The time to leave

butterfly in bushIt is time I let you know what is going on in my life right now.

Several weeks ago, I was told my mum is terminal with cancer in her liver, bones and brain.

I scrambled to get organized to be fully prepared to leave upon notice.

While my brothers and cousins all made sure to arrange a comfortable hospice care at her home. She started to regain some strength after spending two weeks in the hospital, at the same time as the worst heat wave has been hitting Paris in years. As you probably know it, the old City of Lights might be beautiful, it is not built with A/C in buildings. Houses are made of stone, so they can keep some freshness inside better than wood for sure, but still, it is hot in the city, plus polluted and noisy, with windows open and trying to get some air circulating is a pain.

 

My mum, although born and raised in a hot Mediterranean shore (Algiers in North Africa) hates it when it is hot. She has never been sick in her entire life and until the last minute when she actually collapsed, she has been trotting and doing long walks and taking care of herself like the lady she is. After my father’s death, she had indeed started to slow down and experience the blues, but you cannot say that this is her ways, and even when she was first diagnosed at age 87 with cancer, she took it with utmost philosophy.

After my father’s death, she and I had taken upon the very sweet habit of talking daily on the phone. This was not happening before, because my father and I were both ardent users of the Internet, and we would email back and forth as needed, sometimes several times a day, commenting on everything, from the most mundane stuff to heated political debates, as we were not always of the same persuasion, if not completely opposed on religious ideas for instance. But my mum has never shown interest to the screen, and never wanted to understand the Internet at all. It felt probably a bit surreal that sometimes her husband would call her to participate to a chat on Skype.

 

She enjoys it for sure, but is still not very sure where to position herself to be seen on camera, and becomes much more interested in exploring what she can see of the background than listening and talking in a conversation! She would exclaim that she does not recognize what kind of throw is on my bed, or wonder who gave me that t-shirt I am wearing, or what are the piles of books she sees on the side table, or the mess that I would have forgotten to hide from the view! Typically mom.

Because my father was not here anymore to facilitate those connexions, we turned to chatting on the phone, and because she did not have to cater to his needs we took our time. She was also slowing down because age taking its toll on her, memory being affected, and some blurriness apparently in the thinking. But we have enjoyed fabulous conversations, especially going to talk about all the “unfinished business”, recalling people or stories and getting deep into them with no complacency.

But this is all over now. She has lost independence and is resting for all these years of having been so busy, but she still enjoys getting my daily phone call, except that the time we spend together has gradually reduced to a couple of minutes.

So it is time for me to book my plane tickets and go be by her side, as she is ending her life. She deserves to have all her children around her. I will be leaving now and am planning to help her stay as positive and peaceful as she has always been. It is a very strange and difficult time, when one day at a time is becoming one minute at a time and when I feel I sometimes am overwhelmed by sadness and panic that I have not been a good enough daughter to her, and sister to my brothers, and to my family, because I left and stayed to live in a foreign country, to raise boys who have become strangers because they were never raised in France.

I am wondering how this journey is going to unfold, I am learning to go with getting prepared to anything when there is nothing I can control anymore as to the life of who gave me life. It is a very unsettling feeling.

18 Random facts about my being Jewish

Starting with eighteen

because 18 is a significant number in Judaism: it has the value of the word “life” in Hebrew חי

Hebrew chai symbol
Eighteen in Hebrew – also “‘hai” = living
  1. I was raised in a very secular Jewish family, my father being from an old French Jewish background on his father’s side, and Ukraina from his maternal side, but both parents born in Paris, France. You can trace my paternal family back to very far, thanks to the works of a member of this family who went back to the craddle. I think I am the 7th or 8th branch on the 5th generation from the first ancestor he traced back to the eighteenth century, before the French Revolution.
  2.  On my mother’s side, my grandfather was a Sephardic Jew and his name can be found in Chronicles (Chr I, 23-11) which kind of makes me pretty vain about it (being able to say that you would trace one’s Yiddishkeit back to the Tanach, who would not feel a little proud about that anyway?). My maternal grandmother was coming from a prominent Lorraine family (ashkenaz) and they were already settled in Paris, France when citizenship was granted to the Jews right after the French Revolution (9/28/1791), so you can trace her family in the civil official registrars back in 1792.
  3. I grew up with absolutely no religious education. My parents were very liberal, and my mother pretty free spirited. Most of my extended family that had any kind of religious practice were attending liberal shuls (would be called “conservative” in the US although it does not exactly match the definition).
  4. My first recollection of being in a synagogue is being the flower girl at a wedding. I clearly remember the blue ribbon that was holding my bangs (I probably kept it for many years). Being on the bimah made the whole experience very memorable, and the only thing that struck my mind was the breaking of the glass. I was 7 or 8.
  5. Therese
    My grandmother, z”l 1900-1943

    I look very much alike my paternal grandmother, who was assassinated in Auschwitz in September 1943.

  6. I started to be interested in religious matters when I was in 7th grade. Of course, the majority of my class (being in public school and in a dominantly catholic country) was involved in their solemn communion that year, and the only girls left behind in class in June were either Jews or communist-atheists! My best friend at the time was a Muslim and she shared with me some things that made me read a small book about Kuran, while I had her read another small book from the same collection about Zohar.
  7. My next encounter with religion was much later. I met an orthodox Jew whom I dated for some months and he introduced me to the beauty of Shabbat, which I started to observe. At that time we had started a Talmud Torah group, we were meeting every week and would study the parsha together. The group lasted until most of the participants got scattered around. Two of the initial group of five (it became more numerous at times, but started with 5) made Alyah eventually. A third one who joined the group later out of curiosity became b.teshuvah, although you would have never thought that she was one to ever embrace shomer neguiah!
  8. My interest in Judaism certainly stems from this study group, and the nearly kibbutz-like life we developed at the time spending all the main religious holidays together. I should have been even more serious and marry the guy (see 10) instead of the other one…
  9. I didn’t know that my soon to-be new boyfriend and eventually husband and father of my children was Jewish. When I realized he was, that’s when I actually pursued him more seriously. I had in mind that I would only marry a Jew for a long time ago although I have no recollection that it had been a spoken instruction in my family. I am actually the only of the three siblings to have married a Jew.
  10. I did not have a religious wedding. At the time, I felt like my father would have been really upset if I had done so. My husband and I had discussed that we would eventually do it… later. It turned out to be a pretty abusive marriage and later, he divorced me, and left me behind anyway. I was kind of relieved that we did not marry religiously because I doubt he would have given me the get, out of spite or whatever was in his mind at the time of the divorce. Although I haven’t had any inclination to date again, one never knows.
  11. I discovered a totally different approach to secular Judaism through my (ex)family-in-law. There was some tension when my father-in-law told me I was “not a real Jew” because I had never been to Israel. Out of respect I said nothing, but it hurt my feelings badly, and it showed me that bigotry could lay in all sorts of prejudices. I learnt how to overcome his adverse opinion of me when I tended to his wife when she was terminally ill.
  12. I learned a lot by myself, and I learned the Jewish mourning rituals on that occasion. My family-in-law was totally at a loss when she died and would not know what to do, but they were very thankful that I arranged things in the most Jewish fashion. I had learnt about it at the time we were studying (see 8) and one friend had lost her father. Putting it into practice was very meaningful for me. It really fortified my confidence that Judaism was the right answer for me.
  13. Although it was a tradition for me to spend Passover sedarim with my friends, on several occasions I decided to go to a seder in my extended family, and it turned out that once it was at my uncle’s who passed away the year after, and the other time it was my second-cousin’s father’s last seder too. I am very thankful that I had a chance to build a memory that stays as a link with my cousins until this day now.
  14. When I arrived in the United States in 1998 I had no idea what the different Jewish denominations meant. The Jewish culture is very different in France and in the U.S. anyway, so I didn’t really mind what shul I would attend. I did not “shop” as I understand it is the custom, now that I have accustomed to the country. My first encounter with the local synagogue and its congregation and rabbi was pretty awkward. In everyone’s eye I was an “orthodox” Jew, because my observance was different and they were reform. It was kind of useless to explain that I came from a secular background and that my observance was certainly very far from being orthodox!
  15. I did not have a Jewish name. When I asked my mother what she would choose now if she had to give me a Jewish name, she couldn’t come up with anything, so I chose for myself. My Jewish name is Hadassah bat Rachel (Rachel is my mother’s hebrew name).
  16. Because he is severely autistic, my elder son didn’t get any formal Jewish education in religious school, and was not able to speak for himself for his bar-mitzvah so I gave a drasha myself on his parsha. It can be accessed for whoever would like to read it here (download .pdf – 220 ko)
  17. I simply love being Jewish. The more I study, the more I enjoy it. I started learning how to read first in 1993, then had to stop attending the class when I got pregnant. I started again in 2009, although the class turned into a conversational modern hebrew class rather than biblical hebrew. On a religious point of view, my main focus is on shemirat halashon.
  18. I still haven’t been to Israel yet. I can picture myself living there permanently however. One never knows.

When social media fails you

When social media fails you

I just went through the biggest shame with my use of my social networks.
I am being careful, especially on Facebook, to have groups, so that I can easily see updates from close friends instead of just being negligentely browsing updates that pop in my stream – I am not using Facebook so that it gives me all social media broadcasts that I can see on Twitter for instance… but many of my friends chose to broadcast – probably automatically – to all their networks, and I confess, I get distracted from that primary intention.

A friend and neighbor in my town, whose sister had suddenly been sick with brain cancer last March was using her Facebook status to update on her sister’s condition and fight against the tumor. There were weeks without updates sometimes. And more recently, some alarming updates, not spelling out a dreaded outcome, but clear enough for me to pay more attention, and try to keep my prayers and thoughts as active as possible.

Not active enough were my thoughts of checking the updates daily. I checked on Wednesday for the last time, and then never caught the passing stream with my friend’s appearing in, while I would stroll in the flood. And Thursday morning, she posted that her sister had passed. I was available to go to services, I was available to go to the funeral and to the cemetary. I just didn’t see the announcement. Until today when I caught a recent update with a picture that immediately alerted me to what I had missed.

Of course I feel guilty. Guilty of what we all do on our shiny walls and love for the excitement of social networks. We have many friends, but do we hear when they tell us something that we need to hear? I will not tell my friend that I feel guilty, because I feel mostly sad that I failed showing up, even for a brief farewell and extending my condolences, in a different way than a comment below a picture, a letter in the mailbox and a basket of fruit – I am not even sure they are at their home or at their siblings’ and because of my own guilt calling on the phone won’t do me any good, because it is not about me, it is about their bereavement, and they have other things to care about than the guilt of a lame friend on facebook.

This will serve me as a lesson. A lesson in my usage of social network, which I pride myself in being using properly enough to teach others how to do so.

Remember why you friend someone on facebook. And if you are among those that make a lot of noise too.

Clara Paschalina Recchia - April 14, 1963 - July 28, 2011

The learning curve is keeping me away

Achieving higher learning through the use of c...
Image via Wikipedia

I have been very busy lately, hence the total absence of blogs here.

For those following on my social networks, you know that I am still alive and sharing but for me, it is very frustrating, not to be able to take the time I like taking to tell all my stories.

I have been busy developing some tutoring for a growing number of clients, which is an excellent  news indeed, and I have been learning a tremendous amount of things, which is very exciting. I love learning.

I am discovering the scope of my ignorance, too. This is scary. I can become easily overwhelmed, when I realize all that I need to learn, in order to bring this venture to the success I believe in.

So, please bear with me, more in this spot is – hopefully – coming soon!

Enhanced by Zemanta

How to build your reputation online

I have been blogging for nearly five years now, which in this day and age is like a generation. When I started blogging, early adopters (those who had started using blog platforms as soon as they became available) where already two, three or four years old, and you were looking at them with respect and awe. And I am mentioning these numbers because at the time I was blogging only in French, and the French blogosphere started much later than in the anglophone world.

Bloggers build their reputation around their online presence: they start with a personal style and this will attract or deter their readers, but this personality is their major asset. Those who chose to copy/paste or follow guidelines from how to’s without adding any spice of their own are doomed to fade in the ocean of the copycats all over the place.

You need to tell your own story, not the story of someone else who you have seen succeed and you want to copy because you believe it has a magic touch!

Your reputation will build if you are actively engaged with the others. You may be a silent reader of other blogs for instance, it will in the end feel like you are in a ballroom sitting on the side sofa and watching the others dance, and wondering why noone ever talks to you. Well, at a certain point, you have to dance too.

It is very easy to forget that online everything is not allowed. You can’t scream or be obnoxious, unless people actually know that you are playing a role when you scream and are obnoxious – some very successful bloggers have built their reputation on that quirk, but they have shown their true colors somewhere in their actions.

And remember, your online life is not very far from your carbon life: think about how you would build your reputation in your own community, in your town, in your congregation. Well, online, it is exactly the same: be engaged, be a good citizen, abiding by the law and taxpayer, give back and pay forward, that’s how you will build your good name.

What is web tutoring?

In a nutshell: I sit with you at your computer and show you what you would like to be more easily doing on the web.

Some of you, mostly if you are reading this blog, are already conversant with anything that is happening online, so you might not see the benefit of this activity. Well, you are the cream of the cream, but it is important for me to think about those who would not have such ease with everything on the web.

And you’d probably be surprised to know how many are struggling with what would appear to be basic to most of the geekiest of my readers.

I offer to sit with anyone and listen to what their concern may be. You may have a website but don’t know how to enhance it with pictures or video or music. You may want to add a storefront to your webpage or you may have seen that your neighbors have set up a donate button and you would like to do the same.

Or you have no idea how to get more customers to sign on for your new offer, or you want people to find you more easily and you are an individual who would never hire a marketing firm to start a campaign for you simply because you don’t have that kind of budget.

I am here to guide you through what is actually available online for you to use with no more cost than the effort to learn, the time to find out and understand and put to the test.

This is what web tutoring is.

So what do you think of that?

Web Tutoring

It’s in the title

So my son asked me why I had called this new business Angel Wings Web and not something better. I told him that people liked the name, first, and that I was waiting for his better suggestion, which never came.

Of course, to him, this sounds  a little lame, especially that my first business is called Angel Wings Snacks!

But, I am not trying to be original! I am trying to be true to myself: I like the name, I like that it starts with the word angel, and I like to think of it as being my umbrella, at the same time as it bears some good vibe.

So yes, I am not original. But what do you think? do you like the name? would have you called it something different?