Monday, December 6, 2010

I can't believe Chanukah is almost over!

Didn't it start yesterday?
These days at home have given me the rest I needed. I've still be doing some tweeting for Yad Ezra V'Shulamit but mostly I've been chilling.

I missed doing yesterdays gift
Given: Listened to a friend who needed to talk
Received: Lessons on how to play Smash brothers

And  todays gifts;
Given: Shared a video with my husband
Received: THE RAIN! okay, that wasn't just for me but for the whole of Israel. Thank you Hashem! Please we want more!

There is a prayer I've been saying contained in the morning davening (service). I started davening after the rain and before I reached the section of prayer that that particular request was contained in I rushed upstairs to ask my husband if I could say it. I wasn't sure if, as we had gotten the rain already, we could continue to make our requests to G-d for rain.Wasn't it a bit like getting a bowl of ice creaming and then, instead of being satisfied demanding more. But he assured me it was not. So thank you very much Hashem, but please we need more!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

More Joy

Under my first post on Chanukah miracles asked " "..

"Somehow I dont get, why these examples are miracles. To help each other, i or should be the "normal way" I think.The only relation to miracle I can find is, when you think, Hashem gives you the means to help others (something to say "thank you" for I thinkm, its great when you ae able to help others...) "
This is a fair question; I suppose I explained it poorly before. I was pleased therefore, as part of my tweeting for Yad Ezra V'Shulamit, to find this on, stating basically what I believe.
From the article:
Nachmanides, the great 12th century sage, writes:
    Through recalling and acknowledging the great manifest and revealedmiracles, a person ultimately acknowledges the hidden miracles of everyday life. For a person [must] believe that all of our affairs and experiences are miracles, that there is no element of nature and "ordinary events" in life at all.
This is what I am referring to. The fact that a we should be helping each other doesn't take away from the miracle that we have done so and have received help. All our lives are little miracles put together. When we can see that, we can better understand the tremendous impact a small deed has on a person as well as we can understand the tremendous benefits we receive
The miracles for today, given and received, are one and the same. 
My family and.were able to spend a full 2 hours watching a movie, without interruption, all snuggled together.
We are so busy and pressured lately that this was an absolute bracha (blessing) for our lives.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Today's miracle

Don't just comment people! Play along. I want to hear about your lives and what is happening that is beautiful in your lives. We all need to work together to help each other and one way to do that is learning to appreciate what we have.

Today's Miracles:
Given: Eased my dh’s work by taking over part of his task.
Received:My kids did their chores without complaining and even came to a mutual agreement on what to do without any argument.

Because I won't be able to write on Shabbat
Tomorrow's Miracles:
Given: A great Shabbat meal on a very slim budget.
Received. My life and the life of my husband and children. In the face of the horror that is facing the North these are great miracles in the life of my children. 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Eight Days of Miracles

So often we think of miracles as great, supernatural events which drastically effect our lives for the better. And of course these are miracles. Sudden, inexplicable, wondrous events are miracles that are few and far between, at least for most of us.

But everyday miracles are what spin our daily lives, and too often we don't appreciate what we have till, as has been said many times before, we lose it. A good friend who calls when we need it most, a smile when we are feeling down from a complete stranger, a compliment when we least expect it, a gift that comes just from love.

We are not however only recipients of these everyday miracles. We are the source of miracles, sometimes without even knowing what we have done.

Have you ever stood up on behalf of a stranger, given courage where it was most needed, given a loan to a friend who was down on their luck without thought of having it returned? Have you ever withheld from yourself a treat or a pleasure and instead given the money that would otherwise have been spent to a person in great need?

These are the miracles that keep our lives and the lives of others from pitching out of control. Not everything is flash and glitter. Sometimes the best miracles are quiet things which seem to make no waves and we may wonder if they have any effect at all.

I work for a tzedakah (charity) organization. Don't doubt what a small gift can do. Don't doubt what an hour cutting up vegetables or packing bags or calling one's friends to ask them to donate to a particular charity can do.

Each effort on behalf of someone else is a miracle.

It is Chanukah today, the first day of Chanukah. Last night we lit the first candle. The holiday celebrates the physical victory over our enemies and the spiritual victory over those who denigrated Torah principles. You can learn more about the holiday here: All about Chanukah

Everyday for the next eight days I'm going to try and write about a daily miracle that has made my life better, and a "miracle" I've worked for someone else.

Share with me what you have received and what you have given as I am sharing with you. Lets inspire each other.

Day 1
Miracle Recieved
Friends helped us via loans to continue living in our house. It took several months to pay them back but we were able to return all the money. Both are a miracle in my eyes.
Miracle Given
 I gave a gift that was given to me to someone who could use it more. The woman's face lit up with such joy that it was all I needed for my happiness.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


In Israel cats have replaced squirrels (of which there are none) as the cute, wild, ubiquitous species. They are everywhere in Israel and my town is no exception.

They hang out in the park, gad about through the yards, and dive for food among the dumpsters (which we have instead of curbside pick-up). In short…they make a pleasant nuisance of themselves. Pleasant, if you are like me, and have the habit of speaking to wildlife, cats, birds, dogs, lizards, who cross one’s path. Pleasant, if you like me, enjoy watching them prance and play: probably a nuisance for most else.

During Succot one stray or not so stray -the cat may or may not semi-belong to a family down the street who have a habit of claiming but not really caring for various cats- came to visit us: a cute little imp, not quite full grown by the size of it, white fur with a few black spots, one smack in the middle of its forehead, and a rather scruffy tail. My husband and I named it George, for no reason that we know of, informing our children who, because they think it a girl and thus protested the name, that George would do for both. One child insists on Snowball. We have not conceded.

I happen to love George. He is cute, and friendly, and funny…well I would adopt him in minute but three problems persist. 1) My husband, who isn’t as compelled as I am (for financial reasons) into making our home a refugee for animals. 2) Our two already owned cats, who aren’t into other animals as much as I am. Rather territorial those two I am afraid. 3) The family down the street who would most likely protest the sudden appropriation of there semi-cat.

So George must continue to live as s/he is living now; outside, untended by us.

But George likes us, and therein lies the problem. George, to the best of my knowledge hasn’t had his shots. George, like most young cats who like humans likes to play with said humans. And cats at play sometimes scratch. Another reason I want to adopt George. At least I know then s/he has its rabies shot!

Monday I was walking up the “50 Steps” (a family designation) to the library which doubles as a מרכז הלמידה (learning center) to fulfill my duty as volunteer English tutor for whoever comes…Some days I go mad with the number of people who want me, having to deal with two or three at one time, and a few in the wings, other days no one wants me! Well at the library no one wanted me, but George certainly did! Jumping at my feet and my bag persistently; several times I needed to take George by the scruff and move him (or her) away. Finally I did manage to get away. George’s territory it seems ends with the second landing on the stairs.

Through the park I went, turning onto the street and past the dumpsters where I greet the stray and less friendly members of George’s clan. There one cute as a button kitten, no more than a month old, is trying to intimidate a much older, and larger cat. The cats scatter. My presence alarms, as it should. Humans and strays don’t always get along. The kitten and a cat I presume is its mother, as the kitten jumps down after said cat, scurried across the street. I continued up the hill and have gone quite a few steps when I see a car turn, and go down the street.
And I hear tires screech. Even without looking I know.

I turn around; it couldn’t be those cats…they would have crossed the street by now. I had walked some distance before they rushed away and the street isn’t large. Maybe they got away. The car drives off and a large cat is lying there…it moves, I hope, it falls. And a dark, thin stream flows away from it down the hill.

A white cat comes out from behind the bins, stares, one foot raised, confused and tense. I turn back around and continue up the hill, feeling slightly guilty (was I guilty for causing the cats to scatter? And I felt even more compelled to campaign for George's adoption) and extremely sad.

Life is so fragile for all of us.

I have often wondered about the last thoughts of those who have had no time to prepare to face their death. Lofty or little, does it matter? Those of a certain spiritual temperament may feel that it is for these reasons that higher thoughts should always be kept in mind.

But does it really matter? What difference does it make if in ten years those thoughts of G-d or science or the Arts would have had a more profound effect on one or on the world than thoughts about what to make for dinner, if those ten years will never exist?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Pictures are Fundamental

I was clicking through various news articles when I came across this one, from Oct. 7th in the NYT's: Picture Books No Longer A Staple For Children .  WHAT???

Not only does it make me quiet sad that parents would prevent a child from enjoying such an innocent pleasure but the reasons they do so are misguided, to say the least.

Picture books do NOT impede a child's intellectual development. In fact a well written picture book or a well constructed picture book enhances reading, intellectual curiosity and creativity. 

Often the picture contains "side comments" or jokes or other interesting reference to the text itself, a playful way of stimulating the very necessary habits of reading textbooks when graphs and other images not only contribute to the text but are important for absorbing the information. 

Wordless books and picture books stimulate writing skills; present a child with a wordless book or ask them to make up a story to go with a picture book and voila` your child is a writer!

Picture books often present complex ideas and words as the expectation is the parent will be reading the book to the child and thus able to explain the ideas and the words. I learned this when I tried to take out picture books from our library on the Yishuv (Israeli settlement) and found the words much more complex then the words in chapter books. 

Picture books allow the child to read to the parent  who is too tired to do so creating a feeling of competency in the child. Of course the warmth and joy of cuddling with a parent cannot be underestimated.

Many of wordless books and picture books are works of art; they help a child appreciate form, color, perspective, balance. Art and music are important for overall brain development. They help a child (and adult) see and hear in a way different from ordinary speech and sight. They present complex ideas in an abstract form which in itself stimulates higher thinking.

Parents who seek to push their children to the "next level" are not doing so for their child's sake. A child develops best when his or her own learning potential, strengths and weakness are respected. They are not even doing it for their own sake in the as the short term "pleasure" for the parent in being able to brag that one's child is now reading (or reading a book several grades ahead or whatever) is lost when the child "several grades later" has not progressed or has even fallen behind because skills they should have garnered by going at their own pace were never covered. By 18 or so most children are on par with each other, and by 30, even geniuses are, for the most part, where their friends are: struggling to make a life with whatever skills they have.

We need, as parents, to stop seeing our children as extensions of ourselves and understanding that they are people in their own right.

Respecting a child's means accepting a child for who they are, and respecting any person is the best way to help them reach their highest potential. And isn't that our end goal in terms of being a parent?

(I found this article after I wrote the part about picture books being a work of art. The article expands about what I thought and I think it makes for some interesting reading in its own right.)
Art and Picture Books

Friday, September 17, 2010

גמר חתימה טובה

May Hashem bless and keep everyone of us. For all those fasting, may you have an easy, healthy fast, and may we all feel the connection to our Creator.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

L'Shana Tova

L'shana Tova to all. Tonight is the New Year of the world, and may this New Year, this Rosh Hashnah be one of blessings for the world.

May we see prosperity, and health and the Moshiach, and the rebuilding of the Temple.

To all my readers, and friends,

kitvah v'hatimah tovah!

Monday, August 30, 2010

It Should Be Illegal

Last night as I was coming home from a hard day at work, I received a call from my husband.

“I just wanted to tell you that the Internet and phones are down.” Again, just like a week or so ago, my whole Yishuv, the whole area about us, is incommunicado…well except for cell phones. Just when I was looking forward to some downtime and to catching up with friends. No computer. Great.

Went to bed last night, woke up this morning and still no connection.

It should be illegal. By what right am I to be inconvenienced? 

This isn’t my only woe. My husband is basically out of a job, and, believe you me, we need the money…not for luxuries, but to just pay the basic bills. And to get a job he needs the Internet!

At this point we can’t really even afford to buy stamps so I have a lot of penfriends who I hope will remain my friends, after not receiving any mail from me for months on end. We don’t even have all the books we will need to get through this school year.

There are some health things going on, but I think I have them basically taken care, but they are still annoying. The heat is making it hard for me, and I’m often short of breath. Neither I nor my husband is sleeping well. My husband is going to have eye surgery and I will need to be losing work to help him. A few of my kids have health issues that need to be dealt with.

I made a mistake at work that, while I believe I corrected, still cost me lots of anguish.

Can I go on and on and on about this? Can you?

You probably can. Almost everyone has a string of good and bad events in their lives that occur and disrupt their day. Few of us don’t have a “something” going on, that gives us humps and hurdles and even mountains that seemingly impede the road before us.

The road we think we are on, or believe we deserve to be on and the road we are actually on are two different things. We want to just sail through, straight and unhurried, on a smooth and beautifully arranged path. Only for the very few is that the road we will receive. Most of us must make our own paths, using our “moral compass” as a guide.

For me, the Torah is the compass. It tells me the basic direction I should go in, where I must go and where I should not go. But I must make my own path through life; I can’t demand of G-d that He paves the road so my travel is easy.

When faced with a patch of road that is impeding my progress I have two tasks. The first is simply practical. “What do I need to do now?” See a doctor, ask for a loan, find a second job, or sell something I possess, learn a different skill etc. etc.

Simultaneously I need to ask G-d “Why me? But not “Why me I don’t deserve this” but “What is it that You wish me to learn?  Am I doing something I should not be doing? Have I strayed from where you wish me to be? Have I gone into areas that were not meant for me? Or is there something good for me along this path; that however painful it seems at the moment it is like the pain of childbirth, or the pain of pushing that extra few steps during a run?”

There is a beauty in such pain that those who haven’t felt such pain do not understand. It is power, the power of ones self to move beyond what one thought one could do.

There is a reason that the path isn’t smooth in front of me at the moment. I need to try and smooth it the best I can. This is one job. The other is to discover why it is rough here and why now and what it is G-d wants me to see. Perhaps there is something of great beauty just beyond that I wouldn’t see if the path were clear and easy. Perhaps there is someone just ahead who has a gift for me, or I a gift for them. Work to make it smooth, but trust that this is what is right for me, for whatever reason.

I am here now, and it is for the good. 

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

September's Song

September's Song

Lift my soul on
Your breath like a
Bird on the wind

Far below falls
My patch of days:
Small little squares

Embraced by
Cloud-dreams and
The warmth of truth

Then gently
Lower me
gently down

But allow
A bit of cloud and warmth
To capture heart and mind

So I can remember why
I reap and sow
My little patch of days

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


When I was 16 years old I thought the age 40 sounded “way old” and in fact, I figured I would basically be halfway in the grave – my kids would be grown and married with their own children, and what would be left for me? As I didn’t want to be old and useless I thought 40 an okay age to die.
Yes I was that stupid (immature, foolish, unbelievably idiotic) because fast forward to the age of 52 and I don’t want to leave this world yet.
No way, nohow. Heck, life holds so much for me! There is still so much I haven’t seen, haven’t done and my kids are not all out of the house yet. Most of the time I don’t feel old; I feel as if I’m 16! I don’t have all the answers (do we ever?), still love to walk about barefoot, blow wishes on dandelion puffs and it takes all my effort sometimes not to skip down the street (one of three things you, believe me, do not want me to do, at least in your presence.)
At the same time I know I’m aging, besides the obvious gray hair and wrinkles there are all those other nagging little reminders that I am not a young girl anymore; getting up after sitting down for instance— lets just say certain areas feel the change. I find myself waking earlier in the mornings when I would rather be sleeping, and stiffer when I rise. Friends too, in many cases, are having more problems. Surgeries on knees, changing eye prescriptions and surgery, increased hearing problems— minor things mostly.
And I am a bit nervous about what the future holds.
We have just returned from a vacation to the States (I and three of my children live in Israel now). We went to see my parents and celebrate their 55th anniversary. They are living in a wonderful retirement home, where all the apartment sections are named for a variety of flora, indicating the abilities of the clients who reside there, which helps maintain the dignity of the clients.
There are three floors in the complex in which my parents live (independent with a bit of help), with wide halls that easily allow two or so scooters or wheelchairs to move down them with ease. There are multiple exists, which make it easy to evacuate the slow-moving in case of emergency, as swiftly as possible. There is a main dining-room, which serves lunch and dinner (part of the price) and the management encourages group meals rather than sitting up alone in one’s apartment. Meals are healthy, and varied and there is some choice in the menu (daily plan plus standard ala carte). There is also a deli (prices are great!) for those that do not want the fish chowder or whatever else is being served.
Apartments are relatively spacious, three rooms, two full baths, and a functional but small kitchen. The windows are large and let in a lot of light, and there is a lot of greenery to look out upon.
There are two libraries, there are two Shuls (Jewish place of worship), there is an auditorium where they put on various programs, such as the history of patriotic music, several times a week. Other programs also take place in the library or the deli after the deli has closed for the evening. There is a nursing staff and medical office on the premises. There are guards. There are buses that take people to the local shopping center. Staff, one and all, are friendly, patient (something one needs in excess for those who move slower, think slower and whose memories are failing), and they know their clients.
The place is in fact packed-full of what one wants for one’s parents, or grandparents, to know they are safe, well cared for and given the best opportunities for happiness in the “golden years”.
Though older my in-laws, in contrast, are a tad healthier than my parents at this point (my mother has been battling cancer for about 10 years, my father’s memory is really starting to go.) They are slower thinking and are experiencing memory problems, have a more difficult time getting around, but are living in their own house and maintain a business. There is a pool in the backyard and my MIL attends a gym.
All of which leaves me a bit sad, and scared. Not for them; both sets of parents are pretty set. Both have other children around them who can and do help them out. Both still have enough money to nurse them through whatever they face (though the crash effected both somewhat, my parents more than my husband’s parents.)
But we haven’t the money to do what we need to protect ourselves in the future. We barely have what we need to keep ourselves afloat now! Mostly we get by on prayer and last-minute luck. I wish to neither be a burden upon nor dependent upon my children for anything but love.
We have some cushioning;pensions, social security from all the years my husband has worked (I have a little but I was mostly mom, a career move that overall I’m glad about, but I will admit it has made our financial situation more precarious, I did work, but worked around the children’s’ schedules). But we are not situated as comfortable as my parents are.
I spent my days catching up with family, enjoying nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends, but in the back of my mind, always, worry, my mind on the future.
Reflecting I realize that life is preparing for tomorrow. Has it always been so? Of course. A grandfather planted a tree for a grandchild perhaps not even yet born, who would then reap the benefits. We plow and plant in spring to reap in autumn. Life must be lived in the present, informed by the past and for the future.
Neglecting any of these areas harms ourselves and others.
But the keyword here is prepare . Worry is nothing more or less than mental pain: it indicates that something needs one’s attention. Staying worried is similar to ignoring an aching tooth; it will only lead to further trouble.
So I’m moving on, from worry to prepare, to asking questions and figuring out what to do with us for the future.

Friday, July 23, 2010

I'm a Leaving on a Jet Plane

So Monday we are off to visit my parents (Cincinnati), my husbands parents (Poughkeepsie) and then wrapping the two weeks up with a visit to some old friends in Passaic. Oh and a nine hour layover in Rome (anyone want to meet me in Rome?) My bags are not packed (I'm sort of last minuting it in the hopes that the Moshiach arrives and my family will be knocking at my bayit (house). I wonder what I'll feed all of them?  Hope they light potatoes!) I'll be doing that Sunday.

You'll notice us as the disorganized bunch rushing around with mismatched luggage marked with a BIG A (no little a's though) in yellow and green cloth tape. If you see us shout out ANOLICK's!

We'll turn wondering who calling for us and you can cite this blog (then I'll bask in the knowledge that I'm known and loved. My husband will just be shocked!) Okay, I know the chances of it happening are a bit more likely then winning the lottery, so I'm not expecting it, but cool if it does happen! (How badly did I date myself in that last sentence).

I'm gong to try and work on putting myself in a good mood. I'm going to try and ditch the worrying for a bit. Wish me luck!

Taking bunches of books and my letters which I have to catch up on (no stamps at the moment I'm hoping to get out the ones to those in the USA at least.) I might catch up on some podcasts.

I do hope will be able to hit a bookstore or two but other than that I don't expect will be doing a lot of sightseeing.

But if you do see me give a shout out! I'd love to say hello.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Point Taken

OK Hashem. I remember having this conversation with You recently...I mean I know I'm getting older but my memory isn't going yet.

I remember saying basically I CANNOT take it anymore.

Too much. Too much stress. Too much worry. Not enough of what I need; money being tops in my mind, but other things as well.

I can't take it anymore! Let me off this ship! Let me sleep and do nothing for a month. I want quiet. I want rest. I want, most of all, to have a break from worry.

So what happens? YOU GIVE ME MORE!

What gives? WHY? You don't believe me? You really think I can take more on my plate? You want to prove me wrong....


Point taken.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

What's Cooking?

There is a very good cook who lives somewhere near where I work, if scent is any indicator. By about noon, everyday, a delicious aroma wafts up and I'm once again hit with the desire to find the door and plead for "just a bite" of whatever she is making.

Yesterday it was soup, and I was so inspired by the aroma that I came home to chop vegetables and mix spices so I could have my own delectable brew. Not as good as hers was, I'm fairly certain of that, but good nonetheless. Todays menu, at her house at least, was fried fish. Coming from a family, aside from myself, of non-fish eaters I passed, rather reluctantly, to turn my hand to a sea-based meal.

We have never, to the best of my knowledge, ever seen each other, spoken to each other, met in any way shape or form. If we have passed on the street I wouldn't  know who she was, unable as I am to locate through smell the kitchen of my unknown chef.

But she, unbeknownst to her, has a power over my mind, and my stomach. Daily she goes about her business, preparing dinner for her children, her husband, herself, her mind perhaps drifting from "needs more salt?" to whatever tasks she has for the day, to a beautiful Torah shiur (discussion on the Torah) she learned that morning. Certainly she isn't thinking about a woman standing on the landing to her office wishing she could have "just a bite."

So much of our life is lived that way. We just do; and we may never know, for good or bad, the effect that doing has on another. How much more so can we affect another's life when we actually have an interaction with them, casual and as unimportant, on the face of it, as it may seem?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Jerusalem Weeps

I left work at about 1 p.m or so today. I got home at about 4:30; about 2 1/2 hrs later than I should have been home.

The increased length of my trip was courtesy of those protesting the arrest of the Charedi parents who refused to return their children to the school of their non-choice. I hoofed it, from Bar Ilan back to the Tachne Merkazit (Central Bus station...go ahead, laugh at my transliteration skills).

Being as I home-school my children I am really can't say I'm against anyone else educating their child in the manner they think is best. I am even in favor of a voucher program. Parents get X amount of dollars for their children (based on age and special needs if any) and mom and dad get to decide where the money gets spent--as long as it gets spent on their children's education.

In terms of this argument, who is right, who is wrong? I think it is a bit of everyone being wrong; and I think what is happening is a big Chilul Hashem.

I find it difficult, near impossible to believe that grown people could not have worked this out in a more quiet,  dignified manner and loving manner.. Scratch that; I find it SAD, incredibly sad that grown people could not have worked this out in a more quiet, dignified and loving manner.

How is it that we think we can defeat our enemies if we can't even reach across the table to each other and, disagree though we may on a variety of issues, say "you are my friend...."

Beit Hillel and beit Shammai as vigorously and as vociferously as they fought about halachic issues, never-the-less, married their children to each other, exchanged pots and pans, in short, treated each other as family. Which they were.

Which we all are.

We all come from the same tree; Ashkenazim, Sephardim, Misnagdim, Charedim, Modern Orthodox, the non-religious...we are from one family. One People, One Nation, One G-d.

So it is okay to fight. It is not okay to make our "mother" weep. It is okay to think that skirts much reach a certain length or that television is okay. It is not okay to say "my kids can't play with your kids..." It is certainly not okay to demean someone because of their race, ethnic background, or level of frumkeit.

We have a duty to each other EVERY SINGLE DAY. We are suppose to "love our neighbor as ourselves..."

The Moshiach (Messiah) will have a hard enough job as it is, uniting the Jewish people, vanquishing (I believe spiritually) our enemies, rebuilding the Temple and restoring Israel to malchut. Must we really make it harder for him?

Another post on this same topic by a friend.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Why Do I Do The Things That I Do?

Why do I work at Yad Ezra V'Shulamit? I think sometimes we all need to ask ourselves why we have entered a specific job path. 

To understand why this path is right for me at this time I need you to play "Let's Pretend". 

Let's pretend you the mother of two  young children. You love your children with all your heart and soul and you work hard every day to try and provide for them. But it isn't enough; food, shelter, the basics are not even being met. The rent must come first, and then the food. Every night when you go to sleep you pray:

"Tomorrow G-d please...Tomorrow let me find a way to nourish my children, to keep hunger away. Tomorrow my children will not fall asleep in class because their bellies are empty. They will not make do on a slice of bread. They will have a warm and nourishing meal. They will come home and find a meal on the table. They will not be cold. Their shoes will fit them and they will not be falling apart.
Tomorrow G-d please, let my children have a normal life..."

When I know such stories exist, in varied forms, when I try and picture myself as that mother, well how can I NOT work for Yad Ezra V'Shulamit? How can I not want to help? To make things right for just one family or child?

To me the purpose of our lives is to leave the world a better place than we found it. For me, right now, that means working towards ending poverty in Israel... I know I can't do it alone, I know I am not doing it alone. When those of you who are out there respond to my pleas to help Yad Ezra V'Shulamits clients tears literally come to my eyes. I am so grateful...I can not express how my heart fills with joy.

Every child deserves a chance...Yad Ezra V'Shulamit helps children and families get that chance; and the real angels are the donors who give of themselves to those they will never see.

Thank you.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Life Learning

So I did my Shabbat assignment. My list of "teachers" those who taught me by both good and bad example, are too long to list them all. Such an exercise would require me to write, and write and write again as I remember and recall the different people in my life who have and are helping me along my path.

I am not going to mention at all those who taught me by poor behavior, showing me what NOT to emulate. Why  pull up the negative? I've learned and I'll move on.

Neither am I going to mention the "usual suspects", family and my Rabbis, because I'm constantly learning from them.

Instead I will mention three people, all women, one from my childhood, another from one I was an adult, but still in the past, and a third from today.

The first was a teacher in the Cincinnati Day School. She was a Quaker woman, with shoulder length, snow white hair. She was "old" to me then, but probably not more than 50 or so. I don't remember what grade I was in, I do not remember what she taught normally...I think she may have been a substitute...but I do remember the day she took us "claying".

Out back of the school, and odd shaped saucer building, down a hill through a copse of trees was a creek. This was normally "FORBIDDEN TERRITORY". We were not allowed past the trees let alone down the path.and into the creek, yet that is where this wonderful woman took us. An icy cold creek and the clay squishy firm beneath our hands. We pulled it out by chunks...I never knew there was such wondrous stuff there! I remember the stones beneath our feet, the cool green of the trees going up and down the path, the smell of mulch and mold of the leaves along the path. I remember the wonder of learning.

I hated school. I hated every minute of it. I was a "genius" who never made the grade. I found school boring, and annoying. I disliked having to sit and listen. I wanted something more.

This teacher taught me something more, much more than she ever knew. My senses were alive that day like they had never been in school. I was engaged, I was active, I was THERE...not lost in some mind world where only a shout and a reprimand could bring me back. I learned that life was out there for me! The world was a mystery to be solved, studied and worked with. Not taught but learned! inside my heart and my mind.
School was and will never be for me. But learning in joy is. I love to learn...from books and life. This was the woman's teaching.

The second was a mentally retarded woman...perhaps 18 or 19...very high end but definitely mentally retarded. I would see her nearly everyday as I walked my daughter to her bus stop; we would say hello, and smile and exchange some pleasantries. Not more than that.

One morning she passed by in an odd outfit. There was something in the outfit that told me "she is dressing up.." but I reserved comment because the outfit was "silly" and "strange." But she called me out... "don't you notice something different? I'm all dressed up!!! It is my birthday!" Immediately of course I stopped, congratulated her, complimented her on the outfit. "How silly of me not to have noticed..." but what I really felt was shame. Here this young woman was seeking something everyone be considered. To be important...and I had blown a chance to give a gift because I judged her outfit on the basis of society and not through her eyes. As foolish as the dress may have been she was proud of her dress, and I had acted as a judge rather than a friend.

She taught me to see the other person from where they stand and to judge them from where they stand, and to try and see beauty based not on the outside view, but the inner, soul view.

The third teacher has just entered my life, less than a year ago. She is an extraordinary woman, smart, kind and loving. And she writes a terrific blog! But what I learned was from her latest article from the Breslev site.

It wasn't even the main part of her article, but it was something that struck me to the heart. It was these words.
When one repents, does teshuva, and becomes a ‘new person’, it is best not to talk about the past. Putting old and negative vibes into the atmosphere is not good for the universe and especially not conducive to purifying one’s soul. The worst thing we can do for ourselves is to remind the accusing angels of the sins we chalked up many years ago, giving them so much more ammunition to use against us in the Heavenly Courts, come Judgment Day.

You see, I have a tendency to do just that. I flail at myself for past sins which I have cried to heaven about, and done tseuvah for. In fact I was going through a bout of past recriminations at that time...going over and over in my head sins that I have done. Though others have discussed the futility and harm of this action with me in the past, it was her words that struck me to the core and made me realize how much harm was being done to myself, and how by these actions I was keeping myself from moving forward in life.

So I want to give thanks to the above for all their help.

There are so many more people who have helped me along the way, but these three stand out for me right now.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Who is Wise?

I'm reading a new book, Ethics From Sinai volume 2. I don't know where 1 and 3 are. Perhaps we never had them or they got lost in one of our moves.

But I started reading and became absorbed in the thoughts and decided this is the next step for myself. To go through the book, bit and try and apply it to my life.

The first chapter deals these four questions posed by Ben Zoma:

Who is wise? Who is strong? Who is rich? and Who is honorable?

The answer to the first question is the one I will occupy myself with this Shabbat:

Who is wise?- he who learns from every man, as it is said: From all my teachers have I acquired wisdom. (Tehillim 119:99)
Who have I learned from and what is it I have learned? Why have I learned that?  Could I have learned more? Learned differently? And also important, what have I learned from myself?

And this all answers the question of: Who am I now? Who might I become if I learn as I have been learning? Who might I be if I learn differently? And who do I WANT to become?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Who Ya Gonna Please?

Warning, for anyone who reads. This isn't going to be a well thought out post. It is going to be a rant. I'm not going to try and make things nice and pretty...ok?

I'm tired, I'm sick and tired of Israel being criticized all the time. No matter what went down with the flotilla Israel would have been screwed. The media was waiting, with baited breath, for something to happen, and they didn't care what, the people in Gaza don't really matter to them. The INhumanitarians on the ship sure as heck didn't care what happens to the people of Gaza... shipping out of date medicine and equipment. The leaders of Gaza don't give a you know what, what happens to their people. THEY ARE THE ONES WHO GOT THE GAZANS INTO THIS MESS. The only one's who really care are the Israelis (who send aid, and give care in their hospitals to the Gazan population.)

So who of course gets the blame when their soldiers are attacked? ISRAEL.

The only one who cares.

So for me the thing is to stop caring what the world thinks about us. No matter what we do we get blamed. And then we try and defend ourselves from the blame.

Lets stop. We should go on giving basic care to the Gazans, and we should go on defending ourselves against physical attack. But why do we need to please the world? If the like our actions TOUGH.

Who should we please?


Wednesday, May 12, 2010


There is a picture of me when I was about 6 or so, standing in a line with about 5 other children (one child being my cousin with whom my I was in some sort of vague competition with, not me, but between Aunt and Mom. Poor mom, I was always the sort of loser). sees in the picture 5 straight erect children, arms to the sides and smiles plastered on their faces, and one broadly smiling girl (um, me) bending over to adjust her sock.

See that was me, always (and why I was losing to the cuz above). He did great in school, I ...well despite my IQ school wasn't my forte. Neither was being organized, neat and well prepared. A scouting failure I rather tried my moms patience with my ideas about "keeping my room up" and other such organizational habits.

My desk looked like my room, and while personally clean, my clothes were not well coordinated. Long past the time my mom assured me when most girls were worrying about whether the blue of their socks went with the blue of their dress.

I'm still not a fashion maven. I still don't  really care. But the house you see...well there have been times when I've looked at the house and gone "maybe if we set fire to it and move elsewhere?" While I did not of course (Fire Marshals may back off! Rest assured I'm not a potential arsonist) it actually did seem to me that the best method of housekeeping available at the time.

Enter fly-lady..after several other tries. Seemed okay...and I tried it. Didn't like it, for a variety of reasons. One being her issue with shoes. So while it worked for a time, after awhile I just felt mad that I was being made to wear shoes to do something I couldn't stand to do and didn't derive much benefit from.

Hop skip jump to about a month or two ago.

Fed up once more with the state of the house, and having heard it through the Yishuv grapevine that there was a flylady group starting up...well I joined.

But with a bit more "she isn't in the house and isn't judging me anyway" attitude.

ie.  I houseclean in the buff...toes-wise that is.

And since it is with a group of other women, we can talk and encourage each other...figure out where our problems lie and help find solutions for our tough spots.

And I am finding the not uncommon problem of perfectionism ...

WAIT!!!! Didn't you say above (quickly scan) ...well where was the perfectionism in all that??? Nowhere I assure you...but it is in me, as I noticed as I was doing the fruit bowl.

Dang girl you are confusing!!! Fruit bowl???What Fruit bowl...can you make sense?

Okay..fruit bowl, as in occupier of the table in order to prevent other items from taking over the table. Doesn't work to perfection (hahahha) but it does help. 

But I realize as I am arranging and rearranging the fruit bowl how nuts I get about these incidental trying to evenly distribute the various types of fruit (as if I were intent on making sure that no minority fruit was unequally represented in any area...) GAH!!! 

So with most of the fruit this wasn't too much of a problem. I arrange here and there and had a balance that I could tolerate if I could just force myself away.

But then came the bananas. Now bananas should be easy...draped dramatically in one bunch on the side of the bowl. Their home is easily found. But in placing them I accidentally pulled one banana off.

Ya know I was thinking of eating the durned thing so it wouldn't upset the fruit bowl balance? Take it to work or eat it then and there...Ya know I am not a big banana fan; don't hate it... but don't especially like it, and I wasn't hungry then at all. So there I am staring at this banana and actually upset that it would create a disharmonious fruit bowl presentation. 


Foolishness. Because surrounding that less than perfect fruit bowl were bags and a purse and other odds and ends that actually did interfere with harmony and neatness.

Details getting in the way of the presentation. Not that details aren't important...but it is knowing when to focus on the details and what details really count that actually makes the difference. A skill that I am still working on.

Nu...I put the banana under the bunch, and then cleared off the other junk that crowded the fruit bowl on all sides and I'm still trying to ignore the nagging feeling that the banana is there improperly. If I get lucky someone will eat it soon. And if not, I still actually did what I needed to do.

One small step for me... but maybe small steps are really bigger sometimes than they first seem. (Yeah, one small step for man comes to mind...but really didn't know how to play that line out).

Monday, May 3, 2010


I like doing puzzles of all kinds and I'm always in the market for new and different puzzles. Sudoku, hitori, crosswords, cryptograms...and jigsaws. Work today involved finding information about a particular jigsaw program and while I was looking...after I finished my work...I stayed and played.

Weird thing is I have always found the "next to last" stage of putting together an online jigsaw puzzle the hardest. There always seems too many pieces for the board I'm playing. I manipulate a piece here and there, listening for that lovely "you got it right! click" only to hear nothing at all, and think; but where else can I put this piece???? There is no where else for it to go!!! And the thought always crosses my mind that I've been double-crossed; the puzzle makers have added pieces just to confound me! (Ok, I'm really not that ego-centric. I do realize the puzzle makers don't take a personal interest in me...)

But of course once I've placed a few more pieces of the puzzle in the "extras" turn out not to be "extra" at all. They were needed, they necessary, no matter how annoying they felt at the time. And in the end, there is the puzzle, completed, all mysteries solved.

But I'm not going to tell you how long it took me to do the zebra.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Rose and The Elm

The old Rose reaches out a sweet laden branch,
gently stroking a young elm's head.
The young elm bends.

But I wonder if when he's grown,
and towers high above, will he keep a branch extended
to his elderly friend?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

ISO (In Search Of)

ISO perfect wallet. Is that too much to ask? Yet this simple item seems to have eluded me. I've looked for it here, I've looked for it there, I've pursued it, well not quite everywhere, but wherever I could pursue it; and it is not to be found. I find close to its, but never THAT'S IT! That's what I want.

 The perfect wallet for me is not so extraordinary, at least  I don't think it is; it has a fold out billfold, just a bit deeper, no more than a 3cm, than the money I would put into it. It has a change purse, expandable, that snaps close with a firm click, that is in the same area as the billfold, so my money is all in one place. It has a place to put my credit card and time card, that is separate from the billfold/change purse. It has a catch all area, that I can unzip, to hold things that I really should find a better place for, but can't. If it is really absolutely perfect it has a little place to clip a pen and a place to put a small writing pad.
It can't be too long, it can't be too short. I like a reddish brown thank you.
Oh, and it needs to be fairly cheap.

Alright...maybe it is impossible. Maybe what I want I have to either make myself or make do with the less than perfect wallet I have now, but  keep my eyes open because one never knows.

And maybe that is often what life is about. Accepting what is, but realizing that what one wants could come up anytime, so keep your eyes and ears open, and look for opportunities to improve.

Friday, April 2, 2010

What You Pursue Becomes Your Master

On another boards a woman raised the issue of a dream lost. This dream was to pursue a particular career that is not acceptable for a frum woman. She gave up her dream in order to become frum. Recently she learned that a friend of hers, achieved "her" dream, and was now somewhat famous: and my friend felt a bit crushed.

Someone else had her dream.

We all have dreams, many a dream through our lives, that must be replaced as we get older. Some are simply impossible or nearly impossible to achieve. Other's, while achievable, would require compromise of our values.
Rather than consider these dreams crushed and destroyed I think we should view them as the "work" toward what I think should be everyone's goal.

Being a better "self". Being the person one wants to present to Hashem (G-d) at the end of the days, and helping others to reach that same goal.

Our dreams become our master's in order to achieve them. If we are pursuing fortune then money becomes our master, if we pursue fame, then accolades control us, if we pursue any dream but becoming a better human being  in service to the world than that dream is what controls us.

That doesn't mean we can't have mini-dreams to lead us to our goal. If art is enjoyable then using art to inspire others and oneself to become better people is a logical course of action. But if our art doesn't inspire others and we feel disappointed because of the lack of appreciation, rather than trying a different path, and simply regarding our art work as part of self-inspiration/motivation, then we are moving along the wrong path.

Not every career or action necessarily seems to fit the pattern of "inspiration and betterment of self and others...".  One of the workers in my office is a janitor. He can cleans, always with a beautiful smile on his face and a gentle manner. Of course this simple action makes my work environment better and thus I feel more productive. But it is more than that.

He inspires me. There is something uplifting in his manner and his warmth that has nothing to do with his broom or his mop. I always feel happier seeing him. I greet him, and do wish I knew whether he had a wife and children so that I could wish them well too, but my Hebrew is so poor that I have a hard time speaking with Hebrew only speakers and thus have felt uncomfortable asking him.

Our true dream in life should be to become ourselves, and the best ourselves we can be. It is hard work, and crushed, false dreams may very well litter our path there. But just as a dancer gets blisters on their heels and toes along the way to becoming a prima ballerina, so too all of us get blisters on our hearts from dreams we had to give up or failed to achieve. And they are not a true loss, but rather a stepping stone to help us get to the next level of our lives.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Many people think that bitachon (trust in Hashem) means; I'll pray to G-d then sit back and G-d will do the work for me.

That isn't bitachon...that is laziness. Bitachon means that one takes responsibility for one's life, and accepts Hashem's response as correct and healthy for them, whether or not on the face of it the response appears to be correct and healthy.

I know that often I have lacked faith in Hashem; things have gone "wrong" and try as we might things continued to go "wrong". I would become angry, did not want to pray, felt that life was horrific and we were abandoned by G-d.

And then I would let go...of the anger and the fear. Okay, this is the way Hashem wants it. Deep breath. Not getting paid for months at a time ended up with my being paid at just the moment that we needed to be paid. The fridge dying ended up at the perfect time for us to get a new fridge.

I trust Hashem. That is where I put my faith. I do not put my faith in the governments or in any political party or leader. I trust Hashem. That doesn't mean I lie back and wait for it. I'm in a partnership here.

I work. I put my nose to the grindstone. I heave and ho and I struggle.

But what I mean by bitachon is I give up the fear and the anger and the worry and the concern...and trust that what is happening is for my good no matter how bleak it appears at the moment.

Bitachon is not a work free life; it is not a life free of thought or consideration. It is a life free of fear.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


I woke up this morning exhausted and went off to work exhausted. I was that near tears kind of tired, the  yawning in people's faces tired, the so tired I almost fell asleep staring at the computer screen typing information into the database.  And what do ya know...I came home exhausted as well.

Tried to nap and kept getting woken by the phone and other duties. FINALLY settled down, curling into my covers when "The new fridge is coming in a 1/2 hr."

Back track 6 years. The new fridge then was a new fridge we acquired when we made aliyah. It was a new and pretty fridge. And in honor of our move to this beloved country I told myself  "you will turn over a new leaf. You will be cleaner and neater. The floors will be washed and the dishes will be done and the laundry put away. And part of all this new me stuff was going to be "and you will clean the fridge more than once a year..."

Ah yeah. Once a year. Pathetic right? Except for an occasional swipe at messes and tossing away the science projects I did not take out the food, clean out the shelves and wash the fridge done more than once a year. Thank G-d (and I mean that sincerely) for Pesach.

And the new me did occur. I started to clean the fridge out once a MONTH. See MONTH occurs 12x a year..just adding that 2 to the 1 does wonder for cleanliness of the fridge. And for awhile it was wonderful.

Till that faithful day when, just as I was about to put the shelf back into the fridge...oh it looked so nice and clean! I noticed dirt on that little plastic doohickey that holds up the shelf...whatever the technical name for it is. So I decided to clean that little doohickey as well.

I put down the shelf. JUST put it down. Gently. Leaned it against the cabinet and....

Little pieces of fridge shelf were all over the floor, surrounding my barefeetsies.

One shelf became another shelf became a drawer and bit by bit I lost pieces of my fridge.

I was afraid to clean it more than once a year because every time I tried to clean it something else was broken.  Oh I didn't neglect it completely; I'd move out the veggie drawers (one of those broke as well) and throw out the ugly stuff and clean beneath it. But once a month? Nope. And it showed.

Oh how it showed.

And it reached the point where I said "I can't do this anymore. We need a new fridge...."

So we looked, but the money really to buy wasn't there. Then my daughter comes into me...

"Ima there is water dripping from the light bulb."

Well that got me upright in a first I thought she meant the kitchen light..but she meant the fridge. We now had no freezer. And soon it became apparent the fridge wasn't cooling as well as it should.

Well we had no choice. New fridge it is.

I couldn't have my dream fridge...three door...or even my second dream fridge...two door...and when it came down to it what we got was very much like what we had...but it was what we could afford (but I think the quality is better...).

And it was to come shortly before Pesach.

But what did that mean? It could have been 2 days before, which would have been very difficult (no more freezer, what could we do with Pesadikah meats (that would need to be frozen). Time is short and I'm getting nervous...

And so lying there curled up in my bed, exhausted beyond belief I hear the cry

"The new fridge is coming in 1/2 hr..." and I'm up.
No longer tired, no longer feeling dull and out of sorts. I've got energy and joy.

Perfect timing. We've just a little chametz food left, and what there is mostly is not real chametz. Tuesday we can go do Pesach shopping and have a new clean working fridge and freezer.

And its funny; I'm starting to notice that about life. I guess I'm a slow learner. But G-d is always there for us in the end. When things seem most desperate they suddenly all pull together. And I'm starting to learn not to despair; to just trust.

For whatever reason G-d has given us this roller coaster life. I just need to trust that this ride is the one G-d wants us to take...and stop fighting it, but working with G-d to make it a great ride for all of us.

Monday, March 15, 2010

This is OUR land Obama

You do not get to call the shots.  You do not get to order us around. We are not your lackeys. We are not your children. We are NOT your country.  We will not bow and scrape before you in the hopes that you'll throw us a few scraps of food.


Land of the JEWS.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Oh! Woe ;Grumble,growl, (sigh)

Really, you all (the two people who are maybe reading this) can just ignore the body and stick with the headlines.

It has been that kind of a ...week? 2 weeks?

As many of you know my mom's lymphoma is back, and she is being treated, but there is a limit. Emotionally she sounds good...but I'm here, she's there, and it makes it so unreal. Thats the Oh! Woe. Really there isn't much I can do but pray and that's what I'm doing and thank you to the many of my friends who are praying for Masha Aaron bat Bluma Basya as well.

The grumble. Well a check to my dh from a client bounced. He'll make good on it, but till it comes were are in a rather precarious state; mortgage due and we owe others money. Argh!!! Luckily the others are friends and are willing to wait to deposit the check we gave them, but the mortgage? I don't think the bank will be so friendly. Oh, and we need a new fridge. DESPERATELY!!!!!

(Sigh) because everyone is on edge and snappy.

See? Really not worth reading. Nothing insightful or interesting. Just life, being life, tossing stuff at us.
So far we've managed to keep ducking and not getting hit, or at least not getting hit I wish, how |I pray that life stops using us as a target. I want to feel unpressured (is that a word? If not it should be!) for a bit!

Hey if you read, todah rabah...and if not...well exactly how do you know I'm asking you that question?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Making My Soul Happy

I did something the other day..I"m being deliberately vague here. It didn't cost me a lot of money or time or even effort. But it did make another person incredibly happy; at least that is the impression I got by the expression on the person's face.

And in doing so I made someone else happy; a deep happiness, a heart and soul happiness. I made me happy.

I walked away from the person I gifted feeling incredibly joyous, and that joy stayed with me for hours, despite not so pleasant, for me conditions.

I'm not a great human being. I make a great deal of mistakes, I get angry often, I take things to personally and respond poorly to what I consider an insult against myself. But even now, thinking of that moment makes me feel good, and valuable.

That ME of that moment is the person I want to try and be all my hours of all my days. That me is my goal for life.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Purim Semeach!!!!

Wishing everyone a Purim Semeach! May everyone have a wonderful day and may this day be the start of wonderful things for all.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Lines are Shorter At Home

Last night I had this dream....wait! Stop!!! Don't run off. I'm not really going to tell you all about the dream. I realize, as much as we like to talk about dreams, well no one else wants to listen.

I only want to talk about the last part of my dream. The few moments before you wake up...and don't we all have this:

bladder is full and so in the dream, regardless of what the dream was about, we begin the "search for the bathroom". If we find said bathroom it will be dirty, or the plumbing will be off or something will be wrong.

This morning, I ended up searching for a bathroom in an old, castle that had seen better days and had been converted into a school. Two sweet children ran ahead to show me the way, which of course was a long way off, and when I got there I was confronted with a line that stretched out of the bathroom and curved down and around...and bunch of young momies mostly, with strollers and kids. I stood behind a young, red headed, bride-to-be, "I am never going to make it. I am never going to make it."

At that point, a little voice in my dream head said "Wake up you idiot. There's no line to the bathroom at home..."

So I did. And my dream self/real self whatever, was right. There was no line to the bathroom at home.

And as I came back to snuggle into bed for a few more minutes of sleep, I thought...

How like a lot of "problems" we have in life. Many times we just need to "Wake up" and we'll see that the obstacles we've put in the path are not really there, but products of our mind. That doesn't mean that every problem is as easily solved as my morning one was. Problems are problems. They do take work, but they are rarely surmountable.

We just need to wake up and see what is already there for us to use, to help ourselves. Sometimes that means  asking for help, sometimes that means digging into ourselves for extra strength to get whatever it is we need done, sometimes that means we need to have the courage to accept whatever the situation is and learn to live with the problem itself. We just need to "wake up" and see the problem clearly, straight on, without are imagination making it worse.

Now about the see...HEY...oh  rats!!!!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Happiness Hotel

The Happiness Hotel is both a song and a place in the Muppet's Movie "The Great Muppet Caper". The place is a wreck, condemned, full of vermin and well not a place to live in. But everyone living there is happy.

The happiness comes not from their surroundings, but from their positive attitude to life. What one doesn't have, one doesn't have. What one has, make the most of. They were happy because they were not counting on being GIVEN happiness (more money, prettier clothes, more respect etc.), but they TOOK happiness for themselves. Their joy was inner driven. A way of looking at the world which is in some ways like the child looks at the world, where the sunshine and rain, a rose and a dandelion are of great value. 

No I'm not suggesting we all move into a dilapidated, vermin ridden hotel. But the general attitude, that we need to look at what we have, that we need to appreciate what we are given. We need to realize that WE not any outside force is the source of joy in our life. 

When you are feeling down and sad try and look and find what is there already for you to enjoy.

For a Torah view on the subject go here: 
Happiness and Personal Growth

(by the way, This site, SIMPLE TO REMEMBER is fantastic for Jewish audios and articles.)

Friday, February 19, 2010

One Mom's Advice on Learning to Read

This post is the result of a post on a mother's board of which I'm a member. The mom has a child that is a slow reader, compared to the other children in her class. I take issue with that word "slow", and I'll explain it below.

One of my children was also a "slow reader", this despite the fact that the child was talking in full complete sentences by the age of 3. I thought, silly mom that I was, that since the child spoke well, reading would be a snap.

One learns from one's mistakes.

But my failures taught me something about the process of reading. I'd like to share what I learned with others, and maybe it can help any child regardless of reading ability.

The first and most important step starts way before the child is born, and that is with the parents. Love of reaidng isn't genetic, but it is connected to how one lives ones life. If reading is important to mom and dad, there will be a better chance that reading will be important to children. So number one on my list is:

1. READ. Fill your shelves with books and read. Enjoy what you read. It doesn't matter if the books would make me happy, or your friends happy, or anyone happy if they make YOU happy, give you pleasure, make you feel you have grown from the book, learned something, have moved, mentally, from your seat on the bus or the couch or your bed to other lands and times or even different ideas. READ, and enjoy. If reading isn't pleasurable to you now, then I suggest that is because you haven't found the books that will please you. Branch out. Think creatively; the books don't have to be the most popular, meet the approval of classic majors or literary agents, the books need to please you.

2. Let your child SEE you reading. Baby on lap book in hand is a wonderful position to be in.

3. Wordless books are wonderful for children of all ages. There are beautiful wordless books where the art work is quite exquisite, and suitable for anyone who enjoys beauty. Tell the child what you see, ask the child what s/he sees, have the child tell you their story, write the story down or record it (then perhaps write it down) and the allow the child to read/listen to what they have created (yes even if they aren't really reading it but saying their story by heart.)

4. Audio-books are wonderful. There are a great many lovely stories now being produced that are available to listen to. Many of the books are classics, some come in written form, some may be only in audio form. But hearing a well told tale is important for developing reading skills later down the road. Podiobooks has a wide variety of books for all ages, but choose carefully, as some are ONLY meant for adults.

5. Basic readers are of course important, but there are so many to choose from. Don't feel that any one is the best, instead, try and borrow the various books and see which kind your child takes to. Some children are distracted by a lot of colorful pictures, others find lack of pictures dull. Some are attractive to silly, some like the straightforward text. Ones which are based on games or winning prizes are great for some and just annoying for others. It is immaterial which book succeeded with your cousin, best friend, which one the teacher recommends or which received five stars anywhere. If it doesn't work with your child, if your child is frustrated or reluctant to read that type of book, you need to try elsewhere. B"H there are so many wonderful primary readers available now, that while it may take time to find the one right for your child, it is most likely out there.

6. Do make sure if your child is behind that you have them tested for visual/hearing problems. Your child might simply need glasses or a hearing aide or other such help. It doesn't hurt to have them tested for learning disabilities either, but do read up on the subject and do not let anyone steer you into one support method or another. Examine them and decide what will work best for your child under your circumstances.There are many who consider "learning disabilities" to actually be different learning styles, and what needs to be adjusted is not that child, but the way the child learns. I think in this way home-schooled children have the advantage. School can be set up for their needs and not the other way around.

7. Let them read what interests them. I can not "read" Tom Jones. Obviously I can read the words but I find reading the book trying.  I made an effort, I forget what chapter I am on. I could, and may keep plugging away at it, but why? Interest breeds reading. There will at some point be a need to read what one doesn't like, and this is also a skill, but the important first step is to develop a love of reading. That is what will keep the child plugging away at a book they don't enjoy; the knowledge that there is a book TO enjoy. Graphic novels, comic books, books or magazines about animals, aviation, dinosaurs, weird inventions, joke and riddle and puzzle books. If it has sentences it counts.

8. Switch teachers, tutors, schools reading methods etc. Not every method is suitable for every child. I do not teach my 16 year old calculus, because I can not do as good as a job as my husband. Keep trying to find the style and teacher best for your child. If you are homeschooling perhaps the other parent is better at teaching reading. If your child is in a school, try switching their class or teacher or getting a tutor. Do not let anything get in the way of getting your child the best education for him or her.

9. Play reading games. Take turns reading, change words into other words by changing letters, or adding and subtracting letters. Play word scramble games, or word find games. Read in different voices and have your child read in different voices. Play with letter dice and or word dice. The games should be interesting and fun in their own right, that is even if your child is a skilled reader they should be fun and interesting.

10. Relax. Many children develop beautiful reading skills when they are older (8, 9, 10 etc.) and often soon catch up to or even surpass their peers. Early reading in school, grades 1-3, are based on mechanics of reading. If your child isn't reading it is vital to make sure they keep up with the vocabulary they need to know via audio-books and podcasts and your reading/talking with them. This is why by the way, children may be reading at third grade level when they are in kindergarten/first grade, but only be reading at 6th grade level when they are in 6th grade.

Here is one's moms story of her late reading child.

Remember, reading isn't or shouldn't be a contest. The goal isn't or shouldn't be about being the fastest either to actually read or to develop their skills, but about being the best reader for themselves, so that all throughout their lives they can continue to grow in knowledge and develop their mind. Pleasure in reading is vital to that goal. Keep your goal in mind and your child will do fine.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

One Step Beyond

One of my children did something today that made me quite proud of him/her. It wasn't a step that most people would consider to be beyond the abilities of someone of that age.

In fact I think there are many a child of a younger age who could have done this task and done it well.

But this is the essence of the question we must all ask ourselves. Were you the best you possible? Did you push yourself when you met an obstacle or did you give up? Did you continue despite your fears?

We aren't, and we should not judge ourselves OR our children based on what their peers do. We need to look at the whole child and share in their victories and help them when they suffer defeats.

My child did today something quite difficult for him/her. I am quite proud of this child.  Unfortunately my child's efforts did not result in a "win..."

But still in all, today my child was a success.

Monday, February 15, 2010

What Language are You Speaking?

I have often had this problem; it seems to me that I just can't quite make out what the other person is saying. I don't mean the words themselves, but the intent. Sometimes it seems people are speaking in code and I just don't get it. 

It is me. Most people seem to share the language. They laugh at the appropriate moment, share the same basic tastes, etc etc. It is as if I'm living just out of step in space and time.

Sometimes I just feel so lonely...

Ode To Insomnia

Oh insomnia, cruel beast,
when I expect you least,
There you are upon my head,
forcing me from my warm bed.

these grey hours I truely rue
no one to talk with, nothing to do
but drift in house quiet and chilly,
but drift about willy-nilly

and write silly rhymes upon my blog,
what do you expect, my heads a-fog!
I woke at two-thirty-three
Please don't demand good poetry

But wish me that I'll soon be sleeping
and sweet dreams I'll be dreaming
and will not wake again till dawn breaks through,
and paints the skies a a warm blue.

Goodnight sweet readers, and sleep well,
till wakened by the morning bell.
Goodnight sweet readers, and adieu
Goodnight, goodnight, to all of you.