Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Happy Passover everyone. Traditionally in Hebrew you say Happy Spring Holiday. It's the holiday that celebrates deliverance from slavery (when the Israelites were slaves in Egypt way back in the day) and the rebirth and renewal that is spring. These are pictures of our seder plates - the ceremonial plates that are the centerpieces of the seder table. One was the real deal, a beautiful plate that my cousins got us for our wedding from the Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam, and the other was a clever art project my mother-in-law brought from Israel. On it you find the most important symbols of the holiday, many of which symbolize springtime - the egg, the parsley, the charoset, which is chopped apples and walnuts...so springy! This holiday is the best. There's so much involved. I was leading the seder and trying to tell the story of Passover to the four kids at the table and trying to make it snappy because kids at a table generally want to eat, but there's so much to the story and so many themes and characters. They should really make a movie. Oh wait! They did.
But by far the best part of the evening, and the part that the kids had been anticipating since, well, last Passover, was a visit from the Prophet Elijah (Eliyahu). It's kind of our version of Santa Claus, but without the gifts. Toward the end of the seder we open the door to let in Elijah who drinks from Elijah's cup, a special goblet (read: holy grail) that's in the middle of the seder plate. So for the last four years we've made my brother Aaron dress up in a white sheet, a tallis, a rasta hat, sunglasses and a white beard and dance in while we sing his song. He twirls in, takes a sip of wine and leaves before the kids start to suspect that Uncle Aaron is not at the table. The kids are simultaneously terrified and captivated by Elijah and the adults think it is HYSTERICAL. Later on I went outside to get some mint to make tea and my son was concerned that Elijah was still out there and would get me. Love it. We might have one more year before the jig is up.
For more spring in your step, head over to Spain.
Monday, March 29, 2010
This ketubah was such a joy to create. The client basically gave me total freedom but also had some really great ideas to offer. Like adding the Hebrew letter "tzadik" to the roof of the bird house. It stands for righteousness and is also the the symbol for the sun sign shared by bride and groom - Aquarius. Love it.
When I have a second I think I'll make it available as a blessing for the home. But in the interim, Nest is settling into the ketubah section of my ETSY shop.
Sunday, March 28, 2010
My animal series is now part of the permanent collection at the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford. It has taken ages for all of it to come together but all twelve animals are hanging in the waiting area at the Bass Center for Childhood Cancers and Blood Diseases. I can only hope they will bring a little cheer and comfort to the families that have to spend any amount of time in that place.
Saturday, March 27, 2010
I have an afternoon problem. I pick up my kids from school after lunch, my daughter goes down for her nap, and my son and I are left to kill each other softly, one nerve at a time. We can't leave the house. We don't have much in the way of a yard, not that he wants to go outside. And there's only so many times a day I want to play (insert Zingo, Candyland, What's Gnu?, Guess Who?, War, Memory, Go Fish or Hungry Hippos). I mean if Candyland is not the most insipid game ever created, well then my name is mud. It gets to me. Sometimes we paint which can be nice. Sometimes we do a puzzle or a project. We often bake for part of the time. My thighs can attest. Sometimes he sorts the recycling when I'm really desperate.
And the thing is he has had plenty of play date invitations - to friends' houses, to the pool, to the zoo, to the library. He's in demand. But he won't go anywhere with anyone unless I drive and his sister comes. Two impossibilities since she's napping and I'm watching her.
The other day my daughter was fighting her nap so I decided to call our neighbor and invite her son, who's in kindergarten, to come with us to a park to ride bikes. I could nearly see her beaming with delight through the phone. So we piled him in the car and threw all the bikes in the back and set out for the park. Keep in mind my son and her son have barely ever played together. I'm not really sure why. They're perfectly nice people. The kids are basically the same age. But that's how it is around here. We're all just too busy coexisting to be in each other's lives. It's the grown-up version of parallel play.
But the minute we got to the park and started to ride the boys were best friends. They only stopped gabbing long enough to sneak up on a squirrel and send it running up a tree in sheer terror. On the way home my son invited him to spend the night. We decided to save that for another day but I could tell the tides had started to turn. Solo playdates might be in our near future.
And as it happens, yesterday, after much persuasion, my son agreed to go to the library with his friend from school and then over to his house. And he LOVED it. He loved the library. He loved scanning my card. He loved driving in her fancy mini-van. He loved his friend's remote control train. He wants to go there again tomorrow by himself and every day forever. And I want to send a personal thank you to the patron saint of play dates for smiling upon my family.
Friday, March 26, 2010
I'm out of hiding for a just a moment to show you what I've been working on the last few days. A while back someone contacted me about purchasing one of my ketubah prints. And while she liked elements of all of them, she wished she could patch together something that incorporated elements of this piece and this piece and this piece and this piece and this piece. Well this was a project I couldn't resist even though commissions scare the crap out of me. I decided to give it a whirl.
So here's the final sketch she went with, but asked that the tiny village in the corner look less like a tiny tenement. No problem.
The first round is always very flat. Straight color. But then, and this is my big watercolor secret so don't tell anyone, I go over every thing in orange (did you know that orange and aqua make the loveliest shade of green?). And then all the under colors start to glow and turn other colors or deeper shades of themselves. That's my favorite part.
And now I have to go in a add some lime in a few places that are too red. That will bring it down a notch. We don't want it too peppy. It's a marriage contract after all. Serious stuff. Plus the text which will take some maneuvering. Anyone who's worked with Hebrew text in illustrator knows that it can be a little sensitive (type shows up backwards, upside down or both). Takes patience and understanding - ingredients for a good marriage I'd say.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Right before our trip to Israel this beautiful little hand-bound journal designed by bookmaking goddess Jen of Painted Fish Studio arrived to my home in exchange for, surprise, a painted fish. She also sent along some other little goodies including a slippery mood fish, the likes of which I hadn't seen in probably two decades, and some fruity Japanese tape dispensing thingy which my daughter quickly destroyed. My husband saw the journal and admired the craftsmanship and then had a chuckle. What is your thing with orange?
I have no idea what he's talking about.
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Thanks to watching three consecutive episodes of LOST online last night, the jetlag seems to have subsided. Finally. Though a small female demon woke me at 5:45 this morning, which I consider progress. My son, on the other hand, has a future as an international business man or diplomat or flight attendant. He scoffs at jetlag. First night back he slept from 8 pm to 7:30 am. That's a gold medal in sleeping right there.
I've been in a funk since our return. We really had a great trip. Aside from the weather, which was horrible for much of our stay (back to back heat waves and some kind of South African sand storm), every day offered some amazing experience. Sometimes adorable, like when my daughter was putting pick up sticks into my father-in-law's ponytail like he was a geisha. Sometimes wondrous, like watching my son play with the kids of our close friends and actually speak to them in Hebrew. We spent most of our time in the south and the kids really enjoyed being with their aunt and grandparents. One day we spent with friends in Tel Aviv and I fell in love again with that city. It combines Middle East grit with European charm. Picture crumbling 1950s apartment building with well-tended geraniums under every window. And the food. So many kinds of salads and cous cous and shwarma and falafel. And the yogurts too. Holy lactose intolerance. And did I mention the shoco b'sakit? That's chocolate milk in a plastic bag where you bite off the corner and literally nurse yourself into euphoria. It's bliss.
It was also great to see many of our friends and where they're living. Beautiful homes with desert views, funky old apartments in the center of everything, some pastoral, some urban, some up in the hills. Some way out in the middle of nowhere, which you wouldn't think possible in a country this tiny.
And we had a lot of interesting conversations, many of which included questions about our return. We left Israel almost ten years ago. The standard answer has always been two years. There are Israelis living in Silicon Valley forty years and they're still on the two year plan. So who really knows. One thing is for sure. When you marry someone from a different country, it opens a window that can never close. You are forever caught between two worlds. Two cultures. Two languages. Two histories. And in our case, ten time zones. It would be a lot easier if I was European. You can pretty much commute between Israel and Europe. Even New York would be more manageable. California feels like another whole planet away. But you can't always plan who you love or where your heart takes you. We'll always be missing somewhere or someone.
Here's a taste.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
We're home. This is a picture of my daughter screaming about something. There were certainly plenty of things for her to scream about on our 34 hour trip home. 14 of those hours were spent in London. Thankfully not on the floor of terminal three in Heathrow airport. We had the good sense to reserve a hotel room next to the airport which may have been our saving grace. All in all, it was a pretty good travel experience. Just long. I even got to watch parts of some movies. The guy two rows in front of my to the diagonal was watching Precious so I saw some of that without sound which was probably the most I could handle from that movie. I also got to watch a little Bollywood action. That may be new favorite genre. And I watched the second Twilight movie in its entirety which was awful, but having just read three of the four books, highly entertaining.
I have a lot of things swirling around in my head. Stories from the trip. Thoughts on the Middle East. An open letter to President Obama. Some constructive criticism for Virgin Atlantic and Boeing. Thoughts about travel footwear. Confusion over where to live the rest of my life. The soundtrack to The Sneetches DVD.
In the meantime I am swamped. Orders to fill. A commission to finish. Taxes to file. Not to mention a severe case of luggage creep that must be nipped in the bud. I'll see you on the other side.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
My husband and I customarily take a day to explore Jerusalem whenever we come to visit. Saba and Savta watch the kids and we spend the day walking around, eating, watching. It's always great. We usually spend our time in the Old City but on this visit we concentrated on the area called Machane Yehuda. It's a giant fruit, vegetable, candy, plastic container, appliance, broom, spice, fake Levis, pastry and cheap sandals market. It's where I used to shop every Friday morning when I lived in Jerusalem. It is total chaos. We love this place.
So we spent a few hours strolling around. We had a shwarma at a place called Moshiko's, which was next to a barber and across from a mini-synagogue. You know, in case you need to pray while buying your groceries. I guess it's more for the sellers to pop over and do their thing morning, noon and night ritual. I wish I had a picture of the five old guys hanging out at the barber. They were adorable. Especially when they halted conversation to stare at a beautiful, big-boobed, Scandinavian tourist walk by. Classic!
Hi. We're going home today. Well, we're flying to London tonight and then to San Francisco tomorrow morning. Anyway, we're at the end of our journey. I would say this was our best trip so far. And even though politically this country is a disaster (maybe more on that later) it is a spectacular place.
Last I wrote I was dealing with a bout of nausea. So annoying. It passed a day or so later but I spent that day thinking about my friend Renee, a blogging friend I met a few months ago. She was dying of cancer, but through her blog, had quite a following. We used to leave pithy little comments for each other. Heartfelt. Silly. Sometimes serious. Usually not. Her situation was serious enough. I actually felt loved by her, which I know sounds ridiculous, since we never met or even spoke on the phone. I knew her prognosis was bad and that the end was near but somehow I convinced myself that she'd be fine. Her posts and comments to me were so full of life, I could not imagine her any other way.
In the last month or so we stopped hearing from Renee and started hearing from her lovely daughter Angelique so I knew things had turned. In the last post where it seemed it was only a matter of days, hours. She was still suffering but fighting for whatever time she could have with the family she loved so much. I kept wanting to leave comments true to the style of our relationship. Renee! Go to the light! I am sure there is fast speed wireless in the next world! We'll all be waiting for your next dispatch from the great beyond. And tell god I think cancers blows. But I couldn't. It all seemed so grim and unfair.
So the nausea made me think of her. She was always battling nausea and everything else. Always in treatment. Always exhausted. But strong in spirit. And always with a sense of humor, or so it appeared to me anyway. And I thought, crimey, I can't even deal with a little nausea for a day and a half and this incredible woman has been in it for years.
Turns out she died on that Tuesday. And so many of us are feeling the loss.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
When Jane asked for suggestions last week for miniature worlds I thought ant hill off the top of my head and then what do we come across the very next day while hiking at Nahal Absor in the Negev? Dozens and dozens of anthills where gargantuan ants spend all day every day hauling bits of our world into their miniature worlds. I wish I had a picture of my thumb next to these puppies because for whatever reason, maybe the toxic chemical plant nearby, they grow bigger than your average city ant.
But not as big as these suckers. The very next evening we went out for a walk at a nearby kibbutz where they have a huge sculpture garden and we came across gigantic ants! So I had to snap those too.Before they gobbled me up!
For more miniature worlds, visit Jane's sidebar. Happy trails!
The last few days have been outstanding. We've mainly stayed in the south going on short hikes, looking for water holes in the desert (because it's unseasonably hot) and playgrounds in the towns we pass through on our way home. The kids are doing great. We took them to the old city of Beer Sheva to buy pita at the oldest pita factory in town. And around the corner is the little Turkish style stone house where my husband lived until he was three. The door his dad built some 37 years ago is still there.
Today was supposed to be another wonderful day. I was supposed to meet a lovely woman that I 'met' though ETSYChai, an ETSY team open to anyone but primarily for Jewish sellers or Israeli sellers or sellers of Judaica or all of the above. I had mentioned to the team that I would be in Israel and few people said they'd be happy to meet me. In the end I planned to drive to Tel Aviv and my husband would drop me off at Nahalat Binyamin which is a great craft market on Tuesdays and Fridays. I love to go even though the stuff there looks about the same year after year. I don't care. It's nice to have a strong coffee and relax and then walk around looking at the goodies. And Tuesdays are always less crowded than Fridays, the only other day it's open. In the end only one woman could meet me, Lisa, which was fine. We seemed to have a fair amount in common - moved to Israel from elsewhere at some point (though we left), young kids, artist, home studio. She makes wonderful papercut art - cards, little boxes, notebooks - beautiful little treasures. Go see her shop and blog. I was excited to meet her. But last night right as I was going to bed I started to feel horribly nauseated. If there's one thing I can't deal with it's nausea. So I basically didn't sleep. And this morning it felt worse. So I emailed her that I couldn't make it and maybe we could reschedule for Friday.
And then I got the call. Where are you? Gulp. She had taken her kids to school and gone straight to the train to meet me. I don't know if you know this about me, but I hate when I fuck up. I HATE it. Not that this keeps me from doing it all the time. But I don't like it one bit. Especially something like this where someone else is involved. I've actually been on her side and wasted my time getting somewhere only to be left hanging. I am usually very conscientious. I don't know why I just didn't call! And now I'm feeling awful because, well I'm nauseated still, and also I deserted this nice person at a cafe in Tel Aviv, so now I have to feel bad about that until I stop feeling bad, because that's what I do. My son has this same quality and I hate seeing it in him too. He hates making mistakes and when he makes them, he is harder on himself than I could ever be.Although he often feels like his shame is enough and he doesn't deserve a secondary punishment for, say, hitting his sister. Not sure about that one.
Saturday, March 6, 2010
Today was a beautiful day. We went for a walk in the foothills outside of Jerusalem and brought a picnic. It rained a lot in February so everything was covered in wild flowers which my kids collected in Savta's vitamin boxes. When we got to the perfect spot, which incidentally also overlooked the general area where David beat Goliath, my sister in law, aka Mary Poppins, engaged the kids in some pita-making festivities. No, seriously. She and her boyfriend brought a gas stove and a flat pan and the kids made pita! And it was tasty! Plus they brought home-made olives, garden-grown vegetables and a jam that her boyfriend’s mom made. And there just happened to be a goat farm nearby that sold cheese. So our little picnic became a feast of biblical proportions. And then a snake came by and offered us apples, I turned into a pillar of salt and the earth swallowed us whole. But it was worth it.
Friday, March 5, 2010
We’re over jetlag. Mostly. I thought we were in the clear when I got my kids to bed at 10:20 on our second night in country. My hubris was a little premature. I also underestimated my own jetlag and while I tried to go to bed soon after them to maximize the overlap, I couldn’t fall asleep. I admit, it probably wasn’t the best night to start reading Twilight, the vampire saga. Realizing that I was the only female in the developed world between the ages of fifteen and forty-five who had not read this book, I picked it up in the airport. And, as promised, the story sucks you in, no pun intended. But by 1:30, after I’d read half of it, I knew I had to put it down, or suffer a miserable predawn awakening by two terrifying monsters of my own creation. And not two minutes after I turned off the lights did I jump out of my skin at the sight of a pale, barefoot demon with wild black hair hovering over my bed whispering I want cereal.
Thursday, March 4, 2010
Flying to Israel is a lot like birthing a baby. It's 24 hours of emotional and physical pain. Moments of intense stress. Moments of complete exhaustion. Moments of terror. And at some point you just surrender to the absolute hell of your predicament, the one you chose for yourself. You want to put gum in your sister's hair while sitting under the seats during landing? Go for it. And then you land and you think it's all over and you're overjoyed and empowered by how you handled the whole ordeal (without the help of an epidural), except now you have to go through passport control and customs and the hour car ride to your in-laws. But you're generally happy because you love this place and these people. But then the jetlag kicks in and the real terror and exhaustion and pain begins.
And then two years later you forget how bad it all was and you sign up for more. We're on our fourth trip to Israel with kids and thankfully, like with childbirth, it gets easier each time. This trip was manageable. We flew from San Francisco to London and the kids slept a good six hours of the ten. And the rest of time they watched their videos, did their coloring books, pretended to call their preschool teachers on the hand-held phone/remote control devices at each chair. They even ate the plane food, though we had enough of our own food to feed everyone in the event of a water landing in the Atlantic. We had a three hour layover in London which, believe it or not, was just enough time to get to our departing gate. And then another five hours to Israel, the first three of which our daughter slept, the next two our son slept. It was very considerate of them to split it up like that. And then we arrived. Easy.
And here we are, day two (three? it's hard to know what day it is), happy to be back in a place that still feels like home - a big working class city in the south, covered in a layer of dust and rust but beautiful in a gritty, sun scorched kind of way - having survived labor and delivery. And, just like newly minted parents, we are a little disoriented, a little overwhelmed, a little tired but bursting with love.