Friday, October 29, 2010

In honor of Coffee and Chemo

I've read RivkA's blog almost from the beginning. She never failed to inspire with her humor, her honesty, her parenting skills, her love of Israel, her love of her husband and children, and her courage.

As a cancer survivor, I very much related to her battle. As the months and years passed I, and so many others, became increasingly inspired by RivkA. Through her brutal treatment she was determined to live her life. She continued to work, to play, to do the things she loved. She went camping with her kids only two months ago, driving them up North and spending two days in a tent with them.

I can't say that I knew RivkA personally. We met at the Blogger's conventions, where I was charmed by her humor and we had some great conversations. We commented on each other's blogs and occasionally e-mailed each other with more personal questions or observations. And yet, I considered her to be a friend.

Some of my friends think this whole blogging relationship is just plain weird. They wonder why I talk to "strangers". They don't quite understand why I am so saddened by a death of someone who, in their mind, I barely knew. It's hard to explain to you non-bloggers. I don't quite understand it myself. But after blogging for some time, we find that the lines of our real and blogging lives somehow blur. RivkA wrote so honestly about her disease and her struggle that I feel like I did know her. I will miss her--I checked her blog daily, even before the last week. She posted almost everyday.

I wish I had the words to comfort RivkA's family. I wonder if they understand that besides all the friends they actually know, there are so many more that loved RivkA, that were inspired by her and share in the pain of her loss.

RivkA, your legacy lives in your words. You will stay on my blogroll for a long time to come and I will remember you always.

May your family be comforted amongst the mourners of Zion.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hey! How come I didn't get the memo?

Well, I've arrived here in America and while waiting for my sister, I've been doing what I do best--tooling around the internet. You know, catching up on my favorite blogs, facebooking, watching terrible TV.

And suddenly I see other bloggers reviewing Susie Fishbein's new cookbook. Not just one: Check out Mom, Hadassah, Batya and Miriyummy (a blogger I've just started reading and have to put on my blogroll).

What gives, guys? A free cookbook?

Sign me up.

I know Susie Fishbein. Well, not personally, but I have most of her cookbooks. She once did a cooking presentation at my friend Laura's house for our shul sisterhood, which was great fun, and tasty, too. Her first cookbook, The Kosher Palette was done as a fundraiser for Kushner High School in New Jersey; it was the first fundraiser kosher cookbook that didn't look like a sad eighth grade yearbook production. It was beautifully photographed, with great recipes, anecdotes and how-tos. It was a "foodie" cookbook and my copy is dog-eared with use.

It's interesting to me that Susie is using bloggers to market her latest cookbook. I feel like I'm seeing it everywhere. I've seen her on facebook and Twitter as well. Ah, the power of social media.

Maybe I'll go out and actually pick up a copy while I'm here.

Unless, (cough, cough), someone out there notices this free publicity.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Coming to America

Six months ago I dropped everything on Chol HaMoed Pesach (the middle of Passover) and ran to America to see my father who was extremely ill. That was the first time I had been back in the country of my birth since we moved to Israel three years ago. Because of the circumstances, I did not fully absorb the fact of being back in America, in New York City, the city I grew up in. I did take breaks from my father's bedside to wander the streets of Manhattan. It was springtime, the air was beautiful and crisp, the daffodils were everywhere and the tulips were pushing through thte softening earth. But I didn't care about where I was because I was busy being with my father for what turned out to be his last days....

Tomorrow night, I return. The reasons this time are bittersweet. First, I get to attend the bar-mitzvah of my nephews (2/3 of a triplet set) and, a week later I will attend the unveiling of my father's gravestone.

When I first made Aliya, I was once admonished not to call America, or New York "home". But, Israel, much as I loved her, did not seem like home in those first months. Everything was strange, from the house where we lived, to the products in the supermarket, to the way people drive here. Home was America, New York, Cedarhurst, in a little beige dutch colonial with green shutters. Home was shul on Edward Ave., friends surrounding me for a five-mile radius and work at 177. Home was seeing my mother, and my father and my siblings on a regular basis.

Now things have shifted. We've bought a home here. We are speaking the language. We have jobs here. And friends surrounding us for a five-mile radius. We are happy to be here, living as Jews in a Jewish country.

But I would be lying if I told you I didn't miss America.

Mostly, I miss my people, but I miss other things, too. I miss the changing seasons and pedicures. I miss being the one to make the joke at meetings (but I'm getting closer, I can feel it). I am looking forward to my visit, to hitting the shops and the restaurants and to seeing my people. I wonder how I'll feel wandering around my old neighborhood. Will Sarge at the candy store remember me? Have the stores changed? Will it feel like home?

For 40+ years New York was my home. Not to be morbid or anything, but there's a good chance that at the end, my years there will outnumber my years here (with G-d's help, NOT!). Living in America shaped who I am and what I think. She will always be a part of me.

Can home be two places?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Family meeting, Part II

I know all 5 of you have been waiting with bated breath to see what happened on no TV/computer day, but there really is not much to tell.

Were you expecting all peace, love, joy and harmony? Hours spent productively: doing homework, studying, cleaning rooms, helping mom put dinner together, engaging in stimulating conversation?

Not quite.

But I'll tell you this: At one point my kids were sitting at the table doing homework and talking to each other and laughing together. At another time, I caught a child reading a book. My biggest kid took a snooze on his Archie Bunker recliner. (We'll have to work on that one).

No, it was not all peace and love and joy and harmony, but you know what? It was quiet. It was relaxed, not rushed. It was bedtime at a decent hour for all of us. It was enjoyable. This was last Sunday, and in the following days, I was very firm about limiting the computer/TV time. And I found that it was a quiet, productive week for all of us.

We did have to do some tweaking with the schedule. Liat requested we move the day from Sunday, because she is still in touch with friends in America and that is the only day she can video-skype with them. So this week we're trying Monday--tomorrow. I am determined to see this through. I'll keep the five of you posted every now and then.

For those of you that wanted to know who said what in the last post, I've updated it. You can check it here.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Family meeting, Part I

On Thursday night when the holiday of Simchat Torah was over, I called a family meeting.

The inhabitants at Casa Baila understand that these meetings are not usually good news. We are not the type of family that has regular formal meetings. The last one we had took place almost two years ago when Isaac lost his job and we had to tell the kids about the new austerity plan. No shopping, no eating out, no movies, stuff like that. They loved that meeting.

Now the kids know that, Thank G-d, things are good as far as work goes, but they took their places very suspiciously, wondering what I was up to now. Isaac himself was raising an eyebrow, as meeting was called unilaterally.

Here's the thing: Our family has become very addicted to the internet. For myself it's facebook, blogging (okay, maybe I'm not writing quite as often, but I'm still reading. Alot.) and downloading streaming TV shows. The kids are also watching TV online and facebooking. Isaac says he's working, but to be frank, I don't believe him. At least not all the time. So it's conceivable that on a given night you'll walk into the house and find Isaac and I on our lap tops, Liat holed up in her room on her computer that she bought with bat-mitzvah money, and Tali and Orli arguing over who's turn it is to get on (the loser watches TV).

A common sight for the modern family. But this is my family, and it's not pretty.

Now I've imposed some limits on all this. When there is school, the kids are limited to an hour of internet. But when there's no school (and we've just come off a three month vacation, with a week of school thrown in somewhere at the beginning of September) the number of hours spent in a sitting position is just mind-numbing.

I don't like it for myself. I don't like it for my kids. And I don't like it for my family.

So I started my meeting and told them how I felt. And I proposed this: one day a week (BESIDES Shabbat), we were going to be a completely computer- and television-free family. I didn't really care which day, but I told them this was a fait accompli.

I know you're as surprised as I was that the troops didn't jump up for joy and thank me for saving our family. Nope, they weren't grateful at all. Here are some of the reactions I got (I think it'd be a fun exercise to match the comment to the person who said it, for those of you who really know my kids), and my responses:

"I guess I'll be well-rested 'cuz I'll be going to sleep at 3:30 [when said-person gets home from school]" (I think you'll find things to do). [Orli]

"Look, if I need to do school work on the computer that's going to be a problem". (Not a problem, there will be special dispensation for school work, but understand that the work will be closely monitored). [Liat]

"Hey, I need to work" (Then stay at the office until you're done. One night a week you will come home to your family and be with us, not working on the computer). [Isaac]

"Does this mean we'll go out to eat at Burger's Bar, you know for the family to be together?". (No it means we will have to find ways to fill our time that are more productive. If it means doing something together like going for a walk or a swim, that would be great). [Tali]

No, the troops were not happy or grateful. But I felt I had to do something. I've thought about more strict restrictions--getting rid of the TV and not allowing them to use the computer for the internet at all, or putting some blocking software in. The fact is, I'm not willing to do that at this point, but felt I had to do something.

We chose Sunday, and yesterday was our first day without internet or TV.

I'm going to tell you how it went--in my next post.