Stefanella's Drive Thru

Israel, U.S., conflict, war, peace, humor, travel, romance, fashion, fun

Dog Eat Dog (or Kaka) May 9, 2009

Would somebody please pinch me?  ‘Cause I’m having a really tough time remembering why I went out and got a dog.

They’re cute and loyal and great companions and you thought it would be great for your kid and to safeguard the house.  And don’t forget:  Man’s Best Friend.

All of that’s true.  But I’m a woman.  And our 10-month-old black Lab mix is truly tapping into my serenity.

Ahh.  A puppy.  Why didn’t you say so?

Yes, and?  I realize that puppies are notorious for gnawing at walls, chewing on furniture and succumbing to indoor accidents but my primary problem at the moment is with the things my not-so-little Butch has been getting into when we go out into the big world.

Let’s just say he evokes an acid trip-esque Andy Warhol Maurice way before he’ll get billing as Norman Rockwell’s Boy Meets His Dog.

What is it snookums?  Go ahead and spill.

Thanks.  Last week after an exhausting day of traipsing up to Jerusalem, rushing back to Tel Aviv, ferrying my son to swim practice and buying groceries, I took Butch to the dog park to play.  I was reading my book while he romped with his friends Juno and Mitzee.

“Uh..You might want to go get Butch,” Juno’s person suggested, breaking into my reading tranquility zone.  “They’re all in the bushes and…well you should probably go get him.”

For the non-dog people out there, here’s a shocker for you (consider this your disclaimer):  For an asinine reason I have yet to even want to fathom, dogs like to roll in kaka.  And eat it too.  And usually they find it in bushes.

So when Mitzee’s person grabbed the stained white Samoyed by the collar and, gagging, pulled her from the crime scene, I  knew what was in store for me.  Butch was covered in it.

I didn’t gag.  I didn’t even speak.  I hooked him to his leash and promptly marched him to our front yard for a spigot bubble bath x 2.

The next day I reasoned:  Keep him on leash and he can’t roll.  True.  But he CAN stick his snout through the neighbor’s fence and grab cat poop.

The day after I reasoned:  He needs to run free or he’ll go nuts.  I’ll take him to a different park where perhaps there are no treasure bushes.

Which I did.  And as I sat reading on the park bench, off in the distance I saw him toss something small in the air with his mouth and when it landed, flip on his back and roll over it.

Disclaimer #2 for the non-dog people:  Animals roll in dead animals.  I dunno.  Don’t ask.

This was a dead mouse he had unearthed somewhere.  You’d be amazed at the powerful stench one tiny carcass can radiate.  Especially when a 90-pound dog has rolled over it.

March home.  Bubble bath #2 in as many days.

I’ll save the other bits.  There are more.  But in the name of good taste (har dee har) and at the prompting of my life coach who advises focusing on the positive, I stop here and instead call up some good points.

  • My son loves him and the two together are wonderful to behold
  • He’s a great watchdog
  • He is very funny without trying to be
  • He’s an incredibly good natured & playful dog
  • He will grow up one day

Thank you for indulging me.  Over & out.    crazybutch

 

Chick Versus Chick April 29, 2009

Confession time:  I stand alongside the global multitudes struggling to make ends meet during the current recession. Jobs are scant and it’s downright scary right now.  Especially as a single mom.

Luckily I rely upon faith, hope, networking, routine and friends to buoy me.  And thank goodness for chat rooms and friends’ IM & email messages discussing fear, job scarcity and struggles.  “Thank goodness” not in the Schadenfreude way; I’m grateful not to be alone.  

I felt loads better last week after watching a NY Times video profile of a laid off exec who had formerly managed multi-million dollar accounts and is now pushing a janitor’s broom.  His wife needs cancer treatments so guaranteed health insurance benefits are essential.  He can’t afford the luxury of leisurely looking around.

Instead he kicks off the covers at 4 a.m. each day, checks emails and sends out resumes to potential employers.  He then heads to his janitorial job where, during breaks, he sits in his car placing follow-up calls.  I don’t know if I was more blown away by his story or by his bravado in letting the world know what he currently gets up to between 9 and 5.

I, too, am working overtime at phoning contacts, tapping into networks, making new contacts and attempting to drum up work.

Which makes having to go up against female colleagues doubly frustrating.

I have spoken several times with a work contact about leads in news production.  And each time I talk with this woman  she asks: “But what about your son?  Do you have anyone to take care of him?  I mean he IS young.”

And each time I reassure her  that yes, I do have a network in place.  A really good one.  Not to worry, the childcare issue has never presented a problem.  I even have overnight babysitters.  “I HAVE A VILLAGE!!!” I internally dialogue. “So please, send the work my way.”

But she hasn’t so far.  And I don’t believe she ever will.  Because I don’t think she can wrap her head around my being a single mom and concommitantly producing television news.  Never mind that scores of anchors, producers, editors and camerawomen before me have done just that and are faring quite nicely. Or that I myself have done just that.

I’m being pre-packaged and labeled from the get-go and not only by this particular woman.  Recently a well-known anchorwoman told me:  “You certainly don’t want to work full time or get into a heavy career.  You have your son to think about.” She wasn’t asking.  She was stating how “it is”.    And I thought:  “But you’re so wrong!  By getting into something full time I AM thinking of my son. ”

It reminds me of the time I went to see U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright speak in San Francisco.  Someone in the audience asked if she regretted the choice of fast political track over full time mommy.  She explained that there isn’t a cookie-cutter path for all women – some are meant for careers, others to stay home with kids and others to do a range of things in-between.

But she told the packed house I DO believe there’s a special place in hell for women who give other women a hard time for the path they have chosen to follow.

And the room erupted in applause.

I don’t believe the women I mention here are malicious.  But their notions are misguided and create a certain level of frustration for me.

 

Until the Army April 20, 2009

My 7-year-old is doing really well in swimming.

He sailed through beginner, intermediate and advanced courses last year and has now been selected to join the city league swim team entailing twice-weekly practice training sessions.

Today was the 1st such session and when we  arrived, I had a word with the coach about vacation and how we should handle summer break.

Coach & I didn’t see eye to eye on a start date for my son.  I wanted immediate.  He favored end of summer.

“He’s now in serious training for the long haul,” coach explained.  “So what’s the rush? As I see it, I have him from now until he’s 18 when he goes into the army.”

JOLT.  I had NEVER directly correlated my son with army service in that kind of “oh it’s so obvious he’ll be going in at eighteen” kind of way.  Ever.  And here was this stranger casually linking the two.

Yes, it’s compulsory in Israel for 18-year-olds.  But MY son?  MY budding artist/swimmer?

I didn’t grow up with the concept so it’s totally foreign to me even though it’s ultra ingrained in Israeli society.  I can’t even think about it. I don’t want to.

Jolt aside, I won.  He started practice  today.

11 more years.

 

Gold Teeth April 16, 2009

Lessons Learned Whilst Living with a 7-year-old:

Okay honey, time for bed.  Let’s brush teeth.

I don’t want to. Why do I have to brush my teeth anyway?

So they won’t fall out.

But if they fall out, I can get gold ones!

Over my dead body.

Okay then.  Silver.



 

Deal Making April 14, 2009

Characters:   7-year-old boy & 7-year-old boy’s Mother

Setting:  Dinner table in a Tel Aviv apartment.   7-year-old has finished eating.  His mother has not

7-year-old:  I’m finished.  Can I go play on the computer now?

Mother: Nope.  Sit with me until I’m finished.  It won’t take long.

7-year-old: (ponders for a moment) How about we make a deal?

Mother: Uhum.  What kind of deal?

7-year-old: If you let me go play on the computer now, I promise that when you’re old and in a wheelchair I’ll push you wherever you need to go and I’ll buy you things so you won’t have to spend your money.  Okay?

 

Homeless Teens? April 2, 2009

Late one afternoon last week, my 7-year-old and I set out on a wee bicycle jaunt through Tel Aviv to mark the official start of Spring Break.

Crossing one of the city’s main Boulevards – Ben Gurion named for Israel’s 1st Prime Minister – we passed kiosk cafes, juice stands, parents with toddlers playing in mini-playgrounds and other cyclists also enjoying the mild weather.

As we neared the beach we heard strains of live music – mostly drumming really.  Exciting!  We neared the source and discovered a percussionist and trumpet player whooping it up, the trumpet case open at their feet exhibiting a fair amount of donated coins. We paused to listen and watch.  The spectacle was a rarity in the city.  A treat.

“Mom, do you think they have homes?  I want to give them some money,” my concerned son queried.

I guffawed out loud.  Because this was the two-man band:

musickids1Honey, they’re okay I reassured.

Clearly the formative years of his life spent  in “teeming with homeless” San Francisco have shaped some of my son’s notions.

 

When School Is a Scary Place to Be December 2, 2008

“Mom, I have something for you from school,” my 7-year-old announced last night.  He gravely handed me a letter in a sealed envelope.

Ever the encouraging & positive mom, I asked:  “Did something happen?  Are you in trouble?”

“No,” he replied.

I opened the envelope to find a letter typed on school stationery.  It’s the type of letter no parent ever wants to read.

“Yesterday afternoon, an incident occurred on school grounds and it is now under police investigation.”

The letter was written in vague terms/  A strange man who tried to enter school grounds.   Assurances that he was unable to gain access to the inner courtyard.  An investigation into the matter is underway. “Police and administration are working jointly to find the man.”

Great. I congratulated the guard this morning at the gate.  Thank goodness nothing major happened.

Except I was wrong.

The letter didn’t detail the fact that the strange man, a pedophile, lured my son’s 7-year-old classmate to the gate and somehow violated the child.  The letter didn’t use the words the press did when they ran with the story today:  SodomyRape.

The letter didn’t answer all the questions the bewildered parents are now asking each other, shoulders shrugged and foreheads creased in concern.

How on earth did this happen?  How did noone notice?  How is the child faring?  How do we feel safe again?

 

No Hurting Kids Allowed! September 17, 2008

My son started 1st grade this month; I blogged it here a few weeks ago.

As we now settle into the routine of week three, my petit jewel is revealing a penchant for learning: he is eager to come home and complete homework assignments and he asks permission to skip ahead in his books.

I’m, on the other hand, recovering from the shock of observing MY child, less than a month into formal education, reading text.  MY BOY IS READING!!!… IN HEBREW & ENGLISH!

I know.  No biggie for those of you multi-lingual old timers.  So indulge me for a minute, okay?  Thanks.

I also blogged about how the whole school in Israel (Holy Land Central or HLC) thing is a no-reference-point situation for me because I didn’t grow up here. So buying books, getting “uniforms” (tee-shirts bearing the school logo) and even being told by the headmistress that yes, we parents of English speaking kids can bring in a private English tutor for our kids during regular school hours without going through bureaucratic hassle or paperwork is all new and wondrous for me.

One aspect of the school experience, however, is oh-so-universal…

1st Grade Son, casual-like, while playing with Legos: Oh mom, when I was on the playground today a big kid threw a ball in my face and he and the other big kids laughed.

Stefanella, putting down Newspaper: Did you get hurt?

Son: It felt like my nose would fall off.

Stefanella, steam rising: Lemme see…  How big of a big kid?  Did you cry?

Son: I think they were in 3rd or 4th grade.  Yeah, I cried.

Stefanella, through clenched teeth: Was there a playground teacher out there?  Did anyone help you?

Son: Yeah.  She said she would tell the boys’ teachers later.

Stefanella, pondering: And it wasn’t an accident?

Son: No.  They laughed when the one boy did it.

Stefanella: You’re okay?

Son: Yeah.  Can I play computer games?

Stefanella, seething: Sure, honey.

Stefanella, Internal Dialoguing: I’ll show you what’s funny.  Hurt MY BOY?  MY BOY?  The one with a halo ’round the back of his Head?  Ooh, you all don’t KNOW what hurt is!  I’ll come over there and show you.  NO ARMS, NO BALL THROWING!  Picking on MY little boy?  Uh Uh.  I don’t think SO!

But of course, I did nothing.  Because that wee story shot me back a few decades.  And a schoolyard is a schoolyard is a schoolyard.  T’ain’t a thing I can do.  Make it worse, maybe, by storming the kids or talking to a teacher.  Unless it gets bad.  Otherwise, this is what proving ground is all about.

And as a mom, it sorta sucks.

Stefanella, in a calmer state: Honey, if the boys throw balls at you again, let me know.  Sometimes kids just do stuff like that.  Okay?

Stefanella, internally dialoguing: Just do stuff like that.  Just do stuff like that? *#*%@ I’ll just DO SOMETHING LIKE THAT! #@*% *sigh*

 

Shalom Kitah Alef…1st Grade, Here We Come! September 1, 2008

The last week or two has been a concentrated flurry of prepping my 6-year-old for 1st grade.

And because we’re here in Holy Land Central aka “HLC” aka Israel, the entire experience of getting him ready for this school system has meant initiation time for me too.  Because I didn’t grow up here so I do-not-know-the-ropes.

The process began with the list of school supplies that arrived in the mail.

I’m fluent in Hebrew.  I read newspapers, watch movies & t.v. and carry on semi-intelligent conversations in the language of the Biblical Land each and every day.  But I didn’t know what a full third of the listed supplies were nor did I know what they would be used for.  “LabelsA green plastic assignment folder ? He’s talented, but Oil Pastels, watercolors, markers and a sketch pad for art classes? He’s six!”

So it was off to the good neighbor’s house who patiently translated.  And dully sent me packing to the bookstore.

Which presented learning curve hurdle #2.  But before we go there, a friendly word from your sponsors: All you Nortes Americanos out there: You Are Privileged! You live in a wealthy country.  Bow your heads in Gratitude and utter THANKS!

From kindergarten to college my parents never paid for school books.  In my growing up years, the deal was: Show up on the 1st day of class and there’s a standard issue.  Done Deal.  Unless a text falls from the window of a fast-moving car, rolls into a mud patch or is fed to Bingo the dog for dinner, not one dime changes hands in exchange for trusty texts.

In the crazed scene that was my local Tel Aviv bookstore last week, however, parents frantically handed syllabus and supply lists to harried counter people who scrambled to fill orders.  Living in HLC, I have come to appreciate good old fashioned elbows jutted, “get outta my way because I DO OWN THE PLACE” attitudes & jam-packed scenes because it’s part of the …oh let’s just call it charm for lack of better phrasing, shall we?  The bookstore was no exception: charm overflowed.

An hour after arriving I was $200 lighter and had discovered that my childhood memories of prepping for a school year by picking out a new pair of shoes and an outfit for Day 1 would not be rite of passaged on down to my son. Nor would most of my school-associated memories because the school experience is completely different over here.   

Heck, at orientation night we parents were treated to a child psychologist’s lecture on transitioning from Kindergarten to 1st grade.  I don’t think my parents got those deliverables when I was a kid.  To illustrate the inherent difficulty of learning to read & write,  the psychologist asked parents to phonetically string together the sentence: “Shalom Kitah Alef” (Hello 1st Grade) ….in Tagalog.  It wasn’t simple.

As the school year opened this morning, my son and his 1st grade peers were greeted by a clown at the front gate and a ceremony performed in the schoolyard by 5th graders. “Hey 1st graders,” the older kids crooned to the pack of wee ones, “we know you’re frightened and it seems overwhelming but don’t worry.  We’ve been there and you’ll do fine.”  It was touching.  My son’s response: “Yeah..it was sorta fun but kind of boring”.

It’s actually kind of heady stuff learning the ropes with my child as he moves into new phases of his life in this new and oft times very foreign place.

As I contemplated pushing through the throng of parents to plant a final farewell kiss on his cheek before he entered the school building for the day I discovered something else:

He was talking to a new friend.  He wasn’t searching for me.  He was okay.

I vacillated between the messsage echoed in the previous night’s deliberate bedtime reading choice, Oh,the Places You’ll Go! and my internal dialogue:

That’s it?  I don’t run after him?  I just let him go through those doors and start this next life phase just like that?

Yup.