Thursday, May 29, 2014

Extra Commandments for the 21st Century

Here are the original 10 Commandments

Next week we celebrate Pentecost or The Feast of Weeks (Shavuot). In Judaism it still marks the Old Testament event of The Giving of the Law (Torah) on Mt Sinai. The 10 Commandments were written on the two tablets whereas the rest was an oral rendition passed on from Moses to the elders and from the elders to the people.

Thus, you could say that much of the Torah is open to interpretation whereas The 10 Commandments were literally etched in stone. However, after 3,500 (or so) years we are due for some extra, more modern, commandments. Not instead of but as well as.

The 13 Commandments for the 21st Century

1. I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other gods before me. This includes rabbis and any other figures of authority including politicians and celebrities. People with power are not necessarily with wisdom. Those who do have wisdom are a valuable resource to guide and advise you. They are not God, they cannot command you.

2. Go forth and have a couple, even a few, children if you want to. Go forth and multiply was relevant in its day when the world needed populating. The world is now populated. You are not commanded to have as many children as you can before your body gives out and your life (what's left of it) is at risk.

3. Do not ruin the Earth for future generations. Plant trees, leave open spaces, conserve resources, recycle. You are loaned this earth for a short period of time, return it as you would wish to find it.

4. Go Vegan. Dietary laws are divisive and carnivores use up so many nutritional resources it causes starvation in poorer countries. A vegan diet would eliminate the need to separate religions over a good meal and would help to alleviate starvation.

5. Embrace the other, love, tolerance, understanding, empathy, and acceptance are all essential. We live in a global village, we have to get along. Gone are the days of raising the drawbridge and keeping the world out. A religion that tries to cut itself off from the others either has something to hide or something to fear. The only reason for restricting your children from learning about the world and customs other than your own, is if you are insecure about your own teachings and therefore fearful of losing control over them.

6. Religion is flexible, be kind to yourself and others. Consideration of others is not flexible and suffering for no reason is plain stupid. A rigid religion is intolerant of others and oblivious to the environment. If you behave in a way that makes you and/or others suffer in the name of your religion, it's not much of a religion.

7. Religion is a matter of choice, live and let live. While being family and community orientated, it is not for you to impose your religion on everyone. This applies to your family, your neighbours, and to the country you happen to be living in for your +/- 100 year innings (if you are lucky). A religion imposed rather than chosen is worth nothing.

8. Don't be so open-minded that your brains fall out. Turn the other cheek and all that for the little things but hold people accountable for their actions. Don't be scared to stand up for what is right and good. Offend if you must.

9. Everything in moderation. Even the good stuff.

10. A bit of Common Sense. I got this one from Rabbi David Rosen who attributes it to his late father Rabbi Koppel Rosen.

11. The world is evolving, go with the flow. Who says you can only have 10 Commandments. In these days of internet, don't apply your old fashioned concepts of privacy. Language is about communication not rules of grammar. Don't automatically reject your children's choices because they are so  different from what you chose. New may be good or bad, consider the pros and cons of each innovation before proclaiming your verdict. Always consider the bigger picture.

12. Make a contribution. I don't  mean $50 to Cancer Research although that's also good. You don't have to solve the clean water shortage in Africa or find a cure for HIV, though that would be great too. You need to figure it out for yourself, on your own scale.

13. Add your own personal commandment. Because you are just as much a part of the story of humankind as Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed. We are not the first runners in this relay but we all took the baton when our turn came to be born. What would your commandment be?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Tidbits 19

DD: If I found a time machine I would go and help a shiny armour to fight a dragon.

Why I would like DD to sleep in her own bed....

Before an internet ordered delivery from the supermarket there is always the inevitable phone call to tell you what they don't have in stock and what they could substitute if you agree. I scheduled my order for 20:00 - 23:00 because we were out all day. The call came at 22:30.
Me (on the phone talking about whether they could give me chocolate yogurts instead of strawberry): Chocolate? No.
DD (running out from her bedroom in a panic and shouting): IS THAT THE DELIVERY? ARE YOU TALKING TO THE DELIVERY?
Me: Yes, be quiet and let me finish here.
Me: Wait a minute, I'm almost finished.
Me: Ok, quickly, what?
DD: Tell him we do want chocolate and not just chocolate, we want sweets too.

DD: I don't want to go to swimming lessons today, I'm so boring!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Dear Filofax

I am of the Filofax generation. I fell in love with Filofax in my teens and I'm still smitten. A young love full of sweet Filofax memories evolving into mature companionship with the occasional passion on finding new Filofax collections online.

Then: Filofax was a romantic date at Paperchase in Tottenham Court Road, or a quick rendezvous at WH Smith on the way home from school. Filofax was full of hope for the future. Revision timetables and exercise schedules that, this time, I was going to stick to. Lists of things to accomplish by the end of the week, this year, before I'm 30.

Now: Like eccentric old men who still use their fountain pens for writing and wear fob watches tucked into their waistcoat pockets, I don't quite trust having my life trapped entirely inside a technical device which could fail on me at any time. I like to be able to see everything at once, spread out on the table if necessary or at least viewable with a quick flick of the page.

I still have three standard sized Filofaxes. A cloth covered 'student' Filofax that I did indeed use as a student 30 years ago and is my current diary and life support system. A pink plastic Filofax that I bought my sister for her birthday when she was 17 or 18 (she's now 48) and is full of years' worth of obsolete addresses and telephone numbers. (Actually my 5yo daughter has taken that one and is busily colouring in the pages as her first Filofax project. As I said, the numbers are obsolete.) And a slim black leather Filofax that I bought in my twenties when I was trying to be sophisticated. It now holds seven years of detailed monthly spending records, to date. With an overview page at the back showing average spending each year. Obsessive - moi?

There have been others including a pocket sized leather Filofax from when giant hold-alls went out of fashion and small handbags were in. I gave it to a friend on a whim one day, when big bags were back and my life was more complicated than could fit into a miniature Filofax. Aah, I call it my whim-away and have fond memories. I hope she's taking good care of it.

At one time a Filofax was my Bar and Bat Mitzvah present of choice, however times change. My brother, being of the post-fountain pen generation, got four calculators for his Bar Mitzvah. Now I buy disposable calculators for a pound. I sometimes still give a Filofax if the recipient is a special sort of young adult who I think would appreciate the exquisiteness of such a gift.

But what about me, Filofax? I've not bought a new one for myself for 25 years. A whole generation of Filofax has passed me by. I'm broody for one last new Filofax to keep me young. But I'm set in my ways now. I have very specific needs. If I were to invest in a new Filofax, this is what I would hope to fill it with...

1. A weekly diary with one week shown on a double spread. However, the backs of each sheet should be plain lined, with only the dates of the week at the top, so that I can write a weekly action list before detailing each day. This would also allow me to insert extra pages between the weeks for e.g. a weekly menu plan and extra notes pertaining to events that week such as addresses, what to bring, or flight details.

2. A yearly planner on a concertina fold-away sheet so I can see the whole year on one page. Please repeat this planner on the back of the sheet so I have two planners. I might want to use one for tracking hours or progress on long term projects and the other for blocking off holidays, trips, and leisure pursuits, for example. Whatever you use a yearly planner for, the small cells get filled up very quickly so it would be great to have two.

3. A years' worth of whole months on a page. People who like projects and challenges often set themselves a task for each month. In fact anyone who likes lists (almost every Filofaxer) is likely to start planning their months with glee whether they follow through or not.

4. A folded double page showing a weekly chart for timetabling. And one on the back too please. In fact I'd like a few of these as schedules change from season to season.

5. Monthly spread sheets to record income and expenditure.

6. Lined paper for other records - hours worked, weight lost, expenses incurred, etc.

7. Graph paper for plotting my own. Some records need to be compared with other data for full effect and appreciation doncha know.  

8. The subject dividers do not need headings. I like to write my own so don't plasticate the tabs. And please include two sets of dividers as I might have 12 different sections to label.

So thank you for a lifetime of love, support, passion, companionship, security, and stability Filofax. Thank you for putting up with my obsessive list making and planning. Thank you for not making a big deal when I failed to achieve the bottom of the list or the goal at the end of the month (a nifty tearing out of a page and no trace of it remains).

This is not a sponsored, collaborative, or in any otherwise compensated post. However, I am happy to change that if an offer were made.

With all My love,

Monday, May 12, 2014

Tidbits 18

In this edition of Tidbits we cover the weighty issues of time management, immigration, and our economic situation. 

(We have been trying to get to Kindergarten a bit earlier and with less stress in the mornings.) 
Me: Go to sleep now. I'm going to get you up early tomorrow morning.
DD: What's a pearly?

DD: Right when you were a little girl you liveded (sic) in London?
Me: Yes.
DD: Then why do we live here?
Me: Because I wanted to come and live in Israel.
DD: But why?
Me: Because it's good to live in Israel.
DD: Why is it good to live in Israel?
Me: I don't know. 

DD: Mummy, if we haven't got enough money I'll give you my money. 
Me: It's ok darling, you can keep your money for yourself.
DD: No I want to give you my money. 
(She runs off to get her money box and counts out her coins. She has 10 coins) 
DD: Mummy, have you got any other money in your purse that you don't need?

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Dating And The Single Mum

There comes a time in single mumhood when even though you love your kids to bits and you enjoy spending time with them, you have to admit there is something missing from your life. And if you're being honest, there is something missing from your kids' lives too because an extra attentive adult and a happy mum must be a plus. 

Remember The Rules by Helen Fein? Dating is hard enough when you're single without kids. With little ones in the nest a whole new set of 'rules' arise.

Finding a date isn't hard these days and online dating is perhaps the easiest way of all. I chose a website for Jewish Singles but there are sites to suit any number of other focus groups. I was pleasantly surprised to get 119 suggestions within 40 miles of where I live.

However, you need to be clear about a few things before you start. Remember that everything you do affects your kids too. Here are my 8 rules for dating mums:

1. You are dating, not your kids. This means you need to look for someone you can love and who will love you. Of course you have to decide if he will be good to and for your kids but only when you see that the two of you have a mutual affection. Hopefully the two of you will have a long life together for years after the kids have grown up and left home.

2. You are dating, not your kids. You don't have to tell them what you are doing or give them a run-down of events after the date. It's bad enough that you are waiting anxiously for Mr Right without having your kids on shpilkes too. They really don't have to get excited and be disappointed every time you meet Mr Nice Enough But Not Right For Us.

3. You are dating, not your kids. Think back to when you were a student. How many dates did you bring home to meet your family? My guess is none until you were a strong item with a few months of coupledom behind you.  This is one occasion where you need to think of your kids in the way you considered your parents all those years ago.

4. Babysitting is expensive so he needs to travel to your neighbourhood for the date. If he doesn't 'get' that then he's not going to 'get' the million and one other issues you have to deal with as a parent.

5. He's dating you, not your kids. There's a fine line between saying something about your kids and boring someone to tears with non-stop anecdotes featuring their cuteness and smart comments. Find the line and stick to it. Your date needs to get to know you as a person and not just as a mum.

6. However, he does need to show an interest in your kids. If he's not considering them as part of his future then he's not imagining a future with you but rather with some imaginary woman in your body. You are more than just a mum but you still come as a package. You need a man who's excited about the whole wonderful package.

7. You may not be available for romantic weekends away. If he 'gets' this he will find other ways for the two of you to enjoy time together. If he doesn't 'get' it, he's not 'the one'. I know he's dating you, not your kids (I may have mentioned this) but you are also a mum even when you are a woman on a romantic adventure.

8.  It should be a romantic adventure. If the whole thing is a stressful operation trying to balance your kids' needs with his wants, move on. If it's not fun now it never will be. The missing link in your family is out there, you just have to find the right one and when you do everything will fall into place.

Good luck!  

Tuesday, May 6, 2014


You can't look inside, I got the image from Amazon
I have a teenage nephew, Theo, who reads a book a day. That's a lot of books so I tend to trust his judgement when it comes to what's worth reading. On my recent visit to London I acquired a young adult novel - Salvage by Keren David (author of the When I was Joe trilogy and Lia's Guide to Winning the Lottery). I offered Theo first reading rights and he accepted.

About 20 hours later he returned it, read. "Was it good?" I asked. "Very good," was the reply. As I too enjoyed reading salvage, I thought I'd add a few words of my own.

I'm not sure if I've just lied to you when I said I enjoyed reading Salvage. I read it with my heart in my throat. I read it with disdain for certain characters who represent everything I despise. I read it with sadness at how the system, or misguided 'experts' within it, can let someone down so badly. I could hardly bear to read parts of it to be honest. When life takes two innocent siblings and gives one of them everything whilst screwing the other one over completely, it's just not fair.

And yet life can be like this. David brilliantly takes the reader through a series of totally plausible events leading to one cock-up system failure after another. It would be an interesting case study if it weren't so tragic. A group of adults all trying to do their best for the child, whilst protecting their own families, and every one of them getting it wrong. With every decision a human being is systematically destroyed.

Luckily there are angels and heroes in Salvage too, one of them not revealing himself until the final few pages. I wanted to jump into the book, hug him and apologise for getting him so wrong.

And then there is the heroine. A bright teenage girl who seems to have it all sussed out. She sees what's what and no one is going to hoodwink her into relaxing her principles. However, I was completely taken in by her confidence and poise. In the end she learns a valuable lesson about grown ups and I couldn't believe I'd not thought it myself.

If like me, you are fascinated by families and how the characters in them are formed, you'll love Salvage. It's a challenging book. It makes you think about where you stand on issues of class and race. David encourages you to make judgments about people and then pulls the rug out from beneath you. She shows you how the mind of the child is not always working in tandem with the wisdom of the adults assigned to care for him. I wouldn't be surprised if Salvage finds it's way onto school reading lists for the issues it raises that every teenager should consider and discuss.

Disclosure: Keren David is an old friend of mine and my copy of Salvage is signed with love. On the other hand, Theo doesn't know her from Adam. Theo and I were both impressed.

Monday, May 5, 2014

From Remembrance To Independence

Today in Israel is Remembrance Day for our fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism. Tomorrow is Independence Day. This is not by chance. Before we celebrate we remember that people have paid a heavy price for our independence and continued safety.

As usual I went to a school ceremony. Usually I go to the school where I used to teach but this year I went to DD's school where the kindergarten were included. It's heavy because of the subject and even more so because, unlike last week's Holocaust Day ceremonies where we know the survivors, every adult and many of the children know, or know of, someone who has died.

It starts with the 11 o'clock siren. I remembered a story from last year where one of the teachers told the school about her sister and brother-in-law who were shot dead in their car by terrorists as they returned home one evening. It happened one July. Her story ended with, "On September 1st it wasn't Mummy but me, Aunty, who took Sara to her new school to start First Grade"

I had to stop myself thinking of it as it was making me cry. I needn't have worried, there were many parents already with tears on their cheeks.

In today's ceremony they showed slides and read out the names of the 13 students from the school who later lost their lives in too many wars since 1967. (The school was founded in 1950.) The children read poems and sang sad songs.

At the end we sang Hatikva (The Hope) and announced Independence Day 2014 - 66 years! This is what Israel is today. I am proud to be a part of it.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Moral High-Grounders and Other Idiots 4: Facebook

You know the types... I REFUSE TO WASTE MY TIME GOSSIPING ON FACEBOOK and I DON'T WANT EVERYONE KNOWING MY PRIVATE BUSINESS or even... I'M A VERY PRIVATE PERSON, I DON'T HAVE A NEED TO TELL EVERYONE WHAT I'M DOING EVERY SECOND OF THE DAY. And perhaps the most damning comment from someone who only lurks... YES I SEE YOUR LITTLE SILLINESSES ON FACEBOOK. The last delivered with a condescending smile. Bitch!

I have some understanding of where they are coming from. Facebook is not quite 8 years old and I've only been on it for 3 1/2 years. I only joined because it was part of blogging, for sharing purposes. Before blogging I also resisted. What did I need it for? If I want to speak to someone I call or email them and they can do likewise. It didn't cross my mind to examine the cost of five phone calls versus telling five (or more) people your news for free and emails didn't seem as unsatisfactory for chatting as they are now. But back then I thought Facebook was only for announcing venues for drinks and other events.

Obviously they don't get it. If they had any idea how Facebook has helped me over the past few years as a single mother, a bread-winner, a home-owner, an expat, a teacher, a home-maker, a citizen, a neighbour, and a friend; they might not be quite so judgmental. And if they were prepared to be a bit more open-minded, they might discover a whole new quality of life. But I know how it is if you simply don't get how it works.

A glance and a bit of a read won't enlighten you much. Your wall and the casual user's newsfeed is not an accurate picture of Facebook. This page is like the playground outside school, it's the water-cooler at the office, it's the staff lounge or common room. It's where you share cute memes, jokes, casual comments, exclamations about what's going on in the news, and general alerts about the weather, pollution levels, internet privacy, new laws, health issues, etc... The latter can be interesting and very useful or less so - like the information shared at the water-cooler in fact.

It's also great for keeping in touch with old friends, acquaintances who you don't phone, and sharing family news. It's a modern version of the stack of Christmas/New Year cards but more environmentally friendly and free.

If you were to only see what I write on my wall you wouldn't know nuffin. All the important stuff happens in groups. I belong to a group of parents living in Jerusalem where we share parenting advice and information - invaluable for health, education, and kids' events, and great for arranging group outings in the summer. I also belong to larger a national parenting group. I belong to rooms for let and apartment swap groups as renting out my spare bedroom is an important source of income for me and swapping might be a great way for us to get a holiday we wouldn't otherwise afford.

I belong to an expat group, a living frugally in Israel group, a 'What's for Dinner?' group for great recipe ideas, a blacklist group so you know which businesses to avoid, vegetarian and vegan groups, a losing weight support group, a what's on in Jerusalem/Israel group, an employment group, an EFL teachers' group, a writers' group, and a buy/sell/swap group.

Not only has all this kept me sane and connected as a single mother who can't go out much in the evenings, it has kept me informed and allowed me to share my knowledge with others. It has saved me from missing many opportunities I wouldn't have known about. On a social level it has allowed me to console and/or support friends who might otherwise be suffering or celebrating alone.

You can set up a group for anything from an open group for wine enthusiasts to a closed group of select friends to see you through a significant time or event in your life (an illness, a wedding, a divorce, a new career, a difficult pregnancy, a loss).

One local mother who wanted her son to join one of my 'learning to read English' groups has told me more than once (in capitals) that she absolutely will not go on Facebook. I explained to her that I post openings and schedules on the Parents in Jerusalem Facebook group. "I'll give you my phone number," she said, "and you can text me." Umm no.

Then there is the friend who said, "I'm not on Facebook, could you tell me or email me anything that comes up in that group that you think I need to know?" Umm I charge $20 an hour for secretarial services.

A recent and new put-down for Facebook is that FACEBOOK IS FOR THE MIDDLE-AGED. ALL THE YOUNGSTERS ARE INTO SOMETHING ELSE ALREADY. Umm, yes what's your point? I am middle aged. What's more, I've spent some effort trying to avoid becoming friends with all my friends' children. I like my friends' children but they are not part of my chatterati.

You don't have to be on Facebook but you're not proving any moral or social superiority. Maybe next time someone tells me why they wouldn't touch Facebook with a barge pole I'll say, "I know what you mean, I wouldn't join a gym for the same reasons."

Disclaimer: Facebook has paid me nothing for this post however, I've paid them nothing either so we're quits. 

Friday, May 2, 2014

Cousins, Horses, And Adventure

It's hard to get back into the schwung of routine after a holiday. Without writing a blow by blow account of three weeks in the cool, greenery of England, here are three highlights of our trip...

1. Cousins: My friend Sarah said, if you tell a child that someone is their cousin they will love them forever. True. Thanks for all the babysitting and attention guys - you're the BEST!

2. Horse riding: It was a real treat. DD loved it. 

Sitting on Merlyn with the lovely Olivia at Aldenham Country Park

I just love the background scenery in this one

3. The adventure playground: She went all the way round the course tackling each challenge until she'd completed it. I didn't know she was so adventurous.

And now it's back to grading papers and preparing for exam season. Ho hum. 

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall