Monday, May 18, 2015

My Imperfect Cup Runneth Over

I love ceramic mugs. Just love them.

And I don’t mean store bought cups with emblems or school colors. I mean mugs handmade in a little studio off the beaten path by a funky, earthy woman. Usually one with cool scarves, a nose ring and a lot of jewelry.

These are the mugs I love.

But I’ve found over the years that I can’t manage to keep these mugs from breaking for the life of me. We have many regular store bought mugs in the house…at least a dozen. And they all stay in perfect shape.

But my mugs? Well, those break within a week of their purchase. Or perhaps just a bit more if I’m lucky.

Years ago I purchased a beautiful mug from a local artisan at her shop in Alon Shvut. And before my father-in-law arrived for a visit, I purchased another so that he could enjoy his own cup of coffee (hands off MY mug!). His still stands in the house. Mine broke long ago.

A lonely mug

Then, when we were at the Zimmerbus in Azuz, just south of nowhere on the Egyptian border, we discovered a tiny one room store. It was down a dirt road…next to the donkey and with no address to speak of. One woman owns it and sits there all day, making gorgeous pottery with her wheel and her passion. She runs workshops for those who happen to stumble into this oasis and she sells her wares. I purchased one mug, and then Josh gently reminded me that maybe I should purchase a second. Hmmm…good point.

So I bought two, and proceeded to drop and break one of them within the week. The second one has been lovingly used for quite a while now (an accomplishment!) but is hanging on for dear life with a few cracks and fissures in it.

Last month, while vacationing in the Golan, we stopped by an adorable information center. The woman didn’t appear to be overflowing with much information, but there was a ceramics store in the area. So, we entered, telling the kids to put their hands behind their backs (talk about bulls in the china shop) and we set about finding a mug for me.

The kids were all excited, “What about this one?!” and “How about that one?” But with each mug they selected, someone would say, “Mommy’s just going to break that.” Or “That won’t last a week.” They all thought they were so funny.

But they were right.

I went to the section of imperfect pieces, assuming I would find something cheaper and yet still lovely. And I found the perfect mug.
What a beauty!

As I was paying for it, the kids were taking bets on how many days it would last.

So I’ve enjoyed it already for a month.

Until today.

Today, when I placed a cup in the sink and realized that I had clinked it against the half-empty mug, chipping it, all I could do was stare.

Really, I thought to myself? Today was the day?

And so the first crack appeared.
Woe is me and my mug!

And then I started to think about these mugs and my amazing ability to break them. 

Life is so much like these mugs. We have something precious, important, glittery and lovely in our possession. And we so dearly want to keep it pristine, perfect, holy.

But life has so many other plans for us.

Our new, sparkly homes have floods, paint chips, mildew; our beautiful infants develop learning disabilities, broken bones, heartache; our dreams get modified, altered, changed.

Life is full of so many moments of imperfection, of re-examination, of flexibility.

And some of them are our doing. If I had just kept the mug out of the sink, if I had just shown it a bit more care…but how often can we beat ourselves up? And how careful must we be?

And yet, through the fissures and the frustrations, the beauty still shines through. 

It may not be the beauty we expected. 

It may not be the beauty we dreamed of and envisioned.

But it is beautiful nonetheless.

And perhaps more beautiful and meaningful IN its imperfection.

Because really, that is what life is all about.

And so, ironically, while 99% of the glasses in our house remain intact, it is my favorite and most cherished mugs that I appear to be incapable of protecting no matter how much I try; and sometimes when I don’t.

And only through letting go, and allowing for those cracks (and the jokes about them) do I achieve some understanding of my life, of the way things work.

Lessons learned on the way to my morning coffee.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

First, The Tears

And it begins.

I see my Facebook feed slowly slowly starting to change today, as friends post memorials for their brothers, fathers, and friends who have fallen in action; who have been killed in terror attacks. And I know that by tonight, my entire feed will be filled with these stories, and my heart will be overflowing with them as the tears fall.

Tonight and tomorrow are the hardest day of the year in Israel each and every year. It’s Memorial Day and everyone – and I mean everyone – has someone to remember. A few videos have popped up in the last day and I’ve sat and watched them, and remembered.

The war from last summer, Operation Protective Edge, feels far away. But the videos bring it all right back. The horror of the boys’ kidnappings, the 18 days of waiting, the entry into Gaza, the chance that any of my neighbors might lose their sons, the long nights, the scary days, the bombs and on and on and on. I watched this video, made to remember the three boys Gilad, Eyal and Naftali, and I thought I would be sick – physically sick. 

There is footage here of them dancing, singing, laughing with family and friends. They are my boys. They look just like Matan.

And a new video has just been released that focuses on the siblings - those left behind when the 67 soldiers fell last summer. It's also a tear-jerker.

And my first grader comes home from school to tell me that his teacher lost her brother years ago. Did I know? My third grader (who had the same teacher for two years) jumps in and tells the lengthy, detailed story of his death. Because that’s how we remember.

Josh and I were being interviewed recently (for reasons I’ll explain in a few days), and I was telling a story of how we ended up in Neve Daniel. I described how we came in 2001, in the middle of the Intifada, to show solidarity to our friends – to be here with them in Neve Daniel.

The interviewer turned to me, incredulous, and said, “And that’s why you came to live here? People will think you’re crazy.” He wasn’t taunting me – he knew exactly what my answer would be, but he wanted to hear it from me.

I had to pause and chuckle slightly. “Yes. That’s when we started to think of coming. Because look – if we believe that the State of Israel should exist, then who are we to sit on the sidelines? Who are we to say we’ll have our kids in America and stay in the comfort of our homes, while your children and your brothers protect us?”

Really, who are we?

I remember feeling this way every time that I would visit Israel. Soldiers are everywhere here – defending our right to exist. And who am I to believe wholeheartedly in the country’s right to defend itself and to exist – but not believing that my boys have to be part of that?

We aren’t special. Our lives aren’t more important than those of every Israeli who gets up every morning and keeps working towards the safety and security of this country.

And by putting our lot with them, by being part of this incredible unimaginable dream that is the State of Israel, we become profoundly important.

Tonight and tomorrow are times of tears and memory. We’ve added 67 IDF soldiers and officers to our list since last Memorial Day who fell during Operational Protective Edge. We’ve added Gilad, Eyal and Naftali. We’ve added Dahlia Lemkus. We’ve added so many.

So we will mourn, and cry out in anguish. And then, on the backs of their memories, tomorrow night, we will celebrate and watch my 7th grader in the annual Daglanute (Flag Dance).

And we will cry afresh – but they will be tears of hope and joy, of promise and future.

And the two days are inseparable. We are only able to have the privilege of the hope and joy, the promise and future because of those who have died defending our existence; because of those who have died waiting for a ride to go see their parents and because of those who have died simply for the fact that they are Jewish and Israeli. And we also remember those who, thankfully, didn't die. But who struggle every day as they work to heal their broken bodies.

Am Israeli Chai.

We will celebrate.

But first, the tears.