Monday, December 27, 2004

Random Acts of Niceness

Last night B. and I went out to celebrate my "winning the lottery". We went to this small Italian place that I love called Agas V'Tapuach (or Pera e Mela in Italian); the place is homey and friendly and the food is amazing.

I hadn't been there in a while, but the waiter was happy to see me and seated us at a larger table, as there weren't too many others there when we arrived. By the time our food came, however, there was quite a crowd. The waiter approached and said, "I know this is really rude to ask, but would you mind moving to a smaller 2-person table as we need this larger table for some other guests."

Of course we agreed, and moved to a much more intimate table. The people who received our table were really thankful about it, when it was really no big deal. At some point I got up and the man of the family who had gotten our table thanked me again and said he'd like to send over some wine, did we want red or white? I told him it was highly unnecessary, and to just enjoy his dinner.

About a minute later the waiter came over and said, "They really want you to have the wine, I'll send over some red." We accepted it, and thanked them for the wine.

Since were celebrating, B. and I got desserts and everything. When the time came to leave, we asked for the check, but the waiter told us that our bill had been paid already!

We went over to thank the family (grandparents and a granddaughter) for their unnecessary generosity, and they said that they really wanted to eat at Agas V'Tapuach and they wouldn't have been able to unless we'd given them our table and they were so appreciative. B. and I were thinking it was no big deal at all, which it isn't. Then the grandfather said to B. "It was so nice watching you two in love over there. It reminds me of when I was young and courting my wife, if that's what you're doing. And if you aren't courting this woman you should be, because she seems like a lovely young lady." And as they left, the grandfather said, "I hope there'll be a wedding out of you guys."

Yonatan, the owner of Agas V'Tapuach, told us that this family is a very wealthy family, who come to Israel 4 or 5 times a year, and always eat at his restaurant when they come. And when they're in the restaurant, if there's soldiers eating, they pay their bill as well.

It made B. and I feel all warm and fuzzy inside; its nice to be the recipient of a random act of niceness. We told each other that when we're old, and eating in a restaurant and see a young couple in love, we'll return the favor. Pay it forward. When was the last time you did that for someone? Or someone did that for you?

Sunday, December 26, 2004

First, Do No Harm

A few years ago, at a Shabbat dinner, the topic of non-Western medicine came up. I said with great conviction that I did not believe in any form of non-Western medicine. I thought that Eastern medicine and the holistic approach was a load of crap, and that the practitioners of this "art" were shamans and charlatans.

After the dinner, one of the other guests called to suggest a friend of hers for a blind date. The man was a doctor of Eastern medicine, and practiced acupunture and Chinese healing. Needless to say I laughed, and said I couldn't date someone if I didn't respect their job/beliefs. In the end I agreed to go on the date, and was quite shocked. I was expecting some long-haired hippie-type man, in a flowing caftan with a crystal around his neck. Instead, the Caucasian version of Mr. T. met me at a coffee shop. This huge, muscular, clean-cut, Republican, conservative guy was the Doctor of Eastern Medicine.

Obviously, over the years, my position on non-Western medicine has changed. And will probably continue to change over the course of my nursing studies. I now believe very firmly in the holistic approach to medicine, believe that a combination of western and non-western medicine and healing is required in all situations. I think the specific patient and the situation will determine what combination of East adn West I use on my patients.

Today, for my "Theory of Nursing" class I had to watch a film called "First, Do No Harm", starring Meryl Streep.

It is the haunting story of a little boy named Robbie, who develops epilepsy, and his mother's struggle with the medical establishment to help her son. The movie opens with the discovery of Robbie's epilepsy; as it progresses Robbie goes from being an active, happy child to a lethargic almost mildly retarded little boy, thanks to the side effects of Dilantin and Tegretol, seizure medications that often do quite a bit of harm.

While Robbie's medical condition spirals downwards, the rest ofhis family's life is thrown into flux, both from social perspective, as they grapple with the decision to tell their friends and neighbors, and from a financial perspective, as Robbie's mounting medical costs force the family into serious debt, leading to the foreclosure of their home, the sale of their posessions, and poverty.

Meanwhile Robbie is not getting better, the medications are slowly turning him into a vegetable, and the all-knowing neurologist suggests a very expensive and risky brain surgery that may or may not work, and could kill Robbie.

His mother, Meryl Streep, finally decides to regain some of the power, and research epilepsy at the public library. She eventually discovers that doctors at Johns Hopkins University have invented this diet, the Ketogenic Diet, which alleviates the effects of epilepsy. In 1/3 of the patients it eradicates their sezures completely, in 1/3 it reduces the amount of sezures dramatically, and in 1/3 it does nothing, but certainly causes no harm. The Ketogenic Diet is more or less a strict form of the Atkins' Diet.

To make a long story short (see the film yourselves!!) Meryl Streep must battle the medical establishment in order to be allowed to put her son on this diet, despite the fact that even if it doens't work, there are no adverse effects. Meanwhile, her son's doctor's want to dope him up with medicine and perform a risky brain surgery, rather than give her the chance to save her so using a non-scientific method, as no one can explain why this diet helps epileptic patients. They try to take away her parental rights and force Robbie to undergo this risky surgery and harmful drugs, because their belief in themselves and in Western medicine is so great.

The phrase, "First, do no harm," is usually attributed to The Oath of Hippocrates, the oath newly minted physicians take while being "hooded", as they graduate from medical school.

As I've just discovered, this is a fallacy. The phrase "First, do no harm" appears nowhere in the Hippocratic Oath, not in the original version written by Hippocrates in his native Greek in 400 BCE, nor in the modern version, written by Louis Lasagna in 1964.

And yet, this steadfast belief held by many physicians that Western medicine is the only true medicine is harmful. What is it about Western medicine that makes us put such faith in it? What does everyone else believe? What would you do in this situation?

As often happens, the most chilling part of the movie was the credits. The film was 100% true. Many of the bit parts in the movie were played by epileptics who had been cured using he Ketogenic diet. Google it and you'll see what I mean. I cried and cried at the end, and vowed that this film would shape what kind of nurse I become.

I was easily the most powerful film I have seen in years. Go rent it.


A while ago, I posted about how I worked for this that had failed, and I was owed about 3 months of back wages from August - October 2003. And that we, the former employees, had to file for a forced liquidation then claim the lost wages through Bituach Leumi, the National Insurance Institute here in Israel.

Knowing the process would be lengthy, and the likelihood that I would ever see the money slim, I decided to consider the money gone, and if I ever did get the money back from Bituach Leumi it would be considered like winning the lottery.

Well, this morning I checked my bank account, and I did indeed win the lottery. My account was healthier than it has ever been here! I won't disclose the amount, but its enough to take a trip to anywhere I've ever wanted to go! I'm rich!!! Bituach Leumi actually paid the money.

I think I will be responsible, and buy one item that I really want but don't need, and put the rest in savings.

What would you do with a windfall of let's say $10,000 (this is NOT the amount I received). Would you spend it all on something fun, put it all away in savings, or a combination??

Monday, December 20, 2004

The Tortoise and the Hare

Yesterday in my Developmental Psychology class we learned about different types of intelligence. Apparently, there are 2 different kinds of thinkers - the Impulsives vs. the Reflectives. The Impulsive thinkers act first and think second, they go with their intuition and go quickly. The Reflective thinkers stop and mull over all considerations before answering a question or solving a problem. I'll give you one guess what kind of thinker I am.

Back in the days when I was taking exams in my native tongue, I was usually the first one finished. While the other students would still be diligently filling in their names, I was already handing in my exam to the proctor. My attitude was that a test should take no longer than 10 minutes. Either you know the information or you don't. Sitting there and waiting for information you don't know to fall from the sky like manna is a waste of time.

The thing is, though I was usually done first, that position was in no way indicative of my level in the class in terms of achievement. Although I knew the information cold, and thought I was "smarter" than the other students, I would still be pulling B's, (or C's) when I could have easily gotten all A's, simply by studying a bit more and taking my time on exams.

The bad thing about Impulsive thinkers, according to my professor, is that we sacrifice getting an answer right in favor of saving time. And at the end of the day, grades are handed out based on how many answers you got right, not who handed in their exam first. If there was some sort of bonus for the first person to hand in their exam, then maybe the Impulsive thinkers would have a point. But we don't.

My impulsive thinking is in no way limited to my exam-taking. I am impulsive about everything. When I decided to make aliyah, I did it in the blink of an eye. I didn't really think about it too much. The idea came to me one day, and 2 days later I had filled out the paperwork. 6 months later I was touching down at Ben Gurion Airport. As it happened, I got that "answer" right in the exam of life.

When I decided to go to law school, it was a similar sort of process. I perused an LSAT review book (because an ex-boyfriend was thinking of taking the LSATs), thought, "Hey this looks fun", took the LSAT without studying, got a decent enough score to get into law school and went. Standardized tests, of course, favor Impulsive thinkers, because there are usually serious time restrictions, and many times Reflective thinkers don't finish the exam and thus sacrifice potential points - answers they would have gotten right had they moved a bit more quickly. I have always done fantastic on standardized exams, and less than fantastic on regular ones. Law school, however, turned out to be a "wrong answer" in my life exam, and I'll bet if I had taken a bit more time in that decision I would have not gone.

Much like in the exams, the Impulsive thinker sacrifices the right decision sometimes in favor of the quick one. In the fable of the tortoise and the hare, I am the hare. Except at the end of the story, the tortoise is the one that wins. "Slow and steady wins the race", is what the tortoise says as he passes the hare by.

When it came to Nursing school, I mulled over my decision to even apply for months. I thought about, formulated a game plan, spoke to others, etc. I told almost no one of my plans to apply, until I had already been accepted and decided to go. My professor says that you can teach Impulsive thinkers to be a bit more Reflective (though not vice versa).

On Friday I took a major exam (in psychology) and for the first time in my life during an exam, I became a Reflective thinker. I mulled over each choice, deliberating why it was incorrect or correct. I was almost the last person to hand in the exam. Because I am a new immigrant, I have a time extension on the exam, and I actually used part of it. And you know what? Answers that I didn't know at the beginning of the exam, fell like manna from the sky by the end of the exam. Maybe the Reflectives have something going on.

Although I am very clearly a hare, B. is definitely the tortoise. I am a romantic, and B. is very much a pragmatist. I am Impulsive and B. is Reflective. We had our first real disagreement this weekend. Note how I do not say "fight", because we didn't fight, we simply had differing viewpoints which we presented to each other in a respectful, mature (okay, B. was more mature than me) manner.

Prior to our discussion, I always thought that my point of view was right - Impulsive, romantic, the hare. I thought there was only one way to conduct oneself in certain situations. But now I see that there is value - great value - to the other side as well. I am humbled and willing to admit I was wrong. Which, for this Impulsive thinker, is a huge thing.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Stars Wars

I am one of the 17 people over the age of 21 who has never seen any of the Star Wars movies.

Or at least I was, until yesterday.

I'm not sure how I managed to never see it as a child. My family was pretty religious, didn't go to movies much, and I was never a big TV watcher. Also, as a child, I lacked the patience to sit in one place for 2 hours watching an inanimate object.

By the time I reached adulthood, it was sort of an identity for me. I was the woman who had never seen Star Wars. In fact, it became my fallback second date topic of conversation. In the event that conversation was lagging, or if I wanted to gauge a man's attraction to me, I would somehow work into the conversation the fact that I had missed a major influential part of the 1980's. Inevitably, the conversation would become:
Guy: "I can't BELIEVE you've never seen that movie"
Me: "Yup - I missed it"
Guy: "But everyone has seen at least the first one!"
Me: "Not me - but as a child I had 'Empire Strikes Back' bedsheets, so in a sense, I've slept with all the characters from the movie."
- and then, this was how I knew a guy liked me -
Guy: "Well, WE have to watch that movie together"

The thing is, I never found a guy who was "worth" my Star Wars virginity. I was saving myself.

That is, until I met B., a self-confessed Star Wars geek, who played a hearty round of Star Wars Trivial Pursuit with several others at my place last week (ultimately Chayyei Sarah beat all the boys by a huge amount - but that's because she is a cool chyck). I promised B. he could be The One to view Star Wars with me.

After Treppentwitz's post about the significance of the 5th night of Chanuka, B. and I decided that yesterday would be the day to relieve me of my ignorance. Additionally, yesterday was our second 'monthiversary' - two great months of dating. So the time had come.

I actually enjoyed the movie, but perhaps that was because of my viewing partner(s). Sharona, my dog, snuggled comfortably between us - she and B. get along great. I know it must be love if I didn't mind B. reciting half the lines of the movie along with the characters; in fact, I found it rather endearing. His excitement was so cute - except for perhaps the part where Darth Vader uses "The Force" to choke one of the other members of the Senate to prove the power of The Force, and B., made fake choking noises about 2 seconds before it happened onscreen, and I, in my nurse's mindset, thought he was choking on the popcorn and began performing the Heimlich maneuver.

I wondered aloud what would become of my second date conversation - without my "routine", what would happen if conversation lacked? And B. said ...

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

A note to my commenters

Dear The Hock and "Anonymous",

This is my blog - not yours. If you want to create a blog that attempts to take stabs at the status of my physical relationships with B., D., or A,E,I,O,U (and sometimes Y), that's fine.

But the fact is neither of you know what I've done with anyone - except that I hold B.'s hand. Nor will I be blogging about my experiences in the future.

Shomer negiah - to me, and any other time I use it on this blog - means any barriers/prohibitions to touching that are in place in order to prevent sex. That's all. Assume from that what you will - but please, don't pontificate about it in my blog. Halachik authorities I've consulted have made the distinction between shaking the hand of a business associate and holding hands with a lover (and by lover, I do not mean someone with whom one is having sex). So all touching does not equal "negiah" in this blog.

Here are a few other "Jerusalem Revealed" definitions, to clear up the semantics

"Very physical" = Lots of touching - does not mean sex, not "sleeping together in a post-coital haze" (which, BTW, post-coital means after intercourse, so I'm not sure how someone can not be having sex yet be there for something post-coital). There's a lot that can happen between hand-holding and having sex, I've been told.
"Doesn't pick and choose what he's careful about" = I mean, careful about halachik things. Like the whole concept, not particular tiny points. I also said he davens 3x a day with a minyan, but guess what, sometimes he misses minyan because he's in the middle of donating bone marrow to a leukemia patient. You know, things like that. So I would say that doesn't mean he is not careful about his minyan-going.

"Orthodox" = from Late Greek orthodoxos, from Greek orth- meaning "straight" + doxa, meaning "opinion" (Merriam Webster Dictionary). If I'd said I was "Orthoprax" (ortho - straight, prax - actions or practices) then perhaps there'd be an issue.

To The Hock, who thinks that most of the harchakot do not sexually excite his/her spouse, I feel very sorry for you and your spouse (if one exists yet). I hope that your sex-life improves, and that touching your spouse begins to excite you at some point. However, I'm not going to make guesses about what goes on in your marriage here. If you are as critical of him/her as you are here in this blog, my heart goes out to him/her.

I'm not going to comment about the fallacies, correctness, ludicrousness or insanity of either of your comments about me or B. But for people who (I hope) have never met me, you assume a lot.

Love always,

Friday, December 03, 2004

Touch and Go

"When you take someone to the airport, it's clearly the beginning of a relationship. That is why I never take anyone to the airport. Because eventually things move on and you get busy and I never want someone to say to me, 'Honey, how come you never take me to the airport anymore?'"
(When Harry Met Sally)

Yes, folks, I went to the airport to pick up B., fully dressed and with a smile, and he was very happy I came.

For the record, of course I was planning on going. I missed B. while he was gone, and was pretty happy when he came back. But then when I mentioned it to some acquaintances a few days ago, they reacted in shock and horror. "That really reeks of desperation - don't you think you should be playing harder to get?" was the exact response from one of them.

I've never been good at playing games, and I don't really want to hone my skills in that department. If I get hurt because I don't play games, so be it. At least I'll still be true to myself.

But these were my married friends (and engaged) who said this, so I thought maybe I should see if it really does reek of desperation. And when I put the question out to you, dear blog-pals, no one even thought that there was a hint of desperation involved. I would have gone, even if y'all hadn't encouraged me to, but I appreciated the confirmation.

And, through a backwards chain of events (roomate's car (which is stick-shift) broke down, so she had to take a rental, when she got to the rental place, she realized she's locked her driver's license in the car which was currently at the mechanic's, who was closed, so I had to bail her out by renting the car in my name), I had a car in my possession, and was able to pick him up that way, which made him happy.

He was quite pleased I came and said, "I knew you were going to come even though I told you to stay home where its warm, but I'm so happy to see you".

He brought me back a stuffed platypus (I knew he was more creative than a traditional koala bear), and a beach hat and a skirt from Thailand. So I decided he definitely deserved the South African Sprinboks rugby kippah I'd made him in his absence, and he really loved that!

As for the shomer negiah bit...a few comments to the commenters.
1. We are not fully shomer negiah, we hug, we hold hands, but we leave it at that. Its very hard for me, because I am a very physical person (which works well in nursing, always holding patients hands', etc.) and this is his bag, not mine. I've never been shomer negiah in a real relationship, but I fully respect B.'s commitment and his religious thought.

Even before he entered my life, I told myself that my next relationship would be a lot less physical, because I think it blurs the focus a little bit. I've never stayed with someone because the physical side was good, but being physically intimate before becoming emotionally intimate blurs the lines of verbal communication, I think.

2. To the person who said that "wearing a smile and nothing else" does not negate the shomer negiah aspect, I will share with you a little lesson I learned from my Niddah (Jewish laws of separation during the time of menstruation) teacher.

The reason for the "harchakot" (lit. distancings - additional rules to prevent sex during menstruation) is one of simple kindness. Why would I do something (something not prohibited) to sexually excite my spouse/partner, if I know full well that nothing can come of that sexual excitation. Its just cruel. Why turn the guy on, if he and I cannot do anything to take care of that? If I really cared the guy (and vice versa) we'd remember that yes, he (or I) may get turned on by the site of me in a smile and nothing else, but that there's nothing we can do about it, so its just plain mean. And I do really care about B., and I very much respect his commitment to this halacha, so I try not to turn him on - any more than my very presence in his life does, I mean :).

One of the things I really like about B. is his integrity and his honesty of character. He's no faker, no charades. His religious leanings all add up - he doesn't pick and choose what he's careful about. He davens 3x a day, with a minyan, wears tzitzit, learns Torah daily, and he's shomer negiah. And I respect all of the above, and him for sticking with it all because he believes in it. His thoughts and actions match, and he's just as careful about the laws that are internal, that no one else can see, as he is with the public laws. And most imortantly, in observing the letter of the law, he never forgets the spirit of the law.

So to the Anon that said he doesn't believe I'm shomer negiah, you're right. I am not 100% - we touch - but minimally. And that is his kindness to me because he knows I express myself - to friends, patients, clerks at the bank - through little touches. And even though with him they have more of a sexual character than say the bank clerks or my patients, this was something we agreed on.

And to the Anon who hoped that my appearance at the airport would herald the end of the shomer era, I don't want to end it. I respect B.'s beliefs, and even if, in a moment of weakness, he tried to end the shomer negiah-ness, I wouldn't let him, because I know what he really believes. The era will come to an end under the chuppah, or not at all. Poopoopoo.