Happy New Year?

Well, here we are, it’s a new year.  I have ditched my iPad in favor of a Kindle Fire tablet gifted to me by Alison.  It’s become my new best friend and also made me extremely grateful for those who gift me.  I seriously couldn’t afford such tech or gadgetry for myself and I do appreciate it.

I love it and am especially happy that the keyboard I got for the iPad works with it as well.  I am, in fact, typing on it as we speak.  I play sudoku on it, read more on it, take it places with me, watch Pride and Prejudice endlessly on it while I do dishes, write on it and take pictures with it.  Eventually I’ll figure out how to text on it and then, oh boy, I’ll be set won’t I?  Unfortunately it also makes window shopping on Amazon even easier but hey, my wish lists can’t hurt me.

It’s snowing out there today and I’ve been thinking about so many things for future blogs.  My big, fat Israeli divorce.  My heart bleeding silently for Jerusalem.  My love for my fiance and home here under the permafrost.  How these two things can be compatible in my life – my two greatest loves which are so very far apart.  My son, who is growing up before me and how hard this is for us both.  How autism morphs and changes and we blaze new and unknown trails every day as he grows into such an amazing young man and I struggle, as always, to just keep up and continue to wonder why people praise me for being a great mom – really, it’s because he’s such a tremendous young man.

I’m crocheting now after my knitting just disgusted me to the point of giving it up for now although Knitpicks has my nickel plated interchangeables for sale and they’re really gnawing away at me.  I still harbor that intense hatred for Polish customs for throwing away my needles in case you’re still wondering.  Anyway, I am making a “starburst” square afghan which consists of a gabillion little kinda granny squares that are really little starbursts that will all hook together.  I need a gabillion and I think I have 17 done.  Tune in later for more on THAT one.

I’ve been baking bread that sometimes people eat and lately, most of the time they snub.  Along with most of my dinners.  Oh Scott eats everything and praises what I cook and since I cook as an art, that makes me happy but still.  I have a can of raspberry pie filling and a package of yellow cake mix….I’m thinking raspberry filled cupcaked for Shabbat this week.  If I feel like it, I MAY share them with the children.

Then again, maybe not.  Depends.

I spent most of December worrying because on the first night of Hanukkah I got a call about my old house – someone was interested in buying it.  It wasn’t in the greatest shape and really, not in the best location and honestly, I wanted to just get rid of it before someone torched it.  The median sales price for what I had was less than $20,000 so I was happy with what we negotiated and I agreed to a sales price.  Talk about a Hanukkah miracle.  Most houses where my house was are on the market for 3-5 years and houses like mine?  Usually just abandoned.  So…being the worrier I am, I worried until the sales contract was signed and then I worried until the closing because I knew it would either fall through, there would be some wild lien I couldn’t even fathom or someone would torch it before we could get pen to paper.  I asked everyone I could think of for prayers and prayed as much as I could and to my own surprise on 31 December, we closed quickly, easily and with no fanfare.  Just signed the papers, said “Well, that’s that”, said goodbye to the ex, and walked away.  I never felt so relieved in my life.

I set about paying off debts I never thought I could pay off – I can’t even describe the feeling.  I have been so poor for so long and remain poor even after everything is now settled but I know that I am building a better life that hopefully will reveal itself.

Miracles are afoot and I bask in them.  I learned a long time ago that sometimes the only thing you can do is ride the tide of the miracles and just let HaShem do his thing and take you where you’re meant to go.  Fighting it really doesn’t get you anywhere and to be honest, basking in the glow of miracles is a pretty amazing feeling.  I recommend you try it.

I still feel anxious and, I hate to say it, depressed.  Maybe it’s the winter time even though I enjoy this time.  I think maybe depression isn’t even the right word.  Sometimes tired seems more like the right word.  Like life just makes me tired.  The happys aren’t as sparkly but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel happy, it’s like Scott said to me one evening when I was watching something funny on tv – “why aren’t you laughing?”  I was amused, just not enough to make me laugh out loud.  It’s hard to describe.  I suppose it’s like you can see the sun but it’s just not sparkly sunshine.  The sky is not a birdsegg blue.  You just DO, you don’t BE.  I can’t explain but that’s how I feel about it.  Sometimes I wish I could just sleep all day but I can’t.  I know that that’s what keeps me getting up each day.  If it weren’t so cold out, I’d be walking.  Routine powers my day but it doesn’t mean it’s any less exhausting just going about the routine of life.  And I am okay with it.  The routine gets me up and moving and I try to make little bits to look forward to, to break up the monotony of the routine….but the exhaustion and boredom remain.  Maybe someday it will change.  Right now, I just don’t see that.

So anyway, if I haven’t depressed you to death or bored you silly, happy new year to you.  Have you made any resolutions?  I used to when I was little.  I’d make – wait or it….schedules and routines for me to follow.  Now, not so much.  I make changes as I go…I don’t necessarily see calendar dates as the big time to decide to change my life.  This year I will be walking a 5k at the Pittsburgh Marathon and I am raising money for Evan’s Miracle League baseball team that allows kids with special needs to play adaptive baseball  (DONATE HERE) which is one of the most worthwhile things I can think of EVER doing so I am training for that.  And as usual I am doing random acts of kindness like carrying my emergency dollar to help people with change at the grocery store, helping out when I can (like bringing in trash cans when people are at work and it’s windy) and just trying to be a better human being this year.

Outrage

There is little more to say.

Today in Jerusalem, four fathers woke up, put on prayer shawls and tefillin and went to their synagogue to welcome the day in morning prayer as they did everyday.

Today two cousins, Arabs, woke up and armed themselves with hatchets, cleavers and guns and also went to that synagogue.

Their intent was to kill everyone that they could inside of the synagogue.

When all was said and done, the four fathers were dead. Many more of the morning worshippers were hacked and maimed. A policeman was shot in the head.

He died tonight.

The Arabs were killed in a shootout as they tried to escape.

Benjamin Netanyahu says that the homes of the cousins will be demolished. Arrests were made, others detained. The internet reported another attack this evening in Jerusalem.

I saw videos of Arabs in East Jerusalem throwing candy and celebrating the massacre.

I watched a live video of the Kotel (Western Wall) throughout the day.

It was desolate.

People in Jerusalem said the buses were empty, people were skittish.

But…people do go on.

I feel strongly about this. I know that the people in Jerusalem are surrounded by Arabs who live and work amongst them. Cab drivers, cleaning staff, bus drivers. And for the most part we are friendly with them and they are friendly with us.

Now the seeds of mistrust have been sown. I can’t help but say that even though they may or may not even remotely know any of these terrorists who are so wantonly killing Jews in Jerusalem these past so many years; Sadly, because they have not taken any steps to put their collective foot down and mandate responsible leadership that can and will take decisive steps to STOP it, they are just as complicit as if they, themselves, wielded the cleavers and axes this morning.

And I also know according to western standards how I feel is not politically correct but it IS correct by way of my Israeli sensibilities and I am an Israeli you know….allowing this CANCER to remain and grow independent of any action to cut it out and eradicate it forever will only bring further heartbreak to Israel. Cancer is not “managed” – it is expunged for the best outcome. And when it isn’t….

Baruch Dayan Ha’Emet.

Am Yisrael Chai!

Introduction to Judaism

It seems that our Introduction to Judaism class raises more questions for Scott and more questions for me to answer than I like to deal with.  Tonight was no exception.  Mostly the hard questions I tell him that it’s a good idea to ask his sponsoring rabbi, that I just can’t give him the answers he is looking for.  But tonight he didn’t seemed satisfied with that answer and pressed on.

The class dealt with history and specifically, the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492.  I guess I realize that each person would have his or her own answer to the question Rabbi Mahler posed which was, would you convert and keep your religion a secret or would you just leave?

Unfortunately, for Jews then and throughout history leaving wasn’t as easy as it sounds because there wasn’t always a place for them to go TO which is why the establishment of Israel was and IS so important…a haven ALWAYS in the storm.

But I am not sure I conveyed this adequately to Scott or that I even had the words or knowledge to convey this because this led to, why do Jews have a persecution complex and then to, why do Jews somehow think they are better than everyone else.

So I figured I’d pose these questions here and ask….what are your thoughts?

Recapturing Shabbat

I’ve talked before about how all of my issues over the last two years caused me to fall horrendously down the ladder of observance.  I particularly miss my Shabbats.

Shabbats in Israel were particularly special to me.  I spent them usually alone with my Boy, and we’d often take some smoke on our nargila (hookah) which I know is BAD but which we found to be SO Israeli and so relaxing, to start our Shabbat.  We’d listen for the Shabbat siren to sound signaling when we’d watch the Jerusalem sun begin to set and we’d light candles together.  Then we’d bless the wine and challah I’d bought that day and have the wonderful meal I’d cobbled together.

I loved it.  WE loved it.

Then we came back and were separated and even though eventually we were brought back together, baruch Hashem, I’d seemed to have lost everything.  I was pretty much homeless and couldn’t drive.  I was living in a home that I wasn’t yet comfortable in and I wasn’t comfortable with being me.  I was deeply troubled and depressed.  That year I couldn’t even bring myself to acknowledge the High Holy Days, much less celebrate them.

I HAVE started to feel better and I feel much more at home both in my skin and in my surroundings.  I made it to Rosh Hashanah services this year and celebrated the holiday as best I could with festive meals at home but Shabbat, Shabbat has eluded me for some reason.

Oddly since Scott and I became engaged, I have stressed that it’s very important for me that he convert before we marry.  So…since he was interested anyway, he has chosen to take the step now.  And…given that, we are attending conversion classes together.

The topic this week was Shabbat and on the way home Scott said it was curious why sometimes I lit candles and sometimes I didn’t.

Right then and there I knew that as important as I knew it had been for Evan when  was growing up (and even now – he will light sometimes when I don’t but not every week) it is now just as important for Scott’s fledgling neshama…maybe more so since he is so new to ALL of this and religion in general.

So this week I got over it.  I made challah (which I HAVE been doing pretty much every week since the beginning of this year) and I baked a sour cream bundt cake for everyone to enjoy.  I made chicken in the crock pot and a cholent in the other crock pot for today.  We lit candles, blessed the children, blessed the wine and challah and ate together.  Havdallah candles were found and grape juice placed at the ready.

I made Shabbat come and I am really glad I did.  I watched the Shabbat candles glow and then fade out and I felt happy that I had tried and succeeded.

We attended services on Saturday morning and as I prayed the long lost but familiar prayers I knew they were and always would be a part of me, just like Shabbat.  I just had to make them come out and just like Shabbat…they were there all the time.

I really just had to light the candles to see that and watch it glow in everyone’s faces.

Taking Back My Name

Everyone always tells me that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet when I get sad about losing my Israeli name – Eli.

For 2 years I was Elianah or Eli and I loved it.  Elianah-Sharon.  I still say it the Israeli way – Sha-RON – in my head.  Of course once my plane touched down back in the US, I was Sharon again.  It just never felt right after that.  Not Israeli Sharon – a foreigner even to myself.

I wish there was some way I could just retake the name I took when I immigrated, the name on my Israeli papers.  But I can’t without changing it legally here.  There’s a little hope that MAYBE when I marry again I can change it, making Sharon my middle name and Elianah my first name.

With my luck though….

Tonight though I did change it a little.  I changed it on Facebook and while that seems insignificant and petty and really, it is….it meant a lot.

I am socially phobic.  The only people I regularly interact with ARE on Facebook so while it was a trivial step, it was an important one to me.  I changed it here as well.  This is my home on the web so I should be myself here.  I should be who I am inside and that person will always be Elianah-Sharon.

Yeah, I get that a rose by any other name…and that’s true.  But I also get that we have to feel comfortable in our own skins and this makes me feel comfortable in mine.  I’m kind of letting a flag fly and that’s kind of scary because whereas I have been hidden for so long, this kind of puts me right out there for everyone to see.  And maybe hurt.

It’s scary.

But being me is more important and we shall see what kind of a risk this really is won’t we?

Riding the FACT Bus

Last week I had to take the local paratransit.  Because I get medical assistance, I am qualified to ride the bus and because I had an appointment that was overlapping a commitment Scott had to attend to, I had to take the bus.

I have to admit I was terrified.  I didn’t know what to expect and there wasn’t much I could do about it.  I just kind of had to grin and bear it and hope it wouldn’t be as bad as I thought it was going to be.  Unlike my trip to the synagogue on Rosh HaShanah, I didn’t have the chance to prep with my therapist Kellye prior to my bus ride…this was a cold turkey bus ride.

The good thing about the bus is that the driver, Jack, is a really nice guy who makes you feel really comfortable right from the start.  He’s happy and talkative and seems to understand if you’re not so much.  He called about 30 minutes before he came just to tell me that he was on his way and what time I should be outside….cool.

I sat outside and waited.

At exactly 11:15 when he said he’d be there…the bus rolled around the corner and I got on.  Little did I know it was the “party” bus!  There was one person on when I was picked up and she was chatting away with Jack which was fine with me.  Then we dropped her off and picked up three more people who were regulars apparently and they just laughed and chattered away.

I felt a little conspicuous sitting in the front seat and definitely out of place.  My face was warm and the bus was hot.  I felt like I was going to throw up the entire ride but I made it.

We got to the road where we’d have to turn left to get to our destination….I was consumed by my panic and nerves and I jumped up and told Jack to turn…and he was all like, “I KNOW dear, I come here all the time, don’t worry!” and then laughed at me.

PUBLIC HUMILIATION as the rest of the party bus laughed along.

Inside I knew they weren’t laughing at me…well, maybe they were.  And if not, when I got off the bus and lost my balance and almost fell down, well, you get the point.

But, the real point is that I did it.  And it was a HUGE step for me.  Do I want to do it again?  Actually I do.  I need to do it again to make it not so weird and not so strange.  So I can maybe be a quiet part of the party and feel like I belong more and not feel so much like I felt – a fifth wheel on an already unbalanced bus!

Still, after I got my balance back and walked into my appointment I knew I had taken a major step for me.  It may seem really small to most people and even for me, given my past life – the chick who left it all behind and moved to Israel and made a life for herself and her son despite everything for two years and would do it again in a heartbeat (her heart tells her) – it seems a little trivial, but I know given where I am at mentally now, it was one of the biggest steps I could take right now.

I don’t know when or if there will be any more big steps, I just know there was this one and I am very proud of myself for making it.

Rosh HaShanah: Pride

I am so afraid of new situations.  It’s not new to me.  I guess I always have been my entire life.  I remember hiding behind curtains when I’d have to meet someone new when I was a very little girl.  I made my mom take me to the first day of school until my sophomore year in college for fear of things like the school bus stop, the school bus itself and walking into the building for the first time, roommates and just new things.  I actually became anorexic when I was interviewing for becoming an exchange student during my sophomore year, nearly killing myself with anxiety on top of the hell and horrors that went on in my house.

This fear continued on into college and still continues.  I would get sick on the first day of a new job or a new experience like joining a new club or group even though it was something I wanted to do.

It’s just always been this way.

And now that I have other more serious phobias, my social phobia has turned into full-blown agoraphobia, although very specialized and very defined.  It’s very, very real.

Last night was the evening service for the first night of Rosh HaShanah and I decided we would go.  I told Scott not to listen to any excuse I made short of a cerebral haemorrhage and me in the ER.

Scott has to work today and I also figured it was dark (it’s easier for me to do something in the dark) and we had every little step planned out.

We planned getting there REALLY early so we’d have a parking spot in the parking lot.  I’d wear clothes I was comfortable in and we would be hyper prepared.  I even called the temple early in the morning to just scope out the parking since it was what was really stressing me out.

I was ready.

I made a really festive dinner.  Cooking calms me so I made roasted curry chicken with apples, wild rice pilaf with apples, sweet and sticky green beans and apple cake along with gala apples and honey.  It helped because it turned out absolutely perfect, delicious and right on time.

Scott and Evan looked fantastic.  I was in a skirt that I felt good in, a sweater and a pashmina shawl.  I felt good.

Of course we forgot our tickets but we got them and still arrived in time to snag a space in the parking lot.  We backed in.  I took a klonopin so I’d be really calm and okay.

And it all worked out better than I could have hoped.

I cried throughout parts of the service as I felt Gd welcoming me and His love wrapping around me and the angels, Michael, Gabriel (especially), Uriel and Rafael surrounding me to keep me safe and there.

Scott was beside of me and I felt him there as I leaned against him.  It wasn’t overly crowded and people didn’t really bother me although the gentleman in front of us wished us a “happy new year.”  I replied “Shana Tova” and he smiled at me.

I thought the organ and choir would bother me as I tend to be more traditional but it was really, really nice and I loved it.  I felt at home.  The rabbi felt perfect for me.

Next week for Yom Kippur I am ready to go back.

I wish we could go Saturday for services but I know it’s all baby steps and that going for Kol Nidre and the next day may be more than my weak neshamale could handle and I don’t want to tank myself before I am ready even though I feel enthusiasm.

I am happy and I feel good.  I am proud of myself.

I did it.  And IT was huge for me.