Monday, December 31, 2007

Bike for Shalva

Now here is a combination of enjoyment that I REALLY like: bicycling and wine (and good food!).

Imagine riding a bicycle through the unbelievably gorgeous Israeli countryside, with like minded people, getting a great workout, just right for working up a hearty appetite. During the ride you make a stop or two, visiting the country’s top wineries, touring their facilities, and meeting several of their top wine critics who will regale you with stories and tidbits about ancient techniques and modern trends in wine production.

At the end of the day, after a nice hot shower, you head out for a gourmet meal, with delectable wine tastings and desserts. The next day, you get up, and do it all over again. Now, add to that picture, that whilst you are enjoying yourself to the hilt, and getting into great shape, making new friends, learning new things, you are also raising funds for Israel’s premiere organization for mentally and physically challenged children – SHALVA.

So, now, while you are having a good time, you are also doing good – engaged in the work of “tikkun olam” (fixing the world) and “chesed” (kindness). What could be better?

If this intrigues you, check out http://www.bike4shalva.org/ for more information on where to sign up…

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Energizer Hearing Aid Batteries vs. Immorality

Energizer is giving away FREE hearing aid a CI batteries. That's right -- FREE batteries. No catch. You go to http://offers.energizer.com/perfpack/ and sign up to receive your pack of free batteries. You can even choose which kind you need. But it is supposed to be a one pack per person giveaway. On a listserv in which I participate it was suggested that one use other family members or friends to sign up for a free pack and then give the free pack to you. Following that suggestion was a comment that it was immoral. Following THAT comment was the following comment:

"Actually, trying to take advantage of the battery company fits in pretty well with what I read on here. People looking for every benefit available, trying to force other people to do things for our benefit at their expense...."

I had to respond to that last one:

Hmmm, interesting. My husband and I recently had a rather long
discussion of what is considered reasonable accommodation.

Truth is: everyone does what is in their own best interests. People
who advocate for the disabled generally are either disabled
themselves, or are close to someone who is -- either family or
friends.

No one just out of the blue decides to advocate for the disabled. That would be crazy -- because of course there is a cost to doing that.

My shul for instance: We are building a new shul. We are required to
make it wheelchair accessible. That adds a real cost to our budget.
Never mind that there is no on in the membership who is in a
wheelchair, right? (Wrong, but I am just playing devil's advocate here -- yeah, I am advocating for him of all people!).

And the
mechitza (the divider between the men's' and women's' (sections) must accommodate hearing impaired women who need to see in
order to hear -- never mind the fact that there is only ONE person who
actually needs that.

I could go on. NO ONE would ever consider making their business,
home, or public space 100% accessible to all people -- it is not
do-able -- unless it is mandated. The
ADA pretty much took care of
that but not wholly -- some of its wording is too ambiguous -- and
there are loopholes for organizations to take advantage of. And, as
discussed in previous posts, the smaller "mom and pop' places are
exempt due to the prohibitive cost of making their places accessible.

But is this comparable to finding a way around the giveaway of free
batteries, intended to be one pack per person? Nah. To be sure, the
manipulation of the system to get more than one pack per person IS
unethical.
Immoral? No. Unethical? Yes. Perhaps I am splitting
hairs, but there IS a difference.


Comments, anyone?

(01/01/2008 Update: Energizer was contacted with regard to this promo and stated that it is NOT meant to be 1 pack per person. One may sign up for a free pack as many times as one wishes, as long as one waits 24 hours between sign ups! So, no one is taking advantage of anyone here...)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Israeli Folk Dancing...

Below is an email exchange I had with another participant in the CI Forum in which I participate. I am sharing it here because I found it to be funny and it made me laugh. The first posting was in response to someone stating that there is a general misconception in the world that deaf people cannot dance.




From: Deborah C
Sent: Thursday, December 06, 2007 11:06 PM
To: FORUM@LISTS.NUCLEUSCI.COM
Subject: Re: Deaf can't Dance..

That was me I was talking about my friend, whom I met at Israeli folk dancing.

I am so glad you broke through that stereotype!...and sorry you are not feeling able to dance as you did.

Pictures?
Deb


--- Rachel Stern rsusselj@OPTONLINE.NET wrote:

Yeah, I DO have pictures of me dancing on stage -- somewhere, buried
amidst the detritus of my life.

I thought it was you. I have WAAAAAAYY too much email in my inbox to
keep straight.

I started with folk dancing, including Israeli folk dancing.
Interestingly enough I do not really like Israeli folk dancing.
Israeli folk dancing has
too many parts:

Part 1: combination of these four steps
Part 2: combination of those four steps
Part 3: combination of this and that step
Part 12: combination of part 6 and part 7 plus an additional step
Part 18: do the twist, and the hokey pokey, wave your hand and go
back to part 1
Part 19: HUH? I cannot remember part 1!!!

:-P
Rachel



-----Original Message-----
From: Deborah C
Sent: Friday, December 07, 2007 12:12 AM
To: FORUM@LISTS.NUCLEUSCI.COM
Subject: Re: Deaf can't Dance..

Are you trying to kill me over here? LOL I'm hysterical over here...I imagine that was funny even if a person has never done a step of Israeli dance...but I was really into it about 10 years ago, and that IS how it is! Thanks! I really need to try it with my CI...I have had some chronic pain issues that kept me away for a long time, but I think I can do some of the easier dances now.
Deb

Ranting Request...

Calling all office managers, copy machine users, mailing personnel! I am in need of the following item: Multifunction Color Laser Copier with high capacity multipurpose input tray.

I need this for my place of employment. We frequently do mass mailings and I thus need to print addresses on the envelopes. Please do not suggest we outsource this. We DO outsource the three largest mailings. But I see no reason to outsource mailings of up to 5000 pieces or fewer. Besides, I find that I can create nicer looking envelopes when I print them inhouse. When we are sending out fancy invitations to a 10k plate dinner -- I think nicer looking addressing is important.


We print on various size envelopes from standard COM10's , to 8 x 8 squares, and 4 x 6 sizes, and various other sizes in between. Most machines I see have a multipurpose tray with a capacity of about 100 sheets -- which translates to 50 envelopes, approximately. This is not good when I am printing several thousand envelopes. I would even be happy with an input/output capacity of 100 envelopes at a time, but higher capacity would be better.

I have tested special machines for envelopes in the past but have hated them. I have to adjust this lever for width, this lever for height, that lever for angle, each printer head for alignment, that knob for spacing, this knob for vertical space, that knob for horizontal space, and so on and so forth. I HATE this. Why can't there be either a copier with a special high capacity multipurpose drawer for envelopes or a desktop printer, that works like a regular desktop printer but with a higher capacity tray that will allow me feed it at least 100 or more envelopes at a time? What the dickens is so hard about that? Why can I not find this? Are the manufacturers of the desktop printers so afraid to step on the toes of the envelope printer manufacturers? And furthermore, why would anyone WANT an envelope printer that requires a million physical adjustments, and testing of about 100 envelopes before one gets it right -- and to pay in excess of $3k for that privilege?

GRRR! Ok, fess up you technogeekineers who have information about what I want! Please, this is no time to keep secrets!

Thank you!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Closed Captioning Films, redux

This was in response to a posting citing the resistance of hearing people to captioning:
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I would also like to relate a couple of things:
1) My husband and I go upstate NY to a bungalow colony every weekend in the summer. Every Sat night, a movie is shown. When we first started going there (8 years ago) the movies were still on reels! Then they switched to video and finally, a few years ago to DVD's. Once they switched to DVD's I knew that they could use the CC/subtitles feature. So, I requested that they do so for me. There were some grumblings initially about it but they did it. Then, the following weekend we did not make it upstate for some reason. I heard, via my SIL, that when they put on the movie that week, initially they did not put on the CC, until several people shouted out that they wanted it! Now they use the CC all the time -- even hearing people like it because they too, miss things.
2) Several of our friends and family who have had the opportunity to sit and watch TV with us have experienced the CC -- and many of them tell me that now they use the CC all the time too. They are all hearing people...
So...the couple who did not want to see a CC movie don't know what they are missing! Too bad for them.

Hearing in Shul (or church)

A discussion ensued on the list on the best solutions for hearing in a situation such as one as being in church. Most solutions centered on the use of ALD's (Assistive Listening Devices) -- all of which are prohibited for use on Shabbat by Halacha (Jewish Law). I thus posted about my experience a brief encapsulation:
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I must share with you a little bit of my experience. As an Orthodox Jew, I face a pretty big problem when going to shul to pray. Men and women sit separately. There is usually a physical barrier between the men's section and the women's section. In some shuls, the women sit behind the men, in others the women's section is to one side of the shul and the men's section to the other side (usually, the men's side is bigger). In other shuls the women's section will flank the men's section (two women's sections, with the men's section in the middle). In some shul's the women sit up in a balcony.
In many shul's the divider, called a Mechitza, actually blocks the view of one side to the other. But there are many which use semi-sheer curtains, or darkened glass, or crosshatched panels as dividers.
As you can imagine, in all cases the mechitza is truly a barrier for someone like me who cannot hear and must read lips. I need both proximity to the sound and the view, and my view needs to be unobstructed, in order for me to hear well. Everytime I go to a new shul I am fraught with worry about whether or not I will be able to hear well enough to understand.
My husband and I, when we moved to our current home, became involved in the founding and formation of a new shul. As a result, for the first time in my life, I have had a say in the design of the shul and the mechitza. It was not an easy thing, though. In the beginning, there was some resentment and grumbling about designing a mechitza to meet the needs of only one person. (Forget about that fact that such design would not thwart the needs of anyone else!). However, our shul went through some major crises which resulted in the leaving from our shul of a core group of people -- all whom were those in opposition to a design that would work for me. The group of people who are still with us, are very open to working with me on the design -- so much so, in fact, that we ditched the temporary mechitza that had originally been built (behind my back and without my input and installed without any warning to me, and was completely unworkable for me-- I CRIED the day I went to shul and found it installed!) -- and three of us (myself, and two other people) did the work of designing, producing, and installing a new mechitza that works very well for me. It uses a lace curtain at the top, that is semi-sheer, and that I can slide open during the Rabbi's sermon.

Do deaf people not hear? or are they not "paying attention"?

This was my response to a post from a member complaining how her family always accuses her of not paying attention:

------------------------------------------------------------------

I really wanted to respond to your comments about "shutting down" and your family thinking that "..you were not paying attention...". As an HOH person I well understand this. First of all, as an HOH person, if I want to get meaning from my life in terms of what I hear, it means I must ACTIVELY listen, all the time. ACTIVE listening is actually HARD work -- this is something that most hearing people do not understand. It is TIRING. Thus, I have found that even in the midst of a good party, I can become tired easily, and it is easier for us, than most, to slip into our own reverie, or even, horror of horrors, find ourselves nodding, when everyone else is talking! If you are surrounded by fast paced conversations (multiple conversations) it is hard to follow -- so the "shut down" effect occurs. This, in turn, leads others to believe that you are purposely "not paying attention". I am sure you understand all this. I just thought putting it into explicit words might help you find the words to explain to your family what you go through. I remember being told by my mother, that teachers would complain to her that I must be turning my HA's off, because I do not seem to be paying attention to them. I was shocked when she told me that -- because at no time do I remember purposely turning my HA's off -- even as a young child! In retrospect, I believe I may have "shut down" as a result of the enormous effort involved in active listening -- and thus appeared as if I were not "paying attention".

Julie Andrews turns 69!

I received this via the listserv:
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
To commemorate her birthday , actress/vocalist,Julie Andrews made a special appearance at Manhattan's Radio City Music Hall for the benefit of the AARP.
One of the musical numbers she performed was "My Favorite Things" from the legendary movie "Sound Of Music". Here are the lyrics she used:


> > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > >
(Sing It!) - if you sing it, it’s especially hysterical!!!


Maalox and nose drops and needles for knitting,
Walkers and handrails and new dental fittings,
Bundles of magazines tied up in string,
These are a few of my favorite things.

Cadillacs and cataracts ,and hearing aids and glasses,
Polident and Fixodent and false teeth in glasses,
Pacemakers, golf carts and porches with swings,
These are a few of my favorite things.

When the pipes leak,
When the bones creak,
When the knees go bad,
I simply remember my favorite things,
And then I don't feel so bad.

Hot tea and crumpets and corn pads for bunions,
No spicy hot food or food cooked with onions,
Bathrobes and heating pads and hot meals they bring,
These are a few of my favorite things.

Back pain, confused brains and no need for sinnin',
Thin bones and fractures and hair that is thinnin',
And we won't mention our short shrunken frames,
When we remember our favorite things.

When the joints ache,
When the hips break,
When the eyes grow dim,
Then I remember the great life I've had,
And then I don't feel so bad.

> > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > >
(Ms. Andrews received a standing ovation from the crowd that lasted over four minutes and repeated encores. Please share Ms. Andrews' clever wit and humor with others who would appreciate it.)

Deaf people can't dance...says who???

Response to posting about the concept that deaf people can't dance:
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
In an earlier post, I forget who posted, someone mentioned about the misconception that many people have that deaf people cannot dance. That is so true and I think my own mother must have swallowed that "bubbe meiseh" (Yiddish for Old Wives Tale).

As a child I only wanted dance lessons. My mother signed me up for Baton Twirling lessons. The teacher had decided before I began the class that I would not be able to do it because I could not hear. She was right -- she never made any accommodation for me(such as making sure I could see her when she gave the explanations!)

I still wanted dance lessons. My mother signed me up for violin lessons. I do not play the violin.

I still wanted dance lessons. My mother signed me up for piano lessons. I do not play the piano.

I still wanted dance lessons. My mother signed me up for guitar lessons. I do not play the guitar.

I still wanted dance lessons...

I cannot pick out a note if my life depended on it, BUT, I CAN move my body

1. When I was in HS, I attended a few of the school dances. I got up to dance and was surrounded by a bunch of the black kids in my class who were shocked to see a white chick who could dance (this is back in the 70's) It was fun!
2. When I was in HS, I participated in an extracurricular folk dancing class. The teacher thought I was particularly good and asked me to join his troupe.
3. When I turned 21, I began seeking out dance workshops and activities. I became an excellent dancer: I did international folk dancing, square and contra dancing, Cajun/zydeco dancing, swing dancing (my favorite!), other kinds of ballroom dancing, belly dancing, and West African dance, and even some hip hop. In 1996, I hurt my back and my early onset arthritis was aggravated. I have not been able to return to that level of dancing so now I rarely dance but miss it.

I have performed on stage numerous times.

WHO says deaf people can't dance???

How many deaf/hard of hearing in the US??

This post was in response to poster claiming that we (deaf and hard of hearing people) represent less than 1% of the population of the US -- a statistic that is so completely wrong. The discussion was about that fact that we represent enough of a subsection of the population so as to be a crucial market that businesses should be catering to us -- but for some reason are not. I suspect unity, or lack thereof, is the major reason...
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

According to the NCHS (National Center for Health Statistics) in 2005 there were 36.5 million non institutionalized adults with hearing impairments -- which represented 17% of the population of the US (non institutionalized population).

That was in 2005. I do believe those numbers have increased a bit now in 2007. We are far more than less than 1%!!!

And those numbers do not include children!

I think we have the numbers to be a market to be reckoned with.

When I was growing up, true, choices of technological aids were far more limited. But -- back then all hearing aids and all telephones were basically created equal. For a very short time public telephones were being put in place that were not compatible with hearing aids. These became outlawed, and by law all public telephones had to be HA compatible. This was back when Superman still had a booth to change in!

I remember that I could go anywhere and pick up any phone and my hearing aids would work (using the T-coil) on all phones. I also remember that I was able to watch TV, and go to the movies and I did not need captioning. My hearing has not gotten worse. Technology has -- with technological advances new cinematography could be utilized. Off screen dialogue, "realistic" background sounds, soundtracks, overlapping dialogue, etc -- all these have killed my ability to understand TV and films. It took years to make CC available. At first one needed to spend money on additional equipment in order to get the CC. Now, all TV's, VCR's and DVD's will play captioning. Theaters are WAY behind on this. And when they do provide accommodation, they look for the cheapest alternative, and seem to do so grudgingly, giving me a choice of maybe two films out of 16 or 20 to see with CC. Many times the CC does not work. And, my experience too, has been that many people with "normal" hearing, who at first may protest having the CC on, when they experience it, they end up liking it because that way they realize, they do not miss anything!

And now, the internet. At first this has seemed like a wonderful thing -- and it IS. I love it. I met my husband via the internet. I got all my better paying jobs via the internet. And I have made many friends via the internet. But now streaming is bringing whole TV shows and movies and videos to the internet -- and virtually none of them are captioned. The laws of accessibility do not cover the internet because the internet came along after the ADA! It is frustrating.

I agree with you -- amazing things have happened for us. But I want more -- I always want more. I do not think we can ever rest on our laurels and be happy with what we are given --

Posting from another listserv. Subject: SHALVA

I belong to an email list serv called 'Forum@LISTS.NUCLEUSCI.COM' and I have posted several items relating to myself. I received several comments about how good my posts were and thus I am posting those items here. The next several posts will be from the list. Enjoy!
(Some of the info in the posts duplicates parts of earlier posts I made to this blog...)
The first posting I am entering is a description of the organization for which I work... and what we do in the office here in the US...
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Shalva is the Association for Mentally and Physically Challenged Children in Israel. All their services are provided FREE of charge. Currently, they have a main 7 story facility in Har Nof, Jerusalem which is an amazing place and two satellite facilities in outlying areas.
We are building a new building, the groundbreaking was just this past August. When complete, it will be the largest facility of its kind in the entire Middle East. Shalva provides services to children without regard for their racial, religious, or ethnic backgrounds -- we serve Jewish, Israeli, Christian, Arab, Palestinian and others.
Shalva came about as a result of a tragic occurrence. When Yossi Samuels, the son of the founders, was a very young boy he, along with hundreds of other children in Israel, was given a faulty DPT shot. Many of those children died. Those who didn't suffered various disabling results. He suffered by losing his hearing and his vision and became extremely hyperactive. His loss was prelingual. Trying to reach a child in this condition and give him the gift of communication is a very difficult thing to do. His parents initially came to the US, thinking we would have many more resources to help him. But they were unsuccessful here so they returned to their home in Israel. In Israel there is a woman, Shoshana Weinstock, who is herself deaf, and a teacher of the deaf. She was considered a miracle worker and they asked her to try to reach Yossi. She initially put them off as she was a bit intimidated by the big job that entailed, but they finally prevailed and she went to work with Yossi. She spent many days, weeks, months with him. One day there was a "eureka" moment, where, just like Helen Keller, he "got it". The word that broke the dam was, in Hebrew, "Shulchan" which means table.
Prior to this, his mother, Malki, had made a vow, that if they could somehow reach Yossi, to bring meaning to his life, she would work to help other families in the same situation. When Shalva first started, they were given a "miklat" -- a shelter, a basement. According to the man who showed it to them "what more would children like these want?". Shalva's initial focus was on what they called the "fragile family hours" -- the time between when the children come home from school and bedtime. Families who have a child with a disability will usually find these hours riddled with stress -- instead of being able to cook a nutritious meal, eat in a relaxed manner, help the other children with their homework - they are usually spending most of their time dealing with the needs of the disabled child. Shalva provided for these families a place for these children to go during those hours, allowing these families a semblance of normalcy during these hours, allowing the other children to gain the attentions of their parents, allowing them a break. Today, Shalva does much more than just provide respite -- it provides all forms of therapies, learning environments, overnight camp experiences, and more. The provide this for children and their families -- for all kinds of disabilities: autism, downs syndrome, CP, deafness, blindness, etc. All of this: FREE.
Here in the US, we raise money to enable them to do all this. And that is what we do.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Skype Me

I am posting here a link so people can call me using Skype. If I find that I am being bothered too much I will remove this link. Please only use it if you really have a good reason to call, if you have Skype and have a webcam. I really want to SEE you -- it is so much easier for me to understand when I can see your lips!

Thanks!



Skype Me™!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Further adventures with Phonak Savia Art

So. I returned to the audiologist this past Tuesday for further adjustments to my HA's. I had also requested she order a remote control for me, which she did. Jobi attempted to program my HA's to communicate with the remote (and vice versa), but she was not having any luck. She called Phonak and a rep there walked her through the whole thing but it was not working, so they concluded that my right HA is a bum HA and a new one is being sent by Phonak to replace it. In the meantime --

Unbeknownst to both Jobi and me, the various programs she set in the HA's for remote control actually did get set -- and I can control them with the click of the button on the HA. And, because of that, there actually is an OFF setting -- which is great for me in terms of the halacha of using HA's.

Let me explain, first the programs: we chose to add the following programs:
  • telephone only which mutes sound around me
  • speech in noise
  • sound from behind

So now, when I turn on the HA's they are in the default listening program which will, or should, switch to other programs automatically based on input sensed. If I click the button once after the HA is on, it goes to the telephone only program. A second click puts me in the speech in noice program (my favorite!), and a third click allows me to hear sound from behind only. A fourth click turns them off, and a fifth click puts it back to auto (the first program). I do not mind using the button on the HA, except for the following 2 issues:

  1. If I am wearing a headwrap (scarf) it is a pain in the neck to do that
  2. I suspect a lot of clicking of that button will cause it to wear out

Using a remote will obviate the need for the above.

Now about the Halacha thing. For those of you who are not Jewish or not religious: Halacha means Jewish Law. Now, on Shabbat (Sabbath) we are not allowed to turn lights on/off, or any electrical thing on/off. We do not drive. We do not light matches. We do not watch TV (technically, according to Halacha, you can put a timer on your TV (as we do with lights) and watch it on Shabbat -- but it is not according to the spirit of the law and so it is strongly frowned upon and not done- at least not by anyone I know).

So this prohibition could also affect HA users. However, the Rabbeim (Rabbi's) who studied this problem came up with the following:

  1. We CAN turn HA's on/off but only for necessity, and only with the use of an on/off switch
  2. We can manipulate the volume or programs in the HA's
  3. We canNOT use the battery as the on/off switch (ie; opening the battery case to turn the HA off, closing the case to turn it on)

Now this has posed a problem in recent years since most HA's do not have on/off switches anymore. Users rely on the opening/closing of the battery case to turn their HA's on/off.

So, it seems that we were able to program an "on/off program" -- which is GREAT for me. So...

I am still really enjoying my Phonak Savia Art HA's and soon I will be 5k poorer for it!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Phonak, update

I am still getting used to my new HA's. We attempted, again, to see a movie, last night. Once again AMC Theaters failed me. The CC did NOT work. It was kind of frustrating. This time, however, we remained at the theater and watched the film. I just did not think it was fair to make my husband miss the movie. It was, thankfully, a slow moving dialogue movie so I was able to make sense of most of it. But it was a TERRIBLE movie -- Lions for Lambs. It had these really good actors but the script was terrible and the story was terrible. Everything was so heavily stereotyped, the story line was complety hyperbole, and it masqueraded as a left wing bourgouis academia/intelligentsia film. Ugh. Do not waste your money on it.

We did not waste our money on it (just our time). We had used two free passes to see it, which we had gotten when the CC did not work the last time. This time we earned FOUR free passes. Of course, those passes are useless if the CC does not work!!

I love these new aids. I went to a couple of shul functions over the weekend. It was noisy, but I could hear! I could carry on real conversations and follow those of others. Way cool!!

Dinner time, now, I made eggplant parm. Yumm.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Day two, Phonak

Ok, day two was yesterday. What I noticed: I am definitely able to hear better in noisy situations. The hearing aids compress ambient noise and surrounding noise very well, and yet allow me to hear speech, in conversational settings. We went out to a noisy restaurant for dinner last night -- and I was able to hear and converse. I even heard the waitress!

Day three is today: I am getting more used to the phone. I do find that if I use the HA's in full telecoil mode works best and even better if I turn BOTH HA's to full telecoil mode. I really do better eliminating surrounding sounds. But, I do not see a humongous improvement, yet, in phone use. It may be that I need some tweaking of the program.

This morning I rode in on the bus with a friend and I was able to hear her really well.

This is cool.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Phonak, no, phone, ACK!!!

So, today I went again to the audiologist, whose name is Jobe Schwartz, by the way. She is cool. Anyway, she gave me two new hearing aids to try, called Phonak. They are incredibly expensive -- $4800. And of course, insurance does NOT cover them. (If anyone out there would like to contribute to my hearing aid fund we would be most grateful! Email me at rsusselj@otponline.net for details on how to do so.). So, I am going to try them out for two weeks. Jobe asked me to keep track of what I am hearing and what not so I am going to use my blog here to do that.

First, she puts them on and makes a series of adjustments to them via a computer program. These are digital hearing aids -- and POWER digital aids -- I think the first of this kind. I have tried digital aids in the past but had not been too happy with them. I found that I simply could never get enough volume with them. I had been begging for power digital aids but until now I had not been aware of any. These ARE power aids, let me tell you. I have been hearing sound ALL day. It sounds like there are airplanes flying overhead constantly. But it was not unpleasant, nor did it interfere with my hearing. Also these hearing aids have a program called "EZPhone". EZPhone works by automatically detecting the magnet of a phone receiver pressed up against the ear and automatically turning on the hearing aids' telecoil which is the part of the aid that enables hearing on telephones. This is not 100% foolproof as it may not always detect the magnet so there is a button that allows one to manually turn on the telecoil. Now, there are basically 3 modes of hearing aid use: normal, normal/telephone, or telephone only. For me, personally, I have always preferred to use the telephone only mode when on the phone. I have always had a problem with hearing on the phone if I can also hear the noise around me. In the telecoil only mode, I would hear ONLY what the person on the other end of the phone was saying and not the noise around me at my end. (Of course, now with cell phones that are so sensitive that they pick up every little sound, that problem has returned.) Anyway, the default EZPhone program is a mixed normal/telecoil program and that did not work for me. So, I asked Jobe if it were possible to change the EZPhone program to automatically detect and switch to full telecoil mode. She was not sure but she called Phonak, and lo and behold! - Yes, it was possible. Phonak told her how to do it and it was done. So now, the phone rings, I pick it up and put it to my ear -- and I can hear on the phone. I no longer have to turn my hearing aid switch to telecoil first. COOL.

The thing is, I used to also turn the other hearing aid off when I was on the phone. But this time, I decided to see what would happen if I use the phone, with 1 hearing aid in full telecoil mode and the other in full normal mode. Well, it seemed to be fine. But I did not use the phone a whole lot today. We will see how it works tomorrow.

I listened to a music CD in the car. It was not so great -- for some reason the compression feature of the hearing aids kept kicking in and I would keep experiences moments of "dead time" -- like the sound of silence when a radio station suddenly loses its signal or simply stops broadcasting. I am going to watch that. With my old hearing aids (Sumo) they would compress when I would take the subway or walk the streets (of Manhattan) but these hearing aids did not do that at those times.

Soon, I am going to watch TV. I am going to experiment with watching without CC but I do not have high hopes for that. But I am keeping and open mind (and ears...)

Good night!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Am I hearing things?

So, I went, finally, to the audiologist. She tested my hearing and there has been a slight degeneration of my hearing but only very slight.

So, to my surprise she said that I would most definitely be considered a candidate for a cochlear implant. And now that I know that I am scared. At this time I am pursuing new hearing aids and am going to get a bluetooth adaptor called the Eli. I am also going to get a CapTel phone to see how that works for me.

I AM going to ask to speak with someone about the cochlear implantation and find out if my insurance covers it.

If anyone can guide me with this I would be most appreciative.

I had a really negative experience last night. First, a slight backtrack: I used to go to movies with my husband but over the past couple of years I have been extremely reluctant to do so as I find I miss so much. Now that I use closed captioning I really cannot do without it. Now, of course some theaters offer a CC device, which is actually called "Rear Window captioning". I had never tried it in the past, assuming 1) it would not be particularly good, and 2) it would effectively single me out. Welll, both my assumptions were sort of right. The device works reasonably well but on screen captioning would be MUCH better. Or some way of having the captioning superimposed on the screen for me. And yes, it DOES single me out, no way out of that. Additionally, the choice of films to see and theaters with captioning is far more limited than simply going to any film at any theater. I have to find a film I like that is playing in a theater with the CC set up.

So, last night we went to the Garden State 16 to see We Own the Night. This is a brand new theater with 16 films playing at any given time and only 3 films will have CC -- and not all at the same time. We entered the theater and I adjusted the plexiglass reflector until I could clearly see the words, "Please adjust your rear glass reflector" or something to that effect. We sat through all the LOUD commercials (that kind of volume is just NOISE to me, I cannot make sense of any of it), and all the, also LOUD, coming attractions. Finally, the movie starts. No CC. I wait through the beginning credits. No CC. I give it 5 full minutes into the film. No CC. That message remains the same. I go out and get a manager. I am told not to worry they will get it up and running. I go back, sit down. Five full minutes later -- No CC. I wait another five minutes. No CC. I get up again, get the manager, who says they will fix it. I go back, wait five minutes. No CC. By now I am ready to cry. It is not like we can go to a different film or theater. it is now too late for that and I cannot sit through this film. And I have to ask my husband who can very well enjoy the film without CC to leave with me. I HATE this. WHY can't they simply have CC in ALL the theaters??? What is the effen big deal???

AAARRRGGHH!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Finally, a move on to better hearing

Just a quick note: I have an appointment this coming Monday at Hackensack University Medical Center Speech and Hearing Center for an audiological exam/review. I will be assessed for new hearing aids, and also, perhaps, for my candidacy for a cochlear implant. This will be interesting. If I get new hearing aids (most likely scenario) I want them to be bluetooth equipped/enabled. I will post updates here as I have them...

Also, watch this spot for my Dating Tales of the City...

Shabbat Shalom!

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Saturday Wife

I just read Naomi Ragen's latest book, "The Saturday Wife". I enjoyed reading it. I found several grammatical and spelling errors in the book -- I think she needs a new proofreader. But that is minor...

The story purports to be a satirical account of a young religious Jewish woman who wants more than she has, no matter how much she already has, and no matter what it is that she has or does not have. She wants and she wants and she wants. I am going to discuss the story here but am not going to disclose the actual story. No spoilers here. If my discussion piques your interest you can get the book here.

Seeds of discontent in her soul were planted by the culture and community in which she grows up. "Keeping up with the Steins" is the downfall here. I read this story and was very pained by it.

While the main character, Delilah, IS a caricature -- after all -- no one could be THAT clueless, And Delilah is clueless. But Delilah is slightly cunning, slightly devious, slightly stupid, even somewhat aware of herself and of others. Selfish, yes. Evil, no. Although, I do think Naomi does try to make her seem evil. Only, she is not – but the evil perpetrated is done so by the expectations she feels from the community around her.

In her attempts to fit in, to climb the social ladder, to have all that her little heart desires, Delilah spins many webs. Unfortunately, she is not smart enough to not get caught in her own webs. And that is because she is not truly evil. She is basically good, but shallow and selfish.

This is a Cinderella girl, a fairy tale believer, an old wives tale spun awkwardly out of control. A girl who believes in marrying the successful Jewish boy next door -- the successful Rabbi, lawyer, doctor, Indian chief…

We are taught at a young age that the ultimate goal in our lives is to get married – and have a big wedding, a big diamond, a big house, nannies, housekeepers, nice cars, a trip to Israel every year for Pesach (actually now it is two trips a year to Israel – for both Pesach and Sukkot), lots of children – and of course they are all angels and always wear nice clean clothing, and we get to stay home – only our husbands go out to work – and support this amazing lifestyle. We get to smile condescendingly at the women who are not so lucky to snag such a successful husband. How often I remember hearing – it is just as easy to fall in love with a rich boy as with a poor one, perhaps easier.

Within the frum community, there is a marked difference between the haves and the have nots, not only defined by what one has or does not have, but also in the way in which they and their children behave – the haves with the have nots – their interactions are painful to watch.

I have watched many a time, the adulation given by a young woman who is a “have not” to a woman who is a “have”. And have witness the snobbery as the returned affection – and the tittering – the laughter, the poking fun at – behind the poor woman’s back. I have been to affairs at which a less well off woman is seated amongst women who were quite well off – and watch the poor woman be talked over – disincluded as it were – from the surrounding conversation. After all, it is kind of difficult to include oneself in a conversation about the difficulties of hiring or keeping a good nanny, or housekeeper, or a discussion of the latest renovations underway in one’s home – if you have no nanny, housekeeper, and no prayer of a chance at renovating your very old, and in need of repairs home!

Yes folks, contrary to popular thought – Delilah is not evil. She only wants what everyone else appears to have and what we are TAUGHT to want. The evil, I say, is perpetrated by the culture and community in which we live.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Colds and Coughs, bronchitis

So, this past Chag of Sukkot we spent with Barry's sister Karen in Elizabeth, NJ. It was a really nice visit and I was so glad we went to them. In the past we have always gone when everyone else would be there -- Tammy and co, and Barry's parents. This time it was just us, two of our girls and Karen and co. It made for a much nicer and easier time. We got to have more "quality" time with one another.

Unfortunately, though, little Rena, who is SO cute, had a cold and cough. And I held her alot. And I came home last night with an absolutely miserable cough. It kind of hit me hard and fast. I was coughing all night long and the coughs were to the point of retching. Finally, after hours of this I was feeling like I could not breathe well. I asked Barry to take me to the hospital. Right before we left I threw up. My stomach had not been bothering me at all, before or after. But the coughing induced the retching and ultimately, the vomiting. I actually felt a little bit better after that but I knew it would come back again. So, off we went to the hospital.

It was a quiet night and I was seen immediately. They gave me two prescriptions: one for Tylenol w/Codeine, and the other for a Z-Pac. The Tw/C was for suppressing the coughs and the Z-pac is an antibiotic for what they say is an infection in my throat. I took the Tw/C while I was in the hospital (they only gave me 1 pill #3). They idd not know that I have a very high tolerance for Codeine due to my having taken it so much in my life. I usually need 2 #3 pills to have any effect.

Barry and I went to the pharm immediately to fill the prescriptions and it was fasted filled prescriptions I had ever had -- after all it was 4:45 AM! I came home and took another Tw/C and the first 2 of the Z-pac. Then I lay down on the couch in the LR (I can stay propped up more easily in the couch than in my bed) and tried to sleep. I think I may have gotten 2 hours of sleep. I am going to try to sleep some more a bit later.

I hate this bronchitis!

Mission Accomplished

So, in my last post I discussed the difficulties in finding a gown for my daughters' wedding. And it turned out to be that the first gown I had actually seen (online) and had ordered was actually the best one for me! Last week, I took two of my daughters (stepdaughters, actually, but I hate that term!) shopping for outfits to wear for the wedding. We were successful -- R got a cranberry skirt that has a dropped yoke, comes to just below the knees and has a black net overlay with black velvet flocked floral design on it. We got her a black mock wrap top to wear with it and we need only to buy a cranberry shell to wear under that. D got a black satin taffeta skirt with gussetted inverted pleats that are black lace. A black crochet sweater completes it but we need to find a contrasting color long sleeve shell for her to wear under that. And, while we were shopping for them I spied a chocolate brown silk charmeuse gown that had a brown beaded and crocheted sweater overlay. It is a very open crochet and the beads are tiny little copper beads and there are also tiny little copper sequins. There is a beaded fringe on the bottom of the sweater and at the bottoms of the sleeves, which are a 3/4 length. That outfit was marked size 20W -- but there is no way that sweater would fit a 20W!! I threw the sweater on me just to see the fit and it was perfect. I had this idea that it would look fabulous over the new brown gown that I had already purchased. So, I got an extra gown as well -- that is too big for me but I can turn it into a long skirt, if I wish. As I was walking to the cashier to pay for my purchases I passes a section of shelves holding a collection of evening bags. Amongst those evening bags was one covered in chocolate brown silk, with little copper beads and sequins! It was like made for this outfit. So, I purchased that too!

Now, I must backtrack a bit. Just a few days prior to this I had come home from work, and then took off immediately for Bridgewater, NJ -- a little over an hour away. Why? Beccause Y, my machatenus had asked me if I could please pick up a gown for her there. Apparently, a friend of hers has this gown that she really liked and she was going to borrow it from her friend. But, the gown was too big for her. It was taken to a seamstress to be taken in but the seamstress said she would have to take it apart and re do it as it was WAY too big for her. She noticed the tags were still on the gown so she decided to try calling Loehmanns, the store where it came from, to find out if they might still have one in her size (size 6). They were able to locate one in the Bridgewater store. She then asked to purchase it over the phone using her credit card and to have it shipped to her in laws who live in Pennsauken, NJ. Loehmanns refused, as a matter of policy. No matter how much she begged, they refused. So she asked me to go and get it. They would only old it for 24 hours. So, I went and picked it up. Now, you should know that when I saw the gown it set off in me a flurry of insecurity about mine. Why? Because her gown was gold and glitter and really pretty and she is a size 6!! My gown is brown and not glittery or shiny and I am a size 14! Anyway, even though I was feeling insecure about this and was thinking that maybe I will find a different gown, I happened to spy a pair of shoes that I thought would be perfect for my new brown gown. They were a pump style with a peek toe and a rather high heel. But there was a 1/2 inch platform under the ball fo the shoo so it actually was wearable, and comfortable. The shoes have a cushioned innersole. They were rather inexpensive so I purchased them.

Forward to the sweater purchase. When I got home I tried on my gown, over the crinoline, with the new sweater, shoes and bag. It is PERFECT!! All I need now is a pair of earrings.

Mission almost completely accomplished...

Friday, September 7, 2007

Mission Possible, Gown found!

Mazal Tov! I finally found a gown that I really like. And, I did not break the bank in doing so. I did not even come close! So, the gown I finally decided on is the brown one with the full sweeping skirt, pictured in my last post.

In my last post I left off just before I would be going to a gemach in Fair Lawn. I went, looked, saw nothing. And I would never recommend this gemach to anyone. I nearly threw up when I went in. This house is a pig sty. Enough said. I then went to a gemach in Englewood. This is a nice gemach, with a nice, albeit small selection of nice gowns and dresses. And the person who runs the gemach is very sweet and nice and helpful and REAL. But she did not have anything for me at that time. She would call me the next day, though and tell me she had something and I did go again for a look-see. It was nice and the right style for me but it did not fit me right. This is a really good gemach owner!

Subsequent to that I went to a gemach in Boro Park. This gemach had literally several hundred gowns. The interesting thing about this gemach is that all of the gowns were either made or ordered especially for the gemach. These were not hand me downs, altho there were several of those interspersed throughout. Also, most of these gowns were thick and heavy -- like armor! I really do not understand why, in the name of tznius a gown must be thick and heavy like armor. If a gown covers the collarbone and the elbows and the knees, and is not clingy or sheer -- isn't that good enough? Must it also weigh a ton and protect you from the slings of imaginary arrows? For a woman like myself, who is HOT all the time, these are completely impossible gowns to wear. Needless to say, I had no luck here.

The next day, instead of eating lunch, I visited the "Bridal Building" -- 1385 B'way, NYC. Everyone told me to go there. So, first I researched it: I found their website online and then called them. I was told that for sure I could find MOB gowns there and plenty of them as it is two floors of gown wholesalers who are willing to sell to the general public. So, off I went, expecting to spend some time browsing the hundreds of gowns there. Well, I arrived and went upstairs -- and almost all of the spaces there were EMPTY! There were only four wholesalers still there -- and they had pitiful little to offer. I asked where everyone had gone and was told that there had been a disagreement with the bldg mgmt and thus many had taken flight -- some to Bklyn, some to other places in Manhattan and some to Queens. Crap! I forwent my lunch for that???

Upon returning to my office after that fiasco I decided to call a store in Teaneck that sells gowns -- Mishelyne's. I asked about their hours: 9:30 AM - 6 PM. No late weeknights and no Sundays. Grrr! They cater to NON working women, obviously. Anyway, I snuck out of work early, in the hopes of making it to their shop before they closed. I got there at just after 5:30 PM. They do have a nice selection of gowns and I tried on four. Only one was ok, but I would have to order it in my size and color and it takes at least 12 weeks to arrive and then there are fittings, and I am committed to it. I decided to "think" about it.

I went home and found that two of the gowns that I had ordered from Zaftique that had been backordered had arrived. I eagerly ripped open the box and tried them on. The purple one looked TERRIBLE on me and it was NOT a gown -- it only came to my mid calf. The brown one, mentioned above, looked nice. But it needed a little something, it was kind of plain.

So, I played around with it. I put on a crinoline under it (a moderate A line crinoline, not very poufy, just enough to give the skirt a little flare). That was better. But, it needed more. I took it off—and put it on again: this time over SPANX (support underwear), a really good bra, and a slightly sheer brown long sleeve top to make it more tznius, and the crinoline. Ok, it was getting better. Then I found this brown, slightly iridescent crocheted oblong lace scarf/shawl that I had and played with it. I finally draped it in such a way that from the front it looks like a lacy jacket and from the back a u shaped drape. I put on a brooch and voila, I had a beautiful gown. Of course the scarf will need to be sewn into place. It really looks nice. And it is VERY comfortable. And it is very ME. And, it only cost me $139!!! (Not including the crinoline or the sewing of the scarf onto the dress).

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Mission Impossible: buy a machatenista gown!

So, today I spent the day with my mother "shopping" for a gown to wear to my daughter's wedding. This was not my first foray into the world of gown shopping. First, a few things to understand: my choices are very limited: limited by my size and shape, limited by my budget, and limited by the constraints of tzniyus: The gown must not show any cleavage, it must come to the neck, it must have sleeves and the sleeve length must be at least 3/4 length, it cannot be backless, it cannot be see-through, it cannot have high leg baring slits. Additionally, I had hoped to purchase a gown in the color champagne or gold. So...limited we are.
I began my gown search, on the internet. With my limited time and resources I thought this might be a good way to find a nice gown. I began, first, on eBay. It so happens that I do most of my clothing shopping on eBay anyway and so am a seasoned, veteran "eBayer". I know how to shop that way. Unfortunately, what I want or need has not been available -- certainly not meeting all the criteria listed above.
Then, I started looking at the online "stores" selling gowns. I found a few options that seemed do-able - at least via the pictures. The first gown I saw that I really liked was this one:

The color is champagne and even though it was not perfectly tzniyus I figured a good seamstress could fix that for me. It was also quite reasonably priced at $250. So, I placed the order. It arrived and I tried it on. Basically, it fit me, although it would have needed some nipping and tucking in the chest area, and of course a lining at the top to make it tzniyus. It looked good from the front and from the rear, but from the sides it looked AWFUL. So, I returned it.
Then I decided to peruse the gowns that were available at the place where Chloe bought her wedding gown. These are really not the kind of gowns that I normally go for. However, there were three that I thought were possibilities. They have been backordered since I placed the order, but I learned this past Thursday that 2 of them became available and had shipped. I expect to get them on Tuesday. The three of those gowns are:







This gown, the brown one with the full sweeping skirt is my favorite of these three -- at least in the pictures. I will not know how any of them look on me until I receive them.


I also discovered http://www.rkbridal.com/ and actually visitied their "showroom/warehouse" in the city. It is really conveniently located one block away from the Port Authority. I had hoped to see a very specific gown when I went there but they did not have it in stock. I can order it but if I do, I am committed to it. I find that really odd, to be honest. This is a stock design, in a stock fabric, in a stock color, in a standard size. It is not custom made in the least. That I have to commit to it in order for them to order it for me, is BS, as far as I am concerned. However, here is a picture of that gown:




As you can see, this gown is perfect in that it meets much of my criteria: it is 100% tzniyus without having to have a seamstress make it that way. The downside to it is that it is only available in three colors: Cranberry (shown), Brown (rich dark chocolate brown), or Silver Blue (a pale icy periwinkle color). I sent a copy of this picture to my machatenus and asked for her input. I thought it might be too dressy. However she said it was not too dressy, it is beautiful and she suggested the cranberry as being the best color to buy.

The thing is I have to order it without having tried it on -- so that makes me a bit nervous. Also, it takes 12-14 weeks to get it -- and I am so much more into immediate gratification!

Thus, before I actually order it I must see the gowns from Zaftique (the three above pictured ones, plus I must investigate the gemachs in my area (Monsey, Teaneck, Fair Lawn). To that end, I went to gemachs in Monsey with my mother. Most of the gemachs we went to had very little in my size, my color, or my budget. Only one, actually had a good selection of gowns, albeit not in the color I wanted. This was the last gemach I went to. It turned out that the woman who runs that gemach is the sister of someone I know who lives in Teaneck! Anyway, I tried on about 8 different gowns there. Most of the gowns looked awful on me. One of the gowns was an Alex Evenings gown that has the feel of a Spencer Alexis outfit -- very romantic and vintage-y style. And, it was champagne. But it just looked ho hum on me. Another gown, one that I really liked was a burgundy/black gown, with a high empire waist. It was a burgundy underdress with a sheer black overdress. It was a loose empire style with a high v-neck. I really liked it, it was comfortable. and would have needed minimal alterations. It was $400 as is the dress from RKBridal. But my mother feels it is not an appropriate dress for a machatenista. It is too "young" looking. She hated it. So, for now, I have deferred to her -- but I might change my mind, we shall see. The last gown I tried on was really way out of my price range but we kept coming back to it as a really perfect gown for me so I decided to just put it on to see how it looks. It was a sort of muted lilac underdress, with a sheer navy overdress, with gunmetal beads from the neck to the toes, fully beaded with long sleeves. Despite being so heavily beaded, it was not a heavy dress. I slipped it on and it was PERFECT for me. It needed minimal alterations (nip and tuck in breast area, and slight shortening). BUT....it was priced at $1100!!! How nice it would be to be wealthy...

So, now, tonight, I am going to go to Fair Lawn to look at some more gowns at a gemach there. I will report later on that experience.










Friday, August 31, 2007

Shabbat Higiyah!






It is now Erev Shabbat. I was really looking forward to a nice QUIET Shabbat, but I am a little nervous too. We have not seen most of our friends and shulmates for most of the summer. This is actually very usual for us since we go upstate every Shabbat in the summer. And this past summer was NUTTY!

We began the summer with going to Israel during the last week of June for two weeks. We went to see our brand new granddaughter, Chaya Leah. She is the first one! And, she is SO cute.



Here are some pictures of her:



We also took care of her while her mommy went back to school to finish out for the year and take her finals. While we were there, I made Shabbat both Shabbatot we were there, and made a kiddush for al ltheir friends. Also, while we were there, Chloe announced her engagement to Jonathan -- and so we made an engagement party for them as well. So, while it was a nice visit, it was certainly not a relaxing visit. At one point I was supremely annoyed: the floor in their apt was filthy so Barry took it upon himself to clean it. He actually was down on his hands and knees scrubbing the floor. And Gedaliah just sat there watching him. That made my blood boil! He should have, at the very least, been helping him!

Anyway, after 2 weeks there, we returned to the States. A half a week later, my brother and his family (5 kids) descended from LA. Then, a week after that Chloe came. Then, a half a week after that, my sister and her family (4 kids) arrived from Israel. Chloe's new in-laws to be were also here in the States. We decided to make a kiddush in honor of the engagement and I had everyone over by me for that Shabbat: four of our girls, a couple of their friends, my parents, Chloe's in laws to be and three of their kids, Joel and his family, Phyllis and her family, and friends of ours, the Cottrells. Then, the Sunday following that Shabbat we made the 5oth Anniv party for my parents, and had about 100 people there. After the party, people began to leave. In the midst of all this, though it was discovered that one of my sisters kids had head lice. And so I had to do laundry, strip the beds, spray everything, do head checks, comb outs, etc. -- and I certainly did not need all this extra work at this time. First my brother and his family left, and then Phyllis and her family left and then Zahava left to go to Israel for her Shana B'Aretz. Then, Tzippy and Gedaliah came in with the baby and they were here for 2 weeks. Chloe left a week and a half after they came here. Now, they are also gone and Rivky left for Johns Hopkins this morning. The only one left is Devorah. And I expect things to settle down now.

Have to go light candles.

Shabbat Shalom.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

R & R, Goodbyes

This past Shabbat was the most relaxing Shabbat I have had in months. We went up to the mountains, just Barry and me. Initially, during the week, planning for the weekend I was a little bit sad, hurt, and even angry. I was upset because we had not had the opportunity to really have Tzippy and Gedaliah over to our house. Oh, yes, they SLEPT here for two nights, but that was it. The first night they went out to dinner with a friend of Gedaliah's and the second night they went to Sheva Brachot -- which just happened to be held at Tzippy's mom's house (and ostensibly, it was a "kids only" Sheva Brachot, so we had not been invited). When Talia heard (from Chloe) that I was feeling "left out" she invited us but I declined because I felt funny about it. Anyway, this past Shabbat Tzippy and Gedaliah were with Naomi and David. They did spend the prior Shabbat with us, but it was up in the mountains and thats really being with Barry's parents. Additionally, Gedaliah's mom and grandma and sis in law stayed by Naomi as well. And, furthermore, I heard that Peggy and Art Cottrell had been invited for Shabbat lunch. I kind of thought that Naomi should have at the very least asked us if we would like to join them for dessert, after lunch. She did not do that and I toyed with the idea of pushing it on her. But then, I realized that Barry did not really want that so we decided to forget about that and simply go upstate.

The biggest plus to going upstate was that his sister Karen and her family would be there too and we would thus be able to finally meet little Rena Bracha, the newest addition to our family. She is so tiny and so cute. I love holding her. I love holding Chaya Leah also, which I did as much as I could this afternoon.

At the bungalow colony, it was VERY HOT and HUMID on Shabbat. I spent almost the whole day just sitting in a lounge chair, in the shade of a tree, reading, napping, schmoozing, and only getting up when I needed a drink or to use the bathroom. I did not walk around, or be social, except with my own family. I read a whole book, cover to cover: "Sons of Fortune" by Jeffrey Archer. It is a novel about twin brothers who are separated at birth, and what happens over the course of their lives and how they intersect. It was very well written and kept me "on the edge of my seat". I highly recommend it. When Shabbat was over we watched a movie, "The Prestige". This too, was an excellent and interesting film. It is the story of two magicians and their rivalry with one another. I recommend this as well.

We left early this morning to get home with enough time to prepare a BBQ buffet for everyone: Tzippy and Gedaliah and Chaya, Karen and co., Naomi and David, Devorah and Ethan, and Rivky. We served hotdogs, hamburgers, wings, and even turkey steaks. All supplemented by salsa, chips, guacamole, a large selection of condiments, corn on the cob, baked beans, sauerkraut, and veggie kabobs. Gedaliah was def appreciative, since he does not get this much nor this good meat in Israel. It is either too expensive or simply not available.

A good time was had by all.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Lirkod

Ok, so now, about the dance thing. I love to dance. I have ALWAYS loved to dance. Even though I am HOH and use HA's, I have always been able to pick out a beat and move my body to it. So, as young child I recognized that. And so I asked my mom to allow me to take dance lessons. Response? I was given a Baton and sent to learn to twirl a baton. Ugh. (Although that would be the closest I would ever come to dance lessons...). Again, I continued to ask for dance lessons. Response? I was given a violin and sent for violin lessons. Ugh #2. Again, I continued to ask for dance lessons. Response? My parents bought an old upright piano and brought in some old geezer to give me piano lessons. Ugh #3. (It was nuts, I mean, I can pick up the beat but I cannot for the life of me pick out notes!!!). Again, I continued to ask for dance lessons. Response? My parents bought me a cheap guitar and had it re-strung so I could learn to play it left handedly, and sent me for lessons at some weirdo's house. Ugh #4. (I still couldn't pick out notes so forget playing by ear!!!) But I could dance.

When I was in HS, a teacher of mine, who had a daughter my age, opened up a folk dancing "club" as an after school activity. I joined it and I LOVED it -- and then I turned my ankle hard and thus was unable to complete the year out in the club -- and then it fell apart. I also remember having attended a few school dances, and being surrounded by all the black kids who wanted to learn my moves. I was a white chick with rhythm!!!

It was not until years later that I was able to claim my dance personality. At age 21, began going to Folk Dance nights in Woodstock. I learned Bulgarian, Turkish, Greek, Yugoslavian, Israeli dances and I LOVED it. A few years after that I took a class in belly dancing. Then I learned Contra and Square Dancing, and then Swing Dancing (Lindy, Jitterbug, Rockabilly, West Coast Swing and more), then other ballroom dances, and then Cajun and Zydeco Dancing. I also learned a basic Western Two Step. Finally, I began attending West African Dance classes given by Carol Dowd at the Mountain View Studio in Woodstock, NY. I was good at all the dances I attempted. I even gave some performances with other friends of mine who also danced. It was a heady time for me back then. I was so active -- I danced several nights most weeks, worked out at gym a few days a week, went on long, strenuous hikes, swam, and even my job was physically demanding.

Eventually, the activity took its toll on me. It caused my arthritis to flare up at a young age. I had no chance to avoid it -- all my grandparents have it and my father as well. Then, in 1996 I slipped on a freshly waxed floor at my place of employment. There were no warning signs or stanchions, so I did not know the floor was wet with wax. I went flying and landed on my lower back. It took me about a year to "recover" -- but to this day I occasionally feel blips of discomfort or pain in my lower back. Most of that is due to arthritis and damp, cold weather exacerbating it (when I go upstate to the mountains for a weekend).

After my back injury almost all my activity stopped. I was no longer able to do all that I used to and I have never ever gotten back to that level of activity. My arthritis got worse, I got older, and I gained weight. I still love to dance but if I spend one night dancing I will be in pain all the next day (knees and hips, mostly).

So, basically, that's my dance story...

Beit Sefer Tichon

So, I DID say I would write about High School. The problem is, there is not too much to write. I coasted through high school without ever really learning anything. I remained active in my shul youth group. I remained a social outcast.

Ok, a few things.

I became close friends with Rose Blas. Rose was actually two years younger than me, and we would only share one year together in high school at the same time. We became friends, really, because she totally looked up to me. She loved the way I dressed and she wanted to learn from me how to dress well. She also thought I was cool (little did she know) and it was cool simply having a close friend who was 'older'. We used to go shopping together all the time. Shopping is not actually correct...Window Shopping is more like it. We drove the salespeople nuts. We would descend on a store and proceed to try on half the store. And we always left the dressing rooms a mess. This was before big box retailing -- each store was small, locally owned, and security measures to prevent shoplifting had not yet changed the face of retailing.

She and I also attended TLS together. TLS stands for Torah Leadership Seminar. These were usually 3-4 day seminars, over Shabbat, organized and run by Yeshiva University. TLS was designed to introduce non-relgious young Jews to religious Judaism and Shabbat. In truth, they were brainwashing sessions: we were kept up and got little to no sleep, we were kept in a state of hyperactivity -- roused to "spiritual excitement" with constant singing and emotional stories, etc., fed awful food so we barely ate -- all the while being bombarded with how wonderful it is to be religious and to keep Kosher and to keep Shabbat. Well -- it worked. Many students who attended these TLS events, are today, religious Jews. (A sort of outgrowth of this type of kiruv [outreach] has been the establishment of the organization NJOP -- National Jewish Outreach Program.)

I remember, I had already attended one TLS event and loved it and had convinced Rose that she would also enjoy it. She asked her parents if she could go and her father, who ran a little dictatorship in his household said no. I think his main objection was the cost. So, she asked me to convince him. So, I, at age 15, was to convince a grown man, a father and businessman, to allow his 13 year old daughter to attend TLS with me, and to spend about $118 dollars in doing so. I went to her house to speak with him. His main objection (at least what he told me) was that he did not believe that we wanted to go to TLS because we wanted to learn about our Jewish heritage. He believed that the real reason we wanted to go was because there were cute boys there -- and we were boy crazy! My response? "Ok, so, what if that is true? What if the real reason we want to go is because there are cute boys there? At least they are Jewish. We will be meeting and socializing with Jewish boys. Isn't that preferable to meeting and socializing with non - Jewish boys?" * He told me he liked my "shpiel" (sales pitch)-- and he let Rose attend TLS with me.

I also sort of introduced dance to Rose. In truth, Rose had always been a dancer. She had taken ballet lessons, tap dance lessons, and Jazz lessons. I had never taken any of those lessons (more about that in another entry). But I had a good feel for rhythm and in my last year of HS would go to disco's and dance clubs with a friend of mine, Lou Kogon. He taught me how to hustle and I loved it. Then, toward the end of my last year in HS, which would also be my last year in USY, we had a "senior" USY dance for all the outgoing members. I invited Rose to attend and also my friend Lou, who was a year older and had been an outgoing member in the prior year. Well, the band started up and Lou and I took to the floor. Now, bear in mind, I was still a social outcast, in spite of being active in the group and on the board of the group. No one at this event had ever seen me dance. When Lou and I began dancing, everyone else stopped. We were that good. We danced three dances like that. At the end of the third dance, we stopped and all of a sudden I was mobbed! Rose especially was entranced and said that she had no idea I could dance like that. Rose and I and Lou left the dance after that. Later, my mother (who had been there as a chaperone and witnessed the whole thing) would tell me how great it was and that everyone was watching me with their mouths open -- they could not believe that this person who was the social outcast, who could not hear, could dance like that. And when I left, I left them all with this amazing picture in their mind of me and who I was -- that they would never forget! It was great for me!

Rose and I remained close friends throughout most of my high school years. In my last year of high school, I began to change a bit, and Rose also knew that I would be leaving for Israel after HS -- and we began pulling away from each other a bit. We were still friends, but we shared less than we had in the past.

After I left HS, and went to Israel, Rose sort of picked up where I left off. She became friends with Carlos Roncancio. He was also a dancer and she and Carlos began going to disco's and dance clubs. This was against her father's wishes. One night she and Carlos were to compete in a dance contest at one of the clubs. She snuck out of the house, and went to the club with Carlos and his sister Anna. They danced in the contest and they won. In the meantime, her parents discovered her missing and her sister, JoEllen told them where she was. So, they called the club, and asked that they hold her there. However, the club realized that they were underage and instead simply warned Rose and Carlos and Anna that Rose's parents were on their way over. So they left the club. Rose's parents went to the club but it took a really long time to get there due to a terrible car accident that had occurred. They passed the accident on the way there. Of course, when they got to the club, Rose and her friends wee gone. So, they went home, passing this accident again. Upon returning home they learned the horrible news that Rose and her boyfriends sistter Anna, had been killed in a car accident -- the very same one which they had twice passed.

I was in Israel during all this and had no idea of any of this. My parents were afraid to tell me, lest I demand to come home for the funeral -- and they really could not afford that. So, they did not tell me. I learned later, that hundreds of people attended Rose's funeral. The driver who killed her and Anna, had been drunk, the son of a well respected local doctor. He did no jail time, nor were any major fines levied. This was in 1979, long before DWI became treated as a real crime.

A week after Rose's funeral, her father went into the hospital for some routine surgery, I think something to do with a hernia. My mother went to visit him and she could see that he was depressed. He said he was worried about the surgery but my mother who knew about it explained how it was routine and what they would do and that he would be fine. Sy (that was his name) died on the operating table. My mother was the last non medical person to see him alive.

To this day, I cannot fathom the depths of misery that Mildred, Rose's mother must have felt, to bury her husband one week after having buried a child! How awful that must have been.

When I returned to the States from Israel, about two manths after all this had happened, it took my parents almost two weeks before they sat me down to tell me what had occurred in my absence. I was devastated. It took me several months before I felt I could go see Mildred.

Ok, I am sorry for the maudlin story. Life goes on, and so life went on.

More later...

* A word of explanation to non Jews: This was not considered discrimination or prejudice, at least not in a negative way. For religious and traditional Jews there is a strong desire and established law (for those who follow it) that we are to marry only Jews. Thus, Jewish parents, even those who were not religious back then, want their children to meet other Jewish peers. This pull is not as strong among non religious Jews today as it was back then.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Sephard? Ivrit!

Upon entering ninth grade each student had to select a foreign language to learn. Three were offered: Spanish, French, and German. I selected Spanish.

My Spanish teacher was Senor Benedict. He had a very heavy Spanish accent, spoke through his nose, had a raspy voice, and constantly covered his mouth while speaking. Of course, this was definitely not conducive to my learning. As a result, my grades in Spanish class were dismal.

My counselor at school asked my parents to come in for a conference. I remember my counselor: he was very effeminate, and wore an awful hairpiece. I was also present for the conference. The subject of the meeting: my Spanish class grades. My Spanish teacher was also present.

Senor Benedict told my parents that "Shelly does not have a hearing problem -- she just does not pay attention in class nor does she do any studying..." Of course, my parents did not take too kindly to his belittling of my disability. The fact that he covered his mouth and that he mumbled alot was of no consequence according to him!

Anyway, it was finally decided (with my parents not in agreement...) that I could never learn a foreign language and thus the requirement for a foreign language in order to matriculate with a NYS Regents diploma would be waived. And so...I did not learn any foreign language while I was in HS.

Later, several years later, I would spectacularly prove them wrong about me! Keep reading...

I will jump ahead to after I graduated HS and I went to Israel. I will return, later, to my HS years, but for now, this story is too good to leave until later.

After HS, I went to Israel for a year on a program called Hachshara, run by an organization -- Bnei Akiva. It was a program in which we would spend a year on a kibbutz in Israel, learning about Kibbutz life, Israel, and other religious studies as well.

For the first month we were there we stayed at Bar Ilan University and participated in ulpan - and intensive study of the Hebrew language. It was only for one month so I did not progress too much. I then went to stay on Kibbutz Yavne with a large group of other American students. Now, the majority of those students all had much stronger religious education backgrounds than I had -- most had attended either Yeshivot or Hebrew Day Schools. Additionally, they were able to learn the language passively, simply by overhearing. I could not do that -- I had to learn actively and there were no lessons being given on the kibbutz.

Furthermore, I had an idiot for a madrich (counselor). He told me that because I could not hear, I could never be a teacher, I could never do this or do that, etc. Now, my parents had raised me to believe that I could do anything, should I set my mind to do so -- what he was telling me was so completely new and unheard of to me! And I really did not believe him. But I knew I needed to get away from him and that I needed to learn Hebrew.

I learned, through some other students also on the program, who also needed to learn Hebrew, that a new ulpan was starting up at a different Kibbutz, up north in Bet Shean. It was to be at Kibbutz Shluchot, which was also a Dati (religious) Kibbutz. They were going to go there and I decided that I, too, wanted to go. So, I arranged a day off from my work at Kibbutz Yavne, and went into Tel Aviv to the offices of the Jewish Agency and I arranged to also attend this new ulpan on Kibbutz Shluchot. They took the monies that my parents had paid to Bnei Akiva to pay for that.

The next day I called my parents. Now, you have to remember: this was in 1977 -- there was no internet, no email, or instant messaging, and no cell phones. I had to use a pay phone, with ASIMONIM (Israeli phone tokens), and a long distance call back then was VERY expensive. This call would be one of only 4 calls I made overseas in two years!!! Anyway, I called my parents to let them know what I was doing. My mothers' response was funny. She said, " Well, Rachel, I do not know what to tell you to do. You are there and we are here". To which I replied, "I am not asking you what to do, I am telling you this is what I am doing". There was SILENCE on the other end of the line!! And then my mother recovered and wished me the best.

It was the best decision I could have made. I attended that ulpan for nine months. I became and excellent speaker of the Hebrew language. I spoke so well, that I was frequently mistaken for an Israeli, not an American! At the end of the nine months, I returned to Kibbutz Yavne to visit. I spoke with the idiot Madrich. I spoke Hebrew with him, but he kept responding in English. And that bothered me so I asked him to please speak Hebrew with me.

Then, I went back to the States -- for a short visit. I had decided to return to Israel for a Shana Bet (second year). However, while I was back in the States, I went back to my Alma Mater HS...and asked to be allowed to take the four year Hebrew Regents exam. At first I was told I could not, that I should have done that while I was still in HS. I fought that because I explained that my not having learned a foreign language in HS was not my choice-- it was forced on me. So then, they agreed, but said it would be impossible to do it because they had no teachers who spoke Hebrew to administer the exam. I then introduced them to a woman, Tami Bernat. Ms. Bernat happened to be an Israeli, living in Kingston, NY, who was a Hebrew linguist!!! She could administer the exam for me. Then, the school argued that a four year Hebrew exam would be too hard for me as I had only been in Israel for one year and maybe I should just take the two year Hebrew Regents exam. But I said no, I wanted to take the four year Hebrew Regents exam. And so I did. I finished with a grade in the high 90's. Ms. Bernat was so impressed with me -- she said that she could see that I "thought" in Hebrew -- which was absolutely true. And so, in this way, I thumbed my nose at both the idiot counselor I had in ninth grade and the idiot counselor I had on Kibbutz Yavne...Ani M'daberet Ivrit Metsuyenet!!!