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.

Sweet!

We have an apartment that we rent out short term. It had been unoccupied for a week or two. Then we were contacted by someone who needed it for just a few days. A new baby has been born, a first child, a son. The new grandparents were flying in for the brit. Even thinking about it puts a smile on my face.

And so this morning at 6:30, I greeted two very happy, very excited (and probably very tired) people who had just flown in to see their new grandson. I am told that after their short stay here, they will return home and will be here again in another 3 weeks or so for the pidyon haben.

Mazal tov!

It’s a beautiful day

Wildflowers in Israel
I woke up this morning and looked outside. The sun is shining. I feel good. My husband and I are working in our offices. The house is quiet except for occasional telephone calls. It’s relatively clean. The laundry is done, the dishes are clean, the refrigerator is full. I have a feeling of well-being.

It’s days like this I long for when something goes wrong.

We tend not to think of good health when we have it. We tend not to appreciate the people we love nearly as much until they are not around.

So look at this beautiful day. If things are right for you today, just enjoy it, cherish it.

Of Mess and Men

So picture this: I wake up in the morning knowing that today I must help my daughter get her daughter to gan and then come home and take my husband to the hospital to be checked by his surgeon. I get ready, go outside, and when I get to the car I first notice that the driver’s door is unlocked. Of course I always lock the car when I leave it, but even if I had not, then all of the buttons would be up because all of them unlock at the same time. Something wasn’t right. Next, I noticed glass in the back seat, the front seat, the seats reclining all the way… already I was starting to feel sick. Then I looked at the steering column, the absence of the panels around it, wires coming out, many wires, and electrical parts on the floor in front of my seat, on the floor in front of the passenger’s seat on the floor in the back.

The car was trashed.

My brain immediately flat-lined. My heart started beating fast, I began to shake, and I was incapable of thought. So I sent back into the house and did the only thing I could think of: called my son-in-law for help. If he had not already been fast-tracked to a place in Gan Eden after 120 years or more, today, I am certain he’s on the list. He was able to think and to act.

He arranged for someone to come and take the car to the Toyota dealer and called the dealer and reminded them to keep the car inside since it was raining. I had taken pictures of the damage to the car, informed neighbors, and later made a police report. One of my sons was very helpful and reassuring and he gave me some of the insurance info I needed and alerted the insurance adjuster via email that on Sunday morning, I would need an appraiser to look at the car so that it could be fixed. Only a couple of hours later, once I had gotten my husband to the hospital driving my son-in-law’s car, was I able to shed the tension and begin to relax.

Of course, in the grand scheme of things, it is a blip. Best guess: our “cousins” just wanted to steal it and they were foiled by our immobilizer. To the best of my knowledge, nothing is missing from the car and all I’ve lost is a little of my faith in some parts of the human race. Of course, it strengthened my trust in others…

My husband continues to recover. We hope for better news each day.

Shabbat shalom

Lesson Learned

This morning, just as the very first shades of orange began to light the dawn, my husband and I set off in the direction of Jerusalem. What a show we witnessed– the clouds were spread out like a comforter with small tufts in a pattern and room between for the light to light each individual tuft. The sky around the clouds was an electric blue and the clouds were lit flaming orange, finally fading into pink and as the sun came up higher, the sky was filled with pinks and blues and lavendars.

We were on our way to Hadassah Hospital where my husband was to have cataract surgery.

As we drove along the highway several times cars came up close behind me and flashed their lights even though I was driving at the legal speed limit. Apoplectically flashing their lights, they could barely wait to pass me quickly on the right, often getting themselves stuck behind slow trucks that were barely making it up the hills to Jerusalem. Had I made eye contact with them as they passed me, I am certain that they would have displayed their disgust with me.

For years I have not understood this behavior. In the case of driving to Jerusalem, how much time could one save by speeding? The whole trip takes a short time (from Modi’in, for example, it is about 30 minutes; from Tel Aviv, maybe 45 minutes). How much time could one save by speeding? Five minutes? Ten minutes? Is it worth having high blood pressure? Feeling hostility? Is it worth risking one’s life???

It occurred to me that I made a decision many years ago that really changed my behavior.

I was about 18 years old. I was driving my mother’s car. I was coming out of a parking lot and making a right turn. To the right of my car there was a telephone pole and I was too close to it. As I felt my car touch the pole, I thought about backing up and turning my wheel toward the left as I proceeded forward. But I was too lazy. I made a conscious decision to continue. So I did. And when I reached home a few minutes later, I saw that the thin metal strip at the side of the car on the right side was now sticking out at a point about 1/2 way back at a 90 degree angle. My mother was not pleased.

How I wished I could go back and make a different decision!

I couldn’t get the stupidity of my decision out of my mind, but worse, I realized for the first time how irreversible time is. Once an accident happens, it can’t be prevented. Once someone is scarred or maimed, it can’t be undone. So, perhaps it makes sense to be careful and not take dangerous risks.

Often I take my time when others would hurry, am more cautious when others would rush, but a burnt finger or a twisted ankle can cause a lot of pain and take a long time to heal. We are fragile beings. We are limited by our human capabilities, and so far, we cannot reverse time.

Oh, and according to the doctor, the surgery this morning went very well. We are home and the recovery is underway.

Protecting children

A horrific story out of Florida says that a mother killed her two teenage children, shooting them because they “mouthed off” to her.

The article is here.

As more information was published, it turns out that the daughter and mother were in counseling for problems between them because the mother felt that the daughter’s behavior had changed for the worse when she started in her current school. In counseling, presumably one on one, the daughter told the counselor of at least two incident in which the mother had been physically abusive. The counselor, as mandated by law, contacted the authorities and they became involved. This was in November of 2010. Authorities came to investigate and with the daughter’s report of being slapped several times on one occasion and of a previous incident that involved bleeding from the lip, the authorities decided not to pursue further investigation since there was no lasting damage. Several days later, the mother ran her car into the back of a trailer causing damage to both vehicles and both drivers. Before she could be tested for drugs or alcohol after the accident, she left the hospital. Further disclosures have the mother as having a drug and alcohol addiction and her own mother knew that she was depressed.

So I have a couple of questions:

1. Was there not a way to prevent her from buying the gun that she used to kill her children? She bought it only days before the shooting.

2. Was there not a way to assess just how much of a danger she could be to her children?

Or are we so hungry for freedom and self-determination that we will risk children’s lives rather than embarrass or hurt the feelings of their parents?

Most risk assessments are not geared to teenagers in upper middle class homes. They deal with infants and little children usually living in poverty, in single parent homes, or with parents who for one reason or another are not able to provide adequate care. But what about a child who lives in a middle class or more affluent home with college educated parents who are high achievers? Is it so difficult to believe that addictions and mental illness also exist in these homes?

I wish I had the answer as to how to assess the danger to kids. It would have to be an assessment that took into account things like drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, outbursts of emotional or physical abuse, threats, acting out behaviors, depression and rage. It would have to be an assessment model that is easy for the investigator to use. And, of course, the investigator would have to be able to detect inconsistencies that would point to deception.

I don’t have the answer, but when I think of these children and tens or hundreds of others who could have been protected, I know that we need to come up with something that works.

Fame in the era of plagiarism

This morning I received an email from my son. He had received an email from his brother-in-law in Los Angeles with this question:

“Isn’t that your father?”

accompanied by this photo:
Bar Mitzvah

Well, yes. It seems as if my husband is moonlighting in LA teaching Bar Mitzvah boys… and I never even noticed.

Or maybe it’s because someone saw this photo
Matan's Bar Mitzvah

in my blog in this posting about our grandson Matan’s Bar Mitzvah in Jerusalem.

And yes, my husband did teach him.

So, thanks, sir, for making my husband famous, but I can guarantee that you can’t hold a candle to him when it comes to teaching boys for their Bar Mitzvah.

Oh, and one more thing, a request for permission to use the image would have been polite. There is no such thing as a secret in the modern world.

Wednesdays with Ephraim

Wednesday morning

I get into the car.
My husband drives me to the train station.
I put my backpack through the X-ray machine, take the escalator downstairs.
There he is, smiling. “Savta!” he says.
His mom is there too, prepared for the trip.
I buy the tickets- one adult, one senior citizen (me???)
We get onto the train.
He sits on the seat and looks out the window.
“Tunnel!” he says.
We leave the tunnel and outside is interesting “trees! cars! bus!”
But after a while, it gets boring.
We take out the notebook computer.
He puts on the headphones and watches Dora.
He smiles.
Dora is over, he is ready to do something else.
“We’ll be there soon”
His mom gives him something to drink, a granola bar.
I give him my magnetic necklace.
Each occupies him for a minute or two.
“We’ll be there soon.”
Binyamina
It should be soon now.
Trees, cars, bus.
But it goes on and on.
Twenty minutes with a two year old who is bored is not easy.
Finally we arrive.
The taxi driver calls out our destination address. He took us there two weeks ago.
In the taxi the driver says, in English, “Wake up!”
Two weeks ago our two year old almost fell asleep in the taxi.
This week, he also looks like he will fall asleep.
He closes his eyes.
We say, “Wake up!”
His eyes stay closed, but a mischievous grin appears on his face.
This happens a few more times during our 7 minute trip up the mountain.
We arrive.
We walk up the stairs.
The waiting room has toys that by now are familiar.
He wants coffee.
They take him into the other room.
He doesn’t like when they look at his eyes.
They don’t touch him, but still he holds his hands across his eyes.
Each time they want to see his eyes, we distract him with something else.
The same item doesn’t work twice.
Finally, they are finished looking at him and we can go.
He still wants coffee.
His mother gives him a little tea with a lot of milk.
He is happy.
We walk to the taxi stand.
Soon we are at the train station.
In a few minutes, the train arrives.
The train is full.
But we find seats.
He is not pleased.
He screams and wails.
We take out the notebook computer once again.
This time he sits in his stroller and like any guy in a recliner, he settles back and watches another episode of Dora.
Relaxing on the train
Near the end of the ride he becomes bored again.
We try to find something to entertain him.
Even my Chinese fan loses its attraction in a short time.
Finally we approach the station.
Next week, we get to do it all over again.

On my Dad’s birthday

I miss my father now probably more than ever. He was a really wonderful man– not just to me and my family, but he was a man who everyone liked. His relatives, his friends, and even his customers all loved him. He had a ready smile, an optimistic outlook, and time to listen to everyone’s story.

In the worst times, he was strong and never lacked his optimism and resolve to live a good life. When my mother’s overspending finally bankrupted them, my father went on the road as a traveling salesman. He sold objects of art and was so successful that his suppliers couldn’t keep up with his sales. At the time, my husband and I and our baby son lived in Columbia, South Carolina. My father’s route was the eastern seaboard and so he showed up at our place a couple of times that year. He was always full of stories of the people he had met. He did a lot of smiling and it was a treat to have him to ourselves for a couple of days.

When he finally went back into his own business with my uncle Bill’s help, he put up a sign on the storefront that said, “Harry’s back!’ People would come into the store and greet him. People who hadn’t known him from before would say, “Harry’s back?” and he would turn around and show them his back!

Sometimes I picture him interacting with one or another of my grandchildren. It’s so very easy. I can see him smiling, talking with them, teaching them how to build things or draw things or how to appreciate the objects of nature. He’s always full of enthusiasm and fully invested in talking to and listening to the person he is with. I can see the sparkle in his eyes, and in my fantasy, he is here with me.

rachel&zayda