Archive for the ‘The weird and the wonderful’ Category

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.



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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.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So I’m learning now.

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


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

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

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

PS This blog turned 11 today! Crazy.


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This is going to sound odd, but one of the things I enjoy most about cooking in Israel is the eggs.

In America, when you buy a dozen eggs (conventionally produced), you get 12 eggs that are so uniform they are indistinguishable from one another. Same color, same size, washed clean. Every once in a rare while you get a blood spot or a double-yolk; clearly those internal “mistakes” are hidden from the inspection process and allowed to pass through.

In Israel, a dozen eggs can be more like cousins than identical siblings. Shells may be white, ecru or slightly spotted. There is a range of weights and sizes for each egg category (large eggs, my personal preference, may weigh between 63 and 73 grams–and sometimes you find both extremes in the same batch). Tiny feathers may be stuck to some shells. Chickens do have feathers, you know.

On the inside, I’ve seen yolks of many different shades of yellow and orange: sunshine, buttercup, gold, lemon, marigold. This is totally normal; from what I understand, it depends on what nutrients are in the chicken feed and has no effect on the nutritive value of the eggs, but it’s a delightful hodgepodge to me. Every time I see yolks other than the “standard” shade, especially in the same carton, I get happy….because that would never fly in America.

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I don’t know who is going, but I know who is definitely not. Me.

That’s right, BlogHer 2010 is in New York City. Twelve full months after I left New York. Where I lived for nine years.

Now, we all know I am not blogging for the money (four and a half years ad-free! whoo! I hope my 15 commenters and ??? lurkers–I can’t count you if I don’t know who you are–appreciate my COMMITMENT to the CRAFT. And also? Laziness), nor for the fame. I do it for the comments, the empathy, and the strengthening of communal ties.

So on behalf of the love, I want to ask one of you lucky BlogHer participants a favor.

MamaPop (my most trusted news source…don’t look at me like that, we already know how I feel about the New York Times, despite the fact that I read the Sunday Vows column on Saturday night because I just can’t wait) ran a contest to find a T-shirt slogan in connection with their BlogHer 2010 party, Sparklecorn.

Winning slogan here. It is genius. Please, please, someone get me a T-shirt? I can PayPal you money.

Don’t make me come after you individually. I mean, I totally will, but…please?

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I am not a person who objects to shopping. Usually.

Food shopping can be great, especially at a place like a farmers’ market or the shuk, where the food looks beautiful and smells intoxicating.

Clothes shopping can be fun if done without small tag-a-long people. Since that is so not my life right now, I’ve relied a lot on e-tailers. Thank goodness for them.

Shoe shopping? Necessarily evil. Seriously, Taxman makes me do it. I don’t like it.

Shopping for other things? Well, it’s a rare event. We bought most of our furniture nine years ago, when we had money from wedding gifts to spend and no children, lots of internet access, and starry-eyed, newlywedded patience. We bought our appliances five years ago, when we bought our apartment and renovated the kitchen; we relied heavily on Consumer Reports and readily took Miss M, the tiny nursling with the occasional blowout poops, along for the ride.

But now we are faced with purchasing a lot of furniture and appliances all at once. In a currency we’re just getting used to and in a language I don’t understand all that well (and cannot speak back to save my life). And about half the time we’ve had two rambunctious, snack-demanding tyrants with us.*

The furniture shopping was agonizingly slow because it was one piece here, one piece here, once piece here. We’re still not done. But at least by the end of next week we should have mattresses for everyone–and whole beds for the kids! (Note to self: must buy sheets in Israeli sizes.) Oh yes, the next-day delivery from mattress stores or 3-day delivery from furniture stores? Whoops, wrong country. I mean we don’t have a shortage of beds to sleep in, but they are not in our apartment but rather in Jerusalem or Haifa or the suburbs of Tel Aviv.

We have been attempting to divide and conquer at the appliance stores, wherein Taxman deals with the negotiations (read: haggling. This is the Middle East and you never know when you have reached the “final price,” unless you a) walk away and never come back or b) put down a deposit) and I attempt to keep the small people from breaking the merchandise/touching the wall of flatscreen TVs. This involves keeping their MP3 players charged and their mouths full of snack. And sometimes waiting too long to force AM to go to the bathroom and having him pee a little on my shirt. But I digress. (It was gross, although I was already sweaty and disgusting, so what’s a touch of pee? It was the principle, in that it was SO grotesquely obvious that he needed to pee, but had been refusing to go for 30 minutes and finally when I laid down the law he admitted it was about 15 minutes past due and almost could not stop it. Vey iz mir.)

No two appliances chains have the exact same models, a la trying to comparison shop for mattresses in the United States. Sometimes prices at the same chain differ from city to city. The brands are largely unfamiliar. We know of LG and Siemens, but Bellers, Bauchknecht, and Beko? No. (Two of the last three are made in Turkey.) The salespeople are either completely disinterested or so aggressive we might have to change our cellphone number. Seriously, if a woman named Yaffa calls for us? We haven’t made a decision, we’re not home right now, and we might be moving to Botswana next week.

So we still do not have a fridge or a stove or a washing machine. But really, really, really we have to decide–it’s just a lot of money. At some point we were thinking of buying second hand, which we might do for some furniture, but we don’t want to get older appliances (5+ years) because they improve efficiency all the time and for the newer second hand by the time you pay to move it to your place and pay to have it installed by a professional it could easily be almost the price of buying new. If you get a good deal when buying new, that is, and that is hard to do when you feel like you are constantly being harangued or fleeced.


But we had a true Israeli moment today. Taxman pulled the car into a gas station. Unsure of which side the gas tank was on, he stopped short of the self-serve island and we peered out of the car to try to guess. We were immediately approached by a gas station attendant. Rather than attempting to get us to come to the full serve island (more expensive, natch), he tried to get us to buy a kumkum–an electric kettle that is a mainstay of pretty much every household. “Giveret, giveret!” (Miss, miss!) he kept calling to me, extolling the virtues of said kumkum (good brand, good price). It was a good price and a brand I recognized, but somehow I just couldn’t buy a small kitchen electric at a gas station. Maybe once I’ve been here for more than six days. We did, however, meet our 30 liter minimum to qualify for a free 1.5 liter bottle of water. If we fill up again Friday I think we get either a free newspaper or a free challah (!). New stuff around every corner.

Many thanks to Gila from Aliyah by Accident, who rescued us from a noontime meltdown in the playground (yes, it was 33 degrees, but now we have health insurance because Taxman was able to fill out the forms without preschool company) and fed us lunch and refilled the water glasses all around! Sorry Taxman fell asleep on your couch! We’ll call it jet lag.

* My in-laws have been really great about babysitting at all times of the day and night, but from time to time they have their own obligations. And we’ve been using them more for when we have to make trips to government offices and the like, where one of us can’t just disappear for 20 minutes at a time.

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I hope not.  This week was (or at some point very recently it was) National Infertility Awareness Week.

Our relatively brief struggles with infertility seem light-years ago, now that we are up to our eyeballs in preschool and miniature underpants and all that, but when you are trying to have a baby in your 20s and it takes 30 cycles to conceive (with no underlying medical reasons) it seems like a damn long time. I never did the heavy-duty drugs (just Clomid), but we were seriously considering IVF because it promised a 70+% success rate for someone my age and with my (non) diagnosis.

Our joy of success has always been tempered by knowing that others are struggling and may not have the kind of outcome that we did. We are annual supporters of A T.I.M.E, but just this week I discovered a program that truly made me smile. Socks seem like a small thing, but the message of caring is big.

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