Thursday, July 31, 2008
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
My to-do list is littered with unrealized good intentions. It's less an agenda than a menu. Each morning, I try to choose well from the Activity Buffet. But, inevitably, there's stuff left on my plate at the end of the day. I pack up the leftovers with care, dutifully copying them to tomorrow's list....If I accomplished one tenth of what I list, I'd be a much better person. I owe a wedding gift to a couple who have had their second child. There is the family that moved here three years ago, whom I keep meaning to invite to welcome to the neighborhood. I have a pile of e-mails and blog comments to answer.And then there are the thank-you-notes...
Monday, July 28, 2008
I got upset on the 4th of July when I thought about how much money was being spent on this ostentatious display of fireworks when it could go to feed starving children in Africa.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Life around here often takes place in the garden... but it's not always a rose garden.
It certainly can be. Last week our neighbor N., who runs after-school art classes for the neighborhood kids, hosted a lovely open studio evening, featuring artwork from all her young pupils from the past year. (She built her studio is built out of a renovated tin shed - complete with A/C - off the side of her garden, which is open to a lovely view of the surrounding hills).
The gathering was informal, with drinks, pretzels and fruit laid out under the olive tree, crafts and sculptures arranged on the ping-pong table, and drawings hung all around. Parents strolled around admiring the work, and kids drew and colored in the studio. N.'s calm presence filled the garden, as she repositioned the artwork and offered compliments to the artists' parents. Neighbors who hadn't seen each other in a few days (amazing how often that happens) sat chatting in the grass.
What has always given me pause for thought is that beyond a few specific cases, most people here agrees to disagree, and leave it at that. It's a "I won't trample your boundaries if you don't trample mine" sort of set-up.
Of course, not all is rosy in our village. Over-all, there are feelings of closeness and community. Yet there are always those stuck in some form of social exile, whether external or self-imposed. Over time, disagreements crop up. People can feel mistreated, resentful, and angry, and get stuck with a grudge for eons. Others find themselves in the position of go-between. Still others stay completely out of the loop.
The most common form of dilemma usually involves kids. What do you do when your neighbors' kids are bullying on one of yours? How do you feel when your son's best friend likes to watch violent movies you'd rather not expose him to? What's your reaction when your friends' daughter when she purposely pours water all over your newly cleaned rabbit cage, just to see your reaction? (Yes, that one actually happened).
Beyond that, the most common areas of agree-to-disagreement: junk piling up in the driveway, neighborhood dues collections, and whether certain kinds of [women's] outfits are suitable for beit knesset. Other issues involve the personal, or maybe, personality. Still others are, well... I don't want to know. In a small community, you learn that when in doubt, keeping your mouth shut might be the best option.
Like all others, our community has had its share of sorrows. Also of celebrations. And all of them have felt like community sorrows, and community celebrations. Since regardless of everything, if you really need something, you know that these people will always be there for you, as you've been - and will be - for them.
Maybe some of the strongest ties are not necessarily based on agreeing, but rather, on agreeing to disagree. I imagine we're not the only ones...
Keep the balance,
Monday, July 14, 2008
The reality: when do I ever have time for things like this? I'll tell you when: when I'm waiting for my car to have its guts oiled and realigned. On any given morning there is no cafe, no lazy breakfast that I've paid someone else to prepare -- it's just work, work, work, then rush home for the second shift: talk and play with the kids, visit a neighbor, prepare supper (maybe fitting a blog post - or part of one - in there somewhere), tidy up the house a bit, and maybe make a couple of phone calls while stuffing the dishes into the dishwasher. All while thinking, Thank G-d for the dishwasher.
(And since it's summer, convincing the kids it's time for bed can take, well, 45 minutes on a good day. "But Mommy, the sun is still out, it's not time for bed yet!" I'm tired. I still have twelve things to do this evening. It's time for you to go to bed).
My friend S calls it her fear of limited energy. All mothers know to keep some spare, but what happens when we have some timely project to finish and we forget to budget our energy for the rest of the day? Or we had a particularly stressful or emotional day at work (it can happen)? Or we've been letting "The List" (read: laundry / dishes / phone calls / paying the bills / helping with a school project / cleaning the litter box-fish tank-hamster cage) run way over board, for way too long? The day still has hours remaining, but you, my dear, do not. Then what?
One of my neighbors (name withheld to protect the innocent) once confided in me, in a hushed voice, that she actually lets her kids have cereal for supper once a week.
I was astonished, not by her "admission," but by the fact that she saw it as such.
In my book, if she manages to get through her week and have the energy to prepare supper for her family six nights out of seven, that sounds like a real accomplishment to me. I mean, I practically survived my teenage years on breakfast cereals (and tofu-broccoli stir-fry, and Haagen-Dazs with whipped cream), and it didn't seem to do much harm. As we know, all major breakfast cereals are fortified -- B vitamins, folic acid -- and have been so since the FDA realized that this is one way to insure that most Americans will get enough of these nutrients (see a short history c/o the NIH here).
Furthermore, grain products and dairy together? That's a complete protein. (And while we're on the subject, see here for the protein content of various vegetarian food sources). Your kids could certainly do worse. Anyway, with the price of cereal these days, it's practically a luxury food.
Just think of it as buying back a little energy at the end of your never-ending day.
Keep the balance,