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Monday, December 31, 2007

A Cut Above the Rest

"What's the matter with kid's these days?"

A child, who shall remain nameless, took two, practically new, nice, thick T-shirts and cut out the necks.

The last time this child chopped up a T-shirt, cutting the neck, the sleeves and most of the bottom, I outlawed this practice. (The T-shirt was from the child's youth group, which meant that I had paid some outrageous price for it. Need I say more?)

So, I was most disturbed to see two more T-shirts, that were now unsuitable for wearing in public.

"They're pyjamas," protested the child, mistakenly thinking that would be sufficient justification.

Not in my book.

The child already has pyjamas.

And this child never complains "hey, I have nothing to sleep in."

But this child has been known to drive me crazy while packing a bag and complaining "I don't have any T-shirts for my ____________ " (fill in the blank: tiyul (hike), machaneh (camp), etc)

Of course not -- you keep cutting them up!

"Why can't they be like we were, perfect in every way? What's the matter with kids today?"

(Lyrics from "Kids", in Bye Bye Birdie. Found the complete lyrics thanks to Cat's Place)

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Coffee Klatch (read: Chemo Klatch) -- Final Chapter

I went for a CT today.

I don't get the iodine injection, since I am now allergic to iodine. And, half-way through the disgusting barium drink, I was told that it wasn't necessary to drink any more. So, the process was much easier than in the past.

My mom kept me company, which was nice.

We finished so early, we decided to go visit our friend, in the oncology ward.

We went up to her room and she wasn't there.

Her bed was empty (without sheets, even) and there did not seem to be any personal effects.

I went to the nurse's desk. "Where's S?" I asked, uncertain if she had changed rooms or if the family had decided to take her home.

"Who are you?" asked the nurse.

"Friends," I answered.

"You'd better speak with her daughters," the nurse answered.

I asked another question, and the nurse repeated: "you should speak with her daughters."

I thought to myself, she must have gotten worse, so they decided to take her home.

On our way out, I met someone else who works there, and knows me as well.

She told me directly.

S passed away this morning, a few hours earlier.

It was so fast. Her diagnosis, her deterioration, her death.

Cancer is really a horrible disease.

I am different.

I have a different type of cancer.

My cancer is responding to treatment.

I am young.

I am strong.

I have a great attitude.

Blah, blah, blah....

Cancer Sucks.

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Like Father, Like Daughter II

"Do you think we should watch Star Trek tonight?" I questioned Moshe, "We won't get home until close to 9:00..."

We had a wonderful Shabbat at Moshe's parents, but we were slow to leave, and the kids still hadn't eaten supper.

"It's a powerful motivator, for the kids to get ready quickly," Moshe replied.

I couldn't argue with that.

Uncertain about what in our cupboard could be prepared & eaten quickly, I suggested we pick up a pizza on the way home.


We settled in to watch "Cold Front", which continues a major arc story.

As the episode neared its end, Y protested: "it can't end here, the story isn't over!"

But the episode was, and Moshe quickly ushered the kids to bed.

As he was about to sing them to sleep, Y thanked Moshe for the pizza and Star Trek.

"Pizza and Star Trek," Moshe repeated, "what can be better than that?"

To which, A suggested: "What about coke and air conditioning?"

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

Friday, December 28, 2007

Faith in Humanity -- Restored

Just over a week ago, my son's winter coat (still in great condition) was taken from the locker room at the pool. (Read about it here)

I contacted the pool, every other day for a week, to see if someone returned the coat. No luck.

My faith, that the coat was taken by mistake, was beginning to wane. I felt compelled to accept the sad fact that the coat might really have been stolen. (kapparat avonot -- it's all for the best, some sort of atonement for our sins)

Then, exactly one week later, as I was leaving the pool, I stopped by the Health Club desk to say hello. In passing, I asked the woman if, by any chance, someone had turned in a boy's winter coat. Just as she responded in the negative, I noticed a thick blue coat hanging on some hooks.

I asked her about the coat. She didn't recognize it, but said it could belong to one of the many people who work there.

She got up, lifted the coat off the hook, and showed it to me. I wasn't certain that I recognized the coat. (What can I say? I remembered that his coat was blue, and had a hood; but I didn't remember specific details about the coat. It’s the chemo....)

As she returned the coat to the hook, I suddenly remembered that I had labeled my son's coat. If it was his coat, then I would be able to find our name somewhere (though I didn't remember where, exactly, I wrote it).

I asked to see the coat up close.

The woman was skeptical (our name was nowhere obvious), but she brought me the coat.

Sure enough, though it was difficult to read the black marker on the dark blue lining, our family name was clearly written. Once one knows what to look for, anyone can see it.

Thus my faith in humanity was restored. The person who took my son's winter coat really did take it by mistake.

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Chemo Day

LONG chemo day today. LONG story....

I called early, so that my medication would be ready when I arrived. I got there early, so that there would be plenty of time.

Life is not in my control.

The prescription wasn't ready. The medication wasn't ordered. I would have to wait.

Meanwhile, I needed to see a doctor. My doctor, who is still "out of office", said that I have to see another doctor about the pain in my hip, which has returned.

I was pleased to see a doctor with whom we already have a relationship. He is a gentle doctor and answered many questions (not just about my hip).

Unfortunately, on Tuesdays, this doctor works in a different section of the hospital. Had I been waiting in the day ward, then I would have been hooked up to the IV as soon as it was ready. But the different location meant that I "lost" about an hour (we waited almost 45 minutes, then spent at least 15 minutes consulting the doctor).

By the time I returned to the day ward, it was relatively late.

In addition to the stress of beginning treatment late, I was disappointed to return to the ward after the volunteer massage therapists had finished for the day.

I missed my massage.

Thankfully, I had really great company: a very entertaining friend.

We laughed a lot.

We also shared some of the frustrations of living with a long term illness. We laughed about that too.

She had many good insights and some really good lines. (wish I could remember them)

I finished just before four, when the day ward closes. (did I mention that I received all three medications today?)

Before going home, I crossed over to the oncology ward to visited a friend I met during treatments. She has a different kind of cancer, and she is not doing well. That's a euphemism for: not responding to treatments. She's a very special woman. And she's dying.

I hadn't seen her for almost a month. I wasn't prepared for the change. This strong, powerful woman was lying in bed, tired, worn out, and in pain. During my visit, she was alert and dynamic. She still has spunk. When she smiles, her eyes sparkle. But the visit was bittersweet.

My mother, who picked me up from the hospital, visited with her as well. We met her charming daughter, who recently got married. We reminisced about younger, better times. I learned that my friend played special "clean-up" music on Fridays. The way she and her daughter described it, I could almost see them dancing to Bob Marley, while cleaning their home. Cool.

When I left the hospital, I was glad my mom was with me.

At home, I spent a few hours with my kids.

Then Moshe and I left for an engagement party of a friend of ours.

Even though I was very tired, I didn't want to miss her simcha (celebration). (I really wanted to meet her chatan (fiancé) )

I am so glad we went.

It was good to end the day with a celebration of new beginnings.

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

Monday, December 24, 2007

Parent-Teacher Conferences, cont.

We definitely left with big smiles.

When my eldest daughter was in first grade, we just met with her teacher. We hadn't even realized that there were other teachers there.

Eventually we learned.

It's not always necessary to meet those other teachers, but it is often good "politics."

This way, the teachers knows who you are. This can be important in the future. If you have to call them, they can match a face to the voice.

It is also good for the teacher to know that someone is looking out for your child. This encourages accountability.

Believe it or not, there are many disinterested parents out there (a nicer way to describe their attitude would be "laissez faire"). Many Israeli parents "let their kids take care of themselves". This is seen as fostering independence. Being the American that I am, I am much more involved.

A child in elementary school does not have the tools, nor the skills, to take care of themselves.

Independence comes eventually, whether we are ready or not. I already see the early stages of independence in all three of my kids. Meanwhile, until they are self-sufficient, it is my job to make sure that they get the attention and care that they need.

My eldest was very quiet. We were able to draw the teachers' attention and enlist their assistance in helping her to participate more. Our "intervention" really helped.

Don't be scared. You know your child -- there aren't usually too many surprises at these meetings.

In general, teachers notice the louder kids and the "challenging" kids. It is often easy to overlook the quiet, well-behaved kids. I have two children who are inclined to be quiet and well-behaved (at least at school). They often need help advocating for themselves.

Together, we are trying to navigate the Israeli school system.

All in all, I'd say we are doing OK.

We haven't gotten too lost, yet.

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

Parent-Teacher Conferences

Tonight we had parent-teacher conferences at my two younger kids' school.

This is a quintessential Israeli experience.

All semester, you know it's coming, you just don't know when....

Then, with just a few days notice -- here it is.

On the notice, is the time that each parent is scheduled to meet with the teacher.

If you have more that one child in the school, you might have to do some serious juggling. (I once had two appointments scheduled for the same time). Not to worry, the scheduled times have very little to do with reality.

But wait, there's more. The evening is far more complicated. In addition to meeting with the mechanechet (main teacher), it is also important to meet with the morot miktzoiot ("professional" teachers). And, if you are really ambitious, you also try to meet with the yoetzet (guidance councellor) and/or the principal.

There is no homeroom teacher here. The kids go to school and whoever teachers them their first class, also greets them when they get to school, and supervises morning t'fillot (prayers). The mechanechet (main teacher), teaches them the most subjects, including basic subjects, such as Torah (Bible). The morot miktzoiot ("professional" teachers) teach them specialized subjects: math, science, English, Arabic, Art, and Jerusalem studies (a special course of study, unique to our school).

There is no schedule for those specialized teachers, who are seated all over the school. So, it's "first come, first served". Though sometimes there is a sign up chart -- so you don't have to just stand around and wait.

So.... parents begin this unique process of running around, trying to fit everyone in, without missing your main appointments(s), and without missing a teacher, who is leaving early.

Basically, you rush to a teacher, sit down, discuss your child/children, get up, then rush to another teacher and start again.

Of course, there are parents who skip the "extras". They just meet with the main teacher and go home.

That's not us.

We meet with EVERYONE.

And tonight, it was worth it!

Both kids are doing well. Of course, there is room for improvement. But, overall, each has improved significantly and continues to improve.

Now we have our homework: to help our kids continue in the right direction!

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Die Fledermaus

Motza"sh is Opera Night. (and you thought it was just Star Trek night!)

My mother, who loves opera, watches the opera on TV every Motza"sh.

I will admit that I do enjoy certain operas. However, some of them just sound like a lot of noise.

I kept waiting for one of the operas I like to be on TV. It finally happened this motza"sh.

Some background: When I was growing up, every New Year's Eve, our family would watch Kiss Me Kate and Die Fledermaus on TV. Even when I got older, and would babysit on New Year's Eve, I always watched these two classics.

Until I moved to Israel, where January first is just another day on the calendar, I missed watching those shows on New Year's Eve.

So, I was very excited about the prospect of watching Die Fledermaus now. It brings back my childhood....

But this opera, on Israeli TV, was produced in France and performed in German... no English, not even subtitles. Bummer!

I am going to have to get a copy either with the dialogue/singing in English, or a version that at least has English subtitles. Anyone out there have this opera on DVD? (didn't think so)

Clearly, I am not serious enough to watch it in a foreing language.

It's such a fun opera -- I dont' want to work hard to understand it, I just want to sit back and enjoy.

If I ever do get a copy, you are all invited to come watch.

When? New Year's Eve, of course!

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Like Father, Like Daughter

We started a new family tradition this year.

Motza"sh (Saturday night) is Star Trek night.

We started at the beginning (chronologically), and will watch an episode of Star Trek every Motza"sh until we've finished.

When Moshe first proposed this "project", I pointed out that it will take years to watch every episode. "That's right," was Moshe's simple response. "OK," I acquiesced.

Along the way, we've come up with the ground rules:
Whoever is home, watches.
Whoever is not home, can watch it on their own during the week.
If we are all not home, we will watch it together during the week.

It can be difficult to schedule Star Trek during the week, but it can be done.

Last Motza"sh we were all out, so we scheduled Star Trek night for Wednesday night (tonight).

At 8:00 pm, just before we began watching tonight's episode, A started crying in pain. She had severe pain in her ear. The doctor said that we needed to bring her in.

"I don't want to go to the doctor," A protested.

For a moment I thought she was afraid, or maybe just too tired. She quickly dispelled that thought.

With tears in her eyes, A looked at me and implored: "What about Star Trek?"

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

Lost & Found -- Like Mother, Like Child

This morning, it was cold & rainy.

I went to grab my jacket on my way out.... and discovered that it wasn't there.

After a brief search of strange places where I might have deposited my jacket in a moment of confusion, I realized that it was not to be found.

I grabbed a thick sweater, prayed not to get soaked, and started mentally retracing yesterday's steps.

I figured out where I must have left it.

Indeed, my jacket was there, and I was able to pick it up with no problem.

All the way there and back, I couldn't help thinking:
"I am just like my kids.....
No wonder they keep forgetting their coats/bags/sweaters/you-name-it.....
They are just like their mother."

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Crockpots -- not just for Shabbos anymore

Thanks to Robin, for inspiring this post. Check out her blog Around the Island

My childhood memories of dinner were not always pleasant. I hated most vegetables, and my mom made me eat them because "they are good for you." The thing is, I have these memories because my mom made a proper dinner every night, complete with protein, carbohydrates, and vegetables. My kids will not have these memories.

Dinner is the bane of my existence.
(as are sandwiches for aruchat esser (10:00 am snack) -- more on that in another post)

The thing is, I am tired when dinner time arrives. And I don’t really like cooking to begin with. And the only way I can consistently get my kids to eat vegetables is in soup. So, I am always struggling to put something nutritious onto our dinner table.

One of my most difficult dinner days is Mondays. I teach swimming on Mondays, and we don’t get home until late.

Last year, I decided I needed a better solution for Monday night dinners.

Then, I had an epiphany: The Crock-Pot (slow cooker)

We received our slow cooker as a wedding gift from a good friend and I used it for making pareve (no meat/dairy) chullent (unique traditional Shabbat stew).

I wanted to keep the cooker pareve, but I had a radical idea: I could use it for cooking pareve meals during the week.

This might seem pretty straight forward to you, but it took me over ten years to come up with this idea.

The first time I used the slow cooker for something other than chullent, I wasn’t sure what I was doing.

My theory was: if you throw a bunch of vegetables in a pot with a lot of water, and slow cook them all day, the net result has to be good.

So that’s what I did. I took all the vegetables we had in the house, cut them up small, added water and set the slow cooker on low.

When we returned from the pool that evening, and entered the main stairwell, there was a wonderful smell coming from someone’s apartment.

Imagine our delight when we entered our apartment and realized that the delicious smell was coming from our home!

It was amazing!!

I started making stews every week. I experimented with different combinations of legumes. I often added TVP (textured vegetable protein) to add protein. I "mixed and matched".

Everything I made was delicious! I couldn’t go wrong!

All I needed was a half hour or so to cut up vegetables and sort legumes.

As I cut and sorted, I dumped everything into the pot. Then, when the pot was ¾ of the way full, I filled up the rest of the pot with pre-boiled water from the kum-kum (electric kettle that all Israelis have).

That’s it.


I learned a few things along the way:

If there are legumes, the stew needs longer to cook (I don’t pre-soak them). Beans and peas take the longest to get soft. Lentils take less time. Red lentils take the least amount of time. If I get home and the legumes are a little too crunchy, I cheat. I take out my zapper and blend the soup.

Once, I left the leftovers in the pot, added more vegetables, and kept it cooking. The stew was even better the next day.

I have this idea that in the "olden days" people used to do that -- keep a pot over the hearth and just keep adding more vegetables.

The constant cooking heats the house as well.

Warm stew in a warm home -- what could be better on a cold winter day?

I haven’t made my Monday stew in a while.

Since my recent diagnosis, getting a nutritious dinner together became even more of a challenge. As tired as I was before, there is no comparison with the tiredness I feel from the chemo.

Then, it got easier -- thanks to friends who help out by making dinner for my family. Now I know that at least once or twice a week, the kids have a proper dinner, including vegetables.

We also hired someone, who helps us out with cleaning and a bit of cooking. She makes really good soup, with plenty of vegetables. And fresh salad too.

Recently, in addition to trying to provide balanced meals, I’ve made more of an effort to sit with my kids and have a “sit-down meal” together (rather than “catch as catch can” meals with everyone fending for themselves). I don’t talk on the phone and I sit with them, even when I’m tired, even when I'm not hungry. It makes a difference.

Yesterday my son actually thanked me for serving “real dinners” lately.

It made me feel good.

I don’t succeed every day. But it’s nice to know that there are some successes along the way, and that someone notices the difference.

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

What a Day!

Today started off with great promise!

I managed to get up and get out this morning. I went to a 9:00 art class at Ma'agan. I was running late, and arrived at 9:30.

Lucky for me: the class only begins at 9:30. I wasn't even late!

I wondered if my friend, who had her last chemo session yesterday, would make it to class. She did. That made me happy too! We spent the next 2 1/2 hourse working on our next art project. Fun!

Then I met a cousin, who is in Israel for a visit. We went to lunch and had a GREAT time! She is such an interesting woman!! I really enjoy spending time with her.

I had such a good time, that I lost track of the time, and had to run to pick up my kids and get to the pool.

I should have known that the tide was turning when I ran into three different traffic jams on the way to the pool. Needless to say, I was late. This time, for real.

It wouldn't have been so bad (I was only a few minutes late), had there not been a few more surprises along the way....

My discovery:

A had left her favorite purple fleece sweatshirt in school.

Lucky for A: she remembered and ran back to school to get the sweatshirt.

Unlucky for A: she left the sweatshirt on the sidewalk when she got into my car.

Next discovery:

MD had found the library book he had left at Ofek (gifted & talented program, where he is learning all sorts of cool things), turned that book in, and took out a new book from the library.

Unlucky for MD: he left the new book on a stone wall when he got into my car.
(he doesn't remember the name of the book, but it did have rats on the cover)

My dilemma: do I ignore all this and dash into the water?


I went straight to the office to call Moshe for help.

Unlucky for me: the office was locked!

Did I mention that the battery in my mobile phone had died?

So I went searching for another phone. Found one. Then spent over five minutes trying to describe to Moshe where the kids left their belongings so that he could call someone else (some friend or family living in the Rova) and describe to them where to search for our kids missing items.

By the time I made it to the pool, I was a full 15 minutes late! (which might have been worth it, had the friend actually found the sweatshirt or the book. However, despite her valiant efforts, she did not find either). Meanwhile, I am grateful to the very understanding mom, whose child only had half her lesson! (although it was an EXCELLENT 15 minute lesson)

Maybe things were looking up? Not.

Despite having GREAT classes, there was more "fun" in store.

Next discovery:

When we arrived at the pool, I noticed that MD was about to leave his winter coat in the car.

Lucky for me: I reminded him to bring his coat to the pool (so he would not be cold later in the evening).

Unlucky for me: Someone took his coat (by mistake?).

Did I mention that it was a really nice coat, in good condition, with a hood still attached?

Please note: the hood was detachable and it was still attached!
(If you have kids, you know what a miracle that is!)

We searched for an hour! Nothing.

Then I insisted on driving to the Rova to see if the kids could find their other stuff (even though my friend had searched very thoroughly). Nothing.

We arrived home tired, hungry and discouraged.

I called my cousin, to let her know that I had discovered her nice hand-bag in my car.

(nice to know that we are not the only ones who leave things behind....)

"The only thing I need from the bag is my book," she told me, "my husband and I are reading it for our book club."

Did I mention that, on the way to meet her, I picked up a copy of the book my book club is reading? (how cool is that?)

"If you could mail me the book," she continued, "I would appreciate it. Keep the bag."

What a day!
Net Gain: 1 hand-bag
Net Loss: 1 sweatshirt, 1 library book, 1 winter coat

And the day started out with so well....

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Positive Parenting Moments

In the middle of an interesting conversation, I excused myself from our Shabbat table. I was so tired; I felt that I couldn't sit up any longer. I just wanted to lie down on the couch and participate from there. That lasted a few minutes. Inevitably, the need to sleep prevailed.

I slept soundly for a while, waking occasionally to settle backgammon disputes between my two youngest children. (The eldest was away this Shabbat)

Eventually, the heavy weight of exhaustion lifted. By now, my two kids were playing nicely by my side. I realized that I had the opportunity for some precious “quality time” with my kids.

I had already played backgammon with them earlier in the day, so I called out: “who wants to read to me?”

My youngest jumped at the opportunity. She read one of her short, 8 page English booklets that she received from school. She even read it the full three times, which meant that by the last reading, she read smoothly, with expression. Great!

Now for the real challenge: could I get my son to read to me too?

I went to the bookshelf and picked out one of the books that I had borrowed from friends who somehow managed to get their sons to read in English. Meanwhile, my son brought another book – one of my Bloom County collections.

I started to question his choice, but then thought better of it. If he chose that to read, then go ahead. (why squash his enthusiasm?) He read the first comic strip. He smiled a bit, but didn’t laugh (not surprising, the humor is way over his head). I turned to him and asked: “did you think that was funny?” He answered: “not really.” Gently, I suggested that the humor in that book was for grown-ups and that he might enjoy a kid’s book more….

I picked up the book that I had chosen and, wonder-of-wonders, he read two and a half pages before requesting that I read as well. Wow! I read the remaining two pages of the chapter. And we both felt great! (and curious about what happens next)


Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Advantages to Cancer: #1 Family Comes to Visit

Towards the end of his last visit, my father announced that he intended to visit again, during Chanukah.

I wasn't certain what triggered his desire to come again, so soon. Was it because of the frustration he felt about not having had enough "quality time"? Or was it because he realized how important these visits are for my kids (and me)?

When my kids were born, my mom came to visit every year, but my dad only came once every two years. As Y neared four, my dad determined that he had to visit more often, in order to build a close relationship with the kids.

For a short while, he came to visit, with my mom, twice a year. But then the visits dwindled to once a year, and occasionally once every year and a half.

Maintaining these long distance relationships is tough!

Of course, email helps. And now the kids are old enough for real phone conversations. But nothing is like being there in person.

So I just assumed that my dad was now returning to his previous decision that more frequent visits are good for maintaining long distance relationships.

And then…. it occurred to me that maybe he was coming because I have cancer.

So I asked him.

Well, what do you know?

He decided to come because I have cancer.

I wasn’t really happy about that reason… but I was still happy for him to visit.

I get the bad stuff no matter what. I might as well enjoy the good stuff.

Advantages to Cancer:
#1 family comes to visit

(one day I’m going to make an actual list)

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Computer Problems

I couldn't post for a while.

First, something mysterious was wrong.

Then, when that was solved, some virtual "spam-prevention robot" blocked my blog.

Finally, a "real person" checked out my blog and "cleared" me.

So, there you have it.

Hope to get back to posting more regularly (2-3 times a week).

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

Sunday, December 9, 2007

First Time for Everything

This Friday, for the first time EVER, my Shabbat Table was actually set (thanks to my kids) before candle lighting!

Even more amazing, all the food was cooked and on the plata (hot plate) with time to spare!

OK, so I had help.

But still, everything was ready when we lit candles for Hanukah and Shabbat.

When my family (Moshe, the kids, my parents and my sister) gathered around our Shabbat Table, the atmosphere was calm and relaxed.

I wasn't feeling so well, so I lay down on the couch and listened to my family singing Shalom Aleichem (special song welcoming the Shabbat angels) and the other special Shabbat songs that we sing before our Shabbat meal. (it was so relaxing, I even fell asleep for a few minutes)

I awoke as my eldest daughter leaned over to receive her bracha (blessing). I gave brachot (blessings) to all of our children. Then, I (reluctantly) started the process of really getting up.

I was still lying down, wrapped warmly in my blanket, when the words "the plata isn't hot" penetrated my haze.

Oh, no!

I could hear myself informing everyone: "We forgot to plug it in."

I could not believe it, even though I was the one stating the fact.

We had done everything.... except plug in the plata.

This was another "first" -- I never forgot that step before. (Usually, I am neurotic and check the "on-light" on the plata, after I plug it in, just to "make sure")

A few seconds of panic seemed to seize all the grown-ups.

Then, in my quiet haze, the solution was simple; no one would starve.

The food for the evening was piping hot; we would have plenty of hot food for dinner. And, for lunch, we would eat cold food. It would be fine.

It wasn't ideal, but no one complained.

Moshe made kiddush (the blessing over the wine); we washed (our hands); and I made hamotzi (the blessing over the bread).

As we were munching on the delicious whole wheat challot (special Shabbat loaves) that my sister brought, I had an epiphany: we could put the chullent (unique traditional stew that remains on the plata all night and is served for Shabbat lunch) on our neighbor's plata.

Moshe went down to make the request and our neighbor's graciously agreed.

We would have hot food for lunch, after all.

But it really didn't matter.

With my father, mother, sister, husband, son and daughters all around me, I didn't need hot food to feel warm inside.

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

Friday, November 30, 2007

First Night, First Light

I love my Sunday morning shiur! (Jewish Studies class)

Only one problem -- I haven't gone in about two years!

I was determined to start attending regularly, as soon as this school year started. But.... well.... now that Sundays and Mondays are my only "functioning" days, it's especially difficult to “give up” one of my mornings.

Still, I feel much better when I am learning (Torah) on a regular basis.

Not to mention that I love the shiur. And I love the woman who gives the shiur (brilliant, learned, dynamic, charistmatic -- you name it, she's got it! And she's a "feminist" and "right wing" -- and how many of those are there!?)

In short, I am rather in awe of this woman.

Anyway, we were privileged to attend the very special wedding of her youngest son this evening, the first night of Hanukah.

When we arrived, I was surprised to meet several friends from Ginot Shomron, which, it turns out, is the kallah’s (bride's) home town. Cool.

Ginot Shomron is a large yishuv (town) in the Shomron, near Petach Tikvah. One of the beautiful neighborhoods in the yishuv, Neve Aliza, is quite reminiscent of our home town: Teaneck, NJ. Beautiful houses, front lawns and back yards, and quiet, tree lined streets, where kids can play (without fear of being run over).

After expressions of mutual surprise and pleasure at meeting, one friend after the other protested: "You haven’t posted in a week! I check every day and there has been nothing new since you wrote about Hareisha!"


How nice to know!

So now, as was pointed out to me, I absolutely had to post before going to bed.

So, dear friends, I want to wish you all a Hanukah Sameach! (Happy Chanukah)

May the light from our candles shine forth and brighten this world.

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

Sunday, November 25, 2007


From the hilltop where my sister-in-law lives, you can see the entire Israeli coast-line, from Haifa to Ashdod.

It's pretty amazing.

To drive there, you drive through Talmon, up past an army base, then up and up and up and up.
Hareisha is a tiny yishuv on a mountain top. 25 young families, living in caravans.

My SIL and her family found this warm and welcoming community after they were kicked out of their home in Neve Dekalim.

They have re-established their home inside two carravans. My daughter, A, commented that they have a beautiful home. My SIL laughed, "we live in a cardboard box". Nonetheless, it's true, my SIL created a beautiful home inside her cardboard box. "We worked hard to make it nice," she added.

Over Shabbat, with our two families crowded into their modest home, we enjoyed watching the children play.

On a quiet and serene mountaintop, there is nothing more beautiful than the pure sound of children's laughter.

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving 2007

I love Thanksgiving!

I love being with family & friends, and celebrating America, and being grateful for all that God has given us.

This year, for the first time since I made Aliyah, I did not spend Thanksgiving with other bogrei (graduates of) NATIV (I came to Israel for the first time on NATIV, a one-year program that combined studying at Hebrew University and working on Kibbutz Sa'ad, a religious kibbutz in the Negev). Every year, bogrei NATIV gather to celebrate Thanksgiving together. It is a great way to stay in touch with old friends. And it is exciting to see how the program has grown and how many bogrim (graduates) there are living in Israel.

This year, good friends of ours, T & J, have just returned to Israel, from 10 years in the US. They invited many of their "old" friends for Thanksgiving dinner. Over the years, before they went to the US, many of us had spent previous Thanksgivings with them. It was a joyous reunion to be together again.

Our kids hit it off with T & J's kids. Their son, Y, is a big Star Wars fan. So Y & MD had plenty to talk about! Of course, being boys, they still found time to harass the girls.... But, for the most part, the kids basically disappeared into their own world for the entire evening.

It was a wonderful evening, filled with good company, good conversation, good food and lots of warmth.

We have so much for which to be Thankful.

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Where R U??

"So," said today's chemo date, "where should I meet you?"

"On the 7th floor. Are you there already?" I ask, still at least 20 minutes away from the hospital.

"I got here early and I'm in the lobby, should I wait for you here?" she responded cheerfully.

"You could, but I might not come into the hospital from that floor," I answer, wondering where it's best for her to wait. "There is a waiting area in the entrance to the oncology ward," I inform her.

"I'll go up and wait for you there," she says decisively.

A few minutes later, my phone rings again.

"Where did you say to go?" asks my friend, sounding confused.

"To the seventh floor -- the oncology day ward" I repeat.

"I'm on the seventh floor and I can't seem to find it," says my friend, still sounding cheerfull, and a bit lost, "maybe I went up the wrong elevators?"

"Are you by the clinics?" I ask, trying to remember if the floors go up that high in that section of the hospital.

"I'm definitely not by the clinics." She answers definitively.

"Then you have to be in the right place," I answer, confused.

"I don't see any signs that say oncology," she says, "I must be in the wrong place."

"The signs should be right opposite the elevators," I say, wondering how it's possible not to see them. "Ask someone who works there," I advise, in an attempt to help my friend.

"I must be in the wrong place," she repeats....

There is a pause, and then it occurs to me....

"You are in Sha'are Tzedek?" I ask, hoping the question is rhetorical.

"Well, that explains it," says my friend laughing, "I'm in Ein Karem."

"Not to worry," she continues,"I'll hop on another bus and meet you soon."

"OK," I say, not sure what else to do, but feeling a bit guilty over the mix-up.

A few minutes later, my phone rings again.

"Do me a favor..." my friend asks sheepishly.

"Sure, what can I do for you?" I answer, eager to do something.

"Please don't write about this on your blog."

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

Monday, November 19, 2007

Chills - part II (and Imago)

I'm feeling much better, thanks -- but not quite yet 100%.

Last Wednesday, after sleeping in all morning and early afternoon, I felt quite better by mid-afternoon.

So Moshe and I went out, as planned, to the first session of the Imago Couples Workshop at Ma'agan. We were five couples altogether. Most of the couples were young, like us. I knew one of the couples (the wife was in the Art of Living Course with me; she told me about the Imago workshop), but Moshe hadn't met either of them before. Everyone seemed nice, but a bit reserved. The instructors were very warm and welcoming; both are also cancer survivors.

The first questions we were asked is: what makes us happy/enjoy life?

I was surprised at my immediate response: analyzing TV shows with Moshe. After that, of course, is camping - which is my all-time favorite activity. And then there is: water -- teaching, swimming, and just being in the water.

I was equally surprised by Moshe's response: the act of creating; of building something, and building it well. Like what he does at work (programming); and what he does when he prepares a d'var Torah. He added that he also really enjoys analyzing shows with me. (but not camping)

Afterwards, we played a name-game: we stood in a circle and tossed a balloon to another person, saying that person's name aloud. By the end, we were all laughing, and we all knew everyone's name. It was fun.

Then we did a number of excersizes about communication. It was a pleasant experience. Both Moshe and I left feeling close to each other, and also to the group. I look forward to our next meeting.

At home, I stayed up a bit longer doing this and that. Until, quite suddendly, I felt terribly cold and went straight to bed with the chills. Despite the piles of blankets, I could not get warm.

In the morning, I went to the doctor again. This morning, I still had a fever. The doctor on call took a blood test, told me he would confer with my regular GP and also with the oncologist, and then he or my regular doctor would get back to me.

By the time my doctor called back, I had a high fever (40+) and couldn't even talk on the phone.
Now, when I am too sick to talk on the phone, then I am really sick!

The doctor called Moshe, and Moshe picked up a prescription for the super-duper anti-biotics.

Well, four days later, I don't know what is knocking me out: the chemo, the cold, or the anti-biotics.

My fever is down, I feel much better, but I am still weak and exhausted.

I had to cancel swimming lessons, which is always disappointing. I really love "my" kids, and I miss them. But I am still too tired to teach.

And tomorrow is chemo day....

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Last night, I had terrible chills.

I wondered if it was a "new" side effect of the chemo.

It turns out that I just have a common cold.

I think people with cancer should be exempt from the common cold.

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

Night Mirrors

One of the pleasures of parenthood is hearing (and reading) the "mistakes" that our children make in the language that they use.

Sometimes their mistakes seem more accurate than the actual word or phrase.

For example, in our home, we don't eat "mashed potatoes", but rather "smashed potatoes."

And our children don't have "nightmares" they have "night mirrors" -- reflections of bad thoughts that have somehow invaded their dreams.

I had forgotten about this clever phrase until this evening, when A saw something that my mom was watching on TV and protested that it would give her "night mirrors".

(yet another reason why I don't like the TV to be on when the kids are up....)

Her response made me think about the difficulty that I've had falling asleep these past three nights.

On Sunday, I had a test called: MUGA (Multiple Gated Acquisition Scan). The MUGA checks to see how one's heart is functioning. Herceptin can damage the heart, and my doctor wanted to make sure that I don't have any heart damage, before I had another dose of Herceptin. My heart is fine, thank God!!

(keep davening, 'cause He sure is listening!!)

Anyway, afterwards I met with a friend, JM, for lunch. We had a wonderful time discussing all sorts of things. Towards the end, I must have mentioned the book I'm currently reading: Take Off Your Party Dress -- When Life's Too Busy For Breast Cancer, by Dina Rabinovitch. The author's brother lives on the same yishuv as my friend. JM mentioned something about when the brother sat Shiv'a (the seven day Jewish morning period). "For whom?" I asked. "Oh, I'm so sorry...," said my friend, " I thought you knew.... she died two weeks ago..."

I didn't know Dina Rabinovitch. But I had heard about her blog "Take Off Your Running Shoes" -- it was recommended as an upbeat account of dealing with cancer. I hadn't read the blog, but I was enjoying the upbeat nature of the book. And I related to many of the experiences that the author shared.

As with any well-written autobiography, the more we read, the more we feel that we "know" the author. Perhaps I felt that even stronger because of the Jewish/Israel connection.

All I know is that I suddenly felt like crying. But I couldn't just burst out bawling in the middle of the mall!

I kept busy for the rest of that day. I was scheduled to give a Tupperware Party at a friend's home later that evening, and I couldn't do it if I was down in the dumps. I forced myself to focus. The party was a lot of fun and helped raise my spirit. There were about 15 women, most of whom I knew from different walks of my life, and it was quite a social event!

I came home late and tired, but in a good mood.

I hoped to accomplish a few tasks quickly and then go to bed. Unfortunately, my poor son was sick and needed TLC. By the time Moshe and I took care of him and I finished my few tasks (which took longer, because of the late hour, and my mental and physical exhaustion), I was unbelievably tired. I was certain that I would fall asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

But when I finally fell into bed, I couldn't turn off my mind. I kept thinking about Dina Rabinovitch... I wanted to cry, and mourn, but I didn't know how. Who am I anyway? I don't even know her.

There are no answers to these questions. And, sometimes, there is no ignoring the dark cloud that lurks in the distance. But I did need to sleep.

So I practiced the breathing I learned in The Art of Living course. I tried to calm my mind and my body. It took a while, but I eventually fell into a deep sleep.

As I tried to shut out the reflections of my mind, I prayed that there would be no "night mirrors" to disturb my sleep.

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Books: Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy

I just finished Geralyn Lucas's book, Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy.

I recommend it.

The book made me laugh and it made me cry.

And I needed to cry.

I don't seem to have any trouble laughing, thank God. And I find myself able to laugh about my situation a lot. But it is hard for me to cry. And sometimes crying is really important.

Of course, Lucas's cancer is not metastatic, so the context of her experience is quite different from mine. But there was still so much that I could relate to.

And she writes with such good humor. It was actually a fun book to read.

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

Friday, November 9, 2007


I was off this Tuesday, and looked forward to a week with a little extra energy.

I took advantage of my "free day" and went with my kids to get innoculated with the flu vaccine. Then I treated them to falafel in the shuk, so the experience wouldn't be all bad.

After that, we went to a "lail shimurim" (night-watch) -- a Jewish tradition, in some communities, of gathering children to say "sh'ma" over a newborn son, on the night before the "brit milah" (ritual circumcision). A's teacher, R, just gave birth to a son, and invited the whole class for the "lail shimurim". R had also taught MD for two years and I knew she would be happy to see him as well. So I just brought all the kids over. R was so happy to see us, it was so nice.

(Interesting Aside: MD is named for our friend, Danny Frei, who was murdered by an Arab terrorist 12 years ago. Danny Frei had lived on a small yishuv, just outside of Jerusalem, called Michmas (or Michmash). R grew up on Michmas and, when she was a young girl, she used to babysit for Danny's baby daughter.)

So, despite the flu shot, Tuesday was a nice day.

The next day, Wednesday, I awoke feeling very tired and worn down.

I didn't think the feeling could still be an after-effect of chemo, nor did it feel like the flu (no fever or aches in my joints). Though I didn't remember feeling ill after previous flu shots, intellectually I knew that I was probably feeling ill effects from the vaccine. But I also had my doubts.

I wondered if the tired feeling was psychological. Maybe I was starting to succumb to feelings of exhaustion and they were taking me over. Maybe I was at risk of letting the heaviness of my situation weigh me down. Maybe I needed to push myself harder.

So, though I felt like I had no energy and just wanted to stay in bed, I went to OT as usual. When she saw me, my OT said I looked pale. I mentioned that I wasn't feeling well. But I still wondered if maybe I was just being lazy.

Afterwards, while waiting for my mom to pick me up, I popped over to a friend's home for a quick visit. My friend commented that I looked great. (I wasn't feeling so great). Who was right, my OT or my friend? Was I really run down or was I just indulgent?

A friend of mine, from my neighborhood, was marrying off her first child that night. Her son is Hareidi, so the seating would be separate (men and women in different sections). Moshe wouldn't know anyone there (not even my friend), so we agreed that there was no need for him to attend. But that meant that I had to drive. I am so tired at night, driving is difficult. Luckily, I drove another friend from the neighborhood and her company helped me stay awake and alert. Nonetheless, I came home early from the wedding and went straight to bed.

Thursday morning I woke feeling even worse than Wednesday. I'm pretty sure that I had fever. I still wondered if the tiredness was all in my head, but I felt so miserable that I didn't care. I went back to sleep and slept until noon.

Then the fever broke. I woke up feeling great. I didn't feel sick at all. I even felt energetic.

I had been a "wet rag" just a few hours earlier and now I was up and ready to go!

Clearly, that icky feeling had, indeed, been a reaction to the flu shot.

How could I have been filled with so much self-doubt?

It is so hard to judge how much to "give in" to the feeling of tiredness and how much to keep pushing forward.

If I wasn't on chemo, I would have assessed the situation at face value, assumed I was reacting with a mild flu, and slept a few days. No problem.

It is so hard to evaluate what I am feeling physically and what I am feeling emotionally.

And it's hard to "slow down" when you don't want to miss out on anything!

I get tired just thinking about it all!


Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Coffee Klatch (read: Chemo Klatch) -- Part II

Again, this story begins innocently enough....

Two weeks ago, at chemo, I met a really nice lady, S, who was there with her friend. When my C & C date left, I started to chat with S and her friend. We were the last people there and we had the place to ourselves, so we chatted for a while (until my mom arrived to take me home).

Then, last week, while I was receiving my massage (see Part I), my mom wandered into the waiting area and met S, who told her "your daughter is a very special person." So my mom, who is, after all, a mom, sat down to hear more. (What mother doesn't like to hear good things about her daughter?)

Well, one conversation led to another, and my mom and S discovered that they had attended the same college, at around the same time (S was a few years younger). So my mom asked what had been S's maiden name. Then my mom thought a moment and asked: "Are you the same SH who lent RZ (my dad) a dress to wear on Purim?" S thought about it a moment and answered "yes."

Now get this:

The first real memory that my mom has of my dad was from a Hillel Purim Party, where he was dressed up as a girl. My dad and S were really good friends in college, and he had borrowed the dress that he wore that Purim from S!

And now, S and I are being treated for cancer in the same hospital in Jerusalem!

How wierd is that!!

Well, that story caused instant bonding!

All of a sudden S, and my mom, and the woman sitting next to me, and her friend, and I, all started talking as if we'd known each other for years. We pulled up extra chairs, so everyone could sit together. Then we spent the next few hours sitting around the table "catching up" and talking about all sorts of things; each woman sharing some of her interesting stories.

It was so much fun. All the women there were so dynamic and had such interesting stories! We were chatting like we would have at a cafe or a party, except for the bizarre twist that three of us were sitting there with IVs!

The hours flew by.

When I finished, and it was time to go, I felt like I was saying goodbye to old friends.

We exchanged phone numbers and emails, and I know that we will meet again, not just in the chemo ward.

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

Sorry to keep you in suspense

I guess people really are reading this -- based on the number of "you can't leave us hanging like that!" calls and emails that I received!

Totally cool.

I was way too tired to post last night.

I got the flu shot on Tuesday and it knocked me out for the first time.

I felt really bad this morning, and slept 'till noon. I'm MUCH better now.

But have to run now.....

So, I will try to post the rest before Shabbat.

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Coffee Klatch (read: Chemo Klatch) -- Part I

It was such a wonderfully fun morning..... and it took place in the chemo ward.....

The day started out normal enough. Moshe drove me to chemo, and my mom came too (in a seperate car), because I had a doctor's appointment scheduled at noon. Moshe's mom was planning to join us around eleven. Everyone wanted to be there when my oncologist discussed the CT.

Luckily, my oncologist was able to see us as soon as we got there. We quickly called my mother, who was still parking, to tell her to come right away. And we called Moshe's mom to tell her not to bother coming, since she would arrive long after the meeting (which we knew would be quick).

My oncologist showed us my current CT, side by side with my previous CT. He showed us a spot on my lung, which seems to have gotten a bit smaller. Then he showed us spots which had been on my liver and are no longer visible! It's the best we could have hoped for. Not only have the drugs stopped the cancer from spreading, they are shrinking the tumors!

What does that mean? It means we continue treatments. Thank God, we now know they are working!

My poor mom arrived at the doctors office just as we were leaving. Her face fell. (like a kid whose ice cream falls of the cone). She had wanted to see and hear it all. The oncologist was very kind and understanding, but he didn't have time to sit and explain everything again. He encouraged my mom to focus on the fact that the results are very good, then rushed off to his next patient.

Then I got "back to business". The nurses opened my port but couldn't draw blood for tests. (my blood likes to stay in my body). It was getting late and I wanted to finish in time to leave with my mom, to pick up my kids. So I agreed to let the doctor (who deals all day with needles and IVs for patients with no port) poke me with a needle and draw blood the "old fashioned" way. (Before I started treatments, I met another young woman with metastatic cancer who assured me that I would get used to being a pin cushion. I've been scared of needles all my life, and I did not believe her. But here I was, just like she said, agreeing to get stuck with a needle, so that I wouldn't get stuck in the oncology ward...)

Then I went down to the 2nd floor for my second full body x-ray, which I do every three months for the drug trial (that I joined for the bone medication). This time, the technician was a woman. She was much gentler (no painful poking and prodding this time), more friendly, and quicker. Moshe stayed 'till I finished, then left for work. My mom came back up to the chemo ward with me, to keep me company.

Then I had a treat. The blood test results weren't back yet, so I went to get.... a massage! I kid you not. There is a new "Merkaz L'Siyua Holisti" (Center for Holistic Assistance) sponsored by the Yuri Stern Foundation. A few times each week, professionals come to give massages to cancer patients. I received a 20 minute massage, from a sweet young woman, and I felt great.

Between the good news and the massage, I was in a really good mood.

But the day got even better!

I went to sit in the waiting area, in between the nurses station and the day room. In the waiting area are two small round tables, each surrounded by two pairs of chairs. I went to sit at one of the tables, next to a lady who seemed very friendly.

My mom comes over to join us and exclaims "you'll never believe this!"

(find out what happened tomorrow..... "same bat-time, same bat-channel"...)


Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

Monday, November 5, 2007


I love the musical HAIR. When I was a teenager, it was one of my favorites. Good music, teenage rebellion, social justice and HAIR. (and I am an Aquarius)

From the time I was 13, until 23, I had hair down to my.... well, all the way down my back. (is there any gracious way to say "tush"?) It was long and thick and red and beautiful.

But thinning hair is genetic and I knew that my great Aunt Madeline (z"l) was right, that I needed to cut my hair if I didn't want it to thin away.

As long as I could remember, I was "the girl with the long, red, hair."

Cutting it would be like changing who I am. I couldn't do it.

Until I made Aliyah, and no one really knew me here anyway. So I cut it all off. BOOM. Just like that. I even forgot to save it. (you know, for some day when I might want to make a wig out of it... who knew?)

Since then, a few times a year, I cut my hair, reluctantly, ever aware that if I don't, I will lose it.

So, in the face of cancer and chemo, it was the thought of losing my hair that made me cry.

But then, I got lucky. The chemo I get doesn't usually make one's hair fall out.

So, when my hair was still there, after a month of chemo, it became a symbol of how "healthy" I looked. After all, I still had my hair. I was doing fine.

Then, a few weeks ago, I noticed quite a bit of hair in my comb. Maybe it was my imagination? Then, it happened again. Still, I could be over-reacting.

Then, one evening, my hair kept knotting, so I kept combing, and the hair kept coming out. It was like I stepped into a horror film. There was hair everywhere. I cried.

But, a week later, I could relate the story without crying.

I still have most of my hair. The loss is not yet noticable to anyone else.

Still, I'm scared of what's to come.

So, I asked my oncologist about it. And he couldn't tell me what to expect. Maybe that would be it. Maybe more would come out. Maybe now. Maybe later. Maybe never. No way to know.

It makes me cry.

"You are an interesting woman", says my doctor.

"How so?" I ask.

"You're like a 'bull' ...powerful, determined, stubborn, teaching swimming.... "

....and yet I cry, because I don't want to lose my hair.

I know it's a small price to pay. But I don't want to pay that price. I don't want to lose my hair.

I don't want to watch it fall out, bit by bit, over time.

I love my hair.

It's like the song goes:

Gimme a head with hair
Long, beautiful hair
Shining, gleaming,
Streaming, flaxen, waxen

Give me down to there hair
Shoulder length or longer (hair)
Here baby, there mama
Everywhere daddy daddy

Hair, hair, hair, hair
Grow it, show it
Long as I can grow it
My hair

My neshamah (spirit) will always have long, thick, red hair.

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

Friday, November 2, 2007

Soooo Tired

I was soooo tired after chemo this week.

I did my usual running around, but the activity ran me down!

Wednesday night, I had a meeting about my daughter's gymnastics (both girls are taking gymnastics this year) and then my book club.

I fell asleep during part of the gymnastics presentation, but I didn't want to go straight home. I love the book club and didn't want to miss it, even tho I was really tired.

During the meeting, I felt like my comments were a bit more "intense" than usual. I realized afterwards that the added intensity was a manifestation of pushing myself so hard.

As soon as I got home, I went straight to bed and fell asleep withing minutes.

Thursday morning, I went to our La Leche League district meeting. I fell asleep during part of that as well.

I taught swimming in the afternoon -- and it was like magic. All of a sudden, for the first time in days, I was filled with energy. I felt great and my classes were excellent.

But as soon as I got home, I crashed.

I stayed up to watch Bicentenial Man, which Moshe had rented as a "surprise" for us to watch together. I enjoyed the movie. Usually I would spend time with Moshe afterwards, analyzing the film.

But as soon as it was over, I went to bed. Moshe came to keep me company, and we analyzed the movie a bit, but it wasn't long before I fell into a deep slumber.

It's so hard to be tired all the time.

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

Monday, October 29, 2007

Good News

Just heard from my oncologist:

"CT looks great--major improvement, especially in the liver"

Thank you for all your davening! Please keep it up! God is listening!

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Barnard Reunion 2007

I LOVED Barnard. It was everything a college should be, with intellectually stimulating classes, dynamic professors, an active student life, a diverse student population, small and personal administrators (who knew me by name), an amazing Judo club (didn't know that about me, did ya'?) and, of course, a vibrant Jewish community.

Was it perfect? No. Did I experience anti-semitism? Yes. Did I have to "fight" for Israel? Absolutely.

But I grew there in every dimension: Jewishly, religiously, intellectually, etc. I was an activist and I was going to change the world! And I wasn't going to do it alone, because at Barnard & Columbia I met people who were going to change the world with me! Together we could do anything!

Well, a few years have passed since then. My love and appreciation for my college hasn't dwindled, but I've become a bit more critical. Since my daughters were little, I dreamed of sending them to Barnard. But recent events have changed my heart. Not once, despite a number of distressing incidents, has Barnard taken a serious stand against anti-semitism or anti-Zionism.

I am extremely disturbed by Barnard's recent decision to grant tenure to Nadia Abu El-Haj. El-Haj denies the existence of ancient Israelite kingdoms in an attempt to delegitimize the modern State of Israel. She dismisses historical and archeological evidence. Her research is not credible and her conclusions are politically motivated.

I am disappointed by the many professors who were silent throughout her tenure process. In an article in the Columbia Spectator, Prof. Alan Segal, who finally spoke out, articulately expresses the academic justification for denying her tenure. But his protests are too little, too late.

If Columbia University approves her tenure, the academic integrity of both Barnard and Columbia will be diminished.

It was against this background, that I planned a reunion for Barnard alumnae in Israel.

Dean Dorothy Denburg (Barnard class of 1970), who was my dean during my first and second years at Barnard, came to Israel on a short personal visit. She graciously made time in her schedule to meet with alumnae, and we were thrilled to host her.

We had a week to plan a reunion and we did it! My friend and fellow alumna, N, gathered a team of volunteers. Together we contacted hundreds of alumnae throughout Israel. The response was incredible. Many alumnae knew the dean from when they were at college. And everyone was excited about reuniting with college friends and meeting other alumnae.

Not surprisingly, a number of alumnae saw this as an opportunity to express opposition to El-Haj's tenure.

I was torn. I wanted this to be a positive event. Yet I didn't want to ignore this pressing issue, especially since El-Haj's tenure hasn't yet been approved by Columbia.

I spoke with Dean Denburg, who agreed that she would address this issue, in addition to sharing with us the many wonderful changes that have happened, and are happening, at Barnard.

The evening went beautifully. We kept to our schedule and there was plenty of opportunity to socialize and enjoy the wonderful atmosphere.

Dean Denburg spoke about many facets of Barnard, the new curriculum, the new buildings, etc. I was swept up by her enthusiasm for the college I love so much.

Somehow, the issue of El-Haj was addressed, and yet not addressed.

As we stood for our group photo, I could tell that there were alumnae who were dissatisfied.

After the photo, I asked everyone to wait a minute so that Paula Stern, who has devoted the last year to publicizing the campaign against granting tenure to El-Haj, could say a few words. But I had opened Pandora's Box and another alumna jumped in.

I had tried to balance the evening, to allow for this important topic to be raised while ensuring that the overall tone of the evening would remain positive. But I felt the warm atmosphere slipping through my fingers as the alumna passionately addressed the group, even as people were walking away.

The evening was drawing to a close and most alumnae clearly wanted to spend the last few minutes socializing. Thankfully, I was able to redirect everyone to the delicious dessert. The brief moment of chaos & discomfort faded into the background. Yet I didn’t want this issue to fade into the background.

I am dissatisfied that the tenure case wasn't presented properly. Alumnae, many of whom are unfamiliar with the issues, were not presented with a clear picture of what is going on. Alumnae need to be informed, in order to get more involved at this crucial time. We need to make our voices heard by Barnard and Columbia; to let them know that we are not just offended -- we are outraged by this travesty.

This isn't about "politics", this is about Barnard and the direction our college is taking both academically and morally.

I love Barnard. But I could not imagine sending my daughters to an institution that considers political correctness a higher value than intellectual honesty and academic integrity. I will always treasure the education I received at Barnard. I hope that one day Barnard will regain that standard of excellence.

Because building new buildings is important, but building a just and true society is an imperative.

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

Friday, October 26, 2007

Calm Down....

"Why didn't you write about the course on your blog?" Y asked me.....

"I guess I could...." I answered.

But, the truth is that the course was a little "crunchy", so I was a little embarrassed..... But... well... here goes....

About a month ago, I saw a flyer for a week-long course (The Art of Living), to help reduce stress and anxiety. The course was for women who had breast cancer within the last five years. And it was free. The only condition: participants have to commit to attending the course for the entire week, plus once a week for the next five weeks. (OK)

Well, you all know that I could definitely benefit from reduced stress. And the price was right. So I registered. I was told that the course would teach us breathing techniques that were derived from yoga. (OK) And, if we were lucky, an instructor would be coming in from India to teach us. (A little "out there", but still cool).

So, we arrived, 14 of us, all survivors, and a little wary of our surroundings.....

Then we discovered that there were more "suggestions". Since we would be undergoing a cleansing process, we were encouraged to abstain from a number of things for the duration of the course (including the Shabbat in middle). NO: meat, poultry, fish, eggs, coffee, tea, alcohol, or cigarettes. You might think that, for someone who was a strict vegetarian for a long time, this would not pose a challenge. But I had planned chicken for dinner!

Not to worry. As my mom always says: "in for a penny; in for a pound" (I think I got that right...) -- meaning: if you are going to do something, do it all the way. (100%)

So, I came home and announced my dietary plans for the week (reassuring my carnivorous husband that I was not imposing my restrictions on our family).

The week was filled with group activities designed to heighten our awareness about how we are living our lives and, of course, exercises to teach us breathing techniques developed by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

As the course progressed, some women experienced an emotional cartharsis. I didn't.

I did feel extremely tired. And I took a nap every afternoon during the first three days of the course. (which was a little frustrating, because I had things I needed to do, and I just couldn't do any of them).

Then, on day four, before I lay down for my nap, I needed to "close" the venue for our Barnard reunion (more on that later). I intended to make a quick call, finalize a few details, and go to sleep. But, when I called the restaurant, I discovered that there had been a misunderstanding, and the place was no longer available.

I called my friend, who was helping me organize the event, to inform her about this distressing development. She wasn't feeling well, so I told her not to worry -- I would make some calls to find a new location.

"How can you be so calm" She asked me.

I hadn't realized it, but I really was feeling calm.

"Maybe it's the course," I said, only half joking.

I spent the next hour calling different venues. Each place I called was either not available or out of our budget. I wasn't sure what to do. But, somehow, I managed to stay calm and focused.

And then, just as I was wondering how long it would take to find another venue, the events planner from the restaurant called me back. "You can have your event here," she informed me.

All of a sudden, harmony was restored to the universe.

It was a catharsis of a different sort, but a catharsis nonetheless. Because I experienced a stressful situation in a different way.

Of course, now that the course is over, it is hard to set aside the time to practice the breathing techniques. I don't feel particularly calmer. (and I am certainly not any more disciplined)

But I'm going to practice for the next few weeks and see what happens.

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

An Unusual Shabbat

I was looking forward to our first quiet Shabbat in a while. I was eager to spend some quality time with my children, now that everyone but my mother has returned to the States.

When Y came to ask if she could spend Shabbat at a friend's home, I was disappointed. I wanted all of my kids to be with me. I was looking forward to reading (Harry Potter 4) to them on Shabbat -- but I don't read if any of the kids are missing (even MD, who has read through HP 6 in Hebrew). And I was eager to catch a few moments to talk with Y alone, just the two of us.

"Perhaps you'd like to invite your friend to stay with us?", I ventured.

"Not this time," was Y's thoughtful response.

Though I wanted to keep her to myself, I knew that I had to let her go.

Y had been so helpful during the chaos of my family's visit. And, since my mother is still sleeping in A's room, A is still sleeping in Y's room. So Y doesn't even have her own space.

I knew that Y deserved a little space of her own. So I smiled and let her go.

One door closes, and another opens......

When Y is home, she sets the tone. She is often the social director, and serves as a buffer between MD and A, who can fight like two little puppies, nipping and baiting each other -- not to mention barking and whining, and the inevitable whimpering and crying.

But this Shabbat.... something magical happened.

A & MD were like two little puppies.... but in a good way. The were giddy with playing with each other. They were scampering about and conspiring together, with giggles and secret glances.

And then there was that unexpected mantra.....

"Shituf Pe'ulah, Shituf Pe'ulah, Shituf Pe'ulah...." (cooperation, cooperation, cooperation....)

Every time something needed to be done, they both popped up, started chanting in unison, marching to the rhythm, and doing everything.... together!

They were a real team! And they worked well together!

As the evening wore on, they created another version. They quietly counted backwards "3....2....1...." and got all "sleepy" and "woozy". Then, they would count forward "1....2....3...." and BOOM, energy and... "shituf pe'ulah, shituf pe'ulah....." and off they went....

Somewhere along the way, they opened up one of the couches and set up a bed. When they pretended to be asleep, they really looked like two cute little puppies, all tangled up together.

They were sweet and thoughtful and MD was very much in the "big brother" mode. He even said Sh'ma (evening prayers) and sang to A to help her sleep.

It was one of those precious evenings that we try to impress in our minds. A moment in time to savor, and treasure.

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

The Masses Have Departed

In a small village, a simple man, with many children, was bothered by the constant mess and noise in his home. So, he went to his Rabbi for help. The Rabbi's advice was strange: "Tonight, don't keep your chicken in the coop; bring your chicken inside your house." The next day, the simple man went to the Rabbi again: "The mess and the noise are even worse!" he complained. The Rabbi told him: "Tonight, don't keep your goat in the barn; let the goat sleep in your house." The next day, the Rabbi advised: "Bring your cow into your home." And so it went, until all the livestock was living in the poor man's home. In desperation, the man again approached his Rabbi. This time, the Rabbi said: "Take all the animals out of your home." The next day, the man came to thank the Rabbi: "My house is so clean and so quiet with only my children!"

A classic parable and the simple story of these past few weeks.

It was so wonderful to have everyone stay with me. But there were a lot of people and a lot of noise. And everyone had different needs. And it was a challenge for us all.

So, though there is nothing better than having my family with me. And, though everyone helped a lot and did their best to be patient and understanding. My house is suddenly a lot quieter...

Of course, I miss my family very much. And I would have been quite happy if they could have stayed longer.

Still, as the Israeli's like to say: "Haya Tov, V'Tov She'Hayah" -- It was good, and it is good that is was (but we are glad that it is over now!) :-)

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

Friday, October 5, 2007

Simchat Torah (2007)

I LOVE Simchat Torah. It is probably my favorite holiday. Despite coming at the end of a long holiday season, I look forward to the celebrations every year. I know where I want to daven (pray), and where I will have the experiences that I am looking for.

Unfortunately, the places I like to daven on this particular holiday are not in walking distance from my home (for me*). Usually, this is not a problem, since we welcome the opportunity to stay with friends. But, with my entire family here from the US, I didn't see how I would manage to find appropriate housing for everyone.

The thought of missing out on this special davening made me sad. I decided that I had to at least make the effort. If it didn't work out, then I did my hishtadlut (part in the effort). But I had to try and give God the opportunity to help me out. He did.

As soon as I mentioned that I was looking for accomodations, friends offered to host. Some lived far away, some offers were tentative, but there were offers and there were options. As Simchat Torah approached, I discovered that I was able to find hosts for everyone in a close radius to my sister's home, where we would all be having lunch, and to the shul (synagogue), where we would all be davening at night. (It would have worked out perfectly had I informed my brother, or his host, at which shul we would be davening. Ooops.)

I couldn't believe it. Even with all my guests, I would be able to daven in the places that uplift me spiritually. I would get my spiritual "booster shot." I was so excited and grateful to God -- and to my hosts!

At the last minute, we discovered that both Y & A had strept-throat. Even though A tested positive, she seemed totally healthy. However Y was really sick and could barely get out of bed. In the end, Y stayed with my sister. Y was disappointed to miss out on all the fun, but it was a treat for her to stay with her aunt. We hoped that by the next day (24 hours after starting antibiotics) she would at least feel well enough to join us for lunch. She did.

At night, we davened at Shir Hadash, a "Carlebach" minyan, with lots of ruach (spirit). Before we moved, that was our shul and I loved it -- I still do. I love the community, which is warm and welcoming, and I love the singing, which is strong and melodious. On Simchat Torah, there is LOTS of dancing, on both sides of the mechitzah (divider). And it is muvan me'alav (a given) that the women are also dancing, with a Sefer Torah. I especially love watching the women who are dancing with the Sefer Torah for the first time. It is a wonderful and inspiring experience.

In the past, I would dance and dance, without stopping. I didn't understand why women would stand around chatting, when they had the opportunity to sing and dance and celebrate the Torah.

This year, I knew things would be different. I wasn't able to really dance (no high-impact activity allowed -- due to the cancer in my bones, particularly in my hip). So, I had to be very careful. Still, A was with me and she wouldn't dance if I didn't. So, we danced together, in the slower parts of the circles.

I might have skipped dancing with a Sefer Torah if it hadn't been for A. In her sweet, quiet way, she let me know that she really wanted to dance with a Sefer Torah. She couldn't do that without me; she's still little. So I made sure to get the Sefer Torah during the second Hakafah, since I didn't know for how long I would be able to dance. I helped A to hold the Sefer Torah -- she wanted to hold it on her own, but it was large and heavy, so I also held on to it -- and we danced together. When she was done, I took the Sefer Torah and lifted it high into the air. I danced with it for a short while longer, then passed it on to the next woman, who was waiting.

I was able to dance for the rest of that Hakafah and one more. But by the fourth Hakafah, I had to sit down. It was a bit humbling for me to join the ranks of the "talkers" (rather than the "dancers"). And I did join in the singing occasionally (though it felt strange to be singing "from the outside"). Admittedly, I enjoyed talking with friends. And I am grateful to the friends who sat with me and kept me company! But it is difficult to accept that I can't dance the way I used to.

Moshe and I had the distinct honor of being hosted by the Rabbi and his family. It was a nice opportunity for us to get to know them better. In addition to being interesting people and wonderful hosts, they have a phenomenal assortment of books. Moshe looked around the library and stated: If I was locked in here for five years, I wouldn't get bored!!

In the morning, we (my mother, sister-in-law, and I) davened at Shirat Sarah, a unique women's tefillah group. For me, it was like coming home. I felt embraced by my friends and community. Before we moved, I used to daven there regularly (tefillot are approximately once every 6 weeks). My girls "grew up" there, and that's where Y had her Bat Mitzvah. (more on that another time)

During the year, the tefillot at Shirat Sarah are very traditional (sans d'varim she'bikedusha). But on Simchat Torah, the women can be as creative as they want with their Hakafot. This year, most of the Hakafot were unconventional, but not very radical -- instead of singing and dancing, there were many different divrei Torah. Though I really love dancing, it was gam zu l'tovah (all for the best), since I was able to sit for most of it. Still, I would have liked more dancing. Since the make-up of the Hakafot is determined by who volunteers to lead them, I volunteered to lead a more traditional Hakafah next year (b'li neder).

There was some dancing during one of the Hakafot, and A really wanted to dance with a Sefer Torah. There were three Sifrei Torah, and one was quite little (and light). I gave that one to A, and she was able to hold it by herself. She looked up at me with the sweetest smile and said "this is why I like coming to the women's tefillah". I thought my heart would burst with joy and love.

I read "V'Zot HaB'racha" in the main room, and A was by my side for much of the time. Earlier, on the way to shul, she asked if she could stand with me and told me that she likes hearing me read Torah. It was very special for me.

It was harder than usual to stay standing for so long. But I love reading and I love enabling other women to read and to get so close to the Sefer Torah and to HaShem. I was "called up" for the last "aliyah", with all the children. It was a real honor and very meaningful to me.

That moment, under the canopy of a tallit, immediately surrounded by all the children, and within a larger circle of women who I know daven for my refuah (recovery), I felt so close to God.

If I was a more learned person, I would quote a pasuk (Torah passage) here. Suffice it to say that I am grateful to everyone who helped make it possible for me to celebrate the way I wanted. And I am grateful to God, for all the gifts He gives me every day.

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

* There are young madrichim (youth group counselors) who walk to Homat Shmuel from Kagtamon (and farther) every week. And we've had friends who have walked over on Shabbat. But I can't walk that far -- certainly not in time for shul! :-}

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Chemo Day: Kids' Day at the Chemo Ward

"no rest for the weary"
(my mom always says this, so it seems like it must be a quote from somewhere)

Radiation ends and chemo resumes.... no breaks for the holidays....

At least, not for Chol HaMoed... (the Oncology Day Ward is closed on Chag & Erev Chag)

Tuesday was a marathon day for me: all three drugs (bone drug, vanilla-bean, and Herceptin) plus hydro-cortizone (to prevent/minimize an allergic reaction to the Herceptin).

I knew I would be there for a long time...

A few weeks ago, the social worker in the Oncology Day Ward suggested that it might be helpful to my children to see what chemo day is like. Chemo day on Chol HaMoed seemed like the right time... the kids wouldn't miss school and they could come for just part of the morning.

We had planned Tuesday to be a "down-time" day, so I figured that someone would bring the kids home and someone else would hang out with me for the day. After all, my home is filled with family members...

But, since we did double-duty at Ir David the previous day, we didn't go to the Southern Wall Excavations as planned. So I suggested that the family go to the Southern Wall Excavations Tuesday instead. I didn't mind missing this, as I've been there many times.

Moshe worried about leaving me alone for chemo, but I assured him that I would be able to entertain myself. I'd bring a good book, watch some TV, chat with other patients.... I'd be fine.

However, when Y heard that I wasn't going to be going to the Southern Wall Excavations, she announced that she didn't want to go either (she's also been there many times). After some discussion, Y chose to spend the day with me. We both appreciated the opportunity to have time together.

So, I packed my bag for the day and included games, snacks and treats for all. I wanted it to be a positive experience (as much as possible).

When we got there, the kids prompty began playing cards. When something interesting finally happened, it was hard to get them to stop playing and pay attention. During the few times that I wanted them to see something, they were barely interested. Part of me was happy that they weren't phased by what was going on, but the other part was hurt that they barely seemed to care...

Of course, whenever I pulled out snacks, they all put away their game....

What can I say? Despite all attempts to raise angels, I have normal, healthy kids. (ThankGod)

I am just grateful that they enjoy each others' company so much and are so happy playing together.

The doctor, though busy as usual, was very friendly when he passed by and noticed my kids. He asked each to introduce him/herself. Later, I discovered that MD would have like to ask the doctor some questions. It hadn't occured to me that my kids would actually have questions for the doctor. Next time, I will have to arrange for them to have a real meeting with the doctor. Live and learn...

Over a few hours, the kids got to see each stage until I was all set up on a comfy-chair with my IV. Then there was nothing else to see, so Moshe took MD and A home to go touring with the family.

As soon as everyone left, Y and I set up backgammon and began to play. We played for a while, until my friend K came by. Then Y pulled out her book to read, while K and I chatted. When K left, Y had enough backgammon, so we played Scrabble. Somewhere in the middle, we ate Greek salads for lunch. Our lunch options were limited since there was no Succah. Luckily, we both love salads.

The Herceptin went slowly, since I still have a reaction to it, but we finished just before 4:00. Luckily, another woman with whom I have become friendly, was ready to leave at the same time. So we got a ride to the train station with her and her husband.

Maybe tomorrow I'll tell you about the train ride.....

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

Touring with the Clan

With only two days of Chol HaMoed available (since Tuesday is chemo day), it was a challenge to decide what to do with my family.

Remember: we are talking about my ENTIRE extended family: my kids, who have seen almost everything in and around Jerusalem; my sister, who has seen a lot; my parents, who have been here a lot, but haven't done much touring; my brother who has been here once or twice, done a fair bit of touring, but still hasn't seen much; and my brother's wife, who is in Israel for the first time!

And, don't forget, my brother's two little kids, who aren't yet interested in hearing about our fascinating history and amazing archaeology.....

Well, we packed it in!

DAY ONE: (Sunday)

Our shul went to Herodion, and we joined the group.

It was fun to be on tiyul with members of the community. It was a spontaneous trip -- put together on Friday and announced in shul on Shabbat. About 25 families participated. It is so nice to be part of an active and cohesive community!

My kids and I had visited Herodion this past Chanukkah (we had a great tour from one of the on-site guides) but Moshe and everyone else had never been there. Plus we were interested in viewing the recent discovery of what might be Herod's tomb...

We travelled in convoy on the new road (open to Jews only during certain hours). It was cool to be part of such a long convoy! The drive took only 10 minutes, instead of the 35 minutes, round-a-bout route that we took during Chanukah.

Before visiting Herodion, we drove another 5 minutes to visit members of our community who, about two years ago, moved to Ma'aleh Rechav'am.* They wanted to actively support the fledgeling community that the government was (and is) threatening to destroy. They live half-time in Homat Shmuel and half-time in Ma'aleh Rechav'am (sort of like families who live half in Israel, half in the US -- but with a shorter commute!)

Then on to Herodion.... A member of our community, who works for the Antiquities Dept., and is a serious Jewish History buff, was our guide.

It was a challenge translating in real time for my family, but I think I did an okay job. I enjoyed the tour and learned a few new things too.

Nonetheless, I am forced to admit that my father was correct: I should have been our guide. Between the language barrier and running after my cute, 3 year old nephew, it would have been better for everyone (except, perhaps, for Moshe) to have a less academic tour that was more geared to our families' needs.

Apparently, though it would take another day to learn that lesson....

DAY TWO: (Monday)

Moshe and I both wanted to visit Ir David (The City of David). Over the past two years, there have been some amazing new archaeological discoveries (in addition to the discoveries of 15 years ago), which we both wanted to see. Moshe had never been there and I hadn't been there in a number of years.

A few months ago, I missed the special enrichment day organized by Migdal David (The Tower of David Museum) for its tour guides. I have been a guide at Migdal David for over 15 years (on and off). Migdal David always gets the best guides to guide us, and I was disappointed to miss the day at Ir David.

My father wanted me to guide our family. Despite the previous day's adventures, I again thought it would be better to join an English tour with one of the on-site guides.

When we arrived at Ir David (on Succot, this is an adventure in itself), we discovered that there were two seperate tours, one for "first-timers" and one for people who are already familiar with the site.

In deference to my parents and my brother's family, we chose the first tour, but that didn't include the new excavations. So, after the first 2 1/2 hour tour, we joined the second tour! (paying twice!)

Well, the second tour was well-worth it. Our guide, A, (who, coincidentally, is the husband of Moshe's cousin), was excellent. It was a real treat to have him as our guide.

After returning home, exhausted, my father and brother both told me that the second tour would have sufficed.

My father was correct... again.

There was about 70% overlap in material and I could have guided the sites that the second tour didn't cover.

One of these days I'm going to learn to listen to my parents.

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

* Ma'aleh Rechav'am, named after Rechav'am ("Gandhi") Ze'evi, was founded on three principles: Jewish Labor (our friends built everything themselves, including the back-breaking work of moving stones for their large, and beautifully, cultivated garden), No Fence around the Yishuv (artificial border, placing the community in a cage), and Co-Existance between religious and secular Jews (we are all part of one nation and need to live together as part of a unified community).