Sunday, December 31, 2006

Saturday night, Shabbos was over an hour ago, I'm waiting for the shemesh to heat up the water so I can do the stacks and stacks of dishes, there's homework to be done for ulpan tomorrow, and I'm just going to sit here and blog for awhile. How's that?

I only went to ulpan one day last week, so I have a feeling there's a lot to catch up on. Last motzei Shabbos I started to get a sore throat and by the end of the evening it felt like the top layer of my throat had been stripped away. I slept 11 hours that night! After a couple of days the nose stopped running and the throat felt better, and I went to class on Tuesday morning. Then - there were predictions of actual snow in Israel! It was so exciting! We were checking all the weather sites and they said it was to be the biggest storm of the last decade. It was really good news because up to now, from at least July 6 when we arrived here (and probably a good 3 months before then), there had been exactly 2 periods of rain (and we're not talking about full days, either). David thought it was funny that I wasn't studying Tuesday night; he couldn't believe I was hoping for a snow day! As it turned out, Yerushalayim got about 4 inches and we just got extremely heavy downpours off and on from very early Wednesday morning (starting around 2 AM) until late Wednesday night. So I didn't go to school because I wasn't about to pay for a cab and I wasn't going to walk a mile in the rain after just having had a sore throat. I heard only 4 people initially showed up and a few more trickled in, and they let everyone out early so I don't think I missed much. So it's actually been like 2 full weeks off (because of Chanukah the week before) and it will be hard to go back tomorrow. On Thursday morning, David called me to back to his office and pointed out the window. In the distance, near Beitar, we could see all the hills covered with snow! It was so pretty! We hadn't been able to see it the day before with all the clouds and rain. Today it felt like it was in the 60's, but someone said there may be more snow in the near future.

It's now 11 pm. Besides doing a mountain of dishes and finishing (almost all) my homework, I got a call from Tefilla, from the organization I worked for 3 days before ulpan started. She had an interesting proposition for me that David and I will have to think over very carefully before making a decision. But right now I have to shower and get to bed. More tomorrow.

It's tomorrow. Wasn't that quick? Ulpan was so much fun today! It was kind of cold and rainy, plus it was a fast day (the 10th of Tevet), but I dutifully trudged my way over to the matnas where I showed up exactly on time for class and was the only one there. We eventually got up to 8 people and it was actually (surprisingly!) a really fun day. Sarah, our morah, is frum and she frequently ties in things that we're learning with Torah. The whole first hour we talked about the difference between the words "emet" (truth) and sheker (falsehood) and how Hakodesh Boruch Hu (Hashem) is truly emet. Tied to the that was the reason for the fast day (Nebuchednezzer - probably spelled wrong - was the king of Babylon, whose army breached the walls of Yerushalayim and tore down our first Temple on this day which started a 70 year exile of the Jewish People from the Holy Land. He even spent 500 million dollars in the 80's trying to reconstruct the original Babylon and had 60 million gold bricks put in the throne room of the palace of Nebuchednezzer praising the ancient king). So think about this. Saddam Hussein was hanged yesterday. Who else was hanged? Haman, another evil guy. But get this - Hussein publicly likened himself to Nebuchednezzer throughout his "reign.". And where was he from? Iraq was Babylon! And just as Haman sought to destroy us and was hanged, Hussein got his just 'reward.' Only in Israel do you get a great dvar Torah while you're learning the language!

Near the end of class, we sat in groups and had to write a dialogue about giving directions. Ellen and I were laughing so hard and being really silly (that's what hunger pains can do to you). We were so proud of ourselves for our conversation because we used lots of verbs in atid (future) tense, and when we read it for Sarah she was impressed except that we really had only talked about going to the supermarket together and not about HOW to get there. So we started over and we got to present ours to the class first. It started off with me asking, "Ellen, effo anachnu?" which means "Where are we?" We had everyone laughing and she let us out a few minutes early. I know, I know - you had to be there. I wish some of you were! Here, I mean.

One of you is. It's almost 4 PM and when David comes home from mincha/maariv, he's bringing home Rabbi Greenwald, who I worked with at Aish in St. Louis and who's here in Israel for a little over a week. We haven't even seen him yet, but he's coming to break the fast with us. I can't wait to see him.

We had 2 other St. Louisans staying with us for Shabbos; it was really nice. A woman and her high school son had come to spend a couple of weeks with her older son who's in yeshiva here in Ramat Beit Shemesh. We had them for both meals, and the family downstairs (Coco's family) with the 3 year old twins also came Friday night. I think Emma enjoyed the company, once she stopped barking at them. She might be small, but she has a mighty bark, especially when people invade her territory. Of course, when Yakira and Hadar came in, she didn't stop licking them and climbing all over them all evening, which they loved.

I can't get warm. This is probably the coldest day we've had so far since we've lived here. In fact, in all the times we visited Israel, we must have dodged any real winter days, because I've never felt this cold in Israel before - and I've been here in December, January and February. We definitely need this rain, but the wind we can do without. Probably I'm just cold because I haven't eaten today. I don't have a problem fasting and this is a pretty short fast, but I'm looking forward to some very hot split pea soup in a couple of hours.

So, you're probably thinking I won't even remember that I started to write about Tefilla's phone call last night. My memory is getting much better these days (also I just re-read the blog to look for typos...). Anyway, she had previously called me before Shabbos to ask if I was interested in working for one of her fundraisers by making calls to the US. Yad Ezra V'Shulamit advertises on the internet and they get a lot of donations that way. My mission, should I choose to accept it, is to call the donors from the US personally and thank them for their donation, and then shmooze with them a little and get to know them. Then I call them back 3 more times during the year, sometimes just to keep in touch and sometimes to solicit them again. I get an hourly rate (extremely low) and a commission for anything I bring in over the initial amount. But then she called last night with a proposition to use a room in our apartment as an office for me and 2 of the fundraisers (both rabbis) who live in RBS. They both have large families and noisy homes, and going into the office in the evening wastes a lot of time (we have to call during American hours - 4 PM - midnight). The organization would put in the 2 extra phone lines to the states, and pay us "whatever's fair" for the use of our home. We can't come to a decision. It would only be probably Sunday and Monday evenings, but David wouldn't have much privacy because we have a small apartment and we'd have to set them up at the dining room table. Plus I can't make phone calls if there are other people in the room talking (or listening).

Guess what? It's about 5 hours later and I'm just getting back to this blog. We had a really nice meal with the rabbi, and David walked him back to where he's staying. It was so nice to see him.

We're not going to make our home into an office, we decided. I'm going to make the phone calls one night a week, but that's about it. After ulpan we'll see if I go into the office or look for something closer to home. Hopefully, David will have a good job by then...

We keep forgetting to turn the shemesh on to heat up some water, so we can't shower or even wash the dishes for awhile. Guess I'll have to say my daily tehillim now. I sure would love to hear from some of you folks back home (former home). Maybe you could just leave me a little note to say hi? I miss you!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Chanukah Sameach!

We spent the day in Yerushalayim today for our own personal tiyul. Unfortunately, we tried to do too much and didn't get to do everything we had planned. By the time we got off the RBS bus in Geulah and started walking up Strauss, it was already after 10:30 a.m. Then we ran into Yocheved Bienenfeld and spent some time speaking about their recent aliyah. It seems like more and more St. Louisans are arriving here all the time!

Our next impromptu thought (actually, my thought) was to go to Talpiot again to the drivers' license bureau, but it turned out to be a wasted trip. There were 47 people ahead of us (after we waited in another line for the first ten minutes), and we didn't have all the right paperwork with us, anyway. So we got back on the #14 bus and headed back to King George and Yaffo Streets. By then it was already 12:30 so we just went to lunch at Cafe Rimon. There we ran into Karen from our ulpan class and her husband, Al. We love running into people we know! Just as they were leaving, Avital showed up to meet some friends! She sat down with us for a few minutes and told us she was leaving Israel the middle of January. It's hard to believe she's been here a whole year. But now it's time for her to move on; after a 2 week visit in St. Louis, she's heading to Flatbush, in New York. I hope we stay in contact.

After lunch we walked down Agrippas Street, stopping at the Chofetz Chaim butcher shop to meet the owner who hails from Chicago (34 years ago). They deliver to RBS and I wanted to see what they had there. As we continued our way up Agrippas, I realized I hadn't stopped in the little girls' room before we'd left Cafe Rimon so we stopped at a mall we'd never seen before. It was mostly empty; the front of it faced Yaffo Street. Well, folks, let me tell you that there is a definite seamy side in the Holy City. I'm not going into detail, but the bottom floor of this building had some shops that had no place in Yerushalayim, much less anywhere else in the state of Israel (in my own humble opinion). And the blatant signs on the doors left no one unsure as to what was inside. How sad that places like those are allowed to operate here.

But we put it behind us as we entered the shuk. It's the first time I've been there since we moved here, and we had such fun. We lamented that we lived so far away; it would be nice to shop there every Thursday for Shabbos. If you don't know what the shuk is, you need to come to experience it yourself. It's a huge outdoor market that extendes from Agrippas to Yaffo Street over a wide area, and has stand after stand of fresh fish, huge fresh vegetables (you wouldn't believe the size of the radishes here!), barrels and barrels of fresh spices (I had no idea what any of them were; I need my friend Korey to come from America and go shopping with me), candies, toys, kitchen items, wines - you name it.

From there we headed to Geulah where, for the first time, we walked up and down some of the side streets instead of just staying on the main street that goes into Mea Shearim. David ducked into a bookstore for mincha near Uri's Pizza (bring back any memories?) where there are minyanim going on continuously, while I had a standoff with a kiosk (k-i-o-s-k) vendor selling snoods and scarves. I just don't have the haggling thing down yet. I found a navy beret I wanted and the guy wanted 79 shekels. I asked if he'd take 50. He laughed at me. He showed me the workmanship, the weave of the material, he compared it to snoods of inferior quality. I acted like the dumb new olah chadasha that I am (I'm sure he thought I was a tourist). He conceded to go down to 65 shekels. I said that I really couldn't afford it anyway. He continued to extoll its wonderful qualities. Then I said that I had to ask my husband who'd be there shortly. He got really angry and pulled it out of my hands and buried it in a pile, muttering to himself in Hebrew. Of course I came back, and ended up getting it for 60 shekels. Not too shabby, but I think I could have handled it a little better. You live and learn.

By this time it was getting dark and the temperature was dropping. It is definitely colder in Yerushalayim than in RBS. Shaina (our downstairs neighbor who watched Emma for us today) told me tonight that it was actually HOT in RBS today. Go figure. In the meantime, David and I took the #2 bus to the kotel and I was freezing. Everyone else had winter coats and I had a jacket. But I had a nice conversation with Hashem, said my tehillim, and inched my way to the Wall to give it a little kiss before backing out into the plaza (you shouldn't turn your back to the wall; it's not respectful). It's so beautiful at night; I'd forgotten. There were a lot of people there and it was just so nice to be there.

By then we were pooped so we waited for the #2 again to take us to Shmuel Hanavi to catch the #417 back to RBS. We waited a good 20 minutes in the cold for the 417. When we got home, we found a nice surprise. Emma is still a puppy. Even though I put the bathroom trash can in the tub where she couldn't see it, she pulled the roll of toilet paper out all over the bathroom floor and played with one of the bathroom rugs, actually dragging it out into the hallway where she pished on it! Not to mention that she also pished on the couch! She spent quite a lot of time downstairs playing with her friend, Coco, but obviously she was either angry with us for leaving her (we'd never left her for so long before) or she was really, really bored. I suspect the latter. She got a little potch, but I'm pretty sure she doesn't know why, even when I stuck her nose in it. We're going to have to leave the door to the back bedrooms closed when we leave her alone.

Our friends from Kochav Yaakov are coming to visit tomorrow. They sent us a link to some great video clips that someone on their yishuv made. Go to and check it out. The video about Kochav Yaakov is great. The one about Ben Yehuda Street might bring back memories for some of you.

And for the next 2 Shabbosim, we have guests from St. Louis staying with us! None are people we know well, but they're visiting Israel and of course want to see fellow St. Louisans. Oh, yeah, I neglected to say that while we were eating lunch, we started to talk to the couple at the table next to us (who are visiting their daughter and her family for a couple of weeks), and it turns out they live in Baltimore right across the street from the Newmans who moved there from St. Louis, and who we stayed with on our Farewell Tour. Once again and not for the last time - it's such a small world.

As I'm sitting here writing, I glance out the patio door to my left and see our Chanuykia lit inside a little aquarium and sitting on our table on the mirpeset. We're supposed to publicize the miracle of Chanukah by lighting in a window, and many people here in Israel light outside. It was pretty cool on the bus as we passed apartment buildings in Geulah with the shining menorahs in all the windows, and again as we drove through RBS Bet and then Aleph (we're one of the last bus stops). What a wonderful place to live! I don't think I remember to thank Hashem every single day for this miracle. I feel so blessed to be able to be here.

I hope you're having a wonderful Chanukah!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

It seems like longer and longer between blogs. Some days it feels like there's no time to even turn around, much less spend time writing. But it's the middle of a Tuesday afternoon, my mahj game fell through, David is in Yerushalayim until probably 9 or 10 tonight and I don't have ulpan again until Sunday, so - here I am!

I do need to go down to the chupat cholim around 4 to get a flu shot. We got some letters in the mail that they probably sent to selected people (read: old) to tell us we should go to the clinic sometime in December to get our free flu shot. But I'll be finished writing before 4. It actually looks like it may finally rain this afternoon. For some reason I can't get to the RBS weather website to check, but I'll just take an umbrella with me to the bus stop. Or maybe I'll actually just walk on down to the clinic; it's a long way but it's mostly downhill and I can use the exercise.

So David is no longer in ulpan. He really needs to find a job and from what we've heard from others, it could take up to a year to find one and we don't have enough money to last that long unless we spend every penny we have. Our sol klita (government checks) end at the end of January and we don't have much other income. David feels that all the IT (Information Technology) jobs are in programming and he's only done networking for the past many years, so he decided to hone up on his programming skills. He went to Machon Lev, the Jerusalem College of Technology, where Nathan went to for a year, and they're actually letting him sit in on a class 4 days a week - for free. David knows how to program; he just needs to learn the new languages. He's also on all kind of job email lists and has his resume in at a lot of places. Plus Nefesh b'Nefesh is also helping him. One job listing he showed me last night looked very interesting; the first two years they need someone to live in Barcelona, Spain. I think he should apply for it. It's only a 4 or 5 hour flight from here and he could come home for Shabbos or I could go there. You wouldn't even believe how many families move here, with a lot of kids, and the husband keeps his job in the states and commutes, coming home every couple of weeks or once a month. The wives are really suffering because they have to take care of the kids and all their needs, plus deal with all the other issues of moving here all on their own. But I guess it's important to them to have that American income, which is proportionally much better than Israeli paychecks. We personally feel we can get by on so much less than we did in the states, but then, we don't have a lot of kids to take care of any more, either. I do feel pretty bad that we won't be able to send our kids and grandkids and my nephew any Chanukah presents this year. Hopefully we'll be in a better position next year.

I also applied for a job yesterday. Our friend, Zvi, who is director of the Jewell program at Aish, forwarded me a job notice from the Aish Jerusalem office. They're looking for someone 4 hours a day to mostly work from home. That would be perfect for me! Someone in personnel called me this morning and I told her about my ten years with Aish St. Louis and my computer experience. She said there are always jobs opening up. I'm sure Rabbi Grunberger and Albert from Aish St. Louis would give me a good recommendation. But I really don't want to work while I'm still in ulpan. I don't even know where those 4 hours could be fit in right now and the pay isn't much (but average by Israeli standards). We'll see what, if anything, they offer me.

Tomorrow morning the ulpan is offering another tiyul, this time to Yerushalayim. I had signed David and I up, but we decided not to go. If we can get up early and catch the 6:30 AM bus to Yerushalayim, we're going to Nathan's Rav's son's bris in Har Nof. It was nice of the Rabbi to have called to tell us about it. I can't afford to buy the baby a gift, but I'll have to get a card when I go down to the mercaz later. If we decide not to go (we really won't know anyone else and I'm sure the men and women will sit separately for the seuda - festive meal after the bris), we'll just catch a later bus and go into Yerushalayim anyway. I haven't been to the kotel in awhile and it will be nice to walk around a little. David's class tomorrow is at 2 p.m. in Bayit Vegan (he says Givat Mordechai), and then I'll probably just grab a bus home so I won't be tempted to go clothes shopping in Geulah (they have great stores for women!).

I'm hoping that Ellen and I are going to a play tonight at the matnas in Beit Shemesh. We forgot to confirm that in class this morning.

Ulpan is getting to be more fun. It's still frustrating and sometimes I'm totally lost, but I'm getting most of the "principe" behind what she's teaching. Surprisingly (or not), when I go over with David the stuff we're learning, he already knows it! He's doing his learning via computer (who would have guessed?) and also while he's no-saya (traveling) to Yerushalayim every day while on the bus (or train). He also feels he's learning more by being "out there" and trying to speak with people and hearing them speak, than by sitting in a classroom. Sometimes I get angry with myself when an opportunity presents itself for me to speak in Ivrit, and I actually know how to say whatever it is, and then without thinking I just speak in English. I just need to be more cognizant and try to use Ivrit whenever possible.

Last Friday night we had 2 couples for dinner from ulpan and it was so much fun! Ellen and Kalmon came, and Yosef and Joke (pronounced Yoke-ah) from Holland. We drank a bottle of wine and sipped some really good chocolate liqueur and just laughed all evening. Joke can't speak English well, but she understands it, and Yosef knows German, Yiddish, and English. The funniest thing was when Ellen told us about when she was a kid and her parents said they could get a dog. She said she had in mind a big, furry dog that she could call Butch. Then her mom brought home a little toy poodle and they ended up calling her Taffy. While we were laughing, David said, "I know what you mean. We also had a toy poodle, named Tinker Bell." We almost fell off our seats, we were laughing so hard. David continued, "Yeah, good old Tinky." Then we really lost it! I know - it isn't so funny now. It's one of those you-had-to-be-there kind of moments. But it was really a special night. Making new friends is so difficult. You spend all your time at the beginning comparing them to the friends you left behind and it's hard to open up your heart to make room for the new. But you know you have to, because you're here now and you need friends to spend time with and share with who aren't 6000 miles away. No one "gets" you yet; you have to start all over. As we say in ulpan: l'at, l'at (slowly, slowly).

Emma is such a cutie. She's up to 7 pounds. When we had to take her to her 2nd vet appointment last week for her next shot, we didn't know how to get her there. We didn't have the borrowed car any more and she is terrified of the pet carrier we bought. So we just called a taxi and held her the whole time. She just shook and shook, poor baby. She's really bonded to us. When I take her outside in the late afternoon, even if there's no one out in the park when we get there, within 5 minutes there are kids on all the balconies yelling, "Emma! Emma!" and pretty soon 8 or 10 of them descend on us. Sometimes Emma likes it; the kids chase her around or she chases them and licks them. But sometimes they keep picking her up or stand on her leash and she can't just roam around and smell everything or eat everything she finds. When Hadar and Yakira from downstairs see her, they get really excited and want Emma to come to their house to play with Coco and them. Even though there are other people with dogs, it's still something of a novelty here, so Emma's pretty popular, especially since she's so small.

It's getting a little chilly; I had to close the sliding glass door here by my desk. It's probably in the 60's, but the breeze blowing in feels colder. David just called from Yerushalayim. He said it was much colder there; in the 50's, but it feels like rain. The sun is actually trying to peek out here. Our weather couldn't be more perfect. I just wish it would rain every night and have sunshine every day, which is pretty much what we have except that it never rains. And we need it!

I found out this morning that a young woman I was davening for was nifter (died) yesterday. She is a fairly new newly-wed, and went into a coma after (during?) childbirth. That was a month or two ago and she never woke up. So sad. That poor young husband, and that child who will never know her mother. Baruch Dayan Ha-emet - Hashem is the True Judge.

Thank G-d Tehilla Grunberger went home last Friday before Shabbos. What a miracle! She'll still need physical therapy every day for the next couple of months, at least, but the fact that she was able to come home so soon is so wonderful. On Sunday night Aish St. Louis had its (our) Annual Gala Auction and I was told Tehilla went to it. Kol Hakavod! I also heard there were about 600 who went and it was a smashing success! Albert is a master at putting events together. Last week I did some signage and computer stuff for them every night, so I feel that I had a tiny part of it.

Emma keeps interrupting me to play with her. I'm going to save this so I can write more after I get back from getting my flu shot. I hope I can find it again!

It's now almost 10 p.m. I went down to the mercaz to get my flu shot and pick up some groceries. David didn't tell me that they make you sit for 30 minutes after the shot in case you go into anaphylactic shock, so it took longer than I intended. On the way back in the bus I got off at the top of Ayalon and stopped at Linda's, someone I occasionally play mahj with. Her daughter has a "source" for taping a certain tv show I used to watch in the states, and there were 5 episodes waiting for me on DVD. I was so excited! I didn't even mind the long walk home with 2 heavy bags of groceries. Everybody's got to have one vice, right? Okay, maybe not. I'm working towards not having any vices, and doing a whole lot better than I used to.

On a totally unrelated topic than vices, I thought I might give some mention to the fact that Nathan was in the Bahamas last week on a mostly paid for trip to Nassau to be in a poker tournament after winning an online poker tournament a few weeks ago. The top 6 players out of 194 (which included 12 world-renowned pros) would be on a televised tournament. Nathan hung in there until the very last day and beat out all the pros. In fact, he beat out (let me get my calculator for this) 166 other people and came in #7. I don't think he was so disappointed about just missing the last six; he was somewhat of a celebrity and made a lot of contacts to get into other tournaments.

I have mixed feelings about the whole mishegas. Nathan says it's not gambling because everyone pays the same amount of money to play in the tournament and are provided with the same number of chips at the beginning. The last one in is the winner. I don't know any of the halachic implications of all this, but I do know that it brought his self-esteem level up a few notches. I just pray, a lot, that somehow this leads to only good in whatever way Hashem has in mind to do it. I want to believe that my son can live a fulfilling life living by Torah and mitzvot. Plus he needs to give me some Jewish grandchildren already!

So Ellen and I didn't go to the play tonight. I actually made some calls and found us a ride, but the woman wasn't leaving until really late and we didn't even know if there'd be any tickets left for tonight's performance. I didn't really want to leave Emma alone again, since David had left this morning, and I was first at ulpan until 1:15 and then I went down to the mercaz for another couple of hours. Plus, David and I are going to be in Yerushalayim all day tomorrow and she'll be alone again. Except - I think I'm feeling repercussions from the flue shot. They said I could have flu-like symptoms for up to 3 days, and I've been feeling pretty achey (achy?) all evening. We already decided not to go to the bris, and it may be that I'll stay home tomorrow and we'll go on Thursday instead. We'll see how I feel.

Let's see, what else can I tell you? My head's really foggy and it's late, so this is a good time to end. Have a Happy Chanukah!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Here are a couple of pictures from our tiyul last week to Tel Aviv. The second picture is of Ellen and me. Ellen is in our ulpan class; her husband Kalmon is the one who walks at least 3 hours every day in the hills around RBS ( Ramat Beit Shemesh). Ellen and I are getting to be pretty good friends. It's strange how we've all bonded in ulpan. We made a list of all our email addresses just before the tiyul, and 3 people ended up sending us pictures because we hadn't taken our cameras.

I can't believe I have to go to class tomorrow. We were supposed to write a story about our family, using only words we already know. I have no idea if the possessive pronouns I used are right and/or if I put the words in the right order (adjectives firsts, pronouns after). I think Sarah really just wants to see if we used the past tense (avar) correctly: I was, he was, we were, they were, etc. I wrote "Hamishpacha sheli b'Missouri b'artzot habrite. Ima sheli hayta akeret habayit, v'abba sheli haya et roka-ach. Anachnu garoo b'shekoonah n'im. Babayit shelanu yesh haginah aval lo haprakim, rach tzeemtim. Abba ain lo sefarim. Hu ahav lsha-chake im han-kdim. Achshav yesh li c'aiv rosh m'cotevet et zeh." (It's supposed to mean: "My family lived in Missouri in the US. My mother was a housewife and my father was a pharmacist. We lived in a nice neighborhood. Our house had a garden but no flowers, just vegetables. Father didn't have books. He loved to play with the grandchildren. Now I have a headache from writing this.")

I have a long way to go, don't I?

Wednesday night we got an SOS call from a friend living here from St. Louis. Her in-laws had come to visit for about 10 days and were supposed to have flown back that night, but all the municipal workers all over the country had gone on strike and there were no outgoing flights from the airport. She needed a place for them to stay Thursday and Friday nights. We have a pretty small apartment and not much privacy. It's okay for a couple of seminary girls or a yeshiva bocher (student), but this was a couple just a little older than us. But we said yes, and we ended up really enjoying their visit and having some great conversations. We actually knew them somewhat, but got to know each other better for the short time they were here. They left tonight for a 1 AM flight. Most of the time Nathanne and Richard stayed with their kids and grandkids; last night we all walked over to their house for Shabbos dinner. Today they walked over there for lunch and we stayed home by ourselves. David slept for several hours while I read and took Emma out to play in the park. I didn't even hold her leash; she just runs around and always come when I call. Five kids came running out when they saw her and she just let them all chase her for awhile. Once in awhile she'd stop and jump up on them and give them kisses and they all had a great time. We felt kind of bad that Emma barked at our guests the whole time they were here. She couldn't figure out who was invading her space and was very nervous. They were good sports about it.

The weather here has been absolutely gorgeous. Here it is the beginning of December and we have temps in the 70's during the day with not a cloud in the sky. And you guys in St. Louis with snow and ice - I'm so sorry! I don't miss the weather there at all.

It's almost 11:30; I'd better get to bed. If I'm still sleeping (or pretending to be) when David gets home from shul, he walks Emma; but normally I've already walked her and am already davening when he gets home. But that doesn't leave me much time to check my email, eat breakfast and relax a little before I have to leave for ulpan. Hopefully I'll wake up early and be ready to face the week!