Powered by WebAds

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Small Joys, Small Frustrations

Last Thursday, for the first time in months, the nurse was able to draw blood from my port! I did not do anything different. I did not even remember to drink anything beforehand. It was so great not to be poked another time!

The previous Thursday was more typical. When the nurse could not draw blood, she sent me with the vial to get blood drawn from my arm. I asked why there was only one vial, as all the other times I had two. She insisted that was all that was written in my chart. What did I know? I trusted her judgement.

At least the doctor who is good at drawing blood was back. Just as he withdrew the needle from my one good vein, the woman who overseas the study I am in asked "where is the other vial?"! The nurse was wrong!! I had to get poked again, this time in my hand. It hurt (not much, but who wants any pain?). I had a bruise on the back of my hand for a week!

The first time I came in for chemo, I was introduced to R, my friend who works at Tel Shilo. She told me that I would get so used to being poked by needles that, eventually, I would not even notice. I did not believe her, having developed a life-long aversion to them! In the end, she was right. It does not really phase me any more.

Still, I do not really want to get stuck any more than absolutely necessarily. I was really annoyed, because I suspected that something was missing and had asked the nurse. I was frustrated by her error, and by my having been intimidated to question her further. It will not happen again.

At least not about this issue....

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

With love and optimism,

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Bookaholics Anonymous

Two things I should admit from the start:

1. I LOVE reading!

2. I read really slowly!!

I have gotten a lot better at putting down a book when something else needs to be done. That might not seem so difficult, but it is. Intellectually, I know the story will still be there later, and I won't "miss" anything. But I often don't want to wait to find out what happens... I want to know NOW.

Kids are one -- make that three -- of the major reasons that I do not read as much as I used to.

These days, I only become seriously obsessed by a book if it is really good or if I have to finish it in time for my book club. (you can read more about my book club here)

Well, this month my book club read The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger. A book about time travel and a love story! I was hooked from the first page. I read it every free second I could find.

1. It is a LONG book
2. Reading makes me really tired
3. I have been really tired this past week, even without reading (For several nights running, I have been falling asleep before my kids!).

I really wanted to finish the book in time for our meeting.

In a determined effort to finish on time, I began intensely reading my book, to the exclusion of other obligations. I read several hundred pages in several days. I counted on spending a significant part of Wednesday finishing my book in time for the meeting that night. Of course, my daughter's visit to the emergency room put a bit of a damper on my plans. (Read about it here)

This unexpected turn of events made me realize that my principles and priorities had gotten all jumbled up. I mean, I was on the way to the emergency room and I wondered if this would prevent me from finishing my book!!

So, here is my dilemma: How much can a mother ignore her kids in order to finish a book?

For the past few days, I asked the kids to take care of their own dinner, solve their own fights, and basically leave me alone while I finish my book for my book club.

Even while in the emergency room, I tried to read my book at every moment. For a while there, we were a really cute mother and daughter team, both of us with our heads buried in our books. Then my daughter got bored of reading, but I did not want to stop -- I still had almost a hundred pages to go!

Eventually, I had to put down my book, because my daughter was just too miserable. But I did not really want to trade in my entertaining escape for the sadness and boredom that is inevitable after spending all day in the emergency room.

When we finally did get home, I announced to my kids that I was going to read for the last two hours that I had before my book club meeting. They cooperated at first, but, well, you know, all good things come to an end. Finally I just burst out "Call your father for help! Please leave me alone!" (Don't be deceived by the please.... I was not really asking)

I had 70 pages left to go... then 50... then 30...

In the end, I did finish my book, reading the last ten pages in the car on the way to the meeting. (Thanks OEP for picking me up and M for taking me home!!)

I read the last two pages, on a Nachla'ot sidewalk, from the light of someone's apartment, while my friends were trying to figure out how to find our host's home.

I arrived triumphant! I finished the book.... but not quite as smoothly as I had hoped. (Things never to work out quite as smoothly as we hope, do they?)

The discussion was dynamic! I was totally into it. I love analyzing books!!

The biggest advantage to finishing a book so close to our meeting?

The details are still fresh in my mind!


OK, now it is your turn! Please share your most outrageous story of ignoring your kids in order to finish a book!

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

With love and optimism,

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Day in the Emergency Room (Everyone is Fine)

**** We interrupt this program for a medical emergency ****

Well, that's how I felt this morning!! I had plans for today!

Yesterday, a friend came over and we started a major cleaning project, which we planned to finish today. In fact, I promised everyone that the mess we made would be gone by this evening! Oh, how God laughs at me!!

Today, instead of cleaning and reading (more about that in my next post), I spent the entire day in the emergency room with A, my youngest daughter! (Don't worry, she's fine!)

Yesterday evening, she got injured in judo class (again!) -- Someone fell on her during a throw and she got kneed in her calf. This morning, her leg was significantly swollen and it hurt her even more than last night.

I called our doctor to ask "could it be that she broke her leg?" The doctor thought that highly unlikely, but, from our description, he was concerned about "compartment syndrome." He instructed us to bring our daughter into the clinic this morning. So, Moshe brought her in and the doctor on duty sent her straight to the emergency room. Clearly this was not going to be resolved quickly.

Moshe called me and we agreed that I would meet him at the hospital. I had never heard of this syndrome before. If this turned out to be our daughter's diagnosis, she would require immediate surgery. My earlier confidence that this was a simple sports injury was eroding rapidly and I was increasingly worried.

I packed a bag with snacks and treats, books for me and my daughter, and one of those handheld computer games (special request from my daughter). Of course, we had no batteries, so, on my way, I stopped by a local store to pick up batteries.

I arrived at the hospital around 10:00 am, just after the orthopedist made his initial exam. According to Moshe and my daughter, the orthopedist dismissed the possibility of compartment syndrome (making rude and disparaging remarks about the competence of the doctors who sent her there in the first place). Still, just to be sure, he wanted to keep her under observation for a couple of hours.

A showed me her arm, which had two clear bandages over white cream. "I look just like you!" announced my adorable little girl, indicating the tube of topical anesthesia on the tray next to her. It was exactly what I use to anesthetize the skin above my port before chemo. I did not know whether to be amused or disturbed by her frame of reference. I smiled and acknowledged the truth -- it was the same stuff.

The nurse came in, noticed a better vein on A's other arm, applied another patch, and told us come at 11:00 for blood tests. Then we were directed to one of the waiting "room" (read: a bed and chair which could be closed off by a curtain, but which we left open). A was able to lie down and elevate her leg. "When can I do to school?" A asked, as we 'settled in.'

Our fifth grader daughter did not wanted to miss school at all. Today was Rosh Hodesh Adar (the first day of the Jewish month for being happy) and there were many special things happening in her school -- yom ippur (make-up day), harkadot (dancing), and decorating the school (which is done every year by the fifth graders, so this was her year!)

After two and a half hours, at 12:30 pm, we were told that the rofei bachir (senior physician) would check on our daughter soon.

An hour later, we were still waiting.

A decided to take a nap, to help pass the time.

An hour later, I had to break the news to my daughter that there was no chance of her making it in time for school.

When she realized that she was missing everything, she was sooooo sad. She wanted to leave the hospital right away and was so frustrated that we were spending all this time "waiting for the doctor to tell us that nothing is wrong!"

By this time, I knew that she was right. As the orthopedist pointed out, if it was compartment syndrome, she would have been in the operating room already. She simply had a small hematoma and some swelling, which seemed to me to have gone down significantly.

We hoped the senior orthopedist would come soon and that she would at least be able to join her class in decorating the school.

Eventually, even that possibility grew remote.

Finally, the senior orthopedist arrived, finished his one minute examine of my daughter, and confirmed that she was "good to go." By the time we received our discharge papers and final instructions from the nurse, it was 5:30.

In a last ditch attempt to cheer up my daughter, I asked if she would rather I take her to school or to a restaurant for dinner (our snacks ran out long ago, and the hospital food was, well, hospital food. I knew she was hungry). She did not want me to feel bad, but she also did not hesitate in her answer. She wanted to go to school.

But she had no illusions. She knew it was late and suggested I call her teacher.

One of the kids from her class answered the teacher's phone. "It's A's Ima" I heard the student announce to the teacher, even though I had not identified myself. (How do these kids know?)

I could tell the teacher was busy, but she was so sympathetic when she heard where A had been all day. Still, there was nothing to do. "We will be out of here within half an hour," she informed me. There was no point in bringing A to school. They would be gone before we even arrived.

A was clearly disappointed, but resolved to make the best of it.

I was tired, and in a bit of pain from sitting so long in the hospital. We decided to go to a small local restaurant in our neighborhood.

I watched my little girl devour an enormous hamburger.

Afterwards, she noted that we had not talked much. She was right. We were both tired.

It was a long day, for both of us.

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

With love and optimism,

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Parental Patience and Understanding... Or Not

Last night, over dinner, my eldest daughter pondered aloud:

"How can there be communication between parents and children? Parents have already grown past what children are experiencing. How do parents understand children, when children are saying so many childish things?"

I responded "that's why God gave us so much patience...."

All three of my children burst out in laughter.


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

With love and optimism,

Friday, February 20, 2009

Thank You!! (to everyone who made my 43rd birthday so special!!)

So, I'm still on the birthday theme because, to my surprise and joy, birthday gifts keep popping up!!

I'm still getting letters! (we're not in college anymore; there is no deadline!!)

I also received a box of Godiva dark chocolates!! (I am in heaven!!)



I really wanted to do something special, at the hospital, to mark my birthday. I have been in treatment for over a year and a half, and I wanted to share my celebration with these people, who have become a part of my life. I am at the hospital every single week -- I see the people there more than I see anyone else!

I knew I should bake a cake.

The problem is, I really hate baking.

I did not manage to bake in time to bring a cake on February 12th. I did not feel too bad about it, since that was only after my "loazi" (secular, Gregorian calendar) birthday. I could bring a cake the following week, after my "Ivri" (Hebrew, Jewish calendar) birthday. After all, the 22nd of Sh'vat is my real birthday.

Of course, by the following chemo day, I still had not baked a cake.

Have I mentioned that I hate baking?

Thursday morning, finding nothing, to grab on the way out, and not wanting to be late to chemo, I determined to bake a cake next year!

I arrived at chemo and plopped my coat and sewing bag on a chair next to LS, who, as usual, arrived earlier than I and saved a seat for me. Then I went about my business, registering, opening my port, getting blood tests (I have so much more to write about this, but not in this post!), meeting my chemo-date (who came, by bus, from Ginot Shomron!! and brought candy!!!), etc.

When I finally went into the day room to sit down and relax, LS surprised me with a birthday cake!! Wow!!

LS made a really large and delicious chocolate cake!! I was able to share with everyone -- doctors, nurses, secretaries, researchers, patients, et al!! I had so much fun bringing around cake and inviting people to share in my birthday celebration!! I just felt great!!

Without knowing it, LS answered my inner wish! Her gift to me enabled me to share my birthday the way that I wanted!

As I entered the day room, after delivering the last of the cake, one of the nurses was ready to hook me up to the IV with my chemo.

I had a big smile on my face as I took my seat and settled in for my next treatment.

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

With love and optimism,

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Only Good Things

I want to share with you what happened today at chemo, but it will have to wait until tomorrow.

I am so tired. My plan for the evening was to blog and go to sleep.

But then I decided to sit with the kids for supper, which was REALLY nice. No one bickered or complained. We just sat around talking. It was really pleasant. (It is nice to know that can actually happen every now and then!)

Then Moshe called to see if it was okay with me if he went again (for the THIRD time) to the international book fair. He really wanted me to join him, but I was too tired. I would have liked him to come home and put the kids to bed, but then he would get to the fair too late. So I told him to go and have a good time. (For Moshe, going to the book fair is like letting a kid loose in a candy shop. Not to mention that Moshe ALWAYS encourages me to go out and do whatever I want. So how could I say no??)

After dinner, while the kids were doing their chores, I sat down to blog. Y, who has already finished her chore, notices me writing on the computer. She flashes me those puppy dog eyes that melt my soul, and cajoles "Aren't you going to teach me to read Megilla tonight?"

I vaguely remember putting her off already, at least twice. I realize that I must have, in a moment of insanity, offerred to teach her Megilla tonight. I realized I could not say no to her either.

I took a deep breath, smiled brightly, and said "Of course I am!"

After the kids got ready for bed, MD went to do homework on the computer, A went to clean her room, and Y & I sat on the couch and started learning.

It was really fun learning with her. She already knows how to read Torah, and she is very musical, so she caught on quickly to the new t'amim (notes). I did not remember all of the t'amim so well, so we put in a few calls to TS, who graciously sang the notes over the phone.

At 9:20, I gave 5 minute notices to all concerned. And at 9:25, I asked Y to put everyone to bed.

Y was so happy about our learning together, she did not even protest. Aderaba (just the opposite), she gave me a hug and whispered in my ear, "you're the best!"

Then she discovered that I had mended one of her favorite Shabbat skirts. (I have been catching up on my sewing during chemo -- more on that another time here) She was SOOOO HAPPY!! She gave me another hug and whispered in my ear, again, "you're the best!"

So while Y put her siblings to bed, I tidied up the kitchen counters (which are STILL clear and clean, 10 days and counting!!).

So, now you understand why I just cannot stay up and write any more.

Last night I was in bed by 10:00 (way early for me!) Tonight, it's 11:00 (still pretty early for me; I kid you not) and I have been ready to go to sleep for hours!

It was a long, challenging day, but it ended so great!!

Have I mentioned recently how much I love my kids?!?!

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

With love and optimism,

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Daily Humor -- you can't make this stuff up!

On Friday, both A and MD needed to use the broom. A was heard complaining to Abba:
MD tried to grab the broom but it was stuck in my hand!


Tuesday night, Moshe is laying in bed, exhausted. He turns to me and says:
I wanted to go to sleep earlier, but I had to go to the [international] book fair!

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

With love and optimism,

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Party's Over....

Well, I did not do anything dramatic, but I really had a wonderful birthday.

I started on Wednesday, February 11th, in the morning. My friend RD called to wish me a happy birthday. I had already received several early b-day wishes from friends via Facebook.

"It's not my birthday yet," I corrected her.

"Are you sure....?" My friend asked, hesitating.

I checked the date on my computer.

What did I know? "I guess it is my birthday," I admitted sheepishly.

My friend wanted to know if she and another friend, JB, could take me out to lunch for my birthday. How nice!!

I was tired. I did not really feel like going out. It was cold and rainy outside, making the prospect of leaving my warm home even less inviting. But I knew that if I did not take them up on their offer, I would do absolutely nothing for my birthday, and I would feel really sad at the end of the day. So, I smiled big, said "Thank you!" and rearranged my morning.

I had such a nice time!!

We went to Tal Bagels, which has become quite "the place" to hang out. All around us were people in business meetings, laptops covering the tabletops. There is even a back room where individuals can work in peace and quiet. No need to rent office space anymore, just order a cup of coffee and plug in!

We did not order anything fancy, just bagels and spreads from the lunchtime menu. I ordered an everything bagel, the trout salad, mozerella and sun-dried tomatoes, and a spread made from Bulgarian cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and pesto. Everything was fresh and tasty!

It was fun just hanging out, eating and talking. Time flew by and, before we knew it, we were there for two hours! (I called to cancel my OT appointment and was able to postpone it instead.)

Since we were out for my birthday, we ordered a dessert to share. We picked something out from the counter. It was deliciously rich. I don't remember what it was called, but it was yummy!

Though we planned on hanging out for an hour and a half. When we checked on the time, we discovered that we had been talking for almost two and a half hours!

The rest of the day was... well, it was "regular," except that I received all these Facebook b-day wishes.

Then I had the idea of doing something for my birthday. I was too tired to organize any kind of get together (even though IS volunteered to host anything I wanted to do). So, I came up with my post about what I really want for my birthday. That was a great idea! I am definitely doing something similar next year! (b'li neder) Reading what people wrote has been the best gift!!

Meanwhile, another friend offered to take me out next (meaning: this) week. (yay! prolonging the b-day experience even further!)

In addition, IS and CV came over on Sunday afternoon for another b-day celebration. IS brought lunch (delicious Shabbat LOs) and CV brought a cake pie from La Cuisine (an AMAZING, possibly the best, bakery in Jerusalem!! ). CV also brought a candle for the cake pie and we all (including me) sang happy birthday to me!

Picture this: three middle aged women (we are what we are) sitting around a small kitchen table, boisterously singing happy birthday!

I imagine that we might have looked silly, had anybody been watching. Luckily, none of us is too hung up about appearances!

I might have felt a bit silly if people sang to me in a restaurant, but I did not mind being silly in the privacy of my own home!!

That night, I had my support group and, even there, we had a minute or two of birthday cheer.

Monday, the 22nd of Sh'vat, my "Ivri" (Jewish) b-day, was rather uneventful. I had thought that I might meet my husband for a birthday lunch, but I was too tired, and took a nap instead. (At least I meant to take a nap. I am not quite sure if it actually happened.) Then I taught swimming (always a pleasure!!), but not necessarily b-day related (until my eldest daughter arranged for everyone to sing happy birthday to me).

After swimming, I was in a fantastic mood! So, though I originally told Moshe that I would not be up for going out to celebrate, that is exactly what we did. For the past few years, we have not managed to go out to celebrate either of our birthdays. We have either been sick, or tired, or had some other unavoidable conflict.

We went to a really nice restaurant, La Guta. The food was delicious, the waitress was attentive and pleasant, and the general ambiance was relaxed and intimate. I really enjoyed spending some quiet time together with Moshe. We did not talk about anything heavy, just enjoyed each other's company. It was a lovely evening out.

Then we came home and discovered that our busy little elves had cleaned and decorated our bedroom! What a perfect ending to my birthday celebrations!

Today, life went back to normal (whatever that is!).

This evening, once again, I tucked in my two little ones. I spent a few minutes with each, then sang to them individually. It won't be long before they feel too "old" for their mommy to sing to them. I am glad that, within the privacy of our home, they still welcome these family rituals. I treasure these moments.

It was another hour before my eldest breezed in the door. I was on the phone, and she was eager for me to end my conversation. No sooner did I hang up the phone than she began talking a mile a minute. She had so much energy!! She talked, practically non-stop, for almost an hour. I love listening to her. She is full of so much enthusiasm about all that she is doing and everything she wants to be doing. She wants to live life to the fullest and she is determined not to waste a second! I love watching her animated expressions. She is a powerhouse!

At the end of the day, this poised and mature young girl also wants a hug and a kiss from her mommy. She is so cute! So grown up, and yet still a little girl.... my little girl!


It really has been a wonderful few days!

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

With love and optimism,

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Best Children in The Whole Wide World

I was so cold after teaching swimming, I could not wait to get into a hot shower. As I gathered up my things, Y came to tell me that one of my student wants to tell me something.

I went back to see what she wanted. Suddenly, my kids and my students start singing "Happy Birthday" to me.

I have a sneaky daughter!


Moshe and I decided to get the kids pizza for dinner.

Moshe and I went out to a restaurant.

It was late when Y called to ask when we were coming home. We thought it was sweet that she wanted us home. It was more than sweet.

When we got home, Moshe called me over to see something. I opened the door to my room.... The beds were made, there were presents on my bed, and the walls were covered in signs filled with jokes and birthday wishes.

I have the best kids in the whole wide world!!

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

With love and optimism,

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Today's Blessings: Support Groups, Birthdays, and Children

If you have not already done so, please read my post about What I Really Want for my Birthday

Only now, as I sit in the quiet stillness of my home, do I reflect on my choice to spend my birthday with the women in my support group.

I could have done something else, but I did not want to miss our meeting.

As blessed as I am by the love and support I receive from family and friends, I look forward to my support group, and the strength and encouragement that I find there.

There, I can talk about things that I cannot talk about anywhere else. There I can gain perspective from other women who are dealing with the same issues as I am. There, we are all struggling together, to try and make sense of this crazy reality.

It is my birthday, and these women understand what that means to me in a way that nobody else really understands.

TK has brought me a pink balloon and some chocolates. (If she thinks this gives her an exemption from writing me a letter, she is mistaken!) EZ has made whole wheat cinnamon buns. I feel welcomed and celebrated.

It is my birthday, and I am with friends who understand just how precious it is to mark the passing of another year.

I finally raise the issue that has been pressing on my mind. It is not really a new topic. I am conflicted about how to deal with some of the negative feelings associated with having cancer.

One topic leads to another, and we find ourselves discussing issues of parenting/mothering. I especially appreciate M's point of view -- her children were young when she was first diagnosed. Now, eighteen years later, she has a unique perspective on parenting with cancer. I almost wish we could interview her children.

Towards the end of the meeting, our facilitator suggests that my negative feelings stem from an unwillingness to accept the limitations that cancer has imposed on me.

I cannot deny this observation. I am angry and resentful. I cannot accept that this will not pass and that I will never get my normal life back.

I am acutely aware of all the activities that I have cut out of my daily life. Even so, I am constantly struggling to do more; if not today, then tomorrow.

So many issues were raised but not resolved. Even after the meeting ended, we were reluctant to leave. It will be another two weeks before we meet again.

It is late, and we need to go.

When I enter my home, my kids are still awake.

My son has gotten out of bed because he realized that he forgot to clear the table. I am impressed by his responsibility. He is growing up.

My youngest daughter invites me to sit by her bedside. She wants a few minutes of attention, and I am happy to spend the time with her.

My eldest daughter also wants some attention. She does not have something specific on her mind. She is just happy, and wants to be together.

One by one, I tuck in my children. I look at their sweet faces and wonder how long they will let me mother them in this way. I treasure these moments. They grow up so fast.

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

With love and optimism,

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Shabbat -- Just the Three of Us

If you have not already done so, please read my post about What I Really Want for my Birthday


In theory, I would have liked all my kids to be home for my bein-hazmanim-birthday-Shabbat.

But, I had not realized that would be this Shabbat, when I told my son he could spend Shabbat with his friend.

So, when A also received an invitation to spend Shabbat at her friend's home, I could not find a good reason to say "no."

I worried how Y would feel about being home all alone, with none of her siblings. She was THRILLED!! She was so excited to have an opportunity to have all of our attention! She was SOOO CUTE!!!

What a wonderful Shabbat we had!

Dinner was intense, as Y is questioning all sorts of things these days (she is a teenager, after all). I had to rest in the middle of the meal, and just went to put my feet up in the living room.... and drifted off to sleep. I do remember that Y brought me an extra blanket....

In the morning, Y & I had breakfast together. In addition to our standard cereal and milk, Y suggested we have jelly beans for breakfast. How could I resist her sweet smile? I succumbed. So, we ate jelly beans for breakfast. What fun!

Lunch was only slightly less intense. We still discussed all sorts of pressing issues. But with a lot more laughter. In the middle, Y showed us hand symbols for all sorts of animals. It was very entertaining. And fed into our silly mood.

Our friend TS came by in the middle of lunch, so that was fun too.

Soon after, I needed to put up my feet again. This time, both Y & I drifted off to sleep in the living room. We woke up in time for dessert!

In the morning, Y had told me that she wanted to play Pente in the afternoon. After lunch, I thought I would take a nap. But Y again expressed her interest in playing Pente. So, we spent an hour or so playing. By the end, she had figured out a decent strategy. The better she got, the more fun it was to play!

Eventually, I had to cut out and go lie down. It was ok. By then, it was only a short while before Y would leave for "sneef" (youth group).

I don't know if I can accurately capture the feeling of this Shabbat. It was intense, and fun, and serious, and light-hearted. We talked about all sorts of "real" things, and we laughed a lot too. It was wonderful.

At the end of the day, Y said "I liked being the only child! We should do this again!"

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

With love and optimism,

Thursday, February 12, 2009

What I Really Want For My Birthday

Chocolates are nice, especially if they are from Max Brenner or Godiva, and I love good ice cream, but what I really want is... FREE.

What I really want for my birthday is a letter from you.

I would love a letter telling me why you think I am special, or how I have touched your life.

PLEASE be specific. PLEASE give details or examples.

Please send your letter via email.

Please include how I know you -- unless I would know who you are, even if you woke me up at 3:00 in the morning and I was half asleep.

Please take your time. This means a lot to me. So give it some thought.

Almost 20 years ago, just before I made Aliyah, I received a present that is more valuable to me than almost anything I own. My dear friend, IS, had all my friends sign a book entitled:
"The Why We Love Rivka Book"

I read page after page of "I Love Rivka Because...."

I cried. I laughed. I felt like I made a difference in this world. I felt blessed.

I learned about things I did, some without even realizing it, that made a difference in my friend's lives.

Today, my home is a mess! But it took me less than a minute to find that book on my bookshelves.

During those first post-Aliyah months, when I was alone and new in this country, I would draw strength from the entries. In those pre-email days, when international phone calls cost over a dollar a minute, I could open my book and be embraced by the love and appreciation of my friends.

A long time has passed.

Surprisingly, I am still in touch with many of those friends.

I am closer with some, more distant with others. That is to be expected.

Several live in Israel. Others get in touch when they come to visit.

To this day, IS is one of my closest friends on this planet. (Perhaps I should write a letter to her, detailing all the ways that my life has been enriched by our friendship).

I will always treasure for my book.

I will forever be grateful to all those who gave me the greatest gift of all, by sharing their appreciation of who I am, and making me feel loved beyond measure.

I am thinking that this is what I want every year.

Of course, if you don't have time, you are welcome to send expensive chocolates!

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

With love and optimism,

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me!!

I LOVE my birthday.

Growing up, we always celebrated the date according to the Gregorian calendar (February 11).

Somewhere along the way, I decided that I wanted to celebrate my birthday according to the Hebrew calendar (22 of Shvat).

For years, I pestered my family not to call on the English date, but rather on the Hebrew date.

My mother protested that she never knows the Hebrew date. Year after year, I pointed out that my birthday is exactly one week after Tu B'Shvat. Whatever day Tu B'Shvat falls out, one week later, on that same day, is my birthday.

Well, last year, for the first time, nobody called to wish me a "Happy Birthday" on February 11th.


First I called my sister. Then I called my mom. I retracted everything!

From that moment, I decided to celebrate BOTH birthdays.

A while later, I started hearing about people who celebrate both birthdays and all the days in between.


There is, of course, some debate over what to call those in between days.

The best choice is "Bein hazmanim" (but "chol hamoed" works too).

Meanwhile, thanks to Facebook, I did not have to worry about anyone forgetting my secular birthday this year!

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

With love and optimism,

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

I Voted!

I'm not telling.

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

With love and optimism,

Election Day -- National Union or Likud

I am a registered member of the Likud. I joined because I agree with Moshe Feiglin and Manhigut Yehudit that the only way to really influence and, hopefully, lead this country is to be part of one of the major parties. The Likud platform is a relatively strong, right wing platform. I would be happy to have leaders who govern according to the principles in the Likud platform.

The recent Likud primaries showed that most Likud members are still seriously right wing. (See here for a list of who was elected to the Likud list, according to their original elected positions.)

Had Netanyahu not cynically manipulated the list, with the sole purpose of bumping Moshe Feiglin out of a realistic slot, I would have voted for the Likud, despite the fact that I do not trust Netanyahu to represent me or the Likud principles.


When I was in college, and Netanyahu was the Israeli representative to the UN, I admired him tremendously. To say that I was in awe of him would not be an exaggeration. He was smart, and articulate, and he said all the right things.

I was so excited when he was elected Prime Minister if Israel. When congress gave him a standing ovation, after he delivered a powerful and moving speech about the historic and strategic importance of Jerusalem, I was filled with pride. I naively thought that we finally had a Prime Minister who would really lead the Jewish people.

Then he sold us out. First he signed the Hevron Protocol, giving over control of Hevron to our enemies, essentially retracting everything he had so persuasively presented to congress. Then he signed the Wye Accords, further implementating the policies advocated by his political opponents. At that point, I realized that Netanyahu was a politician, just like everyone else.

Despite his perfect English, he did not internalize, nor abide by, the basic democratic principal that he is a representative of the people who voted for him. I determined never to support him in politics again.

Back to the Present:

With a strong Likud list, and Moshe Feiglin in a realistic spot, I would have voted for the Likud, even with Netanyahu at its head.

But then, Netanyahu went on a crusade against Feiglin. Netanyahu did everything in his power to oust Feiglin. Eventually he succeeded, let the voters be damned!

I was disgusted by Netanyahu's anti-democratic, megalomaniac actions.

For a few days, I felt lost. For whom would I vote?

For years, I had supported the Ichud HaLeumi. This year, the Ichud HaLeumi and the Mafdal disbanded, to form a new, joint list. An oddly formed committee created a watered down party, called the Bayit HaYehudi. (What? They couldn't come up with a better name?) The new party list had almost no serious right-wing representatives in realistic slots. I could not vote for them.

I could not vote for anyone.


I am a firm believer that it is our civic duty to vote!

Then the Ichud HaLeumi regrouped, joined with several other parties, and reestablished a pluralistic, serious, right-wing party, with religious and secular representatives.
(Eventually, the Bayit HaYehudi dropped the pretense of being anything other than "The New Mafdal")

Ah! Now I could vote!

I actively supported the Ichud HaLeumi. As their numbers rose in the polls, I even harbored the hope that Uri Bank (read Rafi's excellent interview here) would be elected. Uri Bank is honest, dedicated, and approachable. I would love to see him in the Knesset!

Then the political waters grew murky.

Yisrael Beiteinu, Lieberman's party, started growing in numbers. At first, this seemed to be a positive development. Netanyahu would have to include Yisrael Beiteinu in his government, and that would pull the coalition to the right. But, as the party grew, it became clear that Lieberman was pulling votes from the Likud.

At first, I thought "let that be a lesson for Netanyahu!"

I wanted Netanyahu to learn that his shenanigans cost him votes.

Given that Netanyahu would be the next Prime Minister, I wanted him to appreciate that he has a responsibility to the electorate and cannot simply do whatever he wants.

Meanwhile, I staunchly advocated for the Ichud HaLeumi. I argued that they are the only serious right-wing party and that the Ichud HaLeumi has the potential to keep the Likud on a strong, nationalist track.

But as Election Day approached, it became increasingly less certain that the Likud would receive the most votes.

If the Likud is not the largest party, then Netanyahu will not be forming the next government, nor will he be Prime Minister.

Now, that would be the ultimate lesson for him, but the cost to Israel would be too high.

Our next government will either be formed by Bibi Netanyahu and the Likud or by Tzippy Livni and Kadima.

As much as I distrust and disrespect Bibi Netanyahu, I would absolutely choose him over Tzippy Livni.

As dawn breaks on Election Day in Israel, I am suddenly stumped.

The Ichud HaLeumi might be an influential party, but only if the Likud includes it in the government. If the Ichud HaLeumi is not in the government, it will have no influence at all.

The Likud might form a right-wing government, or it might form a left-wing coalition with Kadima and Labor. I would not want to support the Likud, should it choose the latter option.

Do I vote for the party that best represents me?


Do I vote for the party that I hope will form the next government?

Last night, I knew for whom I would vote.

This morning, I am unsure.

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

With love and optimism,

Monday, February 9, 2009

I Can't Do Everything

Every year, I do something special for Tu B'Shvat. We usually have a seudah (festive meal) with shiv'at haminim (the seven fruits/grains that are native to Israel). We often invite guests.

It's a fun holiday, with no restrictions. And there are lots of interesting things to talk about... and eat!

This year, we were invited to TWO Tu B'Shvat parties.

We would have had a great time at either of the two events, both of which were out of the city.

And, most importantly, I did not need to prepare anything.

Moshe would drive, I just needed to sit in the passenger seat.

It was too much.

I just could not go.

I did not feel well.

So, instead, I stayed home, and did nothing at all.

My girls were at gymnastics; my son was at Ofek (an afternoon program for gifted kids); and Moshe was at work.

I felt a little sad... but, only a little.

I just cannot do everything.

I am tired.

Some thing has to go.

So, this year it was Tu B'Shvat. The day came and went and I did absolutely nothing to mark the day.

It's OK.

There is always next year!

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

With love and optimism,

Sunday, February 8, 2009

"It Can't Hurt"

When I was first diagnosed, well-meaning friends and acquaintances bombarded me with suggestions to try various alternative treatments. They usually ended their pitch with the line "it can't hurt to try."


When I had the strength, I spelled it out:

I received chemotherapy once a week. I was then tired EVERY night, and most days. I usually had around 7 good hours during the last two days before my next treatment. So, I had to fit a week's worth of activities into fourteen hours! I did not really want to take out 3 hours (minimum) to check out something that might or might not work.

Furthermore, none of these unconventional treatments are covered by insurance. They usually take at least 3-6 months before we can even determine if they are working. So, for every complementary treatment, we are talking about expending significant time, money, and energy -- all limited and valuable resources that I did not have to spare.

Despite my inclination for conventional medicine, I wanted to explore all my options. So, I asked my oncologist about complementary medicine. My doctor summarily dismissed the world of alternative medicine (with the sole exception of acupuncture).

"That is an industry that takes advantage of desperate people," he declared.

"There is no scientific evidence that the treatments work," he explained, disregarding the claim that there is no money to prove these treatements works. There is a lot of money in manufacturing cancer fighting agents. If there existed evidence that a product is effective in fighting cancer, drug companies would fund the research.

Then he elaborated further "If a treatment does influence cancer, then there is no way of knowing whether the influence is positive or negative without proper scientific study (large, double-blind research)."

That is what convinced me more than anything else.

If a treatment really can affect cancer, then we need to know how it affects a particular type of cancer

In a recent study researching the effects of Green Tea, scientist discovered something disturbing. Instead of being a "miracle herb," the tea actually prevented certain chemotherapies from working! (Read the full article here)

The specifics of this particular research are not relevant to me. But the results are significant.

Natural remedies actually can hurt.

(Hat Tip to "After Cancer")


Recently, our friends, T&UB, told us about Limonit (Lemon Grass Tea), a natural remedy that a friend of theirs said cured her of stage 4 breast cancer. I was curious, so Moshe and I did a bit of research. There is a chemical in Lemon Grass, Melissa, and Verbena that kills cancer cells in vitro. (Read more here) So what? There are many chemicals that kill cancer cells in a test tubes. We need to know how these chemicals interact with cancer cells that are in our bodies.

So, though I like a cup of tea every now and then, I am not about to start drinking 8 cups a day... yet.

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

With love and optimism,

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Sick Again?

I can't seem to shake this cold!

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

With love and optimism,

Friday, February 6, 2009

How Much Do You Want Your Doctor to Smile?

During yesterday's meeting, my oncologist needed to make a call (to someone else), and warned me that now I was going to hear him when he's mad.

I commented that he was probably scary when he was mad, adding that he's a bit scary even when he's not mad.

He was a little taken aback and I felt bad for not thinking before saying what was on my mind.

"Do I really scare you?" he asked.

"Yes," I answered meekly, wishing I could be anywhere else, but not wanting to lie.

"Then you should find another doctor..." he advised.

PANIC -- did I just mess up my relationship with my doctor, of whom I am in awe?!?!

"But I like you," I quickly responded. I should have added "and I trust you, and respect you, and like that you are available on email, and answer my questions, and don't laugh at me, and..." I could have gone on and on.

It is not so easy for me to find a doctor I like, and I like my doctor.

"So, why am I scary?" he persisted, "is it because of me or because of what we discuss."

That was a fair enough question.

"I don't know," I answered honestly, wondering if I would be less intimidated if we were not talking about cancer.

I tried to switch the conversation, but my doctor sincerely wanted to know. "Tell me, so that I can improve."

So, I thought about it and suggested "you don't smile enough."

This surprised him. "Really?"

He noted that many patients want their doctor to look serious.

I can understand that. We discuss serious things. I don't think I would want him to be joking around all the time. So, what do I want?

Later, I asked my date-for-the-day, who is a former cancer patient, what she thought. "I don't want my doctor to smile more; I want him to be serious."


Smiling to me reflects optimism, a faith in the future.

My doctor always looks so serious, especially when he is walking around. I know that his head is in a million places, thinking, processing, exploring, and trying to meet the needs of all his patients. I know that cancer is serious business, and the news is not always good.

Sometimes, I'll catch his eye, and he'll raise an eyebrow. I never know quite what it means. Usually I interpret it as "yes, I see you; no time to stop; you know how it is here...." But sometimes I wonder if he is thinking "oh no, you don't have another question, do you?"

I guess I would like to see him smiling when he is walking around. Or, maybe, I just want him to smile when he sees me.

Smiling is inviting. Perhaps that is the problem. Maybe if he smiles more, then everyone will approach him in the hallway with all their not-as-short-as-they-thought questions. Or maybe patients will not feel that he is treating their illness seriously.

This is one of those areas where I do not assume that all patients think like me.

Apparently, I am not your typical cancer patient.

After reading this, Moshe asked rhetorically, "You know what I like about [our oncologist]? He's always smiling."

I looked at him curiously.

"It is always there, behind his eyes. He has this dry, wry sence of humor, that I really appreciate."

True. But I think my husband "gets" him more than I do.

I am the kind of person who needs things spelled out for me, even jokes (certainly sardonic remarks).

"He does not need to smile," Moshe added, "It would be overkill."

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

With love and optimism,

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The 20-Year-Plan

Something has been bothering me for a while now.

A few weeks ago (or maybe it was a few months ago), during one of my meetings with my oncologist to discuss switching to Taxol, I casually asked if this change is going to "interfere with my 20-year-plan."

My doctor immediately became serious. "Who gave you that number?" he queried, adding "I did not give you that number."

"I know," I responded, reassuringly.

I completely made up that number. It is a random number, representing my intention to live with this cancer-thing for a long time.

But then, I got worried.

"Why," I challenged, joking, "is it too short?" Then, I added, verbalized my fear, "Or is it too long?"

But my oncologist would not play that game.

"I do not do numbers," he declared, quite seriously, "You know that."

I do. But the Pandora’s Box was open. Perhaps I was just living in my own little fantasy world.

So, today, I got up my courage and asked, "Am I deluding myself?"

Now, though this conversation has been plaguing me for months, it was not immediately obvious to my oncologist that I was referring to his comment about my 20-year-plan. So, I reminded him of our conversation and, a little bolder now, repeated my question. "Am I deluding myself?"

"It's a bit of a long shot," began my oncologist. (ouch) I imagine my face fell a bit. "I am not telling you something you do not know;" he continued, leaning forward in his chair, eyes locked on mine, "you are familiar with the statistics. But you also know that I do not make predictions." (yeah, I know)

He cited a patient of his who has been living with metastatic breast cancer for 23 years. (He did not give me any details, of course)

"It is reasonable," he continued, a bit softer, "to plan for the future."

And, though it is unusual for him to give his opinion about what I should do, he added, "I think it is right to live your life that way."

I wish I could remember exactly what else he said, because he gave me a rare compliment about how I am handling living with cancer exceptionally well. It was really nice.

Then he asked me: if I knew I had 18 months left to live, would I do anything different?

I said I would get things in order. To which he responded, quite sternly, "you should do that anyway, and it has nothing to do with cancer."

Then he continued, "my guess is that if you knew that you had only a year and a half left to live, you would accelerate your lifestyle, not slow it down."

I conceded that his assessment was accurate. But still, I persisted. "I talk with my children about the future, even about the long-term future."

I wanted him to understand that it was important to me not to be deluding myself, and also not to be deluding my family.

He got it.

"Planning for the future is the best thing you can do for both you and your children."

He wanted to make sure that I got it too.

I got it.

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

With love and optimism,

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Early Night; Early Morning

Last night, I was in bed by 9:00. That never happens!

The nice thing about crashing so early is that A came to cuddle with me. It was really special.

I was so tired, I fell asleep in the middle of our conversation. Lucky for me, she is very forgiving!

This morning, I woke at around 6:15. So wierd. I never get up that early by choice. But I was up.

Moshe was shocked. Then it occured to him to ask...."do you think you can take the kids to school this morning?"

"Why not?" I responded, unusually chipper.

He was so relieved that he could go back to sleep. He's been working really late, 'cause he is in a major crunch period at work, and he is so tired! It was nice to be able to give him that gift.

Moshe always takes the kids, even when he is not feeling well. He almost never bothers me in the mornings. If he wakes me in the morning to take the kids, then I know he is really sick.

Even on mornings like this, when I am taking the kids, he does everything to make sure they are ready to walk out the door. I just drive.

It was nice to have that extra time with the kids, when I was not exhausted. We talked about all sorts of things during the car ride. It was nice.

When I got home, Y was up and getting ready for school. I am not sure why, but school started late for her today. I took advantage of the extra time with her and made us a nice breakfast for us to eat together. I made breakfast the way my dad does. I made toast (from really good bread), hash browns (from leftover potatoes, using LOTS of onions), and omlettes (that came out perfect!). Y ate her food with ketchup and I added salsa. yummmmm.

We ate and talked and it was a really nice morning.

I was in such a good mood that I suggested to Y, who was debating which bus to take, that maybe I would take her. But I spoke too fast. After a few minutes, I realized that it would be better for me to go back to bed and sleep a bit more.

Y was disappointed. It would have been better had I not offered. Especially since I told her too late to take the first bus and then she missed the second bus (she must have gotten distracted when she was on the computer). After she realized she missed the bus, she really wanted me to take her. I was already on my way back to bed. I was not ready to switch gears.

When Y left, she knew she would be late and she was not happy. I felt torn, but I knew that going to sleep was the right decision for me.

What would you have done?

I spent a little time with Moshe, then fell into a deep sleep.

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

With love and optimism,

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Catching Up

I thought that when I came home from the retreat, I would spend the afternoon catching up with my kids and doing some of those things that need to get done.

Silly me.

I greeted my kids, gave and received hugs, heard a bit about what they had to say, and fell into bed. I slept for three hours! I woke for a bit, had dinner with my kids, and went back to sleep.

The next day I had chemo. I don't remember what I did afterwards. I meant to sleep, but that did not happen.

Friday, I managed to cook for Shabbat, and then I slept all Shabbat. In the afternoon, Moshe suggested we listen to MD read the first aliyah (section) of his Torah reading. I really wanted to sleep, but how could I say no? What a pleasure! I did not expect him to read so nicely. Then Moshe went to lie down and I stayed with MD to listen again, and help improve his reading. It was a really nice time together.

I had wanted to teach my son to read, but I just could not find the time and energy to do it. So, one of our neighbors is teaching him. It was nice to have a chance to teach my son, without the pressure of having to teach him. He is just beginning....

Saturday night, we ALL watched Star Trek. What a treat to have Y with us as well.

Then Moshe wanted to go out to see "Two Legacies," Einat Kapach's documentary film about her grandparents, the Rabbanit Kapach, famous for her many acts of chessed (righteous deeds), and Rav Yosef Kapach z"l, who was the foremost authority on the Rambam. I could have easily just gone to bed. Instead, despite the rain, we went to the Cinemateque. Only an hour long, the film was very interesting, and beautifully done, but too short. I was glad we went. (Added bonus: there was handicapped parking right in front, so we did not have to walk too far in the rain!)

Sunday was a crazy day. In the afternoon, I went to Ofek (the city's gifted and talented program), for the end of the semester presentations. This semester, MD learned robotics and juggling. Every week, he brings home a Diablo and practices in all his free time. He is really quite good.

I had arranged for MD to get a ride home with someone so that I could go straight to my support group. The program at Ofek ended at 6:00 and my support group began at 6:00. My plan was to zip over to my group.

Then I spaced out! There is no other explanation for what happened next besides chemo brain.

After Ofek, I couldn't figure out why I was so pressured, since I had plenty of time to get to my support group by 8:00. I could have even taken my son home, and come back again. The wires in my brain were completely crossed! I confused the ending time of my support group with the beginning time.

At 6:30, my friend TK called to see if I was coming to the group. I answered "Of course! I'll see you at 8:00!" She started laughing. Only then, I realize what happened.

I arrived an hour late. Suffice it to say that I was unable to raise all those topics that I had been waiting to talk about! How frustrating!! The discussion that we had was interesting (about priorities and making time for the people who are most important to us -- our husbands and kids), but it was not the discussion I had wanted to have. Also, you would not think it would be so hard to drop what we are doing and pay attention to those nearest and dearest, but it is. At least, it is for all of us. The facilitator made certain that we ended the meeting with practical suggestions, shifting the focus from what we are doing "wrong," to what we can be doing better.

Monday, I was still so tired. The thought even flitted across my mind to cancel lessons. I am so glad that I did not. My classes were AMAZING!! So many of my kids had the best lessons that they have had to date! I felt so wonderful after class!

And here we are.

It is Tuesday afternoon and my house is quiet. MD just went off for his Bar Mitzvah lessons. The girls are out on "netiyot" (tree planting for Tu B'Shvat, even though Tu B'Shvat is not until next week) with their youth group. (These days, both girls are in Ezra. A joined Ezra, to be with her older sister. Y is happy to have her little sister in the same youth group, and she really looks after her. It works for me!)

In theory, I could sleep or get something done.

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

With love and optimism,

Monday, February 2, 2009

Beit Natan Winter Retreat 2009 -- Renewal -- Part II

I woke up at 6:00!

I don't know why I could not sleep, but that was it. I was up. I called home and spoke to my kids. (yay!) MD was so cute, he says "you are never up when we get up, unless we have a tiyul or we need you." (it was kind of nice that he noticed that I do get up when they need me)

The first session of the day was a lecture about nutrition. The speaker was interesting, but she did not really reveal anything new. The bottom line is if you want to eat healthfully, you need to spend a lot of time preparing your food (not to mention shopping, so that you always have fresh vegetables). About half way through, my lack of sleep caught up with me and I kept nodding off.

For the next session, the group again split into two, each led by one of Beit Natan's oncological social workers. Again, both groups did the same activity. After a brief introduction, we did some guided imagery. I found it difficult to stay focused and drifted off in my own mind several times. Afterwards, we were to choose a card that represented what we had seen/felt. I chose an image of a door opening onto a bright and sunny field, with mountains in the distance, and a bright blue sky with white clouds. Then we were instructed to place the card on a sheet of paper and continue the image. I turned the card into another door, opening onto the same scene. Then I turned that into another door, opening onto the same scene. The final image was of three doors and three fields. Then we did another guided imagery, continuing where the previous one left off. Through each door, I saw each of my children dancing and playing outside, in their own world. They were separate, yet linked together. And I was with them individually and all together, at the same time. I had a feeling of being inside and outside, present with them, and, at the same time, a presence around them. It was a very powerful image for me. I felt happy, and complete.

During the afternoon, we again had the opportunity to rest, go for a walk, or participate in a laughter workshop, led by A, one of the participants, who also leads laughter workshops. I really wanted to participate, but I was so tired. I went to lie down and set an alarm to wake me up in time. When the alarm went off, I was still too tired, so I set it for another hour and just slept. I really needed the rest.

For the next session, we divided into three workshops: drumming, singing, and Israeli folk-dancing. I signed up for the drumming workshop, because that is an area that interests me, and it is also the area where I have the most potential to learn something (I am talented both at singing and folk-dancing, but I have no natural ability to drum!). At first, I really felt incompetent! It was difficult for me to follow and I certainly could not improvise. In the end, I was able to follow (most of the time). It was a lot of fun!

Afterwards, there was a lecture by a Rav who many find inspiring. He spoke well, but his message did not really speak to me. I found it difficult to concentrate. I kept deliberating if I could "escape," but I did not want to be rude and I was sitting in the front row. I stuck it out. Towards the end he shared some anecdotes that were interesting and entertaining.

That evening, all the different groups performed some of what they learned/experienced. It was very special.....and so much fun! I do not know how to capture in words the creative energy. The performances were rough, but wonderful. Everyone just had fun.

Afterwards, no one wanted it to end. We just kept singing and dancing. It was amazing. All these super-frum, religious women dancing so freely, and singing religious/spiritual songs. It was liberating. There was a real spirit of camaraderie and caring.

The evening drew to a close, and still no one seemed eager for it to end. N invited women to hear more stories and a large group pulled up chairs and sat in a close circle. At first I though I would listen, but I had other issues that were on my mind.

I approached the social worked who leads our support group, and we found a quiet corner to sit and talk. We spoke for a while, and though I did not feel that I had resolved anything, I did feel like I clarified some of my thoughts. I looked forward to discussing the issues more during our next support group meeting.

On my way back to my room, I stopped to talk with R, from my support group. We ended up speaking for a while. It was quite late when I finally fell into bed. Needless to say, I did not have any trouble sleeping the following morning.

The last day was short, but intense. Like last year, we ended with a "mesibat amenim" (a Blessing Party) -- traditionally, a group of 20 women gather together and each, individually, say a bracha (blessing) over each one of the five food groups (maga aish מגע אש -- mezonot (baked goods), gefen (wine/grape juice), eitz (fruit that grow on trees), adama (fruits that grow in the ground), and shehakol (everything else). After each bracha, all the women answer "amen," totaling 100 brachot and 100 times saying amen. We were a lot more than 20 women, so we said the brachot a few women at a time. Saying the brachot, and answering amen, 1oo times is supposed to be a segulah -- a way of strengthening the power of our requests of God.

Afterwards, we each took a few moments to share with the group what this retreat meant to us.

It was surprisingly difficult for me to summarize what I felt. I was overwhelmed with gratitude towards Beit Natan for providing me with such a wonderful opportunity. I also felt incredibly close to the women in the group, and was so happy for the time we spent together.
And then it was over.

But not quite.

I thought I would sleep on the bus ride back. Hah! The bus was abuzz with conversations and, before I knew it, we were heading up the hills towards Jerusalem.

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

With love and optimism,