Slow motion

At times when I am very busy, when the tendency is to become unsettled, upset, panicked, I employ a coping mechanism that works for me. I think the idea actually came from the opening of the old TV show, the Six Million Dollar Man. Whichever show it was showed someone running very fast, but in slow motion. He’s making all of the rapid moves, but slowly.

I picture that slow running man when I am in situations that require a lot of thinking and a high level of activity. I picture myself slowing down, taking things much more slowly than usual. The background music becomes slower, softer, more gentle. So do the thoughts swirling around in my head. By slowing down, I avoid all of the hazards of haste- the frenzied movements, things being misplaced, bumping into things, feeling stressed.

I have my list. I do things one at a time. And I take my time.

Hanging out with my buddies

(and I stay less focused)

Off once again

Sukkot is over. The newest baby is born and named. And now, on to China!

I haven’t been to China for 3 years and am very excited about going now. I am less excited about my journey on Aerosvit Airlines (and no, that’s not a typo). I will be spending 4 hours in Kiev, a place I would like to visit, but I have been told that 4 hours is not enough to get into town, to see something, and to get back in time for my next flight. I guess Kiev will have to wait for another trip.

I am expecting to have internet access at some of the hotels we are staying at. So, you can watch my other blog: for updates on my whereabouts and adventures.

Bye all!

The threes

The other night when I was lying in bed trying to fall asleep, I began to think about how old I am and how impossible it was for me to believe that I am not still in my thirties. And then I did a little exercise with myself that I found interesting. I imagined myself and my situation at every age that ended in 3.

3– At three years old I lived in Philadelphia with my parents. We lived in an apartment over a store space where my father fashioned items out of plastic. He made plexiglass forms that he painted and mounted on wooden platforms and wired as lamps. In a little over a year, he would be convinced that there was no future in plastics and to join my mother’s family in the floor covering business.

13– This was the year of my bat mitzvah. How happy I was! I had waited a long time and finally it was here. My parents and grandparents were excited too. I remember standing on the pulpit wearing a white robe over the totally inappropraite dress my mother had gotten me and little satin kippah with a tassel that my grandfather had made for me and taking part in the service. I remember when everyone turned around with the last verse of L’cha Dodi, my parents who were sitting in the front row and hadn’t been to shul much, didn’t know to turn around. I never mentioned it to them.

23– By now I was married and had a sweet little boy. In the just over two years my husband and I were married at that point, we had moved three times. I was now living in Somerset New Jersey on Sweetbriar Lane. The address itself seemed idyllic. The congregation he served there was not. Just before Rosh HaShana, I found out that I was pregnant and we called our parents to wish them a happy new year and to tell them that we had a wonderful surprise in store.

33 — We were now living in Germany and there were five children, the youngest born there, now 5 months old and just getting over her colic. We had done some traveling in the country, some volksmarches, and generally enjoyed living there. We had just returned from a month-long visit to Israel!

43– After living in Georgia, Massachusetts, and Oklahoma, we finally moved about an hour and a half from Philadelphia. By then, my father had already passed away and he was not able to enjoy our proximity. Our oldest son was in the Israel Army and our older daughter was also in Israel. A son who was studying in the US was away at Yeshiva in Israel for the year, another son was studying in New York and we had only our youngest at home with us. I was studying at the University of Pennsylvania for a doctorate in social work even though I had been trained, licensed, credentialed, and working as a marriage and family therapist. It felt like I was squandering the family fortune on tuition. Well, actually, I was.

53– I had moved to Israel 3 years earlier and I had moved into our current home, the 18th since we got married, about three months earlier. What a joy it was to be in Israel, close to all of my children and grandchildren (there were 9 by then) and waiting with great anticipation for the day when my husband would join me.

63 — Now there are 29 grandchildren, my home is just about the way I want it to be (OK, we could use cleaning help), and I get a special thrill out of tour guiding to China and Vietnam/Cambodia! Who knew how many turns my life would take, how much would happen over the years. Stay tuned for more updates!

On cell phones, facebook, skype and why you should book a tour to China for you and your grandchild

I have often thought of my life as somewhat unbelievable. The world has changed enormously from even the time when my children were teens. In those days the average person did not have a cell phone. Computers had text interfaces and so seeking information was possible, but photos and movies were not even considered a possibility.

I have come to know and cherish (yes, and sometimes curse) the new technologies. Cell phones have made it easier for people to meet, to decide on the basis of current conditions where and when to meet. Missing husbands can be found just by pressing the appropriate speed dial.

Facebook is a phenomenon that is amazing. I have found friends I’d lost touch with and relatives that I didn’t know existed. I can catch snippets of my friends’ and relatives’ lives without intruding. I can see their pictures the day they are taken, and all in the comfort of my home.

Blogs allow us to get to know people in an even deeper way. We can know what they are thinking, what they are doing, how they process their daily experiences, what they like to do, and what their dreams are. In fact, the internet, in some ways, is like having a big window through which you can watch the world go by.

But this morning, I felt I had entered some sort of new reality when I sat down to my computer, just before 8 a.m. and had a skype call (complete with video) from two of my grandsons who are currently visiting the other side of the family in Los Angeles. It was amazing to see them and talk to them and know that it they would soon be going to sleep while I was just starting my day. I could hear their younger siblings in the background. And best of all, it wasn’t costing anyone a penny! It’s the type of technology that my parents would have given anything to have.

It once again set me to thinking about the whole issue of how grandparents and grandchildren relate to one another. For me, having now been on vacation with a total of 7 grandchildren, it seems clear that spending leisure time together, unmediated by their parents, seems to forge the strongest and most affectionate ties. I feel now that I really know these children in a way I hadn’t known them before and we share now adventures and memories that are only ours. The better I get to know them, the more I appreciate them, and hopefully we are together creating memories that will last a lifetime. Try it, you’ll like it!

A Party of 8 / Anniversary 43

If I had been smart, 43 years ago today, I would have prayed that my marriage would be happy. I would have prayed that it be fruitful and yield us a houseful of healthy, beautiful, bright children. I would have prayed that we would live to see them have children of their own.

I didn’t. I was so young and naive and trusting, I just believed that I was walking into a new and wonderful life. I never thought about the details.

And now here I sit with all of those prayers more than answered.

This past week we took six of the oldest grandchildren on a four day cruise on the Mediterranean to celebrate their having reached the age of bar/bat mitzvah (two of them well before the event). I roomed with the three girls and my husband was with the three boys. The children were wonderful. We had only happy times with all of them. They loved exploring the ship, watching the sunset, feeling the strong headwinds while on deck one night, and eating from the buffet. Most of all they enjoyed the land excursions to Marmaris (Turkey), Kos (Greece), and Limassol (Cyprus). They loved shopping and bargaining. They loved interacting with the people on shore.

What I loved was the time to get to know them when no one had to think about preparing meals or washing dishes or cleaning up afterwards. It was just pure pleasure to be with them.

The whole crew in Marmaris

The whole crew in Marmaris

Grandparents: Don’t miss an opportunity to do this for your grandchildren! (and I have a great tour to China that would be just perfect…)

So what’s so great about taking an organized tour?

I’m glad you asked that question. Oh… I mean I’m glad *I* asked that question! I have loved traveling from the very first time that I was lucky enough to venture out to see new people and places. My very first trip was to Israel and Europe when I was 19 years old. I was one of about 30 college students who were in an all-inclusive tour. We went all sorts of places I never would have gone– to museums, concerts, and even to the opera. I loved it! I developed, that summer, a love for classical music, Impressionist art, Botticelli paintings, and the sights, smells, and sounds of foreign lands. I enjoyed having a group of friends (for after the first week or so, all of us became friends) to share the experience.

Now, as an adult, I realize that in addition to organized tours providing many more and varied sights and sounds than one would plan for oneself and in addition to providing quick and easy transportation and entrance to all sorts of attractions, that much of the fun comes from sharing the experience with compatible people who not only like traveling, but who kid and joke and enjoy life together.

My daughter was kind enough to send me a link to this article that reminded me of this.

Of course, for me as a systemic therapist, a family systems person, a social worker– forming and nurturing the group experience is one of my most important jobs as a guide. As we travel in China and in Vietnam/Cambodia, we enjoy the group experience as well as the unique experiences of the sights and sounds of the places we travel. We make sure, on our Shai Bar Ilan tours, to take our people to places where they can meet local residents and connect with them as well and so at the end of the trip, we can look back not just on the pictures we took, but on the people we met (both local people and those on the group) and experiences we had that are unforgettable.

And as I prepare for Pesach, I am dreaming of my next trip. Come along with DrSavta to China this summer!!!!

All alone by the telephone

Let me preface this posting by noting that since we returned from our US adventure, there have been almost no moments without major activity. Between getting together with children, having grandchildren staying with us, trying to plan for our renovations, seeing clients, and now answering Shai Bar Ilan Geographical Tours toll-free US number on my cell phone, I have been very busy. And although our visitors left the home neat and the linens folded, I don’t have the house looking the way I want it to look.

And I didn’t imagine that I would get a chance to do anything before all of the kiddies are back in school and until the baby we are waiting for (the first of 4 due in the next 5 months) is born.

So today, when my husband took our son-in-law and his son (who is visiting from the States) to mini-Israel, I thought he would be back in an hour or so and our frenetic pace would continue. But he didn’t come back. And the time passed. And although I could have called him, I just kept waiting and watched a little TV (Fox News, to catch up on the latest in the presidential campaign) and read some things on the computer… when a couple of minutes ago (3.5 hours after he left) I got a call from my daughter telling me that they had gone out shopping and that he would be home soon.

And I realized that I had just spent 3.5 hours doing essentially nothing. Aside from answering a couple of emails and a couple of phone calls, I have been alone and idle.

It feels good.

And now, a word from our sponsor…………………………………….(just kidding… I do this all for fun!)

There are a lot of reasons why people should come on our trips to China and to Vietnam/Cambodia. Maybe someday I will list them– but the best reason is that they are fun. On these trip our travelers learn about the history and culture of the countries, see amazing things, visit gorgeous places, meet wonderful people and most of all have a lot of fun. We laugh and enjoy ourselves all day, all the time. We eat delicious food and we spend time with people who will remain our friends long after the trip is over. People who live far apart from siblings or parents find our trips great opportunities to spend time together when no one has to worry about cooking or cleaning or others’ work schedules. If you or anyone you know is interested in our trips, let me know.

I told you so

We in Israel were lucky enough to be able to see the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics in real time starting at 3:00 p.m. on Friday local time.

In a word— WOW!!!!!

Having seen another production by Zhang Yimou, I have been telling everyone I know not to miss the opening (and closing!!!) ceremony. I told them it would “knock their socks off.” I was not disappointed.

The Chinese people are clever and creative and intelligent. I am happy that the world is getting to know them better.

And I am hoping that people will want to travel with me to China. I can promise it will be spectacular.


Natural disasters seem to affect all of us, if not directly, then as we think that it could have been us that it happened to. So I am in pain when I see the devastation in the US that was caused by the recent storms and tornadoes. I imagine how difficult it must be to lose everything and to have to start all over again.

I also feel pain when I see the pictures and hear the reports from China. We have been to Chengdu a number of times. We go there to see the panda breeding grounds where the Chinese have been highly successful in breeding pandas and keeping them alive and healthy– and recently, they have begun to work on releasing some into the wild. Chengdu is a booming metropolis with modern hotels, an old “Chinatown,” colorful markets, beautiful parks and temples, and a fabulous folklore show that includes the changing masks and shadow puppets.

The Chinese people have a long history that they compare to that of the Jews– two ancient civilizations surviving until modern times. They feel a kinship with us, and we with them. Both civilizations value children, education, hard work, and respect. We Israeli/Jewish groups are always greeted with smiles and kindness. My thoughts are with the Chinese people at this very difficult time.

People talking without thinking*

The other night my husband and I went to see a play in Tel Aviv at the Cameri Theater. The plays are always in Hebrew because that is the language of the country, but some evenings they have a superscript in English- a short very-wide sign above the top of the curtain on which is projected the English translation as the dialogue progresses. That night we were surprised to see the play would be superscripted in English.

Not long after we sat down, a group of American tourists filed in and sat down. The woman to my husband’s right started to talk to him and to me and in the course of our conversation, she talked about the fact that they were having a total experience of Israel from museums to theater to lectures and places of interest. We mentioned that we are very careful to give the people who travel with us as rich an experience as possible. When we mentioned that we led tours to China, she said she was “boycotting China because they oppress their people and things are getting worse and worse.”

When we told her that although we think that a different form of government is desirable, the Chinese government has been taking very good care of its people and there is a sense of excitement and freedom in the country. The people everywhere we travel are smiling and happy– and we travel to numerous cities, some of them VERY far off the beaten path (one city we went to can only be reached by road- no airport, no train- and the ride to the next city takes 12 hours! Two cities we went to were ONLY 8 hours from the nearest city.)

And then I mentioned that in one village where we frequently take our groups, we used to take them to see how the village people lived. We took them to a place where we walked into an alley and to our left was the pig sty. It was also the bathroom (no plumbing). Further on, we entered a main room that was where people were born and where they were laid out when they died. There were 6 rooms that opened into the main room. Each room contained one family. In the back of the house there were two small, very primitive kitchens (water brought by bucket, cooking over fire.) This past October when I took my group to that village, the house had been razed and the people were living in brand new apartments that had been built in the few months since my last visit. Our local guide told us that no one in that village was living without indoor plumbing anymore.

The woman tourist we were talking to said, “But did the people have a CHOICE as to whether they wanted to move?”

On Hebrew we would say, “Nu- b’emet!!!” In English I said, “You have GOT to be kidding!”

My mistake. I shouldn’t have confronted her preconceived notions with the truth.

*Thanks to Simon and Garfunkle– I miss you guys!