Friday, April 04, 2014

Manic Activism Continued

Last night I wrote a little about how I want to change the world,

and also about my fear of annoying other people in my effort to do that.

This morning I have some new thoughts on the subject.

First an anecdote:

A friend of mine was telling me about teaching high school in a very rough school. One of her students actually pushed or hit her. When the teacher protested, the girl aggressively said,

"Miss, you're making me FEEL bad."

It occurs to me that the reason people don't like to become aware of nasty, inhumane and cruel aspects of our world for that very reason. I don't want to go around making people FEEL bad, but I also would like to minimize the rather greater suffering of people and animals who are actually being mistreated in the world in a way that goes well beyond making them FEEL bad.

I went to bed last night with images in my head of factory farm slaughter. We've all heard that it's BAD and maybe even seem images before. There were some new practices I learned of last night that shocked me.

The baby chicks -- boys, I think they said -- would be useless for meat, so were being thrown into a machine that ground them up alive for farm feed.

Pigs were killed by being pushed into boiling water.

Chickens, after being genetically modified into horrific looking creatures, were mutilated so they wouldn't peck each other, then killed by hanging them upside down and dipping their heads into electrified water.

"Thank G-d I keep Kosher," you might say. But there are plenty of practices wrong that with that industry as well including shackling and hoisting cows off the ground before schita. Terrifying an animal before killing it is torture, and there are many out there who would dispute the idea that such practices can count as "Kosher."

But let's say you're a vegetarian, which I try to be although I just did my annual meat order from pasture raised Grow and Behold to get us through Pesach. (So glad to be able to have this "alternative" meat, but still feel sad about eating animals, and don't feel so healthy after eating them.)

Here are some other concerns:

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Manic Activism

I think this tends to happen to me in the spring that I start to feel a sort of manic activism.

I just got home from watching Vegucated with my CSA as a launch for this year's farm share. It got me reflecting once again on my food choices which is a little stressful for me because there are so many "don'ts" and "can'ts," some more self-imposed than others. I try to be mostly vegetarian and would consider veganism if 1. I didn't love cheese but 2. (more importantly) I wasn't allergic to nuts and wary of soy. I would love to craft the most humane food-eating regimen possible, but for my food sensitivities, Kashrut, difficulty to come by certain foods, high risk for breast cancer (and so avoidance of soy) etc. After the images of animal mistreatment, however, I think it's tragic how many people eat meat -- including Kosher -- without fully realizing the impact of their consumption. If they knew, they might still choose to eat meat. But shouldn't they know?

It's not just food on my mind.

I'm also about to start my yearly Tread On Trafficking campaign to combat modern day child sexual slavery.

I'm writing an article about issues of gender in the Orthodox Jewish Community.

I spent a weekend with a dear friend that reminds me of my desire to watch my actions environmentally throughout every part of my day. (Amazing how proximity to the right people can remind you of values you share.)

I also just completed phase 1 of a project in my school to reduce waste production, especially of plastic water bottles. I'm proudest of that because it took a lot of planning and I see the effects immediately, but I'll return to that in another post.

I suppose when I'm like this, it could start getting annoying for others. All this desire to change is a form of perfectionism for the world and we all know how unhealthy perfectionism can be. I may be labeled idealist, self-righteous, obnoxious. They would be fair labels.

However, the alternative is dire. The things I'm aware of that drive me towards working on each of these causes (and more) must be tackled if not actually changed. The fact that so many people are  unaware is frightening.

Like the bumper sticker says, "If you're not pissed off, you aren't paying attention."

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Purim 2014

Awesome Purim this year.

-another successful women's megillah reading at night (organized by yours truly)
-reading an entire perek (5) at the Tiferet reading in the morning
-delivering mishloach manot
-a lovely seudah

Two things I want to tell in a little more detail:

The first time I ever read Megillah was back at Oberlin. I was asked to read the 5th perek (same as this year) but was given no guidance other than a tape of someone reading. The recording was scratchy and had an old man's voice. I didn't know how to read trope so I just listened to the tape again and again until I was literally doing it in my sleep. (My next door neighbors in the dorm told me.) However, I ran out of time and was overwhelmed and so couldn't even learn the trope for the second half and was disappointed to simply read it aloud at that reading.

In years since I've done either the first or second half again, but have many more resources available now. I have friends who can teach me trope and "spot" me when I practice. I have had more experience. I also have the JOFA app which teaches trope individually and also has an interactive recording that you can listen to with and without tikkun.

I got a head start on practicing and for the first time did the entire perek correctly. If I do say so myself, I blew it out of the water. I read clearly, I read loud and I read with confidence. For someone who has not always been self-assured, I always feel so proud to stand in front of a group and do well with something I've practiced so hard.

The other thing I'll tell about was delivering mishloach manot. This year we decided to deliver to all of the girls in ND's class as well as a few other friends. It took over an hour and a half to drive through Teaneck, Bergenfield and even New Milford and back to Englewood making deliveries. Exhausting, but so much fun. There were cars everywhere with costumed drivers, starting and stopping with both kids and adults climbing out over the remaining piles of snow to drop off a bag and get back on the road again. In many ways there are times when I've found myself disagreeing politically, religiously or in some other way about lifestyle with many of the people within the local Jewish community, but to all be part of this fun, silly and friendly activity today was a delight. I loved being Jewish and part of a Jewish community.

Last but not least… I've found a simple way to say why I love Purim so much. On nearly every other holiday, there is a feeling of seriousness, of profoundness, of grandeur, but then underneath there is a kind of disappointment, because we can't all sustain deep serious religious thoughts all day. Underneath it we find our minds drifting to the mundane and just end the day eating.

On Purim, at least some of that is opposite. There is no outer veil of the profound and spiritual. What we wear on the outside is all the silliness, all the noise, all the baseness that is true to ourselves. The story we tell is about parties and wild emotions and people with too much stuff making terrible decisions about life and death. But if we're celebrating right, then underneath it all there is something powerful and right and very spiritual. There is the believe that goodness and light will emerge and correct what is wrong in our world. To me there is the idea that THROUGH our imperfections and our desires (not in spite of), divinity will shine.

And then we eat.

Sunday, March 09, 2014


The other day ND climbed into bed with us.

U. said, "Climb between us and you can be the cheese in our sandwich."

ND: I need to put my legs on top of yours because the cheese usually sticks out of the sandwich a little.

U: OK, but you should be quiet now. Right now you're acting like chatter cheese.

Me: It would be better if you were shush cheese.

ND: But I have to make a lot of noise because I'm yell-ow cheese.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Game Changer

Well now, this is an interesting one…

I'm home sick today with a nasty cold. Runny nose, coughing deep in the bronchial tubes. The works.

As always I feel a little frustrated, pitiful, a little scared even maybe guilty. Maybe.

Check this out… this is my SECOND sick day I've taken since the start of the school year.

That's huge.

In the past I often was lucky to keep it to an average of one day per month.

This is due to a combination of things, I'm sure.

For one, I don't work Fridays, which means that sometimes when I'm not feeling well I just make it to Friday and then go slow.

Secondly, I don't have the same stress levels now that I'm not a classroom teacher.

Thirdly, I've been differentiating more between all-out-sick (like today) and just my fatigue spells that I still get quite regularly and I think probably will get for the rest of my life.

Fourth, because my job is not that of a classroom teacher, I can get through the a fatigue day whereas the thought of facing a classroom on a day like that was daunting.

Fifth, maybe I'm just taking better care of myself. Not that I wasn't before, but it's a constant focus. Maybe I'm growing in my ability to stay well.

I still laid in bed on Shabbat worrying about whether I had cancer again. I rehashed all the frightening memories that go with having my lung space compromised the way it is right now and was then before my diagnosis 11 years ago. Overall I know I just have a cold, that this is a normal cold that all people are susceptible to, and that I'll be back to normal when my body's had the time to rest… it will today. Just as soon as I thank G-d and then get back into bed.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

With a family like this, why would I want to escape?

Today was our second snow day from school this week and this year. U and ND had a brilliant idea.

There's an app we like to play together called Can You Escape? The goal of the game is to escape each room by finding tools and codes around a room to solve and to help you open a door out.
Imagine my surprise when I came downstairs to the dining room and heard the music from the game playing, a mostly bare room, and a few objects strategically placed around. 

A jump drive was inside the glass case.
 But I couldn't open the case without the code:
I found the code by looking through the place cards ND long ago made for us for the table, and finding a new one that had the colors in the right color.

So I could retrieve the jump drive. Then I could use it in the digital frame

which game me another code.

Sunday, December 22, 2013


I came to the alarming conclusion recently that not all people think of art in the same way that I do. I don't just mean a single work of art and that two people shouldn't have diverse reactions to it. I mean that I have discovered not all people see art in the same life-defining soul-wrenching way.

I'm going to talk primarily about movies here. Yes, movies are an art form. A few months ago U went out with some friends to see a movie that I'm not going to name for reasons which I will explain below. In any case, he went with these friends to this movie, all of them thinking they were going to an action movie. They were planning to come home afterwards and just go on with their lives as if nothing significant had happened other than them having a fun night out together.

When they came out of the movie they talked about it. His friends chattering away about nitpicky details and saying