Thursday, November 20, 2008

It Rain That Night Too

From Feburay 13, 2008:
Lest I forget, it was a wonderful Vantentine Day, though my beloved is half a world a way.
We spend each other tons of Vantentine's Day cards and he did recieve his Piggy singing 'Hot Stuff.' Mark says she is the hit of the unit. He can walk away from his desk and within moments hear "Hot Stuff!" because one of the soldiers or Marines came over and presses her tummy. On the 13th of this month, I recieved a box of 12 long stem red roses and a Teddy with Godiva chocolates. We spoke on the 15th and while it wasn't the same, it was still quite romantic.
Next year, G-d willing, Mark will be home.
The following is why Lover's Day is so special to us.
Mark and Laini on Blessing Night, 2006

From 13th 2008
When: A Sunday.
The place: Beth Messiah Synagogue.
The Event: The Blessing Dinner.
For several years, the men of our Synagogue got together and made dinner for their wives, daughters, mums as well as the single, divorced or widowed women of the congregation.
The Sunday chosest to Valentine's Day was picked. It was called Blessing Dinner to bless the women in the men's lives. It was a potluck meal where the men did the cooking. Roses and other flowers were brought for the evening. For woman who were Bat Mitzvah (over the age of 13) she would recieve a rose. Girls under 13 recieve another type of flower.The men setup, serve the meal and clean up. After dinner, first the husbands, one by one would stand up and play tribute to their beloved and afterwards, represent her with a rose. The men would also pay tribute to their mums and daughters. Rabbi would give roses to the women who, for whatever reason, was without a mate. This way everyone recieved atleast one flower on Lovers Day.Mark and I were courting at the time. For several weeks we had talked about marriage. And Mark by his own admission suffered from a serve case of cold feet.We were suppose to meet earlier in the day, do a little shopping and then I woud dress at his apartment.But he forgot and was several hours late. We exchanged words and almost did not go to the dinner.But we went to his apartment so I could change. I wore a studding midnight black dress that had ripples at the hem and moved every time I did. I took my braids out and let my wavey hair fall down my back and laced in it little hairpins with pearls and dimands. I was looking good.Mark looked up when I walked out and then looked back into his book! My heart sank.
He then stood up, placed his hands on my shoulders and asked; "excuse me, who are you and what have you done with my Laini?" That made me smile. He really did notice. According to Mark; "she looked gooooood!"
Like tonight, it was pouring down rain and since I was wearing heeds I wasn't use to, I had to hold onto Mark's arm.Heads turned when I walked in. While most were used to seeing me dress for the services, no one had seem me dressed to the nines.Until tonight.After the meal, Mark wondered out loud: "I wonder what I am going to say about you."
I said: "Just ask the Holy Spirit. And the words will then come."He did and they did.At one point I notice Mark had left the table we were sharing with friends. I thought he had gone to the bathroom.
And then I heard his voice. Up front.
Now you have to understand, Mark didn't wait until all of the husband had spoken, but picked up and rose and began to tell everyone how I had prayed for him, cared for him, how I supported him while he was in Iraq and now during his cancer treatment.
That G-d had truly blessed him when He brought me into his life.
He spoke of his love for me and said everything but; "will you marry me?" He then came over and handed me the rose. He asked if I liked what he said. I told him; "I love every word, and you have no idea what you just did."
"What did I just do?"
"You just asked me to marry you in front of almost 130 people."It took a few moments, but when Rabbi asked: "you didn't see that coming did you?" Mark realized what he had done. To say the room was abuzz was an understatement.On the way home we talked about what he had done. And when he came to a red light, Mark turned to me and said; "well, you want to set a date?"And that is how is all began.
Three years ago tonight.
Around 7:00pm

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

One Marine's View

I love this guy.....

One Marine's View
Something cool that Xerox is doing
Posted: 18 Nov 2008 09:04 PM CST
If you go to this web site, you can pick out a thank you card and Xerox will print it and it will be sent to a soldier that is currently serving in Iraq . You can't pick out who gets it, but it will go to a member of the armed services.
How AMAZING it would be if we could get everyone we know to send one!!! This is a great site. Please send a card. It is FREE and it only takes a second.
THEN, get yer butt over to to pick out a warrior of your choice to support. C'mon gang, they are in the freaking desert!

When a Family Member Is Deployed

Content Provider By Military OneSource.
Maintaining a family routine and tending to your needs and those of your children can be very difficult when a family member has been deployed for military service. Children and adults may experience strong separation anxiety and fear about the well-being of a family member. It's important to come up with a plan for coping with separation and the strong emotions that may accompany a deployment.
Families should prepare emotionally for a deployment and the stress it may cause by:
Agreeing on a plan for communicating . Talk about whether you'll communicate by telephone, e-mail, or letters, and how often or at what times you'll communicate.
Making a plan for being alone . Family members who are at home while a loved one is serving in the military may be able to deal with anxiety and fear if they make plans to take classes, pick up new hobbies, or spend time doing things they wouldn't normally do.
Looking into support groups. Many branches of the service offer support in the form of social groups, counseling, or advice. Look into what's available for your family.
Spending special time together . Take the time to be alone with your spouse or partner before they leave. It's also important for children to have individual time with a parent or loved one before deployment occurs.

Staying in touch when a family member has been deployed It's vital to have a communication plan and stick to it. If someone is expecting letters or phone calls that never come, fear and anxiety could set in. Regular communication is extremely important because it can raise morale and help families cope with separation. Here are some ways to make communication even better:
Be creative . Document a regular day in photos and send them to a loved one with captions. Create care packages with baked goods, silly toys or souvenirs, newspaper articles, children's school or artwork and video or cassette tapes of family members.
Write frequent, short letters. Encourage children and friends to send postcards or brief notes. Constant communication from home can be very uplifting for those who are far away serving in the military.
Don't avoid answering questions or write about rumors or gossip . Avoiding questions or passing along misinformation that may cause worry or fear. Try to keep communications full of news about friends, family, local events, and expressions of love.

Cultivate new skills or hobbies . Take a class or start a project you've always wanted to do. It's important to continue personal growth when a loved one has been deployed. Open yourself to new experiences and friendships
Keep a journal . Many people find that writing down their thoughts and feelings is comforting when they are separated from a loved one.
Offer empathy and support to others . Remember that you aren't alone. Find a support group or plan events with other families who are experiencing the same thing.
Seek support from your faith community. Many people find comfort and solace from their faith communities during difficult times.
Do something special for yourself and your family. Rent a movie or cook a meal that your loved one wouldn't necessarily enjoy. Plan fun outings with children during free time.
Seek professional counseling . If you feel like you can't cope with the absence of a loved one, contact your health care provider or employee assistance program (EAP) to find a counselor.
Ignore rumors . Many people have trouble dealing with limited information about the whereabouts and activities of a loved one during deployment. It may be difficult to ignore rumors or gossip, but it's important to rely on official sources of information when a family member has been deployed.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Somed things Are Best left Unsaid

One of the things I learned during my training as a Hospice LPN, is when you don't know what to say, say nothing at all.

That is true when someone or their family memember is facing the end of life, a death of a marriage, carreer, dream or a spouse who's beloved is deployed.

Sometimes what that person needs is a hug, a cup of coffee or tea, a blanket or a Teddy Bear. A card that says I am thinking of you.

A seat at your supper table.

We don't need to hear: stay strong! you look like your holding up well or even I am praying for you.

Sometimes, Prayers need feet and hands put to them.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Mummie's Birthday

From Feb.25, 2008:
Well, I finally got to take Mummie out for her birthday.
Anne, a good friend to both of us also came along. We went to Azar's, one of Mark's and mine eating spots. Great Middle Eastern food and easy for Mummie to move about with her cane.
It was just a joy to treat not just Mummie, but Ann too.
Ann has been a blessing to both of us and this was Mark and my way of thanking her.
For her birthday, I gave Mummie Olive Oil shower gel and lotion. Very good for the skin as well as helping to rest at night.
I know: I use it myself.
It was a cold, nippy day, so we ordered Chai-Lattes. Mummie never had one and we all enjoyed the hot liqurd. It looked like snow, but none fell and for that I was grateful.
I don't like snow.
Later, Mark called and we talked for a while. Work is going well. They are tying up some loose ends since there is a chance coming in several weeks. He said he would try to write some in the journal. That's if the lines are up and running.
One can never tell in Iraq.
Nap time. Then, a movie.

The Arms That Grid Me

From Feb 21. 2008:
While I am Mark's support here, and thankful for the prayers that go up on his behalf, I am also thankful for the prayers and support I recieve here at home.
Now, to be honest, there isn't a lot.
Rabbi Joe calls to see how I am doing. One of my closest friend's and Sister Rudy, calls every week to check up on me. Rudy has a husband, a full-time job and four of her six children still living at home and yet she still finds the time to see how I am doing.
Our Mums. They are the greatest. They call often to not only see how I am doing, but to allow me to vent frustations, cry when I am sad, yell when I am mad and give me that needful laugh and encouragement.
For several weeks I could not figure out what was happening to my trash. I would pit it out and later find it gone.
It turns out the guy upstairs would stop on his way out and pick it up for me. Since everyone in the building knows Mark is away, all of my neighors keep an eye out for me. They stop at my door to see if I need anything, make sure the apartment is secure, etc.
And then there is Joe and Sabrina. This lovely couples makes sure I get to the Shabbath services and Torah study during the week. They also call to see how I am doing. And then, there is my Starbucks buddies, Debbie and Sturat who I meet with once a month for coffee. Debbie also calls to pray with me and soon, she and her huband will be moving to my neighorhood, so I will see them more.
And how do I forget my shopping buddy, Sarah. Sarah and Paul who supported Mark on his first two deployments, upheld Mark and I when Mark went through Cancer treatment, were part of our wedding and here we go again with another deployment. I remember just after Mark left, we had an intense lighting storm. Sarah called me in the middle of it just to see how I was ok.
I was hiding under the bed.
Many people ask how Mark is doing, tell me how great I look, but have no idea how I am truly feeling.
Or care.
I thank G-d for the few that do.

Another Note From Avraham

From Feb.2008
Abba's back
Abba returned from the CERP office a little while ago. He seemed a little sad, so I asked him what was the matter. He told me that he was sad because he wasn't able to reach Imma on the telephone. He said all of the circuits were busy so he came home...
Abba needs to talk to Imma because she always helps him stay grounded. There are days when he just needs to vent, and she is always there to listen... That is why he loves here so much!!! I will be glad when I find a wife that is as caring and thoughtful as Imma... but that will be a while as I am only a little bear.

A Note About Avraham and Moshe

From Feb. 20, 2008:
Moshe the Mouse, my Starbucks Buddy......
Avraham the Bear, our Rabbi in Iraq.....
About our furry little people.
Mark and I love Stuffed Animals. Yes, we are a couple that really needs children.
About two Hanuakkahs ago, I gave mark Avraham the Rabbial Bear. And Mark gave me Moshe the Mouse.
We thought it would be cute to have the two "brothers" write each other since Avraham was now in Iraq with Mark. We have found that many readers enjoy hearing from our two furry guys as much as they like hearing from Mark and I.
Besides, they are rather cute.....

A Letter to Avraham From Moshe

From Feb. 2008
Shalom dear Avie:
Sounds like you and Abba are busy. Do you and Abba need blankets? Imma and I can make one for you if you need it. I heard Abba say its cold there because of the rain.
Imma was sad today well. But she and Abba were able to do instant messages later in the day. So now she feels better.
While at the store, Imma brought some peanut that I know you and Abba will like. And we're making cookies for Abba tonight. Yes, peanut butter cookies. Hope you both like them.
By the way, how's the cheese in Iraq?

Ode to my Pookie Bear

From Feburay, 2008:
Yes! my husband calls me Pookie Bear!
They say behind every man of consequence is a good woman. Well, I would like to add to that: Behind every good man of consequence is an excellent woman. I love ya' Pookie
This is Avraham, serving in Iraq with Mark....
Hi everyone! Avraham here. I am doing well, but I had to counsel Abba (dad in hebrew) this week.

You see, Abba is married to a wonderful woman, Pookie Bear. Now she and Abba started this journal so that they could keep a record of what each other is feeling while Abba is away in Iraq. Up til now, Imma (hebrew for mum, this is a couple that needs kids badly) has been keeping her end of the bargain. Abba, on the other hand...
The other day I was sitting on Abba's bookshelf while he was talking to the Imma on the telephone. I couldn't help but overhearing Imma say she was angry with Abba because Abba was not writing in the journal. The whole point was to help each know how the other was doing. Without him writing, she felt separated, distant, and she did not like that.

Afterwards, Abba asked me what he should do. I told him that I remembered Imma speaking of how she wrote an ode to you, Abba. Maybe you could make an Ode to Imma.
Today Shabbat, and if Abba was home right now, he would be helping Imma get ready for Shabbat. He would help her set the table and clean the living room. He would set up the washing basin and help prepare the Challah.

Then Shabbat would begin. This is the best time of the week because Abba studies Torah with me.
At the start of Shabbat Imma would light the candles. This is her special time, connecting with all of the other Jewish women around the world as they, too, light their candles. Usually she says a prayer after lighting the candles, but before she says the blessing. She told me she often prays that other women would see Y-shua in the light of the candles.
After washing hands and saying the Kiddish, Abba and Imma would take turns reading from the Scriptures to each other.

Imma reads Psalms 112
Abba's portion comes from Proverbs 31: you might know this as the "Virtuous Wife" passage. This is Abba's, "Ode to Pookie Bear":
Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies.
The heart of her husband safely trust in her; so he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good and not evil all the days of her life.
She seeks wool and flax, and willingly works with her hands.
She is like the merchant ships; she brings her food from afar.
She also rises, while it is yet night, and provides food for her household, and a portion for her maidservants.
She considers a field and buys it; From her profits she plants a vineyard.
She girds herself with strength, and strengthens her arms.
She perceives that her merchandise is good, and her lamp does not go out by night.
She stretches out her hands to the distaff, and her hand holds the spindle.
She extends her hand to the poor; yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy.
She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household is closed with scarlet.
She makes tapestry for herself; Her clothing is fine linen and purple.
Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies sashes for the merchants.
Strength and honor our her clothing; she shall rejoice in the time to come.
She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness.
She watches over the ways for household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call for blest; her husband also, and he praises her: "Many daughters have done well, but you excels them all."
Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears Adonai, she should be praised.
Give her the fruits of herhands, and let her own works praise her in the gates.

Pictures From Hanukkah

From 17th, Feb. 2008
Hanukkah at Beth Messiah. We have a traditon of bringing our families' chanukkiah to Synagogue on Ere Shabbath (Shabbath Evening) to kindle the lights. The only one missing is my Mark.....
This is one of the many chanukkiahs we have in our home. We almost have enough to go into the window of each room. Mark said he recieved several chanukkiahs for Hanukkah. A few he has given away. But a few he has saved and will bring home.
We are hopeful that Mark will be home this year to light the Lights of Freedom.

A Nice Surprise

From Feb. 15th, 2008
Today is Mummie's birthday and we are so thrilled that she is still here with us.
Almost nine years ago, Mummie had a massive stroke and wasn't expected to live.
I insisted upon bringing her home and caring for her myself. Several months later, she was doing so well that we were able to find a nice Assistance Care Home for her.
Since then, she has seen all three of her great-grandsons (hasn't seen her great-granddaughter yet) meet Mark and see us get married and rejoice over my sister getting married as well.
Such a busy lady! She is now living at Hope Haven, wonderful Assistance Care Home and enjoys it greatly. So, I will get a chance to take my mum out for lunch; next week. This week is booked.
But what thrilled her was when Mark called from Iraq.
Mark and my mum have such a wonderful relationship. He has called her Mummie since we began courting and she has loved him as a son since the first day they met. In fact, it was my mum who told me Mark loved me.
Mummie knows best.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Keeping Busy

From Feb. 2008:

After speaking to Mark, he has agreed that I can start decorating the Oneg room for Shabbat. As long as I do it before Shabbat and not on it.

After all, Shabbat is a day of rest.

And I so enjoy making things pretty for this the first of the Holy Days.

Besides, it gives me something esle to do and get out of myself.

Torah Study and Letters

From January 16th, 2008:

Usually I go to Torah study this evening, but I am starting to come down with a cold, so I am staying home this evening.

While out shopping the other day, I found this little Pink Pig dressed in a devil's outfit. When you press it's tummy, it sings "Hot Stuff."

Really cute, I will place it no Mark's next Care package.

I think he will like.

I also worked on the next supply cookies that I will add to the box, along with a cards.

Mark says it is wonderful to recieve e-mail, but there is something about getting a letter, a card that one can hold, touch, that brings comfort beyobd words.

It's Been Awhile

From Januray 15th, 2008:
It is a quiet Tuesday evening.
most evening are quiet around here with Mark in Iraq.
I miss him so miss.
So I am catching up on old projects, going through old books we are no longer reading and videos we are no longer watching.
I went out for a long walk and then stopped at Starbucks. One of the Server's husband is also in Iraq, a Navy Medic and will be coming home in a few months
I am happy for her. Wish it was my Mark.
Bur we go on. Mark has his job to do and I have mine.
I have deveopled the habit of going to bed early these days, so I am off for sleep.

PassOver in Iraq

From:Wednesday, January 2, 200811:28:00 AM EST
Feeling: Happy
From an artcile I read about Passover In Iraq last year

Passover in Iraq During the traditional eight days of Pssover or Pesach, Jews reenact and remember the exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt. The holiday of Passover (Pesach), the Festival of Freedom, is one of three major festivals of the Jewish year. On the nights preceding the first and second day of Passover, a seder, a ceremonial meal, is held with foods that symbolize the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and rituals that tell the stories of ancient Jewish history.
Jewish American soldiers celebrate Passover in Iraq.
The Haggadah, the storytelling book read at the seder, includes rabbinic commentary, hymns, prayers, and stylized questions and answers.
Citation from Psalms Morris references chapter 137 from the book of Psalms (New Revised Standard Version):
By the rivers of Babylon—there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion. On the willows there we hung up our harps. For there our captors asked us for songs, and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion!" How could we sing the Lord's song in a foreign land? If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither! Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy. Remember, O Lord, against the Edomites the day of Jerusalem's fall, how they said, "Tear it down! Tear it down! Down to its foundations!" O daughter Babylon, you devastator! Happy shall they be who pay you back what you have done to us! Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock!

Sabbath Supper

Wednesday, January 2, 200811:20:00 AM EST

Feeling: Happy
Sabbath Supper
I'd decided on lentil-lamb stew for Sabbath.
This means I have to take the lamb out of the freezer, defrost and since it has already been Kosher, place it in my Greek -Moroccan marinade for a few hours. The marinade? It is a Greek salad dressing I'd learn to make, but I add Moroccan spices for my own personal touch.
I will also place fresh candles in the menorahs. This is a bitter-sweet chore for me. Mark was the one to freshen the candles for Sabbath. He liked to help me get ready for Sabbath. He also made the preparations fun.
But I can't help but smile.

For though he is in Iraq, Mark still kindle the lights (I send him to Iraq with small candle holders, mailed a huge box of candles and grape juice) bless the fruit of the vine and Challah some dear lady send him. We still celebrate Sabbath. It's just more precious to us now.
Shabbath is going to even a sweeter time when he returns home.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

First Day of the New Year

Tuesday, January 1, 2008 9:51:00 PM EST
Feeling: Quiet
Watching: Twlight Zone
It has been a good day.

Both our mums called to wish me a Happy New Year to check up on me and see how I was doing.
I went out to StarBucks this afternoon.

This is something Mark and I always did on New Year's Day; go to StarBucks.
The clerk was rather rude when taking my order and the order was wrong. I was willing to give the woman grace; she must be having a very bad day. Sometimes we tend to take things personal, when the problem isn't us, but the other person. So, I just said a silence prayer, took my coffee and sat down to read my book.
It is time for me to call it a night. One of my goals is to get to bed at a decent time and I am right now pushing it.

New Year's Day

From; Tuesday, January 1, 2008
1:21:00 PM EST Feeling: Happy
Watcing:Twlight Zone

I grew up with many, many New Year's traditions.

The coming New Year was just as exciting for us as the other holidays.
My mum made it so.
My sister and I got to stay up late 12 to see the New Year come in.
My step-father always insisted in having a BBQ's Pig's Head (yuck! never knew the reason for that, nor did I partake) Black-eye peas; the more peas you ate, the more money you would recieve the coming year. I remember as a child, we would take down the Christmas tree in the evening.
When I became an adult, I would develope a few of my own.
When I was single, and still celebrated Christmas,I kept Old Christmas and the trees (two) didn't come down until Januray 7th. I loved celebrating the 12 days of Christmas and still have fond memories. During this time, I also celebrated Hanukkah, so the month of December was a month of joy and wonder in my home.
But the more I studied my Jewish roots and the history of the early believers, I found much of our Jewish had been removed and replaced with pagan worship. So I began to rediscover my roots and fully embrace them.
I did the same with New Year's Eve. I no longer went out, partying the New Year away, but often went to an all night prayer service, spend the evening reading the book of Ecclesiastes. On New Year's I would read Proverbs.
There is one tradition that I heard about that I loved. Opening the front door to escort the Old Year out and welcome the New Year in.
Last year, Mark and I were at our Shul, praying in the New Year. Then we came home, drank a glass of wine out of our wedding glasses, danced and then
Fireworks I love this little tradition of ours.
This year, Mark called me from Iraq. We brought in the New Year together telling each other "I Love You!" The sweetness and joy I felt hearing the voice of my beloved. Even in Iraq, he causes
Fireworks Since there is no wine where Mark is, he drank grape juice to my wine. But my beloved should be home for the coming of 2009.....Fireworks

New Year's Eve

Monday, December 31, 2007
8:49:00 AM EST Feeling: Sad
Watching: Fox and Friends

It is New Year's Eve.
I will drop off the rent, do some window shopping and pick up salad fixings, wine, hard crust bread and some cheese.

I will work on a baby blanket, hoepfully finish it and then work on Mark's quilt.
Twight Zone will run for the next twenty-four hours and I will watch that this evening.
For many years, every New Year's Eve I would read the book of Ecclesiastes.

On New Year's Day, the Book of Proverbs. But the past few years, I must confess, I have not. Since we were married, Mark and I have brought in the New Year together; our own special New Year's celebration: a glass of wine and some cheese, dancing to some music and then cuddling the New Year in. Mark said he wanted my face he would see at the end of the old year and the first he saw at the New Year.
But this year, Mark is in Iraq and I am here.
This year, I will lift up my wine glass to my busband's picture. And then get back to his quilt.

2:28:00 PM EST Feeling: Sad
Mark called just as it turned 12 am in Iraq. So, we brought the New Year together.

The cough still hanging on. He did recieve a letter from one of our g-dparnets. So he's in good spirits. But he is very tired from work. Seems there was some paperwork mix ups that he had to straighten out.
It has been two months since I'd seem my big guy.

We brought WebCams just before Mark left, but now because the signal in Iraq is weak, we can't use them.

Rainy Sunday

From: Sunday, December 30, 20073:09:00 PM EST
It has been a nice, quiet afternoon and I am about to take a nap.

Hopefully it will have stopped raining when I get up.
The chores of the day have been done; mopping of the kitchen floor, changing and airing out of the bed, cleaning the bathroom. I have some stew already made in the freezer. Just need to pull it out for supper later on.
The baby blanket is coming along nicely. It should be finished in a few days and post a picture of it soon. I like to keep a record of the things I make. To see finish projects always boost my spirits.
I spoke to Mark this morning. He still has that yucky cough from the cold he'd had. But he is doing much better. He said he recieved another of my boxes, which means he has most of the Care Packages I'd send. There is one more coming and that's the one with the homemade cookies.

His days are busy ones. This weekend he had an inspection and from what he tells me, all went. There are still problems with the computers, but he is hopeful that the unit will have internet usage back in their rooms very soon. Mark sends his love and thanks everyone for their prayers.
Well, it's nap time.

Meet One of My Flavorite Rabbis

From: Sunday, December 30, 200711:43:00 AM EST
Rebbe With a Cause Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

Rabbi Boteach is one of my flavorite Rabbis. One doesn't have to be Jewish to learn from his wisdom.
The Receding Hemlines of Crown Heights
If even pious and religious men have been conditioned to fixate on a woman's looks, then woe unto the rest of us!
Returning to the Chabad headquarters in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, for a Shabbos is an exhilarating experience. Lubavitchers are arguably the most alive people in the world, and there is a pulse and electricity in the air that can scarcely be found anywhere else.What I did not expect, however, was to be approached by a large number of young rabbinical students (bochurim) of marriageable age who wanted counseling as to how to overcome their obsession with a woman's looks on dates. Some of the bochurim who approached me had dated upwards of 40 women and had been instantly dismissive if she wasn't a beauty. Mind you, these were not bums. Most were outstanding young scholars, deeply religious, serious about their rabbinical degrees, and desirous of going out--right after marriage--to the far corners of the world to spread Judaism. But in the area of dating, they had absorbed the shallow mores of the mainstream culture: They judged a woman primarily by her looks. They had a problem and they knew it. They felt like they were betraying the values of the faith to which they have devoted their lives.It was then that I understood the full extent of the downfall of our culture. If even these pious and religious men had been conditioned to fixate on a woman's looks to the exclusion of most everything else, then woe unto the rest of us! The male diminishment of women to mere body parts--high cheekbones, large chest, and long legs--seemed to have been complete, the sum total of those parts, consisting of spirit and heart, all too eclipsed as a result.Nearly 20 years ago when I married as a young Chabad student, it was almost unheard of for a bochur to date an endless stream of women before he found one that was a suitable wife. On the contrary, we were so enamored by the thrill of just being out with a woman that the dating did its magic and most of us found life partners without playing the unwinnable game of endless comparison. But those days are gone. Perhaps for the first time, Chabad and other religious groups are developing their first ever "singles scene," with literally thousands of single men and women remaining unattached for a good portion of their 20's.Sadder still is the way in which the young women of Crown Heights of marriageable age accommodate this growing male shallowness. Last year there was the tragedy of a young Chabad woman in her late teens who died of anorexia. Her case was not an anomaly, as more and more Hassidic girls do everything to keep the pounds off knowing that few rabbinical students will marry them if they are overweight. Then there are the receding hemlines one sees in religious communities and, of course, in the mainstream culture. Religious girls are showing a lot of leg, which might seem innocuous--but it's not. The one thing religious Jews always understood is that modest is sexy. Magnetism exists specifically in those things which are hidden and obscured. When Oxford's Bodleian Library last week decided to display all four of their copies of the Magna Carta for the first time in 800 years, they did so for only a single day. Likewise, in stark contrast to withered celebrities like Pamela Anderson who overexposed themselves to the point of a public yawn, great stars like Barbra Streisand remain interesting for decades because they know when not to appear in public. Overexposure is the very heart of boredom and one of the qualities that always made religious women so profoundly desirable and attractive was their ladylike demeanor and feminine grace. I remember how, at Oxford, whenever Orthodox Jewish girls would come to spend Shabbos with us, the secular Jewish male students were taken aback by how eye-catching they were--their comeliness lying intheir off-limits mystique. Indeed, the very soul of erotic attraction is what relationship experts call "the erotic barrier," the hurdles that a man must surmount in order to obtain a woman who is always just slightly outside his reach.
That same weekend I spent in Crown Heights, I also saw another group of young men who engaged me in endless debate to justify their preoccupation with their potential mates' looks. One told me that there was nothing wrong with a man wanting to be attracted to his wife, and how else could he guarantee that he would not look at other women after he married? "Of course a man has to be attracted to his wife," I conceded. "But your mistake is to so narrowly define attraction as consisting merely of physical beauty. What makes a woman striking is the totality of her being--her body, her mind, her heart, her virtue. Do you believe for one moment that marrying the prettiest woman in the world will serve as an immunity to a roving eye? You can grow just as weary of waking up the same beautiful face as you do to a more ordinary one. Just look at Hollywood. These actors all marry women who look like supermodels, but they cheat on each other and end up divorced after just a few months. Rather, it's finding newness in a relationship that obviates boredom. And that can only come from a woman with real personality." But what about the Torah, he countered, which refers to the matriarchs Sarah, Rebecca, and Rachel as being exceedingly beautiful? I responded that whenever the Torah speaks of the matriarchs' beauty, the remark is accompanied by a description of their virtue which served as the great multiplier of that beauty, such as Sarah's readiness to feed all passersby and Rebecca's kindness in watering Eliezer's camels. But the very fact that I had engaged in a debate with learned rabbinical students about how a woman dare not be reduced to a soulless body was troubling. Of late, I have devoted several columns to the increasingly distressed Orthodox Jewish dating scene, where the core Jewish values of character and spiritual virtue are losing out to the dehumanizing qualities of money and looks. Jews who wouldn't be caught dead driving on the Sabbath or eating a cheeseburger are prepared to base the most important decision of their lives on values that are antithetical to the Jewish insistence on character and depth. King Solomon may have exclaimed that "beauty is false, while a woman who fears G-d is to be praised," but many of the Yeshiva students today prefer a shapely body to a sculpted spirit. Jewish values must be restored to religious dating. The Orthodox community can no longer turn a blind eye to the growing artifice of the religious dating scene. Lectures on the Torah's definition of feminine virtue should be made part of the Yeshiva curriculum for marriage-age men to counter the growing effects of a TV and magazine culture that is increasingly marketing women as all cover and no book. Rabbis should give sermons in synagogues that focus on religious men never punishing a woman who puts more time into developing her mind than choosing her clothes. And the women should make it clear to the men who date them that marriage is for adults, not for boys.

Blue is Now One of My flavorite Colours

From; Saturday, December 29, 20079:37:00 PM EST

Feeling: Happy

I'm about to watch the movie the Miracle Worker. It is the life story of Yeshua told from a child's point of view and it is faithful to our Jewish roots. I'd seem it years ago and plan to buy the DVD since it is now available. But for now, I will enjoy watching the Life of Yeshua unfold as I work on a baby blanket.
It is had that satan works best in the darkness. When we hide (or try to hide) our sin, our hurts, pains and fears, this becomes the playground for the devil. Since I was a child I suffered from manic depression; now known as bi-polar. It wasn't until I was an adult and fought out counseling that I realize that what I suffered from was a disease, not just a life long case of moodiness. For awhile, I did take Prozac, in my case it helped. I am no longer on medication. And while there are times the depression comes back, I have learned how to tame it.
Yes, I said tame. As strange as this sounded, I learned not to fight the big blue Jinn, known as Depression, but learned how to turn into my servant.

Like the Jinn from Aladdin' Lamp, that which tried to master me, I learned to master it. That which I still call the Big Blue, what use to keep me in bed or on my sofa, struck in a blue fog, is what now stirs the creaive juices in my being, causes me to reach out to others and drives me into the Torah. I learn through depression to see that "dark time" as a time of growth, of leaning more on my G-d. I use to say to friends, "no, I'm not depress."

But everyone knew I was. Years ago, however, I learned that if I am honest, that I say, "yes, I am depressed right now, but I am working through it," the chains of depression drop off one by one.
I use to see the depression as a dark blue. I still "see" that blue. It is a blue-purple, rich and royal. What I use to hate, I now know that G-d uses in my life.
Blue is a beautiful colour.

The colour of Life itself.

She Died For What She Believed In

A Major blow. May She R.I.P.
US Scrambles to Respond to Assassination
Associated Press December 28, 2007
WASHINGTON - The assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has dealt a severe blow to U.S. efforts to restore stability and democracy in a turbulent, nuclear-armed Islamic nation that has been a critical ally in the war on terror.
While not entirely dependent on Bhutto, recent Bush administration policy on Pakistan had focused heavily on promoting reconciliation between the secular opposition leader who has been dogged by corruption allegations and Pakistan's increasingly unpopular president, Pervez Musharraf, ahead of parliamentary elections set for January.
In Washington and Islamabad, U.S. diplomats urged that Jan. 8 elections should not be postponed and strongly advised against a reimposition of emergency rule that Musharraf had lifted just weeks ago.
FBI and Homeland Security officials sent a bulletin late Thursday to U.S.
law enforcement agencies citing Islamist Web sites as saying al-Qaida had claimed responsibility for the attack and that the group's No. 2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, had planned it.
The intelligence community is using all of its resources to determine who was behind the Bhutto assassination, Director of National Intelligence spokesman Ross Feinstein said. But he added, "We're in no position right now to confirm who may have been responsible for the attack."
FBI spokesman Richard Kolko said the bureau was reviewing the al-Qaida claims for any intelligence value. "The validity of those claims are undetermined," he said.
The United States has poured billions of dollars in financial assistance into Pakistan since Sept. 11, 2001, when Musharraf made a calculated decision to align his government with Washington in going after al-Qaida and the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan. That move is blamed for several unsuccessful assassination attempts on him.
But it was not immediately clear, however, what if any influence Washington might have or whether Bhutto's death would drive the United States into a deeper embrace of Musharraf, whom some believe offers the best chance for Pakistani stability despite his democratic shortcomings.
"This latest tragedy is likely to reinforce beliefs that Pakistan is a dangerous, messy place and potentially very unstable and fragile and that they need to cling to Musharraf even more than they did in the past," said Daniel Markey, who left the State Department this year and is now a senior fellow at the private Council on Foreign Relations.
"The weight of the administration is still convinced that Musharraf is a helpful rather than a harmful figure," he said.
Amid the political chaos and uncertainty roiling the country in the wake of Bhutto's slaying, U.S.officials scrambled Thursday to understand the implications for the massive aid and counterterrorism programs that have been criticized by lawmakers, especially as al-Qaida and Taliban extremists appear resurgent along the Pakistan-Afghan border.
Underscoring the concerns, a grim President George W. Bush interrupted his vacation to personally condemn Bhutto's murder, demanding that those responsible be brought to justice and calling on Pakistanis to continue to press for democracy.
"We urge them to honor Benazir Bhutto's memory by continuing with the democratic process for which she so bravely gave her life," Bush told reporters at his Texas ranch, before speaking briefly to Musharraf by phone.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Bhutto's assassination would "no doubt test the will and patience of the people of Pakistan" but called on the Pakistani people in a statement "to work together to build a more moderate, peaceful, and democratic future."
Yet such calls could fall on deaf ears, experts said.
"The United States does not have a great deal of leverage where Pakistan is concerned," said Wendy Sherman, who served as counselor to former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. "And at the end of the day, the decisions are going to be made by the Pakistani people and by the leadership of Pakistan and not by the United States."
Other analysts warned that Bhutto's assassination might further damage Musharraf, whose democratic credentials have been seriously tarnished by growing authoritarianism, and have lead to widespread unrest.
"Legitimacy for Musharraf will be deferred if not impossible," said Christine Fair, a South Asia expert at the RAND Corporation. "The U.S. likely does not have a plan for this contingency as Musharraf remains a critical ally and because Bhutto's participation was hoped to confer legitimacy to the upcoming January elections."
She also warned that the murder could embolden militants in Pakistan to seek out other high-profile targets.
Bhutto, who served twice as Pakistan's prime minister between 1988 and 1996, was mortally wounded Thursday in a suicide attack that also killed at least 20 others at a campaign rally in Rawalpindi. She had returned to Pakistan from an eight-year exile on Oct. 18 when her homecoming parade in Karachi was also targeted by a suicide attacker.
The attempt on her life added to U.S. concerns about the country that had already been heightened by the situation in Pakistan, largely ungoverned frontier provinces where a truce between Musharraf's government and tribal leaders is credited with helping extremists regroup and reorganize.
In addition, Musharraf's declaration of emergency this fall, along with a clampdown on opposition figures and judges, irritated the administration, which was criticized in Congress for lax oversight of the nearly $10 billion (euro6.9 billion) in U.S. that poured into the country since he became an indispensable counterterrorism ally after 9/11/.
Under heavy U.S. pressure, Musharraf resigned as army chief and earlier this month lifted emergency rule to prepare for the elections. Bhutto's return and ability to run for parliament had been a cornerstone of Bush's policy in Pakistan.
Congress last week imposed new restrictions on U.S. assistance to Pakistan, including tying $50 million (euro34 million) in military aid to State Department assurances that the country is making "concerted efforts" to prevent terrorists from operating inside its borders.
Under the law, which provides a total of $300 million (euro207 million) in aid to Pakistan and was signed by Bush on Wednesday, Rice also must guarantee that Pakistan is implementing democratic reforms, including releasing political prisoners and restoring an independent judiciary. The law also prevents any of the funds from being used for cash transfer assistance to Pakistan, but that stipulation had already been adopted by the administration.

Coke and Popcorn

Saturday, December 29, 20075:37:00 PM EST
Feeling: Happy
It's been a quiet day.

I spend it watching DVDs. One (Miss Potter) kept skipping, so I had to wait until after Sabbath to take it back and I will in a few minutes.
I was looking forward to watching this movie, so I am disappointed. Hopefully the Naro (where I rent my movies) will have another copy.
Normally, I'm at the Temple for Sabbath. But since I am on bed rest, (doctor's orders) I read some and then watched some movies.

Funny how just losing oneself in a story can help calm your spirit. It actually improved my health. So today was a mental health day. I will so the same tomorrow. Next week, however, I will go back to not watch TV on the Sabbath. It just something we don't do. By tuning out the world for 24 hours once a week, truly is a piece of heaven on earth.
But today, was truly a day of rest, resting on the sofa and watching favorite mades the day truly a day of rest.
Tomorrow, I will see if the Naro has Beauty and The Beast.

My favorite Fairy Tale.

No Regrets

Dec. 29, 2007 1:03:00 AM

Well, I have broken one of my rules.

I should be in bed, but I cannot sleep, so I am writing instead of laying in bed.

I am about to change that. I do feel sleep coming and I do plan to rest tomorrow. One moment at a time.
This is hard. It is hard being away from the one you love this long. To know that my beloved is in harm's ways. There are times I jump when the phone or doorbell rings or there is a knob at the door. I don't watch the news much anymore, because of the thoughts that often fill my mind.
Yes, I knew Mark could and would be deployed when I married him. I knew there would be lonely nights, days of no e-mail or phone calls.

Months before I would see him again.
But I have no regets. I am a pround army wife; standing beside my big guy as he does the job he does best. As he defends the nation we both love, as he works to help the people of Iraq rebuild their lives, I stand with him, pray for him bake and send cookies and keep that candle in the window burning intil he returns to my arms.


Friday, December 28, 20079:02:00 AM EST

Feeling: Happy
Hearing: Fox and Friends

I slept in late.

I was in bed by 8:30 late night and up around 8 a.m. So that was a good sleep. And while I am still sleepy, I will make the Challah and then take a long nap.
I am behind my time, I know, but I really needed the sleep. I have to take care of myself: for me, for my beloved who is courting on me. For my Heavenly Father.
I am going to look into a new blood pressure cuff. I will take my workouts more seriously. The past few days I have taken a hard look at somethings that truly have to go.

Including several so-called friends who have been draining my energy.
So why am I making these changes make this public?
It makes me accountable, keeping a running record of what I am doing. And knowing others are aware and praying for me, this will be keep me honest.
So, now it its time to make the Challah. And while it is baking, I will work on the baby blanket for Beth's new grandson.
One of the stress levels in my life have now been removed.

There is a saying I like and agree with; People are brought into your life for a reason, a season or for a life time.
A friendship has been cut loose. Someone who drained me of time and energy and resources. I wish this person and her family the best. But it is time to let this person go and allow G-d do what needs to be done.
It was needful. And franky I feel better for having done so.

Not A Good Report

Thursday, December 27, 20079:35:00 PM EST
Feeling: Anxious
Burn out.

That is what the doctor at Boone Clinic calls it.
My body is under major stress, blood pressure is higher than it should be. I have to return in two weeks for it to be rechecked. I have been told to make an appointment with mental health as well, since the stress of this deployment is affecting my health. She became more alarmed when I said I don't sleep much and has given me sleeping pills to help me rest.
I am also asking to be released from Boone Clinic back to my private doctor. Since I don't drive, it is an two and a half bus ride (three buses) and then a 20 minute walk from the gate to the clinic. I did get a ride today, but I can't always count on that.
And it adds to my stress.
I know that I must start going to bed much earlier than Ido right now. I just can't sleep. The doctor wishes me to see mental health, so that I can find ways to reduce my stress levels.
At least I'd lost weigh.

I have decided to turn off the TV about 7pm and after taking a warm bath, read the Scriptures to help my body, soul and spirit to start the rest progress.

Captain Perfect?

From: Thursday,
December 27, 2007 12:48:00 AM EST

I know that the way I write about Mark, one would think he is perfect.
Well, he is; for me.
Yes, Mark has his faults. All of us do. But you wouldn't hear about them coming from me. I believe that spouses are to encourage their mates; build them up and not tear them down.
I often tell Mark that he does more things right than wrong. Which is true.
Our job as spouses, parents, friends, siblings, is to see and encourage the good we see in our loved ones. It doesn't mean turning a blind eye to what is wrong, making excusing or explaining away wrong behaviour.
But by speaking words of encouragement, our loved ones will see words of correction, not as we are picking on them, but helping.
How often as Mark, my Hebrew teacher worked me with my lessions, I would become frustrated with my mistakes.
But Mark never did. He would lovingly correct me when wrong and cheer me on when right. Sometimes I would become so frustrated and feel like Mark was picking on me. I had to realize that he would never do that. He was looking out for my good. And now, I am not so quick to get upset with my mistakes; knowing I have my Mark behind me.
Mark too has said to me that he knows when I speak on a matter of concern, I am looking out for his good, not meaning to hurt him.
And that is one of the secrets of a good marriage. The protecting of each other's feelings, emotions, each other's soul, as well as each bodies.
And for my Beloved the next time he can get on the journal; I Love You Soldier's Kiss

It's The Little Things I Miss the Most

From Dec. 27th, 2007
I was in bed by 9 p.m last night. I really do need to make going to bed at a decent time a habit.
Since Sunday, I'd been on a dead run and really needed the sleep. I fell into bed exhauted.
I slept this morning past sunrise. my mornning prayers, said the Shema, did my morning stetches and will make coffee. And might go back to bed since I am still very tired.
The house needs picking up.
I will do that later.
As always, my mind goes back to Iraq. After two good nights of sleep and good meds, Mark is getting over his cold. I need to send the cook my recipe for chicken soup.
It kills any virus.
As I think about Mark, I realize that it is the little things I miss most....
The way he plays with my curls. The way he would insist on making and bringing me my coffee.
Sometimes I would be in the shower and slowly I would see my coffee mug come slipping in to greet me.
I miss the way he would lovingly wash my back, his voice as he would read the Torah or any of the books we were reading before bed.
The way he would bring me some little treat, flower, piece of clothing or jeweley "just because." I miss the way I would be doing my housework and suddely find myself being swung about in a wild dance in the arms of my beloved.
I just miss him.

Last week I accounted someone who said to me: "if you were more spiritual, you would trust G-d with Mark and wouldn't miss him so much."
I suggested since she was stronger than I, why doesn't she send her husband to take Mark's place since she was strong enough to handle the stress of deployment better than I.
She had nothing to say.
I thought so.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

It Don't Come Easy

From Dec 26th, 2007:
I often hear; "I don't know how you do it!"
Depending on the time of day, my answer is:

"Through G-d Who strenghtens me."
"Mark's love sees me through."
"I don't know how I do it either."

An Army Wife: not just a job, but an adventure.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Gift of Cancer

Tuesday, December 25, 20077 6:00 PM EST
Feeling: Quiet

My Mark and Rabbi Wolpe have something in common, recovery of the same type of cancer. And are both surviors. Mark also saw his cancer as a gift, a way to serve and touch others.

'My Cancer Was a Gift'
Cancer validated my compassion and helped me show others that death is a chance to teach our greatest lesson.

By Rabbi David Wolpe

This article first ran in the October/November issue of Moment Magazine
. This is Rabbi Wolpe's story....

I stood by the hospital bed of a friend who was dying of cancer. He wanted to know why he was sick, why he must die, why he must leave his children and grandchildren.
As his rabbi, I was armed with few answers. I could tell him that it was part of God's plan or I could confess to him that I did not know. Neither seemed like the right response. So, instead, we exchanged stories about chemotherapy.
My hair was just beginning to grow back after a bout with lymphoma; his, wispy to start, was gone from the drugs that had targeted all the fast-growing cells in his body. They had done a thorough job on his hair but not on his cancer. We talked about the strange gratitude we felt for the medicinal poison as it coursed through our veins. There was a moment of solidarity, then sadness returned. Battle stories are not nostalgic when they end in death.
"But at least you understand," he said. It reminded me anew that my cancer was a gift; as a rabbi, it validated my compassion. People knew that I really did understand, that my family and I were not unscathed. Needles seemed forever to be dangling from my arm and I was always being shoved into metal tubes for scans and pictures and tests. Enduring the elaborate technology of survival creates a kind of tribal solidarity. "So," he asked, "why did it happen to you?"
Did I get cancer for a reason? Four years before my lymphoma I had undergone surgery for a brain tumor, thankfully benign. Five years before that, after the birth of our daughter, my wife had cancer and surgery that left her unable to bear more children. After each experience, people would ask what it meant. Now someone was asking not out of curiosity or even spiritual hunger, but spiritual urgency. We looked at each other for a long time. I know what it does not mean, I told him. It was not a punishment. The calculus of reward and punishment in this world is surely more complex than sin equals cancer. One thing is clear: the cancer is not only about you. Those who care for you suffer as well. The ripples do not end. Facing our own mortality, the traditional roles had melted away.
We were no longer rabbi and layperson, younger man and older man. I recalled how in the first verse of the Book of Kings, King David was no longer referred to by his title when he neared death: "Now the days of David drew near that he should die."
When we approach death we no longer can hide behind titles and status. The man and I were two people who had undergone similar ailments. One of us, for now, was in remission, and one of us would die before the other. And neither knew why. He told me that it was not his own life he feared for, but what would happen to his family. How would his loss hurt them? I remembered how, as I was first wheeled into surgery, I was surprised at how little I feared death; I feared instead the consequences of my death. I feared not for myself but for my wife and daughter. Did he believe in another world? He was not sure, but he hoped. I ventured that everything a human being was — the hopes and dreams, the love and gifts — could not completely disappear. The old analogy had it right: There is a birth into this world that we never could have imagined. Might there be a new birth, another world, equally beyond the reach of human imagination?
Life, as writer Vladimir Nabokov once said, was such a remarkable surprise, why should death be less of a surprise? He smiled and we shared a moment of hope. Maybe all the therapy, the scans and shots, had only postponed the consummation of an unimaginable life to be. But we soon returned to the moment. To die is to lose everything we know, all the wonders of this world and the people in it. To die is to leave so many stories unfinished and to miss the next act of the stories of others, those whom we know and whom we love. I did have one thought that might offer him a glimmer of comfort. When I was sick it became clear to me how carefully others watched my reaction — would my faith help me at all, they wondered? Does a professional practice of Judaism offer some strength? Feeling their eyes on me helped me realize that in sickness we are not powerless — we still have the ability to teach. I told this man, my friend, my fellow human, that his children and grandchildren were watching him. Here was a chance to teach his greatest lesson. They would remember much about him to be sure, but they would never forget how he died. His acceptance, his dignity, even his hope, could change their lives.
Each week, I told him, I studied Torah with a man who just turned 90. He had often recounted what his mother said to him as she was dying: "My child, do not be afraid. It is only death, and it has happened to everyone who ever lived."
The two of us in the hospital room held hands, and agreed that if we could, we would pass from this life with words of love and hope for awakenings to come.
Shortly afterwards, he passed away. His children speak of him with reverence for his life and for the way in which he faced death. As with all meetings of the spirit there was not one who gave and one who took; there were two who stood with each other and before God, and even in their sadness, felt bless.

My Bed is Calling

Tuesday, December 25, 2007 6:45:00 PM EST
Feeling: Loopy

While it is still quite early in the evening, I am very tired. Mum Reel send me home with a enough food that I don't have to cook for a week.

I went to see mum and dad Reel and then my mum.
Our buddy David, blessed me with driving me all over creation (well just Norfolk, Portsmouth and Virginia Beach) We had a make a cookie ride to Valerie and John's, (a tradition) then brought the turkey, stuffing and collard greens for supper. David and I have been friends for years and is a second son to my mum.
David also told Mark that he would be here for whatever I needed. And I thank G-d for David.
Mum made roast beef, potatoes, carrots and corn. Plus homemade apple pie, pumpkin pie and brownie. Everything was so good.
Lizzie loved her Princess Pillow: it goes nicely with thePrincess Chair her Aunt Susan gave her.
Later, I went to see Mummy.

Mark had told me earlier that he had called her and she almost hung up on him, thinking that it was a wrong number. She was so happy, for not only did Eileen call, I visited, but she also got to speak to her beloved son and know that he is well.
Mark had called me this morning. Later, I did get to speak to him when he called the family. It was hard not having him with us at supper. But one day, hopefully next year, we will all be back together. But though we were not all together under the same roof, we were together in heart and spirt.
And I carry my beloved in my heart and I am in his.

Turkey and A Princess Pillow

Monday, December 24, 200710:25:00 PM EST
Feeling: Happy

Tomorrow I am looking forward to seeing mum and dad Reel.

Right now Tom Turkey is doing his thing; the air already beings filled with that wonderful scent only a roast turkey can give. The collard greens are done and I am about to make the RoseMary, Sage and Onion stuffing. I am looking forward to seeing the family.
Since Mark and I do not celebrate Christmas, but have family who do, we decided our first year of marriage to visit the family on the day before and the day after, but on 25th, this would be a quiet, P.J.s, popcorn, hot-chocolate, movie day.
But since Mark isn't here, we talked about this and felt I did need to visit the family tomorrow. They needed to see me as much as I needed their support. And through me, everyone feels closer to Mark.
Once I finish the stuffing, I need to finish Lizzie's Princess Pillow. I hope she likes it.
So, to all of our readers, Mark and I wish everyone a very happy holiday season. It is indeed the most wonderful time of the year.

A Letter From Mark

From ,Monday, December 24, 2007 8:39:00 AM EST
Feeling: Happy
We All Have Talents
I heard this story over the weekend and thought it awesome. It reminds that G-d has placed talents inside each of us that should be used for His Glory.

We All Have Talents
Pastor's Challenge Shocks Congregation
Posted: 2007-12-22 07:00:06
CHAGRIN FALLS, Ohio (Dec. 20) - The Rev. Hamilton Coe Throckmorton shivered with anticipation as he gazed at the loot - wads of $50 bills piled high beside boxes of crayons in a Sunday school classroom.Cautiously, he locked the door. Then he started counting.
Photo Gallery: What Happened to the Money?
Amy Sancetta, AP
Reverend Hamilton Throckmorton, right, surprised his congregation in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, when he followed up a sermon by handing out $40,000 in cash.
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It was a balmy Friday evening in September. From several floors below faint melodies drifted up - the choir practicing for Sunday service.Throckmorton was oblivious. For hours, perched awkwardly on child-sized wooden stools surrounded by biblical murals and children's drawings, the pastor and a handful of coconspirators concentrated on the count.Forty-thousand dollars. Throckmorton smiled in satisfaction as he stashed the money in a safe.That Sunday, the 52-year-old minister donned his creamy white robes, swept to the pulpit and delivered one of the most extraordinary sermons of his life.First he read from the Gospel of Matthew."And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his ability."Then he explained the parable of the talents, which tells of the rich master who entrusts three servants with a sum of money - "talents" - and instructs them to go forth and do good. The master lavishes praise on the two servants who double their money. But he casts into the wilderness the one so afraid to take a risk that he buries his share.Throckmorton spends up to 20 hours working on his weekly homily, and his clear diction, contemplative message and ringing voice command the church. Gazing down from the pulpit that Sunday, Throckmorton dropped his bombshell.Like the master, he would entrust each adult with a sum of money - in this case, $50. Church members had seven weeks to find ways to double their money, the proceeds to go toward church missions."Live the parable of the talents!" Throckmorton exhorted, as assistants handed out hundreds of red envelops stuffed with crisp $50 bills and stunned church members did quick mental calculations, wondering where all the money had come from. There are about 1,700 in the congregation, though not everyone attends each week.The cash, Throckmorton explained, was loaned by several anonymous donors.In her regular pew at the back of the church, where she has listened to sermons for 40 years, 73-year-old Barbara Gates gasped. What kind of kooky nonsense is this, she thought."Sheer madness," sniffed retired accountant Wayne Albers, 85, to his wife, Marnie, who hushed him as he whispered loudly. "Why can't the church just collect money the old-fashioned way?"In a center pew, Ann Nagy's eyes moistened as she considered her ailing, beloved father, his suffering, and the song she had written to comfort him near death. She nudged her husband Scott. "Give me your $50," she whispered. Nagy knew exactly what she would do.Throckmorton wrapped up his two morning services by saying that children would get $10. And he assured the congregation that anyone who didn't feel comfortable could simply return the money. No consignment to outer darkness for those who didn't participate.Throckmorton is warm and engaging and approachable, as comfortable talking about the Cleveland Indians baseball team as he is discussing scripture. At the Federated Church, he is known simply as Hamilton.But as church members spilled into the late summer sunshine that morning to ponder their skills and their souls, there were many who thought: Hamilton is really pushing us this time."There was definitely this tension, this pressure to live up to something," said Hal Maskiell, a 62-year-old retired Navy pilot who spent days trying to figure out how to meet the challenge.Maskiell's passion is flying a four-seater Cessna 172 Skyhawk over the Cuyahoga County hills. He decided to use his $50 to rent air time from Portage County airport and charge $30 for half-hour rides. Church members eagerly signed up. Maskiell was thrilled to get hours of flying time, and he raised $700.His girlfriend, Kathy Marous, 55, was far less confident. What talents do I have, she thought dejectedly. She was tempted to give the money back.And then Marous found an old family recipe for tomato soup, one she hadn't made in 19 years. She remembered how much she had enjoyed the chopping and the cooking and the canning and the smells. With Hal's encouragement Marous dug out her pots. She bought three pecks of tomatoes. Suddenly she was chopping and cooking and canning again. At $5 a jar, she made $180."I just never imagined people would pay money for the things I made," Marous exclaimed.Others felt the same way. Barbara Gates raised $450 crafting pendants from beads and sea glass - pieces she had casually made for her grandchildren over the years. Kathie Biggin created fanciful little red-nosed Rudolph pins and sold them for $2.50. Twelve-year-old Amanda Horner pooled her money with friends, stocked up at JoAnn's fabric store, and made dozens of colorful fleece baby blankets, which were purchased by church members and then donated to a local hospital.And 87-year-old Bob Burrows rediscovered old carpentry skills and began selling wooden bird-feeders.But it wasn't the money; everyone said so. It was something else, something far less tangible but yet so very real. For seven weeks an almost magical sense of excitement and energy and camaraderie infused the elegant red-brick church on Bell Street, spilling over into homes and hearts as the parable of the talents came alive.In her sun-filled studio on Strawberry Lane, Shirley Culbertson felt it - a joyful sense of purpose that she had rarely experienced since her husband passed two years ago. Culbertson, 81, is a gifted painter and watercolors fill her house. But she discovered another talent during this time - knitting whimsical eight-inch stuffed dolls with button noses and floppy hats. She raised $90.Zooming down country roads clinging to the back of a leather-clad biker, Florence Cross felt it too. For the challenge, Barry Biggin had parked his 2006 Harley Davidson Road King outside the church, offering 12-mile rides for $30. Cross was the first to sign up. Never mind that she is in her mid-80s, had never been on a bike, or that her husband of 60 years had to hoist her up."Oh, it was such a thrill!" said Cross, her face glowing at the memory. Her friends now call her "Harley Girl."Martine Scheuermann lived the parable in her Elm Street kitchen, transforming it into an "applesauce factory" for several weeks. The 49-year-old human resources director would rise at 6 a.m. on Sundays in order to have warm batches ready for sampling at church services.In his origami-filled bedroom on Bradley Street, Paul Cantlay lived the parable too. Surrounded by sheets of colored construction paper, the 9-year-old crafted paper dragons and stars and sailboats. He set up an origami stand at the end of his street, charged 50 cents to $5 depending on the piece, and raised $68.Talents began multiplying at such a rate that the church held a bazaar after services on two consecutive Sundays for people to display - and sell - their wares.The pretty little village on the Chagrin River falls had never seen anything quite like it. Everyone seemed to be talking about the talent challenge: over the clatter of coffee cups at Dink's restaurant, at the Fireside bookshop on the green, sipping drinks at the Gamekeeper's Taverne. Even members of other churches weighed in: Have you heard what's happening at Federated?"Anyone can open their wallet and give cash," Kris Tesar said. "This was just an extraordinary process of exploration and discovery and of challenging ourselves. It became bigger than any one of us or than any individual talent."Tesar, a 58-year-old retired nurse, discovered her talent in buckets of flip-flops for sale at Old Navy. She stocked up on yarn and beads and made dozens of funky, fluffy decorative footwear that were a huge hit with teens. Tesar raised $550 for the church, is still taking orders and is thinking of starting a business. Now even her children call her the "flip-flop lady."People also got to know the "hen lady" - Gabrielle Quintin, who took to raising chickens on a whim 23 years ago when she moved into a 180-year-old house with a barn. Her "ladies," as Quintin calls her backyard flock, provide a welcome distraction from her nursing job in a cancer center. Quintin decided to put her brood to work for the church. For $10 church members could "hire-a-hen" and get three dozen fresh eggs complete with a photograph of the "lady" who laid them."It wasn't exactly spiritual, but I had a lot of fun," said Quintin, whose husband, Mike, made glass birdfeeders. "And it was just this great way of bringing everyone together and connecting with the church."Kathy Wellman quilted. Mary Hobbs knit shawls and penciled portraits. Cathy Hatfield auctioned a ride in her hot-air balloon. Norma and Trent Bobbitt pooled their money with another church member to hire a harpist from the Cleveland orchestra and host an elegant evening dinner party. Folks paid $50 each to attend and the Bobbitts made over $1,200.And physician Peter Yang took over shifts from other doctors in his partnership (he used his $50 for gas to get to the hospital) and raised $3,000.The deadline to return the money was Sunday, Oct. 28. Nervously, some church council members suggested posting plain clothes security guards at services that day. But Throckmorton would have none of it. He insisted that the spirit of the challenge, which had already inspired so much goodwill, would carry them safely through. And it did.Organ music filled the church as people silently filed down the aisle, dropped their proceeds into baskets, and offered testimonials about what living the parable had meant to them. Throckmorton thanked everyone for their generosity. Then he started counting.A week later he delivered the joyful news: They had more than doubled the amount distributed.The initial take was $38,195 over the loan, but the amount is still growing. Some people didn't make the deadline, or extended it in order to finish their projects.The final sum will be divided equally between three charities: One-third will go to a school library in South Africa where the church is involved in an AIDS mission; one-third will go to micro-loan organizations that provide seed money for small businesses in developing countries; one-third will help the Interfaith Hospitality Network in Cleveland, specifically programs for homeless women.Throckmorton is asked all the time if the talent challenge will become an annual event, but he is doubtful. It was a special time and a special idea, he says, and he is not sure it could be re-created or relived.Yet in a very real sense, it lives on. Church members who never knew each other have become friends. And orders for applesauce, flip-flops and Rudolph pins are still rolling in for Christmas.There are other, more poignant reminders. Like Ann Nagy's haunting tribute to her father, who died of brain cancer on Oct. 11.Nagy, 44, has always been a singer with a clear lovely voice. It wasn't until her father grew ill and moved into a hospice that she started writing songs. She found solace in the music and a way of communicating that was sometimes easier than spoken words.At hospice, patients are taught five simple truths to tell their loved ones before they die: I'll miss you. I love you. I forgive you. I'm sorry. Goodbye.Borrowing from that theme, Nagy wrote a farewell song for her Dad. She pooled her $50 talent money with her husband's share and cut a CD to sell to church members. Ironically it was finished just an hour before her father passed, on Oct. 11. Nagy stood by his bed and sang it for him anyway.On Nov. 11 - her father's 72nd birthday - Throckmorton preached a sermon about dying. He invited Nagy to the altar. There, accompanied by a cellist and a pianist she sang "Before You Go."Her voice soared. The congregation wept. The parable of the talents had never seemed so alive.

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Dec. 24, 2007
Hi Everybody!!!!
I do not plan on making this a hit, or miss entry. You know, one where I pop-in and then pop-out again not to be heard from for weeks at a time.
Anyway, I also read this article, and I thought to myself, "How cool!" Of course there are always going to be those who are nay-sayers, but it amazed me the number of people that took his challenge and ran with it. And then I think to myself, how often I have not taken my talents and ran with them.... Well no more. One thing being away from my Beloved has shown me is how lonely this world is, and how much I have to make an effort to stay connected. Thank you, all of you that read our journal, and may you have a Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year.