Sunday, October 26, 2014

Weary from fatigue

While things around me, involving me, seem to be going really well, my physical body isn't doing that great. There should be some correlation with good emotional=good physical, but it's not always that way.

Incredibly good news is that Ya'akov's high school yeshiva got the funding it needs to stay afloat and open for this year. We don't know what will happen with next year, but there is reason to believe that during this year the changes will happen that need to happen in order to get more funding from the education ministry. Meanwhile, the threat of his school closing is not hanging over us. This is **awesome**. It is a very special school- the only of it's kind- and I couldn't see him thriving anywhere else. Thank God that he gets to stay there. And it gives me unspeakable inner peace to see him thriving. I am going to Jerusalem tomorrow (Monday) evening to attend a school meeting, and I'll meet his teachers and principal (again). Although it is hard for me to travel, I am going to make every effort necessary to get to this meeting. (Even with the price I'll be paying the rest of the week for this traveling and staying up late at night.)

Other really cool news is that I won an award for my writing! One of the contests I entered a few months back had the results finally publicised, and I won! There were hundreds of people entering their writing proposals, with 28 prize possibilities. I won the 8th, so that's pretty cool! It's the first real approbation for my writing. (Well, the Jerusalem publisher that offered me a contract is also a nice feather in my cap, but I haven't signed yet. It's not the ideal contract, I want to try for a bigger one.) Anyway, yay! This prize is a free two-hour Skype session with a major author/big wig in the publishing business. She can help me with any aspect of writing the book I ask for; it could be writing/content itself, layout, editing, or sharpening up my proposal in order to possibly get a better publishing contract. I'm not ready yet to use her services, I have to home in on what is the best way for me to use these two hours (these people charge $600/hour for their services!),

That stuff totally lifted my spirits last week (after also being high on helping with a birth). At the same time, though, my body started to break down a bit.

In my last post, I started off saying that I have been having the type of exhaustion that gets into my bones and stays there, no matter how much rest I get. Then I had the almost-cellulitis scare. Well, thankfully, there have been no fevers since then. But the extreme, profound exhaustion just keeps on and on, making me feel that I am living my life under a heavy, wet blanket. My body is not rested even after 12 hours of sleep. *That* is unmanageable. Even yesterday, on Shabbat, with guests at our table, I rested in my bed during set-up time (thanks, hubby and [possibly] kids), and when Robert came to tell me that the table is ready to get started, I literally could not lift my body out of bed. It took me a bit, and eventually I did join them, but the dizzy-cotton-head feeling never left. It is my modus-operandi these days. Sarah can be awake but always needs to rest. Any change in schedule- or travel commitments- will throw me off completely. If I am hungry and tired at the same time, tired wins; I'm not eating so well. The fatigue affects everything, and it is cyclical. If I'm too tired to make good food, either eat something not good, or go to sleep without eating. I don't even wake up hungry any more, my appetite is nil.

I made an appointment with my doctor, but she can see me only next week. I want an entire blood panel done, I have to get to the bottom of this.

I did start cutting down my meds. *But*- before you think that the problem starts there, remember that this started before I cut down.
About 5 days ago I took away 6mmg from my dose of 87 mmg. Yes, it made me even more heavily exhausted to the point of feeling sedated, but my commitment to cutting down my meds is very powerful. I will keep the 6mmg's off my dosage, but will not cut down more until the arrival of the power drink which is supposed to help the fatigue. The thankful thing is that aside from the debilitating fatigue, there have been no side effects from lowering the dose (hallucinations or vomiting) like there was last time I cut my dose- but that was cutting out 12mmg's at once.

Along with this inordinate fatigue came another symptom. I believe they are unrelated, but ya never know. My left thigh joint is in trouble again. (The left is the one which had the PVNS, but my last MRI a few months ago showed no signs of the disease returning). It "clicks" like a rubber band out of place with EACH STEP I take. I feel it, each step. It isn't accompanied by pain each step, but I have markedly more pain by the end of the day, in both sides. The pain increase could be due to me cutting the dose of the narcotic, that is hard to know. But the fact that there is a popping in my hip with each step is very disconcerting to me. It actually takes my attention- I *feel* my steps. If I consciously make my steps smaller, it doesn't happen. My steps are already pretty small, though, in comparison to other people. I have an appointment with my orthopedist at the end of November.

Sleeping is again pretty much restricted to my back, with my big pillow under my knees. If I turn onto either side, pain wakes me up after a little bit. :(

In general, I'd say I'm not doing so great, regardless of the good things that are happening in life. The fatigue... it is so depleting. I have no problem going to sleep early, as my New Year's resolution sets out to accomplish. Getting up is the problem. :(

Friday, October 17, 2014

Up for another rollercoaser ride?

I have been plagued with the type of exhaustion that gets into all your muscles and bones and stays there for a long time. That last blog post about crashing hasn't really ended. I can't stop feeling exhausted, and I don't know why.

Yesterday things got a little crazy. We almost went to the hospital, but it wasn't quite at that stage. I had a fever, and I had cellulitis symptoms exactly like the cellulitis I had three months ago when I was hospitalized for four days. It wasn't full-blown yet, and I decided to stay home (against my husband's and some of my friend's recommendations). My sister-in-law, who is a homeopath and reflexologist, suggested that I dose myself with Echinacea & Propolis every half hour. We followed directions, and I slept, still feeling fevery. It was a fitful night sleep, but in the early morning I woke up in a sweat. My body did it without "real" antibiotics- sweated out a fever. The next day (the day in which Simchat Torah would start in the evening), I was feeling much better, cellulitis symptoms much less. *No hospital, no IV antibiotics*. In the evening (chag, the holiday of Simchat Torah), fever went up a bit, but not as high as it had been the previous night. Keeping on with the Echinacea & Propolis, I slept well and felt much better the next day. I even went to shul for a few hours, just in time for hearing the reading of the Torah- my favorite reading of the whole year- when the last portion of the Torah is read, going right back into the beginning once again... the cycle of life ending and beginning, seamlessly. I LOVE hearing the first portion of the Torah- "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth..." Gives me goosebumps each time. I was also in shul for a very intense, deeply inspiring prayer that we say once a year. This is the prayer that beseeches God to give us the rains at their right times. We don't have much rain in Israel, and the prayer for rain is real. The way the "cantor" (not really a cantor, rather, someone in our shul who was leading that service, who happens to have a wonderful singing voice) delivered the prayer also gave me goosebumps. It was strong, and right from his heart. The tune is heard only once a year, when this prayer is recited, and it is so visceral, it's hard for me to find the right words to convey how it effected me. Right to my bones.... kind of how the cold feels in winters here with the houses heated as an after-thought. Heating wasn't built into Israeli houses, we install separate units where they are needed. The Israeli winters make my bones chill for a few months straight, even though it is "only" rain and not snow. It's hard to get warm and stay warm. Anyway, that sort of deep-to-the-bone feeling is how the prayer effected me as well.

I felt great all day! No traces that I had a close call with cellulitis just a day and a half beforehand!! Well, not exactly no traces at all- I still have some soreness where the swelling and redness occur in the effected, prone areas, but not at all what I'd call real pain, and no trace of fever at all. I am so glad I didn't go to the hospital that first night. Robert & I both felt that it was not quite full blown, but it had potential to get worse. I took it easy immediately, took care of myself, and it ran away. :)
(I have a lymphatic draining massage session on Sunday which hopefully will clear up the remaining traces of swelling).

In fact, I felt so good, that when my friend wrote me an SMS, last night, that she was in the delivery room in labor with her baby, I grabbed my doula bag and went straight to her!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I helped a mommy birth her fifth baby (...fifth boy!) last night. Oh, what a pleasure and gift that was for me. Everything went as smoothly as it could possibly go. This woman was strong, very much within her own body experiences- didn't want to hear anyone talking. Just the quiet jazz piano music I chose (playing from my phone- I used to bring a portable CD player and disks- those days are gone!). I did a lot of massaging, all her pain was in her back. I'd massage with the contractions, and put a hot-water bottle on her lower back between contractions. It was a good formula for her, and her labor progressed beautifully. Out of her five children, this is the third one I helped her birth, and only those three were natural. I feel so happy that I can make a difference in her life! I remembered positions, suggestions, tips & tricks. I felt like I slipped into my doula life seamlessly, as if I still do it all the time. The truth is that the last birth I assisted was exactly a year ago. That was the one where I "accidentally" left on my cell phone over Shabbat, and my friend called as a last-ditch-effort to get someone to come be with her- she was all alone in Soroka in labor. When I looked at the screen of my ringing phone that late Shabbat night, and saw my pregnant friend's name, knowing that she must be at the end of her pregnancy, I answered immediately. She wouldn't call if it wasn't an emergency. I came to her in the middle of the night, and her labor was also beautiful and natural.... and so powerful. That was a year ago (Shabbat Succot- almost exactly a year ago!).

Although I'd love to do more than one birth a year (an understatement for sure!), having the close call with the fever and cellulitis was an unpleasant reminder that I cannot commit to people. A doula must commit, and I have to worry about if I will be healthy when her labor starts. I almost couldn't be at this one. When I did walk through the door to her birthing room last night (she didn't expect me- her phone was off when I tried to call- I went because of the message she sent), she said it was like an angel swooping in unexpectedly. I can do it that way- the "if I can... if the stars are all in alignment when you go into labor..." A working doula, obviously, has to know that her health is pretty reliable.

I think I wrote a few months ago- after my last hospitalization in July with cellulitis- that I have been given an awakening of sorts that now I am prone to this happening more. The  lymphoedema started then, very acutely, and that is the way it will be for the rest of my life. The last cellulitis was the trigger for the harsh lymphoedema. Now I just saw it again a few days ago, just three months after the last one. I have to wear my compression bandage every day, all day now, no choice. In fact, I think that one of the reasons I almost got a relapse this time was because of my choice not to wear it that night. I had my reasons. But, that choice is not mine anymore. No matter how hot and uncomfortable it is, I have no choice. Things have shifted since that hospitalization last July, and this is my "new" reality. So, no, I can't work steadily with any sort of commitment to anyone. I gotta take care of myself, and my family. That *is* my work. And if I get a birth every now & then by luck, then, well, icing on the cake! I am grateful for what I can do.

Some pictures of her 5th baby's birth last night, and her second baby's birth of 8+1/2 years ago. Unfortunately I don't seem to have pictures from the birth before this one which I assisted her with because it went fast. After the birth, we were dealing with the fact that the baby was a Down's syndrome baby, so pictures weren't appropriate.

15 minutes after birth

little guy a few minutes after birth

enjoying the baby... mommy bliss
eight and a half years ago, me checking baby's position
Same place she needed massaging all last night!


I was doing the same thing last night... exactly! But not outside, in the hospital.

eight and a half years ago, on a labor walk around the neighborhood

We walked lots during that labor. I don't know who took this picture, actually!


Gotta go- Shabbat is in a half hour.
What a roller coaster, right?!
Shabbat Shalom from Israel!

Friday, October 10, 2014

system overload.... crash of Prototype 2

Too, too, too much for me.
Spent the last 26 hours in bed. Not asleep all the time, but in bed with pain and headaches. Yesterday I took migraine meds twice in one day... not good.

Holidays are so hard. Too much was put off until the day of the chag (holy-day), and it was awful. I tried to get things done early, but it didn't work. The "state of the union" over here in my house wasn't functioning at maximum capacity, let's say.

I shouted at the kids and Robert. I was so frustrated, it was unbearable.

I was on my feet basically for two days straight, with an 8 hour sleep in the middle (not enough for me because of the meds). Shopping for chag clothes with Shifra wound up to be a many-hours excursion with little success. She wants it all too short and too tight. I offered so many great outfits (at least, I thought were great, and I think I have good taste in outfitting), all rejected in the changing room. *You* try shopping with a red-headed 'tween who enjoys her maturing curves. In the end of the day (the day before the day of chag) I shed some tears in the car on the way home- out of exhaustion as much as frustration- and she helped cheer me up! She is an awesome child, I know that. She said she'd find what to wear from her closet, and she appreciated my taking her, and to always look on the bright side. *Shifra* said this to *me*. She's a great kid. Difficult, but great.

Ya'akov's amazing high school is in danger of closing down in two weeks unless they come up with about $200,000 (US), or 700,000 shekels. It's a complicated explanation, and I don't want to get into the politics of it, but I am so stressed out. What are we gonna do? The first time he is in a perfect place for him, and he is *Happy* in school. Now it may all dissolve before our eyes. Will he not have a school? Really? Will we be scrambling to get him in someplace in the middle of October???? Pressure is unbearable. Gotta pray on this one in a big way.

Gotta go- almost Shabbat. Robert took over the kitchen today, thankfully. I hope I can make it through and be a good hostess.
Shabbat Shalom from my bed........

[I am not proof-reading, so sorry. Just wanted to get this out.]

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur 5775



Three of my six Rosh Hashana challot (before baking)
With the new Jewish year always comes introspection and thoughts of how to do things differently in the coming year. We just passed Rosh Hashana, so the new year has officially begun!

About doing things different in the year to come, I have some big, important, life-changing decisions underway. I have built the foundation for basically two decisions, and I pray that I will be able to follow through with them both. 

Doing so, however, will truly limit my blogging. It has been limited, already, and I haven't even put these life changes into place, or even gotten the ball rolling. Until now, my blogging has been limited since I returned from the states because of jet lag, then Rosh Hashana & Shabbat, and generally catching up with the lives of my kids and the rhythms of our life here. Tonight marks two weeks to the day since I returned from my trip! When I was there it seemed like I was there for so long, like months, and now that I have returned, I have the same feeling, like I've been home for much longer than two weeks. It's just enough time to shake off the jet lag. Coming from the states always takes me about two full weeks before jet lag is over. Going there, however, I am usually straightened out in two or three days. Coming back is when you lose time, and it makes things harder.

The two things I set forth to accomplish in this year of 5774. I almost don't want to commit to them through writing, but it is important that I do. Some big, big changes are going to be made, and they will turn my life around.

One is that I plan to wean off of the narcotic pain meds: Fentanyl (morphine-like patches I wear, and have worn for five years). Each time I put a new set of patches on my body, I have many, many thoughts and emotions come up. My soul is not OK with this. I know I take it for chronic pain. That is why I haven't yet weaned; the fear of the pain. There is also fear of withdrawal- the symptoms- as well. It is awful, not unlike any other narcotic withdrawal. I have done it in small doses a few times, and I hallucinate, I have awful, awful, dark dreams, I shake uncontrollably, and vomit.

This medicine, however, is poison. The two biggest life-hindering side effects I deal with from it are being sleepy all the time, and digestive problems. I can no longer drive distances anymore because I am too tired, and it is dangerous for me at the wheel. I have come very close, many times, to falling asleep at the wheel. It never happened, thank Gd, but I know how to take a hint. I also suffer from brain power outages; that is when I forget words and even say words sometimes that have no connection whatsoever to what I meant, but it comes out of my mouth. I am extremely forgetful in an unnatural way. This narcotic, it effects every facet of my life. I need 12 hours of sleep at night as a rule. If I don't get it, I will most often wind up with a migraine. Coming off the meds has the hope of gaining some more normal waking hours.

I want my life back. The Fentanyl rules everything. It insidiously meddles it's way into every corner of my life and subtly undermines any efforts I make to forward my life or succeed.

The question remains, how much pain do I have? I know how much I have now, even being on the Fentanyl. How much would I have without it? An unknown. I'd need to play that by ear, so to speak. There is a possibility of going on something more natural instead of the Fentanyl, if the pain gets too bad. We all know that there is no way my life will improve if I am just exchanging drug dependence for extraordinary pain. I am in the early stages of getting in touch with some key people who research specific natural genre of pain medicines, and plan on consulting with them before I make my decision. That decision, to start consulting and researching, is made. Now it is just planning how, when, and where. I made an appointment with my pain management doctor (Dr. Z), to consult with him. I have a lot of questions. That is the first step. Next step is setting up an appointment with this person who is at the head of her field here in the above-mentioned natural form of pain control. A cousin is putting me in touch with her. It will go as it will go.

Over the Rosh Hashana holiday our guests were Robert's cousin from Beria, and his friend from Tzfat. In one our many talks together, his friend, Chaya, offered her place in Tzfat as a place to land for the detox period. It would be way too hard for me to be at home and going through that. I've done that before-- you can journey with me through that again in this post. I will plan this medicine withdrawal together with this special friend, in her lovely house (where she lives alone), so she can hold my hands and catch me when I am falling into the pit of withdrawal. It is *scary*. The hallucinations are awful. The vomiting is awful. With her offer, I see this goal as attainable.

I also have ordered a "power drink", but it hasn't been delivered. I ordered it after I saw it recommended on a blog I read; the one written by the woman who was in a plane crash, and suffered burns over 80% of her body. This is her blog entry about her experience weaning off narcotic pain meds. She recommended this stuff, and we researched it a bit, and it seems really good. I ordered it. Drinking it is supposed to help the chemical brain changes that occur with withdrawal, and give more energy when the "brain zaps" knock it all out of you. Unfortunately, it didn't arrive before I left the states, so I wasn't able to bring it here with me. I hope that someone coming here on a trip soon, will be able to bring it for me. I feel it would be a helpful aid with the withdrawal.

The other change, which I already have implemented, is setting my bedtime bottom line at 9:30pm. What has been happening for many years is that since I need to sleep at least 12 hours a night, and usually go to sleep at 12 or 1, in effect I lose my mornings. Every day. I wake up, and the morning is gone. This is the MAIN reason I have not been able to write my book.

Since September's writer's conference in the states, I committed to myself that I will do three days a week of three hours a day, in the morning. I usually have to get kids at either 1:30 or 3:15, depending on the day, so there should be no problem getting in three solid hours of writing. All I have to do is be able to get up. The way to do this is go to sleep at 9:30. It is not going to be an easy decree to keep, but I know that the decision has been made, and no part of me feels unclear on this necessary change. I have done it for three nights already, and the kids are getting used to it. I simply tell them that if they want me to sit with them on their beds to say the night time "sh'ma", it must be by 9:15. Showers at 8:30 and 8:45 (remember I only have the two younger kids home with me during the school week- Dov & Ya'akov are in high schools out of the city, and sleep there during the week, coming home for Shabbats). If they are not ready (usually it is Shifra who is puttering around and not paying attention to time, going to bed at 10 or 10:30 quite often) by 9:30, they will not have me to tuck them in. I will go upstairs, and put myself to sleep. I can do it, and have done it.

My goal for the book is that the first draft manuscript will be complete by the writer's conference in Baltimore next year. I plan for it to be done before Rosh Hashana next year. I know that is a totally doable goal, if I am organized enough to eek out the time to write. Three mornings a week of three hours a morning. Bedtime 9:30. It's good for the kids also, not just me, of course. We'll all benefit, and all our lives will feel more fulfilling because of being able to get up in the morning, not dragging one's self out of bed, like the kids do almost every morning. And me, I will hopefully avoid the not-enough-sleep terrible migraines with this plan. It is RIGHT, and I feel it in my whole being.

These two decisions are so strong in me, I know it with all my being. The narcotic pain medicine withdrawal will have it's own planned structure, made clear to me in time. The early bed time resonates with every cell of my being, this is the exact right time to implement it. I know I will be happier having my mornings to write, and the kids will be happier for two reasons- one because they will not be so tired during the day, and be able to get out of bed easier, and two- they will see that *I* am happy, and writing my book, and excited about life. It will make our whole little cosmic corner of the planet happier, and healthier.

I am taking control of the things that have given me such sadness. Well, I am making decisions, the control part is up to The Big Guy. I ask for Him to bless these important decisions. Only time will tell. But, I think that at this point, I am pretty sensitive when it comes to figuring out if Hashem has blessed a decision or not.

Starting tomorrow evening, Yom Kippur, we basically have 15 hours of praying to Hashem for our lives. 15 hours is not that long when you consider what it is you are actually praying for! But it is very long when you take into account that we are fasting 25 hours while doing it.

It's currently slightly past my 9:30 bed time, and I am closing the computer. This is the third time I have stopped working on it before it was finished, because of my new bed time. If I weren't being strict with this timing, I'd now proof read, edit, and find a picture or two to add in. Then I'd publish it, as well as publishing the new blog post on Facebook (my two pages on facebook... if you haven't seen the new one for the book, go here and give it a "like"!) as well as posting it to the Yahoo list with our Anglo group in Be'er Sheva (where I live), to reach a larger audience by inviting people to read my new post. So, there is at least another half hour work here, or more, even though the content is written at this point. That is often what kept me up late if I was writing- the inability to cut-off and not finish until the next day. I have been given the gift of removing the urgency. My priorities are set, and I feel such strength from that.

On that note, good night! I'll post this tomorrow before Yom Kippur. :)

Didn't get to it before Yom Kippur. We are on Saturday night here, after surviving the 25 hour fast. It's *hard*. I am spent. but I did it. I think that probably the Rabbis would be lenient with my situation, because I am on heavy medicines, that I wouldn't have to totally fast. But I don't ask. I don't ask for a leniency. I can't imagine not fasting on Yom Kippur. If I was told that I didn't have to, I'd be at odds with myself as to whether or not to follow the leniency, or listen to my soul, which wants, and needs, to fast on Yom Kippur. So, I don't ask. Yes, it is hard. It takes everything out of me. But I made it to and from shul (walking, of course) three times in the 25 hours, prayed my heart out, and joined the Jewish people in communal prayer. I'll rest tomorrow.

OK, ending here. This blog spans over about 9 days. I don't know when I'll write again- things are crazy busy, and with an early bedtime, things are getting whittled down to the essence. And we have another holiday in four days!!

May this Jewish new year really be a time of renewal of spirit and peace!
It's going to be a good one. I can feel it in my bones. Thanks, bones. :)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

In transit... between two worlds, visiting all my worlds

[I returned home Thursday evening, no problems, BH. We went to a wedding Thursday night-- yes, crazy, perhaps, but this was a special one-- it was the daughter of the woman who's father's funeral I attended in NY.-- father buried one week, daughter married a week later.
I was running on pure adrenaline.
Friday I slept all day, woke for Shabbat dinner. Shabbat, slept all day. Sunday-today- I am up, but not on schedule yet. Lots of pain, but I'll be OK. Getting overwhelmed with Rosh Hashana coming up so soon!]

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OK- this entry started on the day I was leaving NY, last Wed, the 17th. I started writing it in my parent's kitchen, continued it on the plane, added the pictures here in Be'er Sheva, sent it out Sunday.

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The car service is coming in an hour to take me to JFK airport. It's a spectacularly beautiful day here in the little country town of Glen Head, a hop-skip-and-a-jump from Long Island Sound. It really is so beautiful around here. It rains frequently, and everything is so *lush* and green. Incredibly green- thick trees and bushes of every sort, moss on tree trunks, and all the streets are shadowed with thick, rich, tall trees. The air is sweet... the smells of cut grass, that sweet after-rain smell, and there is a fall nip in the air. Sounds like utopia, right? Sometimes it actually feels like that.

down the street from my parent's house


I didn't leave America because of discontent. Israel is 100% my home, I never have any doubts about it. I am fortunate in that I have a deep, loving appreciation for the wonderful attributes of each land.

my girlfriend and I rendezvoused at a gas station when we discovered that we were
talking on the phone to each other, a mere few meters away from each other!

I'm returning to Israel soon...  my flight leaves at 9pm tonight. It has been a *long* trip. I feel like I've been away for months.
~~~~~~~~~

On the plane now.
Take off will be in about 20 minutes.
It is such a long haul to pack up and schlep everything! I was up most of last night, packing and organizing myself. OK, well, I'll be on this plane for the next 12 hours. So far, the middle seat to my right is free. It'd be awesome if it stays that way! I'm planning to sleep lots. It was a FULL, busy, fulfilling trip. The two highlights were the writer's conference, and the time I spent with my parents- quality *and* quantity. It has been a *long* time since we had that sort of uninterrupted time together. I am aware of the reality that we can't know when that may, or if it will, happen again.

I attended a funeral last week. It was the father of a dear friend of mine from Israel. My friend was brought up in NY. Her father passed away, and she flew out to NY the next day. I joined her at the funeral. It was strange to be with her in NY! We had never seen each other out of Israel. But it was good to be able to support her, and to be there.

Funerals in America are so different than they are in Israel. In Israel, people are buried in shroud cloths, no casket. When I was watching the funeral home director trying to direct the casket of my friend's father down into the grave, it was scary. It is so heavy, and the people holding it have to stand on planks which are placed across the grave, lowering it with the help of straps. Once it's in, then the grave diggers have to check if it is in properly, and in this case, the casket had to be repositioned. It seems so much smoother and easier when there is no casket involved. I don't know. I guess it's awful any way you do it.

Onto lighter subjects...
I saw many cousins whom I hadn't seen in ages. In Washington DC I stayed for a few days (including over a Shabbat) with one of my favorite cousins ever! Got to know her husband and daughter a bit better, too. I met with my first cousin on my mother's side, Dina, in Washington DC. I hadn't seen her in probably 27 years or so.

my first cousin Dina, me, and her mother (my aunt who I hardly ever knew!) Shula


 My other first cousins on my father's side, Lois & Ellen, I visited in NY. We had seen each other slightly more frequently, but not much.

My father, Ellen, me, Lois, my brother Peter
first cousins: Ellen, me  & Lois



















 I also saw my Aunt Reva, who is in her 90's, may God give her strength and wherewithal for many more years!

My father, me, and his sister- my aunt Reva
OK, know what? I am so flippin exhausted, I need to sleep. The plane is still filling up, and take-off is in 10 minutes.

Oh, and the middle seat, next to me (I'm in the isle) has been taken. Oh well. No biggie.
Oh, I just remembered that I have to go put on my heavy pressure stockings. I should do that before we take off..

Then, I really think I'm just gonna put my computer away and go to sleep. Bye-

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OK, I just had a pretty decent sleep, thank Gd. Woke up two and a half hours before landing, which is good timing. I got a good walk around the cabin a few times. According to the amount of pain I had when I got myself up after sleeping, I could have used some more walking around the cabin.  I drank some tea, chatted with a woman in the next isle over to my left, traveling with her three kids. One is about one and a half. I *remember* traveling at different points over the past 15 years with kids that age, almost every trip.

So yeah, now that I'm a little less tired, I can say that this trip was a true blessing. It was just all good. Hard for me physically at many times, a few awful migraines and nights throwing up, but overall, I held up. The lymphoedema needs some serious draining massage, though. It's been in a constant state of discomfort and swelling. To be expected, I think. I am wearing the dreaded tight tight tight orthopedic tights on the flight now. You know, I timed it this time- putting them on in the tiny airplane bathroom- 20 minutes *just* putting them on. Bleh. Oh well, could always be worse!

There is one huge change that happened on this trip which adds an emotional dimension that I will never forget- I sold my old french horn. *NOT* the one I play usually (or played, to be exact), that one is in Israel. The one I sold is one that I played during the last years of University in Boston, and all throughout graduate school. I did play it my first years in the symphony in Israel, but it isn't in the style (sound-wise) of the horns that Israeli orchestras play.

Each city which has a symphony, in every part of the world, has it's own unique sound. In the wind sections especially, the goal of a homogeneous sound often entails a uniformity of the type of sound that the specific instrument produces. Each "brand" of instrument is known for it's different nuances in sound. There are horns with a small "bore" which means the diameter of the inner tubing is literally smaller than a large bore horn. This, of course, effects the timbre, or color of sound. The horn I sold is my Schmidt, small bore, nearly 100 years old. It's a very, very special horn. In Israel, large bore horns are more commonly played. Many years ago (13 or 14 years ago) I tried out a particular horn someone was selling in Israel, and fell in love with the ease of how it plays. I bought it with an interest-free loan that my orchestra gave me, which was really easy to pay off through my monthly paychecks. I then had two horns on my hands. I tried to sell my Schmidt in Israel, but since it is not a commonly played instrument on Israeli orchestras, it didn't sell. I then brought it to Boston so the dealer who I bought it from could try to sell it for me. It didn't sell in many years in his studio. It was so surprising because that is the horn that the players in Boston desire. After it was in his studio for a long time not selling, on a trip my parents had to Boston (it used to be a regular thing for them every summer to go to Tanglewood to hear the Boston Symphony), they went to his studio and brought it back to their house in NY, and advertised it there. Didn't budge. A few people played it over the years, but no bites. Even a collector of Schmidt's, a horn player in NY, who fell in love with my horn, told me he just can't buy it because he already has 20. But he praised that instrument up and down. He clearly understood it's unique beauty of sound and the special value of that particular instrument. Along came my first horn teacher, Mr. Moller. He also fell in love with the horn, but finances didn't permit him to buy it. Fixing the roof which had fallen in from a storm took precedence. Geez, can you imagine such an excuse? ;)

When I was returning for this present trip, I advertised the horn again, announcing the dates I will be there, and that it is still for sale if someone wants to come try it. Again a few emails with the guy who collects old Schmidt's, but he still couldn't swing adding one more horn to his menagerie. Lucky for me, because the long awaited phone call came from... my old horn teacher (he's not old, perse, but old meaning long ago in the scope of my life)! He was in a position to buy the horn, and was so happy to see the ad I placed, that it is still available. He came over a few days ago. It's always awesome to see him, a real childhood hero for me. Very special man. His encouragement, patience, and belief in me is what set me on course for my successful career. Well, with cash in hand, he checked out the wonderful instrument again, and made an offer... higher than what I was asking. I came back with a lower offer. It was an unusual, odd sort of haggling, but I wanted him to have the horn, and I couldn't see taking so much money from such a special person in my life. We agreed on something in the middle of his offer and my expectation. Unmarked bills exchanged hands (they are unmarked, right Mr. Moller? ;)), and my beautiful, special, antique horn went to the most wonderful person I could imagine playing it. I am deeply moved by this all, and yes, a little wistful. But, it is all the natural process of life.

well, "can't take it with you", as they say!

Here are pictures of the monumental tectonic shift:


Mr. Moller- may you play this horn with your natural vitality and health, and may it serve you as well as it served me all the years!!
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Well, we are now about to land! Should be in about 45 minutes or so. I'm almost home.

The trip was certainly memorable. My world shifted in many ways, both small and large. I just realized something- I actually lived all three of my careers on this trip. The writer's conference of course--

All the conference attendees!
I'm standing in the second row from the top, wearing white, about half way in...

then selling my horn and entering that world. I even used my doula skills. That was when I was trying as best as I knew how to encourage my mother in her physical therapy to stand. She did it- with the physical therapist and my father on either side holding her up so most of her weight wasn't on her, she, herself holding onto a walker with much of her weight, and me holding her around her middle in a big bear hug. She did it. She lasted about 20 seconds the first time, then after a rest had the courage to try a second time, for about 10 seconds. It hurt her all over, of course. Her body is quite atrophied from being bedridden for two and a half years already. But, she tried. The future is unknown, and the past is no longer ours, only the present is ours to use. That accomplishment, for my mother, was a very courageous use of her present moment. May you keep strong Mom, and remember- replace the phrase "I'm scared" with determination.

We're in a holding pattern now over Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv. Too many planes there at the moment for us to fly in. I heard there was a strike at the airport today.

I just may finish this blog post yet!

Mission accomplished regarding the tight tight tight lymphoedema stockings. It took about 15 minutes this time to take off. Putting on my "regular" pressure garment feels loose compared to those. Usually that one is tight and uncomfortably hot, but after the "flight tights" (hey, new nick name!) it's obscenely loose. :)  Oh, this is awesome- the captain just announced that we are cleared out of the holding pattern and are going to land soon! And I finished this entry. How inspirational.

Home. Be it ever so humble. I am yearning to feel my children's hugs, look into their eyes, and hear their voices and laughs.

And Robert, my love. You gave me a gift that is more valuable than you can know. You, yourself made my reservation, blessed me to go to the conference, and added much more time to spend with my aging parents. A true, selfless gift, from a true, selfless man. Thank you with all my heart.