About Me :)

I got married and made aliya five and a half years ago, all in the space of 3 days. And that is where this blog begins

יום שני, 26 בספטמבר 2011

New Year's Musings

It's R'H minus 1. I'm in the Panic Zone.

Last night was all about cooking. Today after work, will be all about cleaning. And more cooking. And probably shelling out some more shekola for finishing touches which were forgotten, probably because the holiday bill  thus far was making my heart palpatate.

Tomorrow will be all about... feeling the holiday. Before Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, there's that 'special holiday feeling'. It's the smells of the holiday food, the pomegranates being shucked by my father in law, the clean house, the togetherness of family. And I start feeling the holiday. The newness. The New Year.

Saturday night, it'll all be over. I will have prayed (as best as I can with a three year old to care for) and heard the shofar (as best as I can with a three year old to care for). We will have consumed those meals which are now frozen. The house will be in disrepair. But the Jewish New Year will have begun.  G-d will have heard our prayers... 'please give me health'... 'please let me find my husband/wife'.... 'please bless me with a child'... 'please bless me with another child'... 'give us parnassa this year'... 'help us...'. 

May we enjoy all the unique smells, tastes, and feelings of the holiday. May we enjoy the togetherness of family and close friends. And may our prayers be  answered. Shana tova :)

יום חמישי, 15 בספטמבר 2011

Does Diaper Equal Daycare?

My little boy, who just turned three, entered gan this year. A real gan. Tables, chairs, activities, 35 kids. All is going well. He's having fun, playing with friends, learning about the upcoming chagim. He is wearing his tiny tzitzit like the other boys in his gan. On the face of things, he is just like all the other kids. But, there is, as it so happens, a distinct difference between him and the others at this point; he's the only one in the gan who is not at all toilet trained. Riveting subject matter, I know.

Let me state right here, right now, that his current diaper status is not for lack of trying the big-boy underwear alternative. We run around naked. We have timed potty visits. We sit. We just don't... let go. Yet.

I mentioned his lack of potty skills to the saya'at (teacher assistant) at the orientation meeting. Her smile became a tight-lipped line, and she said "Ooooh, that IS a problem". She proceeded to tell me that I would have to drop everything to come change him if he needed a 'major' diaper change. We're talking number two. Wanting to be an easy breezy mom who doesn't complain, I shook hands and signed on the dotted line. No problem.

Well, yesterday, I was called upon to perform the messy little task. My husband has been doing the diaper runs until now, but he wasn't around, and so, by default, it was my turn.

I had to leave work a bit earlier than expected. I had no car, so I had to walk all the way from work, in the heat, at a steady clip. Half an hour later, I arrived. I went to his drawer, the one with the ice cream cone sticker, and I found the neat little supply of diapers and wipes that I had left there earlier in the week. Then I had an eye squint, head swivel, mommy 'aha' moment. These diapers and wipes were here this whole time. During bathroom time, the teacher and assistants attend to alllll other children, sitting them down, assisting with wiping, and cleaning up 'misses' (which can take  just as long if not longer than a diaper change). I promptly approached the teacher and mentioned this to her. She proceeded to gloss it right over, repeating her stance that 'this is not a daycare', and therefore, 'all children must be toilet trained by the time they enter gan (at three years of age).' I replied (yes, I did say this) 'Sorry. My son didn't read that chapter in the brochure.'

So there you have it. Of course I won't leave my son in a soiled state, so of course I will come to change him, as long as they keep calling me to do so. Am I being punished for my failure to train him? I think so, yes. And the only thing I could do about it, was to write about it. And pray that by Sunday, he'll be donning his big boy tidy whities. Amen.

יום שבת, 10 בספטמבר 2011


September 11, 2002: I woke up that morning, and that distinctive feeling came flooding back. The terror, the feeling that the world is closing in on me, choking me. Yes, I was once again afraid, and I'll say it. Yes, I know that is what every terrorist wants, so why oblige them, right? But at that moment, a year following the fall of the Twin Towers, the reality was that I was afraid. Once again.

September 11,2001: As anyone in NY on that day can attest to, it was a beautiful Tuesday morning. The air was extra crisp with Autumn. The sun dazzled. I think we all remember that, no? How can we forget? In the days and weeks following this nightmare, we all spoke of how the fabulous weather stood in such stark contrast to the horror of the day.

I was in my office in Howard Beach, Queens. Barbara, an OT I worked with, knocked on my office door and I saw her standing there with her cell phone. She told me that a tower fell. I wasn't sure what that meant. 'A Twin Tower', she explained. I thought she was mistaken. After the therapy session, I saw a crowd of therapists, teachers, and assistants, gathering in the UPK classroom, all with their cell phones, talking with family members. I asked Barbara if the tower really fell, and she said "They both fell!" Then I began understanding what was truly happening. And I started listening to the radio that someone had switched on.

A dark veil of horror covered the rest of the day. As I drove home, I was shaking. I kept looking at the sky to see if any planes were headed towards my car. I had to talk myself calm.

No matter where I went in the days following, I knew what everyone was talking about, and I joined in strangers' conversations. Nothing else existed. A patriotic feeling welled up in each and every one of us, and we were all one big family of Americans.

September 11, 2011: I am in Israel, but today, my thoughts, prayers, and heart, are in New York City, my howetown. I'm no longer afraid. But I will always remember the victims. The ones whose planes crashed. The ones who held hands with co-workers as they jumped from the 90th, 91st, etc. floors of the Twin Towers. The firemen who ran into the burning buildings and died in the line of duty. They will always be in my thoughts and prayers on this day. May their souls rest in peace.

יום רביעי, 25 במאי 2011

A Sad Day

Today, my day started at 3:30am. As soon as I woke up in the middle of the night, I remembered with a heavy heart.  I remembered about the Shuter family in Neve Daniel, who had just lost a father, a husband, a dear friend. My cousin Barry.

I met Barry only once, a month and a half ago. Barry was a second cousin whose parents I have come to know having met them at various family smachot. I had never met Barry, though, until recently. A few days after we met, he fell ill.

Over the last few years, I had friended an array of long lost friends and family on Facebook, including Barry and his wife Amy. Through my internet contact with them, I learned they were the parents of beautiful triplets. I also learned that they were planning to move to Israel. I was excited! I have only one other blood relative here in Israel, and was excited at the prospect of befriending my long lost Shuter cousins. Shortly after I *met* Barry and Amy on facebook, he was diagnosed with Hodgkins disease. The name 'Chaim' was added, and we began praying for his recovery. I marvelled at how their vision of aliya seemed to remain sharply in focus during this time. They seemed determined to win this battle, albeit nightmarish, and forge ahead with their plans. And indeed, the universe bent to their will; in due time, I read the update about Barry being in remission. And then it was full steam ahead, as they planned their pilot Aliya trip.

Soon after they arrived in Israel on their pilot trip, they planned a Shabbat in Modiin, not far from where I live. So we met on a corner off the main street in Keiser on a lovely Shabbat afternoon. We took a stroll to one of the local parks and on the way to the park, a strong breeze blew Barry's kippa right off his head. At that point, one of his kids commented how he needs to buy clips now that he has a full head of hair again to which a clip could be firmly fastened. The family shared a chuckle at this.

We spent the rest of the afternoon all becoming acquainted. Our children played together, and the triplets seemed excited to play with their little cousin Eliya. I was looking forward to meeting them again.

During the following week, the sad facebook updates began. Barry had contracted a rare form of pneumonia to which he was susceptible, having gone through chemotherapy treatments.  Each post was more concerning than the next. And yet, this amazing family tried to make life as normal as possible for all involved, especially for the children. In the midst of the madness, their plans had to change, and they managed to make aliya. Interspersed through the frightening posts of how the illness' grip was taking firm hold, there were pictures of smiling triplets enjoying tiyulim, their cousins, their first day of school in Israel.

And then yesterday, I saw the words. 'Baruch Dayan Emet'. It took me a while to process the significance. When I relayed the sad news to my husband, I saw the pained look on his face, and then it hit me. It hit me hard. Because he was a young father. A young husband. Because this was a family member I did not yet get to know.

I am sad that I did not get to know my cousin Barry any more than that one time. At the funeral today, I cried along with all in attendance as I listened to his family and friends speak of this quiet, unassuming, humorous, generous, loyal, loving, special man.  I am especially sad for his family mourning his loss. I wish them only comfort at this time, and strength from the love of family and friends.

יום שבת, 2 באפריל 2011

Oh Yeah, I'm A Mom

     Does the reality of your life ever just creep up on you?  Like I'll wake up, boil some water, drink my Joe, and then Eliya, my two and a half year old son, starts bellowing. Then I get my angel out of bed and watch him stumble through the hallway. I play with him, I get him settled. Then I get dressed, get him dressed, play with him some more. And then, I'm late for work. Late? But I'm not a late person. What happened here? And then the reality causes my head to turn sideways and slightly skyward, and I go 'Oh yeeeeah!' It's the mommy thing.
     Take yesterday, for example. It was Shabbat. We had a busy day entertaining friends and meeting up with visiting family. When all was said and done, we took a late nap. I was tired and so was he. We fell asleep quickly. The problem was that he did not stay asleep as long as I would have liked. He woke up in a cranky mood. As I prepared him the bottle he was whining for, I asked myself "Why am I feeling so stressed?". Then, the slow neck swivel and eye squint: "Riiiiightttt". Woken-out-of-a-deep-sleep-and-forced-to-prepare-a-warm,-cozy-bottle-in- less-than-a-minute. Not easy, this mommy thing.
     Two and a half years ago, my amazing baby boy was born. I remember it so clearly. The moment I heard him cry, my neurotic side burst forth, and I asked the doctor "Hu normali? (is he normal?)" and the doctor held up my beautiful, crying, confused, healthy baby, and declared "Hu mushlam! Tir'i, at ima! (He's perfect! Look, you're a mom!)". And then I broke down and cried. It was a perfect moment.
     I had pneumonia for the first month of Eliya's life. I wasn't able to take care of him much during that time. That depressed me. All I wanted was to have a baby AND feel good. Then, Baruch H-shem, I added a second antibiotic to the mix, and I began healing. Slowly, the dark cloud lifted. I cared for him. I fed him. I took him on outings. I took him to save-my-sanity mommy and baby groups. Life with Baby commenced.
     After my three month maternity leave, I began working again. I just wanted to be with him and be his sole caregiver during the day, but financially, that wasn't going to be possible. So, I worked part time. I remember getting home at the end of the work day to my beautiful baby. I found myself waiting for him to tire out and take a nap, so I could take my nap. I felt guilty about that. Why wasn't I bursting with energy, ready to play with him for hours on end when I got him home after work? Then the reality creep: "Oh riiiiightttt!" I kept forgetting; I'm a working mom. Working moms are tired. Working moms are stressed. Working moms smile through exhausted, droopy eyelids at the funny things their babies do and say.
     So yeah, I get it now. Life has changed these past 2 and a half years. I get to be one of those mommy women. Tired. Stressed. Overworked. Amazed. Mystified. In Love with this beautiful creature I once carried inside me. In a nutshell, the 'mommy thing'. Best thing in the world :).

יום ראשון, 27 בפברואר 2011

Working Woman

After the age of 13, I have always had some sort of job. I've sold furniture, tagged jewelry, babysat, dental assisted, and camp counselered.  At some point, I asked myself what I want to be when I grow up. After due deliberation, the answer became 'Speech Pathologist'. So I became one. For seven years, I worked full-time in a special education preschool in Queens, New York. Then I got engaged and planned to move to Israel. And so, I was forced to leave my happy, safe job. A job at which I was respected for my clinical know-how. A job at which I felt I had become an 'experienced clinician'.

Something happened to me when I moved across the Atlantic. A lot of changes were going on for me all at once; I was a new bride, acclimating to a new culture, and speaking to my husband and his family and everyone else in Hebrew, all the time. For the first time in my adult life, I felt I needed a break from work. I simply needed the time to absorb all the new things that were happening to me. I soon realized, however, that my 'break' wasn't going to be so restful. I was spending my days at home with my mother in law. There were awkward smiles as we passed eachother in the hallway. There was unsolicited advice about doing my laundry. In short, I was feeling the need to GET OUT OF THE HOUSE. It was time for me to become an Israeli Speech Pathologist.

I figured 'Hey, my Hebrew is perfect, my husband and I speak Hebrew at home, how hard can this be?' I'll tell you. It was really hard. During my first interview, I was served a generous slice of humble pie, which was not very tasty, and which I was forced to eat; my Hebrew was most certainly NOT perfect. I didn't understand some of the questions they asked me, and I had to nod and pretend, which of course they saw right through. Let's just say, I didn't land that job. It was then that I realized that 'professional/higher language Hebrew' is different than 'can you pick up some tomatoes at the makolet' type Hebrew. Then came my second interview. I must have practiced a question/answer session in my head before that one, because it turned into my first job. And that first job, I soon realized, would be quite challenging, to say the least. At least for a while.

Imagine this: It's my first day. I arrive, and there is a group of staff members gathered in the front office, drinking coffee and making small talk. I remember being mad at everyone there. I knew they spoke English, were they just speaking Hebrew to be evil? I poured myself a cup o' joe, and thought, "I don't need this. Where's the wine?". I was nervous. Then, the menahelet (program director) announced that there'd be a 'yeshivat tzevet' in the back room starting in ten minutes. No problem. I understood almost that whole statement. Except just one thing: What does 'yeshivat' mean and what does 'tzevet' mean, please? My throat closed up, and I fought back tears. My ears started ringing. I felt numb. When everyone started filing out of the office, I followed suit, and I surreptitiously asked the only other English speaker on staff what was happening. Sensing my discomfort, she quickly replied in hushed tones "staff meeting". Okay, first tragedy averted. The next tragedy was the meeting itself. Imagine being at a staff meeting, where you are meant to be an integral member of a team of health care providers for autistic children, and you have NO CLUE what is being discussed. I felt sick. I was an experienced clinician. I was used to contributing ideas and professional knowledge during meetings, even giving in-services and teaching other clinicians. Now I was an immigrant in unfamiliar territory with a fake, sad little grin, and flushed cheeks.

When I got home that night, I looked at my husband. He knew something was wrong. In the middle of the first sentence I spoke to him, my voice cracked. I spent the next hour or so crying to him, relaying this nightmarish experience, explaining to him how it is completely hopeless, and how I will never succeed doing speech therapy in Hebrew. But then, being the wonderful husband that he is, he asked me to tell him what I did not understand. I wiped away some tears and opened my binder to look at some of the meeting's notes. I did have a list of 'new words' that I wrote down, and he explained what they meant. Amazingly, that helped to clarify some key points that were discussed at the meeting. I stopped crying, and started relaxing. Hmmm... maybe I COULD do this...

And so I got on with my job. Yes, there were parents who asked that their children be switched to a 'native Israeli Speech Therapist'. Yes, report writing was a nightmare at first. But I continued making my 'new word' lists, and I became accustomed to using my handy dandy Hebrew-English dictionary. I actually began enjoying it. I remembered that I love languages, and I felt a sense of accomplishment as I realized I was learning several new words every day. And there was always my husband to proof-read reports and help with fine-tuning my sentence structure. My fluency was improving, and slowly, I began feeling more confident during therapy sessions, even with parents present.

I am now beginning my 6th year practicing speech therapy in Israel. It's hard to fathom where I started out, and how far I've come. I'm not exaggerating when I say that making the switch to doing speech therapy in Hebrew was fraught with hardship, fear, and even dread at times. And I can't help but be proud of myself for having done it.


יום שלישי, 22 בפברואר 2011

My new aliya, my new married life

I didn't get to do the Nefesh B'Nefesh flight. There was no tearful airport scene. For me, aliya went like this: I got married to my wonderful Israeli/Temani fiance, and three days later, I was on a flight with my new Israeli/Temani husband to Israel. Officially, I was making aliya, and, well, he was not. So whenever I am asked about my aliya experience, I invariably get to have the "we-made-aliya- ... that-is,- I-made-aliya-... of-course-he-did-not-make-aliya-in-fact-he-never-even-got-on-an-airplane-until-he-met-me" conversation. Hey, I'm not complaining or anything. It's cool that my story is a different one. Then again, did it have to be *that* different?

On Friday afternoon, we touched down in Ben Gurion, and I was whisked downstairs to an office. I'm not even sure which office, or who and how they identified me at the airport. It's a blur. I filled out aliya forms in the mystery office while my husband, my new father-in-law, and my husband's friend, collected our 15 wedding-present filled suitcases off the conveyer belt. Eventually, we all made it into a mini-van cab, myriad suitcases in tow, and headed home. To Petach Tikva. To live with my in-laws. For the next 6 months.

Sorry, did I forget to mention the living-with-the-in-law thing? Well, yes, that was the next leg of my non-standard aliya journey. Or marriage journey. Well, for me, it was really one and the same. Shari Shuter-Jovani, slash newlywed, slash ola chadasha, thrust into life with an old-world Temani couple, in an old-world Temani apartment, complete with old-world speckled floor tiles, and old-world plumbing. 

To be fair, it wasn't their fault. My in-laws wanted to give us our newly married privacy. They also wanted privacy. But there we were, in our little Israeli apartment, just one Big Fat Temani+one little American ex pat Family. You see, they were waiting to move into their own apartment, but the newly-built building which housed said apartment had not yet obtained its Certificate of Occupancy. Until six months later. Well, on the plus side, I got to finally experience, first hand, a whopping dose of Israeli bureaucracy. The real deal, my friend. The. Real. Deal. And I'll leave it at that.

Let's get back to the cab ride home from the airport. When we finally arrived home, I experienced a post-flight exhaustion unlike any post-flight exhaustion I'd ever felt. I promptly headed off to shluffy land. I remember getting up at some point to use the bathroom, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw my new husband and in-laws singing zmirot at the Shabbat table. I was feeling so out of body, that I registered that scene as if I caught it while flipping channels on tv. My exhaustion was such that I did not even consider joining them. So, I went back to bed, and when I came to, it was morning, and my husband was a bit concerned about me. Was I feeling okay? Do I remember where I am? What's my name? Do I remember getting married? Once he was satisfied that I was fully oriented, we got on with being married. 

That's right, we went happily about our new married life in Israel. Despite the old-fashioned apartment and neighborhood, despite having to spend all day with my new mother in law until I started working, despite not having enough space to unpack the 15 wedding-present-filled suitcases. I bonded with my new husband. And we implemented a 'privacy plan', whereby we'd take a mini-vacation in a different city every Shabbat. I also befriended my only other blood relative who had made Aliya 13 years prior, my cousin Carol, who was ecstatic to finally have an American family member within a 25 minute drive of her house. Although I had not seen her for years, she welcomed me with open arms, and we bonded immediately.

See, that is the thing about Israel; no time is wasted on formalities, etiquette, or awkwardness. You feel connected with those around you. Even with non-relatives. Even with the corner makolet guy. I was thrust into a different culture, with different smells, tastes, and very different personalities. I was 12 flight hours away from the place I called home for 33 years. Thus began my new life in Israel, and my new marriage. Challenging? Yes. Scary? At times.
And yet, I felt more at home than ever before.