End of days.

Since I found out I was pregnant, I’ve been watching and waiting as pregnant peers around me finish up their terms, give birth and move on to parenthood. It’s been a sort of countdown of names, not numbers – first so-and-so, then so-and-so, next so-and-so. Happens to be there have been quite a few, especially within a six week radius of my own due date. 

Well, I’m definitely getting there because there aren’t many other preggos to watch and wait for anymore. 

Meanwhile, things have been pretty hectic recently. We’ve learned a lot about the difference between public health care and going private. We fall into the former category… And I’m not saying I wouldn’t do it again, but it can get you really riled up if you fall between the cracks. Thankfully we’ve been under the guidance of a midwife whose analysis and scrutiny has been a lot more than ‘just’ a supplement to the doctor’s… My advice to anyone else is to stay on top of yourself and keep plowing for second opinions if you need ’em. 

In the last week, as I’ve calmed into a sort of hibernation, my mind has frequently reflected back on what the last 9 or so months have been. I can say that pregnancy has been good to me – definitely better than I went in expecting. A collection of thoughts has pooled up in the back of my mind, which I know I’ll forget by the next time around unless I jot them down. So, in no particular order: 

  • Hormones are amazing creatures and should be respected for all their power… Especially the way they are just right on the ball. Unfortunately, it seems most folks don’t respect them as much as they deserve. 
  • It’s true what ‘they’ say: everyone and their mother (literally) has stories and advice for you. There is a very, very thin line between what is welcome and what is annoying. That line gets thinner every day. 
  • Pregnancy is about acknowledging the accomplishments, from the big to the small to the mundane… I’ve reminded myself of this constantly. You have to take credit for as much as you can to keep your spirits up. Feeling not as nauseous today? Got through a whole night’s sleep without waking up? Remembered to take your vitamins for two consecutive days? Managed to get to the bathroom once in three days? Managed to not go pee more than once in an hour? Pat yourself on the back (if you can reach it). 
  • Giving up things was not as painful as I thought it would be. I miss my jeans. I miss my nightly glass of wine. I miss sleeping on my back. I miss my body. I miss beer. I miss not having to take vitamins every day. I miss being able to spontaneously go wherever I want for the weekend (ha, did we ever really do that?). But… in the larger scheme of things, it’s not so bad. And I guess I can say that with slightly more ease since I wasn’t a smoker before anyway. 
  • Doctors here will not explain things unless you ask… At least, I’ve found that most of them won’t. The internet is a big help but will go overboard inevitably. Reading is interesting, but too much can destroy you. Nurses at the kupah check ups can be a great source of info, but won’t always have the whole picture and can’t commit to anything. Birth class instructors are wonderful but often not medical professionals. I’ve just had to carefully blend all kinds of resources and let the picture paint itself. 
  • It’s amazing how many people don’t have all the info while pregnant… It boils down to personality and life style I guess… But I’ve been shocked at how other girls can be shocked when they learn things about their bodies I thought was obvious. Sex and pregnancy education should just be mandatory for everyone.
  • Speaking of sex… I can’t help but find it funny that my religious doctor loves to remind us about having plenty of it… Actually, he loves to mention it to my husband while I’m behind the curtain. Men, eh?
  • Both sides of the birthing coin will make you feel inept, insecure and insane: the Western institutionalized side and the natural ‘alternative’ side.  I’ve settled for taking what I can handle and finding my balance. 
  • There are some folks who just can’t handle pregnancy… They are awkward about it, around it, when faced with it. Those folks are mostly men but I’ve encountered it in women too. 
  • There is a big difference between raspberry tea and reaspberry leaf tea… And the latter, which is excellent to drink for working on uterine muscles, does not taste as refreshing as its cousin, whether hot, iced or frozen. But on that note, exploring homeopathic options has been really interesting. We’ll see if they pay off. 

A little late, but a lizrael update.

Haven’t done this in a while, but here goes.

Aliyah

At this point, I’ve been living in Israel for three and a half years. Seems like so much longer… I can now count ‘old friends’ I had when I first came, I have a lengthy list of apartments I’ve lived/crashed in, I’ve been married for nearly two years and traveled internationally with an Israeli travel document six times.

The reasons I stay in Israel are different from the reasons I originally came. When I landed here, I was a single post-graduate with a lot of different directions and vast openness. Since then, I’ve worked at a steady job for three years, which has opened me up to a career path I never would have expected for myself, but warmly welcome. I’ve married a non-American/non-Israeliborn from across the world, so it will never be easy to pick up and leave Israel for us; it’s not a matter of moving to an obvious place.

Also, I’ve invested so much into living here, mentally, and I’ve lost touch with reality in the States. I’ve gotten used to a lifestyle here that I couldn’t have back there with ‘only’ this much effort.

It’s not that I’m thinking of leaving Israel, but I really don’t think about it because it’s now, simply,  where I live, where I get my paycheck from, where I’ve started building my house and home.

School

I’m on the very last leg of my toar sheni, my graduate degree. Yeah, remember that goal I set out for myself three years ago? Conflict Management and Negotiation at Bar Ilan University.

I’m currently engaged in a required ‘internship’ which actually takes place at my job. I’m working on creating a dispute resolution program for an online social Q&A community. I like that it has nothing to do with international relations or politics (although sometimes it feels that way).

I’ve come to realize that being friends with the intertubes is the way to go if you’re going to live comfortabley in Israel. That being said especially as I’ve been told by professors that no one makes a living here off only doing gishur (mediation). Online Dispute Resolution is a curious path I’m looking forward to exploring in the coming years.

Which leads me to my work…

Work

By some interesting twist, three years ago I ended up working in the marketing department of an internet company and I’m still there, job having evolved over the years, but a rainbow of experience gained.

The job that was supposed to be my financial parent through grad school became a career path – who knew? In fact, I’d argue I’ve learned way more at the job than the university, even if the two subjects are completely unrelated.

I tell people now that if you are open, have mother-tongue English and some internet savvy in your pocket, hi tech is the way to go here in Israel. You don’t have to start your own start up, either. There are plenty of jobs right now and the business is flourishing. And because it’s based in Israel, and you speak mother-tongue English, you are a step ahead in gaining a new career that you can really leverage. Just be open to learning some code.

Family

As I said above, we’ve been married for nearly two years now; we have a Tu B’Av anniversary coming up. Marriage is everything and nothing like I thought it would be, in the best possible ways. And I know why that is; it’s because of who I married and how much we’ve both been open and proactive about making this work.

Of course, we’re at two years and no kids, so who are we to talk? There are challenges that crop up now and then, mainly concerning the issue of us both being from two different countries located on opposite ends of the planet. What if we left? Where would we go? Whose family do we visit next?

It is also difficult for both of us to be far from our families; neither of us have immediate family here and we do catch each other’s bouts of homesickness once in a while.

But there’s also the topic of extending our own family, which I’ve realized I wouldn’t want to start anywhere else but Israel. It’s a different life than how I grew up, but I think with lots more positive elements.

There are no jukim in America.

Usually when I touch down in JFK, flying over Queens at dawn, I get teary-eyed and patriotic for my hometown. I’ve been pretty emotional about New York since I left; even before I left.

Maybe it’s because I landed here today coming off the Presidents Conference, or maybe it’s been a year and four months since I’ve last visited, or maybe it’s all the changes I’ve undergone since last time I was in New York… But as soon as I saw the straight rows of yellow lights lining Far Rockaway from over the wing of the plane, I don’t know. I wasn’t feeling it. I missed the chaos of Jerusalem streets. I thought about the forest I live in, the bare roads I take to get to work. The green, the brown, the blue, the white.

Usually when I get into my parents’ car our of JFK, driving through Queens and Brooklyn, I get culture-shocked in awe of the bigness, the vastness that I have so quickly forgotten in three and a half years.

Maybe it’s because I have really built a quality life for myself, or maybe it’s because I’m doing more there in Israel than I ever imagined I’d be doing in the New York daily grind, or maybe it’s because in Israel, every single moment seems to count for something… But as soon as we passed the giant shopping centers, when I saw the first advertisements off the highway, and after viewing jeep after 4×4 after four wheel drive… I don’t know. I’m not feeling it. I just start to feel really bad for people living here.

Have I turned my motherland into a place for fun shopping? A place to be in awe, but in a not so comfortable way? And wouldn’t that make sense, that she did it to herself? Staring at these over sized products, overgrown people, at these American phenomena…

I’m interested to see how this develops over the next week and a half that I’m visiting New York. Is this a no-turning-back point for me in my aliyah or perhaps in my self-imposed American exile? Is this something we all acquire with age? Or with stepping back?

If nothing else, I am really enjoying walking barefoot over carpet and inhaling the fresh smell of hardwood floors.

Why I made aliyah: My new answer.

It’s been a long couple of weeks. I haven’t had much to say and haven’t been wanting to think about the news. I’m currently a bachelorette living in this big apartment since my roommate went to Australia for two weeks. I’ve got a lot of school work to do and a lot of work work to do.

Not complaining; I’m enjoying my situation right now. When I hear about friends trying to cut it in America, paying that god-awful rent and keeping up with terribly high standards of living… I really do appreciate what I have built here. Could I have been this successful if I had lived in New York? I really don’t know. There’s so much about me that is calmer and more focused here.

I think I’ve come to the point where I realize I’m now here more for the conditions of my life than the ideological reasons from 2005. My lifestyle, my job, my school, my friends, my inter(national)marriage all keep me here more than a philosophical desire or religious dream. I do still believe in it, but I think I have a lot of new things I believe in now, too.

Which is why I always find it funny how people who have been living here for around 3 years seem to have a ‘new answer’ to why they made aliyah. Ask an oleh (not chadash) point-blank, and they will pause, possibly squirm, sigh, and tell you, “Well, the new answer is…”

I’m very grateful at how things have turned out for me; I know it’s usually the opposite for a lot of people. My key is to take it all one day at a time, or at the very least, not think more than six months ahead. That way, when you ask me why I made aliyah, I can continuously look back, reflect and be prepared to tell you what my ‘new answer’ is.

People-watching in a mirror.

Waiting for my mom at the airport this morning, I got to engage in the curious ritual that is people-watching. Airport arrival halls are the best places to people-watch.

This pre-holiday Friday morning was even more interesting.

One family particularly stood out to me. I watched a middle-aged couple – probably around my mother’s age – walk out through the sliding doors of customs and scan the crowd. At one point the woman smiled enormously and began waving. A youngish couple – maybe in their late 20s – waved back with similar smiles and began walking towards them. The mother and daughter embraced wildly (because now it was clear, these were the young woman’s parents) while the father and son-in-law patted backs. Questions were flung around and the family, reunited, as they walked off towards the exit.

The family was speaking American English. The scene was so familiar to me, I wanted to cry.

The daughter made aliyah, maybe a few years ago. She met another Anglo oleh and they decided to literally build a bayit ne’aman b’Yisroel. Her parents had either never been to Israel or had visited only once or twice before she made aliyah; they are still a bit awkward about coming here. But they come – maybe once every other year when their adult children don’t visit the States.

The woman reminded me of my own mother so much, and the daughter was all me. I’m not alone in this world of aliyah; I never thought I was but sometimes it’s hard to remember, even when surrounded by other olim.

I held back my tears and turned back to the sliding doors, waiting for my mom and already smiling.

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