Sunday, February 28, 2010


I had a tough week. Among other things, I was laid off from a long-term project I've been doing on a regular basis for about 2 years. It a small job, and only paid a few hundred dollars per month, but hey, it was money made not only honestly but in a fun environment. And it was one of only two gigs on my desk that were ongoing, consistently bringing in the same amount of income each month. But now the client's revenue is down, so I'm out.

I'm also in a real Funk (yes, capital F) about dating. I will not dwell on that here, since there's really nothing meaningful to be said that hasn't been said already by people more gut-wrenchingly honest than I. Even when I'm with my girlfriends, we don't complain about -- or discuss in any way, really-- Dating Stuff much anymore. Partly because I gravitate to people who aren't complainers or gossipers, and partly because when you are in your late 30's and early 40's, it's all been said. We all know. There's no point in restating the obvious.

Plus I have not left my house for two days because it's been raining something brutal. Hail, thunder and lightning, pounding rain. Friday morning it was as if the sun never came up; it was just dark the whole day. Thanks to my roommate, who does the food shopping, we had enough in the house to make a pretty decent Shabbat without going shopping on Friday: she made bread from scratch, and baked a squash, and heated some fish fillets, and I steamed some brocolli and made a decent chicken stew in the crock pot out of vegetables and grains and poultry we had around. I'm so grateful for it all! But today after lunch she went out with friends, so I was alone the whole afternoon.

It doesn't help that even Artemis has been out of sorts lately. She doesn't know what to do with herself, because Inside is boring and Outside is wet.

Thankfully, I had my brand-new copy of The Gathering Storm, the twelfth book of the fantasy epic series I'm reading, of which I read about 400 pages over the course of Shabbat. It did what it was meant to do: transport me to a world where instead of worrying about finances and being alone (and other things), people worry over more urgent problems, like being eaten by Trollocs for dinner.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Some Enchanted Evening

The other night I was walking home from Emek Refaim Street, and it was an evening of such pleasant weather that I couldn't help but drink in the just-right night air and think of spring and of romance and of happiness.

And then I immediately felt sad, because I realized that I didn't feel happy or springy. I just associated the beautiful weather with happy times, times when I'd walk home on such an evening and be happy, before ... well, before a lot of things. And it made me feel worse to know that I couldn't just be happy about the gorgeous night, that it all seems so far away from me.

So I'm embarking on a new personal-improvement project, to cultivate happiness again, to feel joy at things like balmy evenings and fun play rehearsals and creative people and good friends, to be truly happy about everything that I have, without always missing the things I don't.

This is harder than it sounds.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

CSI Jerusalem

Did I ever tell you that I once spent a night in the backseat of various police cars?

If you live in New York City, you can apply for a "civilian ride-along" with the NYPD. You get 3 hours in the back of the car, going along with the officers on their calls, watching them work. There are, of course, lots of rules about what you are and aren't allowed to do; the officers can drop you off at a station or some other safe place any time at their discretion, etc.

Anyhow, I was required to do a ride-along for one of my graduate Journalism courses, and discovered that being a police officer involves a lot of boredom, punctuated by occasional mild drama. My 3 hours turned into 8 because, after responding to a call, the officers have to go back to the station to fill out paperwork, so they'd hand me off from car to car to make it more exciting for me.

I was at the scene of a murder! And do you know, murders are nothing like in CSI. First of all, the investigators are not necessarily so young and good-looking. Second, everything moves slower and there's a lot of waiting involved. And most important, there is no soundtrack. In real-life, for non-family members, it's pretty ho-hum.

Anyway, this is all a long way of getting 'round to the fact that last night someone broke into my apartment and stole my roommate's 2 computers. It appears that someone who had our key came in, took the computers, and walked right out again, ignoring the jewelry, the television, the DVD player. Thank God, my own computer was with me, at my teaching job. And also, thank God, Liza had recently backed up all her files! And also, thank God, no one was hurt in any way. Artemis saw everything that happened but can't tell us who done it.

Three police officers came over the course of last night and this morning -- a first responder, an investigator, and a fingerprint lifter -- demonstrating an important difference between New York and Jerusalem: all three were young and hot. Three for three. Two men -- hot hot hot -- and a woman who I think I'd find attractive if I were attracted to women. Also, the first one was not only hot, he was wearing a kippah. And when I wished the woman "mazal tov" because she was wearing an engagement ring, she said "thank you, soon by you," and it was the first time I was thrilled to hear it. Young, hot, Jewish police officers. I love this country!

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Since they obviously aren't publishing it at this point . . .

... I feel free to share with you the letter I sent to the NY Times on January 25, in response to this article of January 21 about Israel's aid efforts to Haiti:

Ethan Bronner quoted Israeli newspaper commentators who marveled at the irony of Israel's swift, effective aid to Haitians, while Gazans languish next door ("For Israelis, Mixed Feeling on Aid Effort," January 21).

While acknowledging the very real suffering of Gazans and Israel's part in it, I suggest that it is easier for most nations to feel sympathy for people thousands of miles away who are victims of a natural disaster, than to sympathize with neighbors who lob rockets at them constantly and whose disadvantaged state is largely the result of their elected leaders' squandering billions of dollars of international aid.

[Sarah's note: I neither take it personally nor as a sign of anti-Israel sentiment that the Times didn't publish my letter. They publish plenty of letters that express pro-Israel viewpoints. For more about how the Times chooses which letters to print, go here.

(Also, I very much dislike the idea of being either "pro" or "anti" Israel. Can't a person be "totally in love with the State of Israel and thankful every single day to have the privilege of living in it, but also aware that the situation here is complicated and Israel is making a lot of mistakes, but not wanting to create a moral equivalency between bad mistakes and terrorism and widespread corruption, and wanting peace and prosperity for Israel as well as for the Palestinians, and I hope that someday we'll all be in a place where that can happen, even though right now I'm frustrated because the Palestinians are acting like 2-year-olds, and even if they grew up I don't think Israelis are ready to give up the hurt and the hatred, plus there is the whole issue of West Bank settlements about which I feel ambivalent because even though it is historically and spiritually connected deeply to Jews and so cool that we can walk around there and even live there, it still is hypocritical on a political level to build settlements there while simultaneously holding it as the carrot that the Palestinians can get if they grow up, because obviously we are being two-faced, and I don't like to think about it too much because it makes my head hurt and I don't like conflict"? Or is that just too many words?)]

Friday, February 05, 2010

It is Two Hours Before Shabbat

and, except for when I put on some clothes and went out in the rain to get some food we needed, I have accomplished nothing of note, except that I read some interesting articles in the NY Times about HeLa cells, which is all fascinating but doesn't help me do the things I need to do.

Lately I've been thinking about unproductivity, and why I'm sometimes (OK, often) unproductive, and about some other people I know who, also, are often unproductive, and I've been thinking about why this happens, and how we judge ourselves, and how other people judge us.

I've been thinking about what laziness is.

If someone is unproductive because they have a physical illness -- something acute, like the flu, or something chronic, like my mother's Familial Mediterranean Fever -- it is usually easy for people to understand and forgive.

To a lesser extent, if someone is unproductive because they are going through an episode of clinical depression, the people around them MIGHT understand and MIGHT forgive, depending on whether there has been a formal diagnosis, whether the person is cooperating with their doctor (ie, taking their meds), and the extent to which those "others" can wrap their minds around the idea that depression is physical. There is a lot of stigma attached to unproductivity that isn't caused by any obvious physical problem, unproductivity that, it appears, is "all in one's head." Still, if there is a diagnosis, these days more and more people "get it."

But if a person isn't in the midst of any formal physical or psychiatric "episode" or chronic problem, what does it mean if that person (for example, me, often) just can't "get their act together"? What is going on when a person is just "lazy"? Why is it so easy for some people to get up in the morning and "get moving," and for others it is so damn hard?

I think of myself and about other people in my life who so badly want to be "movers and shakers," who have the intelligence and talent and ambition to do a whole lot in very little time. But we can't; we feel like we can't. Sometimes we are blamed -- told that we can, we just don't, that we just feel entitled or privileged or selfish or are simply happy to let other people work while we do nothing-- and sometimes we believe it and feel terrible.

I have the feeling that someday -- probably not in my lifetime -- science will catch up with this. I also have the feeling that it's tied up somehow with metabolism. So much is related to how our bodies burn fuel, that we don't understand or begin to even consider. Perhaps someday this attribute of being productivity-challenged will be given a name, and then it will carry less blame and less shame.

Or maybe we are, after all, just lazy.

But why?

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Quick Updates on Some Things

1) Nice things that have happened because of this blog:

a) One of my readers, who worked in East Jerusalem at an organization that helps victims of domestic violence, needed to hire a grantwriter who speaks English and Arabic, and remembered my post about Liz. So, guess what? Liz is back in the country! She got a job through the blog! She stayed with us for a couple of weeks before finding an apartment in the neighborhood of Ossawiya, on the other side of Hebrew University's Mount Scopus campus. Once she gets her first paycheck she owes me dinner. :-)

Liz has a running joke about how her Arab neighbors in Hebron (back when she was living in Palestinian Hebron) couldn't wrap their minds around her being an atheist (agnostic? I don't remember), and put her in the "Communist" category in their minds. Now she will be living with non-religious Arabs in her new apartment. I am trying to convince her to start a blog called The Communists of Ossawiya, but so far she's not persuaded.

b) Lila has been adopted, by one of my blog readers who recently moved to Israel. Congratulations to Lila on her adoption, and congratulations to Alexandra P. on your aliyah and your new cat!

2) Something new in my life

I started teaching again, at Ramah. This year, for the first time ev-ar, I've got an AP class! AP Language! I'm so excited, first because it's basically a Rhetoric and Freshman Composition course, so we are studying all non-fiction, all the time! This is my profession! Non-fiction is what I do. Second, I only have 4 students. Grading will go by in a snap. I cannot put into words how much I hate grading papers, even though I've tried. Third, it's 4 talented, motivated students. And fourth, I got to learn all sorts of interesting new things myself, because I have to teach about them, like the Aristotelian Appeals and all those logical fallacies like Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc. I've wanted to learn and teach about the logical fallacies for about 10 years -- and simply never got around to studying them until now, when I have to teach them. I love this kind of thing. Logical-Mathematical Reasoning, represent!

3) Something about to be new in my life

Rehearsals start tonight for Fiddler on the Roof. Woo-hoo!

4) Something that gives me faith in the universe

I went on three dates! With the same person! :-) No, it is not "going anywhere." For important reasons which I need not disclose here, we agreed mutually and amicably that getting into a relationship would not be a good idea at this point. However, he was nice, and emotionally mature, and articulate, and pretty cute, and he really really liked me (I got flowers! Hello, how much do I deserve flowers? How much of a crime is it that I almost never get them?) He didn't do anything ridiculous, nor am I hurt about being "rejected," because that's not what happened. So, I feel good that we met, and it's OK that we are not going out anymore, and all is -- well, good! Nice to know there ARE still "normal" people out there.

5) Artemis: The Good News

Artemis is healthy and active. It appears that everyone in the neighborhood knows her and thinks she is cute. She follows me to Emek Refaim every day. She snuggles in the mornings. She loves her mouse-on-a-stick. She has funny little habits: for example, sometimes I give her some canned food which is chunks of (processed) meat in a sauce, and she licks off ALL the sauce and leaves the meat behind. I gave her leftover cholent and she licked up everything, so carefully, AROUND the barley, and left the grains.

Over the last few weeks she's been gradually moving out of her kitten food and into grown-up cat food. In a couple of days the kitten food will be completely gone, and she will enter a new gastronomic stage of life. Our little girl is growing up!

6) Artemis: The Bad News

Artemis has been scratching and biting more than she used to. The back of my hand has several ugly scratches in it. I had to put on gloves to brush her. We think that maybe it's because the cold weather is putting her in a bad mood, or perhaps some other home she visits in the neighborhood has children who are all over her and so she doesn't like to be touched. Be that as it may, I can't brush her at all unless I hold her by the scruff of the neck, and I have to be super-careful to stop scritching her at the first sign of annoyance (twitching ears, moving tail, etc).

The last couple of days she's gotten a little better about it, and more inclined to be scritched for a long time. So I'm hoping this is just a phase.

On a more disgusting note, I don't know what she is eating when she goes outside, but the last few days she's had terrible gas. You do NOT want a cat to fart while you are holding it. Eeeeewwwwww.

7) Something that keeps me sane

Over the last couple of weeks I've had breakfast or lunch several times with various friends. It feels a little "Ladies Who Lunch"-y, but that's when we have time: during the day, when all the poor people who work "real" jobs (that is, jobs with a regular salary on one hand but a boss on the other) have to be in their cubicles.

Anyway, it feels good to be making time to be social and see people I like very much. Indeed, I get by with a little help from my friends!