Boom!

Yesterday, I was taking my daughter and her children home to their home in Modiin. She lives on a street that is more like a boulevard that has the traffic in either direction separated by parks, a school, and a shopping center– in between the two directions so that each direction of traffic is on the equivalent of a one way street. Each side has two lanes for traffic and a third lane where there is parking.

I had parked in a parking space. I looked out of my side view mirror and saw there was no traffic, so I got out of the car. I then went to the back door of the car to unlatch and get my 2 year old grandson out of his car seat (his sister was in a car seat on the other side). I once again looked to see there was no traffic and opened the passenger door and leaned in to unhook him.

Suddenly I heard a large bang. I saw debris on the street and then I realized that it was not from my car, but from a car that had hit my car. I noted that there was no other traffic on the street, including the left lane, the entire time from when I initially got out of my car until after the other driver had gotten out of his car after he hit my car.

My first reaction was disbelief.

I gathered up the debris which turned out to be pieces of his car mirror that had flown off after the impact.

The man stopped some distance in front of my car and got out of his car. He seemed dazed. I believe he was carrying a cell phone. I handed him the parts of his mirror that I had gathered up and noticed that his car had scratches in a line from about the front of the front door back.

We exchanged information and he told me that I should not have been in the street. He said he was in a hurry and would call me later.

When he left, I got my grandson out and gave him to my daughter who took him and her daughter to her house.

I tried to close my left-hand passenger door, but it would not close. I saw that in addition to the curved area at the edge of the door, it had another dent toward the front and it was jammed under the driver’s door.

I decided to drive home which was about 6 blocks away. Then we called the insurance office for further instructions.

My husband took the car to the Toyota dealer and after he had returned, the man who hit me called me to ask for insurance information which I gave him. He tried to tell me that I should not have been in the street. I did not argue with him.

About an hour later, we received a call from a “private number” from a man who said he was calling on behalf of the driver. I believe it was a different voice. He was talking very fast and sounded very angry and I was scared so I put my husband on the phone. He asked my husband repeatedly for our address. My husband told him that the vehicle was not here. He still badgered him for the address. My husband did not give it to him. He told my husband he was going to report me to the police. He continued talking and finally my husband hung up. He has not called back, but we both found the call very upsetting.

I have a few responses to the whole incident:

1. I am grateful that I was not killed. I imagine the space between me and death was only a single number of inches.

2. I am even more grateful that my grandson was still safely belted into his seat and that he wasn’t hurt (or even traumatized!)

3. I think that people should look where they are driving. I believe that the person behind the wheel has a responsibility to look in front of his/her car to avoid hitting other cars or people.

4. I resent that I, the victim, have to be defensive. The man at the car dealer told my husband that people are not supposed to get out on the street side of the car. Virtually every car in this country has bucket seats. I don’t recall ever seeing a driver enter or exit an accessible vehicle from the passenger seat.

5. If the car door police do come and get me, I hope they put me into a Norwegian jail.

Ooof!

One of the things that people learn when they move to a new country with a new language is that exclamations differ from those they were raised with. In English, pain evokes an “ouch!” In Hebrew, it’s “Ay-ah!” Frustration in Hebrew evokes an “Ooof!” I’ll admit it; I forgot the English.

So why am I frustrated? It actually has to do with the fact that there is so much right with my life these days. I am feeling healthy, have kept off the weight I lost, and have no problem maintaining a healthy diet. We recently witnessed the graduation from high school of our oldest granddaughter and the awarding of a PhD to our son-in-law. My husband and I had a great honeymoon getaway for our 45th anniversary, and our children invited us to a wonderful dinner celebration in its honor, bringing along a nice sampling of well-behaved gorgeous grandchildren. We are in a state of high preparation for the tour we are leading to Vietnam and Cambodia and are looking forward to a week of fun in Thailand on our way back. In the fall, after the holidays, we’ll be taking a trip to the US and when we get back, I’ll be teaching marriage and family therapy once again. And then, best of all, we prepare for my sister’s aliya!

The blessing of a beautiful garden in Israel, filled with gorgeous plants and fruit trees brings with it the worry of the health of our gorgeous plum tree that has been attacked by some type of a worm. The blessing of a great apartment that we are renting out brings with it the work of cleaning it thoroughly between occupants. The blessing of being close to our children brings day to day discussions and concerns about the types of issues that remote grandparents never hear of.

So why am I frustrated?

I guess it’s because I wish I could split myself in two or three or four in order to give adequate time and attention to all of the wonderful people and things in my life.

I worry about letting people down.

Ooof!

Click on pictures for full images!

I don’t like to talk about what I don’t like to talk about

When we lived in Germany, we watched the AFRTS (Armed Forces Radio and TV Services) network which broadcast US TV shows and had no commercial content. They did, however, screen all sorts of public service announcements, and among them was a series of ads about prejudice. In them they asked children questions about prejudice. In one, they asked a little girl what she thinks of prejudice and she answered, “I don’t like to talk about what I don’t like to talk about.”

That line has stuck with me all this time and seems particularly apt for this blog post.

I was talking to one of my daughters about thoughts I have been having lately about getting older and what that means to me, how it changes how I view the world. I told her that no one ever writes about this because it’s too depressing. She said to me that she noticed that no one ever writes about menopause because that too remains a subject that women don’t want to talk about.

So here it is.

Menopause seems like a walk in the park compared to issues of growing older, so I will tackle that one first.

The information I had when I was in my late 30s was limited and frankly frightening. There was a long list of symptoms that one may have including heavy bleeding, night sweats, depression, rage– all sorts of mood issues and possible vulnerability to psychosis. From my point of view, it seemed a lot like a mini-death. After all, it seemed as if everything was going to go haywire.

Now I have never done a survey and since most women don’t talk about their experience, I cannot tell you what other people report, but for me, aside from a couple of years of heavy and unpredictable periods (which by the way, could have been made much less unpleasant had there been yoatzot at that time who could have told me that much of what I was concerned about was not relevant) and hot flashes, I had no symptoms.

The heavy bleeding was not fun. Once when I was giving a workshop on “The Uses of Humor and Metaphor in Therapy” in San Antonio, I was forced to sit behind a desk rather than stand while speaking as a veritable tidal wave hit. Experiences at work when I bled through onto my chair were less than pleasant. Finally, the doctor insisted on an endometrial biopsy which was a real experience. I was lying in that most unflattering position on his examination table as he stuck what felt like a hot poker into my uterus. It was so hot and shocking that I all of a sudden started to panic. I was blind!! I couldn’t see anything. And then I realized that my eyes were closed. When I opened them my vision returned. It turned out the pain was only momentary. When later he gave me pills to induce what he called “a chemical D&C” he told me to be prepared for a flood. In fact, that was not an understatement. The one good thing that came out of it (yes, indeed, something good resulted) was that at the time I was working full time and also trying to rewrite my dissertation, adding charts and case material that didn’t appear in what had been my final draft. I had to remain 5 steps from the bathroom for 3 days and I was able to stay home and finish my dissertation. After that there was still heavy bleeding from time to time, but I wasn’t worried about it enough to go through all of that again. And then, finally, the bleeding stopped and never returned. I don’t miss it.

Oh, the hot flashes. Well, they bothered me a lot less once I thought of them as power surges and I began to find them mildly amusing. All of a sudden I was like one of those space heaters who sit there innocently quiet and sedate until suddenly the coils turn bright orange and everyone nearby begins to feel flushed. Except, this time, it was only I who was feeling flushed. And just as there is no control over when that coil becomes orange, there is no control over when the surges come. Sometimes it was several times an hour, sometimes, only a few times a day. Over the years, they are farther and farther apart.

Of course it did make for some interesting experiences like when I would be teaching and would say to the room full of Orthodox women studying family therapy, “Is it hot in the room, or is it me?” Most of the time, it was me.

But even more interesting was when I taught a group of Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox men, most of whom were rabbis, family therapy. Since they take only single gender classes, they usually have male instructors, but because of my qualifications, a special exception was made for me to teach them. Now informality between men and women is not something one is likely to find when you have a group of dark-suited, bearded, Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men, so there were situations that were unusual. As we would sit behind the two way mirror and watch one of the men work with clients, we were sitting in the dark, a bunch of men and I, most likely making them far more uncomfortable than it was making me. When issues related to counseling women came up, I was able to teach them a lot about women that they had never known. Unfortunately, strict gender separation leaves men pretty clueless about women.

So, when I asked them one day, “Is it warm in here or am I having a hot flash?” I was pleased to note that none of them fainted and happy that I had added to their store of knowledge about women. I guess I got a bit of a kick out of the looks of shock on their faces.

In short, my experience with menopause was not nearly as bad as I had feared. I lived through it and life on the other side is pretty terrific. I would love to hear other women’s experiences.

…but do they know we love them?

Sometimes when I write, it’s only when I see people’s reactions that I realize what I’ve said. The responses to my last post were all different and reflected what they meant to the people who read the piece.

The more I think about it, the more I wonder how it is that we convey what we feel to those we love. Of course kind words, gentle touch, and thoughtful deeds, help, support, and caring all are important, but why is it that sometimes it doesn’t seem as if the message gets through.

“If he really loved me, he’d say he loves me,” the young wife said to me in my office one day.
“Do you love her?” I asked him.
“Of course I do,” he answered.
“Can you tell her?” I asked.
“I love you,” he said.
“He only said that because you told him to,” she said.

Is there anything he can do to get the message across? If she says that his washing the dishes would show he loves her and he washes the dishes, will she say, “but he’s only doing that because you told him to.”

So I leave the question open. How do we let those we love know that we love them in a way that they will understand? How can we do what they want us to do to prove it without their devaluing the effort?

Is knowing that you are loved something that only happens when you have been loved and cherished as an infant? Is that necessary? Is it sufficient? For others does it take lots of years and shared experiences?

Examining our tortoise pictures in the Galapagos

What are your thoughts?

…but do they know?

Yesterday I was talking to someone who is visiting Israel on one of those programs that exist for young people. When I asked if she would be coming back to stay, she said to me, “My parents miss me.”

Ah, how tender! Her parents miss her. I am sure they do. She is a delightful person. But more important than the fact that they miss her is the fact that she knows it.

I was immediately struck by the realization that I never could have made that statement. Did my parents miss me when I was gone? Sometimes I think the happiest moments of their lives were when they were dropping me off at camp or at some weekend experience. When I returned, there was never the feeling that I had been missed. In fact, it seemed like my re-entry constituted a sort of intrusion.

Did my parents love me? I’m betting they did. My mother in her own hung-up way probably did love me. My father in his very quiet, very gentle way, I am sure loved me. But did I know it? Did I feel it?

I think about my own children. I wonder if they felt that kind of love. I wonder if they knew that I missed them when they were gone. I wonder if my oldest son knows that I cried half the night when we left him in Atlanta to attend school there. I wonder if he knew the joy I felt when he came home for weekends. I wonder if my daughter realized that the day I went to pick her up in Oklahoma City 100 miles away, when I brought her back for a surprise visit to the States, I sobbed most of the way to the airport and practically jumped out of my skin when the plane was late. I wonder about my other children too, whether they know how many times I have spent days and nights worrying about their safety as they traveled to strange places, as they served in the Army and reserves, as they traveled on dark roads past Arab villages. I wonder if they know how much I love them.

Parents’ love is strong and fierce, but sometimes our gentle, laid-back manner belies the passion we feel for the safety, well-being, and happiness of our children. How can we let them know?

It seems that some parents know how to do it. I’d like the recipe, please.

Herding cats

Imagine for a moment that you had a very small family and all you ever wanted was a big one. So, you got married and had maybe 5 children. It was fun. They were great. Yes, there were arguments and pushing and vying for attention, but in general, it was fun.

And now suppose that you had forgotten that when they grew up they would want to have families of their own. It actually never entered your mind.

And now imagine that in the blink of an eye there are something like 28 grandchildren.. maybe even a couple more… and all of a sudden, it’s not that easy to do almost anything with all of them. Oh, and along the way, the children have acquired spouses…

And now, let’s say you wanted to get a picture of all of them.

Um, you get the picture. Only I didn’t. Watch the following to see people disappear and reappear. Guess how many are missing the day of the picture taking and how many are hiding or are blocked in each picture.*

Yep. Herding cats.

Oh, there are more, but you get the point…

*The winner gets to be the photographer the next time.

Waiting…

I have a firm belief that you never know how something will be until you experience it. I can give you quite a few examples– from decisions that abstractly seemed simple and when in the situation, the decision was also clear, but in the other direction– or my preconception of what a new place would be like when we were given an assignment by the Army to an area across the ocean or across the country.

Now usually, I try to keep my family out of my posts. I prize their privacy and therefore they do not appear prominently in my postings, but this time, I am making an exception.

I moved to Israel in 1995. My only close family member aside from my husband and my children and their families is my sister. She lives in the US. Wherever we were on our far-flung adventures in living in 18 different homes since we got married, she managed to visit us. Although we are different in many ways, we always stayed close. Since I have been living in Israel, my sister has managed to visit us about once a year. We handled the distance well. I enjoyed her visits and tolerated the time in between. It’s been a long time that we’ve lived far away from each other, and it seemed OK.

Several months ago she told me that she has decided to make aliya, to come to live in Israel. Surprisingly enough, although I had been tolerating her absence well, from that moment, it has been hard for me to wait until her expected date of arrival. Recently she visited. Discussing the nuts and bolts of her aliya was amazing. It became more and more real to me that she really is coming. I must have said to her about a hundred times, “when you are living here, we can…”

When I said goodbye to her this time, it felt good to know that this was the last time that we would be living separated by an ocean.

And I think back to that first glimpse of her when I was 4.5 years old, those big beautiful eyes looking out at me from a bundle of blankets, my long awaited sister, coming home at last. And now I look forward once again to greeting my long awaited sister, coming home at last.
Whn

I’m an enabler

OK, I admit it. My husband has a habit and I am the enabler.

I get him his supplies.

I make excuses for why he’s not available.

It’s been going on for years.

It makes him happy.

He says he’ll stop, and I believe him.

His habit: He studies Daf Yomi. Each day he studies a page of Talmud. He’s been doing this for over five years.

I print up his calendars for him so that he doesn’t lose track of which page he’s on. Sometimes I take pictures of the pages of the Talmud and put them on my computer so that when we are on vacation he doesn’t have to carry the heavy volumes along with us and still can study.

When he is studying and people call, I tell them he can’t come to the phone because he is busy.

I support him because this study makes him happy.

And when he does finish,in about a year and a half, I think just as the women whose husbands get Ph.D.s have been known to receive a PHT degree (putting hubby through) I deserve a PHTDY. And I’m guessing there lots more women who also qualify– every one of them enablers.

Don’t do it!

Today I was waiting for my husband and I was sitting across the room from two young people. I am guessing that they were about 15 years old. They were a boy and a girl. I watched as the girl kept leaning forward, placing her face under his face. She would move closer and then closer yet. She kissed him and moved back and then moved forward again, placing her face under his once again. At one point he stood up and moved to a position farther from where she was sitting. He sat down and in no time, there she was, moving in on him- once again touching him and placing herself very close to his face.

And all I could think was, “Don’t do it!” I wanted to tell her that she is a lovely looking girl. She has so much that she can accomplish in her life. But the message that she was giving to this boy and the world in general is that she is so hungry for affirmation from a boy that she has no problem with practically assaulting him in public.

I felt so very sad for her. I thought about what her future might be like. At this rate, she could be pregnant by 16 and opportunities for her own development as a person will be limited. Poverty may follow. And what does she have to give to the next generation?

And coincidentally it is international women’s day. What message do we really need to give to young women?

We need to teach our daughters and granddaughters that it’s a big world full of wonderful opportunities. The time for romance and marriage and children comes later, but first they need to devote themselves to developing as people. They need to discover their interests and expand their capabilities. They need to learn what their particular talents are and then to nourish them and enjoy them. They need to learn about how to have healthy relationships, based on shared values and not just perceptions of “coolness” or appreciation of someone’s looks. Friendships between boys and girls, in my book, are just fine. But things need to be kept light and friendly. They don’t need to rush. They are going to be adults hopefully for a long, long time.

Time for a rant

First of all, I believe that people have a right to make choices, so anyone who doesn’t agree with me has every right to his/her opinion and I am not trying to reshape the world in my image.

So here’s what is driving me up the wall…

It’s the increasing separation between the genders that is going on in Judaism. I happen to feel very comfortable with that separation in a synagogue, assuming that the mechitza allows women to feel that they are part of the service, but I really don’t like the growing trend. It started, at least in my mind, with women getting together to study on shabbat at mincha time when the men were at the synagogue. Although there were always women’s organizations, now there are lessons, psalm groups, dramatic presentations, musical plays, etc. for women only to attend.

Here’s my problem: In the olden days when the men used to go out and play poker with their friends or bowling or to lodge activities (like Masons and Lions Club), women resented being such a minor part of their husbands’ lives. Now, women are invited to be out of the house in the evenings and spend their leisure time with other women and, most importantly, without their husbands.

I’m sorry. I married my husband so that we could share life. I don’t enjoy running out and doing every possible thing I can to stay away from him. He is the one I want to spend my life with. But now that has become an impediment to my being part of the community where the norm is to take part in women’s activities.
Climbing Pre Rup in Cambodia with my husband

I do think that women can and should enjoy each other’s company. We share struggles and challenges with each other and help each other in practical ways as well. However, I think it is a mistake to have women’s primary leisure activities being in the company of other women and excluding their husbands. I think it has negative implications for marriage and family life.

Let’s face it, family life is not always a bed of roses. Couples disagree about childrearing, household chores, finances, and a myriad of other things. One ingredient of the glue that keeps them together and happy is that precious leisure time when they can just “be”– when they can enjoy talking with each other or together taking a walk or reading or watching a video or listening to music. Shared experiences build positive feelings. For healthy family life, there need to be a sufficient number on an ongoing basis. Siphoning off a significant amount of time to same gender activities just doesn’t seem healthy.

But that’s just me. Feel free to disagree.