Midsummer contemplations

June 21st, 2008

I love the summer.  I love the mellow feel of the evenings, there’s a lush vitality in the air. It’s a time for delight and relaxation, for appreciation of beauty and celebration of life in general, for outdoor art, music and food,  for friendly ambiance and enjoyment.  This evening we watched a near full golden moon rise in the east, just with the slightest hint of hint of waning but still filled with promise.  In some ways that moon represented the year.

We watched the rest of the Spurlock documentary on eating habits the other night.  The experiment had to be called off, simply because of the damage his liver was already suffering.  It was interesting and rather alarming to see the development of a clear addiction to fast food caused by his new eating habits, i.e. over-eating and insufficient activity.  The short term effect of eating fast food was a feel-good rush but the longer term effect was a sense of malaise and depression.  Clearly a vicious cycle, a feedback loop that leads in one direction only- obesity with loss of health.  The obvious and intelligent response is to recognize that cycle for what it is and exit, escape, quit out, change habits before it would be too late.

No, it’s not legit to sue McDonald’s even though they definitely do encourage over-eating.  Adults need to be smart and responsible enough to realize when we’re over-eating or over indulging in anything, and get back a control of our lives in a healthy and wholesome manner.  This is the true use of our freedom.

While resting today, on this Holy Shabbat,  I was contemplating the main elements of life.  What do we live for?

Most simply put:

love, a sense of accomplishment, beauty and delight.

Love.  I look at this as essentially the emotional drive to connect with  another.  There are many kinds of love and many flavours of each kind, every single relationship is a different ‘flavour’ . I cannot imagine living without love. Love for lovers, for friends, for one’s children, for one’s teachers, for people we admire.  There’s also love for other living things, for pets, for wild animals, for the land, for our country, the biosphere in general, for the earth and for God.

The desire to serve is related to love because we wish to give to and care for someone or something we love. This is natural.

A sense of accomplishment is essential to our sense of a meaningful life. This can related to our service as touched on above and to meeting any difficult challenges in life, to work projects, learning projects, creative projects or  anything that gives us a sense of satisfaction from painting a picket fence to tidying a room and making it beautiful.. and this of course relates to beauty.

It is a constant source of wonder to me that our nervous system allows us to perceive beauty.  Lots of neurones, grey matter, action potentials,  and yet our perception transcends those wet matter realities.  We find images and music beautiful, we have a definite sense of aesthetics both in nature and in the things we can create,  song,  architecture,  poetry, dance  so many possible expressions.

The planet earth is breath-takingly beautiful from space and is filled with beauty, especially where things are the way they are meant to be. A blackbird’s song is beautiful , a pile of litter in the forest is ugly. It offends our aesthetic senses and irritates us enough to want to do something about it to restore beauty.

Finally, delight, and this is closely related to beauty.  In this I include almost any area in which we inter-act with the beauty we perceive around us, or with anything that can give us pleasure.  We take delight in beauty, in food, in dance. A sense of humour is also a kind of delight,  laughter and amusement are an expression of delight. There are so many levels and flavours here.

I see two possible levels here, the upper and the lower, but these are intricately  interrelated. In accomplishment we inter-relate with the things we love. In delight, we inter-relate with the things we find beautiful.

For our lives to be truly integrated and meaningful we need to integrate all these elements into one coherent whole,  to see beauty in the things we love, to serve with delight,  to acknowledge the place of those things in which we delight in the whole, feeling genuine love for each person involved. All needs to be part of a whole rather than fragmented, to bring all these elements back to a wholesome purity.  In this way we can avoid ugliness and destructiveness, damaged relationships and alienation of any kind, on any level.

Consciousness is truly an amazing thing isn’t it? Here we all are,  conscious of ourselves and yet in a sense cut off from other consciousness. This existential loneliness is the greatest reason for  personal pain and one we try to transcend with everything we do in life.  On a deep level we are impelled to connect with the rest of the universe, -and this is how it should be.  We reach out and try to touch the rest of the world but we’ve already learned that the touch of delight is transient, it doesn’t last long.  We know it’s part of the key but  the door on the inside is still closed as it were.

By integrating all the elements: love in all its forms, accomplishment in all its potential, beauty and delight, by embracing them all we can become one with the universe, not with chemicals, not with denial of reality, not with anything negative but with a consciousness that truly desires to be alive, awake.

Breathing difficulties

June 17th, 2008

The boys (age 10 and 12) have been experiencing some breathing difficulties lately, mild asthma, and we finally decided to issue them the ventolin inhalers we’d acquired some time ago, with a strong warning not to over-use them.  A good motivation for restraint is the knowledge that effectiveness will decrease with repeated use. There’s a lot of ragwort pollen about as well as particulates in the air, very fine dust brought in by the summer easterlies that blow some mornings/midday.  A couple of my older kids used liquid ventolin on and off during earlier childhood.

When I first came to live in north Jerusalem I experienced sinusitis in almost every sinus I had, in turn, over the next two years.  (Previous years in south and central Jerusalem for some reason did not trigger that, slightly more humid, less dusty?)   Then, happily, after going doing its rounds so to speak, it never came back, bli eyn hara!  I’m one of those people who prefers not to use antibiotics and let the body’s immune system fight the condition, and thank God I’m rarely ill.   Doctor Romberg, however, convinced me years ago that sinus infections can occasionally break through to the sinuses of the brain, (and I’ve heard of a death from this in Israel some years ago)  and that it’s worth playing it safe.

I did have a bout of mycoplasmic pneumonia about ten years ago, more perhaps, I don’t remember exactly, though after I stopped getting sinusitis.  I developed a kind of asthmatic condition (though not classic asthma attacks) that required the use of a corticosteroid inhaler, the ventolin was not enough. It gave me some relief but I still felt I wasn’t getting enough oxygen, and that is quite a distressing condition!  I’d never had that before in my life! Interestingly I was wheezing near guinea pigs but had no reaction at all to my birds or the kids’ hamsters.   We got rid of anything with  old  foam in it and vacuumed a lot and that helped the wheezing generally.  We had to pass on that guinea pig to someone else.

I had been going through some conflict with a particular friend at the time who had many issues and I’d pretty much lost patience with all that and put it aside for the time being.  For some reason while I was sick I decided purely for the sake of peace that I’d just write to her and try to resolve our difficulties with as much humility and compassion I could muster.  From the day I sent that letter my symptoms began to relieve themselves and soon my breathing was back to normal!  Since then I’ve been able to pet guinea pigs on my lap with no reaction at all, which is wonderful, since they really are appealing animals.

So what was all that about?  The initial illness was recognizable by the doctor but he could only relieve symptoms of the asthmatic developments, and yet it seemed that all those symptoms vanished when I made the effort to make peace with my friend. Amazing.  Would they have dissipated anyway? We can never know but the power and good of a mind/spirit in harmony, without blockages,  cannot be underestimated.

Hydration and McDonalds

June 16th, 2008

Now the summer is here, hydration becomes more and more of an issue. When we go out for our afternoon walks we always take water. I can get thirsty just talking!:)

I find it excruciating to observe the drinking habits of many people, to see how they make themselves suffer unnecessarily from chronic dehydration simply from drinking habits. Caffeinated drinks act as a diuretic, that is, they actually cause increased urination and therefore fluid loss. Coffee, cocoa cola and any other such drinks will NOT help hydration and indeed the many gallons of good drinking water used in the making of these drinks is pretty much water down the drain, wasted resource.

In addition to this, sugar and other chemicals in the drinks thicken the drink so much that they have very little value in relieving dehydration. They may actually increase thirst and therefore create a vicious cycle. The high level of sugar in the drink increases diabetes risk, weight gain and other problems. Some sugar is good for a person who is exerting himself though it’s far better in the less harmful forms of fructose and glucose. The brain needs a steady supply of glucose to work and it’s basic body fuel. In the long term, slow release from starch is our best source of glucose.  Best sources of water are simple water, preferably filtered if the water supply contains chlorine, or dilute natural fruit juice. Fruit juice contains electrolytes valuable on a hike as well as fructose.

I find it painful to see babies crying from dehydration because their parents aren’t understanding their needs, but a people need to have mercy on their own bodies as well, as if the body were a pet donkey that bears us and needs to be treated well. How completely silly and foolish to abuse our own bodies and damage our own quality of life, not to mention astronomical national health costs, when it’s never been easier in western society to find out its needs and take care of them!

We just watched a good part of ‘Super Size Me’ in which Morgan Spurlock, a healthy American at pretty much ideal weight, ran an experiment on himself to test American fast food eating habits. He cut back to average estimated activity levels and dined at McDonald’s three times a day. He had certain rules.. he had to try everything on the menu and he would take super size if asked. He wanted to research if it was legitimate to sue McDonald’s for obesity. We haven’t seen the whole show yet but at present he is gaining weight at at unhealthy rate.

I have some obvious criticisms of the show. Are we showing the consequences of average American eating habits (apparently so), or the harm that McDonald’s does? Not the same thing because both activity levels and portion sizes are adjustable. One cannot sue McDonald’s for one’s own habit choices. A person can choose to minimize portions, never take the coke or ketchup and increase activity levels.

The real comparison in my mind would be between two people of equivalent activity levels, one fixing their own food at home, the other eating at McDonald’s, both taking a reasonable number of calories for that person’s needs, and of course, to be scientific one needs a large sample size for both. To my mind portion size and activity levels are totally a matter of individual responsibility and choice.

Now if McD were sneaking in some chemical to increase appetite there’d be grounds to sue. Otherwise, blaming fast food joints (that the people CHOOSE to enter) for one’s choices is just lame. If it’s too much to eat, bring it home! We’ve often done that when we go out to eat. We can make several individual meals from the leftovers and no food or money is wasted. If people consider that a bad habit they really need to re-evaluate! Throwing it away or eating it all is far worse when it amounts to significant over-eating.

Watching that show was simultaneously amusing and depressing.  It seems that the U.S.A. has voluntarily gone into self destruct mode and from what I hear,  the U.K. isn’t a much different!

I saw a video about McD on facebook the other day. A woman was claiming it wasn’t real food because there was no decay, of the bread, burger or chips when she carried it around in a paper back for weeks. She compared the undecayed french fry with a sliced raw potato- obviously not a valid comparison because the chips of raw potato oxidized to a dark colour pretty fast.

I’m going to try an experiment of my own. I’m going to keep one of our home made french fries in a paper bag and see what happens to it. We make them every wednesday. I peel and cut the potatoes myself, husband deep fries them. A paper bag will tend to cause the food to dry out which will minimize decay and fungal attack, (clearly also true for the bread bun). I’d like to see what happens to a ‘natural’ chip in those conditions. We don’t often make burgers but next time husband does we’ll experiment with one of his and see how that compares to the dried up and undecayed example in the video. I just have to keep the local ants away from the experiment!

I for my part had an excellent (and moderate) Mc D meal in Beit Shean after David’s boot camp graduation, and have no complaints against the place at all.  I don’t drink coke,  and skipped the chips (though I’ll eat them if they are the prime carb source) . Just bread, burger and salad,  mmmmm! All the major food groups.

After watching the show we both wanted a burger!  But did we order? Of course not, we’d had supper already….

Isn’t it funny how kids want what mum eats?  Husband made the left-over challa into french toast.  The boys weren’t so impressed. I took one nice slice and covered it with fresh mushrooms, tomato slices and bean sprouts, and zapped it in the microwave for a couple of minutes.  Moshe was clearly interested so I made him one too, (though he’d eaten at a party a couple of hours earlier, he’s very lean and active)

I ‘m just over 57 kilo, just about to enter the target zone, yes! Soon, be’ezrat Hashem.

Talent

June 15th, 2008

I love talent shows. For the last few years I’ve been immensely enjoying the entertainment provided by producers such as Simon Fuller, Nigel Lithgoe and Simon Cowell, that is: ‘American Idol’, ‘Britain/America’s got Talent’, ‘So you think you can dance’.

AI finished the season earlier this year with my favourite, David Cook, emerging as final winner. I had him marked from the very first auditions so I was inordinately proud of him! Last year my favourite, Blake Lewis, lost to Jordyn Sparks to my intense chagrin. Jordyn was a deserving winner. She might have been a superior vocalist and a fine performer but Blake is clearly the better all round artist/musician.

I appreciate Simon Cowell’s opinions much of the time but occasionally find myself wanting to slap him about a head a bit about his inability to get poetic allusion in the work of an artist. Such nuances may not be so commercial but are certainly important to art in general. Art that is only commercial quickly becomes empty, gimmicky and geared toward the common denominator of the audience- and very quickly not art at all. This has already happened in the movie world to some extent- formula movies that ‘must’ end with explosions and fireworks to please the crowds- and many in those crowds are already jaded with this. I believe ‘Mr. and Mrs. Smith’ was a humourous poke at this genre as well as a last word. When will the west be able to appreciate Johnny Depp’s ‘The Brave’ ? Many young Americans don’t seem to get it at all. Sad, but I digress.

This has also happened in the music world with the advent of music videos and flashy stage shows. Appearances have become overly important in the music world. ‘Thriller’ is massively overrated as an album simply because Michael Jackson is a brilliant stage artist but as far as the music is concerned the album is frankly boring and sounds hyperactive and same/same. We watched Pussycat dolls this evening. Yawn! The girls look pretty ‘hot’ on stage but again musically the number was utterly forgettable. Is anyone else actually *listening* ?

For the last two years my favourites have also emerged as winners on ‘So you think you can dance’ : Sabra and Benji Schwimmer. What a great show! I have learned so much about different styles of dance and about dance appreciation in general. I love appreciating the different styles of the choreographers on the show, my favourite at the moment being Mandy Moore .

(Today we were imagining a stage play with song and dance choreographed by Wade Robson, directed by Tim Burton and written by Neil Gaiman. Now that would be interesting! )

This season of SYTYCD is now holding at 18 contestants and a lot of really nice talent.

Meanwhile my memoirs on my main pages are coming along nicely. Bolton and Howells school memories already posted as well as the haunted rectory, and U.C. Cardiff in the works. I’m sure I’ll be adding to all of them as tidbits occur to me.

Shabbos, & a few tips for relief from insomnia, pain etc.

June 14th, 2008

Pleasant Shabbos, plenty wonderful sleep and good dreams, great food and general good feeling. My teenagers were lovely at the table, respectful and courteous, I don’t know if they know how much little things like that are appreciated and enhance the whole Shabbos atmosphere and spiritual experience generally. We had our usual give and take over various issues- if ‘yom’ in the Torah could possibly mean anything other than a literal day, if there is there an implication anywhere that the word could imply a longer period of time. This took us onto various other words that have similar roots and different meanings, (such as ‘kiss’ and ‘irrigate’ for example), as well as laughs over comedy we’ve watched lately. A sense of humour is vital in a family, an essential vitamin. Any tense issue that can be delivered with a sense of humour, should be, just to defuse possible tensions well in advance- as long as it’s done tactfully of course.

This Motzai Shabbos I had Akiva cut my hair back to shoulder length. It was getting long and heavy, much of the way down my back and for summer I like it light and more easily manageable. One great thing about covering one’s hair is that there’s no fuss over professional haircuts, body, style and all those endless worries about ‘look’ in that department. I just need to keep my crocheted snoods clean, it’s liberating! Those net snoods are by far my preferred style, especially with a braided headband. They are pretty without being alluring and give the desired message clearly. I used to wear a range of headscarves and I still like them a lot but I find hair escapes far less from the snoods. I never wore sheitels. Frankly I feel quite strongly that they are against the spirit of the law though in certain situations (such as for a divorcee or a widow hoping to meet someone new) there is a place for them.

Apart from the obvious aspects of modesty and giving the clear message that we’re married, covering the hair is actually ideal for the Middle Eastern climate. Protection from the sun and in winter, from the cold winds. In very hot humid areas I can soak my snood in cool water to help body temperature where the need to lose body heat is a serious issue. Covering the body generally is also great against sunburn and skin cancer though in truth I generally go out when the sun is far from its zenith- today another early morning kiddush in the garden, and our late afternoon walks. Tans may look somewhat attractive but they are vastly overrated and the lengths people go to, to acquire or fake a tan would be amusing if they weren’t so foolish and unhealthy for the skin in the long run. I’m not against getting some sun.. it’s essential for mental health as well as vitamin D. I have to get out there at least once a day or I’d go stir crazy! As with everything, all good things in moderation.

In the Red Sea at Eilat I wore a swimsuit, and over it, a pretty flower print long light cotton ‘haluk. (housedress) . I covered my hair with a swimming cap. That ‘haluk was wonderful, it totally protected my modesty as well as my skin from sunburn and if any of the people over there had opinions about it they hid them very well, I got no mockery, strange glances or remarks from anyone. In that I snorkelled and observed a gorgeous range of coral marine life including octopus, lionfish, clownfish and a wide range of others. Totally captivating, everyone must do this if they have the opportunity.

I asked husband to pick up some more Valerian for me. I swear by that stuff, so to speak, for insomnia though I don’t want or like to use it more than once in the same week, simply because it loses its effectiveness quickly with repeated use. Sometimes I find it hard to sleep because my mind is skipping over so many thoughts and even counting slow breaths doesn’t get me far. Valerian sooths such thoughts t like a gentle rain over a brush fire, an effect far more subtle than that of alcohol but more sure. Alcohol is a lousy cure for insomnia and really should never be used for such purposes. It is, however, a great treatment for me if I get very uptight/upset at people, which happens from time to time! I find just half a glass of wine is great ‘first aid’ for diffusing anger and since red wine has other benefits too it’s worth it. Studies have found that some alcohol is better for the blood and heart than not at all, so it works for me, red wine by preference though I enjoy other alcoholic drinks on occasion, (gin, tequila, fine malt whiskeys, European beers).

As for pain management, alcohol is a lousy solution though it may relieve head-aches caused by scalp muscle tension. A head massage is better. I have been very fortunate to need very little pain relief medication in my life, bli eyn hara! For all my births I found lamaze breathing to be the best pain management policy by far. Elisheva’s birth was hardest because she was stuck in a shoulder first position during transition for a while. That was agonizing for both of us. I used demerol(pethidin), but did not like it, it messed with my head, particularly my short term memory, and only blunted a fraction of the pain. It was very good after my leg surgery though, but I don’t know the comparison between dosages used for each. For Avremi’s birth the midwife encouraged me to use nitrous oxide (laughing gas) which was actually a great experience. I was totally aware of my intense contractions but was able to make jokes and find everything amusing.

Anyone who has broken bones will know that the first night after the break is the worst. After my broken arm (at age 20) Hereford hospital gave me some morphine, which was great. After the first night the best policy is simply to keep the limb still to avoid pain. That’s easy with a leg unless it’s in traction, but harder with a broken arm because there’s always a little pull. Acamol (tylenol, paracetamol) helped a lot (also the best for most headaches), but too much is bad for the liver. As with all drugs, the user must be aware how much becomes unhealthy. Best plan is simply to take the mind off the pain. I remembered playing many games with my grandma and that helped more than anything. Humour, movies, conversation, anything that works.

For various round the body muscle pains, obviously it’s important to make sure calcium levels are good but I’ve found that exercise particularly dance helps a great deal as prophylaxis and have found great relief from facial pain simply through gentle dance moves. I have a friend who is an Alexander therapist and apart from benefitting short term from massages I have benefitted far more long term by studying and to some extent internalizing the principles of Alexander which is essentially about the daily use (and potential abuse) of our muscles in everything, sitting, walking, working and repetitive movement in general. I recommend study of this for everyone, not just therapists. As a teenager I suffered a lot from neck and shoulder pains which probably had a lot to do with bad posture especially when studying. These days I spend hours by the P.C. but thankfully have managed to avoid pain well into my forties, partly through consciousness of Alexander principles. I also use an ergonomic keyboard, one of my best moves since I learned to touch type. Such keyboards really spare the hands from typing pains, I can’t recommend them enough.

That’s enough for today, I hope these tips will be beneficial to any who read them :)

P.C. activity

June 12th, 2008

I very much enjoy the use of this P.C. for many reasons: music, entertainment in general, writing, sharing and networking. I’m listening to David Bowie right now, recently played a household of my fictional sims families- a vaguely pleasant activity, a kind of sophisticated Tamagotchi/doll’s house world. I just completed today’s nature walks blog entry and posted copies on two sites including the funtrivia site for best possible exposure. Plenty people use funtrivia.com for quizzes and knowledge in general so it made sense to post that blog in such an online community. Not so many people leave comments but I’ve had plenty private positive feedback by e mail and instant mail.

It’s far more worthwhile sharing observations in cyberspace than in a journal gathering dust on my shelf. It does tend to ensure the ongoing quality of the record itself as well as an a priori sharing approach- I go out with an attitude of ‘now what can we find for our readers today?’ I have learned so much more about the natural history of my patch in the last year than I have any previous year in terms of plant life, insect life as well as birds and mammals. Now my nature blog is accessible from my facebook page, my web pages homepage, my account at Care2 and my myspace page. I hardly use myspace these days, facebook is a great deal more fun to use and potentially addictive but it’s all a matter of time use management.

My favourite application on facebook (apart from all the charitable aps such as spare a click, Pawzu and Green Patch) is iThink, an opinion site and a great place to debate and share points of view on pretty much any subject. This is a place I can plug a few of my most beloved points of view wherever possible.

A: The importance of choice. Of course the environment is going to affect our choices but we cannot let it determine them for us. Neither can we blame inanimate objects for our own weaknesses. We are responsible for our choices in all spheres and it’s our personal responsibility to get informed and make intelligent choices.

I see a lot of blame on corporate forces and other outside factors for obesity and other ills of society, so this message cannot be given over often enough.

B: Wise moderation in all things. This relates to the education point brought above. It’s so necessary especially in an age where it seems people feel it’s part of their civil liberties to indulge as much as they wish. This is insane! The net result is a country that will pollute, rape the earth of resources most of which it never really needed in the first place, and even go to war to secure those resources. This is happening already.

Wise moderation in all things, essentially food (particularly sugar), alcohol, fresh water, meat and general power use. I encourage quitting of smoking, I don’t tolerate demonization and blame of fast food franchises but encourage people to make wise decisions when determining portions at home and away from home. I will not condemn the eating of meat but encourage minimizing it. Western sugar use is an ongoing diabetes disaster- over consumption of sugar probably causes society more harm than illegal drugs. Caffeine and alcohol are NOT evil in themselves but are routinely abused as part of western culture. Again, people need to understand how much of anything is good/harmful to use. I do not promote going to extremes and buying fancy pills at health food stores, but adjusting life habits in a wholesome way that actually increases enjoyment of the things we use.

C: Dealing with misperceptions about religion. It’s clear to me that religion is essentially a way for members of society to live together harmoniously and meaningfully. The best forms of religion are based on love rather than fear and teach respect for each others rights and feelings in family and community. Such teachings are basic to most major religions of the world if we can just see the wood for the trees.

War is a tribal struggle over resource access and power. The chosen religion of any tribe is no more than a colour banner for that tribe and is not essentially a divider in itself. Abuse of religion is really about the negative aspects of people themselves, NOT the essential message of the religions. Hatred and bigotry and violence are not part of that message.

Ironically the very same negative aspects of human nature that pervert religion- ‘ga’ava’ (ego/pride) is the same aspect that resists the actual positive message of religion. Why do so many people today not want religion? They don’t want to be told what to do. They don’t want anyone restricting their ‘freedoms’ . Religion tells people not to deceive each other, steal, lie and cheat on each other. Hmm, what really is the problem here? Clearly ta’ava/physical lusts come into it too. Anonymous city life has made it very easy to cheat, lie and grab what you want. Such activities have been almost elevated to talents and have become ‘cool’ in certain circles. This decay in a sense of the value of morality is alarming. On iThink I am engaged in constant damage control against the tide, but I feel obligated to do my part and let the voice of the ancient messages still be heard. Thankfully I am not alone.

D: Sexual morality. I promote the value of love, affection and respect in relationships. I deplore porn and casual relationships (which are spreading AIDS and other STDs at an alarming rate as well as damaging respect between the sexes immeasurably) . Sex should be about personal intimacy and not a sport, hobby or casual ‘fun’. I oppose any deceit in relationships. I will speak for polygamy but I will not touch the gay issue. That one I leave alone.

Good is that which promotes life and its quality. Evil is that which damages those. That’s the essence in sum though of course there are many possible ethical questions deriving from this. I am brief not to oversimplify but to avoid complication where details are not yet brought forward for examination. Each case has to be addressed on its own merits.

If anyone claims I have an agenda, you’ve just read it. I promote my values and argue against anything that damages them. That’s the essence of my P.C. activity.

Back to School

June 11th, 2008

The kids, that is, not myself! In a sense, I’m always at ‘school’. The school of life of course. It’s a constant learning process in terms of dealing with situations and people, especially people. It’s good for a person to live in a large family I think, the arts of diplomacy, knowing when to speak and when to be silent, when to be easy going and so on, are learned at an early age. Of course such multiple expectations can become onerous and a child from a large family sometimes just needs a break, sometimes just needs to be outspoken purely for the release of accumulated tensions. It’s hard for some natures to be easy going. Shira and Akiva are amazingly easy going. Moshe is a lot more like me!

Fathers and mothers can approach things differently, such as in a situation that occurred this evening. I was concerned that the teenage girls talking in the kitchen might disturb the boys falling asleep in the room beyond. When I went out to tell them, the conversation was already over. My husband had decided not to tell them because ‘the situation had resolved itself’. I thought it was still worth telling them so they’d know in the future, and they’d know that they might have been disturbing. Husband felt telling them that time could be skipped because the disturbance wasn’t continuing. It’s a little thing in itself but representative. I don’t like coming down on things significantly more than he does because then I come over as ‘bad cop’ vs ‘good cop’ . I’m sure plenty other mothers and fathers have had a taste of such dynamics!

We tend to use our 10 p.m. walks down on valley road to talk out such issues and clarify our rationale, as much as to spot owls and foxes. Such walks are so necessary in airing tensions and resolving them, at least expressing why we do what we do, and hopefully resolve any misunderstandings. Don’t imagine that such talks are always soft and civil, we can really get quite vociferous in our self expression! I personally hate being misunderstood and will go at a point till I’m convinced the other person has fully understood my point of view. If not, I need to understand why.. is it my self expression or is he looking at it in a slightly different way? I need to know for sure. Sometimes the misunderstanding comes in the variations of perception in just a word or two.. variations between people of slightly different cultures or a male/female perception thing or any other possibilities. It’s so necessary to discover why and what these different perceptions are in order to avoid misunderstanding of the whole message.

Sometimes I feel I reach a deadlock and can’t get through but then something gives, there’ s a miracle, and we see through the thorns towards a deeper understanding.  I think this is essentially because we both really want to arrive at that place of peace.  I don’t want to give up till we get there and I know husband really wants to get there too. It can sometimes be an emotional process, to arrive at resolution since occasionally more misunderstandings can arise along the way. On the one hand it can be easier when one is so close to the person, already so much shared history and intimacy, but at times it can be harder, especially if one’s more personal buttons accidentally get pushed in the process! Still, it’s worth it and so necessary for marriage and parenting, and friendship in general.

Isru ‘Hag

June 10th, 2008

Some of the joy of a ‘hag lingers with us over the following day, as if the yom tov were reluctant to take leave of us and for our part we want to hold onto it a little longer. I’m not complaining! Husband went off to Har Nof to the publishing office where he works. He does much of the work at home in his office here but is needed over there regularly for a variety of technical matters. Mid morning David left for his base, looking smart in his green. Sarah left for town last night looking refreshed after the ‘hag and the rest of the offspring were home from school. I was after my own sack time, not the best sleep but just enough.

Mir forest observations and blogging is already done. I went through the boys’ clothes to make sure they had decent wear for school tomorrow. The process of birur is a mildly pleasurable activity, not quite as fun as unpacking and putting items in their place but there’s a satisfaction in sorting through a mess of chaos and deciding its fate, sending each to its fit destination, bringing about benefit for the future.

Curiously, I also get a sense of satisfaction out of removing litter from my beloved Yaar Mir and surrounding hills- it’s like a before/after picture in my mind. Hillside marred and contaminated by ‘urban jellyfish’ i.e. plastic bags, then after my touch, hillside pristine and lovely with only its native aromatic shrubs and mole-rat mounds and such. The strong winds had carried this lightweight debris from our neighbourhood, most of the trash we collected today was not a result of deliberate littering. I only hope that litterers will have the da’at to care for the land a little more.

As well as this blog and my nature walks blog I’m also working on my memoirs on my web pages. I’ve pretty much completed my Bolton School memoirs, to be posted soon, and am working on my Howell’s school, Llandaff memories. Those and this blog were inspired by Reva Mann’s book, the writing of which, she told me, was both cathartic and tremendously clarifying.

I met Reva last Thursday dowtown. We met at ‘Shilshom’, a cozy organic writer’s restaurant just off Yoel Solomon. (‘Just off Yoel Solomon’ often implies twists and turns through charming little back alleys and courts. By the time I arrived at my chosen balcony my sense of direction was totally lost!) We talked for two hours at least, which wasn’t much since we hadn’t really got together since we learned together in Neve over 20 years ago. Reva is an inspiration! Though in her book ‘The Rabbi’s Daughter’ she confided details of her life that will probably shock and repulse some readers, the whole is so imbued with a desire for kedusha, for the genuine expression of a Jewish religious life I can only hope and pray that she will not be too much misunderstood.

The more right wing religious are already outraged by some of her revelations and I’m almost equally concerned that the anti-religious left will not misrepresent her as a total rebel against the system. Well, it’s all out in the open now, there’s no use at all questioning her judgement on choices already made.  We are all remaking ourselves, moment to moment. I have to say, and had to tell her, she had a LOT of guts to tell her story. I don’t plan to reveal quite so much in my memoirs for a number of confidential reasons, but whatever I think good to tell I hope to share as time goes by.

Shavuos

June 9th, 2008

Shavuos was quite pleasant on the whole.   Temps reached 34 degrees C but of course we stayed indoors through that.

Right now I’m working on getting my weight back to pretty much as ideal as possible which I’ve worked out for my body and history to be between 56 and 57 kg.  Almost there!  Just hovering around the 58 kilo mark now and decided NOT to blow it with the cheesecake!  Neither would I deny myself and did allow myself a bite.  I am quite satisfied with my progress since toward the end of April I was just under 62 kilo.  I love line graphs, being scientifically trained, I can see the trends through the fluctuations but still I don’t count calories too closely.  Weight watching is not about denial but about gaging portion size and adjusting intake of calorific foods according to the needs of the time.  Nutritional needs must always be served and blood sugar must never be allowed to fall too low (and of course, never too high).  The biofeedback aspect is fun.  My basic motto is ‘all (good) things in wise moderation’.

Breakfast in the garden at 6 a.m. was most pleasant.  The Bauhinia tree is in ‘bean’ state at the moment and already popping. Half Ninveh wine, half grape juice kiddush and a piece of Akiva’s amazing seed-cake, loaded with sunflower seeds, flax seeds and a few others.  Listened to a hoopoe and other observations in my other blog.

Our principles of relating to teenagers were put to the test today when I briefly lost patience with our army boy when excess amounts of b.s. and bravado were providing some camouflage for his humanity, so to speak, and it just finally got to me.  I got to the point of telling him where to go in old Anglo Saxon, and a few other choice remarks as well!   Later, still longing to actually see a glimpse of my son’s real spirit from beneath all the  machismo, I called him to my room and appealed to that humanity. I’m really glad I did that because I was rewarded with the familiar old smiles, felt appreciated and immensely reassured.  Of course,  a mother is always concerned about the direction their child is going in the world, especially when we only see them from time to time.  Sometimes we just don’t know how we come over when we shoot our mouths, I suppose we’re all guilty of that to some extent.

Erev Shavuos

June 8th, 2008

This is my first journal entry here and I’m already excited about the potentials!  Here I hope to discuss difficult issues that come up in our modern lives and want to handle these frankly and without personal offense to anyone.  My other blog, already a year old, is dedicated to Ya’ar Mir and its surrounds as well as wildlife in Israel in general that I might meet. In contrast this blog will deal with society, people and political issues and will be something of an ongoing  diary for growth and exploration.

It’s almost Shavuos and the family is together, well, most of us, except for my eldest, Aharon, who is in New Jersey but always in our hearts.  My stunning 21 year daughter Sarah is here,  (she likes my long hair!),  my 18 year old free-thinking son David, now serving in the Israeli army, is in his room either getting sack time or doing something on his P.C.  My two other beautiful daughters, Elisheva and Shira, are about, hopefully readying their room for the ‘hag, (I have quit nagging them about their room, I want them to tidy it because they want to do it and see the value in doing that, and they have been moving on that), and my young accomplices in mischief,  Moshe and Avremi, age 12 and 10 are no doubt playing together on the back porch.  Akiva is in his den/office on his P.C. , well, between that and the stove.  He’s our main chef.  These and many others are the cast of the dramas to come.

I was honoured, touched and complimented today that an old acquaintance in the neighbourhood called me up to ask for advice on dealing with a daughter who she feels has gone ‘off the derech’ , i.e. is no longer ‘haredi.  I was asleep at the time the call came in but my husband was totally able to deal with the issue since we have both been discussing this for years.

Personally I feel that every young person should question the values they have received, break them down and build them all up again the way one digests amino acids to make ones own protein.  Times change, challenges change, and this entry can only touch the surface of this huge issue lightly at this time.  In addition to this,  some ‘haredi educators have been guilty of turning off many young people by coming down on issues that should never have been made into issues.  One such issue is skirts down to the ankles and the girls have been treated as if they were already straying off the path and becoming part of street culture simply because they have a ‘fashion sense’ different from that of their teachers.  The girls clearly see the hypocrisy here, since how on earth is a blonde sheitel(wig) more tzanu’a, more modest, than a skirt down to the ankle?  No young girl should ever be made to feel guilty about clothes decisions on that level and doing this will naturally turn them off.

Well my husband made the most vital point I think, that it is essential for the parents to keep a relationship with the kids. If the parents can respect their choices and judgement then that respect will be returned and the young adult will be more receptive to anything the parents have to say.  It is futile for parents to attempt to lay down the law at this age,  they must be at most guides and mentors, helping their young negotiate the choices they might face and to the extent this input is welcomed.  Their children will get some of that education from the people around them and it can be a scary time- not all those influences are good but to some extent we need to trust our young to avoid mistakes or learn from them.  We are way beyond the time of holding their hands on the way to gan.