Category Archives: general observations about the universe

Express Yourself: Reveal Rather Than Mask

Since the age of two, my four-year-old daughter has been obsessed with Spiderman. On rainy days, she proudly sports her Spiderman umbrella, her last two birthday cakes have both featured Spiderman, and given an opportunity to dress up (either at home, a friend’s house, or at a gymboree), she will opt for the Spiderman/superhero costume rather than more girlish choices. Her only exposure to Spiderman has been indirect through friends at daycare and kindergarten. We don’t have satellite TV or cable, and she has no siblings who have ever shown any interest in Spiderman.

Tzofia first discovered Spiderman two years ago, during a trip to the States. We spent one rainy morning at a local gymboree, where there was a dress-up area with an array of costumes. Tzofia was instantly drawn to the Spiderman costume, and asked to put it on. Up until that point, she had been exclusive to Tigger and Dora. Once dressed up as Spiderman, she jumped up and down, started growling, and began chasing her older sister around the room. When we asked her why she was growling, she said that she wanted to be “scary like Spiderman.”  We found it both interesting and amusing that her perception of Spiderman was that of a scary and intimidating figure, and since that day, has maintained that character when dressed up as him. Perhaps her image of Spiderman as being scary and “bad” gives her an outlet for any pent-up anger or frustration she is feeling.

A couple of months ago, when we were blessed with a couple of rare but welcome rainy days here in Israel, Tzofia left the house excitedly, more because of the opportunity the rain afforded her to use her Spiderman umbrella. When we arrived at gan, a few girls standing by the door chanted (in Hebrew): “Spiderman is for boys!” I have to say that one of my proudest moments occurred right then when Tzofia marched proudly right past the girls, and hung up her umbrella next to her friends’. I prayed to myself that for the rest of her life she should be as confident in her individuality as she was right at that moment.

With the onset of Purim, our family conversations have inevitably centered around Purim costumes, and Tzofia asked us if Spiderman is only for boys. At some point our free-spirited and strong-willed four-year-old became aware of her surroundings, and somehow internalized the message that Spiderman isn’t every girl’s cup of tea. Our heavily weighed answer was: “Spiderman is for whoever likes him.” I thought hard about Tzofia’s question afterwards. My instinct was to encourage her to stay loyal to Spiderman, regardless of what the girls around her say or do, but upon further thought, I realized that perhaps her question indicated emotional maturity and awareness of her environment. However much we want to encourage her individuality, it is inevitable that at some point she will have to make the choice whether her form of self-expression comes with too heavy a price. And that is part of growing up. Also, is it fair to encourage her to be Spiderman when we all know that kids can be cruel, and she may be the butt of her friends’ jokes?  Fast-forward two weeks later, and Tzofia’s choices ranged from Spiderman to a bear (“because bears scare people more”) to Ironman – to finally Superman. She ultimately decided to stay with the superhero.

My first reaction to these changes of heart was frustration, till it dawned on me that Purim for children represents one day of the year when they can reinvent themselves before their family, their teachers, their friends; that Purim is not just about disguising themselves and putting masks on, but rather taking them off, giving those around them the ability to see them how they want to be seen. A vehicle for self-expression. On this day, when children can parade the streets in their mask, tutu, or superhero costume, they are subconsciously teaching themselves that they can be whoever they want to be. There are no limitations other than those they set for themselves.

Disney World – a toddler’s paradise or a British parent’s nightmare?

me and josh in disneyIn two months, we are scheduled to fly to the States for a couple of weeks to stay with my in-laws in New Jersey. For five days of that time, we will be in Disney World, continuing my in-laws’ tradition of taking their grandchildren (and their grandchildren’s harried parents) to Disney World during winter break. Those who joined me at the beginning of my journey in blogging might recall from my very first post my feelings about Disney World. And in case you have joined the party late, you can read all about my very first taste of Disney World when I was engaged to my husband, five years ago.

Growing up in England, I never really gave much thought to Disney World – I knew it existed, it contained a bunch of Disney characters, and like everything and everyone in America, it was huge. Well, all that changed at the age of 23, when I started dating my husband. Disney World came up a LOT in conversation in our first dates, and I got the feeling that if I were to pursue this relationship, I would become increasingly familiar over time with Disney World, if not by actually going there, then by being treated to Disney World trivia and trips down Disney lane. To my husband’s family, and to my husband in particular, Disney World is not just any vacation destination, but it is the Vacation of all Vacations. That became abundantly clear when I would dream out loud with my husband (then-boyfriend) of all the places in the world I wanted to travel with him, and instead of us visualizing gondolas and backpacking in Thailand, the conversation would invariably return to Magic Kingdom and Epcot Center. To his credit, he did agree to go to Italy if I could somehow recreate Disney World for him there – at that point, I realized that EuroDisney in Paris would be my best bet. In his words, “Why would you possibly want to go anywhere else in the world when there is EVERYTHING in Disney World?”

Joking apart, I did have an incredible time in Disney World when we went on our engagement trip, but I am not too sure if that is because I genuinely fell over head over heels in love with Disney World, or if it was by association -I was (and AM) in love with my husband, who was (and IS) in love with Disney World. Whatever the case, when I married Josh, it was with the acceptance of the centrality of Disney World in our lives, and it did not surprise me one bit when my father-in-law, who passed on his love of Disney World to his son, gave as a gift upon the births of my daughters the entire DVD collection of Disney movies. Gotta start them young, and sure enough, my four-year-old and even two-year-old girls make their father and grandfather proud as they sing the Disney songs joyfully and frequently. They know the movies and songs better than I do, which, granted, is not saying much. But still. No one could say they are not continuing the Weinstein legacy. Soon after my oldest daughter was born, my in-laws started planning how they would take all the cousins, and our daughter, when Eliana turned 4. Well, four years has passed and flown by, and my in-laws are making good on their promise. My girls are very excited to see Winnie the Pooh, and, as my two-year-old pronounces it, “Kicki Mouse.” My husband and father-in-law are as excited, if not more, at the thought of the upcoming trip.

As for my mother-in-law, well, whenever I speak to her after her annual Disney trip, she has lost her voice or is exhausted after preparing all the meals, getting the kids ready, running after them all day, putting them to bed, so her feet are more firmly on the ground, and she is not floating as high as the menfolk of the family.

And me? Well, does it make me a terrible wife, mother, and daughter-in-law if I say that I am approaching this trip with trepidation rather than excitement? Being in romantic la-la land is very nice when you are floating around Disney World with your fiance, with not a dirty diaper or cranky child in sight, but the prospect of taking my two- and four-year-old there fills me with an emotion close to dread. I imagine that I will need a good vacation after this “vacation.” It goes without saying that the kids will have a spectacular time, and that they will hopefully come back with great memories, which they can store up and then share with their boyfriends, please G-d, twenty (or forty years, if my husband had his way) years down the line, but truthfully, a nice calm vacation in England wouldn’t go amiss right now. Or Europe. I miss Europe.

Anyway, if anyone has taken a toddler and a pre-schooler to Disney World (you deserve a medal), and has any tips or hints that will help me preserve my sanity, please do share. Adios amigos.

What ever made me think I could drive in this country – Part II

The inside of my head feels like a construction site today. And just yesterday I was thinking to myself (I was smart enough not to voice this thought out loud in case I gave myself an ayin hara)  how nice it is that I have not been sick for a while. Seemingly, it isn’t enough to ward off superstition by refraining from verbalizing one’s thoughts – the thoughts themselves jinx you. Voila, today I am sick, and, of course, being British, am blaming it on the weather.

Well, all is not lost. I may not have the necessary concentration to work, but the show will go on, and here is Part II of my misfortune on the Israeli roads, the drama of which continues until this day. 

 So where were we? Aah, yes. Summer of 2005. Just two weeks before the birth of my second daughter, I had come through the worst, and was officially an Israeli driver. I wasn’t sure if this was something to be proud of – judging by the insane driving and amount of fatalities on the road in this country – but I was euphoric to finally have the independence I so craved, and never in my life thought I would be so elated at the prospect of being able to drive myself to the supermarket to buy a bag of milk.  I was not the only happy camper. After three years of Josh being the one who had to run all the errands single-handed, he was happy to relieve himself of the responsibility. Of course, I didn’t really have much opportunity to drive in the two weeks leading up to the birth, given my size and my extremely pregnant condition, and I could not drive for six weeks after the birth because of the c-section delivery, but the knowledge, the sweet knowledge, of knowing that if I wanted to drive, I could, made me a very happy woman.

Fast-forward a couple of months to December of 2005 – it was a Friday morning in Modiin, and wanting to beat the normal Friday craziness in the supermarkets, I headed out early in the morning to the supermarket to do some last-minute errands. On my way back, at 8.30, I approached an intersection, and came to a stop at the stop sign. So far, so good. Advancing past the stop sign, I looked to my left, and saw a car coming from a distance, but thought I had enough time to make it, and cross the intersection. Well, I didn’t. The car was speeding, and we collided. Thank G-d, no one was hurt. My car took the extreme brunt of the damage, while the guy’s car was only slightly dented on the left side. I was reeling from shock. Before I knew it, the police had arrived, and our cars were moved away to the side of the road. The first thought that entered my mind was: I am screwed, I am screwed. For the first year of having your license, you are supposed to have a “New Driver” sign on the rear window, but mine was lying unused in the trunk. All it would take was for a policeman to look at my driver’s license, and see that I had only passed the test a couple of months before, and I would really be in trouble. As it turned out, that was the least of my worries. The policeman did indeed take a look at my license, and remarked that I didn’t have the sign at the back of my car, but instead of bailing me out for it, he winked at me and said, “al tidag, beseder, beseder” (Don’t worry, it’s fine). In this case, playing the role of the helpless female worked wonders.

A couple of minutes later, Josh arrived at the scene after my frantic phone call, and we talked to the Russian guy whose car I collided into. As far as I could see, he could only gain from the accident. His car looked as if it was at least fifteen years old, and the insurance money he would receive from the accident could help him buy a new car. It looked as if it is was on its way out anyway. We didn’t fare as well. We had to replace the entire right side of our car for a hefty bill, even with the insurance. A very annoying situation, but we were philosophical about it. No one was hurt, we were just a couple of thousand shekel poorer, and life goes on. His speeding combined with my poor judgement caused the accident.

A couple of weeks later, I got a phone call from the guy’s insurance company. He had claimed that his entire car was a write-off, and they wanted to verify his story. His car was only slightly dented, but obviously shekel signs were flashing in front of his eyes, and he wanted to profit from the situation, so he made out that his car had been totally wrecked. I told the insurance agent in no uncertain terms that HIS car was fine – although I couldn’t say the same about my car.

So my insurance company battled it out against his insurance company, and we were issued with a notice that we had to go to court over it, and that we had to be present… I am sure you can guess from my “luck” this far the outcome of the case – the representative that was sent to court on behalf of my insurance company was an arrogant, oil-slicked teenager who looked as if he would be more comfortable as a DJ in a night club in Tel Aviv than in a court of law, and did not endear himself to the female judge who had obviously had had her fair share of swaggering insurance agents that day. So yet another defeat for us, and a letter arrived in our mail box just a couple of weeks later notifying us that they had “dropped” us, and that they would no longer give us insurance, since we had been in two accidents in two years. (The first “accident” happened a year before on our street in Jerusalem, when our car was parked outside our apartment, and a school wall came tumbling down at  7.30 in the morning, luckily injuring no children, but crushing our car.)  The injustice! How dare they just “drop” us like that? What is the point of having insurance if the minute you get into an accident, you are considered too much of a liability, and you find yourself insurance-less? Well, what choice did we have? We found another insurance agent who finally agreed to take us on, and although we weren’t as fully covered, at least we had insurance.

 If only this was the end of my sorry tale. In June of this year, a message on my cellphone informed “Hakhel” that his court case had been postponed till July 15. Having put the accident behind me, and thinking that the message was obviously not for me, since who in G-d’s name was “Hakhel”, I concluded that they had the wrong number, and felt sorry for the dude who was never informed of the change in date of his court case. Well, another phone call a week later confirmed that “Hakhel” was their way of pronouncing “Sorelle,” and that the message was indeed intended for my ears.

I tried to keep my voice even and calm when I spoke to the clerk, and thanked her for notifying me of the change in date in court case, but that I had no idea that there was even going to be a court case, and if she could please tell me what in G-d’s name she was talking about, I would be ever so grateful. The next five minutes of our conversation revealed that the State of Israel were prosecuting me for poor judgement in an accident that had occurred two years ago. Of course, I had never received the original letter from the court, so this follow-up phone call telling me that the case had been postponed was not exactly helpful. 

You gotta love Israel – the ENTIRE government at the time were being indicted for some crime or another, including the beloved prime minister, Olmert, and the head of the police, and I WAS BEING PROSECUTED FOR POOR JUDGEMENT?   

After recovering from the initial shock, my next phone call was to find a lawyer who could find out from the police what the story was – and what it was that I was being prosecuted for. Apparently, the other driver had not only claimed that his car was a write-off, but that he had to go to hospital because of injuries sustained as a result of the accident. Frustration turned into rage – it’s one thing for this guy to try to get rich out of the accident, but to claim that he was hurt was so outrageous and deceitful, he may as well have been claiming that night was day. My lawyer suggested that we work out some sort of plea bargain with the court, whereby I lose my license for a couple of months (that’s a compromise???), and that would be it.

The lawyer told me that the worst-case scenario would be for them to take away my license for three months, so I wasn’t quite sure why agreeing to them taking away my license for three months was a plea bargain – but he claimed that that was the best he could do given the fact that I was a new driver, and the cards were stacked against me. He did, however, assure me that there would be no fine. Okay, three months without a license – I had lived for this long without a license, life goes on. 

Well, to cut an extremely long story short, I arrive in court to find that not only was I going to be without my license for three months, but that I was going to be slapped with a NIS 1000 shekel fine. Apparently, my lawyer “forgot” – when he met with the prosecutor over coffee and croissants – to bring up the issue of the fine, and that was why, in essence, there was no plea bargain. I had paid $600 to an absolutely useless lawyer, and the prosecutor must have been laughing his head off at the results of the “plea bargain.” The lawyer did reassure me, though, that I could pay the fine in tashlumim – monthly payments. How very reassuring. NOTE TO SELF: Hire an Israeli lawyer, not a self-effacing British one. Well, I didn’t roll over meekly on this one – my husband and I insisted that the lawyer pay half the fine, and eventually he agreed, admitting that he had “forgot” to bring up the subject of the fine. There were TWO things the lawyer needed to discuss – the issue of my license being revoked for three months, and the fine – and out of those two things, he suffered amnesia, and forgot to deal with the money aspect.

I was told by the judge that I had to hand in my license to the court office, and pay the fine. Well, as I handed over my license – and my freedom – to the faceless woman behind the desk, my heart started to pound as she told me that she could not take my license, since it had expired just two days before. The three-month clock could not start ticking until I renewed my license, and then return to the court to hand it in. Exercising extreme self-restraint by stopping myself from having a nervous breakdown right then and there, I asked her calmly and slowly where I could renew my license in the area, and she told me where, but with one caveat – the Ministry of Transport were on strike, and I could not renew my license until they resumed work. So I had to wait an extra FIVE days until they deigned to get up from their strike and join the rest of the workforce before I could renew my license, and begin the three-month period of my driverless status.

I suppose I should have realized two weeks ago, on October 31st, when I finally got my license back, that that wouldn’t be the end of it. Just this morning, I was delivered a letter informing me that I have to take a twelve-hour course on basic driving, followed by an exam at the end.

So do you think someone’s trying to tell me something?

   

A squash and a squeeze

A Squash and a Squeeze is a beautiful children’s story that is a real favorite with my girls, and unlike many of the other books I read to them, where I am wondering guiltily if they will really notice if I skip a page or five, this is a book I have no problem reading… again and again. The book comes with an audiotape, so I mimic the wise old man and little old lady’s accent with the best Welsh accent I can muster. 

The story centers on a little old lady who is dissatisfied with the size of her house, calling it a squash and a squeeze, (da-dum), but, with the advice of a wise old man (who looks like a venerable rabbi one might find in the kollels of Lakewood), who suggests that she bring in farmyard animals into her home, she soon discovers that it’s not as small as she thought.  Not understanding, at first, why bringing animals into her already-small home would help her predicament, she questions the wisdom of the wise old man’s advice, but nonetheless welcomes in animals, one by one, who wreak havoc on her home. The wise old man’s final piece of advice is to take out each animal, one by one, and by the time her home is an animal-free zone, nafal ha’asimon, the penny has dropped, and she realizes that her home, after all, is not quite the “squash and the squeeze” she originally felt it to be. 

To me, this sweet story captures the essence of life, and I have had many a “squash and a squeeze” moment. Living in an apartment in a neighborhood which predominantly boasts large and beautiful homes, I, too, have experienced on occasion a “squash and a squeeze” feeling, where I just feel that what I have just isn’t enough. And while I am not at the point of wanting to welcome in farmyard animals into our home in order to make me appreciate what I have – not being the greatest animal lover in the world – I do see that perspective is everything. It is OK and natural to want more – we are not nazirites that seek a lifestyle where abstinence is virtuous – but remember that you have a choice how to perceive your reality, and that everything is relative. You can want more, without sinking into depression about it – and the important thing is that in your desire to achieve more, earn more, possess more, don’t lose sight of all the good things you have in your life – whether it be your husband, your children, your friends…

For many years, I have fought (admittedly not very hard, given my shopaholic tendencies) against my materialistic inclinations. I felt that being materialistic ran counter to Jewish thought. Wanting a big house, lots of clothes, nice vacations just wasn’t holy, in my book. I didn’t know how to reconcile those two aspects of my being – the desire to “have more” and my desire to be a good Jew. 

I used to feel very guilty for comparing what I have to what others have – but then I realized that if I weren’t to do that, I probably wouldn’t be human. The desire for “more,” “bigger,” and “better” is what makes human beings grow, work harder, and thrive to improve, in the interest of bettering their lives. Yes, it is true, most people, upon leaving the Diaspora, and making Aliyah, breathe a sigh of relief at escaping the materialistic mindset, whereby the size of your house determines the size of your happiness – but not always.

In my mind, as long as your desire to be extremely wealthy includes a desire to give tzedakah (charity), and doesn’t turn you into a snob, then there is not necessarily a dichotomy. It’s just a hard balance to strike – but I guess that’s what Judaism is all about. The struggle to achieve balance.

Learning to recognize the signs…

Since July, I have basically stopped blogging. I didn’t feel that I had anything to say, and I figured that a very telling sign that it was time to give it up was the fact that I had to think hard about what to write about, and if you have to dig deep and think about the subject of your blog posts, then the fun kind of goes right out of the window, and the whole venture becomes kinda pointless. My “decision,” if you can call it that (“deciding” not to blog didn’t require very much thought), was made easier by the fact that I knew I wasn’t going to be disappointing hundreds of daily readers who make reading my blog part of their daily schedule, so I slipped away quietly, and my absence by and large went relatively unnoticed – unless there are some lurkers on the site who have laid low.

So why is she back now, I hear you ask. Well, the answer is FACEBOOK. I have become addicted to something I swore from the outset that I would never let myself get suckered into. Facebook, as a social networking tool, is fine and dandy, and reconnecting with old pals is definitely a nice thing, although the point could be argued that there is a reason why people lose touch with each other, and if someone is important to you, you pick up the phone. Well, that’s an argument for another day. In fact, I talked about this very subject a while back… 

Anyway, Facebook has a feature that enables you to update your status, so your friends can view your status. “Sorelle is weighing up the benefits of eating dairy over meat for lunch today.” “Sorelle is reminiscing about days gone by…” The feature presents a grammatical challenge since the beginning of the sentence always begins with “is…” Lately, I have found my statuses getting longer and longer. Just today, for example, I wrote: “Sorelle is wishing she could boycott all kids’ clothes made in Israel, that in truth should be marketed as disposable clothing. Grrr.” The big telltale sign that it was time for me to resume blogging was when the status update feature restricted the amount of words that I used for the updates, and then it became clear that what I really wanted to do was…. WRITE.

So here I am. Have a good one, wherever you are. 

Are you a noisy eater?

It doesn’t matter where – sitting on the couch in front of the TV, in an elevator, at the dinner table, or standing in line at the post office – if a person within my field of vision is eating noisily, I find myself going insane. Literally. We’re not talking a mild irritation here – an internal silent wish that the person would stop; I have to physically restrain myself from running out of the room, or, in the case of an elevator or bus, where a quick exit is less realistic, from screaming out loud in frustration. I can’t think of a habit that annoys me more in a person.

I have been afflicted with this intolerance for as long as I can remember. I am the youngest of four, and I recall as a bratty and spoilt five-year-old, I would threaten to leave the room (and actually acted on it) if my brother didn’t stop biting down on the spoon as if his life depended on it every time he ate soup. If I wasn’t only five years old at the time, and had greater powers of articulation and persuasion, as well as access to the then-non-existent Internet, I would have told him to take a leaf out of the Chinese book, and breathe in while sipping from his soup. According to the Chinese, this method prevents slurping.

Definitely the worst offences are eating cereal, munching on chips, slurping on soup, and chewing gum. I really thought that my violent reaction against noisy eating would have been something I would have grown out of by now, but no. If anything, I am even MORE intolerant now than I was when I was a child. I have more words at my disposal to lash out against the offender.

I am vaguely aware that this intolerance is not something to be proud of, and it is even quite trivial in the whole scheme of things, yet I wonder what it is that makes people eat as unabashedly loudly as they do. There are times when I even have to tell certain people in my life that I can’t watch TV with them if they plan on eating, and that kinda wreaks havoc on your recreational activities.

I’m interesting in hearing from either those who share a similar distaste for noisy eating (if so, do you know of a cure?) or better yet those who are noisy eaters themselves, who can help me understand what lies at the root of noisy eating. Is it your background? Your nationality? (I’m British, after all.) Your religion? (Just kidding.) Is it an emotional attitude towards eating that manifests itself once the food is in your mouth? (I know, I’m a freak.)

Before I sign off, I have to say that an interesting element of all this is that the only two people in the world who don’t disturb me when they are slurping or munching are my two little girls. But that’s probably because I am just so grateful that they are eating at all – they eat like birds – that I block out the noise. Hmm. 

Are you a noisy eater? (Part Two)

FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO ARE TOTALLY BORED BY MY OBSESSION AND INTOLERANCE OF NOISY EATING, COME BACK TOMORROW WHEN THE SUBJECT WILL HOPEFULLY BE OUT OF MY SYSTEM.

As a continuation of yesterday’s post, in which I remarked on the steady stream of comments I am receiving (I now have 10 comments! Woohoo!) about noisy eaters, I am reigniting the topic once again here today, and opening it up again for discussion. One reader, Matt, whom I quoted yesterday, told me that he found my blog by googling “Noisy Eater.” He actually thought my blog was solely dedicated to the topic of noisy eating and noisy eaters. Lo and behold, when I googled “Are you a noisy eater?” to see for my own eyes where I appeared, I was amazed to find that I was at the top of the page!

Busy, busy, busy

Every so often, I will think a thought or observe something truly insane, and will make a mental note to myself that when I actually have a second, I will return to the land of bloggers. Well, in the meantime, here is a short bite-sized recap of what has been going on chez Sorelle.

1. Two weeks ago, my daughter turned four, and all I can say is that if this is her fourth birthday, I can’t begin to imagine what her wedding is going to be like. She has been preparing for her birthday for months, and took dessert cookbooks to bed with her in case she had a last-minute change of heart.

The festivities were a week-long affair, resembling Sheva Berachot in length (and almost expense!), beginning with a party in gan on the actual day of her birthday with a Cinderella and Eliana masterpiece for a cake. Thanks to the wonders of technology, and the ability to print out images onto sugar paper, Eliana did end up going to the ball! Eliana dressed up as a princess for Purim, so Josh, the Internet genius, put the image of Eliana and put it next to Cinderella, and voila, we had it printed out on top of sugar paper, and placed it on top of the frosting. Ladies and gentlemen, for your viewing pleasure, I present Cake # 1.

Yes, we did win the Cool Parents popularity award amongst 26 very sugar-happy four-year-olds.

For Shabbat, we had over my husband’s cousin, who Eliana is in love with, and for lunch two of Eliana’s close friends and their families, and we gobbled up the remains of the Cinderella cake. A good time was had by all. We bought Eliana for her birthday a trampoline; the idea being that she will be able to channel her considerable amount of energy in a positive way. The jury is still out. At the moment, her energy seems to be more directed at fighting with Tzofi over it.

Then, her birthday celebrations culminated with a private party at home. I was in two minds about whether or not to have a party at home – it seemed like it was encouraging cliquey behavior by asking her to select 10 of her best friends. But since many of her friends had had parties at home, I could hardly NOT give her a party. When in Rome, do as the Romans do, and all that. Anyway, the exclusivity element didn’t turn out to be an issue in the end. Eliana decided that in addition to the invites I had already handed out, she would randomly invite some other friends in addition, so our initial plan of having a nice SMALL party morphed into something quite different altogether. It was hectic. Very hectic. But we pulled it off. We had a pitta pizza party, where the kids made their own personal pizzas. We put out pittot and various different toppings, and it was a big hit. Josh was also phenomenal. I was standing wide-mouthed and passive in horror at the sight of 16 four year olds in my living room, but Josh just held it together, and took the reins. So for the second birthday cake, Eliana requested… a rubber duck. Every night in the bath, she asked for a rubber duck, so a rubber duck it was. Not bad, eh?

Thankfully, the celebrations are behind us now. I now see why birthdays only come once a year, thank goodness. You need the other 364 days to recover.

2. What else? Well, there is less than a month to the end of the gan year, and I am working on four projects simultaneously. Busy is an understatement. And because we are going away to the States for a month in September for the holidays, we are trying to work extra hard now so that we can take some time off while we are away. That is the PLAN. Let’s see what happens.

3. About three months ago, I posted a message about my zero tolerance for noisy eaters, and it seems that I am far from being alone in this affliction, as evidenced by the ongoing comments (OK, there are only 9 comments [and yes, 2 of those 9 are my responses], but that’s record-breaking on Double Take) I still receive about the problem. Here it is again. The people who commented seem to suffer even worse than I do, and I thought I had it bad. One reader, Matt, summed it up perfectly (sorry Matt, I fixed your typos. I can’t help myself. It’s another disease I suffer from).

As for a cure I think we are all well aware that this is a psychological issue but feel like we need or have to live with it. I mean, we can all appreciate how it seems like a non issue to non sufferers and that such an incidental, intangible noise should stir such violent, hateful emotions.

The annoying thing (apart from the condition itself lol) is that AFAIK there is no current classification for the ‘condition’ so where do you start to look for help? It’s not a phobia as it instills a feeling of rage rather than fear. I would love to be free of it but what do you do? Go to the doctor? Where do you even start to explain it without him having you sectioned under the mental health act? The other issue is that the usual treatment for phobics is ‘de-sensitivity’ therapy and that scares the shit out of me as I couldn’t be held responsible for murdering whoever tried to de-sensitise me!

A few months ago I emailed a few hypnotherapy clinics detailing the issues and feelings I go through in the hope that was the way forward and received a couple of emails that were quite vague and mentioned being able to help in the inner rage side of things but not enough to make me take any further action down that route although I’m still of the mind that it would probably be the way to go.

Well, from what I can gauge, I am not the only one who starts entertaining violent thoughts when in the company of munchers and slurpers and biters, and I also would like to consider myself a fairly nice person in most situations. I agree with Matt, though – desensitization and hypnotheraphy to help you get in touch with your “inner rage” definitely scares the living daylights out of me.

Well, on THAT note, I bid you a fond farewell. Until the next time.

Fighting inertia

I don’t know if this is just me, but when I am extremely pressured with work, and have a to-do list that contains more items than there are minutes in the day to do them, I am far more productive than when I actually have time on my hands, but am somehow unable to get my act together. Know what I mean? Until Shavuot, I was working on three editorial projects simultaneously, yet I still managed to go shopping, make phone calls, ya di ya, yet here I am now, enjoying a brief hiatus before the commencement of my next project, and I have become Queen Procrastinator, concocting a multitude of excuses why it is best for me not to fulfill the most menial of tasks. 

Oh well. Still no excuse for not blogging, I know. Truth is, I have had a lot on my mind lately, mainly about what is happening to this country of ours, G-d help us. My husband’s aunt, who made Aliyah from Milwaukee the year I was born, 1978, spent the Shabbat with us. She has lived in Jerusalem for the last thirty years, and has raised six children in this country. I was talking to her on Friday night about what is going on politically this country, and how hopeless things seem to be right now. Sometimes when I speak to Israelis who have been in the country since almost the establishment of the State, my spirits are buoyed. They have seen the good times and the bad times, and they have a sense of perspective that we newbies lack. I was hoping that I would hear some reassuring words from Josh’s aunt, who is a deeply spiritual and passionate woman, but she too expressed a sense of helplessness that has been weighing me down now for a while.

If I am to be honest, I have to admit that I am not too hopeful about the future of this country. I want to believe that before we can see the light, we have to experience dark, and all of that, and that we have witnessed miracles before, but somehow it feels different now. I don’t know that as a Jewish people, we necessarily deserve this country. Perhaps we might delude ourselves into thinking that we are entitled to this country, that it belongs to the Jews, and it is therefore our inalienable right to hold on to it, but what are we doing as a Jewish people, as a nation, to DESERVE it?

If we look at the current government, we will not find one individual who has not faced indictment. If we look at our educational system, it is enough to make you weep. Children in chiloni (secular) schools are not learning about Zionism; they are not learning about the history of Israel; they are not learning about Tanach, and the festivals.  The few secular Israelis in this country who actually care about instilling in their children a sense of national and Jewish identity have to send their children to religious schools in order for them to receive the most rudimentary education. We know an exceptionally nice secular Israeli couple who live in our neighborhood, and run a food store in Modiin, and they told us that even though they are not religious, they feel that they need to transfer their children from the secular school to a religious one because their teenagers’ faces were blank when you ask them who were Golda Meir and David Ben Gurion.  So again, what exactly are we doing RIGHT in this country that entitles us to hold on to it? We [and I am talking about the majority of Israelis] don’t turn up to vote for elections; we try to mollify the Arab world at the heavy cost of our own security and soldiers’ lives; we are constantly and futilely seeking the approval of other governments; we are apathetic and indifferent about what is going on this country, and instead fantasize about green cards and ways of leaving the country. By giving up on Gaza, we have shattered the ideals and hope of the young settlers whose passion has been extinguished, and who have become old and burnt out overnight. So what do we do as a response to the upheaval and psychological trauma that has afflicted our country? Do we learn from our mistakes? Do we avoid the pitfalls that were responsible for our downfall? No. That would be too logical. We are talking of giving up the Golan, going back and repeating our mistakes, resulting potentially in more bedlum, more chaos, and ultimately, the downfall of our country. The Jews of Sderot are suffering on a daily basis, and instead of providing them with refuge and support, the government is encouraging them to stay put. On Friday night, when we were discussing the situation over Challah and chummus, as Jews are wont to do, Josh said that the Jews of Sderot ought to stop paying their taxes as a way of protecting themselves. That way, the police will arrive on their doorsteps, arrest them, and they will find themselves in the haven of a police cell, where at least they are safe from rockets.

When you take a look at the insanity in Israel, it is all too easy to throw your hands up in the air, and say: What can we do? We are totally and utterly powerless. The government is doing nothing to protect us. Lives have been lost and terrorized in vain. What can we, as individuals, do to effect positive change? The best course of action might very well seem to be to pack one’s bags, and leave. But for all those people who have made Aliyah to Israel, who have thrown in their lot with the Jewish people, for better for worse, I don’t think we left behind our families, our cushy jobs, our luxuries, to give up that easily. I think that apathy is a luxury that we can’t afford, and that small steps, even though they may seem to be inconsequential, can go a long way in boosting our individual, and ulimately collective, morale.

Josh’s aunt was telling us about the organization VAT (Victims of Arab Terror) that provide financial and emotional support to those people who were either directly affected by terror, or who have lost family members to terrorist attacks. She told me that she was feeling a similar sense of malaise, but that she heard about this organization, and decided to attend an event in which victims of terror gathered to share their stories. People whose lives were torn apart, people who lost limbs in terrorist attacks, who lost their children, who had every reason to give up on life and humanity, were sharing their stories, but were living and breathing testimony to the enduring strength of the human spirit. They were not bitter or angry or despondent, nor did they talk about leaving the country. They talked about the miracles, the beauty of Israel, and the hopes for better times. I was deeply moved by her description of the event, and it made me feel that perhaps there is something we can do. You just have to be able to push aside the all-consuming feelings of frustration at the country, and focus on helping people in whatever way you can – whether it be someone in the street, opening up your home to Jews from Sderot, or donating money to worthy causes in Israel. There is always something you can do.

Period suppression pills – what will the rabbis say?

In medical news, women around the globe might be interested to hear about a new birth control pill which the FDA has just approved: Lybrel is the first pill that is supposed to put an end to women’s menstrual periods INDEFINITELY. No one can dispute the benefits of such a pill for many women whose lives are turned upside down once a month at the onset of a period, but the question that is preying on my mind relates to the halachic ramifications of taking such a pill.

Taharat HaMishpacha is a mitzva, a commandment, that is given to women. For two weeks of the month, at the onset of a woman’s period, a married couple are supposed to refrain from physical contact. During this time, a woman is considered to be a “niddah,” meaning “to be separate.” Seven days following the end of her period, a woman immerses herself in a mikvah, a ritual bath, after which time she can resume physical contact with her husband. These laws of family purity are designed to enhance the physical and spiritual relationship between a married man and woman.  

I am wondering what the rabbis will say about the permissibility of taking such a pill that will suppress the period, thereby rendering the laws of family purity irrelevant. Although taking birth control pills is not ordinarily permissible according to the Jewish law, exceptions are frequently made when couples are not capable, for either emotional or financial reasons, of having more children at that stage of their lives. But I can’t imagine what the Jewish Orthodox perspective would be regarding a pill that puts an end to the menstrual cycle altogether.

Any thoughts?