, save for some challahs (already shaped) that may still be waiting for their turn in the oven and “the dishes are done man” (extra points if you know where that line is from!). We are now ready to mop the floors – which we do every week in honor of Shabbos. Showers start, beds are made and we are often ready a few hours before candle lighting.   

I absolutely loathe the feeling of rushing into Shabbos all “farmisht” which is Yiddish for crazy frazzled. This weekly plan helps us stay sane but more importantly it reminds us of our purpose in life — each and every day.

Gila: Let me begin with: I do not actually know what it’s like to go into shabbat NOT being all farmisht. Crazy frazzled, it’s like, kind of my thing.

Oh, Fridays. My nemesis. I will say that we ALSO have fresh salads. Often the lettuce comes pre-washed from a bag but it STILL COUNTS. And we have fruit platters, in the form of “here are some grapes in a bowl.” Also I ALSO mope (haha freudian typo! I meant mop, obvi. Or did I?) the floors every week! Oh, Jamie. Practically sisters!

Friday is when I wrangle the kids to help in the Big Cleanup. Every Friday it’s like Groundhog’s Day, like they’ve never been asked to clean up before in their lives. Here is what happens in our household, every single week: “OK guys, time to clean up.” Kids, resembling early man when he was first introduced to fire, stare around in confusion and a little fear at this totally brand-new concept. “But what should we do?” they wonder. Gee, I don’t know, those pieces of garbage on the floor? How about the GARBAGE CAN? Oh and the toy cars? Maybe the car drawer, WHERE THEY HAVE LIVED FOR YEARS. The full set of dishes and cutlery that accumulates on our floor every day? LET ME INTRODUCE YOU TO THE SINK.

Usually this ends with stomping (me) and screaming (me) and throwing (me, again) until they finally do their jobs, moaning like you’d think I was asking them to disembowel themselves with a spork or conclusively determine who killed JFK or  watch the season finale of How I Met Your Mother on repeat.

Then I finish scrubbing, wiping, sweeping, washing, and yelling. (“The kids have had lunch??” Who in the actual f-ing f serves lunch on a Friday? My kids are lucky if I remembered to buy some borekas at the bakery in the morning or if there’s leftover pasta from one of our many many pasta nights. “I’m hungryyyy” they whine. “Eat a damn yogurt” I snap. Snapping is my only mode on a Friday.)

“Beds are made!” Ha! Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah

Hahahahah! Sorry, still getting over made beds.

“We are often ready a few hours before candlelighting” – we are often always using up those 18 minutes like we’re my kids and the 18 minutes are the last of the blue sour sticks. Savoring them until they are gone. (God, you knew what you were doing with those 18 minutes, thanks from all of us except Jamie). The magical thing about us is that it doesn’t matter – summer, winter, Shabbat is late, early – we are ALWAYS rushing. The 18 minutes is when I shower, will my blowdryer to work faster, scream at the kids to set the table (“But it’s not fair because plates and napkins [one job] is more/less work than silverware [second job]” – see it doesn’t really matter if one job is actually more work than the other they will complain about it anyway), yell at my husband about something (topic TBD) and take one glimpse around the now-clean house which in seconds will be full of challah crumbs, spilled grape juice, puzzle pieces (the twins do puzzles by throwing pieces all over the floor) and lots of dishtowels. Why are dishtowels all over the floor? I do not know.

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When you’re showering in the 18 minutes, good water pressure is key.

Kate: Oh, Fridays. The love-hate day. There are three choices:

  • Cook and clean all day
  • Laze around for half the day (facilitated by my kids conveying themselves to/from school – yay big kids!), then freak out for half the day about not being able to finish the cook and clean in half a day.
  • Do most things on Thursday, then have an actual weekend-type day topped off by total panic for 90 minutes before Shabbat, doing all the “tiny, last-minute things” we couldn’t do beforehand.

Sadly, Friday is not a peaceful oasis before the peaceful oasis of Shabbat, largely because there are so many people in Israel trying to achieve the same thing. Squad goals, you know, of making it through the grocery stores and long list of other errands before most places close on Friday (between 2 and 4 in the afternoon). So I am unclear what stores Mr. Jamie Geller is going to. Are they magic stores with no lines and no people paying by check? With big, empty parking lots waiting to receive your vehicle? Because the rule around here is pretty much if you need it on Friday you send a kid on foot (what else do they have to do? Whine about chores that they’re refusing to do?) or take from a friend – NOT enter the dragon’s mouth wearing flammable pajamas.

Except for the bakery, to buy challah. (See: Thursday.) And more milk, because we somehow never have the right amount.

By 1pm on Friday, my kids have sometimes had lunch – it depends on how quickly they hop to their very, very difficult chores, like putting away the stack of their laundry (this is extremely difficult, like landing a perfect vault) or emptying the bathroom trashes (the hard part of this, surprisingly, is putting in a new bag – you wouldn’t think so, but I’m here to report it first-hand). Sometimes we up the cruelty by requiring them to FOLD laundry before they put it away. Sometimes TWO LOADS. If they knew the number of social services, they would call it, because this request is beyond the beyond. My daughter will object to just about anything easy I offer her for lunch (“Noooooo!!! Not yogurt!!!!”), so we often patronize the local falafel place for Friday lunch. You can feel the holiness setting in! Shabbat shalom to you, Ofer Falafel!

Also: My children will eat all the livelong day, and we have an open plan, so the kitchen is literally never closed.

Cooking can only begin once all the pareve dishes from the week are washed. (hahahahahaha! lolsob.)

Cooking then creates more dishes. And bickering, to go with the dirty dishes. It’s a big dish conspiracy that also kind of prevents me from cleaning anything else in my house. The bedroom floors are…not a priority. But on the flip side, we have pretty good immune systems.

Cleaning is nobody’s favorite, as I remind everyone in my house who says “But I haaaaate cleaning!” “Right,” I say, “nobody likes it. Except Savta.” So we push it off until the last minute, cut corners, and still wind up fighting and pissed off because we are going to be late. I mean, I do, because I hate being late for anything. (The Gellers really don’t know what they’re missing. I don’t know why they want to pass up on this kind of bonding time.)

Showering. Yes. We do that. It usually involves jockeying for position, because nobody wants to be first, for reasons I can’t fathom. More time to stew in your own filth? Yay?

Mopping. YES. This happens. I, however, suck at it, so it’s my husband’s job, unless he’s away or sick. But he and I have different, um, views on how time works. So I go, “Ok, shul is in an hour, don’t you think you should mop the floor and get in the shower?” And he goes, “Do you see how well I’m doing in Candy Crush? And then I have to take my turn in Words with Friends – your mom is beating me by 50 points.” Or he takes a work phone call or five. So at a certain point I just cloister myself in the shower and realize he is a grown up, and nobody ever died from being 20 minutes late to shul. (I mean, that I know of. I err on the side of caution and panic.)

Ok, I have to ask, in all honesty, what’s the point of being showered (and dressed, presumably) and ready a few hours before Shabbat? Is there a photo shoot every Friday? What’s the point of having Shabbat leisure before Shabbat? Doesn’t it detract from the actual exhalation of being able to breathe, finally, when you’ve reached the finish line? If shabbat is at 6, and you’re done at 3, then you’re missing out on some heart-pounding adrenaline. I mean, come on, the 18 minutes are there for a reason.

If there’s an extra five minutes, my slaves (kids) set the table, sort of; it depends on how closely they are supervised (read: yelled at). The challah board gets to come back to the table! Finally! A couple of days in sad isolation is PLENTY.

And then we get to return to the peaceful bubble again. Or the plain bubble. You know, the place without troubles or cares. Or computers. Yay!

Thank you for reading our very long Homage to the Holy. We wish you the best, whether you’re going to be feasting on deli from the package or the finest, long-planned, hand-carved, slow-cooked morsels.

Shabbat shalom!

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Want to hear something shocking? My most popular post ever was written in 2009. That was eons ago. Nobody really cares about my thoughts on Israel, my struggles with immigrant parenting, or what’s happened since I gave up breastfeeding.

So yes, seven years ago, almost five years into my parenting – and breastfeeding – career, I produced a ranty-though-cogent screed about breastfeeding that still attracts more than 10 readers a day.

I find this stunning.

Nobody comments on or links back to this post. The mommy wars have cycled back over this debate many times in the years since, but I must have inadvertently had fantastic SEO to keep getting page views. Good for you, 2009 me – who didn’t even work in marketing!

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This squishy newborn is almost 10.

Now that I have some emotional distance from breastfeeding (although, to be fair, I don’t really, because one of my best IRL friends has a pretty new and very squishy nursling RIGHT NOW), I am not really encouraged. Women and babies are still unsupported by hospitals, employers, and governments. Formula companies are still backed by the very deep pockets of drug manufacturers and violate the law when it comes to marketing their product.

But in this decades-long debate, I’ve reached a couple of conclusions.

Conclusion One: Taking Sides

If you dis breastfeeding, you might be:

  • anti-science

Breastmilk seems to be one of the most studied substances in the world. Why can’t we just leave it alone already? Because artificial milk substitutes keep trying to imitate it, that’s why. That’s how badass this stuff is. All our 21st century science can’t capture that lightning in a jar.

  • anti-woman

Let’s allow women to do something with their bodies that’s not pleasuring a man. (This is so heteronormative I don’t even want to bring it up, but let’s look at the messaging coming out of, say, the United States government or mainstream Hollywood.)

  • have body image issues

Pregnancy and breastfeeding will change a woman’s body in ways both temporary and permanent. One thousand percent. That is difficult to handle, sometimes, for both women and their partners.

If you dis formula feeding, you might be:

  • anti-worker

Shift work without pumping breaks is a real thing. Family “unfriendly” jobs and industries are real things. Countries without paid maternity/family leave are real things (the United States, in particular, stands out here).

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Nope, not poisonous

  • anti-reality

Families have all sorts of reasons why breastfeeding is not possible – medical issues on the part of the mother or baby, economic pressures, family realities (a widowed father, a two-dad family, a baby being raised by someone other than his or her parents), or other things. Passing your holier-than-thou judgment on these situations doesn’t make you a breastfeeding advocate. Remember that wet-nursing has been a career choice for thousands of years – largely rendered unnecessary by the advent of formula.

  • paternalistic

Really, women can’t make up their minds and need to be told what to do?

Conclusion Two: Check Your Privilege

If you’re busy on the internets vociferously defending your position, this means you are in a privileged position. If you’re dealing with working and pumping breastmilk (like many) OR traded your paying job with people who wear underwear to be an unpaid manager of people who don’t (like many others), you have a certain amount of economic privilege.

I honestly do not know people who have traded one kind of baby milk for another due to being squeezed for money, but it must happen. Sometimes a paycheck or scrimping on childcare is simply more vital than how a baby gets fed.

There’s more.

If you can safely formula feed, it means you have access to clean water or electricity to boil it or money to buy it.

If you can safely breastfeed, it means your partner is on board with it and you are (probably) physically safe.

If you can work and pump, it means that your state or country or employer protects that privilege.

If you can leave your baby with formula and a paid babysitter, nanny, or day care, it means you can afford it. Maybe you’re just breaking even to advance your career, but others who can’t might stay home and breastfeed.

If you have nursing bras, nursing clothes, access to a breastpump, books, and more, it means you have means. Maybe not a lot of means, but possibly good health insurance. Maybe generous friends. All of these are not to be taken for granted.

SO….

If you want to formula feed, nobody should stop you.

If you want to breastfeed, even for years, even at night, even in your bed, even in public, even without a nursing cover, even in a place of worship, nobody should stop you.

And we need to take our righteous indignation for what’s “wrong” and use that adrenaline-driven excitement to support parents and families. If the idea of going up against the drug lobby gets your motor running, do that. If you want to call or tweet your congressional reps to demand family leave, do that. (Canadians and Scandinavians can take a moment to bask in their glorious rights.) If you want to help a mom who is working shifts, struggling to pump, or cluster feeding every evening from five until eleven, bring her family some dinner and offer to fold some laundry (I guarantee she has some). If you hear of a financially struggling family that has requested formula, go buy it.

Perhaps I have mellowed in my old age – though admittedly there are still plenty of things that get me riled up. But babies who are being loved and cared for are not something to sneeze at, regardless of how they’re receiving their nutrition.

See other adorable mammals here and here.

(Thanks to Gila for the advice.)

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