Saturday, January 30, 2010

He wants me to learn how to ski

I called JV yesterday on his way back from Vermont, just to let him know I'd had BPMS and to disregard 99% of what I'd said. "Okay," he said, sounding distracted; his kids were in the back clamoring for something in Russian. I let him go.

Tonight we chatted again. "I thought of something I could do if we were up in Vermont together," I told him.

"So did I," he said. "What's your idea?"

"I could bake," I said. "I never have the time or inclination to bake here. Then when you and the kids got back at the end of the day, there would be fresh bread or cookies waiting for you, hot from the oven."

"I was thinking you could take a lesson," he said. "The instructors up there are amazing. I think you'd really enjoy skiing if you tried it."

Most of me is convinced I won't, and I'm scared of wrenching my back or further pulverizing my knees. But if I do end up going on a ski vacation with JV, I will take a lesson. Because he wants me to be there and to be part of the fun.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Friday, January 29, 2010

If THAT doesn't scare him away, I don't know what will

I've been overreacting a lot this week. So far, the fallout hasn't buried me.

"I don't want you to make the same mistake I made 20 years ago," I wailed to JV on Wednesday night, in the grip of my vicious BPMS.

I honestly don't remember what he responded. When your brain's in that much of an emotional ferment, it can't really encode memories very efficiently. I'm pretty sure he changed the subject to what he could bring me back from vacation.

Another target of my wrath was the administrator of the Facebook Group THE BRIDAL PATH. I honestly don't know why I joined it, initially. Someone suggested it, I figured, what the heck. Its description reads:

Our main goal is to bring our bride's dreams to reality in the most realistic yet budget friendly manner. We offer a level of expertise that is unparalleled and unmatched. From makeup, hair, floral design, gowns, wedding rentals, party favors to prayer books, our friendly staff is here to ensure the "P.S" factors are met. We pride ourselves on a creative fresh and budget friendly approach to making this day the greatest of her life!

I'm not a bride. I'm not remotely close to being a bride. And when you join a Facebook group, you frequently get emails from the group's administrator. Such as...

Subject: DID YOU KNOW?????
Did you know that THE BRIDAL PATH charges a very low price between $100 and $350 dollars to assist you in booking all these vendors. Do you have a job? Do you need the extra money especially now and therefore you want to stay in your 9am-to 5pm work so your boss won’t flip? Well, look at me as you’re made of honor. I can assist you with all your "P.S" needs.

Overlooking the grammatical errors, there's nothing especially offensive about it. But when I read it, I became enraged. It felt like a slap in the face. So I wrote back:

Did you know that I'm not engaged, so I'm getting the hell out of your group because I don't need to be reminded of that fact?

How on earth could she be expected to know that?? I joined her damn group! But she must be girding up her loins to deal with Bridezillas, because she responded very nicely.

When the time is right you will and you will be so excited you may need the help. How about your friends you can help them out by telling them about my business. I do not send out messages to insult nor hurt those who are single. This is a shocker of a message and the first negative response to my business. Be well and I will have you in my prayers for you to find your husband as well as for your anger towards helpful ideas. Be well :-)

Prayers that I obviously need very badly. Chastened, I responded:

Sorry, all of my friends are already married or as single as I am. Don't know anyone who's engaged. Sorry for biting your head off; it's been a bad relationship week. I knew joining your group was a mistake. Wish you the best of luck with it, but I don't see myself needing it anytime soon if at all.

Maybe her prayers will help my anger -- I'm pretty sure nothing will help me actually get engaged. And maybe I need to not send any email when I sense menstruation is imminent, and wait for the progesterone to exit my system.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Thursday, January 28, 2010


That's short for "bipolar pre-menstrual syndrome."

From Saturday night to Wednesday night I was cut-my-throat miserable. I slogged through work, somehow not being completely rude and nasty to clients, but not exactly channeling Carl Rogers. On Monday I had to cover a group for young "adults." Actually, they're supposed to be called "young adults," but in actuality they're a bunch of sullen, overgrown teenagers.

"Miss, you annoying," said one when I told her to take out her earbuds.

"Miss, you ugly," I wanted to respond, and didn't. I felt like a very strict nursery school teacher, telling them to sit up, watch the video, keep their eyes open. There's a very good reason I don't work with adolescents: I don't like adolescents. And of course, the newest counselor at the agency is sitting in to watch how we run groups here. Greeeeeeeeeeeeeat. Fortunately, he was basically impressed that I didn't kill/yell at/criticize/belittle or otherwise abuse the clients.

So I got home cranky. And wasn't much cheered by a phone call from JV, who seemed to notice all the things I would hate about going skiing: the chair lift, trying to balance while sliding down a mountain, the cold, the damp, etc.

"You don't sound like you miss me," I said.

"I know," he said.

"You don't think that's a problem?" I asked.

"No," he said. "I do."

Fantastic. I went to sleep and had a very creepy nightmare about being sexually molested by the son of a family I was visiting, not being able to push him away from me, not being believed when I tried to tell people about it.

Tuesday started out a little better, if only because I got to sleep late and start work at 1:00, but then of course I had to stay until 9:00. I also had a two-hour relapse & recidivism group with a pack of federal inmates on work-release.

The federal clients are on a very tight leash -- very strict rules about participation, conduct, attitude, etc. Technically, they're still incarcerated. And some of them are testing me, because I only started covering the group a few weeks ago.

One of them -- who's on my caseload, incidentally -- pulled out a little bottle of hand sanitizer and started using it during the second hour. Last week he got up five minutes before group was over and announced that it was over, "right, Miss Ayelet?" I had to take him to task about this during individual session, which for him is once a month right before group.

I shouldn't have to tell a grown-ass man that you don't engage in personal grooming during a therapy group. You don't eat, you don't sleep, you don't clip your toenails, and you don't put on hand lotion or sanitizer. Already I'm dreading having another conversation about this crap with him.

That night I dreamed that I was some kind of amateur detective in a murder mystery, trying to figure out where some husband had concealed his wife's body. (Somewhere in the radiator, I think.) My dentist was in the dream, but he wasn't the murderer.

Wednesday was hell. One client I had to discharge for noncompliance called to berate me for not caring about him. Another -- who seems to think he can come to treatment whenever he's in the mood, and skip whenever he's not -- took offense when I told him his parole officer and I agreed he needed to go to inpatient treatment. And flipped out when I suggested that his heavy marijuana use -- and his wife's heavy marijuana use -- was probably part of the reason they lost one baby to crib death and another to miscarriage.

Maybe I shouldn't have said it. And maybe he needed to hear it, even if he didn't want to. He pitched a fit, which fortunately the assistant clinical director was there to catch.

I came home in a foul mood, and for some stupid reason decided to call JV to remind him that when he talked about his vacation, all he was talking about was how I didn't fit into his life.

"That's not what I'm saying," he stressed.

"That was the subtext," I insisted. He patiently heard me out.

"Do you... would you consider going to couples counseling?" I asked.

"You asked me that before," he said.

"It wouldn't be a frum therapist," I said, knowing that during his marriage to Mara those were the therapists they saw. Sorry, Nefesh, I won't be posting a referral request to your listserv.

"I'd be willing to do that," he said. "Can I ask you something on a happier topic? What can I get you from here?"

"You don't have to get me anything," I said. "I didn't get you anything from Vegas."

"I know, but I want to," he said. "The thing is, I'm not sure what you would like from here."

Here's where the PMS really kicked in. I realized that I had completely terrorized this man, so that he was afraid to give me a spontaneous gift if he wasn't sure I'd like it -- so greatly did he fear my reaction. I almost started to cry. I definitely teared up.

"I like maple sugar candy," I sniffed. Suddenly it was important to me that he not buy me anything permanent, so that when we broke up, there would be fewer things around to remind me of him. What has he given me? A pair of earrings, a pair of boots, and a toilet seat from Home Depot. I didn't want any more evidence of him in my life.

I went to bed miserable, dreamed that a co-worker who hates me (he wanted to be dual diagnosis program coordinator) asked me to be his family therapist, working with him and his sister. Turns out that he -- a tall black gay man -- was adopted. His family was a bunch of white Southerners. They had an amazing selection of sweeteners to put in your morning coffee -- apparently as their therapist, I was also their house guest. Right before I woke up, I was admiring the crystallized honey but wondering where the hell the actual coffee was.

Strangely, I woke up relieved. As I wrote almost a year ago,

My period started today, and it's like all the crazy just flowed out of me along with the lining of my barren uterus. I feel happier and calmer, and nothing's essentially different. Jockitch still doesn't want to marry me, and my job is still stressful.

Kinda sad how little has changed.

Today I was not a counselor. I was not a therapist. I was a rock star. I rocked my early recovery group. I departed from the handout, improvised, got all of them (well, almost all of them) to participate spontaneously and enthusiastically, illustrated different rates of addiction with bell curves (first illustrating the bell curve concept, and they totally got it), and showed them I can't be intimidated.

How? One participant, who seems like a nice kid -- asked serious questions about the addictiveness of nicotine as compared to crack -- brought up the topic of sexual addiction.

"I think I have a sexual addiction," he said.

"How old are you?" I asked.

"I'm 22," he said.

"You'll outgrow it," I said, to some laughter from the others. "Now getting back to marijuana..."

"Miss, no offense, but can I ask a question?" another guy asked.

"Sure," I said. Doesn't mean I have to actually answer it. Counselors are good at parrying inappropriate questions.

"Does it make you uncomfortable to talk about sexual addiction in a room full of men?" he said.

"No," I said easily. "I've just never sent a guy to rehab for jacking off too much."

A shocked second, then a burst of laughter and applause. And we got back to marijuana. I think we will talk about sexual issues and addiction next time, though -- how people might substitute sex for drug use or emotional intimacy. Stuff like that. Thank that 22-year-old, guys, because next week you're going to spend a whole hour talking about your feelings.

And the rest of the day went pretty well too. I thought about calling JV to tell him I was more or less back to normal, but decided to leave well enough alone. I'm going to an oneg Friday night and a party Saturday night -- JV has the kids till Monday morning. Whenever I see him, I'll tell him about the PMS.

My good friend Boaz also put a more positive spin on JV's un-Ayelet assessment of his vacation. "It shows you were top of mind the whole time," said Boaz. "Everywhere he goes, everything he does, he's thinking about you." True enough.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Karma is a razor-sharp boomerang

After dental surgery and some nasty aftereffects (muscle spasm, infection), I'm finally more or less back on my feet. Today I went to JV's sister's birthday party -- along with his babushka, his parents, and his children. All of whom were warm and seemed pretty happy I was there.

But I couldn't shake the nagging feeling that things weren't good enough. While JV drove his grandmother back to Brooklyn, I sat in the backseat and tried to sort out reasonable expectations from unreasonable demands. I know he has many responsibilities. And I've tried to be fair, and patient, and not insist he give me more of his time. Or make any ultimatums.

I decided it was reasonable to tell him that I need to be with someone who makes me feel beautiful. (He immediately agreed, and told me I am.) And that it makes me nervous that after almost 4 months, he hasn't told me he loves me.

Not surprisingly, he wasn't nearly as forthcoming. I can't bear to recap the whole conversation; sitting through it was agony. The upshot -- which I summarized handily, because as a therapist I'm trained in reflective listening -- is that he cares about me more than he did before we started dating again, he feels really comfortable and not anxious with me (which is great and wonderful, because he was always anxious and uncomfortable with Mara), and he hopes his feelings will ripen into love and wanting to propose. But he's not there yet, and doesn't know if he will be.

I wasn't asking him to propose. But I can't help but wonder why, if I'm doing all the right things, if I'm the opposite of his horrorshow ex-wife, and if I'm so much nicer to him than I was in college -- why he doesn't love me.

I don't know how to play this. I don't know if I should start seeing other people (I've certainly got the time; he's in Vermont for the week with his kids) or just wait patiently.

Twenty years ago JV loved me more than anything, and I threw him away. It would be a really sick piece of irony if he breaks my heart this time around. But my life has always been an irony case in point. The karma boomerang might cut me to shreds.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Where does depression hurt? In my mouth.

My mouth and jaw are still very painful. I really don't remember recovery taking this long 10 years ago. Is it because I'm somewhat depressed?

I did come up with one insight. I think I'm overly stressed out at work because every week I'm responsible for creating four sets of curricula for the four groups I facilitate: dual diagnosis recovery, early recovery, art therapy, and federal prisoners' relapse and recovery. I have some materials for the first two groups, but very little for the other two, and I think the stress is making me irritable. Because of course each group has to be meaningful, with full participation and truly significant content.

It's a lot of pressure to put on myself, and the winter is a bad time for me as it is. I'm going to talk to my supervisor about it when I drag myself into the office tomorrow. On Percocet, if need be. Hopefully my ex-addict clients won't read my pupils and deduce that I'm on something.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Monday, January 18, 2010

Я люблю Бaбyшka

That means "I love Grandma." Referring to JV's grandmother, who apparently gave him some advice on how to treat me. It basically boiled down to two things:
  • Give her compliments
  • Treat her with tenderness
So I love Babushka. Smart woman. "How did she know you never give me compliments?" I asked him.

"She knows me," JV responded dryly. "Have I said you look nice today?"

"I don't think you have since college," I said.

JV's mother asked JV why I broke up with him 20 years ago. Mercifully, he didn't state the obvious -- that I was an idiot -- but just said we were too young to know what we wanted. Or rather, that I was too young to know what I wanted, even though he's younger than I am.

JV's mother also told him that through her time-share, which is somewhere in Florida, she can get a good deal on cruises. "So sometime this summer, it would be my parents, Svetlana and Grigori, and you and me."

"Cool," I said. "I like your parents."

"We don't have to go with them," JV added hastily. "I think the deal is good whether we go alone or with them."

"Either way is fine," I said. "I like cruises." And I like knowing he thinks I'll be a part of his next summer.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

What a difference a decade makes

I had gum surgery in 2000. I remember it as vaguely unpleasant, mainly because the doctor gave me 10 mg of Valium and the actual surgery is a blank. But I don't remember the recovery as particularly difficult or painful.

Last Friday I had the same surgery, and same 10 mg of Valium. I remember more of the procedure -- what a difference 30 pounds make -- and after the novocaine wore off, I was in serious pain. The dentist gave me a prescription for a powerful NSAID, which did absolutely nothing. Fortunately I still had some Percocet from when I was hit by the car.

Three days later, and I'm still swollen and uncomfortable. It only hurts when I laugh -- or bump my cheek by accident. It hasn't been fun. I'm really glad I did this over a long weekend... I need the extra recovery time.

JV, of course, picked me up Friday afternoon and took care of me all weekend. We had some deep conversations. There's no way I'd be able to reconstruct them, but here's the gist:
  1. He pays a lot of money in child support, and on top of that has to buy everything his kids need because his ex spends the support on herself.

  2. Yeshiva tuition is expensive; he's paying for his two existing children, and if we had a child, we might not be able to afford to send her to yeshiva as well.

  3. If we have a child, he can't afford to have me be a stay-at-home mother. He will need my income.

  4. Allegedly, there is no way he can promise me we will have a daughter, no matter how much I want one.
The topic came up because of the risk of post-partum depression and my inability to continue working. However, thank goodness for short-term disability. I'd be able to access that and do a partial hospitalization program to recover from the depression. If all goes well. There's no guarantee I'll have post-partum depression -- I'm just at higher risk for it.

I showed JV a number of articles demonstrating the relatively low risk of using my psychiatric medications during pregnancy. Apparently folic acid mediates the risk lithium presents for heart formation defects, and in any event I can lower my dose before trying to get pregnant -- the first three months are when the risk of malformations is greatest. There's not a lot of information on Cymbalta, unfortunately, because it's such a new drug, but it doesn't seem to pose as high a risk as Paxil does, and I only tried Paxil briefly more than a decade ago.

After last week, though, I'm questioning whether I should have children. Yes, I realize that it's easier to have patience for your children than for substance abusers who act like children. But at the end of the day, I get to go home and rest and do nothing. Parents, at the end of the day, go home to another workload. I don't know if I'm capable of handling that. Especially since I can't afford to quit my job.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Depressed therapist = bad therapist

I've been watching the light box and exercising. It hasn't helped; I've been irritable and short-tempered all week. Unfortunate, because recovering substance abusers -- with and without bipolar disorder -- are frequently infuriating, and you need a lot of patience to handle them. This week, patience was in very short supply at Camp Ayelet.

For some reason, on Tuesday a couple of my co-workers started spontaneously praising me as "warm" and "sensitive" and "caring." Ironic, because this week I've struggled to care. I've counted the minutes every day, watched the clock during every group. I've looked forward to my dental surgery tomorrow, because I just could not stand listening to any more people give me excuses about why they couldn't make their appointments or complain about their problems.

Not sure how much of it showed. My poker face at work isn't bad; after the Alaska cruise, I concealed a wounded heart so well that one client thought I'd fallen in love. But when a client called me this morning and said he wouldn't be able to attend his appointment -- right while I was in the middle of attending to someone else's mess -- I said brusquely, "Why not?"

"My family," he wept, "they're all in Haiti... I haven't heard from them in days. I'm trying to reach them..."

I. Felt. Awful. Like the worst therapist ever. Like Miss Thing. I knew my irritation was showing, and that I needed to get over it, or at least blow off a little steam.

So when the assistant clinical director handed me a list of risk factors for developing an inappropriate relationship with a client, I fell out laughing:

Do you look forward to seeing a particular client when you come to work?

Do you talk about personal matters with clients?

Have you ever received personal advice from a client?

Have you said anything to a client you would not want tape-recorded?

Do you have thoughts or fantasies of touching a particular client?

Thoughts or fantasies about touching clients? "Only when I want to strangle one of them," I told the ACD.

Do you think you have the right to touch a client wherever and whenever you want?

"Not in the slightest," I said. "I'll touch their ears if I'm doing acupuncture, but not the rest of them."

You would think that after going on vacation I'd be more relaxed and able to focus on my work. It seems to have had the opposite effect. I'm feeling very tired and burned out, even though I had fun in Vegas. It can't be jet lag. It could be winter blues, but as I said, my attempts to battle it through exercise and light therapy aren't very successful.

Part of me wants to blame JV, because I haven't seen much of him lately. And by seeing, I mean... more than seeing, obviously. I wanted to ask my dentist how long after the procedure before I can... engage in strenuous activity, but JV seems to think we'll "just know."

I might ask regardless, because I know my mood was better when we were more strenuously active. Either that, or the light box has vaulted me out of depression and straight into irritable, hypersexual hypomania.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Monday, January 11, 2010

I'm Harrison Bergeron

THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren't only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.

That's the opening of Kurt Vonnegut's short story "Harrison Bergeron." Exceptionally strong and graceful people, in this story, are weighted down so that they don't outshine ordinary people:

the ballerinas... weren't really very good -- no better than anybody else would have been, anyway. They were burdened with sashweights and bags of birdshot, and their faces were masked, so that no one, seeing a free and graceful gesture or a pretty face, would feel like something the cat drug in.

Intelligent people aren't allowed to concentrate:

[George] had a little mental handicap radio in his ear. He was required by law to wear it at all times. It was tuned to a government transmitter. Every twenty seconds or so, the transmitter would send out some sharp noise to keep people like George from taking unfair advantage of their brains.

Right now, I feel as weighted down as a prima ballerina and as blasted as a genius. I am literally dragging myself around the office. I can't concentrate; I can't write my progress notes. My supervisor noticed my especially low mood -- I almost told her the truth. But then I said that the case we were discussing hit unusually close to home. Which it kind of does, but that wasn't why I was so down.

I'm counting the hours until I can go home. I don't even think I can make it to karaoke tonight, and I love karaoke.

I don't know why this is happening. I'm using the light box and getting a little exercise. I'm eating reasonably healthfully. Next Tuesday I see Dr. R -- but I don't know if he can offer any relief.

And I don't really feel sad. Which must mean that JV is making me really, really happy. Not that I feel really, really happy -- just not sad. If it were May, I'd probably be worried about going into a hypomania. How will I need to adjust my medication cocktail to accommodate happiness? And how am I going to get through this winter if I'm this sluggish the day after a great day with JV and his kids?
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Meeting the parents, meeting the kids

I'm in an interesting state. I'm not having any of the mood symptoms of depression -- I'm not unhappy -- but the vegetative symptoms are making it impossible for me to blog. Somehow I function at work; I conduct individual and group therapy, I take care of case management issues like entitlements or housing, I do intakes and assessments. I'm even funny on occasion. But writing is torture. My concentration is poor, and my creativity is low. And I don't feel like doing anything at night. Last night I was invited to two parties and didn't go to either. Just not in the mood.

I met JV's parents last Sunday. We went to their apartment after going out to dinner so he could take a look at their virus-infested laptop. As we walked in, JV hugged his father, and his mother and I smiled at each other nervously. Both of us were kind of holding ourselves back, not sure whether to lean in for a hug. Ultimately we didn't; I'm not a big hugger, except with my family.

Mrs. V served us tea and the sweetest pastries I've ever tasted. It was like hypersugar. Some of them were bouncy little meringue blobs, tasting of strawberry and sugar and sugar; there was also a cake that was layers of crispy meringue, custard, and chocolate frosting. I have a sweet tooth, but these cakes were insanely sweet. I don't know how JV finished his piece, although as he pointed out, I did have dessert in the restaurant and he didn't. (If I go somewhere and they offer chocolate souffle, it's a given that I'll get it. I'm too lazy to make it at home. The restaurant we went to didn't quite cook it long enough, so it was like warm chocolate batter, but I like chocolate batter, so that wasn't a problem.)

We spoke in English, although Mr. V's English is only slightly better than my Russian. JV couldn't fix the computer right away, so after a few more tooth-aching bites, he took me home. As we left, JV hugged both of his parents, and I smiled at them, all of us kind of holding ourselves back from a hug.

A week later, today, I met JV's kids, Malchick 1 (M1), aged 7, and Malchick 2 (M2), aged 6. JV told them, Friday night, that he has a "special friend" they were going to meet on Sunday.

"Do you remember Ayelet?" he asked them.

"She's the girl that's afraid of mice," said M2. "Why is she afraid of mice? She's a grown-up."

(Nice to meet a child who does believe I'm a grown-up.)

"Babushka (Grandma) is afraid of mice too, remember?" said JV. "Girls are scared of mice." I'd call him a sexist but unfortunately he's right.

So we met at a place that represents one of the compromises I'm making for this relationship: EJ's Luncheonette. A diner. Not a kosher restaurant. I'm probably falling from grace in all your eyes. The kids had pancakes; JV and I had omelets. The kids seemed to like the gifts I got them: a book about sharks and some of those foam toys that expand 600% in water, shaped like an octopus and a manta ray.

After brunch we walked to the American Museum of Natural History. M1 took my hand as we left the diner, and M2 walked with JV. Throughout the day the kids would take my hand, or grab my coat, or pull on my arm. Very comfortably and naturally. To them, I guess I was just another nice grown-up to pay them some attention.

It's funny how kids latch on to something you say offhand and then talk about it for 10 minutes or more. An alarm kept going off, briefly, as we walked around the apatosaurus.

"Is that the fire alarm?" asked M1.

"It could be the alarm that goes off if someone touches an exhibit," I said. "That happened to me once on a date. The guy leaned in to touch something, I said, 'Don't touch that!' but he did and an alarm went off. The security guard came over, and I pretended I didn't know the guy."

That led to a ridiculous number of questions.

"Why did you pretend you didn't know the guy?"

"Because I was embarrassed."

"Why were you embarrassed?"

"Because he was acting like a baby, and I told him not to do it and he did."

"Why were you there with him?"

Not enough time in the world to answer that one....

There was a very smart guy right in front of us at one of the exhibits, who seemed to know a lot about the topic. When the kids would ask JV and me about something, and we didn't know, he stepped up with the answers. At one point he heard JV talking to the kids in Russian.

"Oh, is that Russian?" he asked. "I speak a little Russian."

JV gestured for the kids to come over and say something to the know-it-all. I dug into my meager stock of Russian and said the equivalent of, "He speaking Russian!" The kids did not seem surprised. After they thanked me for their gifts I said "Pazhalusta."

"That means 'please,'" M1 informed me.

"Also 'you're welcome,'" I said.

"No, it doesn't," M1 said, bewildered.

"Yes, it does," said JV.

Ultimately, the kids got tired, so JV took them home to avert a possible meltdown. Overall I would say it was a successful first encounter.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

Monday, January 04, 2010

A call from the angel Gabriel -- of Cleveland, Ohio

On Friday afternoon, while JV and I were visiting Ruth and her adorable new baby girl, I got a call from someone with an Israeli accent:

"Hello, Ayelet, this is Gavriel. My phone number is 216-xxx-xxxx. Be well, please call me."

Didn't say why I should call, or who he was, for that matter. "Who the heck is Gavriel?" I mused aloud, later, when I called my voicemail for my messages.

"An angel," said JV. "One of the four archangels, I believe. Ask him if he has a friend named Michael." He thinks he's funny.

"I don't think archangels live in Cleveland," I said dryly.

Tonight I finally got around to returning the call.

"Hi, this is Ayelet, may I speak with Gavriel please?" I asked.

"This is Gavriel," he said.

"I got your message... but I don't know why you called me," I said tentatively.

"I am looking for a nice Jewish girl to marry," he said, getting right to the point.

"Okay," I said, "but how did you get my phone number?"

"From heaven!" he said.

Excuse me? He can't really be an angel. "I didn't know heaven was in Cleveland," I said.

"No, I make a joke," he said. I shouldn't make fun of his English; it's probably better than my Hebrew. I pretended to laugh.

"Seriously," I said, "how did you get my number?"

"From the shadchanit," he said. That doesn't help me. I've consulted at least five matchmakers in the past year. None have actually helped me; I'd given up on them.

"Can you tell me her name?" I asked. Maybe one would turn out to be less useless than the others.

"If we go out on a date, I will tell you," he said mischievously. Well, he meant to be mischievous. Being a drug counselor, I took it as manipulative, and possibly dangerous.

"How can I go on a date with you if I don't know you, or how I know you?" I said anxiously. I must have sounded on the verge of hanging up, because he decided to mollify me.

"If I say her name is Gila, will that help you?" he asked. Of course it will. I only know one matchmaker named Gila.

"The thing is," I said, "I haven't spoken to Gila in a while... and I'm seeing someone right now."

"Wonderful!" he said immediately.

"Wow," I said. "That's nice of you to say."

"If there's a chance for Jews to find happiness... you know when Jews are happy, and get married, it helps Moshiach to come," he said.

"Yes, shalom bayis brings Moshiach," I said, sounding about as Lubavitch as Gila herself. "Thank you. I guess, if things don't work out for me with this guy... I should give you a call?"

"Perfect!" said Gavriel. "That's exactly right." Well, he's a good sport, I'll give him that.

"Besoros tovos," I said.

"Amen," he concurred.

I also spent some time tonight studying Russian through some free online lessons. It's a very difficult language. I hope to speak it badly in the not so distant future.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

My dinner with Svetlana

I don't know what I was expecting from the dinner party. I wasn't expecting JV's sister, Svetlana, to be wearing jeans. I really should get myself a few pairs that fit, since apparently everyone I now associate with wears them on every occasion.

I was wearing a nice red dress. "Great color, Ayelet!" said Svetlana, hugging me at the door. "My boyfriend, Grigori, says that this is the Chinese year of the tiger."

"Your boyfriend has color preferences?" I thought but judiciously did not say. I'd asked JV what color he wanted me to wear to the party, but he'd had an enervating day and wasn't up to dictating anything, least of all my fashion choices.

Svetlana introduced me to her friends -- also wearing jeans -- two of whom were seated at the table texting into their BlackBerries. Which they kept with them at the table for the entire meal. Sometimes they'd break off in the middle of a conversation to attend to a new message. I thought this was a bit impolite -- if you ask me how JV and I met, then listen to the story; if you're not interested, don't ask!

But hey, they're not my friends, they're not my clients, and I was hopefully winning some points from JV by agreeing to spend New Year's with his sister.

When the ball dropped, I actually considered not kissing JV. Because the single girls were there, and I know what it feels like to be that blatantly single in a world full of cuddling couples. But then one of them got another text, and I decided that a single woman with a BlackBerry is marginally less single than one without.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"