Monday, November 29, 2004

Blogger Challenge

Okay - quick vote for all my readers:

B. returns this Thursday morning from a 2.5 week long trip to Australia. His flight arrives at 5 am. I've offered to go meet him at the airport (not pick up, as I have no car) but he's said, very generously, that he doesn't want me to wake up so early and come out in the freezing cold and screw up my whole day Thursday to come greet him, even though he'd love to see me. I'd either have to hustle to get to, or alternatively miss, 2 classes Thursday morning. Mind you, these are classes I have an exemption form, I just go for the fun of it.

Do I still go meet him anyway? Its clear he'd want me to go, but is being super considerate. Or do I go to his place after class Thursday wearing a huge smile (and nothing else? j/k - we're shomer negiah)

Thanks for the advice peeps.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Gobble Gobble

Happy Thanksgiving to all the Americans!

As my 12" diameter apple pie is baking in the oven (sweet potato already done), I take a moment to reflect on my Thanksgiving traditions here in Israel.

When I first arrived here, some 2.5 years ago, my friend Daniel (whom I met on the plane while moving here) and I, lacking family, gathered together a few friends. The rule was that each American had to bring a non-American with them. Daniel made the turkey, stuffing, stuffed mushrooms and we had it at his house. I made the sweet potatoes, cranberries, apple pie and green salad. There were 10 of us, since we hadn't made a ton of friend yet. We all went around the table and said what we were thankful for.

Last year, I had a brother and sister who had immigrated since the previous Thanksgiving. Daniel had his brother's family over. We each cooked the same things. We each still brought a non-American. We still said what we were thankful for. There were 16 of us.

This year, we have so many people coming that we have 2 turkeys! I have parents and basically my whole family here. Daniel just got engaged last week! So he's covered in the family and non-American category - his bride is British. I'll be bringing Chava, one of my new nursing school friends, and one of my few native Israeli friends. B. would have been the top contender for non-American (he's from Cape Town), but he's in Australia til Wednesday.

And when we go around the table, I will say this:

I am thankful for the insight I was given this year to see what was not great about my life, and the strength needed to make the changes to make myself a happier person.

Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy your turkey!

Sunday, November 21, 2004

On Mothers, Nurturing and Nursing

I've had the following thought a few times in the past week, "Gee, Mom, maybe you weren't such a bad mother after all"

I don't want to imply that my mother may have resembled Mommy Dearest in the recesses of my memories, but maybe she did, a little bit.

I have memories of a mother who would come home at the end of a long day teaching other people's bratty difficult children, and be too tired to listen to her own kids. I remember the first time I saw her teaching in her classroom (which was unfortunately located in my own public high school) and was wowed by the amount of patience she had...for someone else's kids.

My mother is a good friend, not so much a mother, more of a close friend. I remember I had once starting dating this guy, let's call him Steve, and though I really liked his personality, I was having trouble feeling attracted to him and feeling the chemistry. I asked my mom for her advice, and she said, "Just close your eyes and kiss him. Shove your tongue down his throat. And if you're still not into him, I'd say move on."

A friend was standing next to me while I was having this conversation on the phone with my mom. When I got off she said, "Please tell me that wasn't your mom you were talking to. Please tell me that was a friend you just happen to call Mommy, as a joke." And I thought to myself, that pretty much describes my relationship with my mother in a nutshell. She's a friend, whom I call Mommy.

Anyway, we've been hanging out a bit recently (now that we live in the same city, after 9 years of living a minimum of 6 hours' drive apart) and she'll remind me of things she did when we were kids, things I've totally forgotten. And I realize, she was a much better mother than I give her credit for. Like my brother's wife is due this week with their second child. And my mom made sure to buy some gifts for their eldest child, so she won't feel slighted when the gifts start rolling in for her new brother or sister. Then my mom asked if I remembered that she did that for all of us. Every time she had a baby (and I am number 2 out of 6) she would make sure she had presents wrapped for each of the existing children before she went into labor, so when we came to the hospital to visit her and our new sibling, she could hand us a gift-wrapped package and say, "Here's a present from the new baby." So that we wouldn't be jealous of the new kid, and maybe would even like them a little.

I took her yesterday to a new oncologist - she had breast cancer a while back and has had some things that need to be watched now - at my hospital, Hadassah. I went with because I wasn't sure of the English/Hebrew situation, and in the end it was good I was there. Hearing my mom's complete medical history made me appreciate her a whole lot more...the fact that she's still around seemed mildly miraculous. And she is very much a friend called Mommy.

After we were done with her appointment, and I was about to head off into class, I noticed this very pregnant woman, with a 4 year old girl in hand, on the verge of tears trying to speak to the receptionist in not the best Hebrew. Since we were in the Oncology Institute, I knew whatever issues she had could not have been good. Eavesdropping, I figured out that both she and the little girl needed blood tests, in 2 different parts of the hospital, within the next 10 minutes, that she didn't know her way around the hospital (which is a maze) and was scared.

I offered her a hug, and my translation services, and told her I would take her to wherever she needed to get to next in order to find her way. I ended up spending 1.5 hours with her, shuttling her around and wielding whatever teeny amount of power I had to get her tests over with, so she could go home to her husband. I felt like she was my patient - my first patient - and that even though I didn't draw her blood, I was her nurse. I experienced first-hand what I already knew about nursing - that caring for a patient is not necessarily about the medical things you do for them - it's doing whatever you can to make them feel better. And if that's alleviating their fears by talking to them, or by simply showing them the way to their next destination, or taking their blood to the lab for them so they can catch their bus and get home sooner, if it helps your patient, you've "nursed" them.

I only recently realized (like last week) that the words for "nursing" and "nurturing" are from the same root. In Hebrew its even more obvious. Nurses are called "achot" (sister) but "nursing" is "si'ud" from the same root as "se'uda" (a large meal) and comes from the root "Samech, Ayin, Heh" - to nurture.

So even though my mom doesn't fully approve (yet) of my Nursing studies, she is probably responsible for my interest in "nurturing". Because as I'm realizing more and more, she was an excellent mother, who nurtured her children to the best of her ability. And someday, I may even tell her that.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Battle of the Religions

There are several "factions" of students in my nursing class. Out of 80 students, I would say 30 are Muslim/Arab (1 is Christian Arab), 20 are religious Jewish girls, and the rest are secular Israeli.

A worrying trend, contrary to previously stated school policy, has developed. The religious girls seem to be bent on not interacting with the Muslim/Arab students. We had to break up into groups of 3 for the rets of the year, in order to practice our new nursing skills on each other, and at the end of the dividing there were 3 people left over, 2 religious girl and a Muslim girl. And the religious girls refused to be in a group with the Muslim.

The va'ad (student council) decided that an erev gibush [evening to build cohesiveness] was in order. They (claimed) took pains to find a bar that would be acceptable to Jew and non-Jew alike, made sure the party would be when Ramadan was finished, and that it would be in a bar not open on Shabbat or that served non-kosher drinks. Unfortunately the Rabbinate of Jerusalem will not certify any bar as kosher, on the grounds that the acitivities inside the bar negate the kosher-ness of anything being served.

The fact does remain that the bar is not kosher. This is problematic for me. While in America I would meet up with friends at a non-kosher bar, and drink a beer from a bottle, or hang out in a non-kosher restaurant and have a drink, in Israel there is no reason for this. There is no reason for me to have to eat/drink in a non-kosher establishment, particularly here in Jerusalem, and I won't do it. However, I agreed to go to the bar evening, because I thought the need to bring the class together as a unit was more important.

Unfortunately, the 20 year old religious girls, didn't agree. They were stubborn and rude, and I was recruited to speak to them, since I am religious, a bit older, and assertive (even in Hebrew). I met with their unoffical leader, Talya, to try and get them to stop being so obnoxious.

I think Talya was totally shocked at my somewhat extensive halachik knowledge. I wear pants and skirts, and though I think even in pants I am obviously religious, I guess they thought that as skirt-wearers they must know more than me.

I tried explaining that while yes, the concept of ma'arit ayin [appearing to do an action that is wrong, even if one isn't really doing it - In this case, being in a non-kosher establishment, though not eating] applies, they must also take into account other halachik [Jewish law] precepts, such as 'al tifrosh min hatsibbur', the idea that cohesiveness as a group has merit; and the concept of "ayt la'asot", that there are certain times when an action that would otheriwise be considered incorrect, may be acceptable in this limited situation.

I asked the girls if they had consulted their rabbi with this dilemma, or just gone ahead and come up with an excuse to avoid hanging out with the Arab students. None of them had asked.

I hope I impressed upon these young minds the idea that Halacha should be used as a tool to develop your life, not an excuse to hide from it. As an outsider, someone who has lived in a world where I didn't always have the privilege of just going to a kosher restaurant instead, I pointed out how spoiled we've become, how inflexible.

I'm not so sure I got my point across. The girls still won't be joining the rest of the group tomorrow, which sort of foiled the point of the evening. But maybe over time they'll grow up. I pointed out to them that they chose to study in a mixed school (as opposed to Shaarey Tzedek Nursing School which is predominantly religious girls), and that they chose nursing as a career, where they will have to treat Jew and non-Jew alike, and set halacha aside for the moment sometimes, with respect to patient triage. And they will have to use Halacha as a tool in order to meet the rules of medicine, instead of using the Torah as an excuse to hide behind.

Meanwhile, I just went shopping and bought a new pair of high-heeled boots, Hush Puppies shoes (not terribly trendy, but very comfortable), a new skirt and a shirt. Yay!

Monday, November 01, 2004


Recently, friends and acquaintances have been commenting on my appearance...specifically that I look thinner and happy. The two are directly correlated.

In the past 2 months I have stopped a working at a meaningless job that I detested, started school (and took the first step towards fulfilling a dream) and ended a relationship with someone who made me feel unloved and unworthy. And I lost 6 kilograms (that's almost 15 lbs.), without trying. I think sadness adds extra weight to a person. Your load gets carried around like a heavy knapsack, bringing you down and preventing you from moving to the best of your ability. And then it translates to physical weight, at least for me. My sadness (or unhappiness) causes me to eat more than I need, and to exercise and move around less.

I've received a lot of comments about my rapid ability to move on with someone new, in light of the D. breakup. Enough that I am addressing them here.

Please, dear blog strangers, understand. Its not that I am a cold, heartless woman, or that I am sublimating my pain over D. and masking it with B. Not at all. Its just that I have already been through the phase where I sit in my sweat pants all day, crying and listening to the Dixie Chicks and Broadway musicals. I just happened to go through it while I was still with D. I knew a long time ago that this would be the ending to that story. It was only recently I chose to accept the reality, and decide that I wanted a different ending for the story of my life. The first time D. and I broke up (a year and a half ago), I cried and thought my heart would split open in two. I made a CD called "Noa's Heartbreak". Songs included "And So It Goes" (Billy Joel), "You Were Mine" (Dixie Chicks), "Both Sides Now" (Joni Mitchell) and "I Know Him Well" (From the musical "Chess").

I thought I would never recover, that I would never love again. That I would end up like poor Miss Havisham. Alas, I underestimated my own strength...and my own stupidity. I continued to get back together with someone I knew in my head (but alas, not in my heart) would never treat me right.

To Anonymous who asked: "Is it that easy to open up again to someone new? to sit on a date without thinking of D? to believe that this time it will be different?"

I have always been blessed to be a cock-eyed optimist. Its dragged me down in terms of always thinking that D. would change, and my long-time hope kept me from accepting the reality. Is it easy to sit on a date without thinking of D.? Yup, pretty easy. I don't find myself comparing people to him. I do hope he's doing ok, because he's not someone that has a lot of friends, and I don't know how he's handling this breakup. But I am not claling to find out.

I think every experience we have influences the future experiences, subconsciously if not consciously (and Sigmund Freud agrees with me). So obviously I have learned something from my relationship with D., but I hope the knowledge I gained will help me move forward, not mire me in the past. Perhaps this time I'll learn to recognize commitment-phobia when I see it. Perhaps (lest you dear readers think I was a perfect saint during the whole D. relationship) I will learn that fighting should always be fair, and that screaming is never a good idea. That communicating feelings should be a huge priority and that no one is ever a mind-reader. And that if a man is not there for you when you need him now, he probably won't be there for you in the future either.

I'm a pretty open person in general, and I will NOT let sad experiences change my essence. I don't know how this will turn out with B., maybe he'll decide tomorrow he doesn't like me anymore, maybe I'll see something I don't like. But I know he isn't D., and I am not going to judge him as if he made the same mistakes. I'll be more alert, more willing to listen to my heart, but that's it.

So now its a lot easier to move on. And recently, several young people I have known (or not known but are in my orbit) have passed away suddenly, from leukemia; an asthma attack; an aneurysm. It makes you think. That today, tomorrow or the next day - these could all be my last day. I don't mean to get morbid (though that's tough hanging in a hospital all day), just introspective. I try to have this frame of mind all the time, regardless of the deaths of people in my world. But it makes me think, and makes me so proud of myself for continuing to strive towards the goal of happiness and fulfillment. To know that if, G-d forbid, I passed on tomorrow, I would die knowing I did the best I could; but also that I still have so much left to accomplish, and that I am constantly working towards those goals. I don't sit around waiting for life to happen. I make it happen.

Rarely, though more often now that I am seeing someone new, I wear perfume. The perfume I chose based on its name first, and its scent second. Clinique Happy. When people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always used to say, "Happy". The profession was irrelevant - and clearly I am still working on that aspect - but I knew that whatever I did, whoever I became, whatever I surrounded myself by, would make me happy. And if it didn't, I would make happiness my goal.

So, yes, friends who have noticed my weight loss and smile, I am striving towards happiness. I'm generally a happy person, but I'm doing my best to stay that way.

There have also been a few comments about B. Who is he, what does he do, how are we faring. Out of respect for B.'s privacy, I am not going to blog about him too much. Afterall, he has no idea I blog, and he certainly didn't agree to publicize his life on the internet. Also, I believe in relationship jinxing. Like I have yet to enter his number in my cellphone, and I believe speed-dial is the kiss of death.

However, I will say that he still smells good, and I am enjoying getting to know him better. He treats me well, and speaking to him always brings a smile to my face. To those who said it was crazy that I am "going steady" with B. after so short a time, I must explain. I am dating towards the goal of marriage. Not marriage with just anyone, but marriage with the right person. And right now I am trying to find him. I think its very hard to concentrate on someone and get to know him well if I am dating more than one person at a time. I'd rather concentrate on someone and know in a shorter time that he's not likely to be The One, rather than go out once a week for 3 months and then decide. So my not seeing other people has nothing to do with anything except, I'd like to get to know B. better, and I don't think I can do that while dating others.

Also, as a total non-sequitur (as this is not a true source of happiness) I am rapidly discovering that nursing is considered a sexy profession. Had I known this, I would have skipped my Biology degree and law school, and gone straight to the tight white uniforms. Giddyup!