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Posts from October 2008

The Week in Review

Home: The “For Sale” sign is still in front of the house, although the price has been reduced. slime finally agreed to reduce the price by about half of what I wanted (which is what the realtor recommended minus a bit)—and that was before the economy tanked even more. His agreement was probably just a ploy to show the judge that he is cooperating in the sale of the house. Let’s just reduce the price to practically foreclosure level and be done with it. No one has been by to visit, and I have gotten very lax in keeping the cleaning up to ready-to-show-in-a-half-hour status. Who wouldn’t be tired of maintaining a home at show quality for almost a year and a half?

I dread the idea of having to clean again because I detest living here. I detest that things have worked out so that I have lived in the same house with a man from whom I have been separated since March 2004. I don’t want to rant about my fault, or his fault, or my lawyer's fault, or the economy’s fault, or fate’s fault, all I want to do is rant at the injustice of this living arrangement.

Court: The court date is coming, it is November 6th. My lawyer (who needs to rise to bastard level) suggested that I write a letter to the judge to explain what it is like for me, and especially my daughters, living in this house, all of us together. I am beginning to compose that letter. Maybe threads are starting to show here.

slime: I think he gained weight because every time he walks around I hear the floor responding with a creak. So even when I don’t see him, I hear him. And if it’s not the floor, it’s his throat clearings because he never gave up cigarettes even though he promised me that he would before we got married many years ago.

Oh, and if I have to be exposed to the way he disregards his daughters, especially his younger daughter, anymore I think I will finally break down. It was her birthday the other day, I did not see a gift nor did I see a cake from him. Not that my cake was the best ever: it was a delicious defrosted Strawberry Shortcake from Trader Joe’s with imaginary candles. She is so sweet, she even made a wish and blew out the candles, and my older daughter held back and did not mock me and my candle improvisation.

But worst of all for me is when he calls my older daughter into his room, and then has her close the door so that they can have a private conversation in his bedroom (the master suite). It seems to me that this is a monologue, since I rarely hear the mumble of her voice through the closed doors. This arrangement feels weird and makes me uncomfortable for her—and me. It feels unseemly, because it feels as if he has made her his surrogate wife, in the talking aspect of things. And that is unsettling.

School/Work: One colleague recently resigned for an unspecified reason, but apparently she is an alcoholic. It is so upsetting to see someone you know and respect having such a hard time; I wish her complete healing and a successful recovery.

I’m getting a bit overwhelmed with all of the data we English teachers need to collect for the higher-ups. I broke the silence at a meeting today and said that I “philosophically oppose a test for Night” and that “we are supposed to be focused on writing, which is what everyone says the students need to improve.” But really, who cares about my protestations, my students need to be bubbling scantrons to prove that they have learned something from the stream of teachings that comes out of me on a non-stop basis.

My students are now writing essays on something important to them. I am so looking forward to reading their essays, especially since I only need to read 50 of them since my co-teacher will be reading our joint classes’ essays. A few were on tee shirts, and stuffed animals, and trophies. I explained the assignment discussing the rocks I collected on my spring break vacation to visit my friend in Monterey; what a joy it was to walk on a beach in the company of a friend without any responsibilities for a week; no wonder those stones make me feel good. I hope this assignment makes them feel good too. I mean who wouldn’t want to spend a few hours thinking about your favorite tee shirt and where you got it and what it means to you?

Dating: No boys on the horizon. Apparently someone emailed me from, but I didn’t want to spend $30 to sign up to read the email that I have already decided would not be worth the investment. And may I say that I posted on match more than a year ago and this is the first email in just about forever. It could be a good sign, but it could also be a waste of time, hope and money and I don’t feel like wasting two of the above. I broke down and checked out Craig’s List, and emailed one man; but it turned out that I had met him for one coffee date. His response to my repeat email was that I should be ashamed of myself. (He knew of my blog, where I had written that he had been nice but in a worse home situation than mine, so no thanks.) So I really think that I shall stay away from there. Lurkers, there are too many lurkers.

And that is about a week in the life of.

Cooking Shows

Can someone explain to me why I have to watch someone wash her hands? Why do the cooking show cooks have us watch them wash their hands? And, in fact, most of them are merely rinsing their hands, and not washing.

Do we need to show them how it's done properly? It could be an "ask the viewers" program where we would teach the experts such kitchen basics as: wash your hands with soap not just water; wear old clothes and not your dressy cleavage-exposing clothes that you don't want to get dirty; multi-tasking in the kitchen (cook, talk to children, listen to the radio, and plan what to do the second you finish cooking); and that old standby: redesigning leftovers.


Israel Story: In the Movies

I just helped my daughter read her lines for her Advanced Theatre class (as advanced as it gets in 8th grade, that is) which sent me back to my day in the movies. Yes, you are talking to a star of an Israeli movie.

The thrill of anticipation at possibly being discovered on this outpost of civilization in the Middle East hit the female members of the ulpan and volunteers when we found out that a scene from an Israeli movie about reserve duty would be filmed on our kibbutz. The primping promptly began.


Ulpan: a Hebrew-language immersion program. The specific ulpan that I was on was based on a kibbutz, where you studied Hebrew for half of the day and worked on the kibbutz for the other half. The main rationale behind this program was to bring young Jewish adults from around the world to Israel, have them fall in love with Israel and then either make aliyah (move to Israel permanently), or go back to their home countries and spread the word of how wonderful Israel is, and then remember their fondness for Israel when they are making money, which would cause them to donate to Israeli causes.

Volunteers: Young adults who worked on the kibbutz full-time for a small stipend, in exchange they received room and board and a chance to live in a foreign country while they pondered what they will do with their lives when they get back home. The volunteers generally came from Europe and had not attended college, and so this was part of their post-high school life before the grind set in.

Reserve duty: Israelis (boys and girls) serve in the army after high school, and then after their three years (boys) or two years (girls) of mandatory service they need to serve on an annual basis for a certain number of days every year for many years to come. This means that much of the Israeli army is composed of reservists, who generally take this duty seriously (that is those who aren’t trying to get out of it).

On the day of filming we were told to wear colors. By this time I had received my formerly lost backpack, and wore what was probably a non-descript outfit since most of my clothes were purchased to be comfortable for my year-abroad trip. We had to meet with a woman who was responsible (well, she had a clipboard) to note what each of us was wearing just in case they needed to reshoot the scene.

We then went into the club room which had been prepared for the filming, which means it was hot. Hot as in artificially hot and not like it would be hot outside under the white-hot sun of summer (which it wasn’t yet, since in the summer the Lebanon War had already started and all of these actors pretending to be reserve duty soldiers would really be reserve duty soldiers serving with their units). No, hot as in what happens to a room whose windows are blacked out with heavy curtains and lit with many very bright lights. The heat in the room alone was enough to make me know that I would never want to be in the movies.

But the inexorable boredom of the day was even worse than the heat. My God, it was a five minute scene and it took hours to film. Talk of mind-numbing. But wait, we’re getting to my moment in the klieg lights.

Out of all the Finnish, British, Irish, French, South African, New Zealander(?), and American women there the director chose me for a staring role. Yes, I was “Girl who with Candy Dish.” (No, there will be no snickering or ironic statements about giving me a candy dish to carry, at that time I was a size 8 and as you all know, able to stop strong soldiers about to board buses with my smile.) Yes, I was filmed walking across the room from where I stood to get a candy dish and back again, offering it to those reserve soldiers who had come to relax at our kibbutz. (The very premise of having mostly-married midlife reserve soldiers being entertained by twenty-something foreign women on a kibbutz is absurd and sexist, but I think it was to fit into the plot of men figuring out how their lives were going since they had been in the army as young men.) Only one take of my walk across the room was needed, so I either have a natural affinity to acting, or candy.

The day went on endlessly, as did my reading with my daughter's lines from “A Children’s Hour,” but I got through both of them. I figured that the scene would be cut, with no memento of my acting career. But I was wrong.
A few years later, when I was already married, my mother-in-law called to say that she thought she had just seen me in a movie, but that was not possible. YES! I was not cut, I had my moment preserved. Too bad my moment of fame was so insignificant, but then again, it did give me a one up on my mother-in-law and sisters-in-law, and that was not to be taken lightly in light of the fact that nothing I did was ever as good as anything her children did.

Mother and Daughter in DC

Apparently I have been stuck in fashion exile at the high school for too long, because I went into Washington DC today and saw that the world now wears knee-high boots. Not only are they wearing knee-high boots, but they are tucking their pants into their boots. As I pondered the impossibility of getting my calves into those boots, the realization that a layer of pants would also need to go in made me want to run back to the safety of the suburbs. These were not boots with room, these were boots made of “stretch leather” which would never stretch to fit me. Glad I never get a chance to notice how out of fashion I am, because then I would also feel how out of shape I am. And that would be bad, especially since I have not had a potato chip since my epiphany at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains more than a month ago.

I was temporarily interrupted from watching the booted ladies pass by my car as my daughter and I waited until it was time to try to crash a Bat Mitzvah party (explanation coming) as a woman in black pleather tights sauntered past. Not only did she have on pleather tights (yes I said it), but apparently when wearing this garment there is no need to have a shirt or topper to the tush. Yes, her shirt and sweater and scarf ensemble did not go beyond her hips and if you are not familiar with female anatomy, let me notify you that that left those parts of her body that she has in common with Sarah Palin covered by a thin layer of pleather. Did I mention that they were black and that she looked very good in them, if that’s your thing, of course. And I am big enough (in more ways than one) to admit that. But really, pleather tights? Who comes up with these ideas? Please, please, don’t let this fashion statement trickle down to Target because I don’t think the world needs more pleather-tighted women on the march.

My daughter and I are wimps, we chickened out on crashing the elegant Bat Mitzvah at the fancy hotel (even if it was a daytime affair and so not officially “fancy” according to my mother, the maven). We were going to hear the DJ who will be dj-ing at her much less plush party in two weeks, but we’ll have to go on the info we garnered from outside the room and from previous discussions and his picture. (Yes, my daughter had no second-thoughts on going for the young, but very hot male DJ, instead of the 30-something slightly overweight female DJ). And, no, Wolf Blitzer won’t be there for my daughter as he was for that girl. Oh well, life goes on.

Another insight from our day in DC: my daughter has no conception of what it means to find a parking spot, since she is a burbian. I parked down the block from the hotel and she had the nerve to look at the address and note that rather than parking in front of 4300 we were in front of 4400. I just looked at her, and ached for her knowing that she would never have a true sense of accomplishment at finding a good parking place. How could I have failed in not making her understand the geometry of parking?

From the party, we drove through the Saturday hordes in Georgetown and then onto the ever-present traffic in that part of Virginia which is not part of the “real” Virginia and is, in fact, communist, to take my daughter to a Bat Mitzvah party to which she was invited.

While she was there I went to the mall across the way (also in the not “real” part of Virginia) to see if I could find a magic dress that would make me look like I did twenty years ago. Alas, they had sold out. So I guess I’ll keep the dress I got last week and succumb to getting a modern-day girdle to suck in some of my stuff so that I could look almost ready for pleather.


Madonna Verbally Abused? Is No One Safe?

From the Mail Online, October 17:

“Madonna is building an extraordinary divorce case against Guy Ritchie, claiming he was a cruel and verbally-abusive husband who would belittle and ridicule her in front of others.”

“Her lawyers say that 40-year-old Ritchie's comments made Madonna feel worthless, unattractive, unfeminine, insecure and isolated during their eight-year marriage.”

“After a period of time, Madonna says the constant put-downs created a distance between them and that she felt totally isolated in the marriage. That's when the love started to die and when their sex life also suffered badly.'”

Can I just say: Oh My God! Is no one safe? Even taking into consideration that she and her lawyers are preparing her custody case and are building her husband up as an abusive man—Oh My God! Madonna claiming that she was verbally abused. Is no woman safe? Or, why are so many men incapable of dealing with strong, independent women—one at a time, of course?

Ladies, there’s a reason why there’s a ceiling above us in the work world, it’s because it’s there at home. Hubby Bubby must have his ego coddled when he gets home. What about us? I wonder how many more men get their meals served to them when they come home compared to the number of women who benefit from the same treatment—both of them after a day at work? And I don’t want to hear about some division of labor where he mows the lawn and she cooks. There is a huge difference between something that is done daily to something that is done occasionally.

Today at lunch in the teacher workroom a teacher in her mid-twenties complained (in her upbeat way) about her 30-something boyfriend enjoying the dinners she prepares but finds no available time to reciprocate. No, I won’t say that this is a case of "meal abuse," but the scales are surely not balanced, and it has been percolating in her, otherwise she never would have mentioned it in such a public forum. (Twelve English teachers who can facilely turn a brief episode into a telling anecdote is surely a dangerous place to reveal secrets.)

And we have a similar situation in politics. What are the attack ads and negative comments if not a form of verbal abuse writ large? But I will not dwell here except to say that calling someone names when you are 40 is as bad as when you were 10, only when you’re 10 it’s called being a bully but at 40 and 70 it’s called politics. I guess it’s the bullies who are able to bully themselves ahead.

But back to Madonna. Poor, poor Madonna. I mean who could she turn to for support? (No, not Victoria’s Secret.) Where does someone who is an icon turn for help? But come to think of it, I am an icon too. Don’t my children see me as an icon? Didn’t I have to pretend the verbal abuse from my ex-husband away for a while, as if confronting what was being said to me in front of them would diminish my status in their eyes. It took a while to realize that the very act—in their presence—was enough, already, to lose some of my status; status that I could only get back when I confronted or stood up to my abuser, my EX-husband.

My “nothing,” “ugly,” “fat,” “leech,” “useless friends and family” is like Madonna’s “worthless, unattractive, unfeminine, insecure and isolated.” Peas in a pod, the two of us. But, no, unless the pod can contain the millions of women who are abused—verbally, emotionally, physically. In Virginia, where I live, a husband can verbally abuse his wife with impunity; there is no law that restricts what a man says to his wife, except to threaten her life (glad they have that caveat). I sent letters to the editor to the Washington Post about verbal abuse, but they didn’t think it was important enough to cover (that was a day after a woman and her children were killed by her ex-husband who had been emotionally and verbally abusive); meanwhile, every time I publish a post here or at places such as Midlife Bloggers or Blogher or iVillage about verbal abuse, there are too many responses from fellow sufferers—past and present.

Enough. Guy—and guys—zipper it! If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all because words hurt. Words hurt and betray and wound.

Madonna, if you need an understanding shoulder to cry on, I’m here for you.

Israel Story: Wanderings With and About David

David (or Dudi if you prefer) and I were to become good friends. “Good” in the way that a 20-year-old who is too shy to make a move, and a 21-year-old who is not attracted enough to make a move herself and yet attracted enough to not want to discontinue the relationship, can be good.

And so began my first post-college boy-girl friendship/relationship. And I wonder now about what could have been. Yes, there were men with whom I exhibited my temporary loose qualities, but not with David. And there certainly were none who wooed me as he did. And me, well, I did not deserve his attentions. Or maybe I did. It’s just that the end is so painful for me, since I am still ashamed of myself; I thought that I was so mature, but in reality, I was as young and unthinking as anyone I might have mocked.

It was a lovely romance reminiscent of the kind that happened (I assume) when a man and a woman got to know each other by spending time with each other before they had sex. 

Not only that, but David was my weekend knight-in-shining armor taking me off the kibbutz for a change of scenery and company. Of course, that was when he got to take off his knight uniform and relax. So every few weeks when he would have a weekend off (he was doing his military service), we would spend Saturdays together. But it wasn’t just the two of us, it would be with friends from his army unit and their girlfriends (also in the army). Maybe he used me to show that he had a girlfriend, when, in fact, we had never kissed. Who knows?

Those were wonderful trips. A bunch of carefree 20-year-olds (at least for those hours together) walking through the rivers that feed into the Jordan River and standing under waterfalls whose waters originated in Syria or Lebanon. We would find restaurants in off-beat places, or go to a friend’s house for tea in a glass and biscuits (some Britishisms remained from the time of the Brits in Israel). Yes, those Israeli soldiers might be strong and mighty, but they are young and still finding their way from childhood into manhood. One moment they are in high school and the next they are being taught how to protect the homeland.

Any way. I was beginning to feel uncomfortable. What was this? We didn’t talk much; after all, my Hebrew was still sketchy and his English was not too impressive. I was thinking that this should probably end, since it was so undefined and I was beginning to feel that maybe I was leading him on.

And then the first Lebanon War began (June 1982).

Reality came knocking hard. Many of the men on the kibbutz were called up to their units. The boyfriend of my one female Israeli friend on the kibbutz was called up. Even though she had lived through wars and skirmishes and situations before, she was overwrought.

And a “friend” with whom I exhibited my looseness on the kibbutz, someone I barely spoke with even though his English was good since his father was American, sought consolation after learning that his best friend from the neighboring kibbutz had been killed.

A few weeks into the war, the extremely handsome soldier from the kibbutz came back for a few days leave bringing me news of David—that he had been injured. He had received shrapnel to his skull.

I’m figuring that he must have told me what hospital he was in because a day or two later I went to visit him. He wasn’t as bad as I feared, but I must admit, I was pretty freaked out by the whole experience. A friend wounded in a war was so far from my life expectations, and then to be treated as his serious girlfriend by his parents and his friends, and, at this point, by him, was overwhelming. I can remember that the way he looked at me had changed, and I wasn’t ready for that. It had a very very serious quality to it. (I guess being wounded in battle would be a pretty likely circumstance to bring about an epiphany.)

The first night I visited him I slept on a chair in his room. The next night I slept in a hostel in Tel Aviv. Sleep. Hmm. The hostel was full, so I was given the manager’s bed. Everyone seemed to be watching some important soccer game, while I literally crashed on the bed. That is until I rolled over and discovered a shard of glass in bed with me. End of sleep.

I went back to the hospital the next day and spent a few hours with him and then I went back to the kibbutz. A couple of weeks later, I went to visit him when he was recuperating at home. (Digression: his home was large and lovely, and his parents as welcoming as any potential daughter-in-law could want.)

Finally, he had the nerve to kiss me. Maybe his epiphany told him not to be shy any more. But I said no, in all the awkwardness of feeling that he needed me, but feeling, too, that I couldn’t be needed by him. And so that is how I left him. With a white bandage wrapped around his head and an intense look of disappointment. Or was it frustration at not getting what he wanted? It doesn’t matter, because since that moment I have regretted how I acted. And though we are not supposed to carry our sins or our disappointments in ourselves from year to year, and maybe I am making my self and my life out to be more dramatic than they really are, I still regret how this ended and that I did not contact him when I returned to Israel seven months later to see how he was and to explain myself.

But by that time I had met my future ex-husband (I kid you not, at a different bus stop), so what was the point of stirring  up his feelings again, since he had probably moved on by then any way.

* * *

Daughters and Mothers

I’m sitting at my dining room table reading comments to a posting on blogher (The Shift of the Mommyblogger) about mommy bloggers and mothers who blog and how we adjust how much we say about our children depending on their age and our concerns for their privacy and right to their own lives and their right to a relatively humiliation-free adolescence (as if that’s possible with blogger-moms). And as I read the comments that have accrued during the day, my younger daughter comes downstairs and sits on the couch near where I sit.

She starts to do her homework, after having woken up from a big girl nap (she’ll be 13 soon) because she stays up too late and occasionally needs a nap to catch up (she surely is my girl). Her new phone rings (yes, I got her a fancier phone than mine, but not nearly as expensive as the ones she had been eyeing)—it is her BFF. Now that’s a shock.

But the tone, the tone of the call is not giggly or conspiratorial (yes, they have gotten in trouble at school for their school-girl pranks). There’s a “really” and some actual listening going on. Then she says she has to go and they hang up.

She turns to me and tells me that another friend’s mother just died. And I stop breathing for a moment. And she says, “I feel really bad for her. She was really close to her mother.” And after some “oh sweetie” insight from me, she says “I bet she won’t be at school for the rest of the week.” And we pause; I say that “her life will never be the same again,” and we pause again. But that is as much as she can take, because she asks for dinner and goes to watch Hannah Montana. But I know that this is in her, will stay in her. A friend of hers died last year after a lifetime of fighting cancer and every time we were in temple she would say his name and ask people to pray for him.

Life can be shocking in how it stops us in our moppy paths and forces us, even if for a moment, to create an ethereal connection with someone we never knew, with people we never knew we needed to care about. My heart goes out to her friend, and her friend’s father and family, and the mother for whatever it is that she felt as she left this life.

The beauty of life came back to my daughter and me a half hour after this. She complained that I didn’t know something, she complained that the pencil I gave her was not sharp enough and did not have an eraser. But I went over to her and told her that I love her. And her friend (BFF) just called to ask about homework.

And only I sit here, in a deadened mood, saddened by this woman’s passing, by a mother’s passing, by a daughter’s loss. And it occurs to me that maybe writing our blogs or our postings about our children is not only a legacy of who they were for them to look at when they are older or for us to remember, but they are a legacy of our love for our children. This is another way that we show we love them, by thinking about them, by bragging about them, by analyzing them, by mulling over their choices. Blogging about our children, no, it’s not invading their privacy, it’s invading ours.

So what else is new?

Israel Story: Weekend in Tzfat (Safed)

It turns out that not all of my relatives who had immigrated to Israel had been killed in Arab riots in Jerusalem and Hebron at the beginning of the last century. No, there was a strand that was going strong, having moved from their last home in South Africa about ten years before. How did I discover this? Well, the scion of that branch of the family stopped by the kibbutz one afternoon not long after I had arrived in Israel looking for the small package that I had to deliver to him. Yes, my irresponsibility and procrastination goes way back. But I digress.

Anyway, he picked up his package and invited me to visit the family at their home in Tzfat. (In English this is usually spelled Safed, but that spelling is so far from the original Hebrew pronunciation that I cannot bear to use it. So try to make a little spitting sound and get the name out in Hebrew.) It was their holiday home away from their Jerusalem home. Tzfat is famous as a center of Jewish learning (of the Madonna kind) Kabbala, and for being an artist’s colony. Sounded like a plan to me.

A few weeks later, I made the journey. I hitchhiked from the kibbutz to Tiberias. (No lectures on hitchhiking, in those days in Israel it was safe. Well, that is until my friend and I were almost kidnapped on another trip, but not because we were Jewish but rather because we were young American women of the supposedly loose kind. All of these digressions.) From Tiberias I took the bus to Tzfat.

Their home was truly lovely. It was an old stone house, or rather a few old stone houses joined to make one labyrinthine home with all sorts of nooks and crannies. I got to meet my Israeli family, which was lovely, and I was made to feel part of the family. Yes, if you have a guest do the dishes and throw out the garbage you can be sure that you have permanently endeared her to you. Present were also two of their daughters and two of their sons-in-law, both of the women were pregnant, which left me, the one able-bodied woman, to help the matriarch. (Let's not even go into the men not offering to help or being expected to help, that would surely be a digression.)

Other than having to do chores, it was a lovely weekend, with lots of singing around the dinner table and home cooked meals that I had not had since arriving at the kibbutz where everything was home cooked, but home cooked for a “family” of 500 is not quite the same as for a family of ten.

On Saturday night my cousin drove me to the bus stop in Rosh Pina, which is part of the way down to Tiberias. On Fridays bus stops and buses are filled with soldiers going home for Shabbat, and on Saturdays after dark (when the Shabbat is over) and Sunday mornings the bus stops and buses are full of soldiers on their way back to their bases.

As I stood waiting a tall, dark and handsome soldier started talking to me. (No, this is not mr ex, for those who might be wondering.) We chatted while we waited for our buses to come.

A few weeks later an extremely handsome man from the kibbutz was asking for me. Ah, heart palpitations of the positive kind. But no, in his extremely poor English he was telling me that one of his buddies wanted to speak with me. Yes, I was being tracked down. I had told the bus stop man the name of the kibbutz where I was living, and a soldier from his unit—this soldier—lived on the kibbutz, and he asked him to find me and speak to me. I must say, I was the talk of a very nosy town because of this for a few days, and I was reveling in the attention. Knowing that you are being pursued has a lovely ability to bring light to one’s sense of being.

I recall telling him that yes, his friend could call me for a date.

And so a few days later Dudi (I kid you not) called to ask me for a date. I must explain, David is as popular a name in Israel as it is here, and so you have the various variety of variations; the two that I could never bring myself to utter being Dudi and Dudu. And so, I was to go on a date with, Dudi, although I told him that I could not call him by that name, for sometimes a rose really does smell like, well, you get where I’m going here.

I had been told that all Israelis are poor; that all Israelis live in crowded apartments (not like me with four of us in a two-bedroom apartment with one bathroom); that all Israelis have teeny tiny cars. Well, David dispelled all of those rumors. He arrived in a huge Volvo and took me to a Chinese restaurant in an old stone house in Tiberias.

This son of a Romanian father and an Egyptian mother was to dispel other rumors, including those that tall, dark and handsome men are rough and tumble. But I think I must stop here, you have other things to do and I must mull over this part of my Israel story before I can proceed in the telling. And I need to bring forth memories of this long-ago time, and savor them (and be remorseful, too) before they are ready for the page.

* * *

Israel Story: An Explanation

Since my mind does not work in chronological fashion, I figured that I should tell you that the stories that make up the "Israel Story" will not be told in chronological order; rather, they will be told in the order that they come to me and as I am able to fully develop them into vignettes.

I also feel that I should clarify that my original intention when I graduated from college, since I only knew that I wanted to be a writer, was to be an au pair in Italy (pretty impressive). I had studied French and Italian in college, mastering neither, but loving Italian, and so hoped to go to Italy to work on my language skills (cough cough meet some Italian men cough cough). But the family I had made plans with decided to go to Argentina for a while, leaving me in the lurch.

“Israel, why not go to Israel” someone recommended.

“Yes,” I said, “why not go to Israel.” I figured that I would meet someone with whom I could travel around the world there, since I was adventurous enough to travel to Israel alone, but not enough for the solo European tour. I had also dreamed of living in Australia (another story altogether) and figured that this could be a way to reach that goal.

And then I found the program (Kibbutz Ulpan) where you live and work and study Hebrew on a kibbutz for six months. That seemed ideal to me: getting to go abroad and not have all of the stress (at least not right away) of being on my own. You know, just me and my (lost) backpack.


Home Alone, Again

mr ex has taken the girls to see a movie, and I am home alone again. While I should be doing things (such as grading one last class set of autobiographies about the exciting lives of 9th graders and moving laundry from place to place), I am compelled to do nothing when the emptiness descends, or nothing that is visibly useful, or nothing that benefits anyone but myself. Yes, that’s it. When I am alone I feel compelled to be about me.

I don’t go to therapy. I don’t meditate. I don’t pray (at least not in the way that I think you’re “supposed to”). I don’t do yoga. I don’t find my center in a proscribed way. But as with everything else, I have managed to find my way. What I do is mentally wander. While doing that I might do the dishes. I might even dry the dishes and put them away, or just skip the drying step and put them away wet (it’s not that I have unlimited free time, any way, the dishes can dry themselves). At times I have even found myself sitting opposite my computer and reading and writing. But doing what I am supposed to be doing, perish the thought—that would be a waste of centering time.

Who can be centered when there are daughters around who always want me to do something for them, or want me to cease what I am doing, or want me to move from where I am? Who can be centered when there’s the presence of an ex-husband in the house? Who can be centered when time is not mine? So when no one’s around I soak up the sun, figuratively. I guess I could go outside and take a walk when it’s too draining inside, which I do sometimes, but often that feels like I am wasting time and not using time. And I want to be a user. I want to feel the deliciousness of each minute that is freely mine. Savor each minute as I would a touch on the small of my back. Savor each minute as I would a compliment that reaches into me and touches the internal small of my back. The deliciousness of being alone, when I know that I will be able to become centered, is beyond the sensation of the richest chocolate frosting licked from…

Did I say that my mind wanders at times?

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Car Peeper

I have become a car peeper. I look in my side view mirror and watch the people interacting in the car behind me. I can’t tell you how many times I have either seen people touching each other or not looking at each other. There doesn’t seem to be many other options.


Friendship Round Two

On Thursday night my younger daughter and I went to my friend Bernadette’s house to celebrate the break-fast meal with her and her family, and some family friends. (The break-fast is the meal by which you break your Yom Kippur fast.) This has become a tradition for us, to join in this first celebration of the New Year. And what are holidays for other than to create traditions with family and friends?

Bernadette and I go way back, and the way we re-connected is, perhaps, a sign that there are forces moving behind the scenes of our lives, and they do not only bring with them bitterness.

My family and I moved from Israel to Virginia in August 2000. I didn’t know anybody here except for a few people from work. (It always comes as a lovely shock when I tell people that it was my job that brought us here, they so expect it to be mr ex’s job.) About two weeks after we arrived mr ex had to go back to Israel for some green card logistics, and so it was just me and the girls (a sign of things to come). There was an International Children’s Festival at Wolftrap (a national park for the arts) near our house that we decided to go to; I’m not talking about a neighborhood festival, this is a festival for the entire Washington, D.C., region.

It was a beautiful day. We walked around, we attended workshops, we took in this new place at which we had arrived. We went into the open-air auditorium looking for seats for the afternoon performance. Just as we were scootching into some seats, I looked up and in the row behind us was a face I had not seen for decades. It was the same face, and the same smile, and the same eyes (and the same skinny frame). It was my friend Bernadette; she was with her husband and two sons. The last time we had seen each other we were in high school, and here we were with our families.

It was a marvelous coincidence, but I like to think that it was more, that some force knew—KNEW—that I needed a friend here, needed to make a connection with who I had been and to connect that with my future. Surely, surely Bernadette was the sign that would answer an as yet unrecognized need.

And guide she has truly become. We get together a few times a year; we have watched our children reach growth spurts. She also reconnected me with Carly, another friend from bygone synagogue days, who has become another born-again friend (and I graciously accept her emails of stunning photographs and raunchy cartoons). And she brought me into her life by bringing me into the book club that she and some friends had been mulling over. So that one right place at the right time has helped me to create a life here, and what more could someone want from coincidence / fate / happenstance?

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