Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar

I love sharing experiences like the one that I had today. Bedrooms in Israel don't have built in closets the way that most do in the States. Instead, we purchase standing closets. We've purchased all of our children's beds and closets from one store in Talpiot and have been very happy with the quality and service overall.

About six months ago, however, while Matan was getting something from his closet, the door literally ripped off! I was standing there so I can attest to the fact that Matan didn't try to imitate the Incredible Hulk...he simply opened it in a normal fashion. I was quite annoyed with the workmanship from the company, and I called them to see if they could send a worker to fix the closet (or to see if there was a larger issue). "Sure, sure" they said....

And then, of course...nothing happened.

I called again,

and again,

and again.

Finally, I gave up. I figured that we would, eventually, be purchasing more kids' furniture, and I would call and give them one last chance to fix the closet before we took our business elsewhere.

Just this morning, coincidentally, I thought about them again and thought that I should call. And then I sighed, and decided I just didn't have the strength for it today.

So, while driving through the Yishuv to get my haircut, I was stopped in my tracks by the big truck sitting at my friend's house. Shoshi had a baby three weeks after I did, and she had clearly just purchased something from Modeel (the store).

I was so excited, I almost drove off the road! Grabbing my phone, I called the store and asked to speak with the owner (as I have every time).

"Your truck is in the Yishuv!" I declared. "And it's not leaving until those workers come to my house!"

As he has before, the owner grilled me about how long we've had the furniture and insinuated that we must have pulled too hard or done something else wrong. As I have before, I explained that we did nothing wrong and that those workers better make a house call today! He took down my information and said he'd be in touch.

Yeah, right.

So, I sat with my phone in my lap during my haircut, in anticipation of their call. When I finished my haircut, and still hadn't heard from them, I made a decision. I drove right over to Shoshi's house and explained the situation to her. Together, she and I marched down to the workers and she (with her much better Hebrew) started to explain my situation. Before finishing her sentence, the worker said, "Sussman? Right? Yeah, she's on my list to go to next."

Yahooo! I couldn't believe I had actually managed to get them to come over. I left Shoshi's house patting myself on the back, but still skeptical that they would actually come. But, low and behold, an hour later he was at my door.

Of course, the work that needed to be done only took 5 minutes.

5 minutes of work that was accomplished only after 6 months of badgering....

but a story of success through perseverance and creativity in the end!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Hashem's Little Reminders

There are times when I hear Hashem talking to me very clearly, and I have to admire his handy work. It's been a very difficult two weeks - to say the least - while Josh has been traveling. The baby is...well, a baby...with all of the needs that entails. Sleep is a thing of the past, and a shower is a lucky reward when I'm smart enough to catch the chance. What I didn't expect, however, while Josh was away, was the difficulties that I'd have with our two year old and our four year old. Anyway, suffice it to say that it definitely, as Hilary Clinton tells us, "takes a village" and I have an amazing village at my side.

While taking a walk this morning, and thinking about these issues, the first person that I saw was a reminder about perspective. This family lost their 15 year old son in the Mercaz HaRav terrorist attack a few years ago. Whenever I see the mom, I am overcome with sadness. Today, as she walked slowly up the street, I wondered to myself what it could possibly be like to awaken each morning with the burden that she carries - and I thanked Gd not to know. My sleeping issues certainly became trivial in that moment.

Flash forward to the afternoon. There is a new piece of park equipment at Gan Chanan and the kids are very excited about it.

While we were there this afternoon, a lovely and amazing acquaintance in the yishuv came up to wish me a Mazal Tov. While talking about the baby, I mentioned that Josh is away and that it's been difficult, etc. She gushed with sympathy, asking me what I needed, why I hadn't contacted her, how she could help and more. I was quickly embarrassed that I had brought up the subject at all. This is a 40 year old woman who became widowed in her early twenties with two tiny girls at home when her husband was killed in a military accident. She then battled breast cancer last year and had a double mastectomy, among other procedures. And here she was asking me how I was handling things and what I needed? Again...a bit of perspective from Hashem.

And, of course, as I watched the dozens of kids clamoring on the new, absolutely fantastic, piece of park equipment, I couldn't help but reflect on Chanan's entirely too short life. My children were jumping and playing and yelling on the equipment that Chanan would not get to enjoy...and that his parents had brought to the yishuv in his memory so that so many others would.

I get it Hashem.

Another sleepless night?


More insanity from my two year old?


But things will go on; I will get through these tiny stumbling blocks, and I will kiss my children goodnight tonight with a bit of extra patience and tenderness thanks to the signs I've been given today.

Thanks, Hashem. I certainly needed that reminder today.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The Spark of Their Lives

There are two main things that I absolutely love about the first Shabbat after my sons have been born.

First is the bracha that fathers (and sometimes mothers) give to their children on Friday night. This blessing allows us to follow in Yaakov Avinu's footsteps. In the Torah, before he died, Yaakov (Jacob) blessed his two grandsons, Ephraim and Menashe. He said that they should become role models for the Jewish people in the future. So, too, there is a lovely tradition for us to bless our children on Friday night. My kids line up after kiddush, waiting in order of age for their blessing.

The first Friday night after we've brought home a new baby is always very special. The baby gets to the back of the line, so to speak, and receives his first of thousands of blessings from his father. This tradition always makes both me and Josh cry, as Josh puts his hands over the baby's head and recites the bracha that has been used for thousands of years for our children.

The other incredibly touching ritual happens during candle lighting. I light a candle for each of my children, and I love the moment when I add a new candle to the collection. That first Shabbat, standing in front of the candles and adding an extra spark, holds a great deal of power for me. I'm welcoming the baby into our family and both literally and figuratively adding his spark to the world.

And - even more special is the particular candlesticks that we use. When Josh and I got engaged, my Auntie Janie and Uncle Dennis bought us some very unique candlesticks. They are made of ceramic and have all sorts of symbols painting on them in a playful way. Mine has a picture of a woman with a daughter (hmmmm...missed on that one) and Josh's has a drawing of a man with a son. They also have hearts, shooting stars, and many other decorative features - and the date of our wedding. When Matan was born, Janie had another candlestick made by the same artist, adding to our beautiful collection. It has Matan's name in English and the date of his birth on it. The same was done when Yehuda was born.

And then...we made aliyah. Amichai's birth approached, and I wondered if we would be able to get another candlestick. Would Janie ask the artist for another one and then have it shipped all the way here? Would I have to figure out what to do? As it turns out, the artist stopped making these - and we were stuck! What would we do? Find other candlesticks?

At the time, I was taking a ceramics class in the yishuv with a professional ceramics maker. One of my friends in America suggested that maybe I could make Amichai's candle myself. When I finished laughing at the idea of me accomplishing such a task, it suddenly dawned on me that maybe the teacher could make it!

And so, the lovely tradition continued. She had never made a candlestick before, and she had certainly never seen one like ours. But, we gave her an example to work from, and she created a beautiful candlestick for Amichai with his name in Hebrew and the Hebrew date of his birth.

And so, it has continued for each kid. Now, it's become a bit of a joke. I've called her after each birth saying, "Yehudit! It's time again! I need another candlestick." And with great joy, she makes the next candlestick for us.

The moment when I bring the candlestick home and place it with the others is a very powerful one for me. I love to see the collection of candles growing, and to light the new flame for our new little addition. I certainly never in my wildest dreams envisioned a case that would be quite so full of candles - so full of the spark of life!

Every time that I look at these unique, quirky, slightly imperfect candles, I feel in awe. I love that my candlesticks aren't expensive silver pieces of art. They are as unique as is each child and they so perfectly reflect the creativity and ingenuity that I hope each of our children embodies and will continue to embody.

May I continue to help to light the spark that is each child's energy for decades of health, joy and happiness ahead.