If I Ran the World (of Non-profits)…

A bit of a different topic today…

I’ve worked in non-profit organizations for five+ years, and while much of it has been interesting and exciting, it’s also been hard for a number of reasons; the main ones, as you can imagination, are the low salary and large workload. However, not all non-profits are created equal, and some have found ways to compensate for their low pay. They do this through a number of things:

1. Verbal employee appreciation. This is when management actively tries to build employee morale through encouragement, incentives and general kudos. Appreciation can go a long way because most of us are seeking some sort of fulfillment through are jobs, and getting a sincere “thank you,” or “good job!” every now can help us reach this goal.

2. Employee appreciation through treats. Yes, non-profits are struggling. But by allocating a small amount of funds to provide treats to the employees, they can save themselves money in the long run. Under the right management, happy employees make productive employees. Unhappy employees lead to high turnover rates, which ends up costing the non-profit more money. The small amount of allocated funds can be used to treat staff to coffee or cookies every two months. Heck, even every three months is better than nothing! And these small gestures can make employees feel happy and appreciated.

3. Asking for employee feedback. Management in non-profits is usually juggling about a thousand different things. And they are smart and capable (usually), so they are able to do this. However, they forget that the “little people” are also smart and capable (usually), and so they don’t often ask them for advice. Big mistake! The “little people” are often involved in the nitty-gritty, internal workings of the organization, and they can have great ideas to propel the organization forward. Management should ask employees for their suggestions, and take them into account when warranted.

4. Staff meetings. Staff meetings are a way of showing that there is some sort of unity between the staff. It is a way of involving us “little people,” which makes us feel important and in-the-loop (basic human needs, right?). Staff meetings are also a forum where the aforementioned employee feedback can take place, either verbally or through a suggestion box.

5. Basic human decency. In one of the non-profits I worked in, I encountered the moral conundrum: how could such a bad person do such good things? Yes, one of my bosses was just terrible, and I was forced to conclude that, at the end of the day, the good a person does is not cancelled out by the bad, and the bad is not cancelled out by the good. The two simply co-exist side by side and simultaneously, as incongruent as that may seem. But back to our topic – a boss needs to act with basic human decency towards his or her employees. If not, this will create a high turnover rate, low morale and general nastiness in the workplace.

So there you have it – these are the five things that I would enforce if ran the world of non-profits. (Too bad nobody asked me!) Some non-profits already practice these things, but not all of them. In my humble, meager experience, I would venture to say that the management that employs these practices will be able to run a successful venture, and those that don’t will fail, or will just “get by.” And who wants to just get by?

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Don’t Believe in Facebook!

A few months ago a friend confided in me that she was having issues in her marriage. Since then, every few days I’d hear stories that went from bad to worse.

Then, about a week ago, I saw her status on Facebook: “Happy anniversary to the best husband ever! Love you!!!”

Hmmm. Maybe things are not as bad as I thought? Maybe my friend was just venting to me, but after the vent, she felt better and life was normal and good? It seemed strange, but lots of things on Facebook seem (and are) strange.

I called her a few days after the post. “So things are going better?” I asked. Not really, was the reply. He did this and said that and then she yelled at him and etc. etc. I asked, perhaps insensitively, “What about your FB status?” Oh that, she said, I don’t know why I wrote that, I guess I had too.

Hmmm. Listen, I don’t think the whole world should know about her problems; absolutely not. But if she hadn’t posted anything, people would think her marriage is fine. So why did she do it? Is she lying – to herself and others? I’m no psychologist, but this is what I think is happening:

Facebook, in its unintentional way, promotes lies and illusions that end up being harmful. It causes people to present and perpetuate a self-image that is always happy, always smiling, always having fun. And when we see everyone else having fun – with their spouses, boyfriends, kids, friends – naturally we want to present ourselves the same way. And if we don’t have everything our friends’ have, we’ll post pictures of all the busy busy busy and fun fun fun fun lives we lead.

But the truth is, life is not all fun, games and smiles. We have down times, and that’s fine. And I’m not saying people should post about them (that itself is weird – could you imagine if my friend posted, “Happy anniversary honey! Five crappy years - let’s try to make these next five a little better!?). But by only posting all the amazing things we’re doing, we’re actually creating a cycle of superficiality, half-truths, jealousy and FOMO.

FOMO (fear of missing out) is a real thing, and it’s not just about what’s going on at the time, but of missing out on life in general. If everyone’s having a good time, I need to post things that show that I am too. The Me Me Me Generation (so termed by Time magazine) is in a constant, subconscious competition with the other. This leads us to post only half of our lives – the superficial halves – which means, everyone is only aware of half-truths.

So if I hate Facebook so much, why don’t I just get off it, you ask? Good question! A few reasons: first, I’m human, and I like it! Also, it not ALL bad. There’s lots of good in it, like keeping in touch with friends who live far away, promoting causes, finding jobs, etc. Also, I fall victim to FOMO. I’m in a Brand News Mamas group – I’m afraid not to have that support! I’m in a Clothing Swap group – and I want to know when the next swap is going to be!

So for now I’m staying where I am, whether it’s hypocritical or not. But don’t get me wrong- Facebook will continue to irk me until one day (probably when my daughters are older) I’ll say goodbye for good. I certainly don’t want them to have it. I don’t want them sharing intimate details of their lives with just acquaintances, or posting glamour-shot photos of themselves and seeing those of other people! Anorexia, low-self esteem and other self-image issues are on the rise today. And I do believe it’s because of the superficiality and half-truths that Facebook (along with other media outlets) promotes. And if this is something that adults are grappling with, I definitely don’t want to put my children at risk.

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Hey Mister, Be Nice to my Kids!

I wish I could right societal wrongs. Heck, I wish I could even write about societal wrongs, but with two little kiddies, I can barely manage that. Except for now – when I have a few moments, and a recent event that happened to me that is just begging to be written down.

Israeli society is pretty kid-friendly. And I don’t mean safe. I mean, Israel as a State smiles upon the having-of-children (unless they’re Arab or Chareidi – Joke! But serious.) In fact, you get money from the State for every kid you have! (Not a lot, but still.) Maybe it’s because when the State was founded post-Holocaust, Jews were intent on recreating what we had lost. Or practically, maybe Israel’s founders wanted to ensure more hands and future leaders. Whatever it is, I have found that in Jerusalem, people are generally friendly towards kids.

Except for the people in this one clothing store on Rechov Yaffo, Cinderella.

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They don’t seem to espouse their country’s smiling-upon-kids policy. I know this first-hand, because last week I got yelled at for letting my 1.10 year old out of the stroller in the (uncrowded) store. It was a pretty crazy scene; the store workers started yelling at me to control my child (who wasn’t doing anything, she was just elated to be free) and I was vascillating between a state of disbelief and mounting anger (picture incredible hulk, with a double stroller).

I would totally understand if my daughter had been running around, hyper, pulling clothes off the wracks or making a general balagan. But she wasn’t! And I do not espouse the laissez faire (or Israeli) parenting philosophy of letting kids grow up unsupervised. I supervise. I intervene. For good and for bad.

To make a long story short, I wasn’t treated very nicely, and I vented about it in the Brand New Mamas Group on Facebook. And I got a lot of nice support from other mamas. Sadly though, I got this support because many had experienced similar ill-treatment in various stores across the city!

And so, I’m here to vent some more. Not fair! Yes, I know that kids can be annoying. Kids can break things. Kids can wreak all sorts of havoc that adults can’t even begin to dream up. But why should parents (or mothers) get blamed before the kids even do anything? (Or for nursing, covered, in a store as one mother was yelled at for. Oh, did I mention it was a BABY store?)

Somehow, somewhere, sometime, there has been this shift in Israeli society from valuing kids to not being able to stand their very existence in a retail store.

So hey, store owners and workers – get your acts together. This country was built on the value of loving and encouraging children. And maybe, you can dig deep into your hearts to remember that you, your mother, your sister or daughter was once a young mother, and she might have been treated badly too. So make amends.

(Now where can I post this so that the right people will see?!)

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Firstborn

I’m a poet at heart. But I haven’t written real poetry in two years. Here is a first attempt to get back into things. A prose poem. Prose poetry is weird. It’s basically prose with a poetic feel. In other words, it’s whatever you want it to be.

My baby girl is almost two. And she’s not even my baby. I mean, she is my baby, I gave birth to her, but she already has a younger sister, such a young age too. My oldest is almost two and my baby will be one soon after. Having two so close together might seem like a disaster, and I admit, I’ve often felt like I’ve been struck over the head by some disaster, that had I known about the sleepless nights, the constant waking of one, then two, then one, then two (not to be outdone by her younger sister), how lack of sleep would drive me mad, change everything I’ve ever had and known to be true – who’s that person looking back at me in the mirror, and how did her face become so fat? Had I known…you know it wouldn’t matter.

My little girl is almost two. And just last year she was one and I was giving birth again, dreading to leave her for the few days I’d be in the hospital, away. We’d never slept under different roofs. One – what an age, what adorable admiration they shed on you, before their will is so developed that they protest and stomp their feet…at one, the threshold of baby and toddler so delicately balanced, a precious liminal age to see. My husband brought her to the hospital to welcome her new sister to the world, she peered into her crib and didn’t understand, though when we came home all together, she had trouble sleeping. But lately she has grown to love her, I mean really love her, to hug her (without intention to crush) and it’s soothed my heart that hurt for her.

My big girl is almost two.  And how the years have flown, but the days are slow, so slow. I never set my alarm anymore, no need, either she or her sister wake me up before I’m ready to face the world, before I’ve had the time to recoup my strength for another day. They like to alternate, haven’t yet achieved that sisterly harmony that I pray for. And I do pray for it, if hope is prayer, because my formal prayer has lagged in these tired times. But I hope and pray that they be best of friends, and that the jealousy and competition, inevitable, will not overwhelm, strike them over their heads, that as parents we will somehow master the art of mitigating the hurt that another can cause. Of course siblings can be best of friends but the older one, my baby, who knows if she will harbor feelings of betrayal, and if the younger one, so cute and cuddly, will feel second-best in life. These are worst-case scenarios, but a mother always fears…

But on my daughter’s second birthday, I’ll put the fears on pause – abra cadabra, disappear!  I’ll celebrate them both, I’ll celebrate myself, my husband, our triumph of keeping these babies alive, and happy, clothed and fed, and even though the age of two is heralded with the prefix Terrible, I’ll remember that all my hopes and prayers have gone into her, that ALL of me has gone into her, and even though she’s my firstborn, she will always be my baby first.

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Mellowing Out

I have mellowed out.

While some of my first blog entries, about a year ago, dealt with the woes of fading friendships and falling off the face of the planet, today, I am in a very different place.

Last year, I felt that I had been making such efforts at maintaining my friendships, and when I didn’t feel reciprocation, I was hurt and angry. This year, my ability to extend myself is much, much less. I have two kids under the age of two, and my days are filled with diapers, tantrum-control, going to the park, crying and laughing at the little moments that make it all worthwhile…

And so I’m not hurt, not angry, I’m simply grateful for the few friends that have stuck around and who manage, through the littlest things, to keep me sane and cheer me during this blessedly difficult time.

I’m not sure how this change happened. Maybe it’s because the friends who have stuck around made me forget about those who didn’t; maybe it’s because now that my oldest is 20 months, we hang out in the park with other mothers and it’s not so lonely; maybe it’s because I’m growing up. Probably all of these things. All I know is, a year’s time has taught me to appreciate the caring, and forget about all the rest.

So it seems like I’ve finally come to terms with being a mother. No, nothing will ever be the same again. And that’s okay. It’s like Robert Frost says, “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.”

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Crying it Out

I am so tired.

I haven’t had a full night’s sleep in a year a half. Haven’t slept more than four hours straight in over six months.

I’ve been grouchy, fuzzy-headed and generally not myself.

And it’s all because of the little bundle of joy I brought home with me from the hospital six months ago. And she truly is a bundle of joy – like, seriously, how could she be.this.cute. I don’t know, but she is. She is this cute, and she is that bad a sleeper.

She is super-good natured and high-energied, so that even when she’s exhausted she doesn’t  get grouchy, she just fusses a bit and rubs her eyes. Her babysitter, experienced chareidi mother of four, says she’s never seen anything like it.

Thank God.

Thank God, baby is happy and healthy.

She just doesn’t sleep.

Maybe I should have  sleep-trained her months ago – four months ago, to be exact, when she was two months old, because it was then that I started to develop similarities to Oscar the Grouch. And by sleep-trained I mean made her cry it out. But I had thought she was too young, and so we waited till she was four months. Now she’s six months, and obviously, something has gone awry. She still wakes up 4-6 times a night. (Not to mention my older daughter, my “big” girl, all of one and a half years old, who has also been sporadically not sleeping well.)

The problem is that we’ve been too tired to train the little one. It’s easy (ha – as if crying it out is ever easy) to do it when it’s ten o’clock at night – my husband has not yet gone to sleep so he is able to put her in a portable bassinet in the kitchen, the furthest room from the bedrooms, and let her cry. But try doing that at three in the morning! It is so energy consuming, and most nights, we don’t have the energy.

The other problem is that my heart’s not in it. Hearing your baby cry desperately for you in the middle of the night is heartbreaking. Hearing your baby cry, and cry, and cry is a pain as intense as childbirth. All you want to do is pick her up, but you’ve been taught by society that the baby needs to learn to sleep on her own. Sure there are those who speak out against it, but when those close to you tell you that crying it out is the only way to go, it’s very hard to go against them. Especially when, like me, you are.so.tired.

It’s no surprise to me that a man came up with crying it out – Ferberizing, they call it, after the doctor who came up with it. Ferberizing. It sounds like something you should do with a vacuum cleaner, not something you should do to a baby.

Besides, what does a man know of a mother’s feelings for her baby? A man, even a father, cannot possibly fathom the deep attachment that comes from carrying a baby inside yourself for nine months, going through hell to push it out, nursing, and then – letting the baby cry? Unthinkable.

And yet, I’m on the brink now, of losing it, of losing myself. I have no energy to research or try different methods. I’m at a loss, and I know that cry it out yields results.

My husband said to me that at this stage of my life, as a wife and mother of two kids, I can no longer think of what’s good for me, what’s good for him, what’s good for each one of our daughters – I need to think of what’s good for our family. And I believe this to be true.

And what’s good for our family – any family – is a functional mother, one who has energy and is not one big grump.

So, as many mothers before me and I’m sure many mothers after me, I will let my baby cry. And hopefully, not only will it work, but also, time and sleep will ease the pain from my baby’s cries.

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When Tragedy Strikes

Last night I lay awake in bed unable to fall asleep because I couldn’t stop thinking about the terrible tragedy that happened in Connecticut. The victims. The parents. The heroes . The monster. The incredible cruelty of it all. And finally, because I couldn’t chase it from my mind, I said to myself, Okay, instead of thinking about this tragedy which has nearly destroyed my faith in humanity, think about something good, something faith-restoring.

So I rummaged through my mind, and I recalled some recent acts of kindness that people have done for me which have made me feel like, “Everything will be okay.” While these acts of kindness certainly don’t erase the tragedy, they are the only things that give me a chance at living a life of hope and light, and not one of darkness.

Here is one example of kindness I experienced recently:

My husband was out of the country on business for a few days. The first night he was away, a friend came over to hang out (and help entertain my fifteen month old). The second night, a different friend. The third night, my mother-in-law came over and helped me bathe and put the girls to sleep. I also had different friends calling me and checking in to see that I was managing. I know that for each person, it was a phone call, or just one night of their lives and not the biggest deal – to me, it was support when I was lonely, calmness amidst a storm of two babies, and, by making my nights easier, they gave me energy to be a better mother in the morning.

It might seem like I’m exaggerating, but I’m not. It’s just like when you’re having a bad day and someone smiles at you, it can make all the difference in the world. Or conversely, when you’re having a bad day, and someone scowls or snaps at you, that too can make all the difference.

The reality is, a monster made a terrible, terrible difference in so many lives. He destroyed families, innocence, he almost destroyed God Himself. So in the face of this tragedy, in the face of Evil personified, the only way I know to fight back is to be a person who changes lives for the better. Who, like the people who helped me so much, can start a chain reaction of kindness that can be passed from person to person. Who, through doing small acts of kindness, to friends and strangers alike, can bring light and hope into the world.

I hope I am up to the task.

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