Thursday, October 19, 2017

Know thy self, know thy mother

Today at shower time Sroch is running around the house , waiting to do anything but take a shower, stalling, generally freaking out. "My heart is so angry but my head doesn't agree!" … Okay kid. "AHHHH!" 

She scampered away again, and then comes back and hollers and living room where I am sitting in trying not to bemoan the fact she's way too big for me to just throw into the shower, and she yells - "I DON'T GET IT!! Why do I have to make such a fuss about taking a shower?!?!"

...I don't know kid. But we keep asking.... And that's kind of what adolescence is, figuring yourself out , getting yourself. And we are most assuredly in adolescence!

You'll get it, Sroch.


I'm in the car going to pick up Shulamis from school cause she got braces today (!), and I'm enjoying the radio...

I'm singing along- "You are the sun, you are the rain..." you know the Lionel Richie song...

And Llama gets in the car and I turn to her and am singing the song to her now... 

So of course I'm now too choked up to sing cause I love her so much it's unbelievable. 

And she's like: 
"Mommy, is that Sesame Street you're listening to? Cause you're crying."

She gets me :)

Monday, August 28, 2017

Packing, Houston and Elul

I've been thinking about packing.

I read a Houstonians rabbi's pre-shabbos advice to his community of what to pack up safely in advance of Harvey hitting: homeowner and insurance documents for example (I would have included your kesuba), passports and the like. And then now of course, watching countless rescues of people from their flooded homes and the one or two bags they bring with them - you have to wonder what is in them.

And I am here, on my international trip, wondering if all our things will fit in four overstuffed pieces of luggage. So many things which up to a few days ago were not even 'our' things, but things sitting on shelves in Target or gift shops in Banff.

Less than a month ago was Tisha B'av, where we remember countless, countless stories of our fellow yidden fleeing with few things, or no things at all. How a single photograph preserved was a miracle, to say nothing of tfillin.

And I was thinking about packing.

What is really important?

What would you take with you?

At the end of the day it's crystal clear, the only important thing is our own safety. You get your family to safety and that is all that matters. Houses can (and for countless Houstonians and others, must) be replaced. Stuff too. Oh, if you had the time and the ability, if you had to run for safety you'd grab those most expensive, hard-to-replace things (jewelry, passports, wallets, phones, computers, maybe a photograph or a dozen, etc) but that would be a luxury. Insurance and time can replace most things, and losing photographs doesn't mean those things didn't happen, or those people never were.

And now it's Elul. This is the time of year set aside for our self-inventory, of seeing what indeed we take with us, and trying to see past those things we clutter up our selves with.

And we go home in a few days, and we need to Pack, to pack all these wonderful Things We Have, be they necessary or not, sentimental or not, lasting or fleeting (like some we're just going to eat, yum).

And I am endlessly grateful that I have the absurd privilege of having all this Stuff. I am blessed, I am blessed, I am blessed.

But I hope I can keep a perspective of what is important to Take With Me this trip... this Elul... this life.

And I can't stop watching the news, checking in with my family and friends in Houston, worrying about them... and being so grateful that they are safe, safe, safe.

Most things in life we stress about are just Stuff.

That we live, that we can go on to do good unto others and serve God... that is the most important thing to carry with us.

The same rabbi who advised his congregants what to pack up for the storm has also said (I cannot find the source now) that it may be time to 'resettle' his community to one that will not suffer massive destructive flooding every couple of years. I think this is wise. We Jews are no strangers to moving on.

Even if the community needs to move, they will take with them the most important things... that which makes them a community, that spirit of cohesiveness and love and serving God together.

And that is no tragedy.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Epic vacation tiyul day #5: Primark!!!!!

I don't want to take the focus away from waterfalls or nuthin, but technically we spent more time in Primark than at Bushkills or Letchworth.

I mean, priorities.

Saba and Savta didn't know what they were missing since they went home without making the Primarkage. Alas.

En route we stopped for lunch at some other -kill river. Meadowkill? Riverkill? Mosquitokill? Unknown. But my amazing husband fired up the butane stove one last time for hot Israeli soy export hot dogs and oddburgers, and coffee with the last drops of our chalav yisroel milk. We win everything.

Then home in the dark to Plainview Sweet Plainview, and our week of tiyuling was done.

...Well, that week.

We had SUCH a nice 11 days with Savta and Saba. But now... onto the next leg.

I'm back-blogging now from 34K feet up en route to Calgary.

The adventure....continues!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Epic vacation tiyul day #4: Letchworth State Park!

Basically, if it has a waterfall, we'll probably go there.

Off to the lovely Letchworth park, and while the highest Upper Falls were closed as they worked on the bridge that runs over them, the Middle and Lower Falls were open and very pleasantly accessible without hiking.

Also, we saw a cool dam. We took dam pictures. We took a dam selfie. This made me irrationally dam happy.

Yes, I'm about 12 years old.

Anyway, then a long slog drive to Binghamton for the night.

(pictures to follow)

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Epic vacation tiyul day 2: Corning!

Wherein I resisted buying Corelle. Barely.

(Pictures to follow)

Epic vacation tiyul day #3: Niagara Falls!


We slept in Buffalo, and then Tuesday morning drove over the Rainbow Bridge (drove, inched over slowly, whatever into Canadia. We parked and then went up the humungo-tower (that may not be the official name) for the Grand View (TM) of the beautiful Niagara, the water flow of one hour's worth being enough to solve all of Israel's water problems for years*.

After lunch and after contemplating the Canadian Maid of the Mist line, we went back over to the American side for the Maid of the Mist there. It was fantastic, if only to see Saba and Savta in their dashing blue plastic ponchos. 10 outta 10. 

Finally we introduced our children to 7-11, and with the help of some adroit Googling, they tasted kosher Slurpees.... and then got regular Coke for themselves. 

No accounting for taste.

(pictures to follow)

*I made up that statistic BUT I stand behind it nonetheless.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Epic vacation tiyul day 1: Bushkills State Park

Bushkill Falls in Pennsylvania!

A beautiful 72° in the afternoon. 

On behalf of Israel AND the South, harrumph.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

On the flight to Paris!

Only 11 hours since we left the house last night.... 18 hours to go..

Epic vacation, day 0

We were supposed to be on a plane now.


Long story short, Sroch's renewed Israeli passport did not arrive in time. We went to the airport, on time, relying on what others have told us that it would be okay, they would see in the computer that it was being processed, we could use the American ones, etc. etc. etc. In the end, it was a simple matter to get the form that would let us go, except waiting in line to get that form took enough time that the flight closed before we could get on it.


 After many machinations and substantial ticket change fees, we're now scheduled on a flight to New York via Paris tomorrow, getting us in a mere 12 hours after our original scheduled arrival time. Oh, and we'll have no food on the plane.

 There was no point in going home, so we have stayed in the airport to kill four hours waiting for 5 AM when we can check in.

It's 1:22 AM. Yoav and Llama are on a bench attempting to rest, Sroch is reading, and here I am . It's my shift to be awake and watch the bags. 

In general when we travel, I get a little anxious about making the flight, and I don't calm down until we're by the gate. 

This was an masterclass in not freaking out.

But it was so clear that God did not want us to be on our scheduled flight. And my children, bless their hearts, mostly took this with perfect equanimity. 

And we have so much to be grateful for. We are going after all. No one is in diapers. No one will have a tantrum because they're tired, except possibly me. Somewhere in this airport we will find kosher food to take with us and sustain us for the next 24 hours and 48 minutes until we arrive. 

And with luck, the girls will actually sleep REALLY well on the plane for the first time in their lives. 

Update, no one is sleeping. So Abba is doing some of our scheduled summer learning with them. 

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Tisha b'av: pain and glory

I have been thinking over the last 3 weeks what I wanted to write about tisha ba'av this year.

I have also been thinking, over the last 8 weeks of being sidelined, splinted, hurting from and depressed by the inflamed tendons in my arms from ukulele playing (!) about pain.

Tisha b'av is the day we cry for all the things in our history that are worthy of tears, from the root causes and huge events of our destruction and exile to the 'smaller' tragedies of individuals.

We think about certain tragedies at a great remove - like, the Spanish Inquisition, right? No one thinks that anything like that can happen again. The Jews carted off as slaves to Rome after the second Temple was destroyed - certainly, it was horrible, but it's not 'shiyach' to our generation. And of course, the massive war and genocide of the Holocaust seems like a black-and-white historical event committed by a backwards nation; now we have color film, Twitter, a Mars rover and antibiotics - impossible to happen.

And yet.
Our next door neighbor is Syria.

Next door.

And it's falling to pieces. Torture and fear and no food and no medicine and cruelties and briberies and orphans and the kind of choices we associate with black and white pictures, all live and in color in Syria.

Next door.

(I have heard it said that Syria is Milchemes Gog uMagog)

And I'm ignorant, I know, of other global tragedies in progress beyond my own 'neighborhood'. But I know they are there.


Last night I was reading To Vanquish The Dragon, surprisingly for the first time. I stayed up very late reading, then finally got up off the floor to go to bed. I was locking up the back porch door, and thinking about this illusion of security we have. In the book Pearl Benisch describes the German soldiers in Poland just breaking in to the Jews homes and assaulting them. And as I lock my gate I think, ah, but I have a gate. And we have a Jewish country, an army, and police, and more. So that would never happen again.

And then I think of Har Nof a few years ago. And I think of Chalamish, last week.

And indeed, in the times of the Beis Hamkidash, we also had a Jewish country, albeit often occupied.

And I know that when Hashem wants something to happen, gates don't matter, armies don't matter, politics don't matter.

I lock my gate anyway.


Nothing happens for no reason. With these weeks of partial-disability of my hands (you use your hands for so many things!) I have asked myself over and over, what is Hashem trying to teach me? Why is this happening? True, it has proven over and over the generosity and patience of my husband - but was that it? What message was I supposed to take from it?

Still not sure. I have some vague ideas, but still not sure.


I had so many ideas in the last three weeks of what to talk about now.

Such a strange day, this bubble of time when we cry over the millions and millions of hurts and attacks, physical and spiritual, of thousands of years.

Such a strange thing, that despite that bubble last night I still had my girls and their friends working on making play slime here for the tisha b'av camp they are running right now. Playing with goo, trying to remember the somber nature of the night, but still having fun.

Such a strange thing, that tomorrow (!) we leave for our long-awaited epic vacation, so between thoughts of the day and our sorrows, I have thoughts of packing and planning. I always like to clean on tisha b'av afternoon to prepare for Mashiach, but this time it will be also be cleaning up for those using our apartment while we're away.

It's a strange day. It's a pain-filled day. But it has its glory.

Every day we must remember leaving Egypt, we have a mitzva to do so. To remember that God redeemed us then. And to believe he will redeem us again.

We may not be en masse physically tortured or enslaved like in some generations. But we are sorely in need of redemption nonetheless. We have our own tortures, less evident, but very much there.

Tisha b'av is when we cry for all the pain, all the hurt, all the cruel realities. It is when we can yell to God, Abba, look at us, it hurts!! It hurts! 

It hurts so much.

Physical pain, spiritual desolation, emotional distress, trauma, twisted relationships, abuse, aloneness, ignorance, confusion, hunger, illness. Fear. Dread. Pain.



So I realize I have no clue how big a nation we are. We're researching stuff for our trip, and I found a map of bungalow colonies and summer camps in upstate NY. There are tons of them. I have no concept of how large the Jewish nation is. Israel is so small, and despite the millions of people here everyone seems to know someone who knows anyone. And I'm from Houston, where we really did know everyone. So I'm trying to wrap my head around how big our nation is.

That is so many people to share our pain. So many people's pain to share.

But we do it, and especially today.

If we are doing our jobs properly as Jews, then yes, we share our pains, since we are all one people.

And specifically because there are so many of us, that's why we need tisha b'av to cry. It would be too much to cry every day.


Back to my arms... During the first couple weeks, the discomfort and restriction of my hands was like a black cloud over me. Everything my entire day was affected by it. Eating was hard. Cooking food, not an option. I contemplated drinking less so I wouldn't have to deal with the restroom. Holding my daughters hands while we said shema - hard.  Doing their hair, nope. Washing dishes - heck, I'm still not washing dishes. Sleeping was even a challenge, since my arms were all trussed up in splints (still doing that). (In fact, typing this I've taken off my splint like 4 times, since typing on my home computer in a split is hard - but if I take it off it's uncomfortable.)

Eventually I recovered a healthier outlook on things (and stopped being quite as physically restricted) and I manged to lift that cloud a bit. But that I had to make the effort, and that it took so long, really surprised me.

Mourning is a process. Mourners will tell you that they never 'forget' the pain of what they have lost - it's just kinda there with you all the time.

Now, I cannot complain. This arm-episode for me has been such a blip on the radar, such a minor thing compared to other medical issues people face, and IY"H I will continue to recover and put it behind me soon.

But coming back to tisha b'av... so many mourners. So many sorrows. Their pain could crush them.

And so we share it.

That is the gift Hashem has given us with tisha b'av, a day where we as a people cry out about our collective pain.

And that is the glory of tisha b'av, that we are the kind of people for whom another's pain is as real to us as our own.

I wasn't in the Holocaust. My side of the family has no one who was even involved, except my grandfather as a captured American soldier; horrible, but not the same.

I wasn't in the Spanish Inquisition.

And I wasn't in either Beis Hamikdash.

But today I cry for all of those things. For what we suffered, as individuals. For what we lost, as a people together. For the collective breakdown in our relationship with God. And in hope for the renewal of all things, and our redemption.


I have now moved off to the floor, to my desk and chair.

My house is quiet. Yoav is still in shul.

Outside I hear children playing. I hear a couple of IDF planes fly by.

Sroch and Llama are in the next building, running a kaitana  with two friends for 12 (!) little kids. They have two more hours to go.

Sroch is 11... she has been fasting since last night, but planned to break it at chatzos, about fifteen minutes ago.

Both girls keep talking about how we may miss our trip because mashiach is coming today. They have no doubts. No questions. They honestly would prefer our redemption and the third Beis Hamikdash to any proposed vacation or treat.

May that hope, that belief, that love of God and trust in him also be shared throughout our nation, and may indeed we miss that flight tomorrow because the airport is clogged with millions of Jews coming home to our redeemed land, amen.

PS- nice article on Israel's humanitarian efforts in Syria

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Cleaning up

I was tired today.

You know how it is. You sleep a lot on Shabbos, so Saturday night you don't sleep well, and then Sunday you're tired. 

 Also I had a long day at work and then I had my ukulele lesson, which was fantabulous and amazing and emotional but still left me a little drained and tired afterwards. 

 Homework. Dinner. More homework. More homework. Showers. Bedtime.

And now it's time to clean up , something I've needed to do every night for the last, say, 11 years.

And I'm just so grateful… Because what am I cleaning up?

Chumashim and neviim from homework.

Returned test papers with perfect and nearly perfect scores.

Placemats From dinner… Because the dishes were cleared by the girls to eat off of them. 

Piles and piles of borrowed books because my children love to read. 

Calvin and Hobbes on the couch because my children love to laugh. 

A sfiras haomer calendar, because my children love to do mitzvos.

Clean sheets to fold, because we had guests. 

A computer to put away, because we were able to Skype with grandparents. 

I am so blessed. So blessed, and so thankful.

....I still don't wanna clean up :)

Friday, March 10, 2017

Easiest morning rush ever

Can we have costume day once a week???

Note my bonny bonny Llama of Loch MacDruyan and my own namesake, Miriam.

Erev Purim Sameach!