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 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 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 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 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
> (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
> (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)
> (Gary)
>A+ -- I really liked this one.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

"Ethnic Night"

I just found this post that I'd written several years ago for the Livnot newsletter -- I like what I wrote, so am reprinting it.
Monday night was "Ethnic Night" at my daughter's school. The 5th and 6th grade girls had been preparing this evening for weeks, and every time it was scheduled, something conflicted, and it had been called off. But finally, there was no special Memorial Days, no celebrations which would clog the streets in town, and the girls were ready to celebrate the "Kibbutz Galuyot - The Ingathering of the Exiles." We were supposed to represent our ethnic roots, so my husband dug up his "Humphrey for President" campaign buttons, I found my old girl scout pins, stuck on a baseball cap, and we were off.
Yochi attends a local religious public school. The make-up of Tzfat is mostly Sephardic, and in her class of 21 girls, she and one other friend are the only Ashkenazic representatives. Yet it didn't stop them from dressing up in Tunisian caftans, and putting on heavy Moroccan accents to portray immigrants from the east. Girls with olive skin of the Middle East became American, Russian, and French immigrants for their class play, and the Ethiopian member of the class joined in with an accent which seemed to be a cross between a Persian and a Spaniard. After the singing and ethnic dances, immigrant mothers were invited to the podium to speak of their experiences as immigrants. Yochi's teacher beckoned to me, but I shook my head - after hearing about the hardships of immigrants from Soviet, North African and Middle Eastern countries, and especially Ethiopia, I couldn't very well tell them that for me, immigrating to Israel was like slipping into an old, comfortable slipper. Having a university degree and enough financial resources to begin my life in Israel, my aliyah had none of the difficulty or frustration that many of these parents, and their parents, had experienced.
As the evening progressed, however, I thought more and more about what I would have said, had I had a second opportunity. That we all found ourselves in the same room that evening because of our common heritage. That people came to Israel from throughout the world, whether to visit or to live, because of their desire to connect with other Jews, and tie their lives to those of their fellow Jews. That, had I not been Jewish, I would have had nothing in common with these people whom I sat with that night, gently teasing each other over each other's customs ("good thing you didn't make gefilte fish, none of us Sepharadim would have been able to eat it!", etc.). But because of our Judaism, we were singing, eating, dancing, and talking together. Our daughters had been studying together since 1st grade, and most of them would continue to study together through 12th. When they study the Jewish laws and traditions, they study each other's customs for the different holidays and mitzvot, yet they celebrate the differences, and the commonality of all these traditions being Jewish traditions.
Finally, I wanted to say that while a handful of pessimistic historians talk about "post-Zionism," many simple Jews from all over the world, from the poorest of countries to the richest of countries, continue to tie their destinies to Israel. For many, it is a permanent change, and for others it remains a long-distance, spiritual connection. It saddens us to hear about Jews who aren't coming these days because of the "situation." Many of the people who sat in the room with me that evening have been feeling the pinch, as their livelihood depends on tourism. But we try to concentrate on those Jews who do come; those, like the Livnoters, past and present, who bring their enthusiasm and love of their heritage to Israel, to be "as one."
The moment for speaking, however, had passed. So we went out the corridor, where I ate spicy Moroccan couscous, Yemenite jachnon, Tunisian salads, and Ethiopian injara, while my fellow revelers tried American apple and peach pie. And I hope that by the time my next child has an "ethnic evening," our unity will be so evident that no one will have to speak of it.

Friday, July 08, 2005

A mother's lessons

Just read an article about a mother who knew that she was dying, so she left pages of instructions for her husband on how to raise their 7-year-old.

It made me think...if I had to do such a thing, what would I write? Would anyone else care whether Yochi likes green olives and Hagai likes black ones on their grilled cheese sandwiches? At any rate, I am starting my own list.

1. Margalit gets headaches sometimes, and they don't respond to acamol. Must use Optigin. Sometimes twice (4 hours apart).

2. Yochi likes onions. A lot. On everything. So do Ariella and Avishai, but in more measured quantities. Hagai and Margalit don't want to see an onion anywhere NEAR anything that they're going to eat!

3. Always check Avishai's pockets before laundering his clothes.

4. Just because Margalit isn't itching doesn't mean that she doesn't have lice. She probably does. Check all the time.

5. Don't forget to get the Friday local papers.

6. "Chat up" the librarian at the Rosh Pinna library. Besides the fact that she's a nice lady, we are given a LOT of leeway in how many books we are allowed to take out!

7. Try to keep Margalit from changing clothes more than once a day. It's hard to keep it in check, but nothing ever gets put away.

8. When going to the library, go through the shelves and take out books that the kids might not otherwise take out. Hagai, especially, will read anything, and has read some classics in this manner.

9. Ariella doesn't eat meat, chicken, or fish. She won't eat an egg if it looks like an egg, but if you make something with eggs in it, and don't tell her, she'll eat it.

9. Yochi and Ariella like chocolate with nuts. Hagai and Margalit like it with cream. Avishai is not fussy.

10. If you remind the kids enough times that the phone rates go down at 7:00p.m., they'll make an effort to make most of their calls then. If you don't say something about once a week, forget it.

11. Places that Ariella is most likely to leave her mouth "plata" (brace): On the bathroom sink, next to the computer, next to the candlesticks, on the window ledge. Other than that, it's time for a search.

12. Hagai will wake up amazingly early in order to have a bowl of cereal before school, even though they feed them again at school. If he misses his morning corn flakes, it ruins his day.

13. When Hagai's hair gets out of control, the best threat to get him to get it cut is "if you don't go to the barber, I'll cut it tonight". Works every time.

14. When a new animal arrives, go ahead and say "it can stay if it stays OUTSIDE". Then, forget it. The kids work as a team to get the new creature into the house.

15. When Yochi shows any signs of a cold, get her to breath in steam immediately, periodically. Otherwise, her cold turns into a sinus infection within hours.

16. If Margalit won't brush her teeth, remind her of her last dental visit. It was NOT a happy time.

17. If there are eggs, cheese, and vegetarian snitzels/hot dogs in the house, no one will starve. Keep the supply of corn flakes up.

18. NEVER run out of ketchup. It would cause a meltdown.

19. If Margalit is too tired to say what she wants to take in the morning to school, a pita with olive oil and zatar on top, baked in the toaster-oven for 5 minutes, is always a sure thing.

20. To keep Yochi's blood-pressure down, go ahead and pick up after Margalit. It may not be the best thing to do educationally, but it saves sanity and peace.

More to come.

Thursday, July 07, 2005


Took Ariella and Hagai to the airport on Tuesday, and left them ticketed and waiting to go to the next stage of security. Ariella wanted to wait to say good-bye to Ariel, her boyfriend-of-the-moment, who was coming to the airport to bid her farewell, and I had a 2 1/2 hour drive ahead of me, so didn't want to wait.

Actually, I had organized this trip so that Ariella could escort Hagai to the States -- Yoni's father had asked that he come this summer, and otherwise, getting him there would have been difficult. But as I watched my two kids navigating the first steps of airport security and check-in, I felt like it was Hagai who would be guiding his sometimes-scatter-brained sister through the ropes. As they were being ticketed, he competently got out the correct tickets, papers, passports, etc., and answered the clerk's questions, while Ariella chatted away on her cellphone, oblivious to the necessity of putting it away for 5 minutes.

One way or another, they arrived safely in Detroit Wednesday, and if jet lag doesn't take over, (he said that he slept the whole flight, so he should be fairly well rested) Hagai will join his cousins at their day camp for a day of canoeing. I am excited for the two of them. I hope that this summer serves as a good period of time for Ariella to strengthen herself emotionally, and make some good healthy decisions for herself. And as for Hagai, I'm excited that he's going to have time with his cousins, a number of whom are his age, to get to know them and maybe have some of the positive aspects of their lives spill over on him. This year has not been easy for Hagai, and he's struggling.

Here in Tzfat, in the meantime, another family who sent their child to the States for a summer camp received the devestating news that the girl, 19, had died in her sleep. Evidently a fast-moving meningitis shot her temperature up to 106 during the night, and she simply passed away. It's a family that I know, and I'll have to go to this shiva...I'm dreading it. Lovely girl, terrific family that's always doing for others -- my heart breaks for them.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Happy 4th!

Happy 4th of July to all those on the "other" side of the Atlantic! We did not, obviously, celebrate, but Hagai had a late-night barbque with his friends as a good-bye before he travels to the States (tonight), so I guess that that counts, a bit anyway.

Tonight, I take Ariella and Hagai to the airport. We found a family that will be travelling on the same flight, so I know that I have some adults to keep an eye on them, at least until they clear passport control and customs and head on to the Delta terminal for their flight to Detroit.

It's going to be VERY quiet for the next month! Don't know if I will be able to deal with it! The room downstairs is now ready to rent out, and when Ariella clears up her stuff today, her room will be ready too. So if I have a lot of renters, God Willing, I'll won't be bored, even with a few fewer kids around. I might be renting out one of the rooms of the house downstairs from us as well, though half of the profits will be going to the home-owner, but even so, it will be worth it. If Yochi does the cleaning, she can earn a bit of savings too.

Walking to work through the main street this morning, I was struck at the Israeli phenomena of morning deliveries. Many companies send their trucks out to deliver bread and sometimes milk products (in the winter) in the early hours of the morning, and often the deliveries are made before the corner groceries are open. So the delivery truck leaves the produce outside the locked door of the grocery, and when the owner arrives, he brings everything in.

Sometimes, customers, usually kids who need bread for sandwiches, come before the store is open, but when the produce is still sitting outside. They take what they need, and come into the store to settle up later.

Israel is not immune to crime, but there are some things that are sacred, and honoring this arrangement, among all sectors of the population, seems to be one of them.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

new Jewish custom

Had a nice Shabbat lunch today with some interesting people.

We had two young women from the Livnot program, a man who is originally from Queens and now lives in Saipan (an island off the coast of Japan -- he teaches english there) and is here to volunteer for a few weeks, and a neighbor who just recently made aliyah from California (and whose wife is back visiting their daughter, who is expecting twins).

The conversation flowed nicely, and it was an enjoyable day. Something funny the end of the meal, I collected the plates and put the bones on one plate to give to the animals. One of the girls from Livnot said "oh, we did that last night at dinner at LIvnot too. I guess that's something that people do".

I had to laugh -- I told her that LIvnot collects the bones for ME, and that I'd be there tomorrow morning to collect them for our dogs and cats! Hm-m-m-m-m, maybe if I could convince more people around here to start a new tradition, I could save myself a lot of money on dog and cat foot!