26 – Ireland and ice skating and obituaries

26 ~ Ireland and ice skating and obituaries

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Even with the air conditioning, the brutal HEAT of last year’s Jerusalem summer compelled me to consider August options. A friend’s enthusiasm about a recent tour led me to 10 days of brilliant, life-giving Green, cool misty rains, being surrounded by water, and the simplicity of English as everyday language. www.RoadScholar.org brought me into a group of 18 seasoned, interesting travelers from the U.S. this past August.  We tramped on/off the bus and stayed in 3 different 4 star hotels from West to East, Shannon to Dublin, across the center of the Green Island.img_0740Visually and emotionally, I was most moved by the Cliffs of Moher.  I’m not typically bothered by heights – I’ve para-sailed, stood near or walked trails on substantial cliffs, flown loopy-loops in a small plane over the Grand Canyon, and loved amusement park big-time roller coasters until the jostling started bothering my neck … The Cliffs of Moher, well, that was the closest I’ve known to acrophobia, but then is fear an irrational response if standing on the 40th floor of a building without protective fence or barrier.

I sat on the ground and slowly scooted forward to peek over the edge, pushing down FEAR.  Than I was suspiciously at the people nearby, lest the tormenting girls gang from Jr High (AKA: Middle School) reappear and push me off.  Where did that come from!?!  When did I last think of them?  FEAR, obviously, connected to something real in the past.

So I did what I know to do.  I talked to God about it.  “This is scary.  This is high, and that a fall would be, well, bad.  But I generally don’t fall down, so why am I so afraid?  Terrified!  A fall would feel helpless, like I did with those girls decades ago, but REALLY!?  Why now?”

I sat and watched the ocean beat against the cliffs’ majesty, personally diminished in a good way by the strength of nature.  What a joy to be alive, to feel the wind pushing mightily to keep me on the cliff, to have sunshine and no rain on this day, to be here, to be small and insignificant in this scheme and yet very much OK, loved, at peace.


The dairy farm and stud farm were nearly other-worldly to this city girl.  Our group listened to the experts describe their work, their animals, rhythms of the seasons, and how for some the expertise passed through generations.

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Having successfully navigated around the cow-pies, we stood in warm sunshine with moisture escaping the thick grass below our feet, learning about dairy farming from the handsome 47-year-old son/grandson of dairy farmers. Amidst a flurry of questions, someone asked about favorites and Tom quickly said that while cows are not named like pets, they’re “known” by their number, and his favorite was 607.  “Why?” I asked.  With a tender voice, he explained that she eats and drinks just the right amounts, is healthy and gets impregnated and births calves without complications, gets along with the others. . . is “low maintenance.”

I like the concept of being “low maintenance” (always amused to recall the conversation between Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally) but for many years I worked to earn approval and love by not requiring much or making demands, since my requests were not productive.   I still try to be “low maintenance” in certain situations.  Flexible.  Especially as a guest in someone’s home, considering which restaurant to meet at or when, what might be interesting to everyone… BUT at this point of life, I’m much more direct when it matters to me.  And perhaps Billy Crystal’s character would have said that I only think that I’m low maintenance as well.

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At the stud farm, the guide gave the sordid details of mating-for-money racehorse breeding.  No, there was no live demonstration, but she said it’s over in a minute or so, so I suppose it wouldn’t be all that interesting.  Below is the “honeymoon suite”; note the observation windows!  When folks pay many thousands of dollars, (whether pregnancy results or not) they want to see the happening

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My eyes were greedy for more of the up-close in-color video of the birth of a colt including the well-baby-checks during the first few weeks following.  As always, I hung on to the success and disappointment stories of lives, even horses’ lives.  Great name: Invincible Spirit, and is he ever treated like a king.   I wasn’t aware that sterilization is used to modify the aggressiveness of some horses assigned to certain roles . . . makes sense, but this beautiful horse, Invincible Spirit, will not be subjected to that.  He is no longer racing, but presumably having a grand time and earning great money, studding.

We spent an afternoon in Dingle, a beach town worthy of more time than we had, to take a boat ride and enjoy local cuisine.  Dublin was big-city-great for shopping and assorted tourist visits.  The Celtic history and treasures were new to me, and I appreciated their love for their land, sacred documents, faith history, preservation efforts for the ancient language… sound familiar?

 

Next blog will include the Jewish Museum of Ireland.  Who knew??


Questions readers have asked re Jerusalem and/or Israel as a whole:

  1. Where are most of the tourists from? What languages are spoken? Because this is a land of immigrants, there’s no way to know for certain by their language whether people are visitors or locals, but tourists tend to stand out with that goofy touristy look.  There’s no way around it, and even if dressed “right”, they act touristy by looking at their surroundings in ways locals don’t.  It’s wonderful!  And reminds me to see-again-for-the-first-time rather than zoneout as I walk or drive through familiar areas.
  • Hebrew, the official language of Israel, is a modernized version of the original Biblical text (Old Testament). An example is to compare the King James Version Bible with contemporary English translations.  The vocabulary and grammatical differences can be challenging to the new reader, but basic idea is generally discernible.
  • On the streets of Jerusalem and to degrees throughout the nation, Hebrew is seasoned with assorted accents of English (Australia/South Africa/Great Britain/U.S), Russian, French, Spanish, and various Asian and African languages I can’t identify… Immigrants may be “lone soldiers”, young folks from around the world enlisting/immigrating

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Of course many are speaking their own language, seemingly from everywhere, except perhaps the Muslim countries closed to U.S. tourism.

  • Also, there are a number of international workers, from India, Pakistan, and Nepal who opt to leave their families for as long as 7 years in order to send home life-changing income that will provide university to their children, improved housing & sustenance, etc. Those I’ve met are personal assistants to the elderly or otherwise disabled in private homes, group homes, and facilities (eg, retirement centers).  I respect these mostly mothers and fathers in their 20s & 30s who watch their children grow via Skype; their personal sacrifice for the sake of bettering the future of their families takes my breath away.

Unless doing goofy tourist things, it’s fair to assume most speaking accented Hebrew have immigrated, but sometimes they are Hebrew speakers vacationing from wherever or own an apartment that sits empty except during their visits.

 

Did you know that learning a language after early childhood leaves an accent

 because the language-learning functions of the brain essentially seal-off certain skills around 7?

You’ll find exceptions, but they’re exceptional.

 

  1. While Israel is a nation of immigrants, I have met Israeli’s whose families boast as many as 8 generations here! I’ve met Israeli’s whose families returned here from Iran, Iraq, Morocco, Spain, France, England, Australia, South America, Holland, Ethiopia, South Africa…
  2. How do Israelis feel about Americans? The U.S. is recognized as a very important ally but approval or disappointment with current U.S. policies/politics varies, as you’d probably expect. Some think the current administration supports Israel, while others are deeply concerned about the ramifications of changing U.S. policies towards the only democracy in the Middle East.

I love museums of history, and those with war history particularly inspire me.  My heart beats stronger when touched by heroism.  The courage to sacrifice all for another, even for unknown others.  Many sacrifice for their family or even perhaps a friend, and that is remarkable enough; and sorely missed when missing.

But ultimate sacrifice for strangers who would never know the name or the cost behind their salvation?!?  May I have that kind of courage for

Israel’s destiny to again be a homeland for the Jews marked a moment of celebration in 1948 when the UN majority approved statehood.  Then struggle ensued for survival against invading armies of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq, who fought alongside the Arabs living in Israel.  Where many Jews and Arabs had been friends and coworkers, with the onslaught of the Arab nations, they became enemies overnight.

English-speaking military volunteers from around the world came to help the fledgling Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) defend themselves.  Jewish and Christian pilots, ground troops, officers, medical personnel, engineers, and others brought support, training, and sacrifice to the fledgling nation, only a few years after the conclusion of WW2 and atrocities of the death camps.

One life said it all for me: Esther Calingold.  She wrote her parents a letter dated May 23, 1948 in the event of her death.  Prompted by the death of a close friend, also a young comrade, even Esther’s youth couldn’t fool her to think that the same fate might not happen to her.  Her timing was perfect, as she was killed just days later.  Death at 21.

May 23rd 1948. Dear Mummy, Daddy and everyone, If you do get this at all, it will be, I suppose, typical of all my hurried, messy letters. I am writing it to beg of you that, whatever might have happened to me, you will make the effort to take it in the spirit that I want and to understand that for myself I have no regrets. We have had a bitter fight, I have tasted of Gehenem – but it has been worthwhile because I am convinced that the end will see a Jewish State and the realisation of all our longings. I shall only be one of many who fell (in) sacrifice, and I was urged to write this letter because one in particular was killed today who meant a great deal to me. Because of the sorrow I felt, I want you to take it otherwise – to remember that we were soldiers and had the greatest and noblest cause to fight for. God is with us, I know, in his own Holy City, and I am proud and ready to pay the price it may cost to reprieve (?) it. Don’t think that I have taken “unnecessary risks” – that does not pay when manpower is short, but I did find the excitement I always needed and have enjoyed it. I hope that you may have the chance of meeting any of my co-fighters who survive, if I do not, and that you will be pleased and not sad of how they talk of me. Please, please do not be sadder than you can help – I have lived my life fully if briefly, and I think that is the best way – “short and sweet”, very sweet it has been here in our own land. I hope you will enjoy from Mimi and Asher the satisfaction you have missed in me – let it be without regrets, and then I too shall be happy. I am thinking of you all, every single one of you in the family, and am full of pleasure at the thought that you will one day, very soon I hope, come and enjoy the fruits of that for which we are fighting. Much, much love, and remember me only in happiness. Shalom and Lehitraot, Your loving Esther

Esther was devoted to reestablishing the Jewish homeland. Was her life lived fully?  Not by my standards, and the sorrow of her parents must have been shattering, but I take courage from her life.  She was not a woman hiding in fear, tradition, bravado, or whatever else.  Her love compelled sacrifice…willingness to be a sacrifice.

Is it a perfect storm?   Zeal + feeling impenetrable = the compelling courage of the young

In ways I’ve never been tested, I feel Esther’s passion, and would want loved ones to know that I’m doing what I love.  Here’s more about Esther, if you’re interested  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esther_Cailingold


Write your own OBIT? http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-35688113  In advance of course.

Rather than leave difficult decisions and possible conflict to those in grief, why not deal with your life while you can – draft and NOTARIZE the Will you’ve thought about.  Designate the precious items to those you want to have them, say how do deal with your body if you care at all, and take the pressure off of those you love during what would (hopefully?) be a time of grief.  People tend to not make good decisions under duress, and conflicts arise.  Also, document and have conversations with your loved ones about when to end life-support.  I’ve sat in ICU waiting rooms and watched families anguish over one last member still uncomfortable with “unplugging” dad or grandma.

I’ve survived drafting and finalizing wills in both U.S. and Israel!  Really it’s good to have it done, even if you think you have nothing to pass along, give them the information they’ll need about these issues.


War Food Meaning

Israel is a land of museums.  I’ve always been attracted to ancient stories and relics, and after visiting countless exhibitions here and elsewhere, it seems to boil down to 3 fundamentals:  war, food, explaining life’s purpose and hardships (AKA: beliefs).  The first 2 survival issues, and the later– the quest for meaning…purpose – the element of our soul that sets us apart from animals.

Zimmer #3 overlooked a vista of green rolling hills with scattered settlements surrounding Montfort Lake (videoed on the last blog), an easy 1 km (1/2 mile) walk.  Across the lake is one of Israel’s 2 ice skating rinks, so I watched the skaters and then walked home to get warmer clothes, socks, and a 50 Shekel bill.

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The first feel of the blades on ice brought to mind 2 things: my age, and how difficult it was to rehab from a ski fall resulting in ACL repair when I was in my 40s!  I gave up skiing to avoid repeating another injury and my body/mind were quick to remind me how fast a slip can happen, how HARD the ice is!  I hung on to the edge like a novice, humbled, and it took a few times around to begin skating reasonably.  Soon, the chilled air and my body’s movement-memory swirled with childhood memories and a joyful grin, silencing my unhappy feet in painfully uncomfortable rented skates (both size options and assorted sock options brought no relief).  It seems skating backwards and spins are a thing of the past, but still the feel of the brisk air and controlled sliding made me happily 7 again.

Ice Capades and Ice Follies (before the days of Disney On Ice) inspired me to want to learn to ice skate, so for several years my father paid for ice skating lessons.  Otherwise, as a child I was the UN-athlete – too fearbound and lacking confidence to try anything.  But I loved skating until my classmates outskated me.  They were fearless and the classes were no longer fun because I felt failure, although I skated gracefully, and even had a reverse gear and simple spins.  I never told anyone why I wanted to quit, that I had no confidence and was terrified.  I began piano lessons, instead.  Skating now brought back the joy of sensations, the degree of accomplishment, my father’s generosity to fund an interest of mine, my mother’s sacrifice to schlepp me to weekly lessons after work, and the mature perspective: appreciation of my relative success at the skill.

I skated around the teenage girl teaching her gangly beau, mothers handholding first-timer 5 year olds, a few grandpa’s with young children – same here as in the U.S.  My heart is warmed by the happy-memories-flood even though reminded of the unexpressed fears that bound much my childhood.

Why tell the story?  These days I’m told that I’m courageous, and I guess I want you to know that I missed out on a lot because of fear, and that propels today’s courage, partly.


Waves of loneliness are not unique to me, but were very difficult during some of these 22 months in Israel.   At times they SLAMed like the ocean waves that would knock my breath out while body surfing the Pacific.  I ask God for help, direction, courage to change what I can and acceptance and wisdom… I’ve passed through some sort of adjustment or growth and am much more settled in who I am on the map, and in this life. The language+culture challenges are so well expressed in this article – it validated and therefore comforted me and might be of interest: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/the-loneliness-of-not-knowing/#comments

 

5 Aromas and Morning’s after

Aromas and Morning’s after

Dec 12 – 15

After a very very long phone conversation navigating my extremely limited Hebrew and the rep’s equally limited English (imagine THAT!!), I received an email confirming the order I’d placed, written in Hebrew. After a friend was kind enough to look the email over, I made my way to a popular-but-distant shopping area in another section of Jerusalem to visit the store/service center to resolve the crucial errors of my address and name for home internet service.

The 1 ½ hour visit included a variety of encounters directed by staff: making another very long phone call from the “black phone” in a corner of the store to reach a rep. in some other office, plus two waiting-line “numbers” drawn from a machine. One led me to a rep who was not designated for my issue, and the other who didn’t speak English. She told me so in a nearly perfect sentence, which happens fairly often. I do the same thing when asked for directions or whatever – in Hebrew: “I don’t understand Hebrew very well so can’t help you.” However, I’m under no illusions that my Hebrew is as precise as her English. The process in the service center was finalized when I brazenly approached a rep who was momentarily without a customer. It took 5 minutes to fix. I left –Mission Accomplished! I hoped.

What I knew with absolute certainty was the moment I made the choice to give each rep I encountered genuine kindness and appreciation. What of my heart do I want to give people? What aroma do I want to leave behind.

 

My prayer? Let me leave the aroma of You, and be a pleasing aroma to You.

 

This distribution is the first from my new digs. Another step forward. And yes, the installer appeared at the correct address, at the appointed time, looking for me by name!

 

Morning After

My first morning in my new apartment followed a busy day that began with schlepping my bags and few accumulated survival-groceries from my 3-week temporary rental to my new, 1-year-lease digs. I was warmly greeted by the former tenant and we finalized electric and water readings, the hand-off of the keys, etc. The apartment itself was a bit less loving, filled with the painters at work scrapping and prepping the walls. The floors of every room were filled with large and small slices of the damaged wall scabs – kinda’ like snow, but not so much.

The record breaking, Noah-like rains washing Jerusalem my first week here left many Jerusalem homes (apartments, rather than free-standing separate structures) with leaky roofs and damaged walls. I’d thought the damage and repair was limited to one small area, and that the work would be a short process. However, the damage was more extensive and since painting the entire apartment would leave a nice freshness throughout, I was content for it to be finished on Sunday. More good Hebrew practice talking with the painters throughout the day as I ran in and out to pick up core essentials: TP, the swell Braun juicer I’d bought from the shopkeeper who’d been holding it until my move-in day (I’ll let you know how it compares with the Jack LaLanne juicer I left behind) , a few cleaning supplies, etc.

same but differentHow do you select cleaning supplies from rows of indecipherable products? Which will be most like my favorites in the U.S.? WP_20141211_001Are pipes different here, and therefore procedures? Are there other expectations, or precautions I should know? And what have I not even thought of yet, since once Shabbat store closures begin Friday afternoon, there’s not much in the way of “emergency” supplies until late Saturday night.

Another concern I may as well confess: I have no clue about the most efficient method to keep these beautiful tile floors clean, or what the strange smell was in the bathroom.

The workday left everything dusted by the wall-scraping – my suitcases, purchases, skin, all horizontal and vertical services… I swept, only stirring up more with each effort, and collapsed on the borrowed air-mattress for a power nap, awakening grateful to have momentarily left the too-much-dust headache behind, and dressed for Shabbat dinner at the home of new friends’. We had an amazing dinner with prayers and blessings and love and friendships new and old (all new for me!)

The air-mattress needed attention when I returned. Those of you who’ve slept on one, only to awaken without air between you and the floor surely know what went through my mind: if it had collapsed so dramatically without me on it over the course of several hours, I might be in for a long night on the cold stone floor. You guessed it. I was re-inflating every 1 ½ hours throughout the night. I dealt with it a second night as well, rationalizing that my sofa sectional would be delivered the following day. Not a good idea, because the inadequate sleep, chronic dust, unmet painting goal/deadline, and the stress of navigating the issues of communication and expectations with both the apartment owner and painters left me pretty depleted. I’d learned the apartment owner had no plans, and would not consider, bringing in cleaners after the painters left, since “they clean up after themselves”. In addition, I’d discovered several things that needed attention and the painter had a mishap which broke the glass top and dented the stove I’d bought from the previous tenants. The painter’s or owners responsibility to replace the glass was an issue I had to press. Nothing can be done about the dent. The responsibility of the mishap would be a different process in the U.S., but that’s not where I am, so I have to deal with processes here, listening, learning, and readjusting my expectations along the way.

The painting was extended to Monday, so I opted OUT, and re-rented the temporary apartment for 2 nights in hope of sleep and clean air. Unfortunately, by then I was in a “no sleep” zone and downhill slide into my teary, sleepless-self, my neck and shoulder were aggravated by the heavy lifting and hard-work cleaning, missing my Simmons’ mattress, my emotions stressed. What a wimp! Without dragging you through the entire process, I was prompted into my first encounter with Israel’s healthcare to see about therapeutic massage options for my neck (we’re not talking luxury spa massage, but more like physical therapy, since that’s what’s worked in past)

Some of you have asked about terrorism concerns and the attitudes here. Life absolutely goes on and feels more undisturbed than it did a few weeks ago. The stuff of LIFE gets in the way of keeping up on the news and I got lost in my little-world’s project of gathering sticks and twigs for my “nest”. My saga of tiny disruptions are just that: tiny. Our day to day bumps, the misunderstandings, disappointments, and sleeplessness momentarily take our eyes off of the bigger picture. It’s a blessing to peek into a stroller and find a tiny bright-eyed baby, and the sparkle of the mom watching me light up at the sight of HER baby. I’m counting the many joys, gratitude to God for this amazing opportunity, my many blessings, and loving and being loved, even though never enough.

Navigating the streets late at night, unlocking my door in neighborhoods I’m still only learning… I feel safe, for whatever that’s worth. I am generally more attentive near traffic, but mostly I wish I could see into the hearts of those who pass by me on the street. What is their intent? How can we ever know.

I’m going to try to post some pictures – grocery aisles confounding the shopping process even as my reading skills are improving

 

 

3 – The Doors

Dec 3 – Dec 6, 2014

As always, dear reader – read gently, and I trust you’ll find something for your heart. It means so much to have you along on the journey!

Courage. Do you see others’ but not your own? I do. For me, the courage of greatest challenge is decision making – which way is best, should I or shouldn’t I, is this “right” or is there even a “right way” in this matter, is God guiding me to heed my reservations or step over them…

Or, is your courage-challenge about going forth once a decision is made? Are you quicker to establish a plan, but then tend to not implement? Why? If you don’t call it “fear”, then what? I envision someone hiding under the covers from implementation of the plan or decision they have genuinely embraced.

This picture, The Doors, by Xavier Mellery, caught my heart during my visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art during the few days in NYC before flying to Israel. Typically, I stand gazing at art depicting people – their poses, expressions, and lifestyle filling me with the stories of their lives. Alternatively, realistic nature scenes with paths or rivers going somewhere unknown draw my attention, and this painting obviously fits the latter category. I like the light ahead, the open doors, the peacefulness that feels quiet, and while it’s alone it doesn’t feel lonely to me. I wonder whether any art major out there can tell me anything interesting about Mellery’s life or his other works.

I’m captivated by courage stories, which explains in part my interest in WW2, contemporary, and Biblical heros. The Good risking everything, to overcome evil… I remind myself that Heros don’t always succeed, or survive.

Sigh. This is now a rewrite of a nearly finalized product – we’ve all invested time and concentration to produce a document, only to have the system crash, without any discernable “saves” for hours of wordsmithing. Live and learn is what we say, and I ”learn” the same lessons over and over, until I begin “living” them out – AKA doing them. Don’t forget to save your work along the way. What else does that apply to?

One feat of courage of the past few days was signing the apartment lease. It was humbling to need a co-signer for the first time in my life, but seems to be the way they do things here. I spent some time shopping for appliances (washer, refrigerator) and a sofa/loveseat or comfy chairsm so my anticipated move in on the 14th will allow reasonably civilized living accommodations, while I wait for my shipment to arrive at the end of the month. I was able to buy the current tenants’ stove, but have a challenge for hanging clothes. There is an alcove for an actual wardrobe – typically antique furniture by American standards – a “closet” as it translates from Hebrew to English; I’m not inclined to buy a furniture-closet, but rather considering a simple shelf or two, and bar for hanging clothes. Who will I find to do the work? It looks so simple, and I tried hanging a shelf over the washer in my Denver condo, but the entire project collapsed in the middle of the night, and now I know my limitations.

My soon-to-be new neighborhood is lovely, with mature landscaping and ultra-mature apartments, many on a grand scale. Check out the HUGE grapefruits on a neighbor’s tree! The next street over offers a brilliant view of the Knesset surrounded by great walking trails, plus there’s a decent looking gym just one block away, and I intend to join that right away.

Today I am looking forward to lunch at the home of a new friend. Here’s how it came about: Dolly, who invited me to her home for lunch of yummy Hungarian soup the day we met, passed along my contact information to her friend, Miriam, who invited me to a lecture, where I met the Sarale who’s invited me to lunch today.   How grateful I am to those who have reached out. I’m eager to collect these acquaintances and to develop friendships; their hospitable hearts have already lightened the load of my first few weeks’ adjustment. Along those lines, a woman who’s lived here for 6 years (from Detroit) struck-up a conversation in one of the appliance stores this week. These encounters occur nearly every day, but this was the first time the other person asked for MY contact information so we could meet for coffee. Usually I give my information in hopes they will be interested, and I was so delighted to have her initiate—of course I’ll follow up. I tell these stories so you don’t worry too much about my days alone, to memorialize the gratitude I feel, and to nudge you to reach out the stranger in whatever ways are appropriate.

This week I spent 15 minutes observing the Hebrew class I’ll begin in January – 4 hours/day, 5 days/week, for 5 months. With homework!! Again, how do people do this with busy family lives!? The class was lively, fast paced, led by a skilled teacher using various modalities, and the vibe of the approximately 35 students was mutually supportive and upbeat. The students were primarily women 25 – 40ish, leaving the bell curve fairly balanced at both ends. I left with combined emotions: intimidation, excitement, confidence, intimidation. Oh, did I say that twice?

The teacher in the Hebrew class wrote (scrawled!) phrases and words rapidly on the whiteboard in cursive Hebrew. Are any of you old enough to remember learning cursive letters after learning to print? Consider how the swirls and circles and different lines, further stylized by individual writers’ artsy renditions are used in advertisements and store signage. They confound this child-like reader by effectively hiding words I might otherwise know, or at least be able to sound out. Salespeople have written product information and references in script, and I’ve found myself unable to recognize even ONE letter, much less read words, so I scribble English notes besides their scrawl, for later. My self-assignment from now until January will be to devote serious time to getting a feel for reading and writing with the Hebrew script.

It’s time to leave for my lunch at Sarale’s home.