Preparations

Tomorrow night it begins– Rosh HaShana, the New Year. And, as usual, it will be a busy and full holiday with my son and his 6 children staying with us, with both daughters and their families joining us for a meal each, not to mention the 3rd of our 2 daughters and her family who will join us also for a meal.

I actually enjoy cooking and when I designed my kitchen I made sure to have a huge working area on one counter. It stretches about 7 feet long. Today I filled the entire area with flour, oil, sugar, salt , potatoes, baking soda, eggs, corn, vanilla, soy milk, margarine, a food processor, a mixer, and various measuring implements. The oven performed overtime heating one after another of the creations (challah, potato kugel, corn pudding). The fridge will soon be filled as it plays home to all of the vegetables, the defrosting turkey, and roast, and all that I’ve made today once it all cools down.

And tomorrow it will be soups (chicken and sweet potato), the turkey and the roast, probably cole slaw and potato salad, and of course all of the salad vegetables. Then it’s opening out the table, setting it, making up all of the beds, and general cleanup.

It all seemed overwhelming until I had a realization: We are celebrating the creation of the world. I can’t help thinking of all of the preparation G-d had to do for Rosh HaShana. There was the heaven and the earth to create, the lights (sun and moon), the seas, the plants and trees, the fish and the birds, and humankind. … and I think that I have a lot to attend to?

Instead, I think I will say that He did an excellent job, with only a short amount of time to work with. Sure there were areas that could have used more thought (teeth and feet come to mind) and there’s that whole nine months of pregnancy thing not to mention other womanly issues, but all and all, job well done! The blue sky- gorgeous, the cleansing, life-giving rains- brilliant, the variety of flowers, trees, bushes- exquisite, the ability to give and receive love with family members and friends- perfection.

I remember reading e. e. cummings who said:
I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes.

Shana Tovah– may you and your family have a healthy, happy, new year!

Today, it rained

Somehow, that doesn’t make headlines in the US, but when you live in the middle of a desert, the first rain of the season is always big news. On the Israel bulletin boards, on facebook, people are celebrating the rain. It occurred for the first time when I was in the supermarket. I heard people talking about rain, but when I looked outside, it was sunny and bright. As I headed for the bakery, the security guard at the bank, with whom I have a relationship that goes something like “Shabbat Shalom” and “Chag Sameach” [Good Sabbath" and "Happy Holiday"] told me “It rained!” I looked at the sky. I looked at the dry ground, and I said, “I don’t believe you.” He said, “Yes, really, only a for a minute or two, but it rained!”

I walked out to the open area where a book sale was in progress. No sign of rain.

I walked to the car. When I got in I saw the telltale signs of an early rain– muddy spots on the windshield. The first rains catch all of the dust that has been floating in the air (and into our sinuses and lungs) all spring and summer and deposit in on our cars.

I drove home and as I entered the house, the telephone rang, “It’s pouring!!!” one of my daughters exclaimed. I didn’t believe her. The sky looked bright. But then I looked out at the glass roof of our enclosed porch and there was indeed rain dripping across it.

But within a couple of minutes, the rain was once again gone. All that was left was (yes, you guessed right) the muddy remains on our glass roof.

Rain here is really thought of as a blessing and after two dry winters, we are ready to take whatever it entails to replenish our water supplies.

So to my friends and relatives in Israel, may you have many rainy days!

More stuff

It’s another bright day. One summer, when my sister was visiting, I had the TV on and there was a weather person giving the forecast. My sister found it amusing. After all, she pointed out, what is there to say? “Hot and sunny today, sunny and hot tomorrow, outlook for the weekend, sunny and hot with hot and sunny weather predicted for the beginning of next week.” Actually, in recent years they have added that the temperatures are either “hotter than normal,” “normal, or “below normal.” Of course that presupposes that one knows what “normal” is. Here in the middle east the sun and heat are our permanent residents from some time in April or May until some time in October or November. And, as I have said in previous years, the first rainfall is met with smiles.

Our renovations have not yet begun. Two contractors have been here to see what we want done and to give us estimates on the work. Each spent a lot of time with us. One called us and said he could do parts of the work, but not all of it. The second has not gotten back to us at all. We have two more scheduled to come.

Of course with the end of the shmitta year coming up, I am very excited about the prospects of planting new flowers and shrubs and maybe even trees in our garden. The inability to improve the garden this year has left it looking kind of sad.

I also have been busy making yet another baby blanket. This one is for the adorable Mr. Elazar. The weather being what it is, I think he will be able to wait for it to be done without feeling too cold!

I am more aware than ever that I have a serious (and expensive) addiction: travel. We were away for 6 weeks and returned at the end of July. It is now the 24th of September and I really want to go away somewhere… anywhere. And the last few weeks have been anything but boring. We’ve had time with the grandchildren, visits with friends, two new little people joining the family, contact with old friends… It’s just this wanderlust that I have. I think about China and how happy I am when I am there. It is so very beautiful. I think of Vietnam and its quiet (except for Hanoi and Saigon) beauty. I think of Cambodia and the incredible temples of Angkor. And every memory makes me crave another trip even more!

Stuff

I might go on strike. I might just not write another blog post until a get another few people to go on my trip to Vietnam and Cambodia. So get working, people!

In other news… Last night Ariel celebrated his 11th birthday with much fanfare and fireworks. He had 20 of his nearest and dearest friends over for a movie and pizza. We, the old folks, sat outside on the front steps for the duration of the movie. With us were Ariel’s 3 little sisters and his tiny little brother (the aforementioned Elazar). With us also was one of Ariel’s friends who apparently found Ariel’s sister Tamar much more interesting than the movie. Tamar is 7 years old and has such sparkle in her that it may actually be that rooms light up when she walks in. We all knew that the boys would find her something special, but we never thought that it would happen by age 7.

And moving from the sublime to the ridiculous… Why is it that men think that when they are in their car no one can see them picking their noses? I think about 50% of the time I am stopped at a light next to a man, he is so engaged. Today, one was sitting in our local supermarket parking lot, totally oblivious… I ask my husband (who does NOT pick his nose) why. He said, “because men only have two hands.” which led me to ask, “and what are they doing with their other hand?” at which point he grinned…

OK, we’ve been married 42 years and so we get each other’s jokes. If you didn’t, it really doesn’t matter.

It’s still hot and the holidays are around the corner– so off to all of the work I’ve been avoiding. And once more, repeat after me: “Vietnam & Cambodia, November 24″

Vietnam & Cambodia

Friends-

We have a great trip coming up to Vietnam and Cambodia. What we don’t have is great advertising.

If all you know about Vietnam is from “Platoon” and other films about the war, then you would be very surprised by what you can find there. It is a country that has majestic mountains, verdant rice terraces, colorful ethnic minorities, beautiful beach resorts, bustling cities, and an ancient culture. We board a boat to see Halong Bay, one of the most beautiful places in the world. We see river life along the Mekong Delta. And to cap the trip, we will see the magnificent buildings of Angkor and Angkor Wat. It is an unforgettable experience!

If you know anyone who might be interested in one of the most fascinating destinations there is, please let them know that this is a trip that they will never forget. The pictures from our last trip are at this location.

Although this is a kosher, sabbath observant trip, Jewish people who are not religiously observant and people who are not Jewish would feel very comfortable with us.

I am happy to answer any questions about the trip at my email address which is the name of the blog at gmail. — or via leaving a comment

His name is Elazar

and the pictures from today can be found at this link

It was great having the family together!

Who’s afraid of Sarah Palin?

I’m trying to understand it. I’m trying to understand why people are so frightened by Sarah Palin. Because I can only think that fear is driving otherwise rational people to write and speak in ways they themselves never would have dreamed they would.

I remember when Barry Goldwater was running for president. All of the people I knew were convinced that if he won, we would have a nuclear war. No one trashed him, mocked him, or denigrated him the way they are doing it to Sarah Palin. I don’t get it.

I don’t get that if she made a personal decision to continue a pregnancy with a child with disabilities that that means she would force others to make the same choice. She never said that. She never tried to impose her will on others. In fact, in good feminist tradition, she took control of her own body and decided what she wanted to do. Isn’t that “choice?”

But that isn’t the only thing people are angry at. They have hundreds of justifications for why she is unfit. I remember a long time ago one of my professors taught us that one reason is sufficient– and if there are a large number of reasons, then we call that rationalization.

What do *I* think? I am not sure it matters at all, except when I vote. I can tell you this: I am not afraid of Sarah Palin. I actually think that she is refreshingly real. And she surely is not what those who fear her make her out to be. If I were going to rant, she wouldn’t be the one I would rant about.

…and sometimes, just like that, He changes His mind

I have seen a decent number of films in my life. One of them that became iconic for me was “The Frisco Kid.” In it, a young, somewhat foolish, certainly naive new rabbi is sent by his eastern European yeshiva to serve a congregation in San Francisco. Our hero, played by Gene Wilder, arrives in the US in Philadelphia and the film covers his journey across the US where he meets the Amish (and thinks they are chassidim), a thief (Harrison Ford), and Indians, among others. He has many adventures.

At one point, the Indians, having decided that he was worthy of continuing to live because of his courage in preserving his sefer torah, ask him to ask his G-d to make it rain. It seems there has been a very long drought and they have prayed and danced and drummed, all to no avail. Our hero says, “My G-d doesn’t work like that,” meaning that he did not believe that his prayers would produce the much desired rain on demand. They insist he pray. He responds again, “My G-d doesn’t work like that” and then the heavens open up and the rain begins to fall- lots of it- and the people are ecstatic, and our hero says “…and sometimes, just like that, He changes His mind.”

I think of that whenever I am in a situation that seems hopeless. Things are not going well and despite a lot of effort, nothing seems to help. And then, all of a sudden, things get better. It happens to therapy clients. It happens to people in interpersonal relationships. It happens to people who are learning to do something that is awkward and difficult and then suddenly, it is second nature.

Life seems sometimes to offer discontinuous results. Things pop out of the air– things that one might have wished or hoped or prayed or worked hard for- and suddenly, at the most unexpected time, they happen. Good things.

Each year, just before Rosh HaShana I try to think of what I would like to wish those I love. Maybe this year, it be that these types of wonderful surprises will happen for them.

If my life were a Hallmark film

The film could open with the caption “September 10, 1972 — Fort Campbell, Kentucky”

We would be sitting around the kitchen table:
my husband in uniform

Benjy, blond haired, sparkling blue-eyed, inquisitive, 5 years old
Rachel, long silky haired, always busy, bubbly, full of laughter, 3 years old
Shmuly, curly brown-haired, devilish grinned, very cuddlesome, almost 2 years old
Akiva, blond haired, blue eyed baby, 5 months old

My husband would say to me, “Happy Birthday!” and I would look around the table and feel totally blessed. And he would say, “Now what do you wish for?”

And I would answer, “I want all of these children to have wonderful happy, healthy lives and to grow up and do meaningful things– to be kind to each other and to other people- to be sensitive and caring.

And he would say, “But for yourself…”

And I would say, “I want to live to see them grow up to adulthood.”

And he would say, “What would be your wildest dream?”

And I would say, “OK, I want to live to see Akiva’s wife give birth to their 6th child”

And he would laugh. And I would laugh, looking at our tiny baby.

And then the film would fade to today– and we would be picking up the phone and hearing,

“It’s a boy!”

Parents and children

One of the things I like to do is to listen to Garrison Keillor and “Prairie Home Companion.” I love the wholesome (for the most part) Americana. I enjoy his story telling and the skits. Last night I was listening to a recent show and he ended it with singing “I still can’t say goodbye.” The song really touched me and so I found it on YouTube and listened a couple more times to let whatever it was that I was feeling wash over me.

What I was feeling was a longing for my father. I think it’s true that I still can’t say goodbye. He was a good man. He was gentle and loving. He taught me a lot about life. He was very deep and thoughtful. And I miss him. And yes, I still can’t say goodbye even though he’s been gone for 23 years.

I made me think about this: all of the time i was raising my children, I never felt as if I was very important in their lives. I knew they needed me physically to take care of them. They needed me to wash their clothes and make their meals and to buy them the things they needed– but I never had the sense that on a deep level they really needed me or even loved me. And they were good kids– every one of them. They were bright and clever and even mostly obedient. Yet I never had the feeling that I was all that important to them as a person beyond providing what they needed.

Did my father feel that way about me? Did my mother? For as difficult a person as she was, she was enormously important to me. Despite her moods and her critical manner, all I wanted was her approval and her love. If she was angry with me, the whole world looked gray. If she was happy, I was elated. Did she know how much power she had?

Do any of us parents really know how important we are to our children?