Purim lots

My husband and I fell in love and got married quicker than you can say “Who moved my cheese?”

Almost as quickly, if not quicker, we got pregnant with our first kid.

We didn’t take the time to have the important parenting conversations like,

“Do you mind if our kids eat candy for breakfast?”

“Is it important that our kids go to college? Or is GED good enough?”

“Is it okay if our son marries his cousin?”

Somehow, we’ve made it this far without divorcing or selling one of our children on the black market.

Eventually, we had a lot of those crucial conversations, and luckily see eye-to-eye on most parenting issues.

Our values line up.

When we disagree, I can usually persuade him.  Sometimes it takes a few years…Like the time he refused to switch from Heinz ketchup to the organic Whole Foods brand.

Three years later the organic brand was in our fridge door.

(Now, in Israel, we’re back to Heinz. It’s a specialty item, which in Hebrew means “practically organic.”)

There was this one time, however, when my husband was right in the first place.

We were talking about our kids as teenagers and how comfortable we would feel if one of them decided to dress “Goth.”

My husband was insistent that we would be flexible about piercings and black lipstick and long leather jackets. He said we needed to foster their sense of creativity and self expression.

I could see his point, though I was hesitant and reluctant.

Truth is: I don’t want my kid to be the kid teachers and other kids are afraid of.

Also, I’ve never been good at not being scared of people who dress scary.

I don’t want to be scared of my own kid.

Our kids are still too young to be expressing themselves with their outerwear just yet, but one day a year, my oldest son wants to show off his dark side.

Purim.

The other kids come to the bus stop in homemade Mordechai costumes, or walking clever references to pop culture.

But my kid?

Year after year, he wants to scare the bejeezus out of you.

scary purim costume

My husband usually goes along with it.

But this year, concerning the above nail-impaled zombie mask, my husband was himself reluctant.

At first, he considering forbidding my son to wear the mask. (It was a gift from Saba and Savta.)

It’s not appropriate, my husband told me. Purim is not Halloween.

He’s right.

Or at least maybe he’s right.

Who am I to know what’s Purim appropriate? I’m still a Jew in progress. Still an immigrant mom. Still figuring out how not to embarrass myself on a daily basis.

But what I do know —  what I’m sure of — is that my husband was right when we first had that conversation 8 or 9 years ago.

We absolutely, positively want our children to feel free to express themselves.

As long as they aren’t hurting themselves, or others, we want them to be comfortable showing the world who they are.

To dance.

To sing.

To frolic.

To feast.

To be free.

This is Purim spirit, I’m sure of it.

This much I know.

Yin yang

It’s almost 6 months since we moved to Israel…and I’ll soon compose a contemplative look back at our transition to life here. But in the meantime, I’m doing eight loads of laundry in a crappy stackable washer/dryer set that’s shoved in too tight into our bathroom and it got me wondering…how is my life easier and harder compared to my life in the NJ suburbs?

I recently discovered this blog post at BrainPickings.org in which they feature a film of people discussing their “perfect city.” I loved watching what people had to say about their ideal community, and then thinking about my own answer, particularly since I have been so immersed in and focused on intentional community since we moved here.

The answer for me, if I’m offering the simple one, is “my ideal community would make my life feel easy.” Why? Because I find that the “easier” my life feels, the easier it is for me to give and receive. To love and be loved. To enjoy life. To live in the present. To smile. To breathe.

Why “feel” easy? Because, as you must know, there is no easy and hard. There’s only what you feel is easy and what you interpret as hard.

Now, of course, living in (or participating in)  intentional community isn’t always easy. Like life, living in a small, intentional community is give and take; sweet and sour; hot and cold; easy and hard. It’s our job to be mindful of the balance, no? 

Much of what makes my life feel easier here has to do with living in intentional community. I’m very present to that fact, and thankful for it, because it really counterbalances most of what makes my life seem harder here:

  • Bugs
  • Parasitic bugs that like to live in your hair
  • Critters
  • Poisonous critters
  • Critters that hang out on your ceiling while you’re sleeping
  • Critters that hang out on your porch waiting to bite you
  • Dirt
  • Dirt that somehow ends up in your dryer, despite going through a wash cycle
  • Dirt that won’t come out of your laundry…ever
  • Dust
  • Dust on your window screen, on your floors, car windows
  • Cleaning dust on a tri-weekly basis
  • Being far away from family and friends
  • Being far away from family and friends, and trying to find a good time to Skype with a 7-hour time difference
  • Food
  • Food-centric society
  • Food-centric society that loves the foods my kids are allergic to
  • Food-centric society that isn’t necessarily mindful about how said food leads to rotten teeth, poor behavior, and childhood obesity
  • Crappy appliances
  • Foreign germs
  • Language barriers
  • Bureacracy
  • Crazy drivers
  • And, in a nutshell, a society that cares little for clear order, rules, organization, structure, or advance notice

When I get aggravated about, annoyed with, or frustrated by the things that seem to make my life harder here, I try to remind myself of what makes my life feel easier:

  • Intentional community: Neighbors that want to get to know me, and do
  • Family-friendly community (and by community, I mean both specifically the “yishuv” of Hannaton, and Israeli society)
  • The sharing, caring, and intimacy that comes with living in small community
  • Open space
  • Open space filled with children my children’s ages
  • Mild weather
  • The beach
  • Less time in the car (walking the kids to preschool, the bus stop, etc.)
  • Family nearby
  • Shabbat
  • Shabbat dinners at my house (where your kids to entertain mine)
  • Shabbat dinners at your house (where my kids eat your food and you clean up after them)
  • English-speaking co-workers
  • English-speaking neighbors
  • Hebrew-speaking neighbors that are tolerant of my “Heeblish”
  • Minimalistic lifestyle
  • Yoga on my neighbbor’s rooftop

  • Letting go…

The list is much longer than this, I am sure. And could get a lot more detailed and specific. And perhaps it will…

I’d love to hear your thoughts on your “ideal community.” What about where you live makes your life easy or hard? If you could live anywhere, would you live where you do? And if not, where would you live?