Archives for February 2008

Ten things you’ll never hear me say

Thanks, Kirby, for inviting us all to participate.

Here are my 10 in no particular order.

1. I sure do wish you would let that beard of yours grow longer and more bushy.

2. I so love cleaning house!

3. If you’re going to be serving ice cream, I’d rather not come.

4. Why are you having yet another child?

5. Going away? To where? No, sorry, I’d rather stay home.

6. It doesn’t matter how you act when you are away from home because no one you know will ever find out.

7. I regret staying home to raise my children.

8. My kids and I aren’t so close.

9. I’m moving back to the US.

10. Who wants to come shopping with me for some scarves to cover my face?

Sayings of the grownups

Here are some of the sayings I was raised with….

About shopping for better value items:
When you buy cheap, you have cheap.

After something you paid a lot of money for malfunctions or breaks:
What do you want for nothing?

About tickling- reflecting ambivalence:
Stop it; I like it.

About sibling battles:
He hit me back first.

Philosophy of family relations:
He’s mad; so he’ll get glad.

About love and marriage:
You should wait for the right man like K did.
(K’s husband divorced her a few years later and moved in with his male lover.)

(From a mother to her son– as reported by her son’s wife)
You can always get another wife, but you only have one mother.

And now two that are totally irrelevant to anyone living in Israel:

Table etiquette:
When you set the table, always remember serving pieces.
What are serving pieces?

You can’t wear white before Memorial Day or after Labor Day.
(our only white rule is YES! White for Yom Kippur!)

Please feel free to 1. guess who said each of these
2. add some sayings of the grownups of your own

From triLcat (Thank you! How could I have forgotten!!!!)
About yummy foods:
Did that piece of cake have a twin?

Do you know what this tastes like? It tastes like another one.


As a therapist, one of my jobs is to help people to communicate more effectively with the people around them. I help people to express themselves in ways that are clear and non-blaming so that the other party is aware of their needs, but not provoked to defensiveness. I talk about saying things instead of just thinking them because people cannot read each others’ minds. Most of all, and especially when raising young children, I tell people that they need to give clear messages.

So that is one part of what I do. It is not necessarily the only thing I do in terms of communication.

A long time ago I had a very strange and interesting experience. It happened during my internship in Boston at a family therapy institute. I was working with a multi-problem family in a fairly intensive manner– seeing the wife perhaps twice a week and the couple at least once a week in addition to telephone calls during the week. My supervisor was a quasi-genius. He was the person who always had the answers I was looking for. I would tell him what was happening and he would help me figure out what to do next. This went on for weeks.

And then, one day, I caught him in the hall and said, “I need to talk to you about the Jones family.” (not their name) He said, “I don’t want to hear.” I was taken aback, but I just assumed that he was busy and it wasn’t a good time to talk. The next day when I saw him, I again said, “I need to talk to you about the Jones family.” (still not their name) He said, “I don’t want to hear.” This happened for a few days. I continued doing for them what I believed was the right thing, but I missed the support of my supervisor. It was only later that I began to understand that he was telling me that I needed to trust myself.

At the same time, I noticed that my supervisor was looking forlorn. He was missing that verve and energy that he had had earlier in the year. I asked him if everything was all right. He said that he was fine.

One day as I was going to my inbox at the agency, I was carrying money in my hand for the coffee machine. As I reached into my box, some of it fell and I gathered it up as well as I could. Apparently I hadn’t found it all because when my supervisor came over to get something from his box, he found a nickel. He said, “Hmmm, where did this come from?” I jokingly responded, “It’s a payment for being good.” He smiled and a tear came to his eye. He took the nickel and put it in his pocket.

From then on, from time to time, I would leave him a nickel. He didn’t ever acknowledge it. Several months later we were in a group supervision setting and he said to me in a gentle voice, “I don’t need those payments anymore.” The other students didn’t know what he was talking about. One asked, “Was this some kind of token economy?” He answered, once again with a tear in his eye, “No, it was so much more than that.”

We never spoke of what had transpired, but by the end of the year he was looking more energetic and happier.

I moved away to Oklahoma. A couple of years later I saw him at a conference. I told him how much I appreciated everything he had taught me both directly and indirectly. I told him that I now understood the power of indirect messages.

He said, “Yes, I was really screwed up that year.”

But whether he meant to or not, he did teach me about the power of the unsaid, the gesture, the non-verbal communication. And now I teach that to others.


It happened today. It was a private matter settled in a public place. The cast of characters- people who had a lot in common– people who had known each other for years. Words were said. Kind words. Loving words. And there also were long silences with looks averted and expressionless faces. There was lot of waiting and then more waiting. And then it was over. And then we went home– some of us to our normal lives, but for two, to new beginnings.


Saturday night we were invited to a reunion of those who had been on our tour to Vietnam and Cambodia. Although we came from all over Israel, amazingly, almost everyone showed up! We all looked like real people– not like people who were living out of suitcases… Some people brought their photos and the photos were amazing. I’ll be posting some of mine soon. One person brought his video and it was almost like being back there. We had a great time on the trip and a great time at the reunion with wonderful people we had traveled with.

What amazed us was that we had had no idea that on the tour were two fantastic artists whose work we were able to see that evening. The hostess is a talented painter and her friend who she traveled with is a noted sculptress. We just thought that they were really nice people and had no idea that this was another brush with greatness!

The highlight of yesterday was going with K and her husband (who we have unofficially adopted) to a 12 week ultrasound and seeing their little one! What a special moment that was for them and for me.

And today, we, like the rest of Israel, are bracing for the storm and those at higher elevations are anticipating snow. Already the rain is falling on the glass roof of our back porch (which our now 14 year old granddaughter once dubbed “the aquarium.”) The leaves of the bougainvillea are glistening with rain droplets.

And most important… most likely one set of grandchildren will have a great day tomorrow as they roll in the snow.


Here are the topics. Have the post on my desk by 4 this afternoon at the latest.

Finishing her ninth month of pregnancy, but fired by her doctor
Has a car! That is big enough for him and all the children! (Have I mentioned “has wheels!”?)
Finally able to eat! Seeing her little one dance.
Head in a cage. Flaming redhead.
Baby spew.
Home from Spain
Home from the US and the UK
Having her chumash party
Waiting for news about school
Selling China

Roaches and practices

It’s been a very busy week. We landed in Israel just a week ago and since then it seems we have had a month full of experiences… not the least of which was having the exterminator come to rid us of a tiny problem with roaches. Or so I thought. Because when he opened the manholes in our garden (we are blessed with 4) he found entire cities of roaches inside. In fact, we are not sure, but they may have been whole countries as we heard whispers of a draft charter and of stationing a joint force in my dairy sink. I began to wonder if might really does make right. I mean we all know that they will outlive us all (or so the urban legend tells us) but is it possible they have a well-developed press? Could we be talking really negative coverage of this large-scale killing? Maybe we should just box them up and send them off to our Chinese friends. They would have a productive use for them… but think of the import duty…

What’s been occupying my thoughts has been this phenomenon so well presented by A Mother in Israel. Briefly, there is a woman who has been convincing other Jewish women that modesty is the most important value and that to be modest, you must wear multiple layers of skirts, tops, capes, and scarves and that you must additionally cover your face. Some women who are her followers have left one eye uncovered, but many have even covered both eyes and have a child lead them when they go out of the house.

This is destructive on so many levels that it seems almost trivial to talk about them.

There’s the cult aspect- one enlightened leader who teaches that they are right and everyone else is wrong- that rebuke from others is only a proof of how right they are.

There’s the attitude toward men. Apparently in their cult the belief is that men can’t control themselves and that if one sees a woman’s face, he will be driven to think about her (and possibly act on it too) as a sexual object. I think this is insulting to men. Further, when their husbands have objected to such stringencies (I would say “nonsense”) they work very hard not only to convince them that it is right, but they want their husbands to REQUIRE them to dress that way!

There’s the aspect of family closeness and warmth. These women are using massive amount of insulation to keep them from interacting with their husbands and children.

There’s, of course, the aspect of perverting the teachings of the rabbis over centuries and the issue of NOT adding to what is prescribed in the Torah.

And, more frightening that anything else: I have witnessed over the years the growing restrictions that some ultra-Orthodox Jews put upon themselves. One group will come up with a new stringency and within a few months, other groups have adopted it not willing to cede the holiness battle to another group. I worry that what now is clearly the lunatic fringe might just someday become the norm.

and then how will outsiders distinguish us from the Taliban?

Of course there are plenty of observant Jews (and among them a sizable number of ultra-Orthodox Jews) who will not accept this as normative, but still it is frightening and worrisome if you are, like me, concerned with Jewish survival.

Thoughts on Vietnam & Cambodia

At some point on the trip, my internet access became limited, not just because of its location, but also because of the pace of the trip, so rather than talk about things in a travelogue mode, I want to talk about general impressions.

Vietnam is a country on the move in lots of ways. The most obvious is the endless streams of motorbikes and motorcycles that one sees flowing on the streets day and night. As schools discharge their uniformed pupils (yes, school children wear uniforms throughout Vietnam) parents wait by the gate to put one or two or three children onto the motorbike with them and take them home. Since December there is a helmet law designed to reduce the number of motorbike fatalities. Until then, there had been about 300 A DAY!!! Now most people are helmeted and frequently even walking on the streets and in the markets they wear their helmets An industry of helmet brims has sprung up to provide fashion attachments to helmets!

The feel of Vietnam is much more Western than that of China. The French and American influences are felt in the architecture and the plumbing. The US dollar is accepted virtually everywhere and many times prices are exclusively quoted in dollars. Change is given in dollars, alhough fractions of dollars are given in the local currency, the dong. May Vietnamese have English language skills, even in areas that seem remote.

One thing we enjoyed in both Vietnam and Cambodia was the fruit. It was amazing! It is possible to buy sweet pineapple almost everywhere and it is juicy and delicious.

I can’t talk about Vietnam without talking about the war and how it is languaged and conceived of in Vietnam. It is said that the victor gets to write the history and, I suppose, the victors having been the North whose form of government the South was rejecting, they have the right to promote their version of the war. It is when the US is portrayed as having entered Vietnam as captors that I really had a serious problem with their narrative. To experience the Cu Chi tunnels area and to see the traps and the brutality to which the Americans and their South Vietnamese allies were prey was horrific. One of our travelers remarked that in all of his travels (and he travels quite a lot) he had never before seen a museum dedicated to extolling the cruelty the country had perpetrated!

We enjoyed the lush vegetation and the beautiful people in Vietnam and Cambodia.

We were particularly impressed by the Rabbi and Rebbetzin at the Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City Chabad. This young couple are totally devoted to providing support to Jews traveling , doing business, or living in Saigon. They are intellligent, attractive ,and very kind and caring people. We loved seeing the assortment of people who gathered in their home for shabbat and are impressed beyond words.

I was totally speechless walking through the Temples of Angkor. They are beyond belief.

We felt a real gentleness and warmth from the Cambodian people we met. Without sharing it with each other, both of us decided that Cambodia was the icing on the cake.

Who would have thought that one could find resorts that were pure paradise in Vietnam and Cambodia? But find them we did. And there is still so much more to say. I will be posting pictues in a week or two.