Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The first egg

It's rather on the smallish side, as you can see from the three commercial eggs sitting next to it; and it has a smudge of dirt on it, because it was laid outside the nesting box; but it's the first egg we got from a chicken we hatched and raised ourselves (one of the first batch of last summer's chicks), so we are very proud, and feel it's a worthy cause for a little celebration. 

Isn't it the loveliest looking little egg? :-)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Someone else's thoughts

My friend Anna emailed me with a few thoughts she had on this post. With her permission, I am sharing them with you here. I decided they deserve a place, even if I disagree with most of what you will read below.

I just had a couple of thoughts about your last couple of posts that I wanted to share with you.

Reading your posts about what the majority of women would do, I thought about an interview to George R.R. Martin that I read a while ago. The interviewer asked him how did he manage to write female characters so well, and he answered "Well, you know, I've always considered women to be people". :D
It may sound obvious, but I think it's worth a thought.

Women are people, and therefore I think their aspiration and their idea of happiness is as individual as any man's. Some people love being around other people, some don't. Some people prefer intellectual pursuits, others find satisfaction in manual jobs, etc. I think that is true for men and women alike.

It's a bit difficult to say what the majority of women really want or desire, because it's a question closely linked to centuries of social organisation that defined what was expected by women and what made her good and valuable in the eye of society (in this area, the options were much more limited than men's).

Generally speaking, a successful man was a man that could provide wealth to his family, with whatever means he chose, and a worthy woman was one that provided heirs and took care of the household. What led to the establishment of this organisation is a complex process that was brilliantly analysed, among others, by Simone de Beauvoir: her “The Second Sex” is a wonderful read, if you haven't read it yet, by all means do. You may or may not agree with the conclusions she draws (taking a wild guess, I suppose you won't :) ), but the whole analysis is so insightful and thought-provoking.

Anyway, the concept of patriarchal society was challenged by the industrial revolution, that put less emphasis on physical strength, that was not so important when it came to making machines function and later simplified most domestic tasks, by the World Wars, in which women took over many jobs traditionally done by men then off to war, then by the debate about women's rights and finally by the feminist movement.

The influence of these centuries is still strong, though. In the country where I live, for example, being a working woman (let alone a mother) is still a challenge. Men are better paid and preferred when it comes to payrises and promotions.

In most Western countries the women that work outside the house while the husband takes care of their kids are still a minority, and it is generally frowned upon (especially the husband, who is considered “unmanly”).
Besides, women usually have it harder than men when it comes to choosing between family and career. I agree with you when you say that the majority of women (but I would say people here) desire a family, but it's only women that have to choose between work and family.

That's because the way that work is organised (with rigid timetables and more stress on the hours spent in the office than on the actual result) is what is best suited to the traditional figure of the manager that spends all his time in the office and is only marginally involved in the education of his kids. Few women accept it, because it's not carved in them that the only way they can be "valuable" is through the wealth they provide (as it is for men). I think this behavior model is incredibly sad and humanly diminishing, both for men and for women. Even men are starting to challenge that: there are many fathers that want to be more involved in the family life (think, for example, about the divorced fathers that are fighting to have more equality in the time spent with their kids) so there's a bit of a revolution going on there as well.

But traditionally a man that spends all his time outside the house is not the target of imposed (or even self imposed) guilt, while a woman is.

The goal of modern feminism is not to drag women outside the house and make them choose a career that occupies all their time, but rather to arrange work so that women don't have to choose one path or the other, but rather find a variable "mix" that works for each of them. The attention should be shifted from time spent at work to results achieved with work.

The myth of "having it all" is destined to remain a myth if the work structure doesn't change. Now though we have the technology to do it: with mobiles, laptops, internet it's not that difficult to manage time more flexibly... now it's just up to companies to implement it (and that's taking a looong time).

Also because women are an incredible treasure for a company: statistically they're more efficient, more prone to multitasking (I bet you know why, being a mother! ;) ), more honest. Companies that have women managers, statistically do better.

Society should give the possibility to choose; however, if you think that your path is inside the house, and you decided this for yourself because you think that's what's good for you, I think that's wonderful. You had the courage to choose what was best for youself as an individual, and I applaud that. The "mix" I was talking about could be 100% private life or 100% career, but statistically (according to the theory of Gaussian distribution) I'd daresay the majority would be located around the middle area.

What makes me sad while reading the apparently neverending debate between stay at home women and working women is how every part usually tries to make the other feel guilty about their choices.
In all places and times, the main problem faced by human beings was to find their places in the world and there's not a solution that works for everyone. Making a choice, any choice, about how to live your life is difficult and validation by others seems important because it's reassuring. I think that women should stop fighting about who has it harder or who is doing a better job. I think we should try to be more supportive with each other. The goal of feminism should be to promote diversity in choices and profit from it, in terms of quality of living and openness to change.

We're all doing our best, and the solution that is heaven for one can be hell for the other.

For example, some families are ok living on one income, while others (and I admit, I am amongst them) would find overwhelmingly anguishing the thought of what would happen if that one income wasn't available anymore (also because, I don't know how it is in Israel, but here in South Europe the financial crisis hit us hard and losing one's job and falling under the poverty line is unfortunately a very concrete possibility that is affecting thousands of families). But that doesn't mean that one vision is better than the other, everyone must discover what works for themselves.

And I don't have kids, but from what I understood they learn the most from examples, so I believe that if their parents are happy and serene with their choices, whether they are working, stay at home, homeschooling or public schooling, they have the best chances to become balanced and serene human beings.


Well, as you can imagine, I have so many thoughts swirling in my head after I've read this that I feel as though I could sit and write all day, and still not cover half of what I would say in response. But of course, as ever, time is pressing, and I can't afford more than a few minutes today. 

Just a few points I find crucial: yes, of course women are individuals, with their unique dreams, opinions, pursuits, lifestyle... but I still believe that the nurturing side, the desire to set up and make a home, and raise children - all of which takes such a big part in a woman's life in so many ways - is universal, and far beyond what may be called social conditioning. 

Give some very small children a box of toys, and you'll see that girls and boys play in quite different ways. I have a relative who told us he isn't going to let his little boy play with dolls, because it's "unmanly". The notion made me laugh, because truly, the way of play doesn't depend on the toys. Our girls have cars, dolls, construction toys, stuffed animals, water guns... and they play like girls. Not long ago I caught them "mothering" a ferocious-looking rubber dionsaur with very long teeth. 

If a woman is home, taking care of her family, obviously she has many things in common with other women all over the world who are doing the same thing, but it doesn't mean her individuality doesn't blossom. She sets the tone to her house; together with her husband, she has the freedom to pursue the lifestyle they choose. Some will dwell in cities. Some will settle in remote places and set up a homestead. 

I partially agree with you about work hours vs. productivity. Around here, many men would like to get up and go to work early, and then come home early, but leaving early is frowned upon even if they have done all their work. So they stay at work until late hours, doing nothing in particular. Also, my sister-in-law, who is a teacher, told me about a new (and very foolish, in my opinion) educational reform, in the course of which fully employed teachers will have to commit to 8 hours of work per day, and checking exams and essays will be done at school, rather than in their homes, as was common until now. This will rob teachers (and most teachers here are women) of the flexible hours they have had before, which have enabled them to go home early to their children, then do some exam-checking and other paperwork in the evenings, at their leisure. 

Also, it is true that the Internet has provided many opportunities for being self-employed, and for setting up one's own business, than were available some 20 years ago.

Still... hours may be flexible, but they are hours. To work, either from home or outside it, you need to put in effort; you need to put in time. Obviously I believe working from home is infinitely preferable for a mother who wishes to remain with her children, but even this may put undue stress when there are a hundred-odd things to do in a day even without a business to manage. I am against the notion that a woman must accomplish something, anything unrelated to her home and family in order to be considered a truly worthy human being. Or there is the Super Housewife who grows her own food, sews her own clothes, makes her own soap, candles, cheese - all on a regular basis. All those are wonderful things, but not everyone can do them, at least not always! Around here, if I've taken care of the laundry and dinner, and all the animals, and done some reading and perhaps some crafts with the children, with a bit of cleaning squeezed in, I consider it a very good day. 

As for women being statistically better workers... I confess I am unfamiliar with these statistics, so what I'm going to say now is based on anecdotal evidence and common sense. Women, especially after they have children, often find that their heart and mind remain with their children, even when they are at work. I have personally witnessed women who hold very responsible jobs trying to settle disputes, help their children with homework and make sure everyone eats a healthy lunch, all over the phone. Women are pregnant, women give birth, women pump milk at work. Women miss their babies (and worry about their school-age children). I'm not saying women are bad employees, but I know I would probably be a bad employee. I would think about my children and about things that need to be done at home, and they would hold far more weight for me than any job I would be assigned to do. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Product review: Kiwi Crate

I received an email from Kiwi Crate and was offered to do a product review, to which I happily agreed. I have never heard of them before, and the idea was intriguing: basically, you receive a box of goodies which contains all the necessities for a couple of nifty projects to do with children. I was sent a Chanukkah box with menorah and dreidel art, complete with instructions.

Illustration photo: taken from website. 

My girls, of course, got really excited about the mysterious box. Shira was particularly enthusiastic about the little carboard boxes the menorah lights came in. She stacked them all very neatly and told me she is building the Temple. True creativity does not read instructions. :o) 

It was really cute. Of course, the big question is, would I buy it? If you are a regular reader of my blog you are probably already guessing that the answer is "no"; I'm all for thinking up your own projects and using stuff you already have in your house (toilet paper rolls, empty bottles, corks), or things you find outside (pinecones, wood, shells, stones), plus some very basic art supplies (paper, paint, glue). 

Having said that, I do think that if you can comfortably afford it, such a project box could be a nice gift, for example, for a frazzled mother who is taking care of a new baby while simultaneously trying to entertain two preschoolers on a rainy day. Or someone who is dealing with illness in the family, or just someone who really wants to do something creative with the children but somehow can't get the juices flowing. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A long overdue update

Over time, I have received many emails from readers asking me what is going to become of this story, the tale of a city mouse goes country (or modern mouse goes traditional, if you will). I was flattered and a little surprised to know that the few bits of the story I shared, in the rough draft stage, have touched people's hearts; but so many changes have taken place in my own life, and although I can't say I have had zero time to write - because I did, in fact, write quite a bit whenever I could snatch half an hour here and there - other projects somehow have always taken over.

I have a vision of how the story will end. I don't know yet exactly how to bring it there, but I thought that if I write a conclusion and share it here, it's a way to make sure the whole story will get written, edited and polished, some day, some way.

So... here goes.

Although an international airport never really goes to sleep, some of the action began to wind down. Stores were closing, and only a few all-night cafes and kiosks remained open. There were still more than two hours left until my flight. I sat down, leaned sideways onto my carry-on bag, and almost imperceptibly dozed off. I didn't hear the sound of footsteps, but a familiar voice pulled me out of sleep.


I looked up, and felt a jolt of surprise. It was David, standing with his hands in his pockets and smiling.

"What are you doing here?" I didn't understand. "I thought exam time wasn't over yet – "

"It isn't. I had a few days between exams, so I thought I would come to see you off."

"You shouldn't have!" I objected. "You must study; I don't want you to miss out on revision on my account."

He gave a noncommittal shrug. "I can study anyplace. But don't you worry about me. I think you have enough on your mind right now." I nodded slowly, so he went on. "As a matter of fact, I'm surprised to see you here alone."

"Oh, everyone came along to see me to the airport," I explained. "I told them they needn't stay half the night, though." I looked away. "I know you probably still think I shouldn't go."

"No," he shook his head. "Now I realize it is inevitable, but you will be back… won't you?" for the first time, he sounded a little anxious. I drew a deep breath.

"I will," I said. "And I'm happy about it. The past years with your family, David… they taught me more than I ever thought to, or even wanted to learn. My eyes were opened to so many things. But I… when I only just came here, I thought Aunt Anne was weird. Now I understand where she is coming from, and appreciate her. More than appreciate, admire her. I mean, how could I not, after all she had done for me? I don't think I should want to be quite like her, though," I finished in a firmer voice.

He stared, a little surprised, a little relieved. "Of course not. You will always be you, and that is perfectly fine."

I was relieved to hear this, because I felt he was addressing an unanswered question that had hovered on the outskirts of my mind for a long time, vaguely troubling me. My eyes wandered to the black screen where the date and time of flights were displayed in shining red letters. There was exactly an hour left until I was due to board the plane.  

"You might want to go home," I told David. "You'll need to catch up on sleep if you're planning to study tomorrow."

But he sat down. "I'll wait," he said with a reassuring smile, and I offered a shy one in return.

Once more, my life was taking a turn when I least expected it. Just as I felt I have adjusted, and even became inspired by the quiet home life, I was due to return again to the scenes I have missed so much several years ago, but from which I now felt detached, as though it was a dusty page in an old book telling about someone else's life. Like when I first boarded a plane here, I felt confused; I did not know what to expect. Yet I was more optimistic than before. Something within me strongly told me that I should expect things to be good, though perhaps not perfect. And I knew that the people I loved, the distant relatives who became my own close family in the past years, will be with me, always, near or far.

And yes, I knew I would be coming back. But I had no idea what kind of woman I would become by then.  

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Around here

I wanted to let you all know that, although fighting in Israel is still going on, we are out of harm's way for the time being and are leading a normal life. Here are just a few tidbits of what has been going on around here lately:

* There were particularly strong winds last weekend, and our goat pen got literally blown over (that is to say, the roof was at the bottom). I know, I know - after all the hard work we put in! But my husband was able to set it right with the help of some friends, although now it doesn't, ahem, look as nice as it did in the beginning.

* My husband brought home a lot of zucchini. And when I say a lot, I mean a lot. So I made zucchini quiche, zucchini cake, pasta with zucchini and pot roast chicken with potatoes and zucchini. I believe now I can truthfully say we have enjoyed this lovely vegetable to the fullest. :-) 

(The above is an illustration photo. Mine weren't as pretty.) 

* I have just finished reading Mediterranean Cookery by Claudia Roden. It's a lovely cookbook with many interesting and practical recipes, but so much more as well - tales of customs, places, dishes, lifestyle, and history. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and found a lot that can be applicable in our kitchen - I think Mediterranean is the style we are closest to, in cooking. Onions, eggplants and tomatoes always have a place of honor with me, as does olive oil. All the recipes in the book have been kosher-adapted. 

So, just to assure you that we are doing well, and are busy with the usual humdrum of life around here. I hope the same is true for you, and that you are having a wonderful day!

Mrs. T

Monday, November 19, 2012

I was homeschooled

Wait, wait, wait, you are saying. You? But didn't you tell us you were raised by a single mother who worked hard, and you went to kindergarten and school and...? 

Well, yes. I did go to school. But pretty soon after school was over and done with I realized that my true education - and even the bulk of my knowledge - were acquired at home. If I turned out to be a more-or-less well-rounded person, it was not so much thanks to school but more despite it. So, I believe I have the right to say I was homeschooled, or to be exact, self-schooled. 

Not that my teachers were bad. Many were wonderful people, and some were actually terrific teachers. Not long ago I went to a highschool reunion, and it was a delight to see all the teachers again - in particular my English teacher, and also my physics teacher, who loved and respected me even though we both soon realized that my areas of potential success lie elsewhere. My teachers were my friends (you can tell I was a real geek, right?) but as individual people, they couldn't fight against the system, which was geared mainly toward one thing: take 35 kids, lock them up in a classroom for the whole day (with a few bathroom-and-sandwich breaks in between), and do your best to keep them from ripping each other's heads off. Then you may attempt to teach them something. Good luck!

Seriously, this isn't mud-slinging. I suppose we should be grateful for a government system that ensures, at least, basic literacy skills for everyone. But unfortunately, children whose parents aren't involved in their education, who don't get the motivation to read and study on their own, don't move very much beyond the basic literacy stuff if their education remains totally and completely within the hands of school. 

Remember my last post? Now, from questions stay-at-home wives and mothers face, we're moving on to questions homeschoolers face. Let me preface what I'm going to say by stating I don't believe homeschooling is the only option for "real" education for each and every family. I'm not even sure we're actually going to continue full-time home education, but we will certainly always see the responsibility of teaching our children as primarily ours. Furthermore, I have some good friends who either have been homeschooled themselves, or are homeschooling their children, so when you read the following comment you'll understand how come it got me on a roll. 

Most moms who homeschool usually do it because they have no identity outside of mommyhood and want their children's dependency to be extended. Rather than go out and get lives of their own, they infantilize their children setting them up to suck at life by denying them social interaction and catering to their every spoiled whim. Those mothers then have breakdowns when their children either move out to get jobs, start college, or get married and build homes of their own.

From the moment our children are born, they begin their path towards independence. From learning to use a spoon and put on their own shoes, to moving out and starting a family, they are on that path and our job is to be there and encourage them - "I know you can do it, but here I am. If you need a hand, just tell me."

Now, let me ask you a question. Is it better to depend on a system, or on yourself? 

As a girl, I used to have fantasies about living, home-based, nature-based education like my childhood hero, Gerald Durrell, had. But when I reached the age of 18 and school was over, I panicked. What on earth was I going to do? How would I occupy my time? A big, vast, scary blank stretched before me. I would have signed up for university the following year, but for technical reasons it wasn't possible. I had a year between school and university. So I worked at several places, and signed up for university the moment I could get the papers worked out. I signed up, even though I had no idea what it was that I actually wanted to do. I had to begin something. I loved learning, but I never had what you'd call ambition. Anyhow, I signed up, was accepted, and relieved - 4 more years of school. 4 more years of having my days all regulated and planned. 

Even then, I realized school didn't teach me much. But university, I rationalized, was the real deal. It's for adult people who come in order to learn. Then I was astounded to realize that even in university, most - I mean more than 50% - of the class time is wasted either on actual interruptions ("guys, may I ask you to please turn off your cell phones", and the poor professors can't even add "or I'll take them away and send you to the principal") or on questions of other people which were irrelevant to me. Yes, I did learn from my professors, but I learned more on my own. And I became more conscious of the fact that actually, I have been doing it for most of my life. 

The goal isn't to "give children an education", but more to give them the means and desire to learn. Children ask questions - very good, sometimes hard questions. If you truly give deep thought and effort to answering them, and not shrug them off, they will ask more. They learn to probe the world around them. If you delight in learning, your children most likely will, too, without any conscious effort on your part. Later they will learn to read, and there will be no stopping them. 

The homeschooling families I know don't "shut their children at home so children will be dependent on Mommy". They offer them a different way of education, one that lends more freedom, if only for the simple fact that no time is wasted on "herding" crowds of students. The homeschooled children I know are responsible, mature for their age, creative, and yes, perhaps sometimes they can allow themselves to be a little quirky, because they don't depend as much on peer pressure, although they do have friends. 

Every morning when I get up, I am so happy as I look at my children and know that we are facing a whole long, glorious day, from sunrise to sunset and beyond, of living and learning together. After hot coffee (for me) and milk (for the children) we go out to feed the chickens, and that's when we usually see the school bus passing is by. I'm always so happy to see it pass by, not stopping by our house; happy that the best hours of the day are spent together, as a family. Truly, without rationalizing or planning the future or wondering how it will all work out next year, I can just tell you how much I delighted in today. 

As a sidenote, it's not that there aren't challenging moments (like the sound of escaped goats on the deck when you are in the middle of a chapter of Winnie the Pooh). Sometimes I do wish some quiet time to just get the things quickly done around the house.A toddler, a wooden spoon, and a mixing bowl with sticky batter isn't a combination that yields a spotless kitchen, if you get my drift. But mostly, I truly enjoy my children, and I hope they are enjoying me, too. 

When we see the school bus return around 4 PM, I feel a little sad: children are brought home when the light of day, in winter, is already dying. I think it's such a pity. Even if children have to go to school, why for so long? I have heard people say that since scientific knowledge is expanding and technology is constantly advancing, children need more school hours to grasp it all. I don't believe it. Knowledge-cramming isn't the way; it's like the "give a poor man a fish" saying. What children need is a means to learn, and the love of learning, and the access to knowledge stores. Then they will find out things at a surprising rate, without spoon-feeding. 

Seeing that you live in Israel and can send your daughters to Orthodox schools, keeping them away from negative influences is not an excuse. 

Whenever possible, seek positive, not negative motivation. Not "we homeschool because schools are so bad" (although it may be true where you live), or "because we don't want our children to be bullied" (although I have lived through my share of school bullying and one year is almost a blank in my memory because it was so awful, so if it's your reason I completely understand) but - we homeschool because we genuinely enjoy teaching our children, and learning alongside them. We love having our children around, and we enjoy the flexibility homeschooling gives us. We feel our children are enjoying it all, too. Because learning is so time-effective, we have plenty of time left over for creative pursuits. Also, far from being spoiled little brats whose every whim is catered to, our children participate in the daily life and work of a home, and contribute in very real ways, as much as can be expected of children at their age. 

I'll end with a quote from Rose Godfrey (forgive me, Rose, if those weren't your precise words): "Homeschooling fit our family like an old pair of jeans, comfy in all the right places." I know you'll probably find it ironic that this particular quote was chosen by someone who doesn't even own a pair of jeans, but I'm sure you get the idea. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Another "but what if..."

Those of us who live and work full-time within our homes and communities - as women have always done, but for the short period of modern history - now often have to deal with questions such as were posed in a comment I received last week:

"Being a stay home mom is great until husband loses his job, husband becomes disabled or gets cancer, husband divorces you, or husband gets hit by a car and dies. Many homemakers are ill prepared to support their families when such tragedy happens and then the children are thrust into poverty. Also, bear in mind Anna, that your girls will be teenagers while you are still in your 30s which is quite young. What will you do with your time when you are 40, which is VERY young and healthy, and your daughters are out of the house with lives of their own? How much time is really going to be spent on cooking and cleaning once your daughters are gone? What will you do to occupy your time and give you socialization?"

Do I know what will happen in my life in 20, 10, even 5 years? I don't and can't have a sureproof way of knowing, when I look back on how much my life has changed in the last five years - I got married, had two children, moved house with my husband 3 times, learned countless things, baked birthday cakes, gathered fresh eggs, and nursed babies. We lived through times of financial and emotional unheavals, began what is now a sort-of-homestead, and overall just tried to enjoy the ride along the way. 

I love my two daughters so very, very much. They are simply such wonderful, beautiful children, delightful in every aspect of their beings. My hands and my heart are open for more children, either through birth, adoption or foster care, or perhaps just having our home as an "open house" for children I know, whether from the family or not. But even if I never have more children, I am unspeakably grateful for my daughters. I am their mother; G-d gave them to me - not as possessions, but as a precious fund. I am to care for them,  teach them, learn with them, laugh and cry with them, walk down the path of life with them as a mother and friend. 

This is what I am called to do in this season of my life. I know I am. And I know that I will never regret spending those years with them, no matter what happens. I will not allow vague fears of the future prevent me from enjoying the blissful today, which is so joyful not just because I am doing what I love, but I am doing what I am called to do - be a wife, mother and homemaker. Yes, things may happen, but so often they don't happen the way we plan them; sometimes, our "prepration for emergencies" turns out to be not at all relevant when the rubber hits the road. 

For example... a woman may work so she has "something to fall back on", and then when her husband becomes sick, she realizes she must quit work anyway - with all the financial hardship it entails - to take care of him. A relative of mine lived through such a situation precisely. 

I believe I have already written on my blog about options of what I might do with my time if I suddenly find myself with heaps of it on my hands (ha!). The list is endless; I already invest some of my time in helping my husband with his work, particularly translating documents for him. We might embark on some common enterprise together. I might be able to be more active in the community - recently I was asked to join a committee, which at this time of my life I realized would detract too much from my home, so I was forced to say no. In the future I might be needed by my mother, who isn't getting any younger. I might dedicate more time to creative writing, and hopefully publish. 

A wonderful example of an active, creative older woman is Rhonda Jean, a mother, grandmother, homemaker and book author. If I might find myself in Rhonda's situation in 35-40 years, I will consider my life very well lived indeed. 

The commenter goes on: 

For many women, work is not only about money but it's about sustaining social interaction during the day, engaging in intellectual pursuits, and feeling productive and like they're contributing to society. Though my salary is meager, I work because I love my job, because I am thanked and appreciated every day for the work that I do, because I learn from it every day, because I genuinely love my work and love the autonomy earning even my meager wage gives me. I love not having to ask for money and to spend it as I see fit. 

But you see, if your wage is meager, and your husband's is nice, it might be that you aren't really creating very much financial stability for your family anyway. In fact, with tax deductions, commute, work clothes and childcare costs, it might be that a family with a husband who earns nicely and a wife who doesn't earn much, would actually have been better off, financially, with the wife at home, in particular if the value of humble life and reduced spending is realized. 

And here we get to a point that, and I hope you will forgive my bluntness, I must speak against. I have noticed a tendency in women who do paid work to believe that the money their husband earns is family money, but the money they earn is their own private money. I am sorry, but it doesn't work this way. There were times when I worked, and my husband stayed home with our daughter. None of us wished for this, but it was a temporary measure we felt was necessary, during a period of unemployment. Anyway, the money I earned went not into my personal account, but into the account used to pay bills. I never took any of it personally for myself, it was all for the family. 

But does it mean I never had access to money? Not at all. We always kept an envelope of cash in the house, and from it I could take, without asking my husband, whatever I needed for groceries, bus fare, etc. My husband always knew I can be trusted to spend wisely; he knew I would not be frivolous with money. 

Furthermore, it is selfish to only stay within your own home and not use your talents to benefit anyone outside of your own home. Please re-read proverbs 31 and you will see a woman who invests in real estate and deals with merchants and generates an income. Especially in today's world with internet and telecommunting, people can now work from their laptops at home with flexible hours and combined with the fact that we have washing machines and dishwasher our ancestors never had )as well as fewer children), there is no excuse to economically overburden our hard working husbands.

I believe this has been discussed at length already, but I believe, as had already been excellently said, that the Proverbs 31 spans the whole course of a woman's life. It doesn't say "this is what must be accomplished by all women, of all seasons and walks of life". It is plain that a woman with young children at home cannot afford to spend as much time on various pursuits, paid or not, as a woman with grown children, or a young bride who has no children yet. As I said, I might have my own business in the future, or a business with my husband, or someone might even pay money for my writings. But right now, my hands are full at home - yes, believe it or not, even though I have a washing machine (but not a dryer - I like to line-dry. And not a dishwasher, I do the dishes by hand). 

As for "overburdening" my husband by staying home... would he have it easier if I worked? Financially, perhaps we could have a bit more money to spend. But it's not like my husband works long hours because I don't earn money. He worked long hours before he was even married - that is how it is in his profession, at least in Israel. He can't exactly walk over to his boss and say, "hey, my wife works now, so I would like to work less hours because I can afford it". That is simply not how it works at most jobs. Husbands have to work full-time, whether their wives work or not. But of course, I believe it is the wife's job to handle the family income prudently so that the husband won't feel the need to work overtime, if he'd rather not. 

Thanks to having a wife at home, my husband can come home from work and know he can put up his feet and relax (apart from doing some yard/homestead work I am physically/technically incapable of doing). He doesn't have to play catch-up with housework.

Thanks to having a wife at home, my husband can keep chickens and goats. He likes it, and it's relaxing for him to work and interact with animals on weekends. But he wouldn't be able to do it if there wasn't someone (me) to do the routine work during the week. I am able to research information for my husband, make calls for him, compare prices for possible purchases online, place ads of things we want to sell, and overall handle things which my husband otherwise would be hard pressed to find time for. 

My husband realizes the importance of a wife at home, not in the least thanks to his mother, a wonderful woman with a heart for home, and another shining example of how productive an older woman can be. My mother-in-law never had higher education or a high-paying job, but she is loved by everyone. She never had a bad or insensitive word to say about anyone, and has her heart and her arms open for her grandchildren, always, even though she is over 70. 

When your daughters are out of diapers and go to school, you will need outside stimulation as cleaning the house does not take 8 hours a day!

Hey, guess what? My daughters are out of diapers. Well, almost. 

Here we reach the part of the comment that speaks about why homeschooling is bad and is only the choice of selfish, immature people. I will tackle it, but right now I feel this is getting too lengthy already, so I will just say this:

The value of a woman in her home has never been doubted, until very recently in history. Now it is assumed that a woman at home is either looking for something better (a job, a higher degree, etc), or is simply someone who isn't good enough, who is wasting her life and leeching off her husband. This view has deprived families, homes, communities of the gentle touch of a mother's hand that is so vitally important. I refuse to comply with this view, and so do many others. 

I am living my life, doing my best to live it the way G-d intended for me, joyfully, without the burden of fear and guilt. You are welcome to join me as I share bits of this path. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A path to follow

To the dear friends who wrote and inquired about our safety - we are as safe as can be, and not in the area the rockets are currently targeting. Not that it makes much difference: Israel is a small place, and I don't believe there is a single person here who can feel detached from the ongoing war. 

Still, we are trying to keep life as normal as possible, and I've even had time to do some reading lately. Usually I either read non-fiction (books about plant medicine, nutrition, child education) or classical fiction, mostly Russian. But this time I stumbled upon a detective by Susan Isaacs, called Long Time No See, and read a dialogue between two middle-aged women which I felt could be entertaining to some of you (I did use some slight editing):


"I don't understand all these women you're speaking to. What do they do? They're all thirty-five, forty tops. Whatever happened to jobs? Remember jobs, Judith? Remember all those husbands in 1972, yours and mine included, who said 'My wife isn't going to work,' and how we stood up to them and that idiot mentality. So what are all these women doing home?"

"What are you talking about?" I asked. "They're raising their children."

"I see. And may I inquire precisely why we went through a revolution in women's rights, why we bothered to have our conscience raised? So our daughters could sit on a bench in a playground and talk about whether Pampers or Huggies hold poopy better. That's how they talk: poopy and peepee. Four years of higher education, graduate school - a whole world of possibility open to them - and they elect to sit on a park bench and talk poopy."

"We fought so our daughters could choose - "

"We fought so our daughters would be allowed to do the work for which they were suited. Now what happens? They go to law school, medical school, business school and become lawyers or doctors or number crunchers for how long? Three or four years. But the minute they see they're just another cruncher or whatever, that they're not having fun, whatever that means, that they're flying to Milwakee with their knees squished and will never get near the corporate jet, what do they do? They up and quit."

"Who's supposed to raise their children?" I inquired. "An illegal immigrant who doesn't speak English, who they underpay and overwork?.. I raised my kids, before I even finished my dissertation. And if you can remember that far back, you were freelancing, not working full-time."

"But we didn't have a path to follow. They do. Because we cleared it."

"Maybe they don't like that path."

"Maybe in a few years men will be saying, 'Hey, how come they're letting all these women into law school and medical school and into the hot jobs on Wall Street when all they do is work three years and quit? That's not fair. Why can't those places go to men who will stay the course? And they'll be right."


I think it's a very illustrative piece about the older generation, which only saw the promises of feminism, vs. the younger generation, their children, which lived with its price. You can give women "opportunities", but - on a general level - many, many women are best suited for a job of being a wife and mother. So many that if given a true choice, the whole feminist doctrine will fall to pieces.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

While we were away...

At the beginning of this week, we went for a mini-vacation in Eilat, which was why I've been absent in the past few days. We seldom get away, and had the time of our lives there! 

We have had a good bit of life-giving, refreshing rain around here lately, and while I do love the rain's effects - all the plants fresh, new grass beginning to grow, plenty of pasture for the goats and chickens - I must confess I'm always longing for the moment after the rain, when the sun shines and illuminates thousands of water droplets, making them sparkle like diamonds nestled among leaves and blades of grass. I'm a sun person and a summer person, and as we drove south and the sky cleared, I felt just like a bird flying away from winter.

 Along the way, we met a pair of Nubian Ibex. The girl was a little camera shy, but so cute I immediately told my husband that's just the type of goat I'd like to have. :o)
 The desert views were magnificent - a little hazy, because it was a windy day and so naturally we had a bit of dust.
 The underwater observatory in Eilat. A fascinating place, for children and adults alike.
The pure beauty of calm clear sea and blue sky, with desert mountains in between. 

Anyway, now we are back and it's time to catch up on all the things that have been pending while we were away - cleaning, cooking, preparing for Shabbat, and of course, laundry, laundry, laundry. 

And I must say, the chickens, goats and dog were mighty glad to see us get back. In case you are wondering, we left them in the care of very nice, very kind neighbours who gladly volunteered to feed and water our animals while we are away, but you know how the saying goes... you want the job done the way you want it to be done, you must do it yourself. 

Hoping to talk to you again soon,

Mrs. T

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Need more... time

Kate writes:

"I'd love to get your perspective on how social media has taken away from the slow pace of life. I've just noticed that one could literally spend all day on facebook or any number of other social media outlets discussing whatever and looking at different things people post. It's gotten to the point where almost every business (this is how it is here in the US anyway) is on facebook doing advertising and just trying to engage the clientele. Such as it is, rather than discussing ideas with a neighbor over the fence, coming back a few days later with new perspectives, ideas, and having the pace of these topics going on in a natural way... with the internet it seems like your mind could be opened up to new ideas and even changed at the snap of a finger! It's something that I've come to just think as an unnatural pace of life and sometimes an unnatural way of learning although I highly value the internet for that (educational purposes, etc.)"

Back when I read this comment, I really couldn't spare the time to write about time (no pun intended), but now I've decided to just jump in and talk some more about this precious resource we (unfortunately, I am not free of guilt on this score) tend to squander. 

The internet is a magnificent tool for obtaining knowledge and information, but it's also an ocean you can drown in. It's so easy to get sucked in, away from real life, from real things that need doing. I sit down to "just" moderate and publish some comments on my blog - and find myself dragged into a discussion. I pop into Facebook and without being aware of it, am looking at photos of people I don't know at all. Just now, I decided to check on a thread I posted at and somehow ended up discussing aspartame. How does it happen? Something catches our eye, and since it's only a click away, it's hard to resist the temptation. 

Here we really need to consider what we are doing with our time; and, if we spend any considerable length of time every day on the computer, discern between information and relationships that enhance our lives without encumbering them, and simply "buzz" that entertains without providing anything worth keeping. It can be websites, forum discussions, TV shows, books, even relationships. Yes, please don't take this personally, but I realize we women especially are prone to overstep this boundary that divides healthy friendships from getting together (either in person, or on the phone or through the internet) being used as an excuse to delay the less appealing responsibilites of home life. 

Making good use of time doesn't always mean, to me, being super-efficient and organized. When the weather is good, I always try to put housework aside and go for a walk with the children, in the morning or in the afternoon (depends on the season - now afternoons are already dark and chilly, and are better suited for staying at home). Then we can enjoy the beauty of nature, and the children can let out energy and also do - what's that lovely term? :o) - some socializing, a.k.a meeting friends along the way. 

There are all the necessary routines of our day - work, food, rest - and close, cherished relationships. There are things that enhance our role as wives, mothers, homemakers, persons. And then there are some things. Some nice, attractive, maybe even good things that clog up our day, and each of them doesn't take that long, so we don't even realize how much we are bogged down by things/pursuits that can really be dispensed with. 

It has been a busy week around here. With the little ones and I sick again, and much work to be done here around the house, such as the new goat pen, I'm really quite glad to see the week drawing to a close, and am more than ready for Shabbat. I hope you too, wherever you are, have a relaxing weekend with all the good things - time with your loved ones, good food, leisurely walks (or indoor pursuits, depends on the weather) taken together. Perhaps some reading aloud - do you know, we are rediscovering the wonders of this cozy habit, not only with the girls but with my husband as well. 

This photo is one of my all-time favorites. No, these beautiful children aren't mine, but I cherish this image of love, of friendship, of brother/sisterhood, of a slow moment in childhood - just walking down a sunlit road on a warm day. There might be a destination (such as the playground) but there is no hurry. Children can stop in pure wonder and fascination to watch a bird in the sky or a bug on the ground, and at the moment, almost feel like the bug or bird. I really want to take such a photo of my girls too - from the back, holding hands - but each time they see the camera, they start doing the Monkey Dance and pull funny faces. I'll try to do that when they don't notice. :o)

And well, now that I've began rambling it's a true sign I really must be off. My bed is calling, warm and comfortable, and tomorrow is another busy day until all activity comes to a halt when the Shabbat candles are lit. And then... ah... we will truly be in another world, for a day. 

I look forward to "seeing" you all again!

Mrs. T

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

It took a lot of work, but here we are!

Our does are in their new home. Well, I could only get a decent picture of one of them, but you get the idea. Isn't she cute? We did a lot of work yesterday prior to letting them in, such as using a large amount of PVC we were gifted with to create a rain and wind-sheltered space. My muscles are all seized up, so I can only hope the goats appreciate it. There are still some minor fixes and changes to be made, not to mention the pile of debris that will be cleared away sometime within the next decade, but the important thing is that our goats have a roof over their heads. 

Anyhow, I'm looking forward to a winter with much less weeding to do around here. :o) And, if the breeding had been successful, fresh goat milk and cheese! Now, doesn't it sound too good to be true? I wish we could know for sure whether they are pregnant or not. It's difficult to know just by looking. Well, we'll find out eventually. 

I do have to say, these are some lovely-tempered goats. They don't butt or kick, and in general haven't displayed any sign of aggression - just the type of animal a newbie goat owner dreams of. I trust you join me in hoping it will be smooth sailing for us this winter!

PS: Fias Co Farm is a wonderful website with heaps of information about keeping goats, and it is evident it's written by people who genuinely care for their goats and raise them in a gentle and caring way. I'm learning loads from the experience they share with everyone!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Under the weather, taking it slow

I don't remember how often I've said this in the past couple of weeks, but we're under the weather again. With fever and runny noses, this day is by necessity not one of those upbeat, high-accomplishment days, but goes at a slower pace, and we're trying to make the most of it, as best we can. It's a hot, breezy day, perfect for doing the washing, so I was able to fold my laundry about two hours after hanging it out. I just took a tray of fresh-made bread out of the oven, to freeze for Shabbat, and popped another tray in. Hopefully, a slow and easy afternoon awaits us. 

And... this goat pen isn't going to win any beauty contests, but hopefully it will serve its purpose. :o) I'm very proud of my husband for having worked on it so hard, and so thankful for kind neighbours who came along to lend a hand. There's still quite a bit of work to be done to make it more sheltered from the wind and rain, but hopefully, our goats can be here in the yard today or tomorrow, which of course makes us all mighty excited. 

I hope to post again soon, but for now I think I'll go and... snatch this opportunity, rest my head on the pillow and take a nap. Wishing you all a lovely week,

Mrs. T