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Thursday, April 29, 2010

I Want to Know, But You Do Not Need to Tell Me

Dear Friend,

I want to know how you are, even if you are going through a tough time.

Maybe you do not want to tell me.  Perhaps you do not want to burden me, or scare me.  Maybe you just do not want to talk about it.  Maybe you are too tired.  I do now know what you are feeling. 

I respect your boundaries.  I do not want to push you.

I want you to know:  I miss our conversations.  I miss your insight.  I miss your support. 

I am so worried about you.  And so scared.

I want to respect your privacy.  I want to give you the space you need.  I know that this is a difficult time for you. 

I just do not know what to do.

I am praying for you all day long.


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

With love and optimism,

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Footprints in the Sand

One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord.
Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand.
Sometimes there were two sets of footprints,
other times there were one set of footprints.

This bothered me because I noticed
that during the low periods of my life,
when I was suffering from
anguish, sorrow or defeat,
I could see only one set of footprints.

So I said to the Lord,
"You promised me Lord,
that if I followed you,
you would walk with me always.
But I have noticed that during
the most trying periods of my life
there have only been one
set of footprints in the sand.
Why, when I needed you most,
you have not been there for me?"

The Lord replied,
"The times when you have
seen only one set of footprints in the sand,
is when I carried you."

The first time I read this poem, I cried.

I was young, and had yet to experience some of life's harder trials.  But, even when we are young, we wonder where God is, especially during times of crisis.

This poem taught me a lot about faith.

When I am overwhelmed, and feeling lost, those are the times when I can, and should, lean on God.  God will carry me. 

Eventually, when I am ready to walk on my own, God will gently place me down.  With both feet solidly on the ground, I will walk tall, because God is everpresent at my side.

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

With love and optimism,

*Copyright © 1984 Mary Stevenson, from original 1936 text, All rights reserved

Monday, April 26, 2010

Posting Predicaments

There is an issue weighing on my mind, but I am not sure how to write about it.

I cannot share details because they are not mine alone, and they are private.

I think about this issue all the time.

It has nothing to do with cancer.

I want to write about it, but am not sure I can publish what I write.  Even if I am cryptic, some are sure to know about whom I am referring.

At times like this, I wish my blog was anonymous......

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

With love and optimism,

Sunday, April 25, 2010

In the Middle of the Night.... (MRI Medical Update... Coming Soon)

Regular MRIs of the brain is somewhat controversial, since constant radiation exposure to the brain can actually cause cancer.  Unfortunately, there is no other way to monitor the cancer we already know is there.  So, I go for a brain MRI every 3-4 months, since I want to know what is going on in my head. (Yes, I know, I just opened the door for all those sarcastic comments from my dear friends and family members....)

Well, due to a technical error (i.e. either the fax never went through or Hadassah lost my papers), the MRI dept. did not schedule an appointment for me for this month.  I finally got through to the manager, who found me an "emergency" appointment for this past motz'ai Shabbat (Saturday night), at 11:30 pm.  I explained that I am on chemo, and the hour is really late for me, but that is all there was, unless I wanted to wait another two months.... NOT.  So, I took the appointment.

I planned to arrive early, but understood that if they did not take me until 11:30, I could easily be there until 1:00 in the morning.  And, if there were any emergencies, I could be there even later!

When we realized that Moshe would not be able to come with me, I again tried to move the appointment, to no avail.  Sunday (today) he attended a full day academic conference at Haifa University, about the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Second Temple Period.  He had to leave early in the morning and he needed to go to sleep early.  He felt bad about not being able to take me (he always takes me for my MRIs), but I pointed out that it did not make sense to lose a day of work and pay for a conference if he was going to sleep through the lectures!  Since I had encouraged him to attend the conference, I certainly was not going to be the cause of him missing it!  (For Moshe, attending these conferences is like letting a little kid loose in a candy shop... he thrives on this stuff!!)

Anyway, for all sorts of reasons, I did not get around to making alternate arrangements.  Saturday night came around and I realized I only had a tentative date, who, it turned out, was available, but preferred to be my "back up," since going out that night was not really great for her.

I have lots of late-night friends.  As I considered who to call, I realized that most of my fellow night-owls live outside of Jerusalem (anywhere between 20 minutes to 2 hours away), do not have cars, and would have no way of getting home afterwards.

So, I called one of my Jerusalem friends.  Jackpot!  She had rested on Shabbat, could stay out as late as necessary, had no plans for Sunday morning, and could pick me up and take me home!  To top it off, she is GREAT COMPANY!  I had so much fun hanging out with her.

But the evening had a few "hitches."  I got there early enough, and was able to take care of all the paperwork with no pressure.  When I went to sit down, I saw that there were no longer cushioned waiting chairs but, rather, hard, wooden chairs. I have cancer in my pelvic area and it is painful for me to sit on hard surfaces for more than a few minutes (especially now that I have less padding).  I wrote a note to the head of the department.

Meanwhile, the technician gave me one of the office chairs.

When the technician finally got around to checking me in, I discovered that my appointment was listed for 12:15 -- 45 minutes LATER than what I was told on the phone!!  I was furious, but there was nothing to do.  The manager does not work at that hour and the technician does not have the authority to shuffle patients around.  I wrote another letter (this one was not so nice).

I had brought three shirts to sew while I waited; they all needed buttons repaired or replaced.  I had just finished the last shirt, when the technician said they could take me next.  It was 12:00 am - midnight.

The doctor who inserted the IV needle was not the one I like, but also not the one I did not like.  She was new (for me).  When she inserted the needle, if hurt for just a few seconds, as she felt around for the vein, but then I felt fine (and I have no residual black and blue marks, so she really was good!).   She also took seriously my concerns about the risk of popping my vein.  When it was time to inject the contrast material, she made sure to inject it slowly.  It did not hurt at all.

Twenty minutes later, I was done.  I waited another 10 minute for the technicians to prepare a CT.  The written report would be sent to my oncologist.  I was free to go.

As we left, I started to feel a bit of anxiety creeping into my head.  Soon, I will not be able to pretend.  I will know how the tumors in my brain are responding to my current treatment.  Hopefully, the news will be good.  But until I read that report, I will not know. 

I felt completely worn out.  My friend, God bless her, was wonderfully supportive.  I could have talked with her all night long.  But we both needed to sleep.  It was almost 2:00 am when she dropped me off at my home.

I stumbled into bed.  Moshe reached for my hand. 

Within moments, we both drifted off to sleep, our hands still clasped.

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

With love and optimism,

Friday, April 23, 2010

Life is Crazy! But Good!! (Yom Ha'Atzma'ut 2010)

Sorry for not posting all week.  We had a crazy week, but I am feeling good.  We had lots of computer problems, including no internet, but very little time to write anyway. We were very busy, with nothing terribly exciting.... just life!

We did have a very nice, albeit quiet, Yom Ha'Atzma'ut (Israeli Independence Day).  We had planned on attending the evening celebrations at Sh'dema, (a former Israeli military base, about halfway between our Jerusalem neighborhood and Eastern Gush Etzion (Tekoa, Nokdim, etc.)).  We did not realize, at first, that the program only began at 10:00 pm.  Even though it is only a five minute drive from our home, the program was too late for us.  Instead, our family celebrated locally, each in our own way: 
  • Our youngest daughter spent the evening with her youth group
  • Our eldest attended the festive prayer service with me (her company made me VERY HAPPY), but then she spent the rest of her evening "spontaneously," hanging out with friends and doing whatever she felt like doing
  • Moshe and our son were not into the community celebrations, so they went out for falafel (in the neighborhood)
  • I went to the community celebration and found friends to hang out with.  I danced (a bit) and watched and enjoyed.
At one point, a man sat down with a lit cigarette, right in front of me.  I am really sensitive to cigarette smoke (it gives me migranes) and I was sitting in a cluster of kids, so I gently asked him to put out the cigarette, indicating that the smoke was blowing in our faces.  To my surprise, he responded with hostility; since we were outside, he saw no reason to extinguish the cigarette.  I responded, just as hotly, emphasizing that I asked him very nicely.  As I geared up for a tirade of my own, I mentioned that his reaction was disappointing, as we were all celebrating together, as one community.... Suddenly, my friend turned to me, and pointed out "you said the magic words...."  Sure enough, I noticed his tone changed as he responded, "you know, we really are all celebrating together... I will move."  His outrage neutralized, he got up and moved a few meters away.  I was stunned.  My outrage... neutralized.  A simple reminder, that all of us are "Am Echad"  (one people) and this is OUR celebration, which we want to celebrate together..., made all the difference. 

Towards the end of the evening, my youngest found me and wanted to walk home together (specifically, she did not want to walk home alone, even though the streets were filled with people and we live just a few houses away).  I really wanted to stay for the fireworks.  I bribed her... with cotton candy.  I love fireworks.  And I love cotton candy.  So, our "deal" worked for both of us!

When we got home, our family sat down together* to watch the second part of a Battlestar Galactica (original series) episode.  It was the perfect ending for our celebrations.

The next day, we all woke up to watch the Hidon HaTanach (TheBible Quiz).  Friends came by to watch part of it with us.  I made popcorn.  It was fun.

Afterwards, our eldest watch the episode from the night before.  Not surprisingly, the other kids watched again, along with her.

Later that afternoon, we went to Moshe's parents for a seudah (festive meal).  Moshe's sister and her family were there as well.  So was his sister's best friend and her youngest daughter (they are also 'part of the family').  We had falafel, hamburgers, hotdogs, french fries, and salad; then, for dessert, watermelon, fruit salad, and chocolate chip cookies!  Good company and good food!!

The next day, Wednesday, the kids were back at school and Moshe was back at work.  Before we knew it, the week was over!

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

With love and optimism,

* our eldest was not there, but she agreed that we should watch without her.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Not for Me

I am doing ok, but I have to work at it... really hard.

After 6 months of deliberation, I finally decided that I would try talking to the psychologist at the hospital who works with cancer patients.  Several of my friends meet with him and have found their discussions to be helpful.

So, I figured, maybe he would have some insight or approach that I have not thought of on my own.  Also, maybe I would get a better perspective about whether my feelings are "normal." I hoped to get some "objective" feedback about whether or not I am coping as well as I think.

This past Thursday, when I checked into the oncology ward, I made an appointment for 11:30 with the pyschologist.

Then I did my stuff... blood tests, meeting with my oncologist, getting my shot, etc.  I even got a short massage.

Then I went to meet with the psychologist.  His door was closed and the substitute secretary told me to sit and wait.  So, I sat and waited....and waited....and waited....

I asked if I should knock on the door and was told not to knock.  I asked them to call him, but he did not answer the phone.

So, I waited....and waited....and waited.....

After two hours (without exaggeration), I saw a friend approach the door and knock.  I asked her why she knocked and she said she always knocks, adding "how else would he know I am here?"  The psychologist popped his head out and told her he would be another minute. 

Sure enough, less than five minutes later, he emerged from his office.

I took the opportunity to ask him if he was aware that I had been waiting for him for two hours.

I was very careful about how I phrased the question and that my tone reflected that I was just looking for "verification," lest he feel I was criticizing him (which I was not). Since we did not have a relationship yet, I wanted to be sure we did not start out on the wrong foot.

Well, I was in for a surprise.

"Did you make the appointment with me?" He asked me, not at all concerned that his tone was aggressive.

"No," I answered innocently, "I made the appointment this morning with the secretary." 

"Well then for me you do not exist," he answered curtly.

More than a little shocked, I explained that I made the appointment with the secretaries and they told me not to knock and just to wait.

"This does not concern me," He responded, "it's like you are telling me that your car stalled.  It has nothing to do with me."

I could not believe how insensitive he was.  I had sat there for two hours, waiting for him.  I gathered, from his responses, that I had not followed the correct procedure for making an appointment.  I did not know.  I was not angry about the mishap.  Mistakes happen.  I had my coffee-and-chemo-date with me (triLcat) and I enjoyed talking with her while we were waiting.  I never plan anything on chemo days, so I was not upset about the delay.  I am very patient at the hospital.  I did not even complain to the secretaries about the wait (though I did remind them that I was still waiting, after an hour and a half, and then, again, after two hours).

When I approached the psychologist, I just wanted to confirm that he knew I was there for him.

I also expected some acknowledgement of my having waited so long. 

I expected empathy.

Would it have been so unreasonable for him to say, "I'm sorry for the inconvenience, here's what you need to do to make an appointment, please leave me your number and I will get back to you."

Instead, I felt berated for wasting his time by talking to him.  As he ushered his patient into his office, noting that they were already behind schedule, he turned to me and told me how to make an appointment, "should I still wish to talk with him."

If this was a cursing blog, I would insert all sorts of profanities here.

No, I did not still wish to talk with him.

I was outraged.  Though that was not my dominant feeling at that time.

After he was done blowing me off, I just wanted to cry.

I am glad someone was with me, to witness the interaction.  I needed a reality check:  Was this guy's reaction reasonable?  Did I do something to antagonize this guy?  Am I overreracting?

My friend reassured me that it was not my imagination, and that the psychologist had been excessively rude, with no provocation.

Even now, writing about it, I want to cry. 

How can someone treat another person like that?  Especially a cancer patient? 

I am not there for fun! 

How can a psychologist be so incredibly insensitive?

That is one door that I will not be knocking on anytime in the near future....

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

With love and optimism,

Friday, April 16, 2010

In the Paper and On-line -- see my picture!

My girlfriend just sent me this link:

I am not mentioned in the article, but that is definitely me in the picture!

Read the article.  It is about Hadadi, a wonderful new organization, founded by my good friend, Rochie.

Hadadi is a non-profit, comprehensive Breast Cancer Support Center, in Jerusalem. Check out their website!

Rochie was my main support person, when I first got diagnosed with breast cancer, in 2005.  At the time, we were just casual acquaintances.  She "adopted" me, and held my hand during that frightening journey.  She called me all the time, to see how I was doing and how she could help.  She guided me along that scary road, and supported me unconditionally, even when I made decisions that she believed were mistakes.  She recognized that I needed to choose the path that was right for me, and she was with me, every step of the way.

Rochie is an amazing woman, and the center she is creating will help countless women maneuver their way through the maze of breast cancer.

(if you got the Jerusalem Post last Thursday, April 15, please save that page for me!)

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

With love and optimism,

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Humor (title suggestions welcome!)

Tonight, at Gila's (My Shrapnel) Bombing Anniversary Pizza Party, I met Talia, Daughter of Cancer.

I'm too tired to recal the conversation we had, but I do remember the punchline.

After I made a comment referring to kids, Talia quiped "I have not used my uterus yet."

Once her comment "registered," we were ROTFL!

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

With love and optimism,

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Pesach 2010 -- Camping & The Israeli Juggling Convention -- Shabbat

Friday zipped by! 

Friday afternoon, we saw the Israeli Jugglers show.  It was a really good show.  There are a lot of talented Israeli jugglers.  One of the Israeli performers was not actually Israeli (or Jewish).  Jan, (pronounced: Yan) a tall, lanky German juggler, with long, straight hair, gathered in a "ponytail," has been a regular participant at the Israeli Juggling Convenion for the last six years.  He takes full advantage of his long limbs to juggle in a most unusual way.

I met Jan on the first of second day of the convention.  He is a very sweet, and gentle young man.  His travel partner, a young German woman juggler, was equally friendly and fun. 

Right after the show, Moshe left to spend Shabbat with our friends (the husband and youngest son) on Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu.  (Moshe does not enjoy camping, so there was no question that he would not camp on Shabbat.)

My eldest originally planned to spend Shabbat on kibbutz, with her Abba, but in the end decided to stay with the rest of us campers.

I had assumed that Sachneh was an enclosed area, and that the fence surrounding the park served as an "eiruv" -- creating an enclosure and enabling the carrying of objects out of doors.  It turns out, this issue is far more complicated than I expected.  The eiruv can only be established if everyone agrees to it, or if the chosen head of the community (e.g. the mayor of a city) declares it so.  Well, there are no mayors of the national parks, but my Rabbi said that the head of the convention could be considered the "mayor" for this purpose.

So I tracked down the head of the convention and explained what we needed to create the Eiruv.  He was honored to say the special prayer for us and asked me for a copy of the text.

Setting up the eirvu took longer than I thought it would and left me with just ten minutes to shower before Shabbat!  I ran to get ready!

Once again, my kibbutz friend (who camped with us, while my husband slept at her home, along with her husband) really enhanced our experience. I was prepared to eat Matzah and Cold Cuts for dinner.  But, while I was running around trying to make sure we had an Eiruv, she prepared cooked food on a portable gas burner.

We lit candles by our tent (in an aluminum pan , as an extra precaution).

I really felt the peace of Shabbat enveloping us.

We had a minyan (quorum of ten men) for Kabbalat Shabbat (the prayers welcoming Shabbat).  It was beautiful, praying outside, singing under the trees.

We ate Shabbat dinner as a community. All the families in our little enclave sat in a circle.  We put our food in the center, and shared our meal.  It felt really special.

Unfortunately, at the same time as we ate, there was a special workshop on Diabolo juggling, given by the two international guests, who are amazing Diabolo jugglers.  I encourage our son, who is a serious Diabolo juggler, to attend. 

The workshop lasted longer than I expected, and my son rejoined us after most people were finished eating.  He made his own Kiddush (blessing over wine or grape juice, sanctifying the Shabbat) and HaMotzi (blessing over bread), and ate good food, but the "festive meal" is not the same when you are eating alone.

He did feel that the workshop was worthwhile, so at least he did not regret his choice.  But, afterwards, he related that it did detract from his Shabbat experience.

After dinner, we hung around for a while and then we went to bed.

In the morning, our family (again, I am including my kibbutz friend) got up at our own pace.  After davening, we ate together, with just our family.  It was still quite early in the day, so our festive meal was really breakfast.  But since matzah is the main staple of most Pesach meals, we made Kiddush and HaMotzi before eating our breakfast.

After the meal, my daughters hung out on our machatzelet (woven rug), doing gymnastics with our friend's kids (all girls).  They worked on excersizes that were similar to those in the acrobalance workshops.

My son and I spent a few hours in the Ulam Sport (gym).  In addition to practicing on his Diabolo, my son was working on walking a tight rope.  By Shabbat afternoon, he could walk across with no problem and was working on slightly more complex moves.

I practiced juggling three balls.

In the afternoon, we had our third Shabbat meal: matzah and salami.  Once again, we just ate with our family.  It was a nice, quiet, relaxed meal.  Then we hung out until Shabbat ended.

On Motz'ai Shabbat (Saturday night, after Shabbat), Moshe rejoined us and we all went to the International Performance.  The guest artists were really good. 

My youngest daughter heard from a friend who saw the earlier show that a lot of this show had performances that took place below the stage.  So, I made sure we sat way up front.  My girls complained at first, especially my eldest, because we were sitting slightly off to the side;  my eldest felt I had "forced" them out of the seats they wanted, which were much further back, but in the middle of the row., especially my eldest.  However, once the show started and she saw how great our seats were, and how well we could see the portions of the performance that were below the stage, I think she really did appreciate it.  I kept whispering to her, "say 'thank you, Ima'....", and she did!

After the show, the girls went to sleep and my son and I went back to the Ulam Sport.  There we participated in a human siteswap.  It was really cool.  Eventually, my son tired out and went to sleep.  I stayed longer, working on getting our timing right. 

Afterwards, I learned this wierd juggling game that the Haifa Jugglers make up. 

Once I figured out the game, I got bored and practiced juggling 3 balls.

As the night wore on, I knew I should go to sleep, but I was reluctant to leave.

I really loved being there.

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

With love and optimism,

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Pesach 2010 -- Camping & The Israeli Juggling Convention -- Day 2

I wanted to sleep late, but the birds were chirping and the kids (not mine) were playing.....

I turned over a few times, catching a bit more sleep each time, before I woke. 

Breakfast was simple and yummy.  I do not have trouble finding what to eat on Pesach.  I always say, "Give me matzah, butter, and salt, and I am happy."  Well, that was breakfast, and that was good enough for me!  Even eating as little as I do, I had to limit myself from eating more.  I love matzah, butter, and salt!  To top it off, I had half a piece of matzah with jam.  I was a very happy camper!

As soon as breakfast was over, my son headed to the ulam sport (gym), to join the jugglers. I went with him to buy a new Diabolo -- he's juggling with two now.  He only had the new one during the convention (ironically, he forgot his old one in his school locker!), but he was able to borrow a second one from a friend.

That's one of the really nice things about the convention.  Everyone is happy to lend you their equipment, as long as they are not using it.  The atmosphere of sharing goes way beyond the equipment.

In general, there are two ways that people relate to their knowledge/talents:  some want to keep their knowledge to themselves, to be "better" than everyone else, and others want to share their knowledge, to teach others what they know.  Everyone we met at the Israeli Juggling Convention wanted to share their knowledge.  Strangers would stop what they are doing to help you perfect your technique or to teach you something new.

So much giving creates a strong sense of community.

Later in the morning, the girls and I went swimming in the "pools."  We neglected to invite my son, assuming that he preferred to practice his juggling.  We were wrong.  Apparently, we had made the exact same mistake last year.  He was pretty understanding, though disappointed.  I felt really bad about the oversight.  I thought I would take him a different day, but that turned out to be the only time we went to the pools.

That night, at around 11:00 or 12:00, there was an interesting working about the mathematics of juggling, led by Daniel Shultz.  I thought my son would be interested, but he wasn't.  I was.  It turned out to be a workshop for "siteswap" table juggling.   It was challenging, and FUN; I really got into it.  The person teaching it was American (or maybe Canadian), and after the workshop he explained the background and theory to me in more detail. It was fascinating.  There is a correlation between table juggling and regular juggling; the notation is the same and each table move has a corresponding juggling move.  It made me want to learn how to juggle.  (I might be the first person to learn the theory and table games before knowing how to really juggle)

At around 2:00 am, I decided to head for bed.  On the way out, I started talking with one of the jugglers (a teen, 17 yrs old) about the workshop and juggling.  He immediately asked, "Want to learn now?"

It was so late.... but, how could I say no?  So, I said yes.

Ofek, from Haifa, was an excellent teacher. 

First, he told me to throw all the balls on the floor.  Then, with a smile, he said "get used to seeing the balls on the ground, because in the beginning they will be on the ground a lot." 

While he was teaching me, he told me not to pick up the balls, because I would hurt my back by bending down so often.  He kept picking up the balls with his feet, which was totally cool.  So, I asked him to teach me how to do that as well. 

Picking up the balls that way takes more coordination than I realized.  You have to maneuver the ball onto your foot, using your other foot; then quickly, before the ball rolls off, curl your toes upward to hold the ball in place.  Then you have to raise your foot fast, to get the ball to rise in the air high enough, so that you can catch the ball in your hand.  They make it look so easy!

Picking up the ball with my feet was especially challenging for me, because of the stiffness in my hips. I knew there was no way I could do it with my left leg (my left hip joint is just not flexible anymore, because of the cancer), but I kept trying with my right foot, and eventually I managed!

Within half an hour of working with Ofek, I was able to catch the balls six times.  Apparently, that makes me an "official" juggler.  Ofek told me it took him three days to do that.  I responded: "I clearly had a better teacher." (he couldn't argue with that!)  He's a really good juggler, so I felt really encouraged.

When the balls started looking blurry, I decided to call it a night. 

The time: 3:00 am.

I knew it was crazy.

I felt so good.

I did not want to leave, but I knew I had to sleep.

Ofek commented that I looked happy when I was juggling. 

I felt happy.

I felt healthy.

I knew I would crash later.

I was living in the moment.

Enjoying every second.

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

With love and optimism,

Monday, April 12, 2010

People Die Every Day..... (Remember that British birthday song?)

The list of people I know who have died from cancer is growing too long.

You might think this is normal.  As we grow older, more people we know will die.  Many will die from some form of cancer.

But, being in the cancer world, means I get to know a lot more people who are going to die sooner, rather than later, from cancer. 

I am friendly by nature.  Everywhere I go, I meet new people.  (In this way, I am very much like my mother.)  I have made many friends in the cancer-world. 

Some friends are just "cancer ward friends."  When we meet at the hospital, we are friendly.  But we don't really have a relationship outside of the hospital.

Others have become very close friends, and my life is richer for knowing them.

But there is always a risk.  A risk that people will disappear.....

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

With love and optimism,

Baruch Dayan Emet -- Betsy Shapiro z"l

When I met Betsy, she had metastasized Pancreatic Cancer.  I knew that was not good.  So did she.  So did her husband, who was always at her side.  But she was young, and healthy.  It was easy to hope that she would beat the cancer, somehow.  She lived for two years after her diagnosis.  For Pancreatic Cancer, that is considered a long time.

I never met Betsy before she was in treatment, but I knew her sister, had met her brother, and had heard of her husband.  I also know her nephew and his wife -- I teach their children swimming.

As I got to know Betsy, I learned that she was one of the founders of Kad Va'Chomer, a brilliant store, where kids and adults can paint prepared pottery, and create beautiful ceramic pieces.  Both my daughters have been to birthday parties there and came home with beautiful mugs and plates.  (okay, just one plate, but I couldn't figure out how to phrase that....)  When I met Betsy, she was still working there, once or twice a week.

I never got to know Betsy well.  We exchanged pleasantries at the hospital, but rarely talked about what she was going through, at least not in much detail.  To be honest, I did not want to know.  I was afraid of what she might be experiencing. 

She always looked great, even when she was not feeling so well.  It was easy to decieve myself, to convince myself that she would be around for a while.

I do not know why I thought I would know if something bad was imminent.  Maybe because we were being treated at the same place.

But you never really know what is going on with someone, unless they tell you.

A friend emailed me today, to let me know:
The Hakamat Matseva (Unveiling) in memory of Betsy Shapiro ז"ל, will take place this coming Friday, 2 Iyar 5770 (16.04.2010) at 9:30 AM, at Har HaMenuchot.

I did not know that she died.

I learned today that Betsy died just after Purim.  I went back and searched my inbox; there was an email, notifying people of her passing, and containing details about her funeral, and the shiv'a

She left behind 6 children, all young adults (2 young women and 4 young men).  Six kids who are really too young to lose their mother.  She will not be here to dance at their weddings, or celebrate the births of their children, or for any of the special occasions children like to share with their parents.

I did not know how to process the news of her passing.

We were not close.  But I saw her and her husband at the hospital many times over these last two years.

I would have gone to the shiv'a.

Maybe it is better that I did not know.  It would have been emotionally difficult for me to attend.  But it would also have provided some sort of closure.

Her passing makes me very sad.

Besides blogging about it, I am not sure what else to do.

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

With love and optimism,

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sandstorm in Jerusalem

Brown-gray sky

As if a heavy fog settled over the city of gold

The winter fogs have long been gone

The desert heat swept in

With the sand

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

With love and optimism,

Pesach 2010 -- Camping & The Israeli Juggling Convention -- Day 1

It's lucky for us that we have friends who are more organized than we are!

We thought (ha!) that we would get to the Sachneh campsite early, to pick out a good spot and save space for our friends.  Well, they were there well before we were and luckily they saved a shady spot for us!

There were two clusters of religious families we knew, one on top of the main hill and one off to the side of the main path.  We had friends in both encampments.  We camped with the group off the main road, since we had coordinated with them first.  It was a great little enclave!  We had our tents in a semi-circle, surrounding several machatzalot (large woven mats).  The main coordinator of our group even had a huge awning set up!  Most people brought chairs and there was always someone hanging out at the campsite.

This year, our family knew more about what to expect and we all felt more "at home."

Thanks to my friend from kibbutz, we only schlepped up our clothes and camping equipment.  She organized everything else: food, chairs and stools, mattresses, etc.  I do not know how we would have managed without her!

Everyone really helped set up camp, and we were done fairly quickly.  We did have a few minutes of "why can't my tent be there?"  But when I saw that we were getting "stuck," I just ended those conversations and made a unilateral decision about who would be where.  Once we were set up, everyone was happy.

Our family, and I am including my kibbutz friend in "our family," formed a semicircle within the larger semicircle.  We had 3 tents: one for my friend and I, one for the girls, and one for my son.  We spread out one machatzelet in between our tents and another one in the open, communal space.  Sometimes we ate on our own, and sometimes we joined together with the others.  I think we found a good balance between being focused on our family and being social.

When we got there, I knew the family who coordinated the group, one of the other families, and the kids from a third family (I had never met their dad before). There were two other families in our little enclave, with whom we also really connected. It turns out that one of dads, who came on his own (with his daughter), is triLcat's (LeahGG) husband! What a small world!

To my surprise, some single friends of ours, from Jerusalem, were also there and set up camp just a few meters away from our group.  My kids did not know the other kids who were there, but they did know our friends from Jerusalem, so their presence added to the fun, communal feeling.

I had wanted to go swimming with the kids on that first day, but then my sister called. It turns out she was on her way up north to hike in "Nachal HaKibbutzim" (around the corner from Sachneh, where we were camping!).  I knew that my eldest wanted to do that hike (last year, she was most disappointed about not having gone hiking) and I was not sure that I was up for any hiking.  This seemed like the perfect solution!

I asked my sister if my eldest daughter could join her and my sister was thrilled to have my daughter along.  Both my son and youngest daughter wanted to join as well, but there was not room for both of them.  My son was very generous and deferred to his sister.  He was disappointed about missing the tiyul (hike) with his aunt, but he understood that he would have fun juggling and his younger sister did not really participate in the juggling.

While waiting for my sister to arrive, we went to the Ulam Sport to check out the juggling workshops schedule.

This year, we all knew more about what to expect and we all felt more "at home."

Later that afternoon, my girls went hiking with my sister and I hung out with my son in the Ulam Sport.  Moshe hung out most of the day at the campsite, in the shade, reading a book.

In the end, my sister and the girls ended up going to one of the ma'ayanot (natural springs) by Ein HaNatziv.  They all came back, excited and pleased with how the day worked out.

That night, we all bar-b-qued.  It was fun and yummy!

When the coals burned down, and the marshmallows finished, Moshe and my sister went back to the kibbutz and the rest of us bunked down for the night.

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

With love and optimism,

Friday, April 9, 2010

God Bless My Friends

Wednesday night, after resting all day, I still felt exhausted!  I could feel a cold coming on: my nose was stuffy, I had post nasal drip and the accompanying cough, I had a sinus headache, and my muscles, especially my thighs muscles, hurt so much!

Since it is only the second day after chag (the holiday), and the first day after vacation, it sort of feels like a Sunday or Monday.  As I rested in bed this evening, all of a sudden, I realized Shabbat was only two days away!

Our vacation bags are still strewn all over the house, and I haven't even begun to attack the laundry.  How was I going to manage Shabbat if I was sick and tired??

I called a friend and neighbor who had told me several times that she likes it when people call to invite themselves.  I really enjoy hanging out with her and we have not had so many opportunities since she returned to work full-(+)-time.  I actually would have preferred to host her and her family, since we have been their guests several times, but that was not a viable option.  So, I called her and asked if she would like guests for lunch.  Not only did she invite us, she THANKED ME! 

Imagine that! 

She thanked me!

She made me feel so welcome!!

I really wanted to be home at night, so I could go to sleep early!  So, I called another friend who had also told me several times that she is happy to cook a meal for us on Shabbat (weekday cooking is extremely difficult for her).  She jumped at the opportunity, and she also THANKED ME!!

Cooking is such a burden for me.  It is difficult for me to fathom that other people do not dread it as much as I do.

The only reason I ever started cooking is because I like food.

Now, I do not even eat.  Not to mention that many smells, especially of cooked food, make me nauseus.

Still, for Shabbt, I cook for my family, and for guests, when I have them. 

I love having guests on Shabbat.  These days, since I never know how tired I will be, I often am afraid to invite people I do not know so well, lest I not be up for hosting.

Occasionally, I have even gone to sleep and skipped dinner.  I try not to, because Moshe and my kids really miss me.  So, usually, I push myself to at least sit at the table through the main part of the meal.  But, there is a good chance that this Shabbat I will not last the whole meal.

It took me only a few minutes, and just two phone calls, to pull together Shabbat for my family.

I feel so blessed!!

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

With love and optimism,

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Pesach 2010 -- Surprisingly Put-Together!

Believe it, or not, I had my kids pack for both our Eilat trip and our Pesach vacation several days BEFORE our Eilat trip!  I had the kids pack:
1. a bag for Eilat
2. a bag for the first and last days of Pesach
3. a bag for camping/the juggling convention

I also had them pull out all our camping and juggling equipment, including what we borrowed from friends. 

I wanted to make sure we left on time and had everything we needed.  And that preparation for our vacations created as little stress as possible.

This might be the first (and only) time I have ever been so put-together!

We came home for Shabbat HaGadol, so that we would have time to rest and recover from Eilat, before heading out for Pesach.  We also needed to do a bit of laundry so that we all would have what we needed for both trips.

Several weeks in advance, I arranged to spend Shabbat HaGadol lunch at our friends, R&AD.  The day before we left, a good friend, CV, offered to cook us chicken soup, with chicken, for Friday night dinner.  So, in besides making rice and defrosting a few additional leftovers, I had plenty of time to rested on Friday. Even so, I slept most of Shabbat! 

On Sunday, I finished up the laundry and all our packing.  Sunday night we did a very focused "bedikat hametz."  Monday morning, we let the kids "sleep in."

My one oversight was that I forgot that we would need kosher l'Pesach (yes, the proper pronunciation is kosher l'Fesach) food for the kids on Monday.  When we realized the kids had nothing to eat, we sent them out to buy some basics.  Unfortunately, by that time, the mini-markets were all closed.  The kids managed to purchase some potato chips at a nearby kiosk and we opened a jar of gefilte fish.  It was not great, but it was enough.

After they ate, we all showered.  Then we packed the trunk with the bags we would not need until Chol HaMoed, and piled the rest of our bags in the back seat, over and under our kids.  I also squeezed several items under my legs and held several bags on my lap.  Somehow we managed.  The kids were AMAZINGLY cooperative, especially considering how we packed them in like sardines!

We arrived at my Rav's home, over an hour before hadlakat neirot (candle lighting) -- that is unheard of, for us!  I even had a chance to nap before Seder!!  (I really needed it!!)

The plan was to head up north right after Yom Tov, but Moshe forgot an essential item at home.  so, we had to go back.  It turns out that the kids and I had also left behind several non-essential items that we were very happy to pick up.  So, it was a gam zu l'tovah ("all for the best") situation. 

Nevertheless, it did mean that, once again, we left an hour later than we had planned.

Luckily, the ride to Sde Eliyahu only took an hour and a half to two hours.

It was a fun ride.  We talked and laughed and listened to music.  Everyone was in a good mood after Chag.

We arrived at Sde Eliyahu around midnight.  Within minutes, we were all in PJs, and in bed!

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

With love and optimism,

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Parenting Crisis

I cannot write about it. 

It has nothing to do with cancer and everything to do with being a parent.

Everyone assures me that, usually, over time, these things pass.


It just takes time.

What if I am not here by that time?

Will it still work out?

It is all about being a parent. 

But I am a parent with cancer.

What if I don't have enough time to make it to "the other side" of being a parent?

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

With love and optimism,

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Pesach 2010 -- Leil HaSeder

A few months ago, when we spent Shabbat with my Rav (Rabbi), my Rav's wife (who is also a friend of mine) invited us to join them for Seder.  I was so honored by the invitation!  I would have loved to accept, but we usually spend Pesach with family (mine, when my parents are here, and Moshe's, when my parents are not here)

This year was no exception.  We planned to be with Moshe's family. 

Usually, my sister is off doing her own thing for Pesach.  Our needs for Leil HaSeder (the evening of the Seder) are often quite different.  So, I was pleasantly surprised when my sister called to say that it's been a while since we last had Seder together, and she'd like to spend Leil HaSeder with us. 

When I called to see if my sister could join us with her friend (and former flat-mate), I learned that two extra guests was more than our hosting family could handle comfortably.   I totally understood.  Still, I really wanted to spend Pesach with my sister.

There was no way I could host, so I asked my sister which she preferred: hosting Seder or joining us at my Rav's.  After some consideration, my sister surprised me by agreeing to go to my Rav's home.

I called my friend to find out if her invitation was still open, and if she would be willing to host an additional two guests. I received such a warm response!  I was so excited (and curious!) about spending Pesach with their family!

We all had a wonderful time together.

There was singing, and stimulating discussions, and fun!  They sort of sped through the boring parts, which surprised me a bit, but I appreciated it.  I did not expect much singing (my Rav once made a comment that he does not like singing during davening. I LOVE singing during davening!), but they sang almost everything that we sing, so I was very pleased!  And, of course, everyone contributed to the discussions.  Our kids were a little quieter than usual (not necessarily a bad thing...), but even they asked questions and sang.  Moshe, of course, had several interesting side conversations with my Rav.  Overall, the pace of the Seder was "just right."

Their youngest child is the cutest, most adorable, little, five-year-old girl!  She held her "haggadah" (that she made) over her face while she belted out the "mah nishtanah" at the beginning of the Seder, and "echad mi yodeah," at the end. 

My eldest, and their youngest, formed a very special connection.  It was very sweet and, apparently unusual for their daughter.  All my kids have "the magic," when it comes to little kids. 

My youngest spent most of her time with their daughter, who is just half a year younger.  My son also found "his place," sometimes with the older boys, and sometimes with his sisters and the younger kids.

Moshe found MANY interesting books to peruse and discuss.  And I had a wonderful time hanging out with my friend.

I am so glad to have had this opportunity.  I love spending Pesach with our families, and I missed spending that time together with Moshe's family. Yet, I am grateful to have shared Leil HaSeder with my sister.  Moreover, it was a real treat to celebrate Pesach with my Rav and his family.

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

With love and optimism,

Monday, April 5, 2010

Now I can tell you.... How We Managed to Go on Vacation the Week Before Pesach 2010

I did so little to prepare for Pesach because we were not home, AT ALL, for any part of Pesach!

Detailed blog posts will be forthcoming!  (b'li neder!)

Meanwhile, here is a taste of how we spent Pesach:

We went to my Rav's home for Leil HaSeder (Seder night) and the first chag (holiday).

As soon as chag was over, we drove to Sde Eliyahu (a religious kibbutz in Emek Beit She'an) and spent the night at my friend's home.

The next morning, we went to Sachneh (Gan HaShlosha -- a national Park in Emek Beit She'an) for the Israeli Jugglers Convention.  We were there for five days (four nights), including Shabbat.

Then we went to The Muqata for Sh'vi'i L'Fesach (the 7th day of Pesach).

I do not know how long it will take me to "recover" from our vacations, but they were TOTALLY worth the effort!!

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

With love and optimism,

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Sh'vi'i L'Fesach -- The 7th Day of Pesach

Almost noboby does anything to mark this Yom Tov (Holy Day), besides "the usual" (special prayers, seudot mitzvah, kiddush, motzi, etc).

I will never forget the first time I actually celebrated the parting of the waters of the Red Sea, enabling the Jews to walk across the dry sea bed, thus safely escaping the Egyptian soldiers.

We were invited to celebrate Sh'vi'i L'Fesach (the 7th day of Pesach) with our good friends, L&JF.  It turns out, they have all sorts of cool traditions to mark this day.

During the evening meal, they hold a modified Seder

The "Seder plate" has a thick row of charoset, stretching across the middle of the plate, representing the dry land, upon which the Jews crossed the sea.  the charoset is bordered by upright stalks of celery, representing the wall created by the split sea.  Behind the celery sticks are "waves" of lettuce, representing the sea.

During the meal, the relevant p'sukim (verses) from the Torah are read/sung, including Shirat HaYam (The Song of the Sea)

At the end of the meal, they sing "Echad Mi Yodea?" (Who Knows One?) , with a twist: you can't use anything from the original song, and, preferably, not from previous years either (making each year a bit more challenging than the last).  It is so much fun, and creative, to find alternate answers!!

And, of course, they sing their special "HaYom Sh'vi'i L'Fesach" (Today is the 7th Day of Pesach) song, which someone from J's family made up, about Hebrew Grammar, and how Pesach becomes Fesach (for an explanation, check out dagesh/BeGeD KeFeT).

Since that first time, we have been priviliged to celebrate Sh'vi'i L'Fesach with their family several times.

This year, we will be celebrating with other friends, who have their own special holiday tradition.  These friends bar-b-que their meal on Shvi'i L'Fesach (thanks to this funky timer device, which turns on and off your gas).*  Yummm. 

I always wanted to do that!

Chag Sameach!!

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

With love and optimism,

* Unlike Shabbat, it is permissible to cook food on Yom Tov and to "transfer" fire (i.e. light a fire from an existing fire).  It is not permissible to put out a fire;  however, if the gas is closed by a timer, that is permissible.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Eilat 2010 -- Day Three: Coral Beach & The Long Drive Home

After Wednesday’s lunch experience, I took a bit more food with us on Thursday, including a big salad. We had lots of pitot (pl. pitah) and several buns left over from the b-b-q, and lots of snacks, so I felt fairly confident that we would be ok. Good thing, too, because the beach did not have a restaurant! Not even a non-kosher one.

We spent the day at Hof Almog (Coral Beach), which is one of Israel’s National Parks Nature Reserves. Entrance is free for members of the National Parks Association (“matmon”). We also received a discount of rental equipment. I ended up renting masks and snorkels for all three of our kids, though I could have managed with just two sets. In the end, my son and youngest daughter did not go in at the same time, but I did not know that in advance. I also did not realize that we could have returned one of the sets right away, and gotten a refund. Oh well. At least the money goes to a good cause (park preservation).

Moshe had worried about being too hot and not finding a comfortable location. But right next to the entrance, was a dug out square area, with a picnic table and stone seats, It was quite cool and breezy. In fact, even on the beach, the weather was cool and breezy. Throughout much of the day, the kids and I were cold!

Moshe made himself comfortable with a book. We dumped all our bags on the table, next to him, and headed for the water. Need I mention that the water was COLD!?!

Originally, I rented two sets of masks and snorkels. I had a new set for myself (that I had bought on my previous trip to Eilat) and my youngest had volunteered to use another mask and snorkel that we brought with us (just before we left our home, my eldest had found my old snorkeling equipment, that had been “lost” in our storage area). The buckle for adjusting my old mask had rusted, so it was difficult to adjust.

As soon as we entered the water, my youngest daughter had a rough time. Her mask did not seal well.  Both her mask and snorkel filled with water. She ended up swallowing a lot of water and getting water in her face. The salty water burned her throat and eyes. 

This was not the experience I wanted her to have!

I immediately sent her, with my eldest daughter, to go rent another mask and snorkel set from the front desk.  My snorkel was an older model, with a straight tube.  The rented snorkels curved over the head, making it more difficult for water to enter the snorkel. 
Meanwhile, my son, who had entered the water for only a few minutes, was ready to get out. Besides being cold, the salt-water burned his nose, which was sore from allergies. He got out of the water before we even began.

He left, just as my youngest came back with her newly rented mask and snorkel. My eldest dove right in, but my youngest was suddenly afraid. She did not want to enter the water. I realized that she was really traumatized from her earlier experience.  Even though the "new" mask fit her well, with a tight seal that prevented the water from seaping in, she was afraid to put her face in the water.

Earlier, before any of us had entered the water, I tried to give my kids guidance about how to use the snorkeling equipment.  No one had patience to listen to me.

Now, my youngest was ready to listen, but she really needed to be coaxed into the water. I gently guided her until she felt comfortable breathing through the snorkel. Then I helped her to breath in the water, and then to swim while breathing through the snorkel.

Once she agreed to try, it did not take her more than ten minutes to catch on. We swam out together, holding hands, but it was not long before she let go, eager to explore on her own.

At one point, she headed back to the Northern dock, from where we started. She had not indicated that she was going and, as soon as I noticed she was missing, I signaled my eldest.  We spotted her swimming back to the dock and followed after her.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, when we caught up, concerned that she was still scared.

“Nothing,” she answered, laughing. She just wanted to adjust something.

The next time she mysteriously headed back to the dock, we waited until she adjusted whatever needed adjusting and swam back to us. Then we added a few additional hand-signals to ease our underwater communication, and headed along the reef to the Southern dock.

We saw lots of cool coral and fish, including this large, shimmering, light green and purple fish. We also saw schools of Zebra fish (I don't have the patience to look up their real name) and several other species.

Several times, my kids were excited to spot “that thing we should be careful not to step on!”

When I was in Israel for the year, one of the girls on my program stepped on a black, spiky anemone and was in agony for days. Ironically, it is one of my strongest memories from that year.

When Moshe was here for the year, he also mistakenly put his hand down on one of the black, spiky anemones. He still vividly remembers the searing pain.

So we warned our kids. And they paid attention.

I would have liked to spend more time exploring, but it was not clear to me where we were allowed to swim. And we were cold.

When we got out, I found out that we missed the nicest reef, just off of the Southern dock.

The water was so cold. Once we got out, there was no way we were going back in.

We dried off in the sun. The kids warmed up before I did and they were hungry. I was still chilled to the bone. So, I remained in the sun while they ate. I did not mind. I was not hungry anyway.

After lunch, Moshe went off to check out what was playing at the IMAX theatre.

The kids played in the sand, and I took pictures of them. It was fun and carefree!!

After about an hour, I had enough. We packed up our stuff. Moshe was already outside, waiting for us.

It turns out, there was nothing really exciting showing at the IMAX. Moshe and I were bummed, but figured it would be good for us to start heading home.

We made the mistake of consulting the kids first. They were REALLY DISAPPOINTED.

They would have gone anyway, or done something else. But I was exhausted, as was Moshe.

The kids were trying to be creative and “find a solution” (read: an alternate plan). They did not want to accept that we would just be going home. Moshe would have been happy to take them out to dinner, which probably would have appeased them. But I was already nauseous, and I did not want to smell any more food.

Furthermore, I was quite anxious to get on our way.

Once I did the math, I realized we would not get home before nine or ten, at the earliest! Both Moshe and I were very tired. I did not know if he would be able to drive the whole way home, and I did not want to spend another night driving when I should be sleeping.

Finally, we just cut the conversation off and directed the kids to help pack the car, so we could go. There was a bit of tension, but that ended about ten minutes into the drive, when we noticed that all three kids were fast asleep. A few minutes later, so was I.

We almost stopped at Yotvata, for Moshe to pick up something to eat, but the kids started stirring, so we continued on our way. About an hour later, we stopped at a Burger Ranch, but it was not Kosher. I ran around the car a few times, to get my circulation going; then we continued on our way. We did not stop again, until we got to Ein Gedi, for another pit-stop. The kids all had a snack. And, once again, we were on our way.

The drive back took an hour longer than the drive down. We got home, just before midnight.

We unloaded the car, dumped all our bags in the living room, and I do not know what happened after that.

I went straight to my room, got under my covers, and, within seconds, was fast asleep.

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

With love and optimism,

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Eilat 2010 -- Day Two: Breakfast, Underwater Observatory, & desert B-B-Q

Breakfast was awesome.

Unfortunately, I could not eat much.

But the rest of the family enjoyed: shakshouka, potato latkes (pancakes), baked zucchini, hard boiled eggs, tuna salad, fresh cheese spreads, Bulgarian cheese, sliced cheeses, fresh vegetables, homemade olives, hot chocolate, lemonade, and more….

We planned on buying lunch later, but, just in case, I took a couple of extra hard boiled eggs and some triangle cheese (that was packaged in squares, like butter).

After breakfast, we packed our bags. It took longer than expected to get going, but we finally got on our way.

We spent the entire first day at the Underwater Observatory.

Grabbing those basics turned out to be a really smart move – the restaurant did not have a Teudat Kashrut (Kosher Certification). Probably the only reason for that was that they were open on Shabbat, but the bottom line is we would not purchase cooked food there. I did not need to eat anything, but the rest of my family did.

We sat down at a table and ate the food, along with pretzels, cookies, and all sorts of other snack foods I had brought. Then we bought the kids, and Moshe, ice cream (packaged, with a hechsher). It was not very satisfying.

Suddenly, I noticed that they had a salad bar (it had been hidden by the crowd). We still had some packaged salad dressing from our breakfast at Yotvata. So, we got a large plate, filled with vegetables, and everyone (but me) shared that. It did the trick. My family was well-fed and ready to go.

We took things slowly. We all were still pretty tired, and I was downright exhausted!

We did everything but the underwater boat ride, for which we did not have tickets anyway, because we had not realized that we had to purchase them in advance (in addition to the entrance ticket)

We left as the place was closing and looked forward to resting (maybe even napping) in our room.

We had plans to bar-b-q with our friends (two other families), who were also vacationing in Eilat.

We had not yet heard from them, so we figured we had plenty of time. But, as soon as we arrived at the youth hostel, they called to say they were ready to go. Since they planned to b-b-q in the desert, we wanted to follow them out there (to Solomon’s Cavern). So, after a quick pit-stop, we were on our way, again.

It was so much fun!

I ate more than I had in days: two beef hotdogs (I had half a bun, then decided to skip the bread) and a hamburger. I haven’t been hungry since then! (It’s been three days, and I am still full.)

At one point, we noticed a light flashing on the opposite mountain. Turns out, my son had gone climbing… in the dark! *sigh* Never a dull moment.

Of course, we all completely crashed when we got back “home.” It was so worth it!

Good company, good food, and nature – what could be better?

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

With love and optimism,