Blog Archives

Omer Count – Day 5

Barukh ata Adonay, Eloheinu, melekh ha’olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al sfirat ha-omer.

Blessed are You, Adonay our God, ruler of the universe, who makes us holy with mitzvot and gives us this opportunity to count the Omer.

Today is day five of the Omer. Hayom yom hamishi laOmer.

Today is Hod be Khesed, gratitude within love, acceptance within kindness.

Kids are super strong and mega-resilient. They are also deeply and profoundly fragile. Today, I remember a day long ago when I got something from a kid. I wasn’t very good at saying thank you, and it was a poorly made piece of crumpled paper in the shape of a bird with badly stuck on bits. There were lots of other crumpled pieces of paper stuck to various surfaces, and the morkers were everywhere and marker marks were on lots of things that weren’t for drawing on at all, never mind with marker. I said something akin to “what on Earth have you been doing?! This is a disaster And what is that thing?” The kid walked away in tears. It turns out that she had worked on this creation a very long time and was quite proud of her artistic skills and had been thinking happily of the look of joy and love on my face as she handed this thing to me.

Kids don’t remember stuff like that (I hope) so I doubt she remembers the day. I remember it though – and I remember it as the day when I wasn’t as kind or thoughtful as I should have been. Maybe I was tired? I was often tired. Potentially, but it is not a good excuse. It wasn’t the kid’s job to get past my tiredness, it was mine. I did apologize after, but I regretted the missed opportunity. It helps me to remember that kindness is key, and that I can express true heartfelt gratitude for the kid’s project just because she had made it for me.

Today, may I be kind enough to be grateful for the gifts people give me, even if they are not what I want at first.

Travel Blog 6

It was time to walk again. I came to that place near one end of the RBG and began to follow along with the Great Trail. It was a beautiful day an I was determined to enjoy myself. This trip continues straight from travel blog 5 and I planned on another 1-hour hike.

I started out in good spirits, ready for adventure, but wondering why the path included so many streets. Surely, it should have more hiking trails?

Don’t get me wrong – the path was pretty enough. Just not a trail. I did see all sorts of cool things, though, like this lovely hidden house.

My daughter commented that my travel blogs are a bit on the funny side, being close to home, involving 2-3 km at a time an having very local objects. Well, this is one of the reasons I’m on this journey. That’s how I want to see Canada. (Also, yay! My daughter reads my travel blogs!)

The flowers on the fence let me know that once again, I was passing a cemetery – this time on the outside.

Luckily, I do enjoy a good walk through the streets. I like weird urban things too sometimes, like walking tunnels, graffiti and all.

After this I came to a gorgeous little spot by the water. Yay, swans! It was like a mini-park.

So, I was having fun with the pretty trail, and did not want to go back to the big road at the end of this path here. It seemed that I could follow the railroad for a while an then connect to where I was going quickly enough. I was so wrong, though! After a half-hour or so of wandering the railroad an not having a way off, I clambered back on to the street and went home. I am not counting that part – we’re just going to pretend it never happened.

Another piece accomplished! Yay! This marks 22 km of the journey.

Click here to see the actual blog with pictures and maps. (Really, do click. What’s an extra click going to hurt?)

Trip 6 Blog

#BlogElul – Elul 7

Elul 7 – Understand

It’s hard to understand the kids. They use different words to mean different things (like “sauce” to mean pass – really?) They present things in different ways. They don’t share my goals or my dreams. Things that I strongly dislike or that make me uncomfortable are perfect for them. And each different too! I can’t even say “kids these days” because all 3 of my big “I left home and I’m grown up now” kids are so different. Frankly, my small kids aren’t that small any more. With one already Bar Mitzvah and one about to hit the double digits, all my kids are “grown up” in their own very different ways.

And so my relationship with them must change – I hate change, but this year, it seems to have shown up as a theme. I need to listen more carefully than ever to them. I can’t assume anything except that I’m often wrong.

In particular I have to think the best of the kids. I must replace “they are lazy” with “they are taking the time they need” and “they are shiftless” with “their ambitions are different.” It’s easy for me to see very little things – a mess left in a room, a brusque comment, a delay in texting back – as a sign that their differences are wrong, that they’re careless and self-focused, that they need to be corrected and taught and advised.

It’s what I did for so many years! I tried hard to give good advise, set useful rules, teach correct lessons. Now, they don’t need that. They just want to be understood and accepted and loved. It’s confusing! How can I be there for them when sometimes that means giving them a great deal of space?

I know part of it is to keep reaching out, keep communicating, keep connecting. Building a bridge with my kids – I can’t imagine a more important activity. It’s also very rewarding. They are infinitely interesting, intelligent and successful young people. They are excelling in ways I never could (and making mistakes I never made, but that’s growth, right?)

Part of it is letting them set the timing, the content and everything else about our conversations. I need to be there for them – but just in the way they need me. If I push, I lose that connection. That’s a bridge I treasure – the fact that my kids can confide in me is what I feel one of my biggest successes is.

Most of it though is about understanding. I listen to them, I work to understand them, and I recognize the divine shining through them. It’s hard work – but it’s the work that I have before me. I may as well enjoy trying to understand.

Omer 15

Barukh ata Adonay, Eloheinu, melekh ha’olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al sfirat ha-omer.

Blessed are You, Adonay our God, ruler of the universe, who makes us holy with mitzvot and gives us this opportunity to count the Omer.

Today is day fifteen which is two weeks and one day of the Omer. Hayom yom hamesh-es’re she hem shtey shavuot ve yom ehad laOmer.

Today is Khesed be Tiferet, love within loveliness, kindness within beauty.

It’s so hard to think of loveliness when there’s an April blizzard. I mean, snow can be really pretty in January, but this slush and sleet and freezing rain and hail and mess – how to see that as beautiful? It’s not, and no amount of pretending will make it so. So, I need to look for loveliness somewhere else. Today, I’m looking at a kids’ fort – it’s beautiful. There are bean bags made by the kids and I think of all the fun stuff that generally, my littles (and bigs) get up to. That’s beautiful, and inside of that beauty there’s a lot of kindness. They’ve been playing with each other, helping those younger than themselves, and coming up with great activities. It’s a pleasure to see that kindness.

Today, I notice the beauty – and the kindness – of people playing together.

Elul 21 – Love

Well that’s unfortunate! I wrote about ‘love’ yesterday, for fill. What to do now? Ah well, Bible story time.

 

Raising Children

They’re my children. I know it sounds odd, because they are important people and everyone knows them and no one really knows me, but still. They’re still mine. 3 generations of them, from the time when I was much too young but already had a baby and was called to wet nurse for this little girl to the time I finally got another little girl to play with so very many years later – all of them were loved by me, raised by me, praised by me, sung to at night by me, hugged by me and chastised by me. Although, as a nurse, my ability to chastise was limited. If I could have only had more influence, maybe I could have taught that one more about honesty, or kept that one from fighting so much. Maybe I wouldn’t have had to watch brilliant, broken people grow up and self destruct. Oh, but then…my children are so beautiful. Maybe I wouldn’t have done any better, and would have just been overpowered by the sheer wonder of them all.

Rebecca was my first. She was so smart! Few little girls are that smart. I was her nurse from the time her busy, uncaring mother first stuck her onto my breast and forever more. The way we loved each other, Rebecca and I! Of course I had my own babies and husband and I loved them and I raised them well, and they all got jobs as nurses and butlers, as manservants and maids but Rebecca…she was special. Quick as anything she was, and strong. She knew what she wanted and no one or nothing would get in the way of her getting it.  She did have her faults. Sadly, she was not above manipulating her parents to get what she wants – and they fell for it too! “But Mama, Dad said I could…”, “but Mama, it’s so hard to be from a chief’s family, there’s no other fault…” Laban got in trouble a lot for things that were at least partially Rebecca’s fault. Of course, I yelled at her about it, but sometimes, that just wasn’t enough. She knew it worked with her parents, so of course she used manipulation.

She listened to me in most things, though. And even more importantly, she talked to me. Her questions, her ideas, her hugs – she explored the notion of Gods with me, and told me about the One God of Abraham (Bethuel knew about that God of course, but somehow, it was still Abraham’s God.) She kind of liked the idea of one God that ruled all the others. She thought it sounded clever, and less confusing. She also talked about marriage – she wanted someone to love her. In her family, all the marriages were for money and power. She saw my family though. We were just together as two servants, my husband and I, and we had picked each other and she wanted that so much. She knew it was not to be, though. It didn’t make sense for her. She’d need to be married off to secure a holding or to prevent a battle.

I think that’s why she was so ready to go with Eliezer when he came. Since an arranged marriage had to happen, she wanted to be part of arranging it. This way, she’d be with the one-God-of-Abraham people, and she’d be far enough from her family that maybe – just maybe – love could happen

Of course she made sure we went with her. Why wouldn’t she? They were going to send along some servants anyway, and my husband and children could just as well serve Isaac as Laban. We are invisible, you know – us servants who make sure that the babies are fed and the house is clean. When it says “Abraham prepared this”…or Isaac did that…or Jacob, or Rachel, or any of them, it doesn’t even always mention the ones that served the morning coffee or drove the sheep or mended the clothes. Who did the filling of the basin Abraham brought? Who prepared the choice animals for feasting? Faceless, nameless people. But we still love our masters and mistresses and want the best for them. So, I came. It didn’t matter to anyone else, and it mattered a great deal to Rebecca and I. We needed to stay together – and so we did. They fell in love as soon as they saw each other of course, Isaac and Rebecca did. It’s the first love story of the bible, really. That’s when I first started believing in this God – clearly, God had arranged this marriage. They both needed love so badly. I tried – but distant, indulgent self absorbed parents make it so much harder. Now, maybe they could love each other – and maybe their children would have the love they needed from their parents not a random nurse.

It was not to be, of course. The men of that family always had a hard time with babies. Couldn’t get their wives pregnant for years. Bethuel had children late, as did Abraham – and Isaac was no different. Rebecca wanted children so much – “mama Deborah,” she’d tell me, “I’ll be good with them – I’ll truly love them.” But when she finally had children, that wasn’t simple either. It was a hard pregnancy, and I almost lost her a couple of times during the birthing (of course I was there, where else would I be?) The babies wore her out. She was always tired, always slow, always grumpy – my quicksilver, super clever and funloving girl! And Esau – how could she, who was so smart, give him her love? He was slow to learn things. He preferred the doing. He was a big boy, quick – but sometimes he broke things in his enthusiasm. She liked Jacob – sweet, smart – like Rebecca in boy form, the best of his parents put together. It wasn’t fair to Esau of course. He wasn’t a bad boy – he was just not a Rebecca sort of boy. Isaac liked him. Isaac was a simple man and liked simple things and Esau was – well, a bit simple. He got Rebecca’s looks and quick movement, but not her cleverness – no that went to Jacob.

It tore the family apart, really – Isaac and Esau against Rebecca and Jacob. Whereas before the two of them celebrated differences, now the differences were highlighted and accentuated by children who parodied the best – and the worst of their parents. I tried to bridge the gap. I learned to read and write so I could work with Esau on his letters and I learned to ride so I could take Jacob out for rides and get him moving. The boys both loved me. I was their Mama Deborah and many a time, the one they ran to with their tales of woe. “Look!” Jacob would say, “I wrote this incredible poem about God, and dad said it was sissy stuff”. “I found the most beautiful oasis,” Esau would complain, “and it’s not far and mom won’t even come look.” I comforted, consoled, counselled and corrected but once again – there’s only so much a nurse can do. I tried to show Rebecca that Jacob was a bit sneaky but how could she see that when she did it herself? And Esau was so frustrated and so active and stuck with parents who liked to read or to study that he lashed out and yelled at everyone and everything. They were so critical and so demanding, those two – and playing favourites! Let me tell you, they were wonderful people but as parents…

So, it didn’t surprise me that as Isaac was dying, Rebecca and Jacob manipulated him into birthright and blessing. I could have predicted that! I also could have predicted how mad Esau was. He was being left with nothing, poor boy and so he turned against all of us. I understood – but I missed my big guy. Jacob went back to Laban’s and I thought I was done parenting – but then Rebecca got really worried. How was Jacob doing? Did he have children? Why wouldn’t he come home? Rebecca missed her Jacob a lot So, old or otherwise, up to Haran I go, and there’s Jacob, married to two wives, a whole passel of children and no clue how to raise them. So, I’m Mama Deborah again, and the wives are seeking my aid with jealousy anyways. Stop it! I tell them – jealous broken parents lead to issues with the children. Just cut it out. But they don’t – Sigh another generation. Still, I will do my best to raise them up well with good values and strong skills and hope of the future.

I don’t know. I talked and I taught, I comforted and I challenged, I disciplined and I delighted. I raised them all as best I could and gave them all what self confidence I had. So, these children – they’re mine. That’s it – I worked hard and loved hard and when I die, I hope that some of these people will cry at my passing. And until then, well I have plenty of tasks to do and children to love.  That is enough for me. I’m mama Deborah after all.

Elul 11 – Trust

Sometimes, the way my kids and my students trust me is awe inspiring. They really think I know stuff and they react to me like I should be able to fix the problems they’re having. Even when I’ve made it patently clear that I know pretty much nothing, I still know so much more than them that they all look up to me with these big trusting eyes, asking me impossible questions that Solomon never had to answer. That man couldn’t have possibly been all that wise! Legends say he had 1000 children and every parent knows that would not be a wise idea. No wonder the kingdom fell apart after his death!

Trust in adults is harder to win. It works hand in hand with its sister-trait respect. If I don’t respect someone, there will be an area where I can’t trust them. However, it’s just a starting place, not a final one. Even if I respect someone, I still might not trust them if they lie a lot, don’t keep promises, gossip and otherwise make untrustworthy decisions. So, if I say there’s someone I trust, that’s a big deal.

Of course, I do trust God. It’s tricky – it feels like each bad thing that happens, in my life or in the world, is a broken promise between God and the world that the world would remain a good place. But I respect God a great deal and I remember that God never promised a rose garden.

I wish I could trust God the way a kid trusts me – that googly eyed, it’s going to be OK because she says it is trust that. The one that holds no wariness, no calculations – but I don’t any more. The best I can do is treat God as an adult – someone whom I trust because we’ve gotten along, there’s respect and the broken promises are much fewer than the kept ones.

I hope that as my kids become adults, they can trust me the same way. I have to be someone worth respecting for that and someone who doesn’t break promises. Neither will be simple – but trust is the cornerstone of love – so it’s as good a set of traits to work on as any other.

Omer 37

Barukh ata Adonay, Eloheinu, melekh ha’olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al sfirat ha-omer.

Blessed are You, Adonay our God, ruler of the universe, who makes us holy with mitzvot and gives us this opportunity to count the Omer.

Today is day thirty seven, which is five weeks and two days of the Omer. Hayom yom shloshim ve sheva she hem hamisha shavuot ve shtey yammim laOmer.

Today is Gevura be Yesod, strength within family, endurance within intimacy

I was thinking of a lullaby today, and I was thinking of how long I’ve been singing it. I sang it in Russian before I knew English and I still sing it in Russian, so most of the people I sing it to don’t know what I’m saying. Here are the words, roughly translated by yours truly:

“Fields of moonlight shining, night is bright as day.
Sleep my child, my darling, sleep as I once lay,
In your pillow’s corner, tuck your little nose
Stars, the sky’s performers, like freckles look below.

Gutters out the candle, fading ray by ray
Sleep my heart, my handle, sleep as I once lay
In your pillow’s corner, tuck your little nose
Stars, the sky’s performers, like freckles look below.

Gutters out the candle, fading ray by ray
Sleep my heart, my handle, sleep as I once lay
Like all lullabies, it is fairly meaningless, and evokes emotions more than a story or coherent thoughts. The words, however poorly I may have translated them, take one from one time to another. With this lullaby, that’s particularly appropriate. I’ve been singing it for almost 40 years. One of the people I sang it to is 38 now, and another is 8, and many are between those ages, with their own interests and lives, loves and lullabies. Because it was always in Russian, I don’t know if any of them remember or know this one – it was not my main one for most of them, it was the “Gosh, I’m so tired, won’t you please go to sleep so I can stop singing” one. But it was often there, somewhere, and today, it’s the one I think of.

What does it mean, “as I once lay?” I myself had poor sleeping nights, and nightmares. There were nights I’d really rather not have, never mind wishing them on a child. I was certainly not the innocent sleeping child of postcard pictures. Yet, this day, it struck me – this lullaby builds. It builds connection and relationship, it builds intimacy, it builds and as it builds it strengthens.

Maybe that’s exactly what I want for those children that I sing to – that strength of having lived through all those different nights, that intimacy of built relationships one lullaby at a time, that vision of the stars as little freckles on God’s tousle-haired face, looking down on me, on the kids I’ve sang to, on the kids I’ve yet to sing to – pulling us all together in a deep intimacy against the darkness of the night.

Today, I think of all the little ways I’ve used to build intimacy, and all the people I’ve built that intimacy with. They are my strength.

Elul 27

I bless you for a sweet new year, one full of promises fulfilled. May your heart be strengthened through courage and love. May your mind be filled with questions and ideas. May your body remain healthy and strong, able to accomplish what you ask of it. May your presence – your words, your ideas, your actions, just your being there – may all of it be a blessing to others. May you find comfort and serenity in your life. May your actions be successful – may this year be a gainful one for you financially. May you be free from hunger and loneliness.

May you find purpose. May the work you do transform the world around you. May it be meaningful and more than just a way to earn an income. May it be a life, not just a livelihood. If you are studying, may you learn well enough to use what you learn successfully and gainfully. May your footprint on earth be a gentle one, one that contributes to the well-being of all that is..

May you enjoy the world around you the way you wish to. If you want to travel, may you travel. If you want to find a home, may you find one. If you want change, may the parts of your life that need changing undergo profound transformation. If you want stability, may you find traditions that work for you and help keep you sane.

May you get enough sleep. And for those that think this is a small blessing compared to the others, congratulations, and don’t visit me first thing in the morning after one of *those* nights. May your life be free enough from stress and worry that sleep is possible. May you have time enough for all that you want to accomplish, and a comfortable place to rest. May you have the people in your life to fill in when you just can’t, to hold you should you need help.

Maybe I’m quoting here. There is a song Cradle Song by Shriekback, which in itself comes from older folkloric sources, that I just love. It’s a haunting blessing song, and I’ve copied the last few lines, because it says the right stuff:

May you hold to your truth
As you walk the dark night of unreason
The stone walls which surround us – may your spirit fly round them
Like the wind from the sea…

May the fire be your friend and the sea rock you gently,
May the moon light your way – till the wind sets you free

May you never know hunger: may you love with a full heart –
The light stay in your eyes…

May the fire be your friend and the sea rock you gently,
May the moon light your way – till the wind sets you free

Or maybe it’s the Irish blessing I’m quoting:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Both blessings make me think of my little ones, now not so little. Some of them are far away from me this Rosh HaShanah and it’s hard not to want to hug them and bless them and hold them.

Eh, maybe it’s just the way blessings are, full of our desires for ourselves and for each other. So I send blessings, both to the kids and to everyone. I bless you. This year may you pray with sincerity and act with kindness. This year, may you sing, freely and often, and be strong enough and be full enough to bless others. This year, may you break through any limits that keep you from achieving your dreams. May you succeed. May you dream. May you love. May you live. May you be.

Elul 14

I am a terrible student. I don’t listen very well, having a lot of my own ideas and things to think about. I am quick to judge what others tell me and I am slow to accept new ideas or different thoughts. I’m a bit careless and a bit lazy – I’ve never been big on notes or homework. I have always been a bit hard on teachers I have had over the years. Some that have had a choice about it have even asked me not to come back – they had put in a lot of work teaching me and it was going nowhere and I didn’t seem very grateful about it either.

God, therefore, who has a wicked sense of humour, made me a teacher. Then, God gave me some terrible students. I admit to having noticed my attitudes and approaches to learning, and been amused at how ugly and irritating they are in another person. I appreciate this particular joke, even if it is at my expense because it is truly beautifully executed. When we don’t learn from elders – be they parents, teachers, or coaches – God smiles a little and sends us young people in the form of children, students and anyone else we’re supporting to learn from.

It’s like the creation story, which I am studying right now, and which we’re getting closer to in the Jewish year. (I’m telling it with God in the feminine but works fine with either gender – I’ve heard it both ways. I just happen to really dislike They as a singular pronoun – it reads funny to me.) God has some beautiful children, and sends them to play in the garden. She tells them lots of ways they can play and have fun, and then he says, ‘Don’t’. ‘Don’t what?’ asks Adam. ‘Don’t touch the fruit on that tree.’ Says God. ‘What tree? Hey, Eve, look we have a tree we can’t touch!’ ‘Cool!’ ‘Just don’t touch it!’ says God, wondering whether She shouldn’t have stopped Creation with the sea monsters. She comes back a few hours later to see Her kids enjoying a lovely fruit snack. ‘Didn’t I tell you not to touch that tree?’ ‘What tree?’ ‘I didn’t do it!’ ‘You did too’ ‘Eve made me!’ ‘I did not!’ ‘You did too!’ ‘Did not’ ‘Did too!’ So, God, with a growing headache, gave them a time out and pronounced the curse that has continued to echo down through the generations, ‘may your children be just like you!’

My children are just like me, some of them. Of course, some of them are completely different. They’re more like my teachers or parents, more like my mentors. I can learn from them all. It’s kind of cool, because even those kids that share my traits – even though some of them may be described by others as terrible students – they’re pretty darned wonderful. They’ve helped me realize all the ways in which I’m a wonderful student too. I care about the subject I’m learning and I like to go deeper into the questions and really understand the principles that make them work, not just learn the steps and formulas. I like most of my teachers and can be kind to them, talking to them like human beings and showing caring. I am patient and will slow down. I ask for help when I’m struggling without too much embarrassment, and (after some practice with gratitude) appreciate that help when it’s given. I am persistent – I won’t give up when I’m struggling, I’ll keep trying.

And God is happy to teach – maybe through new lessons, maybe through my kids, there will be a lesson. Elul gives me another chance to be a good student. I can learn from God’s little life lesson and be a better student. I can be slightly less lazy and slightly less angry, slightly less judgemental and slightly more grateful, slightly less self-focused and slightly more accepting. I can maximize my positive traits, noting the ones I appreciate in my students. I can laugh at myself (it always comes to that, somehow) and realize that as usual, God’s curse is a blessing. I am glad my children are just like me. I hope that I can, indeed, learn from them and continue to grow into a better student and as such, a better person.

Elul 1

It’s Elul again. How does this happen? One day, it’s nowhere near the High Holidays, and the next day – here they come, and the beginning of the school year with them, and there’s so much left to do. So, of course, the day before Elul comes, I get challenged to come up with a way to bring a young person into Elul practice. How is this fair? I myself only started Elul practice two years ago, and now I have to think how to bring the ideas of Elul to a child? So, I ask Google. Oh, dear. Lots of stuff about “when little Tabitha wanted the candy, and saw the money just lying there, she…”. A bit about how we must all be nicer to one another, especially our parents. Quite a bit about colouring apples and honey. This sounds like exhausted parents trying to find a way to keep bored kids busy at High Holiday services, not a way to help someone young walk the Elul journey.

Well, I tried to write about walking the Elul journey, and then I realized I didn’t like it. So, I started over. Maybe I’m not seeing Elul as a journey at all this year. Maybe I’m tired of moving. Maybe I’ll see it as a time to clean up. Really, with our dream temples destroyed at Tisha B’Av, we have a lot of clean-up to do. There’s boxes to deal with. We just moved – trying to build a new temple, a new life. Elul is a time to unpack, to go through the clutter I’ve accumulated over the last year and say, “wow, what on earth was I thinking when I acquired that?” It’s hard. I never want to get rid of anything – but I know that the first step of welcoming something new is to let go of the old. So, I take that broken thingummy, I acknowledge the wail of, “but I used to use it and if we fix that corner, maybe it’ll be useful again some day,” and I throw it out. Spiritually, there are ideas and habits I can probably let go of much the same way.

Sometimes, I fix the broken stuff. Like furniture and appliances, relationships break, and I’m not all that good at fixing either. I don’t like apologising or forgiving any more than I like using hammers and screwdrivers, but this is the month in which I’m unpacking and cleaning up, and so I’d better do what it takes to repair what I can.

I look in corners. A big part of cleaning up is seeing what’s collected behind the fridge and under the stove and in that box labelled “odds and ends from the bedroom closet.” Although it is very disconcerting, I open the boxes. People have a way of not wanting to look at stuff – me in particular. I don’t want to see all the ways in which I’ve been less than perfect, in which I’ve missed the mark that I set myself.  Still that box is not going to unpack itself! If I do the work, I might even find something I love or am proud of that has been hiding for way too long.

I get help. If I was unpacking and cleaning all by myself, I’d never be done, never mind in the month I have before the High Holidays. So, I talk to those I love, and I find ways we can work together to prepare for our future. Many people are a lot better at this cleaning up business. I definitely could use the assistance.

What else can I do to prepare for the New Year? Elul can be a time to plan. Sure, I’ve started to clear the ruined walls of my personal Tisha B’Av fallen temple, but what do I want to put in its place? Yes, I’ve moved away, and I may be unpacking the boxes, but where, exactly, am I trying to get to? Elul is a time to draw that map, to imagine that destination, to plan how I’m going to get there.

So, how can I bring a kid into my Elul? How do I help him see the job ahead? Is cleaning up going to be a good image for him, or does he need to imagine going on a trip, growing up, moving to a new city, learning new skills? Can I turn any of those into activities? I don’t know. (I love how easy that is to say – used to be hard, in my life. Now that’s a hard won skill I’m proud of.)

I think I’ll just let him know that Elul is a time to look inside, to see if there are ways we want to grow and change, to see how we connect to people and God and what we can do to improve that. Maybe I’ll talk about caterpillars and butterflies, and how that happens with people, and what one might think about when one is in a cocoon. I think I’ll encourage him to write and draw and find his way of getting through Elul. Maybe I’ll even talk about what Tabitha should do when she sees the money on the table, or let him colour some apples and honey.  This year, we’ll explore Elul together and figure out how we can prepare for a truly exceptional year.