Can We Really Make A Difference?

 

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“Is the wave of sustainable living, local-centered economy and ecological awareness a marginal movement, or can it actually have a global impact? I’ve heard many people say that we won’t be able to make any difference, because for every conscientious consumer there are a million reckless spenders, and for every organic backyard garden there are a million plastic bags of junk food. Others say that the yearning to return to closer, more self-reliant communities is nothing but hopeless nostalgia of people who have failed to adjust to a modern world.”

Read more in my latest Mother Earth News post.

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The Magic Bagel

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This story happened a long time ago, but every once in a while, I recall it and feel the need to share, because it was so uplifting to me and, though seemingly a trivial incident, had a huge impact on the shaping of me as a young person.

Before I went to university, I worked at a number of odd jobs, the last of which was a cashier in a supermarket. It wasn’t easy, especially in the first few days. Hours were long, breaks were short, customers were rude – and on top of all that, at the end of my third day at work, I have found out that there’s a considerable sum of money missing.

I would have to return the missing money from my own salary. Side note: back then, it was legitimate practice. I fervently hope it has changed. A poor cashier that works for a minimum wage and made an innocent mistake isn’t supposed to pay. I felt so humiliated! This might sound out of proportion to you, I know, but back then I was very young and insecure. I felt like a total failure. I started walking slowly towards the bus station, my eyes clouded with tears.

There were few moments in my life when I felt more helpless than at that moment, when I sat motionlessly on a bench. Buses came and went, but I just couldn’t bring myself to get up.

And then the woman appeared. She had short dark hair and warm brown eyes, and looked like someone who is probably very cheerful and has a very large family. She was carrying a shopping bag and was obviously in a hurry; but when she saw me, she stopped walking.

“Excuse me, are you alright?” She asked.

“I’m fine, thank you,” I said, hoping my voice wasn’t trembling too much.

“Are you sure?” She insisted. “Do you need money for a bus ticket?”

Only then I realized I must have looked like a homeless drunk. My hair was a mess and my eyes were probably red and puffy.

“No, no, really, I’m fine,” I said quickly. “I have a ticket; I can go home anytime… I just… had some problems at work.”

She looked at me very kindly and said:
“You look like such a wonderful person. Don’t let anyone put you down.”

Then she insisted I must have one of the fresh bagels she just bought. I refused at first, but she just wouldn’t take no for an answer. She said I look exhausted and need to eat something. She gave me one of her bagels, said goodbye and walked away. I ate the bagel, and it wasn’t simply delicious; I felt as though it was a magic bagel – with every bite, the pain and humiliation were slowly disappearing, until I felt almost normal again; I got on a bus and went home.

Often, when I’m feeling down, I remember the woman who gave me that bagel, and the simple beauty of what she did never ceases to fill me with gratitude. She was in a hurry, but she didn’t just pass by. And she wouldn’t leave me alone the moment I said I don’t need anything. She refused to walk away without giving me at least some comfort. Whenever I think about it, it brings tears to my eyes. I hope that someday, as I work on making myself a better person, I can develop even a bit of that woman’s kindness and generosity.

In those few short minutes while we talked, I felt as though someone bestowed the precious gift of friendship upon me – something to keep me going at the darkest moments. It’s amazing how such little things can have such a tremendous impact on our soul. The words she said have resounded in my ears during many times of fear, despair and humiliation:

“You look like such a wonderful person. Don’t let anyone put you down.”

I know her words were a message from God, because He ever and always wishes to strengthen, encourage and uplift us. I’m not saying the messages we get are always meant to make us feel good. But they always carry a positive, not a negative force. They are always made of hope, possibility, insistence, improvement. They might painfully shake us, but they remind us He never gives up on us.

Thus, it’s easy enough to recognize the messages that are not from Him, usually spoken by people around us. If anyone in your life, anyone at all, deliberately makes you feel, and/or explicitly tells you that you are worthless; wicked; stupid; hopeless; crazy – that you are a terrible person, that you will never be able to make a difference, that you will never get up, shake off the dust and walk on – know that their message is not from God, and therefore not true, because He never wants us to drown in despair. He wants us to know there is always hope.

Goodbye, old home

95% of our things are packed, half of those have already been moved to the new place, and my husband is going off tomorrow to the old home to wrap some last things up and meet the moving van, while the kids and I are chilling for a few days at my mom’s .

It’s been such a time consuming project that I have hardly had time to stop and breathe, but we still took a little tour of the surrounding area to say a bittersweet goodbye to all the places we loved. I did love this home. Two of my children were brought here from the hospital. So many projects, meals, stories and games were shared under its roof . So many fun hours spent in the garden, weeding, planting, watching chickens scratch around. It’s hard to believe we’re really leaving… That actually, we’ve already left.

I look forward to posting more updates in days to come, as we settle in at our new home. Thank you for all your support as we travel along this journey!

 

The Great Replacement

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“No matter how hard you try,” a well-meaning person told me some time ago, with the air of delivering an eye-opening statement, “you will never be able to replace a kindergarten teacher for your children.”

I was rather short-tempered, but I wanted to be kind. I also knew that a long explanation would be futile, and would lead to yet another argument. What I said was simply, “it is the kindergarten teacher who will never be able to replace a mother.”

But going back to the original statement… two things are implied here:

1. Small children need preschool/kindergarten, and the preschool/kindergarten program is without doubt the absolute ministry-of-education-regulated best.

2. If you teach/keep your children at home, you must be trying to imitate the preschool/kindergarten/school setting, with yourself acting as the teacher.

Even people who are prepared – very cautiously – to admit that maybe learning at home isn’t a very crazy idea, are most reassured by the sight of children with workbooks, working with timetables and being graded for their work. Because of course, without daily drills and grading, there is no learning… right?

Once, a mother confided in me that she is going to put her 18-months-old child (her only child, so far) in daycare, even though she doesn’t work outside the home, because several family members insist that the boy needs more “stimulation” and “socialization”; since she looked so obviously dejected when she spoke of it, and since I was certain she knows my opinion already, I allowed myself to gently say that as far as I can see, a 6-hour-long daily period in a daycare center would be overstimulating, tiring, and overall pointless for her son.When we are talking of a baby who can’t even speak properly yet, all the needed “socialization” is covered by a daily walk to the playground where he can see and interact with other people.

Since women entered the work force en masse, the question of what to do with the young children became highly relevant in almost every family. A home can be left alone, but not a child – and so day care centers, preschools and kindergartens became a widespread solution. This is now so normal that a mother who is raising her children at home is allegedly “replacing” a preschool teacher. Let us not forget it is the other way around.

The period of having small children at home is very intense, physically and emotionally demanding; it is also finite. It may a few years if you have just one child, or a couple of decades if you have many, but either way it will come to an end some day. Some day, I will not have anyone barging into my room shouting, “Peepee!” – nor will I need to interrupt an adult conversation in order to say, “please get your finger out of your nose”. Life will be calmer, perhaps, and more rational – and a little duller as well.

So let us, mothers, savor this time with our children, and know that we are exactly where we are needed at the moment, and that no one – no one – can replace us.

The photo above is from our old home, taken when our two eldest were little. We lived in an isolated little corner with a beautiful view and raised goats, chickens and a dog. The demands of such a lifestyle were many, but there was much joy in the journey, and the memories are sweet.

Nursing: the perfect excuse to rest

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These days, nursing my fourth baby, I can say that one of the best things about nursing is the simple brilliance of it – how convenient it is, and how it allows a tired young mother to rest.

Breastfeeding can have its stresses and challenges – we’ve had slow weight gain, tongue-tie, plugged ducts complete with high fever, D-MER, and others can probably chip in with stories of their own. But basically it’s supposed to be pretty much straightforward, or our species wouldn’t have survived. Throw in the facts that nutritionally speaking, breast milk is perfectly composed to meet the baby’s needs, it’s free, and you don’t have to prepare and wash bottles, not to mention worry about hygiene when you’re out and about – and there you have why I love it so much.

Most of the time, on many busy days, nursing is what allows me to put up my feet and rest, at least for a little while, without feeling guilty. We often try to do too much, and find it difficult to switch to a different mode once we have a baby – and nursing is just the thing to force us to slow down, for our own good. It’s healthy, it’s natural, it’s simple, it involves sitting down for regular periods every day and cuddling a sweet baby. It doesn’t get better than this

For those of us who are used to have it all under control, it can be tempting to say to the husband (or whoever there is to help us out), “here, just hold the baby – and I’ll do those dishes”… but no. Someone else can do the dishes, but no one else can nurse the baby. And while sitting down, it’s nice to have a cooling drink of water or a little snack as a refreshment on a hot busy day.

I guess this is what some would call “being tied down by babies”. It has taken me some time to embrace this, but I’ve realized that “being tied down” by nursing is the best thing that can happen to a frazzled mom looking over a messy house. Because let’s face it, we need to rest, we need to slow down, whether we acknowledge it or not. There will be those moments, of course. There will be days when you feel you have done nothing but nurse the baby – but these things slowly and imperceptibly change as the baby grows older. There will come a time when by-and-by, some of the baby’s nutritional needs will be met by solid food, then a bit more… there will come a time when you are able to leave your baby for an evening and go out.

And there will come a time of a bittersweet goodbye, when, with a feeling of a job well done, you relinquish the bond of breastfeeding and continue to nurture your little one in countless other ways. So there’s no rush. Every minute of nursing and snuggling is precious time well spent.

On supporting local economy

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I’m passionate about supporting one’s local economy, in particular local farmers and artisans, but sometimes prohibitive prices make it difficult. Read more in my latest Mother Earth News post:

“When it’s possible and our finances allow, I’m usually willing to pay more for a locally made or grown product of superior quality. How much more? I’d say about 20% above what I’d pay in a chain store for a similar product of comparable quality. This, when I see a justifiable reason for the higher price – such as extra input of time, care or cost of materials.”

I’d say it goes both ways: customers ought to be willing to pay a little more, and farmers/artisans charge a little less, for this to work. I really struggle with myself when I find myself forced to support a large chain store rather than a small local business due to financial constraints.

Finding family

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I have shared this special adoption story some years back, and am inspired to re-visit it today.

Matanya (not a real name) was born with Treacher Collins syndrome, a rare genetic disorder which caused him to have severe facial deformities and feeding problems. His parents, who didn’t feel capable of raising such a child, made the decision to leave him in the hospital. It must be noted that despite multiple ultrasound scans during the pregnancy, his condition was somehow missed – praise the Lord for this miracle, for otherwise he would probably have been aborted.

Batsheva, who worked in aforementioned hospital as a midwife, was moved by the fate of the little baby who spent week after week in the hospital nursery. Despite the many efforts of the staff to make him as comfortable as possible, he seemed detached, didn’t make eye contact and didn’t smile. Batsheva started visiting the baby and felt terrible every time she went home, leaving him behind. She realized that for a child like this, the only chance to ever have a normal life is to be raised in a supportive and loving family.

Eventually, Batsheva and her husband Shlomo decided to adopt the baby. They had eight children at the time, ranging in ages from 15 to 3, and the older children were involved in the decision. They took Matanya into their home and gave him a family.

“We got eight wonderful gifts from the Lord, healthy and whole” says Batsheva (translation mine). “It was precisely out of that feeling of fulfillment and thankfulness that we felt the need to give back to our Creator by taking care of a soul that was not ours. We felt we can give this child a place in our family. And B”H, the Almighty guided us hand in hand throughout the way.”

“I will never forget how I slowly picked him up and held him for a long time, and he, a tiny four-month-old baby, put his head on my shoulder and fell asleep. It was like he said, ‘I finally found Mommy.’ We all cried from emotion.”

I cried from emotion too, as I read this article. Praise God for such kind and generous souls who gave hope and comfort when it seemed there was none to be had. Truly He sets the solitary in families.

“Just a few hours of being in a warm home made our Matanya smile and look us straight in the eye. It’s amazing how he immediately felt he belongs with us.”

Matanya since went through multiple surgeries which have improved his condition, and will have to go through more as he gets older. He will never look “normal” but otherwise his prospects are good and he is a happy and intelligent child.

Batsheva keeps in touch with Matanya’s biological parents, and tries to be as merciful as possible when relating to their decision of leaving him in the hospital. Matanya was told that he was adopted. “I told him how we walked into he nursery and immediately fell in love with him and chose him of all babies. I said to him he belongs with us for good.”