Helpmate vs. Enabler: Discerning the Difference

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“And the Lord said: it is not good for a man to be alone. I will create a helpmate for him.”

The actual Hebrew words for helpmate here are “ezer k’negdo”, meaning “a helper against him”, which creates a sort of cognitive dissonance: how can a helpmate be against one?!

There are many interesting tractates on this verse, but an explanation I find beautiful in its simplicity is as following:

Consider marriage as a seesaw. If two people sit on the same side with one always attached to and behind the other, the seesaw won’t move. It will only function if the other person steps over to the opposite side, creating a dynamic balance.

The image of the wife as a helpmate evokes a beautiful picture of a godly and hardworking man and a woman who stands behind him and supports all his endeavors. So far, it’s all sweet and simple. But the Torah doesn’t just exist to guide us in simple situations. It is universal and everlasting.

Consider the following scenario: a husband becomes addicted to video games. He is perpetually glued to the computer screen and refuses to turn away from it even at mealtimes. Instead, he demands that his wife should serve him sandwiches which he can eat while playing.

If a wife is supposed to always defer to her husband, she will serve him those sandwiches out of misguided respect and submission. Does this make her a good helpmate? Nope, it makes her an enabler of bad behavior.

A real helpmate will tell her husband, respectfully but in no uncertain terms, that he will get no assistance in his destructive habits from her. She will refuse to support his addiction and will insist on a normal functioning family.

The Jewish sages have written, “A good woman does her husband’s will”. Does this mean that a wife simply caters to her husband’s every whim? No, that would be doing them both a disservice. Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with complying with a reasonable request (“could you make pea soup for lunch, please?”), but what if the husband says, “I don’t want you to visit your parents anymore, ever again”? In that case “doing the husband’s will” would mean encouraging good tendencies, turning his will towards positive things (like making him understand that he cannot cut his wife away from her family).

We are all imperfect flawed human beings walking the bendy road of improving and growing, in the hopes that when we finally meet our Creator, we will be able to testify with a clear conscience that our time in this world had not been in vain. Living in a marriage is one of the ultimate hardcore tests of this personal growth (but that doesn’t mean one should put up with abusive patterns for the sake of “personal growth”). Even if you love your spouse and have a healthy, loving marriage, it’s easier to live alone than together, to make one-sided decisions rather than work as a team.

No one can be charged with the impossible task of changing one’s spouse because real change can only come from within. However, it is not healthy, loving, godly or spiritual to bend to character tendencies that are clearly flawed. Being a good helpmate does not always mean going the route of minimizing conflict. It does not mean complying with laziness, rudeness, disrespect, irresponsibility, or passive aggressive behavior.

In my case, the most obvious way such misguided rigidity of principles manifested was the area of our family finances. I believed that my calling was to close my eyes and cling to my husband on his end of the seesaw, even as our family was freefalling into a bottomless pit of financial crisis. I believed I was supposed to act and think like my husband’s decisions about money were the Voice from Mount Sinai, rather than what they were: human reasoning that could, and often WAS, flawed. He might not have liked to admit it, but what he, and my children, really needed was not for me to keep “trusting” his reasoning even as I reached deep into the corners of the freezer for some leftover flour to make a loaf of bread with. My job back then, though it took me way too long to recognize, was to jump on the other side of the seesaw and call out, “Hey, this isn’t working! We have to figure out something different!”

It sounds less nice than “I trust you implicitly and you are the supreme hero of the universe and I’m backing you no matter what you do because that is my spiritual calling”. But sometimes having another’s back means giving them what they NEED, rather than what they want. And what our entire family needed was for me to be more proactive about earning money and handling finances.

This didn’t happen overnight or without some sharp growth pains (which included some serious ego-deflating, because if you have never been held accountable in your life and suddenly you are, it might not fly very nicely). But it is definitely happening and our lives are so much better for it.

The Breath of Earth: new book release!

I’m thrilled and excited to announce that The Breath of Earth, the third book in my Frozen World environmental sci-fi series, is now out and available on Amazon in print and Kindle editions. And I already have some ideas brewing for book 4! I couldn’t have been happier.

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I can’t believe how far I’ve come as an author, and I’m saying this with the highest degree of humility and gratitude. From writing sporadically, having several projects on the back burner and hoping to publish something someday, I now work on projects in a consistent manner, have published numerous books, and am establishing an ever-growing source of supplementary income for my family. No, money is not the most important thing to me when it comes to writing. I write because I’m alive and breathing! But the fact that people choose to buy my books is tremendously validating for me as an author. There are millions of books out there. Whenever I see that someone had chosen to buy and read something I wrote, I wish I could know who that person is and thank them. This means SO much.

So let me just take a moment to celebrate.

PS: In honor of the latest release, The Last Outpost, the first volume in the epic Frozen World saga, is free until September 13, so go ahead and grab your copy if you haven’t read it yet!

Should you turn your hobby into a business?

There are many success stories of people who have turned their passion into a successful business venture, and it can be extremely tempting to imagine yourself doing just what you love and making money from it.

Except, you know, it never quite works this way.

Let me explain for a moment, OK? I’m not trying to rain on anyone’s parade. In fact, I’m a big fan of playing to your strengths, choosing something you enjoy doing and finding ways to make it into a source of income. It’s just that you must be aware of the changes that come once your hobby is no longer a hobby, but a real business with commitments, deadlines and clients.

I love writing and am absolutely thrilled with building myself up as the author-publisher of my own books. I also work as a novel editor, which is in the same field. It’s all fantastic, but sometimes I miss those good old times when I would curl up with a pen and notebook and dive into my imaginary world, spinning tales whenever and however the whim would hit me, and not worrying about how many people might reauulistically buy my book, when would be the most advantageous time to release it, or how many days I have until deadline.

Nowadays, I do still have that creative happy place, or I wouldn’t be able to write, but I also need to take care of formatting, cover, marketing, and tax information. I need to be consistent and disciplined and can no longer allow myself to jump from idea to idea.

Is it worth it? Absolutely. But it’s a mistake to think that doing what you love means doing what you LIKE, all day and every day.

I also believe some things are meant to remain hobbies, healthy creative outlets that offer us a place to de-stress and unwind with no pressures and no expectations. One such hobby for me is crochet, and people often tell me, “Wow, I’ll bet you could sell that stuff!” – which is very flattering, but considering how long it takes me to make every item, as well as my love for working with quality materials, it would be impossible for me to so much as break even. And I bet I’d soon be unable to look at my hooks and yarn out of pure disgust.

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Making one crochet pillow is fun. Making twenty crochet pillows for a craft booth would probably be enough to put me off crochet for a good long time. So at most, I would consider giving a community class in the basics.

Another thing to consider is the initial cost. I know people who have wanted to start a homemade body care product line and are now stuck with boatloads of shea butter and beeswax nobody wants. Fiber artists naturally need to buy yarn for crocheting, knitting, felting, etc. Writers and other entrepreneurs often spend money on expensive courses and conferences.

My insight could be summed up as following:

1. When you consider turning your hobby into a business, know it won’t always all be fun and games. At some point, and my guess is that it will happen sooner rather than later, your business will involve doing things that must be done rather than ones you enjoy most.

2. Leave something in your life as a hobby, something for pure enjoyment and fun. We all need things like that. Not every hobby is meant to grow into a full-blown business.

3. Consider the wisdom of any initial investment. As tempting as it could be, many businesses fail. It’s better to start small and grow gradually, investing your profits (however small they might be) back into the business.

A year without you

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About a year ago, through many tears, I wrote this post of farewell to my dear friend, Julie Ryan, who had unexpectedly passed away, leaving behind a husband, children, grandchildren, and countless people whose lives she touched with love and tenderness.

I can hardly believe a whole year has already passed by. Perhaps it seemed to just whizz by because it was such an eventful one, with us welcoming a new baby into the family at the end of March, moving at the end of last summer, and two books of mine coming out sometime in between. One of them, The Hourglass, I dedicated to Julie, as she was the one who first made me stop and realize the precious elusiveness of time – and how much we should always try to make the most of it.

I still think about Julie every day. I hadn’t been lucky enough to ever meet her in person, but I know that someday, on the other side of the rainbow, we are going to get together and have that long, long cozy chat I wish we could have had in this life – on the front porch, swing creaking, ice clinking in glasses of lemonade.

Julie was one of those people who, though they are no more in this world, have spread so much of their life and light that their legacy endures forever, multiplying through generations and circles of people like ripples on water.

Rest in peace, dear friend. I will see you in every cozy kitchen, sunny garden, and overflowing bookcase. I will think of you when I make the choice to slow down, spending an hour making playdough with my children rather than answering emails. I wish the world had had the chance to have you longer, but you had lived well and made the most of every day, month and year.

Little Princess Angel Wings Pinafore

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Between cleaning and scrubbing, sorting and laundry, I had managed to sneak in some quiet hours with my children at the playground and the library, and made this cute little pinafore dress.

I knew I just had to make it when a similar dress popped up in my Pinterest feed – it was so straightforward I practically saw the pattern just by looking at it. With some variations, the Angel Wings pinafores are all very much alike. With a bit of crochet know-how, you can create endless different models of this lovely dress for the little girls in your life.

Step 1: Create circle. Crochet round and round, enlarging it until, folded in half, the circle is wide enough for the bodice and arm openings.

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Fold in half:

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Bind off the arm openings on both sides. The space between the armholes is the width of the bodice – now would be a good time to get your little one to try on the dress to make sure it is wide enough. If it isn’t, don’t worry – just unbind the armholes and add a few more rows to the circle, making it as large as necessary.

Once you have your desired width and you’ve bound off the armholes, crochet round and round the bodice, working down to the desired length of the dress. You can add more stitches to make the skirt puffy and ruffled. I used the adorable shell stitch.

I worked with crochet hook number 2.5 and a delightful soft and smooth bamboo cotton yarn. It’s wonderfully cool and breathy and will be just the thing for hot weather.

I’m so glad I was able to finish this before Pesach, and just in time for Hadassah’s first birthday – can you believe that it has already been a year?

Writing with my children

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The exciting day is here! Dragon Diplomacy, my first Middle Grade novel, is available in print and on Kindle, to my immense joy and satisfaction.

Let’s face it, with how little time I have, writing is often a guilty pleasure for me, and I go back and forth a lot on how long I can allow myself to spend it without neglecting my family. This book, however, had a different birth process. It was written with my children’s active contribution, and the reading aloud of each chapter was beautiful family time I can fondly look back on. We also drew the characters and made maps (not included in the book) and thought of ideas for sequels (working on that now).

The most important lessons I learned from writing this book are probably, 1) Kids love dragons, and 2) Kids are a brutally honest audience. My daughters had no qualms to say, “this is boring” or “change the ending”. I followed their advice, of course. What choice did I have? 

My first children’s book is here! (updated)

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I am happy and excited to announce my very first children’s fantasy novel, Dragon Diplomacy, is now available in print. The Kindle edition is available for pre-order now, and will release at the end of the month.

From the blurb: “Loriel is an inquisitive 12-year-old fairy living in the enchanted forest kingdom of Silverbell Wood. The peace and tranquility of Silverbell are disrupted by Gadrak, a troubled dragon who comes to live in the middle of the fairy domain. The dragon’s incessant raids on the bordering human kingdom of Elderland cause the wrath of its people, who are determined to invade Silverbell – a prospect that might end in disaster, with the protective enchantments broken and the delicate balance of the fairy forest disrupted.”

As all my fiction books, it is published under the pen name of Hannah Ross.

I really can’t say this often enough: I appreciate and love the readers who support me by buying my books. Without you, I would never be where I am today, with 12 novels and 4 nonfiction books under my belt, and more to come. So a huge thank you! You make me doubly excited about sharing my writing with the world, and you rock.