Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Wearing My Grandmother's Ring

Dear Savta,

Today I wore your ring for the first time. It's not the first thing of yours that I've had. I've had your name my whole life. I've shared your son, too. He is my father.

I knew your husband. I know your daughter-in-law, your grandchildren, your great-grandchildren.

I share your love of Israel, of Yiddishkeit. I don't know if you dreamed of living in Israel, but here I am, living in Israel.
I know you valued education, you had a Master's degree at a time when few women did. I also went for a Master's degree (even if I didn't finish it).

I know you valued Jewish life - my father reminds us that you went without a new winter coat to help pay for summer camp for him. 
But I don't know you. Yet I wear your ring. The one my grandfather had made for you. 

And I hold close the things I know were dear to you.
And I hope that I'm worthy of your name.

Love Leah G. 

Monday, April 23, 2018

Reflections at Forty

First, as I type, I immediately increase the font size so that I can see better.

My glasses now have an additional bit of “extra help” for reading, and I see an occasional strand of gray on my head.

I don’t feel old, not exactly. The fibromyalgia makes my body feel old and decrepit at times, but I am still me underneath it all. I’m full of wonder, I love to laugh, to play games, to learn, to read. Still the same as I was thirty years ago at ten – a child who liked climbing trees, fencing, going to the library and bringing home a stack of books.  

On my tenth birthday, I got my military ID card, a rite of passage for Army brats. With it, I could shop at the PX (Post Exchange) on my own. I remember the day I got it, running back to my house across a green field, so happy that when a car stopped to let me cross the road, I felt myself throwing happiness at the driver.

My twentieth birthday was more subdued. At twenty, my thyroid was no longer working right, and my dreams seemed to be slipping away from me. I was no longer strong enough to be feel invincible. I had thought of joining the (Israeli) Army, but I couldn’t stay awake and on my feet full days anymore. Thyroid medicine helped, but it couldn’t fix the underlying changes in my body.

I felt fears – fear that I wouldn’t marry, would never write a novel, would never have good friends. I became depressed, and my sister (best sister in the world!) took me in for a few days. She took me to a garden nursery to see beautiful flowers. She bought me some new clothes. And she took me to watch her daughter dance with all of the preschoolers and kindergarteners in the new amphitheater in the new city of Modiin, for the Israel’s Yovel –Jubilee.

On Yom Haatzmaut night, my mother and I watched the show in the amphitheater. It was a showing of only local talent, and it laughed about leaving Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and finally finding parking. There was joking about the chugim – the extra-curricular activities that are so plentiful here. There was so much hope for Modiin. My spirits rose.

Years pass. At thirty, I’d realized my dream of being a wife and mother.

And now, forty. I have a loving husband, three children, two cats who will never replace the dog who spent my twenties and most of my thirties with me, an extended family I love, and friends and a community I couldn’t have imagined, certainly twenty years ago, but probably not ten years ago either.

And Modiin – it has grown. Now on Yom Haatzmaut, we have top names at our celebration. We have fireworks three times that night. The amphitheater is full to capacity, and people mill around beyond its borders.  The small town I saw in 1998 is now a city; we too have parking problems, but we also have green grass, large parks, and plenty of chugim for our children.

I look back at how much has changed in the last twenty years. Yaakov and I spent my fortieth birthday with friends, watching my children play with Lego, talking about art and juggling and cats and life in general. We grilled meat, and enjoyed the fresh air and the incredible weather.
We came home and put our beautiful children to bed. I think forty is going to be ok.

Friday, February 03, 2017

My Very Long-Winded Political Post

I am all over the place politically, and I find myself running afoul of absolutely everyone... so I'm going to tell y'all how I feel and then get the popcorn and see what you think. This is a whole bunch of stuff, picked based on what popped up in my head. Note: this is my blog. If you want to respond or debate, I'm good with that. Anything that reads like a personal attack or one on groups of people (and yes, I understand that some of what I wrote will be read as an attack on groups of people, my blog, my rules) won't be allowed.


I think the ACA is a mess, and would advocate making Medicaid buy-in (for those over the threshold), at say 6% of taxable income... up to a cap that makes forces regular insurers to compete with Medicaid. (I'm not an actuary/accountant, so whatever percentage I throw out is for entertainment purposes only...) Then mandate that states meet a certain standard of care for Medicaid, (meaning that no insurer would be able to provide care below that standard, because people would leave)


I think America should worry less about the Syrian refugees and worry more about the Syrian war, and that Obama (and the UN) is (are) culpable for the deaths of 400,000 Syrians, by their inaction.
And I'm outraged that only when it comes to a handful of refugees being stuck in the airports, does anyone notice.
There is no way to rehome all of Syria's citizens. We have to re-establish order in Syria. I'm glad to see that Trump is looking for ways to help Syrians without moving them to the US. It's too bad no one took this Egyptian Billionaire seriously two years ago.

Muslim Immigration

I think that while most Muslims are not interested in being terrorists, the concept of holy war is so ingrained into their religion that it is terrifying to allow large groups of Muslims in, even if they don't have terrorist ties - and I know that's racist of me, but it's also pragmatic. I think that America needs to be watching what is said in the mosques, because in some of them, maybe only 1%, maybe only .5%, they're saying that American Christians are infidels who need to be converted or killed. Some of them are saying that if a girl is not a virgin when she gets married, she has dishonored her family and they have a right to kill her.
And Orthodox Judaism isn't perfect in this respect, but stoning to death isn't a thing in any Jewish enclave, as far as I know.
Those who are still stoning are in the minority, but they're also the loudest in their selective implementation of the religion. For them -- whether it's the Taliban or Daesh (also known as ISIS) -- the only way to gain power is to claim it from a very particular part of religion, and only in the areas they deem necessary. And to these groups, women are the lowest denominator, used to prove their masculinity and their claim to power -- to themselves and to the world.

Marriage Equality

I believe in marriage equality in the sense that I think that if two adults determine themselves to be a household unit, all laws should apply to them in the same ways, regardless of whether or not they are married, same-sex, opposite-sex, etc.
To the extent that if two siblings or platonic friends choose to operate a household together, they should be entitled to all the benefits afforded a "regular" family.
I think that marriage shouldn't be a legal institution at all; it's a religious institution which is a contract where the woman promises not to sleep around and the man promises to provide for her and any offspring, because once the woman has promised to be monogamous, the man believes that all offspring are his. (if you look at any religious texts on marriage, it's clear that this is the primary intent)


I'm annoyed by PC'ism that says that it's ok to call someone an asshat but not an idiot or a /racial slur/ because ableism and racism are horrible, but being nasty to people is just fine

I'm annoyed by people who think it's ok to tell someone to 'check their privilege' or that they're 'mansplaining' instead I'm of addressing the actual issue.
I'm annoyed by people who claim that something is cultural appropriation without questioning whether people from that culture actually care.
I'm annoyed that anything I say can be taken to be a 'microaggression' even if my intent is completely benign. And that that term can be used to shut me up.

Rape Culture

I believe that rape culture is a problem, but I don't believe it's possible to change all men (or dominants of any gender) by education alone.
I believe women (and men) should be taught to say no, yell no, and then break the nose. This has the twofold advantage of 1. preventing sexual assault at the time it is occurring, 2. providing other would-be attackers with concrete reasons to not to go down that path.
I serve my children alcohol at home so that they will understand how it affects them in a safe environment, and I will remind them that drinking (beyond a very small amount) in an uncontrolled environment is unsafe, not only because men can't be trusted just because they seem nice, but also because being sloppy drunk in public will probably be posted on social media and may prevent them getting a job down the line.

Legalization of Cannabis

I would like to see MJ decriminalized and regulated like alcohol currently is, and medical MJ given as easily as (if not more easily than) other pain medications with much worse side effects. I will also be educating my children that using it regularly while your brain is still growing can mess up your brain, and that if they feel they need a joint or a shot of alcohol to get themselves together regularly, they need to get help.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

How I Didn't Go to Disney World (a story)

Told to me by Yisrael from Ofakim*:

Last summer, I wanted to go visit Disney World in Orlando, but all the flights from Israel to Miami were so expensive. I started looking at other options, flying into Newark, JFK, then finally I found amazingly cheap flights to St. Petersburg.

Now, I'd never heard of POCCNR airlines, but their flight was not only cheaper, but actually FASTER than anything else I could find. So I bought our tickets.

I learned English in school, and I was pretty good at it. I did 5 yechidot on my bagrut, but I tell you, the way those people in St. Petersburg speak, I couldn't understand ANYTHING. I mean, I watch a lot of US television, even series like CSI Miami and Dexter that happen in Florida, so I thought I could understand how they talk. Crazy!

I now understand why Donald Trump is so scared of foreigners invading the United States. Just look at this weird mosque!

I couldn't even read the signs there. So many foreigners that the signs aren't even in English. Even Waze could not help me figure out how to get on the I4 to go up to Orlando. There was no Mickey Mouse. It was tragic.

This year, I've got it figured out, though. We're going through Georgia. I wonder how far Tbilisi is from Atlanta.

*not his real name. or story. or whatever.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Sometimes it Takes 288₪ to Appreciate Someone

In my first year of high school, my spoken Hebrew far outstripped my written Hebrew since I'd spoken (albeit imperfect) Hebrew my whole life, but had relatively little formal education. Likewise, my knowledge was uneven in Judiac studies. I knew entire brachot (blessings) and tfillot (prayers) by heart, and had read through most of ברשאית (Genesis) myself, but again, I lacked formal education.

9th grade me did not
see the value of pristine books.
Since the test they gave us for placement was multiple choice, my extremely poor spelling slipped through unnoticed. Since they were testing children from a number of different schools, general knowledge of prayers and rituals got me through the test with a relatively high score despite a weak background. In short, I was initially placed in a class where I was out of my depth. On further reflection, I realize that my barely passing grades probably meant I was exactly where I belonged for maximum learning potential, but a thirteen-year-old who fails a test isn't always the best judge of where they belong.

So there I was - I was in this class where the teacher was really strict, and (I felt) mean. She had a harsh manner to her,and she gave a test that I thought I did well on, and I FAILED! So I did the most logical thing I could think of and switched into another class where I managed to scrape by with minimal effort.

I remember only one thing this teacher taught me. On the first day of school, someone asked if we could write in our books, and she said "They belong to you. You won't have to pay for them if you write in them, but I don't like it. In the war, they destroyed our books. Keep your books clean. Please."

In high school, I did write in my books. I won't say the lesson got through that day... Fast forward to this year.

I bought absolutely huge, gigantic, gargantuan piles of books for my kids. And put a sticker with their name on the plastic outer cover of each. Even though these are workbooks, and my children will write in them, the idea of keeping them pristine remains. And then it turned out that a whole bunch of the books were the wrong ones. That is, the teacher prefers an older version and didn't bother to put that detail into the list. Or the teacher decided to use something entirely different and didn't notify us until after I'd bought everything and organized everything.

At any rate, today I took back 288worth of pristine school books. And got my money back. 

Thank you for teaching me something valuable. And I'm not talking about the money.

Monday, July 06, 2015

Twenty Years

In June 1995, we donned caps and gowns. Girls wore burgundy, and boys wore navy. We marched to 'Pomp and Circumstance.' We listened to speeches and saw pictures of ourselves, four years younger. We received siddurim and empty diploma cases. We graduated. Our tassels, bearing the numbers 95, were moved to the other side.

We were the last class to graduate without having seen a website. We were the class who heard Rabbi Krug's birkat gomel at our Freshman retreat. We walked the hallways like students for years before us and years after us. We learned, we skipped classes, we made friends, we had fights. We were stressed, we were calm. 
We entered as children and left almost adults. 

And since then, twenty years have passed. Four of ours have passed on. Goodbye Erica, Jordan, Ari, and Kenny. We miss you. You are still a part of us. תנצב"ה

Many of us have made aliya to Israel. Others have scattered around the United States. Many have stayed in New Jersey. Some have experienced the oddity of taking their children to the school on Frisch Court - the one that is now an elementary school. Some will soon be introducing their own children to the (new and improved) halls of Frisch.

We've spent most of the past twenty years looking forward, building our lives, building businesses and careers, families and friendships.
Now and then, it's good to take a glance backwards. to remember the teachers, the friends, the four years that we experienced together. 

To all of you - the whole class of 1995 - thank you. Thank you for being my friends and for just being there. Thank you for being the catalysts for growth, and the people who made me reexamine myself. Thank you for just being on that ride with me. I hope you've all had an amazing twenty years. And I hope the next twenty hold even more adventures for all of us. 

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

The Simple Low Carb Plan - Are You With Me?

As many of you know, I had a little baby girl named Moriya Rosa about 10.5 months ago.

During my pregnancy, I gained 2kg, which means I had a net loss (considering baby was 3.3kg, and there are a bunch of other things that cause weight to increase in pregnancy).
Six weeks post-partum, I was around 8kg down from my pre-pregnancy weight.
I'm now just 2 kg down from my pre-pregnancy weight. (that is, I've gained 6kg in 10 months! :( )

My cholesterol is high, my blood sugar is high, you get the idea.

During the pregnancy, I was on a low-carb plan, and it worked, so I've decided to try it again now. (wish me luck).

Here's how it works:
Each day, you eat 3 meals + 2 snacks
A meal has up to 30 grams of carbohydrates, and a snack has up to 15. A meal or snack should also have some protein, fat, or at least some fiber.

30 grams of carbs:
1 cup of rice, pasta, quinoa, mashed potatoes, couscous, etc.
1 medium potato
or a slice of regular bread (2 slices light bread)

You don't need to eat that much carb in each meal/snack. For example, you can eat a salad with meat or fish in it and no carbs at all. That's fine. Or a snack can be a handful of nuts. But you shouldn't go more than 3-4 hours between meals.

I use meal replacement bars like Zone Perfect for some of my snacks. If I add a cup of milk, it's a meal.

Some possible meals:
cottage cheese with fruit cut into it.
salad with cottage cheese/feta cheese/bulgarian cheese/
salad with fish (tuna, sardines, or cooked fish)
salad with meat (chicken, steak strips, deli meat sliced thin.)

Things that are out:
Sandwiches - If you make them with two slices of light bread, you can have them, but it's just so much carb without flavor.
Pizza - one slice is a meal. Can you live with that? I can't.
Bread - I almost never eat it because it's too hard to stop.
Pasta as a main course - you'll be too hungry. Pasta has to become a side dish.
mashed potatoes/potato salad - Potatoes are practically sugar in your blood, and it's very very hard to stick to a single cup of it. If you want potatoes, eat baked potatoes. Somehow, it's easier to feel like you're eating a normal portion that way.

Things that you can eat unlimited amounts of:
Cottage Cheese, feta, bulgarian cheese, even yellow cheese
leafy greens
string beans
tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, celery, mushrooms
vinegar, oil (but go for olive or other healthy oils)
Butter, milk, cream,

Vegetables that you have to keep track of in your carb count:
potatoes (just count them as a starch)
sweet potatoes

1 fruit is ~ 15 grams of carbohydrates, so it counts as a snack

"One portion is two or more small fruit, for example two plums, two satsumas, two kiwi fruit, three apricots, six lychees, seven strawberries or 14 cherries."
(from the NHS website)

Bananas are high carb, so you should eat only half as a snack (or eat a whole one but make another snack that day carb-free)

So who's on the plan with me?