Moments of connection

I really like to feel connected. Connected to God, to the people around me, to nature, to my loved ones. I love when you all of a sudden can just feel a moment of real connection. You don’t know that it is coming, and you cannot plan for it, – all of a sudden it is just there!

It can happen when you read the Bible. Not every time, but all of a sudden, you can just feel how you are moved with excitement over a truth that so stands out to you, or something you had never quite understood before that now becomes very clear, – and you feel so connected to it, and to God who is behind it all!

I remember moments of dancing at the Kotel, singing together with people I don’t even know, looking up at the Wall which really is a connection point both with God and with generations past, – and all of a sudden just feel so connected to the Jewish people, those who are here now, and those who have gone before, and possibly also to those who are coming after us. Those moments also feel like connection points between heaven and earth. They are real highlights in my life.

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The same thing can happen at Shabbat and the holidays. After major preparations, you find yourself around the holiday table, looking at the faces of loved ones, family and friends, in the light of the candles, saying traditional blessings. And all of a sudden you feel the connection with them and others around similar tables at that very time, and with those who have done so in ages past. It is a wonderful thing, experiencing this connection.

Growing up on an island, loving boat life, I can get this feeling when I am out on the water too. Smelling the fresh saltiness of the sea, hearing the wonderful sound of the waves, feeling the wind in my face, seeing the sun’s diamond-like reflection on the water. Oh, the connection with nature, and with generations past who have also travelled those same waters, between those same islands.

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Also, when preparing food in traditional ways, I can get a feeling of connection with those who have done this in ages past. Small and big moments, but I still find it exciting to feel part of something greater, part of a chain, so to speak.

The last couple of days I have noticed moments of sweet connection with my children. People talk about quality time versus quantity time. I like the idea that you spend quantity time with your children, and all of a sudden, you notice that it turns into quality time, – without even planning for it! Like the other day, when my son and I stood by the kitchen counter preparing coffee together. He was grinding the flavored decaf coffee beans, and I was getting the milk ready for frothing. I could feel how happy he was at that moment, and in spite of the simple everyday-life-ness of the whole thing, I felt the deep connection that I knew was part of strengthening our relationship.

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Another sweet coffee moment with this one

Yesterday my daughter and I were rearranging her room. And again, all of a sudden, it was there, – we were just cleaning off dust from some doll beds we had brought in from the treehouse, – but we shared the same satisfaction in the moment and I felt the connection that builds and strengthens the bond between us.

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I believe the feeling of connectedness has a lot to do with being present in the moment. Be where you are right now. Live now. I remember as a teenager loving the saying: – The one who never lives now, never lives.  So, I guess, when I get into these trains of thoughts, I feel a connection with myself too, the younger version of myself, who I guess is still who I am to some extent.

May you LIVE every day of your life! And may you be blessed with moments of connection!

Holding on to the moments

In a conversation with my son in the car yesterday, he expressed how impressed he was with my driving-abilities. (Oh, well, let’s enjoy it while we can! ;-)) Then, very fitting to his usual thought pattern, he started calculating how long it will be before he himself will start learning to drive. – In five years, I will be learning to drive a car, and in three and a half years I will learn to drive a small motorcycle… Then the conversation moved on to prices of motorbikes, and the insurance, and having an own bank-account and so on.

These types of conversations leave me with a thought of really wanting to hold on to the days we are living right now. We still have children who love hanging out with their parents, who really want to talk with us and share everything that is on their hearts. While I can go around hoping it will stay this way forever, I have to be realistic and realize that there are different periods and stages in life. And I totally love the stage we are in right now.

We have a ten year old daughter and a son who is just turning twelve. They are becoming more and more independent every day. Hey, – he cooked us Shabbat dinner last week! And this week he is actually not even home for five days, as he is gone on a trip with his grandparents! And as I was listening to her talking about rearranging her room this morning, I realized she is turning into a little me, in her own sweet way!

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While I love that they are becoming more independent, I also totally love that they still want us to be a very central part of their lives. They want to process their thoughts with us, bringing up their big questions about life and everything. They love playing games together with us, and just hanging out. I love those moments, the days we are living right now, and I want to really hold on to them. I have a feeling there will come a day when I will miss them. So right now, – I want to make the most of the opportunities that these days give, – to invest, to enjoy and to make memories.

 

Jerusalem, my home! How amazing!

The other day I was on a work-related trip to Tel Aviv. Driving home from there, following the roadsigns to Jerusalem, I almost had to pinch myself to believe that this is really the life I am living. Even now, – having lived in Jerusalem for almost two decades, I am still that excited about it. Just imagine, – I get to call Jerusalem my home! I get to follow the roadsigns to Jerusalem when I am heading home!!

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Living in Jerusalem has many different aspects to it. Right now the challenging aspects of life in Israel are showing themselves. Daily we get news updates of the horrible terror that is coming against our people, – our women, our mothers, our children. It is hard to describe with words, and it is a reality nobody should have to deal with.

Yet at the same time, somehow, this strengthens us, it strengthens our identity of who we are, as very different from the ones who are coming against us like this, worse than animals. It makes it very clear who we have to turn to, to cling to and to trust in, – the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, – the God of Israel!

And somehow, in spite of this difficult reality, the people of Israel manage to have a joy of life that I find admirable! It may be what comes from gaining perspective, building something, sacrificing, – it may be the fruit of living for something bigger than yourself.

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In the mornings I like to take time to read the Bible, and so often I come across such amazing, beautiful promises to Israel, and not the least to Jerusalem! And then to think, I get to be here, to live here, to have a part in these promises, in this wonderful hope!

Just look at these promises from Zechariah 8:

Thus says the LORD of hosts:

‘I am zealous for Zion with great zeal; 

With great fervor I am zealous for her.’

‘I will return to Zion,

And dwell in the midst of Jerusalem.

Jerusalem shall be called the City of Truth,

The mountain of the LORD of hosts,

The Holy Mountain.’

‘Old men and women shall again sit 

In the streets of Jerusalem,

Each one with his staff in his hand

Because of his great age

The streets of the city

Shall be full of boys and girls,

Playing in the streets.’

‘Behold, I will save My people from the land of the east

And from the land of the west;

I WILL BRING THEM BACK,

AND THEY SHALL DWELL IN THE MIDST OF JERUSALEM.

THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE

AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD,

IN TRUTH AND RIGHTOUSNESS.’

What promises! What hope! And let me tell you, – it is happening already! Now and in our days! The process has begun, and it is truly an amazing thing to be a part of!

Swimming through the Tiberias Marathon

Thursday was a really beautiful day. We picked up our Marathon Packs in Tiberias that evening, and the temperature in the city was 17 degrees. Just perfect. But we knew the forecast for the next morning, was 100 % chance of rain, – and boy, were they right! During the night we woke up several times from the loud sounds of thunder, then there was lightning and lots and lots of rain. And Friday it practically poured the whole time, sometimes really bad and sometimes even worse. It was as though the heavens had just opened and sent tons and tons of huge drops down on us. They are blessings, I know, and as I looked up at the hills of Galilee, I was surprised they weren’t greener, – they sure will be after this rainfall!

My thought as we looked out at the pouring rain while my husband and I were waiting for as long as possible in the car this morning, was: – I am so glad I am not going for a PR at this race! This was my seventh marathon, I had not trained perfectly for it, but knew I had it in me to finish it, just not very fast.

IMG_5553.JPGMy plan was to start running with the 4:30 pacers, and finish either a bit before or a bit after them. Seeing the weather conditions of this marathon, it was not surprising that it ended up being a couple of minutes after.

Anyway, – for the first two kilometers I ran with this pacing group. As we stood and waited for the marathon to start, people were talking about that they kind of wished the marathon would be cancelled. I did not agree. The first marathon I trained for, was cancelled, and it was VERY disappointing.

The puddles in the beginning of this marathon were just ridiculous! The starting gate was one big muddy puddle, so there was no way you were not going to get wet! You start your 42.2 kilkometer run by stepping into a deep puddle, – how fun…or not. During the first two kilometers, there were many more puddles like that, and even though we were already wet, we kept trying to avoid stepping into this muddy river in the street, so we would do little de-tours to get around them. People were making references to crossing the Jordan river…

But these de-tours were getting kind of crazy, as we ended up having to really wait in line for people to make it down from a mudbank we had climbed to get away from the water and stuff. So, – I decided I would move ahead from this pacing group already, and go with a crowd that were not as big on de-tours.

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Look at the puddles we had to run through! I am glad someone else got a good picture of them!

I found a nice small group of runners who wore jackets saying they belonged to an army running group. It seemed we ran a similar pace, so I hung on to them until about kilometer 10.

About 15 minutes after we started, there was another race started, for the people running 10 K. Our son was in that group, so I was thinking of him. What surprised me was the fact that the elite runners from this group caught up with us! They were really, really fast as they sprinted past us!

I was surprised of the amount of cheerers who had come out to this marathon-arrangement, in spite of the heavy rain. I would thank them all for coming out as I ran past them! If there were children, I would run over and high-five them. Good times!

The marathon staff though, were pointing us in the right direction and stuff, but not cheering, and a couple of times as I thanked them for being there, I would with a smile say they should encourage the runners who came after me. I mean, we could all use all the encouragement that we could get. It was just pouring rain all the time, and we had to just keep on running through puddle after puddle.

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At around the 10K point, one of the women in the little group I was running with, started to complain to another woman in the group about the fact that her body felt as though it had ran 20K already… O-oh, I though, and decided to move on ahead from this group too. I always liked when I could find a small group or a couple of runners that I could just hang on to, and I kept on finding different people like that, and it was working well for me.

I had had this plan that I was going to wear a garbage bag while waiting for the marathon to start. I went to the super market and bought the biggest garbage bags they had, and as I gave one to my son to wear, I explained that you only wear it while waiting, – after running through the starting gate, you just get rid of it. However, when I started my race and the rain was pouring so heavily, I was not at all tempted to get rid of my garbage bag / rain coat. So I kept it on. A little before the 11th kilometer mark I thought that maybe the rain had moved to somewhat more of a drizzle, and was considering throwing away my bag. But before I had quite made up my mind, it started raining really heavily again, and I was so glad I still had my garbage bag. I felt it protected my phone too, which I had in the pocket of my fueling-belt

As the rain strengthened at around the 11th kilometer mark, I heard people behind me starting to sing a well known Yom Kippur song – Chatanu lefanecha, rachem aleinu… We have sinned before you, HAVE MERCY ON US! – Only in Israel, I thought, and smiled in the midst of the heavy rain.

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A bit after the 14th kilometer mark, we met the elite runners on their way back after having turned around at the half way point. I very much like the fact that this marathon is an out-and-back marathon. I find it really entertaining to meet the ones ahead of me when they come back, and also to see the ones behind me after I have turned around. This is also an excellent opportunity to encourage the other runners. Just about everyone is encouraging the first ones to come back, but I like to encourage everyone. And I really meant it, when I told people they were amazing, – I think we all were quite amazing out there running and running hour after hour sopping wet!

At around kilometer 18 1/2, I met my husband on his way back. That was a highlight of course! We high-fived each other and shared some encouraging words as we ran past each other. I was happy to see that he seemed to be right on pace for his time goal, finishing about an hour ahead of me.

When I think of the marathon now, I think the best part of it for me, probably was kilometers 14 – 21.1. Having finished 14, I knew I had done a third of the race, and I still felt really good. It was lots of fun meeting all the runners who were coming back, and the kilometers flew by as I was encouraging the runners ahead of me. At this stretch I was also passing quite a few people, providing me with a feeling of success, I guess.

However, turning around at 21.1 was a brutal meeting with a tougher reality. The wind against us was so strong, it felt like quite the wall in the beginning. – Wow! I said out loud, and someone who passed me right then said that – Yes, this is the hard part…

All of a sudden it felt like the rain that hit my face mixed with hail as the winds were so strong. Puh!

I was really glad I still had my garbage bag on, as another layer of protection agains the wind. When I looked at people around me without bags, I felt bad for them, and thought I had an advantage being dry and warm inside my bag.

As I was yelling out words of encouragement to the people who had not yet  come to the turning point, I considered if I should warn them of this wind that they would all of a sudden feel at that point. But I decided against it, why discourage them?

At around kilometer 24-25, the traffic in the other direction ended, and I felt the need for a new focus. Time to turn on some music on my phone. However, I did not really want to take my phone out in that heavy rain, so I decided to make a quick stop at the next bus-stop, and there, under cover, I would I dig out my phone so as not to destroy it in the rain.

Hmmm… Where were the bus-stops?

My feet were already starting to feel really, really heavy. This feeling came earlier than it has in my other marathons, probably because my shoes were just super heavy from the get-go, being filled with water and all!

Are there no buses on this side of the Sea of Galilee?

I mentioned that between kilometers 14 to 21 I had been passing people. Well, after the turning point I was struggling to keep up with the people around me. Around the 24th kilometer mark I picked a woman I was going to try to hang on to, and I ran behind her for a few kilometers. She was running with her husband or someone, and I thought she was doing really well. At least it was very helpful for me to have her to hang on to. However, just before kilometer 27, she got tired, and they decided to do some walking. As I passed her, I told her what a help she had been to me, and did my best to encourage her.

Just then the 4:30 pacing group caught up with me, and I thought of how helpful it would be to try to run with them. But it was not to be, because I had promised myself a little break at the next bus-stop, remember?

At the 27th kilometer mark, there was a bus-stop, by Kibbutz Ha-On. Of course, there hadn’t been any before that, because nobody lived there! Duh!! Anyway, I finally got to make my bus-stop break, and was surprised to find my phone far from dry, but fortunately still functioning really well. After turning on music, I also took the opportunity to find my paper towel in the pocket of my fleece jacket, to blow my nose. It was sopping wet, so the feeling of being dry must be an illusion… The third thing I did during my bus-stop-visit, was getting out a date-and-walnut-treat from a zip lock bag on my fueling-belt, and then I was on my way again.

The music was very helpful, and the wind against us had gotten a bit less strong as we got closer to the southern end of the lake. The view was pretty much blocked by the rain, but I could still get a glimpse of the lake on my right side and the banana fields on my left. And as I looked ahead I could see the tall eucalyptus trees lining the wet road filled with wet runners.

During this section I was also praying for many people I pray for regularly. Sick people in need of healing, family members and friends.

As I made the turn at the 30th kilometer, there was a very encouraging staff-person telling me I looked really good, and I was trying to remember if he was one of those that I had encouraged to start cheering when I passed him last time.

Even if I have gained a little bit of experience with running marathons now, I have not mastered the right way to cut the corners, because I always end up running way more than 42.2 kilometers. So when Strava gave me audio updates at every kilometer, the gap grew bigger and bigger to the actual kilometer markings on the course. I especially remember hearing the update that I had now ran 32 kilometers quite a while before the 32nd kilometer marking actually showed up. But just then a song I like very much was played on a loudspeaker right there:  – Matanot katanot, Small gifts, and I danced to the music and was encouraged again. :-)

People say that the actual marathon starts at kilometer 32. Up until that point you are just warming up… Well, I was comforting myself with the fact that I was feeling fine. Not any worse than at kilometer 25. Still heavy feet, but no worse. And really, this was better than running in the heat, way better. Also, I was not really feeling cold. Wet yes, but not cold. I kept going over lists of things to be thankful for. Thankful for health and the ability to run. Those things should not be taken for granted.

It was time for the only hill in the Tiberias marathon. It is nothing compared to the Jerusalem hills, but it is still a hill, and my pace was slowing down. But you know, what goes up must go down, and after the uphill, came a nice downhill. I was telling myself to maximize the  downhill, and try to speed up a bit, thinking of how nice it would be to notice this when I later on in the warmth of the car would go over all the wonderful data that Strava would provide me with regarding the pace of each kilometer of the race.

And what was that? Had it stopped raining for a moment?!

No, not the case, the drops were just somewhat smaller for a moment.

At the bottom of the hill, was a nice fruit-stand where they were giving out orange- and banana-pieces, and I spontaneously decided to make a stop there to have something to eat. (Totally destroying the data of any increase in speed from the downhill of course!) The people manning the booth, were very encouraging, telling me it looked like the running came easily for me, and I looked great. Instead of saying thank you, I started to cry… I guess it was a result of exhaustion and just emotional overload. Time to go on running!

At kilometer 36 there was another loudspeaker, and this one was playing “Golden boy”, the Israeli Eurovison song from this year. My kids love that song, and hearing it made me smile, and I danced to it too.

The woman I had ran with for a few kilometers on the other side of the lake had now passed me, but she was doing some walk intervals, so later I passed her again. We would always encourage each other as we passed each other, and when I passed her at kilometer 37, we made a plan to take a photo together at the finishing gate.

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Towards the end we hit some huge river-puddles again, and I had to smile as I heard another runner comment “Careful not to get wet, guys!”, as though we were not as wet as we could possibly be already!

As I approached the 40th kilometer marking I heard myself moan. I was alright, but just feeling really exhausted, I guess. The same thing happened as I passed the 41st kilometer marking. They say exhaustion is closely linked to the fact that you know that you are close to your finishing point. I guess I can testify to this being true for me at least.

However, I was trying to speed up a bit during the last couple of kilometers. I am always quite amazed at how many people are walking this part. Yes, that is what we all feel like doing, but hey, we are almost done. Let’s get there! Let’s give it all we have!

Several times during the race I thought of an old man we had met during one of our training runs in Jerusalem. He had stood by and watched us pass by, cheered us on and said “Just keep on lifting your legs!” So that was what I was doing, – just keeping on lifting my legs.

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HAHA! Would you look at the desperation in those eyes?!

42 kilometers! Only 200 more meters to go! And there I could see the finishing gate!! Yes!!! Already feeling the relief, I was lifting my arms in the air and getting through that gate as fast as I could! And I was done! Yeay!!!

On the other side of the finishing gate, my dear husband was waiting for me. The poor guy was really freezing of course, having stood there cold and wet for a whole hour!

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After having some refreshments and gotten our picture taken together, we left the area and went looking for a good falafel for him. I do not feel I can really eat a meal so soon after finishing that long of a run, but we stopped for coffee for me later, and that was yummy!

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The rest of the weekend we spend with good friends in Kfar Tavor not so far from Tiberias. Really good times for all, young and old.

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– Just sit here with me, Imma.

It is that time of the year. Various kinds of the flu, colds and unpleasant stuff are going around. This morning my little princess woke up with a high fever, poor one. She has been knocked out on the couch all day, and was only feeling worse come evening. (We will go to the doctor first thing tomorrow morning.)

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I didn’t take any pictures today, so here is one from New Year’s Eve when we had hot chocolates at the King David Hotel! :-)

With both of my children, when they are sick like this, and I ask them: – Is there anything you would like? Anything I can get you?  All they want is for me to be there with them. – If you could just sit here with me, Imma…

And so I try to do just that. I have read out loud countless chapters of various books today. We have hugged, we have watched movies, and when she was feeling relatively strong because of fever reducing pain killers, we even started a new knitting project.

And this evening, I must have sat for more than an hour singing songs by her bed. But you know, I am thankful that these types of things actually seem to bring her comfort! It really seems to help! I imagine there will come days when it will seem harder to find something to do to help her, – now at least it is within my reach to do something that actually helps.

So at times like these, when my ten year old baby is in need of some tender loving care, I am so thankful to be able to give it to her, quite easily, in ways that actually comfort her!

At the same time, in between all the hugging and reading, I eat some chicken soup, drink some hot cider and do what I can to strengthen my own immune system. No time is a good time to get sick, but now especially so,  – I have a marathon to run in five days…

My chicken soup recipe

As soon as a member of the household is starting to feel somewhat under the weather, I write “chicken” on my shopping list and make plans to cook up a big pot of chicken soup as soon as possible.

Not only is it a natural Jewish penicillin that will help someone get healthy quicker, it can help you stay healthy and prevent you from getting sick! And, – it tastes pretty good too!

Most Ashkenazi Jewish families will have chicken soup as part of the Seder meal at Pesach, and our family likes it so much that we have it on many winter shabbats too.

My dear husband has not been feeling so well lately, and it was time for the chicken soup treatment. We also have weather forecasts for a winter storm coming up (and maybe, maybe, maybe we’ll get to see snow!!), so I imagine many a Jerusalem household smells like ours right now, – of chicken soup!

And since it seemed like such a relevant thing right now, I decided to share my recipe here on the blog. And it is really easy too! :-)

CHICKEN SOUP

one whole chicken

four peeled carrots

two onions, cut in quarters

a bunch of celery leaves

some fresh parsley

one ripe tomato

salt and pepper to taste

Ok, so, you need one whole chicken for about three liters of soup. Earlier I used to have the butcher cut the chicken into pieces for me, or attempt to do this myself at home, but then I figured that it really doesn’t matter if it is cut or not as it will be torn into pieces before it is served anyway. So now I only wash it well, and then place it directly into a pot with three liters (12 cups) of water.

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I bring this to a boil, and then remove the white stuff that ends up on top, before adding the rest of the ingredients. My celery leaves were from the freezer this time, so they don’t look so fresh, but it is a really convenient way to keep the leaves when you have used the stems for something else, right? And to make up for it, – look at the parsley! It was picked moments before in my garden! :-)

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Now this is brought to a boil, and you just leave it there for hours and hours. At least three, but more is just fine, I have even left it overnight at times.

At this point you need to let it cool slightly, enough for you to be able to handle the contents with your hands. You sift the clear soup through a sieve, and remove the parts you want to keep and serve with the soup; – the carrots and the actual chicken-meat. Throw away the bones and the skin. But the tomato, the onion and the greenery you push towards the sieve and only throw away the very dry parts that won’t go through.

Tada, – here is your soup! Now you can slice your carrots and tear up the chicken and add it back to the soup, and it is ready to be served.

In our family, though, chicken soup is not really ready before there are matzo balls in it, – it doesn’t matter if it is not Pesach! The matza balls you can either make from scratch from matzo meal or you can make the instant ones were you just add eggs to a ready mix. I normally go for this last option, but I like to boil them in the actual soup, and then they of course take flavor and nutrients from the soup as they cook.

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I hope you will enjoy it as much as we do!

B’teavon and La’Briut!

A thriving land and people.

This morning I had the joy to drive from Jerusalem to Haifa. I loved the views of the terraced hills of Judea, and just the biblical landscape that makes up this country. Now it is clothed in green, and the highways wore the yellow frames of early wild flowers.

I even loved seeing the signs pointing to the various cities I passed on my way, – Modi’in, Ariel, Tel Aviv, Netanya, – saying a blessing over each one as I drove by. I saw busstops full of people, typical for a Sunday morning when everyone is returning to the work week after Shabbat. The roads were full of cars, but the traffic was flowing very well. – I experienced a country which was flourishing in every way! Folks, – the Land of Israel and the People of Israel are thriving!

Coming closer to my destination, I drove with the Carmel mountains on my right and the beautiful Mediterranean on my left, and I opened the window to get a smell of the fresh ocean air. Oh, that is something I miss in Jerusalem!

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In Haifa I met with immigrant after immigrant. Some had been here for a long time, like a man from India who immigrated ten years ago and speaks seven languages fluently! Another one had been here for as little as two months, but was already making himself understood in Hebrew, using the little he had already learnt in ulpan (Hebrew language course).

After the purchase of seven fridges and three washing machines, and after ten thankful faces and happy encounters, work was done. Work that I feel so blessed, thankful and privileged to take part in. The Jewish people settling in the Land of their inheritance is prophecy being fulfilled, and I get to take part in it! Sometimes I almost have to pinch myself to make sure it is not just a dream!

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Before I drove back to Jerusalem, I met up with a dear friend in Haifa at the beach. Beautiful friend and beautiful place,  – lucky me!

Then there was an afternoon of a late lunch and some reading with my precious children, some Mom-taxi-duty and some quick errands.

And this evening I got together with another dear friend here in Jerusalem to celebrate her birthday! We went to one of our favorite places, called Te’enim (hehe ;-)) located just opposite the Old City walls with an absolutely amazing view. This view was made even more magical tonight accompanied by a full moon. 8276_10207252671427034_465459331501432266_n.jpg

So here I am at the end of a long day, feet up, candles lit and yet another cup of tea, – feeling really, really blessed!