Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Rosh Hashana 5772

Took the day off work to prepare for our 3-day no-cooking-lots-of-eating Rosh Hashana/Shabbat. when I started out today, I almost didn't know where to start -- there was so much to do! It's 5:00p.m. and, even after a half-hour nap, I'm starting to see light at the end of the tunnel. Ariel came up from Tel Aviv and took her sisters to Haifa to shop, so I have some quiet time to get everything together (and use the laptop, since the desktop computer is on the blink I even made fresh pasta (thanks to my cousins' pasta maker, as well as her recent private tutorial) and have divided up the meals fairly well to avoid over-meat stimulation. Friday lunch will be a BBQ, so I didn't have to prepare anything for that -- I'll just have to remember to take the meat out of the freezer in time. Tofu for the veggies, of course. I need to make the roast for tomorrow night which, with potatos and pasta/pesto should make a nice meal. Thursday I have a lasagne prepared and someone (a daughter, don't know yet which one) is supposed to make something with sweet potatos. For tomorrow night I stuffed chicken breasts with stuffing (again, leaving some out for the vegetarians) and will serve with rice and the ever-present salads. Friday night -- fish. It's just me and the kids, so I don't know who will actually eat it, but I have to try. And for Saturday, I prepared the cholent so that I can throw it on the gas to cook, stick some chicken in the pot with the seasoned potatos and grains, and voila....a one-pot meal. Now, aren't we all IMPRESSED? I sure am. And now that I see the fridge full of mostly-prepared food (will have to bake/cook them tomorrow so they'll be as fresh as possible) I'm starting to relax. Many people have the tradition of starting the rosh Hashana meal with "simanim," foods that are, basically, plays on words. For instance, everyone will have a piece of carrot which, in Hebrew, is "Gezer" and say a blessing that God should "L'gzor" our enemies. The Hebrew word "l'gzor" means cut but it's from the same root as "gezer" (go figure). Anyway, populars siman foods are leeks, dates, cabbage, fish (some people actually have a fish head or meat from a sheep's head on the table so that "we can be at the head of the year and not at the tail,") etc. Friends started the tradtion of having coca-cola as a siman so that "God will hear "kolanu" -- our voices). This year I added beans and fennel as my personal siman. Beans, in Hebrew, are "shu-uit" so the blessing will be that "God whill shoo away our troubles." And fennel is "shamir" so we'll ask that God "shomer" (guards) us. I'm sure that my kids will be mortified, but hey....I've been cooking for 2 days straight -- I get a little fun too! So mamy things to give thanks for this year. We had enough. That's already 90% of life. Other thanks are that my kids have each other, like each other, get along, support each other, they congregate here, in their home, so I can enjoy seeing them together and happy. We're all healthy. That's another 9%. My wish for next year? that I always remember that 99%. And the last1% is that I can find a way to pass some of these messages that i've learned, by the seat of my pants, on to my children. Shana Tova

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Eat, Love, Pray

Am reading the book "Eat, Pray, Love." I'm right at the end, but by 11:30p.m., I just couldn't make it through those last few pages, so one more night should do it. Anyway, it's a well-written touching book and I can see how it inspires people.

One particularly touching scene involves Liz "letting go" of her ex-husband. He turned on her in their divorce and all the venom came out. She (Liz) conjured up his image and basically talked it out with him and just let go of her anger and frustration. She wanted closure and, since she wasn't going to get it "for real," this was her attempt to sort it out.

Brought up all sorts of thoughts and feelings. First of all, when someone acts like that, angry, lashing out, humiliating you and trying to hurt you, it can only mean that the ability to act that way was there all the time -- you just didn't see it. And somehow you have to believe that the parting-of-the-ways was, in the end, a blessing, even if you didn't see it at the time.

Also, so much of these issues are control issues. The guy (and sometimes, though, I believe less, the woman) lost control of you. And he needed that. And that's cause for the serious anger issues that you see.

But the scene also spoke to how much our emotional health is dependent on the ability to close bad episodes in our lives.

While I was in my mid-20s, I worked as a supervisor at an overnight camp for 2 summers. During the first summer one of the counselors under me tried my patience. Endlessly. She ("Eileen" -- a pseudonym) challenged me and made me feel totally inadequate -- not difficult, seeing as that I have the self-image of an ant.

Anyway, during supervisor pre-camp the following summer, the psychologist who was running the sessions had us act out such a scenario as a way of preparing us for supervising a staff. We role-played the parts of the supervisor and the insolent staff member. And, bless his heart, the psychologist gave me the role of the bitchy staff member.

Well, for the next 15 minutes, I put everything that I had into it. I used all the retorts and talkbacks that Eileen had used on me. Everything that the "supervisor" tried to gain control and to put me in my place -- I threw right back, using the techniques that Eileen had used on me.

After those 15 minutes, I felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I had closure. The psychologist, who was with me the previous year and knew what it was all about, said to me "Do you feel better Laurie?" and I just beamed.

In many ways, Rosh Hashana is about closure. Learning to forgive ourselves for our mistakes, our omissions.....oh, when I think about it, so many things! But if we can't learn to forgive each other (or at least forget the hurts) the lack of closure, in the end, only hurts us the most.

Kupat Cholim Again

Month go by, even years, when I don't step foot into my local branch of Kupat Cholim. The location of the Health fund office, right down the block from me in central Safed, is convenient enough that I can leave my house five minutes before my appointment (to which I walk).

Which is lucky because, when I do need them, it seems as though it happens in waves. I've been visiting them almost weekly these past few weeks for physical therapy to take care of an inflammation on my heel (I'm unclear as to whether this is a bone spur or something else) that has bothered me all summer. In addition, I have some eye issues and to top everything off, Gal got her first cold of the school year and has been home for several days with a fever and sore throat/cough, so it seemed like a good idea to get it checked out this morning. It's times like this that I pity my American friends and relatives -- I was in and out of the clinic within a half hour, having had her fully checked, a throat culture taken and a "just in case" prescription handed to me.

If her culture comes back positive, I'll get a 90% subsidized course of anti-biotics for her at the nearby pharmacy (another 5 minute walk....gee, am I spoiled or what?)

Israel has its problems but somehow they've made sure that their citizens receive proper, low-cost, effective and universal health care. Yoo hoo America?

On Thursday I was debating whether to add another 200 shekels to tzdekka (charity). I'd already given quite a bit, but felt a desire to add a little. Well, 3 minutes after handing in the 200 shekels, I got an email inviting me to sign a contract for some hoped-for freelance writing work. Interesting how these coincidences work.

p.s. culture came back positive! To my surprise. Antibiotics, here we come.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Taking for Granted

Just saw a video clip that describes how Jews smuggled shofars into the Western Wall area, pre-1947, in order to be able to blow them at the end of Yom Kippur, contrary to the laws of the ruling British. The British didn't want to anger the Muslims who saw shofar-blowing as a "provocation." They wanted to appease the Arabs and, in doing so, basically stripped the Jews of all rights. Jews end Yom Kippur by blowing the shofar, but under the British, this was forbidden. The British used to post guards at the Kotel to ensure that no one blew a shofer and the Jewish Underground responded by smuggling shofars into the area and finding volunteers who were willing to risk arrest by blowing the shofar. How much do we take for granted in our lives! Found some amazing videos about Operation Solomon .

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Pre Rosh Hashana Thoughts

Why is it that, just when you get yourself organized and stock up on grapes, which have gone down in price, all the family members who, a week previously, couldn't eat enough grapes, suddenly have no appetite for grapes.

Peaches. Ditto.

Why do I have the attention span of a puppy? ADD? Talk about a late diagnosis!

Why, when you mention to someone that you'd like to do something different with your life, they say "follow your dream," forgetting that you may have to figure out some short-term finances while you're following that dream. Could I be the only person who has those constraints? Or am I just being silly?

Why, when you get divorced and "divide up" 50% - 50%, does that equasion not take into account the hours that you put into cooking, cleaning, running to school events, entertaining kids' friends and generally raising the kids? Why does one partner get 100% of the "fun" of doling out punnishments and then getting the backlash? Who said "the law is an ass?" Not just the law, either.

Why, at age 53, do I feel like I'm 23, and still looking for adventure?

Who ARE these tame cats who keep coming to my porch to be fed? Breakfast and dinner. Daily. Am I the only idiot that pays 150 shekels for an 18 kilo bag of cat food to feed the strays? And how can I tell Oscar, the tabby that if I feed him, he should let me pat him.

WHAT is going on in the house next door at 5:30a.m. every morning? The guy has a bunch of dogs and they all go ape every morning. (Guess what time I got up this morning?)

What could I do, on a budget of $0, to feel fulfilled?

How do other people see me?

Monday, September 19, 2011

The number of guests houses in Tzfat exploded this year with several DOZEN opening their doors to visitors. The tourist business has taken off in Tzfat due, mainly, to private initiative. More and more properties are being bought with the goal of building and operating guest houses, small boutique hotels and other tourist accommodations.

I should really leave my house for a year or two, rent a small apt somewhere and use the income to live on comfortably! Problem is, I really like where I live. It's convenient, has a great community and wonderful atmosphere and I feel very much at home there.

I also rent out a small guestroom, the lower room of my house. It's a nice way to meet people and provide options for people to stay over who don't want to pay the crazy rates of the local hotels. Whoever wants to can have a private and very secluded room but there is also the option to come up and chat, get to know the neighbors and feel a part of the neighborhood. Everyone finds what they want and I always receive very pleasant reviews and compliments. Plus, I have the opportunity to meet all sorts of interesting people whom I wouldn't otherwise meet.

A group of us guestroom owners have been exploring ways to advertise. Advertising costs a lot of money and many of us find ourselves in the same position -- we aren't making enough money to market, but if we don't market, we won't increase our occupancy rates.

I had an idea of getting together with a couple of guesthouse owners and doing some kind of joint marketing project. We'd need to put some money into advertising on one central site which would then refer people to all of our sites.

I wonder if it would work? When I set up my own website, I linked another webpage to it, listing other people's guesthouses so if my guestroom is occupied, I can pass the business on to someone else. The people on my list appreciate the referrals and have, in fact, referred people back to me.

The question is, is there a way to set up an association, of sorts, that would market us all and would encourage us to market each other? We are competitors but we would all gain more than we would lose by working together.

Monday, September 12, 2011

La Kamsanita

I periodically peruse the various websites that are devoted to saving money, looking for tips and ideas on how to save money.

And I almost never find any ideas that I haven't been doing for ages.

So here, absolutely free and with no kickback (affiliate advertising, they're called today) links or other thoughts of personal benefit, are some of my ideas for saving money.

1. Give up the car. If you can. I gave it up and walk everywhere. I am also limited in where I can go, where I can work and what I can do for entertainment/shopping/etc, but in the long run, I come out ahead, even with those limitations. Yearly registration and insurance would cost me, easily, a month's salary.

2. Second hand stores. 'Nuff said.

3. Entertainment budget -- just take it off the list and watch a downloaded movie.

4. Eating out budget -- put it where the entertainment budget is.

4. Buying clothes. Second-hand stores. First of all, everything costs a ton less. And secondly, it's like shopping in a treasure chest instead of going to somewhere that has 20 copies of the same piece, each in different sizes. I think that it makes shopping FUN.

5. Water. Don't get me started. Don't flush after every pish. Remove the hanging apparatus in the shower so that people have to hold the showerhead while they're showering. It forces them to turn off the water while they're shampooing/soaping up. Keep a little bucket in the kitchen sink to collect the rinsing water and then use it for your plants (I actually know someone who uses it to refill the toilet tank but that's a bit much, even for me) This should really be an on-going post.
You'd think that, age age 53, I would no longer be terribly concerned with what my mother says about certain things.

Well, I am. And as time goes by, I see that she's very often right.

One of my mother's most outstanding characteristics is her ability to keep her mouth shut. It used to annoy me -- you never really knew what she was really thinking. On the other hand, her ability to refrain from criticizing, offering unwanted advice or getting into ANY sort of an argument (I just don't think that I've ever seen her argue with ANYONE) has probably done more to strengthen her relationships and the relationships with people around her than anyone I know.

On a global scale, the lesson that I've taken from that is that no one ever got in trouble from things that he (or she) DIDN'T say.

This has served me well on numerous occasions. One particular episode stands out in my mind -- when a person, with whom I was involved in a significant altercation, used to bluster on. He was trying to bully me with his words. Although I was dying to respond, I kept quiet. This allowed me to successfully fight him and persevere, even though the odds were not in my favor.

It's true, sometimes I feel like a doormat. But I think to myself, what will people (and my children) remember when I'm gone? My sharp and witty tongue? (OK, not likely, because I usually don't think about the correct responses until well after the argument is over). Or the fact that I manage to get along with most people?

I was thinking about this issue this morning when I was reading a blog. The writer was bemoaning so many issues in her life but was very clear about who was to blame. The people were identifiable too -- I actually know them. And I couldn't help thinking that, if those people ever saw that blog -- that would be the end of the relationship. It would be, like, gossiping about someone and sticking a loudspeaker next to the person's ear. The writer can't voice her complaints to the people involved, so she writes -- fair enough. But everyone who reads it can clearly identify all the individuals involved!

So, thank you mom. Your wise teachings have finally sunk in. I just hope that I can figure out a way to send your message onward before a family is destroyed.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Meeting People

In the last two week's I've left Tzfat twice, which is unusual.

First time, last week, I headed to Tel Aviv to visit my daughter on my way to an evening wedding in Jerusalem. At the rest stop in Zichron, the bus left me while I was buying my coffee (I wouldn't have been the last in line if someone else hadn't pushed ahead of me, but that's me......wimp). I ended up hitching to Tel Aviv and my day was pretty much shot.

Then on Thursday and again on Friday, I had to go to Haifa to help my daughter. As mentioned previously, it wasn't the highlight of my week.

My kids always complain that I don't leave Tzfat often but frankly, these experiences just emphasize that I do best in my little world.

Which is why I'm grateful that I have a little guestroom below my house. It's not luxurious, but it's a nice comfortable room and allows me to meet some of the most interesting people. Some people prefer to be left alone but others enjoy coming up to sit on my porch and telling me a little about their lives.

I've had people stay with me who come from all over the world.....Israelis, immigrants, backpackers, families, couples, professors, name it. Some of these people have become friends who stay in touch. I see that, in addition to adding to my own opportunities to get to meet and know new people, I'm able to give these people a perspective about life in Tzfat and Israel that they wouldn't hear otherwise.

I can tell them about out-of-the-way places that they can explore -- things that most travelers wouldn't know about. They often meet my family and friends which also provides an opportunity to learn more about the city and its residents.

I may not run the most expensive guestroom or have luxury accommodations, but I'm proud to be able to provide, for moderate prices, not only a guestroom, but a true Tzfat experience -- and give myself an experience at the same time!

Blood Pressure

As Thursday draws to a close, I look forward to 50-something hours of homelife....catching up on errands, cooking nice Shabbat food (why not? I don't cook during the rest of the week) and generally winding down. This past Thursday my daughter, 24-years old and should-know-better, called me to notify me that she was about to head into the operating room for a nose-job. Partly medical and partly cosmetic. She assured me that she had a friend with her and, since she hadn't told me before hand that anything was up, I just decided to call later to see how she was doing. Early-afternoon I got a call -- her sister was there, she was not doing wonderfully and she wanted me to come. So I hopped on a bus to Haifa, prepared to spend the night. By evening she was moving a bit and the nurse assured me that she didn't need a sleep-over mom so I headed home. By bus. Friday, as I was rushing to do everything that I hadn't done on Thursday, I got another call -- the "friend" that was supposed to pick her up had "other things to do" -- could I come? So I rounded up a car and my cousin to drive and we headed off to Haifa. First "fashla" (screw-up) was that, programming the GPS, we entered "Italian Hospital" since, I told my cousin, "there's only one." Well, yes, there's only one -- in Haifa. There's another one in Nazareth and that's where the GPS sent us. Reprogrammed the machine (and feeling pretty foolish -- after all, I KNOW how to get to Haifa) and arrived at the Italian Hospital in time to take my daughter to......what? She wants us to take her to Tel Aviv? Is she kidding? Nope, turns out that she thought that we were about to drive her to Tel Aviv. So, we got her her meds and took her to the train station and headed back to Tzfat. It's a good thing that the next day was Shabbat because my blood pressure needed to come down. On the other hand -- she's healthy. The operation went well. She can breath better than ever. No tragedy occurred. I came home to a 15-year-old who successfully held down the fortress (and I was able to leave because I had my cousins downstairs to keep an eye on the situation). OK, deep's a new week......onward.