How long does it take to relax?

We’re half way through our 2 weeks in Cyprus. A holiday within out Israel holiday! Israel is amazing and beautiful, but there is this constant feeling of wanting to make the most of every moment you’re there, and because we’re always 1, doing things on the cheap, and 2, “living” there as opposed to staying in a hotel or resort, it means there’s a lot of mental overhead being there.

The purpose of our 2 weeks in Cyprus is to stay a hotel with a pool, by the beach, and just do… absolutely nothing. No guilt about days filled with endless screen time, and trips to the same beach over and over and over again. Just relaxing.

Even on day 1 we felt like we’d made a mistake. Maybe this is WAY too long to relax and do nothing?! Maybe we should have only done one week?!

BUT we’re 1 week in, and I feel like I’m only JUST starting to relax now. Like it has taken a FULL WEEK to calm the F&*# down and stop thinking so much, and to just… be. I realised it today when I felt the urge to CREATE again (something I have felt too continually overwhelmed to do the entire time we’ve been away – and if I’m honest for probably months before this trip) in the form of making a video and it all just came so naturally and freely and beautifully. Creative mojo! May it never leave me again!

I’d attempted to make a video at the start of the week (because you know, I wanted to make the most of my 2 weeks off… :-/ ), and it was just clunky and made me tired and it just… didn’t work.

So there you go, don’t underestimate the time needed to unwind and loose the “busy” momentum! I’m pretty sure once this next week is over and I’ll be so relaxed I won’t want to go into “sight seeing hustle” mode for our last week in Israel! But either way, maybe it’s what I need in life right now!

Cheshvan 5783

Below are some notes I’ve taken from a variety of sources about the Hebrew month of Cheshvan that we have just started. At the end of the notes I’ve also written some of my personal goals for this months that align with the energies and principles of Cheshvan.

Woman standing in from the holy Jewish Western Wall in Jerusalem, Israel.
Talia at the Western Wall, Jerusalem, Israel.

Cheshvan Notes:

Nun – letter of Moshiach. 

Nun also associated with the word nephal (sp?) – to fall. Sometimes to go higher we must first go lower, and understanding this ebb and flow – this ability to “fall” gracefully and use it as an opportunity to come back up again greater than before is important spiritual work. Along the lines of going through a hard time (study, physical pain, etc.) in order to achieve a higher goal.

8 – eternal revelation of Hashem. 8th month of the year. 

Astrological sign – Scorpio. Rebirth. The rising after a fall is like a rebirth. We must have faith and believe that Hashem (and us!) can use these falls as opportunities to raise higher.

G-d is near us, even in the depths. Sometimes we feel him even closer then than we do when we are in times of happiness and simcha.

Meditate on the dark spots and failures in our life and in the world, and turn them into happiness. Like a ball that is thrown to the ground in order for it to bounce up higher!

Sometimes called MarCheshvan. Some say because there are no Yomin Tovim during Cheshvan. But others say it’s because we are doing the work of connecting with the bitterness of the world so that we can internalise it and repair it. Bitter accounting.

In a world sense – we can see this as the world falls further away from Hashem we can potentially use hitting rock bottom, to see Moshiach come!

If loss comes this month accept it and move through it. This can be part of going down in order to come up.

Scorpio – returning to the essence in order to heal oneself of obsession. 

In this context, the Hebrew word עקרב akrav (“scorpion”), contains an important teaching. Akrav is composed of the same letters as the word בעקר – be’ikar (“in the essence”). Thus, the only way for us to be saved when we are “possessed” by the objects of our passion is to separate from the object and transform this passion into the passion for true essence, the source of our spiritual renewal.

Focus back on our true loves – the things that bring us love and life. Loving ourselves (and part of this is doing the things that we love) is part of the freedom that comes in Cheshvan. 

We believe G-d is an absolute, non-negotiable presence in our lives, and as such this believe catches us when we really get to rock bottom.

MarCheshvan can be a month of trials and reckoning. Sefer Yetzirah also refers to this month as a month of Chesed. It is Hashem’s love for us that brings trials – so that we can grow and mature. 

We must demonstrate Chesed towards ourselves when we go through trials and bitterness. 

Hashem encompasses both joy and bitterness, both chased and trials. HaSatan is but an angel doing Hashem’s work by tempting us a giving us opportunities to reach more enlightenment. Hashem creates both light and darkness.

A month of self reflection and internalisation. We made Teshuvah in Elul, and we celebrated and did more Teshuvah in Tishrei, and now is our first chance to really integrate those intentions we made while doing Teshuvah.

“The transformation we seek this month comes when we come to love ourselves on a soul level more than we need to be loved and validated by others on an ego level.” – Mindy Ribner

2022 goals and notes:

Context: I am currently travelling in Israel and Cyprus. We will be home just around Rosh Chodesh Kislev.

  • Finish this trip with joy and appreciation.
  • Try and find some space for self care on this trip. I can feel myself feeling stressed and overwhelmed and snappy at the kids. Need to reset a bit. Will spend 2 very chill weeks in Cyprus, so that might be the ticket!
  • I think yoga or breathwork on this trip would help me to be in touch with my body and connect and integrate my mind and body and spirit.

Homeschooling in Israel

This post is just a mass of thoughts. I take no responsibility to do any of the things I talk about, or that they’re the “right” thing to do either!

So we’re in Israel at the moment! We got here on Thursday, and today is Wednesday. So far all we’ve really done is get ready for Shabbat/Chagim, and go to synagogue! Ha! Today Saadia has gone to get us a hire car which is great, so we’ll be able to drive around and see some more things!

So how does homeschooling fit into travelling like this!? Well, travelling IS an education – whether you write it down and do the math or don’t. It’s still an education and it’s still a valuable experience. I guess you could say we’ve gone totally unschooling rogue this term! But I do really want to take advantage of the fact that we’re in Israel and particularly boost our love for Eretz Israel, and improve our Hebrew!

Here are some ideas of how we can incorporate this:

  • Download the Google app and use the translate photo feature to translate packaging etc.
  • Hebrew sight words
  • Buy some Hebrew learning books
  • Practice using only Hebrew for certain words at home (will take practice for Saadia and I also!)
  • Buy games in Hebrew and learn to play them in Hebrew!

Homeschooling Thoughts from a newbie (again)

I am now officially homeschooling all my kids! It feels quite “right” but also very overwhelming, and a huge responsibility. Some days I feel like I’m doing so much with them, and other days I feel like they might be falling behind. I can tell this is ridiculous, because we’re only a few weeks in. They’re not going to fall behind in just a few weeks! It’s just that self doubt creeping in…

When I first homeschooled Lior back when he was in Prep, things were different. Different for me for sure (my first child at school, 2 other very little kids at home, and my health was very poor), but also the homeschooling environment was very different!

Back then, in 2017 people homeschooled because either this what they believed was the ideal way to education children, or because they had a child with some special needs or neurodiversity and they weren’t working in the school system.

I’m noticing this time the majority of people who are homeschooling are people who are just starting this year, and who are dissatisfied with the education system, government, and the state of society as a whole (I have not met a single homeschooling parent yet who would get the Cvd vaccine). They realise that the education system is floored and that if they put some effort in, they can probably do just as good of a job!

But because these parents never intended to homeschool (almost all in my area sent their kids to school last year and have taken them out this year to homeschool), they also recognise that they can’t do it alone. They don’t really have anything to prove. And so the COMMUNITY is amazing! People are willing to trade ideas and skills and resources. People are wanting to meet up for fun, but also for learning, and parents are wanting to support one another. It’s really beautiful to see, and a real joy to be part of!

Life’s Purpose

The other night Luke and I were talking, and he asked me if I knew what my purpose on earth was. I was grateful to discover that I did in fact know, and not only that, but I could put it into words and sentences and it all made sense. Hooray!

I feel like my life’s purpose is to cultivate and regenerate the land that I have access to. I did this when we were renting in Brisbane, and I do this now, just on a much larger and more permanent scale. To me this means making sure the land I have access to is rich with native plants, void of weeds that seek our and destroy native plants and spaces, and also that the land I have access to is profitable – that it produces fruit and vegetables and herbs and all manner of food. Not only that, that the soil I use it’s just full of synthetic fertalisers and chemicals, but that it’s as natural as possible. That I use our food scraps and leaf litter to make compost to feed my plants. The I utilise animals if possible for manure and plant management. Things like this.

And my second purpose ties into the first in the I want to be a wise Jewish woman oracle – one who is a bit of healer, with herbs and potions and what not. But more specifically I want to be engaged in reviving Jewish postpartum rituals and care. But also helping with all women. Basically, if I help every birthing woman I can with meals and a listening ear, or… whatever she needs in her postpartum time, no matter if they’re Jewish or not, I will be fulfilling my life’s purpose. Ideally I would love to help and encourage people to prepare for their own postpartum.

Foster Caring Step One

Last night Luke and I had a 1 hour call with a foster care agency. At this point we (and by “we” I mean, “I” of course…) had made the initial enquiry with the relevant government department, followed up with them, and then had a quick conversation with this foster care agency and read their follow up email which included a link to book this 1 hour call. We started this about 3 weeks ago, and now we’re here. I think the call went well. She has moved us on to the next stage of the process at least, so I think that means we passed this section!

The next stage is a local person from this agency contacting us and arranging a home visit. This is what I’m most nervous about, and I guess this will be the “yes or no” of the situation – if our house is suitable. I’m certainly confident that as people and as a family we’re suitable people (this is what the phone interview was for), it’s just that where we live is a little unconventional in some aspects (rural property, a second dwelling for my parents on the property, etc. so we need to see if what we have works. I also have a little list of things I need to make sure we had working and in place for our house to be suitable.

On the phone we spoke to the lady about if there was much of a need for foster families at the moment, and she said the need was through the roof. She is in Sydney, and I think things are worse there because everyone is in lockdown for going on 7 weeks now, and not many foster parents signed up to homeschool foster kids during a pandemic! So it’s pretty hectic for them. I imagine it’s a little less strained up in QLD, but from what I’ve heard there is still way more foster kids than there are foster families able to take them in.

I’ve had to answer the question of “why are you looking to become a foster carer” a million times now (well, not quite a million…), and I think I’ve finally worked it out. The truth is that one day it just hit me that this is something I “had” to do. You know that flutter in your heart, feeling of sure-ness that even though you know this thing will be hard and stretch you and be uncomfortable that it’s what you’re called to do. Of course I hope that there will be lots of love and happiness and joy in the process of fostering and that we can make a real difference to these kids lives and the lives of their parents. But I’m not so naive as to think that it won’t be a hard slog to get there.

And so other than this somewhat spiritual and esoteric reason for wanting to foster, the more down to earth response is that it breaks my heart to think and hear of children who are unsafe or unloved. I believe that I have a lot of safety and love to give to more children than just the ones I’ve given birth to, and because I see myself as having the ability and desire to love and care for children, I think I should. It’s as simple as that. I can, and so I should.

To be honest, after our call I was a little scared. There was a lot of talk about trauma and disabilities and things like this, and while I know all of these things are possible and perhaps even likely (children aren’t being taken away from their parents because they’re well adjusted and well cared for…), to hear it said so plainly was a reality check.

The next step for us is to talk to my parents about it (they will need to get blue cards when they live on the same property as us), and get an house things in order (we still have to register our pool that got finished a few months ago. Whoops!), and then await the call from the local agency rep. I’m excited, and a little scared, but so grateful to feel like we’re on the right path.

Cheder Activities 17th Tammuz 5781

We’ve started a Co-op Cheder where we live while the local Rabbi is away and working out whether or not he and his family will stay. Of course, no matter what other people in the Jewish community are doing, my own kids need to keep learning about Judaism and studying Hebrew! I figured while I was teaching my kids I may as well teach other kids who are keen! So this is what we did this week:

Important Day Re-cap

Today is a fast day – the 17th of Tammuz. Last week we spoke about this fast day in preparation, as well as the three weeks. So we just had a discussion talking about the 5 terrible things that happened on this day in history, as well as what we do or don’t do on a fast day. Prizes (a single M&M!) for each thing a child contributed.

13 Principles of Faith Activity

We did an introduction to the 13 Principles of Jewish Faith last week, so this was a follow on, consolidating activity. On strips of paper the students had 18 different “principles” they had to read and sort through. Some were ridiculous and funny (Hashem’s favourite food is ice-cream), and others were there to throw them off course like listing some of the 10 commandments! Once they chose what they thought was right I would check and tell them how many they needed to swap. And we continued this until everyone had it correct.

Together we talked about how the principles can be grouped into sections, and we put them in the right order and they glued them on their paper.

I instructed my children to put it on their bedroom walls so that they could check it regularly and commit it to memory.

I expect to do another activity on this topic next week to continue their learning.

You can download this activity for free here.

Shema Activity

This was primarily a translation activity. All the students in the group are familiar with this prayer, but this activity would also be appropriate for students that were unfamiliar with it. All the students in our group were also able to sound out the Hebrew (at least the letters if not the nikud).

I had cut out all the transliterated and English words, and the students had to sort them and connect them to the right Hebrew words. I encouraged students to first match the transliteration, then the English.