Saturday, April 30

girding up my loins

Going back to work tomorrow after a blissful 9-day break (which only cost me 4 days of hard-earned holiday hours, since the rest was weekends plus 1 Pesach day off). Taking 3 days to go to the Kinneret and just lay around was a great idea. The air there was marvelous, and just looking out at the lake (even though we didn't go in) had a very calming influence. It was great to see my daughter happy to just lay in the sun by the pool; in fact, it was great to just see her generally happy, for a change not demanding something other than what she's getting. Too bad her mood changed the minute we left the hotel and headed home.

Being away from the office for such a long time has relieved me of the office identity, at least temporarily, and that's a weight off me. The petty office concerns, the tedium, the gossip and the personalities that loom large when the office has taken over my life from morning till night all recede when home life becomes the main event.

The week before Pesach was a horrible, pressured week, with enormous efforts made toward providing an important client with required documentation. What made the week so unpleasant was that too many burnt-out, over-burdened people have been having trouble focussing, meaning that there was a lot of wasted energy. The people I was working with needed a holiday worse than I did, but they weren't given the option. Although many companies either give employees the week off during Pesach, or at least let them work shorter hours, neither was offered at our company, and I'm sure that this will prove to be false economy on their part. What looked like a cheerful group of people three months ago is looking increasingly haggard to me. But that's the sort of perspective I tend to have after three months, so who knows?

In any case, while I'm none too pleased about returning to the tedium tomorrow, I'm feeling rather disengaged from the fray, and hope to maintain some of that going back in. I've been getting bitchy and critical and I hate that side of me. I really liked myself better being sort of naive and on my best behavior. It's hard to keep up that facade though; the cynical loafer is always fighting to get out.

It's also been good to have a rest from my boss, who seemed to be getting more and more tightly wound as the days went on. She's got a thick armor normally, but in the week before Pesach she was getting more walled-up than usual. I suspect there are many factors behind the scenes, both personally and professionally, that she's trying to hold together. I keep my distance. Will be interesting to see if the week off has taken the edge off or made her worse. Some people don't do holidays all that well.

Tuesday, April 26

aaaahhh ... kinneret!

am enjoying well-deserved 3-day break in the kinneret, where internet access is expensive... catching rays and sitting by pool, looking at the wonderful view.

the weather is absolutely perfect, and the frazzle is receding ...

see you soon!

Friday, April 22

israeli xmas

It's that time of year again. The holiday season. And the parallels between Pesach and Christmas are striking.

Shopping, for one. It's commercial bonanza time, the malls and main street packed with spendthrifts buying food, new clothes, presents for family. And the proper punctuation for each sale is "Hag Sameach" [happy holiday] -- the "Merry Christmas" of Israel. I've been saying (and been said to) hag sameach all week to (and by) people I normally never talk to or don't even know.

A week of holiday, shorter hours, or just not taking work all that seriously. Pesach is a week, beginning with seder night; the next day is a holiday, and the next 5 days are like the days between Christmas and New Year's, when nothing much happens. Then there's one last day, another holiday (if it's not a Saturday like this year), and then it's like Jan. 2. (And if you want to drink beer or eat bread, pasta, and a whole lot of other contraband-for-Pesach items during this week, you have to make sure to stock up before seder night, because no regular grocery stores sell it. Although now there's a really great totally-treif, non-kosher, deli in Raanana, which may well be selling it, wouldn't be surprised. The days of all-matza, all-the-time are, I think, over.)

And holiday bonuses. Pretty much all employers give their employees a holiday gift of some kind, even if it's a modest food-and-wine basket. Hi-tech companies give more generous gifts, commensurate with their sense of solvency. We got a choice of 500 shekels (about US$115) in coupons that can be used in many of the big food, clothing, or homewares chains, OR a cordless phone, vacuum cleaner, or food processor (more or less of the same value). I took the coupons, intending to buy my choice of cordless phone at Home Center. When I went there, I found the exact phone I wanted, for exactly 499 shekels. Brilliant. Took it to the cashier and was told, no, look at the limitations on the back of the coupons: you can't use them on electric products, electronics, carpets, or lighting fixtures. Well, blow me! What the bloody hell did they think I was going to buy -- plates??? Some tools, maybe? Damn, I was pissed, and walked out without it. But after looking around at a few other stores, I couldn't find a phone I liked as much, so eventually returned, albeit disgruntled, and bought the phone AND a clock-radio-phone for the budding teenager. Very cute contraption and does what I love best: kills two birds with one stone (clock+radio being one, for waking and keeping her awake in the morning, I hope; phone being two).

Seder night is a lot like Christmas Eve, too, in that one feels one absolutely must not be alone. "Why is this night different than every other night?" Because even loners like the Squarepeg feel like losers if they choose to be alone on this night. I tried it once, maybe three years after moving here. I had no desire to be stuck again for the evening making polite conversation with some family-of-an-acquaintance, just so that I was somewhere. I had a couple of invitations, but told the inviters I was already set, mesuderet. I grew up in a non-observant family with no Jewish education, and didn't care much for tradition. I would enjoy my quiet evening alone. But I was surprised to find that my choice had pushed me, for the evening, down a misfit well that was too deep even for me. I'm comfortable sitting on the edge, but falling all the way in by refusing to be somewhere on seder night was too much. Since then, I've pretty much conformed to something or other -- getting married basically reduced my options, in any case, as my mother-in-law made it clear that seder night was always and forever going to be with her. I don't fight it. This year it's actually going to be at our place for the very very first time ever. Just us and the in-laws, no big production. They're bringing most of the food: the gefilte fish, the hard-boiled eggs, the main course. I'm making the chicken soup and kneidlach (matza balls), salad and dessert (chocolate mousse). My mother-in-law, at 70 (next birthday), no longer has the energy to take her turn with her sister every other year, so she preferred to lie to her and say we're all going out of town, and doing the seder at a hotel. I'm happy to take my turn from now on, as long as it's not with a big group. Kind of a shame, though. Pesach has become the only time we see that other half of this tiny family.

The one thing that differentiates the Pesach season from the Christmas season -- apart from the baby Jesus, of course -- is the blessed absence of mass-bingeing on alcohol. Despite the seder's traditional 4 glasses of wine (they're usually very small glasses), and notwithstanding my childhood memories of getting tipsy at my aunts' seders with my cousins, drunken revelry is not a seasonal feature.

Can't imagine why not. As far as I can see, all the requisite factors for a good fugue-binge are there. Anybody out there getting drunk at a seder this year? And if you already are, read B2's musings on the parallels between Pesach and quantum physics. A decidedly more kosher view than the Squarepeg's, but a mind-bender.

Have a good one, y'all, and hag sameach, if at all possible.

Saturday, April 16

triple threat-itis

oy, what a week. My daughter has been sick for 8 days now, and is still coughing like a maniac. It started with obvious signs of a virus last Saturday, when she was weak and headachey and just wanted to go home instead of continuing on with our Tel Aviv walkabout on a gorgeous day. By the evening, she was feverish and stayed that way for five days.

I've never seen her sick for this long before, and rarely take her to the doctor, as almost everything goes away by itself. But by the end of 4 days of fever, I was ready to throw in the towel. Mr. S. took her to his doctor, as the pediatrician was in miluim*, and called me at work afterward to tell me he left with a prescription for antibiotics for bronchitis, tonsilitis and sinusitis. Woohoo -- the full monty.

Until that point she hadn't even told me her throat hurt! I've managed to keep her away from antibiotics for many years (it's easy when you avoid doctors), so this is quite a big deal in terms of illness for her. By then she was hacking spasmodically, and has been parked in bed -- my bed, that is -- all week (during the day).

It's a new record: she's managed to miss an entire week of school, and still be sick. Normally, she needs no more than one day off when she's sick. Maybe once she got two days. This is pretty sick. And yet: no emergency visits in the middle of the night due to breathing difficulty -- that happened once, so I'm very glad we haven't come to that this time. But she does have periods of nonstop coughing, so she's taking a lot of ventolin (the puffer), which she had almost stopped using in recent years.

Now the bonus: She gets to miss two more weeks, as the Pesach holiday has now begun. In the second week, after the seder, we're going to a hotel at the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) for three days, but this week may be challenging for dear Mr. S who is in a very intense work period and trying to focus. Little Ms doesn't let us focus all that much.

* army reserve duty

Tuesday, April 12


תל-אביב - היום
35° / 23°

Today in Tel Aviv
- sharav -

Monday, April 11

lunch is as lunch does

I found myself doing lunch alone again today. Since I haven't established myself as a regular member of any group (and apparently don't really want to), I need to go looking for people; they aren't going to call me.

It's a complicated situation for me: I don't want to be alone, and would like it if others would seek me out, but I don't want to be compelled to always be with the same person/people. Most people go to lunch with either their office- or department-mates. Mine are two religious people who don't go out. The nearest group is three young 20something women that I'd rather not spend my lunch hour with. And my office is at the dead-end of a long corridor, so no one accidentally passes by, either.

So today I headed out alone, and by chance found myself waiting for the elevator with three managers going out together. (Needless, I think, to mention that I am not a manager.) I would have been very comfortable with the two men, but the woman, davka, is the vp of hr, a hefty and formidable type who turns warmth on an off with little warning. Our only conversations are stilted and formal, and I'd rather keep a certain distance, especially considering that I assume hr people are at all times on the alert to learn and condemn you for your most closely-guarded secrets. (No, I do not have any trust issues.)

When we all emerged from the elevator at the main floor and I started heading in a different direction, she genially said, "Come eat with us." It was an invitation, not a command. An uncomfortable moment ensued, as I asked where they were going: the company dining room -- boring meat and veg. -- I answered that I preferred the vegetarian place. We parted ways. But then I saw the vegetarian place had a long lineup and an unappealing menu today, so I hurried to catch up with them and said I'd changed my mind. I don't know how that went over, but I was going for "I have no problem looking silly". That was just the beginning.

My problem with eating with Hebrew-speakers is that I often can't follow the conversation in a fluid way. I miss a lot in a noisy restaurant, particularly with people not speaking directly to me. Fearful of making a comment that either repeats what has already been said, or worse, is jarringly unrelated to the conversation in progress (despite what I think I've understood), I end up contributing little and feeling like a dullard.

So the three of them were talking about their kids, all of whom are older than mine, and one was saying something about how kids learn early to be competitive in the academic world. I commented that mine wasn't there yet, and he responded that they get it even from age 10, and that it comes from their parents. I answered that I'm the opposite, that I tell my daughter, who's 12, not to get stressed out over her marks. Whereupon the hr lady immediately challenged me with, "But what you're teaching her is like a slap in the face of society."

I was stunned into silence by her remark. Not only because it was a shockingly conservative, old-school view, but also because I didn't feel comfortable debating the issue with her. Great, I thought, now she's flagged me as the rebellious type, obviously a troublemaker. From my bad-little-me perspective she was the teacher who could fail you if you stepped out of line, and I was clearly threatened by her position.

Not being a person who needs company for company's sake, this sort of thing is hard on me. I prefer to eat alone rather than endure stressful dining companions. Hell, I'd prefer to avoid her entirely, with or without food.

When I explained that my daughter is quite challenged academically and I don't see any point in putting more pressure on her, one of the guys came to my defense, saying I'm obviously aware of the issues and making an effort to deal with them. But the unpleasantness didn't dissipate. The train wreck continued as I knocked over a flimsy plastic cup full of water and soaked the tablecloth from edge to edge.

I think I need a break from people.

Sunday, April 10

the three-month itch

For others it may be seven years, but I've never worked in a job that long, so I wouldn't know. One weekend just doesn't do it for me. Every Saturday night, I feel like I desperately need another day off. Mr. S. disabuses me of that thought right quick, though.

Three months is enough to start getting the lay of the land. Just when you'd think I should be starting to get comfortable, the flaws of my co-workers start to become very obvious.

Interestingly, I can no longer hide my own flaws either. Maybe it has something to do with my Purim persona. Probably doesn't help that I had a headache all weekend. (This time I believe it may have come from trying to wean myself off coffee a little too enthusiastically.)

On Thursday, I was working at my computer with someone who leaned over to point to something on my screen and I snapped at her (apparently) not to touch the screen. It's good, at least, that she told me I had scared her; maybe others have felt the same way but didn't say anything. I thanked her for that, but I suppose the damage was already done. Today, I berated a guy that arrived 20 min. late for the meeting I'd set with him, after he'd done the same thing on Thursday. My boss can't stand this guy's arrogance, and my co-writer (let's call her Kelly) who's been here for 9 years and has known him as problematic for years has little respect for him, so I think knowing this made me feel I had a bit of license that I probably shouldn't have taken. But I found my voice shaking with emotion as I told him that I found it insulting that he shows up for our meetings with no regard for the time. Poor guy was kind of shocked and said it wasn't personal, that he does it to others (including higher-ups) and gets reprimanded for it, but that's just the way it is, people grab you in the corridor to talk and make you late, etc. etc. After that, he was very well-behaved, I must say, and sat and worked with me in a very focussed way for an hour and a half, during which time I lightened up and didn't hold a grudge. But at the end of the time he said it had really pained him that I felt insulted, and he apologized. I hope I don't now get a reputation, but maybe it's inevitable. My boss can be a really shrill harpy to some of these guys, so I may be letting it affect my own self-control. I'll have to be careful, even if this jerk did deserve a little blast.

Well, I'm quite aware that I'm hypersensitive, but I get worse when I start to litfos tachat [settle in, or get comfortable, but in an annoying entitlement sense, as if one doesn't have to answer to anyone]. It's always kind of sad when the honeymoon period ends, that initial three months when I'm on my best behavior, but also looking at everyone I meet with optimism. The blissful (albeit out-of-the-loop) time when nobody tells me what they really think of their co-workers. The short-lived, politics-free idyll.

It's all very Pollyanna -- totally "Hey! Let's work together! We all want to make this company GREAT!" But little by little, this one's a child, that one's a misogynist, the other one is arrogant, and those ones are just into shouting each other down. These are the people that I must drag information out of, day after day. Some seem to be overworked, while others seem to spend a lot of time shmoozing.

Yes, it's an ambivalent relationship I have with gossip. I love it and I loathe it. But mainly, I recognize that the more bored or bitter I am, the more gossip tends to feed me like addictive junk food -- exactly like McD's fries.

And woe is me, but I am getting bored with this scene.

Wednesday, April 6

a new record

7:55 am. That's what time I swiped in today.

How did I do it? I'll share this with you, because I'm getting this down to a fine art:

1. Wake up before alarm, so that you're not awakened in the middle of a dream. This is important, because being awakened during a dream is an absolute message to your mind that you haven't had enough sleep, and it's agony to get out of bed when your mind AND your body are telling you it's a bad idea.

2. Do not wash dishes or clean up kitchen mess from previous day. Allow housemates to enjoy the fruits of their sloth.

3. Do not make coffee or eat breakfast. That's what work time is for. (That, and blogging.)

4. Avoid all conversations with housemates. They will slow you down with questions about responsibilities you need to ignore in the interests of making good time to your day job.

5. Don't waste precious moments warming up the car. Just hit the traffic and keep weaving!

[YAWN] must. get. coffee. now.

Tuesday, April 5

can't get up!

oh my god, I can't believe how hard it has been to get out of bed this week! I'm getting to work later and later, which means I must stay later and later to fulfil the godawful nineandahalf@*&%##@&$#!!hours. and it doesn't seem to matter how early I get myself to bed -- I never feel like I've slept enough when that radio flips on. and I'm remembering a lot of dreams, which tells me that I'm sleeping less deeply, waking up after them. last week it didn't even matter how late I went to bed, I was still managing to get up and out early several times.

is it that one horrendous finger-wagging dst hour? is it that I'm cutting back on caffeine? is it my neglectful-mother guilt? is it all that fat that's accumulated in my middle region making me look more and more like my stout mother-in-law every day?


I absolutely must get there three times a week; twice is not enough to burn off this gut! I'm eating more healthfully than I used to, and the weight just keeps creeping up! I'm sick of this! summer is upon us and I will have to remove my Coverings of Illusion that have so expertly hidden the worst of my waist. and mr. S has finally this week re-started his gym regimen which means I will no longer be able to point and giggle at his blubber while diverting attention from my own.

funny thing about women: no matter how slim they look to everyone else, to themselves they are huge blobby whales. I'm not referring to myself of course, because I REALLY AM WAY WAY MORE BLUBBERY than I should be, and once I'm in summer clothes (never mind a bathing suit!!) everyone else will see that too.

what is wrong with us that we just cannot stop comparing ourselves to the liposucked? (not to mention the cosmetically-knifed)

Sunday, April 3


I learned a new word today.

In answer to the question, "How was your weekend?" a pregnant co-worker (already mother of four) answered, "ehhhhh -- mishpachtologia."

Which I understood as, "same-o, same-o, see under 'family'" -- neat way to succinctly encapsulate the fighting, the eating, the visiting of relatives, the standard chaos of a typical shabat in familyland, while giving it a sort of academic distance.

More or less describes my weekend.

change to dst

ugh. cruellest day of the year: first day back at work following 'spring ahead' summer clock change. how does a one-hour change manage to wield such a hefty punch? we lost an hour on thursday night, but still had to get the kid up for school (she was late, and I didn't care, much to her delight. unfortunately, she later found out that her bi-weekly art class was being unexpectedly held at the end of the same day, and she was none too pleased to be told that it was payback time.) so, although friday was bearable, saturday I needed to catch up with a rare afternoon nap ... which meant I was still perky at midnite and continued to watch "Ray" on dvd until 1am (with mr. S snapping at me to come to bed already and stop being so irresponsible). probably didn't fall asleep till about 2. clock radio blared at 6:45. ugh.

v. good thing that boss-lady is on a roman junket till tomorrow and I can coast in my fog.