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

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I'm 5

Last week was my 5 year post-cancer anniversary.

Over the weekend I had a few very close friends over, one from out of town, and I talked deeply about my memories from being sick.

It's amazing to me how there are some things I'm still working through, and other things that have shifted, and yet other things that just look different now in retrospect. Retelling my story is like rereading one and finding new clues in it. I feel like I'm uncovering my past to help me look into my future and into myself.

So let's see... that's 2 years that I've retold my story, one year that I did ice cream, one year that I intended to do both but it didn't work out for various reasons, and one year where I tried to be an activist on my remission day.

This year I just needed to go inward, and I want to honor that I may do that again in the future. Maybe not every year, but sometimes.

I can't possibly express just how light and free and joyful I felt the afternoon after we did this. Like a miner or archaeologist, I like to dig deep to find the really good gold.

But the best part is bringing the gold out from below and let it quietly sit in the sun.

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Our First Sukkah

So here it is: our first Sukkah.

Beautiful, ain't it? These pictures were taken before the adult table was put in, but otherwise it looks pretty much like this even as I type.

Our house has a deck that was already constructed as a Sukkah. Our rabbi even said the railing around it qualified as Kosher walls, but we wanted big walls anyway.

U. bought and installed tarps.

I chopped and hauled bamboo from a trench behind our house.

ND did sponge painting with some sponges I cut in the shape of lulav and etrog. We also put leaves between pieces of clear contact paper. Here she is showing it off with our neighbor:

I absolutely love that with this holiday we each got to do something we really do best. I don't think there's another holiday that deal with in quite this way.

I really wanted to sleep outside if for no other reason than to show it could be done. After all, the weather was gorgeous the first few nights.

1. ND and I still sleep together and I, while I'm used to camping with her, I'm not used to being outside of a tent and outdoors with her and with no one. I didn't know if it would be safe to leave her while I go in to use the bathroom or what-have-you. (When we camp, our friend is in the tent with us so it's safer. And no, U. is never going to sleep outside!

2. I'm still fighting a little imperfect health. I've come to the conclusion that I'm really supposed to be treating my body with more respect, so I felt that giving up the chance to be outdoors was one expression of this.

3. On the very first night we left our table for a moment to go Sukkah hop at our neighbor's house. I popped back to make sure our Yom Tov candles were safe just in time to find a raccoon on the table eating our challah!!!

I'm a huge animal lover, but not of raccoons eating my challah. Thankfully we'd put the rest of the food away.

We sat down to bentsch and all of a sudden ND stared at the wall of the sukkah. I couldn't see why until a minute later it poked its head back in. I ran after it, shouting to scare it away, but scared poor ND much more. We bentsched fast and went inside.

So it goes. Maybe next year we'll figure out a better way to keep the critters out.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day: Poverty

There's a whole lot I want to write about Sukkot, but ND is not a happy camper right now and I'm trying to do this quickly.

Today is Blog Action Day and this year's topic is poverty.

Your job: Think for a moment about how much Jewish (or non-Jewish) holidays address issues of poverty or helping less fortunate.

Then consider what amount of your income or energy actually goes towards helping.

I think this is particularly challenging if you live in an area where it's just harder to see people in need. In Englewood most people look like they're fine, at least within my immediate community. But looks are deceiving and those w/ similar income level flock together. We have to remind ourselves that this IS our task and is NOT our money,

Right before Rosh Hashanah I found a full tzedakah box I wanted to empty into needy hands. I even called the rabbi to see if he wanted to pass it on to someone. It doesn't work that way, giving coins away.

I kept the cash and made an online donation. It felt distant and too little of an impact.

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Saturday, October 11, 2008


I awoke this morning thinking about Facebook. Very odd. Actually, I dreamt about a friend that I recently just discovered was on Facebook and as I awoke I was thinking that Facebook makes me miss my friends a lot. It keeps me in touch with them too, at least in theory, but really I can't hang out with them in the sukkah or anywhere else for that matter just because they're on Facebook.

My favorite part of Facebook is posting what I'm up to at any given moment and snooping around looking at what others are up to. It's somewhat creepy really. Reminds me of writing by Paul
Auster. I fell in love with his writing for a little while after I realized he wrote the screenplay for Smoke. One of this obsessions (besides obsession itself) is the idea of being watched. He wrote a story about a guy who hired a private detective to trail himself, just so he could feel it. I don't think I want to be watched, but I do like people knowing a little about what I'm doing.

Which brings me, almost perversely, to Night Of The Hunter which U. and I saw tonight. Very very interesting film. Creepy as hell, particularly for its time, and such fascinating dynamics of good and evil and a villain who just won't stop. "Doesn't he ever sleep?" Also some surprisingly candid sexual issues.

I don't want to give away anymore right now (and need to get to sleep anyway), but I'm just so glad we watched this tonight. Besides, it had Lillian Gish!!!

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Post-Yom Kippur

I thought a lot this Yom Kippur about brokenness and imperfection... the fact that we can never finish everything we try to do, that we make the same mistakes again and again, that the slate can never really be wiped completely clean and that Hashem, instead, is perfect.

I had a good morning davening but couldn't help the fact that I felt like something was wrong.

Sure enough, as we were walking home from Mussaf I began to cough. When we got home and I laid down on the couch, the coughing became violent and I realized I had the beginning of chest infection left over from last week's cold.

I didn't see it coming. On Wednesday I even went for a bike ride and was feeling great and on top of things before the holiday started.

Now I'm home sick again.

Someone last week, after having heard me a million types in the past talk about how I feel when I was sick, said, "I bet you're feeling guilty, aren't you?"

Yes I am, and yes I'm still sick of it.

Change is so minimal, change in attitude, behavior, our relationships in the world... one teeny tiny step per year. Even so I feel successful with the changes I've had in my closer relationships with people in the world. But illness I can't seem to change no matter how many supplements I take, how careful I am about food, how much sleep I get. Maybe I'm a little healthier than I used to be. But the emotional abuse I heap on myself when I'm sick doesn't change either.

What am I supposed to learn from this?

On top of this, I wasn't able to really think about Sukkot clearly until Yom Kippur was out of the way, now it's just days away. Another thing I'm trying hard to change is to have people over more often as a way of reaching out to the world more bravely. But guess what, so far no guests. I'll take a last minute stab at it today and see if I can get somebody for the first lunch.

But first I'm going to be smart and go lie down.

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Friday, October 03, 2008

Post-Rosh Hashanah

I had a fabulous Rosh Hashanah, better than expected. I'm going to keep most of the details to myself.

But... I'll just quickly say that the childcare situation where I was davening really wasn't good. So all the time either U. was watching ND outside the davening space (an auditorium in a hospital) or I had here with me while I was davening inside. She was absolutely amazing, especially the second day, and we didn't need to take breaks outside at all for what I think might have been a full hour or two. I really don't know how long.

So when the final shofar blasts were blown ("Ofar, Mommy. Ofar!") we went up to the front of the room with many of the other children. Sitting there in a wheelchair was the mother of a friend of mine. This woman had a stroke a few years ago and has great difficulty speaking. I often want to reach out to her but I often get nervous because I can't understand what she's saying to me.

When she saw ND walk pass, the woman reached her shaking hand out to her. Usually ND shies away a little, but somehow she got it this time and held the woman's hand. I held ND's other hand and put my hand on the woman's back and was totally overcome with emotion as we held our little circle and the shofar blew.

Transcending words.

I wasn't expecting much from the holiday because of my issues with living in such a materialistic place and a shul that's often not so spiritual, but my heart opened anyway with all the effort I had put into preparing both for Rosh Hashanah itself and trying to feel more understanding towards others.

So I felt genuinely uplifted.

Now this morning, I'm sick. Sick sick sick with a runny nose and sore throat that started up on the last afternoon of the holiday. I hate it. This is the 3rd time I've had a cold since school started less than a month ago! I manage to heal much faster than I used to, sometimes in a day, but this brings up a lot of emotion for me. Part of this is that I came out with some friends the other day as a cancer survivor and we talked a bit about life and death at their Rosh Hashanah table. So now I feel afraid and humble and a little hopeless that I can't seem to maintain my good health for long periods of time, however fabulous I feel during my healthy days.

Did some restorative yoga this morning from Myyogaonline and, within that quiet space, found a reason to be sick. These are the days of awe, and feeling this fear and weakness fills me with awe and a sense of mortality. Thank G-d, I know this will pass, maybe even in just a day or so, but I'm more willing to bear it if I see it as a message.

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