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Monday, August 31, 2009

Slump - or - Bumming Around Elul

I've been in a bit of a slump for a few days.

At first, I thought it must be caused by being so tired.

A good friend (you know who you are!) suggested it might be from the new drugs. The new drugs seem to make me very tired, so this reasoning works on both accounts!

Tonight, I realized their might be a more cosmic reason.

Tonight we went to the annual shiur (lecture), marking the yarzheit of our dear from Danny Frei, HY"D, who was murdered 14 years ago, on the 10th of Elul, by an Arab terrorist. (You can read a brief bio of Danny here. For some moving insights, written by our dear friend Mara, Danny's widow, who has been blessed to remarry and rebuild her life, see here)

As I listened to the lecture about the upcoming holidays and, particularly, about the High Holy Days, when God sits in judgement of us, it occured to me that there might be a deeper reason for my slump.

I suddenly remembered that last year, also during Elul, I also found myself in a slump.

I remember, because when I mentioned my unexplainable slump to a friend from Beit Natan (unfortunately, I do not remember who), she suggested that my slump might have to do with Elul, and all the introspection that Jews do at this time of year. She mentioned that many women have a difficult time during Elul.

At the time, I thought she was off target, but she suggested I see if the mood passed after the chagim. To my surprise, it did.

I never found an explanation for what caused my slump or what made it go away.

I forgot all about that incident, until now, when I find myself once again in a slump that has no apparent reason.

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

With love and optimism,

He Did It!!

My son, once again, has surpassed my expectations.

Give him room to spread his wings, for surely he will fly!!

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

With love and optimism,

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Giving Our Kids Wings to Fly

My son, the one who is impossible to wake in the mornings, wants to get up every morning at 5:00 so he can bike to the pool, swim for an hour, then bike to school.

I could not believe that he seriously considered doing this. I figured, the idea would fade as the beginning of school approached.

Tomorrow is his first day of school.

I figured wrong.

He wants to stick with his plan.

So, today, I finally took his bike in to be fixed (he needed a new brake cable) and bought him lights so that he can ride safely in the early morning. when it is still dark.

Anyone want to place bets on whether he gets up with his alarm tomorrow???

(I know, I'm terrible, I should have more faith in my son! But, seriously, FIVE O'CLOCK in the MORNING!?!?!? By choice????)

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

With love and optimism,

Friday, August 28, 2009

School Books

*************** warning: rant ***************

When I was a kid, we needed to bring the following to school:
A looseleaf binder ("klasser")
Paper ("dafdefet")

We received all our books from school.

During the year, we did our excersizes on paper, in our binders.

At the end of the year, we returned our books.

This system seemed to make sense. Since the curriculum did not change much from year to year, the same textbook could be used repeatedly. After all, how much has math changed in the last two thousand years?

Not so in Israel!

In her six years of elementary school, our eldest daughter learned math using THREE different methodologies!! Every two years, we purchased a different type of math book. Our youngest daughter, who is in the same school, is using completely different books, representing a FOURTH method of learning math.

This, apparently is typical among all school and all grades.

In Israel, every year, parents are sent a list of books and workbooks to purchase for their children to use during the upcoming academic year.

Each teacher chooses their own books.

There are no "standards."

"New" parents might assume that they can pass on books from one child to the next.

They would be wrong!

Even within the same school, a teacher might decide to use a different book another year, for whatever reason.

At the end of the year, a parent might discover that several books are still brand new, never opened!

Shockingly, one common cause is that a particular book or subject just was not taught that year. It might not be used the following year(s) either.

Other times, children might not "get around" to their assignments. At the year's end, a parent might find it surprising that their child's workbook is either completely blank or that a meager few pages have been filled in.

Get used to it! No one is going to call the parents to let them know that their child is not doing the homework.

Sometimes, a parent might discover that their child did not answer any questions, but did manage to draw (read: doodle) over all the pages! This can be particularly frustrating for parents who want to sell their used/unused books back to the bookstore!

For the last few years, I have made every effort to get school books from friends with older kids. We manage to find most of our books this way, cutting our school expenses down significantly.

Of course, this effort is fraught with pitfalls, the most common being that the teacher demands that the child use a new edition.

And then there are the years, like this one, when all three of my kids need the same book!!


Because they will ALL be learning from the Kitzur Shulchan Oruch, and they all need a copy for school!


Oh, the joy of finding the right sifrei kodesh! (Jewish texts)

Our son's school is requiring specific publications of those as well. And, while we do own a set of Da'at HaMikrah, there is no way we are letting our son take Sefer Melachim (The Book of Kings) back and fourth to school every day!

So now we need to find out if having a copy at home is sufficient, in which case he can use the Mikraot Gedolot version that we already own. In fact, we already have two copies!

You get the idea?

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

With love and optimism,

Thursday, August 27, 2009

I Feel Like and Idiot

I am in a lot of pain, and it is all my fault.

For the last few months, I have only had to take pain killers sporadically.

However, for the last few days, I have had to take pain killers every evening. As long as I take the pain killers before the pain gets too bad, I am fine. Usually, that is not a problem. I really should just take them systematically, every evening, around six.

Tonight we had a simcha, the joint Bar and Bat Mitzvah celebration of our friends' children (a 12 year old sister and a 13 year old brother).

I usually take pain killers before, or at the beginning of, a simcha. Between the standing around, the sitting around, and the dancing, I have learned that if I do not take pain killers, I will suffer from pain.

Well, tonight I forgot to take pain killers as a precaution and, even though I felt the back pain begin, I also kept getting distracted and forgetting to take the pain killers during the event, even as the pain got worse.

By the time we were on our way home, I was in agony.

The pain was completely unnecessary and avoidable.

And that is why I feel like an idiot.

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

With love and optimism,

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

First Cycle: Xeloda & Tykerb (Medical Update)

The magic number for cancer seems to be 3.

So far, all my chemotherapies seem to be based on 3 week cycles (with the exception of the bone drugs, which are on a 4 week cycle).

Today, I completed the first 3 week cycle of Xeloda and Tykerb (Lapatinib).

Xeloda is taken every day, twice a day, 4 pills each time, for two weeks straight, then one week off.

Tykerb is taken every day, once a day, 5 pills each time, for the entire three weeks.

I meet with my doctor tomorrow to evaluate the first cycle.

I imagine things will continue pretty much the same for the next cycle.

I am super tired, but I do not know if that is from this regimen, or the radiation, or the previous chemo, or the Bar Mitzvah, or having a house full of guests for almost a month, or the beginning of school, or whatever. There are so many possible explanations; I don't even know how to figure it out!

Besides that, I have the following side effects:

1. Low appetite (not the worst thing for me at this time)

2. Mild nausea (not too bad; no need for drugs)

3. Mild stomach upset -- sometimes constipation, sometimes diarrhea (not too bad; when necessary, I take drugs to prevent diarrhea)

forgot to include: I have swelling in my ankles again. I think. It can be hard to tell.

I am also very thirsty, but it might just be the heat.

I had a week of migraines, but they might have been because I was not drinking enough.

I keep forgetting things. That might just be because I have a bad memory. I feel like it is getting worse, but I cannot tell for sure.

I am still bald. I am getting used to it, but I still wish my hair would start growing back.

The bald thing is really hard on my kids.

I am in a bit of a slump emotionally. It could be from the whole brain mets thing or from my family leaving. Who knows?

I am so tired of having cancer. I hate the way it sucks up my energy.

For every hour of activity, I need three hours to recover. (There it is again, the magic number)

I just wish I did not have cancer.

I want it to go away.

The longer I live with the cancer, the more I am forced to face the fact that it is not just going to go away.

Tomorrow, I have to start taking all those pills again.

I hate it.

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

With love and optimism,

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Back to School -- I hope I survive the last week before school starts!!

I LOVE summer vacation!! I wish it lasted four months, instead of two!!

Every year, I promise myself that I will get all their school books and supplies in the beginning of the summer, so that I don't have this crazy, mad rush the week before school starts.

And every summer I have a really good reason why that does not happen.

This summer was no exception!

So, this week had been really crazy, and today was THE CRAZIEST.

Let's start with our eye doctor. Our eye doctor only works one afternoon a week. Both of my older kids had weekly chugim (activities) that afternoon. Since I did not want to make them miss school or their activities, I made them eye doctor appointments for the summer, THREE MONTHS in advance!!

Well, it turned out that BOTH of my kids were away (on seminar or at camp) that week!!

The secretary was wonderful, and helped me reschedule, but I could not get a double appointment! So, I took my son in on Sunday, and my daughter's appointment was this (Tuesday) morning, at NINE O'CLOCK in the MORNING!!

Who wants to wake up at 7:30 AM, during the last week of summer vacation, for an eye doctor appointment?!?!


But, with Moshe's help, I woke up ALL my kids, so that we could go shopping afterwards for school supplies (on that side of town).

You can imagine how much my kids loved that!

God bless them, they all did get up. And though we did not get out of the house on time (FRUSTRATION!!), the doctor did see my daughter and did not lecture us about being late.

Even more incredible, after she saw my daughter, she put drops in ALL of our eyes, since that never seemed to work out before (though we have been seeing her for many years).

The good thing about that was that I can relax, knowing that all of my kids are fully checked.

The bad thing about that was that it took several hours for us to be able to see clearly... and for me to be able to drive.

Next to the doctor's offices, in Givat Shaul, there is a (relatively) new branch of one of the major school/office supplies store. We stopped off there and were able to purchase about 1/3 of the supplies we needed.

Then I took the kids out for lunch -- they let me off easy today, and we just went for falafel at a quaint place, also next door.

By then, my vision had mostly returned, and we went to a general store in Romema for whatever else we could find. The store is great, with a wide range of products and competative prices, but it is across town and I only make it there once a year. This year, apparently, I will have to go back, because a light that we bought for my youngest has a short. (That will teach me not to purchase appliances across town!)

Though we purchased almost all the rest of the supplies we needed, we still did not find everything....

So we went to a THIRD store (a local branch of the first store), in Talpiot.

By this time, I was so exhausted that I actually went to the WRONG mall.

I drove to the mall, WAITED for parking, finally found a parking space, parked, got the kids out, passed through security with all my kids, and only THEN realized that I was in the wrong mall!!

So, we got back in our car and drove around the corner to the correct mall. (Needless to say, I felt like an idiot, but my kids had a good laugh!)

By this time, I was finished! I really just wanted to go home and go to sleep. But the day was yet young....

As I was parking the car (this time, in the correct mall), I realized that, in addition to a few more notebooks, the kids all needed to get a yoman (calendar/diary).


The range of diaries is extensive, as are the prices. Of course, the really fun diaries are not cheap! But I refuse to spend that much money on something that they are going to throw in the garbage at the end of the year. Not to mention that I have children who barely use their diaries at all during the year!! (we won't mention anybody specific, but.... I'm just sayin'!) So, I gave my kids their "budget" and I did not budge. Eventually, they all found something they could live with, within their allocated budget.

With every complaint, I offered them to make up the difference from their own money. Apparently, they also did not want to spend THEIR OWN money that way either.

My youngest, not surprisingly, found something "acceptable" first. More surprisingly, my son found something in almost the same time. My eldest only make her final choice when I gave her a three minutes deadline, after which she would have to come back on her own and purchase whatever she wants with her money. I just could not sit in that store any longer!! (Though I had parked myself on a nice, comfortable, probably orthopedic, office chair!)

My kids do not know this, but I had hoped to take them out for ice cream afterwards. Unfortunately, they took so long choosing their diaries, that we ran out of time!

This (Tuesday) afternoon, we scheduled our annual Gan HaVradim (Rose Garden Park) outing. We almost always do it on the 5th of Av, our son's birthday. But, for obvious reasons (read: The Bar Mitzvah!!), we were too busy this year.

Today was actually the only day we could reschedule it!!

So, when my friend called to say that she was ready to go, we left!

It was really a wonderful way to end the day. I did not have energy for much, but I really enjoyed being there. At one point, I really pushed myself to get up and play Frisbee for a bit. I knew that I would regret it if I did not participate at least a little. We toss a frisbee around every year, and it is great to help the kids and see their improvement over time.

I managed to drive home safely, despite being drop-dead exhausted.

We capped off the day with another fantastic episode of Star Trek.

And, now... I am going to bed!!

Finally!! (and it is not even midnight yet!)

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

With love and optimism,

Monday, August 24, 2009

STAR TREK -- Family Star Trek Night -- Double Feature!

Family Star Trek night is "fun for the whole family!"

We all look forward to it -- to spending the time together, to discussing the episode afterwards.

We even have our family "rituals" -- all the kids sit together on the couch, under blankets (even in the summer).

Our "house rule" is to watch an episode every Saturday night, with whoever is at home. In theory, we watch an episode every week. In practice, this has not happened for a while.

If two or more people are not around, whether kids or adults, we usually choose to skip that week. If we go away for Shabbat, we usually come home too late, so we skip that week as well. There are an infinite number of "wrenches" that can be "thrown into the gears," causing our Star Trek expedition to grind to a halt.

Once or twice we have "postponed" Star Trek night and watched during the week. But, for technical reasons (i.e. everyone's busy schedules), that rarely works.

Last summer, Moshe and I anticipated watching extra episodes during summer vacation. Since the kids do not have to get up for school, we let them stay up later. So, at least in theory, we have more nights available for watching Star Trek. Again, in practice, things turned out quite differently than we expected.

Between our "kaytanat ima" (Mom's Summer Camp) activities, which kept us out until late, and our eldest daughter's activities, with kept her out even later, we were rarely home in time to watch Star Trek, even with out more relaxed bedtimes. And, since we visited friends (out of town) almost every Shabbat, we were not even home in time for our "regularly scheduled" Saturday night viewings.

This summer, when I suggested to Moshe that we would watch extra episodes, he skeptically answered, "we'll see...," reminding me "that's what we said last summer...."

Not surprisingly, Moshe assessed the situation better than I. Though we could not have anticipated my need for extra sleep (caused by the radiation), we still had all sorts of "outside" demands surrounding our son's Bar Mitzvah. And, though we did not go away for Shabbatot (with only two exceptions), there were so many other things going on that it just did not work out.

So, this past motz'ai Shabbat (Saturday night), we were all excited to finally get back to watching Star Trek together.

Moshe promised the kids that if they got ready quickly, we would watch two episodes. Sure enough, the kids were sitting on the couch, covered in blankets, quicker than you can blink an eye!

The second episode was a WHAM episode (part of the major arc story), from season three of "Enterprise." Not only was it an EXCELLENT episode, but my eldest daughter "got it" before the rest of us.

The following paragraph is purposefully vague, but might be considered a SPOILER if you are super serious about Star Trek (but somehow have not yet seen all of Enterprise). It does not include any specific details.

******** SPOILER ALERT ********

Less than 10 minutes into the episode, our eldest suspected that what we were seeing was not "real." Five minutes later, the "deception" was exposed. Later, towards the end of the episode, once again, she again questioned whether what we were seeing was "real." Despite having been impressed with her earlier "catch," the rest of us thought that this part of the episode was "really" happening. When it turned out to be an even more elaborate deception, we were all duly impressed with my eldest!

We are truly raising the next generation of Trekkies. (God help them!)

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

With love and optimism,

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Shabbat Shiur

One of the really special things about my neighborhood is the warmth and openness of the residents.

Nowhere is this more evident than at the weekly shiurim (Torah study sessions) for women on Shabbat.

Each week, a different woman from the community prepares a shiur (session). The women come from diverse backgrounds and each shiur gives us an opportunity not just to learn Torah, but also to get to know the women who live in our community.

Every week, around 30 women (sometimes more) gather together to hear the shiur. Often, there is group participation and sometimes the discussion continues even after the shiur has ended.

Despite all our differences, everyone is respectful of each other. There are women who possess tremendous knowledge of Torah and women whose knowlege is based mostly on folklore. There are women who are academics and women who are "dosim" (from a frum (religious) background, in which secular education is devalued). There are women who are young and old, religious and not so religious, intellectual and spiritual, conservative and liberal, right wing and left wing. There are women from every angle of the dati-leumi (religious Zionist) spectrum, and those who are from completely different worlds. Everyone is welcome.

And yet, no one berates anyone else's background, even when they disagree with their opinion. And no one skips a shiur because the person giving the shiur is "not her style."

I LOVE attending these shiurim.

When I moved to Homat Shmuel (a.k.a. Har Homa), I realized that going to this shiur would be the only way for me to really meet women in our community. My kids were too old for me to "hang out with the moms" in the park or to meet moms in the local school. (My kids were too old to enroll in the local school, with the exception of my youngest. However, it did not make sense to enroll her in a different school from her brother and sister, which would result in my having to pick up kids at the same time from two very distant locations!)

So, from the beginning (when we moved in), I regularly attended the shiur. Then, with all the surgeries (two years; three surgeries), my attendance dropped. Still, I went whenever I felt I could.

All that ended two years ago, when I started chemo. I just stopped going. I am too tired. I have to sleep on Shabbat. In fact, I have to sleep A LOT.

The result is that I feel rather disconnected. Whenever I meet women from the shiur, they ask why I do not come anymore. Often, they include a compliment about missing my input (I often comment or ask questions). Typically, I just smile, say how much I miss the shiur, and explain that I am usually resting during that hour.

More than that, I feel like I have not really integrated in the neighborhood as much as I would have expected.

Don't get me wrong. It is not like I am isolated. I know a lot of people here and have several good friends; but I had expected to be much more involved, both in our shul (synagogue) and in the community at large (such as participating in local municipal committees, which I did even before the neighborhood was built!). I just cannot commit to being active on a committee when I can barely keep things together in my own home (and barely is an understatement!).

I also had visions of organizing women for some sort of women's tefillah group, like Shirat Sara (my women's tefillah group in Talpiot). The closest I have come to that dream is hosting a women's megillah reading on Purim.

Recently, a friend told me about another women in the neighborhood who is also very into Jewish religious feminism. I actually met her in shul once, and had a very interesting conversation with her (it turns out that she was running the hadracha (informal education) department at Melitz when I was working there, oh, so many years ago....).

Anyway, when I saw that this woman was delivering the shiur this past Shabbat, I decided that I would make every effort to attend.

I almost missed it.

I forgot to ask Moshe to wake me in time.

Lucky for me, Moshe finished learning with our son "just in time" and woke me as he was getting ready for his Shabbat nap. It was five in the afternoon, just the time that the shiur begins.

I was about to roll over and go back to sleep when Moshe asked "Didn't you just say that you want to go to the shiur?"

That was all the "push" I needed. I forced myself out of bed, quickly got dressed, and walked as fast as I could to the shiur.

It was worth it.

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

With love and optimism,

Quiet Shabbat

As great as it is to be with family, it is also great to be returning to our "normal" routine.

We had a lovely, quiet Shabbat.

We were invited out to dinner with friends whose company we all really enjoy. (Bonus: they live only 8 buildings away, so it is a short walk to their home.)

It was almost midnight when we arrived at home, but everyone was in a nice, relaxed mood. The kids and I hung out in the living room, just chatting for a while.... until Moshe reminded us of the time.

Then we all went to bed.

I got up early enough in the morning to help my son wake up and go to shul with his dad. I knew he really wanted to go, but it is really hard for him to get up in the morning.... like his mom.

Once my son was ready to go, I put the food on the hotplate to warm up and... went back to sleep.

Oh, yeah, first I took my chemo drugs....

My girls were still asleep when Moshe and my son returned home; I was almost back asleep as well. I asked Moshe to wake me when we were ready to eat.

I really needed the extra sleep.

Lunch was terrific! I pulled together the entire meal completely from the freezer: perfect Basmati white rice (leftovers from when my MIL cooked for us for Shabbat), delicious chicken (cooked by a friend on a day that we did not actually need food), broccoli (left over from last Shabbat) and chicken soup (from my sister's freezer).

My youngest daughter, with a wink in her eye, looked at the full Shabbat table and asked: "Who cooked this meal?"

The best part of the meal: my eldest daughter (15) looked at all of us around the table and said "It is so nice to be together, just us."

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

With love and optimism,

Friday, August 21, 2009

Pinah Chamah (A Warm Corner) -- because little things make a difference

There is a small corner in the oncology day ward that is set aside for drinks. There is a hot and cold water dispenser. And, on the counter, there is usually tea and sugar. There used to be coffee too, until about half a year ago. Most of the time there are cups and sometimes there are spoons as well. At around noon, there is soup (parve) and, if you get there fast enough, some fruit, usually apples.

Recently, in the beginning of August, Darchei Miriam, one of the wonderful volunteer organizations devoted to easing the lives of cancer patients, "took over" the corner. They transformed the area into an inviting Pinah Chamah (warm corner).
They set up wall dispensers for cups (for hot and cold drinks) and a small shelf with matching metal canisters filled with coffee (both instant and Turkish coffee), tea, sugar, sweatener, and instant cocoa (for hot chocolate or cold chocolate milk). The area is kept clean and stocked (though if the milk runs out, you might need to ask a bat sheirut (Sheirut Leumi volunteer) to get some more from the refrigerator, which is located elsewhere).

This might not seem like such a big deal, but it really is. I did not realize how big a deal, until this morning....

Moshe and I woke our kids early this morning, so we could go to a meeting together and, as compensation, I promised the kids I would take them out to lunch. They voted on Burger King (which is Kosher in Jerusalem) and, though it is not the healthiest option, I agreed. I knew they would all be happy with the choice.

My original plan was to take the kids for an early lunch, since none of us had the chance to eat breakfast, and then pop over to Sha'are Zedek to get a blood test. (I did not have to hang around at the hospital; just a quick jab with the needle to fill two small vials with blood and then I would be "out of there.")

As I was about to start my car, I realized that it was only 10:30 in the morning. I suspected that a meat restaurant, even if "only" a fast food place, might not be open quite that early. (It turns out I was right, and they only open at 11:00)

So I suggested we go to the hospital first, and get that out of the way.

"But we are starving!!" chimed the chorus!

I explained that it would only take a few minutes to get the blood test and, by the time we were done, the restaurant would surely be open for business.

"How much time?" challenged my food-deprived children.

I thought about all the takalot (mishaps) that might possibly delay a 3 minute blood test (since it was relatively late in the morning to be arriving at the cancer ward, I knew that I should not have to wait too long for parking, signing in with the secretary, getting the actual blood test, etc.), and answered "Fifteen minutes, at the most twenty...."

As my kids were deliberating, I added, "and you can make yourself hot chocolate while you wait."

That sealed the deal.

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

With love and optimism,

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Party's Over

My brother and his family left Sundy morning and my mom just left tonight.

Everyone is gone.

My sister drove my mom to the airport and I went along. We are always tired on the drive home, but it is nice to spend that time together.

Though I am looking forward to some extra quiet, it is hard to say goodbye. I miss my family so much!


On a completely different note, Hannah, from A Mother in Israel, popped over today, with her husband and four of her kids. They spent the morning touring Herodion and, on their way back, took a three minute detour to come visit us. We could have talked for hours, but we made do with a half hour visit, by which time her kids were ready to go and mine needed some attention from me. It was great to hang out, even for a short while.

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

With love and optimism,

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Puttin on Tefillin for the First Time (Coming of Age)

Hannah's recent post, at A Mother in Israel, reminded me that I never posted about the first time my son put on tefillin.

Traditionally, boys start putting on tefillin a month before they are Bar Mitzvah. This gives the boy a chance to learn what to do, so that he is comfortable with the procedure by the time he is actually obligated to put on tefillin (when he turns 13). Once the boy starts putting on tefillin, he should not miss even one day.

A month before our son's Bar Mitzvah, right after school ended, he was going on a three day tiyul (hike). We all agreed that it did not make sense for him to start putting on tefillin just a few days before he was going away for three days. So we waited until he came back from the tiyul.

We had not planned on doing anything special. We felt that just the act of putting on the tefillin for the first time was monumental enough. But our son asked to put on his tefillin for the first time at the Kotel (Western Wall).

Interestingly, he noted that going to the Kotel is not as special to him as it might be for other kids, since he went to the Kotel a lot with his school, in the Rova (Jewish Quarter of the Old City). I recognized that, and added that it is not the same as going up to Har HaBayit
(the Temple Mount). His eyes lit up. Wouldn't that be something, we both thought outloud.


So, Moshe planned to take our son to the Kotel on Sunday morning, right after the tiyul. It was not until later that we remembered that Sunday was the first day of his kaytana (two-week summer camp) where he would learn to program in FLASH.

So, even though Moshe is not a morning person, he planned to take our son early in the morning, so our son would not be late on the first day.

Closer to the date, we learned that the kids were expected to arrive half an hour early "just" on the first day, for orientation. Moshe could not fathom how he could take our son to the Kotel any earlier, and we called the school to find out just how necessary it was to arrive so early. It was not that necessary, so we gave it a pass.

That Shabbat, Moshe's parents came to us. I had already started radiation and my mother in law brought all the food with her. We planned for my in laws to stay over on Saturday night as well, so my father in law could be there for when our son put on tefillin for the first time. Over the course of Shabbat, both our daughters and my mother in law expressed their interest in being there as well. If everyone else was going, then I wasn't going to be left out!

So, from what started out as a father-son event, became a three generation family event.

We all got up bright and early and went to the Kotel.

Moshe had gone over the basics with our son, so he was not at a complete loss about what to do. Even so, Moshe walked our son through each step.

For a change, I had remembered to charge the video camera and asked my mother in law to bring her camera (since ours was broken). I took lots of pictures.

We were lucky, and just after we arrived, Rabbi Danny Landes, Director and Rosh Yeshiva of Machon Pardes, arrived with a minyan and we davened together. (Every year, for almost ten years now, I attend Rabbi Landes's 3:00 am shiur on Shavuot night. I ask a lot of questions, so he knows who I am.) It was a special "bonus" to have a minyan led by someone we know. And davening (praying) was really nice.

I could tell that our son was proud to be putting on tefillin, and happy that we had all made the effort to make it something special.

As we were about to go, I realized we did not have a picture of us all together. I stopped a tourist, who was all too happy to take our picture.

We stood together and smiled. We could not have been happier.

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

With love and optimism,

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Shabbat & Shiv'a

This was the last Shabbat before the rest of my family leaves. Everyone but my dad, who had to return to work immediately after the Bar Mitzvah, is still here.

My sister would have been happy to host us all again, but we were really hot at her place last Shabbat. So, despite the balagan (mess) at my home, everyone converged at our home.

Truthfully, it is more comfortable for me in my own home. (I imagine my sister feels the same way.)

Everyone helped make this Shabbat happen, especially my sister and sister-in-law. My youngest also helped above and beyond the call of duty, especially on Friday.

It was so great to be together for Shabbat. I love being with my brother and sister. We are all close and it is so hard for us to live so far apart.

I especially love watching my two kids playing with their cousins. (My eldest is still away on "seminarion.")

All of my son's best qualities come out when he is with his little cousins (ages 2 and 5). My nephews, God bless them, are a real handful. My son seems to have infinite patience with them. He is gentle, and tolerant, and caring. And he is so forgiving. One of his nephews broke off pieces from his model of the Beit HaMidash (that he built with his Abba, and is one of his most prized possessions); my son did not lose his cool nor bear his nephew a grudge (though he did lock his door for a few days).

My son recently mentioned that he wants to babysit for other kids. I can see that he will be good at it. He is responsible and nurturing around little kids. And he has that "magic" that his father has -- little kids love to be held and cared for by him.

Today, my son asked if he helped care for his little sister when she was a baby. He did. Quite well.

My youngest also has a very special relationship with her nephews. She has that same "magic." Her cousins adore her.

Amazingly, my two kids played with their cousins without any sort of competition. It was very heartwarming to watch them.

Shabbat ended too soon and we all needed to go our own way.

Moshe and I went to the Shiv'a of Tamar bat Na'ama, z"l. (I recently wrote about her in this post)

(I was surprised to meet at the Shiv'a two other people I know whose lives are touched by cancer. The husband of M, from my support group, who is related to Tamar's father. And R, who also has stage 4 breast cancer, is also related (I forget how). It was strange to come together in this way.)

Tamar was only 12 ½ when she lost her battle with cancer, last Tuesday. Her optimism and love of life made it easy for others to underestimate how sick she was. Many of her classmates did not even know that she was still in treatment. She just wanted to be a "normal" kid and live life to the fullest, which she did.

Like so many others, I also believed she would be okay. How could she not be, with such a fighting spirit?

I am so saddened by her death. I am so sad for her parents and her siblings.

And I am scared. She was young, and strong, and positive, and full of life.... If cancer can claim her life, after only four years....

I just don't want to think about it.

Tamar was an exceptional young girl, and her family did everything they could to help her live her life the way she wanted, with faith and joy and full of activity!

Tamar spent her last days at home, surrounded by the warmth and love of her family.

In her final moments, as breathing became increasingly difficult, she turned to her mother and father and said: "I feel that I am dying. I love you. Do not cry."

Then, with her final breath, she recited: שמע ישראל ה' אלקינו ה' אחד
(Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one)

I pray that when my time comes I will have the strength to let go with the same grace.

יהי זיכרה ברוך -- May her memory be a blessing

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

With love and optimism,

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Mifletzet (The Monster Park)

This summer, "kaytanat Ima" (Mommy's Summer Camp) did not really happen.

Radiation and (l'havdil) the Bar Mitzvah, did not help. But I am not certain that they made that much of a difference.

The kids all had different things that interested them this summer. The things we "have always done," as part of kaytanat Ima did not have the same appeal.

Only my youngest expressed interest in some of those activities; and then only if she had a friend who would be there too.

That said, there remained several activities that still appealed to all (or, at least, more than one) of my kids.

One of the highlights of our summers is going to the Mifletzet. (You can read last summer's post about it here)

I have been extraordinarily tired these past two days, and I was not certain that I would be able to make it this year, but I really did not want to miss it. I do not know what makes it so special, but I love the dynamic of our summer outing to that park.

This year, my brother and his family joined us for it and that made it even more special!

My son had spent the morning guiding my brother and sister-in-law at the Southern Wall excavations. He was so tired when they were done! I am not sure if he would have come with us otherwise, but he did not want to miss the chance to play with his cousins in the park!

This year, only IS and CV came with their kids. We missed NA and her family (who are vacationing in the States). None of our elder daughters were interested in attending this year. *sigh*

My oldest nephew (5 1/2) played almost the entire time with one of IS's twins (NE) (almost 7). It did not take my nephew long to join all the other boys racing to slide down the special slides.

It might not sound like much, but it was a really nice afternoon/evening.

My summer would not have felt the same without it.

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

With love and optimism,

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Bar Mitzvah Shabbat -- and all my angels

I had thought that I would do my son's Bar Mitzvah basically the way I did my daughter's.

How different could it be?

Well, besides the whole Tefillin thing (which is a subject for a different post), I am not the same as I was three years ago.

For my daughter's Bat Mitzvah, I cooked all the food for the Bat Mitzvah Shabbat in advance. My daughter read torah in our very special women's tefillah group. For the kiddush, friends helped bake and prepare fruit and vegetable platters and I also bought a bunch of stuff (like chumus, crackers and junk food for kids).

Everything was very simple, and very good.

Friday night dinner we ate dinner with immediate family only (and our friends, who were hosting us for that Shabbat). For tefillot and kiddush, we invited EVEYONE we knew in the Baka/Katamon/Talpiot/Rechavia area -- we figured מי שבא, ברוך הבא ("Whoever comes is welcome!"). For Shabbat lunch, we rearranged the kiddush tables and set up for lunch in the same space -- for this meal we included guests who had come to Jerusalem for our simcha and friends who had walked from far away.

It was a lot of work, but manageable.

Cleaning up the kiddush room on Saturday night was the hardest part and one of my very good friends came to help us with that.

This time around, my family encouraged (read: pressured) me to order Shabbat food. I resisted -- most ready-made food is high in oil and salt. I wanted to prepare the food myself, but I had a back-up plan: two months before the Bar Mitzvah, a friend offered to organize meals for us, and she kept repeating the offer every few days .

I thought I could manage to cook the food myself... until I found out about the brain mets and radiation. When I discovered how tired the radiation made me, all illusions about preparing food myself dissipated....

The next time my friend offered to arrange meals for us, I did not put her off. Instead, I took a deep breath and said "Thank you, that would be very helpful!"

I do not know why it is so difficult to just accept help. Even after all this time, it is!

This friend, one of the many angels God has sent me, took responsiblity for organizing EVERY aspect of the meals. The food was both delicious and healthful!! What a bracha (blessing)!!!

As Shabbat approached, I realized I would need more help. I spoke with several friends who were happy to help, but I could not find the time or energy to direct them.

Then, God sent me another angel. A week before Shabbat, another friend offered to take responsibility for the entire kiddush, including making calls and seeing what needed to be done (we have a large community, and I had no idea where to start). Before starting, she just wanted to make sure that I did not feel the need to do it myself.

By that point, I realized that I could not do it myself and gladly gave the task over to her. What a weight lifted off my shoulders! I passed her my list of people who had offered to help (bake, prepare platters, etc.). Then, every time another friend offered to help, I asked her to bake and directed her to my coordinator.

I do not think my coordinator realized how many friends, thank God, were baking/preparing food, because the kiddush was enormous!!

I did not even get a chance to see what there was! I spent the kiddush talking with friends and just basking in the joy of having heard my son read Torah and Haftorah so beautifully. (for more about our son's Aliyah LaTorah (Torah reading) see here)

Only at the very end did I see the beautiful cake my downstairs neighbor baked, with a set of tefillin on it!

At one point, a neighbor handed me a piece of kugel Yerushalmi, but I only managed to eat a few bites. I barely tasted anything, but that was ok.

Someone did make a Napolian pastry (I LOVE custard) and I did get a piece of that! Yumm!!

I took the opportunity to address the community, to thank everyone, both from within the community and from without, especially those who hiked in from Talpiot, Baka, Katamon, and even Rehavia!

The Bar Mitzvah Shabbat was particularly HOT, even early in the morning! I felt so blessed to have friends who trekked so far just to hear our son read and to be a part of our simcha!! I really felt embraced by friends and community.

This time, it was too much for me to try and organize a meal with all our guests, so friends ate with other friends in the community.

Our immediate family ate both meals at our home, where I was most comfortable. We were 14 people: Moshe's parents, my parents, my sister, my brother, his wife and their two kids (ages 5 and 2) and, of course, our family of five. (we have five people in our family, 1-2-3-4-5!)

My sister in law, who almost NEVER goes away for Shabbat, also came in for Shabbat with her family (they have seven kids). They took full advantage of being in the neighborhood. They ate the first Shabbat meals with close friends, from their (destroyed) community in Gush Katif, and the second with cousins, who live a few houses away from us. They did join us for seudah shlishit (the 3rd Shabbat meal), but that is a less formal meal, and we were able to all squeeze in (the kids all leave the table within a few minutes anyway).

Thanks to all my angels, I was able to conserve my energy and focus on the important things:
* Getting to shul on time (I even made it to Kabbalat Shabbat)
* Hearing my son read Torah and Haftorah
* Spending time with family

I had a wonderful Shabbat!!

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

With love and optimism,

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


I wanted to post an upbeat post today. (especially since I have posted several "heavier" posts lately)

I knew that today was going to be a good day!

I planned to spend the morning and afternoon with my brother, his lovely wife, and their two ADORABLE little boys. This was going to be my day with them.

I planned to take them to Migdal David (The Tower of David Museum), where I have been a guide (on and off) for almost 20 years! (19, to be exact) It is my FAVORITE museum in Jerusalem, and I love guiding there. So it is especially great to share the museum with my family!

And then tonight Moshe and I planned to go out to dinner to celebrate our 16th wedding anniversary.

What could be bad?

Well, I did both of those things! And they were each wonderful, in their own way.

But in the middle, my world collapsed a little.

We had already spent over 4 hours at Migdal David when Moshe called. (I thought we would spend about 3 hours there but everything takes longer with small kids! We were all exhausted by the end of the day, but it was worth it!)

Moshe had just learned that our friend's daughter, who recently celebrated her Bat Mitzvah (around March), died today from cancer. He knew that I would want to know.

It is difficult for me even to write these words.

When I first started blogging, I was surprised to find that one of my regular readers was a woman with whom Moshe had worked in the past. As the mother of a child with cancer, she drew strength and support from my blog. I was amazed, and honored, to be able to provide that for her. I could not imagine the challenges of raising a child with cancer.

Over time, we emailed, we talked, we got to know each other.

I last saw her with her daughter at Zichron Menachem's Purim celebration. Her daughter looked great! (besides having no hair) She was full of energy, as usual, and having a great time! She looked so young and strong!

All the doctors emphasize that, today, people can live for years with cancer. Surely, I believed, my friend's daughter would be okay!

About a year and a half ago, I met my friend at the Bar Mitzvah of the son of a mutual friend. My friend admitted that she was afraid to begin planning her daughter's Bat Mitzvah so far in advance. Who knew what might be.

I had a brief glimpse into the horrible fear that a mother feels when her child has cancer.

When I posted Choose Life (last May), I received the following letter from my friend:

Hi RivkA

I read your posts every day, and today’s has really stunned me.

In Tamar’s Bat-Mitzva, 3 months ago, I talked about just the same thing. I gave my personal interpretation to “Uvacharta Bachaim” – sometimes you cannot choose whether you’ll live or die, but you can choose to live the life you are given.

She sent me the text of her drasha (speech) and I read it all (in Hebrew!). It was so moving, and so full of life!

And now, here I was, in the middle of giving a tour to my brother and his family, and I did not know how to deal with this loss.

I took a few minutes to try and regain my composure and figure out what I should do. I knew that I would not have another opportunity to spend time alone with my brother and his family.

I decided that I needed to finish giving my family their tour. I did not want to cut it short.

If I finished in time, I would try to attend the funeral. If not, I would simply go to the shiv'a (mourning house).

I forced myself to focus on the moment, and to be with my family 100 percent.

I did not rush myself or my family. It took us at least another hour before we left the museum.

I realized that I was not going to make it to the funeral.

(To be honest, I was a bit relieved. I am not at all certain that it would have been good for me to attend the funeral, even though I really wanted to go.)

When we got home, I helped my brother and sister in law to find some information they needed, then I went to get ready to go out for our anniversary.

Moshe and I had a lovely dinner together. Afterwards, we went to the hotel where we got married (we have been doing this every year since we got married).

We spent an hour, or so, just hanging out in the area where we had our wedding, talking about all sorts of things.

It was very special.

Among other things, we spoke about our friend and her daughter. How could we not?

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

With love and optimism,

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Hard to Forget

Taking pills every days makes it hard to forget that I have cancer.

Chemo once a week was not fun, but it left me with 6 days to pretend that I was "normal."

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

With love and optimism,

Chemo Pills (Medical Update)

So, it turns out that both Xeloda and Tykerb are pills.

On the one hand, this makes life a lot simpler. I no longer have to receive treatments via IV.

On the other hand, I have to remember to take pills, LOTS of pill, EVERY days. Blech!!

Have I mentioned how much I hate taking pills and how hard it is for me to remember to take them when I need them?!?!

I have to take FOUR pills of Xeloda, TWO times a day, between 20 - 30 minutes after I eat food.

I also have to take FIVE pills of Tykerb, once a day, an hour after I have eaten and an hour before I eat. I can drink water during those two hours, but nothing else.

I have to take Xeloda every day for 14 days straight; then I have 7 days without taking Xeloda. (Like all my other chemos so far, Xeloda is also taken on a three week cycle)

I have to take the Tykerb EVERY day, with no breaks.

It feels like the last few days have revolved around when I am taking my pills.

I get up, eat something, wait 20 minutes, take my Xeloda pills, wait another 40 minutes, take my Tykerb pills, wait another hour, then relax for several hours. In the evening, I eat dinner, wait another 20 minutes, take my Xeloda pills, feel relieved that I remembered all my pills that day, and relax until the next morning. Repeat.

During the week, I fill in a chart, including the times that I am taking the pills. It is actually comforting for me to fill in the chart, because then I know that I am not going to get confused about whether or not I took my pills.

With all the focus on timing and food, it is hard to forget.

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

With love and optimism,

Friday, August 7, 2009

Things to Remember (Pictures)

At the end of the day, pictures are what we look at to remember our simchas (celebrations) and family events.

At my daughter's Bat Mitzvah, we forgot to take family photos. At the very end, we rushed to get in a few pictures before our "photographer" had to leave.

A friend of ours took pictures for us, but it is challenging to be both a guest and a photographer.

This time around, we asked two friends to take pictures and we asked them both to arrive!

I had meant to ask even more friends to just bring cameras and take pictures, but I forgot. Lucky for us, another two friends came with their cameras anyway, including one friend who had a pretty serious camera and seemed pretty serious about taking pictures!!

I have not seen any pictures yet, but I have already added a few more things to my list, to (hopefully) remember next time....

Things to Remember:

1. Arrive at least an HOUR early for pictures. We planned to arrive a half hour early. We arrived 15 minutes early. The caterer was there to great us; he introduced us to the staff and went over some final details. Guests were already arriving as we rushed to take pictures.

2. Make sure ALL family members know they are supposed to be there at that time!! Certain family members, who shall remain nameless, asked Moshe "What time will things really start?" Moshe answered their question directly -- he told them the time we expected most guests to arrive and would be serving the food (about a half hour after the time on the invitation). Said family members were really asking "What time should we be there?" (We only figured that out afterwards) So, these family members planned to arrive at that time, half an hour late! Then they got stuck in traffic and arrived even later! So much for pictures!

3. Ask a friend or two to come early, to help with pictures (i.e. to run after people and gather them for pictures). Since we are the ba'alei hasimcha (family celebrating), we are in almost every picture. It would save a lot of energy if someone OTHER than me would be running around telling family members (and friends) when to gather and come for pictures. This is definitely something I could delegate!!

4. Take "group" photos!! (and use the microphone to gather the relevant people) A friend from college "popped in" to our simcha (celebration) (she could not stay because they had a wedding the same night). I realized that I have TONS of friends who went to the same college as I (though not at the same time). I quickly gathered (almost) all of my friends who attended Barnard for a photo. (I did miss at least one friend -- that's what photo shop is for!) I am so happy to have a photo like that!!

In addition to more family photos, I would have liked group photos of (in no particular order):
1. "frisbeechevra" friends
2. "blogger" friends
3. college friends
4. "Tnuat AM" friends
5. the "lost boys" (i.e. my son's friends)

You get the idea!

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

With love and optimism,

Thursday, August 6, 2009

New Chemo -- Xeloda & Tykerb (Medical Update)

Thanks to a good report from the PET scan, my oncologist gave me a week "off" for the Bar Mitzvah celebrations.

I finished radiation three days before the Bar Mitzvah Shabbat, and I started the new chemotherapy today, two days after the Seudat Mitzvah (Festive Meal -- i.e. party).

I would have liked to postpone beginning this new chemotherapy until after my brother left, but my husband (and mother) were adamantly opposed to delaying treatment (it has been three weeks since my last chemo, and that stuff did not really work so well...). Medically, I could have waited another week. But, as my doctor constantly emphasizes, this is a couples disease, and both partners need to feel comfortable with the decisions being made.

So, I started today.

I will write more details tomorrow, if I can.

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

With love and optimism,

Running on Empty

I'm going to CRASH this Shabbat!!!

I have not had a chance to slow down since the Bar Mitzvah!!

Wednesday night we had a family wedding, by Tzomet Re'em (Masmia), and today we had a family get-together in the late afternoon that ended in the evening. Both events were very special, and I am glad I went! That said, had I not had these events, I would have just stayed home and slept all day! I am still tired from the radiation. I have to sleep!!

Even when we got home this evening, I had to help my son pack for his machaneh (camp). This year, he barely did anything with his youth group. But machaneh is the highlight of the year -- each year, they go for one more day than the last. They "build" their campsite out of wood and sheets. This year, they will be there over Shabbat, which is a really special experience. The whole thing is a real exersize in group dynamics and cooperation.

It took over an hour to help my son pack. But, finally he is done and so am I!!

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

With love and optimism,

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Thank YOU for Being Part of My World

Now seems as good a time as any to express my gratitude for the overwhelming on-line support and encouragment I have received from friends and 'strangers' these past few weeks.

I was amazed at the outpouring of love and support I received after I posted about my recent diagnosis -- I had over 500 visitors to my blog and 73 comments!! And that's not including all the people who responded by email! (I don't know about you, but that just blew me away!!)

So many people came to express their support and to add their prayers via David at Treppenwitz, (who wrote a very kind and moving post aout me here) and Leora from Highland Park (who also wrote about me here). I am grateful to both of them for adding their voices to mine, in such a positive way, during such a difficult time for me.

This experience has made me realize how much of a community I have found in the blogosphere.

Blogging helps me feel less isolated during all those times that I am too tired to leave my home.

I know you think I am increadibly busy, but that is just because I never (ok, almost never) write about the days I am too tired to do anything.

On that note, I will mention that when I "disappear" for a few days, it usually means I really am out and about, actually "living" my life. (Admitedly, there are many reasons that I may be feeling too tired to write about it at the end of the day....)

Anyway, my point is simply that I want to thank all of you for your warmth and caring.

It is awesome to have so many people praying for me, all over the world.

God bless you!!

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

With love and optimism,

Shepping Nachas

Shepping nachas is a Yiddish expression; literally it means "scooping up satisfaction/pleasure"

What is really means is harder to express.

I googled 'shepping nachas' and came up with this definition, penned by Treppenwitz: 'shepping nachas' can be roughly translated as a combination of deriving great pleasure from something and being extremely proud of someone... for example; when a friend or loved one does something exemplary.

That about sums it up for me.

I am so proud of my son. He delivered a complex drasha and, once again, he spoke clearly and with confidence.

Even when the microphone made all sorts of annoying noises, my son kept his composure and did not lose his train of thought.

At one point in the drasha, he realized that he skipped something earlier on and he seemlessly inserted the relevant information so that he could make his next point.

He had full command of his subject matter and he presented it well.

I could not be any prouder.

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

With love and optimism,

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Got It!!

Don't know if it was via Facebook or my Blog, but we got a screen!

Wish I could post more, but too much to do!!!

Thanks to everyone!!

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

With love and optimism,

Monday, August 3, 2009

We need a screen for the Bar Mitzvah

Anyone have a screen we can borrow or know from where we can rent one?

If so, please call me if you can -- otherwise please email or comment.

(please do not email/comment if you do not have a concrete suggestion)


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

With love and optimism,

Better Late than Never

OK -- three (four, if you count this one) posts in one day is not as good as one post over three (or four) days....

But this is what there is.

I'd write more, but I have got to SLEEP!!!

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

With love and optimism,

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Bar Mitzvah -- Aliyah LaTorah

My son, God bless him, sometimes slurs his words, talkingnonstopwithoutdifferentiatingbetweenwords.

Sometimes he also speaks quietly.

It can be difficult to understand him.

He is aware of this problem and he works hard to speak clearly.

I wondered (read: worried) if he would be able to enunciate clearly when he read Torah.

It was difficult for me to accept that, once again, my heath situation prevented me from teaching my son on my own.

That said, I admit that I felt relieved that someone else would have the challenge (read: responsibility) of getting him to read loudly and clearly.

It took us a while to find the right teacher to teach him how to read Torah, but we did.

Our neighbor, DS, is a bit older (probably around the same age as my parents) -- he is exacting in his teaching (something that is important to me) and strict (my son was intimidated just the right measure -- enough to go to almost all his lessons and to practice seriously with his teacher).

Periodically we heard my son read a bit here and there.

When he practiced, he read pretty well. But I wondered, would he be the kind of kid who, when it came time to read in shul, would be overwhelmed and read quickly and quietly? Or would he be the kind of kid who would rise to the occasion, and read even stronger.

My son was definitely the latter!!

I heard EVERY WORD, loudly and distinctly.

I could not have been prouder!!

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

With love and optimism,

Feed the Beasts!!

Members of my family share a challenging personality trait -- when we do not eat, we get really grumpy (to put it mildly).

Everyone (my father and mother, and my brother and his family) was scheduled to arrive at the end of Tisha B'Av, after fasting and a 24 hour flight with small children!

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

With love and optimism,

Letting Go

(written last week -- forgot to post....)

My “plan” had been to “get through” all the end-of-the-year stuff and then focus on the bar mitzvah.

Of course, discovering brain mets less than a week before school ended stuck a real wrench into that plan!

I started radiation the first day of summer vacation!!

The almost immediate exhaustion hit me by surprise. I kept telling myself, I’ll start working on the bar mitzvah tomorrow…. hopefully I’ll be less tired then….

Yeah, right.

So, here we are, time is running out, and nothing is moving.

Those of you who do not know me personally might have figured out by now that I am definitely a “Type A” personality (those of you, who do know me, figured this out a long time ago). Among other characteristics, I’m a control freak.

Now, knowing that you have to let go of some of that control and actually letting go are two completely different ballgames!

So many wonderful people offered to help me, but I was too tired to even get them organized!! I did not know what to do with all those general offers to help. (Though I did think to ask people to bake for the Kiddush -- at least my brain has not retired completely!)

Thanks to a session with my OT, I made a list of things-to-do and figured out what I could give over to someone else.

I gave over so much already, and I’m still giving over more!

I am grateful for all the help offered by friends, family and acquaintances.

My sister-in-law (SIL) called almost every day, begging for more things to do! She made a MILLION calls to halls, caterers, family, friends, etc. (Did I mention that she has seven small kids of her own?!?)

My sister, SIL, and mother-and-father-in-law (MIL & FIL) all took various kids shopping for clothes for the simcha – not an easy task and one that I DREADED!!

Oh yeah, and did I mention that my in-laws, when they heard about my diagnosis, three days before they were going to fly to America, CANCELLED their trip so they could be here to help us!!

I am truly blessed.

Meanwhile, my son knows his parsha and his haftorah, and that is really all that matters!

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

With love and optimism,