Thursday, November 27, 2008

My "Valedictorian" Graduation Speech

For those of you out of the loop, I finished - two years ago - an Advanced Clinical Training in Couples and Family Therapy at the Family Institue at Neve Yerushalayaim. As I was collecting all my diplomas to have them framed for my office, it occured to me that I never received my certificate from the Institute. So I called to inquire, just to make sure I hadn't missed a graduation. They thanked me for nudging them, which made them organize a lovely morning graduation ceremony today. It was nice to reconnect with collegues I haven't seen in awhile.
Last week, the head supervisor called to ask if I would speak on behalf of the other 9 graduates.
The following is what I said, cotton-mouthed and shaking:

Good morning,

When I made aliyah almost 5 1/2 years ago, I had no professional expectations. I knew my energy would be entirely committed to settling my children into their schools and social lives. I spent the first 2 years of aliyah – when I wasn’t in ulpan trying to learn Hebrew in Ulpan Alef – waiting for them to return from school, giving out hugs, wiping tears of frustration and holding their hands. I felt an itch to be working, but wiped it away with little more than a light scratch.

After those two years, though, I decided it was time – time to focus on me.

I have learned that the most important word in this field is not “feelings” or “understanding”, although they are an important part of the service we provide. But as a professional, the word, networking has been the key to what has brought me to this point, to where I am, professionally, today.

Since my days in graduate school, I have been an active participant in each NEFESH International professional conference. At the conferences I would meet interesting therapists and seasoned clinicians with whom I would share my interest in the therapeutic world. Time after time, I would recognize more and more of the participants, until we began to look forward to seeing each other, each year. When I knew it would be my last conference in America, before making aliyah, I made it a point to meet the Israeli representatives attending the conference that year.

And so, when I finally made it to Israel and heard there was going to be a NEFESH conference in the Holy City of Jerusalem, I used my earlier introduction to Dr. Judi Gedalia, the chairperson for NEFESH Israel, to ask if there was any help they needed in planning the conference.

That one phone call, using my networking skills, is what has allowed me to stand here today. I joined the planning committee meetings, where I met Dr. Levitz. And either, I called you or you contacted me – that I don’t clearly remember – about becoming a part of the Family Institute.

I met with Rachel and Roni about how I could be helpful at the clinic and found myself registering for the internship program. Although I had the clinical group skills from my work in the States, my experience working with families and couples was limited. And I knew, as well, that I would benefit greatly from working with individuals, while receiving my own individual and group supervision.

The training I received at the clinic was challenging and scary, fun and exciting, worthwhile and rewarding. Challenging and scary bc I was not only facing clinical cases I had never dealt with before, but also the counter transference that was constantly forcing me to face my own self and my own insecurities. I was scared to death of making a fool out of myself; or even worse, not being able to help my assigned clients.
Fun and exciting bc I was learning new things all the time – both professionally, clinically and personally. When I could walk out of a therapy session and be able to say “Yes!”, I felt good about that, and it became fun.
And Worthwhile bc I was learning, sharpening my skills, and meeting – networking – with superbly talented, professional people. It was difficult to be away from my family as they continued to acclimate to life here in Israel, but their support allowed me to continue my work. And for that I felt rewarded by all our successes.

I remember the day Dr. Levitz stopped me in the waiting room and asked me how I was doing, which I always appreciated him asking. And, of course, I always told him. That day, I was frustrated that there was limited access to art supplies, which I wanted to use with my clients. In short, he very strongly suggested that I not use the arts in sessions and begin to learn and try other forms of therapy. At the time I felt as if he had taken away my security blanket. But in time, I understood what he was asking me to do. And I did it.

With my wonderfully understanding colleagues and supportive supervisors, each one pushing me beyond my comfort areas of doing and understanding, I was able to leave my clients with a feeling of my knowing that I had helped them to the best of my ability.

Being a part of the Family Institute did not only support me in my advanced clinical training, but has also allowed me to access the beginning of my private practice – all due to networking. My first private clients came from referrals from colleagues here. And my training gave me the confidence to continue my private work even to today.

I was being abit facetious when I said that the most important word in this field was networking. Because really I believe the most important word is “Siyata dishmaya”. My clients humble me. I am thankful that Hashem has given me the talent and ability to connect with people in their pain, and I clearly see myself as a kli, for Hashem to use me to help people find their own healing and happiness in their lives.

So as we go out into the professional world, I believe the consistent message is for us ask Hashem for the tools and the words to be able to help our clients honestly and practically.

I thank you all for the encouragement, support and caring. I thank you for helping me to jump start a career I believe in, in helping others. I thank my family and friends for their love and encouragement. And mostly, I thank Hashem for showing me the way and giving me the tools.

Thank you and mazal tov

Sunday, November 23, 2008

I was never a valedictorian

My graduating class had 400+ graduates. I was DEFINITELY NOT the valedictorian. Actually, I don't remember who was?

This week will be the graduation for the Family Institute Advanced Training program I finished two years ago. After my consistent nudging, they finally organized a mini ceremony to give out our hard earned certificates.

The certificate is in Couples and Family Therapy.

I recieved a call last week from the Head Supervisor of the clinic asking if I would be the speaker at the graduation. "You'll be like the valedictorian," she said.

Wow! I was never a valdictorian before. This is cool, I can do this - a class of maybe a dozen people, not a bad percentage for me!

Anyhow, now I gotta write a speech...

Any ideas of how to start?

Wish me luck.

Still waiting...

DB has another couple interviews this week.

I'm telling you now: He's gonna come home one of these days and just start packing. That's how he is going to tell me what is going on...

I am proud, but....

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Scanning pictures

In collecting and organizing pictures I have learned something about myself -
No! Not that I am a pack rat - I already knew that! -

I have learned that I have lived a VERY full life. I know many many people from different places in the world from different times in my life. I have done alot of things and met alot of people.

So many parts of my life...

So much richer for it

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

From the boxes in the basement

It would have been too easy to have just taken the boxes that have been sitting there for two years and put them somewhere else. And, of course, they were full of things I didn’t know what to do with and so I had to go through them.

I found hundreds of cassette tapes and hundreds of miscellaneous pictures. Which, of course I had to look through.

I randomly pulled out a tape from 1986 from an old “friend.” He was a boy and he was a friend. And of course I had to listen to it. It took me back. To feelings and memories. That I get stuck in. Until I talk to old friends, special friends, who know me and have known me for years…

So my good friend who has known me for over 25 years wrote me this, which helped a lot:

try and remember this. . . let yourself remember. . .it is a part of who you are. . . . if you dwell on it you will miss the NOW and the time that you are sharing this moment with your family. . . .
I have found that its not the memories that keep me in a wrong place its the dwelling. . . . .

So now I will remember, but not dwell – thank you wise friend!

How do you go back and remember, but not dwell? Any advice?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Still waiting

No word yet from DB as to what will or is happening with him. And as I wrote before, I probably won’t know, nor will I be able to talk about it.

All very secretive for a Momma who needs to know everythig about what her kids are doing!

We spent the day together yesterday. DB needed a blood test so didn’t go back to Mechina. He took a morning nap and then we emptied some boxes that have been sitting in the basement for 2 years.

He is very “chill” about the waiting. He believes what ever will be is the best. He has had to do some heavy self-introspection. And has asked my help along the way.

I told him today, “As long as you keep telling me you need me, DB, I’ll be fine.”

His answer? “I always need you Mommy!”

Prayers and patience… in that order.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

A new phase

Wednesday morning, Ely woke up not feeling well, so she stayed home from school. On days like those, I get stuck and can’t get much done around the house.

I think it comes from the days when she was a baby and would get VERY sick with 104-degree temperatures. I would hold her all day waiting for her to perk up and feel better until her temperature would spike again and she would go limp. It was an immune deficiency thing which seems to have disappeared for the most part.

I remember being frozen, waiting for the G-d forbid worst. Now when she gets a fever or doesn’t feel well, the same thing happens to me. I freeze and wait. As soon as she is perky and back to herself, I can function. Until then…nothing.

But that’s not what I wanted to write about.

DB was home yesterday too. Still needing his Mommy to help him heal. And still working on filling out the 8 page questionnaire he needed to finish for the Army.

He had the first of several interviews with the Army too. Of which he can tell me nothing and I am no longer allowed to ask any questions about.

So now, not only do I worry about where he is, I have no idea where he is or WHAT he is doing.

All part of letting go. And praying to G-d to keep him safe, out of harms way, and asking HIM to stay by my “little” boy’s side.

It’s a new phase. Different than sending him off to college. At least I would have a vague idea of where he was and what he was doing – vague, I know. But still. Now not only will I not know, but he CAN’T tell me.

All part of growing up…

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


I went to Jerusalem to work today.
DB stayed home and continued to heal and rest (his elbows are still pretty raw).
He spent most of the day filling out forms in hebrew for the army - background checks on himself and the family..uh oh!

They asked very detailed questions going all the way back to when he was born.
There were some very thought provoking questions too, like he had to describe his parents and list highlights and life changing moments in his life.
A lot to ask of a 19 year old kid!

He has received three different phone calls from the army saying they wanted to meet with him. They would not - or could not - tell him what about.

Pretty soon I have a feeling I won't be able to write anything about what he is doing...

We are getting closer.

Monday, November 03, 2008

My boy

I wanna write about what it has been like to have had a son go through the experience he had last week.

When he left I certainly had no idea where he was going or what he was going to be doing. I've gotten used to that.

I worried about him. First I worried it would be hot and he would get dehydrated. Then as it started to rain and get colder, I got worried that he was running and sleeping in the rain and he hadn't brought a sweater or coat with him. I thought for sure he would come sick.

Since he has been home, I haven't been able to stop staring at him. He came home a differnt young man. Not just skinnier, but more sturdy. I can't get enough of his pleasant personality. I learned so much about my son from this experience. I always knew he was a tough cookie and could pretty much acclimate to any situation. But last week he seemed to REALLY do that.
He wanted to give up, but he kept going. He did what he was told and when he didn't he understaood and accepted the consequences.

Now we wait. He is home trying to heal his skinned elbows. I love having him around.
He received a call today from the army telling him to come in for a meeting this Wednesday. Not sure really why. Next week he has another meeting with the doctors and medical staff.

Right now he is laying on the coush watching a movie. Chillin' - enjoying his down time.

We all know that pretty soon things could very possibly start getting more hectic.
As in, I won't know where he is. When he's coming home. What he is doing?

Today I knew he was home with me. We went to the bank to open his first bank account - a free service from the government for soldiers. Shopped for "cool" sunglasses and had our first weekday family dinner together in months.

Time just keeps moving. I am trying to appreciate my moments with my boy. I am full of humble pride. I have been blessed, I do not take that for granted. And I don't want to give any ayin hara's poo poo poo!

Just thankful and waiting...

Sunday, November 02, 2008

DB's letter after his gibush

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Dear Family and Friends,

First of all, I would like to thank all of you for the love and support you gave to my mother last week. She definitely needed it.
I have been asked to write a little about my week. There is so much to say, I’m not sure where to start. I guess I’ll start from the beginning. Last week I went to a tryout for sayret matkal, an elite unit in the Israeli army. It started Sunday morning and lasted through Thursday afternoon. It took place near the beach between Ashkelon and Ashdod.
Most of the week was very physical. All week we wore an army uniform, a vest and gun. They woke us up at around 4:30 every morning (we didn’t actually know what time it was because we weren’t allowed to use our watches), to line up in formation. We then went with our groups of around 20 boys out into the sand dunes. That’s when the hard stuff started.
We had around 6 different commanders per group. One of them would say, “You guys see that bush at the top of the dune? Go up and around it and whoever comes first we write down your name, GO!”
So, of course everyone ran as fast as they could up the sand dune and down to the line. Then he would tell us to do it again. And again. And again. About fifteen to twenty times. Then we had a 8-15 minute break. Afterward he told us to open a stretcher and put 4 sandbags on it. He told us that the first four boys in the line should take the stretcher for another round. We did this countless times. Sometimes they would tell us to go up and down and then drop and crawl for the next 20 meters; or sometimes we had to crawl up the hill.
One exercise that was physically and mentally draining that started at 4:30 AM, was when the commander lined us up and said, “Every one crawl to me.” We would have to crawl, arm over arm while still holding our guns and not lifting our bottoms. When we had almost reached him, he would start walking backwards! And so we would have to continue crawling until we reached him. That took us until a little after sunrise.
They then gave us about 20 minutes to eat. Eating consisted of cans of tuna, corn and pickles, and loof, which I can only compare to kosher spam. We took all that stuff and loaded into two pieces of bread, which was actually pretty tasty.
The commanders gave the religious kids time to daven shachrit (the morning service). I was one of only three religious kids in my group.
After that we had different assignments. One was to fill a sandbag and run up and down the dune as many times as possible with it on our shoulders. Another was to dig a hole, a meter by meter, with a little foldable shovel that we carried with us. Then the commander would ask us questions about it. The commanders wanted to see if we also had brains, so we did different things to show them that. We had to draw a map of the world in the sand, as well as give a speech about any topic for a minute and then the commanders questioned us about it. I spoke about baseball because I knew the Israeli army men knew absolutely nothing about it. One of the commanders asked me why anyone would actually enjoy the sport because he thought it was so boring.
During the day hours it was too hot or it was raining so we didn’t do any physical stuff. Instead they kept us occupied by the mental part. Then in the evening we went back out to the sand dunes and did the physical part all over again.

I think that I really stretched my limits this week. Things that used to seem hard to me, won’t seem as hard anymore. I was thinking, they woke us up in the middle of the night and had us going all day and I still made it, so why should it be so hard for me to get up at yeshiva and learn?
The results of the week are still a little unknown. I made it through the week, which was a huge accomplishment, and I was placed on a waiting list as the other 50 boys ahead of me go for their medical check-ups. If any of them fails this part, I am on the list that fills their place in the unit. I should know the results of this within the next week or so.
Although there were moments when I wasn’t sure if I could take another step, I knew that you were all praying and cheering me on. I appreciate your support more than you know.

Thank you again,