Monday, March 31, 2014

A Day of Little and Larger Miracles

Yom shlishi, 1 Nisan 5774, Rosh Chodesh.

You know those days when you feel as if no matter how hard you try to accomplish the smallest thing, you find yourself smashing into wall after wall after wall, no matter how many twists and turns you make to try to make it all work?

And then there are days that are the opposite, where it seems that God has cleared a path for you, and lit it with neon lights and arrows, so that a complicated task seems effortless. This has been one of those days. Baruch Hashem!

Brief history (my mechutanim were subjected to the long version, so I can spare you):

Years ago, I read a post by Rav Shlomo Aviner about our halachic obligation to do what we can to stay healthy. He ended his argument by saying one should get a bike. I filed that recommendation away for later.

Recently, due to an injury, a surgeon said to me: "Stop doing crunches. They're not good for your condition. Get a bike." So, it's been on my mind. The Dearly Beloved -- ever anxious to spoil me rotten -- said we would get a bike when the "bike man" comes to Neve Daniel, as he does a couple of times a year.

Yesterday, there was an offer on the Efrat chat list that made its way to the Neve Daniel chat list about a really wonderful offer for The Perfect Bike. With the help of friends and new relatives, "Queenie" made it to her new home in Neve Daniel before 11:00 AM. No boring details -- but suffice it to say that her Shimano brakes and Tourney gearing system are more than welcome here... and I could not have afforded her out there in "the real world." And there is nothing better in the world than friends, and family.

This success was after a week of equally wonderful climbs up madraigot (steps) in Hebrew learning. Besides receiving the gift of two lovely chavrutot who understand the art of being "language parents," I heard an inspirational talk by Chris Lonsdale on How to Learn Any Language in Six Months. He practiced on Mandarin Chinese. (Somehow, learning Hebrew sounds easier than learning that.) Go ahead. Let yourself be inspired.

The best thing I got from the video was the permission -- which I've been working on since I saw my children learning Hebrew while I was still stuck in dikduk (grammar) -- to just communicate, without worrying if what I am saying is perfect. Chris helped, with his video -- but Esther and Shira get most of the credit, for being so proud of me for just communicating effectively... even with mistakes. How I am coming to love them!

The biggest miracle of the day? The Dearly Beloved is on Facebook. Technology is visited upon all the Eastmans. Will wonders never cease?

Coach on Facebook. I know -- right???
May you be blessed with an amazing leap of growth -- preferably spiritual, but I'm happy with any mental, emotional, intellectual, communal growth as well -- during this holy month of Nisan. May you be blessed with a real sense of freedom from all the foolish notions with which YOU shackle yourself to keep yourself trapped.

I wish us both blessing and success!

Baruch Hashem!: Blessed is God!
Mechutanim: the parents of my child's spouse (Why don't we have such a word in English, that speaks of the relationship, the kinship, of the inlaws to each other? I have new FAMILY!)
Halachic: relating to Jewish law
Queenie: I know. I'm sorry and embarrassed that as a writer, I didn't give her a more creative name. But I can't help it. She whispered that name to me, the moment I saw her lovely, royal purple self. What can I do?
Chavruta, chavrutot (plural): Jewish study partner - a relationship as complex as a marriage
Nisan: the month in which we celebrate the freedom of the Jews from slavery in Egypt, and which we observe with the eight-day holiday of Pesach (Passover)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

"Getting Old is Hard, But the Alternative is Harder" or: "Why I am Making Myself Sick on Purpose"

Yom shlishi, 23 Adar II 5774.

Don't worry. This photo will make sense later.
Okay, I could have just called this post "Colonoscopy." But then you wouldn't have read it. And I need for at least one person in the neighborhood of 50 to change his or her mind about enduring this necessary degradation, because I have read some alarming statistics. So please forgive the "TMI" post. But our lives depend on it.

Apparently, many people avoid the test because it is distasteful, or because it feels like a violation. And because it's embarrassing.

Yup, that's right. They'd rather die than go through something that is admittedly nasty, but that might extend their time on Earth.

Making myself sick on purpose is much lower on my list of entertainments than, say, cleaning the mold out of every window in my apartment and scrubbing the bathtub after a football game. Nonetheless, I have spent the last two days taking medications to make myself sick-like-dog to -- ahem -- clean out my system prior to the dreaded procedure.

And folks who know me well know that -- despite the state of my apartment -- my sense of personal cleanliness and dignity are amusingly catlike.

The upshot -- heh-heh-heh... everything sounds like a bad pun to me lately, butt I digress. Oh, there I go again --

After I endure this, the doctor will either find something scary (Heaven forbid) and fix it early, when it's easy to fix; or he will give me a pass for Ten Years Without Worry. Either of those options sounds better to me than becoming a statistic.

SATURDAY, March 22, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death, but there are ways of reducing your risk.
"Colorectal cancer is largely preventable with early screening and detection," Dr. Anne Lin, assistant professor of general surgery for the University of California, Los Angeles, Health System and David Geffen School of Medicine, said in a UCLA news release.
And from the American Cancer Society:

"Too many people are still dying: 50,310 expected this year, along with 136,830 new cases." 

That's in America. Rates in Israel are also still too high; but the situation is improving.

Early stage diagnosis of the disease has nearly doubled (from 18% to 34%) over the past twenty years, as a result of the increase in compliance with the National Colorectal Cancer Screening Program, jointly initiated by the Israel Cancer Association and the Ministry of Health.

 Mortality rates have dropped by 17% in males and by 11.4% in females.

This statistic is from the Jewish population. The Cancer Society in Israel is still trying to increase involvement by the Arab population in the screening process, as well as in the Hareidi ("ultra-Orthodox") population. In a 2012 article in the Times of Israel regarding reaching out to the Hareidim, Dr. Shlomo Lewkowicz gave further details:

"Lewkowicz said that every day, 10 new cases of rectal or colon cancer are diagnosed in Israel, five of which can prove to be fatal; however, a simple colonoscopy can often detect the cancer before it reaches a life-threatening stage."

Read. Information and recommendations are readily available online. Then -- get over it, and get tested. If I can set aside the super-high readings on my personal Bleccch-O-Meter, so can you.

And for the next few days, please be very gentle with me. My catlike nature is a bit disgruntled. And this sour expression on my face has absolutely nothing to do with you!

A favorite photo of cats apparently lining up for their appointments.