Loving Life in Israel: Surprise Treats

I could go on for hours, or days, about the wonderful things that happen in our Yishuv daily.

In a crisis, they happen hourly. During our acute crisis, and during Shiva, AM dubbed a particularly delightful habit of certain Yishuv members as Random Acts of Carbohydrates.

Hey, we are Jews, if someone is in trouble, pain, sick, healthy, happy...feed them!  The sweeter, the better.

There is one family in particular that has not given up on us in this practice.

Every once and a while before a Shabbat or Chag, someone from the family will show up with baked good or treats.  Before Chag, we got a lovely popcorn filled vase with candy "flowers." (Once it was real flowers!  My hips were particularly thankful.)

The Trips always ask me why.  How do you explain chesed on this level?  I tell them that we are so lucky that they like us and do nice things for us.

But in my heart, it fills a bit of the emptiness that misses the Shabbat flowers or Yom Tov present Trip'n Daddy would sometimes give.

You know who you are.  I want you to know that your kindness knows no bounds and does wonders for our family's moral.

Thank you.


Today would have been Trip'n Daddy's 45th birthday.  There are tons of things I could say about this, but honestly, I think he would only want me to say one thing.

For his 40th birthday, I made Trip'n Daddy a birthday party in our Succah. Surrounded by family and close friends, I gave him what was probably the best present I ever gave him in all of our years together.  (In my own defense, it was impossible to buy him gifts. He never wanted anything.)

I bought him a flying lesson.

The look of sheer joy and excitement as he opened the folder is imprinted on my heart.  His "No way!" echoes in my ears.  How often do you get the chance to fulfill a loved one's dream?

That June, on a beautifully clear day, he had his lesson.

It was a once in a lifetime experience.  I am so thankful that he had the chance to do it before he left this world.

So the one thing is this: Don't wait. Work for dreams, no matter how big or small.  Make the dreams of your loved ones come true.  In short, Seize the Day.

He soared that day.  And his spirit continues to soar.

Worse Before Better?

Last year I wrote the following for another blog (unfortunately, not accessible at this time):

Even Our "Temporary" Home is Different
וְשָׂמַחְתָּ בְּחַגֶּךָ... וְהָיִיתָ אַךְ שָׂמֵחַ
And you shall rejoice in your Festival...and you will only be happy
(Devarim 16: 14-15)
The first year after a loss is impossibly hard.  Every annual milestone passes and you feel the loss anew. I am trying to find a way to ease the pain for myself and my children. We honor the memory of their father and spend time thinking of years past, our traditions, and stories.  I am extremely focused on keeping his memory alive for the triplets.
Barry’s birthday has just passed. We made “The First Annual Barry Shuter Commemorative Birthday Party.” I baked a confetti cake, his favorite, and we read stories that friends from around the world had shared online.  We have a website, http://www.shuterfamilytrust.org, where people who knew Barry or have been touched by our struggle can contribute thoughts and anecdotes to help the kids get a glimpse of their father beyond the overprotective, loving parent they knew for too short a time.
Rosh Hashana  and Yom Kippur were so painful for me, remembering last year, when we davened so hard, literally begging for Barry’s life. Since those days are the amongst the most somber in the year, the bleakness in my heart didn’t really feel beyond the scope of the holiday. 
Now we are on the eve of Sukkot and I am stymied by my own mourning and find myself unable to fulfill my self-declared goal of keeping traditions.  I just cannot do it. 
Ever since I was a young child, my family has had a tradition to purchase decorations for the Succah as souvenirs from our vacations.  Each year we lovingly unwrapped each item, remembering the trip on which we bought it, sharing memories.  Decorating the Succah went way beyond paper chains and mylar florets.  We had bells from Acco, a lighthouse from Maine, a blow fish in a sombrero from Florida.
Barry and I incorporated this tradition into our own vacations and our Succah overflowed with wind-chimes, ornaments, and sun-catchers from our travels.  Once the triplets were born we were overjoyed to add the handmade Bruchim HaBaim signs (x3!) and other school made decorations. In the last few years, each meal included games of “I Spy” where the decorations were the stars and we tried to challenge each other with outlandish descriptions for the beloved items.
Our Succah decoration box was the first we officially packed for our Aliyah.  We made the decision to make Aliyah in October of last year, so we packed up the box knowing it would be opened next in Eretz Yisrael.  But it is not being opened this year.  I just can’t bear to be overwhelmed with the memories. In the past year our house, home and family has changed so drastically, there is a part of me that needs our Succah, our temporary house,  to reflect that change.  I think I will be able to pull out the old decorations again in the years to come. I sincerely hope so, but just not yet. 
The triplets don’t seem to mind, they are currently making a paper chain that will certainly circle the Succah numerous times.  We bought some mylar florets. The Succah is pretty, but to me, it is not really our Succah.
יד. וְשָׂמַחְתָּ בְּחַגֶּךָ אַתָּה וּבִנְךָ וּבִתֶּךָ וְעַבְדְּךָ וַאֲמָתֶךָ וְהַלֵּוִי וְהַגֵּר וְהַיָּתוֹם וְהָאַלְמָנָה אֲשֶׁר בִּשְׁעָרֶיךָ
טו. שִׁבְעַת יָמִים תָּחֹג לַי־הֹוָ־ה אֱלֹהֶיךָ בַּמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר יִבְחַר יְ־הֹוָ־ה כִּי יְבָרֶכְךָ יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֱלֹהֶיךָ בְּכֹל תְּבוּאָתְךָ וּבְכֹל מַעֲשֵׂה יָדֶיךָ וְהָיִיתָ אַךְ שָׂמֵחַ
14. And you shall rejoice in your Festival-you, and your son, and your daughter, and your manservant, and your maidservant, and the Levite, and the stranger, and the orphan, and the widow, who are within your cities. 15. Seven days you shall celebrate the Festival to the Lord, your God, in the place which the Lord shall choose, because the Lord, your God, will bless you in all your produce, and in all the work of your hands, and you will only be happy
In Sefer Devarim (Deuteronomy), when the Jews are commanded to keep the festival of Succot, the widow and the orphan are specifically mentioned to be included in the rejoicing. Our new community, Neve Daniel, has gone above and beyond this obligation.  We are not eating a single Chag meal at home and the triplets have already been regaled with tales of Succah hopping and candy collecting.  We are all honestly anticipating the Chag.   
In the passage in the Torah, Hashem promises “and you will only be happy.” My wish for my children, as we enter this period of supreme happiness of the Jewish people, is  that even though our happiness is tinged with bittersweet, we will continue to heal and the bitter will soon be completely overwhelmed by the sweet.  One day, may we “only be happy,” once again, in our Succah.   
Somehow, together with friends and family, I think we will find our way.   

So much hope. So much belief that it will get better.

In some ways, it has.

But honestly, and this is so brutal, in most ways it has gotten worse.

I have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia and the Trips have watched me suffer pain, days in bed, and frustration on the highest levels with my own limitations.

My great (project-based) job is in between projects and has been since Summer started.

The funding for our grief counseling has been cut and we are scrambling to restructure so that we all get the help we still so desperately need in some form.

We have moved into a charming, but tiny, 2 bedroom apartment. I wish I could say it has brought us closer and we are rising to challenge of the close living quarters.  Really, we just fight more.  Any mess feels claustrophobic to me and three eight year olds and two dogs can make quite a mess. I desperately want to buy us a permanent, stable home.  However, there is just no way I can afford it.

This year we are not building a Succah. Our real home feels so fragile, I just can't bear the thought of exposing yourself to anything more destructible.

The Power

The Power of a...

deep breath
certain musical note, at a certain time

We assign so much power to things in our life.

Right now, I am battling the power that objects and things have over us. It could be nostalgia, fear of needing it in the future, or mourning the cost of the item that makes us want to hold on to them. But I am learning to let go, to not allow the "thing" to hold the power.

The Power is in me-  in my memory and my heart.


Definition: building or place where one resides
Synonyms: abode, address, apartment, base, casa, co-op, condo, crash pad, crib, den, digs, domicile, dwelling, flat, flop, habitat, haunt, headquarters, hearth, hole, home, homestead, house, joint, lodging, pad, quarters, residence, roost, sanctuary, seat...

We all know that its more than just the place you "hang your hat."

I have recently been feeling untethered. I am the ball floating around the pole with no strong cable to tie me to the pole. There is nothing grounding me. But I am still  flying around, still taking the hits.

The housing market in Neve Daniel is very tight. For those in the know, that may be considered an understatement. Last year, when it became clear that we were staying in Neve Daniel, we grabbed the first available rental. It's been wonderful. It is spacious, even a little too big for us. It is in a great location, in the middle of a very happening block on the new side of the Yishuv.  It is 4 buildings away from AM and UM. There are good friends and neighbors all around.  The lease was only for a year, but hey, so much can happen in a year!

Not that much has happened this year. At least not in the way that would make us want to leave this house. But  the owners are returning and we must vacate.  All year I have had my ears open to possibilities. AM and other faithful friends have been scouting, questioning, and working on this for months. As possibility after possibility fell through, I tried to hold on to the feeling that something would turn up.  I have pleaded my case on the Neve Daniel email lists. Others have pleaded my case to potential landlords. But nothing has worked out.

One would think that by now I have learned to completely relinquish control of my life and accept whatever is thrown at me. Let me tell you, I try. But when you are hit over and over again, there is this little part of you that says "One thing! Please! Let me have control over One! Major! (okay, even minor) Thing!"

In this whole thing there is one absolute: I must stay in Neve Daniel.  Our entire support system is dependent on this.

After that, I am pretty negotiable.  I would ideally like to stay on this side of the Yishuv, or in the center. The "other side" is pretty difficult because it is up and OVER a mountain. AM and UM live at the bottom of the mountain on the new side.

I finally gave in last night and started looking at 2 bedroom apartments.  It was a very, very hard thing to do.

Not because I have to live in a big, beautiful house with an American style kitchen. I think it was more about what it represents - how far life has veered off course. How could I squeeze myself, 3 8 year olds, and 2 dogs into 2 bedrooms and what is likely going to be a tiny  kitchen/living room/dining room? Haven't I paid my dues and been in the tiny apartment already? 15 years ago?!! How can I ask C to give up having his own room?  Forget about a playroom - what about simply place to play!

Shouldn't I be able to provide my children with a place that feels like home?

Well, there it is.


We had a decent house in the States. There was a place for everything and a place for everyone. It wasn't my dream house, but it was Home. It was ours. It was permanent for as long as we wanted it.

While I love the house we are living in, the fact that our landlords are friends and neighbors makes me feel like a custodial parent.  Every time B slams a door I scream "This isn't our house!" I want that feeling to go away.

I want a place that will be Home. How could that possibly be a tiny place?! And what's more, even if I could talk myself into it, could I convince the Trips?

I've been thinking about an old Billy Joel song a lot.  (Trip'n Daddy and I were both such huge fans that we each came to the marriage with a full set of his CDs.) It was one of our favorites. It was simple in its message, maybe even a bit corny, but it spoke to us. Its been running through my head because it is the Mussar that I need right now.  It's not the house that makes the Home. It is the people in it.  I am Home to the Trips and they are Home for me. That's the way it has to be, should be.  One day, we will find our House...

YOU'RE MY HOME (Billy Joel)

When you look into my eyes
and you see the crazy gypsy in my soul
it always comes as a surprise
when I feel my withered roots begin to grow.

Well I never had a place
that I could call my very own
but that's all right my love
cuz you're my home.

When you touch my weary head
and you tell me everything will be all right.
You say use my body for your bed
and my love will keep you warm throughout the night.

Well I'll never be a stranger
and I'll never be alone
wherever we're together
that's my home.

Home could be the Pennsylvania turnpike
Indiana's early morning dew
high up in the hills of California
home is just another word for you.

Well I never had a place that I could call my very own
but that's all right my love
cuz you're my home.

If I travel all my life
and I never get stop and settle down
long as I have you by my side
there's a roof above and good walls all around.
You're my castle, you're my cabin
and my instant pleasure dome.
I need you in my house
cuz you're my home,..
you're my home.

This post is dedicated to D, because of her friendship and perseverance in helping me find myself, and my Home. 

Loving Life in Israel: Raining Hope

Rain in Israel is a completely different experience than rain in New York, and probably anywhere else in the world.We pray for it, hope for it, predict it, speculate about it, celebrate it, and count every drop. There is a very specific rainy season here and deviations from it are rare.

One deviation comes with a special segulah: Rain in the month of Iyyar is supposed to be a segulah for good health. The explanation behind this belief is that the letters of Iyyar stand for:

Alef: Ani (I)
Yud, Yud: Hashem
Resh: Refoecha (is your healer)

You can read more about it here.

When it does rain in Iyyar you might see people running outside with their mouths open, trying to catch a bit of the magic.

Last year, we caught some Iyyar rain and rubbed it on Trip'n Daddy's dry lips.

(We generally hold a "You never know - it can't hurt" perspective when it comes to Segulahs)

So when reports of that rare Iyyar rain started to fill up my Facebook feed this morning, I smiled.

Because even though it didn't work for us, Iyyar rain is still special, still magical, still celebrated.

Because in Israel, every drop of rain equals a drop of hope.

Creating a New Tradition for Loss

I am now faced with the task of planning a yertzheit.

Our situation is so different than the usual memorial, since my children are so young and Trip'n Daddy was so young.

We have found comfort in rituals and traditions. I desperately want to create a tradition for their Daddy's yertzheit that will be meaningful for the Trips for years to come.

There are the regular choices from Jewish tradition that include visiting the grave, a meal, a siyyum...but I am interested in ideas that go beyond that or would make those things relevant and meaningful to 8 year olds and will continue to be as they grow.

So I am turning to you, dear family, friends, and readers for some fresh ideas. Don't be afraid to suggest things way out of the box, I am open to any and all ideas.

Crowdsourcing a yertzheit? Yeah, that sounds like me...

On Puppiness

There are dog people and non-dog people. Then there are the dog-phobic and the dog-devoted.

I am admittedly a member of the latter.  Please see my Pinterest Puppiness board! So much fun!!

As a kid, I always wanted a dog.  Saba and Savta, who had previously had a dog (who had to be adopted out when she kept using UM as a chew toy), went the proverbial "when you are an adult and have your own house, you can get a dog."

When I met Trip'n Daddy, he had a dog. A monster Akita named "Sad Eyes." I admit he made me nervous. He was big. He was tough looking. And he was a tiny bit jealous of me. My heart broke for Trip'n Daddy when he had to be put down, but I didn't really get it.  The only pet I had ever lost was a couple of fish and a pair of white mice.

After being married for 4 years, we finally decided to take the plunge and get a puppy of our own.  I researched breeds and breeders and we found our Nili (AKA "Trouble"). I could write pages and pages of Nili stories.  She has been, and continues to be, a source of unconditional love, laughs, frustration, pride, and joy. She is a member of our family and has been dutifully vigilant in her role of  Master Comfort Giver, President of Licking, and CEO of Cuddling.

One of my favorite Nili pics I call "Tutu Much Silliness"
Did someone say "Chicken?"
After a tough day of Purim crime fighting
While pregnant with the Trips, I was on bed rest for 12 weeks.  Nili was by my side for every moment or cuddled under my belly. She was thrilled when the Trips came home and relished her new jobs as protector, face cleaner, and under the highchair vacuum. When Trip'n Daddy was so sick from chemo, Nili was found cuddled at his knees. Even now, at almost 10 years old and having suffered the indignity of being shipped to this new, dusty, mountainous place, she is there for me in my nighttime breakdowns, licking away my tears, tolerating my hugs, and serving as a heating pad in the freezing Neve Daniel nights.

I love it when she sleeps like this
Most recent Nili picture
So when my close friend, D, approached me with the possibility that her Peke, Coco, miiiiight be pregnant, I had this funny feeling that we would be getting a new dog. Then, when Coco had trouble delivering and I drove her and D to the vet in Ma'ale Adumim for a C-Section, it was pretty much guaranteed.

I know that there are those of you our there who are having the same response as MrsS, and I quote "You need to have your head examined!"

But there really is something to puppy love.  And love is something we need a lot of around here.  You have to see the Trips (and me) cuddling this little bundle of fur to fully appreciate how restorative it can be.

So, I am proud to introduce our "Sabra."  We are puppy-sitting for her and her Mommy for a few weeks and can already see how much she is going to add to our lives.

Trying Mommy's food for the first time
Taking over Nili's bed

Sabra in a bucket 

Haveil Havalim #353

I am so excited to be hosting this week's Haveil Havalim, the Jewish blog carnival! 

Founded by Soccer Dad, Haveil Havalim is a weekly collection of Jewish and Israeli blog highlights, tidbits and points of interest collected from blogs all around the world. It’s hosted by different bloggers each week.
Next week, HH is being hosted by Ya'aqov at Esser Agaroth submit your entries here. Please join us at the Haveil Havalim facebook group.

Opinions expressed in the posts linked below are those of the respective bloggers and not necessarily endorsed by me.

I have showed considerable restraint in adding my two cents to the The Jewish Press article on the "Shidduch Crisis" that caused such a firestorm last week. The Press has printed responses by readers, as well as responses by Jewish notables like Gila Manolson and Shmuley Boteach.  More pertinent to our purposes at HH, the following thought provoking responses were blogged on Morethodoxy by Rabbi Zev Farber in Frum Bridalplasty? and on Ingathered in Where is God in the Shidduch Crisis?

Passover is coming! There were a variety of posts on  preparation, cooking, and anticipation of the Chag.

Mrs. S. of Our Shiputzim shares the Shattered Dreams of kids on Pesach vacation. While Hadassah at In the Pink reminds us of Pesach in the Good Old Days.

Me-ander's Miracle, Rosh Chodesh Nisan Kosher Cooking Carnival has some great links with cleaning tips and recipes. Marc at Culinart Kosher is doing an entire Series on the Pesach Menu. He is presenting different recipes for the symbolic foods of the Seder Plate. Check out his deconstructed Charoset recipes.

An emotional time for many, both Kiss a Mezuzah's Freedom Doesn't Mean Everything is Perfect and my own Trip'n Up's Pesach Preparedness reflect on finding joy in the holiday while the shadows of sorrow.

Finally, Shiloh Musings offers us some words of Torah for our Seders in her Message of Passover. 

As always, there were a plethora of posts on Israel, its politics, policies, and beauty. 

Shiloh Musings stresses the importance of a name in Tel Shiloh, AKA Shiloh HaKeduma, Ancient Shiloh.  Religion and State in Israel  (Section 1) and  (Section 2) provides an in-depth review of media coverage this week. The Torah Revolution warns Italian Government Seems To Be Bracing For War In Israel.

In the political sphere, Esser Agaroth asks Migron Residents, Are You Still Whining?, Yoel Meltzer pleas that it is Time for New Thinking, and Shiloh Musings examines Kadima, Great Name, But Empty of Values and Vision.  The issue of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction movement are tackled in AQtext's BDS Hits Home and The Real Jerusalem Streets' take on the real March Madness.

Life in Jerusalem is never boring. The Real Jerusalem StreetsWhat Did You Hear? and Esser Agaroth's More Western Diaspora Politically-Correct Codependent Insanity discuss the responses to the "riot" in the Malha Mall.  Avital at This and That asks Who is Citypass and Why are We Stuck with Them for 30 Years?  Jewish in Israel tells the story of Pastor John Hagee's use of Aish HaTorah's Rooftop and Aish's response in Hagee Preaches the Gospel from the Aish HaTorah Rooftop.

There is so much beauty here in Israel that I wish that's all the world would see. Thanks to Batya at Me-ander for sharing some laughs in Medical Clowning and to Marina at A Letter from Israel for bright, pretty Wild Mustard Flowers of Israel

In the family department, Ima2Seven reminds us that a parent's job is never done in  Abba, Are we there yet? 

Finally, regarding the online Jewish community, Hadassah Levy (@Hadassah_Levy and contentandcommunities.com) is profiling Jews Who Tweet on Jewneric.com. This week she featured @ of In the Pink

Thank you all for stopping by to read this round-up!  I loved putting it together and hope you will all come by more often for a regular dose of Trip'n Up.

Chag Kasher v' SAMEACH!!

Trip'n Mommy

Pesach Preparedness

There is no way to avoid it. It's coming.

I used to love it.  Not the cleaning, no one loves the cleaning! Pesach is such a special time. The first hints of Spring. The family time. The nostalgic pots, pans and dishes.  The traditional recipes. I remember the Pesachim of my childhood and can even smell it. What was that smell?  Melmac?

It is a holiday that is so rich in tradition and family roots. Do you eat Gebrokts? (Yes, B"H) How is your Seder run? How late does it go? What kind of Maror do you use? What is your Charoset recipe? (Saba's is awesome.) How do you keep the kids engaged?

Each year we seem to add something new, or something we've done for years becomes set tradition. AM and UM added a great Maggid tradition that I hope we keep.

Usually, Pesach sneaks up on me. Not this year.

This year I have more time then ever before to prepare.

But its not the cleaning, scrubbing, and kashering that I am obsessed with. AM in her usual awesomeness has taken on all the cooking.  We are only sleeping in our house. I'm closing up the kitchen.

We still have to clean.  The kids' rooms, my room, the playroom are all being tackled.  But considering the kids have already been home for days, we should have no problem getting it done. Also, Savta and Saba are helping. A lot.

The preparation this year is all in my head.

Trying to move past last year's Pesach that was filled with fear, uncertainty, and a certain resolve that life would never be the same. Trip'n Daddy was very sick, we were new Olim, and we had no idea what was to come.

Now, the worst has happened and we've survived. But like all those Pesachim of the past, last year's has become part of our family's collective memory. I want so desperately for it to be one that fades. Let that fear and pain not become associative for the Trips.

I want their images of Pesach to be of the joy of cherut. Of celebrating with cousins. Of school vacation in the most amazing country in the world.

Let the sweetness of their 4 cups of grape juice overpower the bowls of saltwater tears we've shed this year.



What a word.

It's hard to say. Doesn't exactly roll of the tongue. It's heavy. Ends harshly. I would argue its even onomatopoeic.

When you say it, you feel it. In your heart. In your gut. In your bones.

The bigger the thing you dread, the heavier the word weighs on you.

I'm carrying around a big load of dread lately.

There are lots of things to deal with, anniversaries to face, memories to be stirred up, a first yertzheit to plan.

Spring is here! A chag is coming. School vacation is coming.

All I feel is dread.

It hurts. It actually hurts physically. It drains me. I want to sleep.

Here's the problem with dread. It doesn't go away. You carry it with you until that moment comes and you have no choice but to face the dreaded day, task, conversation.

The moment passes. No matter what happened, the dread is now gone.

I wish I could just skip all the dread and have it all be over.  Be past it.

The thing is though, there's always going to be another dreaded thing to come along.

I wish that they be smaller, so that the dread will hurt less.

I hope I gain the tools to manage the dread.

I pray that the dread does not rule me. That it doesn't trickle down to the kids.

That I dread.

Lean on Me

Even when you have something good, you don't always realize how good it really is.

When Trip'n Daddy and I were looking for a community for our first year in Israel, we knew one thing:

We were definitely NOT going to be moving to Neve Daniel.

We had a myriad of reasons for this, including:
  1. We were not interested in living over the "Green Line." After Gush Katif, we were nervous. You invest so much in building a home and one day the government can just take it away. There had been so much instability in our life already and Aliyah was another upheaval. When we put down roots, we wanted to feel 1000% secure. (Ironically, some of the communities we were considering are well within missile range of Gaza. Their kids have been out of school for days due to the latest escalation and have even been brought here to the Gush to get away from the tension. See: Gush Etzion Welcomes Children from South
  2. We wanted time to learn more about yishuv life before we chose one, if we chose to live on one at all.  As a couple, we tended to be homebodies and somewhat private. The close living and the tight-knit communities that make up most yishuvim made us nervous. Certainly, we were going to try to find one that felt less like a bungalow colony and more like a small town. 
  3. We wanted to choose a community that really represented us and our values. If we were going to live on a yishuv, it had to be the right yishuv for us. The only way for us to really learn that would be by doing research from within Israel. We knew we had to take our time to really feel comfortable with a commitment on that level. 
  4. We loved AM and UM to death, and would theoretically follow them to the ends of the earth, but Israel was far enough.  They were living in Neve Daniel for 5 years already. When we lived in the same communities as them in the US, we always felt that we were living in their shadow.  They had children first and kids are a major inroad to making friends in any community. I have spent my whole life being "UM's sister."  Also, AM is one of those people who knows everyone and has a lot of friends.  They were so established in Neve Daniel, we felt we couldn't establish ourselves, as ourselves. 
Then the world turned upside down.  One day we are looking at rentals in Modiin, the next day Trip'n Daddy is in Shaarei Tzedek ICU in a medically induced coma, intubated and on a ventilator. 

Priorities change in an instant. Suddenly, there was no "we." There was just me. I now had to make decisions based on a whole different set of variables. 
  1. Where were my kids going to have the support system they needed? Where would there be many loving adults to make up for the one who was gone? 
  2. Where was I going to have the support I needed? What if I can't be home in time for the kids? Need a night out? A Mommy Getaway? 
  3. Without a father to help teach them our values and how to live a Torah lifestyle, I now needed a community of men who will watch out for them and be examples to them. 
  4. Most of all, being close to AM and UM was no longer a question, it was imperative.  Forget living in their shadow. I needed them just to be able to live. 
Neve Daniel more than answered the call. During Trip'n Daddy's entire illness, through the weeks of shlepping back and forth to the hospital, helping get the kids settled in school, and finding a place for us to live - they were there. When Trip'n Daddy passed away, it was 3 men from Neve Daniel, only ONE of whom had actually met him in person, that went to be shomrim for him in the cold Jerusalem night. His levaya was packed. Yes, many were my family or Twitpacha (friends from Twitter), but most were from Neve Daniel. The shiva house was constantly filled with people who had never met me, or him, but were there because we needed them. This includes the men who came to the shiva minyanim even though there was no mourner who was obligated in Kaddish. 

There was absolutely no question. We were staying in Neve Daniel. THIS was the place we needed. THESE were the people I needed to be with.There have been many times over the past months when the people of Neve Daniel have proven this to me. I thank Hashem daily for putting me here and helping me find this place.  

Last night, I had a moment when it hit me. How good it really is. 

My birthday was last week and I knew it was going to be hard. I was dreading it. So, I decided to take the bull by the horns and since it was the week of Purim, turn it on its head. Forget dreading it - I was going to celebrate it! 

AM and I hatched a plan where we would gather as many ladies as we could and head into Jerusalem for Off the Wall Comedy Basement's Women's Only Karaoke Night. Neither of us had ever karaokied before and it sounded like a great time.  Also, the admission was reasonable (15₪, with 10₪ going towards your first drink.) Here was the best part, we were going to invite everyone! I felt there was no way to know who else needed a night out and I wanted everyone to feel like they could come. So we created a Facebook event where I invited every woman in Israel who is my friend on Facebook and AM sent out an email on the Neve Daniel list. 

We headed out expecting about 20 ladies to join us. Some of the Twitpacha, some family, but mostly Neve Daniel women.  Here's the thing, I knew there were going to be some coming just to get out, some really to sing, and some just to be there for me. What I didn't realize was every last one of them, from Savta, to AM, to the ones that I just officially met for the first time last night, were going to build me up and give me that moment.

The song choices ran from fun (Twist and Shout, Daydream Believer) to empowering (my choices of I Will Survive and Hit Me With Your Best Shot, RESPECT), surprising (ladies in sheitels singing Rolling in the Deep?) and even the absurd (America from West Side Story, and did you know Mamma Mia makes Savta cry?)

Some amazing woman put Lean on Me on the list. The message of the song is clear and even blatantly obvious. Sure, I knew that everyone who was there would do anything for me if I just asked. They had all already proved that. They didn't need to tell me, I knew.  But as the song played, they held me, sang with me, swayed with me. Considering the magnitude of the changes in my life, I have never felt more warmth, more safe, more protected, more loved...more myself. 

Staring at the Grief in the Mirror

The Trips are all mourning Trip'n Daddy's loss in different ways.  As well they should, they are (as Savta so aptly put it while they were still in utero) "three individual babies."

C and I have been having an especially hard time with each other since this whole ordeal began and it has been particularly frustrating to me.

He is the kind of kid that all the mothers love, the one the teacher praises for his middot, and the one all the boys love to play with.  He has always had a smile that could melt anyone's heart and truly a Gutte Neshama (a good soul.) None of that has really changed.  The big change is in his behavior at home.

He is angry. All the time.
He is bitter.
He is combatant.
He is fresh, obnoxious, and rude.
He wines, he cries, he fights.
He tries to get out of going to school EVERYDAY.

My heart breaks everyday that I see this change in my little boy.  Honestly, I wish I could say that it makes me want to hold him, reassure him, comfort him.  Mostly, it makes me furious. It makes me scream, punish, and threaten.

Today, at a session with my Grief Counselor, I had a breakthrough.

I am having the hardest time with C's grief because it is an exact mirror to my own manifestations of grief. Watching him suffer is looking in a mirror constantly.

And I don't like it.

But now I "get" it.

We talk a lot about Fight or Flight response.

My "Flight" response has been to have "Bad Days" when I have a hard time getting out of bed to face the world.  I have no mean mommy to force me to go to school.  C also wants to "Fly" from the real world, from the pain of everyday life as the kid who has no Daddy.  But I am there to say, "No, you must go. You must face it,"  and he does. I think I need to learn from him and be my own mean motivator.

He has also been the direct recipient of my "Fight" response.  I admit that I am more short tempered with him than with anyone else.  It makes me crazy when he acts out.  I want him to realize how hard it is for me. How much I miss Daddy too. I want him to JUST BEHAVE.

And I get angry.
And I get bitter.
And I get combatant.
I speak to him with disdain, am obnoxious, sarcastic, and mean.
I cry and fight.

But today I looked in the mirror and saw the pained, tear-stained face of my little boy staring back at me.

Then I turned a corner and I came home and hugged him.

I have no grand expectations that this will make everything completely different from this point forward.  After all, our grief is not going to disappear, and I am far from perfect.

But now I know to look in the mirror more. To recognize our shared pain. To try to treat him the way I want him to treat me.

Name our New Puppy!

We are seriously considering adopting Coco's puppy (and by that I mean we ARE) Coco's family is begging us to name it.
Coco and Puppy

We are now taking name suggestions.

Things to keep in mind:

1. Ideally, it should fit with Trouble's real name, which is Nili. So stick with a Zionistic theme.

2. The puppy is a girl.

3. The puppy is a Peke mix, so she will be small, and likely cream colored.

Let's hear your most creative suggestions!

Mommy Time Out

I'm am writing this on my iPhone from a secure, top-secret location.

I am in a Mommy Time Out.

The past few days have been filled with massive Purim preparations. Everything that I chose for our Mishloach Manot was supposed to be incredibly simple, but of course ended up ridiculously complicated.

We are planning a Persian themed Seuda which means AM and I are preparing foods that we have never made before.

Throw in coordinating costumes for 3 picky 8 year olds, my birthday (which just made me cranky), and the arrival of Saba and Savta and you get one over stressed, overwrought, and overtaxed Trip'n Mommy.

So an hour before Megillah reading, I am hiding and trying to find the Simchat Purim that is hiding somewhere in me too.

Hester Panim theme?

Here's hoping that when I emerge, my good mood will reveal itself!

Wishing everyone a Purim Sameach!

(Uh oh, I hear little voices. I think security has been breeched... )

Writing Workshop: Listening to the Silence (a practice in simile and metaphor)

We were assigned to go outside into the cold winter night and listen to the silence.  This is what I heard. 

The Sounds of the Clouds
I listen for the sounds of the clouds, the childish whisper of their grey floss like a cotton candy nightmare. 
They should be laughing like the dogs at play, but instead they bite, snarl and fight. 
The wind whistles past my ears and I strain to hear its secrets. 
All I hear is the waves of an angry ocean crashing on an abandoned shore. 
But the sea is far away and the clouds are angrier than a mother shushing noisy children as the baby peacefully sleeps next door.  

Playing Jenga Without You

Grief is a crazy thing. 

You can be having a regular, normal day. A great one, even. You might even be the one giving Chizuk to a friend in need. 

Then WHAM! 

It is really like being blindsided. You don't sense it coming, but when it hits, it's like being hit by a truck. 

Tonight it was a small disappointment, but it is one that makes this Jenga tower we are living on a little more unstable.  

Maybe tomorrow someone will place a piece to make it more balanced. For right now, I feel the weight of single parenting and the loss of Trip'n Daddy immensely.  He was always there.  Maybe not the best in a crisis..but there.  We would be in this together. 

Of course, it didn't help that as I am getting this piece of news the following song was playing on my iTunes DJ. (True confessions, it was the Glee version.  I had never even heard of it before Rachel sang it on Glee...)

Without You (David Guetta)
I can't win, I can't reign
I will never win this game
Without you, without you

I am lost, I am vain,
I will never be the same
Without you, without you

I won't run, I won't fly
I will never make it by
Without you, without you

I can't rest, I can't fight
All I need is you and I,
Without you, without.... You!
I can't quit now, this can't be right
I can't take one more sleepless night
Without you, without you

I won't soar, I won't climb
If you're not here I'm paralyzed without you, without you

I can't look, I'm so blind
Lost my heart, I lost my mind without you without... You!

I am lost, I am vain,
I will never be the same
Without you, without you, WITHOUT YOU

Mountain Climbing

This is for you. You know exactly who you are.
The view from Mt. Hermon

Listen to me. You are incredibly strong. You are doing everything you can to make your life better.

It is an uphill climb, but trust me, when you get to the crest you will look back and say, "Look what I did!"

The view will be beautiful. 
You will feel strong, empowered, and renewed. 

You can live your dreams. Just get through each day one step at a time.

Remember to look behind you as you climb, because you will see a posse of people following. We are all ready to catch you if you fall and we will support you in whatever way you need. You can even ask us for help, hugs, and scream, rant, and rave at us. We can take it. Our reward is seeing you succeed.

You can be happy. You WILL be happy.
We won't have it ANY other way. 

Loving Living in Israel #1

This is a new series that I am starting to record those "Only in Israel" moments that remind me, usually out of the blue, why I love living in Israel.

Driving around the Yishuv today I noticed a whole bunch of these harbingers of Purim welcoming the joyful spirit of Adar into our little town.

At the Yishuv Doar (Post Office)

On the Door to the Mazkirut (Office)

Writing Workshop: Listening to a Loved One

The assignment came via email: 

Please read and consider the following quote from Natalie Goldberg's excellent book, Writing Down the Bones.

"Writing is 90 percent listening. You listen so deeply to the space around you that it fills you, and when you write, it pours out of you....You don't only listen to the person speaking to you across the table, but simultaneously listen to  the air, the chair, and the door. And go beyond the door. Take in the sound of the season, the sound of the color coming in through the windows. Listen to the past, future, and present right where you are. Listen with your whole body..."

I'd like you to practice listening to someone you care about, someone you feel close to. Perhaps during a conversation with them sitting across the table from you. Practice listening the way Goldberg describes. What do you hear beyond their words? What else can you capture as they speak? Write about it. 

Wishing you all a week of listening with your whole body!

Late Night in Tzfat
We are spent, physically and emotionally, but we lay across from each other in the dark sharing thoughts, secrets, our hearts’ desires and pains as if we were teenagers again. I can’t see her, but I know the crinkle of her eyes as they smile, the furrow of her brow as she worries, the wonder in her face as we reminisce. 

“This reminds me of when we used to do this, what, 18 years ago?”  she says. 

I hear: 

Remember before we were sisters? Before legal-ties bound us, before our childrens’ blood bound us?  Even then, we were soul-sisters. 

I know you better than anyone on this earth. Better than anyone, now. I understand you. I know your fears, your pain, the place where it all begins, and I understand the true roots of it all. 

I was there, I watched it all.  I saw you fall for him and watched him love you. I know that it is because of me you were together. I know you are grateful for that. 

I hurt with you and for you.  I hurt for all that love you. Most of all, I hurt for me. Because I loved him too. Because I love you and love all who love you. Because I understand your emptiness. 

What more can I do for you? How can I help you through? I am doing everything I can think of, everything you ask, but I will do more. I need to do more, even though I am  beyond exhausted with my life, my challenges, I will shoulder your burdens. I will bear more. More than I can. 

She listens to my tears. 

I hear the darkness. I hear the peaceful night. I hear the whispering, mystical Tzfat wind. 

I hear that there will be light again, there is hope, and no matter what, I have love and am loved. 
The night sky, Safed, Israel

This travel blog photo's source is TravelPod page: Megila reading, Museums, Night Hike

Hakarat HaTov - Recognizing the Good

There is a wonderful organization called Standing Together whose mission it is to thank the IDF soldiers for the work they are doing WHILE they are doing it.  We know how important their job is, and we want them to know that we recognize it.  Little things like ice cream in the summer, pizza, hot chocolate, and gloves in the winter can make such a difference in a soldier's morale.

There are some really special campaigns and events throughout the year that go above and beyond the little things.  One is the Yom Ha'atzmaut Managalim. In Israel, Independence Day is spent with family having massive barbecues. For a soldier on duty, missing this cuts deep. So Standing Together gathers families and sends them to bases with the grills, meat, and salads.  The families prepare the Mangal for the soldiers and everyone celebrates together.  This year was our first Yom Ha'atzmaut as Israeli's and we went to a Standing Together Mangal.  I can't think of any other way I would've wanted to spend that day.

Right now, they are running their Purim campaign which is to Send Mishloach Manot to IDF soldiers.  You can either make a donation (if you are outside of Israel) but even better, if you live in Israel, you can actually assemble the packages yourself and include pictures and notes of gratitude.

What better way to teach your children about Hakarat HaTov - "Recognizing the Good" that these soldiers are doing for us?

Writing Workshop: Personification

For this assignment, we were asked to choose from a variety of objects.  We were told to select the item that spoke to us. We were then assigned to speak in its voice. 

Fading Feathers
I am a masquerade mask and have been to many a party.
How I love to be wrapped around my bearer's face,
A night of rejoicing, flirting, and mystery ahead.
I have seen sumptuous tables laden with fare,
Drunken men making fools of themselves,
And beautiful women seeking attention.
Now, I sit on a shelf with faded feathers, torn and untidy.
Aging, as my bearer does.
I wish to be taken out for a night once more.
To feel her eyes wrinkle with amusement, the tears of her laughter.
To party again.

Writing Workshop: Personification and Indentification

For this assignment we were asked to choose from a selection of pictures of animals.  We were supposed to choose one that we felt some connection with, that we felt we shared a trait - either good or bad.

We then had to write a poem in the voice of the animal.

This is the picture that immediately jumped out at me.  
Here is my response:

I am enormous.
Big legs, big feet,
Big nose, ears, and rear.
My footsteps fall heavy
On the savannah floor.
Others shy away, frightened by my size.
Do they know I am loyal? Fierce? Gentle?
Do they know I love to splash? To laugh? To play?
Huge grey mass is all they see.
I only want them to see ME.

When Good Traits Go Bad

Year One without Trip'n Daddy is like riding a roller coaster with a blindfold on and all sound on mute. You never know when the next drop or hairpin turn will be.  You know you are surrounded by others, but you cannot hear them scream.  Actually, you can plan on some of the bumps, because you've seen the map of the coaster and you know they are there (Holidays, Birthdays, etc.).  It's the ones you didn't notice at the sneak peek at the map that really send you reeling.

I have bad days. Many of them.  I am working on it, but like those twists and turns they are inevitable. I am on a roller coaster!!

The sudden drops are the worst. One day you can have a great day where you and your intrepid partner and supporter (AM) get to THREE Israeli Government offices before noon and then have a fantastic time in Machane Yehuda planning for Purim. Later, you have a family meal to celebrate a beloved nephew's birthday (no cooking!)  The day ends with a great Book Club meeting with friends.  We shmoozed more than we talked about the book, but it was fun!

Then the drop. Some stupid bot sends me a reminder about the first anniversary of an event. This event was extremely personal to me, involved no one else, and was supposed to change my life forever.  I had a goal for the one year anniversary of this event, and I am only about halfway there. It is a sore point. Sure, we can blame it on the reality of the past year, but it still feels like a personal failure.

I am not good at failure. It's not that I am so motivated that I am consumed with success, but I am a bit of a perfectionist and like things done right. I put a lot of value in my own personal responsibilities and getting them right. It has been a lot of who I am and how I define myself.

Example A is the Mishloach Manot of Purim's Past that you all loved reading about yesterday.
Example B might be my college and graduate school transcripts.
Example C is any meal where I have company coming.
Example D is my work ethic.
Example E  is my kids - until this year when I learned to cut them a lot of slack.

You see, I can cut them slack, but I can't do it for myself!

AM has a new mantra for me "Manage your expectations! Of yourself!"

How did one of my best traits now become my Achilles Heel?

Writing Workshop: If You Were A ....?

I am currently taking a 4 part writing workshop here in ND run by a creative, earthy, inspiring friend. At each meeting (and sometimes in between) we are given assignments meant to spark our imagination and fuel our writing.

I will be posting some of the pieces from the workshop as I feel they offer a great picture into my life and psyche right now.  They are only slightly edited.  Please comment, offer constructive criticism, etc.

Here is one of the pieces from our first session.

The Workshop Facilitator asked us a number of questions that we were supposed to answer with the first thing that popped into our minds. The questions were all in the format of:

If you were a ____, what/who/where would you be?

Once we had a list of terms, we were charged with making them into a poem. This is my result:

I am a Mother
I was once 25, but now I am a puzzle.
Or am I a 2004 Blue Minivan?
My heart quivers and sobs,
And prays like Chana in Shiloh.
My life is a forest,
Full of twisted olive trees.
I hide like a bear amongst the musky scent.
I hear the strains of a cello calling me.
I want to feel the glow of my candlesticks,
The warmth of my oven, my soft, cozy bed.
I was once 25, but now I am a puzzle.
Now, I Will Survive.

You are welcome to try and guess some of the questions!!

Welcome to a Brave New World

My last blog post was on April 20, 2010.  Trip'n Daddy was fighting cancer. Life was too overwhelming to blog. 

A lot has happened since then and I think it is only fair to give you a timeline before a full relaunch of this blog.

I am sure that the full story will be flushed out as I move forward on the blog. 
  • Summer, 2010 - Trip'n Daddy has a successful stem cell transplant and the Trips spend 8 weeks with Saba and Savta at AM and UM
  • October, 2010 - Trip'n Daddy officially loses his job, just as he gets medical clearance to return. We decide to read the signs and finally make Aliyah in July, 2011.
  • February, 2011 - Final tests results indicate that Trip'n Daddy is in remission. 
  • March, 2011 - We leave on a 5 week pilot trip that will include Pesach with AM and UM. Trip'n Daddy has the okay from the doctors to go.
  • April 7, 2011 - Trip'n Daddy has a really bad chest cold with some breathing problems. He is admitted to Shaarei Tzedek Medical Center in Jerusalem. 
  • April 8, 2011 - He is intubated, medically sedated, and moved to ICU with a nasty cases of PCP pneumonia. 
  • April 14, 2011 - We officially make Aliyah. We are not returning to the U.S. 
  • Rest of April -May 24, 2011 - Trip'n Daddy fights for his life, including battling 3 different types of pneumonia. His heartbeat is strong until the rest of his body gives out. 
  • May 25, 2011 - Trip'n Daddy is laid to rest on Har HaMenuchot in Jerusalem.
  • We start the rest of our lives. Stumbling in grief, but always looking up.
This blog is going to become something very different from what it was.  I plan on including creative writing entries along with the plain old blog posts. I know there will be tears, but I hope there will be laughs as well.

I am leaving all old posts as is, with the only differentiation being the formatting of the posts.  


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