Finding myself in the Middle East

Friday, November 27, 2009

Til The Fat Lady Sings

I need to go shopping for shabbas. It's thursday night. I was not so organized this week, and now I'm gonna pay the price. I'll be up cooking until the wee wee wee hours. But that's okay! It's all because of whay's been going on these past few days!
Like a rainstorm of creative openings, is my life right now! I am acting in a play. I am giving a yom iyun speech at a seminary. I am going to dust off my Healthy Body Image seminar and give that over, too.

And the most creative thing of all I cannot breathe a word of to anyone for another couple of months, but it is making me rather fatigued and nauseous in the morning...

You won't tell anyone, will you, O Internet?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Tznius, Cover your Knee-is!

So, we started these tznius groups in our neighborhood. We had the first meeting last week after shabbas, and the second tonight. 'Cept I missed it because I went to table-read for a play that I will be in. So fun, by the way! My part, which is the main part, which is super cheezy to say, but rolls off the tongue SO NICELY, is super de duper dramatic and I get to wear a wedding dress and sing about my PAIN and LONGING, and it's been a long time since I got to make an audience cry! I love makin' 'em cry!

Anyway. Back to the tznius groups.

So. Tznius discussions always brings out weird things in me. Not weird like a tendancy to grow fur and fangs and howl at the moon, but weird like ambivalent and teenage-ish rebellious stirings.

Now, I consider myself a pretty tznius person. I don't wear tight clothing, I am very careful about the length of my skirt, and my shaitel (which sits so nicely and patiently in my closet beside my oft-worn bin of scarves) is a long less than two feet long. (although if being tnzius means blending in to the neighborhood, maybe I should rock me some two foot-long shaitel and black skin-tight tops. But that is a mean and caty sort of thing to say, so pretend that I didn't say it. Because I'm not mean. Or catty. Meow.) I just have a hard time listening to it being preached. A few reasons:

1. Still a little traumatized from being brought to the front of the room in 11th grade and, using a book that had these little measurements drawn all over little drawings of girls and a TAPE MEASURE, my teacher showed the whole class why my shirt was not tzius. Blush much?

2. I feel like they always MISS THE POINT. (I am going a little capslock crazy in this post, am I not? I apologise. I REALY DO.) Like they talk about the symptoms instead of the problem. Yes, girls do show too much and don't understand the spirit of the law. But they don't ask WHY. WHY do they feel the need to dress this way? I agree with Outdoorsman who says that so much of tznius is all about how you feel about yourself. If you feel good and accomplished in your own skills and merits, you won't feel that pressing need to get attention with your body. And when girls are not allowed to do anything except shop, then yeah, they might show a tendancy to be materialistic and give their bodies more importance then they should have.

3. They seem to confuse being a bas melech with wearing dry-clean clothes and only wearing a shaitel. I know that denim rhymes with gehenom, but seriously? Banning a fablic? I feel that dressing casually, at least for me, means more time for the kids in the sandbox, and letting them cry and get snot all over my shoulder, because I'm a MOTHER, not a runway model, and I'm okay with dressing like one.

I could elaborate for many pages on all of my points, but I'll leave it for now because it's almost one in the morning and my kids should be waking up in oh, around NOW. No...NOW. Yup, there she is. Coco-pop. Am I good, or am I good?

Anyway anyway. I'll just end with a line that Outdoorsman started and I finished:

Tnzuis is not about covering your knees. It's about not thinking that your knees are that important.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Chulent-powered Rockets will take Man to the Moon

"Look at the horses!" Princess said.

--Which is not a comment you get every day walking down the streets of Ramat Eshkol, Jerusalem. So we stopped, because indeed, there were horses in the front of my building.

4 horses, they were. Two brown, one with a star on his forhead, and one black and one gray. They were tall, glorious, proud, and poopping all over the front walk.

The horses were tied to their trucks, and four bored-looking cops were sitting with their legs flung up, eating club sandwhiches and drinking coffee. What were they doing here, I wondered, as Princess backed up a step and clutched my hand. Scared as she was, she couldn't take her eyes off of the magnificent creatures, and Coco-pop's little fuzzy brain still didn't realize what her eyes were looking at at all. She continued to eat her Bamba, saliva and peanut butter mixing beautifully down the front of her shabbas dress.

Someone in the shabbas-bedecked crowd whispered something about the protest that was going on regarding a business that was going to stay open on shabbas. The horses and cops were probably hanging out here until they recieved a call that they were needed. In the parking lot across the street, we saw what looked like a water canon.

The crowd thinned until it was only us. 15 minutes later, Coco-pop Realized What It All Meant. They were Animals! And they had Huge Teeth! Waaaa! "Waaaa!" she remarked. Then I remembered my challa that I had put up to warm an hour ago that was surely burning, and we all headed at a clipped pace towards the front door. Our guests came, and we all sat down. We had pre-kiddush chit-chat. Then I said, "Let's give them some chulent."


"The cops."


Outdoorsman said, slowly, "That is an amazing idea."

We dished out 4 bowls of Outdoorsman's famous chulent, steaming and fragrant. We carried them out to the cops.

They said, no. We said, try some! They said, no. We said, it's really goooooood. They said, no. We gave it to them anyway. They took. They tried. They said, this is gooooood. We said, we know. Enjoy!

Later, Outdoorsman remarked that loving your fellow man is easy if the only fellow man that you love is the one that is just like you.

Today I read in the news that the protestors, protesting in the name of shabbas, threw rocks (on shabbas!) at the cops, and yelled and screamed in wild hatred.

With love, and in the name of shabbas, we served the cops warm and hearty chulent on a chilly shabbas day.

I wonder which one of us Shabbas Herself would be more proud of.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Yes I Would, If I Only Could

The kids found a dead crow in the park today, and set upon it at once. Sticks were brought out to poke it, and the brave in the pack touched it with the tips of their shoes.

Princess came running over to, roses in her cheeks, to tell me all about it. "So it's a CROW, and it's DEAD, and now we can look at it. Come see it! Come, Ima!"

Now, when I was around Princess' age, I was the original animal right's activist. Maybe the first one who couldn't spell it yet. I would cry when my neighbor poured water over an ant's nest, and spent hours trying to save as many of the insects as I could. Baby kittens, abandoned and milky-eyed would get bowls of cream. I could not kill spiders, nor did I want anyone else to. Nowawdays, I protect the stray cats in the park when children try to torment them. I fully expect to wake up one day and discover that I am the neighborhood Crazy Cat Lady (and every neighborhood has one, no?) with long stringy grey hair and a horrible screechy voice. And cat smell.

ANYWAY, Princess was pulling in my skirt and inviting me to gaze upon the sad little corpse of the dead crow. "No, Princess. I really don't want to. Looking at things like that makes Ima sad."

Princess puzzled over this. "But I didn't kill it!"

Oops. "I know, sweety. But just the idea that it is dead on the ground instead of flying in the sky and will never fly again makes Ima sad. So I do not want to see the dead crow. Okay?"

Thought bubbles apeared above Princess' head. They all said something to the effect of, Oh wow. I am only 4 1/2 years old, and I have been saddled with a loony mother. This is like those movies. And I don't know how I know that, because I've never seen a movie in my life.

So she shrugged, released her vulcan death grip on my skirt, and skipped off to play with the lifeless bird who had long since gone to The Great Windshield In The Sky. Mothers shouted out to the tight group around the crow, telling them that it was full of germs and dangerous, but the Call Of The Crow was too strong. They stood there, the world against them, but nothing would make them abandon their passion.

Five minutes and two recipe exchanges later, a bloodcurling scream echoed around the park. Mothers heads picked up collectively, eyes scanning for their progeny, and relaxing when they realized, not my kid.

'Twas mine.

Eyes wide with panic, she ran into my arms, trembling all over. "They--threw--the BIRD--at me! And said--I was gonna--get--SICK!"

I shushed and soothed, and held her. But she would not calm down. She looked up at me, eyes filled with unshed tears, and asked in a quieter voice, "What's going to happen to me?"

I told her nothing, nothing, nothing's going to happen, you will not get sick, it just touched you, and there is nothing to worry about, Ima is here.

"Who did it?" I whispered in her ear, and she pointed a shaky finger at the brown haired, brown skinned girl a few feet away rom us. Mean girl! Nasty girl! She was the girl who responded to Princess' friendly overtures by sticking out her tongue at her, who made the merry-go-round spin extra fast when Princess attempted to go on...nasty girl! Mean girl!I held my hapless daughter closer to my chest.

That was two days ago.

Yesterday, a girl called me on the phone. She spent the first ten minutes apologising for calling and then finally explained; apparently Princess had been bothering her daughter in gan. Teasing her, taking things away from her, throwing sand in her face from the sandbox. I told her I'll look into it. I did. I questioned Princess, who looked confused and innocent. The teachers were no help. either. ("how's my daughter?" "oh, she is so sweet and cute!" "oh, I bet you say that to all the pretty mothers.") So, I'm not really sure what the real story is, but it did shake me out of my little black and white world.

You see, if my daughter is a bully, they can't be Those Nasty Mean Girls. I mean, I guess I knew that. They are 4 years old, after all. And I knew that when I wrote this. But the satisfaction of knowing that my daughter would never do that is all gone. Simon and Garfunkle wrote that they'd rather be the hammer than the nail, but I think that the world is much simpler and clear-cut when you are the nail...but life is not like that, I suppose. I cannot cloak myself in self-righteous indignation anymore.

It's like the world is shades of gray! And not black and white! Or something!

Does that mean that my annoying neighbor is really annoyed BY ME?

No. That's just taking it too far.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Prince of Darkness

So much has been said about the misrad hapnim (i.e; punicipal office; office of interior; home of Dracula's tomb and evil incarnate) And it is not. enough. I have not spoken about it in a while because I know, dear internet, that it gets you all worked up and mad. (or wait. maybe that's me.)

I will therefore write about my visit yesterday in a light, happy vein, perhaps with a little rhyme. Perhaps the way that Dr. Suess would write it.

You are here for your visa? But I must take my break.
I need more coffee to fill the ache
In my breast from my lack of a soul
All this bloodsucking takes it's toll.
Ah yes! I finished my coffee, but do not come in yet,
First I must finish my cigarette.
Now enter! My presence! But, no, you must leave.
There is still one more paper that you must retrieve
And that is written proof that your grandfather's cat, Treat,
Never failed to land on all four feet.
Then you must go to the bank and get more money
(your laugh must be hysterics, because really, I'm not funny)
And then when you return from chashing in all your stock,
You will see the door. On it will be a lock.
You will cry and scream and tear out your hair,
But save it, honey. There is no one to care.

....on second thought, while that all pretty much rhymes, it's not funny at all. Oops.

On the bright side, after trying for one whole year to renew our visas, the fourth time is the charm! We are the proud owners of little pieces of paper glued to our passports that proclaim to the world--actually, I'm not sure what they proclaim. I'm not even sure what the point of visas is? To show that I know that I'm not a citizen? I thought that my lousy hebrew and my need for personal space was proof enough.

My little gingy Coco-pop spread a ray of sunlight around the dreary, dank darkness of the building. She was like a stake in a vampire's heart.

Yes, I will lay off the meds now.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Time of Our Lives

So we went to Tzfat during the Great Rainstorm of 2009. We went for Thursday, Friday and Shabbas. It rained on Thursday, on Friday, and on Shabbas. It rained. It mudded. It basically emptied its nose out on the narrow cobblestoned paths.

Then there was the agent. See, we're thinking about making an investment purchase in Tzfat, which was the real purpose of our trip. It all started off well enough. We stopped off at a real estate office, spoke to the guy behind the desk (or, rather, Outdoorsman spoke to him. I stayed in the car and sang "I wish I were a little striped skunk" 87 times to my adoring little fans in the back seat.) and then agreed to meet an agent as a certain address in two hours time.

We took a quick look around the artist quarter, fell in love with a painting and a pair of candlesticks, then met the agent at the apointed spot.

The problem began at exactly that moment.

The agent, you see, was wearing pointy cowboy boots.

Now, this is not a problem in and of itself. People are free to choose clothing that expresses whatever it is that they wish to express. I know people who wrap who pashminas around their heads and they are perfectly wonderful. The problem, I guess, is the nature of the client/agent relationship. Basically, it's like this:

Client: Hi! I love Israel! I want to purchase property in this sacred place!

Agent: mwahahahahahahahahahaha!

So, as clearly demonstrated in the above sketch, agents are pretty much, well, slime. Who want to fleece you. And then skin you. And then carve sinister tattoos on your lower calves.

So, someone who is in a slimy business should wear a nice suit, a tie that is knotted a bit too tight, a genuine smile--you know, try to give over the impression that while agents in general are horrible, he is a nice, honest guy who is not in it for the money, no, he is in it simply to make you happy.

So. Back to the pointy cowboy boots. In a nutshell, they sing:

If you are slimy and you know it wear pointy boots
If you're slimy and you know it wear pointy boots
If you're slimy and you know it
And you really want to show it
If you're slimy and you know it wear pointy boots!

Or maybe I have been singing too many backseat songs lately.

But, Agent in Boots turned out to be be exactly what he seemed to be. Which is actually honest of him. Which makes me all confused. So I will go on and forget about it.

Basically, we almost bought a place for double it's worth, and it rained. All. The Time.

And I don't even like cowboy boots.

But now for the postive!

1-It rained. A lot. But! I am happy, because we need rain. And right above the kineret! Which is totally amazing and a huge blessing and maybe means my water bill will not require a shot of bourbon before opening.

(Only, maybe, it could have started, like, on sunday? As we were pulling out? Like, Oh yay, wow, thank you G-d, it's raining! What a blessing! And also now we are in a nice warm and dry car!)

2-Agent, he lied. But Outdoorsman outsmarted him by figuring out the real value of the cottage. So, sad short term, but happy long term.

3-Also, my girls now know all of the songs that made my childhood so memorable.

All in all, a trip to remember. Then we'll say, "Oh, do you remember that time? When we went to Tzfat? And it rained the whole time and everyone was muddy and cold and you forgot to pack sweaters and we were cooped up in a tiny room with no windows and in the middle of the night someone yelled through door for someone named Mendel and then the agent tried to cheat us out of our life savings? Remember?"

Then we'll all laugh. Nervously. And change the subject.


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