Many thoughts about the world, meditation, parenting, Judaism, pregnancy, teaching, cancer survivorship, moving from West Coast to East and more.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

About the Brainsite

I haven't been blogging on here so terribly much lately. Mainly it's because I'm chanelling all of my baggage lately into my infamous OTHER blog. So lately I've been wondering the purpose of this one. In particular I was finding myself regretting today a number of my entries about movies. Last night U. and I had a great chat about an article that he read about "Munich" which got us both rethinking a major scene in the movie. I was so disappointed by my actual experience of watching the movie that I wasn't able to actually refer to any meaning about it when I blogged about it briefly in a previous blog entry. In that same entry I wrote about how "Ushpizin" would not change your life, but that was a little unfair of me to say. Who am I to say what impact a movie might or might not have on someone? (After all, I found myself reflecting on it myself more than I expected, particularly at times that its message could help me.) I guess I was just really annoyed by this one woman who said it at a Shabbos table in a really annoying way. But I'll leave that.

So what do I write about on here lately? I've dropped most of my more soul-searching issues because, as I said, they're on the OTHER blog now. Part of this is because I do need to censor a bit now because I'm less certain of who my audience is, and I don't want to say something I regret to people I actually see on a regular basis. But where is my inspiration lately? Are the things I write about meaningful enough?

Today I went for a walk in a place I've wanted to go for awhile. It's a cemetery I pass each week on the way to shul. But since I think (I'm not sure) you're supposed to avoid cemeteries on Shabbos, I hadn't explored it yet. Today it was freezing and windy, but sunny, and cemeteries are fascinating places. So I went down for just a quick peek. There is a gravestone there of someone who lived to be about 40 and who died in the nineties. His gravestone is surrounded by ceramic gnomes, a little deer and a bunch of other toys including a whole row of hot wheels cars. He must have been a wonderful person. I searched for his name online but found nothing.

Is that the sort of thing that's interesting to read here?

One more note... I started daydreaming yesterday about my cancer experiences again. It comes and goes. It's starting to feel like I want to do something creative again to tell my story. Like I need to look at it again from this new place in my life. I first really realized how ill I was on Purim of 2003. I was so weak that I couldn't make it to the seudah (Purim feast). Purim's coming again. That must be why.

So few people here still know about this part of my life. And even those who know, really don't. I used to sit and tell my story to people. I've also written about it. I think I need to do an art project about it. It wouldn't be the first.

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Thursday, February 23, 2006

Not Good

My parents' cat died suddenly last night. We're all upset about it and I'm very homesick now.

I'm reaching out here...


Monday, February 20, 2006

Cultural Connection

When my dad and I used to go shopping and would end up in, say, a Mexican grocery, my dad felt totally comfortable struggling through is Spanish with the people there. I was always to embarassed to mess up. And in other cultural settings I always feel shy because I feel I'm invading personal territory.

Well, today I went to an Asian Market to find out how to get dried black mushrooms. In the county in which I live I tend to see Jews with Jews, African Americans with African Americans and so on. Maybe I've gotten tired of always being with the same bunch. In any case, I really enjoyed being in this Asian market and it didn't bother me too much that I was, I think, the only non-Asian there.

(My chiropractor, too, actually has almost only African-American patients when I'm there. I like the experience of being in that setting.)

So today when I went to the checkout line I had to ask if the stuff I had bought was what I thought it was (the mushrooms said "Black fungi,") and the person bagging my groceries gestured that she liked the chopsticks I was buying. She didn't speak any English at all. The cashier than asked if I knew how to use them. So we opened them up and she laughed at me as I held them incorrectly and dropped the piece of paper I tried to pick up. She coached me a little but mainly just laughed.

I laughed too. It was very funny and I wasn't really embarassed at all.

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Saturday, February 18, 2006


Sure enough, I've had a day of total silence. I wanted to go to shul, but my throat was hurting enough that I didn't want to face the cold or the temptation to speak.

I'm actually quite glad.

There are two parts to what I want to talk about:

1st - A very dear and special friend of mine (who could afford to say something like this to me) once said,
"I've noticed that it really matters a lot to you that people understand you."

There was a long pause during which I let that possibility sink in and I found it to be profoundly true.

Then she continued,

"And sometimes you are very difficult to understand."

Today that was truer than ever. And I played with it. I really can't talk unless necessary. I feel the strain on my throat and I really need to heal, so today when I spoke I could only use hand gestures. And as much as U. knows me, he does not know what my hand gestures mean. Sometimes I sighed in agitation, but today I really learned to be more okay with the silence. During meals I tried to focus just on the sensation of eating and of being together than of what we might be saying. And when a "conversation" did begin, I had to choose my words oh so carefully. The simple things I would otherwise say even to show I understood U., I had to eliminate from the conversation because they weren't important enough to struggle over. On the flip side, when I did need to communicate something and spelled it out with my finger on the tablecloth or whatever, he sometimes just nodded. This was frustrating as I had know way of knowing if he was just nodding or if he really understood. This should be a lesson to repeat back what we've heard in conversation to make sure both people are on the same page.

In any case, I didn't really mind not being able to speak, as you can see below.

2nd - As I said in my last entry, I had the option today of turning this situation into a kind of meditation retreat. I've only done formal retreats two or three times (long hours, day or night, spent in meditation... these with other people). A retreat like this does not just mean you sit all day. You do segments of 45 minutes or so doing different kinds of meditation and interspersed with breaks including eating meditations etc. Mine was way more simple and less "formal." While U. was in shul I just did some different meditations and reading both before, after, and during my own davening and Torah study. It was great. And it prepared me for the rest of the day being in silence with U. back in the house. It would have been nice if I could have gone outside and visited a tree or two, but I really can't take my throat out into the cold if I can help it. (Oh, I sound like a voice major!) When I'm home sick I often feel bored, but I did this very deliberately. And, despite the laryngitis, I didn't feel woozy and sick. I feel very refreshed.

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Friday, February 17, 2006


I feel like it's been awhile since I've written anything interesting on here.

But I don't have much to say.

In fact, I can't say anything in real life anyway as, thanks to my cold, I've lost my voice once again.

Thinking of turning it into a modified silent retreat. Although I want to be around people. So I don't know what's going to happen.

Shabbat shalom to one and all.

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Sunday, February 12, 2006

Help us out, please

My husband is doing a little market research. Please do us a favor and take this quick poll.

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Saturday, February 11, 2006

Two months isn't bad

The two months I'm referring to is how long it's been since I was sick.

Friday morning I awoke with a tickle in my throat. Now I have a deep chest cough and a neverending runny nose.

Less emotional than last time, though. In a way I feel relaxed, just surrendering to it (although complaining plenty). Wonder if I'll play hooky Monday. I hate to put it on my assistant, but I hate to make myself worse too. We'll see tomorrow how I'm doing.


Thursday, February 09, 2006

Charlotte's Web

Field trip today to see Charlotte's Web. It was fun to go, and in some ways the play was quite true to the book, even lifting text directly. However, there was an awful lot of slapstick too. One of my students said, "This was for babies." For example, when Wilbur finds out that the people intend to fatten him up and eat him, he starts acting goofy, running around screaming. Kids laughed and laughed and totally missed the point.

Similarly, when Charlotte's web is discovered, the actors acted goofy once again, pointing, shouting and running around instead of taking a moment to demonstrate awe. Again, kids laughed and laughed and some didn't know what had just happened.

I mentioned this to my colleague who disagreed with me. I wouldn't be surprised if she, like most of the world, thinks I'm too intense and serious. She said it was good to tone down the death aspects of the book.

But what's the POINT of the book unless that's minimized?! I really think children understand death better than we think, and it totally discredits them to shield them so much. What learning can happen, too, if you take good literature and just make it loud and silly.

It's a shortcut to gaining their connection, but will not foster any depth.

Sadly, we have not had a chance to read the book in class. But I asked the kids what part they liked best and several liked a scene in which Wilbur is being chased all over the farm. It is, in fact, in the book and I read them the excerpt. Many of them much preferred it. They said, "It gives more information," and "there were more details." Also, "more things happened."

I agreed.

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Sunday, February 05, 2006

A truly personal blog

Wouldn't it be cool if you could click on your own blog to find out how you were doing, see what was on your own mind, and maybe to get personal advice?

Oh wait, I guess that's meditation.

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Saturday, February 04, 2006

Eagles, CT scans and Tokyo Story

I've a lot to catch up on here, but will try to keep it short.

Last Sunday U. and I went eagle watching with the Tenafly Nature Center. We saw about 8 eagles, a red-tailed hawk, and another interesting raptor that I can't remember. We've never gone bird watching before and truthfully I'm not sure I want to actively go out again. I love being in nature, but am not the kind of naturalist that can sit still just watching for something to happen. I'm more of the kind that goes deep inside myself when I'm in the woods, or walk through the woods actively and keep moving quickly. I go as quietly as I can so as not to disturb in that way, but I don't slow down so much. I've been listening to an audio tape of Jane Goodall's autobiographical Reason For Hope while driving. She talks about how, as a child of about 4, she wanted to know how an egg got out of a chicken. To make a long story short, she hid, waiting for a chicken to come lay an egg for a good four hours until she got to see it with her own eyes. I have too much energy for that.

In any case, it was lovely to get a peek at upstate New York and to be out of the house on that last day before returning to work after my winter break. Also delightful to have U. along. If it wasn't my sort of thing, it certainly wasn't his. But we had a great time together all the same.

On Wednesday I had another follow-up CT scan. This was probably one of the most painful one I've had simply because the technician stuck me quite hard. I bled a bit on the sheet, in fact. But he was also one of the friendliest so I'm not complaining. I've been getting checked every 3 months. From now on, it will be only every 6!

I don't get all that scared before a CT scan the way people do if they really have a legitimate reason to fear recurrence, but I do certainly go back into my memories. Everyday stuff seems less important when I'm remembering the time when I was just surviving day to day. I had to drink 3 huge things of barium throughout the day leading up. In a way I was glad because it was a way to actively express to myself that getting a scan is important. You don't just show up for the appointment. It takes you back to difficult memories and I wanted some way to sort of celebrate that.

Advice... apple flavored is less horrid than berry flavored barium.

Just now we watched Tokyo Story. It was indeed very slow and during the first half I just congratulated myself for making it so far through. But we stopped it now and then to discuss the movie, and truthfully, I found the whole thing quite touching. Yes, it's slow, but that's because it is very real. It presents busy life simultaneously with the undercurrent of how life feels for people who are not busy.

When I went to live in Vancouver, before I could get government permission to have a teaching job again, I decided to volunteer to work with elderly people. To help me prepare, a good friend of mine remarked that elderly are much like children. I felt that with Tokyo Story in the following way. There is a scene in which the two grandparents are sightseeing in Tokyo. They are at the top of a tall building and ask to see where each of their children's houses are. I suspect that a younger adult tourist would want to know business landmarks and the like. But if a child were up there, I'm sure s/he would just want to know where s/he lived. The fast-paced adults in this film HAVE to live the fast pace they do in order to sustain life for themselves as well as their children and parents. But that, by necessity, puts them out of sync with a pace of life that is truly in awe of the world around us.

Again, I imagine most people who would be unable to sit through this whole movie, but (even as I was waching the clock) I was quite moved during it, continue to feel moved by it now, and suspect I will think about it often in days to come.

May we all live to experience old age.

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