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Sunday, December 25, 2005

Chanukah 2005

I arrived home yesterday just in time to light Chanukah candles. We have a tradition of everyone lighting their own Menorah, so, since Avishai was home and Ariella wasn't, we had 5 "chanukiyot" going next to the windows. It's so beautiful. I had wanted to get one of the Chanukiyot that people put outside their gates, covered with glass...I think that they're lovely. It's so special to walk around on an evening during Chanukah and see these Chanukiyot lit up outside people's gates and doors. (The tradition is to "publicize the miracle of Chanukah", so people place their Chanukiyot somewhere where other people can see them burning). Next year....my unexpected expense of the month was a hot water urn for Shabbat. Our old one was blowing the electricity every time I plugged it in, and since the weather was COLD and RAINY for Shabbat, I didn't think that anyone would appreciate not having hot water for hot drinks all Shabbat. So there was no extra money this time.

On Shabbat, I had agreed to host 3 people from Ascent, the local youth hostel which sets up guests for Shabbat meals. I told them that I would be hosting 3 of their guests who had contacted me during the week -- a young man whose mother I knew 25 years ago in Detroit, as well as his 2 friends. They would be sleeping at Ascent, and would come to me for lunch. I guess that Ascent got confused, because I got those 3 people, PLUS 3 more! Thank goodness I'd done a good bit of cooking, but EVERYTHING was finished! No leftovers! That made me feel good.

After we lit the candles, I went shopping. The baked goods counter was MOBBED -- everyone wanted to buy some jelly donuts, the traditional food for Hanukah. I stood in line too, so my kids can't say that they were deprived.

I remember last year, when I went shopping after candle-lighting. At about 6:00p.m., an announcement went out over the loud-speaker..."we will be lighting Chanukah candles at the front desk. All customers are invited to join us". And all the staff abandoned their spots for 10 minutes, and a lot of customers left their baskets where they were, while everyone who hadn't lit already joined the store manager for the store candle-lighting.

Funny...I didn't think anything of it at the time, but last night, I realized that I had missed the group candle-lighting, and was kind of sad about it.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Two schnorrers

One fact of life in Tzfat are the schnorrers. The people who are always asking for money.

There are 2 types: the people who stand on the street with their cups out, and the people who go door-to-door.

I try to always give everyone the door-to-doorers at least 10 shekels, because I figure that they're working a bit, even though the "work" is schnorring.

And I try to give the schnorrers with the cups something every day as well.

Because my office is on the street, with the door always open, I have my "regulars" who come in once a week (I told them that I could give each one 10 shekels once a week, or divide up their take into smaller amounts if they want to come in more often -- they prefer the once-a-week routine). There are about 5 people who I see this way, once weekly, rain, shine, snow, or whatever. And then, of course, there are those who come in infrequently.

This morning, I saw one of my regulars coming by, just as I was walking out to get a cup of coffee. I told her that I'd be back in a moment, and she waved and said "OK, I'll be there in a few moments". Then, I watched her schnoor from one of the street schnorrers. And he gave her something!

And they both smiled!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Chanukah prep

Thoroughly enjoyed this Chanukah Card. Definitely put me in the mood!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Customs

I forgot to mention one of the funeral customs that I saw at Mark's funeral, which I found very meaningful. First time I'd ever seen it.

After the burial, when the family was getting ready to leave, everyone stood in two lines, and the family passed through the lines, seeing everyone who had come to pay their respects to their husband/father. The boys took off their shoes. Don't know why. It was one of the most powerful Jewish customs that I'd ever seen.

Last night, my daughter came in late, bringing a puppy with her. She was walking with her boyfriend and they found this puppy huddled for warmth next to a dead cat. So, being her mother's daughter, she brought it home. Of course, I immediately said "only outside". And of course, it whined and whimpered and woke up the rest of the house, while Ariella went to sleep! And now, of course, it's curled up next to Ariella while she sleeps so that I don't have complaints from the rest of the neighbors.

What am I supposed to do with this creature?

Time to daven. This past year, I've made time every morning for a few basic prayers. It's a great comfort to me, and connects me with God in a very concrete way. There are all sorts of "segulas" for bringing good fortune...the Chabadniks put a few coins in a tzdekka box when they pray, which I also do (why not?) and I also use the time to say a few psalms for the welfare of my children. When I say the psalms, I ask God to make them "safe, happy, and healthy, mentally, emotionally and physically". I see what happens to a person when their emotional health is unstable -- they become someone else. I can only pray...God has to take care of the rest.

A new neighbor is coming tomorrow for lunch, along with some others. The new guy seems bright, intelligent, warm and friendly....nice to have some new friends. And I crave the kind of adult conversation that my Shabbat lunches, with guests, gives me. Friday nights I generally reserve for the family, and try to give the kids my attention. (Though they often bring friends). But Saturdays I feel that I'm allowed some time to share ideas and thoughts with people my own age.

Passing

I received a call on Tuesday morning, telling me that a friend had passed away. The guy was about 50, and had been in good health, except that he had a "bit of flu" for the past few days. Monday evening, he went into the bathroom and never came out -- his teenage sons found him.

Something like this is a terrible shock to all, and brings with it a good deal of thought and self-evaluation.

First of all, the shock -- how does such a thing happen to a healthy man, not old, who lived a good and peaceful life? Why would God take him? He has four children, aged 17 - 7...why would God take their father from them?

And then, the self-evaluations, thoughts, internal dilemnas.

This was the first time that I had been to an Israeli funeral. At a funeral, the body is covered with a blanket and the man's tallis and laid on a table, and people circle him while the eulogies are given.

Several people spoke at this funeral, his son's teacher, a rabbi from a neighboring Hassidic shul where Mark sometimes prayed, the Rabbi of Tzfat, a friend, and his wife.

Each time, what was spoken of was Mark's ever-present smile, his determination to take care of his family with joy, his devotion to his Jewish studies and his committment to his community. It was a moving tribute to a simple man who will forever be remembered not for being famous or doing something noteworthy, but for bringing joy to the people around him.

It, of course, made me think of how I want to be remembered, and I hope that even in my present unclear circumstances -- will I soon be divorced? Will I be able to keep my house? -- I always continue to act in a manner which earns the respect of those around me.

Also, for the first time, I wondered about people who I know who have behaved dishonorably. What can one say when their time comes to lie on that table? That was very emotional for me, thinking about that question, yet it brought certain issues in my life to a point of closure.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Post Battle

Avishai returned home today. Seems that he was in the middle of everything that was happening on the NOrthern border last week, from the attempted kidnapping of the soldiers to the actions afterwards, when they went into Lebanon to hunt for the terrorists who had been involved in the attempted kidnapping.

So what is his assessment? "It was the most interesting night of my life. It was so much fun! I was great...". What is it about men and their lust for action? Shortly, Avishai will be going to Jenin, which is "the most fun". HUH?

I always say psalms for all my children, every day. But somewhere, I believe what we're supposed to believe, that on Yom Kippur, God decides what will happen to everyone. And staying out of danger's way is not going to keep Avishai, or anyone else, safe. So truth to tell, I don't even worry, though I wish that they'd let him sleep a little more!

I can't believe that it's December already. (OK, tomorrow). It seems like the days fly by. I'm so tired by the end of each day, I'm lucky if I can hold out until 10:00pm....I usually go to bed around 9:00p.m., right after I put Margalit to sleep, and try to read a bit, though generally, I fall asleep with the book in my hand.

Then, of course, I am up at 6:15a.m., like it or not. That's when my alarm clock goes off -- not the electronic kind, but Jenny, whose bladder can't hold out beyond 6:15a.m. That's nice on weekdays, when 6:15 is a good time to get up, if I'm going to get things moving in the house. But on Shabbat? 6:15a.m.? Do all pet owners have their schedules determined by their pets?

Today at work, another couple of tourists, these from Nashville, asked me the question that I must answer about 3 dozen times each year -- why am I here? What made me come to live in Israel? Why do I stay?

It's actually interesting, because on some level, it forces me to reevaluate, each time I'm asked, what my reasons are for being here. Sure, I came because it was romantic and I was idealistic about living here. Sure, I was a Zionist, and loved the country. But why do I stay? Especially now, when it would be so nice to have family around to help me raise my children as I deal with everything alone.

And each time, I come back to the same simple answer...I am home. I am no longer idealistic, no longer romantic about living here, and certainly no longer a Zionist. Living in Israel, as the Hebrew expression goes, "sucks the juice out of you". The government, both on a local and national level, is corrupt and not at all democratic (of course, that's true in America too)people can be rude and difficult, earning a living is much more of a struggle than it is in the States....and on and on and on.

But this is home for me. I love the country, the people (even the rude ones), the traditions and customs, the arguments, and the varied ways of seeing a living Judaism. I am grateful to be a part of the process and of the nation, and hope that nothing will happen to dull that.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Battle


Avishai is stationed on the Northern border now, and for the first time, is in the midst of battle. Hizbullah has launched an attempted infiltration and is pounding the area with katyushas and other artillary fire.

I know that the army has been on alert for several days, and I'm sure that Avishai is now in the midst of whatever is going on.

Strange feeling. I don't want to call, because I don't want to bother him...if he's "working", he shouldn't be distracted. And if he's sleeping, let him sleep. But I know, all the same, that he's involved in whatever is happening.

Hope he's sleeping OK. And that he has enough to eat. And that he's warm enough. And ..... that I sleep a bit tonight.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

The Rappeport Critters

Margalit and Miranda













Jenny and Yoda


















Bagheera taking a snooze in the window pot, amongst the basil






Yesterday, while I was preparing for Shabbat, my 13-year-old son suddenly called out "Ema! Come quickly!". I raced over to the entrance hall and stared in amazement at our cat, Yoda, who had climbed up the bird cage that's against the wall (built into the staircase wall, about 3 meters high and half a meter wide....a paradise for any bird!) and was sitting on the wire netting which stretches over the top. He was obviously stuck, and not happy about it, judging from his pathetic mews.

"Just let him stew" I instructed Hagai, and Ariella, who had come in the house in the meantime. "When he gets good and hungry, he'll come down".

Despite their wails and worried looks, I refused to allow them to set up the ladder next to the cage and go get the stupid animal...it's too high, and I'm too nervous to have the ladder perched on a stair while one of them climbs it.

So they held out one of the curtains that I've used in the past to close the cage (we used to have cockatils, who screech in the morning, so we put up curtains so that we could get a few extra minutes of sleep before the cockatils realized that morning had arrived....I wasn't sorry to see them kick the bucket at an unusually young age, and certainly didn't replace them) and Yoda ran down the curtain to the ground, bringing down the curtain with him.

Yoda is just the newest of our furry creatures...the others are Angora, a daushaund-type dog, Jenny, a terrier (I guess) pup, Bagheera, another male cat, and Miranda, a neurotic cat who almost never leaves the safety of the girls' bedroom.

All of these guys were, as I guess one says in America, "rescued", though I have another way of looking at some of them. The dogs, to be honest, are on my head....I found Angora as a puppy, digging through the garbage, and brought her home, thinking "she's so cute. I'll have no trouble finding a home for her!" HA! Seven years later, she's still here, sleeping on Hagai's bed every night.

We had an old terrier, Sparky, who died about a year-and-a-half ago, and I didn't replace her until Yoni had left the house...I didn't want to be obnoxious about doing something that would piss him off too greatly. But after he left, within a month, I started looking for a second dog, and when a neighbor advertised that they were taking care of a puppy but couldn't keep it, I took the kids to check her out, and when they OK'd it, brought her home. She's a sweet and loving animal, and is a great pleasure to me.

The cats however are another story. I don't really like cats, and could live very nicely without them.

Ariella brought Miranda home about 9 years ago...our neighbor asked Ariella if she wanted her, and Ariella said "sure" and carried Miranda home. And since I wasn't really anti-cat, and didn't care a whole lot, and was already cooking up chicken bones for the dogs anyway, I let Miranda stay. Miranda is a nervous and skittish cat, and she used to have a terrible habit of peeing in places where she shouldn't, like on the couch or my bed. She hasn't done it for the last year though, so I basically ignore her.

Margalit schlepped Bagheera home about 2 years ago, as a kitten, and again, I didn't really want him, but also didn't really care enough to go to war with Margalit to get him kicked out. Bagheera is a huge tabby who shows up about once every day or so to eat, and sometimes to sleep a bit, but other than that, he spends his time roaming the neighborhood.


Yoda, finally, is another Margalit-find...a ginger male cat who is spunky and full of himself. He and Jenny frequently roll around the floor, playing, and watching them is more fun than anything that the TV has to offer.

Now, Margalit wants a rabbit. We had one a few years ago, Lavander, who used to hop around the yard freely. I really liked Lavander...she went to the zoo when we were asked to host another rabbit for a weekend...that weekend turned into a month, and and suddenly, Lavander was digging up the yard, looking for a place to have her babies. But I'm thinking about it. Don't tell Margalit yet.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Desert relax

So, in the end, it was me who went to the parent meeting.

I was lucky...I made contact with some other parents who live on the way, and I was able to meet them at their kibbutz and travel the rest of the way with them. In addition to helping me find the settlement where Ariella's school is (talk about well-hidden...I don't know if I would have found it otherwise!) it was a relief to not have to do the 2 1/2 hour drive myself. Not to mention saving about half of the gas money!

The settlement is one of the illegals, near Jericho -- 20 caravans set up in the middle of no where. The families who live there are all young...the oldest child is 7. The setting is stunning, set in the Judean Hills just north of Jerusalem, and in mid-November, the evening was warm and everyone was outside. I can see the attraction of living in a small intimate community like that, though I am at the point in my life that I need a larger group of people around me. But for girls like Ariella, who are in the process of healing, there couldn't be a better place.

There are 5 girls in the group now. Two are sisters, and, I believe, not having problems, but just decided to attend the school because they wanted something more idealistic and open than the options open to them. Their mother is from Phildelphia.

Another girl who is struggling is in her second year...her parents are from Cleveland and Toronto.

So out of the 5 girls, 4 have english-speaking parents. Does that say something?

Anyway, everyone was extremely nice and open, and I can only hope that it's what Ariella likes, and will allow her to complete 12th grade and continue her life in a stronger frame of mind. The girls cook for themselves, and their living units (3 girls per unit) are quite homey, with a little kitchenette in each and a TV and DVD player. Not that there were any DVDs around to play, but it was nice that someone took the time and thought to provide them for the girls. The surrounding community seems very friendly and supportive.

But ah-h-h-h...the desert! I really love the remoteness and quiet, and though wouldn't want to live there, would love to spend a week there, maybe sometime when the weather is like it is now...not too hot. I could use a little healing too.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Modern life

The son that I sent back to the army yesterday, after his week of R&R, just showed up in my office to say "hi" and get the house keys...his group is being "reorganized" and he's been reassigned to a group that is on R&R THIS week! So, home he comes, at least until Wednesday. Sometimes, my house feels like Grand Central Station.

I was at the doctor's office this morning...Ariella needed a refill on a perscription (that, admittedly, I think that I threw away by accident) so I went to the doctor to request a copy of the perscription.

The doctor is a Russian lady, very nice. ButI was waiting among a group of Russian ladies in their 60s and 70s, and from the sounds that I heard coming through the door, it sounded like these ladies come to their doctor for some TLC, words of advice, conversation, etc. And, from the relationship between the women who were waiting with me, I definitely got the feeling that this visit to Kupat Cholim (the sick fund -- kind of like an Israeli-version of an HMO) wasthe equivilent of their social club. They all obviously knew each other and were used to spending their mornings with "their" doctor, or gossiping while they wait for her.

Just read in the Jerusalem Post yesterday about a new diet, the Bread Diet. Evidently, the objective is to eat moderate meals consisting of low-cal whole-wheat bread, with light spreads, but to eat when you want. Evidently, this is a good way to raise your "seriton" (or something like that) levels, which keeps you feeling full, and prevents you from, well, you know-- pigging out.

I like bread. A lot. So I'll give it a try. Though I can't buy the book, so I'll have to wing it based on what I read in the newspaper. Don't know if it'll work, but at least I won't be hungry all the time, like I was when I tried South Palm Diet (also, just from reading news accounts of it) or Weight Watchers (from a Xeroxed copy of someone else's booklet -- not only was it hard enough to think about living my day around my "points", but I had to struggle with the hebrew too).

Thursday, November 10, 2005

?

I put a question mark on the title line because I can't think of a good title for this bit of musing.

A few nights ago, we saw a movie called "Spanglish". I don't usually put on the television, much less a movie, on school nights, but the movie that I had taken out last Friday didn't work, so I figured, OK, it would be fun.

So I took out Spanglish, which I had seen previewed on the previews of another movie, and it looked good.

Truth was, it was a very nice movie, about a non-english-speaking young mother who comes to America with her young daughter and gets a job as a sort of mother's helper in a well-to-do American family.

The family is kind of disfunctional, and at some point, the young daughter, about 12, comes to stay with the family while her mother works. The daughter enjoys the lifestyle of the wealthy, and is "sponsored" by the wealthy mother (Deborah), who takes her on as a "project". The Mexican mother (Flora) gets more and more upset as her daughter moves from what she sees as a sound and moral upbringing into enjoying the lifestyle which seems to be empty and unhealthy.

At the end, Flora abruptly pulls her daughter away from the home, quitting her job so that her daughter won't be exposed to these influences. When her daughter angrily demands "give me some space", Flora says "NO space between us!" and then goes on to ask her daughter "do you really want to be so different from me?"

It was a well-done movie, and the message was a good one.

So why am I having a difficult time with it?

Because there was a mandatory sex scene -- rather graphic. And there was an undertone of a developing relationship with the father and Flora, while Deborah was conducting an affair.

WHY can't one bring home a movie to show to their family without having to worry that their kids are being exposed to material which is inappropriate for their age and the kind of moral upbringing that the parents (or parent) is trying to provide for them?

And considering that this is the umpteenth time that such a thing has happened in my house...what should I do? No movies? Just Walt Disney? Personally, I wouldn't mind, but i have children who are young adults, and they'd be furious. They want movies which go beyond animation.

I'm also sorry that internet ever entered our house...it's uncontrollable, and brings a lot of dangers with it. But again, if I get rid of it, I have to deal with the anger of my kids, who have gotten used to it. And right now, it's enough for me to struggle with margalit being pissed with me because I outlawed Yoda (ginger cat) from the house (because he poops daily in the living room).

On the other hand...can I really keep my children unexposed to all these outside influences?

Sigh.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Heat 'er up!

I just took two jerrycans to my neighbor, who orders solar heating fuel for his roof-tank -- I hope that the company will fill up my jerrycans, so that I don't have to schlep them to the gas station to fill them up. We have a great heater for the winter, a kerosene heater that sits in the middle of the living room and heats things up nicely. (We only heat the living room -- if anyone wants to go to bed, they can snuggle down under the covers). But getting the "neft" (heating fuel) to the house is a process. Up until now, I've gone to the gas station and filled up the jerrycans, but I'm hoping that I can manage to get it done right down the street, if the company will agree.

The winter brings with it a whole new energy in the house, especially regarding the animals. When the heater is lit, the animals like to sit as close as possible, and sometimes, there is a bit of conflict over who gets to sit where...we've had Miranda, the cat (our snob) on one side of the heater, and Angora, the dog (kind of a daushaund) on the other, each eying each other. Last year, we also had Bagheera (whom my neighbor calls "Uncle Fred", which suits him...he's a Tom cat who just walks around the neighborhood slowly like he owns it) -- Bagheera rarely comes in, except for meals, but every once in awhile, he likes a bit of heat too, and then there are problems.

This year, we have added Jenny, our terrier (I guess...I don't know what else she might be) and Yoda, a ginger cat that Margalit dragged home at the beginning of the summer. So it will be interesting to watch the proceedings.

Having so many animals is something that I never expected. First of all, I am not a cat-person, and am not responsible for any of the cats being here. Ariella carried Miranda home when she (Ariella) was 9, and we just said "OK, let her stay". Last year, Margalit lugged home Bagheera, and we just said "OK, let him stay" (though he was supposed to be an outdoor cat, which didn't last long). And this summer, Margalit found Yoda, who rarely leaves the comfort of the house.

I guess it's just easier for me to feed them than to fight about taking them away. But the dogs are my responsibility. I like dogs, and brought home all three of ours. The first, Sparky, died last year at the age of 15. The second, Angora, was found by me about 7 years ago, rummaging through some garbage as a puppy...I brought her home, convinced that she was so cute that I'd have no trouble finding a home for her. Ha!

I didn't get a replacement for Sparky right away, because I knew that Yoni would be annoyed. But when he left (oh yes, Yoni is my husband...presently living down the street somewhere) I figured "why not?" And when I saw a notice on the local e-bulletin board reporting a found pup, I brought the kids to take a look, and once I got their OK, brought her home.

What can I say? An animal is a lot of work...five is a LOT of work! But I see, every day, the value of pet therapy. We get so much pleasure out of watching the critters' antics, and I and the kids love to sit and have a furry creature plop down on our laps for a nap and a pat. It's so soothing and relaxing -- I wouldn't have it any other way.

Now Margalit wants a rabbit. I'm thinking about it.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Phew!

A family came to rent my room downstairs for two nights -- 500 shekels! Hurray! I can get some wedding presents for the two couples!

I've got to get some heating kerosene soon...the weather is turning cold, fast! I got Yochi some long-sleeved undershirts today at the shuk. She worries me...she's always tired and cold. I don't know what to do, since I simply can't afford to start heating so soon in the beginning of the winter. I know that we're supposed to pray for rain, but why can't it be rainy and WARM? There are years that it stays warm until December. How am I going to manage? AWK!

OK, one day at a time. And I should be thankful that I haven't had to cook yet this week, with all these weddings and wedding preparation meals.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

One down.....

The first wedding of the week has finished, and tomorrow night is the second. Last night's wedding was lovely...the bride and groom were so relaxed and obviously were enjoying themselves, and the atmosphere was extremely friendly and happy. There was a mixed dati(religious)/hiloni (non-religious) crowd there, and everyone seemed to be having a good time together. The first round of dancing was separate (men-women) circle dancing, and the second round was mixed and modern, and everyone seemed happy to let things flow and everyone participate when and where they wanted to. The groom's mother, my co-worker, was teary-eyed under the chuppah, and by the time I made my way to her, I was glad that I had some extra tissues in my purse to press into her hand, because she really needed them. The groom's father passed away about 7 years ago -- everyone that I know of there was remembering him as they watched his son, who was wearing the shirt that his father had gotten married in, standing under the chuppa. But what we all remembered about the father was that he was an incredibly happy and optimistic person, and that he would have only wanted everyone to enjoy themselves.

Tomorrow's wedding is going to be that of a daughter of friends...a girl who grew up with Avishai from age 2! I have a picture of her, chubby, blond-rings in her hair, playing with Avishai, and it's hard to think of her as a married lady. Tonight, her mother invited us to join them for the "henna" ceremony, when after the bride goes to the mikva for the first time, she dresses up in an elaborate caftan, with all sorts of jewels and gold, and henna is rubbed into everyone's hand for good luck. The custom is actually North African, but Atara, whose parents are from England and antecedents from Eastern Europe, was game, and it was great fun with her sisters and friends. Afterward, they had supper -- ordered Chinese, which was terrific. I don't even want to think about how much weight I gained tonight, since Chinese food is all fried and not exactly low-calorie. But, hey, what the heck...sandwiched in between two weddings, who's going to notice?

In the beginning, I was invited, along with Avishai, but then I asked if Ariella could be invited, since she's also friendly with the bride, and was told "yes". And yesterday, the mother of the bride called up Yochi and invited her too. So, again with a bit of chutzpa, I asked if I could bring Margalit and Hagai, if we all shared chairs at the supper, and was told "wonderful, bring them". Truthfully, there's so much food at the reception, before the chuppa, that I can't imagine that we'll have any problem sharing our food, but it's important to me that the kids see the older kids in the neighborhood getting married (though this wedding won't be particularly religious, which is always a good example) and participate in the weddings. So I'm looking forward to going together. Avishai will hopefully be released for the evening from the army, and will either come with us from Tzfat or will meet us in Jerusalem, and I'm hoping that Ariella will be able to come too. I think that I found a ride for her.

Ah, just when the holidays finish and I think that I'm done planning.....

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Unique

I went out to my porch this morning to daven....just during this past year, I have been more drawn to some sort of daily prayer, though I must admit that when I'm rushed, I say the bare minimum. However, when I have a few extra minutes, I have started to put more time into prayer, and appreciate the calm and sense of purpose that it gives.

Anyway, while I was davening (praying), I heard the singing from the various homes surrounding me...the Shabbat songs that many families sing. One family had a LOT of guests, and were singing Carlebach tunes...another family, Sepharadim, were singing their own niggunim (wordless tunes) and a third family, Brastlav Hassidim, had their own songs. Where else could one enjoy such an atmosphere! I sorely regret that my children don't have the tradition of singing on Shabbat, but at least they're staying at the Shabbat table longer to talk and enjoy each other's company.

This week we finished the fall holidays. Simhat Torah was the highlight, and for the second year in a row, there was a women's Simhat Torah group in my neighborhood.

Ten years ago, the synagogue that we used to go to, made up of about a dozen "modern Orthodox" families, let women dance with the Torah in the women's section of the synagogue, and on Simhat Torah morning, a large group of Ultra-Orthodox came thundering down to the shul to instigate what can only be described as a pogrom. They broke windows, hit people, and created a situation that, until today, has had reprecussions in the community. It was a psychological blow to a community which had always believed that the different groups were able to get along, and I know a lot of people who were forever changed by that Simhat Torah.

In order to keep peace, the synagogue never again had women dancing with the Torah, but the need and desire never dissappated, and when an ad hoc group started to get together for their own services, and work to make a women's Simhat Torah celebration, a lot of women started to come out of the woodwork to join.

This year was the second time that it happened...the information about the "happening" is passed from mouth to mouth quietly, so that the "wrong ears" shouldn't hear of it. But women from all different communities came to join together to celebrate, and it was quite wonderful.

Tomorrow, Avishai returns to the army, Ariella to school, and the rest of the kids to their school. It will be a relief to have everyone back in their spots, and I'm looking forward to it.
Unfortunately, the biggest relief will be NOT looking at Ariella in her spagetti strap/belly shirts.

Sigh.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

This week in a nutshell....

It would take a big nutshell to describe this last week -- it held the end of Succot, Simhat Torah, the return of most of the kids to school, holiday guests, Shabbat guests, Avishai's stay at home for almost a week from the army, and now, preparations for NEXT WEEK.

Obviously, next week is most on my mind now -- I have 2 weddings that I have to go to, because they're both for good friends' children. I like going to weddings, don't get me wrong. But in this part of the world, going to a wedding almost always involves getting on a bus for a 3-hour ride to the center of the country, where most of the weddings are held. People who organize weddings tell me that, even when both of the partners of the couple are from Tzfat, it's cheaper to charter busses and trek down to the Jerusalem area and rent out a hall there.

Anyway, the stress of travelling twice in one week, not to mention trying to accomplish everything else that I have to do next week (work, tutoring, house, children), plus the worry about Margalit when I'm not home (she's so high-energy and difficult that I feel bad about leaving her to Yochi to deal with) made me dream about these weddings last night. In my dream, I was going to a 3rd wedding...at this point, a lot of the dream is foggy, but I remember my concerns about how I could manage were the same.

In preparation, I'll try to cook as much for next Shabbat today and tomorrow night, since I'm also making a Sheva Brochot (after-wedding celebration) for one of the couples next Saturday evening, and am supposed to provide a cake for the other couple's kiddush next Shabbat. And, this week, the house just won't get washed down. I'm also considering taking one of the days off of work and travelling to the Jerusalem area to visit Ariella's school, and then continuing on with her to the wedding, since she's also invited. Then she can come home with us on the bus. Oy, I get so tired of planning everything ahead of time!

Tov, enough kvetching...I'll review the holidays later, when I can wrest the computer away from my offspring again. (The only way I got it for so long now was because it's school-time).

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Succa Sit-In




Yom Kippur is now behind us. I again attended the "Alternative Service", and got a lot out of it, even though there are still some things that are a bit too alternative for me. But all in all, I feel as though I really delved into the meaning of Yom Kippur more than I am able to at a traditional service, where I am never able to follow the Machzor and end up day-dreaming about all sorts of things.

The service is mostly done in english, since almost all of the participants are english-speakers. There's no Sefer Torah there now -- the one that they had had to go back to its shul last year, so the Torah reading was just that, a reading. We went around the room, reading the Torah portion, but again, it was the first time that I really thought about the relationship of what was happening in the Torah to what we were experiencing here and now.

And we all had time to do some personal introspection. I tried to do work on myself to release anger, which I realize is not healthy or conducive to my development, but nevertheless overwhelms me sometime. I can't say that by the end of Yom Kippur I felt any less anger at people who I feel have betrayed me or hurt me through this past year, but I recognized what I was feeling.

I did ask forgiveness from a neighbor whom I quarreled with this past year, and felt wonderful afterward, because although I still think that he's not the nicest guy in the world, I felt that we were moving onward (he also asked my forgiveness, since he hadn't exactly been a pleasurable neighbor this year). There's a lot of psychotherapy in the tradition of asking forgiveness of someone who you might have wronged during the past year -- psychologists should take note!

Now, of course, the holiday of Succot is upon us. I bought a simple plastic tarp for a Succa and tied it to the polls that were already on our porch, bought some ready-made roll-up schach, and voila! Succa! I am ready to...of course...start cooking. We are invited to a neighbor's house for the first lunch -- it's a potluck, so we just have to make one dish, though a lot of it, since about 60 people are invited. I need to start surfing the recipie sites on the internet for some good ideas -- it'll be vegetarian as well, which further complicates matters.

I am overwhelmed with food concerns -- cooking for the holidays is crazy. Last night for Shabbat we had chili, which was a success, especially since I could easily take some out and make it vegetarian for Yochi and Ariella. And today we had a house full of guests, so whatever I made was acceptable, since everyone likes to be invited to eat someone else's food, no matter how good or bad it is. (Also, how much could I screw up chicken and mashed potatos?)

Here are a few pictures from the summer. I hope to take more during succot.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Post Bar Mitzva II

Truthfully, I almost feel like "what Bar Mitzva". It all passed so quickly, and we became immersed in other stuff so quickly that I hardly feel as though I'm still in the Bar Mitzva mode.

On the first night of Rosh Hashana, we were invited to friends', which was fun -- the kids had other kids around, and everything was easy and friendly. The first lunch was at home, with a neighbor and a former neighbor with her girls -- the woman, who had been married to an abusive first husband, had remarried about a year ago, and #2 turned out to be abusive too. So the mother and her girls left Tzfat, and are living in a shelter in the center of the country.

I know that my kids are going through their own struggles and behavioral issues, each in their own way. There are some things that I can help them work through, and some that I just have to hope work themselves out. But watching this mother and her daughters brought home for me how crazy a home life can become -- the girls are withdrawn, acting out, and really pushing each other's buttons, not to mention their mother. What a struggle this mother has just to get through each day.

On the first day of Rosh Hashana, Hagai and margalit found a black Lab puppy at shul, and brought her home for "fostering". Luckily, a home was found for her almost immediately, because I really wasn't ready for another animal to move in, espeically not a rambuncous pup. (Though I had told the kids that they should bring her to our yard, rather than leave her to survive on her own).

But I am trying to keep to my Rosh Hashana resolution of trying to help whenever I can, without saying to myself "someone else will do it", no matter how inconvenienced I am. Obviously, there are things that I simply can't do, given the fact that there are 24 hours in a day, I live in a small home with 5 other individuals and their needs, and I'm only human. But I am trying to put myself out whenever it's possible, to help whenever I can. Because the truth is, usually, no one else steps up to do anything. So why not me?

The second night, we were on our own for the holiday, though Avishai had supper with a friend. Very nice to be with the kids -- we did all the "simanim" (symbolic foods) for the holiday, and margalit read the blessings on them, which made her feel special. The conversation was lively and fun, and the girls appreciated it being dairy, though Hagai complained. Afterward, I went for a walk with Margalit and we sat outside a neighbors' house where they were singing and talking till late in the nighttime, which kind of saddened me, because I'd like to do that too. But...

On the second day, I went to shul for services -- traditional services. After the alternative service, I guess I was kind of bored and not "into" it, but I did try. For lunch, we were invited to join friends for a barbque, which was fun. I made kebabs, some with meat and some with tofu. I've noticed that Ariella and Yochi are actually beginning to LIKE tofu. Good, because there isn't a lot to make for someone who won't eat meat, especially at a barbque.

Anyway, I got a bit drunk there. Darned pina-coladas. I have never quite figured out what the big pleasure in drinking is, because when I get drunk, I just go to sleep, which is what I did, on this neighbor's couch. But at some point, I made it to the bathroom and threw up, and I felt like a lot of emotional poison was pouring out of my body. It's been an intense year, this past year, and I have to admit that I started 5766 feeling a lot better!

This next month is going to be nuts -- holiday after holiday. The kids want to be taken camping -- a bunch of neighbors are going camping again, this time at the Kinneret, which is where my kids have wanted to go all the time. Livnot took their tents (darn 'em) so I don't know what I'm going to do about that. But I'll try to figure something out. And, of course, there's all the rest of the cooking, entertaining, preparing, etc for the holiday -- then, after Succot, two families which I'm very close to will be marrying off their kids, so I have to go to both, both of which are in the center of the country.

I'd like to go to sleep and wake up in mid-November.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Post Bar Mitzva Updates

This last week has been so jammed with events, activities, incidents, etc., that I haven't had time to write much.

First of all, the Bar Mitzva went really nicely. It was simply and friendly, which is what I wanted. Hagai read the Parsha and Haftorah smoothly with hardly a glitch, slowly and clearly. It was such a pleasure to hear him, and I was really kind of emotional, hoping and praying that his Bar Mitzva will be the beginning of a strong committment to his Judaism. Afterward, the kiddush was packed, and all the cakes that I'd baked all summer were eaten! After having been in the freezer for weeks, some of them stuck together a bit, but basically, they were fine. Tasty, which is what counted. I don't think that I ate much, actually.

That evening, we had the Melava Malka at LIvnot. Lots of people came, and the only "takala" (hitch) was that the pizzas arrived late. And, of course, as soon as the pizzas came, no one wanted to eat the salads and rolls -- I had SO MUCH left over, it was unbelieveable! I left a lot for LIvnot, but took the tuna salad home, and some rolls, and I'll still be making my work sandwiches with that tuna for months to come. (Of course, no one else around here eats tuna, so it's just me, trying to keep it from totally taking over my freezer).

I took Sunday off of work, thank goodness...I was so physically exhausted from the set-up and clean-up at LIvnot that I walked around in a daze all day. But I had to get to the supermarket to do the next load of shopping, since Rosh Hashana was the next day, and if I waited until later in the day, I wouldn't get my delivery until midnight! Those poor delivery guys -- they probably know every house in town, and get to every single one on the days preceeding a holiday. But I need them too, so I wanted to make sure that I got there.

Rosh Hashana itself was, after all the preperations were completed, quite nice. We were at home for 2 meals, one with guests, and out for 2 meals, one being a bring-your-own barbque. For services, the first day, I went to a neighbor's house where they've been developing a "Tzfat Alternative Service". Quite avant-garde for Tzfat, if only because the service is mixed (men and women sit together). But there are very few traditional prayers -- it's more explainations, meditations, discussions, etc. When I came in, they were acting out the Torah portion for Rosh HaShana, which happens to be the story of Avraham sending Hagar and Ishmael off into the desert. It was interesting -- they really got into the psychology of what was happening in the portion. How did Avraham, who was caught in-between these two feuding women, feel? How did Sarah, who saw her position as matriarch of a nation, feel? What were her personal feelings? She might have been a matriarch, but she was purely jealous. Was Hagar evil? That's how we always imagined her, but she really wasn't -- the Torah never hints that she was. She was just a stranger in the land who had tried to carve out a place for herself in Avraham's home by giving birth to his first-born son, and was now being upsurped by the new arrival and HIS mother.

Anyway, everything was friendly, interesting, meaningful, and in good taste, and although I have some personal conflicts about going the non-traditional route, all in all, I'm glad that I went, and will again.

Got to get to work -- Part II of this week will follow.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

D-Day

OK, now my weeks of organizational skills are going to be put into action.

I've already bought the drinks from the local drink store and schlepped the ones for the Melava Malka to the Livnot campus, and the ones for the kiddush, home.

I bought all the paper stuff, and likewise, divided up everything.

Food and vegetables have all been purchased. Rolls and pizzas have been ordered and paid for.

Tomorrow, I will be cooking for the Friday night and Saturday lunch meals. Seudat slishit will have to be pitas and leftovers and salads. Sorry.

For Friday night, I need to make soup (keeping some without chicken bones for the vegetarians), gefilte fish, and chicken stew (keeping some stew out for the vegetarians). Plus, I guess, a salad.

Saturday lunch will be snitzels (already breaded and fried), cholent (with some put aside for the you-know-whos), vegetable roll, and salads.

My brother just called to check and make sure that the chechsher that I bought was OK. I bought the best chehsher that I could find. Now he's checking to make sure that it's OK. Oy.

For the Melava Malka, I need to make tabouli, tuna, egg salad and tehina for 150 people. Bake the burekkas. Put out the rolls. Set up the coffee table.

And when all this is done, well, it's Sunday, and Rosh Hashana is Monday night.

Need I say more?

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Dreams, dreams, dreams, dreams.....

I've moved on from making lists of what I have to do this week to get ready for the Bar Mitzva to dreaming about it. Incessently. I wake up every morning panic-stricken about something that I didn't do. Of course, in my dream, the bar mitzva is taking place at that instant, and what I didn't do in my dream is something that I forgot...in real life, these are things that I have to remember to take care of.

And, of course, thanks to my lists, I think that I'm fairly well on top of things. But it's still in my subconscious.

My biggest worry right now is getting everything from where it is now to where it's supposed to be when we need it. I'm mainly worried about getting the heavy stuff to the place where it should be, whether I'll have enough food (though it looks like I'll have enough to carry me well into 5766) and enough drinks, etc. I had thought of hiring a caterer and leaving the headache to him, but it would have probably cost close to twice what I'm paying for the party as-is, which would have left me feeling...guilty. (Boy, if there's one person who embodies the tradition of Jewish guilt, it's me...no matter what I'm doing, I feel guilty about what I'm not doing). So, I'll just have to resign myself to getting little sleep this week.

Margalit is beside herself, excited about having her cousin and his parents (my brother, wife, and 10-month-old son) here. She's pretty much appointed herself to be Shimshi's nanny for the Shabbat while they're here, which probably works well for her parents. She's made pictures for them, written them letters, and is generally giddy with excitement.

Now it's time to also think about the menu for the meals, with thoughts of how to have enough vegetarian food for my (now) two vegetarians. Maybe we'll all just turn vegetarian and solve alot of problems.

Laurie

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Lists, lists, lists, lists, lists................................

So, as one can guess, this posting will be about.....uh huh.

First of all, this past Shabbat I took the kids camping again. This time was even better than the first. There were about 6 families and some singles, and LOTS of children, so in addition to the extra friends that we brought, the kids were busy with their friends for the whole Shabbat. Avishai ended up coming home for Shabbat from the army, which I hadn't planned for (if I would have known that he was going to come home, I probably wouldn't have planned to go) but he didn't want to leave Tsfat, so he stayed here on his own, and probably had a marvolous time.

The families that camped all set up their tents in the same general area, and each group had their own picnic table for the meals. But in between eating, the adults walked around, talking to one another, sitting, schmoozing, drinking and generally hanging out. Everyone who wanted to daven did so on their own. The kids mostly swam all day, and except for mealtimes, I barely saw them. Ariella brought a friend, and Hagai brought a friend. Yochi hung out with Ariella and her friend, and Margalit had one friend that she brought, plus a gang of other 9-year-old girls who spent the day together. I had enough food for everyone, and it was, if I say so, reasonably tasty. I made a huge chocolate cake which we served to everyone to celebrate Ariella's birthday, and I think that she was pleased. As for me, I slept, read, and relaxed. Got to do this more often!

Now it's time to get ready for The Bar Mitzva...Hagai's, which is next Shabbat.

I will move into organizational mode next week, and will take a couple of days off of work to organize everything and prepare what I need to prepare. But in the meantime, I just keep thinking about what needs to be done, and when. It's one big puzzle...everything has to fit into everything else. When do I move the kiddush cakes from the place where they're frozen to the shul? When do I get the drinks to the places that they need to be, and how? When do I make the salads that I'm going to prepare for the Melava Malka? If I cook for Shabbat on Thursday, will I have enough time on Friday to get everything to its proper place? And onward.

Monday, already, the kids are off school for Rosh Hashana, which leaves me with a lot of time to be rushed and endlessly preparing/shopping/cleaning, with no "alone" time. I think that I'm going to spend Rosh Hashana in BED!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

All My Children

The internet is not working at work, so I’m trying to keep myself busy by doing things that don’t require a connection.

One of the things that I’d wanted to do all week was to post on this blog. No time, and when there was time, I lacked patience to sit and type.

But now….no options, other than sitting here and trying to figure out my Shabbat menu. Even that wouldn’t keep me busy for long, because we were invited out for Shabbat lunch, and I just need to make something for dinner.

Anyway, earlier in the week, I was looking at some of the other blogs that I like to look at, and saw a new posting on the blog “Moving On” – the journal of a young father whose 11-year-old daughter died recently from cancer.

The father noted that most of his entries have been about the death – the dying, what it was like in the hospital, waiting, accepting, and “moving on” with life while remembering his beloved child.

But this time, he decided to write ABOUT the child – what she was like, what she liked, what amused her, her friends…

I thought about that, about writing about my children. Not waiting until something, God forbid, happens, and I need to recoup memories. But simply describing my children, who I love more and more as each day passes. So, for anyone who wants to read a love poem, here’s mine, dedicated to Avishai, Ariella, Yochi, Hagai and Margalit.

Avishai Shimson – I think that having Avishai as my first child was the kindest thing that God has done for me as a mother. Avishai is an incredibly easy-going guy, fun to be with, bright, interested in everything (we used to joke that, as a 2-year-old, we could read him anything, even the table of contents, and he’d be happy) and introspective.

Avishai always had lots of friends, both boys and girls. He’s very athletic, and good in sports and physical activities, which he enjoys. Since he was a toddler, he has loved books, and would sit for hours being read to. When he was little, I had to institute a rule that we would read the same book only once a day, because he loved to hear the same books over and over. Throughout elementary school, he was “a reader”, and though he picked out his own books at the library, he would also read anything that I picked out for him too, including the great classics. He was a Jules Verne fan (as is his younger brother).

Avishai is someone that I would characterize as a leader, though he leads by just being “one of the crowd”. But his personality is such that people like to follow him, sometimes to silliness. He also tends to do things just because that’s what everyone else is doing and if I could change something in his character, I would like to keep him from being so easily influenced by the nonsense that he gets drawn into simply by being with people who are doing something.

Avishai is very family-connected, and is a very loving son and older brother. The younger kids adore him and look up to him, and when he gives me a hug, I feel his love and strength.

Ariella Chaya
Well. They say that when parents name their children they have a prophecy so that the name, which in Jewish tradition is a very important component of a person’s personality, will fit the individual.

An “Ari” is a lion, and THAT name sure fits my eldest daughter! She’s tough as nails, intense, wary, but full of life, and determined to stretch all bounds to try and experience everything.

I worry a lot about Ariella, because she is so vulnerable. Even as a baby, she was incredibly high-strung, and only being held or being nursed would calm her. She’s as prickly as they come, and it’s never been easy to explain things to her, work with her, do a project with her, etc as she has a limited amount of patience for anyone telling her what to do. None, actually.

Even as a baby, she never needed a lot of sleep, and now, as an older teenager, she barely needs any – when she recently returned from the States, after not having slept on the plane for the whole journey, she stayed up all night with her friend and then headed to Tel Aviv the next day…when I saw her the next night, I could see no signs of tiredness or jet lag!

I now know that much of her behavior that has, in the past, seemed to me to be rude or chutzpa, is really a mask for her incredible sense of insecurity. I don’t know where it comes from (she has never found study to be easy because of her learning disabilities, which could account for a lot of this) but it’s a factor in so much of her life and in her interactions with others that I suspect that her abrasiveness to authority that stems from her insecurity in herself will cause her a lot of difficulties in her life.

Ariella has been a vegetarian for the past few years, slowly increasing her commitment. A lot of that stems from her strong sense of sympathy and empathy that she has towards others. I always assumed that I, as her mother and the butt of much blame for things that go wrong, was not considered worthy of her consideration, but yesterday I found out how wrong I was.


Ariella seems to have inherited her father’s family’s artistic talents. She likes art, and is good at it, though the discipline will come with time. Together with her good feel for working with children, I believe that she’d be an excellent art therapist.

Yocheved Tovah
Another example of a child whose personality matches her name. In the Torah, Yocheved was the mother of Moshe, whose diligence and responsibility as one of the midwives for the Jewish women probably saved the Jews in Egypt. Diligent and Responsible are two verbs which perfectly describe Yochi….a “Yekke” (nickname for the German Jews who are punctual, fastidious, and exacting) is a third.

Yochi was the easiest of the children as a baby. She liked to sleep, which was a blessing, after a baby like Ariella who viewed sleep as a punishment. She was happy, cheerful, friendly child, and every teacher’s dream – she is a good student, and school work comes easily to her. She’s certainly the only one of my children who has every put any effort into homework and tests!

Yochi is not as much of an “outdoorswoman” as Ariella is – she likes her comfort. She likes nice new clothes, and has a good sense of style. She’s begun to wear her hair down more, letting the curls blow out in a sort-of wind-swept look.

Yochi is another avid reader, and has lately begun to read a lot of murder mysteries and other adult-type books. But she still likes the teenager-girl books, though I think that she prefers that I take those out for her, and she’ll read them at home, when no one is looking. When Hagai returned recently from the States with the new Harry Potter, Yochi sat down with it and read it through cover to cover, struggling with the English until, by the end, she was reading easily. That’s Yochi – she’ll tackle a task, no matter how hard it is, if she wants to achieve the reward at the end.

Yochi also has a nice way with children, but I don’t know if she would like to work with children full-time. She’s popular with her classmates, but doesn’t seek them out, and is content to stay at home much of the time, unless someone calls her to come out. She seems quieter lately, and more withdrawn than she used to be, and can become quite angry over little meaningless incidents. I think that the adjective that I’m looking for is “deep”, though she doesn’t share her innermost thoughts, even, I believe, with her closest friends.

Hagai Yisrael
I always used to tell Hagai that he’s the stubbornest person that I know, and that it started at birth, when he wouldn’t allow himself to be pushed out, and had to be delivered by ceasarean.

Hagai has been known among his classmates for a number of years as the “gaon”, genius. He’s extremely bright, interested in everything and anything, and soaks up information and knowledge like a sponge. But only when he wants to. At some point, his teachers, bless their souls, have all come around to realizing that fighting with him is useless, and when he’s left alone, he’ll either soar or do nothing, but he won’t bother anyone else either way, so it’s best to leave him alone, because arguing with him is like banging your head against a brick wall.

He’s one of those geniuses that you have no idea that he’s a genius until you start talking about something that he has no business knowing anything about, and then you discover that he knows everything, just through his reading. If I could homeschool him, I would, because that’s how he learns best….on his own, at his own pace, through his own channels. But he does like school, likes his teachers, likes his classmates, and is liked by them, so I don’t feel guilty that I send him to school.

As noted, Hagai’s reading is amazing – he reads everything, about everything, whenever its available After discovering the Lord of the Rings movies, he became enamored with the Tolkien books, and from there, all sorts of fantasy and science fiction reading. In recent months, he’s joined up with a group of local boys to start a chapter of Dungeons and Dragons – which I know NOTHING about, but they’re nice boys, and they have a nice time playing, so I support it.

Hagai is not demanding about food – he eats so few items that there’s little to demand. If one is going to host Hagai, a good supply of corn flakes and yellow cheese will pretty much cover him for any number of days. If pressed, some olives too.


Margalit Chen
Margalit is the child that I’ve had the most opportunity to develop a relationship with, since as the youngest, I’ve been able to spend more time with her. Also, by nature, Margalit is talkative and informative, and tells me everything about everything and everyone.

For Margalit, the adjective that most springs to mind when I think of her (aside from ADHD – is that an adjective) is vivacious. She’s energetic, full of personality, and basically full of herself. No problems with self-image there! Very little depresses her spirits, and being around her is like being around a whirlwind.

Living in our house, one must appreciate pets – at present, we have 3 cats and 2 dogs, along with 2 birds, 2 garden tortoises, and a guina pig. All of the kids like the animals and are kind to them. But Margalit adores animals, and we own 3 cats now instead of one because she brought home the other two, finding them as kittens down the street, and bringing them home to cuddle and kiss. Feeding and care is MY problem, of course.

We live on a street where the ratio of little girls to little boys is about 7-1 – girls rule. Margalit travels with a pack of other 8 and 9-year-olds, and luckily, when I can’t find her, I always have a list of phone numbers to call. Margalit is well-liked by her friends and classmates, and they don’t seem to mind that her stories are usually not true, since she tells them with such energy and fun that their veracity doesn’t seem to be a problem.

It’s a good thing that Margalit is the youngest, since raising her is taking the most effort of all. Not only am I doing it solo, but her hyperactivity means that I can’t take for granted that anything that I say will be remembered or followed up on unless I’m there to make sure that it happens. She’s a complete “balaganist” (disorganized) which drives Yochi, who shares a room with her, to distraction.

Yet Margalit is an amazingly good-tempered and happy little girl who doesn’t hold grudges and is almost always in a good mood. THAT’s nice to be around!

Monday, September 12, 2005

on-line dating

No, I haven't started dating on-line yet, or dating in any other manner either!

Someone from Livnot suggested that, in my free time (of which I have a lot at work lately) I could join some of the on-line Jewish dating services and "chat" with people (obviously with the intention of getting them to come to Livnot!)

So I went "onto" Friendster" today, and discovered that it's too complicated for me -- finding who is out there, who is on-line at any given time, who has the kind of interests that might make them a good candidate for LIvnot, etc. I haven't figured out how one writes to another person, how one retrieves what's been written to him/her, how one sets up a "chat" with friends....awk! Just when I was beginning to think that I knew a little about computers (I helped a friend download a program onto a CD yesterday -- we found the little "send to" menu that allowed us to send the program to the CD) something like this comes up, and I'm back to square one.

I guess if I was truely interested in the dating game, I would hammer it out. But somehow, trying to find that one person out of 1000 who might be interested in coming to Israel...my pessimism overtakes my optimism at this point.

Of course, I can see how someone who is doing serious on-line mate-searching could get a LOT more frustrated than I! I'm looking for program participants, while they're looking for a life-partner! (Though doing it the old-fashioned way wasn't very successful for me either, in the long-term).

In other news, we're hoping to go camping again this Shabbat. All the kids (except for Avishai, who will not be home from the army this week) seem interested, and I told them all that they could all invite a friend. Don't ask me how we're going to get 9 people, 2 dogs, and all our equipment into the car. God will help, I guess. There are a bunch of people in the neighborhood who are going to go together, so it should be fun.

Hope the dog doesn't throw up this time.

Friday, September 09, 2005

What's my part in this?

I just read an article about the animal-protection people who have been going into Gush Katif for the past 2 weeks, rescuing the abaondoned animals.

Maybe I'm missing something, but I fail to see how people who wave the banner of Torah, as did many of the residents of Gush Katif in explaining their insistance on maintaining their settlements there (not that I totally disagree) could act in such a cruel manner as to abaondon their defenseless animals during the evacuation.

Bewildered dogs, cats, rabbits...am I missing something? Can that be justified? How do parents explain to their children why they left Fido behind to fend for himself, just because they were distressed? They couldn't have planned beforehand?

I guess I have seen so much anti-Torah behavior lately that people somehow justify that I can't be too suprised. People with kippas on their head who...oh, never mind.

At any rate, I volunteered to take an extra animal. Not that I'm so excited about adding another mouth to be fed here, (and if it's a barker, my neighbor will have a fit) but I feel obligated to do SOMETHING, and this is something that I can do. I hope that it also makes an impression on my children, that when something happens, we should all ask ourselves "what is my part in this? What can I do?"

In other animal news, our new pup is probably pregnant. I tried to get her spayed several months ago, but she ran away, and then I never dealt with it, though now...it's time. Unfortunately, it comes together with the whole Gush Katif mess, so all the vets that do low-cost spaying are presently trying to utilize the last days that Israel is in Gaza to get the last of the animals. Hopefully, by next week, we can arrange to have Jenny taken care of.

Monday, September 05, 2005

When Bad Things Happen to Good People

I'm in the midst of one of those "inspiring stories" books which basically tries to strengthen people's faith by giving stories and theological explanations of how people remain strong when "bad things happen to good people".

What I'm getting out of it is that, actually, Judaism has no explanations for this, other than saying that everything comes from God, everything is ultimately for the good, and it is our responsibility to bless the bad as well as the good, and try to increase our strength and faith in the face of both kids of occurances.

One can only ponder this while the bodies and survivors are being plucked out of New Orleans and the surrounding areas. It's beyond imagination what has happened to a modern metropolis, and to American citizens living in the year 2005. The pictures and stories are reminicent of a third world country, or a time dozens or hundreds of years ago when rescue work was not as advanced as it is today.

How could the American government have taken so long to respond to the disaster? Why weren't they ready to move in the moment they realized that something was happening? Why did it take so long to mobilize transportation?

But above all, why did so many innocent people, sick people, old people, children, babies, have to suffer?

This was a man-made disaster in that the people in charge allowed a natural disaster to get so far out of hand. It wasn't evil, it wasn't a sudden tsunami that swept people away...it was pure and simple incompetence.

If I was one of those people who was standing in water for days, surrounded by human waste, garbage, and dead bodies, would I be able to thank God for testing me? Should I?

At what point is the breaking point? How did some people come out of the Holocaust more committed to Judaism and Torah than ever, while others were so traumatized that they hid their Jewish roots from their own children? How can some people endure, and maintain their belief and love for God in the most imaginable circumstances, which go on for years, while others break? What about me...if I was given the choice between being hacked to death or converting, would I stay Jewish? Watching my children being hacked to death? Could I resist? Should I? Would I?

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Last day!

And as of 12:00 midnight, summer vacation is....OVER! Hurray! Yochi and Margalit return to school tomorrow, and Hagai has until Sunday, which he's pleased about, except that at some point, he'll have to make up these 2 days, and he won't be so happy then. But in the meantime, life can get back to normal, at least for a little while!

Of course, I still have a lot of work to do to get Ariella back into her school for her 12th grade. She was asked to leave at the end of last year, rightly so -- she kept leaving without permission, and the staff was simply not ready to put up with it any more. So I'm trying to work with some local people to demonstrate that she's on a different path this year, that she is, as they say, "in a different place", and hopefully....cos I don't know what I'll do if she's home all year!

I was speaking to a friend last night, whose husband committed suicide 4 years ago, leaving her with 8 children, the youngest one being a month old. This woman is so strong, and is so focused on meeting each individual child's needs -- the right school for the each child, the right words of support for each child, a different direction of parenting for each child....I may be good at this parenting business when my grandchildren come along, but in the meantime, I'm winging it.

Monday, August 22, 2005

THIS week

Having made it through most of summer vacation, we are now faced with Klezmer week in Tzfat, and then, thankfully, the last 1/2 week before school starts again. This is my busiest time of the year, not only because I'm trying to maintain my calm throughout this absolutely crazy crowded week, when all sorts of personalities stream through here, but in addition, I have to make sure that my Visitors Center is fully staffed from 9:00a.m. through 11:00p.m., and stocked with maps, booklets, advertisements for all the places that want their advertisements put out, etc.

Nothing raises my blood pressure as much as when families come in, and the kids grab up all the advertising cards like they're collecting baseball cards -- I guess that I feel bad for the business people who pay a lot of money for these cards to be printed up. But it REALLY drives me nuts when adults do that -- they take one of each card, knowing full well that they have no intention of going to any of these places. (How do I know? Because these are inevitably the same families who balk at paying 3 shekels per person to see the 10-minute movie that I have on Tzfat, so how are they going to pay 20 shekels per person for their family to go kayaking, or jeeping, or horseback riding, or whatever?)

I finally decided that I'm going to post a sign saying "3 free cards per family...after that, 1 shekel per card". I hope that some of these guys can read!

I have my extra room rented out for 3 nights this week, and I hope that I can get some more rentals between then and the time that Ariella returns home next week...it wouldn't be nice to rent out her room when she's just coming home! Though I did promise her that each time we rent it out, it would cover one drivers' lesson for her, so she may decide that she's prepared to move in with her sisters for a few nights and reap some driving lessons in return. We'll see.

In the meantime, Yochi is in Bay Ayin with her friend, and Margalit has been sleeping with her friend for a few nights, so it's been me and Hagai for a couple of nights. Quiet, but kind of restful.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Stress Test


Here's the latest Internet stress test:

The picture to the left has 2 identical dolphins in it. It was used in a case study on stress level at St. Mary's Hospital.Look at both dolphins jumping out of the water. The dolphins are identical. A closely monitored, scientific study of a group revealed that in spite of the fact that the dolphins are identical; a person under stress would find differences in the two dolphins. If there are many differences found between both dolphins, it means that the person is experiencing a great amount of stress.Look at the photograph and if you find more than one or two differences you may want to take a vacation.

Personal note: Yup, proves to me that I need a vacation. Good to have independent affirmation of this! I'm off to the Kinneret this afternoon with Margalit, Hagai, and as many friends as will fit in our van. By tomorrow, I should be seeing this picture differently.

Tisha B'Av

In the Jewish calendar, there are many examples of periods of great sadness/reflection/somberness, and within 24 hours, the Jews are celebrating!

This is exemplified by the proximity of Holocaust Memorial Day/Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers to Independence day (Memorial day ends, and an hour later,the fireworks are blasting!), Yom Kippur and Succot (5 days difference), and most startingly, Tisha B'Av, which is the finale of 3 weeks of intense mourning over the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem, and the next 3 weeks, which are, basically, summer vacation.

Tisha B'Av fell this year on Sunday, and I went with Avishai,Yochi and Hagai up to a local synagogue where they read Echa (Lamantations) in the courtyard, while everyone sits on the ground outside and follows the reading on a screen which is projected on the stones of the building. During the daytime, while the kids tried to sleep off the fast, I went to a neighbor who was hosting a "workshop seminar" for local women. The goal was to do some introspective work on oneself, building one's own "Temple" (self) in a a healthy way.

The seminar facilitator was very adept at maintaining the atmosphere of Tisha B'Av, and concentrating on what we are supposed to be concentrating on, while encouraging everyone to think about themselves and their own inner work.

The first exercise involved making outlines of our bodies on large pieces of paper,and then using colors to graphically describe ourselves, both to ourselves and others. One woman filled in her body with all sorts of colors and strokes, leaving an area in her center, her womb, empty. Little need for explanation.

Another woman used words to describe her striving to become more spiritually connected, while maintaining connections with her irreligious daughters.

A third found ways to use colors to show her longing for physical contact with a partner, and so on. Very interesting.

I, fairly "artistically-challenged", couldn't quite figure out what to do with my outline, and when asked to take my turn and show my outline, I explained "I outlined my hands, because I feel like I'm always busy, always doing something. I outlined my feet because I feel like I'm always running. I colored in my brain, because I feel like I'm always thinking about what to do about situations, problems, issues, etc. And I colored in my heart because, well, I think that it's working."

"Last Yom Kippur, I particiapted in a similar exercise with another group, when we were asked to go around and say what we hoped for for the coming year. When my turn came, I said that I hope that God grants me the strength to accept what I cannot change, and 'make lemonade from lemons'. When I look at my outline today, 10 months later, I feel like I've reached that place -- life is challenging, and it has its frustrations and places of sadness. But all in all, I'm doing OK, and I think that I'm doing a good job of raising my children, which is my ultimate goal. So looking at my outline today, I feel that, maybe I haven't reached the point of total acceptance of what God has given me, but I'm on my way."

The second exercise that we did was to write a letter to our mothers. When we shared our letters, I was quite astounded to see how many women had some difficult things to say to their mothers. I'm always suprised to find out how many people I know, who seem to be perfectly balanced and "normal" , and who are, in reality, struggling with some major issues related to their childhoods and relationships to their families. So many people who, from the outside, seem to be in a "good emotional space" in their lives are, in reality, still trying to overcome childhood abuse, both mental and physical, tensions with family members, anger at the past, etc.

I've actually come to the conclusion that those of us who were raised in stable loving families are a minority. I'm not exaggerating. After I became a "single mother", and it became public, it was actually frightening how many people, both men and women, began to open up to me, telling me about their pain and struggles. Abusive marriages, strained relationships with parents and siblings, fury at childhood wrongs...and somehow, these people succeed in being loving parents and supportive neighbors and friends.

So, my letter to my mother? A couple of years ago, someone accused me of doing something that I didn't do. I was accused of erasing an e-mail, and from that, the accusations continued...I ALWAYS erased this person's e-mails, I was trying to drive a wedge between this person and the rest of the family, I had withheld information that this person had wanted to pass on, etc.

What can I say? The accusation was so totally untrue that it still astounds me when I think about it. I had accidently deleted the e-mail, but had not even been aware that I had deleted it...it was only when I told someone else to take a look at it, and saw that it wasn't there anymore, that I realized that I had deleted it. As to the other accusations, they couldn't have been more untrue -- in fact, it was to prevent a wedge from being driven between the accuser and the rest of the family that I hadn't told the accuser that I had always passed on her information, but the person that she had expected to respond hadn't wanted to.

Anyway, I mentioned this whole incident to my mother. My mother told me that things like that had happened to her in the past -- she had been taken to task for something or other by family members. She told me, "I always say 'I'm sorry'. Then, I go ahead and do what I think is right. But it doesn't cost me anything to say 'I'm sorry', and it keeps the peace."

Anyway, in my letter to my mother, I wrote that I want to be like my mother when I grow up, because I think that that's probably one of the wisest things that I've ever heard. My mother may take the mitzva of not speaking "lashon hara" a bit to the extreme -- in fact, she could write the book! But when I look at my family, and see that we all get along, don't criticize each other, and are pretty supportive of each other, I see that that comes from my mother, and I hope that I can impart that to the next generation.

No, I never said "I'm sorry" to my accuser. I couldn't. But I admire my mother for being able to overcome the kind of anger that I feel over an issue like this and just doing what needs to be done to keep peace.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Peek-a-boo

I read a book yesterday, "Hide and Seek" which is an anthology of women talking about their decision to cover their hair after marriage. The book offered various rabbinic (Orthodox) opinions, a few saying that hair coverings were not necessary, but most saying that Jewish law obligates women to cover their hair, and giving the textual sources and past rabbinic decisions which support them.

Most of the book, however, was devoted to different women talking about their personal decision -- whether to cover their hair, and if so, how (all hair, partial, wig, kerchief, cool scarf, etc).

It was definitely interesting to read about how many women struggle with this decision, and how many take it for granted, and enjoy their head-covering and the status that it affords them (as a married, or once-married, woman). Women wrote who shave their heads upon marriage and don head-coverings, and who are pleased that they do so. One woman wrote about her decision to remove her hat, but to be honest, from what she wrote, it seemed that she was never comfortable with her decision to wear it anyway, and removed it more as a political statement (removing herself from right-wing Orthodox circles) than any true understanding of what the halacha was.

A lot of women did write that they had come to their decision to cover their hair after reading and learning the halachas of hair-coverings, but again, these are women who are committed to halacha, and wouldn't disregard halacha, no matter what their own personal feelings/struggles were.

I started wearing a hair-covering after Ariella was born, and it was never much of a struggle for me, though I do uncover my hair in my own house, which many authorities agree is permissible (though to be honest, not desirable...it must be admitted that sometimes, strangers walk in while I'm bare-headed).

My decision of how much hair to cover has mostly been determined by the community that I affiliate with (religious zionist), which allows for some hair to show, but the scalp to be covered.

As to why I chose hats and scarves over wigs, well, my reason is one that I didn't see covered in the book -- in my wildest dreams, I could have never afforded a wig, while all my berets and scarves were actually given to me. I have a large collection, and I don't think that I bought more than a few. I guess that that's as good a reason as any theoretical or philosophical one.

I have started to color my hair recently, so what sticks out is no longer gray, it's a nice brown, which, I guess, is almost as nice as a nice wig. At any rate, I barely have time to pluck my eyebrows once in awhile...how I would ever take proper care of a wig, not to mention the expense of restyling it periodically, is beyond me.

At any rate, at this point, the berets are my "style", and I'm not quite ready to change it.

And no matter what happens with my marriage, I'm not going to forgo my hair-covering...my committment to Jewish Law, I have realized, is not dependent on anyone around me, but comes from within me, and the example of that that I provide for my children is worth the periodic discomfort and extra effort involved in keeping that particular mitzva.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

I ran into a lady who I know in the supermarket yesterday. She's a nurse in the local "Tipat Chalav", mother & baby clinic, and I used to know her years ago when I worked in these clinics, doing "hadracha" (guidance) to new mothers and checking children for possible developmental delays.

This lady, Yaffa, told me cheerfully that she'd just received notification that she's going to be travelling for the Jewish Agency and the Health Ministry to Addis Abbaba, to take care of the Ethopian Jews who are awaiting their immigration permits, and are, in the meantime, camped around the Israeli Embassy in Addis Abbaba. They might, Yaffa told me, even be going to Gondor, where an even more rudimentary encampment exists, to start a clinic there.

What an experience! To be able to help these people as they begin their immigration paths! Yaffa doesn't take her job for granted either...she's thrilled to have been chosen (she worked with the Ethopian immigrants in Israel for many years, speaks some Amharic and understands the cultural differences and sensitivities).

How different from my experience, and that of any Western Jew. While our biggest challenge was to fill out forms and deal with the buraucracy of Israel, these people are preparing for their aliyah by being vaccinated against a myriad of diseases that the developed world has never heard of, being taught what running water and doorknobs are, and being prepared to be thrust several hundred years into the future which is just a plane ride away.

Once here, their lives are more secure, in one sense, but more bewildering in another. A gentleman who lives in Tsfat, Yehoshua Sivan, has, on his own initiative, been running a tzdekka fund to help local Ethopian immigrants for over 20 years. This week, I gave a donation to his fund (thanks to some of my terrific relatives who have been helping me!), and he gave me a sheet that lists some of the projects that his fund helps with....subsidizing child care for families where the mothers are studying at a vocational school, helping with dental care, helping with eyeglass expenses, aiding people who need the funds to buy school supplies for their kids...the list is endless. These are people who have known poverty and hunger on a level that we can never imagine, and it's true...they now have money to buy adequate food and maintain an apartment.

But Yehoshua quietly makes sure that they can continue to grow and thrive...a fund to send high school graduates on to the local nursing school to study nursing is a pet project of theirs, as are all sorts of "help with emergency funds", and I am awed by the generosity of time and resources that he and all his little elves put into their work.

My list "who I want to be when I grow up" starts and ends with such people. (Ah well, maybe when I retire....Edyth Geiger, our 85-year-old library-manager/fund-raiser/organizer/policewoman/setter-upper/volunteer coordinator/..., once asked me "what is this town going to do when I kick off?". I promised her that, when I retire....)

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Radical Amazement

So after spending hundreds of shekels to give the car its 10,000 mile check-up, fix all the problems that the garage-owner told me about, etc., I decided to actually USE the car for something besides chauffering and shopping, and the girls and I, together with some friends, went camping this weekend.

We went to a beautiful place next to the Jordan River, with all sorts of little streams running through it, and had a great time. It was simply a relaxing shabbat -- the kids could jump in and out of the water all day, as could the dogs, and the adults could sit, talk, drink, and relax. What could be better?

At some point, I made myself look at things from a broader perspective, and consciously acknowledge how lovely the little things in life could be, and how happy one could be if they just recognized the good things. Sitting next to a stream isn't a big deal, but it can be if you give yourself the time to just remind yourself what a blessing it is.

Livnot teaches "radical amazement" to chevre, which, I believe (though I've never officially been a part of a Livnot group) is the concept of allowing yourself to be open to new experiences, new horizons, new challenges, and to allow yourself to be amazed over and over by what these expereinces can teach you.

I'm not as good at it as many others, but I hope that, as time goes by, I will be more conscience of being radically amazed constantly, of being able to not only approach new experiences with an open mind, but to search out such experiences for myself and my children.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

More "Lessons from Mother"

21. Forget about reminding everyone that "if they don't hold onto their house keys, they'll loose them. Just pay a monthly visit to the keymaker, and keep the peace.

22. Try not to wonder why Avishai is using a winter blanket until well into the summer, but keeps the fan directed at him. Something about "security", I guess.

23. Never be suprised at the childrens' taste. Margalit likes sushi.

24. Feldman's ice-cream may be the cheapest in the city, but if no one eats it, it's not cheap.

25. "Massages" are the best way to keep everyone touching, hugging, connecting physically. Suggest a massage at the drop of a hat for all.

26. Olga gets her cage cleaned every 3 days. She loves grass...ask the Rezniks to bag their grass when they mow their lawn, and give it to us. Other than that, lettuce, carrots, and cucumbers, together with a handfull of guina-pig food once a day satisfies her. Also, keep a couple of shoeboxes with little doorways cut in her cage for her to hide in. Change the shoeboxes, which get dirty frequently, every month or so.

27. Most information about the teenagers doesn't come directly from them...it comes from overhearing their phone conversations to their friends. Keep an ear out. Some serious problems can be averted, or minimalized, by listening to what they tell their friends.

28. Whenever an authority figure is around, don't assume that Margalit is behaving...assume that she's not. Keep in contact with the authority figure (teacher, youth group guide, lifeguard, counselor, etc) to coordinate actions and reactions -- otherwise, she does whatever she pleases with no thoughts of consequences (she just assumes that there won't be any).

29. When Margalit goes to the pool, coordinate it with Racheli, Zohar, Noa, Ateret, and Ra'aya. Others will appear.

30. Ariella's lost cell phone can usually be found under one of the cushions of the couch.

31. A lot can be discerned by an e-mail address. Hagai's is "MasterGildan".

32. Keeping the TV off in the late afternoons and evenings is probably the most restful and bonding thing that can be done, if one does have a TV in the house. Everyone sleeps much better without having seen the graphic TV news images. Evenings are much calmer. Morning TV is OK for kids' shows during vacations, but that's it.

33. Oregano is Hagai's herb of choice, for almost everything. That and paparika.

34. Buy the cheap shampoo and pour it into the bottles of the more expensive shampoo. Ariella and Yochi will be thrilled at getting the "good stuff", their hair will be just as clean, and no one will ever be the wiser.

35. Same thing with diet coke into a regular coke bottles.

36. Same thing with generic corn flakes into the Telma Corn Flakes boxes.

37. Keep keys in the gas balloon. Someone is always forgetting theirs, and the chances that a thief will find the keys, get past Angora and Jenny's yaps, and actually find something in the house worth stealing, are minimal.

38. Keep a running list of the kids' friends, so that when one of the kid's whereabouts is unknown, you have some possibilties to call.

39. Keep a running list of teachers. The chances that the kids will actually tell you what their teacher's home phone number is when you need it are about zero.

40. Remember...there's third partner involved in raising children. Demand His help. Without it, all the lists in the world are useless.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Seeing God in your Rear View Mirror

Just read an article called "Seeing God in your Rear View Mirror", and it struck a cord for me. Because it's something that I've been thinking about lately...how when you look for "miracles", you can find them.

I first started thinking about this during Purim, when, for our Seudah, all the guests were asked to think of something funny to share with everyone. I didn't have anything too funny, and anyway, what I often think of as funny isn't everyone's taste.

But I did ask everyone to think of a "miracle" in their lives, that maybe they did or didn't recognize as a miracle at that time, but looking back on it, realize that it was something significant that shouldn't have happened by the laws of nature, but did.

Everyone there could think of something...from one person who talked about a miraculous save when he fell off a cliff, to someone else who was overwhelmed with a huge debt that he didn't see how he was going to repay, but out of nowhere, an old friend covered his debt.

At that time, I shared the recent story of how I was at my wits end with the behavior of one of my children who had spun completely out of control, and miraculously, a sibling was home at exactly the right moment, one who is rarely home, and was able to bring the situation to a point where we could go on.

But since then, I've been more aware than ever of "seeing God in my rear-view mirror", and almost weekly, I can point to situations that looked hopeless, or were worrying me, or for which I didn't know what to do, and due to something "happening", it turned out OK.

One such incident that I think of often is what happened this winter, when I was left alone to face a significant debt without the resources to cover it. Exactly at that point, for two months running, a mistake was made in my salary TO MY BENEFIT which allowed me to meet my expenses. After those two months, my employer's accountant realized the mistake, and the extra income was halted, but had I not had those few hundred extra shekels for those two months, I would have been panic-stricken.

Another example is the new challenge that I face of dealing with home and car repairs alone. I never learned anything about tools or using them, and now am at the mercy of local fix-it people. But I've been extremely fortunate to find people who are helpful, inexpensive, and competent, and who make my life immeasureably easier by their honesty. Recently, an elderly gentleman from the neighborhood drops by periodically to help me with whatever repairs I need -- he's bored, and does these things for free! I could never deal with so many tasks, along with work and child-care...as it is, I wake up at 6:00a.m. and get to sleep at 11:00p.m., and I'm running for all the hours in-between! But from out of nowhere, this gentleman dropped into my life and I have to keep thinking of new repairs and tasks to keep him happy!

For my part, I just try to keep in touch with God...to let him know that I do recognize that he's in my rear-view mirror, keeping an eye on me and my kids. I don't understand everything that he does in my life, but I have to remember that, just as I thankfully accept the things that seem fortunate to me at the time, I must accept the things that are difficult, and look for ways to turn them around into challenges that strengthen me.

Just recognizing this is the first step.

As for "funny" stuff...someone sent me the following today, and I laughed out loud...gotta share it.


Subject: English assignment
Here's a prime example of "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus"
offered by an English professor from the University of Phoenix:

>The professor told his class one day: "Today we will experiment with a
>new form called the tandem story. The process is simple. Each person will
>pair off with the person sitting to his or her immediate right. As homework
>tonight, one of you will write the first paragraph of a short story. You
>will e-mail your partner that paragraph and send another copy to me. The
>partner will read the first paragraph and then add another paragraph to the
>story and send it back, also sending another copy to me. The first person
>will then add a third paragraph, and so on back-and-forth. Remember to
>re-read what has been written each time in order to keep the story
>coherent. There is be absolutely NO talking outside of the e-mails and
>anything you wish to say must be written in the e-mail. The story is over
>when both agree a conclusion has been reached."
>
>The following was actually turned in by two of his English students:
>Rebecca and Gary
>
>
> THE STORY:
>
> (first paragraph by Rebecca)
>
>At first, Laurie couldn't decide which kind of tea she wanted. The
>chamomile, which used to be her favorite for lazy evenings at home, now
>reminded her too much of Carl, who once said, in happier times, that he
>liked chamomile. But she felt she must now, at all costs, keep her mind off
>Carl. His possessiveness was suffocating, and if she thought about him too
>much her asthma started acting up again. So chamomile was out of the
>question.
>
>
> (second paragraph by Gary)
>
> Meanwhile, Advance Sergeant Carl Harris, leader of the attack squadron
>now in orbit over Skylon 4, had more important things to think about than
>the neuroses of an air-headed asthmatic bimbo named Laurie with whom he had
>spent one sweaty night over a year ago. "A.S. Harris to Geostation 17," he
>said into his transgalactic communicator. "Polar orbit established. No sign
>of resistance so far..." But before he could sign off a bluish particle
>beam flashed out of nowhere and blasted a hole through his ship's cargo
>bay! The jolt from the direct hit sent him flying out of his seat and
>across the cockpit.
>
>
> (Rebecca)
>
> He bumped his head and died almost immediately, but not before he felt
>one last pang of regret for psychically brutalizing the one woman who had
>ever had feelings for him. Soon afterwards, Earth stopped its pointless
>hostilities towards the peaceful farmers of Skylon 4. "Congress Passes Law
>Permanently Abolishing War and Space Travel," Laurie read in her newspaper
>one morning. The news simultaneously excited her and bored her. She stared
>out the window, dreaming of her youth, when the days had passed unhurriedly
>and carefree, with no newspaper to read, no television to distract her from
>her sense of innocent wonder at all the beautiful things around her. "Why
>must one lose one's innocence to become a woman?" she pondered wistfully.
>
>
> (Gary)
>
> Little did she know, but she had less than 10 seconds to live.
>Thousands of miles above the city, the Anu'udrian mothership launched the
>first of its lithium fusion missiles. The dim-witted wimpy peaceniks who
>pushed the Unilateral Aerospace disarmament Treaty through the congress had
>left Earth a defenseless target for the hostile alien empires who were
>determined to destroy the human race. Within two hours after the passage of
>the treaty the Anu'udrian ships were on course for Earth, carrying enough
>firepower to pulverize the entire planet. With no one to stop them, they
>swiftly initiated their diabolical plan. The lithium fusion missile
>entered the atmosphere unimpeded. The President, in his top-secret mobile
>submarine headquarters on the ocean floor off the coast of Guam, felt the
>inconceivably massive explosion, which vaporized poor, stupid, Laurie and
>85 million other Americans. The President slammed his fist on the
>conference table. "We can't allow this! I'm going to veto that treaty!
>Let's blow 'em out of the sky!"
>
>
>
> (Rebecca)
>
> This is absurd. I refuse to continue this mockery of literature. My
>writing partner is a violent, chauvinistic semi-literate adolescent.
>
>
> (Gary)
>
> Yeah? Well, you're a self-centered tedious neurotic whose attempts at
>writing are the literary equivalent of Valium. "Oh, shall I have chamomile
>tea? Or shall I have some other sort of throat-gagging TEA for pete??™s
>sake??? Oh no, I'm just an air-headed bimbo who reads too many Danielle
>Steele novels!"
>
>
> (Rebecca)
>
> Idiot.
>
>
> (Gary)
>
> Bleeding Heart.
>
>
> (Rebecca)
>
> GET STUFFED! YOU NEANDERTHAL DIRT BAG!
>
>
>
>
> (Gary)
>
> GO DRINK SOME TEA! YOU DIM-WITTED LOSER!!!!
>
>
>
> (TEACHER)
>
>A+ -- I really liked this one.
>