Thursday, October 19, 2017

When Facebook Culture Trumps Common Sense

To pass the time
(if you don't know your subject and can't teach it.)
It's no secret that I love facebook. For all the great reasons we know about. But sometimes there are the most enormous bust ups where someone picks on some ambiguous statement, takes it out of context, and blows it up into the most offensive thing they've ever heard. They then feel free to bombard the writer with abuse until they've painted him/her as the devil incarnate. After that, others lurking in the background jump in with loads of irrelevancies to further blacken the name of the poor person who dared to use an inflammatory word, even though it was relevant in the context it was used. 

Before I explain in detail, I want to tell  you what I once learned in a linguistics class about interlocution. There are four basic factors that are needed to facilitate flowing and comprehendible conversation. Four factors which we all accept. They are: 

1. That the person you are talking to isn't lying or knowingly misleading you. 

2. That they understand your meaning even if you don't use the exact words. So if a child says, "I'm thirsty," we understand that he is asking for a drink and not just telling you for no reason. 

3. That the length of an answer will be appropriate. Not too long as to be irrelevant or too short as to miss out important information. If you ask what a word means you just want the meaning of the word and not its etymology from Indian Sanskrit through the Romance languages to English, with all the similar word families along the way. On the other hand, if you ask how and why WWII started, the answer needs more precise detail than, "Germany and Japan wanted to take over the world." 

4. Relevance and context. So if you say you don't like milk, you don't expect a lecture about the rural economy and how you're undermining the dairy farmers and endangering the whole future of the countryside as we know it.

If I were to be allowed a fifth factor I would add giving your interlocutor the benefit of the doubt. 

And yet on facebook sometimes all five of the above factors are thrown out the window and people will fight to the death over a misplaced word that becomes the difference between you being a decent person and a judgemental, arrogant bitch who insults and disrespects everyone. 

So here was the context. We were talking about EFL teachers and whether they had to be native English speakers or not. Someone said that it's impossible for native English speakers to know English grammar as well as non-native speakers who learned it in school. This was my reply: 

ME: Any Native English speaker who can't get her head around the finer points of English Grammar is just not intelligent enough to be a teacher. It's not hard, especially if you understand all the words. I learnt the tenses etc, at age 27. It took me one afternoon to know what they mean and what they are used for. It took a year of teaching experience to be able to explain it in Hebrew. People learn new things all the time - languages, computer coding, new professions, they take additional degrees..... It is insulting to English speakers to say we can't possibly know English Grammar as well as Hebrew speakers who learnt it in school. That's just ridiculous

BOOM! I'd ignited the flames of fury under Mr and Ms Angry from Israel. Here are some of the lovely  replies I got.....

SHE: ...inability to learn a subject doesn't make you not-intelligent.  

Um yes I agree, but I was specifically talking about English Teachers learning English. Who in their right mind would want to teach a subject they couldn't learn themselves? That would seriously bring their intelligence into question. And I said as much. 

HE: No it doesn't. There's a difference between speaking correctly and being able to explain why. Some people have learning disabilities, it doesn't make them stupid, it just makes some stuff harder than others, just like some of us are good at math and others at music. I couldn't possibly disagree more than it isn't an indication of intelligence or lack thereof.

Did I call people with learning disabilities not-intelligent? Did I even refer to or imply anyone who didn't set out to be an English as a foreign language teacher? I replied,  "I did not mention learning disabilities at all because I thought it obvious that you cannot be a teacher if you cannot learn the material you have to teach."

SHE: OMG I'm seriously stopping the conversation with you out of respect for our mutual friends. I can't remember the last time I saw someone as judgemental as you are.

Am I missing something here? Anyway, once we were off topic it was obviously a free for all witch hunt. 

HE:'s hard for some and not hard for others. Who the heck are you to decide what's hard for who. I managed it just fine at a late age myself but plenty of others don't. What exactly qualifies you to determine people's intelligence? A bit arrogant maybe? And why isn't rocket science super easy? Probably there are those for who it is. For me it's likely not. If it's not easy for you perhaps it's not that it isn't easy. Perhaps it's just that you're unintelligent. Seriously - the arrogance of judgement here is off the charts!

Leaving aside that, "it's not rocket science," is a phrase used to express something accepted as being difficult, did you notice how it goes from, "a bit arrogant maybe?" to "the arrogance of judgement here is off the charts!" just two lines later. A prime example of how people get carried away once the witch hunt has been established. So I said again that it's not hard for a native English speaker to learn the rules of grammar. Suddenly I was whipped out of facebook and teachers training to teach English into my classroom (where, btw, we have a policy of 'integration' throughout the school so I wouldn't last long if I wasn't sensitive to learning difficulties). How (and why?) did that happen?

HE: ...and you say that you're qualified to work in a profession that requires you to deal with students - that is...other human beings? I'm sure they must love it when you explain to the ones having trouble just how smart you are and how unintelligent they are. Charming...

The funny thing is, this man has never been inside one of my classrooms. How does he know all this? Does he also know that I make my students clean the toilets with their toothbrushes if they can't say the difference between their and there? 

I asked, because this was really the only point I was trying to make, "is it judgemental to say if you can't learn a subject to the level necessary to teach it you should either teach something else or not be a teacher?"

HE: 1) no to your initial question. That's just sensible 2) just because someone is able to learn something doesn't mean it comes easily or naturally to them. That doesn't make them unintelligent..... and on and on for three paragraphs explaining to me about the concept of intelligence and abilities etc etc etc. 

ME: 1. Yes, thank you. 2. I didn't read all this as I don't have time and I probably agree with all your views on intelligence, encouragement and respect. Skip all that and a person who has really tried to study the material because they so want to be an English teacher, and with all the encouragement, etc... they cannot learn the rules of grammar sufficiently to explain it to students, then they should not be an English teacher. C'est tout.

This went on for the best part of two hours. I didn't mind as I was stuck supervising an exam. In between each comment I got up and walked around the room to check all was ok. Apart from that I just had to be there and not disturb the students. If I'd had anything else to do I'd have let it go, but after a while it actually became an interesting study in human-rottweiler behaviour. (As in the rottweiler doesn't let go.)

The bottom line was, that once I'd said it enough times, each time adding more and more specific amendments regarding who I was and wasn't referring to, they agreed that you can't be a teacher if you don't know your subject. I still say that for a native English speaker wanting to be an EFL teacher, learning the grammar is not hard. That's my opinion and no one has to agree but otoh, not one native English speaking teacher said they'd found it hard to learn once they knew what the material involved. I take that as a confirmation even though I was told I had insulted everyone on the thread who may not have found it easy to learn it. (That's no one by the way.)

But then I was going by the rules of interlocution above. They usually really do apply, except not on facebook apparently. Even when the conversation is between English teachers, the rules of interlocution seem to be trumped by facebook's own culture. 

Bottom line, never say that you need a certain amount of specific intelligence for any career, whether it be something scientific, technical, medical, academic, practical, administrative, financial, commercial, or whatever. Because that means you are so arrogant as to think that anyone who can't easily learn your job is not intelligent. What's more you are so cruel as to think that all people with learning difficulties have no intelligence. And you go about telling everyone how stupid they are and how intelligent you are. 

NB: this warning only applies on Planet Facebook. In the real world it's just common sense. You couldn't make it up. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The 500 Clutters Challenge

DD loves this authentic samovar from Bukhara, Uzbekistan
As you know if you were reading this blog over the summer, and if you have been following me for a couple of years, I am always decluttering. I declutter great mounds of stuff, I take photos of piles of books and filled bags ready to go, and I reorganise all the cupboards and drawers (so that I never know where anything lives anymore). 

I declutter and declutter and I still don't reach anywhere near that state of minimalism which is supposed to free up your life for wonderful things like free time, creativity, money, and travel. 

The last big declutter was in August during the summer holidays. I managed to get rid of a whole chest of drawers, an old armchair and an oversized footstool. (The footstool has mysteriously ended up in my daughter's bedroom but as far as I'm concerned, I no longer own it.)

I posted photos of all the books on my local To Sell group. About 30 academic books on language learning, bilingualism, and literacy. Only 20 years old but in perfect condition - I only needed to read them once after all. No one wanted them of course. If you are an academic you can't use them for up to date research, and if you're not an academic you don't need them. So they all got shifted around and though the bookcase is still emptier, they are in a drawer. Out of sight etc...

Soooooo. Over the Sukkot holiday, last week, DD and I set ourselves a task to get rid of 500 items (500 clutters). And I mean actually get rid of them - out of the house - not just away but "away away" as Meryl Streep famously said in Mama Mia.

My old holdall from 1981.
I don't pack into anything without wheels these days.
We managed 250. Well not actually out of the house for all of them but also not still in piles and bags around the house. Everything has a planned route out, even if some plans are necessarily delayed. For example, I have a cupboard over a wardrobe that is full of items for the Yedidya Bazaar next March. I have a few (realistic) items to list for sale and some books to take to the book swap in the Railway Track Park.

We counted the 60  children's books I donated to my school's English library and we counted the chest of drawers and armchair that has already gone. We didn't count real rubbish like broken bits of things, empty containers, or old papers. But we did count old things that were thrown out like a wooden mug tree with a warped base.

This time we really went to the back of the corner cupboards and the cupboards over the wardrobes. I found a holdall that I brought to Israel on my gap year 36 years ago. A suitcase that belonged to my parents when they got married in 1958. (I'm keeping that one even though it's useless to me.) An authentic samovar and teapot set given to me by a lady who went to Bukhara and brought it home unnecessarily. (DD thinks it's the most beautiful thing she's ever seen so we have to keep it for a while.) We found the fridge magnet words. DD agreed to swap them for the plastic ABCs. My fridge is now besentenced with inanities.

We found the fridge magnet words.
DD was great about keeping score. She kept all the numbers up to date in her notebook. She was less great about letting some things go. She 'rescued' a few items but some of them came back later when she realized that actually she doesn't need them. My compromise was to start my own tally in which I consider DD's bedroom to be another realm and whatever disappears into it is gone (until such time that I can make it really gone, in secret when she's not home).

So we're done except for the final frontier, my wardrobe. In fact I only wear about 10 items like the most minimal of minimalists. However, I can't get rid of clothes that I love but don't yet fit into. I just can't. Yet. But when I do, and free up whole shelves that will allow other stuff in other places to be moved in (not sure what from where yet), that'll be a whole other (I so wanted to write 'a whole nother') piece of furniture, somewhere, for moving out. It will easily be the missing 250 clutters.

I wouldn't go so far as to say I am minimalistic yet. Minimalistish maybe.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Friends Trump Work

You can tune through the channels and pick up different programmes
Ben Yehuda Street, Jerusalem 
It is the end of the Jewish festivals. We go back to school on Sunday and surprisingly, because it was all supposed to have been done by now, I have loads of planning and test writing to do.

I was just about to post a very low key R2BC in which I was struggling to find something interesting to write. Sitting here lesson planning and exam writing does not make me cheerful. Added to that we were embarking on one of those days of, "what are we doing today Mummy? I'm bored."

The ancient  very old with the very modern

Then we got a phone call from a friend from England who's here for the holiday and because her daughter is going into the army. They are in town and would we like to go and meet them for lunch? We did. DD had to get dressed, I had to put myself together, but we were out, on the bus, and in town within 30 minutes.

We did the usual stroll down Ben Yehuda Street. Then we strolled back up again. Then we walked to the Machane Yehuda market. It was packed. We were going to stop for a falafel lunch in the market but the queue was too long. So we walked back to town and ate at a falafel place on King George Street.

Still a low key R2BC but it was lovely to catch up with old friends. It was good to go out and do some walking. I still have my work waiting for me to do, but friends trump work.

I'm linking up with Reasons 2B Cheerful at Becky's Lakes Single Mum.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The First Rain

You can't see the rain but dig the wellies.
The big news this week is that it rained yesterday.

I was still in bed when DD came running in to tell me, "I just realized it's raining!" I jumped up and ran into the living room. And there it was. Real rain. DD said, "I can't believe it. I haven't seen rain for so long." (Think how you would react to waking up to the first magical snow - that's how we felt and reacted.)

DD put on her wellington boots and went out onto the balcony. She stood watching, transfixed, and smiling from ear to ear.

It wasn't only us. There were tens (or even hundreds) of comments on facebook just announcing the rain. We were collectively thrilled. We even have a name for the first rain after the long hot summer. It's called the Yoreh.

It was cold outside too. I wore my fleece and real shoes instead of sandals.

The best thing about the rain is the clear fresh air it leaves afterwards. Looking down, the street looks clean and the cars are all shiny again. A thick layer of dust and dried mud has been washed away. I feel like cleaning my house.

So forget September 1st as the real start to the new year. Or my birthday on September 4th. Or Rosh Hashana. Or Yom Kippur. Or, as usually happens, "after the all the festivals are over we'll get going with real life, goals, work, diet, etc..." (That would be next Sunday). We're up early, refreshed and raring to embrace the new year, today, after the Yoreh.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Why I Hate The Derech Bet Lechem Street Fair

Last night we went to the annual street fair that happens two blocks from our house. They close the road and rent out tables to merchandisers - mostly food and cottage industry crafts. Then everyone comes because there's nothing else to do and it's "free". However the idea of it, from the organiser's point of view, is to get you to spend as much money as possible. The idea of it from my point of view is not to spend any money at all.

As we approached I could see that the road was packed. I told DD that we'd mosey all the way up to the end, then we'd mosey all the way back, and then we'd go home. "What's mosey?"
"It's walking very slowly and seeing everything along the way. Let's see if we can meet more than 10 people we know," I suggested to make it a bit more fun. We met about 20 people we knew before we even got to the entrance barrier.

Two seconds in I got a phone call from a friend from out of town. "I'm at the street fair. Are you here?"
"Yes we're here."
"I'm by the Waffle Bar."
"We'll be there in two secs."

I dragged DD along to the waffle bar. "Hey! This isn't moseying. I wanted to see something over there. Why are we running?"
"Were going to meet my friend."
"Oh no! And then you're probably going to want to stop for a conversation. Correct?"
"We'll talk and mosey at the same time."

It was lovely to see my friend and her husband. We moseyed a bit together and chatted. DD saw a 2 nis key chain with a tin koala and wanted to buy it for 15 nis. I told her we should see everything and if she still wants it we can get it on the way back. She was disappointed and there may have been some whining involved and the tiniest hint of an argument.

Suddenly we saw DD's best friend standing at the side of the road sobbing. We stopped to learn that they'd lost her three year old brother and her father was running around frantically trying to find him. I spotted him and he was indeed frantic. DD's friend was distraught. I apologised to my friends but we had to help look for the boy.

We were just before a dense crowd watching a band playing. It was almost impossible to get past but we pushed our way through and hurried right up to the end of the road and the exit barrier. The music stopped and they made an announcement about the missing child. I gave his photo to a policewoman who shared it on the police whatsapp (or whatever they use). Meanwhile the father had found him holding hands with another policewoman at another barrier.

DD wanted to go back and see that her friend was ok. So we ran back to the concert crowd and DD pushed through, dragging me behind her. A lady tapped me on the shoulder and said, "we're following in your footsteps."
"You'd better hold hands then." I gave her my free hand and we pushed on. I noticed that she had another four people behind her all holding hands. We were a train of seven with DD in the lead. Eventually we made it out the other end and were all able to uncouple.

DD's friend had gone home. I think her father probably needed a stiff drink. I offered DD something to eat. There were 9 mini doughnuts for 20 nis (4 pounds something) - we only wanted one. Or there were thin crepes with a shmeer of Nutella also for 20 nis. I said we'd eat at home. The koala key ring had been sold.

DD lost it and I don't blame her. We'd been out less than an hour. We'd run up and down the road hardly stopping to look at anything. She didn't get anything. Her legs hurt. She was fed up and so was I. I said we could stop at the 24/7 grocery on the way home and she could buy whatever she wanted. "Can I buy Fanta?" I bit my tongue and said, "just this once." And then obviously I had to buy some food for myself that I didn't need to eat.

We spent 60 nis at the 24/7. Grrrr. I should have just bought the doughnuts. Then we came home armed with a load of junk food and I had to spend the rest of the evening playing Rat-a-tat Cat to make up for everything.

(I just want to add that in previous years the fair has been much much better with loads more street entertainment, lots more participatory art, and many more stands with real artists selling real art.)

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Eating in the Tabernacle - R2BC

Once again there are Reasons 2B Cheerful. Becky at Lakes Single Mum has taken back the baton for October and I've joined the linky as usual.

I took up the challenge from Jax at Making It Up to blog for all 30 days of September. In the end I only managed 18/30 but that was good enough. My life just isn't that fast to have something of general interest to write every day. Still, the 18 posts were enough to boost my stats and increase my TOTS100 ranking for the second month running. I'm now only 39 tantalizing ranks away from being back in the top 500. So I'm going for another month of lots of blogging to see if I can break the 500 barrier for the first time in almost two years.

Another holiday
We went back to school on September 1st, we had a few days off for Rosh Hashana, nothing for Yom Kippur this year as it fell on a weekend, and now we have a whole 12 days for Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles). Sukkot is only an eight day holiday but the day before and the weekend after made a great block of days off. Of course this is only for teachers. Everyone else with young children has to juggle childcare for a week while they are at work and the kids are off.

Lunch in the sukkah
We had a lovely day with friends today when we were invited to lunch in their sukkah. A sukkah is a temporary dwelling outside (a tabernacle) with a natural covering through which you can see the stars. It symbolizes the dwellings in the desert inhabited by the children of Israel as they journeyed from Egypt for 40 years after the exodus, until they reached the Land of Israel. (Funny how it didn't take Joseph and later Jacob and his other sons, nearly as long to make the original journey from Israel to Egypt.)

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Arrogance Of Thanking God

I'm running out of relevant photos. Here is possibly where God lives. 
I have many friends who, whenever things work out for them whether it be a stroke of good luck or good timing, thank God for putting everything in place for a happy outcome. I started to do this myself recently. The older I get the more I'm convinced of a higher power. Whatever the nature of this higher power is up for debate. I do believe though, that if you work for the good and if you are in tune with the universe and humanity within it, then it will will work for you and you will get your reward.

We want to make two trips to London in the coming year to visit family and celebrate various events (the exodus from Egypt being one of them ;~p). My mother had been urging me to book the flights for the first visit at least so that she could plan around it. I was holding off until October when I get paid for my summer courses and get a full salary for being back at school in September.

Ten days ago I got an email from Easyjet saying that bookings were now open through to next summer. I decided to take a look. If I booked for our second trip as well I might get really low prices for being so early. 

Prices for next year were very reasonable. Prices for the end of this year, less than three months away, not so much. So I went to check out Monarch. I found something cheaper but not enormously cheaper. I found the Monarch website confusing as I'm familiar with Easyjet, and I couldn't work out how to change the quoted prices from dollars to pounds. 

I suddenly realized that my credit card only gets paid from my bank account on the 10th of the month (in full so it's actually more like a debit card paid once a month). So I went back to Easyjet, paid the extra, and was confident that I'd not sacrificed the known and trusted to save about $70. And while I was at it I also booked for our second trip next year. 

I was wrong about the credit card. Apparently when you pay for something in foreign currency it gets paid straight away directly from the bank account. I went into big overdraft but put the week's worth of interest on the overdraft down to experience. 

Ten days later Monarch went bust and Easyjet prices have almost doubled. I spent over 1000 pounds on eight flights and, had I booked with Monarch, would have had to spend another almost 2000 pounds had we decided to go anyway - which we might not have done due to the cost. 

My first thought was to thank God. Well something made me 1. book early and 2. decide not to book with Monarch even though they were cheaper. Thank you God. God loves me. I please God and he takes care of me. Trust in God and all will work out for the good. Etc... etc...

However. There's always a 'but' isn't there. A friend of mine, a widow who lives modestly in order to be able to visit her children and grandchildren living abroad, booked a trip with Monarch only a few days before the closure. Her credit card company say they have already paid Monarch so there is nothing they can do (different rules from the UK possibly) and she's lost her money. 

What does that mean in terms of God? He loves me but hates her? Believe me, she's a lot more particular about the religious laws than I am. 

Elliot Jager, in his book The Pater, My Father, My Judaism, My Childlessness, writes that he started to turn away from God when they couldn't have children. How could he love a mean God who would not bless he and his wife with a child when so many others, even less worthy others, are having families of 6, 7, or more children. And I remember thinking the same thing when I was single, childless, and approaching 40.

Jager's friend pointed out to him that he must have known childless couples before he found himself to be in this situation. He must have known people in the past who desperately wanted children but were unable to have. Of course he had. So why was God only a mean God when he didn't deliver for the Jagers but not when he didn't deliver for all the other worthy but sadly childless people? 

So then it's ok to thank God when you accidently leave your purse or your phone in a shop but then remember and run back to find it still sitting there on the bench in the fitting room. And it's good to thank God when you narrowly miss being knocked down by a motorcycle overtaking the car that stopped for you on the zebra crossing. And when you slip over in the street but only bruise your knee and scrape your hand but don't break your leg, thank God. 

But this doesn't make sense if you can't also thank God when you miss being affected by a tragedy that has struck others. If I were in Vegas last week and survived, should I thank God for sparing me? If He's so powerful why didn't he spare everyone? If He spared me, is it arrogant of me to believe myself to be more worthy than any of the other people there?

Of course you don't have to evoke specific events for this line of thought. It could apply to our very lives. Thank God I was born into a middle class, loving family, in the UK, at a time of peace and not into a starving village in Africa. What do you say to God about those children who were born in poor villages in Africa? 

I wish I had an answer but I don't. Every time I want to say, "Thank God," now, I feel guilty. If anyone has any insight on this I'd be very interested to hear it. The nearest philosophy I can come up with for some sort of explanation is from my friend's mother, Mrs Slifkin, who used to tell her children, "different people have different things." You can't argue with that. 


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Tuesday Tidbits #48 - Writing The Great Novel

I am thrilled to announce that The Great Novel is being written in my house at long last.

But not by me.

DD decided that she can write just as well as E. Nesbit so why not do it. So far she's completed about 4 pages of handwritten A4 paper.

Last night she asked: "Have you got a typewriter?"
Me: What?
DD: A typewriter. I need one for writing my book.
Me: People don't use typewriters anymore. They write on the computer.
DD: Really?

Her story is a mystery. There's no plot yet as she's making it up as she goes along.
DD: I'm exploring this world myself even though I'm creating it.

It starts with a girl who wakes up one Sunday morning and her mother and father are gone. She has no idea where they are but she knows there's school that day.
Me: There is school or there isn't school?
DD: There IS! I told you it's a Sunday! (Silly me. People with Israeli children will appreciate this.)

She asked me to write down Elizabeth, Lizzy (I also wrote Lizzie because you can choose either), and Lizard.
DD: Lizzy is short for Elizabeth right? And a mean girl who doesn't like her calls her Lizard. Get it?

So she wrote: Hi, my name is Elizabeth but Lizzy for short. You can also spell it Lizzie you know but I spell it Lizzy.

Of course she has been published before
There's a great beginning in which Lizzy knows she has to go to school but she doesn't know which school she's going to or how to get there.
DD: I'm making her 12 because that's when you go to a new school and you're old enough to go by yourself. Shall I tell you how she finds out where her school is?
Me: Mmm yes please.
DD: She finds her school uniform and goes out. Then she sees two girls with the same uniform. The same uuuuniform, get it?
Me: I get it.
DD: Clever eh? So she follows them and gets on the right bus.
Me: Brilliant.
DD: I'm thinking of making it a boarding school. I think that's more fun. This is the first day back after the summer. And then she makes friends with other girls who help her solve the mystery of where her parents are.

DD: I changed it a bit. Before she went out she ate breakfast. I think that's a bit more realistic than just going straight out, don't you?

I find it interesting that the girl obviously has two parents when DD doesn't. And, btw, we don't do breakfast in our house - neither of us.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Reinventing Yom Kippur Without The Middleman

Today was Yom Kippur - the Day of Atonement. I didn't go to shul (synagogue). For someone who comes from a very traditional (and sometimes orthodox) background, this is no small thing.

I felt guilty because I belong to a very small community that meets only for services on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur and its continuity relies on people turning up. Otoh, the community has evolved over the years with people moving away and new people joining every year. And they don't do it for me, they do it because it's important for them and they love the intimacy of a small community in someone's home. But I rsvped that we would be there and so I felt bad and I was too much of a coward to tell them that in the end I just didn't want to. 

I love parts of the services that involve uplifting singing of tunes that I've known my whole life. And the feeling of that final 'kaddish' at the very end and the long blast of the shofar when everyone has been without food or drink for 25+ hours and it's all over, is an amazing feeling of togetherness and achievement. 

But actually what did we achieve? For me the answer was that I lasted a whole day without sustenance and I managed to attend all the services throughout the day in full. Surely that's not what it's all about?

This year, after resisting it and distancing myself for a few years, I decided to follow my heart. In previous years I've had the excuse that DD gets bored and a bored DD prevents me from having any sort of meaningful prayer experience. But I had a place to leave her this year and anyway there are other children at the shul for her to go off and play with. Otoh, at almost nine, it's not a matter of finding her somewhere to be with other children to play with. She doesn't want to be out all day playing. For some of the time, yes, but she has things to do at home and she also needs her personal time. 

I have a problem with orthodox prayer in that the women basically go to watch. I didn't always mind about this as it meant I had it easy. I never had to learn the prayers or worry about being called upon to do something I couldn't do or hadn't practised. In recent years, however, I have felt differently. Yes women are supposed to pray but as they are not counted in the minyan (the quorum) and they sit at the back or in a viewing gallery upstairs, they might as well stay at home. I have no problem with the men going to do their thing but I don't need to be there to watch them. In recent years many modern orthodox communities have made carefully considered gestures to give women more participation in the services. I appreciate that in Judaism it's extremely hard to make changes but. (Nothing else, just but.)

Of course there are gender-egalitarian services that I could go to. So let's examine the nature of the services. The prayers are all in a book and everyone has the same book. You start at the beginning and you read, chant, sing, follow silently, stand, sit, bow, face eastwards, and generally choreograph your way through to the end in unison with the whole congregation. It's all prescribed, there is a lot of repetition within each service, and you do the exact same thing every week or year depending on whether it's a weekly Shabbat or a yearly festival service.

At the end of each service I used to feel virtuous because I'd gone to shul and that was the 'good' thing to do. Nowadays I'm left with a feeling of, "I didn't get to say anything I wanted to say." You can try tuning out to do your own introspection but you sort of have to keep one ear tuned in so that you join in with choreography. If you just sit there it's considered rude. Or ignorant. Or, worse, blasphemous. In a large shul you can get away with sitting at the back in a corner and reading your own book. I know some people do this for parts of the service they consider less important. But guess what? I can read at home. 

There are alternative services near me where they allot times in the service for private meditation and thought. This is nice because you get the community togetherness and time for your personal prayers. However, I decided to ditch the prescribed prayers altogether this year and explore my own relationship with God and atonement. 

It's not about being less Jewish. It's about being more meaningfully Jewish. It's about having a direct relationship with God rather than going through the rabbis. I admire the rabbis for their learned knowledge of the Bible and the ancient laws, just as I admire doctors for their learned knowledge of medical science. Much as your doctor will advise you towards better health, the rabbis also teach us that we have freedom of choice. Ironically the orthodox rabbis then proclaim that if you choose to do it their way you will be rewarded for the good, but if you choose a different way, you are wrong. I'm just not on that page anymore. 

This Yom Kippur I cut out the middleman and I spoke to God myself. I repented and atoned and I prayed for Israel and Jews everywhere and humanity in general. I sat on my balcony and thought deeply about a better approach to the year ahead and asked that I may be written in the Book of Life in order to carry through my good intentions. It was good.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Cleansing The Soul - R2BC

Here are my Reasons 2B Cheerful for this week. As usual I'm joining the R2BC linky with Michelle on Mummy from the Heart.

The moon over Jerusalem one night in August

Cleansing the soul
It's Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) tomorrow evening and all day Saturday. Lots of praying and self-reflecting, and general cleansing of the soul for the coming year. I love it that the day after Yom Kippur is Sunday 1st October - what a great date for starting everything afresh.

Wadi Qilt again
DD  has been invited to go to Wadi Qilt again tomorrow as there is no school. I didn't have to accept for her this time as she loved it last week and has been asking when she can go back. Once again she gets a fun day out and I get time to get things done.

Shutting Down
My summer course is finally finally coming to an end and we are being strict this year - after a few extension periods of course. I have warned the students that I will be shutting down the website for this course on Tuesday. I did it for last year's Year Course at the end of August (official final date was June 30th). So for the first time in seven years I will only be grading papers for one course when the new semester starts on October 15th.

Book Vs Film
We finished reading The Railway Children. DD read the last few pages to me as I couldn't see the page through my tears. We then had a grand viewing of the film on dvd. I have always loved that film since seeing it as a child and I've watched it a million times since - but not for a few years and not after reading the book. We were both a bit disappointed. As usual, the book had far more in it than did the film.

Having said that, the films do have added value in that it's wonderful to see the magnificent locomotives, the scenery, the costumes, and the magic, in the case of Harry Potter. So we forgive the films and enjoy them anyway.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Late Night Reader

We're reading The Railway Children. I'm reading it to DD, a chapter a night. We usually both end up in tears over it - it's that sort of book. Or maybe we're that sort of people. Whatever, we're loving it.

I've borrowed the DVD of the film but I won't let DD watch it until we've finished the book. This is the rule for good books. I read the whole of Harry Potter to her - all seven books - before I'd allow her to see the films. It took from June till October last year.

This week I borrowed the DVD of Free Willy. When I told DD I had it she asked, "is there a book of Free Willy?"

Anyway back to The Railway Children. We read the chapter about Perk's Pride and as I put the book down I mentioned that the next chapter is, 'The Big Secret,' which we will have tomorrow night. DD begged me to read just one page of it for a taster. So obviously I couldn't stop after one page and she got the whole chapter.

We learned what the big secret was but only Bobbie had found out. DD was desperate to know if she told the others. It was now 10.30 on a school night and I was definitely not reading any more or discussing it any more tonight, despite DD's best efforts to draw me in. I left her to make herself comfortable and turn off the light.

After I'd made coffee and pottered about a bit myself, I looked in on her to see if she was asleep. The light was still on and I marched in to tell her to it was time for lights out and no more messing about. I found her reading the next chapter of The Railway Children. "I'm on the sixth line!" she announced proudly.

I've been waiting for her to pick up a book, a proper book that is, and read of her own volition ever since I realized she could. I wrote a post recently about her being bored into reading but until now it has been easy chapter books of The Magic Tree House ilk. I quietly left the room with her still reading.

"I read a whole page!" she cried from the bedroom a few minutes later. And later still, "two pages!" The clock 'struck' 11 and DD called out, "I don't believe it! I'm at the end of the fourth page! I love reading now. It's getting easier!"

There are some things, no matter how often you tell them, they have to figure it out by themselves.

Finally I heard, "What?! I have another 13 pages of this chapter!" I suggested, "perhaps leave it for now and continue tomorrow?" I went in to see if she was heeding my suggestion but she was already asleep with the bookmark neatly placed five pages into the chapter.

I wasn't going to blog today as I didn't really have anything to write about. :~)

Sunday, September 24, 2017

The 'Camera-Hates-Me' Miracle

The miracle photo in which I look okay.
This is actually true. I don't look good in photos. It's a fact.

I am not lacking in self confidence in real life and I'm quite content with my facial features - good skin, cheek bones, etc... . Straight silky hair would have been nice but I'm happy enough with my thick 'Jewfro' curls.

But take a photo and I look.... well different.

It's not my imagination either. When I went for my graduation photos, I told the photographer, "you won't get a nice one, the camera hates me." He looked at me as if to say, "I'm a professional photographer. This isn't an instamatic camera I got for Christmas you know." I raised my eyebrows in reply.

After quite a few takes on his digital camera (so he could see the results instantly), quite a few more than he'd taken of any other graduate, he had to admit defeat. We got some passable photos but they didn't look the way I looked in real life.

At my nephew's Bar Mitzvah we posed for family photos. Then my sister said that the cousins could have family photos on their own and she'd send them the photos. I posed with DD who was a toddler at the time. We never got any photos. "They didn't come out well," was the reason given.

Two summers ago a friend invited her close friends to a picnic for her birthday and she hired a professional photographer to record the event and as gift to her friends. It was a lovely idea. My heart sank and I let the photographer position us and do what she wanted. I wasn't hopeful but she gave me a whole speech about it being her job to make me look the best I can look and how she'd trained for this. I'd heard it all before but you go along with it because it can't hurt.

Sure enough, a few days later we were presented with a CD of DD looking great and me looking awful. In all our group photos I look awful too. I found one photo of me at the ALEH dinner and I cringed with embarrassment. When DD and I try to take selfies she looks at each one and suggests, "you could crop yourself out if you want to." I regret that there are very few photos of DD and me together as she has grown up because I look so awful in them.

Also okay(ish) but miles better than usual.
It wasn't always like this. I blame Mr ~!@#$ our family dentist for taking out too many teeth when I was a child. Who knows I may have had a Hollywood smile but for that. And I agree that if I lost a ton of weight that would probably help too. I've thought of having cosmetic treatment done on my teeth but they're good teeth and basically straight - so I'm reluctant to play around with them when it's not essential. And a friend told me recently that her fabulous smile had cost her 36,000 shekels (about $10,000 - although if you say it in pounds it doesn't sound so much).

Then last week DD brought home a list of options for special lessons they will be having at school on Sunday afternoons. There are some really nice choices - History of Art (theory and practical), Capture The Moment (photography), A Trip Around The World (not literally), Gardening and Farming, Animal Care, DIY, and more.

DD was very taken with the idea of capturing the moment. I said she could take photos on my phone to see if she had a talent for it. She snapped away while I did some posing for fun. "Hmmm," she said, "it seems I do have some talent." I laughed and took a look at her efforts.

Reader, I was gobsmacked! She'd taken two of the best photos of me I've seen in about a decade. I used one of them for my facebook profile because the old one had DD aged four, and she's now far from four. So far about 30 people have 'liked,' including the friend who when I had to post a profile photo for the Times of Israel Blogs, messaged me with, "couldn't you find a better photo?" The answer was of course, no. If I'd been able to take a better photo I'd have posted it - obviously. (Its a bit embarrassing actually as I'm more of a "READ ME!" facebook person than a "LOOK AT ME!" facebook person. I put up the photo because I needed a new photo, not to get complimentary comments - are they just saying that to make me feel good?)

So I'm giving you my two new miracle photos. DD has asked to be in the 'Capture The Moment' lesson and I've said she can stop learning for tests or doing any homework as she's obviously going to be portrait photographer when she grows up.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Friday Night Is Games Night

Friday night has become games night in our house. We are not strictly orthodox about keeping Shabbat but we do celebrate by lighting candles and eating a festive meal; and we don't do ordinary things like work, laundry or cleaning.

You can see from the photo that tonight's games were Mastermind, TAKI (like Uno) and Rat-a-tat Cat!

Other options are Mancala, Kalooki, Backgammon (Shesh Besh), Rummikub, Frustration (though we are growing out of that one), Set, Othello (Reversi), and Triplica (I hate this card game but DD likes it).

We take our games night seriously. Whilst we don't have a green baize games table, we do have paper and a pen for keeping score and of course drinks and nibbles.

We need some good board games like Monopoly and other classics but we have a dilemma. If I buy them in English she can't play them with her Israeli friends. And I don't want to buy them in Hebrew. I think her friends are just going to have to be good at English if they want to play at our house.

As DD was looking for a game this evening she noticed that we also have some large (1500 pieces) puzzles in the cupboard. "When are we going to one of these big puzzles together?"
"In the winter on a rainy Shabbat when we don't want to go out all day," I replied. We are looking forward to it already.

What are your family's favourite games?

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Rosh Hashana So Far So Good - R2BC

Today is the first day of Rosh Hashana which started at sundown last night. DD and I continued with our new (from one year ago) tradition of doing tashlich with soap bubbles. We sat on the balcony and blew away our sins and bad habits from last year and we promised to try harder for better habits this year.

DD: I'm going to try to not lose my temper and scream at you. (Me: thank you.)
Me: I'm going to try to go to bed earlier and get up earlier. (I got up this morning at 10 but it's a process.)
DD: I'm going to do important things like homework and shower, before television.
Me: I'm going to do the dishes in the sink and prep my lessons for the next day, in the evening and before social media time. (I did the dishes last night.)

And so we went on....

I tried to capture the bubble blowing on camera but Rubbish Photographer struck again. Then we did some selfies which were equally rubbish but I posted a few on the right sidebar because DD is almost nine, not four as she was in the previous thumbnail.

We ate some of the Rosh Hashana menu with symbols - salmon for a year of being sameah (happy); peas and sweet potato (afuna  and batata for akuna matata) to have no worries, fruit salad for dessert for a sweet year, and we drank our apple juice spritzers through the last two straws (the shop didn't have any at 1.30pm and no time to go to another shop) for a suck-cessful year. I wanted to make a salad out of a whole head of lettuce for the head of the year but the shop had also run out of lettuce.

We played Taki, Set and Kalooki until far too late. We have established another tradition that Friday night is games night. (I know it wasn't Friday yesterday but Festival evenings are similar to Friday nights.)

We got up late this morning - I felt bad about not going to synagogue as it's a small community which only exists because enough people do make the effort to go. We will go tomorrow as we're going to friends for lunch afterwards. And we heard the shofar blown (all 100 blasts) as the next door neighbours had private blowing on their patio. Then, throughout the morning as men came home from synagogue and blew the shofar for their womenfolk who had stayed at home - I''m guessing but there are shofars blowing all over the neighbourhood atm. I think we're covered.

Friends are coming here for an early dinner tonight. I took a big white fish out of the freezer and I want to make some sort of baked fish dish. I've never baked fish before (except for salmon) so I'm off to find a recipe.

So far, and 18 hours in, it's been a good year. :~D

I'm linking up with Michelle's Reasons 2B Cheerful on Mummy From The Heart.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Gift Of Wadi Qilt

Tonight is Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. It's a two-day festival but this year it finishes as Shabbat comes in so actually it's three days straight of eating, socialising, praying, eating, sleeping, and did I mention eating? If you do the whole lot religiously, which we actually don't, that's the equivalent of six Christmas dinners at home and a number of smaller refreshments (like cocktail parties without the cocktails) at synagogue after the services.

We only accept invitations or make a big meal for once a day. However, that's still a lot of cooking and cleaning for me and DD was home because the schools are off from today. This is good because otherwise I'd be at my school, but difficult because she gets bored.

At 8.30 this morning we got a phone call from DD's BFF. Would DD like to go with them to Wadi Qilt. She wasn't sure. She's a bit of a ditherer and she worries in case it's going to be a difficult hike. It's not, it's a gentle stroll through the riverlets to the waterfalls and natural pools at the end. I accepted for her.

So off she went in her swimming costume, wearing my old sneakers - we threw her old ones away and she wasn't going to ruin her new sneakers walking through the water. This caused me to ponder on two things. 1. Decluttering is not always so brilliant. And 2. my daughter has almost the same size feet as me. (I knew this as she already takes my socks and this summer I bought us the same size socks).

I had five hours to shop, cook and clean. So I did go shopping because the supermarkets are going to be closed for the next three and a half days (from 2pm today). Then I spent a lot of time on the computer, and then DD came home.

Luckily she fell asleep on the sofa this afternoon and I did get some cooking done. And some laundry, and some grading  papers for college. Not as productive a day as intended but then it never is these days.

DD had a wonderful time. I think one of the greatest gifts you can give a single mother is to take her child out for a few hours before a major festival or weekend. We both appreciated it very much.

I wish everyone a wonderful, good and sweet year (Shana Tova Umetuka) whether you're Jewish or not. 

(I joined the Country Kids Linky at Coombe Mill with this post.) 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

ALEH Adults Update.

This is an update on my post: ALEH All People No Limits. Many friends and readers wanted to know what the children of ALEH do when they become adults. The website and videos all talk about the children and there is no mention of what happens later. So I contacted ALEH and received this welcome and heartwarming reply from Elie Klein, on behalf of ALEH's Communications Department.(I bolded the important bit.)

Our firm serves as an extension of ALEH's communications department.  Dov Hirth from ALEH saw your inquiry and requested that I respond.

I want to begin by letting you know how much we all love and appreciate your blog post.  We are so happy to hear that you were so touched by the presentations at the ALEH Jerusalem Ladies Committee gala, and we are so grateful that you chose to share that experience with your readers.  ALEH really is a special place, and we would be happy to take you on a tour.

Regarding your questions,  ALEH provides a continuum of loving care for individuals with disabilities, a framework for life – from infancy and childhood through adulthood.  Some of the children you saw in the video are not actually children – they are young men and women in their teens, 20s and even 30s.  While some ALEH residents move from our Jerusalem residence to our rehabilitative village in the Negev once they have reached adulthood (some prefer the predominantly adult community there), most of our residents remain in the ALEH centers where they are raised.  After all, it's HOME! ;-)

Again, it's one thing to talk about ALEH but experiencing it is something else entirely.  We would love to host you at any one of our four residential facilities.  Just say when.

All the best & Shana Tova,

A good answer, right? 
If you would like to donate to ALEH please visit the ALEH website.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Style And The Individual: When To Turn A Blind Eye

A while ago I went to an office that was situated in a roof extension. The ceiling was the sloping roof of the building and the windows were sloping skylights. They were tall windows with the tops stretching up and inwards to be above almost the centre of the room but near enough to the bottom of the slope so you could see the wonderful view over rooftops to the mountains beyond. It was really quite stunning. And the office itself was pristine, with clean lines and fresh white paint.

However, this bright, new, efficient space was 'finished' in a most bizarre way. Some budding interior designer (not) had put curtain rods along the tops of the windows and draped beautiful turquoise curtains framing each side of each of the two windows. Except of course, the curtains didn't frame the windows at all. They hung straight down into the middle of the room.

The two female secretaries had tied a knot into each curtain so that they didn't have them in their faces all the time. And the sun beat down into the room, casting eerie shadows like hangmans' nooses on the walls obscured by the knotted curtains.

I tried not to laugh but I couldn't help it. They told me I wasn't the first to be amused. The plan, or I should say the revised plan, was to put another rail at the bottom of each window to hold the curtains in place. But they needed to order new curtains with hems or ringed holes for the curtain rods on the bottom as well as the top.

"They make blinds for these sort of windows you know," I told them. I offered to show them and we spent a few minutes browsing Velux Blinds on the computer with the lid of a cardboard box taped over the monitor to block out the direct sunlight. We even found blinds in turquoise.

Years ago a friend told me that when planning your space, have the finished room in mind. That way you can make small changes as and when you have the resources, but you are always working towards your vision of how it will look in the end. If you don't do this, you'll waste money making changes to patch up what you have rather than towards the desired end.

My new friends in the dazzling office (pun intended) weren't ready to embrace the full uncluttered effect of crisp new blinds made to measure. They wanted curtains. I noticed they had crocheted doilies under the potted plants and I let the matter rest.

This is a collaborative post.  

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sunday Snippets

Shut the Box
Persevering. Sunday Snippets is an invention of Jax Blunt on her blog Making It Up. I've done it before but it never became a habit. This month Jax set herself a challenge to blog all 30 days of September. I decided to join her but missed a week of days in the chaos and exhaustion of going back to school. I've not given up though and I'm still aiming to blog as much as I can this month.

Realizing that despite the heatwave of last week, this weekend the summer really did end. I had to wait all day to do laundry while the previous washes dried on the line. During the summer the washing took 2 - 3 hours to dry. I could have done laundry all day if I had enough things to wash or if I felt like I needed clean sheets and towels every day - which I don't obviously.

Wondering how this happened: I spent the summer decluttering and organizing my house only to find that two weeks into the new school year, we are once again living in an enormous mess. Luckily we have a few more holidays over the next few weeks because of the Jewish Festivals. God always gives you a second chance.

Discovering a design fault. We have this game called Shut the Box, which a friend sent for DD last Chanuka. I admit that we've not played it that much but we  never noticed the error - or possibly an intended quirk? (I don't think so.) DD just showed me. How did we not see this before? Did you spot it?

Enjoying the cooler weather. It seems like nothing to you but, believe me, we suffered this week - possibly more than during the whole of July/August which was bad enough.

Saving money by going back to my regular supermarket instead of shopping at the expensive boutique supermarket around the corner. My regular super is a ten minute walk away (downhill) and a 20 minute crawl back up the hill with a heavy trolley (yes I  have shopping-trolley, don't judge). I just could not do that trip in the heat. I could have taken taxis of course but the cost of the taxis was about the same a the savings so I didn't bother.

Sleeping well. DD has finally gone back to sleeping in her own bed after about two years of sleeping with me. We used to share a room in the winter to save on heating two bedrooms, and then separate in the spring, summer and autumn. But for the last couple of years she's not made the move back. I didn't mind too much but recently I noticed that I keep being woken in the night by stray elbows, knees and feet encroaching onto my side of the bed. It was probably always like this but only now it started to bother me. Well DD is bigger and I'm menopausal - nuff said.

Compromising by sharing the family bed on Friday nights when we don't have to get up in the morning. DD: "People say Shabbat is the best day, but it's not, it's Friday!"

Relaxing in our pyjamas the whole of Shabbat. DD wakes up on Shabbat morning with two question. Are we going anywhere today? Is anyone coming? She loves it when the answers are no and no as it was yesterday.