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Monday, August 30, 2010

School has Started!

My eldest started last Thursday, and my other two started on Sunday.

I got all their school supplies and have almost finished gathering all their school books.  Most of the school books we either had or are borrowing from friends.  There are still a few that we will have to buy.  I still need to ask a friend to actually go and get those for me, but I am waiting to be certain of what we need, so we only have to go to the bookstore once!

So far, everyone seems to be settling in. Even the madhouse morning rush seems to be under control.

My sweet son asked for me to make his lunches for him again, this year.

It is too much for me to do it all year long.  But I told him I would make his lunches in the morning for the first week of school, then I would make his lunches *with him* in the evenings during the second week of school.  After that, he would have to make his lunches in the evening on his own (though I will help him if he needs/wants it, within reason).  He agreed.  I am cautiously optimistic that we can make this transition smoothly.... (PLEASE, God!!)

Moshe has been driving the kids to school in the mornings, which is very positive for all around.  My son, who mainly rides his bike to and from school, also benefits from this arrangement.  My son loads his bike onto the car; Moshe drives him to the top of our hill, which is long and steep; then our son rides the rest of the way to school.  It cuts out the worst/hardest part of the bike ride, but still allows our son to benefit from the excersize of bike riding, and the freedom after school to ride wherever he wants.

Our youngest began a new school this year and is feeling more comfortable, with each day that passes.  She bravely chose a school that was clearly the best choice for her, but to which NOT ONE of her friends chose to attend.  She is excited to be learning with her previous drama teacher (who really is fantastic) and there is even a chance that she will continue learning with her previous English teacher (of whom we are also big fans).  So far, her mechanechet (main teacher) and her class seems nice, but it is really too early to tell.

Our eldest is getting used to some of the changes in her school.  She loved her mechanechet for 9th and 10th grade, but they get a new mechanechet for 11th and 12th. Her new teacher is actually one of the top women educators in Jerusalem, but I am not sure my daughter appreciates that yet.  I, on the other hand, am thrilled (and jealous!).  She also has a new math teacher, about which we are less excited, but still cautiously optimistic. Her previous math teacher really suited her, and that is no small feat!   Our daughter just need to pass the next two units of her bagrut (matriculation) exams and then she is finished with math classes forever.

The best news is that due to a scheduling conflict between her two majors, theater and art, she might be able to just take the art workshops, which really excite her, and not art history, which interests her, but not as much.

So, our year opens with lots of potential and we pray that we will all make it a good year!

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

With love and optimism,

Friday, August 27, 2010

Age Before Beauty

Wednesday night, my son had difficulty falling asleep, so he came into my bedroom for a late-night chat.

We were joking about this and that, when my son suggested:

"Ima, you should wear a wig."

"Why?" I asked him, wondering why he suddently made that suggestion.

"Because it's pretty," he answered, with a sweet smile.

After a pause, he added:  "...but you should get older first."

I looked at him curiously.

"Because 'age comes before beauty'," he said, with a twinkle in his eye and laughter on his lips.

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

With love and optimism,

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Chemo Day -- Herception, Doxil, Blood & More

I knew today would be a bit crazy, I just did not realized how crazy it would get.

The day started out in a fairly benign way.  There was some crisis at the hospital, earlier this morning, so my meeting with the oncologist began an hour late.  But the meeting itself was fairly straightforward. We addressed my long list of questions, scheduled a bunch of tests, and had a physical exam.

During the meeting, one of the nurses came in and hooked me up to the Herceptin.  And so the day began....

On my way to relax in the day room, Moshe approached me in a panic.

"They can't find it," he told me, with a worried look on his face.

The insurance company, which provides the actual Doxil for me, had called yesterday to inform Moshe that the Doxil was at the hospital since Tuesday. 

Only, it turns out that they, in fact, had not delivered the Doxil on Tuesday, nor on Wedneday, nor today.

God bless my husband, he stressed out about the problem, but he fixed it all on his own, which was not quick or simple.  I did not have to worry about anything, because he took care of me.

I do not tell him often enough how much I value and appreciate the way he looks after me.  On the flip side, I am quick to comment when he falls short, which is just not a good attribute on my part.  I am working on changing this, but the change is slow.

Once everything fell into place, Moshe hurried off to work, much later than he expected.

To my great surprise and pleasure, LS, who had to do something that morning at the hospital, came to visit me and ended up spending the day with me.  The day ended up being much longer than I expected, and she helped me with all sorts of little details and necessary errands.  Moreover, she provided wonderful company, and made the time pass much more pleasantly.

Moshe had fixed the glitch so well, that I was able to start the Doxil as soon as I finished receiving the Herceptin.  In theory, I could have gotten out of the hospital at a decent hour. In practice, there is always someone who throws a wrench into the works... One of the nurses told me that my counts were low again and I would need to come in next week to receive another portion of blood.

I really did not want to come in next week.  I asked to get the blood today, but the nurse insisted there would not be enough time today.

Never someone to take "no" for an answer without trying to find a way around it, I asked (read: begged) one of the other nurses to help see if I could get the blood today.

As is, next week I have an MRI of my head on Tuesday, an MRI of my right hip on Wednesday (if I get approval from my health fund in time), and my bone drug on Thursday.  Three days at the hospital is enough for one week!

Also, though the promise that the blood will help with my energy level did not pan out the last time, I really hoped that this time the blood would help restore some of my energy,

With the help of this other nurse, and of my friend, LS, who ran around the hospital helping the process move along, we managed to get the blood in time.

The infusion finally finished around 4:15.

I walked out of the hospital at 4:30.

I had accomplished quite a bit. In addition to the chemo and the socializing, I mended two pairs of pants for Moshe, and a handbag for me.

I also drank two cups of pea soup, a cup and a half of iced coffee, at least a liter of water, downed several Percocets, and found a friend to pick me up and take me home.

Not bad, for a 7 ½ hour day at the hospital!

I was ready for a nap!

However, after being out all day, my youngest, who had been home, on her own, for several hours, needed some attention.  So, I kept her company while she ate.  To her chagrin, while I sat with her, I also helped eat most of her mango.... (she offered to share with me, but had not intended to share quite that much.)

After lunch, we sat on the couch and, in response to her lunchtime request, I told her the story of how Moshe and I got married. She knew most of the story, but wanted to hear it again.  I think she appreciated the story even more, this time around.

Afterwards, I headed towards my room, and my bed.  Somehow, I got distracted along the way, and got sidetracked sorting through school books.

Eventually, I could not stand on my feet any longer.  I headed off to bed.

I am beat!

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

With love and optimism,

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I'm Better Now

Sorry, did not mean to cause a stir...

I feel like I am living out some sort of bad Monty Python skit.

Scene1: we see an old lady, lying in bed, twisting and turning, and screaming in pain

Scene 2: we see the same old lady, skipping through the park, waving her arms, and singing. As she is skipping along, she meets her physician, and the following dialogue takes place:
Doctor: I thought you were dying?
Old Lady: I was.
Dramatic Pause - Doctor looks confused
Old Lady: ....I got better*
OK, so I am not old, and I am not skipping through the park, but I am no longer trying to escape from my body either.

I am still in pain, and we are going to up the pain meds, again. 

But I did not need to panic....

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

With love and optimism,

*For those who don't get/remember the reference:
Peasant: She turned me into a newt!
Sir Bedevere: A newt?
Peasant: ... I got better.
— Monty Python and the Holy Grail


I think I must have forgotten to switch my pain patch.

I usually record the change in my yoman (diary), but I did not record anything on Monday, when I should have put on a new patch.

Last night, I had to take two Percocets, so that I could fall asleep, and today, I have taken two Percocets another two or three times.  I have lost count.

Meanwhile, I put on a new pain patch.  They take about 12 hours to "kick in."

I am in such excruciating pain. I just want to crawl out of my body!

I have so much to do today, for my kids, and I cannot do anything.  I hurt so much that my brain is fuzzy -- not drugged out, just overwhelmed by pain.  I just want to cry.  I need to escape from this pain. It is so debilitating!

I do not even feel like talking, and I always feel like talking!

I used to think I was so tough, but I have such a hard time tolerating pain.

I am not so tough.

I want my mommy.

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

With love and optimism,

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Camping with the Kids-- Day 3

After Wednesday's brutal heat, I wanted to make sure that our belongings were packed and loaded onto the car well before the day got hot. 

We needed to leave by 12:00, so we aimed to leave at 10:00.  We probably could have left later, but we wanted to get home with plenty of spare time for my youngest to get ready and get to her friend's Bat Mitzvah.

My youngest woke up on her own and took an early morning dip before the rest of us opened our eyes.  I got up next and then my son.  I let her sleep a little longer, but once I had packed up all my belongings, we needed to wake my eldest, so both she and her sister could pack up their belongings.  Also, we needed to pack up the tent, which is one of the first items we needed to load into the car.

Even once everyone was up and moving, they were not moving fast.

The kids did not seem to grasp the urgency of the situation. 

I felt like a broken record,  repeating over and over:  "we need to get the car loaded before it gets hot, and we do not have much time!"

The early morning hours are fairly cool, but that does not last long.  I knew that once the sun rose a bit higher, we would lose all our shade and we would start feeling weighed down by the heat.  If that happened, packing up would become a nightmare.

I managed to get everyone moving, but they were slow.  My friend, who must be an angel, offered to help us pack up. She and her kids really pitched in and helped.  Once they joined us, we had ten pairs of hands at work!  All of a sudden, everyone was working and none of my kids (or hers) complained about anything. The cooperation was amazing!!  We were finished pakcing in a matter of minutes!

My friend had a big tiyul day planned with her kids.  My kids were ready to go home.

We pulled out of the campsite at 9:30, earlier than we had planned, but more than ready to be on our way.

I decided to treat my kids, and myself, to ice coffee.  We stopped at Tzomet Tzemach to pick up the ice coffee, and then drove straight to Jerusalem.

We could not agree about what music to play, so we did not play anything and spent the ride talking, joking, and laughing.

Along the way, the kids all expressed that they had a good time and were glad we went camping together.  Their appreciation made all my efforts worthwhile.

Everyone was tired when we got home, but all the kids pitched in and unloaded the car in record time.  I loved seeing them work together!

I think the ride home was my favorite part of the trip.

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

With love and optimism,

Monday, August 23, 2010

Camping with the Kids -- Day 2

Day 1 clarification: we started our BBQ around 9:30, not midnight

Despite loud, obnoxious music until around 4:00 in the morning, the night passed peacefully enough.  We were all so tired, we slept through all the noise. I will never understand Israelis who blast music from their cars when they go camping!

In the morning, my tent felt a bit too stifling, so I moved a mizron shetach (camping mat) and my sleeping bag into the area between the two sections of the large tent, where the shade from the awning kept the air cool, and continued sleeping.  People were already stirring all around us, but my crew slept on, oblivious to the activity around them. We all woke at our own pace.

Our morning passed without much ado.  My two younger kids ate leftover BBQ food for breakfast.  Only when camping can someone eat a hotdog or hamburger for breakfast!  I made do with a couple of slices of apple, which my friend had left over.

Then the kids went to wade in the Kinneret.

Though we had emphasized finding a beach with a lifeguard, the lifeguarded area was a short way away, and the lifeguard wouldn't even be there until 8:30.  I let my kids go wading together.  Both are strong swimmers, and neither intended to swim out into the middle of the lake.  After a while, I joined them.

By the time my eldest woke up, it was time for lunch.  We had yummy brown bread and pastrama (Turkey Cold Cuts), which I had brought with us.  By "we," I mean "my kids."  I just sat and kept them company, and drank a lot of water.

After lunch, we all went back into the water. 

At one point, my son wandered off on his own.  We could see him, hunched over, wading by the reeds.  After a while, he called out "I caught a fish!"  He rejoined us, holding his hands just below the surface of the water.  Sure enough, cupped in his hands, was a fish, about the size of a finger.  I touched it.  It felt wierd, and cold.  My youngest daughter also wanted to hold the fish.  She laughed as it tickled her hands with its fins.  She passed the fish back to my son, who released it moments later.

My eldest found the idea of touching a fish repulsive.

Periodically, a dead fish would float by.  We all agreed that was gross.  At one point, several dead fish floated by;  I found that rather off-putting.  I had enough; I left my kids to continue romping in the water without me. 

About an hour later, they had enough as well.

We all showered off, but remained in our swimsuits.

At around 2:30 in the afternoon, we tried to rest.  The heat was overbearing.

By 3:00 in the afternoon, the heat and humidity was unbearable.  We wet ourselves in the shower, so the warm breeze could cool us off -- God's own air-conditioning. When we dried off, we wet ourselves again.  Rinse, cool off, dry out, rinse again.  Repeat as needed. We did this for several hours.

At around 5:00, the air started to cool down, ever so slightly.  From 5:00 to 7:00, the was also a very strong breeze.  Our large tent knocked over, and I tore it a bit on the seem when I tried to set it upright. 

We all were just waiting to go to supper at The Pagoda, where there would be air-conditioning!  We had a reservation for 8:00.

Our friends from Sde Eliyahu decided to join us for dinner.  They picked us up on the way, so I would not have to drive. At The Pagoda, the AC area was not that cool, but it was crowded and noisy.  The host suggested we might be more comfortable in an area outside that was more secluded and cooled by dessert coolers.  We checked it out and all agreed to eat there.  My youngest, who is the most heat sensistive, like her father, sat directly in front of the two large fans/coolers.

The food was so delicious... and I could not eat it.  For weeks, I anticipated savoring their wonderful soup and eggrolls.  We ordered three different types of soups and I had a bit of each. That was it.  I was done.  I had one small fried wonton, and could barely manage that.  I could not even take a bite of an eggroll.  I watched as my family and friends enjoyed their meals.  I tasted a few pieces of crispy duck, but could not eat any more than that.  I did manage to eat a few bites of fried banana for dessert, but it was hardly satisfying.  At least my kids enjoyed the meal!  I did feel pleasure and satisfaction watching them relish their meal so much. That would have to be enough.

When we returned to our campsite, it was still hot.

My son informed his sister that he intended to sleep in his hammok that night.  I had hoped to sleep in the hammok, but I did not want to insist on it  I decided to sleep in his tent, but then my youngest daughter asked if she could sleep in his tent;  I deferred to her.  My eldest wanted to convince her siblings to let me sleep where I would be most comfortable, but I assured her that I would be fine and did not mind letting the kids sleep where they preferred. 

In the end, my eldest and I slept side by side, under the awning between the large tents.  We spoke for a few minutes, before drifting off to sleep.

It was hot.

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

With love and optimism,

Sunday, August 22, 2010

12th Night in Gan HaPa'amon

Shakespeare in the park for FREE!

Second showing tomorrow (Monday) at 5:30.

Don't be late.

They started on time on Sunday!

Thanks to my sister for encouraging us to attend and for bringing a chair for me!!

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

With love and optimism,

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Camping with the Kids -- Day 1

In the best of circumstances, getting out of the house on time is not one of my strong attributes.

I had hoped to depart for our camping trip sometime mid-morning on Tuesday. 

Since Sunday, my eldest daughter had been camping by the Kinneret, with her friends.  She and I had considered meeting by the Kinneret. When it became clear that I would not get up north until at least the afternoon, she decided to join her friends, who were returning to Jerusalem, and then drive up again with the family.

That meant a lot of extra travelling:  she would travel for 3 hours by public transportation, be home for about an hour, then travel with us an additional 2 hours by car, ending up almost exactly where she left, 6 hours earlier!

When my daughter arrived home, she felt, not surprisingly, completely drained and exhausted.  Only the promise of going out to her favorite restaurant, The Pagoda, in Tiveria (Tiberias) excited her.  Our family loves The Pagoda, and I had already made a reservation, because the last time we wanted to go, you had to make reservations 2-3 DAYS in advance!

Truth be told, I was happy to have her with us for the drive up.  I really wanted this to be a family experience, and getting there (and back) is part of the experience.

I had also expected her help packing up and loading the car, but it became clear, when she fell asleep on a chair, that she would not be able to help much on this side of the journey.

Both of my younger kids were amazingly helpful packing the car. My son got to climb onto the roof of the car to help strap our bags to the roofrack, which we borrowed for the trip (thanks SS!!); he liked that part!  In the past, when we went camping, we usually had to stuff the car to the gills, piling our things on the back seat and practically burying the kids.  The roofrack made a huge difference;  this time, we had plenty of room in the car!

When I still thought we would be leaving early, I planned on visiting my friend from Sde Eliyahu on the way up, since we would be passing right by her kibbutz. I figured it would be a good place for a pit-stop, and maybe we would even join her for lunch. 


We finally left home at around 6:00 in the evening. We were not going to stop anywhere.

We actually made good time.  We were out of the city by 6:15 and met our friends at Tzomet Tzemach (Tzemach Junction) at around 8:00.  We passed Sde Eliyahu around 7:30, but we were in a "do not pass go, do not collect two hundred dollars" mode, as we were already late to meet our friends.

When my kids realized we were meeting friends, they protested that this was supposed to be a family vacation. They mellowed out a bit when I explained that my friend, IEM, was the catalyst for this vacation.  She had called me to ask if I wanted to join her on a camping trip and then I asked the kids if they wanted to go. If it were not for her, I never would have planned this trip! I also explained that while we would be sleeping at the same site, in the end we would each be with our own families during the day, since her family would be going on tiyulim and ours would be hanging out on the Kinneret.  That last bit of information confirmed for my kids that we really would be spending the time together.

Once again, I felt so blessed to have three teenagers who chose to spend the day hanging out with their siblings and their mother.  God is so good to me!!

At Tzemach, we found our friends, snagged a table with some light, and perused the maps, trying to figure out what we were doing and where we were going to sleep.

Several friends had recommended campsites in the area, ranging from 60-100 NIS per night, per car.

We chose to camp at Yarden-Kinneret, which was the closest, provided the opportunity to swim in both the Kinneret and the Jordan river, and, we thought, cost 80 NIS per night, per car.


The Yarden-Kinneret campsite charges 110 for 24 hours and 150 for 32 hours.  Even though it was after midnight, two nights would be around 36 hours.  That extra four hours would cost us an extra 70 shekels! And there were no lifeguards at either of the waterfronts.  The guard offered to charge us 200 NIS instead of 220, but we decided to move on.  For that price, we at least wanted a lifeguard.

We headed towards a beach that cost 60 NIS, when I saw a sign for a beach that charged only 55 NIS per night!   We pulled in to check it out. They had everything we needed: bathrooms, showers, and a lifeguard!  They even had trees.

We had a minor upset when we chose a place that was too close to other people for one of my children, who wanted to be far away from civilization.  There were more remote campsites, but I needed to be close to the bathrooms and I wanted to set up camp next to one of the palm trees, so we would have some shade during the day.  With the help of the other kids, we resolved our crisis and decided to stay.  When we went to pay, I saw a more isolated spot, and we all agreed it would be perfect for us!

I knew the melt-down happened because we were all hungry.

As soon as we chose our spot, the kids set up camp and my friend and I cooked supper. 

My family brought two tents.  For my girls and I, we brought a large tent that had two separate rooms with an awning between them, one side of the covered area was closed, and the other side had a flap that could be zippered shut on either side or rolled up, leaving the area open, yet shaded.

My son really wanted to bring his four-person tent, since it packed up almost as small as his two person tent, but gave him a lot more room. When he showed me the packed tents, side by side, I let him choose which to bring;  he was so happy setting up his larger tent.

Would that all our conflicts could be resolved so easily.

When I started cooking our food, my son worried that we did not have enough, since I "only" bought one package of hamburgers and hot dogs. He wanted kababs too.  I kept explaining that we were not that many people (my friends ate vegetarian hot dogs), so he would have to settle for less variety.  He would not accept the limited menu; he really wanted kabas as well. I knew his hunger was talking and that he would mellow out once he had some food inside, which he did.  In the end, we had plenty of leftovers, so he had to admit that we had enough food.  (Though he would have eaten kababs, if they were available!)

Once everyone ate, the kids were ready to rest!  My son asked if I would like to play a game of chess before going to sleep.  I felt pretty tired, but how could I say no?

It turns out, our mini chess set only has backgammon pieces!  We were both pretty disappointed, since it would have been simple to bring chess pieces with us.  Nevertheless, we made the best of our situation and played several games of backgammon.  We had fun playing together.

My youngest daughter found it stifling in the tent and had a tough time falling asleep.  My son generously suggested that she sleep in his hammock.  Within minutes, she fell fast asleep.

I stayed up a bit longer than I should have, talking with my friend, but I am glad we had that time together.  She is my oldest friend in the world (we have been friends since we are seven!), but I rarely get to see her since we do not live close to each other.

The air was heavy, but I enjoyed an occasional gust of cool air. Before long, I drifted off to sleep....

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

With love and optimism,

Friday, August 20, 2010

Red Hands

My third chemo (Taxotere) turned my nails blue.

My fifth chemo (Doxil), the one I am on now, is turning my hands red!

My hands and feet have been chapped, almost since I started this new treatment.  The fourth chemo (Xeloda) also made my skin dry, especially my hands and feet;  I often suffered from cracks in my skin, in my fingers and heals, which took a long time to heal.  When I stopped taking the Xeloda, all my wounds healed within days (maybe weeks.... I do not remember exactly how long it took).

Now my skin is chapped, very red, and, in places, peeling. When we were in the Kinneret, my foot brushed up against a stone,and I ended up with a 2 cm wound on my heal.

I am trying to remember to apply lotion several times a day.  This sounds easy, but since I am not in the habit of putting on lotion, it is difficult for me to remember to apply lotion even once a day!

I do not need to use any special type of lotion, just regular moisterizer, of which I have plenty!

When I apply moisterizer regularly, the difference is dramatic.  My skins get smoother, and some of the redness goes away.

Lately, I have not been dilligent about using lotion as often as I should.  I have been busy, and have not had time to sit down, rub in the skin cream, and wait until my skin absorbed all the lotion.

Last night, I paid the piper.  My hands felt like they were on fire. 

In the middle of the night, I had to apply hand cream several times.

This morning, I applied lotion four times.  My hands look almost normal.

I should have been born a princess, with maidservants to annoint my hands and feet every few hours!

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

With love and optimism,

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Camping with the Kids

We are home!  It is great to be home!

I thought I would crash as soon as we got here.  However, once I showered, I felt refreshed and able to unpack a bit and direct the kids a bit.  I even watched a movie with my eldest.

We all had a good time on our trip.  I hope to write more about the experience tomorrow, when my eyes are not drooping as I type.

I think I enjoyed the ride home the most.  Since we could not agree about what CD to play, we agreed that we would not tturn on the music.  In the end, we talked, joked, and laughed the whole way home.

Did you know that "it is easier to clean a sheet than a supermarket"?

(don't worry, you won't think that is funny.  it's an "inside joke" for my kids... if they ever read this.)

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

With love and optimism,

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I Will Survive

If I am this tired before we have even left the house, how am I ever going to manage???

The trip is actually going to be much shorter than I anticipated because we are leaving later than I originally planned and we are returning earlier than I hoped, because my youngest has a Bat Mitzvah on Thursday afternoon (unless I just pop her on a bus and stay an extra night with just my two older kids, which is an option).

Anyway, I have lowered my expectations in accordance with what my kids are telling me.  They just care about spending time together.  If all we do is hang out on the beach and make a BBQ for supper, they will be happy.

Sounds good to me!

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

With love and optimism,

Monday, August 16, 2010

Nutritional Supplements

During my mother's most recent visit, my mother could not help but notice how little I was eating.

Being a mom, she immediately expressed her concern about the possibility that my being so tired might be connected to malnutrition.

My husband has had the same concern for several months now.

I blew them both off, joking about all the weight I can afford to lose.

But I do not have as much to lose as before.  I can easily drop another 5 kilo, and even another 10, but not more than that.  It will not be long before I must eat more calories.

Of course, there is the very real question about whether or not I am suffering from malnutrition and whether or not I should be supplementing my diet.  I recognize that I probably should be supplementing somehow.

Yet, I have consistently refused to take anything.

I know that my reaction to the idea of taking Ensure is irrational.  I cannot help it.  Ensure, in my mind, is for sick people who are dying.  I cannot bear the idea of swallowing it.  I am not sick.  I am fine.

Except that I am not fine.  I am tired and weak... all the time.

I barely have enough energy to do the bare minimum.

I know that I need more nutrition.

When Taube passed away, her husband offered me her leftover nutritional supplements, various powders to add to food/drink.  Reluctantly, I accepted his offer, knowing that, in the not-so-distant future, I would need to supplement my diet.

I always joked that "when I get down to my 'ideal' weight, I will just eat ice cream all day!"  Yesterday, a friend took me out for ice cream and I could barely manage to eat anything.  The ice cream was too rich and too sweet.  I know that ice cream is insufficient nutritionally, but it has protein, calcium and fat.  Most important, I like the way it tastes and can always eat it.  Until now.  Suddenly, even eating ice cream is hard for me.  I did share frozen yoghurt blended with fruit, but I could not eat nearly what I used to eat.

For a few days, I was eating more and feeling optimistic that I might be heading in the right direction.  But I find myself even less interested in food now than before.

Today, I finally succumbed and took out a packet to make a "milkshake."  The "shake" was too sweet, and not to my liking, but I forced myself to drink the whole thing.

I know that one supplemental shake will not affect me significantly, but I really hope I will feel some change in my energy level.

Between the heat, my pain, and general exhaustion, I do not want to move!!

And I expect to take my kids on a 3 day camping trip?!  You bet I do!

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

With love and optimism,

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Making the Effort

We do our best to attend smachot (celebrations). 

Years ago, after attending a friend's funeral, we realized that if we drop everything to attend something so sad, then it is just as important, if not more so, to drop everything in order to attend celebrations.

From that point on, we really made it a priority to attend smachot whenever possible.

That said, over the past few years, we have missed several happy occasions, primarily britot (marking the birth of a son), due to the early hour of the celebration combined with the event being held some distance from our home.

Well, this morning, Moshe's first cousin, RH, celebrated the birth of his first son!  Moshe and I agreed that we would make every effort to attend the brit, despite the distance and the early hour. 

When we arrived, we really felt that the "new" parents appreciated that we made the effort to attend.

Due to heavy traffic, the trip took much longer than we expected and we arrived a bit late. The family made us feel so welcome and appreciated, that we really we felt it was worth the effort!

The simcha itself was very emotional and moving.

Moshe's cousin and his wife already had four wonderful, healthy daughters.  Now, they gave birth to their second set of twins: their fifth daughter and their first son!

The father's father (moshe's uncle) passed away many years ago, when Moshe's cousin was just a little boy, only four years old.  Now, Moshe's cousin could name his new son after his father, and his son's grandfather.  Everyone had tears in their eyes, when Moshe's cousin spoke about passing on his father's legacy to his newborn son.

We all felt the absense of Moshe's aunt, the "new" grandmother, who could not be at the brit because a different granddaughter (the "new" father's niece) is getting married tomorrow in the US!

Thank God for so many simchas!

The brit was such a meaningful experience.  I really appreciate the time we spent with Moshe's cousins; they are all so special.  I really feel blessed to have "inherited" such a warm and caring family.

I am so glad we were able to share in this simcha!

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

With love and optimism,

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Camping at the Kinneret

I am taking my kids camping.

Call me crazy, but I really want to do it.

What is even more amazing is that they all want to go camping with me!

They want to spend family time together.  They do not care about going on hikes or what we do, as long as we do it together.

Did I mention that all three of my kids are teenagers, in the midst of adolescence?!?!

I am so excited about spending time them!

I am a little nervous about doing it all on my own (three adoloescent teenagers, and all that...), but there really is no other option.

Moshe is not coming.  He hates camping.  He will be much happier at home and at work, where he has air conditioning.  He is happy for us to go, but he has absolutely no desire to join us.

When we first had kids, I used to drag Moshe camping with us. Eventually, since he hated camping so much, we just stopped going altogether.  Two years ago, we found the Pesach/Jugglers' Convention solution, whereby the kids and I go camping at Sachneh, and Moshe sleeps a 10 minute drive away, at our friends who, of course, have air conditioning.  The Sachneh solution seems to work, but it is not enough.

The kids and I still want to camp during summer vacation.  For various reasons, a family camping trip during the last few summers just was not possible.  Yet, despite the recent progression of my cancer and our youngest daughter's Bat Mitzvah, I realized we could, at least in theory, go camping this summer.

Moshe and I discussed it.  We decided that Moshe would hold down the fort while I take the kids off into the wild blue yonder.

This summer has been particularly challenging for me.  As our camping dates approached, I wondered if my pain would be controlled enough for me to swing this adventure.  I have been praying, every night, that I will be able to do it.  Meanwhile, I am pushing forward, full steam ahead.

I scheduled this trip with the kids over a month ago.  Good thing we planned in advance, because these were the ONLY days that all three kids would be free at the same time all summer!

We originally planned to drive up north on Tuesday morning, and camp for 3 or 4 days, until Thursday or Friday.  We decided to be spontaneous and decide on the spot whether or not to stay the extra day.

Wrong!   Our time is not as free as we thought.  My youngest daughter just informed me that she has a Bat Mitzvah on Thursday night.  So there is no longer a third night/fourth day option.  We will return to Jerusalem on Thursday, so my daughter can attend her friend's Bat Mitzvah.

Meanwhile, we still need to decide where we are camping.

My kids are pretty set on the idea of camping at the Kinneret. 

Many friends encouraged me to travel further north, where it might be cooler.  I do not really want to drive that far on my own.  Even more so, I am determined to camp on the Kinneret because that is where my kids want to go.

Now we just have to decide WHERE on the Kinneret to camp.

Any suggestions?

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

With love and optimism,

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Perfect Party

Given that the invitation went out only several hours before the party, I knew that most people would not be able to make it. So I invited the whole world, which was great, since I hate excluding people. I did not have to choose who to include, as circumstance did that for me!

Around 20 friends stopped by over the course of the evening and the dynamic seemed perfect to me

I sat on the couch, like a queen bee, and welcomed my friends. 

I even had a chance to talk with all my guests!

I am grateful to all those who made it happen, because I never would have pulled it together, and to everyone who showed up, despite no advance notification.  I had a wonderful time!!

Special thanks to Sarah for inspiring the party by celebrating her own Aliyanniversary and to GS for graciously offering to organize and host an Aliyanniversary part for me -- she did everything, all I had to do was show up. 

GS also offered to invite all the guests but I figured it would be easier to just post to my list.... It did not seem foolish at the time.  

And, speaking of time, I absolutely LOVED the timeline!!   (Thanks GS & AZ!!)

I was so weak and tired yesterday, but I am so glad to have marked my "half-life" in Israel and to have shared my celebration with such wonderful friends.

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

With love and optimism,

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Aliyah Anniversary

This Wedneday, Rosh Chodesh Elul, I will have lived in Israel for half my life!

I have lived in Jerusalem for longer than I have lived in any other place in the world! (though not necessarily in the same apartment -- the longest I lived in any one residence still remains the house in which I grew up)

Today, Wednesday, August 11th, Rosh Chodesh Elul, a friend is making a party for me!

The only problem is that I forgot to approve the email invitation to my list, so, until a few minutes ago, no one received an invitation to come celebrate with me!

I do not even know who is on that list. I figured I would have a few days to hear back from people and figure out who has heard about the party and if I should call anyone in particular.  There will be no time for any of that!

It would be kind of funny if no one turned up!

I am not worried.

Whoever comes, comes.

I would not mind a small get together this year.

If you can't make it this year, mark your calendar for next year.

Next year, Rosh Hodesh Elul, I will be celebrating living in Israel longer than I have lived anywhere else!

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

With love and optimism,

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Rosh Hodesh at "The Moshav"

My girlfriend has been trying to get me to join her for Rosh Hodesh at "The Moshav" (Moshav Mavo Modi'in) for years!

She finally found a way. She told the woman who organizes the event about me and then she (the organizer) called and invited me to come speak to the women this Rosh Chodesh (Elul).

My friend offered to drive me there and back.

How could I say no?

So, this morning, still exhausted from my niece's beautiful wedding last night, I went to speak at "The Moshav."

The women were clearly moved by my presentation.

I never saw such strong reactions from so many people.

When I see a response like today's, I know I must be doing something right.

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

With love and optimism,

Bat Mitzvah Celebrations -- Seudat Mitzvah (i.e. The Party)

I just noticed that I never posted what I wrote about my daughter's Bat Mitzvah Seudah  (I wrote the post on July 6th!)

We finally got it right (almost).

With each Bat/Bar Mitzvah, we get a little better....

We chose the same hall and the same caterer that we used for our son's Bar Mitzvah.  And, as before, we had friends photograph and video the event.

But, this time, we started our presentations earlier and we had a set of dancing before and after the speeches.

In our previous simchas, the dancing never seemed to work out quite right.

This time, my dear friend, Naomi Moss*, coordinated our music and dancing.  She is FANTASTIC.  She knew just what to play and when.  And when the dances were a little more complicated, she got out there on the dance floor and danced with the kids!  She even brought a jump-rope with her!

The dancing during the first set was a combination of grown-ups and kids, but after that, the kids took over, as they should!

They lifted my daughter up in a chair, they spun her around with their legs wrapped around her chair, they tossed her in the air with one of the tablecloths, and, of course, they did all these funky dances that kids do at Bar/Bat Mitzvahs in Israel.

My daughter knew some of the dances better than others, but she was out there, dancing her heart out and having a great time.

At the end of the evening, Naomi even played "Erev ba" for my mom (it is my mom's favorite Israeli dance) -- there were not that many of us left to dance, but we enjoyed it nonetheless.

We got lucky this year, because our daughter's birthday fell during the school year, so most of the kids from her class came to celebrate with her.  As Israeli kids do, they wrote her a song and sang it for her. 

I will write a seperate post about her d'var Torah, which was just so impressive.

I spoke next, with the obligatory embarrassing stories that share some of our daughter's more special moments.  Then Moshe, my mom and my dad.  Moshe's mom does not like speaking in public and Moshe's dad preferred to speak only at the Shabbat meal.

Another good friend made a Bat Mitzvah cake, with images from the parsha (Balak).  My daughter's eye's lit up when she realized the decorations on the cake were images of a donkey and an angel! (if you don't get it, read the parsha).

We even made mazkarot (momentos) this time... though we forgot to put them on the tables!  So friend's picked up the slack and distributed them to our guests.  We still have more, so let us know if you want a pocket sized copy of Tefillat HaDerech, let us know! (Why we chose that as our mazkeret is a topic for another post, b'li neder)

It was a wonderful evening.  We felt surrounded by family and friends. Though there were many smachot that evening, many family and friends, who could not stay for the entire evening, made the effort to at least pop in and wish us a mazal tov.

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

With love and optimism,

* To contact Naomi for your simcha:
Naomi Moss naomi.moss6@gmail.com

Sunday, August 8, 2010

A Week Away from Home

My dear, dear friend came to Israel to visit me!

I feel so special and loved.

Her husband, who is also a close friend of ours, could not get away now, so her mother decided to accompany her for this visit. I must admit that I also love my friend's mother, who has always been so warm and embracing. In addtion to being a very intelligent and interesting woman, she has also been very generous and loving to me. Sometimes, I have to stop myself from calling her “mom.”

While they were here, I stayed with them at the hotel.  What a treat!  We hung out all day, talking and spending time together!

The dynamic with the three of us was very good.  We found the right balance between doing things all together and doing things separately. My friend's mom was totally understanding about my friend's and my need to spend some time on our own. Though, almost every morning, I ended up spending time alone with my friend's mother, because my friend needed to sleep even more than I did!  There were also a few things that I did on my own (like attending a friend's wedidng), so my friend and her mom also had some time to spend together, just the two of them.

My friend and her mom took two rooms at a Jerusalem hotel and I stayed with my friend in her room. It was so much fun, like going on vacation without any of the headaches. I didn't even have to leave town.

Since our only goal was to spend time together, we did not “overschedule” our time. We took each day “b'easy.”  (I bet even you non-hebrew speakers can figure this translation out! We just....“took it easy”)

My friend and I both brought some of our favorite games to play.  We also spent several afternoons just hanging out in the pool, treading water or lazing about, hanging onto the wall or sitting on the steps. Being in the water is very pleasant for me. My back always feels better in the water, without any weight on my skeleton.

For the most part, God has been pretty good to me regarding pain. I still hurt a lot, but most of the time the pain was managable and I enjoyed the time with my friend.

I felt really relieved. When she came, I was still pretty much at the peak of my suffering, but the pain patch seemed to be helping and as long as I remembered to treat the breakthrough pain with Percocet, I felt ok.
Before we knew it, the days flew by and her trip came to an end.

We talk on the phone almost every day, but that does not compare to actually being able to see each other!

Before she and her family moved to the US, we used to live a few blocks away from each other and get together several times a week.

I miss her so much!!

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel. With love and optimism, RivkA

Saturday, August 7, 2010

BBQ Get-Away

Friends invited us for a Thursday night BBQ and then extended the invitation through Shabbat.

I did not sleep much, but I had a great time, stargazing, talking late into the night, playing games during the day, and, of course, eating good food.

I do not know what magic ingredients they used for cooking, but I actually ate real food while we were there.

I even ate meat... and enjoyed it!!

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

With love and optimism,

Friday, August 6, 2010

Missing Patch

Last Tuesday night, I had an awful night, waking up constantly from pain and finding it difficult to fall back asleep.  Early Wednesday morning, I woke up in excruciating pain.  It took over an hour, and several pain killers, until I managed to return to a fitful sleep.

I could barely move on Wednesday;  I felt so weak.

I had planned on spending the day doing fun things with my youngest daughter.  Instead, I spent the day in bed.  We were both very disappointed.

Thursday morning, I went to switch my pain patch (the patch slowly releases pain medication and needs to be switched every three days) and discovered that the 50 mg pain patch had fallen off.  Patches come in different sizes and strengths and I am currently wearing a 50 mg patch and a 12.5 mg patch.

No wonder I felt such pain!

I was not receiving most of my pain medication!

I put on the new patches and took a Percocet.

What a difference!

The patches are these small see-through stickers that you stick on your body (I put it in on my upper arm).  They look so benign, I wondered how much pain relief they actually provide.

Apparently, the effect of the pain relief patches is quite signifcant!

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

With love and optimism,

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Saving the Day

I have been feeling so week and tired lately.  No one knows why.

Everyone promised I would feel rejuvinated after receiving two portions of blood.

I do not.

I am still weak and tired.

I could not move on Monday morning.  God made a miracle and gave me enough energy so that I could drag myself to the pool and teach on Monday afternoon.

I would have crashed on Monday night, but Monday was my anniversary, so I went with Moshe, as we do every year, to sit in the garden where we were married.  It might not seem exciting, but the experience is quite special to us.

Tuesday morning, I would have loved to sleep in, but I really wanted to attend my art class.  I actually dragged myself up and out of the house in time to arrive on time.

I just drove down the hill when my phone rang.  My eldest daughter, who is a madricha (counselor/advisor) for B'nei Akiva (youth group) had hosted a sleepover for her chanichot (kids) the night before and had woken up early to take them all swimming in the pool in Tekoa (a neighboring town).

"Ima," she began, in a plaintive voice, "the bus did not stop for us and the next bus is in three hours."

I had already entered the traffic circle at the bottom of the hill.  I quickly glanced to my right.  There stood my daughter, with her chanichot sitting beside her.

My art class began in ten minutes;  I had just enough time to drive there.  But my daughter had put in so much time and energy to create a fun program for her chanichot; she had no other way to get to the pool.

What could I do?

I drove around the circle and swung by to pick up my daughter and the girls.  "Your chariot," I called to her, with a smile.

My daughter showered me with thanks.

"You owe me, big time!" I informed her, explaining, in detail, what I gave up to save her.

"I will try to be extra good for a month!" she pronounced.

"A month does not cover it," I countered.

"Forever?" she questioned sweetly.

"That's more like it," I responded, "From now on, whenever you step out of line, I am just going to say one word..." 

After a dramatic pause, I glanced quickly into her eyes, smiled and said... "Tekoa."

My daughter laughed good naturedly as she realized we just added a new code word to our private lexicon.

I joined in her laughter.

Someone once told me that having a private family language is the litmus test for family cohesion. I am not convinced.   Still, I love that our family has our own meanings for various words and phrases! (not to mention new words that our kids created!)

I plan to utilize this word to its full capacity!  (and she knows it!)

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

With love and optimism,

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Cut Off From the World

There is still something wacky going on with our internet and, possibly, my computer.

I have been writing posts, but I cannot connect from my computer, so I cannot even post what I have written.

By the time I sort it all out, there will be no one left to read my blog....


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

With love and optimism,

Sunday, August 1, 2010

I've Come to Suck Your Blood

My hemoglobin is low, so the oncology nurses told me I need blood.

I am a little freaked out about getting someone else's blood.

If  I have to get blood, I would rather get it from someone I know.  Apparently, that is way more complicated.  So, I am getting blood from some random person. 

The nurses assure me that the blood is checked and safe.  It is still wierd.

I came in today, Sunday morning, to receive two "portions" of blood.


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

With love and optimism,