A Bittersweet Wedding, A New Chapter Begins

"It takes a village to raise a child"

This resonates with me, not in the sense that everyone in my "village" helped to raise me, but that I can point to many people along the way in my life who have contributed to who I am today. Besides for my parents who played an obvious leading role, there are many other "parents" of mine who I've looked to time and time again for guidance and love. Some came and went, and some have been there for as long as I can remember.

One of the constants in my life was Stella Frankl. Many of you who have read my blog know that Stella's battle with cancer affected me deeply, and when she passed away last year it was devastating. I felt like I had lost a mother of mine. She was a constant symbol in my life of peace, tranquility, a successful Olah to Israel, and so many more things. I distinctly remember unsuccessfully trying to keep my emotions in check at work on the day she passed away and of breaking down at my desk at the end of the day and just letting the tears flow freely.

Over the past year, as I've watched Yarden, Max, Miriam, Rivka, and Yedidya pick up the pieces, I've tried to do so myself. It's not been an easy task, especially with making Aliyah this year. When Rivkah and I came to Israel on vacation in 2012 while Stella was in remission. I had the opportunity to spend some time talking to her one-on-one and I told her that we were serious about making Aliyah in the near future and she told me that she'd be there to meet our flight. I was so excited to be able to share my Aliyah experience with someone who had inspired me so much and was one of the main role models I had for doing it. That conversation was one of our last talks and it's something that sticks with me to this day.

It has been especially exciting to see Yarden picking up the pieces and meeting his now new wife Gilly, who went through a similar experience as Yarden's, and I had the privilege of attending their wedding in Bat Ayin on Thursday night. It was actually the second time I had been to one of Yarden's weddings (I was in attendance when he and Stella got re-married after her conversion). I have to be honest that the celebratory mood did not come easily for me. During the dancing I fluctuated between extreme happiness (how couldn't I? Yarden looked so ecstatic) and stepping outside to let out some tears. I even called my father back in the States and we talked for a while about the good old days in Potomac.

Despite the tough emotions that I was facing, I think I've hit a turning point though. I still miss Stella every day, just like everyone else she touched and affected during her lifetime. But during the wedding I could feel her presence there, and I could feel her approval. I felt like Yarden and Gilly were including her in the celebration. I didn't feel like she was being packaged up and put into a dusty box on the shelf. Yarden has left no doubt in anyones minds that Stella wasn't just a phase in his life, a chapter that he's left behind. And on Thursday, as he started a new chapter with Gilly, Stella was there along with all of us, helping us write the first few sentences and putting her stamp of approval on the page.

I hope that Yarden and Gilly share many great years together. It's truly amazing that they found each other and their love and joy was abundantly clear.


My 2015 Reading Goal

I've always been a reader. When I was in elementary school we had an annual 600 minute reading challenge and whoever logged the full 10 hours got a free ticket to 6 Flags. I regularly doubled up the goal with 20 hours. I've Harry Potter books 4-7 within 48 hours of obtaining a copy (some withing 24 hours).

When I got married, and more-so when Yaeli was born, I stopped finding the time to read. It was very difficult for me and weighed on my mind constantly. If I found time to read I would get a few pages in and then fall asleep. I was reading at a rate of about 1 book every month or two, if that.

I found Goodreads.com around April last year and signed up for the reading challenge to push myself to finish 20 books in 2014. It came down to the final week of the year but I completed my goal. I couldn't have felt better. I decided that since I only started tracking my progress in late April, I could probably fit more books in for this year.

So, for 2015 I've set myself a goal of 30 books. It's a modest pace of 2.5 books per month. I think I should be able to hit that goal, and in fact I've already finished 3 and January isn't over yet. I do have some very long books on my list so I'm not getting too cocky about my progress.

What I really love, though, is that having this challenge is pushing me to put my phone away on the bus and instead of wasting my time on FaceBook for 40 minutes (twice a day), I'm spending that time reading a book. I've finally become happy and comfortable with the amount of time I have to read and I'm really looking forward to not just reaching my goal but of hopefully overshooting it.


The Importance of Every Encounter

In case you haven't heard of the app called Timehop, It's a nifty little app that looks back at your history on connected social mediums (FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram...) and every day it shows you your posts from that day in history. For me it's usually pictures of my kids, tales about sporting events, or something to do with Rivkah. Nothing that's ever really made me stop and think.

Today, my brother Matty posted this picture:
At a glance, this is just a reminder that a year ago he was in Israel for the first time and experiencing what the country had to offer. However, if you know Matty, you know that this is the night he met his now-wife Zoe, in a chance encounter.

When I saw this post I couldn't help but think about how often we meet new people, or even interact with people we are familiar with, and just have no clue what kind of impact we will have on the other person. If we could each look a year ahead at our Timehops and see what has happened in the year to come, how might we approach our everyday interactions with other people? Will the passenger I cut in front of to get onto a bus end up being a coworker some day? In Matty's case, will the person he had a chance encounter with in a bar thousands of miles away from home end up being his wife? What if he'd said something that wasn't so nice? How different could his year and his life have been?

Matty was given a rare blessing to be reminded a year later of a chance encounter from the past. Hopefully it can remind all of us to think twice when we talk to others and to think about what your actions now might effect down the line.


A Secret Whispered, A Dream Realized

One year ago, on a freezing cold New Years Eve in Downtown Pittsburgh, Rivkah and I were spending the evening taking in the new year with two of our best friends. We went to several shows, including a great performance from River City Brass, our first trip to the Arcade Comedy Theater, a browse through Amazing Books, and drinks at the Fairmont Hotel. We even got to see Marc-Andre Fleury, who did NOT seem to appreciate that I recognized him (and maybe chased him a little to wish him a happy New Year).

At around 11:50, as the countdown ticked closer to midnight, and the thermometer ticked closer to zero Fahrenheit, I turned to Rivkah and we had the following whispered conversation:

Me: Should we tell them?
Rivkah: Maybe. We haven't even really decided 100% yet.
Me: I think it's the right time. It feels like the right time.
Rivkah: Ok, let's tell them.

We turned back to our friends, and told them something we hadn't told to another human being. Not even our parents. We told them that we were planning to make aliyah in 2014. We aren't exactly sure when, maybe September or October, maybe earlier, but one way or another by the end of 2014 we would hopefully be living in the holy land of Israel.

We celebrated, brought in the new year together, and the next day I opened up a profile with Nefesh B'Nefesh. The rest, as they say, is history. On July first, six months later to the day, we landed in Israel and became full blown citizens of this wonderful country. We've had our ups and downs, and we haven't yet transferred our drivers licenses so there's still plenty of bureaucracy left ahead of us, but now, one year later and six months after landing, I feel like we made the best decision of our lives.

Shana Tovah. I wish all of you a successful year and you should be able to achieve the goals you set for yourself.