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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Call Me Crazy -- I'm Hosting a Women's Megillah Reading TONIGHT

Here's how it happens....

Four years ago, a year after we moved into our neighborhood, I figured I was "established" enough to organize a women's reading.  My biggest challenge would be finding a place to do it.  My house was a disaster zone (still piled high with boxes from moving), so there was no way I could host.

I had no idea who, in this open, but relatively conservative, neighborhood, would be willing to host.

Then, I mentioned it to the woman (IA) who, at that time, was organizing our Shabbat women's shiurim (classes).  To my surprise, she was totally into it and offered to host.  She even owned a Megillah!! 

She also suggested that we all bring something light to eat and hang around afterwards to sing and eat.  I thought that might be overly ambitious, but she was so excited about the idea that I had to agree. 

That first year, I was worried that no one would show up, besides the three of us: our host, my friend (TS) who would be reading most of the Megillah (everything, but the one chapter I read), and me.

I need not have worried.  About 12 women showed up!!

The next year, we decided to do it again.  The second year, my friend (TS), read the entire Megillah.  I LOVE her reading!  She is precise, acts out the parts (with voices) and is diligent about reading correctly.  She now has a PhD in Lashon (Hebrew Language), which she was working on then; she wrote her doctoral thesis on Ta'amei HaMikra (cantillation or trope).  So, having her read for us is always a real treat!

The third year, our lovely hostess could not host us.

I did not know what to do.  I could not find another enthusiastic host.

In the end, I realized if I wanted a local women's Megillah reading, I would have to host it. 

I was so anxious about both the change in location and the state of my home.  I had a bit more energy, but not enough. 

My eldest daughter saved the day!  She was highly motivated and, quite literally, transformed our apartment.  (Much of the clutter was still there, but so cleverly camouflaged!)

On Purim night, my living room was packed!  We had to set up extra chairs in our dining room!

For the third year in a row, my good friend (TS) read the Megillah for us.

Doing something three times is a "chazakah" (establishes a pattern).  I felt like we could do this forever.

Then, our phenomenal reader (TS), was offered a post-doc in Toronto!!

So, this year, I had to find other readers. 

I had wanted to try to involve as many women as possible in the reading.  In the end, I only had 4 readers, and one dropped out at the last moment.  I did not have enough time or energy to look for more readers.  I was not even certain I even enough of a desire, or the motivation, to get it together this year.

I did not know, until last Friday (two days ago), whether I could pull this off. 

I would have not been able to do it without two other phenomenal readers, ABC and RJ, who are each reading 4-5 chapters!  Both of these women are also very precise in their readings, and I know I can count on them to read well!

Since I was focused on finding readers, I never bothered to find an alternative host.

I had mixed opinions about hosting this year. 

On the one hand, it is best to have a permanent place, so people know where to go.  I would love my home to be that place.

On the other hand, our house is still not put together.  I had really wanted to get it together (at least in the "public" zones) for Purim, but it just did not happen.  To make matters worse, we just got a new (used) fridge, but we have not yet sold the old one, so we currently have two refrigerators in our kitchen!

When it came down to making a decision, it was "my place" or "no place."

So, what could I do?

"What would you do, if your mother asked you?"*

You are welcome to join us!! (women/girls only)  The more, the merrier!!

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

With love and optimism,

* Do you know who asked this question??  Just answer "yes" or "no."  There are surprises yet to come!!


Normally, I live in the "State of Denial."  I am very happy living there, thank you very much.

Sometimes, things wake me out of this state.  But, it is only a matter of time until I can stuff those evil thoughts back into Pandora's Box, and get on with my life.

I knew my worries about my markers were unjustified, but I could not push them out of my head for a few days.

Apparently, writing about it, did the trick.

After I wrote the post, I filed that worry away. 

I did not need to talk about it anymore, and it did not bother me at night (you know, in those quiet hours, when fears like to rear their head).

I wrote about it and got rid of it.

I have other things to focus on... like Purim.

Did I mention that I am hosting a women's Megillah Reading again this year?

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

With love and optimism,

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Unnecessary Discomfort

I had an entirely different post planned for this evening!  I will, I hope, post it tomorrow morning.  It is just a short, but positive, post about a change in my focus. It will have to wait.

Right now, I want to complain. 

I am having stomach cramps and I am upset, because they were completely avoidable.

I ran out of Tykerb, because I could not renew my prescription, because my approval had expired, and my health fund would not even ORDER the drugs until my approval was renewed, so I had to wait even longer, and I ran out of pills. (you can read about this outrageous incident here)

So, for several days, I did not take Tykerb.

Well, my stomach must have liked the "rest," because it is really objecting to the fact that I resumed taking this medication.

I started taking Tykerb again on Tuesday, and my stomach has been wreaking havoc on me, ever since!

The Imodium/Stop-it helps with diarrhea, but it has not alleviated the terrible cramping.

I would not have been experiencing this if I had not stopped and restarted treatment.

I had stomach problems from the Tykerb before, but not like this.

I know it will go away.

My body will reach a balance, like before, tenuous as it seemed.

Meanwhile, I just need to breathe and relax and wait.

This, too, shall pass.

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

With love and optimism,

Thursday, February 25, 2010

CA 125

One of my markers, CA 125, jumped significantly, according to my most recent blood test, on February 11th (my birthday).

My CA 125 has been around 22.5 for weeks.  It is now 42.1, almost double what it was a month ago.

There are many factors that can cause a fluxuation in this marker (see this link).

Nonetheless, this rise, coupled with an increase in pain (of which I am aware only because I am taking pain killers more often), has me worried.

There is probably nothing to be worried about. 

Still, for this (the increase in pain) and other reasons (the pain and swelling in my thigh), I did a CT scan last Thursday of my lower back, pelvis, and upper thigh.

Even if the results show "nothing new," I will still be anxious.

Last time, it took 6 months to identify progression in my bones.

Like I wrote above, it is probably nothing. (So, mom, please don't freak out.)

I'm just sharing what is going on (in my mind, as well as my body).

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

With love and optimism,

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

White Rabbit x 150

I wrote this yesterday, but couldn't post it due to internet problems.

I take lots of pills.

Expensive, chemotherapy pills.

Pills that have to be approved by my health fund.

My approval expired.

I did not know.

I was out of Tykerb (Lapatinib) pills for several days.

Tykerb is the drug we (read: the doctors) think crosses the blood brain barrier.

I could not even order the drugs until my approval was renewed.

I know they can not sell me the drugs before they are approved.  But, for crying out loud, just order the damn drugs so that I CAN purchase them when they ARE approved.

No can do.

Stupid Bureaucracy.

I waited.

I got the approval.

I called the pharmacist, who ordered the pills.

I waited.

After a few days, the pharmacist called to tell me I could pick up the pills. 

Only one problem: the pharmacy only received 80 pills (approximately half of what I need).  If I wait until the afternoon, they could have the rest of my pills delivered, and I could pick up all the pills at once.

I waited.

In the afternoon, I called to confirm.

I spoke to a different pharmacist.

He told me: "There is a problem; you can only pick up 10 pills, enough for two days."


My prescription is for 150 pills.  This morning I could have picked up at least 80 pills.  Now, he is telling me that I can only pick up 10 pills?!?!?

I lost it.

I raised my voice.

I asked for his name.

I did not accept the situation.

The pharmacist asked if he could check something and call me back.

Hell, yeah.  You check it out and then give me my freakin' pills!

He called back.

I could pick up 80 pills.

The additional pills had not arrived; I would still have to go back for the rest.

But not in two days.

The whole situation is absurd!

Stupid Bureaucracy.

When logic and proportion, have fallen sloppy dead
And the White Knight is talking backwards,
And the Red Queen's "off with her head!"
Remember what the dormouse said: "Feed Your Head"
-- Grace Slick, recorded by Jefferson Airplane (White Rabbit)

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

With love and optimism,

Monday, February 22, 2010

Super Mom (Proud Parenting Moments)

I did something a bit crazy irresponsible today, but it worked out fine, and it was so worth it.

My youngest stayed home sick today.

I was not sure if she was really sick or just feeling a bit overwhelmed.  She had her group interview yesterday, for the Jr. High she wants to attend.  She is worried about them not accepting her.  I know that she will be accepted, but my reassurances do not seem to relieve the pressure she feels.  She thinks:  I'm her mom;  of course I think she's great and will get in.  (The truth is, I really do know that she will get in.  Getting accepted is not as hard as people like to make it out to be. I'm confident enough not to be worried.)

Anyway, back to the present.  My daugher does not like to miss school; so if she asks to stay home, it makes sense to let her.

The thing is, I knew I would be out all day.

I had a morning art class, followed by Chi Kong, at Beit Natan.  Then, a meeting of the editorial staff for the first edition of the Beit Natan newsletter.  (Since I write, I was recruited.)

After that, I planned to go straight from Beit Natan to the pool, to teach.

I left Beit Natan at 2:50 and my first swim class begins at 3:30.  Forty minutes is not a lot of time to cross town, park, change, and get in the pool.

But I made really good time, and arrived in Talpiot, around 3:05.  At the traffic light on Derech Hevron, I should have turned left, to go to the pool.  Instead, I turned right and headed home. (not a rational choice)

I pulled into our parking lot at 3:11.  I figured I had exactly 3 minutes to run in, see how my daughter was feeling, and, if she was up to it (this is a good example of my typical wishful thinking), to bring her to the pool with me.

My daughter still did not feel well, and I think she was running a low fever.  Coming to the pool with me was out of the question. 

But stopping at home was a really good decision.  She really appreciated that I came home just to check on her.  She understood that I could not stay. 

With a quick kiss and a hug, I ran out, hopped in my car, and prayed not to get stuck behind some slow vehicle.  It was 3:15.

God was good to me. 

I parked my car at 3:22 and was in the pool by 3:30, on the dot.

Piece o' cake.

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

With love and optimism,

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Gamad V'Anak

In Israel, at least at my kids' schools, Adar (the Jewish month) is a time of chaos.

In addition to a full schedule of mid-year exams, the kids have all sorts of fun days and activities:  Yom Pyjamot (pajama day -- kids and teachers come to school in their PJs), Yom HaTalmid (student day --the 6th graders "teach" classes that day), Shuk Purim (carnival day, run by the 6th graders), etc

They also have two weeks of Gamad V'Anak (Israeli version of "Secret Santa"), when they exchange gifts, culminating in their final gift of "mishloach manot" on the last day before Purim vacation.

Mostly, the kids want candy.  So a good "anak" (giant) gives his/her "gamad" (dwarf) all sorts of different candies.  A lot of kids spend time making creative "packages" for their gamadim.

In our home, I have always encouraged my kids to be creative and make fun gifts for their gamadim, of which the candy is only a part. 

Tonight, when I got home from my support group, I was tired and went straight to bed.

One of my children (who shall remain nameless, to protect the guilty), who should have been in bed already, came and asked for help making a gift for tomorrow.  Specifically, the child wanted a balloon.

It was 9:45 and I was tired.  I did not want to get out of bed to find a balloon.  My creative juices were just not flowing, and I could not think of anything else to do, either.

I suggested that the child just do something simple and stick in a few candies.

The child was quite perturbed and went to bed without preparing anything, angry at me for not helping.

What do you think?

When Moshe got home, he gave me the same advice that I had given him a few days earlier.  This child could easily have made a gift on his/her own.  The request for help, was really a request for attention.

I realized this was an accurate assessment, but I did not really feel like focussing on a child who should have been in bed, asleep.

What do you think?

How much is reasonable for a kid to ask of a parent?

How much should the needs desires of a child influence a parent's actions (or inactions)?

Also, as long as we are on the subject, how much do you spend on this stuff?

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

With love and optimism,

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Feeling Loved -- Birthday Wishes

Before we get too far away from my birthday, I just want to thank Ruti for her beautiful post.


It is so wonderful when you meet someone and just know that you have been, and will be, connected forever.

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

With love and optimism,

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Day In The Life....

I wake up in the morning, and remember: today is chemo-day.... ugh... maybe I can grab a few more minutes of sleep....

When I have no time left, I get up and put anisthetic ointment on my port.  If I don't, it will hurt when the nurse sticks me with the needle.  Then I get ready quickly and we leave for the hospital, anxious about getting there on time.  (We are always running "late.")

We usually have to search for parking.  By the time we get there, even the handicapped spaces are often all full.  It is too difficult for us to get out of the house earlier.

We arrive at the oncology day ward, and wait for our turn to check in.  The waiting time varies dramatically, from zero to twenty minutes.  It all depends on how many peope are in front of you. 

You never know in advance what will be.

Once I am checked in, I go for a blood test.  People like me, wait for their port to be "opened."  Others wait for a heparin lock to be inserted into a vein in their arm or hand.  Here too, we wait. The wait is usually between twenty minutes and an hour, but occasionally it takes longer.  It is not uncommon to wait an hour and a half. Again, you never know in advance.

Once blood is drawn, we wait again, for the results (white/red blood cell count, kidney/liver functions, etc.).  For some, this is a very stressful time, because only once they get the results, will they know if they will receive treatment.  It is very stressful to be sent home with no treatment.

Thank God, my counts are usually good, so waiting is just a necessary inconvenience.

Once the blood work has been processed and confirmed, the nurses order the drugs to be prepared by the pharmacy.  Again, all this involves waiting: waiting for the nurses to check the bloodwork; waiting for the pharmacy to prepare the prescription; etc.  It can take the pharmacy up to several hours to prepare a prescription.  Again, it all depends how much work they have on any given day. 

We never know in advance.

Once the drugs are ready, we wait for them to be brought to the department.  Then, we wait for someone who can administer the drugs to hook us up or give us the shot.  When we receive more than one treatment, or additional preparations, we wait each time one of the IV bags needs to be switched. 

Individual IV treatments can take anytime, from twenty minutes to several hours, depending on the type of treatment and the person receiving the treatment.  (For example, I was sensitive to Herceptin, so it had to be administered slowly, taking 3 to 3 1/2 hours, instead of the "normal" hour and a half.)

When we are finally done with all our treatments, the entrance to the vein (via port or whatever) is washed with saline and heparin, to prevent clotting.  Of course, there is often a wait for that as well. 

Then, the needle is removed, the needle mark is covered with gauze and tape, and we are done.

The waiting is over; we can go.

Overall time: 3-5 hours on a "good" day.

Some chemo days last 5-7 hours.

I never know how long I will have to be there.

I do not plan anything on days that I need to be at the hospital.  I certainly do not need any additional, and unnecessary, pressure. 

Just waiting all that time can cause stress and anxiety.

Not for me.  I fill my time with good company and good conversation (and, if I'm lucky, a massage).

On chemo days, I clear my calendar, and make a date with a friend, for "coffee and chemo." 

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

With love and optimism,

Thursday, February 18, 2010

We Interupt This Program.....


If you have not seen Avatar, definitely go see it!!

Moshe took our son, two weeks ago, for a father-son outing.  They came home, all excited.

To my surprise, my girls expressed serious interest in seeing it as well.

Scheduling our "girl's night out" was impossible, because my girls are never available, especially me eldest!!

But, tonight, just before my eldest left for gymnastics, she received a call.  Class was cancelled.

It was 6:24 pm. 

We knew, from when my husband and son went, that the next showing was in just sixteen minutes, at 6:40.

We did not waste a second.

We ran out, jumped in the car, and were out of here.

Thanks to my handy-dandy handicapped parking permit, we parked right outside the entrance.  The girls hopped out and ran ahead (with my credit card).

By the time I caught up, they had the tickets in hand, and we went right in.

There was even time to by popcorn (which I NEVER used to buy!  Moshe has influenced me, and I knew it would enhance their experience).

The movie is AWESOME!!  Epic story, powerful drama, phenomenal CGI/animation, majestic music, magnificent views, and in 3D.... WOW!

View the trailer, then see the movie!

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

With love and optimism,

Interesting Experience

When my friend (ZW), and later Lena Stern (Yuri Stern's widow), asked me to say a few words at tonight's fundraiser, I agreed, without hesitation.

I did not realize that I would know most of the people in the audience.

I should have known.... I just didn't.

So, when I addressed the audience, it was like talking with friends.

Except, I talked about the things I never talk about.

In order to appreciate what it is that the Yuri Stern Foundation provides for cancer patients, it is necessary to understand what a day at the hospital is like.

So, I painted the picture, with the express hope that none of them should ever have to experience, first hand, a day in the chemo ward.

Afterwards, so many people approached me with comments and compliments.

I realized, I never before spelled out, in detail, what goes on during chemo days.

Tomorrow, b'li neder (no promises), I will post about what a day in the life of a cancer patient is really like.

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

With love and optimism,

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Unspoken Code

Jennifer Coy (http://www.mylifeline.org/coy/) wrote, in her post "Done" (11/22/09): 
"I don't often meet others who are stage IV so we talked lightly, asking the safe questions until we discovered our shared situation. Stage IV has an unspoken code not to tell other cancer patients our situation outright. No one who is a rookie or who is having a recurrence wants to meet or hear about someone who is facing their worst fear: the cancer that keeps coming back and spreading to other organs, brains, bones. We know talking with us won't make them feel encouraged or hopeful. We are the ultimate party killers."
This is how it is for me too.  When I meet other cancer patients, we do this dance, with me trying to assess where the other person is, so that I can figure out what to share and what not to share.

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

With love and optimism,

Yuri Stern Foundation -- Benefit Evening

There are several worthwhile benefit events coming up soon.

Tomorrow night, Wednesday, February 17, there is a Benefit Evening for the Yuri Stern Foundation(http://www.yurishtern.org.il/).

The program will include:
  • Classical musical performance
  • Wine and cheese reception
  • Guest Speaker: MK David Rotem, Chairman Constitution Law and Justice Committee, who will speak on the controversial issues of conversion and civil marriage
Read about my personal experiences with this wonderful organization here.

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

With love and optimism,

Monday, February 15, 2010

Side Effects

I've lost 20 kilo (that's 44 pounds), thanks to the Xeloda. (read more here)

I look and feel better than I have in years. 

I told my oncologist, I want to stay on this chemo until I lose at least another 15-20 kilo!

It's a great drug; it "kills cancer and my appetite -- two for the price of one!"

I almost feel like I cheated.  I did not exercise, I did not diet.  The chemo removed my appetite, so I just did not eat.  It was not difficult.  If I ate even a tiny bit too much, I got nauseous. 

The chemo seems to have heightened my sense of smell, so that even the smell of food completely turns my stomach. 

In fact, everything turns my stomach.

It is not difficult to refrain from food when the very thought of eating makes you sick.

I did not suffer from lack of food, but my stomach... that's another story.

Loss of appetite, an upset stomach, hypersensitivity to smell, these are just the tip of the iceberg....

I am tired... all the time
My hands are dry; the skin by my thumb keeps cracking.  It hurts.
My feet are dry; sometimes a layer of skin just peels off my toes.  Davka (ironically), this does not hurt, but it is kind of freaky.
I am thirsty... all the time.
I have diarrhea, almost every day. (Apparently from the Tykerb, and not the Xeloda)
I have constipation, almost every day.
My stomach hurts, almost all the time.
I am frequently nauseous, even when I am hungry.
I have neuropathy.
I have no more strength in my hands or fingers -- I cannot open jars, bottles, or even plastic bags.
I have difficulty closing buttons and clasps.
I drop things.
I forget things.  (yeah, I forgot things before, but it's worse)
I am cold all the time (my oncologist says that's not connected to the chemo, but I'm not convinced)

Oh yeah, and I still have almost no hair.

As if that's not enough, I have another list of effects that are caused by the actual cancer:
My back hurts.
My ribs hurt.
It hurts if I stand too long.
It hurts if I sit on a chair that is not cushioned.
I am hypersensitive to touch.
It hurts when someone pokes me.
It hurts when my kids rest their heads on my shoulders.
It hurts when someone accidentally knocks into me.

I am in pain all the time.

I laugh about how pain is not such a big deal: "that is why God created pain killers."

But pain is a big deal... especially when you know that it won't go away.

I will spend the rest of my life "managing" my pain.

This is my life.

I deal.

But it is not easy.

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

With love and optimism,

ps. Just so we're clear, if you read this and then look at me with droopy eyes, I will ban you from reading my blog!  (Empathy is fine, sympathy I can deal with, but pity is just not on the menu!)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Little Down

I thought our appointment with my oncologist was just fine, 'till he turned to me and noted, "You're looking a little down."

I asked Moshe about it afterwards, and he concurred.

I guess I am still struggling to keep my spirits up.  It is really hard.

First of all, I am still feeling overwhelmed by all there is to do.  Things just move so slowly. 

I have friends who have offered to help, but I cannot even get it together to call them.

I feel like I am treading water all the time.  I put in so much effort, yet I barely manage to stay afloat.  Some days, I feel like I am drowning.

I have always struggled with issues of order and organization. 

Cancer has made it just that much harder.

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

With love and optimism,

Saturday, February 13, 2010

My Little Homemaker

Two weeks ago, my younger daughter announced that she wants to make supper.

Her class put together a recipe book and she was excited about cooking.

So, she added the ingredients she wanted to our shopping list and we got what she needed.

She made an orange soup and homemade pizza.

Very impressive.

Also, a bit funny.

I left her in the kitchen, on her own, since she seemed so confident.  After a few minutes, she asked if she should add eggs to make the dough.  I asked what it said in the recipe. 

It turns out, her pizza recipe calls for dough, but did not include instructions on how to make it.   She knew she needed flour and water....

I went into the kitchen, and saw her stirring a liquidy mixture. 

"How much flour and water did you put in?" I asked.

With an innocent smile, she answered "the rest of the whole wheat flour and about two cups of water."  Then she showed me the drinking cup that she used to "measure" the water.

"OK," I said, taking a deep breath.

Then I did what any person who has no idea how to bake should do.  I called LF.

My sister likes to say "if you took LF and dropped her in the 18th century, she'd be fine."  LF knows how to cook, bake, sew, grow things, etc.

Sure enough, she guided me and my daughter, step by step, until we had a decent dough and a good laugh.

I stayed in the kitchen after that, to help where I could.  My daughter really wanted to make dinner herself. 

It was fun cooking with her. 

She did a fantastic job!!

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

With love and optimism,

Thursday, February 11, 2010

It's My Birthday!

I LOVE birthdays!  I always have.

Last Shabbat was my birthday according to the Jewish calendar, and today is my birthday according to the Gregorian calendar.

I have not done anything really special.  But, I am happy knowing that I am celebrating my 44th birthday.

As my father always says, "growing older is better than the alternative!"

Tonight we will be celebrating my nephew's Bar Mitzvah, here in Israel.

In the US, a very special young woman, whose mother I was privileged to know, is getting married tonight.  On this day, that will now always be special for both of us, I want her to know that I am thinking of her and wishing her all the happiness in the world!  (you know who you are!!)

Anyway, like last year, I again have a request for What I Really Want For My Birthday.

I LOVED all the letters I received last year!!  Thank you for sharing your appreciation of who I am, and making me feel loved beyond measure!

This year, please send me your favorite memory of me. 

Feel free to send more than one memory, especially if you have funny memories.

Like last year:
PLEASE be specific. PLEASE share details or examples.

Please send your letter via email.

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

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

Like last year, if you can't think of anything, or you don't have time, you are welcome to send expensive chocolates! (or yummy candy!)

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

With love and optimism,

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What's In A Name?

This post was inspired by Hasya Ya'ara's post What's in a Name

When I was born, my parents gave me three different names. Two are on my birth certificate, and one is the name they gave me in shul (synagogue).

The first name on my birth certificate is simply a name my parents liked, and that is what they, and everyone else, called me for most half of my life.

The second name on my birth certificate is my grandmother's, z"l*, English/secular name.  No one ever called me by that name (except my mother, when she was very angry at me;  then she would call me by my first, middle and last name!).  Still, I was very conscious that I was named after my grandmother.  And, occasionally, I did have to sign something using either my middle name or middle initial.

Rivka was my grandmother's Hebrew/Jewish name.  No one ever called me, or her (as far as I know), by that name either.  Everyone used our English names.

In college, I questioned the meaning of being named after someone if no one uses that name.  In another generation, the name disappears and the continuity is broken.

I decided to honor my grandmother by using her name, Rivka.

I did not ask people who knew me before to change the way they called me.  I was not rejecting my "old" name, but, rather, embracing both my grandmother and my Jewish identity.

Some friends chose to call me by both names.  I did not mind, but I did find it somewhat amusing, and long.

A few months after I started using the name Rivka, an Israeli friend showed me the way the name is pronounced in the Torah.  It was the first grammar lesson that ever interested me.  Though most people today pronounce Jewish names mil'el (with the accent on the first syllable), in the Tanach, all names are pronounced mil'rah (with the accent on the final syllable)**. 

The proper pronunciation not only sounded prettier to me, but it also felt stronger, less galus-dik.  Ironically, the ancient pronunciation felt more modern to me.  Thus, RIV-ka, became Riv-KA.  (At the time, I was very influenced by the Israeli short story, The Name, by Aharon Megged.  For a short summary and an interesting analysis of the story, see here.)

Though I never asked people to call me by my "new" name, I did (and still do) insist that people pronouce my name correctly. 

I am glad that there are still people, primarily family and old friends, who call me by the name of my childhood.  I love that name, and it is a part of who I am.  Moshe, who knows me since we are 15, still calls me by that name.  I like to say that name is "my family name," used by both my old family, and my new one.

RivkA is the name by which the universe knows me.  RivkA is my Jewish name, the name which connects me to God, the name used by all those who pray for me around the world.

My name is RivkA, daughter of Teirtzel and Yeshaya HaLevi.

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

With love and optimism,

*z"l = zichronah livracha, may her memory be a blessing.

** For a more in depth discussion about Biblical grammar and Biblical names, see The Dikdukian

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Internet Woes

I'm fine, but our internet connection is not.

So, my apologies for disappearing.

I am borrowing my friend's computer, while she gives my daughter Bat Mitvah lessons.  (There is a story there too, but not for now.)

Unfortunately, there is not enough time for a proper post.

I hope to be reconnected soon!

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

With love and optimism,

Thursday, February 4, 2010


Like many kids, I knew I would be a better parent than my own.

Like many parents, I now recognize my own hubris foolishness.

I was especially critical of my mother, certain that I could do everything she did, and more.  And I would do it better, as well.

Well, I might do some things better, but not everything.

And some things I do not manage at all.

Growing up, my mother always prepared dinner for us.  She might prepare/serve it hours later than anybody else, but she did it, every night.  She always served a protein, vegetable and carbohydrate.  And we always ate together. 

We ate what she put on he table.  If we did not like it, tough.  There were no substitutes. 

Eat or don't eat -- our choice.

I hated that.

So, I did things differently.

Now, everyone complains: "I don't like this; I hate that."

We can have a fridge full of food and my kids will complain "there is nothing to eat."

Last night, one of my kids complained, "you don't take care of us the way you used to."

I was never great at the food-thing.  I hate cooking.  It's harder now.  I cook less.

I get help.  Friends cook for us two times a week.  (At least, in theory.) 

Yet, food always seems to be an issue.

There never seems to be enough of the "yummy" food.

When my daughter sighed, and said, "you always used to make us pasta, with olive oil and spices...," I suggested that she make it herself.  It is easy to do and takes 15 minutes. (Why else would I make it so often?)

The very idea upset her.

I began to wonder if there are other issues at play.

How much of my children's complaints are really about food, and how much are they about needing to be nurtured?

Perhaps, under the surface, there is also an element of fear: "Why isn't Ima taking care of us the way she used to?" 

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

With love and optimism,

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Everybody wants something from me.

Not everyone in the world, just everyone who lives in my home.

(And some others, but I'm not talking about them right now.)

Most of the time, the demands are not unreasonable... just overwhelming.

It's too much.

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

With love and optimism,

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Separation Anxiety

I am away… again!

In past years, the La Leche League Israel leaders conference has been in May, after Pesach. This year, it is now, today (Tuesday)…

… and tomorrow (Wednesday)…

… less than a week since I came home from the 3 day Beit Natan winter retreat. (… which is always in the winter. Duh.)

I had thought there would be at least a week in between, when I would be home.

I was confused…

… not for the first time.

I feel a little guilty about leaving my family again, so soon.

… but only a little.

The kids are big and barely home. Especially on Tuesday evenings, which, in Israel, is THE day when ALL the youth movements meet.

There is food in the fridge, and the freezer (made by friends, of course).

And my DH is perfectly capable of taking care of anything that might come up.

OK, so last night, two of my kids did not feel well. And, today, my son stayed home from school with a fever. But he is not so sick that he cannot sit and play Runescape. This way, he does not even have to share the computer with me; he really can spend all day on the computer.

OK, so maybe the guilt is a little compounded by the fact that I left a sick child at home. But really, he’s fine. And if he’s not, then my husband can take care of him.

I have to trust that they can manage without me.

Why is it so hard?

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

With love and optimism,