Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Blog Guilt - Is It A Thing?

Something I didn't mention,
Do any other bloggers have blog guilt?

A couple of weeks ago I wanted to write my weekly Reasons 2B Cheerful post and I felt that I couldn't do it without first mentioning the fatal shooting of 11 worshipers in a synagogue in Philadelphia. Obviously that didn't belong in a R2BC post so I delayed the post and wrote about this and other tragedies that occurred that week.

Today I wanted to write a Tuesday Tidbits post. I don't often have funny things that DD says or does to write about now that she's growing up. But a couple of nights ago something funny happened and of course I thought of blogging about it. However, I'm still feeling guilty that I didn't even mention the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht (The Night of Broken Glass) that was last week.

Here I am with a platform that's read by 300 people a day and I didn't write about the Kristallnacht Pogroms. It's was the 80th anniversary, not the 77th or 79th but a significant number that should be commemorated. On the night of November 9th 1938, all over Nazi Germany (including Austria and Sudetenland) Jewish shops were vandalized, looted and torched, Jewish families were herded into the town squares where they were attacked and humiliated, 300.000 Jewish men were arrested and deported to prison camps, Jewish books and and ritual items were burned, and 1400 synagogues were desecrated and torched. Ninety-one Jews were murdered.

This was the turning point for Jews in Nazi Germany. Whereas previously, many had thought the Nazi threat would blow over, now they knew that they were in mortal danger. For most of them, this realization came too late and they were trapped. Some of those who did manage to leave thought they would be safe in France, Belgium, Holland, and other Western European countries. Only those who made it to England and the Americas were spared the horrors of The Holocaust.

On Sunday was Armistice Day, 11/11, when we remember the fallen soldiers from both world wars. My facebook feed was full of my friends' photos of their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents in uniform. Proud and sad at the same time of the tremendous, often ultimate, sacrifices made by their families. Me? 300 readers and I wrote nothing.

Last night and today Southern Israel has been under rocket fire from Hamas in the Gaza strip. People have died, houses have been destroyed. Schools in the south were cancelled today and until further notice. My friends who live there have spent over 24 hours no more than 15 seconds from their safe rooms (rooms of reinforced concrete) or bomb shelters.

The country is talking about whether we are heading for another war against Hamas. Soldier reservists are waiting to hear if they will be called up. A school in Jerusalem has announced that it will take in any children from the south who want/need to get away and find them families to stay with. And that's just the one school I heard about. Many friends have offered to host families under fire who just need a break from it all.

With all that going on I just can't write about DD's funny sayings.

A couple of weeks ago a friend marked the Yarhzeit (anniversary of death) of her husband who died far too young. She asked that we all do a Mitzvah for Michael (a good deed). I immediately thought, what a good name for a blog post, and I had every intention of writing about it. I did two mitzvot (pl.) during that week. I can't write about either of them. Both were good deeds for specific people who either read this blog or know people who do. To write about how these 'poor' souls needed my help would humiliating for them if they found out.

And there was one mitzvah, another one, that I was able to do and I could've written about it here. It was a general offer that was taken up by a complete stranger, via a facebook group. No one would know who the beneficiary is. But it doesn't feel right to brag about good deeds. Either you do them or you don't, but to tell everyone how wonderfully you behaved... nah, not cool.

So instead of writing blog posts every few days, I've been consumed with guilt about things I'm not mentioning and would feel guilty about mentioning other events that happened. I'm wrestling with the notion that a relatively successful blog (successful in that it's been going almost eight years and people read it) brings certain obligations and responsibilities.

I could say, "I don't write about politics," but that wouldn't be real as politics concern me. I've grown out of cute stories about motherhood, or at least DD has grown past it. I want this blog to be about real life but my real life involves others who don't always want to be blogged about. Sometimes it's hard to find a satisfactory middle ground.

Blog Guilt. Is it a thing?

Saturday, November 10, 2018

R2BC - Hi Tech

Goodbye old TV
Here are my highly technical, digital, and magical (well it's magic to us) Reasons 2B Cheerful this week. The R2BC linky is over at Mich's Mummy from the Heart.

Internet And Waste Of Time
I was paying far too much for my internet because it was a package arranged a few years ago which I'd never updated. So I spent about two hours talking (well waiting and talking) on the phone to one company who offered me a good deal. I was already using their router so they told me to call the other company who was providing my internet and cancel it. The other company would apparently inform them and then they'd take over.

So I called Company 2, who I'm already with, and of course they had a better deal for me. So I went with it. They arranged to send me a new router at a very inconvenient time but we fixed it so that the fed-ex guy would meet me at my college. That went smoothly.

Then Company 1 called to ask why I wasn't going with them after all. I said I preferred the deal at Company 2. "How much are you paying there?" "None of your business. And it's not just the money, it's the content of the package." Seriously, if they couldn't give me their best deal after two hours on the phone the day before, I wasn't interested in a sudden new deal only available after you sign up with another company. So she said I had to return their router to the office near the Central Bus Station.

Next day after school I made the significantly out of my way trip to the office near the Central Bus Station with the old router, only to be told that it was mine so I didn't need to return it. I remembered that they'd charged me for it years ago but I assumed that I was being charged for the previous router which I never returned. (Because I didn't know I had to until I noticed that I'd been charged £4 a month for over a year to pay for it.) Turns out, they were charging me for the new router.

It's all double work to get anything done here. But I had my new router and connected to it with no problem. Although we couldn't understand why DD's computer wouldn't connect to our new internet. Luckily she'd been upstairs to a neighbour with her laptop and the neighbour had put in her own wifi for DD and never deleted her password. That might be stealing but DD was given it and we only used it for a couple of days with the intent of sorting out our own internet issues asap.

And after all that, I'm saving about £10 a month.

Smart And Not So Smart
I finally bought a smart TV. I spent a silly amount of time worrying about how I was going to get it home (in a taxi of course) and up the stairs (no clue). In fact I put off buying it by several weeks for this reason. In the end I couldn't put it off any longer as I'd been promising DD that we would get it. I thought I'd have to buy the smallest tv in order to manage it. I don't know what happened to me that the obvious thing, to get it delivered, just eluded me. Of course you get it delivered. I think it was because the last thing I bought in that shop was a vacuum cleaner and, though it wasn't heavy, it was a hassle getting the bulky box home in a taxi and up the three flights of stairs.

Anyway, I chose a bigger TV than I'd originally planned to buy because, if you're already going for a cinematic experience, it's a shame to have a piddly little tv. It's 40" but the living room is only 3 metres across so that's like a giant screen if you live in a big house. I paid, in 10 installments which makes it practically free, and they said they'd deliver that same day between 2 and 3pm. It was Friday and I got a call from the delivery man asking if he could come earlier because it was an early Shabbat (an hour before sundown at just after 4pm).

Hanoch (That's Enoch in Hebrew) arrived with the TV at 12.45 and set it all up for me. Turns out I wasn't even connected to my new internet. (I was using the ethernet - what is that even? I've never heard of it before.) Hanoch called Company 2 for me and got me all sorted out with a new user name and password. He was great. I didn't even mind that I had to look at half his bare bottom as he bent down to fix the legs onto the TV. A cracking experience ;)

We signed up for Netflix. A friend showed me some of the programme and movie options a few weeks ago and if it was only for me, I'd have gone for the BBC Movies and UK TV package. However, DD has friends who don't know English well enough to watch movies without subtitles. Netflix has everything subtitled in Hebrew and some of the children's films are even dubbed in Hebrew. (How annoying is that? It brought back memories of watching the badly dubbed Bel and Sebastion on TV when I was a child.)

It's pure magic. The only downer is that I can't figure out how to change all the movie descriptions to English. I'm not sure it's even possible. And I don't think we're getting to see the full range of entertainment on offer. I'm going to have to explore it a bit more.

Cost of Netflix: about £10 a month.

My Baby Laptop
As a bonus item this week, my baby laptop was resurrected. About two years ago I bought myself a small laptop that I could take with me to work and other places if I needed to work outside the house. It's a lovely little laptop - same as my main computer just in miniature. Then DD's tablet broke and my old laptop (the one before my regular laptop) was rubbish to use. DD was distraught and I finally gave in and let her use my new baby laptop. It was less than six weeks old! And suddenly it didn't work. There was a light  behind the screen but nobody was home inside.

DD swore to me that it just stopped. I was heartbroken. I kept meaning to take it to get fixed. It was under guarantee in the UK as I'd bought it when we were in London, but the contract specifically said that the guarantee is void if you take it abroad. And anyway, we weren't in London, we were in Jerusalem. I couldn't deal with it so I just put it away in the cupboard.

Luckily I didn't declutter it as DD admitted to me a couple of weeks ago, that she'd actually spilt water on it and that's why it broke. She was too scared to tell me at the time because she thought I'd go mental. Which of course I would have done. But I'd also have seen if it it could be dried out instead of just putting it away.

This week I got out my baby laptop and it works! In fact I'm using it now. So that's £100 I didn't spend getting it fixed. Hooray! And a laptop for taking to work which I was sorely missing and causing me to waste loads of usable time whilst, e.g. waiting for DD at gymnastics twice a week and during three free periods in a row at school on Thursdays.

Facebook Marketplace
On Friday afternoon I put on facebook that I had a 10 year old TV and DVD player to give away. On Saturday evening my friend's son came to pick them up. DD and I quickly went through our DVDs and gave her a bag of about 30 that we don't need anymore. We kept about 10 favourites that we can watch on our laptops (not the baby laptop) but I think even these are on Netflix or some other streaming website.

So that's another empty drawer in the living room, one sleek TV instead of a little tv and DVD player on the side, and a plate of biscuits that my friend sent with her son as a thank you.

All in all, a very technically satisfying week.

Update: I ate all the biscuits so now I hate myself.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Extra Curricula - You Can't Do Everything

Goodbye classical music career
(My dream, not DD's)
At some point in your life you learn that you need to make choices. You can't do everything. No one can. There might, often, be some wriggle room to change times and dates, or fit one thing in after another, but no one goes through life without, at some point, confronting the inevitable choice of one thing over another. And sometimes it's not a matter not being able to fit it all in. Sometimes it's simply a matter of what feels comfortable.

All the above to say, we gave up clarinet. Neither of us was 100% happy about it. However, there were a number of issues that made continuing less than comfortable:

The Art Class that DD loves moved from a different day to just before Orchestra in a way that made getting to the minibus on time a source of stress every week.

Orchestra is held in the Valley of Death and totally inaccessible without private transport.

They do have a minibus from two schools but they wanted the parents to take over the organizing of it and for one of us to go with the bus every week. No parents volunteered.

They said that we needed to have private clarinet lessons if we wanted to continue in the orchestra. The one other clarinetist from DD's school dropped out and private lessons on our own would be very expensive. If DD was passionate about playing the clarinet I could find a way to have lessons. The music teacher even said he would find a solution for us (they are desperate for musicians as the school cancelled the music progamme this year so no new players are coming up and five of DD's school friends from last year pulled out this year). But she kept saying she didn't like it and wanted to stop, now that the social element from last year has gone.

Only one other kid from DD's school is still going to Orchestra and he's a boy. (He's a really nice boy and DD gets on very well with him, but she insists that they're not friends. "We only talk together because it's convenient.")

It's a real shame that the music programme at school was cancelled and that there is no school orchestra this year. But we made our decision given the circumstances. I hope we won't regret it.

We also pulled out of Swimming in the end. Both of us are 100% happy about it. It was only a five-lesson course and we agreed to it because it was still hot at the beginning of October. The lessons were postponed and postponed and by the time we had a date, the weather had changed.

Twice a week we go out in the evening, whatever the weather (we weather the weather whatever the weather), for Gymnastics - DD's new passion. We take a taxi there as we don't have a car. I won't lie, when it's cold and dark outside, we'd prefer to stay at home but we don't. We go and DD loves it once she gets there.

But to go out for swimming with all that involves - wet [now very long] hair, undressing and dressing when it's cold out, even leaving the house on a Sunday as soon as I get in from my work and having to rush to the pool to get there on time... And DD can swim to save her life so it wasn't essential. We just didn't want to so we pulled out and we'll maybe have more swimming lessons next spring and summer.

This week we were offered a place on a programme whereby 3rd Year students from the local teacher-training college (where I happen to work) volunteer to tutor weak pupils in Hebrew and maths. We're fine with maths although I would have taken maths too if we had both days free, however, one of the days is at the same time as the Art Class. So once a week DD will getting a private tutor for Hebrew, at school after school hours. Free.

The weekly schedule has settled into a routine that we can work with and are comfortable with. We have gymnastics, art, and Hebrew tutoring after school. We're both a bit sorry about the clarinet but you can't do everything. You just can't.

P.S. Please God, don't give DD the student who hates me because I made her do all the work assignments when she hates English and thought she could scrape a pass with no little effort.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

R2BC - A Cutting, Elections And Love

Can you see the difference from last week?
After yesterday's list of tragic events that took place during a horrific week, last week, there are also reasons 2B cheerful and here they are. The linky is back with Michelle on Mummy from the Heart for the month of November.

A Cutting
The person in the School Greenhouse who gave me the plants last week, also told me how to take cuttings. "It's easy," she said. I've tried it before and it never worked. One of the small branches of the pretty purple plant got a bit crushed and droopy on the way home. So I took it off and planted it in the soil next to the mother plant. You can see it looking all sorry for itself here. Well, blow me, if it hasn't taken. I have a little purple plant making its own way into the world, independent of its mother. I'm so proud. This week I'm going to set it up in its own home nearby, but no so close as to be under each other's feet.

Margie from Toronto, a lovely lady who regularly comments on my blog and we have also been in contact by email, commented yesterday that...

"The shootings at Tree of Life were just horrendous - a woman originally from Toronto was one of the victims - members of many churches and mosques here are forming circles around various synagogues this weekend as a sign of solidarity and safety. " 

I was very touched and moved by this news of love and support from the wider community.

Election Day
For the first time ever, they coordinated all the municipal elections onto one day and declared it a national holiday. We also have a holiday for the government elections but this is [supposedly] only once in four years. Apart from that, the only other national holiday day like election day is Independence Day in May.

I'll explain. Most adults work a normal, Western World five day week from Sunday till Thursday. However, most children are in school on Friday mornings. Teachers get a different day off in lieu of Friday mornings but the children don't (although they do finish early on Tuesday afternoons when the parents don't). Thus, you have to be at home on Fridays for school. You have to get up early and hussle your kids off to school. And when they come home around midday, the shops and eateries are only open for another two hours until 2pm (sometimes 3pm in the summer). Hardly a family day.

Shabbat comes in at sundown on Friday night and lasts for 25 hours, starting with a festive family meal. There are some places of entertainment (a few restaurants and some cinemas in Jerusalem) and shopping malls open (not in Jerusalem) for those who want them. But for those keeping a traditional shabbat, they are up early for synagogue on Saturday, they have a festive family lunch, and they do not use mechanical transport, screens, telephones, or anything electrical throughout the day.

About those festive family meals... they don't appear out of nowhere. They have to be prepared and cooked on Friday, the house is cleaned, and many families host overnight guests for the duration because they can't travel home after dinner. I'm not complaining about Shabbat, it's a lovely, sociable day. However, it has its limitations as you can see.

That is why a national holiday is so amazing. We have no [we call it] Sunday here. For religious Christians outside Israel it would be your Saturday (although your Sunday isn't nearly as restrictive as Shabbat). A day to go on long trips, eat out, for family shopping, a day at the beach, parties, etc... One morning in the week to get up late and have pancakes or French toast for breakfast and then maybe travel to your grandparents or cousins for tea.

There have been many attempts here to give us our Sundays, especially as no business can be done with the outside world on that day. Sadly, it's not happening. For one thing, we'd effectively be working on a 4.5 day week as you'd still need to finish early on Fridays. Otoh, shopkeepers and eateries take over a month's worth of income on election days.

Finally, a great reason 2B cheerful, we have two new female mayors. One in Haifa, Israel's third largest city, and one in Bet Shemesh where the ultra-orthodox have tried to intimidate women out of public life completely (e.g. even blurring their faces out of photos and tearing down adverts with pictures of women). Two excellent results.

Friday, November 2, 2018

After A Horrific Week

I found it very hard to get my head around writing Reasons 2B Cheerful this week, without mentioning all the terrible events that happened. On a personal level it was a good week but on a community level it was horrific. I feel I need to pay my respects to the community first and I'll come back tomorrow with some personal R2BC.

Last Shabbat 11 Jewish worshipers were shot in a Synagogue in Pittsburgh, USA. Jews everywhere are reeling. It could have happened anywhere and we all have friends and family everywhere. One elderly mother buried two if her sons. One victim was a 97 year old holocaust survivor. Synagogues in the US and the UK, which should be open and welcoming places of God, are seriously considering having armed guards on the doors.

On Tuesday we had a lovely, sunny, municipal elections day which was designated to be a public holiday. Many families went on trips to the beaches, the parks, or the Dead Sea. A family of two parents and six children were driving home from a day out when a car coming in the opposite direction tried to overtake on a blind bend. He hit the family head on and their car burst into flames. All eight were burned to death inside the car. No I didn't know this particular family personally but we are all families in a very small country sharing the roads with drivers who gamble with our lives, either by reckless driving or using their phones whilst driving. The whole country was in shock. It could have been any of us.

Yesterday we heard that an 18 month old baby in Jerusalem has died of measles. A disease that was almost eradicated years ago and one that children in Israel are routinely and without charge, vaccinated against. This baby's parents belong to a cult sect of ultra-orthodox Jews whose rabbis have told them not to vaccinate. I don't know the exact reason why not. They are against the State of Israel as an authority as only God can protect us and only the Messiah was supposed to bring about the return to Zion. Something like that. They are against modern technology because it makes knowledge of the outside world available to all their followers. And against science because it keeps proving things they don't believe in. Basically it's a power struggle and one child was sacrificed for it this week.

And today I received frightening photos from the kibbutz where my friends live, the kibbutz that we go to for holidays and festivals sometimes, my happy place.... A balloon carrying a bomb was let off in Gaza and landed on the path right by my friends' houses (I have several friends on that kibbutz). It hit a jeep that burst into flames, and it started a major fire of trees and bushes along the path. What child doesn't run to catch a balloon floating down from the sky? Israeli kids don't. One of these balloon bombs was found as far from Gaza as Jerusalem (1.5 hrs drive in a car) a few weeks ago. I, and all parents here, had to warn our children not to touch balloons in the street.

Here's to a much better week and may you all have a calm and peaceful weekend.

Friday, October 26, 2018

R2BC - 1K!

From L-R, a pretty plant, rosemary, marva
(sage in English. If you put it in your tea it's supposed to be curative.) 
Here are my Reasons 2B Cheerful for this week. The linky is still with Becky on Lakes Single Mum as it's still October.

This is my 1,000th post on this blog. But blnk and you'll miss it because I'm going to go back and edit out some of the posts from years ago. I love some of the things I've written but some posts weren't so good, and some were out right embarrassing. So that's a job for this coming week. Minimalism goes digital.

The First Rains
We even have a word for it here - The Yoreh. there was one heavy shower in  middle of the night earlier this week. Apparently that didn't count as The Yoreh because it only lasted about 10 minutes. Then there was some light rain yesterday around lunch time, so I'm told, but I missed that one. Finally, last night, there was the biggest storm - wind and rain. Fantastic. We have The Yoreh!

Swimming Lessons
In the summer DD's partner for swimming lessons broke his arm and had to miss half the lessons. We paid the difference between joint lessons and private lessons for those sessions and finished the course. Now our friend is going back to use his credit and invited DD to join him for another course of five lessons. I'm always happy to pay for swimming lesson if it's convenient. Five lessons will take us through the autumn and finish just before the really cold weather sets in. We do not swim in the winter.

The cooler weather and rain took us by surprise and I'd forgotten that DD didn't have a coat for the winter. She needed some supplies for the art class. And there is a pyjama party on Monday night for which her over-a-year-old pyjamas just won't do. I went to the shops while she was at school this morning and got everything. On my way home I went to the big supermarket and did a delivery. I was home by 11.

I have never, well for the past few years anyway, been able to buy clothes for DD without her with me. Either the size is wrong or she doesn't like what I buy. Usually both. This time I hit the jackpot. Everything was a perfect fit and she loved it all. Woohoo.

The School Greenhouse
Most of my summer plants have died. I sort of gave up on watering them during the past few weeks as they kept promising rain. Instead we had heat in the 80s. So I wandered into the school greenhouse this week to see what was growing. "What happens to all these plants in the end?" I asked. I was going to offer to pay for some to save me trip to the plant nursery. Not only was I given some plants for free, I also got a lesson in how to take cuttings. I sort of knew that but my cuttings hardly ever take. Must try harder.

All in all, a good week. 

Friday, October 19, 2018

R2BC - Old Friends

Here we are on a girls' trip to Paris in September 2003.
Nicola is third from the left.
Here are my Reasons 2B Cheerful for this week. The linky is over at Becky's Lakes Single Mum for today and the rest of October.

Old Friend
Not so much of the old if you don't mind, but we were best friends when we were seven years old in a primary school in Harrow. Nicola now lives n LA and I live in Jerusalem. We used to pick up the phone and chat once in a while but who does that any more? And she's not on facebook. So, ironically, as social media expanded, she and I had less and less contact. Until last Sunday.

A few weeks ago Nicola and I made a Skype date for a Sunday, which was put off and rescheduled. We finally 'met' last Sunday. It was 8pm my time, dark outside, and I'd finished a full working day. (I'm a teacher so that means 3pm but ykwim.) She was enjoying the morning sunshine in her garden and talking to me on her iphone. I came with my big glass of lemon tea.

We caught up. We gave each other tours of our homes. We laughed. We didn't cry. And we promised to do it again soon(ish) and every few months at least. Thanks for a lovely evening Nicola. (Who says I'm not a cheap date?)

Fish Fingers
After almost a decade of looking forward to real fish fingers when we go to London, I finally found some in my local supermarket. Made by the chicken shnitzel people, Off Tov (Good Chicken) I assume, as these are called Dag Tov (Good Fish). Fish Sticks (as they're called here and in the US) are usually minced up fish and other fillers. They're more like fish cakes in breadcrumbs. Captain Bird's Eye would turn in his grave. The Dag Tov wrapper clearly showed real, flakey, white fish inside. We gave it a try.

We bought the goujons and the fried fish fillets in breadcrumbs. Both were delicious. By this week they were gone. I must look for them in other supermarkets. (Caveat: they are ridiculously expensive but as we don't buy any other meat, I'm willing to indulge.)

Kick Over
I'd call it a backward walkover but DD insists that it's a kick over. Anyway, we celebrated that she can finally do it after weeks of trying. I would say that this was probably the highlight of her week, if not the whole month.

I totally get it. I remember when I did it for the first time. (No, I'm not talking about that. Cheeky.) It was on the school playing field during the lunch hour. I found a grassy mound and placed myself so that my feet were higher than my hands in the back bend position. (Although it is starting to sound like a kinky version of that. 😜) So I was cheating really. Later I perfected it on flat ground. I showed everyone who would watch. (Stop laughing. I'm talking about a kick over!) So yeah, it was a big moment for us. DD has completely surpassed me. She can do both front/back and box splits which I could never manage even though I wanted it so much I used to dream about it.

Have a great weekend y'all.