Sunday, April 27, 2008

The wedding

It certainly took a long time for those wedding photos to arrive! Here they are, finally. I'm so happy to share memories from this joyful and special day with all of you, dear friends. There were literally hundreds of photos, so I tried to choose my favorites. I wish the outside shots (taken before the actual ceremony) were better; most of them were a little dark because we started rather late.
I also wish there were some good shots of both of us under the chuppah, and of my husband breaking the glass. As it is, there wasn't even one I felt comfortable enough with to post here. I also wish there was a photo of my husband and I holding hands for the very first time - such a dear and special moment.
In the second photo, you can see the food that was served in the reception. I included it just for fun; you should know I hardly tasted a bite of it.
The fourth picture is of me being led to the chuppah by my mother (on the right, in blue) and my mother-in-law (on the left, in black). I think there's something very wise in supporting the bride from both sides when she just might pass out in excitement. ;-)
Next, you will notice that my husband placed the ring on my forefinger. That's the tradition, but now I wear it on the ring finger of my right hand. During a Jewish wedding ceremony, the bride doesn't give the groom a ring, and sometimes men's wedding rings are even frowned upon as a non-Jewish custom. However, my husband wears a ring and I love it, even though it wasn't part of the marriage ceremony.
After the ceremony, when the dancing started, we had separate sections for men and women. Here you can see me dancing with my mother and with a relative from my husband's side. I didn't include photos of the men's section, but it was pretty much the same dancing in circles.
Now that I look through the pictures, I'm amazed at how little I actually remember about my wedding day. It seems as though it passed in a sort of haze. I was so happy and excited that day; but even more so on the next day, when I woke up, saw the ring on my finger and remembered that I'm now married to my beloved husband.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Married to a take-it-slow man

Dear friends, an entire week passed by since I last wrote to you, and heard from you, in the bounds of blogland (given that my husband and I don't have a computer or internet connection yet, you can figure out the frequency of my visits to my mother by how often I post). I hope you all have been having a wonderful time, and I was thrilled to come back to a mailbox-full of messages from you.

In the meantime, life is taking its usual course. My husband took the whole week off, and we have been enjoying a blissful, uninterrupted Pesach (Passover). We spent some time with family, but mostly we have been on our own, simply enjoying the magic of each moment before it passes by in its fleeting beauty.

I thought of so many things we needed to do during this week - cleaning; organizing; re-arranging, and all that comes with settling into a new home. I thought I would get up early each day and do some tidying up before we have breakfast and go for some sightseeing in our lovely area. Then we would come home, and I'd cook something delicious for dinner and bake something for dessert, later work on projects or do some creative writing (a venture I have been enjoying for years, but haven't had the chance to share with you just yet).

Here was when I realized that I'm no longer single, in control of my time and plans, but part of a couple. I grew addicted to schedules, to-do lists and satisfaction with accomplishing as much as I possibly can. My husband, on the other hand, is an easy going, laid-back and take-it-slow type of person. I noticed this in the time when we were just getting to know each other, of course, but it became much more evident now. Several times I said to my husband in amazement, "with you, time just slips away so fast! I don't know how it happens!"

I must admit that old habits die hard, and it isn't easy to stop glancing at the watch every few minutes. It isn't easy to stop telling myself, "time is slipping away, and we haven't done anything yet! What a waste!"

I suppose I could be nervous and anxious. I could be frustrated because my husband never hurries, no matter how late we are; I could eat my fingernails because we rarely accomplish what we planned for a given amount of time. But something in my heart tells me it wouldn't be the best choice.

Instead, I choose to love and accept the person my husband is. I choose to accept the fact that none of us is perfect, and that both of us are two completely different people who are, still, just getting to know each other. And I choose to drink in the beauty of slow days and evenings spent together, days on which not much is accomplished but so much is shared and enjoyed together.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Spring cleaning and a happy Pesach

Hello again, dear friends. How lovely to be back online for a couple of hours and have an opportunity to say hi to all of you. How wonderful it was to get back and read all your sweet comments and emails.

I love and enjoy my quiet life, even in the midst of Pesach cleaning. It's amazing how much there is to do, even in a small household of only two people – and before we have accumulated any clutter at all! I can imagine that as our possessions grow and our family expands (Lord willing), cleaning will become more and more of a Mission Impossible every spring.

It's amazing, however, how much gets done without the distractions of TV, computer or even radio around. All I hear are the soft quiet voices – birds chirping; children playing outside; wind rustling through the trees. All my life, I have lived in an apartment building. Most of my life, I have dreamed of living in a little house with a red tiled roof. Now that this dream has come true, I feel so blissfully content (while trying to get over the fact that there are so many more insects in your home when you live closer to earth! I hardly notice an occasional spider anymore).

I have more than enough work, but it doesn't mean I "do" something all day long. There is plenty of time to rest, relax, think and write. In our achievement-driven world, this alone is enough to make a person feel guilty. That is why I rejoiced when my wonderful husband said the following words to me the other day:

"I hope you never, ever have to work outside the home. I love the way you care for our home. I love the way you wait for me with a smile when I come back from work. Sure, you have been doing things all day, but you feel a sense of satisfaction because you do it all for us. You aren't exhausted from running around and trying to have it all together. You aren't a slave to another man's schedule. In the evenings, we have plenty of time to sit together and talk, without arguing about whose day was more difficult. I just love it."

My heart simply surged with pride for my husband, for him seeing the importance of a woman being home. He worded it just perfectly.

By the way, I would like to address a question I received by email. Sheila asks, "I was wondering how you interpret, "She makes linen garments and sells them, And delivers sashes to the merchant." (Proverbs 31:24)

This verse talks about a woman who makes profit of the work of her hands, and there is certainly nothing wrong with a woman making some money. However, I believe it was seriously taken out of context in many cases, when it is literally forgotten that there's a myriad of other things the Proverbs 31 woman does. And it's highly unlikely that she does it all at once! I don't think Proverbs 31 is centered on the wife making money – though if she is in a season of her life when she can spare the time and energy, she can find an activity that is both refreshing and profitable, provided that it doesn't steal too much time away from her family.

With this, I will finish for now – not before I wish a very happy Pesach to my Jewish readers, of course! I hope you stocked up on matzos and did all your cleaning by now. And to all of you, I hope you are enjoying this lovely spring, no matter where you are! I look forward to talking to you soon, and remain your loving friend,

Mrs. T

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Why I cover my hair

A question from a reader: "I wonder why you wear a head covering now that you are married? Is it a Jewish tradition or is it for religious reasons?"

I thought this might be asked, and I can say that it is for both reasons you've mentioned - the Jewish religion commands a married woman to cover her hair, plus it's a beautiful tradition; I must add, though, that nowadays it isn't always strictly observed in Jewish communities. Some married women cover their hair only partially, and some only cover their hair in synagogue.

In Biblical times, women covered their hair as a sign of modesty and chastity, and the unveiling and loosening of a woman's hair was used as a sign of humiliation, in cases when a woman was suspected of adultery. (Numbers 5, 11-28)

Since I've become observant, it was always obvious to me that I'm going to cover my hair when I'm married, out of modesty and as a sign of being married; in the weeks prior to our wedding, though, I received various comments such as, "there's no way you are going to manage with a long hair such as yours"; "if you intend to cover all your hair, you must cut off at least half of it"; "you are going to see that head coverings will make you feel extremely hot and uncomfortable"; and even "you are going to look so much worse without your pretty hair showing".

Well, I must say, none of these glum predictions are true! Like I mentioned in one of my previous posts, it's actually pretty simple: I just roll my hair up in a bun and tie a head scarf around it. Those who first see me now can't even guess how long my hair actually is. It's sleek and not very thick, so I can manage it easily. Putting on a hair covering doesn't take much time, either. In fact, if I'm in a hurry and don't have time to brush my hair in the morning, it actually saves me time!

Also, keeping my hair up leaves my neck open, which means I feel less, not more hot than I normally did when I wore my hair down. And I don't think I look that bad with my hair covered - in fact, my husband says he loves the way I look wearing a head scarf, and that's what matters. Of course a woman's hair is pretty and beautiful - which is why I uncover mine in front of no man but my beloved husband, as a sign of my belonging to him, and him alone, now that we are married.

For more on why Jewish women cover their hair, read here and here.

PS: In some strict Orthodox Jewish communities, it is common for women to wear sheitls (wigs). There is a certain debate around this issue; some rabbis say wigs are the best option for hair covering, because they make it easier to cover all of the woman's hair than, let's say, a hat or head scarf, which usually leaves at least a few hairs sticking out here and there. Others say it's better to wear a hat or head scarf, because then it's easier to see right away that the woman is married. Strictly speaking, according to Jewish Law, we are only commanded to cover our hair and it isn't specified how - so both options are valid. Personally I choose head scarves. I do love being "marked" as a married woman, but there are also the considerations of style, price (wigs are awfully expensive) and convenience (I think a head scarf made of a light, breathing material is optimal in the summer heat).

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A sweet and simple life

Hello again, dear ladies! I hope you are all having a wonderful and beautiful day. I truly cannot express how much it meant to me to read all your sweet response and encouragement to my previous post. Thank you so much for the precious gift of your friendship - and in particular to those of you who shared dear memories of your first weeks and months of marriage, of how you had few material possessions but were so happy just to have each other, knowing you are building a future together with much hope and dedication.
I'm slowly starting to get things pulled together. It's taking a lot of hard work and elbow grease, but bit by bit, our little dwelling is starting to feel more homey (yes, getting a vacuum cleaner - I'm using my mother's old one, the one she intended to throw away - helped a lot!). We don't have a washing machine yet, but since it's just the two of us right now, laundry doesn't get piled up. I do some hand washing occasionally, I toss whatever remains into my mother's washing machine when we visit. Our home is sparsely furnished and we don't have any decorations just yet, but at least it's getting steadily cleaner, and even though I don't exactly do any gourmet cooking yet, my husband and I don't go hungry and don't eat junk.
Since we are just starting out, we have to be frugal and save up for the things we really want. We won't splurge easily on expensive furniture, vacations, or fancy clothes. In addition, choices of entertainment are very limited in the area we live now, far (by Israeli standards, anyway) from any city or even town. Even further, we don't have television, radio or - gasp! - internet connection. We will have internet eventually, but radio and TV will probably remain out of bounds - we love the peace and quiet that come from doing without. By the way, Mrs. Sherman, from "Home Living", recently wrote a couple of great posts about being contented and dignified while living a simple life - worth reading!
Here is where power of contentment comes to play its part. Some may wonder how come I'm not awfully bored and frustrated. However, there are so many sweet and simple activities to keep me busy and happy, even while my husband is at work. Improving our home; doing my best to cook the best meals using the few ingredients and utensils I have on hand; reading; doing crafts; praying; and whenever I want, I can simply go out and take a walk, relishing our beautiful surroundings, pictures of which I'm sharing with you today. Each one is a sweet reflection of the Lord.
These pictures were taken on a cloudy day, so unfortunately I couldn't capture one of those glorious sunsets I enjoy so much - but you can still see the beauty of the mountains. The picture at the bottom is what I see right outside my doorstep. The close-up picture of the flower and me in my blue head scarf were taken by my husband.
Thank you, again, for your loving kindness which you express so generously in the notes you leave for us. I'm so thankful for the ability to keep blogging, even though I cannot do it on a daily basis for now.
Until another time, I remain, your loving friend
Mrs. Anna T

Sunday, April 6, 2008

This and that

Hello, dear friends! What a delight it is to have an hour online to say hello to all of you, to give you all a little update, and browse through some of your lovely blogs, as time allows.

I spent today at my mother's, running errands I cannot do from home; I also packed some things we didn't have time to take with us yet, and used my mother's washing machine to wash mine and my husband's clothes, which I later dried and packed. After years and years of taking it for granted, I suddenly appreciate just how wonderful it is to have a functioning washing machine. We were given a used one, and it seems that it needs to be fixed – which we will attempt to do before we decide to buy a new one.

Anyhow, we have made good progress. On Thursday, I cleaned and cleaned and cleaned – one of my readers hinted I might end "up to my elbows in grease"; well, that pretty much sums it up, but at least now I don't wrinkle my nose every time I step in, even though the absence of a vacuum cleaner painfully strikes whenever I stumble upon piles of dust and dirt.

We still sleep on air beds, which gives us the feeling of camping out; however, now we have a table. After days of eating on two folding chairs squeezed together, having a table feels like a luxury. ;) As for what we have been eating, I won't go into details; it's enough to say that I haven't done much cooking yet, with all the moving, packing, unpacking, and the extra challenges of setting a kosher kitchen with Pesach approaching.

I imagine some of you, dear ones, are anticipating wedding pictures; as a matter of fact, so am I! We hired a professional photographer for our wedding, and didn't pause to think that it means it will take some time before we have pictures. How I wish I had thought of taking some pictures with my mother's camera! I would love to see photos already, even if they are far from professional.

In the meantime, I have taken some pictures of my wedding dress and gorgeous floor-length veil; I haven't decided yet what to do with the dress, whether I should keep it as a symbol of one precious memory, or donate it to a bride who wants to dress modestly for her special day but cannot afford a new custom-made dress. As a matter of fact, I'm not sure I could afford it either – but I just loved the dress so much, and so did my husband.

You can also see a picture of my wedding ring, and a picture of me wearing a head scarf. I didn't think of taking a picture of the back of my head; it's very easy, though. I just put my hair up in a bun and simply tie the head scarf around it. I let the ends hang loose rather than tuck them in.

It's spring here, and the trees and flowers are blossoming in the loveliest way you can possibly imagine. Three days ago, I saw such a breathtakingly beautiful sunset from my kitchen window that I dropped whatever I was doing at the moment – I don't even remember what it was – and simply went out to take it in with every cell of my being. I was so deeply thankful for not having to rush anywhere just then; for the opportunity to see, and breathe, and love and enjoy beauty; for setting my way on this holy and special land, together with my beloved husband. The Lord is good.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The thrills and challenges of a new household

Dear ladies, those of you who so kindly have been regular visitors of my blog for a while can imagine how thrilled and excited I am to have a new family of my own now, a husband to love and care for, and a home to beautify and improve. Well, I must tell you, there is a lot to improve...

Two days ago, my husband and I spent our first night in our rented home. Both of us are new to living on our own, and oh boy, what an experience it is. We hardly have any furniture; our shower caused a flood when we tried to use it, and we had to visit my in-laws to take a shower; and on top of all, in the morning I discovered I don't even have the necessary utensils to wash the floors! It was so dirty it would make you want to cry if you saw it.

However, thanks to gifts from loved ones and to my dear husband's creativity, I'm happy to say that we saved a whole lot of money on items we would otherwise need to buy without the time to look for bargains, such as a refrigerator, a sofa, a table (beautifully renovated by my father-in-law) and chairs. We were simply showered by beautiful dishes, towels, bedclothes and kitchen utensils. All the way, I'm overwhelmed to see again and again just how many people love us, care for us, think of us, pray for us, and extend their helping hand.

In the picture above, you can see a lovely set of mugs and towels I got from girls in the training program in the hospital - which blissfully ended today. You cannot imagine how happy I was; there will be some more studies in May, and I do want to complete this last small part of the program, but it surely won't be anywhere near the physical and emotional drain of working in the hospital. I will finally be able to focus on settling into the rhythm of our new household; the weeks before the wedding were a happy blur of activity, and I do miss the simple and peaceful beauty of everyday life.

We live in a beautiful, quiet place, far from the noise and bustle of the city. Moving there is like a dream come true, but a challenge at the same time - and I so look forward to sharing with you the first steps of our journey along this winding road.

The Lord is good. I am filled with gratitude for everything He so generously gave us. Nothing in the world can compare with His abundant love for each and every one of us. Thank you, dear ones, for visiting me; and special thanks to the ladies who took the time to contact me personally through email. Since we don't have internet connection yet (I'm right now at my mother's house while my husband is finishing his first day back at work), I'm not sure when I will have the chance to write replies, but please know that I have read and deeply appreciate each one of your kind and friendly notes, and will try to write back as soon as possible.

In the meantime I remain, an overwhelmingly happy young wife, your friend

Mrs. Anna T