Friends are for Facebook

There’s a photo of me on Facebook, smiling happily with three of my friends. I’m on the end. It’s a little blurry, somewhat grainy, and one of us may or may not be holding a glass of wine. It was posted on February 2, 2014. Superbowl Sunday.

Once a photo of you is up on Facebook, it’s up on Facebook. For all to see. And like. Comment. Form opinions about. Create imaginary scenarios. Jump to conclusions. It wasn’t my photo and I didn’t post it, but I am in it, clearly happy to be where I was at that moment: with my friends, laughing, having a good time… in the hot tub.

The light is glaringly bad as it reflects off the water in the early dark, our unfocused faces are all smiling too wide, and the hot-tubbly mist is swirling everywhere. It’s an unremarkable, not particularly special portrayal of four friends hanging out on a Sunday. It was an enjoyable afternoon of football and fun but nothing worth remembering happened (other than the Broncos lost), and there is little to mark that day out of the hundreds that came before or after.

Except for that photo.

I remember that unmemorable, out-of-focus photo because soon after Superbowl Sunday a lovely woman I peripherally know stopped me in passing.

“You’re Nicki, right?”


“You know, I think I’ve been seeing you on Facebook. Don’t you write a blog?”

Before I could reply, “And weren’t you just in a hot tub?”

I remember that conversation, and consequently the affronting photo, because the frantic butterfly wings of my heart took flight as I fleetingly worried she’d (wrongly) assume I led a life of happy hot-tub leisure and little more. That she’d immediately imagine a scenario of Nicki-the-Stay-at-Home-Mom doing nothing more meaningful than writing a bit of a blog, and drinking a bit of wine (not that there’s anything wrong with that) because that’s what it looked like that day, on Facebook.

I know. So what. Even if it’s true, so what.

Except it’s not true. A life of blog-writing and wine sounds definitely delightful, but is probably not true for anyone.

Scattered amongst the eye-witness videos of Iron Dome interceptions and horrific news stories of beheadings and shootings and innocent children killed, between the images of a beautiful daughter who is suddenly ill and a home damaged by a 6.1 earthquake, are apparently perfect portrayals of laughter and fun, parties and puppies, new homes, new cars, dream jobs… and we can’t help but feel the tendrils of envy and longing whisper against our skin.

Sharing on Facebook (and other social media) is how we connect. How we feel connected. Another way for us to build community, to feel part of something bigger than ourselves. It’s human nature to want and need contact with other humans, validation and support from friends. To share our happy times, our sadness, our pride, joy, love and disappointment. It’s how we feel alive. And not alone.



And sometimes it’s how we feel so alone.

“Friends are for Facebook,” my husband says when I show him glowing photographs of exotic vacation locales (and by exotic I mean anywhere else), weddings both lavish and simple, smiling families all in beautiful shades of white. He says it again when I worry out loud that an article I posted doesn’t seem to be getting much traffic, when I wish I hadn’t made that inappropriate comment on that friend’s photo, when I wonder if people remember to not only pour the bucket of ice over their heads but also to make a donation.

“Friends are for Facebook,” with a wry smile and a hint of cynicism.

He is reminding me to keep perspective. Reminding me that I don’t know what chaos and imperfection occurred before that perfect photo was taken. Reminding me that the words and comments and likes and shares presented so neatly in minimalist grays and blues on the tiny screen in my hand are created by real-life people with feelings and hopes and wishes, just like me.

Friends are for Facebook. And Facebook flattens our lives. Makes our messy, rich, complicated, euphoric, depressing, wonderful and disappointing lives shallow and one-dimensional. What you see is what you get, we think. We forget what’s behind the screen. And sometimes in our attempts to feel more connected and less alone, we feel lonelier than ever.

I scroll through my Facebook feed and see those mostly smiling faces, seemingly adorable and well-behaved children, read those oh-so-positive status updates… and remember: the custody battle that might be happening for those kids, the complicated relationship behind that golden sunset, the struggles we endure every day. Everybody is struggling.

What you can’t see in that moment of misty, happy-go-lucky togetherness in the hot tub are the swirling sadness and deep despair that surrounded me before that day. The beautifully captured moments are definitely truthful moments, but I don’t forget what’s behind them. Nobody I know leads a life of only rainbows and butterflies, hot tubs and wine.

Friends are for Facebook. But also, friends are for Life.

Don’t Be Sad It’s Over… Be Glad It Happened

A crumpled up map of the city of Jerusalem. Our route from the hotel to the Tachana Rishona (First Train Station) highlighted. We overshot the Windmill by about 40 steep stairs and two kilometers – and by we, I mean me – and ended up not at all very near the Train Station. Jerusalem is a complicated city to get to know, especially for a grid-lovin’ San Francisco girl like me! The night was young, and we followed our ears to the music and laughter wafting toward us on the dark, warm wind.


A ticket from the Israel Museum. If you return within three months and present the ticket from your last visit, your entry is free. I’m keeping that ticket. You never know. And their exhibits are amazing. We climbed up, down, into, around, and on top of 10,000 bamboo poles (which look as fragile as a heap of twigs) held together by nothing more than 80,000 meters of climbing rope. Big Bambu. Bigger family bonding. Amazing.


A black and red card for my favorite falafel place in Jaffa. A guide to the tunnels under the Western Wall. A pinkly pale and gray shell I found on the beach in Herzliya. The smudged, damp and crinkled remnants of our adventures gently spill out of my new, turquoise made-in-Israel bag like the fine grains of Dead Sea salt that scattered on the bathroom floor from my bathing suit this evening.

It’s almost over. And I wish it wasn’t.

Don’t be sad it’s over, I tell myself as we traipse around the market, hug my brother goodbye, watch the video montage at my son’s bar mitzvah party. Be glad it happened.

We celebrated a bar mitzvah. At the Western Wall. With more family and friends than I knew we had in Israel. We watched our kids play and love and laugh with cousins they had never met. In Hebrew they had never spoken. We went north to the Kinneret, south to the Dead Sea, rode camels, picked onions, shopped like locals, and drove like them too (it’s all about who honks first)! We ate and drank with friends from today and long ago, reconnected with family on the beach, in restaurants, the Kibbutz, their homes. They opened their arms and their hearts so big and so wide, and held the six of us closer and tighter than ever.

And we heard sirens. And found ourselves in bomb shelters. At any time of the day or night, and anywhere. We pulled the car over but didn’t know to get out. We sheltered in restaurant kitchens, protected rooms, hotel ballrooms. We heard the frightening booms of Iron Dome interceptions and saw the smoke trails in the sky when we went back outside. My cousin found a piece of shrapnel near his house.

That too appears to be over. Sixty-four beautiful lives lost in battle, thousands of children in Israel and Gaza terrified, confused, injured and worse. Six hundred tunnels destroyed. Thank G-d. The war feels like it’s over, this cease-fire has held, but anything can happen tomorrow. Or next week. Or next year.

We were questioned and blessed and thanked and hugged for being here during a war. For celebrating a bar mitzvah here during a war. A wonderfully loud and bossy woman grabbed my son in the line at Mini Israel and kissed him forcefully on the cheeks when she heard our traveling story. My boy is not a kisser. He is not a hugger. He offers me the top of his head – not even his cheek – when he says goodnight. But he hugged this stranger right back. “That you will have many blessings,” she said over and over.

I don’t want to leave. I feel closer to Israel than ever. But it’s almost over, our vacation. I laugh with the kids as they delightedly smear mud on their bodies at the lowest point on earth, and I feel low. And sad. Be glad it happened, I whisper as my eyes well. But I can’t wipe them because my hands are full of mineral-rich mud.

I am glad it happened. Not the war, of course not the war. But everything else. My children are unfazed by rockets and screaming sirens. They understand more about their heritage and their people than I wanted them to learn right now or in this way.

My fingers feel the softened, torn tickets for the cable car up Masada. We met a Torah scribe at the top, who sits amongst the ancient ruins in an air-conditioned cave behind a glass door, and scripts the Torah. With a white-feathered quill. On the finest parchment. He wrote our Hebrew names with that quill, on a scrap of that parchment, in beautifully formed letters and then blessed our family. I almost forgot to breathe.


I’m sad it’s over… but so happy it happened. We love Israel, all of us, in ways and more than I could ever have imagined.

Not Cucumbers, but Onions


We made it! It was onions we picked today, not cucumbers, and it was as perfectly hot and dusty and meaningful as we imagined. One singing grampa, a determined mom and dad, one strong uncle and five eager and thirsty cousins picked 400kg of onions, which will feed 100 families no later than tomorrow at noon. Thank you Leket Israel for the experience, for your flexibility, and especially for the very important work you do to alleviate hunger in Israel. We’ll be back!