Monday, October 5, 2015

The First Step

I just saw a meme on facebook. I was going to copy/paste it here but if I do that Blogger makes it disappear after a while. So here it is (From The Penninghame Process - which seems to be a sort of life enhancing retreat).

The first step to getting anywhere
Is deciding you're not willing
To stay where you are.

Tonight the is the end of three weeks of Jewish Holy Days. Starting with the New Year, through the Day of Atonement, hopefully being signed and sealed in the Book of Life for another year, and ending in the Rejoicing of the Torah where we finish reading the whole of the Torah that takes the year to read, portion by weekly portion. We are ready to start again with the creation in Genesis next Shabbat (Saturday).

There has been a lot of praying by those that do - both formal and communal and also private and personal. There has been an obscene amount of eating by everyone.

School, which had only started on September 1st after a long and extremely hot summer, was mostly about learning for the festivals and then was mostly on holiday for the duration.

On a personal level, I would say that this little family didn't really get with the school program on September 1st. We seemed to carry the summer lethargy with us into September. It wasn't entirely our fault as September disguised iteself with August weather.

But now it's all over. Now the new year starts for real. I want to make it a good one. I want to make this year count. I'm not willing to stay where I am. I'm ready to start again with the creation of a more productive me. Not a different me, but me with a twist.

Wishing everyone a great year. I hope you fulfill all your own twists.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

I Heard Him In My Heart

Today was Yom Kippur. The Day of Atonement.We fast, we say sorry for anything that needs apologising for, we pray to be written in the Book of Life for another year.

DD has been learning about it in school obviously.

Yesterday afternoon I lay down on my bed for a rest while DD was playing in her room. Suddenly I heard: "Elohim! Elohim! Are you there?"

She carried on speakng but I couldn't hear what she was saying other than, "my mummy" once.

Later I tried to talk to her about it.

Me: You know today is a very special day.
DD (impatiently) : Yes I know, we don't eat and we don't use electricity, and things. But you don't have to do all of it. (She goes to a very open-minded school.)
Me: Right, and we won't do all of it but it's also special because you can talk to Elohim today.
DD (totally embarrassed, going bright red and twisting her face into a trying-not-to-smile grimace) : I DIDN'T! I DID NOT DO THAT!

I left it. However in bed that night I tried again.

Me: You know you can speak to Elohim today and say sorry for anything you need to say sorry for. And you can ask Him to help you be better and also to help other people.
DD: Well other people can ask for themselves.
Me: If they are too ill to speak or too sad to ask, then we can ask Elohim to help them get better. But you can also ask for what you want and He'll answer you.
DD: He did answer me.
Me: Really?
DD: Yes I heard him.
Me: Really?
DD: Yes. Not like a person. I heard Him in my heart.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Our Three Day Holiday

Akko, the garden of the crusader fortress. 
Once upon a time I didn't understand the concept of the mini-break. I couldn't see the point of a three day holiday - wasn't it all a bit rushed? Then I did it a couple of times and was converted. You really do come back refreshed from three days and two nights away.
Water science at the Science Museum, Haifa

Last year we only did an overnight. It was an experiment. This year we upgraded from camping to a kibbutz challet and added on the extra day and night.

Day 1. On the last Thursday before school started, we left home at 7am, and drove north to the Science Museum in Haifa, having dropped my friend's dog at her mother near Tel Aviv on the way. There we met up with the rest of our group. In total we were five mothers with five children between the ages of 4 1/2 and 7 1/2. I won't tell you how old the mothers are but our combined ages are older than the United States of America.

The museum was great - loads of interactive exhibits, some of which you could ride on, explaining about weights and pulleys, water science, gears, pipes and tubes, and many more things that we didn't even get a chance to see. The only down side was that the weather was 38C (100F) and much of the fun was outside. In the end the best bit for the children was when they just ran into the water fountains to cool off. I think we may have eaten a picnic lunch but I can't remember. Maybe we just each gave our children food when they asked for it? We all drank a lot of water.

"Don't worry we won't get too wet"
Then we headed off to Kibbutz Shomrat to check into our challets (we had two for the 10 of us) and off again to the beach. We frollicked about in the swell and as the sun went down we ordered pizza to eat on the shore.
"We couldn't help it. It's just too hot!"

Day 2. Full Israeli breakfast at the Kibbutz, the way only Israel knows how. As well as the traditional cereal and milk, toast butter and jam, there were yogurts, pancakes, pastries, eggs, salads, quiches, fish, bread rolls and cheeses.  To drink: teas, coffee, OJ, or chocolate milk. Something for everyone.

Entrance to the shuk in Akko
We went to Akko (Acre) but as it was Friday we stopped first at a take-out shop to order food for Shabbat. We chose shnitzels, rice, potatoes, salatim, challahs, meatballs, etc... and they kept it all in their fridge for us to pick up on the way home.

Akko is famous for its crusader fortress and castle, tunnels, ancient bathhouse, museum and all things crusader. There is also a beautiful harbour with fishing boats, horse and cart taxis, and a traditional Middle Eastern shuk (market). I didn't take many photos so follow the link to see Akko in all its glory. (I only put my own [rubbish] photos or those donated by friends, in posts as after a while Blogger removes photos pasted from other sites.)

I tried to explain to DD about the crusaders.
Me: They came from England and France mostly to try to get all the Moslems and Jews to love Jesus.
DD: How did they make everyone love Jesus?
Me: They said, 'if you don't love Jesus we'll kill you.'

Stairs were built wide and flat to allow for knights on horses
The Fortress was excellently presented with images of the crusaders and clergy going about their daily business projected onto selected walls. DD was terrified, had a panic attack, and we had to leave.

We collected our food for dinner on the way home. Again I don't remember giving the children lunch other than handing DD a bread roll or an apple from my bag. The afternoon was spent at the pool or beach (we split up), meeting back at the kibbutz for dinner together on the veranda.

Day 3. It was Shabbat. After another big Israeli breakfast we went for a walk around the kibbutz, spent more time at the pool, ate a late lunch together on the veranda, rested, and the children played. It was a real day of rest.

We headed home in the evening passing not one but all three IKEA outlets in Israel (Kyriat Ata, Netanya, and Rishon). They were all open and we didn't stop at any of them  - what a waste! On the other hand we had two sleeping children in the back of the car and, for half the journey, a dog.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Tuesday Tidbits #33 - You Tube And Other Auto-Didactic Moments

Hilarious. This is a new word learned from Barbie cartoons on You Tube.
DD: You were right Mummy, my shoes were in my bedroom. Hilarious.
DD: I didn't think I'd like that yogurt but I do. Hilarious.
DD: What do you mean, 'go to bed'? I'm not even tired yet. Hilarious.

Also from Barbie cartoons
DD: O.M.G.! Mummy what does O.M.G. mean?

When someone does something embarrassing on You Tube, someone else says, 'awk-ward!' Then the audience laughs.
DD: What does awk-ward mean? Is it the same as Hilarious?

And here's one she made up herself. 
Me: What do you want in your sandwich?
DD: (silence).
Me: Right I'm giving you old socks and ketchup.
DD: Sorry I was being so ignorious, I was busy.

DD: I can't decide if I want flat cheese or bitty cheese.
Me: Sliced or grated.
DD: No thanks, I'll have bitty cheese.

There is a Prayer for travellers that begins: May it be thy will our God and God of our Fathers.... At school before the summer holidays DD's class had to make up their own prayer for travelling over the summer. 
DD wrote: May it be thy will our God and God of our Fathers that we should all travel safely and no one dies.

On seeing the ironing board hidden behind my bedroom door.
DD: Is that board for swimming?

Dilemmas provoked by The Magic School Bus.
DD: If I eat only a little bit of food, not enough to fill me up, how do I make sure it doesn't all go down into one leg instead of being shared in both my legs?

Magic School Bus vocabulary
DD on smelling a bad smell: I'm getting bad smell molecules up my nose.
DD on seeing blood from a scratch: Oooh I can see all my blood cells.

Magic School Bus logic
DD: Are you tired again Mummy? That's because you've got a big tummy so all your energy goes there instead of going to your head.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Checking Out Nightmare On Rosh Hashana Eve

What's the worst thing that can happen in the supermarket on one of the busiest days of the year?

I admit that I left it till the last minute to do my Rosh Hashana food shop. There was no way I could have lugged it all up the hill in last week's sand storm. Yes, I could have ordered a delivery online but actually I prefer to see what's there and to choose.

Four things spurred me on this morning to brave the supermarket on Rosh Hashana Eve.

1. The weather is much clearer. Whilst I wouldn't go so far as to say that the sky is blue, it's a much less heavy sort of white and the sand seems to have all settled. We could breathe at last.

2. I promised DD Hello Kitty chocolate surprise eggs to add to her Hello Kitty collection. She only gets sweets on Shabbat and this last shabbat she didn't get anything.

3. We have friends coming for lunch tomorrow and I need to serve them something.

4. I have a 25 shekel voucher from Supersol Deal which expires today.

Off we went. Not a big shop but necessary nevertheless. The supermarket was packed as expected although not as packed as it probably was on Thursday and Friday of last week when people stocked up for Shabbat and this two-day festival together, and wanted to get a head start on the cooking.

A word of explanation about the cooking. This is a two-day festival during which no shops are open. You basically have 'Christmas dinner' four times - two evening meals and two lunches. Family and friends gather. It's a big deal. I deliberately avoided the 'What's for dinner?' fb group as we are keeping it very simple this year.

This evening we are on our own (by choice - before anyone starts phoning). We will eat our apple dipped in honey for a sweet year. We'll break our challah and eat it with egg salad, tomatoes and pickled cucumbers. DD will have ice-cream for dessert and I will have coffee. Perfect. Tomorrow two friends are coming for lunch - one my age, one DD's age. Tomorrow night will be simple again and we are going to friends for lunch on Tuesday. By Tueday night we're back to beans on toast.

So, back to the supermarket. We went round the produce section and carefully selected our bananas and grapes. I grabbed 3litres of fresh OJ from the fridge. A quick pop over the main isle to choose DD's sweets and chocolate. Back to the produce/crisps isle. I threw in a bag of popcorn. DD chose her favourite crisps while I decided not to buy a cabbage. I chose my favourite crisps. Picked up a bag of lettuce. And on to the the bakery, dairy, non-perishables, etc...

Fast forward to the checkout where we had been waiting patiently for about twenty  minutes for our turn. DD started helping me to unload the trolley onto the conveyor belt. Suddenly she exclaimed: "Hey! These aren't the crisps I chose!"

Somewhere along the line we had switched trolleys with someone else by accident. I don't know if we took theirs or they took ours. I hope they noticed that they were missing their carefully chosen tomatoes, lemons, and pomegranates before they reached the checkout.

I can tell you exactly when it happened by what was missing from our trolley. It was while I was deciding not to buy a cabbage but after DD had chosen her crisps. We were missing our OJ and bananas as well. I sent DD off to get her replacement crisps. I apologised to the cashier and ran off to choose more bananas and grab another OJ. Luckily the original trolley owner had chosen grapes as carefully as I had. On the way I dumped the poms, the toms, and the lemons.

As we finally left the shop with a full shopping bag on wheels I had a niggling feeling that we'd forgotten something. Half way up the hill I remembered the chocolate and the sweets. DD was distraught. I promised her that as soon as we had put this shopping away we would go round the corner to the smaller market for sweets. I think I may have promised her an ice-lolly as well.

In the end my daughter is as pragmatic as I am and she decided it wasn't worth going out in the heat again for chocolate. She'll wait till next Shabbat. A win of sorts after the all the hassle and upset.

I'm still hoping for a Shana Tova, a new beginning, a fresh new start, and to become the sort of person who doesn't leave everything till the last minute. Shana Tova again, I still have four hours to go into the holiday calmly. Breathing deeply... and relax.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Out With A Gasp

This past week and a half, the last 10 days of the Jewish Year 5775, have been tough. It was supposed to be a welcome cooling down as we entered September and school started. But the cool never came. Temperatures remained in the high 90s right up until last Monday the 6th September. And then we woke up to this.

It was the worst sand storm in the history of Israel and since records began in the Middle East. We've had sand storms before of course but this one has lasted six days! The first day the sky was brown. You could feel the gritty sand in your teeth. I coudn't see the building opposite.

Jerusalem had pollution levels at 173 times higher than averge. People were walking around in surgical masks. The old and infirm, pregnant ladies, babies, and those with heart or lung conditions were advised to stay indoors. Schools were instructed to keep the children inside all day. We were warned not to do any physical activity outdoors.

Depite keeping the windows shut everyone's homes were covered in layers of sand on every surface. My hair felt sandy when I came home from taking DD to school.

The weather stayed at a suffocating 37C (99F) during the day and going down to a pathetic 28 at night (though even that drop in temperature didn't help as we had to keep the windows shut). No wind W.H.A.T.S.O.E.V.E.R. and humidity constantly way above 50%.

I let DD stay home from school on Stupid Friday this week. We don't have air conditioning at home, just fans, and we were just heat exhausted. Her class had a bit of a New Year celebration - we had cold showers and then sat in our wet towels eating ice-cream. I think that was a fitting celebration under the circumstances.

As the days progressed the sky turned from brown to yellow and then to white. Finally this evening I fancied I could see some faint blue in the sky. I could finally see the buildings on the mountains opposite.  The trees are brown from the sand, all the cars are the same desert colour, and my balcony is the new beach. We need a good rain but the first downpour is going to be raining mud.

The paper says this tonight.

We are still being advised not to 'play' outside but temperatures are forecast to be a mild and managable 30C (86F) for the rest of the week. Cool enough to go to the pool on Wednesday I hope.

Tomorrow night is Rosh Hashana. We are supposed to go into the festival in clean white clothes, having cleaned our houses, our minds, and our hearts. This might happen if I get my act together tomorrow. It is supposed to be a new beginning, a fresh new start. It better had be.

Shana Tova to everyone for a happy, healthy and successful year. xxxx

Monday, September 7, 2015

My Birthday, Stupid Friday, And Hitler Ganuff

*Ganuff is Yiddish for thief.

My birthday fell last week on Stupid Friday. I call it Stupid Friday because I have to drag DD out of bed and get her to school by 8 am when school finishes at 11:45 am. On Tuesdays they finish at 1 pm and the rest of the week at 2:20 pm. There is plenty of time during the week to tag those less than four hours onto other days and give us all a break on Fridays. Six days a week at school with only one day off a week is too much. Even the teachers only work a five day week. Rant over.

The previous Sunday I'd got a whatsapp from my friend Sarit. "What are you two doing on Friday night?" "Nothing planned yet. Want to do dinner together? Your place or mine? Share the cooking?" "So you're coming here for a birthday dinner." "OMG I'd completely forgotten it was my birthday this week!"

In truth, I'd probably blocked it out after what happened last year.

So on the Stupid Friday of my birthday I'd taken DD to school and returned home to try and get some work done at least. It takes time to get organised as I have to put on a load of laundry, do the dishes in the sink, check my emails, twitter, facebook, blog and reply to anything that needs replying to. I skim over The Times of Israel Online to check out the security situation in Israel and The Middle East. I skim over The DM Onlime to check out who's been sent home from school for wearing the wrong shoes. I make myself a coffee to sip whilst working and by that time the washing machine has finished so I have to empty it and hang up the wet clothes.

I'd just got to the bit where I open the college website when "WHOOP WHOOP WHOOP!" Skype calling. It was my mother presumably to wish me Happy Birthday. I answered the call only to see her clicking away with her mouse and keyboard and muttering about the sound not working. I hung up. "WHOOP WHOOP WHOOP!" I answered. More watching my mother trying to sort out her computer. I hung up. We repeated this another three times before I changed my Skype status to 'Do not disturb'.

So she sent me an email. Bad news I'm afraid. Howard died suddenly and unexpectedly in hospital on Wednesday. I was shocked. My father has 17 first cousins on his dad's side (my grandfather was one of nine siblings). The oldest of the 19 cousins was my late Aunty Rene but my dad, who was born 12 years after his sister, I always considered to be one of the younger cousins and Howard was about seven years younger than my dad.

I never met some of the cousins but I've known Howard all my life. He lived in our neighbourhood, his children went to our primary school with us, he sat next to my dad in synagogue (when they both went), he was my dad's accountant and my first financial advisor when I started playing on the stock market as an economics A'level student (we're talking penny shares here not high finance). Our families weren't close. A few years ago I was visiting London and out with a friend. She said to me, "You don't know your cousin S (Howard's daughter) very well do you?" "No, not now," I replied, "I probably wouldn't recognise her if I passed her in the street." My friend said, "you definitely wouldn't recognise her, she just walked past on the other side of the road." We had all grown up and moved away but Howard was Uncle Howard and he was family.

My dad lived with Howard and his older brother Arnold's family during the war so that he could continue going to school while his nervous mother and sister evacuated to Taunton for the duration. Their mother, my late great aunt, Aunty Lily, told the story of when Arnold's school were eventually evacuated and Howard, although much younger, was allowed to go too as he was with his big brother.

All the children were on the bus and all the mothers were crying as they waited to wave them off. They were told that the children would send their new addresses as soon as they'd been billetted with foster families. (I can't believe they didn't know at least which county or small town they were heading for but it never occured to me to ask.) Suddenly Howard poked his head out of the window and shouted, "we don't know where we're going Mum, but it's all cos of Hitler Ganuff!" And everyone laughed.

I got a fb message from my sister: Happy Birthday. Hope you're having a nice day.
Me: I just heard about Howard. Feeling very sad.
Miriam: Me too.

I no longer felt like doing any work and so I did what I always do when life gives you a jolt. I hit the bread bin. Three rounds of cheese and pickle sandwiches and a bag of crisps later I spent the rest of the morning playing Farm Heroes.

Dinner was lovely, thank you Sarit xxx.

Facebook delivered as only facebook can (after someone gave me the heads up that my privacy settings meant no one could write on my timeline and I quickly changed it).

The weekend was topped off with a long catch up on the phone with my friend Nicola from LA. Nicola and I were best friends in primary school when we were six and continued to secondary school together until her family moved to LA when we were 14. Nicola told me that she checks to see if I've posted on the blog every day when she takes her coffee break at work. No pressure there then. :~).

A different birthday from last year with some lovely bits, but not best I've had.