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Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Last Day of Summer Vacation

It was going to be a very pressured, not very fun, day. We were going to finish getting ready for school.

Then I received an invitation to join a select group of bloggers at Former Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu's press conference about his education initiative.... in Likud Headquarters, in Beit Jabotinsky, in Tel Aviv!

It seemed like a great opportunity, but I really did not want to drive out to Tel Aviv. Besides everything else, the trip would eat up half of my day. Then it occurred to me that I could drive to Tel Aviv for the press conference, and, afterwards, take my kids to the beach!

A has been asking to go to the beach all summer! In an instant, I changed the focus of our last day of summer vacation from boring, stressful, school preparations to fun, exciting, family time!

Thanks to A Mother in Israel, I learned that there is a museum on the first floor of Beit Jabotinsky. We both brought our kids to the museum, where they spent the morning learning about Jabotinsky and the Etzel, while we were on the top floor at the press conference.

An hour later, my kids and I were on our way to Herzliyah, to the beach. Y proved to be an excellent navigator and we found a wonderful public beach, "Hof HaSharon."

(Moshe drove to Tel Aviv with us, and attended the press conference, but caught a ride back to Jerusalem with Carl, from Israel Matzav. The beach, on a hot summer day in August, is not for Moshe. He'd rather work in his air-conditioned office!)

We found a great parking space, adjacent to the beach entrance (There was plenty of free parking). Just as we arrived on the beach, another family vacated their spot under one of the pagodas, so we found a place in the shade to place our blanket! (really a sheet, but nevermind) Cool!

We had a wonderful afternoon! First we changed into bathing suits. Then we ate a picnic lunch on our blanket. Then we applied generous amounts of sunscreen, and headed into the surf.

We rode the waves for a while. The kids were excited by the dynamic ocean, but they did not like the salty taste of the water, or the burning sensation when water got in their eyes or throats.

I could have stayed out in the waves for hours, but my kids had enough. So, we waded back to shore, rinsed off, had a snack, then broke out the "matkot." (I felt so Israeli!) I brought two sets, so we all could play. MD and Y played with each other, and I played with A. None of us played very well, but we had fun, and laughed a lot!

Then we took a break, in the shade, had another snack, and returned to the water. When the kids were ready, (before I was, of course), we headed back to shore. There we collected shells and interesting stones. Many of the stones had naturally formed holes, that seemed perfect for making necklaces.

I could have spent hours combing the beaches for those beautiful stones and shells, but Y wanted to play another round of matkot. She literally dragged me away from the water, and we played, and laughed. After about half an hour, we sat down on some benches, and watched while MD and A played in the sand.

Too soon, we realized that it was time to go. After all, tomorrow is a school day.

We packed up our things, showered, changed, and headed for home. Of course, we got stuck in rush hour traffic, but we had good music and good company, and the ride home was fun too.

When we got to Jerusalem, we met Moshe and my sister for dinner at a local Chinese restaurant. It was the perfect ending to a near perfect day.

I had not planned on leaving my house today. But, thanks to Bibi's education initiative, our last day of summer vacation was one of the highlights of our summer!

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

With love and optimism,

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Joseph is Moshe's favorite musical!

When he drives the kids to school in the morning, he often plays the music in the car.

A always wants to listen to the album. She knows all the words, by heart. Y and MD also love the music, but do not necessarily want to listen to it every day.

Moshe read about the performance at HaBima, in Tel Aviv, and suggested we go with the kids. I agreed; this would be an exciting family outing!

Most performances were sold out; but there were tickets left for the Friday before school starts. We were able to get front row seats! What a perfect way to end our summer vacation!

When we told the kids about it, they were.... well, less than enthusiastic.

"We've been to plays before;" they said, "if it's in Hebrew, what's the point?"

I tried to explain that this was a professional play, that the performance
would be on a different level than what they have seen until now. The kids were happy to go, but skeptical.

On Friday morning, I told the kids to dress up. After all, we were going to the theater. "In Israeli culture," Y protested, "jeans are dressing up." I was mortified. Moshe insisted that her choice of clothes would be fine.

"How do you know?" I asked Moshe. Many years ago, he told me, his grandparents attended the Opera in Tel Aviv, dressed, as was appropriate in New York or Germany, in evening attire. They were the only people dressed in that fashion. People stared, assuming his grandparents must be actors, based on their unusual attire.

To my chagrin, he was right.

The performance was excellent. The singing, dancing, and costumes were wonderful.

"It wasn't really worth it," I teased my kids.

They giggled, realizing how foolish they had been.

Of course, they had their critiques: "They did not sing the songs right," protested A, who expected every nuance to be the same. "The scene with Potifar's wife was obscene." (it was quite provocative). "Why did they lift their dresses up?" asked Y, who did not appreciate the risqué can-can, nor some of the other dance scenes and costumes. (neither did the rest of us)

Yes, this was Tel Aviv theater. So there were more than enough gratuitous exposures.

That said, the choreography was fantastic. The costume and set design were excellent. The performers were talented (in every way: singing, dancing, and acting). Overall, the performance was 100% professional.

We all had a wonderful time, and enjoyed the show immensely!

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

With love and optimism,

Thursday, August 28, 2008

"But She's Not Wearing Any Clothes!"

I thought that would get your attention!!

(Who says a blog about cancer can't be controversial?)

But, seriously, this post isn't about cancer, it's about S'rugim (or Srugim)... and going to the mikveh.

S'rugim, (lit. "knitted items", slang for the dati-leumi (religious Zionist) community, based on the knitted kippot that dati-leumi boys/men wear), is a TV series about 30+/- singles, living in the "bitz'ah" (lit. "swamp", slang for the Katamon/Rehavia singles scene, where singles can get stuck for years).

To our surprise, Moshe and I are totally into the show!

One night, Moshe brought home a DVD with three episodes. After the first episode, I suggested we watch the second. After the second, I suggested we watch the third. Moshe hesitated, pointing out the late hour. "I know," I responded, "let's watch it anyway!"

I was hooked!

Now, Tuesday nights, Moshe brings home the most recent episode, and we watch it together.

Afterwards, because we are such geeks, we analyze the episode. (I was not always such a geek. What can I say? I fell in with the wrong crowd....) We love analyzing TV shows together; it is one of the few things we both really enjoy!

We are not the only ones analyzing the show. After each episode, we check out Jameel's and Lurker's blogposts about the show.

This past Tuesday night, I was in bed by 8:00, feeling pretty miserable because of my toothache.

Moshe asked me if I wanted to watch something. At first, I did not feel like moving. But when he reminded me that he had the most recent episode of S'rugim, well...., let's just say I wasn't about to miss it for a lousy toothache!

But I digress....

-----------------SPOILER ALERT--------------------

In episode ten, Hodaya is not quite sure what to do at the mikveh. The balanit ("mikvah lady", who is there to assist women) gently guides her. After Hodaya immerses the first time, the balanit reminds her to say a b'racha (blessing).

"What?!?" shouts out my husband, "But she's not wearing any clothes!"

I burst out laughing!

My husband, with his yeshiva background, and all his knowledge, was completely unfamiliar with the rituals of women's immersions.

"Is that really how it is done?" he asks, incredulous.

I laugh again, and answer "yes, that's really how it's done."

"But how can she say a b'racha without any clothes?" he insists, beginning to quote various sources that discuss b'rachot.

I no longer remember the answer. I learned the laws of ritual immersion years ago, just before I married.

"You mean," my husband continued, not quite grasping the concept, "that every night women are saying b'rachot...." he left the sentence dangling in the air.

I laughed again, at my sweet, innocent husband, who was getting a glimpse into my ritual world, thanks to a TV show.

"Yes," I concluded, "every night, religious women are saying b'rachot, wearing no clothes."

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

With love and optimism,

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

PAIN -- In My Tooth

Tired, and ready to go home after teaching swimming all afternoon, I made myself a cup of coffee to go.

Walking to the car, talking with my son, I took a sip.

PAIN shoots up the right side of my mouth.

PAIN radiates around my jaw and through my cheekbone.

I stop walking, and cluth the side of my face.

My son, oblivious to my situation, continues talking.

I pull myself together enough to tell him that I cannot talk, and he needs to wait a moment.

I realized that the mild pain, that I had noticed earlier that day, was not connected to my sinuses or my ear. (In the past, I had pain from toothaches that turned out to be sinus infections)

This was no mild toothache; this was serious PAIN.

I had been to the dentist a month before, in July. Everything was fine. I felt some sensitivity in several teeth, but all the x-rays looked good.

Taking care of my teeth is important. One possible side-affect of my chemotherapy is damage to my jaw.

Zomera (Zometa) generates dense bone tissue that can reenforce bones tissue that was destoryed by cancer. Zomera does not reverse the bone damage, but it is effective in preventing fractures. Unfortunately, it cuts down on the blood supply to the jaw, and that can create other problems, like osteonecrosis of the jaw.

The next day, Monday, I went to the dentist.

My dentist, it turns out, was on vacation. One of his partners, who had done a root canal for me several years ago, saw me right away. He was unfamiliar with Zomera, and referred me to Hadassah.

That night, I could barely eat or drink. Hot or cold food/drink caused shooting pain, that took almost half an hour to fully subside.

So, this morning I went to Hadassah's Mouth Clinic. This clinic specializes in providing dental care to patients who have other serious medical conditions, such as cancer. The doctors there are familiar with Zomera, and how to treat patients who are undergoing chemotherapy.

The dentist who treated me was terrific. At first, I was worried, because he looked so young (read: inexperienced) and was Israeli (read: I expected him to be brusque and condescending). My preconceptions were unfounded. The dentist patiently answered all my questions, explained what he was doing as he went along, and consulted with the senior dentist when he had any questions. He was gentle, careful, and experienced; he practiced dentistry for 10 years before deciding to specialize in treating patients like me.

The dentist took care of the first stage of the root canal. He applied a topical antibiotic to the inside of the tooth, and put in a temporary filling.

I will have to return, either to him or to my regular dentist, for a permanent filling and a crown.

Meanwhile, now that the anesthetic has worn off, I am in pain again. It is not nearly as debilitating as it was this morning. But the dentist did warn me that it could take a day or two for the pain to subside.

The pain, and the stress, wore me out.

I came home, fed my kids lunch, then crashed. (I slept for almost four hours!)

I am no longer sensitive to hot and cold. In theory, I can eat anything.

In practice, chewing hurts.

I am out of ideas of soft foods. (How much yoghurt can a person eat?)

I am hungry.

Didn't we agree that cancer patients should be exempt from all these other minor health problems?

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

With love and optimism,

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I'd Rather Be Camping

All my friends are camping this week!

Some of my friends are camping for the first time! (You know who you are...)

Even Y is camping (with her youth group). MD and A went camping last week (with their youth groups). (Please, don't even get me started about why my kids are in different youth groups!!)

I love camping more than anything else in the whole wide world.

No one will go camping with me.

Well, that's not exactly true.

Several friends offered to go camping together.

But, between my kids' summer schedules and my chemo schedule...

Well, it was impossible to find a time that was good for all the members of my family, much less try to schedule around someone else's family!

I am bummed.

My kids would totally go camping with me. But, these days, I can not do it by myself.

Go figure; I married the only man in the whole wide world who hates camping.

My husband, who I love so much, suffers from the heat. He really suffers. He needs air-conditioning. And he has a strong prefrence for in-door plumbing (and private showers).

I could camp out for a month, no problem!

(The summer before my Aliyah, I went camping with my brother. We spent a week in California's beautiful parks, with no shower. We swam in a sparkly river, but, apparently, that only does so much. At the end of the week, we arrived at my friend's home, in Berkley. Only after I greeted my friend with a huge bear hug, did I realize how much I must STINK!)

I love being cut off from the rest of the world!

When I go camping, I do not bring anything electric with me! (OK, maybe my cell phone....)

(Oh, and there was that time that my son stepped on a burning coal that had spilled out of a defective coal bin. We did purchase one of those pseudo Tetris toys, to help distract him from the pain.)

Last Pesach, my parents came to visit and I figured they would go camping with me. After all, they are the ones who raised me to love camping so much! No go.

I even tried playing the cancer-card. Would you believe that I got no sympathy?

No one would go camping with me.

My parents claimed they are too old to go camping.

Who are they kidding? My dad could run circles around me, even before I got cancer!

But, who am I to judge them?

Not so long ago, given the choice between camping and staying in a 5 star hotel, I would choose camping. No contest.

These days... well... a soft, fluffy bed, and air-conditioning doesn't sound so bad...

Still, I'd rather be camping.

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

With love and optimism,

Monday, August 25, 2008

Happy Anniversary -- 15 years!

Married 15 years, and we still have so much to talk about!

Our anniversary was this past Shabbat, and Moshe and I decided to go away, together, alone.

Our kids are older, so getting away was not difficult. Our eldest is at machaneh (camp). And our other two went to friends (MD to NE and A to AV).

But where could Moshe and I go... that was a challenge!

Apparently, August is the peak of vacation season (I seem to be the only one in the world who did not know this). EVERYONE is on vacation this week! EVERYWHERE is booked up! Not to mention, that all the hotels, motels, hostels, and field schools raise their rates now, and often require a minimum 2-3 night stay. (Me: "But we only want to stay for one night". Them: "Even if you stay for one night, you have to pay for two." Me: "I'll get back to you.")

Someone should warn young couples before they get married: (imagine a deep voice)
"Kids, be careful, this day will determine when you go on vacation... for the rest of your lives!"

Considering that we really wanted to go away just for Shabbat, and that we mainly planned on eating and sleeping, we did not want to travel far, or pay a lot of money. We just wanted to hang out together.

Two friends, BS & SM gave us a gift to "upgrade" our anniversary plans. (We were so touched by your thoughtfullness and generosity. Thanks!!)

Another friend, AS, who was going away that weekend, offered us the use of her home in Alon, in the Judean dessert (our own personal "zimmer" (vacation home)). (Wow, more praise and thanks to follow!)

We decided to be creative.

We used the "extra" money to go out to a very nice restaurant during the week and chose to spend Shabbat in Alon.

At the last minute, a friend, AK, offered to cook for us, so we even had delicious, homemade food! She made my favorite chicken (an amazing garlic chicken -- maybe I'll even post the recipe). I was so happy.

At first, both Moshe and I had mixed feeling about our compromise. We felt we made the right decisions, but that things were not exactly as we had in mind.

That will not be the case next year!

Staying at my friend's home was absolutely the best thing that we could have done!!

True, no one was there to serve us, clean up after us, etc.

No one was there at all!

How wonderful!

We did not see anyone else the entire Shabbat!!

When we got there, the table was already set for Shabbat.

After Moshe davened, we sat down to dinner. The food was delicious. We sat and talked, and talked, and talked. Before we realized it, it was 1:30 in the morning!

How did the time fly so fast?!

The same thing happened the next day. We sat down to lunch and, before we knew it, it was 4:30 in the afternoon!

We set up and cleaned up together, and everything went smoothly. We were totally relaxed.

We took a quiet and peaceful afternoon nap, and woke up in time to eat Seudah Shlishit (the 3rd Shabbat meal).

At some point, we realized that Shabbat was over. We were not in a rush. We finished our meal and our conversations. Then we cleaned up, packed up our things, and, began the return to our "real life."

I do not know if I can fully convey how absolutely wonderful our Shabbat was.

We talked about everything.

We were completely together.

I would not have changed a thing.

We both agreed: we would love to do this again next year.

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

With love and optimism,

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Coming Soon: Our 15th Anniversary!

We had a wonderful Shabbat!!

Thanks to all who made it possible!!

I wanted to post about it tonight, but Shabbat ends late, we took our time packing up, there was crazy traffic on the way home, and, when we finally did get home, we did not want our time together to end (the kids are not coming home until tomorrow), so we watched some cool stuff on the DVD (OK, I admit it, we watched more stuff from the film "Trekkies." But, hey, we like that stuff.)

Anyway, now it is just too late.

Shavua Tov!!

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

With love and optimism,

Thursday, August 21, 2008

JBloggers Eat Waffles

What?? No waffles at the First International Jewish Bloggers Convention!!!

How can this be??

Clearly, NBN does not appreciate the intense affinity of JBloggers for waffles.

I'm voting for Jameel to run next year's convention -- we'll meet for breakfast and eat waffles! (and we won't let politicians with no convictions hijack the conference!)

LOL at the waffle maker raffle!!* **

R U wondering how the JBloggers Waffle Craze began?

Check out these two posts by Jameel at the Muqata: The Original Waffle Story:

Background to The Original Waffle Story (read this first, if you really want to understand):

The rest, as they say, is history!

Hey Jameel, I'll have ice cream and maple syrup with my waffles!

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

With love and optimism,

*donated by Israelmall, one of the convention sponsors

**Yisrael Medad won the raffle -- I'm jealous!

JBloggers Unite - The First International Jewish Bloggers Convention

Almost 20 years ago, Moshe told me that the day will come when everyone communicates via the internet.

I laughed at him!!

"Maybe you and your geeky friends," I scoffed, "but not normal people!"

When Moshe insisted we put an email address on our wedding invitation, I laughed again. Nobody RSVPed by email back then. (OK, maybe one or two of his geeky friends did -- they thought it was cool. My friends did not even know what email was.)

Over time, I glimpsed more and more of Moshe's on-line world. But it was his world. Not mine.

I did the email thing. But that's it. I did not search the web, read people's blogs, or watch UTube videos.

Then I got cancer and I had to find some way of communicating without making a hundred calls or sending a thousand emails.

So, I started blogging.

At first, I just did my own blog.

Then I found another blog that caught my interest. Then another.

Little by little, I started to learn my way around the blogosphere.

I started following links.

I started reading several blogs regularly.

I started recognizing the names of other bloggers.

I started to feel like I am part of a community, like I know these people, even though I never met them.

I've been blogging for a year now.

I still feel like a new kid on the block.

But I'm beginning to get it.

I was totally psyched to attend The First International Jewish Bloggers Conventions.

How cool to meet the person behind the blog-identity!

It was fun!

I even got the "in" jokes.

I had to leave early, to attend a simcha.

But, I'll be there again next year!

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

With love and optimism,

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Support Group -- The Last Meeting

The last meeting. I thought everyone would be there.

But, this is a cancer support group.

E, P, Tz, and Y all could not make it because they were not feeling well.

There is a risk in a group like ours.

We all have metastasis. We are all living with cancer. And we are all battling cancer, in our own private wars.

As part of this group, we bear witness to each others' battles. We witness the wins. We witness the losses.

We all know, in the deepest recesses of our hearts, that we will face similar battles.

We all know, that eventually, barring a miracle, we will lose the war.

We lock these thoughts away.

We don't think about the final battles.

We live our lives and pretend we do not have cancer.

In our support group, we do not pretend. We talk about living with cancer, how it affects us, our families, our friends. We talk about the rollercoaster of ups and downs. We talk about our fears.

We laugh a lot. Sometimes we cry.

In our support group, some women are having a harder time than others. Some women are not doing so well.

At our last meeting, one women questioned: "is this good for us?"

I understand the question.

We try so hard to live as if our lives are "normal." Does it help us to expose ourselves to other women, whose situation may be worse than our own, and, therefore, force us to confront a future that we wish to ignore?

It is complicated. It is a package deal.

Clearly, we do think it is worthwhile, because we keep coming back.

Who else can understand what it is like to be living with cancer?

What is the alternative?

To handle this alone?

It is too much. It is too hard.

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

With love and optimism,

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Itching (and tired)

Our anniversary is coming up and, besides wanting to talk (write) about what we are doing (we haven't finalized all our plans yet; suggestions are still welcome), I also wanted to write about some of the things I've been feeling.

But, I am just too tired (again/still/whatever). I came home from chemo exhausted!

I sat down to watch a movie with Y, and fell asleep!

Also, both last week and this week, I have been itching a lot more than usual. My oncologist (who is back, yay!) is not worried about it.

I can take an antihistamine, but those put me to sleep. I am tired enough without that!

The itching is not dangerous, just very annoying.

Very, very annoying!

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

With love and optimism,

Sunday, August 17, 2008

All's Well that Ends Well -- The Israel Museum

Wednesday morning, everyone was excited about going to the Israel Museum!

We had a family appointment at 9:00 in the morning, guaranteeing we would actually get out of the house, on time (more or less).

Just as we were leaving, I remembered to bring our water bottles. We scurried to get the water, and arrived a little late to our appointment. Even so, I made sure we ended on time. On our way out, I called my friend to let her know we were on our way. I was proud that I managed to be on time, for a change!

Unfortunately, my friend was not ready. Aack! Now what to do?

Usually, it is my friend who is waiting for me!

I needed to figure out what to do with my kids, fast, preferably before they started bickering out of boredom.

Y suggested we go to the mall, and pick up her pictures.

Going to the mall actually made sense -- it was close, air-conditioned, and contained activities that could be adjusted to fit a short or long wait.

We went straight to the photo shop, only do discover that, out of three rolls of film, two and a half rolls did not come out. Y was majorly disappointed.

"Let's go get calendars!" I suggested, with an overabundance of good cheer.

We managed to find calendars for both Y and MD (A had already received a really cool calendar for her birthday), when my friend called to tell us she was on her way.

A was disappointed that she did not get anything at the mall. Life is rough.

Now I had two dissatisfifed kids. (one more to go...)

The day had barely begun...

We met our friends at the Israel museum.

At the entrance, a volunteer, who I know from the pool, recommended taking the guided tours of the Shrine of the Book and the "real time" exhibit . My friend felt those tours would not be appropriate for her kids. I knew that my kids would be interested, but it was more important for us to be together. (I figured we could go back another time, but the "real time" exhibit closed on Friday)

So, we went directly to the children's exhibit, only to discover that there was no children's exhibit!

The museum is being renovated, and selections of the main exhibits were on display in the children's wing.

We had planned on spending the hottest part of the day inside the air-conditioned children's wing. Afterwards, we would eat lunch. Then, later in the afternoon, when it is cooler, we would visit the model of second Temple Jerusalem and do an activity in the statue garden.

We viewed a small part of the exhibit, then determined that we needed a new plan.

We went to view the model, but the kids were not interested. It was too hot.

When all else fails... eat lunch!

Y suggested we picnic in a small grove, by the "blue trees," where there are several benches. It was a great spot, with plenty of shade!

After lunch, my friend introduced our activity: to choose something interesting, and draw it. We had brought paper, pencils, erasors, sharpeners, and even books to lean on. My friend suggested that anyone, who was willing, could brave the heat and visit the statue garden. All the kids were excited to draw, and several of the kids actually wandered off, despite the heat.

A went off, drew a rough sketch, then returned to the shady area to draw her picture. As she was setting up her drawing space, A tripped over the base of a stone bench. She flew up in the air, then landed, hard, on her left side. Seeing her fall, and hearing her scream, jolted me out of my seat. I ran over to comfort her, and make sure that nothing was broken. She could move her fingers and joints, but she was in pain.

My friend went to get ice, with no success. When A calmed down a bit, I went to try to find ice. I was directed to the security workers, who said they would send a first aid medic. I emphatically requested that the medic bring ice. Then I went back, to wait with my daughter.

By now, all the kids had returned with their drawings. Y, MD and N, all drew the white dome of the Shrine of the Book, yet their pictures differed in style and detail. Both A and IS drew the two geometric kids, who symbolize the museum, but from different perspectives. YE drew one of the geometric statues, quite accurately. H drew a surprisingly detailed picture of a crane, towering over a clump of trees and a stone wall. It was very fascinating to see the different manifestations of the same assignment.

We wanted to go to the Shrine of the Book, but we were stuck, waiting for the medic.

I jumped up and introduced "charades" to the kids. I started off, with what I thought would be an easy example (I was mistaken). We all laughed a lot. The fun had begun!

Each kid enthusiastically took a turn. We did not want to stop when the medic arrived... without ice!

The medic cleaned A's wounds, and another staff member went to find ice.

We continued to play, until ice arrived, and everyone had a turn.

Then we went to the Shrine of the Book, and had a few minutes to view the Isaiah scroll (click here for a cool view of the scroll) and the Aleppo Codex, before the guard abruptly rushed everyone out.

As we left the museum, the kids were chattering excitedly, eager to share one last thought or idea.

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

With love and optimism,

Haveil Havalim #178 - The Tu b'Av Edition

OK, I'm hopping on the bandwagon!

Check out this week's Haveil Havalim #178 - The Tu b'Av Edition

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

With love and optimism,

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Kids' Classics: "Oppositing"

August 3, 2008 (age 10)
A to MD: “you are oppositing everything I said!”


A & MD had one of their classic disagreements (read: fights).

Both came to me, to be "judge and jury" (each expecting me to rule in his/her favor).

MD was giving his version of the story when A interrupted with the above quote: “you are oppositing everything I said!”

We all understood exactly what she meant!

The combination of her outrage and the invention of a new word/usage struck my funny bone -- In the middle of our deliberations, I started laughing.

At first, the kids tried to force me to be serious again. However, once I started laughing, I could not stop. In the end, everyone joined in the laughter.

By the time we stopped laughing, the fight was over and a new word officially entered our family lexicon.

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

With love and optimism,

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Next Shabbat (כ"ב מנחם אב) is our anniversary!

Moshe and I have been married for 15 years! (keyn yirbu!)

We would like to go away somewhere, just the two of us, and are looking for suggestions.

We would like to go as low budget as possible. The place can be simple (we don't even mind a youth hostel), but there must be air-conditioning.

It does not have to be fancy, just nice.

We are, basically, just looking for a place to get away, where we can be together, and do not have to cook, clean, or take care of anyone else.

Any suggestions?

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

With love and optimism,

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Medical Update -- MRI and my liver

We finally got the results of my MRI.

It took Hadassah two weeks to issue the report from the MRI!! It is outrageous to make patients wait so long for test results.

As if waiting is not enough, Hadassah will only send test results to your doctor. So, you need to meet with a doctor to find out your results.

My oncologist is on vacation.

None of the other doctors could meet with us today. We have been waiting to hear about the test results for 2 1/2 weeks already. As you can imagine, our families have also been anxiously awaiting the results.

We were fortunate, and were able to meet with the head of the oncology department, who was very nice, and explained the results to us.

The MRI report states that there is no evidence of metastasis in my liver.

I asked the doctor: do the results mean that there is no more cancer in my liver, or that we just can't see it?

The doctor answered, simply: we cannot see any cancer on the MRI.

Still, this is good news!

The doctor repeated something that I just heard today, from another patient. There are cases in which Navalbine is so effective on liver metastases, that the tumors "disappear." Let's just hope (and pray) that they don't reappear.

The report also noted that there extensive bone metastases.

But, as the doctor so succinctly put it, "we knew that already."

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

With love and optimism,

Monday, August 11, 2008

Tisha B'Av -- Part II -- Fasting, or Not

I don't fast well. By mid day, I have a terrible migraine headache, and I am quite miserable by the end of the day. I spend the last few hours in bed, and I do not have patience to help or take care of anyone. Fasting does not help me to be more spiritual.

The only thing worse than fasting, is not fasting when the rest of Am Yisrael is fasting.

During the fast day, and for several days leading up to the fast, people, even strangers, wish you an "easy fast," or an "easy and meaningful fast."

There is a national consciousness surrounding fast days.

It is strange to know, in advance, that you are not going to be fasting when everyone else is fasting. It is strange to eat when everyone around you, including your children, are not eating. It is strange to feel the national loss, so strongly, and yet feel separate, different, from the nation.

And then there is the subtext: why am I not fasting? Healthy people fast. Not fasting is a statement. I am not fasting, because I am not healthy. But I do not want to make that statement. I do not even want to acknowledge that statement.

At night, as I lay in my bed, thirsty from the walk, I had to force myself to drink. I was not even supposed to fast a little bit. But I had to force myself. It felt wrong.

The next day, I ate. Privately, in my own home. I felt a little like a thief. I had to remind myself that I was doing what I was supposed to be doing.

I knew from Yom Kippur that, though I am allowed to refrain from eating, I must drink at least 3 liters of water during the 25 hour fast. However, on Tisha B'Av, once I am already drinking, there is no merit to not eating.*

On Thursday night, a few days before Tisha B'Av, I attended our local Women's English Shiur (Torah class), given by one of the local Rabbis. In answer to a question I asked, the Rav gave an interesting perspective on the differences between our feelings on Tisha B'Av and Yom Kippur:
On Yom Kippur -- who needs to eat? (i.e. we are on such a high spiritual level, who needs food?)
On Tisha B'Av -- who wants to eat? (i.e. we are so miserable, who can stomach food?)

Though I don't fast well, even in the best of circumstances, I totally identified with what he said.

On Tisha B'Av, I ate like I was supposed to. But the food tasted like dust.

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

With love and optimism,

* According to my Rav, since fasting on Tisha B'Av is not d'orayta (a law ordained in the Torah), the guidelines governing fasting on Tisha B'Av are quite different from those governing Yom Kippur. There is no inyan (concept) of shiurim (amounts) On Yom Kippur, if one eats/drinks less than a specific amount, one is technically still fasting. On Tisha B'Av, once you eat/drink anything, the fast is broken, and there is no merit to refraining from eating/drinking.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Tisha B'Av -- Part I -- Walk Around the Walls

13 years ago, we were among a small group of people, organized by the Women in Green, who walked around the walls of the Old City to mark Tisha B'Av.

More and more people joined us each year. Today, this revived ancient tradition is now firmly reestablished, with hundreds of participants annually.

From a small group, gathered on a grassy slope in Gan Ha'Atzmaut (Independence Park), our group now fills the plaza at Kikar Safra, from where the walk around the walls now begins.

Last year, our family heard Megillat Eicha, read by our friend, TS, at the Tayelet; then we joined the group at Kikar Safra. We planned to do the same this year.

Right after Shabbat, we met at the Tayelet; our friends chose a spot with a bench, just for me. MD sat next to me, so that we could share a copy of Eicha and a flashlight (we alternated holding each). Everyone else sat on the stone floor, or a low stone wall. (I can no longer sit for long on a hard surface without severe back pain)

Because Tisha B'Av began this year on motz'ai Shabbat (Saturday night), everything started later. There was terrible traffic on the way to Kikar Safra/the Old City.

Each year, tens of thousands of Jews make pilgrimage to the Kotel on Tisha B'Av; roads around the Old City are closed off; and traffic gets progressively worse during the evening.

By the time we arrived at Kikar Safra, the group was long gone.

Without the group, and the police escort, the walk around the walls is not safe. Most of the walk is through exclusively Arab neighborhoods. It is not recommended to walk in those neighborhoods without being armed.

As we stood on the street corner, disappointed, it seemed clear that we had no choice but to turn around and go home.

There were many Jews milling around, on their way to or from the Kotel through Sha'ar Yafo (Jaffa Gate), but no Jews heading in the direction we wanted to go.

Just then, I saw a young couple with a stroller, start walking in the "wrong" direction, towards Sha'ar Sh'chem (Damascus Gate). Maybe they were going to join the group?

I quickly caught up to them.

"Yesh Lachem Neshek?" I asked. (Do you have a weapon?)

They had a weapon, and they were walking fast.

I called to my family to join me and we rushed to keep up. The couple were only rushing because their friends/family were waiting for them at Sha'ar HaPerachim (Herod's Gate), just past Sha'ar Sh'chem. After that, they walked a bit slower, but not much. (It is good to be young!)

Around the same time, three yeshiva students "joined our group", walking behind us. We were now 12 people walking together, so I felt safer.

Our efforts were rewarded. We joined the group at Sha'ar Ha'Arayot (Lions' Gate). We missed a few of the speakers, but were able to hear most of them.

We were moved and inspired by many of the speakers, who spoke about what Tisha B'Av means for us today, especially in the wake of the expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif, and the current threat of destruction of even more Jewish communities (a.k.a. "settlements").

We finished walking with the group to Sha'ar Ha'Ashpot (Dung Gate), where many of the participants either entered to go to the Kotel or caught a bus.

Our family continued on, past Sha'ar Zion (Zion Gate). At Sha'ar Yafo, I suggested to Moshe that we walk down Mamilla Street to get to our car.

"I walked almost the whole way around the walls;" answered Moshe, "I am willing to walk an extra five minutes, to walk the around the entire Old City."

Can't argue with that.

So we continued past Sha'ar Yafo, and up to Kikar Safra.

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

With love and optimism,

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Painting Pine Cones -- 2008

Every year, we paint the pine cones we collected on MD's birthday.

Not all the kids feel like painting more pine cones. So they mix paints and offer their colors to others.

We all enjoy the creative process.

It is so interesting to see how different our pine cones turn out, especially considering we all start with the same five basic colors: blue, red, yellow, black and white.

Last year, for the first time, we decorated our sukkah with all the pine cones we collected over the years.

The kids remembered which pine cones they painted, and sometimes even when they were painted!

The pine cones made our sukkah beautiful and special.

From one tradition emerged another. As we painted our pine cones, we knew that in another few months, our creations would adorn our sukkah.

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

With love and optimism,

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Happy Birthday to MD

It started when MD was really little.

His birthday is on the 5th of Av, during the nine days, so he could never have a party on his actual birthday. It did not matter for his first or second birthday. But as he grew older, and became aware of his birthday, he realized that he was the only one whose "special day" was..., well..., not that special.

I wanted to do something special to mark the day.

What has now become a firmly established family tradition, began 7 years ago, in the summer of 2001, when MD was 5 years old. Now, after 8 years, my son's birthday is one of the most special days of our summer.

The day has developed its own rites and rituals -- every year we do the same things, in the same order; we even eat the same foods and the same snacks.

It might not sound like much, but every one of us (my son, both my daughters, and I) looks forward to MD's birthday.

That first year, I checked with my Rav (Rabbi), who said that if we were only going with one other family, and keeping things "low key", then it was okay, and not really a celebration. So we went with IS and her family, and have been going together ever since.

Every year, we meet at Gan HaVradim (The Roses Park), in the early afternoon. Well, to be accurate, we intend to meet in the early afternoon.... we do not always get there on time.... This year was no exception. It took IS longer than planned to get ready. (Remember, she was preparing everything for both our families!) I took advantage of her delay, and took a much needed nap!! (because I am still so tired)

We always start out in the Japanese garden. This magical enclave has always enraptured our kids. There is a small waterfall, and a tiny stream that leads to a small lake with lily paddies. The kids always find wonder in playing in the waterfall and stream. (One year, they pretended they were following Moshe Rabeinu (Moses)) The water cools everyone off in the afternoon sun.

When we arrived this year, there was no waterfall, no stream, and NO LAKE! It was a bit shocking, not a little ugly, and... disappointing. The disappointment did not last long. We simply decided to skip that part and went straight to our usual "hangout" in the large grassy area, next to the Pine trees.

We spread out our blankets. For a few minutes, we just lay down, "stalbet" (doing nothing).

"I'm hungry," one of the kids called out.

"Let's have corn-on-the-cob," suggested IS. All the kids enthusiastically agreed, and reached for the fun corn holders.

Afterwards, we all played Chayei Sarah (a variation of SPUD) -- even the moms!

It is amazing how that one game can be enjoyed by kids of all different ages (in our case, from 5 to 42!).

In the Israeli version, the game begins by throwing a ball into the air; anyone can catch it. The person who catches the ball tries to hit another person with the ball. If the ball hits the other person before it touches the ground, that person is out. If the other person catches the ball before it touches the ground, the thrower is out. When the person who got you out gets out, then you are back in. So, there are natural breaks (when you get out), lots of running around (trying to catch or avoid the ball), teamwork (getting someone else out, so that others can come back in), and good sportsmanship (everyone moves in closer, so the person throwing the ball has a chance). Since there is constant movement out and in, there is good spirit when someone gets out. Everyone keeps track of who is in and out; if someone out is not paying attention, and does not notice when they can rejoin the game, everyone calls them to come back into the game. The "winner" gets one "free pass" during the next game (meaning: if they get out, they can either stay in or return to the game when they want, independent of who got them out). Games last quite a while, with everyone enjoying both the running around and the breaks.

We played two games, before breaking for supper.

Every year, there is a large group of martial artists who practice on the lawn, not far from where we sit/play. A few minutes after we wondered why they were not in the park this year, they started showing up.

As we were eating, we watched them practice. Some of our boys did warm-up exercises (push ups, etc) with the group. When the martial artists were practicing their forward rolls, MD tried, unsuccessfully, to copy them.

It has been many years since I practiced martial arts. But I was drawn in; I wanted to do forward rolls too. At one point, I realized that it would help my son, if I demonstrated a forward roll for him. I took a deep breath, prayed that my body still knew what it was doing (and that I would not break anything), and did a forward roll.

It was great! I checked... everything still seemed to be in working order. So, I did another one. I knew my form was still good, because I landed in the correct position.

My son seemed to understand what I was trying to show him, because after that, I was able to spot him, and help him begin to learn how to do it. (It takes more than one afternoon to get it right).

Once I helped the kids break through their "inhibition barrier," Y and A started doing gymnastics too. Y has a great cartwheel! I tried to do a cartwheel, but that hurt my wrists (thanks to my arthritis; nothing to do with cancer), and I realized that I could no longer do it right. So, I helped spot A with her back-bends and Y when she did a hand-stand into a back-bend. The coolest thing was when Y explained to me exactly what I needed to do to spot her! She also corrected me on how to spot A. Y learned all about spotting in her 3 week training course for assistance gymnastics counselors.

When we tired of all these calisthenics, we set up the "ring toss."

After that, we took out the Frisbees. Again, the warm and supportive group atmosphere made the Frisbee toss great fun! Everyone was careful to be inclusive, and pass to everyone in the group, even the "little" kids. Supportive comments were constantly being shouted across the field: "nice throw," "good try", "you almost got it," "great catch!" It was especially nice to see the kids helping each other, giving pointers, and making sure that everyone felt good about what they were doing.

The sun was already setting, and it seemed a shame to break up the game.

IS had the great idea of forming a pyramid. So, we all got down on our hands and knees! We made one 4-3-2 pyramid. YE took a great picture of that! Then we asked someone else to take our picture, and tried for a 4-3-2-1 pyramid! That was harder, but I think we did it!

Then we sent the kids off to collect pine cones (to be painted a different day), and IS and I set up the "birthday unparty." We piled plates with potato chips, popcorn, Bissli (classic Israeli junk food -- it's got nothing on American junk food, but Israelis love it!), pretzels, and cookies. Then we set the plates in a circle and called the kids.

We asked a stranger to take our picture. Then we sang Happy Birthday to MD and also HE (one year, we celebrated MD's birthday late, and it was closer to HE's birthday than to MD's. Ever since, our excursion marks both boys' birthdays).

Then we cut up the cake and the "trading" began. "Who wants my ____?" shouted the kids, eager to give away anything they don't want.

As the sun descends below the horizon, we finish eating our snacks and make sure to find our shoes. Within minutes, the park is dark, and it is difficult to see.

The kids start pointing. "There's one!" they call, spotting a bat, "There's another! And another!"

We are the only ones still in the park.

But we are still not finished.

IS has already prepared a pan, filled with soapy water. The kids take straws, crouch around the pan, bow their heads as one and... blow millions of soap bubbles. There is a lot of laughter during this simple activity.

We gather one final time, on the blankets, to sing Birkat HaMazon (Grace after meals). During Birkat HaMazon, I glance at my son. One of IS's twins is sitting on his lap, and I can see my son gently holding him. My heart fills with joy.

Then we are done.

Everyone grabs a bag and we make our way back to our cars.

Every year, I wonder: Will this year be as fun as last year? Will the kids still be willing to play?

As we walk back to our cars, I watch my son walk side by side with IS's son; I hear my eldest daughter laughing with IS's eldest daughter; and I see my youngest daughter, walking alongside IS's twins.

We walk in step with each other.

This year was even better than the last.

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

With love and optimism,

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Capturing the Moment

"I don't want to go, I'm going to be bored..." complained a child, who shall remain nameless.

Needless to say, once we got there, said child immediately ran off with friends (IS's kids).

Our local Museum of Natural History is a very quaint museum (read: small, old, slightly run down). Nevertheless, there is plenty to see and learn.

The museum has the basics: geology, dinosaurs, evolution, animals, reptiles, fish, the human body, an earthquake room.

With IS and her family, 8 kids all together, someone was always calling, "hey, look at this!"

There was a general atmosphere of exploration and fun, with just the right amount of "hey, I remember this from last time!"

In the earthquake room, Y and A called to YE "take a picture of us... we have a picture of us here, from two years ago." It was cute!!

For whatever reason, we all felt really free in the earthquake room -- maybe because we were the only ones there, or because the airconditioner made the room cool and comfortable, or because there was so much to touch!

We had a whole debate about where is the safest place to be... during an earthquake. (comments are welcome, proof texts are appreciated)

Then we went outside and had a picnic lunch, on benches in the shade. (Thanks IS and YE for putting it together!! Thanks Y and A for helping set it up)

After lunch, the kids went off to play "Chayei Sarah" (a.k.a. SPUD), giving IS and I a chance to talk. After an hour or so, A came over. We told her we wanted to keep talking privately, and asked her to go back and play. A asked "What do you still have to talk about??" IS and I laughed. "We've been friends for over 20 years," I answered my curious child, "and we haven't run out of things to talk about yet!"

It was hot. Eventually all the kids returned to the shade and plopped down on the benches. We ate the rest of the cool melon.

As I finished rinsing my hands with tap water from one of our bottles, I flicked my wet fingers in Y's direction, laughing. She took her water bottle and sprinkled me with water. "Don't waste mineral water," I scolded her, laughing. MD took her bottle and started gulping down the rest of her water. I stood up, already seeing where this was heading. When he finished, my son casually strolled towards the water taps. I followed close behind, until we were racing to fill up our bottles.

Soon, we were in a semi-serious water fight.

YE kept calling at us not to waste water ("There isn't enough water in the Kinneret!"), but it was a lost cause.

Y seemed satisfied to stand aside, and watch MD and I battle it out. At one point, she came over to "confide" something to me. Her ruse worked. As I bent closer, to hear her, she tipped my own water bottle onto me!

Within a few minutes, we were all wet and laughing. The cool water provided a pleasant relief from the day's heat. But I didn't want us to get my car wet! Not to worry; the sun quickly dried us up!

Before we left, we gathered at the same place where we began our museum visit two years ago. Once again, we took a photograph of all the kids on the stone Stegosaurus.

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

With love and optimism,

Sunday, August 3, 2008


"Did you see the houses?" My eldest daughter asked.

I knew, right away, which houses she meant. I had not seen yet them. So, she grabbed my hand, pulled me from the Beit Knesset (synagogue), and... there they were, on the next ridge.

"See the Israeli flags;" she said, "you can see the corner of that room..." she added, pointing.

On first glance, I saw three large, grey piles of rubble. But then I saw the details too: a cabinet door; the white walls, now broken and covered with dust and debris; the flags, blowing in the afternoon breeze. It was surrealistic.

There were nine houses in all, now nine piles of shattered dreams.

GS, our host, told us some of their stories. Each home, each stone, crushed and destroyed, told the story of a young family, excited about building a home, and a community, in Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel).

I've know GS for almost as long as I've been in Israel. When we both lived in Katamon (or thereabouts), we often had Shabbat meals together. GS originally moved to Amona for "a year or two." That was 7 years ago, and she has been inviting us to come for Shabbat ever since.

To get to Amona, we drove through Ofra, then turned onto a small windy road, to reach the mountaintop community of 40 families, living in caravans. Amona was founded eleven years ago, by three families from Ofra, on land that technically still belongs to Ofra. Many of the families living there today have one or two members who grew up in Ofra and neighboring Beit El. The community is warm, friendly, and accepting.

The air is crisp and clear in Amona. Even during these hot summer days, it is pleasant to walk around in the late afternoon and evening. Around 5:30 pm, we walked to the "visitors center", a lookout tower above a large Crusader archeological park. But you need not go anywhere special to see the spectacular view. From outside GS's door, you can see straight to Jerusalem (Mount Scopus) and Herodian.

When GS originally moved, few Israelis had heard of Amona, including us. Unfortunately, that changed in 2005. The entire country's attention focused on Amona, as hundreds of Israeli youth protested the scheduled demolition of the nine homes.

The Israeli police were brutal, and used excessive force and violence. They detained many of the teens, often in solitary confinement. These children (some as young as 13 and 14), were held for weeks (and months), with no charges, and no access to legal representation. The silence of the "human rights" and "children's rights" advocates was blaring. These organizations, dominated by an openly left-wing leadership, apparently do not believe that children with right-wing views deserve protection under the law.

That double-standard should not surprise us. After all, it was Peace Now, an organization that protests the demolition of Arab homes as inhumane, that actively advocated and petitioned the courts to destroy the nine Jewish homes in Amona.

Our army is getting proficient at throwing Jews out of their homes.

Though all these thoughts went through my mind during our journey and visit to Amona, the thing that struck me the most, was the peaceful beauty of the yishuv.

At the center of the yishuv, is a modest Beit Knesset and a small park with a wooden jungle-gym, surrounded by flowers, bushes and several young trees. The caravans stretch across several ridges. The people who passed us, all greeted us with smiles, and the sound of children's laughter wafted through the air.

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

With love and optimism,

Friday, August 1, 2008

So Tired

A while ago, I finally figured out that I need to nap almost daily. I discovered that if I napped 1 1/2 - 2 hours a day, I had enough energy in the evenings to parent the way I want (to help my kids, be patient with their problems, read/sing to them at night, etc.)

I was feeling good.

A week or two after my discovery, my oncologist casually mentioned that I should not be feeling tired from this kind of chemo.

Never mind that I spoke with other women who also felt tired from "this kind of chemo." Never mind that one woman told me that she could barely function while on "this kind of chemo."

As soon as I heard my doctor say that I should not be feeling tired, I felt that I must be indulging myself.

At first, I just cut out a nap here and there, because there were other things that really needed to be done.

But there are always other things that need to get done. So, every day, I pushed a little bit more, and a little bit more, until taking an afternoon nap really did seem like a luxury.

Recently, I have really been feeling like I am pushing myself beyond my limits. Even though I am acutely aware of all the things I no longer do, I still want to do as much as I can.

But I am crashing. On Monday, I cancelled my morning appointment, so I could sleep a few more hours. On Wednesday, I stopped what I was doing mid-morning and went to sleep... for almost four hours! (I had to really push myself to get out of bed and drive to the Mifletzet) On Thursday, I slept two hours in the afternoon and still went to bed at 10:00 pm (which is really early for me).

I have never been good at limiting my activities. As soon as I am rested enough, I try to return to my "normal" schedule. Then, I discover that I am doing too much, so I cut down my activities. Then I feel rested enough, and.... the cycle repeats itself.

I am not sorry that I am pushing myself. It is summer vacation, and I really want to do fun things with my kids. But it is hard!

Eventually, I will find the balance....

Maybe in September, when school starts....

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

With love and optimism,