Browsing Tag

me and the blog

Uncategorized March 3, 2015

Forty Is

Mazel tov!  My half-birthday was last week, on February 26th.  This means I now own forty, by virtue of being more than halfway through it.  Here’s forty… so far.

Forty is
letting go
of old stuff
(if you haven’t needed it yet, you probably won’t).
So forty is

Forty is
learning to accept and love yourself
as is
whether you radically change or not
because this is the you God gave you
and it is the you you need to be.
So forty is
acceptance of self.

Forty is
forgiving others for the things they did
when they were sad
and just being themselves
(just like you accept yourself).
So forty is

Forty is
a new chapter for family
with teens
and tweens
and young ‘uns
to hug you and remind you that you do, in fact, know everything.
A this-is-your-forever-family awareness
so forty is
loving and identifying unconditionally with my family.

Forty is
finally, arriving at that station called “gratitude”
where, because you’ve actually lived a bit of life
understand – though sometimes need reminding –
that your life, while interesting, is full of
and hugs
from Above
and that if you blink you’ll forget.
So forty is

Forty is
understanding once and for all
that you are not your body
but your soul
and that your body will probably continue to decline
but it’s okay,
you never were your body in the first place
so forty is
I am my soul

Forty is
remembering that old friends will always be there for you
and that old memories are so fun
such a gift
that old friends will never judge you
and that making time for them is not optional
but a soul-need
and maybe you have a little more time for them now
so forty is
old friendships.

Forty is
starting to realize how grown-ups make terrible mistakes
and that if you’re not careful you can make them too
so you’d better work on that
before you become one of them.
So forty is

Forty is
looking my husband in the eye
and understanding that he is my soul-partner for life
no matter what
and that forever really does mean forever
and understanding that together
we can handle anything God throws our way
so forty, then,
is a renewal of all those words we said when we were twentysomethings
but only now understand their import.

And forty is
realizing that is takes a village
of family, friends, faith
and mostly God
loving me forever
holding my hand for keeps
as I walk through this journey
that is at once all mine and that of my circle of support
including all of them
and knowing
only I can live forty
to the highest heights.


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 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 August 31, 2014

Publishing and Other Blog News

Hey hey,

I know it’s been kinda quiet on the blog of late.  Can you say “kids not in camp or school”?  OK, now say it ten times fast.  It’s hard.

Anyhoo, figure I’d give you guys some exciting updates.

For one, I’m in the process (actually my daughter is – yay for tech-savvy kids) of creating an E-book of some of my posts.  WITHOUT THE COMMENTS, cuz that was somewhat emotionally and legally controversial.  Basically, all the posts categorized under “Why Orthodox Jews Do What They Do” (which is probably what it’ll be called) will be collected, sorted by topic, and self-published.  It’ll be on Amazon and all that fun stuff, and I’ll let you know when it’s all ready.

Second, I’m working with Mosaica Press to publish a real-life book.  It’s a very exciting project that I’ve been working on for about a year now.  It’s a women’s prayer book, with the traditional Hebrew/transliteration/translation on one side, and, on facing pages, my contemporary musings based on the themes of those prayers.  I’ve actually included some home-grown prayer musings here and on Facebook.

Here’s an excerpt of how to use my book:

The Hebrew prayers, as written thousands of years ago by the
Men of the Great Assembly, are as potent and laden with layers of meaning as
ever.  They contain the richness of
prophecy, the spirituality of holy people, and the universal relevance of the
 Yet, for many, this language is a locked garden.  Whether Hebrew itself is a foreign language,
or whether it’s the concepts and references that are inscrutable, some have not
been able to access the beauty and meaning of this gift called the “siddur” –
the traditional Hebrew prayerbook.
 The composers of these original Hebrew words intended to
create a vessel into which we, the users, could pour our own intent and
experiences.  They are a starting point,
and an invitation to us to personalize them as the words move us.  On any given day, I might find myself struck
by a new insight into these words.
 This work is intended to be a portal to that world.  I invite you to read the contemporary
prayers, which I offer as a window into how the prayers strike me
personally.  Use them as an informal
meditation or, hopefully, as a bridge to eventually try out the Hebrew, with a
new and fresh understanding of the theme behind the ancient words.  Use them during formal services at the synagogue,
to move and inspire you as you pray.  Use
them at home when you feel a moment of gratitude or longing.  Use them right when you wake up, or perhaps
just before you end your day.  Or maybe
when you light your Shabbat candles, you will open this book and find something
that inspires you.

In other news, I turned 40 three days ago!  I am still in birthday mode, since August 26th is my birthday on the Gregorian calendar, but in the Jewish calendar, my birthday is ches Elul (the 8th day of the Hebrew month Elul) which comes out this year on September 3.  Which means I get over a full week of celebrating (kidding, kind of)!  Feel free to wish me a happy birthday and tell me how wonderful I am how wonderful this blog is some kind of happy birthday blessing.

Ta ta for now – see ya when the kids start school!

Controversial Observations, Uncategorized May 12, 2014

Blog Roundup: Tanta Golda, the son of a Nazi, Social Orthodoxy, and more

Hey OOTOB fans,

This is the first in a series that I’ll feature occasionally, where I bring you different things I’ve discovered around the web that I’ve found interesting lately.  Call it “trending,” or whatever you want – I’ve found it interesting and I’ve decided to bring it to you.  Feel free to send me things that piqued your curiosity or sparked conversation for possible inclusion here in future posts.


Firstly, I discovered a whole new blog that, honestly, I’m surprised I’ve never encountered before.  It’s called “Ask Tanta Golda” and the concept is somewhat similar to OOTOB.  The blogger, Geri Copitch, adopts the Tanta persona, which I find cute, although I certainly do not agree with all her responses.  It’s unclear to me what her affiliation is, and it seems she prefers it that way.  Check it out and share your impressions.


This video was sent to me by my friend’s mom and it sat in my inbox for like a month (I have precious little time for videos – I read faster than I can watch – plus it was a whopping 24 minutes long) before I watched it.  But, man, was I glad I did.  It was an immediate share on Facebook, and got a strongly positive reaction there including several shares.  You can’t find it by searching YouTube because it’s privacy-protected.  I won’t give it away – it’s a first-person account of the son of a Nazi and how he chooses to deal with his painful family history.  Seriously, pull up a chair and give this 24 minutes of eyeball time. You will not regret it.


This piece has been getting a lot of attention in the Orthodox world.  A few friends sent it my way and I found it both troubling and insightful.  Here’s a response from Rabbi Maryles, a Modern Orthodox scholar, and here’s one from Rabbi Shafran, a “haredi” scholar.


To close, I have a Mother’s Day question for you.  One of my friends posted this on Facebook:

“Today I’d like to wish everyone a Happy Mothering Day. You do not have to have your own children to make a difference in a child’s life. You also don’t have to be female. Thank you for being in our children’s lives and loving on them – you are our village!”  

I love this friend, but this status doesn’t sit well with me at all.  Mother’s Day is actually for… mothers.  Why dilute this by universalizing it to include anyone that has anything to do with kids?  It reminds me of several years ago, when the Holocaust Museum featured a refugee from Rwanda to speak at their annual benefit.  While her story was incredibly stirring, I was in shock that the Holocaust message was being universalized, essentially losing an opportunity to hear from a Holocaust survivor.  Now, maybe I’m getting a little too worked up over Mother’s Day, which is probably just a Hallmark holiday, but I think that’s why it bothers me so much.  It’s the underlying trend to universalize everything Jewish to include everyone and anyone, thus reducing anything specific we’ve experienced to nothing more than a humanitarian mish-mash.  


Uncategorized March 31, 2014

State of the blog, take 3

OK, folks.  Buckle your seat belts.  OOTOB is making some great new changes, and here’s what you can expect:

1. My new domain.

Check out your URL bar.  See how it says “” instead of the “blogspot” domain? Yup, we’re growing up.  Cutting the blogspot apron strings and paying our own rent.  Whether you find this as exciting as I do, I don’t know, but I’m liking it.  I’ll also have an email address, which I’ll update on the contact page as soon as it’s live.

2. Spreading my reach.

For a long time I resisted any other social media platform other than my familiar Facebook.  I even tried and left Twitter for awhile, and surely laughed that a place like Pinterest would make room for this blog.  But I’ve been educating myself on blogging and have decided to join those two platforms – not as myself, Ruchi Koval, but as OOTOB – just to put my blog in front of more eyeballs.  I’m building my reach slowly.  Help me by finding and following me on Twitter and Pinterest (and Facebook if you haven’t yet done so, where I’ve created an OOTOB page – something else I’ve resisted for awhile), and sharing, liking, pinning, retweeting, favoriting my content there when you like it!

Note: on both Twitter and Pinterest, you can find me by searching for “Out of the Ortho Box” or outoftheorthobo – notice the missing “x.”  That’s because they limit your letters.  Just click the link above and you’ll be taken to my page.

3. Blog makeover.

It’s time to move off a free template from Blogger and actually get a designer to snazz up the blog.  I will definitely stick to orange, my favorite color and an optimistic one, and to the contemporary, clean feel, but I’m going to be adding some fun stuff:

  • You’ll be able to find me on social media and email from the home page.
  • You’ll be able to share each post on social media and email at the end of each post.
  • I will still retain the easy, no-need-to-log-in-and-create-an-account method of commenting, so no worries there.
  • I will have different pages for each different type of post (more on this soon).
  • In general, it will have a cooler, more interesting look – not exactly sure what.  I’m in the process of hiring a designer and I’m welcoming suggestions!
4. Categories.
It has long bothered me that I have something of an identity crisis here on the blog.  Like, I’m not exactly sure who I’m talking to when I post.  Some of my posts address non-Orthodox Jews, explaining why we do certain things, or how to do them.  Some are simply Jewish inspiration, more addressed to religiously-oriented readers who are looking for that.  Sometimes I make controversial observations.  To whom am I speaking?  Well, I finally sorted this out in my mind.  I am talking to all of you.  There are non-Jews, atheists, Orthodox Jews, and Jews who have never met an Orthodox Jew, and they are reading this blog.  So I have eight different types of posts on this blog, and some of my readers will find some of them interesting and others not – and maybe some will find only a fraction of them interesting, and others will find all types potentially interesting.  And that’s okay, because I’m serving a super-diverse readership and this is a good way to do it.
To that end, I’ve gone back in to all 238 of my old posts and assigned each one one or more of the eight categories, and I’m going to create a page for each, so you’ll be able to click on the page and see all the posts I’ve ever written in that category.  Fun, right?  
Further, with each of my future posts I will scroll regularly through each category, so you’re getting an even range of my different types of posts.
Here are the eight:
1. Book reviews
2. Interviews
3. How-to Judaism
4. Controversial observations (these will require a glass of wine prior to posting)
5. Why Orthodox Jews do the things they do
6. Q&A received from real people in the real world
7. Jewish inspiration
8. (This is a new category) My favorite round-up of Jewish posts from around the web
I will also periodically, but not regularly, post about Jewish food, and about me and the blog.
5. Future posts.
I already said above that I’m going to be regularly posting on a schedule. rotating between each of the eight categories.  Some will overlap.  For example, I may do a book review that is also a controversial observation.  Or an interview that contains lots of Jewish inspiration.  Or a Q&A that will answer why we do the things we do or how to do something in a more Jewish way.
Monday will be the day that I put up each new post.  You can expect a new post each week, barring unusual circumstances.  For those of you signed up via email (and see the right sidebar to sign up if you’d like to get an email with each new post) you will get the email around 1 am or 2 am early Tuesday morning.  This is an automated system that sends out all posts published within the previous hours.  It is not me staying up till 2 am to email you.
On the day I post something new, I’ll post it to Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest right away, and the email will come that night.
Got it??  Those are all my updates.  I’m really excited about bringing the blog to the next level and making it more professional, even-handed, beautiful, far-reaching, and ultimately, educational and unifying.  Thanks for being my partners in making it so.

Uncategorized March 14, 2014

Sponsor Me?

Hey OOTOB readers,

This May, I am going to walk 100 miles along with a bunch of other JFX-ers (and fans of Israel from around the world) to raise money to bring more women to Israel in December with an incredible organization called JWRP.

No, not in one day!  Over one month, I’m going to wear a device that tracks my steps – 10,000 steps a day, which is about 4 miles – for a month.  Gah!!  I’m really excited, and I need some help.  Would you, my devoted readers, consider sponsoring me?  Just head over here – no donation too small!

Thanks so much!