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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Shoes, Shoes, and more Shoes

(You can read about how much I love shopping in general, here and here, and how much I love shoe shopping in particular, here and here)

Well, you already know how much I love shopping……. NOT!

So, what can be better than shopping? Shopping when I am sick!

Yesterday, my eldest informed me that we had to go shopping for sneakers on Tuesday, because her sneakers had a hole on the bottom and on Wednesday morning she was leaving for massa Pesach (a two day hike with her youth group).


I so wanted to tell her that I could not do it. But she had a HOLE in her sneakers! Even I recognized that as a legitimate reason for new sneakers.

So, this morning, I dragged myself out of the house and took her to Talpiot, an industrial neighborhood with both upscale and discount stores.

Our first stop would be a surplus store that often has good prices, but the salespeople are unpleasant.

My daughter asked why I was not boycotting the store, since there are several places that I boycott due to outrageously offensive treatment by their staff.

I explained that my only alternative was to either spend a lot of money on shoes or to spend at least an hour (maybe more) crossing town to Givat Sha’ul, another industrial area, on the opposite side of town.

Perhaps if I was feeling well, my principles might have driven me across town, but not today.

So, we entered the store, ignored the smoking staff at the entrance (totally illegal, by the way, and usually enough to make me walk out of almost any store), and went to the back of the store where there was, thankfully, no smoke, and many sneakers.

The sneakers were 2 for 100 NIS, for good quality sneakers. Probably last year’s styles, but that does not really bother us. My daughter is fashion conscious, but not unreasonable.

We found 2 pair that my daughter liked, in record time! (YAY!)

Then, as I was returning the shoes that did not fit, I noticed a pair of sneakers in her size with those wheely things underneath. (You know, those retractable wheels. I am sure there is a name for these types of sneakers, but I am clearly not cool enough to know what it is!) (A quick search of the internet reveals the name "Heelys")

Anyway, they fit and they were fun, so we decided to take them as well.

There was also a cute pair of boat sneakers on the clearance rack that we picked up, ‘cause they were cheap enough (29.90) that it would have been a shame not to take them. I know my daughter will wear them.

So, we arrived at the checkout counter with four pair of sneaker and discovered that the owner was just as unpleasant as we had remembered!

He would not give us the third pair at the discount price, which was annoying but understandable. But when I asked him to hold the third pair until I could bring my other kids to find another pair to purchase together, he was totally obnoxious.

At first, he insisted that he could only hold the shoes for two hours!! I mean, what is that?? I knew that I would not be able to return to the store until the next day. Eventually, he did agree to hold the shoes until the next morning, but why did I need to argue for that??

Just as we finished negotiating, an Arab woman approached the checkout counter. She also wanted just one pair of shoes. I suggested that we make the purchase together and she agreed.

Interestingly, the owner did not hassle us about that at all, and allowed us each to pay for our purchase individually. As he bagged the shoes, he might even have passed for pleasant.

I will never understand Israelis!

Total cost for four pair of sneakers (3 Spalding, 1 Lee Cooper): 179.90 NIS.

Total time: 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Not bad.


When we left the store, the Arab woman walked in the same direction as us. It turned out that she was parked next to us.

She smiled at me and waved me over to her. At first I was not sure what she wanted. Then I realized she was asking me to help pull her car out of the parking space, as she is a new driver. It is difficult to pull out from those spaces, both because of the angle of the parking spaces and because you have to pull out into oncoming traffic (might I add, discourteous oncoming traffic, that is often very unaccommodating to cars trying to pull out and, God forbid, get in front!).

I went to stop the traffic for her, to give her time and space to pull out, but she still did not get into her car. I was confused, and a little embarrassed about stopping the cars for nothing.

I finally realized that she wanted me to actually get in her car and drive it out of the space.

I got behind the wheel and spent a few minutes inching my way out of the parking space, with her standing outside, nervously worrying that I was going to hit another car. (I should have suggested that she help by stopping the traffic!)

I was happy to help, though it did mean that I had to undergo that unpleasant experience twice!

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

With love and optimism,

Monday, March 30, 2009

You Know I'm Really Sick When....

I cancel swimming lessons!

I debated all last night and all this morning. I knew what I should do, I just did not want to do it. So, I put off the decision until the very last minute, hoping that I would miraculously get better and be able to teach swimming.

I have been sick (AGAIN!), since last week. No fever, nothing horrible, just a non-stop runny nose and a post-nasal-drip cough (the cough sometimes seems a little too deep in my chest -- if I am not better by tomorrow, I might actually go see a doctor). Oh yeah, and on Shabbat I had no voice (again!).

Anyway, I knew I really should cancel swimming lessons, but I really did not want to.

Eventually, I just could not ignore the fact that I still had only half a voice, my congestion was driving me crazy, I still had somewhat regular coughing fits, and I just plain did not feel well!

So, I emailed and called all my parents. to let them know that we would not be having any more swimming lessons until after Pesach (Passover). All my parents were supportive and understanding, as I knew they would be. But I was still bummed.

I knew it was the right decision, but I did not like it. In addition to everything else, I am getting chemo a day early and need my blood count to be good. Also, Pesach is in a week and I don't want to spend it sick in bed!

So, I did the responsible, grown-up thing to do.

Now, I am going to crawl back into bed with my tissues and a good book!

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

With love and optimism,

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Medical Update -- Markers & Pain

My apologies for not providing this update sooner.

My markers are down!

Really down.

For months, my markers were on the rise. And they were climbing high! That, combined with a significant and steady increase in pain, was the main indicator that my previous chemo regimen was not working.

Almost as soon as I started on Taxol (in December), my markers started coming down.

About a month ago, they finally reentered the "normal" range.

The most recent tests indicated that they were still in the normal range, and even lower than the previous results.

This is great!

Regarding pain, things are a little less clear cut. At first, the Taxol seemed to have a substantial effect on my pain as well. For a brief period, I stopped taking pain killers regularly. The respite did not last long. Significantly, when I did need pain killers, I still needed to take both Optalgin and Algolysin.

These days, in addition to back and hip pain, I have pain in my lower rib cage, increased sensitivity in both shoulders, and pain in my neck.

Currently, I take pain medication 2-4 times a day. Occasionally, I need to augment the pain meds. Usually, half a Percocet is enough.

I still do not like taking drugs.

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

With love and optimism,

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Chemotherapy Induced Time Travel

My son and I were sitting down for an afternoon snack together.

Suddenly, I had a major hot flash!

I explained that my drug induced menopause caused it. I then elaborated that women usually go through menopause around age 50.

"You mean," my son asked, with a twinkle in his eye, "you went forward in time?!"

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

With love and optimism,

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Slowing Down and Letting Go

Tuesday morning, on our way to the brit (see previous post), Moshe casually mentioned that he was "surprised that [I] did not get up this morning."

When I wondered why, he reminded me that our eldest left that morning for a three day tiyul (hike).

"You always used to get up with them," he continued,"even for a short, one day trip..."

He was right. In the past, whenever one of my kids had a tiyul (hike), I would get up early (no matter what the hour) and make sure they had everything they need (this is after helping them pack their bags and giving them treats the night before). Then I would remind them to be safe and stay close to the madrich (guide), give them a kiss and hug, and send them on their merry way.

I do not think I ever missed saying goodbye on the morning of a tiyul... until this Tuesday.

Tuesday morning's activities penetrated the fog of my sleep, but only ever so slightly.

I was too tired to wake up. By the time I finally opened my eyes and called for my daughter, they were gone. I felt a moment's disappointment before I rolled over and fell back asleep.

I did not know how to respond to my husband. I knew he was not trying to make me feel bad. And I knew that I did not need to feel bad. Moreover, I knew that my daughter would be fine (and that I had helped her with everything she needed the night before).

Still, I missed saying goodbye to her.

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

With love and optimism,

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Slow Down!!

I have been on "fast forward" since the Tupperware Party and my battery has burned out!!

Most of last week was spent preparing for the party on Wednesday night. It was great! But, boy, were we all tired by the time it was over!!

"No rest for the weary!!" (I don't know where that quote is from, but my mom says it all the time!)

Thursday was a LOOOONG chemo day -- with all three drugs and a full body x-ray*! No rest when I got home either! First, my eldest interviewed me for her "avodat shorashim" (family research project). Then everyone needed something and Moshe had to work late.

Friday morning, I was up and at 'em, bright and early (for me). We were off to Be'er Sheva to celebrate the brit (circumcision) of R&R's son.

Clever me, I arranged to spend Shabbat with other good friends in Be'er Sheva. So we only had to drive one way on Friday. We spent Shabbat with Sarah, who blogs over at Chronicles of an NF Survivor, and her family. (Sarah and I have been friends since we were single, well before either of us had any serious health issues. You know, when we were young and going to live forever!!)

For over a year, we have been trying to get together for Shabbat. For one reason or another, each time we set a date, one of us had to cancel. This time, at the last minute, everything came together!

After the brit, I baked chocolate brownies with Sarah's ADORABLE kids! I never bake, but since this was my only responsibility, I had so much fun!!

Then, I helped cut vegetables for sushi (YUMMMMM) and hung out with Sarah as she rolled and cut a lot of sushi. Kitchen work is not nearly as tedious when you have company!! But it still takes time!!

Friday evening, Sarah and I hung out while our husbands, and her kids, were at shul (synagogue). (My kids had made their own Shabbat plans. My youngest was brutally honest when she declared "we don't want to spend Shabbat with your boring friends!")

After Friday night dinner, both Sarah and I were ready to crash. Before heading off to bed, we went out to walk the dog.... the night air was so pleasant.... when we got back home, we sat for just a few minutes on the porch.... boy, were we surprised to discover that we talked 'till 1:00 in the morning!!

I slept in on Shabbat!!

Lunch was leisurely.

It was late afternoon when R (the ba'alat simcha, i.e. mother of the newborn) knocked on the door.

"You're still in the middle of lunch?" She asked, eyes widened in surprise. She had waited long enough, or so she thought, for us to finish lunch and our Shabbat afternoon nap!

After lunch, Sarah took a nap and I hung out with R 'till the end of Shabbat.

I had such a great Shabbat!! But I didn't get much sleep.... Who wants to waste time sleeping? I had to talk with my friends!!

Saturday night, my wonderful sister picked up all my kids and brought them home. Meanwhile, Moshe and I went from Be'er Sheva to Beit Shemesh, to T&JG, for a Melaveh Malkah. (religious term for a Saturday night get-together/party!)

Don't ask me what I did on Sunday. I don't think I did anything. The day passed in a kind of haze.

Monday morning, I got up and began my day... then changed my mind. At 9:15 I went back to bed and did not emerge from my slumber until 12:15, when the phone rang five different times!!

I taught swimming Monday afternoon. Then I went to bed. (OK, not right away, but plenty early for me!)

Tuesday morning (today), Moshe woke me up.

"I can't move!" I mumbled.

He reminded me that we had a brit and that I asked him to wake me up. I wanted to wake up, I really did, but I could not. I realized that I just had to slow down! My body could not keep up!

"I have to sleep," I muttered, "I'm sorry."

Within seconds I fell fast asleep.

When I woke up, Moshe was still home. There was still time to make it to the brit. We dashed out of the house!

I have to slow down... but not that much!!

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

With love and optimism,

* Every 25 weeks I have a full body x-ray as part of the bone drug (Zomera/Zometa vs. Denosumab) research.

Monday, March 23, 2009

BRCA Genes -- How Do They Fit?

Have you been tested for the BRCA gene mutation? If so, a local journalist is interested in interviewing you!

Please contact Laura Kusisto at 052-689-0958 or Laurakusisto@gmail.com

Knowlege is power.

The more we know about our bodies, the more informed our choices about our health care.

I come from a family with a history of breast cancer.

When my surgeon first suggested I test for the BRCA genes (pronounced "BRA-ka"), my mother advised against it. She was concerned that, in the US, if you test positive, the results can affect your insurance coverage. (I do not know if this still true)

I do not live in the US, nor do I have American medical insurance. However, in deference to my mother, I did not get tested.

Until I was diagnosed with breast cancer in the summer of 2005.

All of a sudden, knowing the results of the BRCA test had far wider ramifications, they would determine my health care decisions.

The 3 most common gene mutations which cause breast cancer among Jewish Ashkenazi women are found on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Not only do these mutations lead to higher incidence of breast cancer, they also lead to higher incidence of ovarian cancer.

Today, we have excellent early detection methods for breast cancer: annual mammograms, bi-annual manual exams by a surgeon, and, of course, monthly self exams.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for ovarian cancer. Often, by the time ovarian cancer is detected, it has metastasized and the prognosis is not great.

Women who test positive for the BRCA mutation are advised to have a profilactic oopherectomy (removal of ovaries) by age 40.

I was 39. And a half.

Though I was was tormented about what surgery to perform on my breasts (lumpectomy, single mastectomy, or bilateral mastectomy), I knew that if I tested positive, my ovaries were coming out.

To my surprise, I tested negative.

Given my family history, I knew that I had a genetic predisposition for breast cancer.

I worried that perhaps I had a less common mutation on one of those genes; I wanted a full sequencing of the genes.

The geneticist as Sha'are Zedek patiently explained that full sequencing is not done because other mutations are so rare that there is no justifying the cost of full sequencing (several thousand dollars, if memory serves me correctly).

Furthermore, scientist know there are additional genes that are associated with breast cancer.... these genes just have not been identified yet. It is far more likely that I had a mutation on one of these other genes.

So, for now, the ovaries were staying in.

Several months later, the geneticist contacted me. Prof. Ephrat Levy-Lahad, the head of the genetics department, began a new research project, searching for these additional genes. Would I be willing to particpate in her research? (Is the sky blue?)

I did not need to do anything. They could use the same blood sample.

As part of the research, they would do a full sequencing of my BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, to eliminate any possibility, no matter how remote, that my breast cancer was caused by a less common mutation on those genes.

The full sequencing took over a month. Eventually I received the results. This time, I was not surprised by the negative results.

Now, I am waiting to see what the new research reveals...

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

With love and optimism,

Friday, March 20, 2009

Keyboard Kindness!

(this post is a continuation of the previous post)

After two or three weeks of lessons, my two kids informed me that their music teacher/s want them to practice.

I should have seen that coming!! Now I actually have to find them a keyboard and a guitar! (Not to mention the workbook "Organit B'Rosh Kal")

Since I encouraged them to learn an instrument, I could not really complain!

Of course, finding the time and energy to go out and get these things is not simple. Just remembering that I need to get them is an effort! Every few days, the kids would gently remind me that they need to practice.

So, I finally started looking for a keyboard and guitar. I decided to start easy. I posted on various lists that I am looking for a keyboard (nothing fancy, just has to work) and the workbook.

I figured I had a relatively reasonable chance of finding someone with the workbook and pretty much a snowball's chance in hell of finding a keyboard.


Someone contacted us right away about a keyboard we could have!!

My momma always told me, "it never hurts to ask."

It took a few days to sort out the logistics and then....

Thursday night, Moshe walked in with an old Yamaha keyboard!

Excitement and chaos!!

I was exhausted from chemo, and our evening routine was not running smoothly. It was way past bedtime and the kids were still getting ready for bed.

As the kids whirled around us, Moshe stood, frozen in the hallway, gripping the bulky keyboard. I realized we had not thought about where to put it! For lack of a better place, Moshe set it down on the coffee table.

Moshe and I were discussing what to do next, when I heard music playing.

My son could not wait! He just sat right down and started playing!!

What nachat!! (joy)

I really just wanted Moshe to get all the kids to bed, but Moshe realized that our son needed at least a few minutes to sit and play. So, I sat back and enjoyed five minutes of hearing what my son could play.

I could not believe that he was playing music already!

The next day, I took a closer look at the keyboard. One corner was broken off (nothing to do about that) and the keys were a bit grungy. So I wiped down the keys, and the rest of the keyboard. Then I took a step back and smiled at our bright new (for us) keyboard.

Without further ado, I wrote a thank you note to the stranger who, in his kindness, had given such a gift to our family!!

Now, we just need a guitar and we will be all set!

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

With love and optimism,

Thursday, March 19, 2009


I recently overheard my kids discussing "zam zam." (rhymes with "mom mom")

"What's that?" I interrupted.

Apparently, that's what the Sheirut Leumi girls call Zichron Menachem.

A few weeks ago, we discovers Zam Zam's wonderful afternoon program.

Children are picked up, from their homes or their schools, and driven to Zichron Menachem's beautiful Center in Bayit VeGan, opposite Sha'are Zedek hospital. The program is for kids with cancer and for kids who have a sibling or parent with cancer.

I quickly discovered that at Zichron Menachem cancer is not the focus, it is just the common denominator. The Center is bursting with positive energy and excitement. There are volunteers everywhere, running in and out and all over the place!!

When the children arrive, they place everything they don't need in funky, colorful lockers. Even the lockers are unconventional, placed at bold angles. (I did not even realize these bright shapes had a practical purpose when I passed them in the foyer!)

The first hour is spent doing homework. Teachers and volunteers are available to assist the children with every subject.

The next two hours are spent in chugim (activities) and hanging out at the Center.

There is play room, open all afternoon, with a pool table, foosball, and all sorts of games. Downstairs, for special treats, they have a fancy video arcade! They even have my personal favorite, air hockey!!

There is also an amazing computer room, with enough computers for everyone! (open for just half an hour, with continual supervision).

At the end of the day, the children have half an hour to eat supper before they are whisked back to their homes!

What a gift!!

MD and A go on Thursdays (my chemo day). Now, I relax during chemo, and also when I get home, knowing that my kids are being picked up from school (I used to pick them up on Thursdays), getting help with their homework, participating in chugim, and eating supper. (Though, they usually eat again when they get home. At least, they are not starving, and we can sit down and eat nicely together and spend the time catching up!)

My children all wanted to learn a musical instrument, so my youngest daughter chose to study guitar and my son is learning both guitar and keyboard!

What a fantastic opportunity for them!!

Of course, it did not occur to me that if they are learning to play, then we would need to actually get instruments, so they could practice!!

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

With love and optimism,

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Tupperware Party!! -- Open House TONIGHT!!

(details at the bottom of this post)

Several years ago, when the tourism market plummeted, I looked for additional work that would, hopefully, not be affected by Arab terrorism.

A Shabbat guest suggested that I sell Tupperware and I LAUGHED!!!

In the end, I guess the last laugh was on me, because I tried it out and had a lot of fun!!

I LOVE plastic!!!

I drop everything and plastic doesn't break!!!

Though I had never been to one before, I discovered that I loved running Tupperware parties!! I love meeting new people and hanging out with friends!

I also loved being able to provide really good customer service! Just like in the "old country!" Service with a smile!! (and all that!!)

I was probably the most soft-sell Tupperware representative ever! I let the Tupperware sell itself and I just hung out with "the ladies!"

But, once I got cancer, I just could not keep up. I tried... but it was just too much.

Sometimes it took MONTHS to fill orders!!

Most people do not want to wait that long!!

So, I started selling only to very select customers -- you know, the ones who did not mind waiting for as long as it took!!

It took me almost a year to realize that I was not selling as much as I used to. During that time, I continued to stock up on sale items and other popular items.

Until, one day, I realized that I had a HUGE stock of Tupperware and it was just not turning over the way it used to "before."

A few good friends of mine encouraged me to have a stock sale, but it was too much work.

So, a month of two ago, one of my friends decided that she was going to make it happen!! She has been amazing!! She found a host, found women to help, and compelled me to choose a date!

Every time I felt overwhelmed, she gave me a pep talk!!

Her enthusiasm filled me with motivation!

Another good friend came over and spent two days (maybe more) helping me itemize my stock.

There is a whole team of women helping me!!

The result is that TONIGHT I am running the biggest Tupperware Party ever!!

So, help me out!! Tell all your Jerusalem friends about it! Email them! Call them!!

Come and join the fun!!

Tupperware Open House TONIGHT!!

Hope to see you!! Bring a friend!!

Lots of great sales and specials!!

There will be many items that are not available in the current catalog!!


Wednesday, March 18
7:30-9:30 pm

At the home of the Wassers
Hashayarot 18, Katamon

For more information call Rivka 052-380-0344

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

With love and optimism,

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Kids! Why Can't They Be Like We Were... Perfect in Every Way...

At first, as I walked my two youngest kids to Judo this evening, we walked together. However, as we neared the matnas (community center), my kids sped up and left me in the dust!

I caught up to my son and compained, "What, you don't want to walk with your poor, old, decrepit mother?"

My son looked at me quizically and asked mischievously "What does decrepit mean? Evil?"


Later, over dinner, I related the above conversation to my two girls.

Without losing a beat, my eldest asked "What does decrepit mean? Boring?"

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

With love and optimism,

Ya' Think?

Last Sunday morning, I called Ofek, an educational institution for gifted kids, and asked when the school was hosting a sale of juggling equipment. The secretary did not know and gave me the mobile phone number of the juggling teacher. I called the juggling instructor several times. No answer.

Since my son had the impression that the sale might be that day, I called Ofek again and asked the secretary if she would know if the sale was today. She answered affirmatively and assured me that the sale was not this Sunday.

As I was about to ask another question, she mentioned that the juggling teacher was right outside, and then asked if I would like her to ask him directly.

Need I say more?

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

With love and optimism,

Monday, March 16, 2009

Medical Update -- Side Effects of Taxol

Tired all the time

Split nails

Feet are tingly

Left foot is a little numb, especially around the toes and the ball of my foot

Menopause 10 years too soon, including HOT flashes and night sweats

Keep getting colds

Hair is falling out (slowly)

I could post about all of these things, but I thought I'd sum it up for now....

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

With love and optimism,

Why Is That Funny?

On our way home tonight, tired and giddy, my kids and I were laughing about the whole cancer thing. (I know it sounds strange but, trust me, it was funny)

"What is a support group?" asked A.

Y jumped in and answered that my support group is "for women with cancer."

"Not just any old cancer," I pointed out.

"OK, women with breast cancer," Y corrected herself.

"Not necessarily breast cancer," I corrected her this time, "women with metastasis."

"What's metastasis?" A asked, still confused.

MD jumped in "cancer that is not going away."

It might sound like a heavy conversation, but it was really quite lighthearted.

I mentioned that, earlier in the day, my sister mercilessly referred to my group as "poor, sick people who sit around talking about cancer." Y, MD and I burst out laughing.

"Why is that funny?" A asked, even more confused.

"It's not," I answered, after a brief pause.... "which is why it is so funny!"

And we burst out laughing some more.

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

With love and optimism,

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Purim Postscript

We make fairly simple mishloach manot. And, though in theory I do limit everyone to 2-3 friends, in practice we still end up with around 20 deliveries.

Here is what I learned from this year:

A. Buy supplies the week after Tu B'Shvat, including:

  1. paper plates (to make hamentaschen mishloach manot)
  2. funky candies (so that the kids are giving something they would like to get)
  3. popcorn kernels ('cause everyone loves popcorn and it's a great filler)
  4. fruit (to pretend that we are giving something healthy)
  5. plastic bags & ribbon (if necessary -- these are supplies we usually have on hand)
B. Decorate the plates and staple them into the hamentaschen shape on Ta'anit Esther (the day before Purim, two days before Shusan Purim).

C. On Ta'anit Esther, make a list of to whom we want to deliver mishloach manot and figure out the delivery route.

D. Either print out or have kids make cards saying "Purim Sameach from _______" on Ta'anit Esther. NOTE: DO NOT pre-address the mishloach manot! Since all the mishloach manot are the same, it just makes it complicated to keep track of which mishloach manot goes to whom.

E. Make popcorn, and bag, it on Ta'nit Esther or, latest, on Purim.

F. Prepare the mishloach manot on Purim. (prepare at least 5-10 extras)

G. When possible, do tag-team deliveries. This year, we dropped off each kid at a different house, then picked them up in reverse order on the way back. This method only works when you have several deliveries in close proximaty, and have to return from the same direction as you came. Still, it definitely saves some time.

Every year, I think how cool it would be to give something thematic or practical. I would love to be put together enough to distribute fresh salad and mini-lasagnas.

Who knows, perhaps if I manage to follow these guidelines, and prepare in advance, I will substitute healthy, nutricious ingredients on my pre-Purim shopping list. Though I suspect that my kids will still want to deliver "fun" (read: unhealthy) mishloach manot to their friends. After all, as I noted above, they only want to give what they would be happy to get!

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

With love and optimism,

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Purim -- The Final Chapter

I have a post that comes before this one chronologically. However, since it is primarily about my daughter, I want to get her approval before posting.


After Megillah reading at my daughter's school, we raced home to prepare mishloach manot (food baskets that are delivered to friends).

In past years, we did a lot of the prep work the day before (on Purim day, as opposed to on Shushan Purim). This year, on Purim day, I took one of my kids to a specialist (everything is fine -- it was just an opporunity to make the appointment without the kid needing to miss school).

So we were even less organized than normal, which is quite a feat, since we are not that organized to begin with!

I was anxious to get everything ready, because we were on a tight schedule. Moshe noted that I seemed a little stressed and suggested that I try to relax a bit more. As if on cue, my eldest daughter announced "Ima, it is so much fun preparing mishloach manot with you!!" (sometimes, if you are very lucky, your kids say exactly the right thing, when you need to hear it the most!!)

Friends started knocking on our door before we were ready! Had we had our mishloach manot ready, we could have given them on the spot, saving ourselves a few stops when we finally went out to deliver....

We were under pressure, because we were invited to a brit (brit milah -- ceremony welcoming a newborn Jewish boy into the Jewish community), and we really wanted to arrive on time.

We had only delivered about a third of our mishloach manot when I had to inform the kids that we would not have time to deliver all of the mishloach manot we had prepared.

At that point, my youngest piped up, challenging, "Whose brit is this anyway?" Clearly, attending the brit of someone she did not know did not interest her.

I tentatively offered the children another option. "Would you like to deliver more mishloach manot by foot and then join IS and her family for Purim Seudah?" (the festive Purim meal)

As one, the children vehemently responded, "Yes!"

When I had discussed this option with IS, she was certain that the children would rather be with us. I was not nearly as sure. Perhaps my instincts were correct, or perhaps it was just that important for my kids to deliver their mishloach manot. Either way, they were happy to walk around together and to have their seudah with their friends.

Even with the greatest of intentions, they could not deliver all the mishloach manot. So, later, when we picked them up, we delivered most of the remaining mishloach manot. (better late, than never...)

We still have a few that never made it to their destination. That happens to us almost every year.... *sigh* One year, I will be more organized!! (b'li neder!!)

Maybe tomorrow I will post this year's maskanot (the lessons I learned).

In any case, at the end of the day, we all had a wonderful Purim.

As they say in the Holy Language:

!היה טוב, וטוב שהיה

Haya tov, v'tov she'haya! (literally: "it was good, and it is good that it was," meaning: it was good while it lasted, but I am glad it is over!!)

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

With love and optimism,

Purim -- Megillah Reading -- Part III

Each year, I get a little smarter.

I stayed home on Purim night, and went to bed at a reasonable hour, so I woke up well on Purim morning.

On Purim morning, not only do I have to arrive on time for Megillah reading, but I also have to help everyone with their costumes. This year, I had it pretty easy. I just had to make up A's face (white face, contrasted with very RED lips).

Y, my daughter, also wanted me to check her reading, as she practiced one last time. She read well. We were ready to go.

We arrived, right on time, at my daughter's school. There was even parking! (YAY!)

My daughter was reading the second half of tet (the ninth chapter), which is all the way at the end. It did not occur to me that this would give my daughter ample time to develop stage fright.

Of course, she had chosen to sit with her friends (instead of her boring old mother...), so I had no clue. (Actually, she was sitting with her madrichot (youth group counselors) who came to hear her read, and she was being a gracious hostess)

The other girls read well; one or two read particularly well. I was confident that Y would read at least as well.

I did not realize just how nervous she was until she started reading.

My daughter, who read so loudly and clearly at her Bat Mitzvah, read soooooo q-u-i-e-t-l-y. I was worried that people would not hear her. Thankfully, though the auditorium was packed, everyone could hear every word.

Y read her reading flawlessly. All the repetitions and the work at home paid off.

I was so proud of her!!

As soon as the reading was over, I told her what a good job she did!! She smiled so sweetly.

Then I mentioned that she did not read as loudly as she had when she practiced at home and I wondered if she was nervous.

She looked at me, her eyes wide and serious. "I was shaking!" she admitted.

Probably, nobody else could tell. But I knew how wonderfully she was capable of projecting her voice. I had heard her practicing.

Y justified her nervousness, quite matter-of-factly, as she explained that she spent almost a full year learning for her Bat Mitzvah parsha (portion) and only one week learning her Megillah reading.

I missed the opportunity to emphasize that she might have started preparing in earnest a little bit earlier. But I did not want to be too critical. Even if she had started preparing earlier, she only had about two and a half week's notice, and she had never even learned Megillah trope (cantillations). I wanted her to feel good about what she accomplished.

She really did an amazing job!

Later, one of my friends told me that Y's voice was sounded trained. My friend, who does not know my daughter well, said that when she heard the beautiful voice, she looked up and, only then, recognized my daughter.

Years ago, Y's choir teacher told me that Y has a very beautiful and distinctive voice.

I do not know much about voices, but I love listening to her sing.

I am so happy that she is using her voice for the good of her community.

I might just have to go hear her again next year....

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

With love and optimism,

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Purim -- Megillah Reading -- Part II

My kids really helped get the house in order!

We were even ready a full half hour before we were scheduled to start!!

So, when women started arriving early, I was relaxed and able to sit around shmoozing!

We had a really nice turnout!! Almost 20 women and girls were here. (there were three more, but they left when they realized a woman was reading Megillah... their loss!)

As always, TS read really well!! I had a lot of fun listening to her!

After everyone left, my youngest daughter told me "it was really nice; kol hakavod!" (good job!)

I asked her if it was worth all the effort and, without hesitation, she answered "yes!"

I agree.

I am already looking forward to next year!!

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

With love and optimism,

Monday, March 9, 2009

Purim -- Megillah Reading

Women! Come one, come all!!

I am hosting a women's Megillah reading at my home on Tuesday night. (We live in Jerusalem, so we celebrate Purim on Shushan Purim, one day later.)

This is the third year that I am organizing a women's reading in my neighborhood, Homat Shmuel, but the FIRST year that I am hosting it in my home.

My home is not neat and orderly (to put it mildly), so I was embarrassed to host. But the woman, who hosted in the past, can't host this year. And, since this is really my baby, I decided that it really made the most sense to host it in my home.

So, with the help of a friend, we placed an announcement in Al Homotaich, a local weekly magazine.

In shul (synagogue), this past Shabbat, I invited everyone I thought might be interested! Many had already seen the invitation in Al Homotaich. I hope I created enough of a buzz....

We have the privilege, for the third year in a row, to have my friend, TS, read for us. She is an amazing reader, exacting in both nikud (pronunciation) and ta'amei hamikra (cantillations), and she also does voices! How fun is that?!


Originally, as some of the long-term blog readers know, I wanted to organize an additional morning reading. I would have broken up the reading by chapters and I would have read a chapter as well.

Just as I was starting to plan the morning reading, my eldest daughter announced that she was reading half of tet (the 9th chapter) in her school on Purim morning!

"But you don't know how to read Megillah!" I responded, confused as to how she could volunteer for something she does not know how to do.

My daughter smiled sweetly at me and asked "Can you teach me?"

In two weeks?!?

How could I say 'no'?

She already knows how to read Torah, and she is quite musical, so it was just a matter of helping her learn a new melody.

With more than a little help from TS, my daughter is ready to read on Purim morning.

I am so proud.

At first, I deliberated about what to do on Purim morning. It did not help that my daughter kept telling me that I did not have to come to her reading.

"I know I do not have to come," I reassured her, "but don't you want me to come?"

To my chagrin, my daughter was perfectly fine with me doing my own thing at home.

But I really could not imagine missing the first time she reads Megillah.

So, despite her cavalier attitude, I decided that this year I am going to hear her read Megillah at her school.

Hopefully, next year, I will organize a morning reading in my home.

Though, who knows what surprises might wait around the corner....


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

With love and optimism,

Sunday, March 8, 2009

What Was I Thinking??

Some day, maybe, I will learn.

Clearly, I need to learn the hard way.... the really slow and painfully hard way.

At first, it made sense to me. My son's sixth grade class was going to be decorating the school until midnight. Until my son got home and into bed, it would be at least 1:00 in the morning. Then he would have to get up at 6:00 in morning, after only five hours of sleep. But if the kids sleep in school, they could go to bed at 12:00 and get up at 7:30 -- gaining an extra two and a half hours of sleep.

The class just needed two parents to volunteer to stay with the kids. So, I volunteered.


When I arrived at the school, at midnight, the kids were finished decorating. They had set up their sleeping bags in separate areas and were getting ready for bed.... or not.

It quickly became clear that the girls had no intention of going to sleep.

The teacher spoke firmly to the kids, instructing them to go to sleep by 1:00 am, threatening them and promising rewards, both at the same time

It was not looking good.

As soon as the teacher left, the kids started mucking around.

When I tried to get them to go to sleep, they became rude and obnoxious.

I was stunned by their behavior.

I knew that the boys in my son's class could get wild, but the girls always seemed so sweet.

Well, the boys eventually fell asleep, but the girls were incorrigible.

I began to regret having volunteered.

However, I did volunteer, and I knew what I would have wanted if my daughter was one of the girls.

I did my best... for several hours.

At 3:00 in the morning, I gave up.

Disgusted by their behavior, I left the other parent (the father of one of the girls) to keep watch, and I went to sleep in another room.

I fell asleep around 3:30 and slept until 6:00, when the sound of activity woke me up. I recognized my son's voice in the melee.

The boys must have woken around dawn. I don't think the girls slept at all.

In the morning, I left the girls to their own devices and assisted the boys with whatever they needed.

I realized that I had a rapport with the boys that I did not have with the girls. After all, I knew these boys and they knew me. They were my son's friends. They listened, and were respectful. It was a pleasure to help them.

When my daughter arrived in school, I applied her make up. I took some pictures -- of my son, my daughter, and the girls from my daughter's class.

Then I said my goodbyes and went home to begin my day.

At least I knew that my son slept a few hours.... He might not have, if I was not there. I went to check on him around 1:30 and noticed that he was still up reading. As soon as I admonished him, he closed his book. Later, I noticed he was still not asleep. I suggested that he close his eyes and breathe slowly and deeply. It took him a while, but he fell asleep. I know that my presence made a difference, at least for him.

Ultimately, that is why I was there.

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

With love and optimism,

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Purim Mania

2 down, 1 to go... or not.

MD's & A's costumes are done (besides the make-up).

Y had an idea for a cute costume, but we did not have what she wanted for it, and no time to run out and get it. So, either she will come up with something else, or not. The current plan is for her to put together something funky from things she already has. I am sure she will look cute, no matter what she does.

MD & A, on the other hand, are going for the freaky look. MD is the Malakh HaMavet (the angel of death, a.k.a. the grim reaper) and Aliza is the devil. Both want deathly white faces... yuch!

A decided on her costume months ago. At least a month ago, she made a devil's cape in her art class. She will wear her cape and a headband with devil's horns. Together, we also made a wicked pitch fork.

MD had something very specific in mind. We made a sickle for him, but were not finding the right cape. Then, a friend dug out of her closet the most awesome cloak for him, hood and all, straight out of the 18th century!

MD is in 6th grade, and the kids in his class are running the school's shuk Purim (Purim fair) on Sunday. Right after Shabbat, they went to school to decorate the classrooms. The kids are working 'till late, and then are going to sleep in school. They needed two parents to volunteer to sleep in the school with them. Crazy or not, I volunteered. Since there were only two volunteers, I am going.

I love this stuff!!

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

With love and optimism,

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


I just got home from chemo when my mobile phone rang....

"Ima, would you like to spend some time with me?" my daughter asked so sweetly.

Is she kidding?!?

"Of course!" I responded enthusiastically.

"Are you doing anything important?" she asked thoughtfully.

What could be more important than spending time with my daughter?!?

"I'll change my plans! I would love to spend time with you," I assured her.

"Great!" she replied, "'cause there are all these great sales in town...."

My face fell.

"I can't go shopping today," I reticently told my daughter, reminding her, "I had chemo today; I am just too tired..."

I was not surprised when she chose to call a friend and go without me. She met up with MM, a good friend of hers from elementary school. They had a great time together. I was happy for them both.

Later in the evening, when I asked her to help me with something that her brother usually does, she was resentful. I explained that he can't do it this time and that either she will do it or I will have to do it. She continued to complain and express her resentment in a not-so-positive way.

I suggested we could be spending time together. She was not interested. I pointed out that she was spending more time complaining than doing the task! She would not stop. I demanded that she stop. She did not listen. She was angry. She made a nasty comment about my not wanting to spend time with her, earlier in the day. She told me that I chose not to spend time with her!

Now I was angry.

It is one thing for her to tantalize me with the prospect of spending time together. But for her to choose to go to town rather than spending time with me, and then accuse me of not wanting to spend time with her?!? That was outrageous!!

She even had the audacity to imply that I chose not to go. As if I chemotherapy were some fun activity that I chose to do and now I was inexplicably too tired and therefore choosing not to spend time with her.

I could not believe my ears!

Did I choose to have cancer? Did I choose to have chemotherapy? Did I choose to be tired all the time!!

"It doesn't make sense," she complained, "you don't seem tired when you are with other people. You are only tired when you are home!"


"Yes," I explained, "when I am too tired, I do not go out; I stay home. The only people who see me when I am so tired are the people who live in my home."

"It is not fair," I continued, "It is not fair that I have cancer. It is not fair that I have chemotherapy. It is not fair that I am too tired to go shopping with you."

"But Ima," she said, looking up at me, "you don't really enjoy shopping."

"True," I admitted, "but if I had the choice between spending the morning in chemotherapy or spending the afternoon shopping with you, which do you think I would choose?"

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

With love and optimism,

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Just Hand Me Those Power Tools!

Our front door handle fell off.

It happened before... a few years ago. The door was still under warranty. The fix-it guy came and screwed the handle back together in less than five minutes. No fuss, no muss, and no money.

So, I called the lock people and they said there is no more warranty and it will cost 250 NIS (about $60) to come fix it! I noted that was a little outrageous for five minutes of work.

Then, the secretary mentioned that I could fix it myself.

OK, now we're talking!

In less than a minute, I learned what size Allen wrench to use and how to fix the handle myself.

No problem. I own Allen wrenches. I even know where they are. (no small feat, given the state of disaray in my home)

I was so proud. I could do this!

Except.... I could not.

The simple instructions did not work. No matter how much I tightened it, the handle kept coming apart.

So, I bit the bullet and made an appointment with the fix-the-door people. (I tried to negotiate a better price, but the best I could do was 230 NIS, which is still outrageous for five minutes of work.)

Then, I had another idea.

I called our local hardware store. The store owner, who also is a fix-it guy, told me to bring in the handle.

Sure enough, the handle was totally broken.

So, I bought a new handle for 60 NIS (it even came with its own Allen wrench), and fixed the handle myself... in less than five minutes.

So cool!

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

With love and optimism,

Monday, March 2, 2009

Purim Mania Has To Wait

The kids chose tonight to ask me for help making their costumes.

Why tonight?? (Please don't tell me because Purim is next week.... I know)

I was so tired. And grumpy.

And yet, I love helping my kids get ready for Purim. And they were being so creative and doing so much on their own.

But, then I had enough. And I wanted to stop. And I wanted to go to bed.

But I could not go to bed until they were ready for bed.

And I got grumpy. And aggitated. And annoyed.

And I told them to get ready for bed.

And they still kept coming for more help.


It was past their bed time. I told them during dinner that I was tired and needed to go to bed.

Why didn't I say "not tonight" when they started asking for help?

Why did I keep helping them until it was just too much and I lost my patience?

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

With love and optimism,

Junior High School

Some of MD's friends already received their acceptance letters on Thursday. A few more received theirs on Friday.

Going into Shabbat, MD still had not received any letter. It was a tense Shabbat....

Sunday morning, we all left before the mail arrived.

Sunday afternoon, there was a thick envelope in the mailbox.

I remember applying to colleges.... thick envelopes were good, they contained all sorts of forms....

I waited until I was inside, then opened the letter.....

"We are pleased to inform you that your son has been accepted...."

I called Moshe. Then I called MD.

"Yesh!" (Yes!)

I could hear the relief in his voice.

He got into the school where he wants to go.

Thank God!!

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

With love and optimism,