Thursday, May 29, 2008

Help! Ants! - and a bit of this and that

Ever since my husband and I moved into the little house where we currently live, we've been having a problem with ants. They are simply everwhere - in our kitchen sink; in our bathroom; even in our dirty laundry (edit: I just found one in my keyboard)!

We've tried various chemical solutions to keep them away, but nothing has been particularly helpful. So I thought maybe one of you had to deal with ants once, and can suggest some natural remedy.

Any ideas?

***

Thank you so much for the sweet and kind comments you have left for me in the past few days. And thanks to all the dear ones who sent me emails - I've received a number of emails asking me questions, and I'm trying to keep up - I apologize if it takes some time until I can get to them all.

To those who expressed their wish to read more detailed recipes I use, and pictures of my kitchen in action - I would like to clarify that (to my deepest regret) cooking had to be kept to a minimum lately around here. With us being away from home for days at a time during the last month, and me not being exactly at the top of my well-being and energy level, we have been eating very simple meals (such as for example bread, eggs and salad of fresh vegetables). Cooking for Shabbat has been very simple as well - so I simply don't have much to show for now.

I do hope to cook more, and try new recipes, and in general be able to do more around here soon - and share with you. Thankfully I'm blessed to be the wife of a wonderful, understanding man, who doesn't raise an eyebrow when he sees some things aren't done on schedule (it's almost 6 P.M. around here, and I still have dishes from yesterday waiting in the sink) - simply because he knows it's not laziness or unwillingness to take care of our home - and who only cares about how I'm feeling and whether I get proper rest.

Tomorrow, I hope to start puttering around early, to have everything ready for Shabbat on time. I wish you all the most wonderful weekend, and hope you are all enjoying the beginning of summer (or winter - whichever part of the earth you are in).

Your friend,

Mrs. T

PS: On Friday, while cooking for Shabbat, I accidentally spilled some powdered turmeric in my kitchen sink. Haven't seen a single ant around that area since. Food for thought!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Weekly shopping and a menu plan

I received a question from a reader asking me about my typical weekly shopping list and how I plan in such a way that just the right amount of food is bought.

I don't think there's such a thing as a "typical" week in our household, because the situation is dynamic and changing constantly - for example during the last month, when my husband and I had to spend quite a lot of time away from home, it naturally meant we needed to take that into consideration and buy less food so that it wouldn't be wasted. Of course there are the few basic items such as bread, milk, eggs, and challah and wine for Shabbat, but overall I have to make a new plan for every week ahead.

My husband normally does the shopping (it's easier and cheaper if he does it on his way from work, than if I do it in the little - and very expensive - store in our area) on Thursday night, and during the day I write a shopping list and email it to my husband. In order to do that effectively, I think of what I would like to cook for Shabbat and during the week (even though Shabbat leftovers usually take us at least until Tuesday). I also check out the supplies I have at home and see what is running low, and plan accordingly.

My husband might buy something that isn't on the list if there's a very good deal for it. Also, with the prices of basic foods, even such as rice and grains, soaring throughout the world, we recently began stockpiling and bought a large amount of different products that can be stored for a long time (such as rice, beans, some canned food). It will carry us through at least a few months of not having to buy those, plus it will save us time because it's more convenient to buy and store a large amount at once than do it bit by bit every time I need a jar of canned peas.

For more information on stockpiling, check out this excellent post by Rhonda Jean, and also this post .

If you want to buy the right amount of food - not too much so it won't go to waste, and not too little so you won't have to run to the store several times a week - the best way I can think of doing it would be to plan a detailed menu and think, realistically, of what you will serve and what and how much every member of your family might eat. It will save you a lot of money and headache in the long run. It's not too bad to learn from mistakes, either - when you see that, for example, you ran out of milk early in the week, you might want to take a note to buy more milk next time.

It's also very important to see what you already have. An unorganized storage system when you don't know what goes where might eventually cost you money, like it happened to me last week when I forgot I already have cucumbers and bought some more. This sad story ended in throwing away a pile of cucumbers that went bad - a lesson for me to be more organized.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Today's simple blessings

Be warned! I feel this is going to be a slightly eclectic and rambling post...

Today I felt a sudden urge to call a dear old friend I hadn't talked to in ages, thinking we might get together as I was passing through her town and could make a stop. During the conversation I realized I forgot to congratulate her on her birthday, which was yesterday! My cheeks burning with shame, I immediately suggested we go somewhere to celebrate - a rare treat for both of us. We had a lovely lunch out (split a dish and were as full as could be).

After lunch we browsed through some shops, among them one with supplies for babies and toddlers. Seeing the prices, I said to myself, no wonder people claim having children is expensive! It certainly will be, if we buy everything ready-made and brand-new, without thinking of creative solutions. I doubt babies need the latest style of clothes, furniture and toys.

The first thing I thought of after looking through the clothes section was, how useful sewing can be! Even a few simple hand stitches could save a lot of money, I think. The prices of baby clothes, compared with how tiny they are, are absolutely ridiculous. Also, since little ones grow out of their clothes and shoes so fast, re-using them is a great option. I know I wouldn't say no to a bag of second-hand baby clothes in good condition!

... Overall I had a wonderful afternoon, and here I am, relaxing and unwinding, counting the simple blessings of today:
- My husband's smile in the morning, and encouraging words to help me start my day;
- The ability to enjoy good food, good conversation, and friendship;
- The sunshine, the light wind and the time and open heart to enjoy it all;

And oh! I wonder if any of you can tell who the little friend in the picture is. I caught him on camera not far from our home. It's some sort of small rodent, I guess, but I couldn't figure out which exactly - and he wouldn't let me any nearer than this.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The weekend's behind us, a new week begins...








Dear ones, I hope you all had/are having the most wonderful weekend. Ours was just as it should be - peaceful and quiet - and included plenty of rest and spending (much needed) time together with my husband. I didn't feel my best on Friday, and I must tell you that no Shabbat preparations would be completed on time if it weren't for my dear wonderful husband, who helped me clean and cook even though he was tired after a long hard week at work. I truly am one blessed woman.

I'm finally able to share some pictures from another lovely walk around where we live. What can be sweeter than going out to catch the last rays of the setting sun, and smell cool fragrant air? To me, nothing is lovelier than looking around and seeing space - just open space. Sunsets are so gorgeous in the mountains that surround us. The one you see at the bottom picture was taken by my husband on our way home - it was so beautiful he simply had to hop out of the car and take a few shots...

To everyone who asked questions about Shabbat and Judaism - I was unable to reply to most questions before Shabbat, but will try to do that now - in a rather eclectic way:

- In Orthodox synagogues, men and women sit/pray separately (usually the men in front and the women at the back, and often the women's section is elevated). This is done for purposes of modesty and to prevent men being distracted at the time of prayer.

- I don't brush my hair on Shabbat because if I do that, I might accidentally tear hairs out - which is forbidden. Thankfully my hair tends to be smooth and doesn't look that awful if I don't brush it when I get up. At least that's what my husband says, and he's the only one who sees my hair without covering these days anyway...

- We now live in a community of the kindest, most wonderful people you can possibly imagine. People invite us for Shabbat meals, and we in turn host people in our modest little home and offer what we have. Our synagogue is about five minutes walking from us.

- About the specifications of separating meat from dairy and of what kind of work is forbidden on Shabbat: these are originated in the oral Torah, which Orthodox Jews observe along with written Torah. We believe both were received at Mt. Sinai, but the oral Torah wasn't recorded in written form until much later. Non-Jews are usually familiar only with the written Torah ("Old Testament"), and therefore many Jewish laws seem unexplainable.

- We have an automatic turn off for lights in our living room. We keep the light in the bathroom on throughout Shabbat.

- A single woman lights one candle for Shabbat, and a married woman typically lights two - one for herself and one for her husband (though some light a candle for each of the children as well). As a single I used to light one candle, and my mother and grandmother each light their own candle. Candles represent letting in the light of Shabbat.

Someone also asked me about the delicate issue of Jewish family life and how it works around the woman's monthly cycle. This certainly merits a separate post, perhaps a series of posts, but I'm still at doubt whether to discuss such a sensitive matter via blogging. However, if the lady who asked the question is reading this - you can contact me by email and I will try to reply as soon as time allows.

Thank you for all your sweet comments and emails - I hope to "talk" to you again soon, dear friends, and visit some of your lovely blogs (which I greatly missed). It might take me some time to reply to all the emails - but I'm certain I'll get there eventually. A wonderful day to you!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A Jewish home

A question from a reader:
"What does the average day look like in an Orthodox Jewish home?"

I think the average day in an Orthodox Jewish home looks more or less, well, normal. *smile* - I mean that apart from prayers and blessings that are recited in the morning and before eating, there is little to tell you that you are in an Orthodox Jewish home. We do have a mezuzah in every room, but that's something more of an outward appearance than something with an influence on my daily routine.

I suppose the thing that influences my daily work most strongly is having a kosher kitchen. We have two sinks and two separate sets of pots, pans, dishes, cutlery etc, for meat and dairy dishes that we use throughout the year - and we'll need to get two more sets for next Pesach. Also, after my husband eats meat, he waits 6 hours before eating dairy (I'm vegetarian so this is irrelevant to me).

The day when you can truly notice that we are Orthodox Jews is Shabbat, which lasts from sunset on Friday until about an hour after that time on Saturday. During that time, no cooking or cleaning or, indeed, any job that isn't connected with serving food or setting the table, is done. And of course, no driving, or lighting fire, or turning lights on or off, or even writing or brushing my hair! We can take advantage of electric appliances that were turned on before Shabbat (for example, lights or air conditioner), but cannot for example change the temperature program during Shabbat.

This means that all our laundry and cleaning must be done, and all food prepared before Shabbat. The shopping is usually done on Thursday night. I normally try to split the work in two and do part of it on Thursday (for example cleaning, baking, ironing fresh shirts for my husband, laundry) and part of it on Friday morning (cooking, more cleaning). Our food is kept warm on a hot plate throughout Shabbat.

Right before Shabbat I light two candles (one for me, one for my husband - I used to light just one as a single woman), and we go to synagogue and later have a nice dinner together. Meals on Shabbat are fancier than normal, and since everything is so still and quiet, we have all the time in the world to just sit and enjoy our time together. Definitely my favorite day of the week, so refreshing and relaxing. I realize that someone who isn't an Orthodox Jew doesn't often spend an entire day without car, cell phone, or computer. Some think it's "boring", but I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world!

(Sometimes people ask us, "so what do you actually do during Shabbat?" - answer: we read; we pray; we walk; we eat in a slow, leisurely way; it's something that looks extraordinary in the pace of modern world, but I'm so thankful it's an integral part of Jewish life!)

I hope this satisfies your curiosity a bit. :-) If you have any more questions, or want me to elaborate on something, you are welcome to ask!

... It's around 10 AM here, and my husband just went off to work not long ago (a bit late today), so I have the time to have a leisurely cup of coffee myself. Normally my morning routine begins earlier, but I don't mind being a little late today since I know my husband will return later as well, which means I can easily accomplish everything necessary, even with quite a bit of rest.

I don't think I will have the chance to post tomorrow, so I wish everyone a wonderful weekend and a blessed and peaceful Shabbat.

Mrs. T

PS: I can't access the comment form, but to the lady who asked whether it's possible to care for small children during Shabbat: of course! As you maybe know Orthodox Jews tend to have big families and it's not like we take a day off from caring about small children. :-) It's entirely permitted to feed or clothe a baby, change a diaper etc, during Shabbat. The idea is not doing any creative work - as a sign of recognition that our Creator rested on the day of Shabbat.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The courage in coming home

Hello there, dear ones. I hope you are all having a lovely day. Mine has been wonderful so far, even though my energy levels, it seems, reached an all-time low due to the heat. I only got out today once, to do some errands, and the waves of heat quickly shooed me back inside. I hope it will get cooler later in the day, as evening creeps nearer, and then maybe I will be able to take a walk along with my faithful little camera - and later share some part of the day's beauty with you (as soon as I get to upload the pictures to the computer).

I've been thinking today about how many women want nothing more than to come home and be with their families, but are stopped by the fears that have been so deeply ingrained in us; the fear of missing out on something important by not having a "real job" outside the home - a necessary condition to be happy and fulfilled, as we have been told; he fear of our husbands losing their job and being unable to provide for a while; the fear of feeling bored and unproductive since there is "nothing to do at home".

Yesterday I met a young woman who works 4 jobs part-time because she can't bear to spend even a couple of hours at home while she is awake. "There is nothing to do!" - she claims. Yet anyone who takes a productive part in a household knows there is much to do - and what about simply enjoying the beauty of life? If the entire family is constantly on the go, who will provide the refreshment our soul so badly needs?

Being a homemaker means you enjoy many more freedoms. You can take advantage of the lovely weather outside, and go for a walk in between household tasks, instead of being confined to a chair in an office. Your little realm, your home, is yours to rule.

It also means you can take things easy when you are ill or pregnant, without having to make excuses and without fearing you might lose your job. When you or your little ones (if you are a mother) aren't feeling well, you can spend the day relaxing and recuperating, reading a book to your children, or doing crafts.

When you need some rest, you don't have to try and prove to your boss that you have the right to feel weak and nauseated (and therefore less productive) while pregnant, or exhausted after getting up several times at night to nurse a baby, or simply tired and sick when you are tired or sick.

There are many more things I would like to say, but it's time to tend to the joys and tasks of this little particular household: there are dishes to be washed, shopping lists to be written, and errands to be done. Later I think I will take an advantage of being able to rest and relax, and I'll try to catch a nap so that I'm all rested and refreshed by the time my husband comes home.

"Talk" to you soon - warmly, your friend

Mrs. T

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Settle for less?

Following a link from LAF, I found this article. The author, a 40-year-old woman who ended up having a child on her own because the clock was ticking and there wasn't a potential husband around, warns us to be realistic in our romantic pursuits and "settle for less".

Yet I disagree with this definition. I believe you can be realistic - and not settle for less, but have the best you deserve. You just need to define what is truly important in the long run. Looking for Mr. Perfect isn't included in "the best", in my humble opinion. None of us is flawless, so why do we expect the perfect man, the perfect romance?

When my husband and I were getting to know each other, and started talking about marriage, he confessed to me how tired he is of women who expect to be swept off their feet on the first date. They want a masculine hero, but also someone gentle and sensitive who would understand them without even having to talk. Someone with just the right background, education, and looks. If "chemistry" doesn't hit like a lightning, they won't give a second chance.

On my first date with my beloved husband, I didn't feel any blinding attraction. It didn't happen on the second date either. Only after a few times of seeing each other I started noticing how special he is, and gradually found myself more and more attracted to him. When I accepted his proposal, I didn't love him the way I do now - but something in my heart told me I'm going to fall in love.

I knew I'm marrying a hard-working man with a heart of gold; I knew our goals were compatible (we both wanted an observant Orthodox Jewish home, a traditional family, and a simple life), and our personalities almost frighteningly alike. Not that my husband isn't handsome and charming and interesting - he is all that and more - only those weren't the crucial factors in our decision to marry.

My point is that you shouldn't settle for less and marry someone who obviously isn't right for you. Never, under any circumstances, I would suggest marrying a man who deceives you, treats you badly, or is totally incompatible with your life goals (for example, he doesn't want children while you do). Only I'm afraid that dreams of a dazzling romance with Mr. Perfect might leave an entire generation of women unmarried for much, much longer than necessary. Let's admit it: if you are realistic when you are young, chances are high that you will marry a good, hard-working, and decent-looking man. The older you get, the narrower the dating pool becomes. When you hit 35 and are still single, you just might marry someone - anyone - simply because the desire for marriage and children becomes so overwhelming.

Not that it's impossible to marry later in life and be very, very happy. For some, that's the Lord's plan, and there have been older singles throughout history - only in our generation, their number has increased dramatically. Generally speaking, I believe it is better to spend our most productive years investing in what will truly matter in years to come - a home, a marriage, a family. It isn't "settling". It's having the best.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Being attractive for our husbands

If you haven't read this excellent post already, go ahead and take a look. Mrs. Parunak describes in a beautiful way the importance of being attractive and seductive for our husbands, just as it is important to express modesty and chastity towards the rest of the world.

I've been married less than two months, and love my husband dearly, but sometimes I'm completely wiped out from daily work. In addition, my husband works very hard and there are days when he comes home so late at night that we both need to struggle to keep ourselves awake and spend some time together - which, we both realize, is a very important habit to form if we want to achieve long-lasting closeness and intimacy.

Our media paints men as hardened and insensitive, but in my opinion, nothing could be further from the truth. A husband takes off all defenses with his wife, and constant rejection or neglect from her part might eventually make him feel bitter and unappreciated.

Life isn't a Hollywood movie, and there are many things that can make you feel anything but sexy. You might be, for example, pregnant and suffering from nausea and a low energy level; distracted by the demands of small children and running a household; simply feeling unwell, physically or emotionally; or all of the above.

I'm not a mother yet, and I realize older and wiser women might have more to say from their experience, but I'm convinced there is a way to keep the fire burning and fall even more deeply in love with our husbands. How come? God intended us to be mothers and homemakers. But He also wants us to be lovers to our husbands ("rejoice with the wife of thy youth") - and since He wants both, and He wouldn't ask us to do the impossible, it means this can be done - only we need to work hard for it.

For me, it means first and foremost keeping focus: my husband is the most important person in my life, and our marriage is the most precious gift the Lord has given me. Anyone or anything that tries to convince me otherwise, or pull my heart in a different direction, is a dangerous influence and must be avoided.

When I come home, one of the first things I do is take off my head covering and let my hair fall free. I might also take off something I'm wearing (I often wear layers), and leave something shorter and/or tighter I would allow outside. I know my husband loves and enjoys it.

A godly marriage shouldn't be boring. It can be exciting, romantic, and filled with joy. There are many women out there, young and beautiful and unburdened with children and keeping a home, yet because they give bits and pieces of themselves to different men, they are unable to fully enjoy intimacy. We have an advantage of the very special freedom in the security of being wives. Let's make the most of it.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Disturbing, and how to deal with criticism

I felt I simply had to say a word or two about this article, which was sent to me by email. It talks about a woman who pretended to be infertile in order to promote her career, despite her husband's desire to have children:

"I started taking folic acid and calcium and stopped drinking alcohol. But secretly I kept taking the pill. I felt terrible but I knew that if I got pregnant now I would lose my job, I figured this was the best way to keep everyone happy.

Today I am 46 and have pretty much missed out on my chance to have children.

No job is that important. If only I'd realised this 10 years ago."

If you follow the link to read the entire article, be careful - it produced a lot of response from readers, much of it unfit for a lady, in my opinion. Many accused this woman of being a monster who ruined her husband's life, and I agree that it's truly a horrible thing to do - lie to one's husband, methodically, month after month and year after year, seeing the disappointment on his face again and again, until finally he gives up hope.

Yet I can't help but feel sorry for her. How much brainwashed and twisted education does it take to make a woman believe pregnancy is a disaster to be avoided at all costs? How terrible it must be, in her perception, that she was ready to lie to her husband, endlessly, depriving herself and her marriage of the beautiful gift the Lord could have given? How many lies must be told for a woman to think she has all the time in the world to have children - while in fact, our bodies won't remain healthy and young forever, and the clock is ticking? What a tragedy for this married couple.

***

Something else I would like to mention today - to allow us to move to brighter (and probably more interesting) matters later on - in the past weeks I received several notes from ladies who asked me how to control negative comments from anonymous readers who lurk on blogs and spill all their antagonism.

I receive my share of negative comments, and most of the time, I ignore them. At your little corner of the web, you are the one who determines what will be discussed. If you received criticism and feel it challenges you in an interesting and productive way, and you feel inclined to respond, by all means do that. If you feel your time and energy can be put to better use, don't bother. Better not let yourself be bullied into an uncontrolled public debate by argumentative anonymous visitors who say that you are weak and lacking confidence if you don't publish their comment and respond to it.

If someone thinks I'm wasting my life being "just" a wife, while my husband has a fun, exciting and much more rewarding job - they may continue to think so.
I will remain dedicated to my marriage and home (and hopefully, future children, as the Lord sees fit to bless us). And I will keep praising my husband - no, not for doing whatever he wants in the tempting and exciting world out there - but for doing his duty and working hard to provide for us.

If people decide my convictions stem from leading a sheltered and over-protected existence, and from knowing nothing different, I have no time to debate and prove otherwise. I and the regular readers of this blog know that I was exposed to dangerous influences just like any other teen in my generation; worked full time and part time since I was 16, outside and inside the home; got a university degree; sought my path; believe me, I tasted a lot of our culture's temptations - and eventually came to faith in God and to the simple desire to have a good marriage and a strong family and a sweet, peaceful home.

Some may think I'm unsuccessful since I don't seek to have more power and influence in the world than my husband.
But I have no need of that. I would much rather be a joyful helpmeet to my husband, and treat him like a king. In return he treats me like his queen. I give him my all, and he lays his life down at my feet, my knight in shiny armor who goes out every day to the battles of life, and desires nothing more than to return to a safe haven in the evening. Would I throw it all away for a fathom of independence? Not a chance.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Wedding ring poll

Oh, the thrill! This is the first (and hopefully not last) time I'm able to get online from our new home. Internet connection is somewhat feeble here, so I'm thankful for the automatic draft saving function. Also, for some reason I'm able to post and moderate comments, but I can't view my blog (or other blogger blogs, as a matter of fact) - and therefore I can only hope the new poll I added to my sidebar works and looks well.

If you take a look, you'll see it's a poll that asks how often you wear your wedding ring. My wedding ring is one of my most treasured possessions, and I rarely take it off - only during showers or when I'm doing dishes or washing the floor. During other household tasks, such as grocery shopping, doing laundry, or putting some order around the house, it usually stays on. I even keep it on when I sleep, and so does my husband with his ring. I hope my liking for it will grow even as its newness fades, just as I hope and pray my love for my husband will continue to grow and develop as years pass.

So, how often do you wear your wedding ring? Do you always keep it on? Do you sometimes or always leave it in your bedside drawer? If you want to add to what you stated in the poll, or can't find a suitable answer within the poll's options, I'd love to read your comments.

My husband hurried off to work some time ago, and after walking him to the door I sat down and had breakfast with a leisurely cup of tea, checking emails. Soon I will have to sign off and get going, as the amount of work around here seems to have piled up to something like mount Everest in the days when we have been absent.

I wish you all the most wonderful day (or night - depending on your time zone!); I also wish you all the most beautiful spring/summer (or autumn/winter - again, depending exactly where on the globe you are located). I hope to get my hands on a digital camera soon, to share some more pictures of our gorgeous surroundings. It's getting very hot around here already. Summer has always been my favorite season.

Warmly, your friend,

Mrs. Anna T

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Too much for me, or a day in my life

Like several other bloggers, I took up Jenny's offer to write about what I did today - after reading Jenny's disclaimer that I can reveal as much or as little as I like. ;-)

Just to fill you all in, this month I'm doing the Public Health part of my nutrition training program - which is, praise the Lord, the final part and will be over in two weeks. I passed my exam already. I think the knowledge I gained during my studies, while not strictly necessary, will be beneficial for taking care of my family, and perhaps I can do some counseling from home - as time allows.

This part of my studies is much less stressful than working in a hospital, and I enjoy it more, but it means that this month, my husband and I spend a lot of time away from home. And I must tell you this adds a stress. I crave the peace and quiet of being my own boss; I long for sweet lovely days filled with caring for, and improving our home. I'm so happy that in only two weeks, this race will be over - and I'm even more thrilled that my husband doesn't expect me to be the one who provides for our family.

Around here, working as a nutritionist almost always means you won't have a full-time job. Most nutritionists work part-time, and one might think that's a nice option for women, especially those with small children. However more often than not it means that they will juggle two or three jobs and lead extremely stressful lives. Again, I must say how thankful I am that my husband doesn't want any of that. One month of hopping here and there is tolerable (barely), but years and years of running around without ever being able to catch up on anything? *Shudder*

Anyway... today I had a relatively simple day. I woke a little after eight (leaving a sleepy husband in bed). We slept at my in-laws' last night, so before going out I picked up the sandwiches my mother-in-law kindly made for me and drank a cup of tea. From 9:30 until 14:30, we had studies, and later I had a doctor's appointment. After that I went to my mother's and spent some time with Grandma, and just rested and relaxed.

Soon I will sign off and we'll finally go home. There will be no studies tomorrow, so I will have a long weekend ahead of me, and two days entirely free to catch up on housework and laundry, and maybe I will even be able to do some cooking and baking for Shabbat in advance, instead of doing it all on Friday in a mad race against the setting sun.

I wish you all a lovely day and weekend and remain your friend,

Mrs. Anna T

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Answering questions...

A couple of days ago I received some questions by email about my spiritual journey and giving my life over to God, and the challenges I had to go through in the process. After replying, I thought it's interesting enough to post here.

"How did you make the shift in lifestyle? Was it uncomfortable/foreign for you to get more deeply involved at first? How did you deal with that?"

I wouldn't call what I did a "shift". Rather, it was/is a long and slow journey. There were days when I wanted to throw it all away, and there were days when I couldn't remember why I need it at all. Becoming an Orthodox Jew requires a good deal of adjustment in daily routines, as well as in spiritual outlook, and it didn't go without struggle. Uncomfortable? You bet! But at the same time, I felt this path is right for me - actually, the more difficult it got, the more right it felt. It kept me going.

"Did you miss some of the "old" activities?"

Don't get me wrong, I was never addicted to drinking and partying all night long. When I was younger, I think I did it more out of social pressure than for any other reason. However, when you realize something is forbidden, and you feel more and more restrictions being formed through your new way of life, sometimes you might have this almost unbearable desire to chuck it all out the window and just stop thinking. Yes, sometimes I wanted to go back to doing things without thinking whether this is right or wrong. Sometimes I wanted to go shopping for clothes without examining the length of skirts and sleeves, and just buy whatever flatters me. Yet, I kept reminding myself, did it make me happy to do all those things? No, not really. On the contrary, it made me feel cheap, miserable and used. So I knew, again, that I'm on the right path.

"How did you handle loved ones who have disdain for ANY religion let alone devote practice?
How about friends, which have been involved with you forever?"


Regular readers of my blog will remember that I mentioned I didn't exactly get much support from my family and friends. When you are making such a big change in your life, it is easily to be overwhelmed by the beauty and power of your new spirituality - up to the point when self-righteousness gets in your head. I must admit that in earlier days, I often found myself arguing my point - which, I now believe, is entirely useless. It's so much better when one lives as he think is right, and softly and lovingly sets an example. This has made all the difference in the world. For example, I was unable to convince my friends that my new dating practices (no touching, no being alone together) were any good. Yet seeing me glow with happiness on the day I married my husband was a more powerful message than any words I could possibly come up with.

Monday, May 12, 2008

'Hooked' again!

After a long time, I have my crochet hook back in my hands - and let me tell you, it feels good. This is my first attempt at making baby booties, and the one you see in the picture isn't quite finished, so I won't be too upset if you don't recognize it for what it's supposed to be. ;-) As it is said, practice makes perfect.

By the way, the booties aren't for me. I've always wanted to make baby things - so cute - but had no one to give them to. Now that I'm married (my husband is one of five siblings), I became an Auntie to many little ones. How fun!

I don't remember the last time I actually sat down to crochet. I just throw my current project into my bag and work on it whenever I have a spare minute - on trips, or while waiting for my husband to finish his errands. It makes time pass more quickly, and I feel more productive.

I hope your day is wonderful, and I thank you for all your lovely comments and emails. I had many interesting questions sent my way in the last couple of days, and I will try to respond as soon as time allows - thank you so much for your patience and understanding. My husband and I are having a busy week, and too many things to count await my attention, so I'd better sign off now and leave you with the warmest wishes from your friend,

Mrs. Anna T

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Healer of pain, the Giver of life

Before Pesach, my husband went to have his hair trimmed; while I was waiting for him, a man approached me and asked, pointing at two boys who were running around the place and playing while waiting for their turn, "are these kids yours?"

I blinked. The boys looked no younger than 7 or 8 years old. Since I'm 22 years old, I didn't quite know what to think – do I look old enough to have an 8-year-old, or do I look like someone who got married at the age of 14? Finally, noticing that the man wasn't even looking at me, probably out of excessive piety – the entire incident took place in one of the more Orthodox-ish places in Israel - I smiled politely, shook my head and said that no, the boys aren't mine.

… I will admit to you that I long for the moment when we go out with our children, and I'm asked, "are these kids yours?" – or even better, "are all these yours?" – and I can proudly smile and say, "yes!"

Some days after that, I met with a friend who did clinical nutrition training with me. After a bit of talking about this and that, she half-smiled, half-winked at me and asked, "well? Are you pregnant yet?"

I blushed and said that no, we aren't expecting just yet – although we are certainly praying and waiting for God's will in this area of our life to be done. She raised her eyebrows, not really understanding, and said, "But I thought you were going to try for a baby right away!"

Yes, I explained patiently (blushing again), we are doing our part – but it can take time. Even if you are perfectly healthy, it's absolutely normal if you don't conceive in the first month. It's also normal if it doesn't happen in the third or sixth months – and most doctors say you have nothing to worry about until a year has passed.

She stared at me, wide-eyed, and whispered, "Are you serious?"

… While talking to many people my age or a little younger/older, I often hear something along these lines: "I'll graduate from college when I'm 28. I could get married while in college, or right after that. Then we'll need to establish our careers a bit, that'll take a year or two. When I'm 30, I will have my first baby, and after two years we'll have another…"

This confidence is then shattered by the mysterious ways God plans the lives of each and every one of us. You might get married when you least expect it, and have a child earlier or later than you originally planned. Some couples – wonderful, loving couples – aren't blessed with children at all, for reasons that are only known to our Creator. The important thing is to remember Who is truly the giver of life.

No couple can truly know if, or when, or how they will be blessed with children. Our bodies aren't functional machines that will set into the motion of conception as soon as we start "trying". If more people realized that, maybe children would be regarded as the precious miracle they are, rather than easy attachments that can be acquired as soon as we decide we want to have them.

My husband and I are both young and without any health problems we know of, and we have only been married for a month and a half. However, we don't take it for granted that we will be blessed with children. I pray with trepidation for this most precious gift of the Lord, and am willing to accept His plan for our family.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Why I love being married

The time that passed since our wedding has been the happiest in my life so far; marriage is nothing like I imagined in my rosy visions as a single woman, though. It's more wonderful, difficult, challenging and rewarding than anything I could possibly think of when I tried to picture myself married.

Mr. T and I are a normal couple. We have our disagreements; while we believe that God brought us together, and while we noticed many similarities between us from the beginning, the fact remains that we are two adults from completely different backgrounds, with our separate habits, lifestyles, hobbies, approaches to various situations – all of this requires adjustment. When you are single, you only have to put up with yourself (this, too, isn't easy at times!). When you make the decision to share your life with another person, you must work towards understanding each other, while each of you gives in to meet the other's needs. This oneness, the feeling that from now on, you are a team, is probably the most beautiful part of marriage.

A day after we were married, I woke up with the most joyous realization: there will be no more dating! No more introductions; no more anguish in waiting; no more searching. Maybe some of you met your spouse without even planning to, and never even felt the pangs of singleness. But those of you who have been single and looking for a long time will understand me. Not that my time of singleness has been unhappy – but I'm so delighted to start on the road of marriage at the same time.

Every day I wake up by the man who placed a ring on my finger and committed in front of God and men to love, honor and protect me. I feel the priceless freedom of security and of knowing that I can open up to my husband, who is now the only man in the world – and for whom I am the only woman in the world. The richness and depth of love in a God-honoring, committed marriage is something that can never be found elsewhere.

As many of you probably know, my husband and I didn't even hold hands until we were married. When you commit yourself to complete physical purity prior to marriage, the rewards reaped afterwards are incredible. The knowledge that all physical pleasure has been saved for marriage makes even simple things like holding hands or cuddling before bedtime especially meaningful.

Marriage means losing certain freedoms and accepting a range of responsibilities. God loves seeing a happy marriage, because it means that both husband and wife are learning the virtues of selflessness, patience, kindness and humility. I am so thankful for being on this journey.

... On a related note, be sure to check out this post by Terry: "We have reduced the concept of a happy marriage to the definition of a soul mate that is no deeper than what you would find in the average Hollywood movie. We forsake all wisdom, parental guidance, and advice, and marry because we are “in love” and then are shocked when the marriage isn’t all we thought it would be..."

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Vegetarian wife, carnivore husband – how does it work?

Andrea asks: "what sorts of meals do you prepare for your husband and yourself (I'm assuming he is not vegetarian)? What are some tips you could give for healthy meals that husbands will like?"

Thanks for asking, Andrea! It's true that my husband isn't vegetarian, but he isn't a heavy carnivore either. By saying this I mean that he is perfectly happy to get along without meat for a few days, and only insists on having some chicken for Shabbat dinner and on Shabbat itself. As for beef and other sorts of red meat, he eats that very rarely.

You can imagine I'm pretty happy about it, as someone who has been vegetarian since the age of ten. Just looking at raw meat makes me queasy. I'll confess I haven't made any meat for my husband yet, but I suppose sooner or later I will have to. When that moment comes, I hope to find something that doesn't take too much messing around to prepare.

I must add, too, that I kept cooking very simple for the past month, due to the challenges of setting a new household. There were days when I woke up to an almost empty refrigerator. Fortunately, now our freezer, refrigerator and kitchen shelves are stocked with food – and I was looking forward to some cooking undisturbed by "what do you mean, there are no eggs?!" – until the electric stove we have been using broke down. It was brand new and will be replaced, but until then, I won't be able to cook much. Luckily we still have our oven and microwave.

So far, I have made simple, nutritious meals – soups, rice with a rich sauce from a variety of vegetables on the side, different sorts of pasta with veggies. I serve fresh salad with almost every meal. Not exactly elaborate gourmet cooking, but it keeps us well-fed. I think variety is the key word here – shapes, colors, smells, tastes.

I think each vegetarian-carnivore couple should discuss their preferences and reach some sort of compromise. If the husband claims he can't live without meat even for a day, try to compromise on eating meat three or four times a week, and in the remaining days surprise him with creative and delicious vegetarian dishes. If he is used to eating meat and potatoes every day, and you take out the meat and leave only the potatoes, of course he will be bored. But if you serve nicely seasoned rice and beans, a soup and a fresh salad, maybe he will discover he is actually pretty happy with it.

Fortunately, these days it's very easy to obtain information about just anything. Simply type the words "vegetarian cooking" or "vegetarian meals" in Google, and you will see links to a variety of websites such as www.vegcooking.com. Don't be afraid to try and improve new recipes – some of them might fail, but some will almost certainly become favorites in your home.

Monday, May 5, 2008

The spirit of home – a blessing rediscovered

There is something especially warm and uplifting in the smells, sounds and the general spirit of a home which is lived in during the day. When you come in after a long day outside, the homey scents and the tidiness unmistakably tell you that floors have been mopped, clothes ironed, and a dinner cooked. Maybe there are even some cookies in the oven when you come in, giving off their delicious aroma.

When you come into a home like that, especially if you are tired, you want to stay there. You want to sink into a comfortable armchair and relax, perhaps with a hot cup of tea and some of those cookies you smelled earlier. You will savor the peace and quiet and your spirit will be refreshed.

Sadly, today, more often than not homes are messy and neglected. Is there anything more depressing than returning after a long, hard day at work to piles of dust, stale air, an empty refrigerator and a heap of dirty laundry? This is what most families face every night, being forced to run around and do errands instead of spending time together.

This spirit of neglect does, in turn, its part of pulling people out of their homes. When the atmosphere is so cold and unappealing, you are more likely to leave your home and seek food and entertainment outside – eat out, for example. And while you are out, you are prone to do some window shopping and buy some trinket you don't really need. Spending more money leads to pressure to work more hours, more time spent away from home, and more neglect of home life – a vicious circle that isn't easy to break.

In the past, no one asked a woman – especially a married woman – what she "does". It was assumed and easily accepted that a woman spends a large portion of her time looking after the household - a task that was appreciated and respected. Homemaking skills were taken seriously, as playing an important part in a family's well-being, and were taught from a young age. Family life was home-centered – women worked at home, children were mostly educated at home, husbands loved coming home after work, and the whole family enjoyed gathering for dinner every night and eating a nutritious, home-cooked meal. People entertained themselves at home and enjoyed having friends over for a cup of tea rather than going out.

It is often claimed that modern appliances, such as vacuum cleaners and washing machines, reduced the homemaker's workload to a minimum, so that a woman now can easily balance home life and career. However, the facts of existence in too many modern homes – entire areas that haven't been cleaned in ages, unhealthy and expensive convenience meals of little nutritious value, hastily swallowed by each family member at random times – don't make for a pretty picture. People often forget that in the past, possessions were fewer and life simpler. Modern times added to the responsibilities of a modern homemaker.

Even the most outgoing, company-loving person needs a safe haven to relax in after the daily tasks are completed. The spirit of quiet contentment at home is something many seek unknowingly, trying to complete this void by hopping from one entertainment spot to the next – in vain. Home is irreplaceable. Home is sweet, soothing and comforting. Home, to put it simply, isn't something I would be ready to give up.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Doing better - and a happy independence day!

Dear ones, thank you all for your concern regarding my health. I'm happy to tell you that I'm feeling much, much better now. Fortunately, it seems that I only had a slight infection - it passed after taking some medicine just once. Normally I'm not a fan of loading my body with chemicals for every little pain, but this time it was a bit too much for me to bear. When I'm sick, most often I simply try to relax in bed with a cup of hot tea for a day or two, and next time I think I'll also try some of your suggestions of natural remedies (thanks for the tip about natural honey, Mark!).

By the time we had to make preparations for Shabbat, I felt good enough to move around and do what needs to be done (not much more than the absolute necessities, though), and my dear husband gave me a hand in everything. He has been so helpful and supportive... and a great cook as well, it turns out! ;-) My husband and I had a wonderful Shabbat, just the two of us, and I only wonder how is it that time slipped away so fast.

You will notice that my blog design changed again. From the dark colors of the past few days, I switched again to blue and white, with an Israeli flag at my header. Wednesday night and Thursday, we will celebrate Independence Day around here. The celebrations are so closely linked to pain and loss - only a few days ago, the Holocaust memorial day took place; Wednesday, during the day, is a day of remembrance for the fallen soldiers in the wars of Israel. And Wednesday night, we are already at the streets, dancing and laughing. I know it cannot be easy for families who have lost loved ones. Still, there is something meaningful in a joy growing out of suffering, like in so many occassions in Jewish history.

I don't think I have many Israeli readers here, but to the one or two who visit regularly, I wish a very happy Independence Day.

***

As a change of subject, I spent today in town, and was reminded again just how much I appreciate the beauty, peace and quiet of where we live. I must admit, of course, that this transition - from city life into the country - had to take some adjustment from our part. We only have one car; and although I have been car-less (or rather, car-free) all my life, I've always lived in an area where public transportation was good and reliable. Now I live in the place of my dreams - but when I need to go and get something that isn't available within walking distance, I'm stuck.

It isn't too bad, though. It means that every trip needs to be carefully planned, and shopping lists have to be written with special care in mind - which will save us money in the long run. I wouldn't trade our financial freedom for the sake of pure convenience.

I was so inspired by this post. I've read it once before and was glad to re-discover it. It talks about a family gaining their financial freedom, step by step, through living frugally, budgeting carefully, and not bothering to 'keep up with the Joneses': "You never reach the point of no debt when you’re continually buying things you cant afford. Just because they make it and they sell it, doesn’t mean you have to have it."

... I'll say goodbye for now, and will be looking forward to talking to all of you again, and visiting some of your lovely blogs - as time allows. Thank you for all the wonderful comments you leave here. While I usually cannot respond to each one separately, I take great pleasure in reading each one.

Warmly, your friend,

Mrs. Anna T

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Holocaust memorial day

In a separate post from the usual themes of this blog, and from my little woes and worries, I would like to make an acknowledgment of the Holocaust memorial day, which takes place today in Israel.

No less than six millions of Jews were murdered, starved and tortured to death in the modern, well-educated Europe of my grandmother's generation; no one can count the additional number of unrecorded murders. My great-grandparents, Simon and Anna Rosman, and their daughter Ibolya were among the victims of this inhumanely calculated slaughter. Their eldest son, Abel, lost his first wife and son, as the boy was brutally torn from his mother's arms and both were sent to their death. May their memory last forever; may the remaining branches of the Rosman family tree continue to expand and grow.

The Holocaust was far from being the first attempt to wipe out the entire Jewish population. Open the book of Esther and read it as evidence that Jews have always been persecuted. A small community, carrying a hidden secret that for some reason prevented their dissolving into the great nations that surrounded them, Jews have always been looked upon with suspicion that almost always escalated into hatred in time. Inquisition, exile, and massive forced conversion of Jews out of their faith have been common throughout history.

I'm not optimistic enough to believe that something has changed or will change. But I do believe that the Lord will preserve us, like He has preserved us until now. I believe He will carry us through the threats of death, as well as conversion and assimilation, both of which I consider equally dangerous.

A little down, a little up

I had so many plans for the past couple of days - rearrange the house; clean; prepare a few dishes for Shabbat in advance. But even though just two days ago I was a bundle of energy, yesterday I found myself down with something that seems like a virus or an infection - which will be checked today (I'd rather not go into details right now).

I found myself unable to do most, if not all, of what I'd planned. Last night, I couldn't fall asleep for more than half an hour straight, until finally at around 3 A.M. I got out of bed and started praying. For the first time in two days, the pain ceased completely and I fell asleep.

My dear husband has been so wonderfully supportive. He took yesterday off work and took care of me the entire day; today he went to work without complaining for being woken up several times during the night. Despite the pain and exhaustion, I feel so wonderfully blessed by his love and devotion.

No reason to worry about me, though - I don't think this is anything serious, and I hope that, Lord willing, it will pass. In the meantime, I will savor the good things - a clean, soft bed; a cup of hot tea; and the treasured knowledge that I'm loved and cared for. I will simply try to take things slow and make the most of each day.

I wish everyone a lovely weekend, and hope to talk to you again soon!

Your friend,

Mrs. Anna T