Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Education and WHY are we obsessed about class sizes?


Just lately I have been corrupted by watching a bit of TV. Lateline and QandA.  http://www.abc.net.au/tv/qanda/txt/s3546943.htm You can watch it here.
All heady stuff and it sent my trigger fingers itching for a keyboard to pound out my ideas and answer in to the question being repeatedly asked by the shadow Education minister Christopher Pyne. Now Christopher must have been in a school where class size does not matter, because of other extenuating circumstances in the academic paradigm.  To be honest there are many aspects of classroom dynamics that come into play when we discuss student learning and the quality of the education experience. There are the following just for starters:
1. Student backgrounds and how learning is perceived in the home. Is academic achievement highly valued or not?
2. Student capability and the way students learn. Students are individuals and each student is a unique individual with his or her challenges, weaknesses or strengths. A good teacher recognises that.
3. Quality teachers - meaning a teacher who is dedicated to education, knowledgeable in his or her subject area, an organised and proficient multi-tasker who is above all able to engage students in the subject and inspire them to learn. Empathy for students is a desirable quality. Not all teachers have it and a teacher can be a good teacher without it. Once I heard this comment from a student to a teacher who was leaving for another school, 'Sir, you were the bestest teacher ever. I loved your classes. We had such fun. We may not learned much. But gee, you were great. (sic)' I thought at the time, gee I am glad I did not learn with that sort of teacher. Good learning  and progress involves more than just having a good time and playing around in the classroom.
I was scared of some of my teachers and loved some. The one that taught me the most, was a calm and unflappable Art teacher called Mrs Stent. She was brilliant. I loved her.The next teacher was a doughty Scots woman called Mrs McDonall who taught us English in years nine and ten. We were scared of her. But she was great and boy, did we work in her class. You dared not slack off. I did have an English teacher in year 11 who bored me to tears. All I remember of her classes was her reading the Rime of the Ancient Mariner and thinking to myself 'Why doesn't she make it a bit fun or let someone else read?' She had a monotonous voice. We had small class sizes as I went to a small boarding school in Warwick. Our classes were 20 or less.
I have started work on an article on class sizes in the private education sector as opposed to the public sector. I have spoken with several private schools today and the research has become quite interesting. One school I spoke to has in place in years 7 - 8 class sizes of 30 that are team taught by two teachers. One of the teachers is the educational specialist, meaning that they teach English, History, Maths, Geography or Science or IT for example and the other teacher is a generalist teacher who supports the students in that class and who goes with them to a number of different classes. Thus this second teacher is then very familiar with all the students in that particular class and is able to view the students over a wide range of subjects and understand the students' individual strengths and weaknesses in a number of KLA's. I would imagine that this is a very effective model both for students and for teachers. The specialist teacher would be preparing the class learning and topics for the term for a number of classes and year levels and the other teacher who is their learning mentor would be able to assess the students' progress and challenges in several areas.
Elective subjects would be dealt with differently I imagine. They are usually smaller classes anyway by the very nature of the classes.
The student teacher ratio is then 15 students to one teacher as a general rule. This makes for very effective learning and the students are able to be guided much more effectively than if it were a class of 30 students with one teacher. Yes the quality of the teacher and the teaching or tuition quality does have the greatest impact on student outcomes and student learning, but even the best teachers will have trouble in a larger class of students without adequate support. I would be interested in how the school mentioned above does their reports.
When I teach I actually make notes on student's work both in class and on home work handed in as well as ability to handle the level of work and the workload. There are many aspects to effective teaching and I believe, I could be wrong, that it is more than just 'quality' teaching, class sizes and school populations. Good teachers in one school can be dreadful in another school. It depends on support from your colleagues and how you are perceived as well as how you interact with students and other staff members. However most good teachers are good in any setting unless they come across a supervisor who actively dislikes them and then that can be a problem for all concerned. Most mature adults can work with people they do not particularly get on with, because they understand that it is in the interests of all concerned that they do do so.
Class size is not the B all and end all of everything, but I think we must recognise that class size or more to the point, good teacher student ratios are important to student successes in learning. Students need to feel that they have the support of their teacher and are able to call on their teacher for guidance and support. If you are one teacher with a class of say 35 students and there are 34 other students competing with you for teacher attention or assistance, it becomes a nightmare for the teachers and the students, especially when there are students with learning difficulties in that class along with students who need to be challenged. One of the hardest classes I have ever taught had six boys (who the head teacher of the English faculty described as 'Oh Ilana, these boys are the lowest in the Standard English class. Lights are on but nobody home, if you know what I mean.' I didn't understand, so maybe my lights were on but nobody home too.) She gave me these six boys doing the HSC Standard English plus four students doing a Life Skills course to teacher along side each other. Life Skills is a separate course for students who find the Standard English course beyond their capability. Now there I had only 10 students but they were doing two different courses. I complained and was told that I was probably not a good teacher if I could not handle that situation. I could not and left. As soon as I left, they dumped the six boys back in the Standard English Class and gave the Life Skills people to the so called Literacy Advisor who knew nothing about literacy.
I would rather teach the one course to 20 plus students and work on my teaching strategies and style to ensure that all students' abilities were catered for by the mode of instruction, activities planned and assessment tasks than teach two completely different courses to 10 students concurrently. It can be done at higher learning levels but definitely not for the needier students who need more teacher time and instruction one on one.
I would be interested in feedback from people with regard to their educational experiences. What do you think makes a good teacher and what is a bad teacher from your experience? You do not have to leave a name. I am just interested and willing to learn from your experiences.

Monday, July 30, 2012

A Rainbow

Today I saw the most perfect rainbow that I have seen for some time. A clear multi-coloured arch across the sky on the way to Longwarry from Melbourne. I immediately had to say the bracha (blessing) for seeing a rainbow. Hashem’s wonders are all around us.

Tishabeav is over. Moishiach is not yet here because we are not yet ready. Before Moishiach comes we have to eradicate all traces of anger, annoyance and hatred from our hearts with regard to our fellow Jews and even non –Jews. We have to connect with the pure core of our neshamas and beam purity and love at even those who hate us.

Those who taint their holy neshamas with negative emotions drag them down further into the physical world and this negativity clouds their understanding of the truth and the connection with the Holy One is weakened. We need to rise above the hypocrisy and the negativity and seek to follow Torah in its entirety and to learn on a higher level.

I can honestly say there is not one person in this world I hate. I dislike some things that some people do, but hatred, thank G-D, NO. I understand how some people can hate, but thankfully Hashem has given me the grace to move through this life without hatred. I still feel anger and that is ok. It would be abnormal not to have a passionate regard for some things. Strong emotions are ok. It is when they get out of control that becomes the problem. You can have a strong love for someone, but that can also have its negatives. You have heard of smothering and people who cannot let go. Then there is its opposite, indifference, also not good.

People need to feel passionate about things in life, principles and values but not at the expense of someone else and actually causing harm to another person. We need to care but in a way that is healthy and sane. We need a middle path in all things guided by Hashem.
We need to feel connected in and of ourselves to the source of holiness and try, I say try to live our life well and with holy intent.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

What makes an intelligent young human being snap?


I view pictures of the recently dead. Beautiful people with nary a thought of the gory end that awaits from a cinema massacre by a young seemingly pleasant young man with a possibly brilliant future as a scientist ahead of him.
What has turned this young man from using his intellectual talents for the good of mankind and the world to bringing such tragedy and destruction into the lives of so many? What has set off the chain of events that allows a young intelligent man to do such a ghastly thing? Why, I ask myself? What could a parent, a friend, a teacher or a sibling have done to change the course of this young man's life and bring the hidden goodness of his nature to the fore instead of him sinking into the morass of negative emotions that has brought this vile act of murder. A little six year old girl now being buried. Her mom and dad putting her into a cold grave instead of bringing her up to her wedding day and to enjoy their grand children and share other life events.
A young man just short of his 27th birthday and others now dead. Each have their story to tell and youy want to say 'Why, why, why?' What happened in the mind of this young fellow. He was not a stupid fellow by any means.
Do we need to bring back values that pertain to humanity and human life into our school curriculums? Oh yes indeed we do. We need to learn to love the less fortunate and to understand that every human being has his or her place on this earth, in this world. G-D does everything for a greater plan of action and in these times, we need to strengthen ourselves to prepare for Moishiach. We must not allow the ugly acts of others to defeat us. We must bring and nurture beauty in the world.
Even when ugly things have been done to one's child and one's beliefs are held up to ridicule by co-religionists or not, we must push aside the evil whether it is text messages or emails calculated to wound us emotionally in the worst possible way or attempts to destroy our ability to earn a living, we must stamp out the negativity and hold up the flame of life and light in these dark times and see the faces of our fellow human beings. We must see them and understand them and love them despite their weaknesses and work to make them good beings, whether they be our religion or Muslim or Christian or Buddhist or not. We must go back to do not do to another person what you would NOT want them to do to you.
We must in these dark times be honest with each and every person and treat each and every person with respect and honour them as friends whether they are or not.
We are all human and we were all created in the image of G-D. Let us remember that and not allow our brothers or sisters to go astray.
When you can kill in the manner of this young man, you have become an idol worshipper of the worst kind. You are willing to sacrifice your fellow beings for a whim, desire to play G-D and to destroy the life of another human being.
G-D should bless us all with a long and healthy life.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Move I am dreading...

Well it is happening finally. Moving from this pokey little flat and into a house for around seven weeks and hopefully before the end of August I have my new address. Just in time for Rosh Hashanna. I want to be working and maybe be able to have a monster Shabbat lunch in the 'Longwarry Shule' at some stage in the new year. Do not laugh. Funnier things have happened.
I hope to get a lovely place on the outskirts of town rather than in the town. Anyway it is a small country town. Here are some Longwarry facts for the uniformed. Longwarry means 'long waters'. Very appropriate as Torah = water and it is a place that lends itself to Torah study.
Longwarry also has a milk factory for powdered milk. Overall population of Longwarry is static at about 630 persons. Well now it is 632 people.  The town's population has hovered at around the 600 mark for the last 25 years. People come and go it seems.
The Longwarry post office opened on 20th June 1882 and not long after they got a railway station.


This is a nice little house on an acre for under 350k. The house I am looking to rent is around $220 a week which will be under a $1,000 a month so already a saving of $344 a month.
some pictures of Longwarry. We will publish our own soon but these are just off the net. I will be off air for a few days while I work our my internet provider. 3 has to roam in this area. :-(

There is a market on at Longwarry where they sell fresh produce and also grains and very healthy stuff so I am told and organic. WOW!

A house on four acres for sale. Now would not that make a great shule and school or beit midrash for a community?

This would also be a quite liveable house for some lucky family with no parking inspectors. Ok we are heading back out of town and I have to pack now. Have a good week all. The new parsha Davarim beckons and will keep me busy and I cannot go on the net so will get my novel working away now. :-)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Last Shabbes in the flat at Kinross Ave!

I had the best night’s sleep last that I have had for months. We spent our first night at Longwarry looking after two King Charles Cocker Spaniels and five hens and two roosters.  We went to be at 8pm. I read for a little bit. My son was sound asleep at 7.30pm. The country air did him some good. He was yawing after dinner at 6pm. We had a wood fire going in the fireplace and the house was warm although I am going to get some slippers because the floor is cold. My dream is to have a house with heated floors which makes sense because hot air rises and that is the way they do it in Europe.

My house is set up for shabbes in Melbourne and the urn is already on. I do not want to think about that if we are late because of traffic and the candles are ready to be lit. Our last night in this wretched miserable flat. HOORAY, HOORAY! One more night of trams thundering through the bedroom shaking the walls and car tyres going swish, swish, bump in the wet weather. I feel so much better in the country air and also was rested and able to rise at 4am to do some davening and I should have done some tehillim, but I went back to bed to sleep a bit more which was rather naughty. However as it is the nine days I will be careful to be more diligent in the next few nights. On all things we should be careful and pray to Hashem to heal the world.
We are looking at a little two bedroom place with a study for $220 around the corner in Longwarry. It has a big back yard and it on the outskirts of town. I have decided that the smaller little towns are the place to live. They are usually cheaper to rent in and that means eventually more money to save for a house deposit later. I will get lots of writing done. No internet or if I do it costs 50 cents to down load and to be honest I can do without it for a while. I will prepare my posts for the blog on word and do a cut and paste.
The couple where we are staying and looking after their house are so evironmentally sound in their principles, it is a learning experience for me. He is an ex woodworks teacher and she was a nurse. Lovely people. They have a worm farm and put all paper towels and tissues in it and the worms eat it all up. They also keep the worm wee (that's right worm pish) in a bucket below and I have forgotten  what I am supposed to do with it.
My son is going to earn 20 cents for each dog poop he gathers up with the pooper scooper and we are opening a Commonweath bank account for him.
Gotta go and get some things before shabbat and my yoga class at 12 so, GOOD SHABBES all. See you in shule or around.
This is the month of Av. The month that my son was born in. A month of great sadness and great joy. Let us thank G-D that we are Jews, we have Shabbat, we have Torah, we have hope and let's us merit to thank G-D for the arrival of Moishiach.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Counting our blessings.


In the time leading up to the fast of Tisha Be'av we do need to count our blessings and to not discount our 'curses' but don't give them too much attention. We need to say thank you to Hashem for the beauty and the good things in our lives.
There is the story of Rabbi Akiva viewing the desolation and destruction of the Beit hamikdash and he sees foxes frolicking around the ruins of the Holy of Holies and he bursts out in joyous laughter.
Here is a very interesting lesson on why Rabbi Akiva laughs in several situations that others might cry.  It is from the Ohr Somech yeshiva website.

Rabbi Akiva teaches us joy through completeness with understanding the depth of Hashem's love for us. We have so far to go, but if we can only reflect a little of the love that Hashem has for us and extend that love to our fellow beings, this world will be a better place.
Rabbi Akiva laughed because he perceived the reality of the worlds and the illusionary nature of what we humans see as this world. He perceived truth which is far deeper than many of us want to go. For some to perceive such truths is akin to madness, but once you understand who is in control of the world and you allow that you are but a servant of a greater power with freedom of choice, which is paradoxical in some sense but not, you are able to develop a greater awareness  of your mission or purpose for living.
The Torah is our guide and our truth. For in Torah is contained the living essence of G-D and a guide to living in a G-dly way. It is very simply the way to G-D and the way to do G-D's will in this world. Is it not so that both the Islamic and Christian religions take the basis of their religions from Judaism. This is no secret and yet being Jewish is not the easiest thing in the world. To be a light is to feel the heat. The wick that burns in the oil gives off heat but then in the act of giving light and even warmth to the world, it is not an action that is comfortable for the wick which is often consumed by the action of creating light and warmth. Such is the lot of a Jew in this existance. We have a holy purpose and in all things we need to strive to be and to fulfil our mission.
Thus let us each day count our blessings, especially in the days of mourning for the Temple, the holy house of Hashem in Jerusalem and let us strive to be holy and closer to Hashem no matter what the pain or heat. Let us count five blessings a day to thank Hashem for the goodness in our lives and really reflect on the goodness that has come from things that we may have perceived in a less positive light.
Today I thank Hashem for existing in these times just before Moishiach
. I thank Hashem for my wealth of different experiences, for my wisdom in seeing things in a positive light and my ability to see the hidden jokes of the universe and to laugh in the darkest time and to see the joys in the saddest times and to be able to see the positive in the tests that Hashem has given me which have made me a better person.
Someone once said to me that I should pray that G-D should stop testing me, but I had to disagree because if G-D were to stop testing us, would we not feel unloved? Can you imagine a life where everything happened just as we wanted it? I can't. It is like having a class that consistently wrote perfect essays with no errors and consistently got 100% - the whole class. Boring!!!!!
We each have our individual tests and we thank G-D for them. Everything in our lives is for a purpose and it is for us to find that purpose and live it to its fullest and to achieve our potential. We can do it. We just must have faith in ourselves and to thank G-D we are who we are and not someone else.
Thank you G-D. I love you and I do know you love me.
Blessings to everyone and love too.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The 'Peaceful agenda' of the Palestinians yet again...


It is sights like this which make me feel an overwhelming sense of despair.

I look at this mother and she is calmer than I think would ever be capable of being. The bloody gash on that baby's cheek makes her an unnecessary victim of this conflict, just as much as any Palestinian child or any child in Africa or any war arena. Why does it happen? I ask myself that question again and again and have done so since I was only a child reading about the racial conflict in America and Emmett Till comes to mind. I would have been only about 15 months old when he died at 14 years of age. Who knows what this bright smarty alec boy would have become if he had been allowed to grow to maturity and achieve what G-D intended him to do?  He was by all accounts a sharp kid with a sense of fun. To the people that killed him, he was nothing more than a a 'nigga kid who was too sassy' and had to be taught a lesson.

Bob Dylan wrote a song about it.
The song written by Bob Dylan

The Death of Emmett Till

"Twas down in Mississippi no so long ago,
When a young boy from Chicago town stepped through a Southern door.
This boy's dreadful tragedy I can still remember well,
The color of his skin was black and his name was Emmett Till.

Some men they dragged him to a barn and there they beat him up.
They said they had a reason, but I can't remember what.
They tortured him and did some evil things too evil to repeat.
There was screaming sounds inside the barn, there was laughing
sounds out on the street.

Then they rolled his body down a gulf amidst a bloody red rain
And they threw him in the waters wide to cease his screaming pain.
The reason that they killed him there, and I'm sure it ain't no lie,
Was just for the fun of killin' him and to watch him slowly die.

And then to stop the United States of yelling for a trial,
Two brothers they confessed that they had killed poor Emmett Till.
But on the jury there were men who helped the brothers commit this awful crime,
And so this trial was a mockery, but nobody seemed to mind.

I saw the morning papers but I could not bear to see
The smiling brothers walkin' down the courthouse stairs.
For the jury found them innocent and the brothers they went free,
While Emmett's body floats the foam of a Jim Crow southern sea.

If you can't speak out against this kind of thing, a crime that's so unjust,
Your eyes are filled with dead men's dirt, your mind is filled with dust.
Your arms and legs they must be in shackles and chains, and your
blood it must refuse to flow,
For you let this human race fall down so God-awful low!

This song is just a reminder to remind your fellow man
That this kind of thing still lives today in that ghost-robed Ku Klux Klan.
But if all of us folks that thinks alike, if we gave all we could give,
We could make this great land of ours a greater place to live.

Here is the audio link when it is not the three weeks although it is hardly a cheerful song by any means.

When I think of the racism of the deep south and the dehumanisation of people of African heritage it is little removed from the racism of the Arab nations towards Israel and the Jewish nation; when I think of the slaughter of little Hadas Fogel a babe of three months and her parents and two brothers, it is little different to the dehumanisation of black children in the deep south of American, when I think of the doctrines of hatred that Palestinian and arab children are exposed to, it is little different to the brain washing that the Nazis did to a generation or two of German and Austrian children, the brain washing of white supremacists to their groups about their supposed superiority over the Indian, Aboriginal, Chinese or Asians or Africans or Jews.
The little girl with the gash in her cheek from a stone, is little different to the boy Emmett Till throught the cause. Just hatred of one group of human beings for another group. That is the sad part. Do not sow hatred in your children for others. The rewards reaped will be disasterous.
Let us teach our children compassion for others, themselves and all living creatures. That is why I am glad I believe in G-D. I believe in a G-D who is the creator and power behind what moves the universe in a continual cycle of creation.
Let us love ourselves and others and don't do to them what we would despise if it were done to us. let G-D guide us in finding the right paths in all ways.
Have a week of blessings and hope.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Mundane Matters Not...?


It has been an interesting end to the week and a great Shabbat. I will miss being close to our two shules and I am hoping to have a kiddush for my son's birthday and to farewell my two kehillot but not really as we will probably spend a lot of shabbosim in Melbourne.  I actually want to combine my shule which I am a member of and the shule that I go to regularly for a shabbes kiddish. It has been a while since I have had the pleasure of the company of many Hamayanites and that does not by any means imply a lack in the kehilla where I am presently davening. They are also an amazing community of really good neshamot.
Nir's footy season is nearly at an end. The cricket will also start soon and that is another reason to travel to Melbourne apart from being with friends for shabbosim.
Someone asked me 'How many Jews are in Drouin?' Truthfully I do not know, but I guess I will find out eventually. I am sure there are some and I will try and host some study evenings or just a weekday parsha shiur if I can get someone out to hold it if I get more than five RSVP's to a bagels brunch or even something on Rosh Hashanna. It will be interesting to find out just who is Jewish in Drouin, Longwarry and Bunyip. You just never know.
I have had more success with an ad in the paper re house hunting than through the agents. The fact that I have not yet gotten a job in the area is a big MINUS in my search for a house. Trouble is I will not get work until I am actually in the area. At least we are house sitting for six weeks and I am seeking someone about the private rental of a farm house about ten minutes outside of Drouin.
Renting in the city for a single parent who is presently jobless is impossible. Rents even for one bedroom starts at $300 and to be honest my chances of work are far better in the country than in the city. It is far easier to get from one school to another in the country and my son will be at a small country school where the atmosphere is far more intimate than a school of of 450 plus students. They often say that students who are home schooled have a far stronger sense of self identity than those who go to bigger schools. That may be so, but I am sure there are people who do survive the bigger school environment due to a supportive and loving family environment. Home and community are very important in building a child's self image. I had my first six years of schooling through primary correspondence and really did not take school work seriously until I was sent away to boarding school in Brisbane. I considered the booklet we did every week over a few hours a morning for four or five days to be some fun. We did not learn past around 11 or 12 noon most days. We started at 8am and finished in three to four hours and then had the afternoons off to do our own exploration of the property and muck around with the horses, dogs, pet lambs or calves or roos, build cubby houses and then burn them down when we tried to light a fire either for warmth or to cook damper or steal some roo meat, annoy our mother and send her into anxious rage as she struggled to control us. She would rip a few switches off the Appel trees and belabour our behinds with them to have us gleefully chortle 'Doesn't hurt Mum. Doesn't hurt.' It did a little but we were not going to let her know that. We used to enjoy her getting angry and lapse into a thicker Austrian accent and bemoan the fact that she never swore until she had children. She was civilised and a lady. We were the animals that has annihilated her sense of culture and decency.
Then fed up to the back teeth, she would say, 'Wait until your father gets home. He will get out the strap on the pair of you.' That was enough to send us under the house with fright because Dad was scary. He did not even have to hit us. He just looked at us and we knew not to test him and if we did get a probably well deserved lick or two of the strap or a whack with the cleaning rod for the rifles, we did have a red mark on our legs and buttocks that lasted in our memories for some months.  My father did not scream or shout. He was business like and fair. He did not hit us every time mother wanted us hit, but when he did it was simply, 'Come here now.' he would beckon us into the shed and take down the cleaning rod from his rifle cabinet. We would walk out to the shed tense and weepy. We would get into the shed. He would test the strap or the cleaning rod against a bag of horse feed.
   'Bend over.' We did with out questioning or protests. WHACK. WHACK. The strap would come down quickly and efficiently on our buttocks or the backs of our legs. Never more than two or three. We would flinch and when it was all over and our father had stated rather matter of fact, 'That's enough nonsense now. You do as your mother asks.' We would run from the shed glad it was over and we were good for maybe a week or so. Once we had our punishment from our father it was over. No mention was made of it. My mother was however different. She gloated over our hidings. for her, our hidings from our father were what she had over us. They were used to goad us into compliance for days after and this is what made us often resentful of her. Sometimes I felt she never gave us a chance to be good. She always expected the worst of us and when she tended to focus on the negative it became a self fulfilling prophecy. We played up on her. Our youngest brother became the angel who could do no wrong and I particularly was the 'bad' child. the eldest who should know better. Also my father had an older brother who my mother hated with a passion.
He actually was not so bad a person, but Mum demonised him. To her, he was smelly, he ate lots of ice cream, he was lazy, he was fat and had a big bottom, (the worst insult she could give my brother and I was 'you have a fat bottom just like uncle D___'), he hated her (whether he really did not not, I doubt) but she would come back from Sunday afternoons at Grans full full of seething anger at perceived insults that she the poor little Austrian had endured from my father's family and she made fun of them to us and tried to instill in us a dislike of them too. Dad tried to tease her, which only made matters worst. My mother lacked a sense of humour at times and took herself very seriously. She did not forgive or forget percieved insults but then she was also very prone to be conned by those who would impose on my father and her. I found her often very difficult to understand.
Anyway I have diverged into memoir which brings me to the work I have seriously started on my bullying text which I am trying to do a bit each day, whether it is 500 or 1,000 words a day depends on the time I have available but I am steadily going to plow through it to around 25 - 30 pages   before I send off to a publisher and if I can't get the interest of a publishing house I will have to slowly plug away by myself. Maybe self publish if I can, who knows?  It is a very harsh subject and the story starts with a funeral. It ends with a broken man trying to reconnect his family and to bring his children hope and understanding despite the loss of their mother. It is about rising from the ashes of one's life into new growth and new chapters.
The world is forever changing growing and recreating itself as it will.....

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Bully Impact Statements at Parliament House Victoria

Today was a high STRESS day but I did handle it reasonably well given the events of the day. Thanks to Yoga breathing and a few sneaky little stress stretches. I am looking forward to Michelle's 12 noon class on Friday. It will put me in a Shabbes mood. Easy.
I had to go into the Session on Bullying plus get my car serviced. I took a tram in plenty of time, so I thought. Tram was late. I got to the train station and thought I will run a bit late but I would be on the 2.51 to the city and I would get to Parliament station around five or six past 3pm. I reckoned without some incident at Prahran station. There was a medical emergency. I trotted up to the train driver who was keeping us up dated on what was happening. He had a few teeth missing. Poor bugger.
  'Well, could be thar thum druggie ftheakin', or thumeone thlipped, ya nar between thar platform and thar train. Carn't go ta Windsor mathe, cos thar boom gates go down at Pran and thar motorists geths uspset. Ooorr, thumbody hath a hart tack. Gotta give thar ambos time to get them away.'

Eventually I caught a taxi after several more minutes and got in to the parliament legislative council room at around 3.50pm. Just in time to hear a woman called P speak very coherently about her experiences as a CEO being bullied by superiors and she was followed respectively by a teacher of thirty years standing, a kindergarten teacher and another gentleman who related his experiences and it sounded like a public service workplace. There was also another woman BC who was also a teacher and she spoke extremely well about her experiences of being devalued and denigrated because she threatened the less competent superiors. I was very sorry to have missed some of the speakers. I did give my statement self edited a bit more and I am sending in a few bits and pieces of my story.
I have decided to make it a fiction story and hopefully when I get to the country I will write it as a fictionalised account.
Why fictionalised you may well ask? Well, the aim is to educate about bullying and not to demonise and demoralise those who could be affected by writing a true account and of course I could be sued by those who would feel that I am presenting them in a less than flattering light. Yes, I could ruin reputations and then it would achieve little. I want to eventually change the system to make it more compassionate and nurturing of people and not to destroy people.
My story is about an older teacher married to a younger man (five or six years younger give or take). He is self employed. They go the IVF trip and have twins. She is 43 and he is mid thirties. He makes the decision to be a stay at home father and work on fixing computers at home and look after the twins while she is at work. They are criticised in the small country town and also she is harassed at work for 'castrating her husband' and being a 'career bitch'. They are Jewish. Their only friends are an Indian Hindu couple - the wife is a science teacher and the father does labouring work and a single mother who is a wood works teacher. She has a teenage daughter at a boarding school nearby.
The story opens with the funeral of the teacher who has committed suicide because of the stress and workplace harassment. It is told through her husband and her diary entries. He also has conversations with an Art teacher who she was friendly with and who department officials bullied into changing her statement about the workplace harassment to make it appear that the woman had mental issues and that it was not workplace bullying at all.
I just have to find the time and money to write it. I want to show how bullying happens in the education workplace. How children or students take cues from teachers about their peers and also about other teaching colleagues, the subtle messages that are passed around the small school communities and hopefully we can have some people take note and make for more caring communities and correct the flaws where they occur. It is very easy to do. You just need to care for others, believe in some sort of social justice and value each individual for who they are whether they have a disability either acquired or from birth, whether they are super bright or slower to learn. whether they are the same culture or gender identity as you or not. They are still human beings who deserve some level of RESPECT and to have their dignity intact.
Leaving you with this image of beauty to rest the soul...PEACE and TRANQUILITY

Monday, July 9, 2012

YOGA - SSSSTTTREEEETTTCHHESSSSSSS the body and mind in the most relaxing way.

Yoga – Is it the union of body, mind and soul or the way to a more balanced way lifestyle perspective?

This morning I decided to start the week with a Yoga morning and I did. Off to the cosy little studio at 101 Hawthorn Road in Caulfield.  About to pound up the stairs, I met an older lady coming down. Apparently she was the only one to turn up this morning because of school holidays and I thought,(rather selfishly I must admit) ‘oh no, there goes my yoga hit for the beginning of the week.’

Luckily Michelle our teacher who was also deciding to go home, thought ok two students let’s have the lesson and she did. Thank you Michelle, my week has gotten off to a good start. She is very good value because she is sensitive when she has to be, silent when it is called for and at times chatty and active in a very nice friendly, but put you at your ease manner.

I used to do Yoga. Many years ago with an Iyengar Yoga teacher who was tough. Very tough, but she got results and it was what I needed more than twenty years ago to move me out of my inertia. My body had done a few years of Tai Chi previously at some stage in the eighties, but it needed Iyengar Yoga to kick start it into action.

Why is YOGA GOOD for you? Well. Let’s find out.

At first, I wanted to write some lengthy discourse which appears learned, about the origins of Yoga and be  a regular blah blah blah but finally decided  ‘Nah. I am just going to write about what Yoga does for me personally.’

Yoga does the following for me:

1.       It de-stresses me. It allows me to think freely and to focus. After a Yoga class if you are in my face, I can just go, ‘CHIILLLLLLL, darlin’!’ I really do not care that everyone around me is frothing and frantic. I am just busy being.... It is fantastic for teachers and those in high stress jobs.

2.       It eases out those tired tight muscles and streeeeettttccccchhhesss them. It is amazing what stretches can do for your state of mind.  If you are on a computer more than three hours a day, then Yoga can do a lot for you because you can stretch those shoulders and upper back as well as the neck.  You also strengthen your stomach muscles and by default your lower back is strengthened.

3.       It makes you stronger mentally and physically. It centres you.

4.       It improves the digestion because it does work on massaging muscles which affect organs of your body. Your heart, lungs and digestive system. You work your diaphragm through utilising your breath.  Breathing is very important and in life in general.

5.       Ladies who have had babies or who are having babies, it is the best thing you can do for yourself and your baby in utero. The pelvic floor muscles will thank you. I had my child at 49 and I had a C section.  I am finally getting it together and feel better. No incontinence and helps with prolapsed uterus, which are some of the problems that can arise from multiple births or births at an older age. J  Michelle has run post natal and prenatal classes. At present she is doing ah hour stretch and relax class on Thursdays as well as the Yoga + Pilates classes on Mondays,  9.30 – 11am, Wednesdays 9.00 – 10.30am, Fridays 9.30 - 11am and 12 – 1.30pm.

6.       It increases your flexibility and makes you feel younger and fitter.

7.       Relaxation at the end of each class is the high point of a yoga workout. You actually go to sleep at times and wake deeply refreshed.

Is Yoga Jewish? Well, no it is not as far as I know and have researched. It is Indian in origin. It is an approach to life and a perspective on life that is thousands of years old.  The word Yoga has been translated from the Sanskrit to mean ‘yoke’ and more commonly ‘union’ in English but these are probably loose translations of the actual meaning. It is more than just exercises and stretches. It is about connecting your body and mind in a very powerful way. You can bring a Jewish essence or pattern of thought or approach into Yoga. I believe Rabbi Laibl Wolf did have Jewish Yoga at Spiritgrow. Maybe he still has. What I do know is that Yoga is good for you and you can do it with a Jewish approach. I was reflecting on some of the Hebrew letters and thinking that some of them could be viewed as Yogic poses or asanas. For example, the tad asana mountain pose or standing pose is like a vav to start with and then stetches into a nun sofit (end Nun Letter). Anyway I will not bore you with too much detail. You do have fingers and a computer if you are reading this and you know where to find google. Here is a chart on some poses and you can have fun matching poses to Hebrew letters if you like and holding the pose and meditating on a letter.

So when you are ready to make a radical change in the way you think and want to boost your health, head on down to a class at 102 Hawthorn Road, Caulfield North or give Michelle a ring on 0403 939 666 to see when she can book you into a class. You will not regret it.

Samach or Mem sofit???

Bet you can't find the nun or the chof or gimmel?

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Yoga - Pathway to health. success, peace and inner strength

I have recently gone back to regular Yoga practice and wish I had done it straight after the birth of my child in 2003. I must admit I did try but a teacher I worked with at Narrandera told me the class was 'too full' for another class member. Later when I learnt that the class was not so full, but that I was that 'older woman who had a child at 49 and I would not want to have too much to do with her,' overheard comment, I really did not feel like joining a class where my presence obviously was so unwelcome. One goes to Yoga for relaxation, health and peace unconditionally not conflict or to cause discomfort to oneself or others.
After making several fleeting attempts to start classes over the years, I started in June of this year. I am now going to the Caulfield School of Yoga and go to Michel Lewin's classes. Michel is a petit woman who trained my first Yoga teacher. She is absolutely professional, vivacious and of course very supple like all Yoga teachers. I have been lucky to find such her and believe sometimes you are led to such people for your own health if you are open to it.
Caulfield School of Yoga is at 101 Hawthorn Road, Caulfield North. here is the web addy with the times of classes of all five teachers.


Unfortunately I do not have any visuals of the yoga class I go to. However I do have some visuals and information on the benefits of Yoga practice and what it can do for you. There are many paths to spiritual freedom and they all involve some sort of connection with a great power or G-D if you will. Yoga is simply one path which by a combination of breath control, disciplined asanas (positions), meditations and stretches will lead one to a path of bodily and mental tranquillity. I quote from one source 'A serious practitioner of Yoga (someone pursuing the higher spiritual and religious goals of Yoga) takes upon themselves a life of austere self-discipline common to nearly all forms of mystical and religious life. The practices that constitute this self-disciplined life are called in yoga yama and niyama. This self-discipline is the 'yoke' that one puts upon oneself for the purpose of attaining moksha. An alternative definition is that Yoga is the method of yoking, or unifying, the "lower" (egoistic) personality.'

Is this at odds with a seriously observant Jewish lifestyle? No, because I do not take on the other religious aspects of Yogic lifestyle. It is a form of exercise and the goal is good inner health. The practice of Yoga allows one to pursue an active lifestyle well into one's nineties. That is not saying that there are people in their nineties who do not practise yoga and still lead active lives.
There are some people who do offer Jewish meditation and Yoga through a distinctly Jewish lens.My body feels relaxed and supple once again. I am hoping in six months to be able to do head stands and practise hand stands again. Yoga helps sleep patterns, digestion problems that are not related to poor diet and keeps you fitter than you would normally be without heavy exercise. It has helped me lose weight because once you work on balancing the body, the mind and the soul, the rest follows. It builds mental strength.
We want to get a women's only group going at the studio on a Tuesday perhaps and we need some women who want to do gentle and relaxing yoga. Older women who are not so active any more. We have three of us and we would like another three or four people to join the group. Any takers? Let me know.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Sharing an Insight on Balak

Had an interesting drosha on Balak this morning. the Rav spoke about the beginning of this Parsha Balak which begins with the Hebrew Veyera from the beginning sentence of the parsha 'and saw Balak son of Tzzipor everything that Israel had done to the Amorites' and the parsha Yithro  veishma'a 'and heard Yithro, priest of Midan and Moshe's father in law etc etc...  he then went on to expound on the difference in seeing something and in actually hearing something.
This week's parsha was all about the power of the spoken word and the importance of listening.
You can see something and make assumptions about a situation or situations and be gravely mistaken by jumping to conclusions that are grossly in error. You may see and even hear a cross word pass between a husband and wife or two friends or two siblings and conclude that they are on the verge of a divorce or the breaking up of a friendship or that an acrimonious relationship exists between two siblings. However you may fail to understand the situation and what has gone on before and you may underestimate the relationship and the reasons for the snappy words or not.
By the same token, you may see a 'supposed loving relationship' that has great tensions involved that is not healthy. The movie star world and Hollywood specialises in these sorts of PR relationships all the time. Because the whole basis on which the movie relationships are based is very fake and actors are involved who may have blurred the lines between what is real and what is acting, these relationships come under enormous pressure and break up because two people are constantly putting on an act for the rest of the world. The rav this morning used the case of Israel being seen in a negative light in the world media and people do not listen or unaware of what has gone before. Israel is seen fighting back. Israel is depicted as a bully. It is all about a series of images being created to build a story. We also are story tellers and builders in our own way and we need often to understand that our truths can be subjective and tainted by what we want it to be. That is OK so long as it is based in reality. We all need a touch of fantasy in our lives. A bit of romance and hope for the future, but we should not be unrealistically caught up in a future that is unobtainable. By the same token we need goals in our lives too. We need to listen to the inner self and soul and not search for external satisfactions, but be content in who we are and what we are doing. We need to hear and touch the inner core of morality that all of us should have. The Benai Noah laws as well as Jewish law focuses on being true to oneself and G-D not just the external appearances of morality. I get a bit of hate mail occasionally and I wonder why. I realised later that it is often when you confront an individual or group with your ideas or beliefs, they react and Israel often does by her humanitarian attitudes and actions put to shame larger and wealthier countries. For example, Aza in Israel has a million people and many of these people live in impoverished conditions. Without sanitation, sewerage, running water and other modern things we take for granted. Yet their Arab brothers and cousins are building hotels in Dubai and UAE with gold bath taps.

They actually have a seven star hotel. To me that is the extreme in extravagance and while it may look impressive to an outsider it is really very empty. While there are people still living in refugee camps in both Lebanon and Aza maybe they should consider a less opulent life style. Israel has settled an amazing number of people since 1948 within its borders. People who came to its shores with nothing now own their own houses and work and live well. That does not mean that there are no poor people in Israel. There are. But there is a very human element to Israel. They care about their people. Israel cares about each Jew and each Israeli and they are concerned or should be about each and every individual with in her borders.

When you see these pictures you realise how the misery and poverty of the Palestinians are being used to exploit them and conduct a propaganda war against the Israelis.

Their own Arab brothers keep these people in poverty and they direct their anger and frustration at Israel instead of where it should be directed - at their own Arab brothers and cousins. The Arabs can get away with all sorts of cruelty to their own like in Syria but if Israel lifts up its head in self defence, well they are bad. They have learnt the lesson of image creation well. This is a very visual age I am afraid. We need to examine the whole story and listen well, to hear as well as seeing. The image of poverty is created and controlled by a sly and manipulative government in Aza and in the surrounding Arab countries. I also look at the illusion of modesty created by the veiled women of Islam and I wonder if you really look at the behaviour of their men folk who are supposed to be good Muslims and who live these opulent lifestyles with gambling, high class hookers and  shopping habits that makes Mrs Marcos of the Philippines fame look frugal, whether it is just a smoke screen to hid the perversions of their faith.
Bil'am is a person given great powers and opportunities which he could have used for positive means. He knew the moment when Hashem gets angry and if he was able to have cursed Benai Israel at that moment, his curse would have been fairly effective. But, thankfully G-D did not get angry. However some of the weaknesses of Bil'am was his corrupt sexual behaviour and his cruelty. Very similar to many of the Saudi princes. He used his donkey as a beast of burden and to 'keep him warm at nights'. Quite disgusting when you think about it. I was reminded of the story of a Filipino girl whose sister worked for a Saudi family. She was a married woman of twenty six or seven when she got a visa to work there for a year. During that year, she was raped repeatedly by the teenage sons of the family she worked for. She worked in one house and the boys there and their half siblings would come over and take turns in using her during the night and then she would be expected to do her cleaning and other work around the house. When she complained to the senior wife, the answer was simply ' You have two children and it is not as if you are a virgin. They are good clean Muslim boys. You should be happy that are giving you pleasure.' Her protests that she was married fell on deaf ears because simply she being a non Muslim meant that she was little better than a beast of burden to them. She was an animal without real feelings or cares for them.
Islam is presented as the religion of peace. Is it really and peace for whom? Certainly not for Israel and certainly not for non Muslims.
There is a great difference is between what you see and what you hear. Think about it carefully and where is the truth and the subtext?
Gut voch.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

A letter I would liked to have sent and the letter I did send


The letter I would have dearly loved to send to the Estate Agent:

I have made the commitment to pay the rent up to the 29th of July, 2012. I will make that rent payment on the 17th of July and it will be up to date so I would appreciate it if you can give me the exact amount owed to you on that day.
I realise I will not receive the bond back due to the conversation I have had with XXX when she stated categorically to me that the property must be in the same state as when we moved in. It actually will be cleaner that I can promise. And yes, there is some wear and tear after three years of residency. I must say it was so good of you to not fix the basin in the bathroom that is slowing rotting away and also not to send someone to fix the door that fell off its hinges on the cupboard in the bathroom because the wood was rotted.
I will endeavour to move all my things out before the 29th  of July into storage with friends so  you do have the apartment vacant on or before the 27th of July. Do you want the walls painted.
I am also aware that due to the 'brilliant references given by your estate agency' I do not have a hope in hell of getting a rental property in Melbourne or in Drouin' or else where. So congratulations, my child and I are going in a few short weeks to join the queque of the homeless and become a statistic for how long who knows, maybe for the term of my natural life and my son if he is lucky will get fostered out to some nice people who will give him a home. You have just contributed to the homeless statistic and also to the number of children in foster care. Maybe they can give you a certificate for good citizenship.
You must be really proud. I will not sink to your level however and I will pay every cent of the rent even if it is the last money I have because one thing I do have and that is personal honour and you cannot take that from me.
Please send me an uptodate rental register and the exact amount I owe you to the 29th of July.
I will never rent from your Agency again and I will advise any friends I have to do the same, neither buy nor rent through your agency or any of your agencies, because I have always tried to do the right thing I now have to end up homeless.

The letter I did send:
I have made a commitment in writing to pay the rent on the 17th of
July until the 29th of July at the residence of 6/2 A Kinross Ave,
Caulfield North. I will pay the full amount that is owing on that date
which I take to be the amount of $1,344 which was due on the 4th of
July. Due to the lack of work and health expenses for my son, I have
been late.
I note that I would like an updated copy of the rental register once
this is paid to present to any potential landlord to prove that I do
honour rental commitments. I also want to state that the property will
be left in as clean, if not cleaner state than when we moved in.

Language and Narratives in everyday life


I have just finished an interesting perusal of books by the late Ruth Wajnryb OBM. The name rang a bell so I searched the ever useful google and found some of her texts on language and narrative. It has inspired me to get one of her books on Stories.  This text has some very interesting and informative material on how narrative and story telling is taught in the classroom and the importance of dialogue and shared narratives.
I started to think about how narrative and dialogue shapes our understanding of people, events and society. As a person who has moved easily through different situations and dealt with different people in my life, I started to think about the different narratives that I personally have taken part in and also how I have participated in the creation of social narratives even outside my social milieu.
For example, most people tend to stay fixed in their personal narrative and feel very uncomfortable when brought outside of it. They know and understand who they are with absolute certainty. I found that while teaching in a small country town in southern NSW some people had extremely conservative and set views on many aspects of life. If you tried to challenge that perspective, it made them distinctly uncomfortable.
For example, one of Ruth's activities she used in a class room dealing with the topic of let us say 'adoption' requires students to look at the issue from several angles in preparation for a story or narrative about adoption.
1. From the point of view (POV) of a person who is adopted.
2. POV of the person who gave birth to the person.
3. POV of the person who adopts and raises the child.

And to be honest I would add another two perspectives.
4. POV of the father of the child who is adopted and who is say unable to marry the mother and has to watch as his child is adopted out..
5. Friend of a person who is adopted.

Now if you bring that story of adoption in a small country town, nine times out of ten, it will be quite distressing for them to deal with. The narrative will go something like this. Birth mother = bad = she gave up her child. She will be unforgiven and classed as a slut or worse. Father of child = very nasty = he had sex with mother and did not marry her. He is very bad, although some will take the line that he was just doing what came naturally and the problem is solely on the woman who has behaved badly and then done worse than bad. She gives up her child.
The person who adopts will be seen as someone who has
1. been punished by G-D therefore cannot have his or her own children. They will try to do a good job but nothing will make up for the adopted being betrayed by his or her real parents. Nothing too judgemental about that, is there?
2. Has devious reasons for wanting to adopt and none of them very altruistic. Respect but suspect sort of attitude.
The person who is adopted is the one who will get all the sympathy for after all, they were betrayed and abandoned in the most essentially awful way by two people who should have known better. Nothing will shift that point of view. You can try to gently tease them around to a different more fuller perspective but it remains the same solid as a rock wall of embedded opinion that is essentially black and white. Good and evil at logger heads.
To try and bring in other aspects to the story and to delve into the situation will only result in you being thought of as 'mad' because no one has sympathy for 'fallen women' and especially not for those who give up their child.
However looking at some of the children who used to live with their grandparents and other relatives in the town I taught it, it was probably a wise decision on the part of those mothers. In a way, I think it was often the mothers who were the victims of circumstances in the beginning beyond their control. Yes they did have unfortunate circumstances, but then there are times when one has to take the steering wheel of life and steer the vehicle on the road and not on the sides of the road. The descent into drugs and alcohol abuse  by some of these mothers makes you glad that they did give up their children into care. Also then you cannot take the high moral road in observing their lives from the outside. who knows why they ended up the way they did. Often you look into a story and you uncover the abuses that the mothers experienced on many levels, especially in the indigenous populations, then you think what sort of a society are we allowing to be created and maybe parents and families should be educated in togetherness, charity towards each other and just being good humans who do not reach for the pill bottle, drink, joint or needle every time something goes wrong in their lives. We need to build different narratives into our personal lexicon and to look up and out as well as indulging in a little personal reflection. Now I will give an example of a personal narrative myth that I have been trying to bring truth into it.
Part of the teasing and bullying that my son endured at Caulfield Junior College involved him being told he was adopted. It did start at his first school. Yes, he looks different and his skin is a different shade to mine. His father is African. He is my child and he was born at Calvary Private Hospital in Wagga Wagga. The extent of distress caused to him by the children who kept trying to tell him that he was adopted and me saying 'No you are not adopted. Here is the picture of your father and I getting married. Here is a picture of you in the hospital when you were born. And I have a scar on my belly from the C section", has been considerable.
Not only has he continually had his confidence in who he is continually shattered by these 'kind children' they have put doubts in his mind about his mother and who she is? Maybe he is adopted and 'maybe Mummy is really lying and she is not my mummy?' It has made him angry and resentful and broken his trust. People need to think about what they are saying and not make assumptions. Ask the person and do not assume that a situation is something. You may find something is very different to what you had imagined. Not everyone tells lies or covers the truth. Sometimes truth in narrative is stranger than fiction. We need to delve into stories and find the underlying elements and put them together to create a complete picture that is both truthful and identifiable.
How does this tie in with Balak?  Let's look briefly at the donkey that Bil'am saddles early to get up and curse the Jewish nation. Bil'am acts on his own personal narrative and is in a hurry to curse the Jewish nation without looking deeper into the situation that is understood even by a lowly beast of burden - the donkey.
Bil'am and Avraham had some characteristics that were the antithesis of each other. Avraham was driven by love and compassion. Bil'am is driven by the illogic of hatred. When the donkey sees the angel standing in her way she goes off the road. For this she is beaten unmercifully. Then she is given the power of speech and she asks him why he hits her. 'What has she done to him?' she hints that his mission is destined to be unsuccessful. Why because he desires perhaps to uproot a nation that worships three times yearly in Jerusalem. He does not want to explore further and converse with her. He is convinced that as a dumb beast of burden, she has nothing to impart to him. Even though she speaks and wonderously so.
Hashem gave two great prophets to the world Moshe to the Jewish people and Bil'am to the nations. One group was led into spiritual redeemption and rectification and the others were led into immorality and impurity by their own doing and failure to comprehend the wider or deeper picture.
We need to explore and respect the narrative of others and understand that we should not demean or devalue it just because it is not similar to ours does not mean that it is not relevant.
Shabbat Shalom!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

House hunting,cats, weddings, time management


I used to love Realestate.com.au. Not any more. After weeks of trawling through pages and pages of ads for houses that fall into the following categories
1. Those I would love to live in but could never afford on my present income.
2. Those I would like to live in but they have a NO PETS clause.
3. Those I would love to live in but the landlord has chosen someone else to grace his or her abode.
4. Those that the real estate agent would like me to live in but I would not want my corpse to spend time there.
5. Those that very few people could live in for a number of reasons.
6. Those that you wonder how on earth a real estate agent would even feel comfortable having such a building (residence is too good word) on their books and would think that someone would actually be able to consider living there, unless of course they were homeless and it was free. One of these looked ok on the net, but when I walked in the smell of cat urine kicked me in the face. I raced over to the double glass sliding doors and slid them open quickly and gasped for air. The agent was waiting just outside the door with a demure little smile on her face.
   'The last tenents had animals. Cats, I think.' She stood at the door not venturing further into the foul air of the house. 'It has been shampooed three times, but we think it is in the underfelt and the owner will have to change that.'
I stood in the fresh air of the backyard porch gasping for breath. If you have ever smelt rank cat urine, especially tomcats, you will understand what was going through my mind.
   'I think they might have to rip the carpet up and put in tiles or floating boards.' I ventured and as I threw a glance at the back yard, I was able to come up with something positive. 'Nice big back yard. Good shed.' My son came around the corner bouncing his ball. He had gone around the back through the carport.
   'Mummy, there is a shed for my bikes. A good shed.' 
   'Yes, hon, but if we lived here, we might be putting the bikes in the house and living in the shed.' He entered the double doors to the lounge and gagged.
  'Yeewwecch. Mummy that is so smelly.'
  'Yes dear it is that.' Then to the real estate agent who had during this whole time never once entered the house. 'I don't think this is what we are looking for. Thanks.'
We dash for the front door after holding our breath to close the double doors at the back. Son wisely, has gone back around the outside of the house through the car port. Real Estate Agent is a good girl and does her job well. She hands me an application form.
   'Just in case you change your mind. You never know. It is the location you want, isn't it?' she probably got top marks for pushiness in Real Estate School or just likes wasting paper and giving out application forms.  I would not make a good real estate agent because I would be telling the owner, 'Get onto to your insurance company and change the flooring in that house. Ain't no one going to rent that house unless you throw in a free operation to remove their ofactory receptors.

This is an example of a wonderful house for rent and they even throw in electricity and wood for the stove but it has a no pet policy. I wonder if I could take my cat to meet them.  Another opportunity is passed up because of loyalty to our four legged feline friend. Oh well such is life.

Went to a wedding last night and it was a young woman (daughter of friends of mine) who married a young man from South Africa. It was a wonderful occasion. I reflected as I watched the young woman on the brink of her new life, being swirled in around in pure unadulterated joy by her friends, married and unmarried women and girls, friends of her parents and relatives, that this is what it is all about in life these rites of passage that we go through to mark our entry into new phases of our life. She was born and the occasion was one of great joy for her parents, they named her and raised her in a Jewish home full of love and light. She is the product of the love between two beautiful people - a man and a woman, she was bat mitzveh at 12 years of age and then went on to finish school and do the things that young people do as they make their way in the world with the guidance and love of their parents and siblings.
Then this girl finds her besheit or intended partner in life and they begin a new journey that is so filled with changes and challenges that will assist them to grow and develop as a family unit among their relatives and friends. What do weddings do? They connect people to people. It is not only the bride and groom - the kalla and the hosson but families and friends in a community. through our young people we grow and build. I watched almost moved to tears, as this young girl's elderly grandfather came to give her a blessing on this momenteous day in her life.Too often the elderly are thrust aside in the hurry of life, but not here. There was a calm stillness in the way everything paused and all waited as he was assisted up to the kalla and he raised his hands to her head and blessed her. And later, her other grandmother in her nineties, people were worried that she may feel left out of the dancing and joyous simcha so several people offered to bring her over to a chair placed on the dance floor. She was however content to calmly watch the proceedings from the table where she was sitting. The love as she watched her granddaughter marry was so apparent, she was there anyway in spirit whirling away with each dancer on the floor, giving the kalla and the kalla's mother and sisters incredible joy.
This girl will have her own babies with her mate in life, her new husband and one day in turn, they will watch them marry and one day even later, they may be the old man coming to bless his granddaughter getting married or be the old gracious lady watching the dancers twirling on the dance floor from the sidelines. These are the cycles of living. We bless and we are blessed. It is a continuous circle without end.
My time management has been poor today. I have to go and do some house work and inspect yet another house that I may not want to live in or may and may not be wanted. so I had better go.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Three Stooges


Yesterday I viewed the Three Stooges. I confess they were very popular when I was younger. Mainly because a much younger prince Charlie Heir to the British throne liked them. For some reason I never had a chance to watch them in action. I did yesterday and was unpleasantly surprised. Yes I know it is slap stick humour, but it consisted of three men, particularly Mo beating each other up and others on a regular basis. It did not feature child abuse, but then I really think watching three grown men belting into each other could hardly be classed as entertaining.
The text did have some entertaining features about loyalty and friendships but it was rather shockingly violent. I was trying to work out just what was this film promoting. What sort of values? Were the three men mentally challenged and it was an example of kindness of the Church nuns to keep them in the orphanage even though they were responsible for its threatened closure.
They had a warning at the end about children not to mimic the actions of the actors at home and showed some rubber hammers and other things and the sound effects.
One would wonder about the mental state of an heir to the throne of Britain who finds such stuff highly entertaining. I guess if he was a King, he could bring back court jesters and find some hollywood stunt men to give him his daily laugh.
So now we have dark kiddie humour with beatings and bashings etc as entertainment. Nice. I think I will go back and watch Predator and The Alien series reruns. At least you know that sort of violence in Sc fi is not real.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Some articles on same sex marriage which raise interesting points.


I have found the following references that support heterosexual marriage as the more desirable state for raising children. Now we are talking about the ideal and not the marriages where two dysfunctional adults struggle with themselves at the expense of the children's physical, emotional and psychological health. A well functioning and stable marriage between two healthy and happy adults.
I am hoping to write an article later in the year about what for me constitutes marriage and I want to examine the institution from an individual viewpoint which I hope others can identify with. I will use my own experiences to indicate what I think are bad marriages and what is the 'norm' or stable functioning marriage and why it works best for families and children and assists them socially to adjust to a variety of social scenarios.


And there are some other little known side effects if you like of surrogates who will be used by the gay men who may wish to have a child and look over seas to ‘rent a womb’ so to speak. I think there are a lot of negatives and some of these are decidedly scary. I actually think same sex marriage will not be a plus for women at all. I refuse to be bullied into supporting abuse of basic human rights.


Sunday, July 1, 2012

Yitzak Shamir OBM one of Israel's great leaders

They say that great tzaddikim often pass away on the Shabbes day. This last shabbat when we read the portion of Chukat about the red heifer and also this portion has the passing of Miriam, Moshe's sister as well as Aron Moshe's brother, the passing of both these tzaddikim is told in this parsha. How fitting that one of the founding fathers of the State is taken from us on such a day.

I once had the honour of sharing a lift with him. I did not recognise him until I went to step out or he did. I forget which. But at the last moment, I recognised him after admiring the military bearing of this man of small physical stature, but incredible presence. I just went OMG that was Yitzak Shamir. I did tell Tamar the principal of the Daniel School of Languages on the seventh floor of Beit Jabotiniski that I had just shared a lift with Yitzak Shamir and she laughed.

Here is an amazing interview with this amazing man. It is about an hour. A sad moment. Sorry could not up load the link and as it is late and I still have fifty or so pages to read of a book I am leaving this until the morning. You can type in Leon Charney and Yitzhak Shamir and it comes up on Utube anyway. Well worth seeing.