Thursday, March 31, 2011

Waiting for that First Step

As the year and half mark rapidly approaches, Raphaela continues to refuse to walk on her own.  Other parents, her Gan and even Tipat Chalav don't seem to be concerned;  when no one is looking, Raphaela even takes a few tentative steps on her own.

I would love it, not only because it represents a new developmental chapter in her life, but because it opens up so many possibilities in terms of traveling and activities.  It also will do my back a world of good.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Inspired by William Saffire

At Gymboree yesterday, I was speaking with Olga while the girls (Michaela and Raphaela) played.  I told her about my last week, the experience of having my bag stolen and the deep feelings of vulnerability it caused. I told her that there are some days when I find it so hard to be a single parent, to put on a brave face and a smile and take care of Raphaela when all I want is a vacation.  I expressed my frustration at having to accomplish more things in one day than there are hours.  I wished that I had more support of family and friends.

Olga replied, "COPY, PASTE!"

I want to use the forum of this blog to proliferate the use of this phrase, instead of "I hear you" or "I empathize."  (It's so 2011...)

Power to the People

First of all, three cheers for the power of individuals, whose ground-swell effort (via email) helped Facebook understand that they should absolutely remove the "Third Intifada" page.  It is not Democracy nor is it Free Speech when terrorists use Facebook to piggy-back the movement toward revolution in the Middle East.  Calling for the eradication of Israel and the killing of Jews bears no resemblence to Egyptians or Lybians demanding a change in leadership.

It is sometimes scary to live in a country surrounded by Arab states, most of whom would rather wipe Israel off the map, though they might not admit it in polite company.  My friend Rachael told me a story yesterday, and I didn't know whether to laugh or cry: she was feeding her two year old and playing the airplane game, and when she said, "Here comes the airplane, here comes the...." her four year old son completed the sentence with the word, "missle."  (She was thinking along the lines of "bird.")

This is our reality, Raphaela and the other children in her generation will grow up knowing that other nations want us dead, and not being phased by that awareness.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Marathon Friday

On the streets of Jerusalem, it is like Yom Kippur, only you can sit at the Cafe with friends and do stuff.    What seems like the entire city is closed on account of the Marathon, only the head nursery teacher and her husband (who live close by) were able to walk to the Gan, the rest of the staff hampered by the lack of public transportation and taxis.  Most nurseries were closed today for this reason.

I dropped Raphaela off at Gan this morning and considered taking her right home, it was clear to me that there was an air of panic, with 28 children expected and no assurances that the rest of the teachers would be able to arrive.  "How are we going to change all those diapers by ourselves?"  asked Sarah...After receiving assurances that "it would all be OK, but pick Raphaela up earlier than usual," I left her there happy and playing, and took to the streets.

Having canceled all my patients for the morning, I stood on Palmach and joined the crowd cheering on the runners, I drank a cup of coffee in leisure, accomplished local errands, and hung out with friends.  Watching the runners, I started to tear up, thinking about all the Boston Marathons I had watched over the years from our house;   my parents live right near Heartbreak Hill, the most rigorous and challenging part of the race.  Memories of home and childhood, but I am watching men, women and even children, athletes from all over the planet, run on the streets of my neighborhood in Jerusalem, my home for the last 14 years.

For a week that started out with the theme, "Shit Happens," it was nice to go into Shabbat with more of a feeling of joy and belonging.

And I am more determined and inspired than ever to run the Jerusalem Marathon next year.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Dose of Perspective

The food in Japan is radioactive and toxic for humans.
When I was sitting in the police station to report the theft, a woman came in after me and lodged a complaint against her abusive husband, and mother-in-law.
Bombs at the Jerusalem Central Bus Station, and the shooting of innocent civilians by Arab terrorists.

I am almost in a place where I can agree with those who have told me to "buck up" and "get over it."  After all, my daughter and I are alive and well.

Monday, March 21, 2011

"It's a Kapara"

When the mirror on my car got broken by the construction men two weeks ago, one week after the car's annual check-up, and it cost me 1600 NIS to repair, my Mother said, "It's a Kapara."

Today, on Purim, my pocketbook got stolen for the 30 seconds that I left it in the stroller while delivering Mishloach Manot.  It contained the keys to my house and my car, my wallet (and all associated credit cards, driver's licenses etc.), my cell phone and the digital camera, with photos from Purim that I had not yet down-loaded.  It contained some money, my professional Chiropractic license and more alarming, both mine and Raphaela's US Social Security cards.

I tried to call my cell phone, but it was shut off.  Not by me, I assure you. I kept hoping that given the import of the day, someone found it and will return it to me; so far I have heard nothing from anyone.

Now the person who has my bag can steal my car, break into my house, take my memories and possibly steal my identity using the social security numbers.

Hell of a Kapara.  I must have done something really naughty for the Universe to punish me this way. 

I called the Police and they said that I have to come down to the station to report the theft.  When I explained that it makes it quite difficult when I have a baby, am a single parent and can't easily find a sitter, and can't even drive my car over there because my car keys and my license were stolen as part of the package.  The answer I got was typical in this Third World Beurocracy, "That's procedure, take it or leave it."

I am at the moment in a state of shock, trying to keep myself busy organizing the lists of how this needs to be resolved.  I have not eaten since breakfast this morning, I tend to starve myself when I am under extreme pressure.  Raphaela, picking up on my tension, refuses to fall asleep and give me a minute to collect my thoughts, and cry.

Yes, she and I are alive and healthy, but this really really sucks.  Happy Purim.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

"After the Holiday, I will..."

Normally the major resolutions are made after the major set of holidays in the Fall, but I am using the opportunity of Purim to get a little closer to my goal of a more balanced and happy life.

After the holiday of Purim, I will start my moving search in earnest.  It would be nice to say that I could find a new place to live before Pessach, and only have to clean once, but I must be realistic.

After the holiday of Purim, I begin my marathon training program.

After the holiday of Purim, I will call my very excellent travel agent and figure out when/if Raphaela and I will be visiting the United States before the end of this year.  As a separate entity, I will arrange an actual closer-to-home vacation for myself, even if it means packing up for a long weekend, and sitting on the beach while Raphaela makes sand castles.

In truth, I am conflicted because the last three visits to the States have overall felt like an emotional train wreck.  Since her birth, Raphaela is the point of these family visits - I will not call them vacations - so she can get to know her cousins and extended family.  Except that when we are in Boston, we have been mostly ignored;  my mother can press my buttons on the phone and distract me from the quality of my life, I don't need to buy two plane tickets and suffer traveling with a small child in order to have that experience in person.

Some part of me knows how important a role a grandparent relationship can play in a person's life, I will forever thank the Universe for giving me that opportunity with my own grandmother, a woman who served the role of surrogate mother as well.  The other part of me knows that I have certain expectations that will never come to fruition, that I must accept the limitations of my family.   I would rather not expose myself or Raphaela to that hurt un-necessarily.

Almost 14 years ago, I moved to Israel and chose to raise my daughter here, Mea Culpa.  I would even take the "blame" of creating a geographical distance between us and many of my State-side relatives.   We are happy here in Israel, we do have friends and adopted family who love us, and I have built a life here.  Who is to say that blood must always take precedence over water?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Jerusalem Marathon

This spectacularly warm morning, while waiting at a traffic light with Raphaela in the stroller, on the way to Gan, a woman in a running outfit came up next to us.  Raphaela smiled at her immediately and after a few minutes of nice feelings all around, I asked this runner if she was planning on participating in the Jerusalem Marathon next week.  She is, and I wished her luck, and then found out that not only can you run the full marathon (42 K) or a half marathon (21 K), but there are all sorts of distances in between, and even a 10 K option.  I didn't know that.

Until two weeks before Raphaela's birth, I was running four to five times a week, and loving every minute of it;  it helped I suppose that I had gained a total of five kilo throughout the pregnancy.  Since her arrival, I have not exercised that way, though I often fantasize about it. In fact, right around the time that I found out that the fertility treatments had worked, I had just started a training program toward running a full marathon.

Inspired by this woman, I now have a new long-term goal:  within the year, I will be fit enough as a runner to compete in the 2012 Jerusalem Marathon.  As a Chiropractor, I will consult with personal trainers and will create a program, because setting aside the time to achieve this goal is important to me.  And because it may be the only way to finally get rid of that little belly flab left over from the pregnancy and nursing.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Character and Genetics

Of all the children at her nursery, my daughter, the youngest of the whole group, is the only to have finished the Megilla art project, all 12 pages.

It makes me proud, and I am glad that somehow I have passed onto Raphaela my personal code of perseverance and committment.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Always Listen Carefully

For the past five days or so, I have had trouble sleeping, with my mind occupied trying to solve a work-related problem.

Here's the story in a nutshell:  last week a Bedouin man from Beer Sheva called, wanting to set up a Chiropractic appointment with me.  When I asked him who had referred my services, he answered, "Some Druze guy in Jerusalem, but everyone knows you and talks about you."

I tried to convince him in the most professional way possible that it did not make sense for him to drive all the way from Beer Sheva, receive a Chiropractic treatment and then ruin the effect by having to drive back home.  He did not listen to my explanations about the nature of the Chiropractic care, and seemed almost pushy about setting a time.  I asked several times who had referred him, and he could not remember.

Alarm bells went off in my head, that True Inner Voice said that something didn't feel right, and yet I ignored that clear warning and set up the appointment anyway.  Then the worrying began.

I know that when I trust that Inner Voice, it all works out, and when I don't take heed, it all goes wrong, and fast.  So I took advantage of the Big Brother capacity of the internet (G-d bless Al Gore for inventing it...) and with the help of a friend who works in security, researched this potential client.  Starting with very little information, we found that he had a minor criminal record, and his Israeli Identity number was found to be false.  As well, it became clear that this man does lots of traveling outside the country.

I started creating scary scenarios, that he was an advance man for a team that was scoping out my apartment to rob us, or that he was a man obsessed with me and a danger to my child.  Quite frankly, after yesterday's horrific murders in Itamar, the paranoia was running rampant, even for a New Yorker like me.

After consulting with a close Chiropractic friend and colleague, he pointed out that even if this was a simple story of a man with a stiff neck who heard good things about my work, if I felt uncomfortable in any way, I should not be taking care of him.  I immediately called and apologized for the last-minute notice; I continued, and said that an emergency had come up and that I could not see this man tomorrow morning, and then gave him the number of another DC who worked in Beer Sheva.

My back-up plan included having a male friend happen to drop by and hang out in the clinic while I had this consultation.

How much of this unease comes from me being a woman who works alone?  How much of it comes from being a single mother, and how much of my fear could be justified after the slaughter of an innocent Jewish family by our "cousins"?  (That's me trying to be politically correct...)  Can any of this reaction have to do with my reaching 15 years in private practice, and needing a vacation?

I don't know how to answer these questions, except to say that I am most definitely going to sleep better tonight, and that this provides further proof to me that I must reconfigure my working arrangement.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

New Choices

I spent much of this past Shabbat wearing several layers and trying to get Raphaela to wear a hat inside the house so she wouldn't be too cold. This past week an electrical shortage killed my dryer and my kettle;  the lock on the door is warped and probably needs to be replaced.   What else would I expect with an apartment built in 1972?!

Today I flipped through the IKEA catalog and started brewing all these fantasies in my head about redecorating.

And so I have accepted the decision that right after Purim I am going to start apartment hunting in earnest, and hopefully move this summer when my current rental contract expires.  I know which couch I would buy at IKEA to replace the ones that had been somewhat bruised by Sarel "Runs Like Rabbit," may he rest in peace.

I embrace change, but I hate moving.  I need to find a place that is walking distance to Raphaela's Gan, and has relatively easy access for my clients who don't have cars.  I wonder how I am going to help Raphaela and Harry adapt to the new location.

As part of these new resolutions, I also plan on going through all my closets and cabinets before Pessach and throwing away odds and ends, and no longer appropriate clothing of mine that I have saved for purely sentimental reasons.  I am torn, however, as far as Raphaela's baby clothing and various other baby items, because if I give them away or sell them, I am saying that I will not have any more children. I don't yet feel ready to say that to the Universe, or to tell myself on some level that  a future that includes dating and marriage is less likely.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Made in Heaven or Hell?

From the Friday weekend edition of Haaretz newspaper:

Matches made in heaven:  Rabbi pairs religious gays, lesbians to start families

"Rabbis from the religious Zionist community have launched an initiative to marry gay men to lesbian women...So far, 11 marriages have been performed... [and the ] 12th couple has just announced their engagement.  [There is] a list of another 30 gays and 20 lesbians seeking matches.

[T]he current initiative is different in that it stems not from an effort to sweep the issue under the carpet, but from a growing acknowledgment of homosexuality...Most of the couples agree not to have relationships with members of their own sex, but if there are 'lapses' once every few years, they don't see this as a betryal.  Generally it's between them and their Creator."

The article brings as an example the first "experimental" couple, Roni and Etti (psuedonyms of course), who say that they are "careful to keep up normal appearances before the children and the outside world, even sleeping in the same room, though they don't sleep together."  Their two children were born through artificial insemination.  (The wife of the late Palestinian leader, Yassir Arafat, also opted for artificial insemination.  Not that I am making any comparison, G-d Forbid, between Arafat and these couples, but why marry a person with whom you can't stand the idea of sex?)

The reason I conceived Raphaela through IUI was to leave room for the right man to come along and join us at some point.  I am actively looking for that man who will be my best friend and equal partner, my lover and the father to my current child, and who knows, maybe a brother or sister for Raphaela.  I am single not because of my heterosexual identity, but because I have not yet found the right person.

While I applaud the religious Zionist movement for apparently acknowledging that the gay community exists, I don't think they are doing anyone any favors by dressing up these couples as traditional and normal.  I believe that children know the truth of their home and their family;  I agree with those who oppose this movement who say that being open and true to one's self "leads to more happiness than living a lie."

Oh, and good to know that 'cheating' on one's fictional spouse every few years is between "them and their Creator." That's a positive family value to pass onto the children of these sacred unions. 

The article closes by noting that two of the arranged couples are filing for divorce, and the Rabbis in charge worry whether the children of these "experimental marriages will end up suffering."

My point exactly.  At the end of the day, all thoughts of all parents - single, married or fictional - must consider the innocent children.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Here is the list of things that need to be done NOW, all at the same time; keeping in mind that Raphaela still needs to be bathed and put to sleep, and Harry is doing everything he can to get attention from me, even if it means that I am yelling at him and telling him to give me some space:

1.  Unload car from groceries
2.  Bathe, nurse and tuck in Raphaela for the night
3.  Finish up about a half hour's worth of patient documentation from this afternoon
4.  Continue arranging the Purim Mishloach Manot for the Gan, by calling all those parents who have not yet contributed to the communal pot.  (I hate micro-managing and nagging people.)
5.  Eat dinner, if I am lucky
6.  Peel and cut many vegetables in order to make a soup
7. Go to sleep myself before the late hour that has become the norm for this week

I feel like my multi-tasking skills have been stretched to the limit, the wheels in my brain are turing so hard I fear they will burn out.  If I won the lottery right now I would hire a live-in housekeeper, and close my office for several months.

I desperately need a vacation.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Full Circle

This afternoon, Raphaela and I joined Olga and Mika, and Yael and Michal and Daniel at Gymboree; we played right downstairs from the very class rooms where I studied in Ulpan almost 14 years ago, when I made aliyah.

Between myself (a single parent), Olga (in a traditional marriage) and Yael and Michal (a committed religious Gay couple), it was remarkable to me how our concerns and observations converged.  We spoke about the price of child care, methods for getting our children to sleep past five in the morning, our disappointment with a lack of grandparent assistance, and our inability to watch more than a 45 minute television program without nodding off on the couch.  I caught up with Olga, whose mother was recently cleared from a diagnosis of cancer; and with Yael, she and Michal continue to have issues with both their families accepting the permanence of their relationship.

All four of us women expressed the desire to add a sibling into the mix, and all four of us wondered where we would find the physical stamina to do so.

Each of the three children - born within a month of each other - expressed their own personalities within this bright and adventure-filled room.  Mika was the most independent by far, Daniel played with the "boy stuff" like cars and balls, and Raphaela threw herself off anything that vaguely resembled a slide.   And all of us mothers marveled at how much these three had grown, considering we all know each other since pregnancy. I would say this was an appropriate venue the week that Women are celebrated throughout the globe.

Once again, for the second time within the last week, I felt like I belonged to a wonderful and loving group of people.  My Ulpan teachers would be very proud to see me sitting comfortably in the same place, 14 years later, conversing in Hebrew, English and Russian, a member of the Israeli landscape.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Mom's Night Out

Last night, for the first time since Raphaela's birth, I wore a real bra.  (My apologies to the male readers of the blog...)  I got dressed up in a slinky red dress and heels, put on a bra that does not have easy-access flaps, and attended the celebration in honor of my friends' wedding.  I drank wine and ate red meat after ten pm, and in the last 24 hours I might have gotten five hours of sleep;  interrupted of course by Harry wanting to eat or go outside.

Tonight Raphaela and I are getting together with friends we have not seen for too long.

Tomorrow night I am visiting Sweden by proxy ie I will be shopping with a friend at IKEA. (IKEA and Cosco are the two places outside religious institutions that I call The Shrine.)

Thursday afternoon Raphaela and I also have plans.

I don't think I've seen this much action in over two years.

Friday, March 4, 2011

One-Woman PR

Today the Gan parents celebrated the wedding of one of the nursery teachers, and as the woman who organized the gift and the celebration, I was glad to see the children and the adults enjoying themselves. I was also glad to see the teacher moved and surprised by the response, despite the fact that she knew that "something was up."

As it happens, a potential couple was visiting at the same time, trying to decide if they wanted to send their son to the Gan next year, he would be in Raphaela's age group.  They watched as all the kids and parents enjoyed each other's company, and celebrated one of their own.  As if that wasn't enough, I later met this same family at the park nearby, and they asked me a series of follow-up questions.  Of course I raved about the place, because Raphaela has grown and developed so much as a toddler, and as a person, since she started there.

At the park, however, a Russian woman commented to me, "I say give children alchohol, it's good for them!"  I didn't understand her statement until I realized that a bottle of Merlot left over from the party was sitting prominently in Raphaela's stroller.  Not the message I want to send as a parent, or as a Chiropractor.  (Unless it helps Raphaela take a nap...LOL)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Lure of the PTA

I used to make fun of parents who chose to act as President of the PTA or serve on the board of their kid's school.  It seemed to me that it came from a selfish motivation, that if one or both of parents were active in the school, their children would receive special treatment.

Today I understood for the first time the deeper satisfaction that comes from being involved.  I have fallen into the position of not only organizing the wedding gift for the recently-married nursery teacher, but also the parents' Mishloach Manot for Purim, which arrives in about three weeks.

As a result, I am sending lots of emails to the other Gan parents and they are writing back to me, or coming up to me in person at pick-up time to give me their input and thank me for taking the initiative. This afternoon, several of the parents invited Raphaela and me to come with them to the park, and a group of the parents and the Gan children played together.

For the first time I felt a part of something bigger than myself, a part of the group, and appreciated for my efforts.  I feel like a Gan Mommy.