Archives for July 2009

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!

Helpful hints for reputation management from the mother of someone who does it for money

I was reading an article about the arrest of several mayors, politicians, rabbis, and other people today on charges of corruption and international money laundering, and I thought, “this has got to be a disaster for everyone involved.” And then I thought about who could possibly benefit from this mess.

So for those who would rather not have to pay to have their reputations managed, here are a few helpful hints:

1. If you want to get rich, learn something well and work hard.

2. If you are thinking of getting involved in a business deal and the other person seems to be the kind of person who would cut corners, run the other way.

3. If you’re not sure if it’s legal, it probably isn’t.

4. If you don’t look good in handcuffs, obey the law.

5. If you enjoy walking down the street without people pointing at you and commenting on your behavior, stay legal and inconspicuous.

6. Don’t do anything that you wouldn’t want featured on the front page of your local newspaper.

And if you don’t follow my advice, get in touch with my son

Bratislava, Slovakia

I started the travel kosher blog to post information, anecdotes, and pictures of some of the places we visit on the Shai Bar Ilan tours to China and to Vietnam & Cambodia. One of my readers commented on one of my pictures and suggested I begin posting links to photos of my travels on some photo blogs and last week, the theme “mellow yellow” got me to thinking about any pictures I had that featured the color yellow. Well, there was one and it happened to be in Bratislava, Slovakia. I decided to post a short article with photos about Bratislava. But the more I looked at it on my China and Vietnam page, the less I liked it, so here, for your pleasure, is that post, moved over to here to yet further confuse anyone who wants to know what my blog is about. I think the answer to that question should be “whatever I’m thinking of at the moment.”

One of the most interesting memorials I have seen is the one they have in Bratislava where the image of the synagogue that was destroyed is etched into a granite wall- appearing and disappearing, there and not there at the same time.

The Bratislava synagogue

The Bratislava synagogue

Of course the city itself is very beautiful and has some fine architecture and points of interest. There is the Bratislava Castle which has a wonderful museum inside with works of art, visiting exhibits, and some wonderful furniture from the art nouveau/ art deco era.

Bratislava Castle

Bratislava Castle

and the Nový Most (New Bridge) across the Danube River

Nový Most

Nový Most

There are lovely walking areas in the old town.Walking area

Old Town, Bratislava

Old Town, Bratislava

At the time we visited, Bratislava was constructing a light rail line and we walked past the construction which I thought was the highlight of the trip. Here’s what it looked like:

Light rail construction

Light rail construction

and here is my favorite picture from Bratislava.



See other Mellow Yellow pictures here

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!

He never said goodbye

When I was a young girl, I was not very happy. Aside from all of the other issues little girls have, I also had a mother who was a perfectionist. It seemed to me that there was nothing I could do to please her. She would find something wrong with me each and every time she was near me. My dress was wrinkled, there was a stain on my skirt, a button was missing, I sat funny, I shouldn’t shake or swing my leg when I was sitting, I shouldn’t touch the fabric on the chair, my button was missing, my shoe was scuffed, I was a “klutz,” etc. etc.

Because she convinced me that I was a failure as a human being, it was a given fact that everyone knew it and therefore I had no friends because I knew the other little girls were judging me and I was found wanting.

When I entered junior high school, I sat in the auditorium where the principal explained to us that unlike elementary school, here we would have to work hard and do our homework and study. I spent much of my time in the library taking one book after another off the shelf that had books about people who had suffered. Among others, I read about Tomy Keitlin and how she lost her sight. I read “Miracle at Carville,” a book about lepers. I read, “My Left Foot” about a boy who was paralyzed. And I read “Death Be Not Proud” where the writer’s son dies. I read these books because at least these people were suffering more than I was, and somehow, it made my suffering more manageable.

But at some point something the principal had said set off a spark in me. He said that if we were having problems, there were counselors who would help us.

I didn’t know how to get the counselor to help me. No one said what to do if you were having trouble. So, I looked for a reason to see a counselor. One day, in cooking class, the twins (two girls whose names I’ve long forgotten) did something that annoyed me. I don’t remember what it was, but it seemed to me that it was a good reason to go to the counselor.

I went to see the counselor. I don’t remember anything about that meeting except that it didn’t end with his telling me that I didn’t have to go back home to my mother.

One day, a week or so later, though, my mother came and picked me up early from school. She told me that she was taking me to see someone I could talk to who would really understand me. I think at that point she was admitting that she had not a clue.

Apparently the school had called my mother and told her that I was seeking help. We went to the Philadelphia Child Guidance Clinic. There I was seen by a therapist and my mother was seen by a social worker and the plan was that they would coordinate with each other.

I was young and didn’t understand much. What I understood was that this somewhat shy and self-effacing man sat in a room with me and listened. I do remember that he told me that my mother was the way she was because of how her mother had treated her and that he hoped that we could work to stop that cycle. One thing I knew for sure: I didn’t want to be the same kind of mother to my children that my mother was to me.

My times with him were quiet and calm. I remember there being toys in the room, but he never suggested I play with them and I never quite knew what I should say.

Once (or maybe more) I felt so terrible between sessions that I wrote him a letter that I sealed in an envelope for him to read at the next session.

Once, when I told him that things at home were, if anything, getting worse, he told me that that meant that I was getting better and that my mother was unable to deal with it. I didn’t understand, but the words comforted me.

After about two years, I stopped seeing him on a regular basis and my mother would call him to consult or to see either me or my sister or her in times of crisis. My sister and I called him her “Prime Minister.”

When at 18 I became engaged, my mother sent me and my fiance to see him. He saw us and explained to us that it would be better for us not to live in the same city as my mother as she wouldn’t let us have a normal married life. She was simply too intrusive.

My fiance decided not to marry me. He thought I was going to end up being like my mother. I was devastated. I finally had plans to leave home and they were shattered.

A year later, my husband, who by my design never really got to know my mother, and I were married.

Ten years later, my former therapist (who had been in touch with my mother over this period) send me a short note and some educational materials he’d produced. By that time, I had 4 children. I was living in Wiesbaden, Germany. He wrote, “My wife was born in Wiesbaden; Good vibes!!”

Ten years later, I was presenting a workshop for family therapists at a conference in Dallas. He was presenting something in Dallas on the same weekend. I wrote him and mentioned the coincidence. He invited me to join him for breakfast on Sunday morning.

We sat and talked, this time as colleagues– about my childhood, about my husband and children, about my professional life and the work I was doing on therapeutic metaphor, and even about his interaction with my ex-fiance. He said, “I just didn’t think he was good for you.”

A couple more times over the next 20 years, we exchanged notes and once along with my sister, I met up with him in Tel Aviv, where he was living at the time.

A few days ago, I came across his obituary. He passed away at age 85. He was a gentle presence in my life. Dr. Sol Gordon will be missed. Goodbye dear friend.

Suggestions for Facebook Buttons

Three of us have been sitting and talking about the fact that Facebook has a “like” button, but it could be so much better if there were more options. Here are some suggestions for buttons:

1. Sympathize
2. Dislike
3. Who cares?
4. Too much information
5. Right, I’ll go tell the world
6. What would your mother say?
7. And if you believe that, I’ve got a bridge to sell you
8. Could you get me one of those?
9. Ewwwww
10. Good luck with that

Thanks to my daughter Leah and my sister Vicki!

This week

It’s been a busy, but good week this week. On Sunday, the people who had been renting our second apartment moved out and I went upstairs to find it almost perfectly clean! So, instead of the hours of cleaning I anticipated, I did some laundry and washed the bathrooms and counters, and the apartment was ready for its new inhabitants.

My sister arrived early Monday morning. It was really good to see her and so far, it’s been a very nice visit.

Our new olim arrrived yesterday- mother, father, and 5 children. Wow! It’s got to be really hard to make aliya with 5 kids of school age. The whole family seems very excited and happy and we, of course, wish them an easy klita (adjustment to Israel).

At lunch yesterday, I had the wonderful experience of being slimed by my youngest grandson (heretofore to be known as “Cookie”). He had spouted onto my left shoulder earlier in the meal, but when I switched him to my right shoulder, he became a veritable fountain soaking my shoulder, arm, skirt, and the floor. It’s the first time I’ve had a real milk bath. However, Cookie is as lovable as they get and all of us just laughed and laughed and he smiled as we continued giving him smiles and kisses.

Today my sister and I took my husband’s computer monitor (Dell, purchased in November from Notebook Club in Kiryat Matalon, Petach Tikva, who refused to assist us in having it fixed/replaced despite our having taken it into Tel Aviv and having it “fixed” — only to conk out again a week later) back to Tel Aviv for repair/replacement. We were told they would replace it with a new one. We just want one that WORKS!!!

We then walked through Shenkin Street, through the Carmel Market, through Neve Tzedek, over to the walk by the sea, and then headed back to Azrieli Center, finally hailing a taxi at the corner of Melech George and Dizengoff. It was a long long walk. I think she had fun. I know I did.

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…)