#blogelul 20: Judge

This is a tough one. Even those of us who consider ourselves to be open-minded – aren’t we judgmental, maybe especially toward those who we perceive to be less enlightened than we think we are? And don’t we feel like everyone is judging us all the time, and so we act in ways that might allow us to be judged favorably – whether in the way we dress, the neighborhood in which we reside, the friends we keep, or the way in which we parent our children publicly?

The reality is that we are the harshest judges toward ourselves. If this were not true, we would not care what others think, or even what others do, because we would be confident enough in ourselves to not pay attention to those around us.

So perhaps the best thing I can do for myself in the coming year is to learn to judge myself less and love myself more. Perhaps that is setting the bar high. It may take more than a year. But I’m willing to try. Who will join me on this journey?

#blogelul 19: Ask

In the process of moving, we have had to ask ourselves over and over again, “Keep or toss?” There are of course things we do not NEED. Yet we hesitate in answering the question, because we are really asking ourselves if we need the momento to remember the event, the person, whatever that is attached to that thing. By and large, the answer is NO. But we continue to ask the question anyway.

This is not something, by the way, that only pertains to moving. Isn’t this something we do all the time? Evaluate what we need to keep in our lives, and what to get rid of? We are constantly asking ourselves this question, even though we generally know the answer before we ask.

And when it comes to relationships?

(Because whenever possible, I like to throw in a Broadway lyrical reference. Though I am sincere in its meaning.)

“Love me – that’s all I ask of you.”

#blogelul 17/18: Awaken/Pray

Perhaps ironically, I did get to yesterday’s topic of “Awaken” because by the time I could have attended to writing, I was falling asleep.

But it seems fitting that I “catch up” by combining this with the topic of “Pray,” as they are very much linked.

When I pray – really pray, as opposed to going through the motions – something always awakens within me. A sense of what is truly important in my life, while the rest just fades away, at least for a moment. A sense that there is something out there that is bigger than myself, and because of that, everything in my life will somehow fall into place because it is part of a larger picture. A sense that through faith, my prayers will be answered, even if it does not look exactly how I picture it before it happens.

Yesterday, I got to meet the 10 day old son of my very dear friends. Holding a brand new life awakens you to all the possibilities this world can offer. In fact, i have several friends who have had babies in recent weeks. For all of them, I pray that life is just challenging enough that they learn to cope with the realities of the world, yet easy enough that they do not need to use those skills too often. I pray that they are full of health and happiness throughout their lives. And I pray that they find plenty of reasons to laugh each day.

Nothing awakens my knowledge of the miracles of the world quite like the welcome of new life and all the possibilities it holds.

#blogelul 16: Change

Change is difficult for even the most adaptable people. How we handle change is what makes all the difference. As a social worker, I was trained to be a “change agent,” which is ironic in a way when you consider that it was some type of significant change that often led to the state of crisis that required one to need a social worker. It may also be why outwardly, I generally appear to handle change calmly and without getting too ruffled, though the reality is that most of the time, I am a total mess on the inside. How my blood pressure remains low is a consistent source of amazement.

Our family is in the midst of a significant change. We have been renting a lovely home in a great neighborhood for the past four years. We now have to move. And so at the end of next week, we will say goodbye to our home. Although we never owned it, it was definitely ours. This is the longest our children have ever resided in one house due to previous relocations in recent years. It has been a difficult but necessary pill to swallow as the reality of moving day has drawn ever nearer.

Our priority from the beginning of this very long process has been to keep our kids in the same school. They have voiced this desire very strongly and clearly and consistently, and we vowed to do what we could to ensure this would happen. Unfortunately, the rental market in our town is much different today than it was when we arrived here four years ago, and our pickings were initially slim… And then none. And of course, everyone had an opinion about why we should just move elsewhere. Here is the reality – not all kids are super resilient. We decided that if we had the ability to minimize the amount of change in our lives, why wouldn’t we do that for the sake of our kids’ well-being? (And quite frankly, for mine as well. I know how our school works and the teachers and front office staff and other parents – I don’t really want to start all over with that again, either!)

So after searching the non-existent listings and considering all kinds of crazy options that I won’t elaborate on here – we decided to rent an apartment. We are really excited about this change – we will be living right in the heart of the downtown area of our suburb, which means we can walk to many places that we frequent. We will even be closer to school – the kids declared that they can walk without me, which means I don’t have to sit in front of the school every day idling while I wait for them, wasting both time and fuel. (If it’s pouring rain, I’ll still pick them up. I’m not that mean!) And I am really looking forward to simplifying and not having so much STUFF just because we can. I am honestly a little disgusted by how many belongings we have acquired and kept over the years – just because we could.

As part of this downsizing project, we have been selling much of our furniture and will use the money to buy new items that will fit better in a smaller space. We currently have nowhere to sit in our living room, which has been a fun experiment. Our huge stand mixer with a million attachments that we got as a wedding shower gift that I never used, despite everyone’s sworn oath that once I had kids I would use it all the time? Gone. But there are some bittersweet moments in all of this purging. My father-in-law’s (z”l) piano, which we have dragged around with us from move to move, even though none of us play. The comfy rocker where I held and fed and cuddled all my babies. Our swingset, which the kids hardly used but the presence of which somehow made me feel like we had a “real” suburban family. I keep reminding myself that these are just things, that the memories remain, and that our family being together supersedes any items we might own. But it’s still change. We will have to learn the comfortable spot on a new couch, and navigate the channel numbers on a new TV provider (since we will not be able to keep our satellite provider), and figure out new routines that play out better in our new physical space. And we will get there with all of it. But it will take some time to adjust to the change. How much time is anyone’s guess.

#blogelul 15: Learn

My children started a new school year today. I wish for them a year filled with learning that they find engaging, important, an relevant.

Being that this was a half day, I was not sure how much academic learning would occur. An email from the principal indicated that during an all-school assembly, the students learned the new school motto: “Have fun. Work hard. Be kind.”

Sounds like words we can all learn to live by.

#blogelul 14: Remember

Memory is a funny thing. How is it that I can’t remember what I had for lunch, but I hear a song from 1984 and recall every single word? Yes, I know the science (sort of) of brain functioning and the storing of some information into long-term memory, yada yada yada. (A classic episode of Seinfeld, of course. See, I remember that, too!) I just think it’s funny (in a “that’s interesting”, not a “ha ha” kind of way) that this is how it works.

I feel like my life is full of having to remember things in order to move everyone else’s lives forward. I have a million things to remember to do in order to get my youth education year started. I need to remember all the things my kids need to start their school year – and according to them, I apparently also need to remember where each of their belongings might be locates at any given time. I have to keep all the schedules and food preferences and backpack/lunchbox ownerships straight, and it can be exhausting and overwhelming to remember all of this stuff, all the time. Seriously, how did we DO all of this without calendars right in our phones to keep us organized? If I don’t write down a date for an activity – mine or another household member’s – the moment it is scheduled, then forget it – I probably won’t remember.

I wasn’t always like this. Before I had children, I remembered EVERYTHING. I guess it was easier when I only had myself (and my husband) to keep track of. Maybe you get to a certain point in your life – which is probably different for everyone, and that is not dependent on having children – where you unconsciously decide to remember, first and foremost, what is most important in life, and you choose to forget all the minutiae that can otherwise hold you up. At least, that is the theory I will opt to remember.

#blogelul 11/12/13: Count/Trust/Forgive

I fell behind and neglected my self-imposed Elul responsibility to blog every day.

I can count on too-few fingers the number of hours of sleep I got while living in the NFTY bubble. It has been a while since I helped staff a five day event, and I had forgotten just how exhausting it is – and how you don’t recognize that exhaustion when you’re in the midst of everything.

It was heartening to recall the easy trust that is given to you by NFTY teens, just by committing to be part of their community for part or all of a weekend.

I am kicking myself for neglecting this project for a couple days, and want to forgive myself for these accidental omissions. And I need to learn to forgive myself for so much more. Things that really matter, like the times I do not treat my family with the kindness they deserve, or neglecting my friends for significant lengths of time. This year, I will focus on upholding all of my obligations, whether to myself or others.

#blogelul 10: See

As we approach Shabbat, I think of the last few days in this community of teens who are so enthusiastic about being and doing Jewish. Through them, I see the potential for our Movement’s youth engagement efforts, and I believe we can make it happen.

Shabbat Shalom from Oconomowoc!

#blogelul 9: Hear (#sumka13 guest bloggers)

I spent some time this morning teaching a track on social media to a group of teens attending NFTY CANOe (Chicago and Northern regions) Summer Kallah (#sumka13). Part of our session was devoted to blogging. I thought you might like to hear what our teens have to say on the topic of “hear.”

Although hearing is an important sense, we sometimes don’t utilize it to its fullest extent. What we hear can be different from what reality is. Unless we are able to witness something and actually see it, we can’t be sure.

Hearing is not listening. You can hear something and have no idea what was just said.

Most people can hear things. We hear things the moment we develop ears inside our mothers. But listening is a whole other topic. Anyone can hear something, but not everyone can truly listen. A listener is a special type of person. They can grant you undivided attention while you are talking. They can give advice when needed. They can even just be a person to vent to when you need them. A listener is an important type, way more meaningful than a person who can only hear.

Remember what you hear, and hear what you remember. Keep in mind the helpful tips and loopholes that your friends, family, and teachers pass on to you, and make good use of their wisdom.

So we hear but we don’t listen. We’re inconsiderate people and we only think of ourselves. Everyone sort of tunes out what everyone else says. So next time, when the voices in your head get too loud, start to hear those, and when the voices of the people you’re supposed to care about actually show affection to you, maybe you should listen.

Stop and look at the world and all its beauty. But better yet why not close your eyes and soak in all the noise. The birds singing or the cars blaring. The wind whistling and the water trickling. I have learned that the greatest views of Earth are of that which we can’t see.

#blogelul 8: Believe

The first things that popped into my head with today’s topic were song lyrics.

“Do you believe in life after love?”

“I believe the children are our future.”

“I am a Mormon, and a Mormon just believes.”

I don’t know the truth of that last one personally, but I think that Jewish people can “just believe” as well. Despite our penchant for complaining, we believe.

I believe that life does not throw more at you than you can handle.

I believe that there are reasons for most things that happen in life, even if you can’t see what those reasons are at the time.

I believe that our friends who are facing health challenges are going to be fine – especially our smallest friends. Because they have to be.

I believe that challenges of any kind serve to make you stronger and test you, in a good way, to discover that limits you thought you had were never really there.

I believe that whoever created autocorrect has a wicked sense of humor.

I believe that spending time with children – related to you or not – is good for the soul.

I believe that sleep is the most important gift you can give to yourself, every night, regardless of what you still need to do around your house. That will still all be there in the morning, after you have slept well and can get to it with renewed energy.

I believe that trying to stay awake any longer to write more of this post could have serious repercussions for me in the morning. So I bid you Laila Tov (good night).