Saturday, June 30, 2012

July is Birthday Month

An ex-boyfriend of mine recently got "outed" on facebook, when a picture of him was posted with two other men at the Haifa Gay Pride parade, holding the rainbow flag. I can't say it surprised me, we broke up after several months because he could not connect to me on either an emotional or physical level;  I remember that getting him to open up felt like pulling teeth without novacaine.

What did surprise me was my reaction to the news, essentially a non-reaction.  I thought, "He's gay, I had some sense of that when we were dating.  I wish him well and hope he finds a love and a relationship that brings him joy."

I grew up in an Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community and school system, where we didn't walk on the same side of the street as a Church, where the boys and the girls sat separately on the school bus, and where we considered anything other than a heterosexual traditional family an "abomination" in the eyes of society and Jewish law.

Today I am a (heterosexual) single mother by choice, part of a growing group of non-traditional families within the traditional Jewish community.  The Gay and Lesbian community are considered an "alternative lifestyle," and these developments have heralded a whole new lexicon, a different way of thinking.

I will turn 44 this month, and have begun to feel the experience of my years.  I can tell you where I was as a high school senior the moment the shuttle exploded in 1986, and where I was when Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli astronaut, died.  9/11 has replaced the Kennedy assasination for our generation's collective trauma, though here is Israel we live the threat of terrorism on a more visceral and daily basis.

I can remember when no one had a personal computer, when the internet existed strictly for the military and a select group of academics.  I cannot conceive of lacking the immediate access to information and people, and laugh when I think that my iphone is more powerful than all the machines and all the sensors that controlled NASA's Appollo missions.

Like most humans on the planet, I know that Big Brother is real, and that privacy and true civil rights died a bloody violent death.

I have a very hard time going to weddings and being seated near the band, the music has become too loud for me.  And I keep my reading glasses in the Chiropractic clinic these days, for the small print on medical reports.  Here's hoping that raising a toddler keeps me young at heart.

Just stop me, please, when I start a sentence, "I remember The Great War..."

Inspired Imagination

Inspired by the classic musical piece, Peter and the Wolf, Raphaela set out today on a determined quest to find the wolf that (obviously) lived in our neighborhood, capture it with a rope and take it to the zoo.  For the first time since Raphaela started walking, I had a hard time keeping up with her, as she ran down the hill toward the park.

We checked every corner of the park, and then moved on to a little piece of forest nearby.  Raphaela called out "Wolf, wolf, where are you?" and carried her imaginary rope with such care and devotion that when it came time for a snack, she handed me the "rope" to safeguard, until she finished eating.

One and a half hours later, the wolf was apprently properly restrained, and Raphaela made sure to give the wolf a kiss before he was taken to the zoo.

Never have I experienced quite the adventure, or the sheer joy of a sharing it with a toddler and her wonderful vivid imatination.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Sleep, Disturbed

Somehow my daughter jumped from toddler habits to teenager habits in the last week, and has now decided that nine thirty pm is a much better time to get into bed, rather than the 7:30- 8 pm to which I had acclimated and enjoyed.

She uses all those clever children requests, like "I'm thirsty," "I have to go to the bathroom," "My finger hurts, " "Please put on the music again."  Topped off with, "I want to play some more with Mommy."  I often wonder where children learn this, especially given with Raphaela that she has no older siblings in the house to teach her or to model behaviour.

As I was saying to a friend of mine yesterday, also a parent of toddlers, the net result is the complete loss of my private time, during which I would possibly eat something, read a book, watch television or talk to adult friends and have a healthy grown-up conversation.  I also go to sleep later that I had planned, in order to detox from the day, and as a consequence, do not get enough hours of absolutely needed rest for myself.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

On Shabbat, I asked Raphaela if she needed to use the toilet, and she replied, "I will wait until I get to Gan."  Explaining that she cannot possibly hold it in for the next 24 hours, that Gan was closed, she shrugged her shoulders Israeli-kid style, and continued playing.


Yesterday afternoon, after picking up Raphaela from Gan, it was clear from her behaviour and her responses that she was desperately overtired.  For several hours, nothing I offered was acceptable, and only led to more tears and a confusing array of communication between us.

As a mother, at the very least it felt frustrating, being unable to reach her and knowing that a calming bath and an early night's sleep would resolve most of the issues, options she adamantly refused.  I also knew that I would have a difficult time within myself, feeling somehow inadequate as a parent.

Ultimately, Raphaela fell asleep on my lap, in the middle of  a dramatic reading of The Lion Who Loved Strawberries.  I finished the story over her sighs and snores.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

New Video: Where the Hell is Matt

It will make you laugh and cry, to see this burst of the diversity of humanity, and the sublime silliness of the whole adventure.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Going Cold Turkey

Several months ago, before Shavuot, I spoke to the Head Nursery Teacher about starting serious toilet training at home, with the full support and cooperation of the Gan during the daytime hours.  I was told at the time that it was "inconvenient," because at least six other children were in the process of toilet training, and she did not want to spread the resources of the nursery staff too thin.

I felt slightly resentful that my daughter got sidelined, held my breath and figured the appropriate moment would arrive.  Truthfully, diapers represent a certain ease for me as a parent, regardless of their cost to my budget, or to the planet.

Last night, I got a late-night call from the Head Nursery Teacher telling me to bring a whole supply of girl's underwear to Gan today, that it was now "Raphaela's turn," and she practically guaranteed that the whole business would be done by the end of the week.

I am realistic enough to know that there will success and failure, and that I will end up doing lots of laundry, until Raphaela is completely comfortable with her new Big Girl status, and I will joyously support Raphaela for as long as it takes. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Halachic Infertility

The Jewish laws of Ritual Purity state that a woman after her "unclean period" must wait a full week, dip properly in a ritual bath (mikvah) and then has two weeks of free and clear Rabbinically sanctified sex.

That would be nice if all women had a 28-30 day cycle;  with girls getting their periods earlier than in the past, at the average age of ten instead of 12 or 13, and with the extension of fertility well into the 40's, that is no longer the case.  In fact, I have a very short cycle (23-25 days), and it took many attempts in terms of the timing in order to become pregnant, and stay pregnant with Raphaela.

An article in The Forward today addressed this issue, women who ovulate while still in that week long period of "niddah "(post period impurity) and community Rabbis who would not dare to amend the status quo, even on a case-to-case basis.  The article quotes my very excellent and capable GYN here in Jerusalem, Dr. Daniel Rosenak;  an Orthodox man himself, he suggests that the standard revert to pre-Talmudic guidelines, thus allowing a woman to go the mikvah before one week, in sync with her individual cycle.  Another suggestion involves a woman receiving IUI (presumably with her husband's sperm) at the peak of ovulation and before the mikvah, because it doesn't count as actual sex; though some Orthodox Rabbis worry for the spiritual harm to the potential child's soul, and the halachic issue of "spilling seed."  (Because men don't masturbate, ever, right?!)

I commend the Orthodox community for dealing with the issues of fertility in a more direct and public manner, because there is no reason for a woman to suffer quietly or feel shame about her body for no reason.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Summer Strategy

This year, because school re-starts at the end of August, Raphaela has approximately two and a half weeks of vacation, much shorter than in previous years.  Being the super organized type A listmaker that I am, I had spoken to our favorite baby sitter months ago, asking if she was available, and assuming that we would need her for this period of time.

This week, one of the other mothers found a two week camp for children in Raphaela's general age group, a program relatively close to the house and which seems to have a solid and entertaining program.  Better yet, at least several of the children from her Gan will be attending, so Raphaela should adapt quickly to her surroundings, with familiar faces and play mates.  My first instinct was to sign her up for those two weeks, and then I remembered the first rule of parenting:


I called the sitter and explained the situation, that I wanted to do what was best for Raphaela, and what was fair and reasonable for her, given that I had promised her almost three weeks of work.  She agreed that camp would be good and healthy and fun for Raphaela, and we came to a compromise solution:  Raphaela will attend camp for one week, and have one-on-one time with the sitter for the week before she returns to school. 

Perhaps I am incorrect in my assessment, but I don't think it is a bad thing if Raphaela has a week at home with the sitter, a week during which we can hone her toilet training and I can prepare her emotionally for the new Gan next year.  I can also arrange my Chiropractic clinic work schedule so that we have full afternoons to do something together, or travel to visit friends and cousins, before the craziness of the Fall begins.

The Lion Who Loved Strawberries

The Lion Who Loved Strawberries, a particularly beloved classic Hebrew children's book, inspired Raphaela this morning.

In the middle of a crying jag - which started when she said that she didn't want something, so I didn't give it to her, and then she realized that in saying she didn't want it I took her at her word, and so she didn't get it - she came over to me holding a towel and said, "I am wiping my tears with a towel."

I believe I have a First Class dramatic actress in my daughter.

(For those of you who know the book and the illustrations, it made me smile despite her obvious sorrow.)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Medical Update II

Six doctor visits later, including the ENT who originally diagnosed the need for Raphaela's surgery  at Hadassah Hospital last year; and the general consensus regarding her cough is...."I have a theory...."  Meanwhile, time marches on and I see small improvements every day for the last three weeks.

IE They don't know what exactly is causing it or how to get rid of it, and have thus far suggested medicine that has made it worse, or folk remedies which keep the situation at status quo.  I will therefore continue to adjust her Chiropractically, make sure she has plenty to drink to dilute the mucous, elevate her head at night when she sleeps, and keep on the humidifier.  My crazy neighbor lady said that Green Tea cures everything, and another person recommended a Chinese herbal remedy.

Not that it would resolve the health issues, but it might be nice if at some point, someone said in the most honest way possible, "I don't know.  Conventional medicine does not have all the answers."

Friday, June 8, 2012

This morning, Raphaela asked for my iphone, and I asked her if she wanted to listen to music, or call one of her friends.  "No," she answered, "I want to play Angry Birds."

Speaking of birds, there are now three locations in my house where birds have tried to set up nests. I have been told that it is a sign of positive energies in the home, but I don't know if I want to live in an aviary. And why isn't my ferocious cat Harry doing anything about this situation?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The 15 Year Itch

My apologies regarding my most recent and largely confusing post, what I was trying to say was this: everyone who has "good advice" for me highly recommends the institution of couple-hood and marriage, asserting that it would resolve all my stress in life.  I then tried to use one of my colleagues as an illustration of the astounding lack of quality single men in my age group, and having encountered this particular man today at our semi-annual Israel Chiropractic conference, I feel quite certain in my assessment of his absolute lack of manners, ethics and self-confidence, and his fragile ego.

One of my teachers in Chiropractic school told us that this profession has a 15-year life span before some version of burn out; not necessarily indicating the need to switch jobs, but rather the importance of the concept of change, of shaking things up so that the job does not become boring, or an emotional burden.  I have realized this in both my personal life and in my Chiropractic career, having made aliyah and opened my Israeli clinic 15 years ago this month.

The speaker at today's meeting was a woman named Dr. Sharon Gorman, founder of the international League of Chiropractic Women and a highly successful Chiropractor and business coach.  She rallied the Israeli Chiropractic community to unite and motivate each other, but more importantly, she raised certain questions in my head which will help me regain my enthusiasm for the work and implement a new program of priorities.

Her zeal - "I am happier now as a Chiropractor than the day I graduated...I would go back to school again in my 50's if it meant that I could continue to serve." - made me realize that I have indeed lost that part of me that wants to give unconditionally to my patients, because most of my energy in the past four years has been redirected into fertility treatments, pregnancy and raising my child.  I am Raphaela's mother first and foremost, then a Chiropractor and then, who am I?  I don't know that I could answer that question independent of my relationships and obligations to others.

Sharon Gorman talked about the joy of serving others without expecting anything in return, an admirable goal and one that demands work on my part.  And while I have not devised a point-by-point specific plan for revitalizing my practice and my personal life, I now feel more motivated than ever to do so.

The meeting peaked with the surprising announcement that a Chiropractic college will open here in Israel (in the godforsaken city of Naharia) this coming October.  Maybe I could teach there, or mentor some students in a small group setting, as part of my new career path.

Oddly enough, surrounded by my friends and colleagues, the moments today at which I felt most at peace and most happy were spent playing with the young smiley baby of the recording secretary. I had forgotten how small babies are, and how curious they are, how open and loving.

Friday, June 1, 2012

From Different Angles

This week, I bumped into a friend at the supermarket, whom I had not seen for quite a while.  She said to me, "Wow, you look so much better now that you filled out!"
"Are you saying that I am FAT?!" 
She paused for a moment, searching for an escape route, and then said, "No, of course not!  What I meant was that after Raphaela's birth you were too thin, and now you look Just Right..."

What happened to "Hello. How are you? You look great."


Today, while auditioning yet another cleaning person, I supervised a man who shows real promise. He worked efficiently and even caught some small things that most cleaners ignore or forget.  Plus he didn't just clean the windows, he took them out of the frame and washed them through and through.  And he fixed the small leak in my toilet, and the platform on my treadmill.

Married and with many children himself, he said to me as he was leaving, "Your husband is a very lucky man to have such a tidy, special and warm woman like you.  You are clearly the Yin to his Yang."

So, any takers?  This amazing package includes an active, loving, curious and amazing toddler...