Saturday, September 30, 2017

Reinventing Yom Kippur Without The Middleman

Today was Yom Kippur - the Day of Atonement. I didn't go to shul (synagogue). For someone who comes from a very traditional (and sometimes orthodox) background, this is no small thing.

I felt guilty because I belong to a very small community that meets only for services on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur and its continuity relies on people turning up. Otoh, the community has evolved over the years with people moving away and new people joining every year. And they don't do it for me, they do it because it's important for them and they love the intimacy of a small community in someone's home. But I rsvped that we would be there and so I felt bad and I was too much of a coward to tell them that in the end I just didn't want to. 

I love parts of the services that involve uplifting singing of tunes that I've known my whole life. And the feeling of that final 'kaddish' at the very end and the long blast of the shofar when everyone has been without food or drink for 25+ hours and it's all over, is an amazing feeling of togetherness and achievement. 

But actually what did we achieve? For me the answer was that I lasted a whole day without sustenance and I managed to attend all the services throughout the day in full. Surely that's not what it's all about?

This year, after resisting it and distancing myself for a few years, I decided to follow my heart. In previous years I've had the excuse that DD gets bored and a bored DD prevents me from having any sort of meaningful prayer experience. But I had a place to leave her this year and anyway there are other children at the shul for her to go off and play with. Otoh, at almost nine, it's not a matter of finding her somewhere to be with other children to play with. She doesn't want to be out all day playing. For some of the time, yes, but she has things to do at home and she also needs her personal time. 

I have a problem with orthodox prayer in that the women basically go to watch. I didn't always mind about this as it meant I had it easy. I never had to learn the prayers or worry about being called upon to do something I couldn't do or hadn't practised. In recent years, however, I have felt differently. Yes women are supposed to pray but as they are not counted in the minyan (the quorum) and they sit at the back or in a viewing gallery upstairs, they might as well stay at home. I have no problem with the men going to do their thing but I don't need to be there to watch them. In recent years many modern orthodox communities have made carefully considered gestures to give women more participation in the services. I appreciate that in Judaism it's extremely hard to make changes but. (Nothing else, just but.)

Of course there are gender-egalitarian services that I could go to. So let's examine the nature of the services. The prayers are all in a book and everyone has the same book. You start at the beginning and you read, chant, sing, follow silently, stand, sit, bow, face eastwards, and generally choreograph your way through to the end in unison with the whole congregation. It's all prescribed, there is a lot of repetition within each service, and you do the exact same thing every week or year depending on whether it's a weekly Shabbat or a yearly festival service.

At the end of each service I used to feel virtuous because I'd gone to shul and that was the 'good' thing to do. Nowadays I'm left with a feeling of, "I didn't get to say anything I wanted to say." You can try tuning out to do your own introspection but you sort of have to keep one ear tuned in so that you join in with choreography. If you just sit there it's considered rude. Or ignorant. Or, worse, blasphemous. In a large shul you can get away with sitting at the back in a corner and reading your own book. I know some people do this for parts of the service they consider less important. But guess what? I can read at home. 

There are alternative services near me where they allot times in the service for private meditation and thought. This is nice because you get the community togetherness and time for your personal prayers. However, I decided to ditch the prescribed prayers altogether this year and explore my own relationship with God and atonement. 

It's not about being less Jewish. It's about being more meaningfully Jewish. It's about having a direct relationship with God rather than going through the rabbis. I admire the rabbis for their learned knowledge of the Bible and the ancient laws, just as I admire doctors for their learned knowledge of medical science. Much as your doctor will advise you towards better health, the rabbis also teach us that we have freedom of choice. Ironically the orthodox rabbis then proclaim that if you choose to do it their way you will be rewarded for the good, but if you choose a different way, you are wrong. I'm just not on that page anymore. 

This Yom Kippur I cut out the middleman and I spoke to God myself. I repented and atoned and I prayed for Israel and Jews everywhere and humanity in general. I sat on my balcony and thought deeply about a better approach to the year ahead and asked that I may be written in the Book of Life in order to carry through my good intentions. It was good.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Cleansing The Soul - R2BC

Here are my Reasons 2B Cheerful for this week. As usual I'm joining the R2BC linky with Michelle on Mummy from the Heart.

The moon over Jerusalem one night in August

Cleansing the soul
It's Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) tomorrow evening and all day Saturday. Lots of praying and self-reflecting, and general cleansing of the soul for the coming year. I love it that the day after Yom Kippur is Sunday 1st October - what a great date for starting everything afresh.

Wadi Qilt again
DD  has been invited to go to Wadi Qilt again tomorrow as there is no school. I didn't have to accept for her this time as she loved it last week and has been asking when she can go back. Once again she gets a fun day out and I get time to get things done.

Shutting Down
My summer course is finally finally coming to an end and we are being strict this year - after a few extension periods of course. I have warned the students that I will be shutting down the website for this course on Tuesday. I did it for last year's Year Course at the end of August (official final date was June 30th). So for the first time in seven years I will only be grading papers for one course when the new semester starts on October 15th.

Book Vs Film
We finished reading The Railway Children. DD read the last few pages to me as I couldn't see the page through my tears. We then had a grand viewing of the film on dvd. I have always loved that film since seeing it as a child and I've watched it a million times since - but not for a few years and not after reading the book. We were both a bit disappointed. As usual, the book had far more in it than did the film.

Having said that, the films do have added value in that it's wonderful to see the magnificent locomotives, the scenery, the costumes, and the magic, in the case of Harry Potter. So we forgive the films and enjoy them anyway.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Late Night Reader

We're reading The Railway Children. I'm reading it to DD, a chapter a night. We usually both end up in tears over it - it's that sort of book. Or maybe we're that sort of people. Whatever, we're loving it.

I've borrowed the DVD of the film but I won't let DD watch it until we've finished the book. This is the rule for good books. I read the whole of Harry Potter to her - all seven books - before I'd allow her to see the films. It took from June till October last year.

This week I borrowed the DVD of Free Willy. When I told DD I had it she asked, "is there a book of Free Willy?"

Anyway back to The Railway Children. We read the chapter about Perk's Pride and as I put the book down I mentioned that the next chapter is, 'The Big Secret,' which we will have tomorrow night. DD begged me to read just one page of it for a taster. So obviously I couldn't stop after one page and she got the whole chapter.

We learned what the big secret was but only Bobbie had found out. DD was desperate to know if she told the others. It was now 10.30 on a school night and I was definitely not reading any more or discussing it any more tonight, despite DD's best efforts to draw me in. I left her to make herself comfortable and turn off the light.

After I'd made coffee and pottered about a bit myself, I looked in on her to see if she was asleep. The light was still on and I marched in to tell her to it was time for lights out and no more messing about. I found her reading the next chapter of The Railway Children. "I'm on the sixth line!" she announced proudly.

I've been waiting for her to pick up a book, a proper book that is, and read of her own volition ever since I realized she could. I wrote a post recently about her being bored into reading but until now it has been easy chapter books of The Magic Tree House ilk. I quietly left the room with her still reading.

"I read a whole page!" she cried from the bedroom a few minutes later. And later still, "two pages!" The clock 'struck' 11 and DD called out, "I don't believe it! I'm at the end of the fourth page! I love reading now. It's getting easier!"

There are some things, no matter how often you tell them, they have to figure it out by themselves.

Finally I heard, "What?! I have another 13 pages of this chapter!" I suggested, "perhaps leave it for now and continue tomorrow?" I went in to see if she was heeding my suggestion but she was already asleep with the bookmark neatly placed five pages into the chapter.

I wasn't going to blog today as I didn't really have anything to write about. :~)

Sunday, September 24, 2017

The 'Camera-Hates-Me' Miracle

The miracle photo in which I look okay.
This is actually true. I don't look good in photos. It's a fact.

I am not lacking in self confidence in real life and I'm quite content with my facial features - good skin, cheek bones, etc... . Straight silky hair would have been nice but I'm happy enough with my thick 'Jewfro' curls.

But take a photo and I look.... well different.

It's not my imagination either. When I went for my graduation photos, I told the photographer, "you won't get a nice one, the camera hates me." He looked at me as if to say, "I'm a professional photographer. This isn't an instamatic camera I got for Christmas you know." I raised my eyebrows in reply.

After quite a few takes on his digital camera (so he could see the results instantly), quite a few more than he'd taken of any other graduate, he had to admit defeat. We got some passable photos but they didn't look the way I looked in real life.

At my nephew's Bar Mitzvah we posed for family photos. Then my sister said that the cousins could have family photos on their own and she'd send them the photos. I posed with DD who was a toddler at the time. We never got any photos. "They didn't come out well," was the reason given.

Two summers ago a friend invited her close friends to a picnic for her birthday and she hired a professional photographer to record the event and as gift to her friends. It was a lovely idea. My heart sank and I let the photographer position us and do what she wanted. I wasn't hopeful but she gave me a whole speech about it being her job to make me look the best I can look and how she'd trained for this. I'd heard it all before but you go along with it because it can't hurt.

Sure enough, a few days later we were presented with a CD of DD looking great and me looking awful. In all our group photos I look awful too. I found one photo of me at the ALEH dinner and I cringed with embarrassment. When DD and I try to take selfies she looks at each one and suggests, "you could crop yourself out if you want to." I regret that there are very few photos of DD and me together as she has grown up because I look so awful in them.

Also okay(ish) but miles better than usual.
It wasn't always like this. I blame Mr ~!@#$ our family dentist for taking out too many teeth when I was a child. Who knows I may have had a Hollywood smile but for that. And I agree that if I lost a ton of weight that would probably help too. I've thought of having cosmetic treatment done on my teeth but they're good teeth and basically straight - so I'm reluctant to play around with them when it's not essential. And a friend told me recently that her fabulous smile had cost her 36,000 shekels (about $10,000 - although if you say it in pounds it doesn't sound so much).

Then last week DD brought home a list of options for special lessons they will be having at school on Sunday afternoons. There are some really nice choices - History of Art (theory and practical), Capture The Moment (photography), A Trip Around The World (not literally), Gardening and Farming, Animal Care, DIY, and more.

DD was very taken with the idea of capturing the moment. I said she could take photos on my phone to see if she had a talent for it. She snapped away while I did some posing for fun. "Hmmm," she said, "it seems I do have some talent." I laughed and took a look at her efforts.

Reader, I was gobsmacked! She'd taken two of the best photos of me I've seen in about a decade. I used one of them for my facebook profile because the old one had DD aged four, and she's now far from four. So far about 30 people have 'liked,' including the friend who when I had to post a profile photo for the Times of Israel Blogs, messaged me with, "couldn't you find a better photo?" The answer was of course, no. If I'd been able to take a better photo I'd have posted it - obviously. (Its a bit embarrassing actually as I'm more of a "READ ME!" facebook person than a "LOOK AT ME!" facebook person. I put up the photo because I needed a new photo, not to get complimentary comments - are they just saying that to make me feel good?)

So I'm giving you my two new miracle photos. DD has asked to be in the 'Capture The Moment' lesson and I've said she can stop learning for tests or doing any homework as she's obviously going to be portrait photographer when she grows up.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Friday Night Is Games Night

Friday night has become games night in our house. We are not strictly orthodox about keeping Shabbat but we do celebrate by lighting candles and eating a festive meal; and we don't do ordinary things like work, laundry or cleaning.

You can see from the photo that tonight's games were Mastermind, TAKI (like Uno) and Rat-a-tat Cat!

Other options are Mancala, Kalooki, Backgammon (Shesh Besh), Rummikub, Frustration (though we are growing out of that one), Set, Othello (Reversi), and Triplica (I hate this card game but DD likes it).

We take our games night seriously. Whilst we don't have a green baize games table, we do have paper and a pen for keeping score and of course drinks and nibbles.

We need some good board games like Monopoly and other classics but we have a dilemma. If I buy them in English she can't play them with her Israeli friends. And I don't want to buy them in Hebrew. I think her friends are just going to have to be good at English if they want to play at our house.

As DD was looking for a game this evening she noticed that we also have some large (1500 pieces) puzzles in the cupboard. "When are we going to one of these big puzzles together?"
"In the winter on a rainy Shabbat when we don't want to go out all day," I replied. We are looking forward to it already.

What are your family's favourite games?

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Rosh Hashana So Far So Good - R2BC

Today is the first day of Rosh Hashana which started at sundown last night. DD and I continued with our new (from one year ago) tradition of doing tashlich with soap bubbles. We sat on the balcony and blew away our sins and bad habits from last year and we promised to try harder for better habits this year.

DD: I'm going to try to not lose my temper and scream at you. (Me: thank you.)
Me: I'm going to try to go to bed earlier and get up earlier. (I got up this morning at 10 but it's a process.)
DD: I'm going to do important things like homework and shower, before television.
Me: I'm going to do the dishes in the sink and prep my lessons for the next day, in the evening and before social media time. (I did the dishes last night.)

And so we went on....

I tried to capture the bubble blowing on camera but Rubbish Photographer struck again. Then we did some selfies which were equally rubbish but I posted a few on the right sidebar because DD is almost nine, not four as she was in the previous thumbnail.

We ate some of the Rosh Hashana menu with symbols - salmon for a year of being sameah (happy); peas and sweet potato (afuna  and batata for akuna matata) to have no worries, fruit salad for dessert for a sweet year, and we drank our apple juice spritzers through the last two straws (the shop didn't have any at 1.30pm and no time to go to another shop) for a suck-cessful year. I wanted to make a salad out of a whole head of lettuce for the head of the year but the shop had also run out of lettuce.

We played Taki, Set and Kalooki until far too late. We have established another tradition that Friday night is games night. (I know it wasn't Friday yesterday but Festival evenings are similar to Friday nights.)

We got up late this morning - I felt bad about not going to synagogue as it's a small community which only exists because enough people do make the effort to go. We will go tomorrow as we're going to friends for lunch afterwards. And we heard the shofar blown (all 100 blasts) as the next door neighbours had private blowing on their patio. Then, throughout the morning as men came home from synagogue and blew the shofar for their womenfolk who had stayed at home - I''m guessing but there are shofars blowing all over the neighbourhood atm. I think we're covered.

Friends are coming here for an early dinner tonight. I took a big white fish out of the freezer and I want to make some sort of baked fish dish. I've never baked fish before (except for salmon) so I'm off to find a recipe.

So far, and 18 hours in, it's been a good year. :~D

I'm linking up with Michelle's Reasons 2B Cheerful on Mummy From The Heart.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Gift Of Wadi Qelt

Tonight is Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. It's a two-day festival but this year it finishes as Shabbat comes in so actually it's three days straight of eating, socialising, praying, eating, sleeping, and did I mention eating? If you do the whole lot religiously, which we actually don't, that's the equivalent of six Christmas dinners at home and a number of smaller refreshments (like cocktail parties without the cocktails) at synagogue after the services.

We only accept invitations or make a big meal for once a day. However, that's still a lot of cooking and cleaning for me and DD was home because the schools are off from today. This is good because otherwise I'd be at my school, but difficult because she gets bored.

At 8.30 this morning we got a phone call from DD's BFF. Would DD like to go with them to Wadi Qilt. She wasn't sure. She's a bit of a ditherer and she worries in case it's going to be a difficult hike. It's not, it's a gentle stroll through the riverlets to the waterfalls and natural pools at the end. I accepted for her.

So off she went in her swimming costume, wearing my old sneakers - we threw her old ones away and she wasn't going to ruin her new sneakers walking through the water. This caused me to ponder on two things. 1. Decluttering is not always so brilliant. And 2. my daughter has almost the same size feet as me. (I knew this as she already takes my socks and this summer I bought us the same size socks).

I had five hours to shop, cook and clean. So I did go shopping because the supermarkets are going to be closed for the next three and a half days (from 2pm today). Then I spent a lot of time on the computer, and then DD came home.

Luckily she fell asleep on the sofa this afternoon and I did get some cooking done. And some laundry, and some grading  papers for college. Not as productive a day as intended but then it never is these days.

DD had a wonderful time. I think one of the greatest gifts you can give a single mother is to take her child out for a few hours before a major festival or weekend. We both appreciated it very much.

I wish everyone a wonderful, good and sweet year (Shana Tova Umetuka) whether you're Jewish or not. 

(I joined the Country Kids Linky at Coombe Mill with this post.) 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

ALEH Adults Update.

This is an update on my post: ALEH All People No Limits. Many friends and readers wanted to know what the children of ALEH do when they become adults. The website and videos all talk about the children and there is no mention of what happens later. So I contacted ALEH and received this welcome and heartwarming reply from Elie Klein, on behalf of ALEH's Communications Department.(I bolded the important bit.)

Our firm serves as an extension of ALEH's communications department.  Dov Hirth from ALEH saw your inquiry and requested that I respond.

I want to begin by letting you know how much we all love and appreciate your blog post.  We are so happy to hear that you were so touched by the presentations at the ALEH Jerusalem Ladies Committee gala, and we are so grateful that you chose to share that experience with your readers.  ALEH really is a special place, and we would be happy to take you on a tour.

Regarding your questions,  ALEH provides a continuum of loving care for individuals with disabilities, a framework for life – from infancy and childhood through adulthood.  Some of the children you saw in the video are not actually children – they are young men and women in their teens, 20s and even 30s.  While some ALEH residents move from our Jerusalem residence to our rehabilitative village in the Negev once they have reached adulthood (some prefer the predominantly adult community there), most of our residents remain in the ALEH centers where they are raised.  After all, it's HOME! ;-)

Again, it's one thing to talk about ALEH but experiencing it is something else entirely.  We would love to host you at any one of our four residential facilities.  Just say when.

All the best & Shana Tova,

A good answer, right? 
If you would like to donate to ALEH please visit the ALEH website.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Style And The Individual: When To Turn A Blind Eye

A while ago I went to an office that was situated in a roof extension. The ceiling was the sloping roof of the building and the windows were sloping skylights. They were tall windows with the tops stretching up and inwards to be above almost the centre of the room but near enough to the bottom of the slope so you could see the wonderful view over rooftops to the mountains beyond. It was really quite stunning. And the office itself was pristine, with clean lines and fresh white paint.

However, this bright, new, efficient space was 'finished' in a most bizarre way. Some budding interior designer (not) had put curtain rods along the tops of the windows and draped beautiful turquoise curtains framing each side of each of the two windows. Except of course, the curtains didn't frame the windows at all. They hung straight down into the middle of the room.

The two female secretaries had tied a knot into each curtain so that they didn't have them in their faces all the time. And the sun beat down into the room, casting eerie shadows like hangmans' nooses on the walls obscured by the knotted curtains.

I tried not to laugh but I couldn't help it. They told me I wasn't the first to be amused. The plan, or I should say the revised plan, was to put another rail at the bottom of each window to hold the curtains in place. But they needed to order new curtains with hems or ringed holes for the curtain rods on the bottom as well as the top.

"They make blinds for these sort of windows you know," I told them. I offered to show them and we spent a few minutes browsing Velux Blinds on the computer with the lid of a cardboard box taped over the monitor to block out the direct sunlight. We even found blinds in turquoise.

Years ago a friend told me that when planning your space, have the finished room in mind. That way you can make small changes as and when you have the resources, but you are always working towards your vision of how it will look in the end. If you don't do this, you'll waste money making changes to patch up what you have rather than towards the desired end.

My new friends in the dazzling office (pun intended) weren't ready to embrace the full uncluttered effect of crisp new blinds made to measure. They wanted curtains. I noticed they had crocheted doilies under the potted plants and I let the matter rest.

This is a collaborative post.  

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sunday Snippets

Shut the Box
Persevering. Sunday Snippets is an invention of Jax Blunt on her blog Making It Up. I've done it before but it never became a habit. This month Jax set herself a challenge to blog all 30 days of September. I decided to join her but missed a week of days in the chaos and exhaustion of going back to school. I've not given up though and I'm still aiming to blog as much as I can this month.

Realizing that despite the heatwave of last week, this weekend the summer really did end. I had to wait all day to do laundry while the previous washes dried on the line. During the summer the washing took 2 - 3 hours to dry. I could have done laundry all day if I had enough things to wash or if I felt like I needed clean sheets and towels every day - which I don't obviously.

Wondering how this happened: I spent the summer decluttering and organizing my house only to find that two weeks into the new school year, we are once again living in an enormous mess. Luckily we have a few more holidays over the next few weeks because of the Jewish Festivals. God always gives you a second chance.

Discovering a design fault. We have this game called Shut the Box, which a friend sent for DD last Chanuka. I admit that we've not played it that much but we  never noticed the error - or possibly an intended quirk? (I don't think so.) DD just showed me. How did we not see this before? Did you spot it?

Enjoying the cooler weather. It seems like nothing to you but, believe me, we suffered this week - possibly more than during the whole of July/August which was bad enough.

Saving money by going back to my regular supermarket instead of shopping at the expensive boutique supermarket around the corner. My regular super is a ten minute walk away (downhill) and a 20 minute crawl back up the hill with a heavy trolley (yes I  have shopping-trolley, don't judge). I just could not do that trip in the heat. I could have taken taxis of course but the cost of the taxis was about the same a the savings so I didn't bother.

Sleeping well. DD has finally gone back to sleeping in her own bed after about two years of sleeping with me. We used to share a room in the winter to save on heating two bedrooms, and then separate in the spring, summer and autumn. But for the last couple of years she's not made the move back. I didn't mind too much but recently I noticed that I keep being woken in the night by stray elbows, knees and feet encroaching onto my side of the bed. It was probably always like this but only now it started to bother me. Well DD is bigger and I'm menopausal - nuff said.

Compromising by sharing the family bed on Friday nights when we don't have to get up in the morning. DD: "People say Shabbat is the best day, but it's not, it's Friday!"

Relaxing in our pyjamas the whole of Shabbat. DD wakes up on Shabbat morning with two question. Are we going anywhere today? Is anyone coming? She loves it when the answers are no and no as it was yesterday.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Location Location Location - R2BC

Location location location (I'm top right). 

It's that time of the week again. Here are my Reasons 2B Cheerful this week. As usual I've joined the linky being hosted during September by Michelle from Mummy From The Heart.

The highlight of this week was obviously the ALEH event. A wonderful evening organised by wonderful people for an amazing organisation.

Diary of a Millenium Baby
DD has started writing a daily diary - in English. It's something she started off her own bat with no suggestion from me. Today she decided to start writing in cursive, after reading Muggie Maggie by Beverly Cleary. Who says that books don't influence children. She kept coming to me with requests for various letters in cursive. I'm impressed and proud of her passion for writing. Yesterday she said she might like to write a blog - but not include the secret things. Of course not include the secret things.

Locker Luck
I finally have a locker to be proud of in the teachers' room at my school. For two years I was the locker in the corner at floor level in the smaller block of lockers. I tried swapping the stickers around a couple of time so that I got a seemingly unoccupied locker but the owner always reappeared and swapped us back. Then, the other day someone pointed out that a teacher had left and her locker in the bigger lockers block was empty. I wasted no time moving in.

Finally, room for my teabags and private mug. Room to store notebooks for marking, textbooks, papers, anything I need for working during breaks and free periods without having to retrieve my stuff from a dusty stockroom in the furthest bomb shelter - which is where I had been keeping things for lack of any other solution.

I have to mention that I'm on the same row as the Deputy Head. Just four doors down in fact - she has locker 1 and I'm at number 4. You could call it a penthouse, although it's the same size as all the other lockers in the block -  no balcony or anything. I'm wondering now if I have building rights on the roof.

The Learning Lab
DD has been invited to attend the Learning Lab at school. It's twice a week from 2.20 when school ends, till 5pm. It's very similar to the afternoon programme she already goes to but with more emphasis on work. They help them with homework and to prepare for school tests, concentrating on Hebrew, Maths, and English. Obviously we don't need the English but the other subjects are very welcome.

That's all for this week folks with best wishes to everyone for many Reasons 2B Cheerful over the coming week.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

ALEH: All People No Limits

Before most of the guests arrived, Rubbish Photographer strikes again
This post wasn't supposed to be about ALEH. It was supposed to be about how my lovely friend Sally-Ann invited me to a charity dinner organised by the committee she's on.

Before I got there I couldn't even remember which charity it was in aid of.

This post was supposed to be about arranging for DD to stay overnight with a friend, getting all dressed up for a mid-week dinner at the King David Hotel (very pish-posh), meeting lots of people I know there (I think I've explained about the Anglo community in Jerusalem before - we're mostly all friends or friends of friends), a fabulous buffet supper (ok, turns out it wasn't a dinner), amazing entertainment by Nimrod Harel (Master Mentalist - OMG he was incredible!) and basically a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

Then I came face to face with ALEH. I knew about ALEH of course, like you know about loads of prominent charities - RNLI, RSPCC, RSPCA, Oxfam, etc.... ALEH.

Thirty-five years ago a group of families in the centre of the country (that means near Tel Aviv) who each had a severely disabled child, clubbed together to rent an apartment, hired a special education teacher, and amassed a group of volunteers to help give their children the quality of life they deserved, but that is so hard to provide and sustain at home on your own.

This was the beginning of ALEH. Today ALEH has four campuses around the country providing medical care, rehabilitation facilities, education, and above all, a warm and safe home in which each child can reach his or her full potential. Today over 700 children are under the loving care of ALEH.

On Monday night we heard from Shirat Malach whose 18 year old son, Tuvia, has lived at ALEH for the past 15 years, since he was four years old. One poignant memory she shared was about Tuvia's eighteenth birthday. The family discussed how they should celebrate but in the end didn't run with any of the ideas. Shirat said that on the morning of Tuvia's birthday she couldn't get out of bed. She couldn't bring herself to paint on a smile and pretend that everything was wonderful. The family stayed home and did nothing. However, in the evening they were sent photos of Tuvia enjoying a lively birthday party at ALEH, surrounded by his  friends and carers. "They did what we could not do at that moment," Shirat told us. There were few dry eyes in the room.

We saw this video about ALEH:

I spent much of the evening thinking of my blogging friend Candi in Dublin, and wishing that her family and all families who need such a wonderful organization, could have an ALEH.

Thank you Sally-Ann and Tony for inviting me. It was a memorable evening and so important for the continuation of a vital service, saving children and their families from desperate situations.

If you would like to donate to ALEH please visit the ALEH website.

Click on the photos below to enlarge them and read about some of the ALEH family in Israel.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Tuesday Tidbits #47 - Didn't I Not?

DD: How do you spell moven?
Me: Moven?
DD: Yes, my friend has moven to another table.

DD: My new class teacher keeps telling us we are all one family, and she even has a  big sign up saying, 'Welcome to the class 4"1 Family'.
Me: That's nice.
DD: No it isn't. It's creepy. Every time she says it I think of a wicked witch saying it in a screechy voice. It's like she's trying to make us believe we're something that we're not. Creeeepeeeee.

We've been watching some reality tv on You Tube with Gail Vaz Oxlade helping people get out of debt (Till Debt Us Do Part and Money Morons). DD got hooked on it. So we were out shopping for school supplies last week...

Me: Ooh look, bed linens on sale. I just want to see the sheets.
DD: Remember, we're only buying needs, not wants.

Sometimes the lack of an English environment shows in DD's language. She's developed her own tag question convention that makes her sound like a character from Jane Austen.

I drew that unicorn quite well, didn't I not?
I'll soon be able able to cook my own supper, won't I not?
When I'm 9 I'll be walking to school on my own, will I not?
I can stay here while you pop down to the shop, can I not?

DD slept over at my friend's house last night. She woke up at 2 am crying and she said she wanted to go home. My friend's ever practical 6yo son turned to his mother and suggested, "you can call a taxi for her."

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Week 1 Done And 546 For My Birthday - R2BC

DD playing with her friend's little brother in the park.
She's very good with little children. 
Here are my Reasons 2B Cheerful for this week. The linky is back with Michelle on Mummy From The Heart for the month of September.

Just getting through the first week of school is a worthy R2BC. This is what it was like... The children are all in different years obviously, so you get confused when talking about e.g. 5th Grade Girls and you actually mean 6th Grade Girls except when you really do mean 5th Grade Girls but the person you are speaking to is thinking 4th Grade Girls.

Some of the teachers have changed classes. They changed the places of the classrooms. We are all scrambling to finalize out timetables to fit in all sorts of groups and one-to-one tutoring so that the children involved don't miss anything vital. And the kids themselves are only given schedules day by day until it's all finalized. So when you ask a group (made up of pupils from three different classes) if we can meet on Thursdays in the 2nd lesson, they don't know because it's only Monday and they won't know what's happening on Thursday until Wednesday afternoon.

It's amazing how an early start and a full day of work can be so exhausting when you've been used to the long, lazy summer holidays. DD and I found ourselves struggling to keep our eyes open in the early evening at he begining of the week. By Thursday we were getting used to it but I still managed to keep to the planned 'in bed by 8 pm' for DD and 11 pm for me (well sometimes 12).

My Birthday
By vainly trying to hide my age, I apparently turned off the whole birthday notification thing on facebook. For one second I was upset that I'd not got 300 Happy Birthday greetings. Then I realized that it didn't really matter.

I got some lovely messages from good friends on Whatsapp, my cousin and a friend from LA emailed, my mum skyped, and one friend messaged me on facebook to say he remembered anyway (which is how I knew that I'd done a facebook fail). It was fine. I didn't need anything else and after day two at school, I was too tired to celebrate anyway.

However..... I blogged about it and then the messages came. They were even more special because a blog post requires a higher level of engagement than just responding to a notification with 'happy birthday x'.

After a year of trying to claw my way back into the top 1000 blogs in the TOTS100 ranking, I suddenly jumped about 700 places back to 546 (555 in August and 546 in September). It was the only best birthday present I got. If I can get back into the top 500 it displays that on the badge on my blog.

I was once in the top 100 for about two months - back in the day when they had about 700 UK parent blogs registered. Then they jumped to 3,000 and I managed to stay in the top 500 for years. Now blogging has become a professional career in the advertising and PR fields and there are around 6,000 UK parent blogs registered with TOTS100.

I'm thrilled with 546 but I'm not sure how it happened. Maybe it's simply a matter of blogging more often - I posted 16 times in August. I certainly don't keep up with Instagram or Twitter much, which are two of the variables in the ranking equation. Maybe all the professional bloggers were away enjoying free promotional holidays during July and August so there were only actually 546 of us blogging over the summer?

I decided to join Jax in her Making It up Blogtember 30 Day Challenge. It's now September 8th and this is only my fourth blog. I've not given up entirely but mine might be only a 25 day challenge. And next month I may be back down in the 1,000s but I'll always treasure my 546 for my birthday.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Happy Berefty Or Tomorrow Is Another Day

Random Birthday cake from a previous year.
Today is my birthday. Two years ago I tried to celebrate my birthday with DD and it was a disaster. And last year wasn't much better.

Today was only the second day of school and I had to meet three new classes. It was my first long day. It was hot and very humid outside. I didn't expect much from today.

Last night after our first full days back at school, DD and I both went to bed before 8 pm and were asleep within 10 minutes. Consequently I woke up at 5.30 this morning. I forgot it was my birthday. I did the dishes in the sink from the night before, showered and dressed, and made myself a cup of coffee. Meanwhile two good friends Whatsapped me with birthday greetings and I remembered (obviously).

I opened facebook before checking my emails, just in case some birthday wishes had come through. Nothing. Otoh, it was only 6.30 in the morning and 4.30 in England, so I wasn't too surprised. My cousin in London had sent me a Happy Birthday email with an attachment I couldn't open. But it's the thought that counts. I did expect to see all the facebook greetings when I came home from work though.

I didn't mention my birthday at work. Seriously, it's a school on the second day of lessons. Everyone is a bit crazy and confused as all the classes have gone up a year and changed names, and the classrooms have been swapped around. We also have a temporary timetable until October while they iron out the kinks. (I wish they'd have said before I copied mine into my new diary in ink.) I only remembered every time I wrote the date on the board at the beginning of each class.

I arrived home, after picking up DD on the way, hot, bothered and exhausted. There were some more whatsapp messages from people who know. DD had her now regular meltdown (well regular since yesterday) as a result of being hot, bothered and exhausted. I quickly prepared a snack for her and poured us both long drinks of cool water. Then I turned on facebook and...... one direct message from an old friend saying, "Facebook didn't let me know me but I remembered anyway - Happy Birthday!"

What?! Facebook didn't tell you? How could that be?

I always wish friends and even 'friends' a happy birthday on facebook. I'm the first to say that the birthday greetings is one of the nicest things facebook does. People always post comments after their birthday thanking friends for the greeting and saying how touched they were. I've loved it in previous years.

For two seconds I considered rushing over to my profile or my settings or wherever it is, and checking. But then I decided not to. Those who know know and if they want to send a greeting they can. How much is it really worth when you merely type 'Happy Birthday xxx' because the notice is there? It's a nice gesture. I like nice gestures but I don't need them.

DD finally stopped shouting at me about how she wants pizza and why can't she order it from her own pocket money? She's drawing. "Are you making me a birthday card?"
"No, why should I when you won't let me have pizza and all I want is pizza!?"

Happy berefty momey
Then minutes later I got this delivered into my lap with a kiss and a cuddle. So I'm not quite as "berefty" as I was 10 minutes ago.

I'm going to make sausages and chips for supper. And later I'll do some grading. I should clean the bathroom. Nothing has changed. I don't feel any different, not even older. And tomorrow is another day.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

The Eagle Of The Ninth

In English Literature for each term of each year in secondary school, we had to read and study one novel, one play, and a set of poems.

Some of the literature was great - not like lessons at all. Reading The Chrysalids started a life long (metaphorical) love affair with science fiction in general and with John Wyndham in particular. I never fell in love with Shakespeare but I was pleasantly surprised to find that it's not hard to understand. (Only in adulthood did I come to understand the genius of Shakespeare.) I unexpectedly enjoyed Jude The Obscure by Thomas Hardy. Less so The Mill on the Floss but I read it nevertheless. (George Eliot - I had to google it just now as I'd forgotten). I will always remember The Admirable Chrichton (though I never made the connection with Peter Pan at the time). And I was very relieved to be in the class doing To Kill A Mockingbird for O'level rather than Far From the Madding Crowd.

We read Jane Eyre and I'd forgotten the whole of her life before going to be the governess at Mr Rochester's place. It was only when watching a tv drama years later that I realized there was so much more to the book.

I thought The Importance of Being Ernest a bit silly and I refused to read The Trumpet Major - I don't remember who it was by and I don't care. A soon as I found out that our end of term exam was on the play not the novel I stopped even pretending I was reading it. (I couldn't resist googling it and what do you know? Thomas Hardy again! I'm surprised.)

The very first novel we were given to read in the Lower Fourth (Year 7) was The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff. It was the sort of novel I would never have chosen to read in a million years. It was, in my opinion, a boys' book. It was about the Romans in Britain and one particular Roman on a quest to the Highlands of Scotland to find the Eagle mascot/banner of the Ninth Legion that had mysteriously disappeared. Why they had chosen it in a girls' school was beyond me.

The first week's homework was to read the first three chapters. It was the weekend and I was finding it heavy going. We had English Lit. on Monday and I was still new enough and young enough in my school career to know think that it had to be done. I remember going across the road to play with my neighbour, Naomi, and my mother told me to take the book with me. At some point, Naomi went to watch something on television with her parents and I sat at their kitchen table and forced myself to read.

A miraculous thing happened during the course of that book. I got into it. By the middle I suddenly wanted to know how it ended. And the language wasn't too heavy or complicated. It was actually a pleasant read.

All this was in 1974. Jump forward 20 years and I came across a copy of the book in a clearance sale at The British Council Library in Jerusalem. I bought it because I remembered that I'd enjoyed it. I thought it would be fun to read it again, especially as I'd forgotten the ending, and most of the beginning and the middle. That was in 1994. Can you see where I'm going with this? It's now 2017 - 23 years later and I'd still not reread The Eagle of the Ninth.

However, I'd not removed it from my bookcase even after a number of book culls - some of them quite ruthless. So there was some commitment there in theory if not in practice.

Reader, this summer I reread it. It did not disappoint. I understand now why it was considered an educational novel for 11/12 year old girls in an all girls school with a ethos of academic and career achievement. Now I will pass the book on. I won't be needing to reread it again.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Fourth Grade!

Hello 4th Grade!
September 1st is the day all the schools go back in Israel. My facebook feed will soon be full of first day of school pictures. At DD's school this morning there was a lot of kissing and hugging and wishing each other a good year - the parents and the children.

DD still thinks it's the law that you have to have your photo taken on the first day of school. "But why Mummy?" I could actually think of a few reasons why it's a good idea but I didn't voice them.

I met DD's new teacher - she's young and beautiful and speaks fluent English. DD will love her. This is great as she's loved all her teachers so far, since the first nursery teacher at 19 months old. And so have I.

There is a new girl from South Africa in DD's class and I told DD to look out for her. I met the mother outside and she said DD was lovely, she had the girl sitting next to her and told her that everything will be fine. (I'm waiting to see how fine it's going to be when DD's best friend comes back from holiday next Wednesday :~P. But they are all great kids so I'm sure they'll work it out.)

Now is it just me, or does the weather feel cooler today? I swear it happens every year. August 31st is unbearably hot and September 1st is cool. I think this may be just me.

Just for fun - this was the first day of 1st Grade
We did a lot of some English and maths over the holiday but no Hebrew. I'm praying that DD will be able to keep up with all the reading. One of the reasons she is in the afternoon programme is because the teacher there helps them with their homework. Third Grade Hebrew was just about my level. Now I'm out of my depth.

It's 8.30 am and I've now got to do all the things on my own schedule that I promised I'd stick to from September 1st. I didn't write blogging for this slot but flexibility is also a virtue, no? I start at my school on Sunday so I'd better get going.

Wishing all those going back to school this week, and their parents, a happy, healthy and successful school year. xxx

(A friend just called - she's meeting another friend for coffee and would I like to join them? Well yeah! Sorry my new schedule - laters.)