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.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

One More Donkey

One of the things I love about Israel is the abutting of the old and the new, the natural with the man-made. A modern Yeshiva fronts ancient homes, a store older than my grandparents hosts the most stylish of shoes. Even the Kotel stares out at newly minted structures.

Ride with me on the bus and stare out the window; walking along, grazing in the grass along either side of the highway, are goats led by a shepherd. Lucky goats today, as the grass is lush, green and sweet from all the recent rains.

As a spinner, who unfortunately hasn't picked up her spindle in years, I keep wanting to shout at the bus driver; STOP!!! Let me beg some milk from the goats. I'll make cheese, I'll make soap. Please let me ask the shepherds to hold their fleece for me next time they sheer their flock." I don't care the color. I'll clean and sort and card and spin." Of course I never do. I just watch as we pass them from our window...grazing as they always have grazed on the grass beside the road.

If the ancient and the new conflicted, perhaps I wouldn't feel this sense of wonder. But they don't. They seem to blend together, as if a time-line pointing backwards and forwards.

I am awed by this beautiful land that G-d has given us. Awed and grateful that I'm here.
Thank you Hashem for bringing me here, making it possible for me to enjoy the simple cluster of time that is before me each and everyday.

Oh and the reason for the title? Two donkey's by the rode, oblivious to what I see, but caught by spring.

Friday, February 12, 2010


I'm avoiding doing anything meaningful, and just playing about. I have no get up and go right now. Perhaps it left me with the chickens.

And I'm behind! I hate being behind and I find the behinder I get the less motivated I get. It just seems a battle that I don't want to wage?

Isn't that the way it is?

We see the mountain in front of us that we've built ourselves and stand their shaking our heads going; too big, can't climb it. And then more dirt gets thrown on and the mountain is even bigger.

Well at least that is what I do, don't know about anyone else.

With me it really does take a rhythm, a pattern I need to develop, and as long as I stay on track I am fine. But the moment I'm thrown I start looking up at the crest of  the mountain and I'm ready to camp where I am and let the mountain grow.

Okay...see talking helped, even if no one hears.

Off to make mincemeat out of that mountain.

Chickens anyone?

I dreamed of chickens last night. Chickens! I have dreamed of birds before, and cats often, but chickens???? They have not appeared in my dreams till last night (or more accurately this morning. I got up at 5 to make soup and chicken for Shabbat, and wash the floor.

Okay, maybe cooking the chicken meant chickens were on my mind, but these weren't chickens in the pot, they were alive and kicking. And my pets.

I had two I favored, one mostly multi-colored, mostly orange, but also some brown, blue and green feathers., the other mostly blue, except for a streak of multicolor feathers down its front, matching the multi-colored ones.

And I kept thinking, what am I going to do with all these chickens since I wouldn't sell them to anyone who might eat them, or eat them myself. They were pets!!!

Weird. But if I start finding chickens in my yard I'm going to be slightly freaked.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Good Friends

And I hope you know who you are, are worth everything.
Friends make life sweeter, more wholesome and more worth living. They make troubles more bearable, they help you make it through sadness.
And they make joy that much more joyful.

Sometimes, when I'm feeling down and alone or troubled I just want to crawl up inside and hide.
I did that before. Just curled up and wasn't coming out, till I finally reached out to a friend, and well like I said, thank G-d for friends.

I'm a loner by nature. Curling up is easy to do. Going within is like breathing almost. It is extending myself that is hard, going to a party, or joining friends for some fun times. Sounds weird, I know. Most people hear "party" and they come on down. I hear party and I think of ten reasons why I can't go. It isn't that I don't enjoy myself once I'm there, I do. I have a great time; oh I'm not the life of the party or anything, but I laugh and mingle and relax. But I have to push myself to get out the door.

But it is a step I've learned to take.

Improving oneself isn't always about the serious stuff. Sometimes you need to relax and let go.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Middot & Anger

So much of the laws in Mishpatim have to do with anger, and the sins that come from anger. Hitting/cursing one's parents, lying in wait to kill someone, two men striving and ending up injuring a woman. As my sil Arava stated earlier, when we get angry w/a person we build  up a case against them in our head, we condemn them and build a case up against them in Shemayim.

(previous discussion was here by the way, if anyone wants to go and look )

How easy it is to become angry, at least it seems to me easy enough to do. A disobedient child, a thoughtless comment, a rude store clerk.

The last was from a recent incident; I entered a store to make a purchase: I wanted to get a small gift for a friend. I did not know quite what I wanted to buy, and I had very little money to make the purchase, so I was just looking around.
I entered an aisle and was looking up and down the shelves when the storekeeper came over, demanded I come out of the aisle, demanded to know what I had come for, and how much money I had to spend. When I tried to explain I was looking for a gift, but didn't know what but I had X amount of money, he told me "We've nothing for that..." in a tone which implied that I should leave. His face was so cruel and condemning, and I was so upset....

And angry. I left livid, turned and gave him a face back, almost as if I were spitting.


And two stores away I made a purchase from one of my favorite little stores...

But I wondered as I walked away: Did I just fail a test? 

Why did I have to become so angry because someone was so rude? So he wasn't nice to me. There were other stores to make a purchase at. Why couldn't I just leave and say "ok, whatever that was about I don't understand but there are other places to get the gift..."

Was that a test? Probably. Isn't that what most of our life is about? And if so, I did fail. 

So what are the steps to learn how not to become angered, even when, most people I think, would see it as justifiable in some senses?

How do we learn to tame the monster?

Me Ani?

Means who I am. And that is what this blog is all about, discovering who I am. Exploring the issues that matter to me and making them part of my life somehow; whether it is fighting against a wrong or trying to promote a good, or changing my behavior for the (hopefully) better.

It is not a process done in a day; it is a process done in a life time. I won't really know who I am until I stand up besides Hashem and give an account of my life.

I hope that account includes an active participation in the process.