Sunday, January 2, 2011

The grand finale, the opening scene and a happy new year...

What seemed like a wild notion just a few months ago is now a reality, as I sit here in the outskirts of Philadelphia thinking about how to begin this post, wondering how the heck I got here.

Sometimes opportunities arise that are just too good to pass up, which is the case for the new job I'll be starting next week. So good, in fact, that we moved the whole family from Israel to the US last week, and are now anxiously waiting to dig in to our new life. All those sleepless nights I spent on facebook, twitter and other areas, trying to understand it all, trying to keep up and ask and answer, have led to a professional role that I can't wait to begin, and that I will surely have more to tell about soon.

But as with any new adventure, the journey to get there is no less important than the destination. And in our case, it was more like Mr. Toad's Wild Ride... we rented our house, packed up our things, finalized school and work and parted with friends and family - all in a relatively short span. It was hard saying goodbye to family, painful even. We have some really amazing friends in Israel, and although leaving the country is a lousy excuse for a get-together, it made us realize just how much we will miss them all. It was so hard to leave, in fact, that after "just a few more minutes" of coffee and cake with our neighbors we almost missed our flight!

Being that I already made the decision once to leave everything and move to Israel from the US about 20 years ago, the decision to move back was not an easy one. I love living in Israel. It's not the most logical or easy place to live, but there is something special about knowing that everyone is in the same boat, and will pull together when necessary. I've enjoyed raising my kids there, working in one of the best companies there, and absorbing the history and the beauty that is everywhere in Israel. And I'm sure we'll be back.

But now, we are moving as a family to a new and exciting life in exactly the right timing. I just turned 40 and if I am going to make a drastic change then now is the time. My husband has been patiently waiting for this change for years. And I believe that the kids will benefit most from living here - not only because of the English, but because it will open their eyes and their minds to new experiences, to new people and places and ways of doing things. I'm already thrilled at how much more we've heard them say "thank you" and "excuse me" in the week since we arrived! And I am hopeful that we'll have more of a chance to visit with family in California now that we're so much closer (relative to Israel, that is).

So here we are, and apparently we brought the blizzard with us on the day we landed for a beautiful white welcome (I was so worried about the snow but am totally loving it so far!).
I do resolve to update this blog much more often in 2011 - about everyday things, family things, cross-Atlantic perspectives and hopefully some professional insights tossed in here and there.

Looks like it's gonna be a very good year...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Much ado about something

Allright, so only two years and a post and a half later... I'm bringing the blog back to life.

Not that things are any less hectic, there's just going to be so much more to tell (though somewhat limited at this stage)! I'm about to embark on a personal and professional journey that has until now only been a tiny thought that occasionally popped into my head...and was quickly quashed.

I may just try and sort it all out right here, to share the process in the hope that maybe someone reading can offer sound advice and new perspectives. The logistics, the emotions, the weather... I've got lists running up and down every notebook in the house.

More details coming soon.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Blogging can wait

Every now and then I google myself, just to see what comes up. And every time I see my last post here, over a year ago, I think to myself "yeah, I'll get back to blogging soon...". But it hasn't happened lately, and likely won't happen soon. So I felt the need for a short post on why I'm not blogging. Not that I have a huge readership, or that anyone is waiting breathlessly to read what I'm writing, really just more to justify to myself why I've stopped.

I can sum it up in one word: priorities. I would love to share my thoughts and insights and life events, but that would leave me with no time to have a life. So I'm choosing sleep, and family, and homework hounding, and taking a few minutes here and there to sip a cup of coffee quietly instead of hunching over the computer trying to write something clever and coherent.

One day I believe I'll get back to it, when there's time, or if I have something really important to say. In the meantime, it can wait.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Make it a good one

Since both my birthday and Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year, fell on the same day this year, I promised myself that by the end of the holiday I would come up with a list of things I've accomplished this past year, things I'd like to accomplish in the coming year, and things I need to improve on, to make better this year than last. That's actually 3 lists. None of which I actually prepared, at least not in writing.

I thought about these lists in the shower, I thought about them while cooking, and even while in synagogue (in between chasing my 4-yr old and picking up spilled cheerios and apple slices). And although I didn't get any of them down in writing (not yet, hold on) I realized I've accomplished a lot over the past year. That said, I have even more to improve on in the year to come.

Last year flew by, lots of challenges at home with the kids, lots of changes at work. Luckily, the changes are mostly for the better, at least from my perspective. Thank G-d. I've heard some pretty nasty work stories from friends in other places.

The home front, now, that's a whole different story. Each day comes with its own new adventures, new approaches, new frustrations and new successes. I have to fight to communicate with my 12 year old son, to get him to do homework, to try to squeeze him into some semblance of a schedule, and I know I yelled at him way too much last year. Another challenge is keeping my other 2 sons on track as well. And making sure everyone is well-fed and healthy. And trying to spend quality time with my husband. And getting my life more organized. And, and, and...Sigh.

So, how do I plan to improve things this year? Here's my list, narrowed down to the top 10 most critical changes I'd like to make this year (and since I'm going all out and posting them here, I expect you to hold me to them):

  1. Don't yell (or, realistically, yell less).

  2. Exercise.

  3. Get more sleep.

  4. Make more family dinners we all sit down to together.

  5. Follow up more closely on children's school & homework.

  6. Look for the positive in everything and reinforce it.

  7. Go out alone with husband (to movie, dinner, coffee, whatever!) at least once a month.

  8. Volunteer.

  9. Demonstrate patience & respect, and try to instill these more strongly in children.

  10. Make the extra effort, even if I really don't feel like it.

Now, you may be thinking that some of these items shouldn't be too hard- but let me assure you that everything on this list has been tried and tested, and will take a genuine effort on my part to achieve consistently. I think they're all pretty quantifiable, and there's a pretty good balance among them.

A new year always brings with it so much promise, so much hope, so much opportunity. With all of the above in mind, I will try to make the most of it.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Breakfast in America

So here I am in Pennsylvania, USA.

Flew over for a work-related internal conference that is turning out to be both an eye-opener, and a warm fuzzy experience. Lots of good people in my company doing really good things, and here we are working towards getting all this goodness together. Good times.

The 12 hour flight over on Continental was surprisingly painless - their new in-flight entertainment system is awesome (gotta give credit where due), with tons of movies, tv shows and music to choose from. The stewardess' must've thought I was a goober for laughing out loud so much, but how could I not watch all 4 episodes of Everybody Hates Chris and listen to Billy Joel's 52nd Street when the opportunity presented itself?

And things are going well so far - nice hotel, good food, successful meetings. I even had a chance to take a walk along some nice nature trails this morning. The absence of noisy kids trailing behind me led me to lots of deep thoughts along the way - accompanied by a gaggle of Canadian Geese (click on photo to see them) and their honking chorus. Thought about family, and how frustrating it is that my kids so rarely see my family because we live so far away. Thought about why we still haven't moved to the US, in spite of the never-ending debate me and the Big Guy have about moving to a better quality of life, how much better the service is everywhere, how much nicer people are here. Thought about 9/11, since that's today, and how that totally changed the America I grew up in, and brought it closer in many senses to Israel.

And still, as much as I enjoy visiting America, I must say that I don't feel 100% American anymore. Nor do I feel 100% Israeli. I'm stuck in a kind of grey area between the two, where my Israeli cynicism has jaded how I see America - and my American naivete and manners prevent me from truly reaching native Israeli status.

So tomorrow, as I sit and eat a blueberry pop-tart (they have very cool breakfast add-ons here at the hotel...) I will enjoy the flavors and friendliness and nostalgia that America offers, but continue looking forward to getting back to Israel, my home.

Friday, August 29, 2008

September Make Haste

Did I say earlier that there was a special summer feeling in the air? Yes, I suppose I did, back in July. That was at the beginning of the summer, the kids had just finished school, they still had arrangements for additional activities, and I was continuing to work as usual. Summertime was a blissful, vacational concept. And then came August.

If July 1st comes as a breath of fresh air, then September 1st comes as a rescue mission, the light at the end of this seemingly infinite summer break that leaves both parents and children exhausted and ready to get back on a schedule. And it seems to be a national consensus. In the last 2 weeks of August, when parents meet, they all greet each other with the same question: "So, how are you surviving the end of the summer?" And it's like this every year - especially difficult with young children, whose day care arrangements (pre-school, extended day camp, etc) usually come to an end after the first week of August. Leaving us with 3-4 weeks of absolutely no schedule, no framework, bored/tired/anxious/antsy kids, and very few vacation days.

So, yeah, when my children told me that they were looking forward to getting back to school, I know that the summer was close to its end. And not a moment too soon.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

You are now leaving the comfort zone

Ever realize that the path to getting somewhere is much more enlightening than the destination itself? That was yesterday.

I suppose I could give an overview of what happened last night at the
Nefesh B’Nefesh International Jewish Bloggers Conference in Jerusalem, but that's been done by numerous Jbloggers more famous and reputable than I here, here and here. Instead, I can't seem to stop thinking about what happened along the way.

I took a bus. That in itself is a stretch for me, since I have a car, and I've been driving for years. The combination of a terrible sense of direction and really bad night vision made me decide not to make the drive to Jerusalem this time. I haven't taken a bus anywhere for ages, and it's not that I mind, or that I'm a public transportation snob - on the contrary, it actually felt good to get out of my comfort zone a little bit. A little bit, though, that would've been enough.

Actually I took a train and a bus. And while waiting at the train station, I looked around me, and saw the Israel that I had somehow "left" many years ago, all the while still living here in the middle of it, traded for my suburban oblivion. There was a young ultra-orthodox family sitting across from me, children running, father mumbling, mother knitting...there was a teenager talking to her friends by cellphone about what kinds of snacks they should bring to the Scout meeting that evening...there were soldiers flirting with the woman behind the sandwich counter...and many others. All representing the different faces of Israel that I had originally fallen in love with, and that brought me to this country 15 years ago. But sitting there now, they all felt so distant, so different, as if they were part of another dimension of Israel that I no longer come into contact with. And that made me sad.

In our struggle for better "quality of life" here, we moved to a small town in the center of Israel - which is both very close to everything, but also very detached from everything (aka suburbia). And that's exactly what my husband and I wanted when we moved here. But over the years, and as the family has grown, I find that my whole world is basically either at home or at work, or in the car on the way to either one. And that being the case, I have almost zero exposure to what's going on in the big cities, in the malls and coffee shops, on the streets, and in the world at large that's so close - and at the same time so far from my day-to-day life.

So, arriving at the central bus station in Jerusalem yesterday was kind of a treat. I haven't been there in years, so it was quite a surprise to get off the bus and head into a sleek, modern shopping mall, filled with the vendors, bakeries, and music stores that used to be what gave the bus station its unique flavor. But bringing them inside this fluorescent-lit, air conditioned, 3-story mall has changed that too - comfortable yes, authentic no. Only seeing a prayer-book vending machine there (like those snack machines at the hospital!) made me laugh out loud and think, only in Jerusalem.

But I digress. After taking a third bus together with the help of
A Mother in Israel, I arrived at the conference. It was pretty packed, with lots of mingling going on, and with a great sandwich spread. (Did I mention that I suck at shmoozing?) Silly me, I had assumed that Jbloggers would be a mix of Jews of all ages and backgrounds from different perspectives, different religious outlooks, and maybe even some "native" Israelis. Boy was I wrong. I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised to see so many orthodox Jews at a Jewish blogger conference (mostly Anglos who had moved to Israel, in this case) - they were most definitely the majority.

So, deep thoughts here. Does identifying yourself as a Jewish blogger mean only that the focus of your blog is on Jewish topics? On religion? or on religious life? Or, are Jewish bloggers people who are Jewish and who blog (about anything, not necessarily related to Judaism)? I am sure that an "Israeli bloggers conference" would have had a completely different turnout - more secular, more business-related, wider span of topics and concerns and people. I suppose I consider myself both a Jewish and an Israeli blogger - but not because those are specific topics I blog about. Rather, they are 2 aspects of my daily life, and therefore show up occasionally in my blog.

Tremendous credit goes to
Nefesh B'Nefesh for putting on this event - I believe that it will be one of the first of many similar events that will hopefully widen the focus and reach of Jbloggers everywhere.

Although there were some good speakers on the panels (btw check out WhatWarZone, it's hilarious!), even some non-religious, and one very long-winded former Prime Minister... I realized I would have been wiser to watch the conference online than to travel all this way (and I still haven't mentioned the 1 1/2 half-hour bus ride home).

The other realization is that as comfortable as it is, I should get out of my bubble more often to renew my love of and exposure to the 'real' Israel. But next time, I'm driving.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

From sorrow to joy in record time

Last week, most of the country was glued to the news as we watched or heard about the return of the Israeli soldiers Regev and Goldvasser by Hizbulla, in exchange for their terrorist prisoners.

Although the facts all pointed to the fact that they were probably not alive, we all still wanted to belive that maybe there was hope, maybe they'd come home alive. When the 2 black coffins were shown on the tv screen, it was clear that there was really no reason for celebration. The whole country lapsed into a state of mourning, and all day I was glued to internet news or tv or radio to hear updates.

Fast forward...later that same day.

That evening, we went to a wedding. One that had obviously been planned and set months and months in advance, with no idea what news that morning would bring. I thought to myself how terrible for the couple that this very sad news happened today, that this will be what they remember of their wedding date, and how can people rejoice after something like that happens.

But the amazing thing about Israelis is how resilient they are. Just as the people of this country know when to unite in their strength and sorrow, they also know that joyous occasions must be celebrated with a whole heart.

It was a Yemenite wedding, with beautiful vocal song before the ceremony, the bride and groom yemenite stepping right up to the huppa, and non stop dancing, yemenite and other. And people were so happy -- happy to have a reason to be happy.

It's the circle of life, I suppose, the events we mark and measure our lives against and hope that joy will come sooner and more often than sorrow.

This cycle is apparent in so many Jewish/Israeli customs. Breaking the glass at weddings, to remember the destruction of the Temple before the real celebration begins. Israeli Memorial Day and Independence Day - a kind of bipolar holiday - when the lowest of lows are followed by the highest of highs. Although the manic-depressive nature of these customs is emotionally draining, the logic is there. Remember your losses in order to appreciate your wins.

I suppose the harsh reality is that people here are used to it, if that's ever possible. Let's just hope that reasons to celebrate outnumber anything else...

Monday, July 14, 2008

That's my family in your peanut butter...

Growing up, peanut butter was always a staple in our house.

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were the default brown bag solution, and more than a few times I caught my dad spooning it straight out of the jar. I even got a Mr. Peanut home peanut butter maker for my 7th birthday (you remember him, right? the peanut dude with the top hat and white gloves - peanuts go in one ear, crank his arm and the peanut butter comes out the other ear - who could want anything more?)

When my own children were younger, I worked hard to get them used to eating peanut butter, even though it wasn't always easy to come by here in Israel, but to little avail. Their tastes changed, rendering PB&J to them as just one of those "American foods" that Mommy liked to eat sometimes.

And then, from a very random Twitter link to a company called P.B. Loco, a light of hope the size of a peanut started to flicker and glow. This company impressed me with their excitement and desire to get people involved in their product through the social media world - from asking for suggestions for new flavors and product names, to holding trivia contests - to get the word out, offering free flavored jars of PB to the winners. So I replied to a few of their contests through Twitter, signed up as a fan on Facebook , and even kind of resorted to begging when I realized that, living outside of the US, I might not really even be eligible to win.

But the fine people of PB Loco came through, and did indeed send me a sample jar of chocolate banana peanut butter. Here's the description on the label (I dare you not to drool as you read it):
"This one was almost too easy. Deep, rich chocolate and untamed bananas from the heart of the jungle fused with our premium peanut butter. Caution: After you taste this, you may need a few minutes to finish the entire jar."

The day we picked up the package from the post office, we were on our way home after a week-long vacation in the South of Israel - hot, tired, and hungry. I actually believed that I'd be able to save the jar of gourmet flavored PB until we got home, maybe even til the next day, to make proper sandwiches. (I hear you laughing out there, but I really thought we'd savour it slowly...HA!)

It started with little fingers in the back seat, scooping bit by bit, delighting in the chocolate swirls. Joy of joys! My boys actually liked peanut butter again! Then the jar was passed on to big Daddy's fingers (still in the car, mind you - about five minutes from home), who, although never a big fan of peanut butter, actually held on for more. The jar stopped in my hands. Fingerfulls led to spoonfulls, then once we were home, led to breadfulls. And within the span of less than one hour we were scraping the very last creamy smudges off the inside of the emptied jar. It was amazing.

And all this, I thought later, started with a few lines in Twitter. What potential the world of social media has to influence us, to invite us in and win us over. It's a relationship that starts with a friendly note, a question, or a bit of advice, and continues with a satisfied and returning customer.

Now that I've got the peanut butter momentum going again in my family, I'm trying to decide which of their new flavors to order by mail, and which flavors to send to my dad for his next birthday. PB with Rasberry White Chocolate, PB with European Cafe Mocha, PB with Raisins and Cinammon - oh, the choices!

Really, it's driving me nuts.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

On the way to eilat

Sand in all directions, an occasional camel, and a car full of snacks - on the 4 hour drive to the southern tip of israel.