Monthly Archives: April 2014

Why do bad things happen to good people? – my thoughts

question markSome people have commented that it’s not fair that so many difficult things have happened to our family in the recent past.  I don’t agree – I think we each get what we’re meant to get, and what’s fair is what we get.

I also think that I’ve been very, very lucky.  My burns were extremely painful and traumatic, but it could have been much, much worse.  When I went to the burn specialist in Jerusalem and she heard what happened, she told me that wax usually penetrates through an additional layer of skin; if this would have happened I would have had third degree rather than second degree burns.  She couldn’t explain why this didn’t happen to me.

When I got home from the hospital it  was the first time I could see the small details of my face very close up, since in the hospital there was a counter between me and the mirror.  At home I was able to see what the staff was referring to when they repeatedly said how lucky I was.  I knew that the only place not burned was around my eyes, but I didn’t realize how very close to my eyes it was – just a centimeter and a half at the most around each eye.  One eye didn’t even have that much.  God was very kind to me.

Someone at the hotel who I had just met told me she read about me in the Pesach issue of the Hebrew language Mishpacha magazine and gave me her copy so I could read the article myself.  When I spoke with the  interviewer about six weeks before the issue came out, the woman told me she enjoyed speaking to me but didn’t think what I said would fit in with her angle.  She later called me and told me that she rarely hears someone speaking the way that I did, that she was so inspired that she decided to write up some of what I shared with her.   I’m usually not sure what people are referring to when they say that I inspired them, but in this case I think it was my attitude toward seemingly negative events.  

After we moved to Israel, our peaceful and pleasant life was turned upside down.  It was a marathon of challenges, and every time I would think things were about to get easier, they got worse.  Some people have asked me if I’m sorry if I made aliyah, since it’s unlikely any of these difficulties would have occurred if we stayed in the US.  My answer – and this is what I shared with the interviewer- is that I’m very glad we moved to Israel, despite the challenges.  It’s true that I wouldn’t have had these difficulties if we hadn’t come, but I’m sure we would have been sent different challenges instead.

Why am I so sure of that?  I believe we are each a soul given a body so that we can actualize our mission in this world.  The problem is that while the soul knows why it was put here, the physical self  is generally oblivious to having a soul.  It would be hopeless for us to hook into our spiritual selves and accomplish this mission if we were left to our own devices, but God sends us regular reminders and nudges towards our mission every day via the circumstances of our lives.  Sometimes they’re smaller and sometimes they’re bigger.

Everything that happens to us is meant to bring us closer to our soul’s purpose, and everything we are given is a tool to help us. Sometimes our tools includes wealth, beauty, loving family and friends.  Sometimes it doesn’t include any of those.  Every person has a unique mission and has the tools he needs for his mission.  Sometimes we veer off course and things happen to help us get back on track, to move us closer to our mission.  Sometimes we misread the messages and they get sent to us again and again in different ways until we get the message.  Those messages usually come cloaked as difficulties.

What about the pain and suffering we sometimes – often – experience?  Hard things happen to all of us.  Sometimes It can feel painful and horrendous.  Sometimes we cry and scream, and ask why did this happen to us, why are we being punished.  That’s our perception and it’s valid.  But it’s not complete.

If a parent yanks his child’s arm painfully hard to pull him out of the path of a truck barreling towards him at high speed, is the parent being cruel?  Is he punishing his child?  Most of us would agree that inflicting this short-lived pain on his child is the most loving thing this parent could do, because the alternative would be so much worse.  

I believe that God loves us more than we can imagine, and everything He does comes from a place of love.  (I was recently speaking with someone whose husband was killed on a bus that was blown up by a suicide bomber, and she agreed with me that there are things that you can say about your own situation but others shouldn’t tell you.  This is one of those things – when someone told me a day after my accident that it happened because God loves me so much, I told her that I know God loves me very much – but that I didn’t appreciate her comment because my knee jerk reaction to it was negative.)  I believe my accident was an act of kindness for me, to help me shift out of the thinking that was taking me in the wrong direction, and realign myself in a way that will bring me more happiness and contentment.

If everything that happens comes from a place of love and for our ultimate good, can it be bad?  My personal belief is that no, it can’t.  It can feel bad.  But it can’t be bad.  

This thought has helped me tremendously in difficult circumstances.

I don’t pretend to have a wide angle view on why things happen to me, let alone to anyone else.  That’s not my realm and it’s not necessary.  I relate best to the concept of a tapestry – on one side, it looks like a bunch of knots that seem random and ugly.  Turn it around and look at it close up and even when looking at the correct side, all you can see are specks of color that still seem random.  It’s only when you look at it from a distance that you can see the whole picture, and the picture is breathtakingly beautiful.  And all of a sudden, the knots and randomness all makes sense, as it becomes clear that each tiny detail had to be there for the tapestry to be complete.

Avivah

Easy and nutritious lunch idea – hummus vegetable sandwich

Today my husband did a big vegetable shopping for us but didn’t get out until much later in the day than he originally planned.  The dinner I planned was dependent on vegetables that I didn’t have and since the delivery didn’t arrive until after 7 pm, I did a quick shift and made these easy, nutritious and yummy sandwiches!

These are great for a light but filling lunch or dinner.

Hummus Vegetable Sandwich

  • Whole grain bread
  • hummus/chickpea spread (to make your own – my recipe here)
  • olive dip (recipe below)
  • thinly sliced cucumbers
  • shredded carrots

Olive Dip

  • 1 can pitted olives
  • 3 T. extra virgin olive oil or mayonnaise
  • 3 cloves garlic (you might want to cut this for young kids but we like it)
  • Blend the olives, oil and garlic with an immersion blender until smooth.

Whip up the dips or pull them out of the fridge.  :)    Spread hummus on one piece of bread, olive spread on the other, then pile up the cucumber slices and shredded carrots on one side, then put the other piece of bread on top.  Seriously, you don’t need instructions for this!  

Serve to your delighted family members and be happy to have found something filling and tasty to give them that didn’t keep you in the kitchen more than a few minutes!

Avivah

Pesach 2014 pictures

Here we are about to set out on our first trip with everyone in our family in over three years – leaving for Beersheva in southern Israel.  It was so nice to be in a van with all of us at one time!  The only other time we all traveled together since being in Israel was coming home from the airport when we moved here, and then we were in two different vans.

family trip photo1

It wasn’t long after setting out that we made the first bathroom stop at a gas station.  Ds8 below happy to run back to the van and continue on our way.

e rest stop

Unloading our luggage when we got to the hotel.

unloading

We were lucky to get a room on the first floor, which was actually the third floor of the hotel since the lobby and dining room are the first two floors.  This was important for us since we didn’t use the Shabbos elevator – the older couple who checked in before us also didn’t use the Shabbos elevator, and it took a while until they had their rooms on the 12th floor switched to something lower.

The hotel we stayed at – isn’t the sky in Israel incredibly beautiful?

leonardo 2014

When we got there, our rooms weren’t ready.  It took over an hour and a half until we got the keys, but fortunately in the courtyard of the lobby there were two of these jumpy things.  Since it was the heat of the day, no one else was there and our family enjoyed horsing around together for a bit before coming inside to cool off.

family jumpy thing

 

jumpy thing1We finally went upstairs and everyone enjoyed checking out our rooms.  While the younger boys were in the middle of getting dressed for the Pesach seder, dd19 introduced a gift she brought them from the US – a Pesach themed punching bag featuring Pharoah.

pharoah punching bag

The night after the first day of Pesach, there was a magic show that fascinated us all.  At the end ds6 enjoyed seeing the disappearing doves up close and personal.

D with magic doves

A few hours after we arrrived at the hotel, there was a knock at the door.  When dh opened it, he was surprised to be greeted with a pile of wrapped presents!  The friend who had organized us going to the hotel had called the organizer of the Pesach group and asked her to select some Pesach gifts for our kids.  When I woke up from my nap and dh told me about this, I had such an incredible feeling of being loved and nurtured in every aspect of this trip.

I didn’t give them to the kids or even mention them until a couple of days later – I wanted them to have a chance to fully appreciate the hotel experience which was in and of itself a huge gift, before being given anything else.  Two days later was a nice time to bring them out – they were all well chosen and got lots of use during our stay.

Ds4 opening La Cucaracha board game with ds15 and ds20 looking on.  I have a serious aversion to the word ‘cockroach’ and planned to exchange this just because of that but one child didn’t realize it and took off the shrink wrap. It turned out to be a great game and I’ve mostly gotten used to hearing that word without grimacing. :)

(Ds4 is constantly misplacing his yarmulka.  When he lost the two we brought for him, we got a white satin one with the hotel logo on it.)

s opening game

Ds6 opening another game with ds4, ds11 and ds20 watching.

d opening game

Older brothers getting in on the fun, too!

older boys with game

Playing a board game together in the lobby – ds15, ds11, dd17, dd13.

settlers in lobby

In the courtyard of the hotel there was a ping pong table in addition to the jumping things above.  (By the way, these jumpy things were a source of lots of late night fun for the older kids, when no one else was there and they had some serious races up, down, around…)  Some of my kids got drastically better at ping pong during our stay!  Family ping pong below with dh, ds20, ds11, ds15 and dd17.

family ping pong

One day dh took the kids to a park in walking distance from the hotel.  All the kids together in the picture below.

kids tree

Yirmiyahu, 22 months.

yirmi 22 months

Ds15 and ds6 enjoying a brotherly moment.

b and d on grass

We had one trip during Pesach – we went to Beer Avraham, Abraham’s Well.  This was a great outing that all of us enjoyed, from the youngest to the oldest.  It was historical and interesting and fun.  This is something I love about Israel, that there is so much biblical history and you can go to an exhibit organized and run by outwardly secular Jews, and they’re quoting the Tanach/Bible.

Below, dh with ds11, dd13, ds8, dd17 below the large wall of Biblical quotes about Avraham and the well he dug in Beersheva.

beer avraham2

We watched a very well-done film about Avraham and the well in biblical times and then went outside to see the well.  Below, ds8 waiting for film to start and dh with Yirmi outside listening to guide explain history of Avraham’s well.

beer avraham film

y and daddy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outside of the building is a huge and very old tree that was left in place since it’s similar in concept to the eshel tree Avraham had outside his tent.  We had a picnic sitting on the steps near it. Below, me with all of the kids even though you can’t see the faces of three of them. :)

beer avaham family2

Since I need to stay out of the sun, I went back to the hotel with Yirmi, ds4, ds6 and ds11 who were tired, and dh headed with the other kids to walk through the Old City of Beersheva.

beersheva shuk2

I had intially thought that the kids would swim twice a day and during our week at the hotel the younger ones would have a chance to learn to swim but that wasn’t possible.  But they had a great time both times that they went to the pool!  Below, ds8, ds4 and ds22 months.

boys swim

Family photo from Pesach 2014!  I just showed this to dd13 and she said – in all seriousness – “It doesn’t look like so many people, it’s kind of wimpy!”  Hmm, not so sure that’s what most people would be saying when they look at it.  :)

family pesach picture

We had a wonderful time and are so, so grateful that we had the opportunity to go away!  It was very special.

Avivah

A healing Pesach for our family

healingWow, what a wonderful Pesach we had!  It was so restful and renewing.

It didn’t start off so smoothly but that’s how beginnings often are, and fortunately the longer we were there, the better it was!

The most challenging thing was the communal seder, which was very different from our usual seder.  Our family had a huge table – they didn’t want us to be squished so they gave us a double sized table that would have easily seated 22 people instead of just the 12 of us.  That was very thoughtful of them but the table size combined with all the noise of the dining room meant we couldn’t hear each other talking!  I had two boys who were literally crying at the seder from confusion, my two youngest boys (except Yirmi) weren’t even aware of what was going on at our table, the older kids were grimacing and it was pretty much impossible to conjure up the atmosphere we usually have at home.

We decided to follow the leader of the communal seder rather than do our own thing, and it got better once we had the meal.  Our family sang during the meal and other people joined in with us, and at the end of the seder everyone who was left put their chairs around the table in the center and sang together.  It was really nice.  I was later told by the organizer how grateful they were that we were there, since she had tried unsuccessfully to find yeshiva guys to come to add a nice holiday spirit – and then we showed up.  :)  So it was very different but ended up being a nice experience.

This wasn’t a Pesach hotel, but a hotel people go to for Pesach.  That means that there weren’t inspiring speakers or a lineup of activities – in fact, even what I had been told to expect wasn’t quite accurate.  I was told there was an exercise room, a basketball court and an Olympic size pool with separate swimming.  I was also told that an outreach organization had rented out most of the hotel for all of Pesach and we would be able to attend their lectures and participate in their day trips.  

However, it wasn’t quite as I expected!  Isn’t it funny how often life is like that?  There was no access to the exercise room without paying an extra fee since it isn’t owned by the hotel, there was no basketball court and the pool not only wasn’t large, it had minimal hours for separate swimming that coincided with breakfast and dinner.  The outreach organization was there only the first and last day of Passover, so for most of the time there were no lectures and definitely no day trips.  The internet in our room was only available for an extra charge and the free internet in the lobby wasn’t working for most of the time.  That meant it was quiet and even a bit boring after the first couple of days – and it was the absolute best thing for our family.

What did the hotel have?  A ping pong table, two huge jumping structures and a play area for younger kids in the inner courtyard.  A lobby where we sat around for long periods together hanging out.  Delicious meals three times a day on Shabbos and yom tov, and twice a day otherwise.   We had lots of time to just be together without any pressure to be anywhere or do anything, and this is exactly what we needed for emotional healing for everyone.

My kids were really traumatized by my accident.  Dd13 is the one I told to call for help and she was very frightened and overwhelmed; she didn’t know what to do.  I gave her instructions but she was – understandably – very shaken up.  Ds4 was standing next to the bathroom door solemnly staring at me frantically splashing my face with water while waiting for the ambulance, until I noticed him and shut the door so he wouldn’t be scared.

When the ambulance crew got there, they asked me what happened.  As I began to answer I saw my kids were there and told them to leave the room before I continued.  I didn’t know what I looked like by then – I had seen a glance of my face in the mirror above the sink a few minutes before while I was splashing and saw the contours were beginning to change and my skin coming off – and didn’t want them to see anything that would scare them because it sure did scare me.  But despite my efforts it was very frightening for them.  Ds11 told me a few days later on the phone that hearing me scream when I was burnt was what frightened him most.

A day or two after I was in the hospital I was talking to ds6 on the phone, and he asked me when I was coming home and then he asked, “Are you going to die?”  I said, “No, I’m not going to die but that was very scary for you, wasn’t it?”  He quickly changed the topic and said, “I’m just joking.”  He wasn’t just joking.  Our little kids have such big feelings…My younger boys have been talking a lot about things coming to an end and fulfilling their purpose in their world, toys and things in nature and people.  Some of their comments are pretty intense.

I was worried for dd17 and ds15 that this Pesach break was turning into a repeat of last year, when I was in the intensive care unit with Yirmiyahu, with all of the emotions that was bringing up.  Yirmiyahu was extremely unsettled and clingy no matter what anyone did.  It wasn’t until we were at the hotel a couple of days that he returned to himself, relaxed and cheerful.  I remarked to dh that Yirmi is like the emotional barometer of the family; his behavior reflects what everyone else is feeling.

Dd19 said it was a very hard home environment to come into (she came home from the US after 13 months away the day after my accident).  I asked why, and she said that everyone was afraid and tense; at that point none of us knew what the long term repercussions of my burns would be or how long I would be hospitalized  Going to the hotel gave us a chance to move past the immediate trauma of the accident, to unwind and feel taken care of, to have a chance of scenery and being in a different setting that was so pleasant helped us all shift our focus away from the accident.

There were three other families there during that week who we had a chance to get to know; by the end of our stay we asked that our tables be put together for meals.  For the final day of Pesach our four families were given a private dining room and this was really nice – it was a more personal feeling than being in a huge dining room.   The families were all so nice and it was also nice that they were all so glad that we were there.  One of the women told me on the last day what happy children we have, and especially now that was a really gratifying observation to hear from someone who had been seeing our kids close up for the entire week.  

I felt a sense of sadness when we left the hotel and some of my kids did as well.  (When I told ds4 we were going to go home, he insisted that the hotel was now our home, that we had brought our stuff there and he wanted to stay forever!)  It was sad, but a good kind of sad that comes from having had such a nice experience and it coming to an end.  I had such a peaceful Pesach and it was an amazing gift to our entire family to have been able to go away!

Avivah

On giving and being given to

charityFrom the time I was twelve, I’ve had a favorite mitzva – giving maaser (tithes).  When I was young this meant putting ten percent of all my babysitting money in my own charity box I kept on the ledge of my bedroom window.  When I got older, I set up a separate checking account linked to my main checking account; as soon as money came in, the first thing I would do was transfer 10% to my charity account.  This account had its own checkbook and I delighted in being able to regularly respond to requests for help from others.

Now I’m in the position of being helped, and it’s a very different experience than giving.

A dear friend called me at the hospital and asked me if we would go away for Pesach if she would make arrangements.  I immediately refused; I told her it was a luxury and we would manage to prepare for Pesach once I got home from the hospital.  (If you’ve been reading here long enough you know that in almost 22 years of marriage I’ve never hired any kind of cleaning help so you can understand that going away is far beyond my frugal way of doing things.)

Then I thought about how much stress we’ve all gone through, how traumatized the six kids are who were at home when the accident happened and what a huge relief it would be to all of us to not to have to keep pushing on.  When I was honest with myself and allowed myself to picture not having to prepare for Pesach, I felt almost weak with relief.

When I saw that a fundraiser was initiated by this same incredible friend to help our family with the many expenses we’re facing, including the costs of Pesach at a hotel, it was very hard for me.  I didn’t know about it in advance and finding out about it was very, very hard.  This is so contrary to my nature in every way.  I didn’t want to be seen as needy and pathetic.  I didn’t want people to feel sorry for me.  My ego was struggling in a huge way.  And then I saw the incredible response to it within 24 hours of when it began, and I was shocked.

It made me think of this email from a friend right after the accident.

“But the only way I am making sense of the idea that something bad could have happened to you is that this is going to generate such an unbelievable amount of compassion and chessed in the world that it will be just awe-inspiring. I think that people will rally so much around you and take on so many extra mitzvos and daven with so much extra koach and say so much extra tehillim that this must be what the world is in need of right now.
 
As your friend, I can’t say I love the idea that you are the vehicle for all of this to take place, but I can completely see you as the catalyst for something huge.”
I thought she was sweet to want to make me feel good.
I had no idea.  No idea.  She was right – people are just so good.

I am overwhelmed, totally overwhelmed.  The tehillim, the davening, the people who were willing to make challah before Pesach instead of buying or taking from the freezer as a merit for my healing.  The money people are giving at a time of year when finances are especially tight due to Pesach expenses; the notes and good wishes that accompanied those donations showed how much people cared.  It’s hard for me to digest.  I could never have imagined having been the recipient of so much generosity and good will.  I am just overwhelmed with gratitude, and don’t have words to say how much it all means to me.

In Jewish tradition, we learn that God created people who need help in order to give others the merit of helping them.  It’s very uncomfortable to be on the receiving side.  Very. But when I see the outpouring of goodness that is being brought into the world right  now, it’s also obvious that all of this would be blocked from entering the world if there weren’t someone in need – unfortunately, me in this case – to be the conduit for it.  Our world is so fractured and these acts of kindness are bringing wholeness and healing to our entire planet.    

Thank you all so much for your caring and compassion.  I look forward to very soon being back on the giving side, and wish for you all that you be blessed with being givers rather than receivers!

Avivah

Leaving the hospital

goodbyeI’m leaving the hospital! The staff would have had me stay longer but I told them I have little kids who are really missing me.  I also told them this last week and they told me there’s no doctor in the world who would release me in the state I was in.  But now it’s okay.

I am so grateful for this hospital experience.  I’ve unfortunately had a lot of experiences with hospitals in the last 22 months – two different wards for me after my last birth, six hospital stays with three of my kids that were each at least ten days long, then my mom had two hip replacement surgeries and was in the orthopedic ward and then a couple more weeks each time in the rehabilitation hospital and now I’m here.  So I’ve seen a number of different hospitals and different units and have plenty to compare to.

My stay here has been wonderful.  The staff has been compassionate, kind, respectful and reassuring.  I had a very pleasant roommate for my first four days who didn’t have any visitors and came over to introduce herself to me and to wish me well.  She looked me in the face the first morning that my bandages came off without flinching – she’s the only one except the staff who was able to do that except for dd19 – she talked to me the way she would have spoken to anyone.  When she left I hoped that I would get another roommate that was just as nice since I felt very fragile and didn’t want someone who would fill the room with lots of loud visitors at all hours of day.

Early Friday morning I got my new roommate, whose husband was verbally abusive and I didn’t know how long I could bear what I was hearing through the curtain.  They took her for surgery less than an hour after she got here and then the nurse told me she was going to transfer me to another room.

I really didn’t want to transfer.  I felt very vulnerable and my room was the last one along the corridor, on the far side of the room, where people couldn’t peer in and see me when they were walking by.  I was afraid to be in the bed next to the door, to have a roommate who would gape at me, visitors who would stare at me….I didn’t want to step out of my room and definitely didn’t want to have a new roommate watching me as I came in and got resettled.

I told the nurse I didn’t want to transfer.  She said there’s nothing she could do.  I told her it would be really hard for me.  She told me she has to move me because of concerns about me getting an infection from the person in my room who is having surgery, and they can’t put two surgery patients together.  (I’m in the burn unit but it’s combined with a surgical unit – there was only one other person here with a burn during my hospital stay so everyone else is here for some kind of surgery.  That’s why I’m noticeable, even here I look unusual.)  I asked her if they did  move me if I could be on the far side of the room and she briskly told me that there’s no way for them to guarantee that.  I wanted to ask her why she couldn’t move my roommate, who had only been in the room for less than an hour, but that sounded like a petulant child so I didn’t say anything.

A few hours later I noticed that they had taken the belongings of my new roommate away and put her in a different room.  Without saying anything to me, they decided to leave me where I was; although I didn’t make a big deal about it, they realized that I was distressed to move and changed their plans to accommodate me.

Aside from giving me a feeling of security that I could stay where I was, I had the luxury on Shabbos of having my own room (that continued for an amazing four days!).  I was able to close the door to my room and have an unusual amount of privacy for a hospital patient.

I didn’t think my feeling of privacy would last long – my experience in all the other hospitalizations is that the staff habitually fling curtains opens, turn on lights irrespective of the time of day or night and chastise you if you make any attempt to turn off the overhead light or close the door.

Do you know what happened here?  For the entire time I’ve been able to have only natural daylight in my room and keep the bright overhead lighting off.  One of the first days a nurse asked why the lights were off and turned them on, but when it was evening I turned them off again and no one said anything again.  For a week and a half!  A couple of times when they came in the late evening to take my stats they turned on a little side light but even then turned it off when they finished, without me saying anything.

When I closed the door, no one told me I wasn’t allowed to do that.  In fact, some of the nurses and cleaning staff even knocked before they came in!  Knocking, in a hospital!  To me this is a contradiction in terms.  Almost all of them closed the door behind them when they went out.  They not only sensed my desire for privacy but have actively been respectful of that.

I have a window on my side of the room and I’ve been able to keep it open all day and most nights and have plenty of fresh air.  I’ve been able to talk to my family on the phone without worrying about disturbing a roommate.  I’ve been able to listen to relaxing music and an audiobook played aloud.  Since each room has an adjoining bathroom, I had my own bathroom and didn’t have to time my showers or bathroom visits with anyone else’s needs.

I don’t want to give you the wrong impression – it’s not at all like being at a luxury hotel – but hospitals can be a hard place to be emotionally when you need to recuperate.  God clearly knew I needed a lot of quiet and space to feel my way through this situation and find a perspective that is nurturing and respectful of myself.

I wasn’t sure when I would be ready to leave, and for a while I wondered if I’d ever be ready.  Yesterday I felt a strong tug that I needed to go home because of my kids, but I didn’t feel ready yet.  Making the decision to stay one more day has given me a chance to have a sense of closure and to express my gratitude to the nurses who were so kind to me at a time when I really needed that kindness.  I wrote a letter to all the staff here – and noted on the envelope that it included the cleaning lady – to tell them how much their compassion and sensitivity meant to me.

I wrote another letter to the head nurse, telling her I’ve overheard a lot of staff interactions during my stay and there’s a noticeable lack of yelling, shaming and blaming.  (Without going into specifics, I can say this is totally different from things I’ve overheard in different hospitals/wards.)  I told her that it’s a testament to the environment that she’s spent years creating – beginning with the respectful and non accusatory way that she treats her staff – that we patients are able to benefit from a calm and pleasant atmosphere.

Particularly during the first two shifts after I was admitted I couldn’t see the nurses who were taking care of me (after that I could see a shadowy outline and then eventually could see normally) but the sound of their voices and the feeling of their hands bandaging my face was very soothing.  Five days after I was admitted, two nurses came in to change my linens, and one told me how good I looked.  The other one told her that it was a huge change, that she had been the one who admitted me.  I exclaimed in surprise, “Are you Rachel?” I told her that I had been waiting for her to be on shift again to tell her how much her care meant to me in those early hours.  I felt her kindness coming through without being able to see her – and when I saw this older nurse with a stern face I realized that just like she saw past my burns to me as a person, hearing instead of seeing her made it possible for me to see past her businesslike exterior straight to her kind heart underneath.

How often do we miss what the true essence of a person is because we get distracted by how they look?  Probably most of the time.

Here’s a song that I’m listening to today – now with headphones since on my last morning here got a roommate. :)  This is from an audio program by Louise Hay titled ‘How to Love Yourself: Cherishing the Miracle that You Are’.  I love music in general and songs used well can be so powerful – if they’re filled with good messages they have an added benefit since as they begin to play themselves over and over in your mind, you create new neural pathways in your brain that will better serve you than the old scripts they’re replacing.  This feels like just the right message as I wait to be discharged and get ready to face the real world.

I love myself just the way I am
there’s nothing I need to change
I’ll always be the perfect me
there’s nothing to rearrange.
I’m beautiful
and capable
of being the best me I can
And I love myself just the way I am.

(skipping two stanzas)

I love myself
the way I am
and still I want to grow
The change outside can only come
from deep inside, I know.
I’m beautiful
and capable
of being the best me I can
and I love myself
just the way I am……
I love myself…. just the way I am.

Grateful for my hospital stay, grateful that I’m ready to leave and looking forward to being home!

Avivah

Getting better!

This will be a bit of a roundup post!

On Thursday night dh told me Yirmiyahu was throwing up and out of sorts.  I asked dh to take him to the doctor just to check that everything was normal – I worry about him more than the other kids because of his history.   The doctor said a stomach virus is going around.

Yirmi under the weather and missing his mommy

Yirmi under the weather and missing his mommy

But in this case I think the virus isn’t the problem; I think he’s heartsick that I’m gone.  Interestingly, ds15 and dd19 both came to the same conclusion independently.

I speak to him at least once every day and yesterday he sounded much better!  Dd17 took Yirmiyahu to his speech therapy appointment yesterday.  We’ve had two appointments with her in the last nine months but once again she established a nice rapport with Yirmiyahu and he had a good time with her.  Dd called to tell me that the therapist said Yirmiyahu is very cute, intelligent and highly communicative.  I can’t argue with that!

Yirmiyahu, 21 months, In pajamas blowing an early morning kiss

Yirmiyahu, 21 months, In pajamas blowing an early morning kiss

Here’s a picture that warms my heart.  No, ‘warm’ is too lukewarm a term.  It gives me tremendous joy to see dd19 with her siblings again and I was so happy they came to see me here at the hospital.  She is awesome.  Every one of them is awesome.  I am so, so, so blessed.  From left to right, dd19, dd17, ds15.

My special visitors!

My special visitors!

Some nurses at the hospital asked me if its true I have ten children – not sure how they found out since I don’t remember saying anything – and one asked me, “Isn’t that hard?”  I’ll tell you what I told her, it felt like a lot when they were growing up, but all the work that I put in was a drop compared to the oceans of joy that I have watching them as they’ve gotten older.  Did I say how lucky I was?  I positive I’ve gotten some of the most wonderful children on the planet.  It’s very humbling.

As for me, I am doing really well.  I’ve been enjoying the hospital cuisine – seriously, the food is quite decent and I don’t have to shop for it, cook it or clean up after it, which makes it taste that much better!  I haven’t been able to get extra protein even though the doctor said it’s very important to regenerate the skin on my face.  Dh brought me a container of roasted chicken to keep in the patient fridge to supplement what I get here but it disappeared within a day before I had a chance to eat any!  At every meal I ask them if someone doesn’t take their tray if I can have the extra protein from it and though I don’t love having to ask and feel like a nudnik every single time, sometimes I end up with extra.  I look at asking for extra portions as a way to nurture myself even when it’s uncomfortable.

My face is looking wonderful.  Well, me and the doc tors think so but obviously we have a different perspective than other people.  Other people look at me and then quickly look away, and then when they think I’m not looking, look at me again.  It’s hard to see people look at you and flinch.  The first week I kept my face turned away and couldn’t look at anyone who wasn’t on the staff but now I keep my head up and meet people’s eyes when they stare at me.  This is such major progress for me – I couldn’t bear the thought of having to walk out of this hospital.  When I say I couldn’t bear it, it would have been literally impossible for me to do.  Even mentally I couldn’t picture how I would do it.

I had something wrong with my eyes after the accident and when they told me they were going to send me to the eye doctor in another part of the hospital to have it checked, I refused to go.  The doctor here wanted to know why I was refusing and I told her, I can’t have people staring at me.  She understood and offered to send me with my entire face bandaged but that doesn’t exactly keep people from looking at you, you know?  When I was bandaged I didn’t want anyone to look at me, but when my bandages were off I felt so exposed and vulnerable.  (My eyes were very sore from the fluids draining out of my wounds and one eye was turning in – maybe the trauma to the nerve? – but I’m happy to say that with time it’s gotten better.)

Ds20 (who stayed in Jerusalem since I wasn’t home for Shabbos) asked the other kids who visited me how I looked and dd17 carefully said, “It’s a little surprising.”  That’s a nice way to put it and I was so grateful to my kids that they were able to look beyond the externals and have a nice visit while they were here.  

But really, I do look much better.  Like a thousand times better, without exaggeration.  It’s in the foreseeable future that all the blisters and burn marks will be gone.  I hope I won’t have scarring but the doctors won’t comment on that, they said they can only talk about what is front of them right now and have no way to know what will happen later.  Right now they’ve given me clear instructions for the next six months that I’m to have absolutely no exposure to the sun.  Living in a Mediterranean country with nonstop cloudless sunny days, that’s not a simple matter and this is going to require some lifestyle changes for me in many ways.

The first change will be on the fashion front.   When I leave the house it can only be very early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the sun is at its weakest, and I’ll need to wear a hat and the strongest sunscreen there is.  So I’m going to have to find some awesome hats.  If you have suggestions for where to buy nice hats at a good price in the Jerusalem area, please let me know!  (They have to be some color except for black because black doesn’t suit me.)  It’s going to be a long time until I can do window shopping – unless it’s at night! – so I’d appreciate your help in finding suitable stores.  If there’s a website that I can order from here in Israel, all the better!

A number of you have mentioned Mrs. Green in Jerusalem who is famous for her knowledge about burns and her creams.  Dh got her cream from someone in Karmiel within 24 hours of me being hospitalized but Mrs. Green told him while I’m in the hospital I should do exactly what they say and not use her cream.  She doesn’t give advice over the phone; she needs to see you before making specific recommendations.  Hopefully dh will be able to borrow a car to take me to her on Thursday night (she only sees people on Sunday and Thursday nights) for an appointment. 

Overall I’m quite optimistic.  When my husband met me in the ER, he heard me tell the doctor I couldn’t feel my lips.  I don’t remember what the doctor told me – probably something like ‘It will be fine’ because that’s what everyone said – but my husband realized that I was asking if I still had lips.  It was a huge relief when my husband reassured me that they were still there.  After the accident I was afraid I had lost my face forever, but I haven’t.  It’s going to take time but my features didn’t melt, it’s only the old layers of skin that are gone.

The nurses have jokingly told me that I’ve gotten the equivalent of a deep chemical peel that people pay a lot of money for and I’m going to look better than ever when I heal.  I smiled but told them, “I also paid a high price for this”.  I didn’t have wrinkles or fine lines in my face so I can’t say getting rid of them was a side benefit but I’m sure my pores could have used a deep cleaning and now even better than a deep cleaning – I’ll have new pores!  :)

Avivah

Letting the tears come

tearsThere have been a few things I’ve wanted to write about, but haven’t done it because people might falsely assume I’m always positive or upbeat.  A lot of the time I am but sometimes I’m not.  I’ve always tried to be honest with you here and the last thing I want people to come away with is that you have to be smiling and thanking God for every bad thing that happens to you, no matter what.   Sometimes life hurts – a lot.  What I want to write about today is the tears.

The morning of the accident, I was contemplating a question someone sent me about disabilities.  I was thinking about how hard it is when you look visibly different because people don’t give you a chance to show who you are.  As this thought went through my mind, I realized I had never consciously been grateful that this wasn’t my challenge.  Right that minute I said out loud, “Thank you God for giving me a normal face.”

I find my tendency towards premonitionary thoughts like this a bit unnerving (eg mid pregnancy repeatedly feeling Yirmiyahu would have T21, the highway accident I was almost in a few years ago).  Why for the first time in forty years did I have this thought a few hours before my face was badly burnt?  I’m positive the soul is whispering to us at these times but what I wonder is, why?  Is it is a knowing something is going to happen, or a shadowy sense of warning that you’re slated for something to happen?  Is it a fleeting opening to help you prepare for your new reality before your reality changes?

When I was in the ambulance, I kept whispering into the wet towel I had brought to keep on my face, ‘please God, give me my face’.  And then I thought, ‘Maybe you don’t need this as part of your soul’s mission anymore and this isn’t what you should be asking for.  What you need is to ask for in help accepting God’s will’.  I swallowed hard, very hard – and thought, “Please Hashem, help me to accept whatever Your will is for me.”  After a long pause I whispered, ‘And if it’s Your will, please give me back my face.’    

I screamed twice when I was burnt, but I haven’t cried that much.  There have been a few little times here and there but mostly whatever tears I felt welling up could be swallowed down.

But in the last couple of days I’ve had some intense waves of sadness come over me.

On Friday morning dd19, dd17 and ds15 came to visit me for the first time.  My face was much better by then – every day is a visible difference – but I was worried how they were going to react when they saw me.  I heard ds say, “Hi, Mommy” as they came into my room but before they saw me I covered my face and started crying.  I couldn’t keep my face in my hands forever so I took my hands away as I stood up and hugged them, still crying.  As I hugged dd19 for the first time in over a year she asked me if I was crying from happiness or sadness and I said, ‘I don’t know’.  It’s a mixture.

On Friday night I went to the nurses station to light Shabbos candles, feeling upbeat and cheerful.  This was the first time I was able to venture this far from my room into the public domain – it’s about five or six steps away – but mentally letting myself be somewhere that someone who wasn’t on the medical staff would see me took a lot of courage.  As I waved my hands in front of my eyes three times and opened my mouth to say the blessing, I started sobbing uncontrollably.  It was like something cracked open inside of me.

I felt subdued as I  began my Shabbos meal in my hospital room.  As I sang Aishes Chayil/ A Woman of Valor, and got to the line ‘She is robed in strength and dignity, and she smiles at the future’ I faltered and couldn’t swallow the lump in my throat.  I took a couple of deep breaths and my voice quavered but I continued, until I got to ‘Grace is elusive and beauty is vain’.  I tried to sing this but broke down a few times before I could compose myself enough to finish the line – but a woman who fears God — she shall be praised.

After Shabbos was over I washed my face and thought how amazing it was how much better I’m doing.   Until now I’ve only asked the staff how much longer I have to stay in the hospital and assumed that their answer meant I would be better by the time I left with a little residual pinkness that would fade in a very short time.  When the nurse came in, I asked her how long it takes an injury like mine to heal. For the first time last night I had a sense that it could be much longer than what I’ve been telling myself.  Despite that I wasn’t ready for her answer.

The nurse responded that I’ll have to stay out of the sun for the entire summer – and summer isn’t even officially here.  The concern is about scarring.  My eyes welled up with tears and I couldn’t answer her without a break in my voice.  Another six months?  I needed some time to process that.  Last night I was very sad and I couldn’t sleep for a long time.

Why am I telling you all of this?  Because it’s not good to say everything is fine and not acknowledge to yourself how you’re really feeling.  Feeling your sadness and your anger and everything else we tend to not want to feel or see – and other people don’t want to see – is a critical part of coming to terms with your life and eventually having emotional peace.

This would be a much more upbeat post if I didn’t tell you all of this but one day you’re going to go through hard things and I want you to remember this – that you don’t have to be strong.  You don’t have to smile and be grateful that something bad happened to you.  You don’t have to assuage the anxiety of those around you who are much more comfortable with you smiling and being positive than with your raw emotions.

Feelings come in waves…you have to be willing to feel them when they come even if they threaten to engulf you.  Eventually the waves subside.  The waves will keep coming but each time it will get a little easier.  A storm doesn’t last forever and our tears are a tool to help us through the storm.

Avivah

Update on Avivah

serenity-prayer[1]I owe so much to all of you, for the prayers and good wishes and desire to help….I’ve been overwhelmed and brought to tears by your concern.  I am so grateful for every one of your comments (I’m sorry I can’t respond to each but I’ve seen them all), your emails, your tehillim…. I feel truly surrounded by love.  I’m laying low now and not really talking or writing much but want to share now out of my gratitude to you all.

(side note – To Yael Alrich for setting up a challah chain – thank you!  When forty people prepare challah dough and ‘take challah’ with a bracha – it is a powerful merit for the person it is being done for.  I am so touched by those of you who want to do this for me and your tefillos are very appreciated.  If someone wants to participate, here’s the link – challah segulah chain sign up.)

I am doing better.  Every day is a little better.

The night I was admitted to the hospital all the hospital staff who checked me told me how lucky I was.  They were talking about my eyes being spared but I assumed it meant my face, too.  So when I saw myself in the mirror in the bathroom I was horrified – there was no part of my face left that I recognized.  Nothing.  

Then my face began swelling, so that one eye was swelled entirely shut and the other eye was able to open halfway.  I didn’t think I could look worse but I did.  After two days of swelling, when I woke up one morning and could open both eyes, I felt hopeful.  Then the bandages covering my face came off, and I wished they could stay on.  I shuddered at the person in the mirror who wasn’t me, but she was…I didn’t want to see myself and I didn’t want anyone else to see me.

This morning the woman who cleans the floor came in and looking at me said, “Very nice!”  I looked behind me, thinking she was admiring the pictures of me with my kids on the wall behind me but when I looked back she was looking straight at me.  I asked her what she was talking about, and she said – “You! You look great!”  I said, “This (pointing to my face) looks great?” (In case it’s not clear, I have no part of my face that isn’t burnt except my eyes.)

She hurried to clarify, thinking she had insulted me, telling me how much better I looked than a couple of days ago.  I didn’t know who came in during the first days because I couldn’t see much so I didn’t know she had seen me unbandaged at an earlier stage.  But she’s right.  I look much better.

My face isn’t so swollen anymore, my eyes can open all the way.  My face is covered with different stages of the burns – in some places I have blisters, in some places my skin is peeling, most of my face is a dark reddish color.  I don’t look a bit attractive (that’s the understatement of the year) but it’s all much better than it was.  I would very much appreciate continued prayers for a complete recovery.

As of now I’ll be staying for Shabbos; the doctors just told me they’ll reassess my situation on Sunday.  My daughter came home after over 13 months in the US the night after my accident.  I was so excited about this visit and couldn’t wait to share with you about her homecoming.  I obviously missed it.   I spoke to her yesterday, though.  I was so much looking forward to this Shabbos…. the first Shabbos in so long that our entire family would be together – but obviously that wasn’t supposed to happen.  Hopefully I’ll be home next Shabbos and then we will have that time together. 

So that’s the update about the physical stuff.  It’s going to take time.

Emotionally, I almost strangely feel a lot of peace about this situation.  Being in the hospital without visitors or having to answer the phone is giving me time to rest and reflect.  I don’t want visitors – I just want to be by myself right now, not from a depressed way but from a place of needing some solitude.  I don’t want to talk about the accident or about anything, actually.  Posting here is the exception.

Finding the way through murky times....there is always a path.

Finding my path….

As I physically heal I’m taking time to listen to the voice of my soul, to access my inner wisdom and absorb some messages about what I’m supposed to learn from this situation.  It’s very subtle and very powerful.  This is very very very hard to do – maybe impossible – in the busyness of daily life.  So while I wouldn’t have chosen this, I’m gaining something very valuable from this experience.

Avivah

Avivah Michaelah bas Sara – Please Pray

On Monday afternoon a can of hot cosmetic wax exploded in Avivah’s face. She was taken by ambulance to the nearest hospital and is in their burn unit. She suffered 2nd degree burns on her whole face and neck.

The doctors said she is very fortunate that her glasses shielded her eyes or she would likely have been blinded. Her eyesight was not affected. The doctors are optimistic for a good recovery. At this point they told us she would be in the hospital for a week, but they will reassess in the coming days.

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Avivah and our family would appreciate your prayers.

Edited to add – thank you to Yael Aldrich for setting up a tehillim sign up.  If you would like to participate, please sign up at this link – https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AsKJxK1rRZoTdFdmbWkzVVdOVS10TTNKM2Y3M3ZYSEE&usp=sharing#gid=0

Avivah’s DH