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2014

Controversial Observations December 23, 2016

2016

Exactly two years ago, at the close of 2014, I wrote a post about that year. It was a gut-wrenching year full of bad news and sad moods. Since that time, I find myself getting especially reflective this time of year, looking back on the year and deciding what I want to say about it.

Uncategorized July 24, 2015

Sharing

This week I found myself embroiled in something that’s been simmering for a long time – since I started this blog. I had been tagged on Facebook in a conversation on a group where someone mentioned that she’d been going through a hard time as her 11-year-old had just been diagnosed on the Autism spectrum; another reader linked my post on the subject. Another reader (herself on the spectrum) wrote that she hopes my son never, ever reads what I wrote.

Uncategorized March 17, 2015

Blog Roundup: Viral post, book, haircovering update, and more

Greetings, OOTOB readers!

Hope you’ve all been well.  Today’s post will be a conglomeration of stuff I’ve been into.

1. CLEANING FOR PASSOVER IN ONE DAY, GONE VIRAL

Firstly, my post from a couple years ago on cleaning for Passover in one day appears to have gone viral this year.  That makes me both happy and sad.  Happy, that more people can understand that Passover is about joy and that God would never give us an unmanageable task, and sad that so many people are freaking out about Passover.  8,000 hits this week alone tells me that people are kinda into this topic.  Ya think?  It’s gotten so that when I go grocery shopping, people stop me to say, “I hear you have this thing with cleaning for Pesach in one day…?”  Yeah, I’m that girl.  So check it out and pass it along.

2. PATRONIZE OUR SPONSOR FOR KOSHER VITAMINS

You may have noticed that ad up there, in green, for kosher vitamins.  This company is supporting OOTOB, so please patronize our sponsors and if someone asks you about kosher vitamins, send them the link.  Thanks!

3. STAYING CONNECTED TO JUDAISM BETWEEN HOLIDAYS

This recent Kveller post by my online (soon to be IRL) blogging buddy Nina Badzin – I’m headed to Minneapolis on Sunday to address Aish on Women in Judaism – is a really important post.  It’s short and deceptively simple, but don’t be fooled.  None of these things are commonly blurted out in a word-association game about Judaism, but all of them are in the Good Book right with shofar, matza, and l’chaim.  Read it and tell me what you think.  Judaism is meant to lived and expressed every day – and primarily in the home.  Check it out.

4. BOOK UPDATE

My book, a women’s prayerbook, is done and off to my editor!  The publishing company Mosaica Press is handling it, and I’m feeling a huge sense of relief now that it’s out of my hands – at least this phase of it.  It doesn’t have a name yet, so please weigh in on my two options, as developed by my trusty crowdsourcing marketing team on Facebook:

1. Calling God: a women’s prayerbook of conversation and connection
2. Prism of Prayer: a women’s prayerbook of conversation and reflection

Basically, don’t worry about the subtitle so much, but envision yourself at Barnes and Noble or recommending it to a friend. Which title has more punch, interest, and memorability?

It’s due out this fall, so keep your eyes and ears open for that.

5. HAIRCOVERING UPDATE

A couple of months ago I blogged about my evolving views on haircovering; specifically, methods of which to do so.

Each year I put together a shutterfly album of our family’s pictures from that year, and I noticed in my absorption in that project that I really, really, like the way I look in the pictures with scarves.  It encouraged me to wear more of them, as opposed to wigs, which I hate wearing.

Anyhoo, that’s what’s been going on around here.  Happy preparations for Passover, for my Jewish readers 🙂

Uncategorized January 12, 2015

Nine Things I Wonder About Other Bloggers

This post was inspired by my bloggie friend Nina Badzin, whose post was in turn inspired by Kristen Ploetz.  Here are 9 questions that us writers wonder about other writers.  Here are my answers.

1. Do you share your work with your spouse? Does it matter if it’s been published yet? I rarely show anything to anyone before I write it.  I write spontaneously and usually share instantly. On rare occasions, I’ll ask my husband if he thinks I should blog about something before I do, because his sense of caution is a good balance to my spontaneity.  

2. How much of your family and/or closest “friends in real life first” read your stuff…let alone give you feedback about it? My mother, mother-in-law, one sister, and one sister-in-law (I have a lot more than that) read regularly.  Sometimes I will get feedback – usually not.

3. What do you do with the pieces that continually get rejected–post on your blog? Trash? When do you know it’s time to let it go?  I actually first starting blogging when I started pitching pieces and they were rejected.  I just picked up my toys and started my own sandbox, basically.  I usually pitch pieces to places like Aish.com or Kveller that wouldn’t really work on my blog.  My blog is different from my online publishing pieces.  I don’t know that I can really define that difference.
4. Are there pieces you write for one very specific place that, once rejected, you just let go of, or do you rework into something else?  I’m more of a blogger than a piece-pitcher so… not really.  I have totally let go of pieces when I realized halfway through that they just weren’t working.  For example, I started a piece that I was going to pitch for Kveller about how if we look at the biblical families, they were full of dysfunction which should make us feel better as parents (if we have a little tiny slice of dysfunction ourselves, for instance).  But the piece was coming out all wrong, just throwing our biblical heroes under the bus, and I dropped it.  Which is very hard for me to do.
5. What is your main source of reading-based inspiration (especially you essayists)? Blogs? Magazines? Journals? Anthologies? Book of essays by one writer?  Other blogs or articles.  Also, books I’ve read that I want to share with my readers.  But some of those reviews take much longer to blog about than other pieces, so I procrastinate.  I actually have three books I want to review but no time to review them seriously.  They are: Becoming Frum, The Year of Living Biblically, and With an Outstretched Arm, a memoir by BJ Yudelson.  I probably have to let go of my need to write entire book reports.  This may or may not happen.  
6. What tends to spark ideas more for you: what you see/hear in daily life or what you read?  What I see and hear in daily life.  Conversations on the ground are much more interesting to me than articles, and I know the people behind them so there’s a lot more nuance and context.
7. Who have you read in the past year or two that you feel is completely brilliant but so underappreciated?  Quiet by Susan Cain.  I don’t think it’s actually underappreciated at all, but it is complete and total brilliance.  
8. Without listing anything written by Dani Shapiro, Anne Lamott, Lee Gutkind, or Natalie Goldberg, what craft books are “must haves”?  Since I don’t know any of those people, I am probably woefully underqualified to answer that.
9. Have you ever regretted having something published? Was it because of the content or the actual writing style/syntax? When I read my old posts, which I’m doing in assembling my e-book, I marvel (sarcasm alert) at what I thought was funny, which I now feel is just cringe-worthy in its corniness.  I also have an ongoing tug-of-war with sharing stuff about my kids online in general.  I once shared an accomplishment of one my kids, and after sharing it, the kid totally lost interest in it. I’m not superstitious at all, but it spooked me.
I’d love to hear your reflections on the above, or, if you’re a writer or blogger, copy and paste to create your own responses!
Uncategorized January 5, 2015

The Post-Post

When you write a blog post with a lot of personal revelation, several things happen.

First, you get flooded with incredible feedback.  Texts, emails, Facebook messages, WhatsApps, even – wait for it – phone calls.

Second, you walk around wondering Who Read It and Who Didn’t.  It’s a little weird.  And wondering if people feel weird about how to act toward you or mention it to family members or what. A blog post, once released, becomes an organic entity all its own.


So then you have doubts.  Should I have written all that?  Was it TMI?  Am I compromising my family’s privacy (I consulted with my husband before posting, of course).  Will someone say something weird to them?

But back to feedback.  The feedback itself came in a variety of forms.  Mostly, overwhelmingly, kind.  Messages of love, solidarity, and warmth.  Messages promising to keep us in people’s prayers and hearts.  Messages that reminded me of my core belief in the inherent goodness of mankind.

Also, hope.  Messages from people who have been there, and prevailed.  Despaired, then succeeded. Fell into the dark pit and emerged.  These messages uplifted me.  Especially stories of successful adults with Aspergers (bring ’em on!).

Concern.  Was I OK?  (Yes, thank G-d, I really am – with a lot of help.)

There was also gratitude – from fellow sufferers in this journey called life.  Gratitude for making others feel normal.  For reminding them that no one’s life is all put together.  For making it OK to be real.

And while I really wrote the post for myself – to process, as catharsis, and as part of my healing – it is the last reason that makes me feel vindicated.

Uncategorized December 8, 2014

Hair Covering: The Women Speak

For part two of the hair covering discussion (can you say “controversial”?), I’ve polled women of all kinds on their feelings on hair covering – why they cover, or not; with what and when; and how it makes them feel.  I still have not heard from a woman who does not cover her hair as to why she doesn’t, so open invitation for that, but here’s a sampling of the responses I’ve received, including a woman who isn’t Jewish (see Kajsa’s response at the end).

Note: the word “tichel,” not to be confused with “kichel,” is a Yiddish word for kerchief.

The Questions:

1. Do you cover your hair?
2. If so, why?
3. If not, why?
4. Did you always know, growing up, that you would?
5. What is your preferred method of covering your hair – wig, scarf, hat, baseball cap, or any old thing will do?
6. What influences your answer to #5?
7. How has covering your hair, or lack thereof, impacted on your identity as a Jewish woman?
The Answers:


Anonymous covers her hair partially, but also owns a wig:

1. Yes and no. I technically cover my head
2. As a sign/symbol of being married
3. NA
4. No, I really thought I would not until I was about 18. I had really only been exposed to one type of covering and it did not appeal to me.
5. I prefer hats or scarfs as they are more in line with what I believe in philosophically and serve the purpose of #2. I do own wig that I wear for work or for occasions that it seems more appropriate.
6. The community I live in, the community I work in and the community I socialize in.
7. Covering my head has really been a huge part of my Jewish identity and I am very proud of the commitment I have made to do it.  I certainly have also been misjudged based on it both favorably and unfavorably depending on the circle I am in and the type of covering I happen to be wearing. I hope I can use those opportunities to grow.  In either case, covering my head helps make me feel connected to G-d, my husband and my family on a daily basis.
Ariella never planned on covering her hair:

1. Do you cover your hair?  yes
2. If so, why?  For reasons of modesty
3. If not, why?
4. Did you always know, growing up, that you would?  Heck, no
5. What is your preferred method of covering your hair – wig, scarf, hat, baseball cap, or any old thing will do?  Scarves and wig
6. What influences your answer to #5?  When I wear beautiful scarves, several of them at once, I feel regal and connected to the earth and to GD more so than when I cover my hair with a wig.  I often think that this is what our foremothers wore, back in the day, which makes me feel a connection to them, too.  In order to carry the scarves, I find that I need to wear earrings and makeup which forces me to ‘dress’ in the mornings,  I feel like when I’m put together with scarves (or a wig) all day, my house is holier, calmer, more positive, and everyone behaves better actually, as opposed to when kids and husband come home and I’m in a snood etc.  My kids and husband are happier when I’m dressed. I see their pride that their mommy/wife looks beautiful.   I totally believe that it affects the energy in my home, for the good when my hair is covered.  Also, I am more aware of myself as a Jewish woman, publicly, when I wear scarves or my sheitel which impacts my actions – from the way I speak to others to the way I carry myself around town. When I’m in a kiruv setting, I tend to wear the wig as I’m not as confident with the scarves in that setting.  I ‘blend’ in better with the wig.  Everyday and on shabbos, for the most part, I’m in lots of scarves with bling.  I love the looks (is that crazy?) that I get when I wear multiple scarves because here in Denver, it is unusual and I get tons of compliments – boosts my ego, I guess.
7. How has covering your hair, or lack thereof, impacted on your identity as a Jewish woman?  See above.

Rivki feels inspired by women of other faiths who cover:

Looking forward to seeing
what everyone else says about hair covering.  This is my two cents:

I prefer to cover with whatever is easiest and
still looks nice.  In the summer, this means tichels (because it’s hot and
they are cool), in the winter this means knit hats, like berets.  I also
like to wear sheitels because I feel polished and pretty when I wear them.

Sometimes when I’m wearing a sheitel and I see
another woman of faith, like a Muslim, wearing a scarf, I wish that I were
wearing a tichel or something that more visibly identifies me as Jewish. 
As much as I love the incognito factor of a sheitel, and how they look, when
faced with a more obvious hair covering, I feel embarrassed that my hair
covering is so subtle.  But I love how the sheitel really stays in place,
and how I don’t have to worry so much about it slipping back, and I feel that
all of my hair is really covered.

And sometimes when I’m wearing a tichel I do feel
self-conscious when I’m in an obviously non-Jewish place, though sometimes that
self-consciousness is more like “Yeah!  What’s up!  I’m
Jewish!”  And sometimes it’s more like, “ummm, I hope everyone here is
friendlyish.”  It just depends on the vibe of the place.

In general, though, I really like the
mitzvah.  There’s something about having such a recognizable sign of being
a religious person (more with the tichels and hats, obviously) that makes me
proud to observe this mitzvah, as well as being a reminder to me that when I’m
in public, I’m an ambassador of G-d and Torah.  When I’m driving and
wearing a hat or tichel I will think twice before honking or being aggressive (boy,
has living on the East Coast changed my driving!), because I know my actions
reflect on all Jews, and, in turn, on the Torah.  Same thing with shopping
at Target or anywhere, really.  Covering my hair is a very real reminder
that I’m representing something bigger than myself.

Also I love never having to do my hair.  Haha

Rivky says comfort is really important:

I cover my hair with scarves/tichels, etc… Only.
When I got married I had wigs (Betty and Veronica, of course) which I wore an
average of 10 times in the 6 months and then said forget it! Growing up, once I
got old enough to think about myself religiously, I didn’t really think about
head covering. Honestly, for a long time I was too busy figuring out if I
wanted to be religious at all. Once I decided I would be, I knew I was
committing to the whole deal. I do like the idea of saving something special
for my husband and the sexual nature of hair does resonate with me,
though, so it all made sense. I decided to do scarves and tichels only for a
few reasons. Comfort being the most important to me. I also didn’t really
recognize myself with a wig on so I wasn’t motivated to get used to it. Also,
and I cannot stress this strongly enough, comfort. Dan and I both went to
yeshivas in Israel that subscribed more to a headscarf for the women instead of
a wig. Wigs were accepted but scarves preferred and I find that I can express my
personality so much more with the variety of scarves and accessories. And
comfort. I find now, living out of Israel, I love wearing a headscarf. And this
is more of a hindsight thing. I didn’t really think about it before hand but
wearing a big scarf makes me different. I stand out. It makes me more aware and
mindful of my Judaism and the immediacy of God in my life. There ain’t no
getting away from being the only turban-clad chic in a room! But I am loving
this tichel revolution now. I used to get lots of confused looks from
wig-wearing women. Now I am seeing more tichels around. It’s nice. We are
Jewish women. We need to rock it out. 
Chany wears her wig 24/7:

1. Yes
2.
I’ve learned since I was a young girl that married women must keep their hair covered.
3. N/A
4. Yes,
it was an easy decision for me as I grew up in a community where most people
covered their hair. Also, all the close
women in my life, my mother, grandmothers, aunts and neighbors, all covered
their as well.
5
&6. I wear a wig, 24/7!! Growing up, I rarely saw my mother without a wig.
We knew something was wrong when she would come out of her room wearing a
snood. She still wears her wig while cooking, working out and any other
activity. I wear a snood more frequently than my mother, for comfort. However,
I find myself cooking and baking in my wig too and I take my shabbos nap on the
couch wearing it! 
7.
From the first moment I put my wig on as a married woman, I felt different and
special. As much as I try to have my wig look “natural,” I take pride
in knowing that I am wearing something physical that lets other people know I
am a Jewish wife.
Ranya doesn’t do the head wrap thing:
1.
Do you cover your hair?
Yes.
2. If so, why?
Because the Torah/our Sages told us to.
3. If not, why?
4. Did you always know, growing up, that you would?
Yes, though there was a point during my rebellious teenage years that I
questioned whether I would be orthodox at all. But envisioning myself orthodox
always included covering my hair.
5. What is your preferred method of covering your hair – wig, scarf,
hat, baseball cap, or any old thing will do?
I am most comfortable in a hat/beret, snood or pre-tied tichel, but don’t love
how I look in them. In the summer I like Israeli tichels, but not the fancy
head-wraps. When I want to feel and look good, however, I wear a band fall or
sheitel.
6. What influences your answer to #5?
I am a creature of comfort.  My husband likes me to be comfortable and not
all done up all the time, but I know he likes how I look in a sheitel better
and would choose a tichel over a snood any day. He doesn’t like the head-wrap
look at all so I haven’t even attempted it, though it doesn’t look easy or
comfortable anyway. I have become more and more comfortable in a sheitel or
fall over the years, especially with the wig grips as opposed to the clips that
were so uncomfortable. I also like that I don’t have to be adjusting it all
day. And now being at work instead of home with kids, it’s easier to have a
sheitel on anyway.
I do struggle with how natural the sheitels look, and it’s hard to make the
right choices in terms of modesty in sheitels, but it’s really no different
than making the same choices in clothing and it is still serving the purpose of
head covering.
7. How has covering your hair, or lack thereof, impacted on your identity
as a Jewish woman?
I feel like covering my hair, no matter which form, helps me remember to
act in the proper way, especially as a married woman, it creates instant
boundaries. It makes me feel separate and different, in a good way. Even in a
sheitel…you don’t forget that it’s there!!  
Judy prefers a wig:
 prefer to wear a sheitel. In the back of
my mind, I am always worried that I will be somewhere where I will be required
to remove a hat for security purposes i.e. airport, border crossing etc. Then
whoever would require me to remove it, would realize that I was Jewish which
might result in my safety being compromised etc. (childhood throwback days
growing up in anti-semitic neighborhood in Canada).


Kajsa, a Christian woman, finds covering has helped her see her inner beauty:


Hi Ruchi – here’s
my answer on your questions.


1)
I cover for several reasons: first, it’s a spiritual choice – I feel connected to
G-d.  Many Christian women would refer to Paul’s letter to Corinth but that is
not one of the main reason I cover. My cover reminds me that I am a beloved
child of G-d.

Secondly
I think it’s a bit romantic to save something to my husband: my hair is for him
alone (and close family).

Thirdly, I wanted to take back the right to my body, As a woman I am tired of being
objectified by men and society.



2)
I primarily cover with tichels, and sometimes with a knitted hat or a bandana at the
gym (swim cap when swimming).

3) The most important feeling is that I feel good about myself and how I look. I
struggle with extremely low self-esteem and covering has helped me to start
seeing my inner beauty. I now hold my head high, feeling that I am the queen of
my marriage. I feel more connected to G-d and my husband, but also to the
sisterhood of the Wrapunzel community. I now have sisters all over the world
that will encourage me, pray for me and laugh with me whenever I need it.

Miri started covering when she had breast cancer and has found a surprising result:

Why? It took me a long time to get to my covering place. I was married
11 years before I started covering full time (I used to wear a doily when I lit
the candles or went to shul). I had breast cancer and was on my way to Israel
in the TSA line when I decided to cover what I called “full time” (at
work, out of the house, etc.). I didn’t want any of the TSA people poking or
prodding me when I was sick, so I told the TSA people I needed a private room
to take off my hat. After that, it was like a commitment. Then I had cancer
surgery and decided that I needed some spiritual protection and it happened
naturally. When I first got married my husband told me to cover my hair with
dye, so that’s what I did then. 2. I cover with tichels now exclusively. Before
I used biker doo rags and bandanas, berets, etc. When I moved to NYC I figured
I would wear what ever the hell I wanted on my head and embraced the Wrapunzel
way. 3. Covering has a spiritual protection for me. However, something WEIRD
has been happening since I’ve been wrapping…men treat me like I’m BEAUTIFUL!
I’ve never had this before EVER in my life–I’ve been told I’m ‘cute’ or ‘the
smart one,’ but I’ve noticed people treat me differently with the tichel on. I
got a cat call from a construction worker yesterday! All of a sudden! I have to
admit, I am also wearing more makeup than I was because I’m not sick anymore
and don’t want to look sick. I want everything to look put together, but I
always have known what someone wears is critical to how people treat you, but
this is just insane! A young religious man (well, in his 
30s) chatted me up at
the Sprint store! And I’m obviously married! Sorry for going on and on…:)
And how would you answer the questions?