Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Star Wars for the New Generation

After a treacherous battle to find a baby sitter for Raphaela, I finally got out of the house and met up with a friend to see the new Star Wars film, The Force Awakens.

It took me back to the nine year old girl who saw George Lucas special effects, it was overall a thrilling and satisfying experience.


I have two gripes with the story, one:  if you may recall from the first three movies (Episodes IV-VI), no matter how much Force Luke inherited from his father, he was a crappy Jedi for a long time, and only really confronted the Emperor and Darth Vader properly in the third movie.

In this movie, the two main young leads (Rey and Finn) find Luke's special light saber, pick it up, and not only do they connect immediately IE the light saber decides to turn on at all, but they are master swordswoman and man. In the first film of this series, with no apparent training at all, they are fighting with the light saber against Kylo Ren, the Big Bad, and Rey almost succeeds in killing him on her first go.

WTF. Or as Han Solo says in this movie, "That's not how the Force works!"

I think it is because this generation has no patience, and they expect that everything will work out for them right away, without any practice or any struggle to succeed. Or their parents will take care of it for them.  Harry Potter, Wonder Boy Wizard, is the "Boy that Lived."  So with all that magic inside him he is automatically prepared to travel around with Dumbledore and smite Voldemort, or become a vigilante Wizard with his friends Ron and Hermione.  And Harry isn't even aware of all the strings that are being pulled for him in the background by the adults around him.

We are raising a generation of lazy and entitled children, woe unto us.

My second gripe is derived more from a feminist stand point.  Rey is clearly being groomed to become a Class A Jedi, despite the fact that in the horrible prequel movies they made it clear that women are not capable of controlling the Force.  But Princess/General Leia ("There is another!") seems to have completely ignored her innate gift of the Force, using it only to sense that something bad has happened to someone she loves.  Why couldn't she have become a General and a Jedi Master, and why can she not find her brother, with whom she is telepathically linked via the Force, and their father Darth Vader?

It's almost 2016, and just because they have a woman and a black man as the new generation of Jedi, doesn't mean that they have done enough to restore the honor of all potential female Jedi warriors who came before them.

Oh, and as a bonus gripe, why can't they come up with a version of the Death Star that does not have a small but fatal structural flaw? Just saying...

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Don't allow Busy to replace Lonely in your life.

It eventually catches up to you.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

A Children's Bedtime Tale

As in most houses in Jerusalem, our apartment becomes frigid, igloo-like, fairly early in the Israeli winter season.  Even the space heaters in each room don't seem to help, and we have gotten used to bundling up inside.

Last night I tucked Raphaela into bed with her heavy quilt.

" Mommy," teeth chattering for effect, "I am still cold."
And so I gave her a second, pink fleece blanket.
"Mommy, I am still cold, I will not fall asleep."
And so I placed a third grey blanket that we usually use  on picnics.
" Mommy, it's not working!" Said Raphaela, clearly enjoying the game.
And so I gave her our camping sleeping bag, and suggested she sleep inside the sleeping bag, under the other covers.
"Mommy, but there's my head sticking out and it's cold. And what about my hands, if they come out of the blanket?"
And so Raphaela put on a wool hat and gloves.
Kisses all around, about a minute passes and I hear a muffled, "Mommy, I am getting a little sweaty and I can't fall asleep."

This morning Raphaela had me re-tell this story several times on the way to school, laughing each time.

"This would make a great children's book." I mused.
" And here is how it ends, Mommy: 'And then Mommy was so exhausted trying to put Raphaela to bed.'"

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Brush with Fame

About a week ago, I got a call from a casting director for Warner Brothers, they were looking for:
A girl aged 6-9
Brown hair, brown eyes
English speaker, specifically with an Israeli accent
No particular acting experience required.

The casting director wanted to know if Raphaela would audition for them at their office in Tel Aviv, as she fit the bill, perfectly.  I answered a tentative yes, but told them that if she was quite determined not to participate, I would cancel our meeting, so as not to waste their time.

Warner Brothers sent me a page of script for Raphaela to memorize, as well as certain requests, including that the child not wear make-up for the audition.  ("Make-up?!" I thought, "At age six?")  They specifically set the audition for the Chanukah holiday, during school vacation.

When I told Raphaela about the opportunity, she couldn't have cared less.  When I told her it was about a brave girl, a heroine who is good at a bow and arrow and protects her family, she was worried because she does not know how to shoot a bow and arrow.  When I did a read-through on the script and it mentioned a bear, Raphaela decided that she did not want to come face-to-face with a bear.  Explaining modern movie-making and CGI technology did not help.

So I let it go.  Over the week I read the script to her/with her and she remained completely ambivalent.  Today, the day of our appointment, a cold and rainy day in Jerusalem, Raphaela made her resistance clear, she was not leaving the house for anything, and I canceled the audition.

I have learned (since she was 20 weeks old in the womb) that Raphaela does what she wants when she wants, and when the answer is "No," it is not worth the fight and the trauma.  Walking, toilet training, ballet lessons, reading, selective vegetarianism,  it all came when it came, when she decided that she could commit fully.

She does not want to be in the movies right now, and fame does not motivate her in the least. And I have no intention of becoming that reality star monster, Kris Kardashian. Even if my daughter is the next Gal Gadot or Natalie Portman.

I would have liked to go, just for the experience of it, but as the mother of this child- this warm, dramatic, stubborn, opinionated and social child -I have to know what is best for her.  I trust the Universe that if this is indeed Raphaela's path, another opportunity will arise, when she is ready.

Friday, December 11, 2015

The True Spirit of Chanukah

Yesterday I received a call from friends of my parents, visiting Jerusalem for the holiday of Chanukah.  They told me that parents had sent a bunch of presents for my daughter and her four cousins;  we went to pick them up, as we had plans to meet with my brother and his family yesterday evening.

Amongst the presents for the children was a small gift for me from my parents, a unexpected and pleasant surprise.  Raphaela asked me if I felt badly that she had a large box from her grandparents, and mine was much smaller.  I replied that since I had not expected anything at all, I was quite pleased actually.  Raphaela responded, "Because we are happy with what we have."

Later on in the day, Raphaela asked me why in fact my parents had sent presents for Chanukah at all, and I could not have been more pleased that my daughter was not connected into the materialism that typically characterizes this time of the year.  I asked her, "What does Chanukah mean to you?"

"Well, we get vacation from school and go on great day trips.  We light beautiful candles each night and eat delicious snacks, like doughnuts and chocolate coins and pizza.  We get to count menorahs in the windows and on the street and on top of cars, I already found more than 200!   And we get to have lots of parties, spending time with our Mommy and our friends and our cousins."

"But it is nice to get presents, every once in a while, right?" 
"Yeah, sure!" Raphaela answered with a broad smile.

And this is one of the most huge benefits of living in Israel.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Life without Cher

My car, Cher, is almost 16 years old, but because I don't have much of a commute to work, she has less than 55,000 km on her speedometer.

Two weeks ago, I took Cher to the garage for her annual routine Winter Check Up, and she passed.  I mentioned to the mechanic that I had a suspicion that there was an electrical issue somewhere, one that only manifested intermittently;  they did a diagnostic and found nothing.

This past Friday, I decided to drive Raphaela to school rather than walk, because I had several errands - a doctor's appointment, the supermarket, the bakery etc.- during the morning, all in different parts of town.  Cher would not start up, dead in the water except for the horrid blinking light that said "SERVICE." I did whatever I could by foot, and the rest, whatever. It was the day before Shabbat and it didn't pay to take care of it, when she could just sit in the parking space anyway over the weekend.

This morning I called a tow truck and at this moment, my baby is on it's way to what Raphaela calls the Car Doctor.  I don't know how much the repair will cost, but it will most certainly take a chunk out of my budget; believe me, if I could afford it, I would buy a new car.

I am ashamed and sad to admit that I have become dependent on Cher, my life and my daughter's even busier life demands wheels.  This morning was so cold outside that I could not imagine having to walk to school, and asked a friend from the class to take Raphaela in their car.

As a sample week, here are the thing that will become much more difficult if we must depend on public transportation, not to mention the added danger of bus stops with the Third Intifada in full swing:

Ballet Lesson (tonight)
School in the cold-inside-your-bones weather (today, tomorrow)
Camp (Tuesday, Wednesday)
Day trips for Chanukah (Thursday, next Sunday and Monday)
Supermarket (At some point, we have to eat)
Family Chanukah party (Thursday)
Long weekend of vacation that I am desperate for, that we have both been looking forward to for such a long time (Friday through Sunday)

I did not know how much I counted on Cher until she died.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Beautiful Lights

Last night, the First Grade girls in Evelyna held their Chanukah party, and considering the 31 children plus parents in the room, it went more or less smoothly.

Their teacher talked about the creation of the world, and how God created a special light, but then didn't know where to put it.  Upon consultation with the angels, God placed a piece of this special light into each person, deep inside so that only those who were actively searching for it would find it;  "because many people don't bother to look and examine deep inside themselves," said the teacher.  Then she thanked each of the girls in her class for manifesting that truly special light.

The Principal also spoke, and pointed out that while gravity on Earth will pull most things down (as he dropped his iPhone to the floor, ouch!), the flame of a fire defies these basic rules of physics and reaches upward, toward the heavens.  Then he as well said that each of these girls are lights, always reaching upward and always lighting the way with their camaraderie.

And indeed, I saw it with my own eyes.  At one point the teacher was leading an activity in which she sang a (very long) song about all the Chesed [good deeds in Hebrew] that we can do for each other, and every time she tapped a child on the head, they were meant to open a little flash light and wave it around.  It was dark in the room and she was not utilizing any particular system of order, patting heads haphazardly,  and ultimately she skipped over Raphaela.

Raphaela said nothing.

After putting on the lights of the classroom and starting to move on, one of the other girls in the class got up and pulled on the teachers shirt and said, "You forgot Raphaela!"  Whereupon  the teacher immediately shut off the lights, made special notice of my daughter and had all the children wave their flash lights together.

Afterwards I was talking to the teacher and she told me that Raphaela thanks her every day, for the lessons and the affection and the effort put into guiding these girls.  The teacher told me how impressed she was that Raphaela can say "thank you" and can make others feel genuinely appreciated.

Thank you, Raphaela, for making me proud.