Pride

Okay, this is not going to be about what you think. But here goes, a kind of follow up to my post Do What You Love. I wanted to acknowledge my pride in my recent work, particularly the launching of a lengthy labor of love, the website I helped create for the Off the Derech community. If you haven’t seen it, and if you are OTD you probably already have, as it already has far, far more visitors and views than my little blog will probably ever have, check it out: offthederech.org

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Pride is an important motivator, of which I don’t often have enough. I am one of the those people that get overly optimistic about a project, and then after a little bit, start to question, second-guess, often giving up in the process. But a little pride can go a long way. I know because among other things, I struggle with my weight, and what gets me back on track is my pride in having persevered and maintained a significant, but healthy weight loss. When I start to lose control of my eating habits, start to feel like giving up, I have this image in my mind of the person that can do this, that I know I am.

The OTD website has been a long time in coming, and I almost did give up. I had never built my own website before, aside from starting this blog on wordpress.com, and you can see I’ve kept it pretty bare bones, nothing fancy. I knew a little bit about html coding, from an online course I took, but hardly enough to make a complicated, well-designed site.

The suggestion to use a wordpress platform came from a good friend of my husband’s, a can-do, jack of all trades guy, who had taught himself the skills needed to create a web design business. In fact, he was also the one who inspired me to try my hand at some other unusual activities for an urban-raised, academically-minded individual; he was my mentor in woodworking and gardening, even gave me the confidence to get under the sink and replace my own kitchen faucets.

It did take me several years to build enough confidence to finally launch the website. Along the way I had various collaborators, who were also willing to take time from other occupations to pursue this project. My OTD colleagues live across the globe, so we have held our meetings on conference calls and google hangout.

We started with a very basic wordpress platform and began writing pages. For a few bucks, I purchased a domain name and found a web-host. We wanted something that wasn’t static, that would provide up to date material. Achieving this wasn’t so simple for amateur web-designers. We experimented with various plug-ins and themes, but there were a lot of bugs that we couldn’t quite figure out. We were getting frustrated and the project began to stagnate.

Then, a professional  web developer offered to make a custom designed site in his spare time. He volunteered an enormous amount of time, did an amazing job, and the site was put up. Unfortunately, we quickly discovered that without his continued support, which he was unable to sustain long-term, we were left with something that we had no idea how to maintain. We didn’t want to pull the plug, but after a few months with no new content, we took the site offline.

I still wanted to do this thing, so did my collaborator, but we needed time for other things;  I was busy advocating for my special needs child, who needed a more appropriate school placement; my friend was working a new job that needed his attention. We seemingly went our separate ways.

About a month or so ago, I started to get involved in a local political action group. I offered to help with their website. To my surprise and the delight of the professional web-designer, I  was quickly able to get in and start editing and uploading content to the wordpress based site. Then, in some serendipitous act, my OTD collaborator contacted me; it was time to get this site online already. He had purchased a new wordpress theme that had all the functionality we needed. With new found confidence in my understanding of how to work with a wordpress platform, I got to work rebuilding our site.

I know it is not perfect, but I have impressed my collaborators, my OTD community, and most importantly, myself, with the result. I am proud of my work and proud of what we accomplished. And that pride continues to motivate me, to keep learning and gaining skills, to persist in adding up-to-date content to the website, to never give up on my dreams.

 

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A Thanksgiving Seder

Last night, my son had trouble sleeping, while I was messaging with a friend. He (my 9 year old) told me to get off my phone and meditate. He was right, that’s what I needed to do. I sat down next to him and closed my eyes, and tried to think of something calming. Probably because I have been concerned about the people protesting the DAPL (Dakota Access Pipeline), what sprang into my mind’s eye: the vision of a young Native American girl in a brown tunic, standing amid the trees on the shore of the Hudson River, catching her first glimpse of Europeans, perhaps Henry Hudson himself.

Sounds a bit like Pocahantus right? Well, that image is one I had years ago before I ever saw the movie, while doing a hypnotic regression. Kind of crazy, I know. My husband is into New Age spirituality, life after death, reincarnation. I’m agnostic about these things, but found it fascinating and was reading some of his books on doing past life regression. Really not surprising, since I have a thing for Native American culture that I would conjure this image. For our anniversary one year, we visited the Smithsonian National Museum of the Native American and I bought and devoured a book on the history of indigenous Americans. I don’t claim to have had a past live as a Native American, but who knows.

Then my mind drifted to the #noDapl movement and this upcoming Thanksgiving. My husband and I had decided we would again host my extended family. Since going off the derech, we are the non-religious ones, so it makes sense for us to be responsible for this secular holiday celebration. But what I really want to do is be in North Dakota standing with Standing Rock. Can you imagine doing a Thanksgiving celebration with actual Native Americans, European americans dressing up as a pilgrim, and together we recreate the “original” Thanksgiving feast? I don’t know if that would go over well, not sure how Native Americans feel about this holiday, and is the story really accurate or an idyllic reinventing of history? I’m going to have to do some research, I think.

Now, I figured I will not be able to drag my family across the country (or would I?), but maybe we can do something more than stuff ourselves with a dead bird and pumpkin pie this year. Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays, because of it’s name, reminding us to be thankful for all we have. But there’s more to it, perhaps Thanksgiving can instill an appreciation for Native american culture and a desire to right the wrongs of the past four hundred years.  

One year, actually it was the year of Thanksgivukkah, the big cousins organized a Thanksgiving play, about the pilgrims and Indians. The little cousins, my kids included, were given little parts to play and the big cousins made hats and headresses to wear. It was a spectacular performance, followed by the oldest cousin doing a tap dance solo. Now, what about doing something like that, but incorporating the real history of Thanksgiving, the actual native american experience, and what about including the storytelling and lessons of their earth based spirituality, that us Europeans really need to learn, before we destroy our planet.

I began to think of this as a Thanksgiving Seder, similar to our Passover Freedom Seder, where we learn and remind ourselves of the oppression that still exists in our world. I once thought that Jews, with their moral teachings of being kind to the stranger and seeking justice for the downtrodden, were meant to be a “light unto the nations.” I’m starting to think that we need to turn to our Native brothers and sisters to shine their light and guide us back to harmony with nature and each other. I see their peaceful struggle and the solidarity of tribes from all over our country joining to protect our water, our future.

I don’t mean to misappropriate Native American culture, but I would love to begin a discussion of how we can organize to bring these inspiring people into the limelight, because it is their turn to shine.