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Dec 22 2011

Whirling Together out of the Darkness

By at 12:26 pm

Two months ago, I took one of our 12 suitcases out of storage, dusted it off, opened it up, and crammed in all my clothes, three photo albums, my mom’s journals, a bag — (ok, fine, three bags) — of assorted hair and makeup products that I had collected before leaving Los Angeles, the soft zebra dress M. wore as a baby, and the tiny cotton onesie with the sheep parading up and down the middle that Little Homie wore for the first month after he was born.

And I left the kibbutz.

And while the taxi roared out the big yellow gate and down the winding road lined with fragrant eucalyptus trees, shattering the stillness of the starless night, it occurred to me that I had forgotten something: My family.

B. and I tried, but we couldn’t make it work.

Our marriage was broken. And over the last several months instead of trying to Krazy Glue the fuck out of the pieces, I ground my high heel boots into them.

Dust to dust.

“Where the hell am I going to go?” I asked myself over and over and over during dark nights while I rode around and around and around the kibbutz on my shiny purple bicycle. “What am I going to do?”

I don’t do well when I feel trapped — I get twitchy and edgy, and I lash out like an angry beast. I hiss. I growl. I bite. And ultimately, I knew the only way out, was to get out. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 31 2011

Kibbutz Barbie Goes to Work

By at 11:47 am

train at station

I love my job, even the morning commute.

Sarah Tuttle-Singer has had her share of mishaps trying to adjust to life on the Kibbutz. One of our contributors (thanks Tamara!) just dubbed her Kibbutz Barbie. The name has stuck. We love it.

We don’t get to hang out much anymore, my kids and I, now that I’m working in Tel Aviv four days a week for a dynamic and engaging digital media agency.

After taking a long hard look at our finances – not to mention the fact that I was going batshit crazy riding around in circles on the kibbutz – I decided to look for a fulltime job.

I emailed my resume to some interesting companies, hit “refresh” about a thousand times a day, and felt flushed with cheery optimism when I received a few replies.  It turns out that while writers like me are a dime-a-dozen in the United States, we’re kind of a commodity in Israel, and it’s nice to feel wanted.

I borrowed grownup clothes from a friend on the kibbutz.  I rode the shuttle in a flurry of nervous optimism. I arrived three hours ahead of schedule and drank two lattes. And when I received an offer from an exciting job at a digital media company in Tel Aviv, I said yes.

“What about your kids?” B asked.

“Just because I have a uterus doesn’t mean I can’t be the primary breadwinner,” I replied.

And I love my job: from the morning commute on the crowded train where I inevitably become intimately acquainted with someone’s armpit or (if I’m lucky) chest hair, to the bus ride from the train station to my office with my expat friend from NYC, to the people I work with and the coffee we drink, to the sound of my high heel hooker boots hitting the pavement of a bustling city, to just being the F away from the kibbutz, to the adrenaline rush that comes with doing something that involves every electrode in my brain, to the thrill of learning, always learning. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 28 2011

Welcome to the Kibbutz Rumor Mill

By at 2:17 pm

girls gossipingWell, it’s time to bring it.

After living here on the kibbutz for one year, I know this to be true: the kibbutz is a living, breathing entity that takes on a life of its own – and it will swallow you whole.

Look. On the surface, this place is paradise – the land is sumptuous, the homes are well-equipped. The gan (preschool) system is enviable, and the kids scamper free from worry.

But being here does something to you. Especially if you’re stuck day after day after day, eating the same food, drinking the same coffee, talking to the same people. For four generations.

You grow restless. And you turn your world into a cesspool because paradise is boring.

Hey, I’ve only been here a year, and I’ve felt myself sinking into the quagmire, which is one of the many reasons why I found a job, and spend my waking life outside these invisible walls.

I don’t want to hate this place, but it’s hard not to when over the last several months, I’ve become fodder for the rumor mill. At first, it was kind of flattering. After all, if people gossip about you, that means they notice you. But once the rumors grew beyond, “Hmm, I wonder where she goes all day when she gets on the shuttle and gets off at the train station,” it grew less amusing.

People. A word to the wise: You should never ever ever ever mess with a woman who is prone toward fits of righteous indignation and writes (very) publically. Because she will call you out. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 6 2011

Stranger in a Strange Kibbutz

By at 11:56 am

So, this is the post that might get me in trouble.

You know, as opposed to writing about my irabbit (and the rabbi,) my cross dressing son, and my boobies (again).

I’ve been in Israel for ten months, 23 days, and 15 hours.   Long enough to put down a few fragile roots.  Long enough to start feeling like maybe I can kind of sort of grow here.

But not really.

Because every day, I am reminded that I am different – in subtle ways that eat at me, I understand through words and gestures that the people here still see me as strange.

(Now, maybe some of that is my fault.  Maybe I am strange.  Maybe I’m too open, too chaotic.  Too eager to make friends.   Too Other. Maybe it’s the stripper stilettos. )

I’ve heard many things about myself through others:

“She’s too friendly.”

“She’s a snob.”

“She’s different.”

(Most days, I feel like the new girl in the cafeteria with no one to sit with.  I have braces and bad skin and a “KICK ME” sign stapled to my back. Only in Hebrew.) Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 16 2011

Oy! My Guilt, Let Me Tell it To You

By at 4:36 pm

I’m going to LA for eight days and eight nights. Alone.

I’m leaving tonight.

Eight. Days. Eight. Nights. Like Hanukkah, only in August. And not really.

The longest I’ve been away from my kids up until now is, like, eight hours

But still.

“Dude, it’s just eight days!” my friend David reassures me on the phone.

“They’ll survive!” Chris tells me on gchat.

“If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” Michal messages me on Facebook.

Still, let me tell you about the reaction on the kibbutz:

The conversation starts off innocuously enough at the coffee place where I am smoking my (third) cigarette and sipping my (second) latte.

“What’s new, Sarah?”

“I’m flying to LA next week!”

“Oh how wonderful! And of course you’re taking the kids!” (This is always said without a question mark.)

“Actually, I am going alone.”

You can hear the muezzin calling the faithful to prayer in Lebanon during the silence that follows. And while my news sinks in, I try not to squirm under the unblinking Eyes of Judgment, because Heaven Fore-fucking-fend I should allow myself this treat without turning my stomach in knots first.

After all, what kind of mother puts her own needs first and leaves her children (with a loving father, and savta, and uncle and caring teachers, and wonderful friends and assorted extended family members) for eight days.

This mother.

The Bad Mother.

Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 18 2011

Next Year In….

By at 1:35 pm

Last year, I volunteered to host the family Passover Seder.

(I was three months postpartum, and thanks to serious sleep deprivation and delusions of grandeur brought on by fitting into a pair of pre-pregnancy jeans courtesy of my BFF Spanx, I had clearly lost it.)

And what was supposed to be a small Seder turned into a jam-packed affair – 20 people crammed into our living room.

But, between the card tables and the colorful table cloths and the place settings; between the home-cooked stuff – the brisket, the tsimis, the chicken soup and matzah balls, the kugel and the ginger yams; between the store-bought chopped liver (don’t ask) and gefilte fish (I heart you, Manischewitz) along with and a lot of help from B. and my step-mother and father-in-law, (not to mention a boatload of Kosher for Pesach wine, we had ourselves an honest-to-goodness Seder meal.

And between the story-telling–our Seders have always been a seamless blend of English and Hebrew–and the traditional nigunim mixed with Go Down Moses (you should hear the Paul Robsenesque pipes on my dad!) and Bob Dylan, we rocked it.

And even though it was waaay past their bedtimes, we made it with our then-not-quite-two-year-old and three-month-old to the line: NEXT YEAR IN JERUSALEM.

And here we are. One Jewish calendar year later. And while technically we aren’t in Jerusalem, we’re a heck-of-a-lot closer than we were in years past. This year on the Kibbutz.

And all I want to do is book a direct flight with El Al and go back to LA.

I’m dreading the Seder this year – stumbling through the unfamiliar melodies, lost in Hebrew, missing the familiar tastes and textures of my own Seder. I am yearning for the frenetic give-and-take of my own family in LA: Aunt Caren with her last minute floral arrangements. Uncle Robert on the guitar. My dad holding forth. Twirling around in my own kitchen, tasting the soup, shaping the matzoh balls. A sprinkle of kosher salt here, a sprig of dill there. Mixing the ginger yams by hand, following my mother’s recipe for haroset down to the last Granny Smith Apple.

And this year, B.’s family said “just bring some ice cream.”

Because, after all, I’m just a guest here. A stranger in the homeland.

Next year in LA.

For more on Passover, including movies for the whole family and stylish additions to any seder table, go here.

Apr 13 2011

Sushi in the City

By at 12:18 pm

Shopping on Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv. Just don't eat the sushi.

We don’t have a car.

(For an LA expat, there approximately 1,253 things wrong with that sentence.)

I’ve taken to rug-weaving in my spare time. Because basket weaving is for amateurs.

Mama wants to get the hell off the farm.

(After all, it’s hard to tromp around in high heeled hooker boots in the mud. And while I may have given up the convenience of having a car to live here, I will not give up my shoes.)

Still, what had come so easily once upon a time — a sort of blase urban-chic ensemble, artfully applied minimal-makeup and on-purpose bedhead hair — has now become an exercise in hysterical mental calisthenics.  (Like Gwyneth Paltrow turning into Snooki from Jersey Shore. Except more orange.) It’s all a matter of context: the women on this kibbutz look like an add for Evian Water–pure and clean and natural strolling around in comfortable clothes and sandals. I on the other hand, stuffed into skinny-jeans and Spanx look like Britney Spears circa Matt Lauer.

Enough with the cornfields and the nature walks through the orange groves. My hooker boots needed to hit pavement. Hard.

Anyway, B. and his brother decided to take a kibbutz car and drive to Tel Aviv.  Ah, Tel Aviv. An urbane oasis that has taken on almost mystical proportions for me since we arrived in Israel. While it isn’t that long a ride from the kibbutz to The City, since we are car-less, Tel Aviv might as well be on another planet. A planet next to the whispering waves of the Mediterranean Sea, where effortlessly elegant people stroll along the tayelet talking about Important Things.  A place of art museums, concert halls, and overpriced shops where Hebrew becomes a second language amidst the warble of tourist-talk. Tel Aviv: A shot of citified adrenaline, more potent then the two lattes I drink each morning. I. Needed. This.

So, I cadged a ride. Through the gates of the kibbutz. Down the main road.  Onto a real highway and snagged in a snarl of traffic worse than the infamous 405 Freeway.

And finally, to a mall.

(CUE HEAVENLY MUSIC.)

A real, live, mall!

Ok, so it wasn’t the cultural exchange I had fantasized about, but still. I am from LA, and we know how girls from LA feel about their malls, so I may have done a happy dance in the food court.

I staked out a comfy chair and table at Aroma Cafe, ordered my latte, and rode the wireless wave for a while, checking out the people and feeling very cosmopolitan.

I was in a real city. Drinking coffee. The kids were miles away at daycare doing whatever it is they do, and the smell of the designer boutiques and industrial-strength department stores were more potent than any aphrodisiac.

I had arrived.

(And when they started playing Katy Perry’s song, California Girls, over the loudspeaker, I was sure it was in my honor. And I may have even smiled knowingly at the barista. )

After people watching and facebooking and working on an article for a few hours, my friend L. met me for lunch. And tweaked out on the novelty of being in an actual mall in an actual city in my actual high heel hooker boots which look  a little less ridiculous in  Tel Aviv than they do on the lawn in front of the kibbutz dining hall when I’m chasing after M. and Little Homie, with an actual friend and the promise of adult conversation, I thought I could have it all: And having it all meant having sushi for lunch.

A kosher sushi stand in a mall in Israel, thousands of miles away from an actual ocean.

But lured by the promise of plump raw fish, I ordered. The wasabi tasted like maror on the Seder Plate–only green–and the tuna had a little gefilte going on. But still. It was sushi, and I was out with my friend, and I ate, relishing the taste of soy sauce and the feel of the splintery chopsticks against my fingers.

Oh, but it did not end well.

(You know you’re in trouble when the sushi chef’s name is Shlomi and he’s from a kibbutz in the Negev Desert. Just saying.)

Never again, Kosher Sushi.  Never again.

The City chewed me up and spit me out.  And I think I’ll stick to shnitzle and salad on the farm from now on.

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