Monthly Archives: May 2014

Yirmiyahu update – 23 months

Watching Yirmiyahu develop has been amazing.  Children with Trisomy 21 have some challenges, one of which is low muscle tone, which means it takes a lot more work for them to develop the motor skills than it does typical kids. It’s like watching a slow motion film, where I can see every tiny step of development, steps that I hardly noticed occurring with my first nine kids.

Yirmiyahu is a pro at climbing stairs  and has now also learned to safely climb down, so I’ve been able to remove the unsightly safety gate that we had at the bottom of our spiral staircase.  One day I took him to the park and on his first try discovered that without socks on he could climb up the eight foot long slide at the park (about six feet high) by himself!  He loved that and after sliding back down the slide once he reached the top, he immediately repeated the feat at least six times in a row.  :)

He doesn’t have any recognizable words yet but babbles a lot and it’s clear he has a lot he wants to say.  Even without words, he’s amazingly good at communicating what he wants, combining patting, pointing and making expressive faces.    A few days ago I was holding him and ds11 put his arms out to Yirmiyahu.  Yirmiyahu shook his head, swatted his brother’s hands and then turned his head away while clutching me more firmly.  I told him that ds11 would take him to the park- Yirmiyahu LOVES to go outside-  and he turned and dove into ds11’s arms!  He makes a beeline for the door as soon as it opens and I’ve told the kids they really need to close it behind them to be sure he doesn’t take his opportunity to go out.  He’s fast and he’s the first to notice if the door is open.

Yirmiyahu has been drinking independently from a cup for a while.  I’ve never been a fan of bottles nor sippy cups.  Yirmiyahu has needed formula so bottles couldn’t be avoided, but when he began drinking water I gave him a cup and he learned to control the flow of liquids pretty quickly.

He’s recently become really interested in books and flashcards, and will climb onto the couch and deliberately flip through books and become absorbed looking at the pictures.  In the past it seemed random when he was holding a book and I couldn’t tell how much he was getting from it, which contributed to me not being super consistent about flashcard sessions.  Now he climbs into my lap and settles in for a read and loves it!   This week we were gifted with several board books for him by a mom who no longer needed them and he was so excited by them.  (If you happen to have board books in your home that you’d like to pass along, we’d love to give them a new home!  Believe me, they will get a TON of use!)

And what is his latest achievement that has him clapping for himself and us cheering along with him?

Walking!!!

And now, for your viewing pleasure, a few short Yirmiyahu clips demonstrating his newest skill!

Yirmiyahu started taking his first step a few weeks ago, and it’s been slow and steady progress as he builds the strength in his core muscles to balance and take more steps.  It took him three weeks from the time he took his first step until building up to 5- 6 steps in the last few days.  There have been many, many falls along the way though he doesn’t seem to mind.  I marvel how he keeps trying and trying, enjoying the process of learning and acquiring mastery without getting discouraged.   We could all learn a lot from that attitude!

Avivah

Creating an abundance mindset – how to upgrade your way of thinking

Abundance quoteYesterday I spoke via teleconferencing at the Torah Home Education conference being held in New Jersy.  The topic of my talk was Creating an Abundant Life, a topic about which I have soooo much to say that a 50 minute session really isn’t enough.   Since my talk began late and I closed early for questions, that further cut down on what I shared.

I’m fine with that, though.  Before every talk that I give, I always ask God to help me say what people need to hear, and this cuts the post-speech obsessing about if what you did or didn’t say quite a bit.  I assume that if I shifted from my planned points and added something new or left things out that I thought were important, there’s a reason for it all.

Having said that, I thought I’d share a little on this topic today with you.

Everyone defines abundance differently, depending on who they are and what is a priority in his life.  To me, a life of abundance is when you are living with passion, a sense of purpose, inner peace and clarity.  It include relationships, wider contributions, time and money, but the specific definition really depends on the person.

Regardless of how you define abundance, it all begins in the mind.  We can live the same life from one day to another, and the only difference in feeling scarcity or abundance is in our thinking.  Here are some things that I’ve found helpful to shift your mindset to one of abundance.

1) Get rid of unrealistic expectations – be realistic of yourself and those in your life.  Expectations that aren’t in line with who you are become the equivalent of a mental pile of bricks, guaranteed to squash your motivation and self esteem.  It will do the same to your children.

2) Avoid silently competing and comparing.  This is so dangerous.  It’s a fine line to walk between being inspired by the actions and accomplishments of others and downgrading ourselves.  If you find yourself getting caught up in negative feelings when you see or view what someone else is doing, you need to consciously put a stop to this.

I used to read several issues at a time of a particular magazine and noticed that each time I was left with a negative and inadequate feeling about myself – reading interviews with so many accomplished people caused me to eclipse and negate my own accomplishments entirely.  I put those magazines aside for a long time entirely until I could create some healthy mental distance; now I can appreciate and even be inspired by someone else’s accomplishments without feeling it’s a reflection of me lacking in some way.

3)  Define your goal.  What do you really want?  Think hard about this because most of us are tempted to say what we think we’re supposed to say.  When you live life based on what’s important to you, you’re going to have a good measure of inner peace.  When you are living according to the goals of others, you’re setting yourself up for tremendous frustration.  Don’t adopt someone else’s goal – you can admire it from afar but be clear what really matters most to you and pursue that.

4) Fill your mind with gratitude. Keep your focus on what you have, not what’s missing.  Focusing on what you don’t have is a guarantee for a bitter and miserable life.  You may wonder how to focus on the positive when it seems there’s nothing good in your life – if you’re alive and able to read this or hear someone read this to you, you have things to be grateful for!

It can be hard to recognize the good if you’re used to looking at what you don’t have, but the more you look, the more you’ll find.  My life hasn’t been perfect and there have been and will continue to be small and large bumps along the road, but I often reflect on the overflowing blessings in my life and think: “Katonti mikol hachasidim umikol ha’emet asher asita et avdecha“(Bereishis/Genesis 32:10)- “I am too small for all the kindness and truth that You have done to your servant.” Here’s a beautiful version of this verse put to song – I love it:

5) Remember you have a Partner in your life.  Often we get caught up in thinking our future is in our hands and if we make a wrong step, we’re doomed.  That sounds like being responsible but it’s actually a lack of humility.  You can make mistakes and get great results in spite of it, and do everything by the books and your result isn’t what you hoped for.   Often success comes from an entirely different direction than where we’ve invested our time and efforts, and failure comes from where we had the highest expectations.  Do the best you can, and recognize that your Partner will make some changes to your plans.  Know that there’s a reason that He’s directing things in the way He is and it’s all for your ultimate good.

6) Trust that the end will be good.  It really will.  Sometimes there will be bumps on the road and the good will be temporarily obscured – sometimes it will seem it’s been permanently obscured – but keep believing in the good outcome.  Your belief is incredibly powerful.  Patience, humility and trust lead to wonderful results.

Avivah

What’s been keeping me from blogging this week…

This morning I realized it was already Thursday which means it’s been almost a week since I’ve written anything here!

I’ve been busy with a few things.  Firstly I traveled to Jerusalem on Monday to speak about homeschooling to a lovely group of women that evening.  We met in a suburb of Jerusalem, so it wasn’t a very central location and it was amazing to see women coming from so far out of their way to attend – Bnei Brak, Kiryat Sefer, Efrat, Ramat Beit Shemesh, Kochav Yaakov, and of course from Jerusalem and Telzstone.  I enjoyed it very much.   I recorded the talk and this morning asked dh if he can help me edit it into sections (with two speakers and a long Q and A session it’s really long) so I can post it here for those of you who are interested to listen to.  Hoping to get to that tonight.  Hoping!

I stayed overnight in Telzstone together with the other mom who spoke, and we shared a one room guest apartment together.  That was so fun – we’ve known each other for at least five years when we first met in person (had ‘known’ each other online before then)and it was a mom’s sleepover with us staying up late to talk.  Really, really nice.

In the meantime, dh was holding down the fort at home.  Just a few days before ds6 asked me when we would be able to go to the science center in Haifa again; we had gone in September when there was free admission for science night and everyone had a wonderful time.   I told him we’d try to go in the fall again when it’s science night.  Two days after his question I learned that there would be free admission to museums around the country on Monday and made plans to take the kids.  Then the opportunity to speak for the homeschooling gathering came up and that meant traveling on Monday so dh took the kids instead.  They literally had a field day!

I’ve also been busy this week with a number of emails from people interested in making aliyah.  It’s the time of year for pilot trips and planned aliyah dates are coming close, so people are in the deciding stage about where in the country they are going to move to.  I’ve been glad to have been able to help out but I have a limited amount of online time, so responding to the questions has cut into my blogging time.  People are reading my older posts on Karmiel trying to get a sense what it’s like living here and since I’ve written those, things have continued to evolve here so there are aspects that need to be updated.  I’m getting further and further backed up on posts and I want to say that I’m going to write about some of the issues that are coming up in emails on a regular basis since it’s important, but….

I’ve had some important parenting conversations this week that I also want to share with you, but once again my time constraints are making it unlikely I’m going to be able to get around to sharing that with you.  I’ve never had the typical blogger’s issue of not having anything to write about;  my problem is the opposite!  So many topics, so little time…..

I met with a homeopath last week and in addition to beginning homeopathic treatment  with her and getting a homeopathic gel to use on my face (now added to my daily rotation of three other creams!), she gifted me with some milk kefir grains.  Yesterday, for the first time since leaving America in August 2011, I started a batch of kefir!  I’m telling you, the little things in life are so exciting!  It should be ready to drink today.

While I’m talking about nutritional advances in my life…I made two four gallon batches of kimchi right before my accident seven weeks ago which was great because that was enough to last until now.  It’s time for me to get another batch started since I don’t want to run out!  (I try to make four gallons at a time since that works well for our family size – it requires a serious time commitment on my part since I don’t have a food processor.)

My favorite part of kimchi is the juice so last time I adapted my kimchi making to using lots of liquid so I end up with at least two or three gallons of probiotic juice to drink!  If it didn’t have such a cleansing effect (and if I could make enough to keep up with myself) I’d drink it all day long.  My kids started asking for it, too.  When I give them cod liver oil it’s followed by a kiddie vitamin C.  One day ds8 asked if he could have some kimchi to clear the cod liver oil flavor from his mouth and had his vitamin C afterwards.  Then naturally his brothers also wanted to do the same.  :)

Well, that’s where I’ve been and what I’ve been busy with this week!

Avivah

Jerusalem area – evening of homeschooling inspiration – May 19

I’m delighted to share with my Israel readers that if you’re interested in learning more about homeschooling and hearing about the nitty gritty details of what real life looks like on a day to day basis, now’s your chance!

On Monday evening, May 19, Sarah Kopp of Tzfat and I will be in the Jerusalem area and sharing about our years of homeschooling.  We’ll leave lots of time for questions though I’m afraid that there aren’t enough hours in the evening to talk about everything there is to talk about.  For that, we need a conference!  Actually, we probably need at least a week long retreat.  :)

I’m going to be speaking next week on May 25 via teleconferencing about how to transform your homeschooling into a lifestyle of abundance at the Torah Home Education Conference, but will be speaking about a different topic here.  So if you’re registered there, don’t worry that you’ll be hearing me speak about the same thing.  :)

You’re welcome to attend whether you’re currently homeschooling, planning to homeschool or wishing you could homeschool – or just curious!  Just be sure to get there on time, because we want to cram in as much as we can before you need to get home and get to sleep!

Here are details:

  • Date: May 19, 2014
  • Place: Telz Stone, 3 HaGra St. apartment #4
  • Time: 8:30 pm
  • 15 shekels per person

(I’ll post about bus info in the comment section for those who need that info.)

Looking forward to seeing some of you then!

Avivah

How to pass your Israeli driver’s license exam on the first try

drivers licenseToday I took and passed my driving exam and on Sunday will receive my Israeli driver’s license!   I’m so happy and relieved to have successfully completed this.

A benefit for those making aliyah is they have the option of converting their US/foreign license to an Israeli license.  This is a big benefit since getting a license from scratch in Israel is a very expensive proposition.  We began the first steps two years ago, then life got in the way and after a long delay finally finished the process this week.

Here are the steps to convert your foreign license to an Israeli license: 1) Go to an optician and ask for a form called the tofes yarok (green form) and fill it out.  Once you’ve filled it out, the optician will photograph you, do a quick eye exam and fill in his section of the form.  This costs about 50 shekels.

2) Next, take the tofes yarok to your doctor.  He will fill out their part of it; when we did this two years ago the fee for this one minute of their time was 90 shekels.  I think if you have a more expensive level of health insurance, it’s free.

3) Take your tofes yarok that is now all filled in by everyone, your Israeli identification card and your up to date foreign license to the Ministry of Permits in the regional area.  (We went to Haifa; they don’t have a local office in Karmiel.)  They stamp your paperwork and give you a form that you then give to your driving instructor; I don’t remember how much this cost.

I was at the end of pregnancy with Yirmiyahu when I did this and was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to complete the rest of the licensing process before I missed the deadline, which I thought was a year after our aliya and was only ten weeks away.  The official who stamped our paperwork reassured me I’d have enough time to have this baby and even another one before my time would run out.  :)

You have three years from the time you make aliyah to convert your license; you can drive in Israel using your foreign license for the first year.  Your eye exam is valid for two years after you do it, so get the rest of the paperwork done within that time or you’ll have to get the exam again, which I believe would mean starting the process over.  Good thing we had this much time because life was soon after that to become extremely busy and getting our license went down to the bottom of the priority list – our eye exam paperwork was only valid until the end of May.

4)  Now it’s time to schedule lessons with a driving instructor.  In Israel there’s no such thing as driving with a permit with a licensed driver.  Unless you are in your first year of being in the country in which case you can drive on your own, your driving practice will have to take place with an instructor.  Yes, this gets expensive pretty quickly!  So try to get your license in the first year because it will be easier and cheaper for you to be able to practice without having the pressure of an instructor critiquing your every move of the steering wheel.

I was really happy with our instructor, who is the head of a driving school in Karmiel with 63 drivers working under him, and has forty years experience teaching driving.  He also smoothed the way with the rest of the paperwork from this point and on so that simplified things for us.  We got a discounted price on our lessons since dh and I took them together, so it was 112.50 shekels a lesson for each of us instead of 125 shekels.  We took a combined total of ten lessons (six for me, four for dh) so that ended up being a nice savings of 250 shekels.

People often complain that getting a license in Israel is a money making racket and that instructors and the Ministry here are in cahoots to make you spend as much money as possible.   I assumed this was true until I took lessons.  I expected I would only have to take one or two lessons, which is what NBN recommends.  This – in my opinion – is a big mistake and why so many people fail their driving exams.  They don’t take enough lessons and don’t get really familiar with the rules of the road here – and the testers can tell.  But the drivers who are used to US road rules can’t see what they’ve done wrong and think the tester failed them unfairly.

When I began taking lessons, I was honestly a bit indignant that after my second lesson the instructor said that I’d need a couple more lessons.  For crying out loud, I’m a driver with many years experience and a perfect driving record!  It wasn’t until my fourth lesson that I had learned enough to understand what my driving instructor saw was wrong in my driving earlier on.  It took me that long to recognize how much I hadn’t known.

So here’s what I realized.  I’m a great driver in the US.  I wasn’t a great driver in Israel.  Neither are most of the people who move here.  I had to get my ego out of the way and realize there were things I objectively needed to learn if I wanted to be as good a driver in Israel as I was in the States.  I think this is where a lot of people are getting stuck.  They think they know how to drive so the lessons are just a formality, and that they should be able to walk in to the test after a lesson or two and pass.

Unless someone has his own car and is able to practice a lot on his own, this isn’t going to happen.  Even if someone does have a car, he needs lessons to make sure he  knows the local rules of the road. This is a different country and the rules are different.  Things that are allowed in the US (eg making a right turn on a red light) are against the law here.  In my last driving lesson, I entered an intersection when the light was green and made a right turn on a yellow light – my instructor told me that wasn’t acceptable.  I wouldn’t have expected that to be a problem.  Okay, you live and you learn!

My driving experience is with minivans and full sized passenger vans – for the nine years before moving here I was driving a 12 passenger heavy duty van.  My instructor’s car was a very sensitive European compact European.  It is SO sensitive.  I’ve driven regular cars but nothing like this.  You hardly have to tap on the breaks to make it stop, and if you press any harder the vehicle jerks.  Slamming on the breaks – which is easy to do by pressing on the brakes the way you would in any American car – makes you look like a very, very haphazard and overreactive driver.  There were other things I had to get used to, like when the car automatically decelerated going downhill, which was kind of disconcerting to me since I was losing power instead of gaining speed.

My biggest problem was that I made turns into one way streets from the wrong lane (when coming from a one way street) or into the wrong lane.  This was extremely frustrating to me, since the one way streets I was turning from were generally 1.5 lanes wide and the streets I was turning into was 1.5 lanes wide, so how much of a difference could it really make?  You end up about in the middle anyway, right?  It’s not like there’s a safety issue.  This was a problem and I would have failed my test if I hadn’t gotten clear on when you turn into which lane, and what was considered a one way street; once I understood it I realized it wasn’t the subtle difference I originally thought it was.

Another issue were traffic signs.  Since they look different than signs in the US, seeing them didn’t trigger the experienced response that a sign that meant the same thing in the US would.  I needed practice noticing them, recognizing what they meant and driving accordingly. The driving test is 425 shekels per person (we got a discount and paid 375 instead), and my dh and I agreed we’d rather pay for a couple more lessons than have to pay for a second or third driving test.  As it turns out, our instructor had a very good sense of our readiness level, and when we each felt ready was the same as when he determined we were ready.  His goal was to teach us well so that he was sure we would pass.  And he succeeded.

We finished our tests at 11:40 am, and our instructor called us with the results at 4:30 pm.  Since tomorrow is Friday and government offices aren’t open, our licenses will be prepared on Sunday and he’ll bring them to us.

As I mentioned earlier, getting a license from scratch in Israel is a very expensive proposition – there are a minimum of 28 lessons required – so it’s really worth it to take advantage of the license conversion benefit while you can, even if like us, you don’t have a car.  it still wasn’t cheap – together we paid somewhere between 2200 – 2500 shekels for our license conversions.  We’re really glad we got this done before our time limit on the conversion ran out!

Avivah

What the first emotional center is and why it matters to your health and relationships

first emotional center roots>>I’m so happy to hear you are staying. When I read you were considering moving, my heart got this uncomfortable feeling. We moved five times during our 8 year stay in Israel. Moving is so extremely unsettling and destabilizing. So much change, plus you need to get to know and integrate into a totally new community and start putting down roots all over again. It’s like starting from zero.<<

it’s so true, moving is deeply unsettling – literally! – and I’m very grateful to have made the decision to stay in one place.  There’s something very physically and emotionally grounding for all of us about this decision.

A while back I listened to an interesting audio program about the seven emotional centers and their physical effect on the body’s health.  This is based on the concept that all illness has an emotional/energetic component, and this component is much more significant than most people would acknowledge.

This is fascinating stuff and if you’re interested in details about all seven emotional centers, look at the link I put up above and you can see a summary of some basic information.  (Dr. Gabor Mate also has a great book called When the Body Says No: Exploring the Stress Disease Connection in which he writes about the emotional state and how certain illnesses are later manifested as a result.)  What I’d like to do is is share about the importance of the first emotional center and how this was a factor in our our decision not to move.

The first center is what your sense of self is built on, what provides you with a sense of grounding and belonging in the world, rootedness.  Physically issues connected to this center are related to the immune system issues, illnesses such as arthritis, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia.  A person who doesn’t have a strong foundation in his first center with his family of origin will have trust and security issues.  Not being balanced in this center will affect a person’s ability to appropriately feel fear, when and who to trust, and how to be appropriately dependent or independent.

These first center emotional issues almost exactly parallel the issues Dr. Gordon Neufeld describes as the outcome for children who are inadequately attached to their parents, though he gives them different names – emotional defendedness/hardening and peer dependency are a couple of concepts that he discusses at length that tie in well to this.  It’s all about building a sense of connection and security in the world; when that is missing, you have first emotional center issue that if held long enough without being addressed in some way, will eventually show up in the body.  I’m starting to wonder if the real reason that new immigrants tend to get sick when they move here isn’t about our bodies being hit with germs that we aren’t used to, but about our immune system being weakened due to being emotionally uprooted.

The health of this center is the healthy capacity to hold two things at one time: the vulnerability of belonging and depending, and the power of being able to stand alone and be independent.  That really means being able to be interdependent, which is the highest level of interpersonal functioning and is much, much more difficult than independence.  This is especially hard for those of us growing up in Western cultures, that place a very high value on independence as an ideal.

If you’re missing this as an adult, you can work to bridge the gaps of your childhood by consciously creating relationships, connections and routines that bring a sense of continuity and grounding to your life.  If we can provide our kids with a sense of connectedness when they are young, that goes a long way through the years in helping them develop a sense of trust in the world.  It’s always more effective to invest in prevention rather than trying to fix something that’s already broken.

Since moving here my kids have gone through some really difficult stuff, things that shook the foundation of our family.  When I thought of moving them again after the trauma of my recent burns and subsequent hospitalization, I knew that I couldn’t do that to them.  I didn’t want to do it to myself, but for my kids it was clear to me this would create a first emotional center issue that would affect their sense of security and safety in the world.  This sense of stability and security is so foundational to a person’s emotional health and future relationships, and eventually can affect one’s physical health.

Does that mean that everyone should stay in one place his entire life?  No, absolutely not.  Sometimes you need to experience the discomfort of change to get a place that will ultimately be better for you.  I firmly feel that  moving to Israel in August 2011 was the absolute best decision for our family even with all the upheavals that we experienced afterward.  What I do mean is that as parents we need to think very carefully about how to provide our children with a sense of continuity and consistency, both emotionally in how we raise them as well as physically where we raise them.  The more deeply rooted we can help them to be, the stronger their sense of security and immune system will be.

Avivah

Big shift in moving plans

Putting down roots!

After months of research, planning and networking in order to make the move to the center of the country, we’ve had a change in our moving plans!

We’ve decided to stay put in Karmiel.

Before sharing why, let me recap.  What prompted us to consider moving was our desire for our older kids learning in Jerusalem to be able to live at home.  The second tier of the decision was that we would have more and better educational options for the middle kids, and more medical/therapeutic support for our T21 needs .  The third tier of the decision is that we’d have more support of all kinds – social, homeschooling, rabbinic advisors and Torah learning…

All of those reasons are still valid.  Nothing has changed as far as all of those potential benefits.  Some things have changed for us, though.

Firstly, if dd19 comes back in the coming year, she’ll be studying at a seminary with a dorm.  Dd17 is seriously considering switching to a seminary with a dorm.  Boom – the two kids we thought needed us to be in the center the most aren’t so critical anymore.  At this point we reassessed the wisdom of moving for our older kids, who could very well all be married within the next two years, and disrupting the lives of our younger kids at home, who are all happy here and don’t want to move.

My husband had some reservations about living here when we first discussed moving back in October but with time those have faded away and he’s happy to stay.  I had one personal concern about staying here that I resolved inside myself, though I’ve been sad about the thought of moving ever since we made the decision.   I couldn’t see this feeling as valid because it felt irresponsible of me to put my desire to stay where I am before the needs of my kids.  It’s not easy starting over and I felt depleted most of the time when thinking about it, but tried to focus on the positives – and there were lots of positives about moving.

Getting to this decision, being willing and able to think through all the changing details, was mostly due to my recent hospitalization after being burned almost six weeks ago.  All that quiet time gave me the ability to recognize my inner voice, the one that I too often subdue in order to do the responsible/logical thing.  Recognizing that voice was critical in being willing to listen to the voice that kept saying, “I’m happy here and don’t want to leave and don’t want to start over somewhere else.”  I’ve been hearing that voice for months and kept overriding it with my long list of reasons to leave and the need to be in the center of the country for my kids.  Finally I could recognize this was my inner voice rather than the voice of fear (which is what I was attributing it to), and change plans accordingly.

There are a lot of parts to this decision – my desire to put down roots and stay in one place, recognizing that I need to trust God that if there’s something I don’t have now and will need in the future (this is specifically regarding schooling alternatives for the older grades), remembering to live in the moment and not get caught up planning too far ahead, my mother living a fifteen minute walk away from us now and the importance for us all in being able to be there physically for one another, looking at other communities underscoring how very many things we like about being here….but it honestly comes down to listening to what my heart is telling me.

I’m not sorry that we planned to move even though it took up tremendous head space, since it gave us a chance to reevaluate from a different perspective; my husband and I are in full agreement that this is the right thing for us.   When I told him I thought it was a mistake to move and all my reasons why, his response was total agreement – he said he had felt the same way but since we had agreed to make the move he didn’t want to back away from it!  I do feel a bit of regret that I won’t have those advantages that I was looking forward to in being in the center of the country.  But mostly I have a sense of peace and being settled, and after so long being in limbo about moving, that’s a really wonderful feeling.

Avivah

Since I know you’re wondering about how I look…I’ll tell you! But no pictures.

In the last week I’ve begun venturing out and that means that I’ve begun to see people.  And people have begun to see me.

I’ve been noticing a very interesting reaction that almost everyone is having.  Most people aren’t looking at me directly when they first see me; they keep their heads tilted away and then take a quick furtive glance when they think I’m not looking at them.  I don’t know if they’re afraid what they’re going to see of if they don’t want to make me feel self-conscious.

Once they look at me, most people tell me how good I look, that it’s not nearly as bad as they were expecting.  That’s probably because they’re thinking I’ll look the way I looked in the beginning!  I’ve been healing amazingly fast and often I have a hard time believing that it was less than six weeks ago that my entire face was a swollen mass of blisters.  Other than the medical staff, only my husband saw me at that point – last week he told me in the beginning he honestly wondered if and when I would look like myself again.  It was very bad.

At first when people were telling me how it didn’t look so bad, it felt a bit invalidating.  Like, oh, we thought something serious happened but it couldn’t have been so bad if you look like this now.  That’s just how it felt to me, that’s of course not how it was intended.  While I look a lot better now, no one is dreaming of looking like me and I don’t want to stay looking like this forever either.

I was wondering objectively what I look like since everyone is saying how good I look but I have a mirror and I know what I look like!  Then a couple of evenings ago I went out and happened to bump into someone who didn’t know about my accident.  She looked startled and after a couple of minutes of small talk while looking at me searchingly, asked straight out, “What happened to your face?”  

So do I look amazing or do I look really bad?  I look amazing, relative to what I went through.  The redness of the new skin mostly covered the scarring in the initial period and for those who saw me then (on Pesach and right before) it looked like a very bad sunburn.  Then the redness passed (in just a week! – the burn specialist told me it takes between 2 weeks to six months) and the scars were obvious.  The front of my face is where the obvious marks are left; l have a lot of splotches across my forehead and all the way down to my chin, including my eyebrow area, eyelid and under the eyes. The splotches are a dark reddish color.  But they’re fading and getting smaller.

The scars on the front of my neck up along to under my chin are sizeable but have faded to a light skin tone so while it’s visible it’s not jumping out at you, either.  Twice a day I use a special cream to help with scarring that I got from the burn specialist in Jerusalem.  The splash marks that were across the outer two thirds of my cheeks are totally gone.  On the side of my neck and ear you can’t tell anything happened.

I have one burn mark on my hand that I didn’t treat at all – not purposely, just my face was more important and I didn’t pay any attention to it.  This now serves as a reminder to me what my face could have looked like, what people are expecting it to look like, and what I was afraid I would look like.  That scar is slightly raised, wrinkled and discolored and if the scars on my face looked like this it would be disfiguring.

I’m not going to post a photo of myself though I’m tempted to show a before and after picture (though I don’t have a picture from when the burns were the worst) just so you can appreciate how miraculous the difference is.  People keep asking me when my face will be fully healed and the answer is, I don’t know.  No one will tell me that I will totally heal – though I’m very optimistic that I will – and I  certainly haven’t been given a timeline.  I’m going back to the burn specialist in Jerusalem today and am looking forward to hearing her feedback.

I’ve been extremely conscientious about skin care and sun avoidance, and this is part of why my healing has been so good.  The bigger part, I’m positive, is the prayers of so many people on my behalf.  Thank you all!

Avivah

My world just got much smaller – or is it bigger?

facebook friendsLast night I was thinking about a couple of friends from elementary school and it suddenly occurred to me that maybe they were on Facebook.  After a very quick search, I found them and delighted in the opportunity to see pictures of what my eleven year old friends look like now – middle aged parents!  Like me, I suppose.  :)

For a year and a half when I was in fifth and sixth grades, my family lived in rural Mississippi.  I loved living there, though being an Orthodox family in an area where people had literally never seen Jews we were very much an anomaly.   A few years ago my great aunt told me that before we moved there, the local pastor organized a school assembly where he spoke to prepare the entire student body from elementary through high school for our arrival.  No doubt this is a big reason that we had what I remember as a smooth reception.

The other thing that helped is that we have family ties in the area that go way back.  As someone whose parents came to Judaism at an older age, we didn’t have any Orthodox relatives and we weren’t local to our secular Jewish relatives at any point of my life.  But when I moved to this rural area, suddenly I had family.   I still remember the warm feeling I had when people in school would come up to me and say something like, “You’re our third cousin once removed.”

Mississippi often gets spoken of derogatorily but I think Mississippi is wonderful in so many ways!  I loved the slower and simpler pace of life, and the family centered focus, where families stay put for generations in the same area.  My best friend from that time built a house on her parents’ property, her sister did the same, her first cousin lived in the house on the next property, her other first cousins lived in the property around the corner, and her grandmother lived a couple houses past that.  I’m assuming this all started off as her grandmother’s property.  (When I say property, I’m talking about something very large, not houses jammed on top of each other.  My great aunt’s property is over 100 acres and her grandson lives in a house on her property that’s a ten minute walk away; she told me she’d give me property to build a house if I’d come back, too.)  I’ve never experienced anything like that kind of rootedness since then.

I have very warm memories of my time living in Mississippi – I jumped on haystacks in the yard next to ours for fun, as a ten year old biked a mile and back to pick up items at the grocery in town for our parents with my best friend, and often would stand watching the cow grazing in the pasture on the other side of our house.  It was very rural, a very tiny town (I just checked the population census and as of 2012 it was 227 people), but it was so nice and I’ve gone back three times as an adult to visit.   One time I took my oldest daughter with me, and when I met with three school friends for dinner, one brought her daughter who was the same age.  Our daughters ended up having a sleepover – my friend remembered what they  had to do in order to accommodate me so many years before when I came to her home for a birthday sleepover and willingly accommodated my daughter in a similar manner.

My twentieth reunion for high school – had I continued there – was in September 2011 and when I was notified about it, I was seriously contemplating traveling there for it.  But in August 2011 our family moved to Israel so that obviously didn’t happen!

Well, thanks to Facebook I’ve now had an opportunity to reconnect with some of these people!  Not only that, I’m now connected to my second cousin in the area as well as my first cousin who I haven’t spoken to since she was about four.  I have some concerns about Facebook being a place of connections that are often not very meaningful but in this case, it’s creating an opportunity for connections that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.  I live a very different life from these friends and family members, and I’m grateful to have even a very casual way to stay in touch.

Avivah

2014 Torah Home Education Conference – don’t miss it!

homeschoolAs the founder of the Torah Home Education Conference, it is an event close to my heart.  I started this because there was so much support for homeschooling families, but nothing that addressed the unique needs of Orthodox Jewish families – and the Torah Home Education Conference was born!   When we moved to Israel the organizing was taken over by very dedicated homeschooling moms who are continuing to bring fantastic and inspiring content to attendees!

The conference will be held on Sunday May 25, 2014, from 9 am – 6 pm in Englewood, NJ.  There will be workshops on a wide variety of topics and there’s definitely something for everyone!  For the first time since moving here I’ll be speaking at the conference via Skype on ‘Creating an Abundant Life’ – click here to check out the wonderful lineup and other details!

A catered meal is available, childcare is available, loads of homeschooling parents for you to meet and mingle with will be there, inspiration and information galore – so what are you waiting for??  Go sign up right now!!  (The deadline for childcare is this Sunday, May 4, so if having this piece in place is important for you to be able to attend, get on it!:) )

Avivah