Dichotomy

dichotomy

Have you ever eaten a Sabra? It’s a prickly pear. On the outside it has rough edges, almost sharp. But once you remove the skin, underneath, is a soft, gentle fruit that is delicious. The sabra is often used as a metaphor for Israelis. It was during my recent visit to Israel that I realized just how true this is: sharp on the outside, but as soft as can be inside. A dichotomy.

dichotomy
A Sabra fruit

A dichotomy is what I would describe as my time in Israel. I experienced highs and lows, great joy followed by sadness, and a sense of security mixed with fear. This is what life has been like in Israel for the past seven months. Until I was there, until I could see it for myself, I would never have believed it.

dichotomy
My daughter arriving in Israel, seeing the faces of hostages.

I felt it the moment I arrived. As I strolled towards passport control and saw one of my favourite signs, “Bruchim Ha’baim” (welcome), I walked past sign after sign, names, faces, ages, of people being held hostage in Gaza. Around the airport were signs warmly welcoming me, surrounded by reminders that over 200 people had been kidnapped. How could I be so excited to arrive in a place I love so much, to be with family and catch up with friends, with all of this suffering?

Instead of letting the sadness, the pain or the fear overtake me, I embraced the dichotomy of what Israel is today and focused on joy. I actively sought out the Israel I know and love, to remind myself why this place is so special.

I am not a fool, and I know that huge numbers of people around the world hate Israel and everything it stands for. It is the home of the Jewish religion, the Jewish people and the Jewish nation. And while it is far from perfect, it’s also the protector of other religions and peoples.

You will find the most advanced, high-tech society that leads the world in innovation, and yet the sidewalks are uneven and it seems like no road is straight. In one neighbourhood there may be an ultra-religious community, while next door are secular Jews. You will eat the freshest, juiciest watermelon in the local market, then step on rotten oranges a block away.

As the traffic light goes green, you had better step on it and drive. If you hesitate, the horns will honk. They will tailgate you and cut you off on the highway. If you aren’t fast enough, you will lose the best parking spot, and grown adults will push a child aside to get their breakfast first. You will be yelled at for no apparent reason, and good luck finding anyone who will stand in an orderly line.

But.

They will give you the shirt off their back in an instant. If you are hurt, they will stop and help you. They will give you some extra chips and salads, just to make sure you eat enough. Ask for directions, and you will get a story about how their brother’s wife’s aunt lived in the house next door. Smile and you will get a smile back. They will give their life for you.

How can these two extremes exist together? How can one person be both aggressive and gentle? It is the story of Israeli survival. I saw it everywhere I went on this most extraordinary trip.

When you live in a place that you have to fight for and defend every day, maybe you love it just a bit more. You appreciate the land and the people so much more. You need to be tough, and yes, a bit rough around the edges, to survive. But you feel warmth in your heart, and grateful every day, to be living in your ancestral homeland.

Now that I have left Israel, and I’m back to Toronto, so many dichotomous moments are swirling around my head, and I don’t want these memories to fade….

We visited the grave of David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister and a founding father of the nation. He’s buried in his beloved Negev desert, overlooking a canyon. I think about the beauty that surrounds his final resting spot and the fierce battles that must happened throughout history on this exact spot.

We spent a day in Jerusalem, possibly the most fought-over city in the world. I lived here for 6 months, many years ago, and I love to show my kids my favourite spots around the city. As we happily walked along Jaffa street, on our way to the Old City, suddenly we heard sirens. Police cars. Ambulances. Racing past us. One after the next. I froze. I was terrified. My kids had no idea, but I knew there must have been a terrorist attack nearby. I was right. We never made it to the Old City. We pivoted and instead visited the pedestrian mall and a market. We went from fear to joy in a matter of minutes.

The beaches of Tel Aviv are of the most beautiful in the world. This is the modern Israel, with hundred-year-old Bauhaus buildings mixed with glass-covered skyscrapers. A walk along the soft, white sandy beaches is like stepping into another world. The Mediterranean Sea is a magnificent blue, and on land there are bright white apartments. The city is alive, with hip restaurants and wide boulevards, but also great street food and tiny winding alleyways. Every turns brings you a new surprise.

Then there’s our family and our friends. As they shared with me, there were days not long ago when they ran to a protected stairwell or shelter, and waited, for the sirens to end for the incoming rocket. They cried, not knowing what tomorrow would bring, or when they went to a funeral for a fallen soldier or the shiva of a friend’s child or grandchild.

But our family also celebrated a wedding a few weeks ago, the birth of a new baby a year ago, new jobs, graduations, and so many other personal achievements. We hiked and walked together, we ate one spectacular meal after another together, and we laughed together. Oh did we laugh.

They told me that life must go on. It is the story of the State of Israel. We defend and we protect. We are scared and sometimes we cry. We must be tough, and yes a bit prickly with sharp edges. But we live to the fullest every day. We sing and dance, and smile and laugh. They reminded me, we are warm and kind and caring.

I understand this dichotomy now. I trust it and believe in it. I’m so happy that I was able to be in Israel again. Chazak chazak v’nitchazek. Be strong, be strong, and we will strengthen one another.

Numbers

numbers

5:30 am. There is a hint of blue in the sky. I’m standing on the edge of a canyon, waiting for the first rays of sun to rise over the horizon. It’s hazy. The sky begins to lighten, and I wait for the red and gold streaks of light to appear before me. It gets lighter. No colours in the sand.

A new day has arrived, deep in the desert of Southern Israel. While I didn’t see the sunrise I had hoped for, I did experience the quiet serenity of early morning in the desert, in the land I have hoped to visit for months.

The Israel I arrived to this week is not the same one I last visited in the summer of 2022. In recent months I have written about, and  I have shared my thoughts, about the attack on Israel on October 7th, 2023. And since that day, over 6 months ago, instead of fearing this place, I have longed to be here.  

I’m a “words” person, I often tell people. I can take random, often unconnected details, and string them together into something coherent, often beautiful. I tell stories. I even joke that data can’t tell me what I need to know. Data is just numbers. A bunch of numbers are meaningless. It’s what you do with the numbers, how you can connect them, to create your story.

Somehow, many different kinds of numbers came at me today, in the desert, and together they are forming my story.

Hundreds of Millions of Years          

That’s the approximate age of the Ramon Crater, where I watched the sun rise this morning. With its unique rock formations and colourful sands, it is central to the history of this land and its geology. I looked out at this magnificent vista, which holds the stories of thousands of years of civilizations who have lived in this land. It grounded me. It calmed me. It reminded me of where I was and why I worked so hard to get here.

numbers
The hint of sunrise over the crater

Three Attempts – on Four Airlines

For this one there are so many numbers that keep swirling through my head. We were booked to fly to Israel on April 13th, on Air Canada, non-stop. Stay with me as our saga has many twists and turns….

The flight was canceled, just after we boarded. With hundreds of drones and missiles being shot at Israel by Iran that evening, all flights were grounded. The flight was rebooked to take off the next day, but of course the rebooked flight was again canceled the following morning. We were determined to still fly (to attend our niece’s wedding), so we were rebooked, on Air Canada and Austrian Air to fly through London and Vienna.

With our second trip to the airport in two days, that flight didn’t happen either. But I didn’t give up. Our tickets were refunded and we rebooked on KLM, to fly on Saturday, April 20th, with a stop in Amsterdam. A couple of days before we were scheduled to fly…. Yep, that flight was canceled too and we were moved to Air France, to fly on Sunday, April 21st.

The third time was a charm, on the fourth airline, and we landed in Israel, on Monday, April 22nd.

Twenty-Six People

We landed in Israel just a few hours before the start of the holiday of Passover. After a week trying to travel here, and two long flights, during which I didn’t sleep, I was very emotional. As the pilot announced that we had entered Israeli airspace and to please fasten our seatbelts, I felt tears falling down my face. I couldn’t keep it in anymore, how I felt to finally get there.

Numbers
Usually one of my favourite places, I felt sad as I walked this path.

When we got off the plane, I immediately felt that I had arrived in a different Israel. As I walked down the ramp to passport control, looking at the sign telling me, “Welcome to Israel,” to my right and left were the names and faces of the hostages. It was these people who welcomed me, who are being held captive, and that I must remember that every moment I am here.

Numbers
An empty Seder table set up in front of an ancient winery in Rehovot.

We arrived at my mother-in-law’s house just two hours before the Seder, exhausted. There was no time to relax, as we cleaned ourselves up, and we felt the warmth and joy to participate in our family’s Seder, of 26 people.

We came here because of our love of Israel. And we came here to be with our family. I held back the tears as the Seder began, when it slowly started to sink in of where we were.

One Scorpion

It was 39 degrees today in the desert. I’m not talking 30 degrees plus humidity. I mean solid, wall of heat, with a beating sun and no shade, 39 degrees. All we could muster up was a visit to an alpaca farm and iced coffee and popsicles. But the heat disappeared in the evening, and some of us had the opportunity to go on an evening Scorpion Walk.

You are thinking, what’s that? As we drove up to the designated spot, at 8:30 pm, in total darkness, I wondered too! You see, the Negev desert is a rocky desert. Forget gentle even foot paths. It’s rugged and not for the faint of heart. The guide handed us special ultraviolet flashlights, and the group set off in all directions (on the edge of the crater!), to literally search for scorpions!

Numbers
Best shot I could get of Nessa shining the ultraviolet. I’m not posting the photo of the scorpion!

I learned more about scorpions in that one hour walk than I had known in my whole life. They capture their prey with their pincers and snap their tail over to kill with the poisoned tip. They camouflage well with the desert landscape, but shine an ultraviolet light at them and they glow in the dark, like a fluorescent yellow light! They also don’t seem to be bothered by a couple of dozen crazy people shining ultraviolet flashlights at them and snapping their picture!

I saw one, yes one, scorpion tonight. Even I admit, that was kind of cool.

80% and 70%

As the day began to cool down, a few of us took a pre-sunset hike, along the edge of the crater. The haze was back, like in the morning, so we couldn’t see the vibrant colours pop out, but still it was a sight to see. Our guides shared their vast knowledge about the desert and the beauty that lies within it. And near the end of the hike, they challenged us with some numbers.

Numbers
We had to do the selfie in front of the crater!

Two numbers stuck out in my mind, and together they brought together everything that I personally have experienced in the last six plus months: 80 and 70.

80% of the Negev desert is used for either Israel Defense Forces (IDF) army bases or training facilities.

70% of the Negev desert is protected as national parks.

How is that possible? 80 plus 70 does not equal 100%. That’s because, our guide explained, that the IDF shares its training spaces with the national parks, and the IDF rotates where they train. Both are responsible for caring for the land.

It took a moment for that to sink in. These numbers tell the story of the State of Israel, and the deep, and historical love and connection the Jewish People – the Jewish Religion – the Jewish Nation – has for this land. It must be protected and preserved. It must be defended and deeply cared for. It is a symbiotic relationship that is unique and so special.

Numbers
Cousins

 

Everywhere I turn here there are numbers, and I could write and write about how each one tells a story. I am taking in every moment of my short time here, and I’m thankful that I’m here. My children are surrounded by their cousins. My husband is surrounded by his siblings. And I am filled with joy.

Take Action

job security

It’s easier to be idle, or to sit down and stay home than to stand up, be in motion and take action. I admit, I am naturally a home body, and so often there is nothing more I would like than a nice day in comfortable clothes, with a hot cup of coffee, a nice couch and maybe a book or good TV show. There is little to nothing I need to do to make a day relaxing and pleasant.

It’s rare that I can do this, as, on the surface, my life is very active and very busy. Like so many women, I have a demanding job, a family to care for and a house to run. There’s always a deadline at work, a meeting to get to, an appointment I need to book, a child’s feet  just grew and needs new shoes, or a dog I need to feed. And that’s just on Monday!

Clearly I am not idle, nor do I sit much or stay home often. I am always on the go. The fact is, I really don’t slow down often enough (that’s for another blog another day!). But in recent weeks I can’t stop thinking about how I spend my time and what my priorities are. I am busy, for sure, but am I busy doing the right things? Am I balancing my time properly? Does each day feel like the repeat of the last one, almost like my life is automated?

Like being idle, it’s easier to just keep things as-is. Many would say that routine is good. It’s predictable and keeps life simple. For children it’s great, and for me, for some tasks, I think it’s important. But when every part of the day becomes routine, are you living your life the way you really want to?

So, what sparked these thoughts for me? I can’t point to one aha moment, rather a series of events in the last six-nine months, which is making me ask myself if my life has become too passive.

First, I had a great summer. I’d say part of the reason was that it was so different from the rest of the year. I spent considerable time away from the city, out in the country, my kids went to camp for six weeks, and our whole family went away and celebrated a milestone event together (so what if we all got sick after?!). I also didn’t take the easy way out after a busy work day all summer: I went paddle boarding, or for a walk, or swimming – I took action. I exercised, or I was simply outdoors. And you know what, it felt great.

The fall began and I felt energized about my future. As many of my readers know, a significant part of my family lives in Israel, and the events of October 7th, 2023, have impacted my mental state more than I could have ever imagined. As family texted me to let me know they were okay after a siren and rocket barrage, or I watched my children enter their school in the morning through really a police checkpoint to ensure their security, I was shaken. I started to ask myself: is Toronto the place I want to live? Is this what I want for me kids? What are my priorities? Where is, and what is my future?

I didn’t act, but it’s in my mind all the time. And when a day is very routine, I can’t get these thoughts out of my head: do I need to take action? Do I need to change my life?

As the Fall continued and we moved into winter, work became increasingly busy and demanding. I am not unique, and I know that I need to do what is expected of me. People rely on me, as they should, and actually, I thrive when I am stimulated at my job and am surrounded by smart, skilled people. But, as can happen in any work environment, some things changed, and some people left. It happens, almost like a cycle.

I think what this did is get my mind going again, like it did in recent months. Was I bothered by the changes, or were they really nothing, and I still have my routine? Or, really, as I think more and more about it, is what’s irking me really nothing to do with work but more to do with my general feeling of being idle while also being so busy, all at the same moment? How can I balance these two things?

Why I am writing today is that while I don’t yet have any specific action I will take, I know that I need to take action. Most of what I realize I need to do is really simple and small. Back to where I started – it’s easier to sit on the couch in sweatpants than to go out for dinner with friends. It’s easier to take a nap on a Saturday afternoon than to exercise by taking a walk or 30 minutes of yoga. For sure it is easier to watch a new show on Netflix than to write this blog!

I need to prioritize what matters to me, and really, what I care about and what makes me happy. Just sitting here, writing this blog, helps. I’m going for dinner this week with some former colleagues, instead of rushing home from work and cooking dinner. I am going to try to do at least 30 minutes of exercise today. That’s a start. I also need to book a haircut. I mean, I really need to get a haircut!

I also need to help my kids. And I don’t mean buying them new shoes, making sure they bathe or getting their lunch ready in the morning. My son is in grade 11, and we’ve started to look at universities for him. The list of items to take action on is long – book the SAT, visit potential schools, ask my former sports colleagues about a co-op opportunity for grade 12. For my daughters, the action items are maybe a little less significant, but still they matter. I need to have a daily chat and check-in with my older daughter, and the younger one is in the most wonderful children’s chorus (she has the most beautiful singing voice) and we need to practice daily. It’s so easy to skip a day, or delay doing anything. But I need to get on this.

My husband and I need to spend more time together. We need to be adults – go out more, do things without our kids sometimes. Maybe go away for a long weekend. It’s something we noticed in the summer, when our kids were away for 6 weeks. Life was not routine. We need to make that time outside of those 6 weeks in the summer!

I need to make time for quality family experiences. As I just discussed with some colleagues last week, it’s so easy to pass on a family celebration, especially one that is far away, than to make plans to participate. In recent months, I have often chosen not to join family for dinner, as it was a school night and just logistically too hard. Or I had decided we would not attend a family wedding overseas because maybe work would be too busy or we didn’t feel safe to travel. I need to be smart about it, but I need to participate. Life flies by too fast, and you can’t get time back with family. I need to think about a ski day with three generations, or a hike in the desert with four generations. My kids need to have winter weekends with their cousins in Canada or a Passover Seder with their vast family in Israel.

I am not ready, nor do I think I need to take profound action to change my life. But every day I need to think about what makes me happy, what makes me sad, or sometimes why I need a day on the couch. Even that, in its own way, is taking action. Making the decision to not do something, to not make a significant change, is another form of taking action.

Every time I write here is my way of taking action, to remind myself that I love to write. It is my release, it is cathartic for me. I remind myself what the name of this space is: Kinetic Motions. Kinetic energy is the energy an object has because of its motion. It’s about action, moving forward. Every time I write I am moving forward with my life. I need to remember that every day.

Please Light a Menorah

Menorah

On Thursday, December 7th, 2023, as the sun sets, the eight-day Holiday of Chanukah will begin. It is a special time of year that Jews across the globe look forward to, but this year, many of us are scared, discouraged, or in some cases, not allowed, to celebrate publicly.

There are many ways I could describe Chanukah – what it is, and what it represents. It is a festival of light. It is a celebration of a victory over evil, and it’s also the realization of a miracle. The story dates back to ancient Israel, almost 2,200 years ago, when Jewish forces defeated the Seleucid King Antiochus IV. Antiochus’ army tried to desecrate the Temple in Jerusalem, and as the story goes, when Jewish forces returned to the Temple, they renewed and restored it. They found only enough oil to light the Temple lamps for one night, but the oil lasted long enough to provide light for eight nights.

Since then, Jews in Israel, and around the world, celebrate this joyous story. And in dark times, we need to celebrate, with light, more than ever.

Many religions and cultures celebrate a festival of lights at this time of year. For those of us who live in the northern hemisphere, we are approaching the longest, darkest days of the year, and we gather together to bring light to the darkness. Christmas trees are covered in beautiful lights and homes are lit up with bright colours. For Diwali, people place clay lamps outside their homes to symbolize the inner light that protects from spiritual darkness.

And Chanukah? A Menorah, also known as a Chanukiah, is lit, with a new candle added each night until the nine-branch candelabra glows bright on the eighth night. It is traditional to place the Menorah in the home’s window, to share its warmth and light with the community.

My husband said to me yesterday, “I don’t feel safe placing our Menorah in our front window this year.” Every year, since we got married, we have lit the same Menorah, and placed it in our front window. Whether we lived in France, New York or Toronto, no matter who we celebrated with, we lit, and sang, beside the window.

But my husband, and Jews around the world, are terrified to do that this year. Hours after my husband shared his fear with me, I saw a Facebook post from an American friend about Project Menorah, started by a Jewish man named Adam Kulbersh.

Here’s what Adam wrote, “Project Menorah is a grassroots movement encouraging non-Jews to place a Menorah, along with their other decorations, in their windows this December in fellowship with Jewish friends and neighbors who might otherwise not feel safe to do so. Participants are asked to share photos of their Hanukkah decorations on social media with the hashtags #onlyloveliveshere #projectmenorah.”

Jews are feeling isolated right now, and we need our non-Jewish friends more than ever. No matter your religion, nationality, ethnicity or race, it is never okay to attack another person because of their religion, nationality, ethnicity or race. Putting a Menorah in your window tells us that you are standing up against hate.

But there’s more. While it is traditional to place a lit Menorah in the window, Jews also join together, as a community, to light the Menorah throughout Chanukah. Some people celebrate at parties, or they stand side by side with non-Jews, in public spaces, to light a large candelabra. It is perfectly normal at this time of year to see a Menorah at city hall, in parks or large public squares. Remember, a central part of Chanukah is to bring light to the world.

So, I was further upset, last night, when my brother-in-law, who was born and raised in Moncton, New Brunswick, and owns a home there, sent me an article from CBC. This was the headline, “Menorah won’t be displayed outside Moncton city hall for first time in 20 years.” City council, in this small city in eastern Canada, decided, behind closed doors, according to the mayor, that, “City hall should be neutral as far as religion is concerned.”

A Menorah brings light and joy to all who see it. The public lighting of a Menorah is a way that a community, Jews and non-Jews, can come together to celebrate tolerance and the values we share as human beings. I don’t know what dark forces came over the city council of Moncton, but they should feel ashamed.

I don’t always ask you to take action when I write, but today, I’m asking for a few small favours:

Please, Light a Menorah

No matter what you celebrate, or how you celebrate, join Jews around the world from Thursday, December 7th to Thursday, December 14th, to light a Menorah, and place it in your window. Or, if you don’t have one, follow these steps, recommended by the Project Menorah team. You can also reach out to a Jewish friend and light the Menorah with them one night.

Write to the Mayor of Moncton

We need to let the Mayor of Moncton know that what she did is not okay. Email Mayor Dawn Arnold, and politely explain to her how her decision is offensive. She can be reached at mayor@moncton.ca. Please copy monctonmenorah@gmail.com.

Help us Bring Them Home

While almost 100 people who were kidnapped on October 7th were released over the past week, over 100 people are still being held captive by terrorists in Gaza. There are still women and children, men young and old, people with citizenship from countries across the globe, who are hostages. Their lives are in danger. Many of them need medical help, and they are all malnourished. Write to your local government. Hang a poster of a hostage. Attend a rally. Tell your friends that terrorism can’t win.

 

 

 

Crying

On Friday afternoon I cried. I was in my kitchen, washing dishes, about to prepare dinner, and I turned on the TV. A journalist was interviewing a woman who looked like she could be my age, and she described the moment her daughter was shot and killed.

And I cried. I just had a very challenging week, as my husband and I had to deal with a medical emergency with our youngest child. It was the first time, in my 16 plus years as a parent, that I felt real fear about the health of my child. When a medical professional tells a parent that they need to get their child down to the pediatric emergency department immediately, because of a raging infection, you feel fear.

My daughter received world-class care, and less than 2 days later, she was back to her active, busy, smiling, nutty and happy self. She reminded me again why her name – Nessa – which means “miracle” in Hebrew, is so fitting. Watching her skip around the house, sing quietly to herself, or play with her toys, brought me tremendous joy in the latter half of the week.

I never took my children for granted, but this week I appreciated my healthy, happy and wonderful children more than ever. I watched Nessa suffer through tremendous pain, and she had to endure a difficult procedure. I held her hand. I hugged her and I kissed her. And I appreciated her.

But I didn’t cry.

Until Friday.

Here I was, feeling thankful that my child was once again healthy, out of danger, and on my TV was a woman who shared, in intimate detail, how Hamas terrorists entered her home and shot at her family through a door. The bullets hit her 18-year-old daughter and killed her. Somehow, and no one may ever be able to explain how or why, the mother and her two other children, were not physically harmed. But her husband was kidnapped and taken hostage to Gaza.

In the past month I have read countless stories, watched an untold number of news reports, pored over social media and had an unlimited number of conversations with family and friends, and yet I broke down and cried, alone, when this mother told her story.

I don’t care what your politics are, your religion, your race, your ethnicity, or your nationality. No mother should have to describe how her daughter was shot and killed. No mother even wants to see her child sick, or in pain, or suffering, but to describe the murder of her daughter, in front of her eyes? It is unfathomable.

I’ve been walking around in a bit of a haze and daze for the past four weeks. Or maybe that’s not the right description. In some ways, I’ve actually been hyper focused and more aware of the world around me than ever before. While it could be so easy to feel alone and isolated, instead I have felt a closer kinship and closeness to what is called Klal Yisrael than ever before.

I’m sure the thought was simmering in my head already, but in the moment I watched that mother share her story about her daughter’s death, I felt connected to her. I have never met her, I don’t know her politics, her religious observance or really anything about her. And yet I felt close to her, so close that tears trickled down my cheeks.

What, for me, is Klal Yisrael? Or put another way, what is Judaism? It’s not just a religion. We are a people, a nation, an ethnicity and a religion. We are a community who unites when we are attacked, and with the exception of those on the fringe (which the Jerusalem Post editor so eloquently described as the Un-Jews), we are connected through an unbreakable bond. As writer and scholar, Yossi Klein Halevi, who I much admire, shared recently, we don’t wish to be pitied. We are not victims. We can defend ourselves, and we are here to stay. “Given the choice, we preferred to be condemned than pitied.”

I am not going to use this space to give an overview of over 5,000 years of Jewish history, or to give a synopsis of the story of the peoples of the Middle East. The Jewish People (that’s right, People, as I stated above Judaism is not just a religion), have had a continuous presence in the land of Israel for thousands of years. And we want to continue to live there, in peace and security.

For me, that doesn’t mean that the other Peoples who live there can’t continue to do so too. If we are all to survive – and thrive – we can criticize each other, but we must start by accepting each other’s right to live, to learn, and to prosper, and be mutually respectful.

No mother, whether she identifies as Jewish, Muslim, Arab, Christian, or anything else, should have to describe how her daughter was brutally murdered in front of her eyes. That for me, is the crux of the war raging right now. If an army of terrorists is committed to sadistically murder every daughter in Israel (as well as sons) and wipe the Jewish People off the map, then our future is bleak.

You don’t need to agree with all my views or perspectives, but as a fellow human being, I expect you to respect me as a person first. When hundreds, or maybe it was thousands, rage, as a mob, and rape, maim and murder more than 1,400 people, it means they have been raised and taught that Jews are not human beings. If you raise your child to not love others as one wants to be loved, if you teach them that some in this world are no better than an insect that is meant to be squished, then it is easy to kill them.

When the terrorists entered that home on October 7th and shot through the locked door where the terrified family huddled, the terrorists had the mindset that all they had to do was kill the insects. The germs. The sub-humans. And move on to the next home. They didn’t see the people behind that door, or the inhumanity of what they did.

During the interview, this mother went on to describe her daughter’s funeral. She cried as she told the journalist that what’s so hard is that she can never hug her daughter again. Too many Israeli mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, grandparents, and children can never hug their loved ones again.

This mother, who buried her daughter a few weeks ago, is a human being, a strong, loving person who inspires me. She is the epitome of the Jewish mother, and she gives me hope for the future. For without hope, or Tikvah in Hebrew – the name of Israel’s national anthem – life is not worth living.

The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round      

bus

As soon as you read the headline, did you start to sing? Are you humming along right now? Are you singing the first verse…. “The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round….” Or are you on another verse already, like “The horn on the bus goes beep, beep, beep,” or “The doors on the bus go open and shut….”?

Do you feel nostalgic? Memories of childhood? Moments of time spent on a big yellow bus, on a class trip with friends, or on your way to summer camp? During our childhood, most of us spent some time on a bus. Maybe it wasn’t one of those bright big yellow ones. Maybe it was small, or it was a big coach, with big comfy seats. But, I hope that I have you thinking about time on a bus when you were a child.

When children are on a bus, headed to school, a special outing, camp, or anywhere else, they are often rowdy. They sing. Some dance. Others joke around. The moment a group of children climb onto a bus, it’s like a party has begun.

I experienced that this week… with a group of adults. What is it about a bus that transforms mature, professional adults into silly, boisterous children?

I will give you the context. I had a wonderful opportunity to spend some quality time last week at a leadership summit with people I work with. We spend hours, days, weeks, months of our lives working side by side. We put out “fires” together, work on projects and solve problems.

But, it’s when we leave the office and spend a few days together that we really get to know each other. The brainstorming sessions are important, as are presentations and workshops. And I’m glad, and very appreciative, that in my role as the Communications Director, I’m invited to participate in these sessions.

However, that’s not what I want to write about. You may be wondering, how is she going to connect a favourite childhood song, The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round, with a work offsite? It’s all about the bus.

I will ask the question again: Why do we, grown, mature, stuffy adults, quickly become children the moment we step onto a bus? Or a better question is, why not?

Our evening began with the group shaking hands, giving some hugs, as colleagues quickly became friends. We walked down the steps of our hotel, and in front of us was a big white coach bus. The party bus. Or at least it became a party bus when the first person climbed the steps.

One of the organizers tried to count as each person stepped on, and he failed, as no one behaved. It was pouring rain outside, the traffic was terrible, and while we had a short distance to drive from the hotel to the evening activity, it took a long time. No one cared. They were too busy talking, singing and screeching to notice. Even my colleagues in HR. We cracked jokes about our bus driver. Some people teased their friends. Everywhere I looked, people were smiling. And the laughter. Oh, the laughter!

Do you know that feeling when you smile and laugh so much that your face starts to hurt? I can’t even remember half the silliness that went on during this crazy bus ride. Jokes that would never be funny during a meeting at the office were hilarious. Jabs at our boss were received with unctuous cackling. We laughed so hard we cried.

When the evening was over, and we hopped back on the bus to return to the hotel, the silliness returned. The fact that our poor driver had no sense of direction only encouraged the group to be even more immature. Our evening activity could have been a ride on a bus, and I think the group would have been perfectly happy.

And yes, we even sang our favourite song, The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round. We continued to sing the following evening, when we once again journeyed across the city on the bus. Everyone dressed up in our fancy adult clothes for a night on the town. But the child in us all came out the moment the wheels on our big white bus began to go round and round. The jokes, the jabs, singing, teasing and a ton of laughter, it all began again.

It was so much fun. Of course our three-day offsite was great, but really, the bus was the best part. It’s like giving a child a big thoughtful gift, like a dollhouse or toy kitchen, and all they want is to play in the box the toy came in. Or you plan a special day in the city, and what your child remembers most is the subway ride downtown.

I hope that the wheels on the bus keep going round and round. That the doors on the bus go open and shut. That the wipers on the bus go swish, swish, swish. But most important, I hope that the people on the bus laugh, laugh, laugh, and have fun, fun, fun.

I’m smiling just thinking about it.

Are we all a Little Anxious?

anxious

My day-to-day life is very busy. And everyone around me is busy too. It often feels like we never stop. If I take a break, I usually just think about what I should be doing, or what I will be doing next. I’m not very good at emptying my head, living for the moment and just relaxing. And when I do, I sometimes feel guilty, which causes me to be: anxious.

I feel like the word anxious was often taboo until recently. Maybe it’s the COVID-19 pandemic that forced us to think inwardly, maybe society has changed, or maybe something else. For me, I never really thought about it until I couldn’t explain – to myself – why sometimes I am nervous, or I feel overly stressed, or I’m just plain upset.

And I don’t think I’m unique. I’m not talking about crushing anxiety (which I know many people do suffer from). What I’m speaking to here is something more under-the-surface, more subtle, harder to pinpoint. It doesn’t hold me back – in fact sometimes it helps me gain the courage I need to push myself.

But it’s there, every day. It’s the less concrete, but important stuff like, are my children healthy? Are they succeeding? Do my husband and I earn enough money to support the lifestyle we want for our family? Where will I be in 10 years? 25 years?

What really makes me unsettled, speeds up my heart, causes my hands to be unsteady and scares me a bit are the little things. It’s stuff that may stop me in my tracks, and even as I type, I’m a bit embarrassed.

It may be that I have a list of appointments to make, from dentist or pediatrician for the kids to a haircut for me or grooming for my dog, and I’m so busy at work that I won’t have time to actually go to any of these appointments. So I don’t pick up the phone to book anything.

I hate driving. I drive because I have to, not because I like to. Anytime I go anywhere, I plan my route, consider how long it will take me, or before I turn on my car, I pause and take a deep breath.

There are never enough hours in the day. I don’t wish the day away, because it means I may fall behind. How do I please everyone? How do I write that important message for this person, attend a list of meetings and track it all? That meeting is at the same time that I need to pick up my 7-year-old. Can I miss the meeting? Can someone else pick her up? And what am I making for dinner tonight? Do I have the ingredients? Yikes, the kids’ laundry basket is full. Did I sign the kids up for hot lunches next term? Did we move money into the chequing account so the next mortgage payment goes through?  

I could write page after page of questions just like these that swirl around my head every day. It’s only very recently that I realized I, like many other people across the globe, suffer from anxiety. And it made me think, are we all a little anxious?

There’s nothing on my list above that is unique. What causes me to be anxious is probably not that different from many other working mothers, or just mothers, anyone who has a job or who is just trying to live life. It’s only in the last few months that I have thought deeply about anxiety, and why I – and many others – have it.

The list of daily stresses in my life isn’t going anywhere. I accept that. But I can create coping mechanisms, or find tools to help me try to overcome what makes me anxious.

Surround myself with great people

I’m putting this first because for me it’s the most important. Both in my personal life and professional life, I have people I can lean on. I can laugh with them and cry with them. I don’t have to name them, as you know who you are. A few years ago, someone who I look up to taught me about creating my own Board of Directors for my life. These are people who I can trust, who always have my back. They cheer me when I need cheering, they step in to do the work if that’s what I ask – or don’t ask. But they also tell me like it is – they are brutally honest with me and know what’s best for me. I love my Board of Directors.

Be Active

When I feel anxious, my first reaction is to do nothing. It’s easier to be indecisive, or to sit on the couch, than act. And when I say be active, it’s two-fold:

First of all, I feel better when I pick up the phone and book that haircut or put away that clean basket of laundry. I can let it sit, but it doesn’t go away.

Second, literally be active. I try to exercise every day. It may be just 15 minutes, or maybe it’s a long walk (I love my walks at work with my steps buddy!). I’m in better shape than I’ve ever been in, and when I exercise I feel great. I feel those endorphins being released. It’s easy to say, I’ll exercise tomorrow. But I know it’s good for me.

Take a Break

I mean really take a break. I know I should take a lunch break every day, which I rarely do. But what I mean here is to get away from it all once in a while. Take a physical break. Take a mental break. I don’t even have to go anywhere. But I have to walk away from work. I have learned that I am more valuable to my employer when I’m refreshed.

But it’s not just a break from work. It’s a break from everything that makes me anxious. I may grab a day or two here and there, but right now, in the summer, is my time to take that true break I need. It may be time by the lake in the mountains, or sitting under the oak trees in my backyard. Paddle boarding on the smooth lake, picking wild blueberries or reading a great book. It’s what I need to do.

Try Yoga

This one may sound cliché, I know! I learned yoga years ago, as a teenager, and I enjoyed. But I thought nothing of it. I have rediscovered yoga recently, and even just taking a few minutes every day to do the Sun Salutation calms me. I close my eyes, I focus on each yoga pose, and that’s all I do in those moments. It actually clears my head. It doesn’t mean that my list of tasks goes away, but my heartrate slows a bit, my hands don’t shake and I feel confident. Give it a try, it’s worth it.

Write about it

One key thing I have learned about being anxious is that it’s important to accept it, and to talk about it, or in my case, write about it. It’s okay to have anxiety. I really do believe that we are all a little anxious. Don’t keep it to yourself. I have thought about this blog post for a while, that I wanted to write it. But I was anxious to share this with the world. So I put it off.

I finally got enough courage today, on my birthday, while I sit by the lake, in the mountains, with my kids at camp and a few vacation days from work. For just a few days. I haven’t walked away from everything that makes me anxious, but I let myself take that well deserved break.

Pause. Take a deep breath. Try it.

 

Can One Test Change your Life?

test

I’ve been sitting on this question for a while now. I have a folder in my “notes” on my phone called Blog Ideas. Months ago, when my son had a rough go on a math test, and he was devastated, I wrote this question in my notes: can one test change your life?

It was one math test. Just one. He’s taken dozens before, and since he’s only in grade 10, I am quite sure he has dozens ahead. His disappointment in himself, in his lack of achievement, upset him – and upset me. And then I was further upset… that I was upset!

The good news is that my son got over the bad test rather quickly, and it motivated him to work hard, do well on the next math test and achieve an excellent grade in the course. But that one test got me thinking.

We are tested all the time. Sometimes it is a formal test, like a math quiz at school, or a formal certification or for a driver’s license. Those tests are, for the most part, straightforward. You get a high grade or mediocre. You pass or fail. There is a concrete outcome following the test.

Since this math test I have started to think more about all the ways we are informally tested, and how these tests affect us as we grow up and progress through life. Is this good or bad? Is it helpful or damaging? Do we benefit, or are we harmed?

In my own personal experience, for the most part, I have thrived in formal tests. Give me a math exam on trigonometry, I aced it. Throw a grammar test at me, for sure I always achieved the highest grade (and anyone who works with me knows that I am a stickler for good grammar!). Ask me to write an essay that asks me to answer the question, “Explain the weather patterns in Northern Canada in the last century,” and I guarantee that I would always have handed in a top-notch piece of work.

But, when I am tested in more informal situations, it’s not so simple. Sometimes I may create unrealistic goals for myself, or those around me expect me to achieve in ways that are extraordinary and beyond my reach. Or maybe there is no test at all, but I am being judged for my choices or my actions. While the end result may not be a pass or fail, there is still an outcome.

Maybe I am thinking too deeply about the word “test.” The word on its own can cause even the calmest person to feel anxious. How many people feel they are tested the first time they meet their partner’s family (or every time they are with their partner’s family!)? Have you ever felt everyone’s eyes were on you when you walked into a party? How about at work? Did you ever walk out of a meeting, after you were bombarded with questions, thinking to yourself… were those genuine questions, or were my colleagues… or gasp, my boss, just testing me?

When it comes to our careers, no doubt, we are tested all the time, often when we don’t even know it. I also think that those around us very often aren’t actively testing us. Your employer doesn’t necessarily start their day thinking, hmmmm, today I’m going to test Sally. Let’s see if she can solve that impossible problem. But you may be asked for advice, or to write a brief, crunch some numbers. And like it or not, someone, or a group of people, are judging you. And that can be stressful!

So, back to my original question: can one test change your life? I realize that life is not about one test. It’s about how we take on the many tests that we face throughout life. Some are rather obvious, like my son’s math test. Or a university entrance exam. Or a job interview.

But most are kind of murky, like your future mother-in-law asking you if you like the chicken she cooked for dinner (note: my mother-in-law is a fabulous cook and I am lucky to have such a close relationship with her!). How about when you are sitting in a meeting at work, with a group of executives, and they ask you what you think of the economic conditions in the province of Alberta (I’ve never actually been asked this, but you get the point).

My son will be tested throughout his life. Sometimes he will come home and show off that top grade, and I know that sometimes he will have that same look of devastation on his face like he did after that ghastly math test. I can just imagine the first time he meets his future in-laws or walks into an interview for a job he desperately wants.

Tests can be terrifying. Sometimes they can be terrible and upsetting. Or they can be wonderful and exhilarating. Most of the time they are just a part of life. And sometimes, yes, they can change your life.

Leafs and Sports Talk       

Leafs

My son and I had a heated conversation on Saturday evening about the Toronto Maple Leafs. You see, Matthew is one of those super crazy Leaf fans, who lives in some kind of special dream world when it comes to this hockey team. Matthew and I love to talk about sports, probably what keeps me connected best with my teenage son. His knowledge about every sport, every player and every team is vast, and he is insightful and thoughtful. Well, except of course when it’s the Leafs.

Many (okay not all) Canadians can be divided into two kinds of people: sports fans and those who detest sports. There are levels and layers of fandom, but in the world I live in it’s often one or the other: the love of sport or the extreme dislike of it.

I fit into the former category, though I admit I don’t love all sports. I introduced Matthew to baseball (my favourite sport) when he was very young, and before he was ten he was hooked on sports. As he grew older, he added hockey, then basketball, then (to my horror) NFL football. Oh, football. I don’t like football. But I’ll get to that later.

When I launched this blog, about 5 ½ years ago, I wanted to create a space where I could write whatever is on my mind, or to share my thoughts on what I see, feel and experience. I have written extensively about sports, but as I look back over the last couple of years I have barely touched on the topic. But on Saturday evening I just had to write. I’m still laughing as I type right now, following the most entertaining conversation I had with Matthew about the prospect of the Leafs, 1) winning the Stanley Cup, or 2) just making it past the first round of the playoffs.

Our conversation was absurd. I sat there, trying not to crack a smile, as he tried so hard to explain to me that his beloved team would make a huge trade at the deadline, that they’d have all the pieces needed (in the GM’s final year of his contract) to go all the way, or at least make a strong run of it. Have Leaf fans been saying this every year since 1967?

Every time I shot back with a snide remark that not enough of the living population even remembers the world in 1967, when his team last won the Cup, he’d swing low and say, “Well, my team is better than yours,” or “Your team loses early too.” I then remind him that MY team (yes, the Carolina Hurricanes!) at least won a Stanley Cup in this century (woo hoo great day back in 2006!). We bickered like this all evening.

It was absurd.

It was wonderful.

Matthew loses all sense of logic when he debates the merits of the Toronto Maple Leafs. But give him any other sport, any other team, he can banter with the best of professionals or beat writers. His knowledge is almost encyclopedic, and his natural understanding of the business of sport is awe inspiring. He just gets it. Matthew understands why a team trades THE franchise player or signs the guy who had an off year. He reads the news articles, blogs and social media posts. I make fun of him sometimes that he takes sports so seriously that he sucks the fun out.

But when he talks about the Leafs, it’s all fun. No logic. No intelligence. Just nonsense. And I love these moments with him. Our Leafs talk transformed into Jays talk, then Raptors talk, then a conversation about our plans to eventually visit every Major League Baseball park together. While I’ve been to many parks, so far together we’ve only seen the Jays in Toronto, the Cubs in Chicago and the Mariners in Seattle. Where should we go in 2023?!

But our conversation didn’t end. As the evening wore on, we moved on to our hope to see the Raptors or Leafs on the road this winter, in cities like Los Angeles (Raptors) or Raleigh (the Leafs, who I’m sure will lose to my Hurricanes). We could have talked for hours, except I eventually sent him away so I could go to bed (and he went back to watching late-night sports).

Saturday night is indeed a great night to watch sports, and Matthew would sleep in late and laze around all day on a rainy Sunday in November – if it wasn’t for NFL football. Sunday football, the bane of my existence. I have tried to like football, okay, even tolerate it. But no, I sit in the detest camp when it comes to football. To Matthew’s credit, he hasn’t given up on me. He will talk to me about some random player who ran for a record number of yards or a quarterback who was sacked (I do know the lingo), and I will roll my eyes. When he’s desperate, he tries to get his 6-year-old sister interested. She just wants him to play Barbie with her.

Sports can push people apart, but it can also bring them together. And that’s the story of Matthew and me. We will disagree fiercely about the plight of the Maple Leafs, but we also held our rally towels proud at the Rogers Centre back in October during the Jays’ very pathetic game one of their failed playoff run. He will tease me incessantly that I may choose to watch a low-quality show like Love is Blind on Netflix on Sunday rather than some huge NFL game, but we’re sitting side by side, on the edge of our seats, when there’s 10 seconds left in the Raptors game and they’re up by one point.

Our Leafs, and general sports talk, will continue for days and years to come, I hope. Especially the teasing part, since, well, will they ever win the Cup?

**Quick note as I publish this blog post on a rainy Sunday afternoon: I want to send my personal congratulations to the Canadian National Soccer team at the World Cup. This team of hard-working athletes has made everyone proud, and they are to be commended for their strong play and great teamwork.

What I learned about Myself this Week

I just had a very busy week. Okay, a very busy few weeks. Maybe I should expand that to a very busy few months. But somehow this past week I craved for a quiet moment to just write, here at Kinetic Motions. It gnawed at me. The busier I was, the more I wanted to go back to my blog, where I can be myself and where I can speak my mind. That’s the first thing I learned about myself this week.

I met a new colleague this week at a post-work evening get together. It’s at small, more intimate settings like this that we can develop professional and personal friendships with the people we work with. As I spoke with this person, we both shared some nuggets about our lives, and when I mentioned my blog, her face lit up. She asked me a question so many of us get all the time – is there anything you are passionate about outside of work? I didn’t hesitate to answer her: writing.

But then I felt embarrassed, as I have this blog, which I established back in 2017, and my last post was from July 12th, 2022 – four months ago. How can I love writing, how can I have a real passion that I ignore?

So here I am, back at my computer, in a quiet corner in my house on a Saturday morning, doing what I love: writing. And as this busy week has drawn to a close, I started to reflect that I learned a lot about myself this week. I had many moments that made me pause, and I’d like to share some of them with you here.

I can’t do it all

While it is very kind that many of my friends, family and definitely my peers, have described me as Superwoman, it’s really not accurate. For sure I am very capable, but I can’t do it all. No one can. If something in my life – work or personal – starts to take much of my time, it must come at the expense of something else.

This was particularly the case this week, when one very urgent and important item took over about 80% of my attention at work. I had to prioritize it, as it affected hundreds, if not thousands of people. But it meant that I had to disappoint many individuals, for whom I am a trusted partner, and for whom without me their work may have been stalled this week. I had to remind myself that sometimes that’s just how it is. Sometimes I can’t do it all.

I need to surround myself with great people

I was invited to participate in a virtual Women in Leadership conference this week through my employer. I wasn’t a speaker or panelist, just a viewer through an online portal. And my luck, this full-day event was also on what was probably my busiest day this week. I knew I couldn’t attend the full day, so I did my best to listen in when I had the chance. And I’m so glad I did.

I took so much away from the sessions I did have a chance to attend, but one in particular will stay with me. The keynote speaker talked about the power of people. Well, she actually spoke about much more than that, but I listened intently to her advice about making sure that we lean on specific people in our lives, to help us grow and succeed.

Each person, she said, was represented by a finger on our hand: the cheerleader (who gives us a thumbs up!), the mentor (who points us in the right direction), the coach, the peer and the friend. This wasn’t earth shattering information, and this speaker is widely known for sharing this. But it was the first time I heard it. And I realized that for me, I am lucky that these different relationships are often connected. Some of my best friends have coached me. My greatest cheerleaders have often been my peers. Mentors throughout my career became my friends.

For me, it’s not about having these five relationships, it’s about surrounding myself with great people, who may, on any given day be my cheerleader, my mentor, my coach, my peer and in many cases, my friend.

I’ve done some cool stuff in my life

Back to that evening when I met my new colleague, I started to think about where I am today and where I’ve been. What I’m doing today, in 2022, is very different from the life I led 10, 20 or 30 years ago. And I’m really happy about that. It helped me realize that when I have a really busy, or tiring, or frustrating day or week, that I have shown myself that my life has been full of twists and turns, often very exciting ones, and that next week will be better.

Thirty years ago – November 1992 – I was in high school (oh my gosh I’m that old!). The Blue Jays had just won the World Series, and it was around this time of year that I had my aha moment In my chemistry class that my true dream was to be a sports journalist. It was also the time I created my crazy cartoon character, Kinetic Man. He was – and is – my “man of action.”

Twenty years ago – November 2002 – I had recently joined Rogers Sportsnet and was quickly promoted to be a member of the Assignment desk. I had also just bought and moved into my first house. And in those ten years since I was in high school, I received an undergraduate degree, a graduate degree in Journalism, and I got married and lived around the world (France, Israel and New York).

Ten years ago – November 2012 – I was working at Sears Canada and had just been promoted to be Director of Corporate Communications and Executive Director of the Sears Canada Charitable Foundation. And in those ten years in between, I had changed jobs twice, I had two children and traveled around the world with my family.

Today is November 12th, 2022, and I am leading Communications at ADP Canada, surrounded by skilled, professional colleagues who have my back. And while the past ten years may not jump out as the most exciting, they have been fulfilling. My third child was born, I continued to travel with my family, I (okay all of us) have lived through a global pandemic, and I started my blog.

So, as I sit here, on a quiet Saturday morning, I can smile as I think about what I learned about myself this week. I have so much I can be proud of, and I am grateful to the people who have cheered, mentored and coached me, and have been my peers and friends. There will be many more busy days and weeks, which I know may bring me down and frustrate me. But as the mother says, in one of my favourite childhood books, there will be “no good, terrible, very bad days…some days are like that. Even in Australia.”