Thursday, February 22, 2007

Hear ye, hear ye! It is now officially the month of Adar, a time of joy and rejoicing! Everywhere one looks there are Purim costumes, pre-packaged (ooh, the prices!) Moshloach Manot, firecrackers going off, and most enjoyable of all (to me) - the donkeys pulling carts of people through the streets, or down at the mercaz with saddle bags of groceries ridden by yeshiva bochurim (young men learning Torah). Okay, I've been trying really, really hard not to write this, but I just can't help myself: I've never seen so many asses before!

For those of you who don't understand, the holiday of Purim is next week. It's one of those holidays of "They tried to kill us, we won, let's eat" kind of things. It's the story of physical annihilation of the Jews by a bad guy named Haman (may his name be blotted out) and Hashem turns things upside down with the help of Queen Esther and her uncle, Mordechai. Haman ends up being hanged, the Jews lived to tell the story, and every year we celebrate with singing and dancing and the reading of the megillah (the story of Purim). There's a lot more to it than that, but suffice it to say that Purim is a BIG deal in this country. There's also a mitzvah to give money to the poor (of which there are WAY too many here) to be distributed on the day of Purim, and to give baskets of food (usually a lot of candy) to other families. I made a really nice postcard saying that in lieu of giving Shalach Manot we're donating to Yad Ezra V'Shulamit, although I'll make a couple of baskets for our friends with kids. I hope we don't get very many; I don't need the extra food!

On Monday night I went to a get-together for people who made aliyah to Beit Shemesh last summer. Disappointingly, only about 12 people came, but we all talked about our aliyah and it was pretty nice.

And on Tuesday, I went to Har Nof in Jerusalem to a writer's workshop. Does that mean I can officially call myself a writer?

"No, goofy, what kind of a writer do you think you are?"

"Well, I write a blog that almost 900 people have read in the past 3 months!"

"Is that so? Don't you think some of those 900 are the same people who have read your blog more than once?"

"Duh!!! Doesn't that prove I'm a good writer?!"

The writing workshop was about dialogue, and learning techniques of using dialogue to create a scene, or to enable the reader to learn more about the characters. And what have you as the reader learned from the above dialogue? There are no right or wrong answers to that question. I myself think it shows a definite lack of sleep since I was talking to myself...
Assignment for next week is to write two pages of a childhood memory regarding a Yom Tov (holiday). I'm not sure Leah (the writer who teachers the course) has any understanding of my total lack of memory.

Which reminds me.

I started seeing a chiropracter for the pain in my neck and shoulders and back that I've had for years. After physical therapy, cranial-sacriol therapy and massage failed to help, I thought, "Why not?" I took the doctor the CD of the back x-ray I had taken recently, and he showed me where there's been deterioration between my 4th and 5th (5th and 6th?) vertebrae. "See right here? You're out of disc space."

Later that night while David and I were having a lovely supper (it's good to throw in a couple of descriptive adjectives once in awhile), David pointed out to me that I had repeated myself about something and suggested that perhaps I was "out of memory." Okay, so all this time I thought I was a human being when all along I've been nothing but a computer? No disc space, no memory. I need an Upgrade!

We're having 3 couples for Shabbos dinner tomorrow night; all friends from ulpan. One of them is bringing her 20 year old daughter who's getting married in 3 weeks; we're going to be hosting one of the sheva brachot for her. I've been cooking like crazy all day; you'd think I was having an army. My hands are chapped from washing so many dishes and pots and pans. I miss my dishwashers I used to have. But what makes me really crazy is not having David around any more on Thursdays since he started working. He used to have no problem running (walking, skipping, whatever) up the hill to the micholet for all the things I needed while I was cooking for Shabbos. I had to drag myself up that hill twice this morning! Nobody told me that when you make stuffed cabbages, you have to buy large cabbages or you can't fold them up with the meat mixture inside. You live and learn.

There were so many other things I wanted to say this week, but my head is literally drooping (nice imagery, wouldn't you say?). Stay tuned.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Ever have a day or two when things just don't go the way you'd thought they would? Where everything you do is wrong, and at some point you just have to laugh and thank G-d for His sense of humor? He really does have a great sense of humor, doesn't he?

So I decided I wanted to work from home as a transcriptionist. A friend of mine, Lisa, has been doing it for the past year and she makes a pretty good income, by Israeli standards (you always have to qualify that statement). Lisa started with the company right when the guy was starting it and she was one of only two transcribers. Now they have so much work they need new people. So on Tuesday and Wednesday the transcription company rented a computer lab at a company that rents out such rooms for training. There were 8 of us who went for the training, from all over Israel: my friend, Ellen, and I from Beit Shemesh, one from Pisgat Ze'ev, one from Mala'ot (way up on the Lebanese border), one from Modi'in, one from Jerusalem, one from Netanya, and one from I-don't-know-where. The building was in a really modern industrial complex between the train station and Malcha Mall in Yerushalayim and the training started at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning. (I hope you're in the mood to hear all the details of this very silly (sad? funny? normal-for-me?) story.

There's a 7 a.m. train and an 8 a.m. train to Yerushalayim, and it takes 45 minutes to get there. We figured another 10-15 minutes to find the office. Ellen, thankfully, has a car and picked me up at 6:40 a.m. For those of you who know me well, getting up at 5:15 am to daven and walk the dog and get myself ready is NOT my cup of tea. If we had to have taken the bus to get to the train station, we would have had to get on at 6 a.m. to get there by 7, or taken a taxi for 30NIS (shekels). Anyway, we bought our tickets and hopped on the waiting train. It was pretty crowded. We looked everywhere for 2 seats together that faced forward, but they were all taken, so we sat opposite a kid with dredlocks (boy, did that bring back memories...Nathan had them when he came back to St. Louis after his first year of yeshiva...). Almost immediately the train began to move and we were surprised because it was only 10 minutes to 7. And then I noticed something peculiar. "Ellen!" I said. "The train's going forward!"

"Oh, no!" she exclaimed. The boy across from us said, "This is the train to to Tel Aviv. Isn't that where you're going?"

"No!" we practically shouted. "We need to go to Jerusalem!" I don't know who was laughing harder, me or the people around us. Ellen was pretty annoyed and upset, but I just couldn't stop laughing. Apparently they switched the tracks about a month ago, and the northbound train (towards Tel Aviv) was on Track 1, and the southbound train (to Jerusalem) was now on Track 2. I had just ridden the train on Sunday, but it just didn't sink in; I don't think the Tel Aviv train was there that day when I left and I had just followed other people to the other track.

Ellen made some calls, and we got off at the first stop in Ramla where we had to wait 45 minutes for the train back to Beit Shemesh, and in BS we had to wait another 20 minutes for the train to Jerusalem. We walked into the training session at 10:00. Talk about making a good first impression!

Lisa was leading the training, and it was a lot harder than I thought. It's transcribing legal documents like bankruptcies, workman's comp, depositions, and various other things. Over the past year the company developed some templates and Lisa was teaching us how to use them, and also how to download the files, how to use the foot pedal, things to look out for, how to transcribe EXACTLY the way the court proceedings go, etc. They didn't pay us for the training, but they bought us lunch both days. One person was there because she wants to be an editor, and the other seven of us want to be transcribers. They didn't promise any of us jobs.

Yesterday afternoon they gave us a sample proceeding to transcribe in the space of one hour as a test to see if we have what it takes to work there. We had to know where to add the index, the jurat, the appearances, the certification page, and transcribe as many pages as we could accurately while spelling everything correctly. You have to know where on the page to write, and you have to figure out who's speaking, who's questioning, who's answering, or if it's colloquoy (yeah, like I'm going to explain THAT term to you!) . And this is after just a few hours of being given a whole lot of legal and technical information!

So, of course, my computer was the only one that wasn't working. Caryn, the office administrator of the company, worked on it for awhile and then she finally kicked another woman off her computer (the one who just wants to be an editor). By the time I was finally set up to begin, I had already lost 20 minutes and was somewhat flustered. They had written all the pertinent info on the board at the front of the room, and I was at the back, so I had to continually switch between my regular glasses and my computer glasses. I had a crazy keyboard with the forward slash key on the left where the shift key normally is, and every single time I tried to write a capital letter, I had to go back and change it. And the desk was so high, and the chair so low, I felt like a little kid at an adult party. Plus I couldn't remember a darn thing!!! Caryn kept saying, "15 more minutes. 10 more minutes. Start wrapping things up." At the end we had to email our transcript to Caryn, Lisa and ourselves. I had no idea how to email from a computer not my own. I tried going to the Aish web email, but it wouldn't let me send anything out. Caryn finally worked with it for awhile and she used her yahoo account to send it out, after I showed her which file it was. I was the last one in the room.

Ellen and I ran over to the mall so she could get her daughter a birthday/wedding gift and we still made it to the (right) train in time. I realize that this could be a high stress job, even though I can work from home, but I also know I can do a better job from my own computer.


Last night I decided to open up the file I had emailed to myself (oh yeah, right - that Caryn had emailed me) so I could look at the manual and see all the mistakes I made, and what do you think I found? I HAD EMAILED THE WRONG FILE!!! It is so not easy being me sometimes.

I tried to call Lisa, but it was late and she was asleep; she'd hadn't slept the previous 2 nights because she had a huge transcription project due (see what I mean about high stress?). But she called me this morning to tell me what I already knew. Caryn was trying to get hold of someone at the computer lab to see if they could find the file, but they most likely deleted all our stuff. Plan B is to see if Aryeh (owner of the company) will let them email me the templates and have me do a sample transcription at home. Lisa will get back to me...

Everything happens for a reason. Caryn probably thinks I'm an airhead, and even though Lisa knows my secretarial skills, it's no guarantee I'll get the job. If I do, great - we'll put every cent of it into savings, b'li neder (without making a vow), and if I don't get it, it wasn't the right job for me. It will be interesting to see what Hashem has in store for me.

So - that's my saga. David told everyone at work on Tuesday about "Vickie and Ellen's Big Adventure." Yesterday morning before he went to work, he said, "I only have two words for you: Track 2." Smart aleck. What I should have done on Tuesday morning was to call him from the train and tell him we'd decided to go to Tel Aviv and go shopping instead of going to the training. On second thought, he would have pondered that statement for about half a second and then responded, "Got on the wrong train, didn't you?" He knows me pretty well.

It was soooo nice being at home today. I actually had an appointment with a chiropracter this morning who lives up the hill a little ways. He showed me on my xray how I'm "out of disk space" between two of my vertebrae, and then he worked on me. First he cracked my neck which felt great. Then he was merciless. He worked on my neck and back, while I screamed in pain (thank G-d no one was around), and when he was finished he put some pressure on some spots that have been hurting me FOREVER, and there was so much less pain. He's not covered by the kupat, but he only charges 90NIS a session (about $22). I'm going to see him again after Shabbos, and then a couple times next week, and after that we'll taper off. But he said he's going to give me some exercises that will make the difference if the pain comes back or not, so I'll have to be pretty diligent.

Emma spent the last couple of days playing with Coco, so she thought I should take Coco's place today. All she wanted to do was play, while I was trying to clean the apartment and do some cooking. When I took her out about 5 this evening, she actually chased a wild cat up a tree. I thought that only happened in cartoons! Thank G-d the cat ran, though; I was afraid it would make a stand and claw Emma. Our puppy thinks everyone is her friend and wants them to play with her. But now that David is working, it falls to me to walk her every time. I really, really wish we had a little yard.

So, have you head about The Secret? Someone sent me four youtube videos that described The Secret and I thought it was awesome. I found out it was put out by Christians, but there was no mention of JC, and when they talked about the "universe" I just substituted Hashem in my mind. You have to see it if you haven't already (google The Secret), or else read the book. Basically, the Secret is that the universe runs by the Law of Attraction. We attract that which we think about and say. Instead of saying, "I hate my job," we should re-frame our thought to be, "I think I need a job that has better co-workers/bosses/pay/convenience/whatever. By focusing on the negative, it just gets worse, because we are attracting that which we focus on. We (I took it to mean our neshamas - souls) have the ability to make our own reality - with Hashem's help. Hashem isn't bound by the laws of nature. If we write down all the things we want in our lives, the specific circumstances, whether it be good health or money or better relations with our spouse or children - and then really focus on getting it (instead of what we normally do, which is dwell on the fact that we don't have it), the Law of Attraction says that you will get it. EVERY TIME. It's like taking the Power of Positive Thinking up to a higher level.

Of course, Hashem doesn't always grant us every thing we ask for. But it makes a lot of sense that when you're a more positive person, you're going to be happier and that will make the people all around you happier, and the world will be a better place! And then we'll have World Peace! And that will bring Moshiach (the Messiah)!! Okay, I need to tone this down a little. But it really makes a lot of sense to focus on every event and circumstance in our lives in a positive framework rather than the opposite. It will take a lot of work on our parts. I can't imagine how hard it will be for people my age, I mean - my stage of life; that is, people already so set in their ways - how about "seasoned adults"? to really change our way of thinking. The easy part is pointing it out to other people! When David started to kvetch about people pushing their way onto the bus when he was coming home from work tonight, I stopped him and tried to help him re-frame what happened in a positive way. He decided to enjoy his dinner in meditative silence after that...

I guess I'm being kicked off my computer for the rest of the evening. David is going to re-build it for me. It's been kind of sluggish, and he needs to clean it up so it works better. It's nice to have a computer gee-, uh, professional, yeah, that's the word - in the house!

Shabbat Shalom!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

And here's some pictures of our baby! Coco, Emma's friend from downstairs, is the bigger dog, and the kids are Hudi and Chanita Bar-Leib. It won't let me write beside each picture, but I'm having fun putting them in here!

This past Wednesday night (after returning from the Dead Sea, we were honored to attend the last sheva brachot of Leah (Grunberger) Sipel (hope I spelled that right!) in Yerushalayim. The wedding was held in St. Louis with over 700 in attendance; I heard it was really beautiful. Of course, the super duper wedding planner/caterer/all around party and event organizer inSt. Louis, Albert Glassman, did a superb job as usual!

Here are pictures of the kallah, her father, and a more recent kallah from St. Louis, Chani (Bloch) Neuhaus, and a smattering of either married or seminary girls presently living in Israel.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Yay! It let me add pictures! At the top left is my roommate, Devorah. She lives in Har Nof with her 19 year old son and is the Administrator at Machon Lev for the English program. The next picture are 4 friends we've (David and I) made in Ramat Beit Shemesh (along with their husbands) through our shul, HaMaor, and one of the women's daughter. The second woman from the right is Faige; the sister of Rabbi Granofsky from Ohr David. She and her husband, Manis, are our "buddy" family that Nefesh b'Nefesh assigned to us when we first got here. They've been great!

The picture on the left above here is another Devorah I met on the bus. She also lives in RBS and has 5 kids she's raising by herself. I hope we get to know each other better. The 3 women in the next picture are unbelievable. Bassya (left) works at Yad Ezra VeShulamit which is where I met her. She and Adina (right in picture) planned the entire English women's program for the retreat. Ateret, in the middle, is Adinah's sister-in-law. She's the one with the special needs' kids who spoke on the last evening.
The next picture is the "Efrat Ladies." They sat with us (my roommate and the Maor women) for most of the meals. Rachel invited David and Emma and I to come spend a Shabbos with her and her husband in Efrat so we can see what the community is like. If we can figure out how to get Emma there, we'll go!

Next are two pictures from the view from our hotel room on the 4th floor. The one on the left is looking straight down at the palm trees, and the one on the right is looking out towards the Dead Sea. You can see the separate men's and women's beaches, but you can't see the magnificent view of the mountains in Jordan on the other side of the sea. The water wasn't quite blue and not quite green, and looked pretty shallow. Living in Missouri almost all my life, I haven't had much chance to enjoy many beaches!

These last three pictures are views of the desert from the bus. The one on the left (with part of the seat in front of me) shows the sea and very faintly the mountains on the other side. All in all, a great getaway!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

I've been editing pictures for the past hour so I can put some in this post. David uploaded pictures of Emma that we've had in the camera for awhile, along with the pics I took this week at the retreat, and from the sheva brachot we attended last night. I may have to put them in separate blogs; when I've tried to download pictures to posts in the past it kept putting them at the top instead of where I was typing. We'll see what happens.

So - on to the Dead Sea. What a week! There were about 500 frum women at the retreat from 3 or 4 different groups. We had about 45 in our English speaking group, the OU had about 35, and most of the Jerusalem women were very hareidi (religious) Hebrew speakers (although there were some English speakers in the bunch). There were separate Hebrew and English programs, but you could go to any you wanted or none at all - the whole point was to relax and do whatever you wanted to. We had the entire (5 star) hotel to ourselves. Many of the women wore their robes the entire time.

When we left on Sunday, it was pouring rain both in Ramat Beit Shemesh and in Yerushalayim. The hasa'a (van) that was picking up the ladies here in RBS was only making 2 stops, and thankfully one of them was just around the corner. I tried to cover my suitcase with a large trash bag which was a great idea - except that when I rolled it down the sidewalk the wheels of the suitcase kept getting caught on the trash bag even though I had ripped the bottom open. I only knew one other person; she'd been in ulpan class and had quit way before I did. But I started speaking with the woman in the front seat, and when we got to Yerushalayim and got on the bus, we sat together and chatted. That was Devorah #1.

I had remembered to take my ginger pill (the only one all week...) so the trip wasn't so bad. It was less than 2 hours and we actually had a hefseka (break) partway there at a tourist stop we could buy nosh and make. In case you think I left out a word, I didn't. In the frum world there are certain ways of saying certain things. Going potty is "making". You might ask, "Making what?" I leave that to your own common sense.

So we arrived around 2. Most of us had rooms waiting for us; there was the usual mix-ups for others who didn't get rooms right away. When my roommate and I met (Devorah #2) we instantly hit it off and spent much of the next 4 days together. Even though it wasn't raining, it was a bit chilly and much too cold to go into the Yam Hamelech (literally - Salt Sea) or even the "heated" (ha ha) gorgeous outdoor pool. But we jumped into our swim suits and headed down to the -2 floor where there were two jacuzzis, a pool with Dead Sea water (so salty you just float), two sauna rooms (one dry and one steam), and a larger warm water pool that I didn't figure out until the 2nd day was a really large hot tub with jets of water coming out from the sides at different levels to work on which ever part of your body needed the jet massage: feet, calves, upper legs, tush, lower back or upper back. We all got a coupon for the sulphur pool. It was full of minerals to help skin conditions or joints or muscles. You stay in no longer than 15 minutes then get out and lie on a cot where they cover you up with a cottony sheet for another 15 minutes so your body can absorb the minerals. And then there was the myriad of treatments you can pay for: all manner of massages, mud baths, facials, peels, manicures, pedicures and more. My only gripe was that there was a price list for all the treatments listed in English sitting on the desk where you make the appointments and in every room. On the second day I signed up for a 40 minute medical massage. It was a little pricey but I thought it would be worth the money. Later I asked someone else if she had tipped the masseuse (I never know what to do) and she said no, not even for the reduced rate she got. I asked, "What reduced rate?" It turned out that posted by all the elevators were signs with reduced rates for all the services - in Ivrit.

Kay and Shirley, two acquaintances of mine from the "Maor Singles" in RBS (5 of them went separately in their own car) went with me to duke it out with the manager of the spa. It really wasn't fair that the reduced rates weren't listed in English for the 1/4 of us who only spoke English. And why wouldn't they simply have listed it on the regular price listwritten in English? You can guess what happened - ever have the experience of arguing with an Israeli? You don't win. Kay and Shirley are both pretty assertive women, but - I had ordered a 40 minute massage and got a 40 minute massage so that's what I had to pay for. In the end I gave up; it was a good massage after all. Someday when I argue with an Israeli, I intend to win - it just may take 20 years to learn the language first!

The best part about the retreat, besides meeting so many phenomenal women and having two unbelievable buffet meals every day, was the writing workshop on day 2. Leah, the woman who was leading it, writes for Mishpacha Women's Magazine and the newspaper, Hamodia. She's also just accepted to be the Feature Editor of a new magazine for frum women named Binah. She was phenomenal! Our hour and a half workshop turned into 3 hours and she was gracious enough to meet with us the following day for another 2-3 hours. She had given us writing assignments and we all read aloud what we'd written. It was so fun. One assignment had been to write a childhood scene. When I read mine, everyone actually applauded! Wow, did that feel good! Then she had us all go to different tables (we were in the coffee bar) and spend ten minutes writing something with the sentence "There was total silence". Do you know how long it's been since I wrote something with pen and paper instead of on a computer? I was writing furiously when I realized they were calling my name and everyone else had already returned to the group. I was the only one who wrote about an actual event; everyone else wrote either feelings or fiction. I had written about a terrifying event that had happened just after my first husband and I separated, when I had made incomplete plans for my older child after school one day. He was only in kindergarten and even though I had asked a neighbor on the other side of the neighborhood to watch him, we had neglected to think of the logistics of how he would get there. He ended up going home to a locked house, in the winter when it was dark and cold, and stood outside calling, "Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! Where are you?" for half an hour before a classmate across the street remembered where he sometimes went and his mother called the babysitter. It had been traumatic for me when I realized how abandoned he must have felt, and reading it to the others I began crying, which actually made some of the others cry, too (any men out there can stop reading now - and you too, Shifra - this is touchy feely stuff). Leah commented that it took courage for me to read it aloud, and I realized that it was something that I've needed to put into writing for a long time.

I rarely write anything here about my boys - on purpose. Too many things going on there. Too personal. But this workshop opened up for me the possibilities of what writing could mean to me. Leah has a class on Tuesday mornings in Har Nof that I plan to go to; I'm really looking forward to it.

On the last night, there was a program for the English speakers that was pretty phenomenal. Earlier in the day there had been a shiur on challenges (which those of us in the writing workshop missed), and this was somewhat of a continuation of it. Three different women who had 3 different challenges in their lives spoke about the challenge and how they dealt with us. The first spoke about a growth that had been found in her brain 9 years ago, and all the hashgacha pratis (Divine intervention) that had occurred before, during and after the surgery. The 2nd woman developed breast cancer at the age of 36, just after she'd been divorced. She was in Israel without any family whatsoever. Then the 3rd woman spoke. She was so upbeat and smiley, and by the end, several people were sobbing and there wasn't a dry eye in the room. This woman has 5 children: 2 are dyslexic and 2 are severely autistic. Her oldest, the "normal" one suffered from lack of attention and turned to drugs, went off the derech (Torah path) and ended up in jail for a year. He's doing better now. Her advice to us was, "Hug your boys every single day! If they don't let you hug them from the front, stand behind them and hug them." The things these women went through, their unwavering faith in Hashem, their courage in dealing with their challenges, was so inspiring. It was so hard to come home!

Okay, it won't let me upload the pictures; they're too big. I'll have to make them all smaller tomorrow; I have to get to bed now. I still have to write about the sheva brachot!

Saturday, February 03, 2007

You may not remember me; I'm the person who used to post a blog on this site. Well, I'm still around; I've just been kind of forgetful the past four weeks. I know, I know - when have I not been forgetful? I haven't fallen off the face of the earth (chas vashalom) so you can stop worrying (in case you were. Not that I hoped you were because no doubt you had better things to do with your time, but in case you were thinking that for some reason I wasn't able to write when in actuality I was just, well, lazy, you don't need to wonder any more - bacause I'm back!).

Okay, now that that's settled, let's get on with some news, shall we? Here's the most up-to-date scoop: David starts his new job tomorrow at Intel in Yerushalayim and I'm headed to a really nice hotel at the Dead Sea for a 4 day retreat with about 1000 other women. Let's start with David's news.

Everyone warned us that it would take months, if not years, for him to find a job. Several people took his resume, oops - I mean CV, to their respective companies, and Intel finally called him for an interview. Our downstairs neighbor, Yonatan (Coco's abba) works there. After the interview the interviewers went to Yonatan and said, "Why didn't you tell us we didn't have to interview him?" The next day he got a call to come in for the second interview. David came away from it thinking that it hadn't gone well, and made up his mind not to be disappointed. But lo and behold, the very next day he got a call from the outsourcing company (Intel was hiring consultants) saying that Intel had called them and said they wanted him. Yay!! He negotiated his salary through them, then had to go to Ramat Gan in Tel Aviv to the outsourcing company to sign his employee contract - and tomorrow is his first day!

Yesterday he bought a monthly bus pass which enables him to ride any bus within Beit Shemesh/Ramat Beit Shemesh, any bus in Yerushalayim, and the 417 between the two cities. He's been doing this cute Vanna White dance all around the house (and sometimes to my horror out in public), flashing his bus pass and singing, "I can ride any bus I want any time I want." All evening he's been muttering, "I have to go to work tomorrow. No, I get to go to work tomorrow. Life is going to be very different from now on." It's after 11 PM now and he and Emma have gone to bed. Knowing David he'll get up at 4 in the morning so he can get on the earliest bus possible and be the first one to work. You most likely have not given any thought to the fact that we have been together almost constantly for the past 8 months. I, on the other hand, have given it a good deal of thought and my conclusion is that it is a very, very good thing that my husband is going back to work, both for financial reasons and other reasons best not delved into here. (If you look closely you'll see that I am smiling. Broadly.)

We must also note that my husband has been extremely generous in allowing me, in fact encouraging me to participate in this women's retreat. I am so excited! The cost is actually quite nominal and includes transportation down to the Dead Sea, 3 nights in the (spa) hotel, 2 meals a day (if you've ever had an Israel hotel breakfast you would know that one needn't eat again for the rest of the day), a "treatment" every day, English shiurim and programming, a private women's beach, indoor and outdoor pools, a jacuzzi and who knows what else until I arrive there tomorrow! What a treat! It took me a very long time to pack tonight which amused David immensely. Of course I had to try on every outfit I planned to take, then I had to decide which scarf/beret/snood/hat would match each outfit, then there were the shoes, the matching earrings, etc. I certainly hope that everyone else will have as large a suitcase as I do. Plus I have to carry something we borrowed from Yad Sarah last week; it's kind of like a table top shtender that you can raise or lower but looks like the top of a lawn chair. It's to put on the bed to sleep on at night to raise the top of my body because I can't lie flat due to a medical problem. When we went on our Farewell Tour last summer before we left the states I had bought a foam wedge that we had to leave in the hotel the morning of our flight here, but this thing will hopefully work even better and it's very lightweight. Yad Sarah is an organization that lends out medical equipment. You leave a deposit and then return the equipment within a month. We plan to have them keep the deposit as a donation; it's a very worthwhile organization. Four years ago when we came to Israel for Pesach and we didn't know David had a broken ankle we got some crutches from them.

Poor Emma will be quite lonely this week. Shaina (Coco's Ima) will be coming up to get her during the days and take her out and let her play with Coco, but David will be leaving early in the mornings and by the time he takes the 6:00 bus home in the evenings, it will be 7:15 PM before he gets home. Have I mentioned our landlord wants to sell our apartment? David thinks we should look for a new apartment in Yerushalayim which makes a lot of sense, but I love it here in RBS. A friend who works in Human Resources at IDT said that there's a 1200 shekel housing allowance per month for at least a year for IT people who move to Yerushalayim to work there. I'm just worried that we wouldn't know what neighborhood we'd been comfortable in. Hareidi neighborhoods wouldn't like dogs, and we're actually leaning more towards dati leumi at this point, although our kashruth standards are definitely mehadrin. Okay, so we're a little wishy-washy because we really don't know yet where we fit in, but I think it will be harder to figure it out in Yerushalayim. Plus we've made some good friends here. Plus it's more "suburban" here. On the other hand, Yerushalayim has a lot more to offer. I keep looking at the OU bulletin we get every week, and there are so many programs and classes at the OU center I would love to take. I can't really start thinking about it until I get back from my retreat.

I get back Wednesday and on Wednesday night we're going to sheva brachot for Leah Grunberger and her new choson! It will be so nice to see all the St. Louisans here, and Rabbi Grunberger is coming with Chaim, one of Leah's brothers who was in the accident and is doing really well, although he's still on crutches. I hope I do okay with all the traveling: my ginger pills are packed and ready to go.

It's pouring rain outside, the trees are blowing totally sideways. Tomorrow morning I have to walk with my suitcase around the corner to catch the hasa-a (van) that's taking 12 of us from RBS to Yerushalayim (45 minutes) to catch the bus for the Dead Sea (about a 2 hour drive). We get back to Yerushalyim by 3 PM Wednesday, then I come back to RBS and at 7 I have to catch another bus back to Yerushalayim. David will just stay at work and then meet me at the hall. I was hoping somebody from here would be driving there, but the 2 other families that we know from St. Louis aren't able to go to the sheva brachot. We just have to make sure we get back on a bus before they stop running for the night.

It's now midnight and since I don't plan on getting any sleep for the next few days, I think it's time I turn in. The wind is really howling outside. So much more has happened in the last month, but you'll just have to tune in for the next post which only Hashem knows when. Hopefully not another month away!