The brink or the threshold?

Or perhaps the final frontier?
Have you ever had a panic attack? I’ve had more than a few.. but they ‘ve been intrinsic… I don’t panic outwardly, fortunately for others, but not for me. Which is the reason I never knew I’d had a heart attack 3 years ago. I probably had thought it was one of my “internal” panicky attacks. That didn’t go so well as a cardiac bypass was my gift at that point.
I have always internalised “bad things” so as not to worry those around me. I suppose it was a learned response from early childhood, or maybe it was innate. My late dad had the same problem. I don’t want to call it a quality, as I believe it makes one feel martyr-ish and after a life-time (a good (?) part of it anyway), I’ve realised it’s not a good idea to be a martyr as a ‘normal’ human being. None of us can carry such baggage over a lifetime. I’m afraid I have done a lot of that and these days when I cry out, yell even, I suppose it’s quite silent, I can’t understand why there’s no one there to catch me, or just listen.

A couple of days ago, whilst driving, I suddenly felt that my eyes were blurry. Being an Optometrist, albeit non-practicing, I mentally went through the causes of overnight blurred vision and continued to clean my specs. The next day, as I started driving, everything further than 6 metres from me was double. In layman’s terms, it felt like my eyes were squinting horizontally. As I looked at an object it split into 2. Thoughts of an aneurysm and a tumour went through my head. Something must be pressing on my ocular nerve – which side can it be. Something is pressing on to the back of my eye. But I have no pain. And so these thoughts flew through my mind while I quietly tried to dismiss them all and think of a simpler explanation. Of course when I discussed it with my husband, also an Optometrist but a ‘real’ practicing one, that night, he jumped to the same conclusions as me but he voiced them. He wanted to check my eyes immediately and I declined – I wanted to wait until the morning, maybe I’d just been overtired. But the next morning as I started my day and saw the oncoming traffic doubled up, I turned my car around and went straight to his office – with one eye closed. Not so good for perception and judgement of distance. Our visual cues to depth perception have to have binocular vision. After everything checked out visually, the basic pathology ruled out, he made an immediate appointment with a specialist.

Amazing what thoughts zoom through our minds while we wait for answers. It felt as though I was waiting for an axe to fall on my neck while I mentally reorganised my weekend plans. Won’t be able to attend the wedding in on Monday… have to tell B to cancel our dinner plans on Saturday evening. How am I going to tell my children? And the list went on. Finally the specialist found a gap in his busy day to check me out. And I did check out… well… kind of. No pathology, TG, which is the biggest relief after the Annus Horribilis I had last year. On a scale of 1 to 10 it ranked close to 8 1/2, where 10 is the worst of the worst. What I have to come to terms with though, is I have crossed the brink – I can’t even pretend to be middle-aged any more: When the muscles of the lens of our eyes cannot cope with accommodating to various distances any more, you know you have crossed the brink! But I know that by next week when I can have a new prescription made up with 6 Dioptres of prism added to it, I will be able to see singly and binocularly. Until then, B will have to drive us to our arrangements. Letting go of that control this weekend has almost been the biggest challenge of all.

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(Above sketch and description with thanks to A prism diopter is a unit that describes the power of a prism to produce a one-centimeter deviation in a ray of light at a distance of one meter from the lens. That is, one prism diopter will bend a ray of light one centimeter at a distance one meter away.

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Feast of the Tabernacles – Succot


27 September – 2 October 2015
Shemini Atzeret 03 October, Simchat Torah 04 October

The Festival of Sukkot begins on Tishri 15, the fifth day after The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), which this year, begins tomorrow evening. It is an extremely drastic transition, from one of the most solemn holidays (holy day), in our year to one of the most joyous. It is a universal holiday, inviting all to join on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem: “Then, the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up [to Jerusalem] every year to worship the Lord Almighty and to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles.” [Zachariah 14: 16-19 on the first day of Sukkot]
This festival is sometimes referred to as the Season of our Rejoicing, (Zeman Simchateinu). Sukkot lasts for seven days. The two days following the festival are Shemini Atzeret, [which literally means “the assembly of the eighth (day)] and Simchat Torah. Rabbinic literature explains this holiday as follows: G-d is like a host, who invites us as visitors for a limited time, but when the time comes for us to leave, He has enjoyed himself so much that He asks us to stay another day. Simchat Torah, is a holiday celebrating the end and beginning of the cycle of weekly Torah readings. Separate holidays, but commonly thought of as part of Sukkot.

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The word “Sukkot” means “booths,” (Sukkah is one booth/outdoor dwelling) and refers to the temporary dwellings that we are commanded to live in during this holiday. The name of the holiday is frequently translated as “The Feast of Tabernacles.”

Sukkot has a dual significance: historical and agricultural. The holiday commemorates the forty-year period during which the children of Israel wandered in the desert, living in temporary shelters under the stars. Sukkot is also a harvest festival, and is sometimes referred to as Chag Ha-Asif, the Festival of the Ingathering.

This festival is instituted in Leviticus 23:33 et seq. No work is permitted on the first and second days of the holiday. Work is permitted on the remaining days. These intermediate days on which work is permitted are referred to as ‘Chol Ha-Mo’ed’.

In honour of the holiday’s historical significance, we are commanded to dwell in temporary shelters, just as our ancestors did in the wilderness. The commandment to “dwell” in a sukkah can be fulfilled by simply eating all of one’s meals there; however, if the weather, climate, and one’s health permit, one should live and sleep in the sukkah as much as possible. 

from constant

from constant

For a kosher sukkah, it must have at least three walls covered with a material that will not blow away in the wind, like canvas covering tied or nailed down. It may be any size, as long as it is large enough to enable the commandment of dwelling within. The roof must be made of material referred to as s’chach (literally, a covering). For fulfillment of the commandment, s’chach (i.e. palm fronds, tree branches), must be something that grew from the ground and was cut off, such as tree branches, corn stalks, bamboo reeds, sticks, etc. S’chach must be left loose, not tied together or tied down. “S’chach must be placed sparsely enough that rain can get in, and preferably sparsely enough that the stars can be seen, but not so bare that more than ten inches is open at any point or that there is more light than shade. The s’chah must be put on last.”
In and around South Africa, plant nurseries and city councils, cut down palm fronds and sell them to the public at this time of the year. Your Sukkah is not kosher if it does not conform to all of the requirements.

pic from web -- anonymous

pic from web — anonymous

It is common practice, and highly commendable, to decorate the sukkah. In the north eastern United States, Jews commonly hang dried squash and corn in the sukkah to decorate it, as these vegetables are readily available at this time of year, for the American holidays of Halloween and Thanksgiving. In South Africa we make use of all the seasonal fruit and vegetables, which are spring/summer harvests.

Building and decorating a sukkah is a fun, family project, much like decorating the Christmas tree is for Christians. It is a sad commentary on modern American Judaism that most of the highly assimilated Jews who complain about being deprived of the fun of having and decorating a Christmas tree, have never even heard of Sukkot.
Over a [past] decade up to 3 years ago, I’ve ‘traditionally’ spent these chagim (holidays), with my children and grandchildren in the USA and I do enjoy helping my grandkids decorate their Sukkah – we made paper chains and I teach them the art of cutting paper doilies and we paint masses of wonderful, colourful pictures and generally turn the whole preparation into an art workshop. Do I resent not being with them this year? … hell yeah! I resent every day I can’t be with them!

Another observance related to Sukkot involves what are known as The Four Species (arba minim in Hebrew) or the lulav and etrog. We are commanded to take these four plants and use them to “rejoice before the L-rd.” The four species in question are an etrog, which is a citrus fruit , much like a large lemon native to Israel, a palm branch (in Hebrew, lulav), a myrtle branch (hadas) and a willow branch (arava)


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Yom Hashoa – Lest we forget

Yom Hashoa

Day of Remembrance
Yom Hashoah — Let us remember…

Six million Jews, including one and a half million children**, were murdered in the Holocaust – a systematic genocide of one third of the entire Jewish population.

Holocaust Day is a day to remember the victims – those that survived, and the many more who did not. It is also a day to recall what human beings are capable of doing to one another.

Holocaust Day falls on 27 Nissan, which this year, will be 26 April 2014. Tomorrow morning, at Jewish cemeteries around South Africa, memorial services are being held for the sake of and to honour those that were murdered in the Holocaust, those that survived the Holocaust and for our own sake. As George Santayana wrote: “Those who cannot remember history are doomed to repeat it.”

The Holocaust, any holocaust, must never again happen.

Prayers for the Victims of the Holocaust
Translated from the Hebrew in the Rinat Yisrael Machzor

Memorial Prayer for the Departed of the Holocaust

May God remember the souls of all the communities of Israel in the European Diaspora who were sacrificed on the altar during the years of the Holocaust (1939-1945): six million men and women, boys and girls, young men and women, infants and the elderly, who were cruelly slain and butchered, and mass murdered in their dwellings places and cities, and in the forests and villages.

Those surviving were brought like sheep to the slaughter to the concentration camps where they died unnatural deaths, and were burned to ashes in the furnaces of the terrible camps of destruction in Germany and Poland, and in the rest of the occupied countries, at the hands of the murderous German people and their Allies, all of whom were of one counsel to annihilate, kill, and utterly destroy the Jewish people, to wipe out the memory of Judaism, and to erase any association with the name Israel.

God of vengeance, Judge of the Earth, remember the streams of blood that were spilled like water, the blood of fathers and sons, mothers and sucklings, rabbis and their students, and repay the oppressors of your people seventy times over.

Do not silence the scream of “Shema Yisrael!” uttered by those who were taken to their death, and let the groan of the afflicted ascend before the throne of your glory. Avenge, speedily in our days, before our eyes, the blood of your pure and sanctified sons and daughters who never had the privilege to be buried as Jews… As it is written: “For He will avenge the blood of His servants, and vengeance he will serve on their oppressors, and He will atone the Land of His people.”

Amen. Selah. 


Prayer for the Departed:
El Malei Rachamim

O God, full of mercy, who dwells on high,
Grant proper rest on the wings of the Divine Presence
In the lofty levels of the holy and pure,
Who shine like the glow of the firmament – 
For the souls of the Six Million Jews, victims of the European Holocaust Who were killed, slaughtered, burned and wiped out 
for the Sanctification of the Name 
by the murderous Germans and their allies,
 because, without making a vow, 
all the community will pray
 for the uplifting of their souls.

Holocaust2Therefore, may the Master of mercy 
shelter them in the shelter of His wings for eternity; 
And may He bind their souls in the Bond of Life.
The Lord is their heritage. 
And may their resting-place be in the Garden of Eden, 
and may they reach their destiny at the end of days. And let us say Amen.

** Paperclips Project I visited in Whitwell Middle School, Tennessee in 2012 called “ Changing the World, One Class at a time

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Living on my Block

Doron_Rozanne3Very important news for my family: I’m delighted to announce that my ‘baby’ son, of 31 has just gotten engaged to the very lovely and divine young lady whom I loved the minute I met! She fits into our crazy family like a glove and I feel comfortable enough with her to say she is very much like my own 2 daughters. How lucky am I? I can’t wait for my girls and their families to meet her. G-d knows when, as they are as far away across the world as can be from South Africa, living on the West Coast of the USA. Doron and Rozanne, heartiest Mazel Tov to you both on this wonderful celebration and may you be blessed with 120 years of health, happiness and love, together! Le’Chaim – to Life!

As well, my son in law, has been chosen as one of the 40 under 40’s most successful business people in San Francisco by the San Francisco Business Times. Congratulations Ryan to you and all the family on this fabulous accolade. Celebratory event tonight at AT&T Park in San Francisco.

In between the excitement, I have been dealing with hectic issues in our neighbourhood/suburb. Writing letters and meeting with our Metro Police, City Council and City Planning officers takes so much time and energy: there hasn’t been a minute for anything else in my life.

Dear S (Ward Councillor)

Our street has 2 blocks – a little street of only 2 blocks from a large calming traffic circle and crossing a largish, rather busy road running across from a school which is at the beginning and then crossing several other small streets which have all been blocked off (most illegally), on both sides, down to another little traffic circle about 1.5 km in all.

Around the end of December 2012, the first section of C (our) Road, from the large circle to Sussex, was fenced off and gated (locked – no guard, no boom), with no warning to the residents in the surrounding area. Not a ‘by your leave’ or whisper to the rest of us [the neighbourhood]. No permission was sought, no time given to gather signatures or to discuss the pros and cons of this security fencing [fiasco]. Whomever is responsible for it, decided he/she was above the law or better than the law. This has caused untold problems to the traffic, both pedestrian and motor, throughout the ENTIRE neighbourhood: ALL the other roads, above and below and around us, have been gated as well. Most, as mentioned before are illegal. Willy-nilly, people are blocking our access and our staff access and I believe this has to stop. WE use up more petrol going to appointments on the other, shopping side of A—- Road, because of this total BLOCKADE, besides the irritating inconvenience of going a long, long way round to get to any exit out of our suburb

Added to this, the “long” way round, is past the High School, the road of which is a disaster area and an accident waiting to happen. These parents of scholars think they are above reproach with no consideration for others at all. Double & triple parking in the street on both sides of the road (one side being totally residential), so through traffic comes to a complete halt. (It’s the only other way of getting to and from our home and our street). We are the residents of these few streets and we need to come and go at will – not when it suits the parents and pupils and staff of the School! And having the newest illegal gating happening, it’s become a total disaster area. The parents are very put out if we hoot, or gesture to them, even respectfully! Besides the total inconvenience, someone is going to get badly hurt on that street one day… there is going to be a tragedy sadly!

The two issues are definitely interlinked. While I appreciate the “gated community’s” concerns, security-wise, we are in the same position as all the other residents in this part of Lynnwood, however our section has now become the “main” [ungated] road. Since we are the only section in the area that is un-gated and which is now a MAIN thoroughfare for all and sundry! Our staff  have to walk kilometres out of their way from their bus drop-offs on the main bus route to get through to our end because of all these locked gates and fences. It is totally unacceptable! How dare they block off our only straight access to our home in the very same street?

And what is the point of the large traffic ‘calming’ circle when, all but one of the 5 exits off the circle, have been gated??? The circle has become obsolete as a traffic ‘calmer’ with only one road available to turn into anyway.

No traffic impact study was done by traffic engineer and city planning and they have not been given permission to erect this gate as yet, but did it anyway without thought for any of us.

I implore you to do something about these highly ILLEGAL fences/gates. We don’t want them as they are totally disruptive to our lives.

Hoping to get some solution and resolution ASAP, we await your response eagerly.
Sincerely, etc etc

Next episode: At the 11th hour last Friday, as the Metro Police were on their way to physically remove the gate, when the ‘guilty’ residents sent an SOS – “we’ll open the gate from 6 am to 6 pm, don’t remove the gate!”

(Our compromise was 7 am to 7 pm when we met early in February.) Well, the gate was then closed at 5.15 pm on Friday and stayed locked until Monday morning at 8 am. The saga continues and I’m not letting it rest… the lawlessness in this country has become an epidemic right from the top of our government to the lowly common people (like me). Corruption is rife and we see it permeating from the very top… down. This country is declining into anarchy and no one does anything about it…? People feel they are knocking their heads against brick walls, and thus they opt out.
Well I’m not opting out! I’m fighting this, to the bitter end, if it kills me. Damn their ‘famous advocates and judges and doctors who live in that section’ (as was quoted to us by one of their residents when she said they’re going to take it to the highest court – lady, you’re ALL still breaking the law and we’re all the same when we get to the other side to meet our maker – G-d surely doesn’t care if you were a judge or not – you are going to be ‘judged’ on whether you were good or bad or a law-keeper or lawbreaker – to put it simply!).


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Changing the world… One Class at a Time

photo(15)IMG_0599When I saw the documentary movie, Paper Clips some years ago, (a MUST SEE – on circuit in South Africa at the Art Nouveau and also on DSTV in 2011), I made myself a promise: to make contact with Linda Hooper, the then headmistress of Whitwell Middle School, to meet her and visit the Children’s Holocaust Memorial they’ve built there out of a project started in 1998. After watching that documentary, I was extremely pertinacious about meeting these people and seeing what they had done. A dog with a bone had nothing on me :).  (I recommend you get the DVD if you haven’t yet seen it.)

Previously I had made contact and arranged to meet this inspiring woman, the retired headmistress of Whitwell Middle School. The emergency open heart surgery that I endured just prior to our departure to the USA to our children and 5 grandchildren, did not change this part of our trip in any way: Once one gets through the life and death stage of major surgery, how we live, or even survive after that, is our own choice and entirely up to us! Exist or live… I choose living to the fullest… always. I still have a very long bucket list.

IMG_0570In a marvellously innovative way, as very few people, in Tennessee (or anywhere really, in Middle America), know/knew much about the Holocaust. Principal Hooper wanted to start a project that would teach the students about the importance of tolerating and respecting different cultures. In 1998, struggling to grasp the concept of six million Holocaust victims, the students, supervised by two teachers, David Smith an 8th grade History teacher and Sandra Roberts, the 8th grade Language Arts teacher, began the mammoth task of collecting six million paper clips from every state in the USA and all of the 7 continents.

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IMG_0598The day after our road trip from Fort Lauderdale to Atlanta, we set out on another 3 hour, 150 mile road trip: from Atlanta, Georgia, to Tennessee, to the little town of Whitwell (near-ish Chattanooga) and the Children’s Holocaust Memorial. The goal at the start of the project, (almost 15 years ago), was to collect 6 million paper clips from around the world. But within a couple of years, they had collected 11 million. The extra 5 million clips serve to memorialise and honour all non-Jews: Gypsies, Gays and more.

Hate mailLinda Hooper is still very much involved and presents talks at schools, seminars and educational conferences on teaching this exceptionally traumatic and heartbreaking subject to children and adults. She showed us around the library and then took us into the authentic German rail-road boxcar, a donation from a German couple – White House correspondents for a German newspaper. This car houses all 11 million paperclips, which are encased in glass with Jewish memorabilia and collections donated from people around the world, including the suitcase that Anne Frank used, containing 100’s of letters sent to her by German children [to apologise].



They have also created a museum type library with masses of information and memorabilia, Jewish artifacts, including a Torah, which originally came from a South African Shul (Synagogue); donated by Harry Amoils who now lives in Toronto. It also houses files containing 1000’s of hate mail which has been sent to this school, [still] denying the Holocaust ever happened and expressing their ugly thoughts on what they think Jews are and were.

IMG_0587The project and subsequent Memorial, has created a tremendous learning experience for this population, who never knew about the Holocaust. To this day, in their whole county, they [still] have never had a Jewish family live there, or had a Jewish child at any of the schools. The Project is of course an ongoing one and hopefully they can and will, continue to get funding for this magnificent Memorial in perpetuity.

If you’d like to visit the memorial or make a tax-deductible donation, the address is: Whitwell Middle School, Holocaust Project, 1 Butterfly Lane, Whitwell, TN 37397. Phone: +1 423 658-5631 and email: (For donations please mark Children’s Holocaust Memorial on your cheque and include your name address – for receipts).

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Catch up on 2012

Things got a whole lot more complicated before and after I went to USA. We had such a bad run last year, personally, I’m VERY pleased 2012 is over.

I’ve lost 2 of my closest friends in the past year. Rochelle, so suddenly, at the end of 2011 and Nadia in December – last month – watching her suffer with horrible cancer and spending as much time with her as I possibly could, was traumatic to say the least. My heart, my love, my thoughts are with her beautiful family who suffered so much while watching her vanish in front of their eyes. I am very grateful I’m alive! Nadia is my hero and always will be.

I got to Florida at the end of August and B arrived in Fort Lauderdale a few days later so we could board the Oasis of the Seas on a gorgeous cruise to the West Caribbean. I’d planned and booked this before “the” almost fateful emergency surgery. Then we took a road trip from Florida to Georgia (Fort Lauderdale to Atlanta). In Atlanta, we spent some time with friends, ex-Pretorians and got see my nephew, who is now an Associate Professor at a University in Georgia. My darling brother would have been so proud of him. So much has happened in 9 years, it’s really scary.

We also did a day’s road trip from Atlanta to Tennessee, to a little town called Whitwell just across the county line of Georgia. I wanted to go there for a particular purpose, which I’ll write about in the next post. Then flew to San Francisco to catch up with our children and gorgeous grandchildren. They are my life and my energy… !

After our High Holidays with the children (minus Doron – he was missed), Basil left San Francisco, early on a Friday morning and spent the weekend in air terminals! Eventually he got home on the Monday –  3 days late. Airlines and us don’t do well together unfortunately. The Delta flight he was on was cancelled in Atlanta while they were waiting for take-off: apparently a worker dropped a pallet on the wiring and they grounded that flight, informing the passengers that the next flight they could get them on was in 6 days’ time. What a mess… he felt like Tom Hanks in the movie Terminal. Eventually he got on a flight to France on the Saturday night and spent Sunday at a Paris terminal, waiting for Egypt Air to Cairo and after plane changes again, to SA! And as if that wasn’t enough, 10 days later while running early morning with his ‘pack’ of (young) runners, he slipped in a puddle and broke his arm – split the humerus just on the shoulder ball joint. And it was the right arm. He had surgery with a pin put in and was again out of commission for 4 weeks. Another locum for the practice, a driver to get around AND a nurse to help him shower and dress etc! There was no way I could come back timeously as Tania was due to have a surgical procedure the following week and I was staying to help with Stella. In retrospect I’m very pleased I wasn’t around as I would have had to do all the nursing and… and… and… :).

[Writing this has been quite cathartic for me, as I haven’t really dealt with the trauma of the past month or so, nor with cardiac bypass and open heart surgery last July. Fortunately, I seem to withstand the continuously bubbling cauldron which is My Life!]

The family Batmitzvah in Knysna/Wilderness, although fantastic, was not the best time for the ‘aged’ to go on holiday in this country – December/January – hopefully not again; the place was teeming with families on school holidays. But the simcha (happy event), was excellent and more so being with all my extended family… all except my own children and grandchildren. That part is always most depressing: Split family life is the pits! But we’re back now … and trying to get into the groove of a new year.

kids.jpgOur 5 grandchildren in Northern California are all well thank G-d – and quite gorgeous I think… obviously. I can’t stand being so far away from them though. Left: 3 of Nicki’s – Daniel 11 ½ – Barmitzvah in Israel PG in July 2014, Jed (the blondie), nearly 4 and Sage 6 ½, with their baby cousin Stella, 17 months (Tania’s little girl).

Below left: my Zak, Nicki’s 9 year old, who flew from San Francisco to Irvine to visit a little friend of his for a long week-end last week, (as an unaccompanied minor – so cute – they grow up so fast). And the latest picture of Jed after his short haircut last week. It’s been getting shorter and shorter since last year – I do miss his long blond locks, but he is the cutest and cleverest Jedifish in the world!

Zak.jpg Jed220113

My thoughts for this week:

~ Don’t let someone who gave up on their dreams, talk you into giving up your own.

~ Reason has always existed, but not always in a reasonable form. — Karl Marx

~ We are here on earth to do good upon others, what the others are here for, I have no idea. — WH Auden

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More gorgeous food and décor photos

This gallery contains 36 photos.

From Shul in the morning – and listening to Nicki’s moving reading and lesson that she presented.. … with some of the people… and on to the beautiful spread of the brunch… Below: THE Chocolate Cheesecake!   Above:  more designer … Continue reading

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Beautiful People, Glorious food & Spectacular Decor

The pictures don’t do justice to the real ‘thing’…


The happy mommy, dad and brother with the batmitzvah girl


Speech time with daddy giving support :)


Some of the guests lwith “Granny Ma” looking gorgeous in white!


More of the guests at the food table at the brunch


Happiness is bro Dyllan, Auntie Debs and Uncle Jeff and B – chomping the delicious morsels.


The gorgeous cousins of the batmitzvah girl, Sienna and Megan


More yummy cakes


Dinner decor – hand made masks – by Lisa!


Stunning masks on each table


Eating … again? … Supper time!

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Above: The evening desserts – “caged” strawberries left and Tiramisu (right)

Below left: the disco party for the teenyboppers and right, the “imported” aunties doing their surprise rock concert for their niece!
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Giving it all they’ve got on the dance floor, Julia and Andrea with Nikki… is that shock on Nikki’s face? :-> Hilarious girls… thanks for the entertainment!

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Le’Chaim to 2013!

A week into a new year and I’ve made no resolutions, except to tackle my paperwork timeously and perhaps blog, on a more regular basis.


Look at the groaning brunch table

2012, please G-d, is behind me – at a great cost, health-wise and financial I might add. But the beginning of 2013 brought great joy as we were fortunate enough to be part of a family simcha (celebration) in the form of a Batmitzvah (a rite of passage to early adulthood – age 12), and a reunion with precious family, some of whom I haven’t seen in almost a year. We were blessed, as we also got to spend a fabulous evening & dinner with another cousin and his wife in Plettenberg Bay! Thank you Cecil and Stacy… it really was a memory maker for me. I’m sorry we didn’t take any pics! We will have to remedy this, ‘cos we just don’t do it enough – somehow life gets in the way.
The week started off in Knysna in a comfortable townhouse on the edge of a lake. A forced rest as, for a change, there were no children. I did 100’s of Sudoku puzzles and read magazines… the “trashy” kind. Whenever I go away, it’s to or with my grandchildren… this time there was no excuse not to rest! The weather was comfortable too, mostly. Much cooler than Pretoria fortunately.
Thursday saw us leaving Knysna early for the Shul service in George at 9.30am. It’s a long drive, mainly single lane highways, but drivers there, mostly keep to the speed limit which is a good thing. Even the Gauteng visitors seemed to stick to the speed limit. So good that we experienced no road rage in the whole week – tourists and all! I’m so sorry I didn’t take pictures in the Shul (synagogue) – it’s the cutest and teeniest one I’ve ever been in. And new! Probably 70 people maximum could be seated with a squash and it was full for this wonderful celebration. Kol Hakavod to all Lisa and Dean’s family & friends from around South Africa and abroad, who made the journey and helped to make the event as successful as it was.
But it didn’t end there: the food and the décor will be the subject of many discussions around the country, for a long time to come. Lisa, the mommy of the Batmitzvah, is a trained chef from the Silwood Kitchen and she did the catering for the whole day at their home in the Wilderness. They ordered a few things in from Cape Town, but the bulk of the food was made and decorated painstakingly by Lisa. (It’s not a good idea to do your own function though – one just cannot enjoy it as one should.) The pictures will speak for themselves. From the brunch between 11 and 1 and the dinner from 6.30 pm, everything was picture perfect. B and I trekked back to Knysna for the afternoon and because of the traffic I took a detour in Knysna and popped a tyre on the kerb! So aggravating and costly to boot! Fortunately we did manage a couple of hours rest before the 55km journey back to Wilderness. It was all so worth it! On Saturday we did the trip again to George for dinner to celebrate my cousins’ wedding anniversary, (she being the granny of the Batmitzvah girl). My only regret was that none of my children could be there too.


Handmade chocolate shoes – by Lisa


A “caged” large Brie cheese covered with marinated oranges and other fruit



 Above: Beautiful chocolate Ganache and hand made animal “fur” look choccie decorations (by Lisa) 

Below: The special Batmitzvah Cake with the Tiramisu dessert, (made by Lisa), at the dinner!
The special Batmitzvah Cake

Blessings and mazel tov to you all, my darling family! May there always be simchas and happiness in your lives.
More photos to come soon…

Posted in Family Celebrations, Personal Journal | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

The Dinx Diary – a Cardiac Bypass and open heart surgery!

The end result

“In June/early July, I had planned to send a mail to my American family and friends… as follows – unfortunately, or fortunately in this case, doctors’ checkups got in the way:

“Basil and I will be in the USA. From the 7 August I’m going for ‘our’ baby Stella’s 1st birthday on the 21st. At the end of August, I’m flying via Houston to Fort Lauderdale, to spend 3 days with my dear friends (in Houston), as I haven’t seen their children and grandchildren in years. Then to meet Basil on the 31 August in time to take our cruise that I’d booked to the West Caribbean, from Fort Lauderdale on the 1 September Off the Oasis of the Seas on the 8th September in Fort Lauderdale, where we’ve hired a car for a 3 day road trip through the north of Florida to Atlanta. Here we’ll spend a few days with my nephew and some good friends, as well as seeing the city of Atlanta, before jetting off to our girls and their families on the East Bay. Just in time for Rosh Hashanah!”

So none of the above has happened yet… during the early part of July, what transpired was totally off the wall. The saying, “Man plans and G0d laughs”, is so true! I went for my yearly check-up, which I do around this time every year since my brother Brian died 8 years ago. A year ago
the physician said the ECG was abnormal and it looked as though I’d had a heart attack – and didn’t know it. I kind of laughed it off, as I wasn’t
surprised after all the stress we went through when I broke my back in 2007 and then my aunt was murdered early 2008 and then B got very ill & lost the plot… and then and then…

…Having a high pain threshold is obviously not a good thing as one can go on too long and that causes complications, as I found out, to my detriment. On the 2nd ECG in 12 months, the ‘picture’ was the same. Hence I was sent, under duress, to a cardio-thoracic specialist for a check-up. He couldn’t “see” the back of the heart on the sonar because of the metal in my back (and a massive hiatus hernia that I found out about a few months ago). The hernia had taken residence in almost a third of my thoracic cavity. (Interesting trivia? Not really – this is/was the reason for the urgency of the cardiac bypass as I was soon to find out.) In the interim, the Sonar Echo Cardiogram showed a myriad other issues taking place in my body. i.e. I have gall stones (they don’t bother me strangely enough), I have 2 cysts on one of my kidneys (nothing to worry about) and then totally incredible, I do not have a thyroid gland any more. It just doesn’t exist – somehow it has disintegrated totally: a process due to an auto immune disease that I’ve had (and didn’t know about).

The result of the cardiologist not being able to see the back of the heart meant he scheduled me for an angiogram 2 days later on the 16 July. And I remember almost nothing after that until I woke up in the ICU on the night of the 24 July – which was my eldest grandson’s 11th birthdayand the day my brother died of a heart attack playing a soccer match 8 years ago! And Nicki, Basil and Doron were standing at the bedside. Seeing Nicki was a shock: I thought I’d died as I had no idea where I was or why Nicki was here.

So what did happen? I had bypass surgery – open-heart surgery. The back coronary artery was blocked, firstly due to the familial, genetic cholesterol problem in my family (which is why I go for checkups every year). But this would have lasted a little while longer, if not for this huge 10 cm hernia behind my heart and actually pressing on that particular coronary artery. Even though I had no apparent pain – merely my usual back pain and a little tired as I thought I had bronchitis the week before and was on an anti-biotic at the time. However, it was pneumonia and there was blood in my lungs. Hence the sojourn I had, out of everything, for 10 days. I’m desperately trying to remember them… at least some of it is coming back to me.

My sternum was cut through and the whole rib cage opened up so the cardiac surgeon could get to the back of the heart. Originally they thought they’d manage this without the heart-lung machine, but sadly that wasn’t an option and I was put on the machine so they could stop my heart for the procedure, removing and using my mammary artery on the left to by-pass the almost 3 cm blockage and graft it on. The procedure took 4 hours in all, and closing me up was a massive procedure as well. The muscles over the heart had been cut so all surrounding tissue, muscle etc had to be stitched (under the skin). This is very numb, although the skin feels bruised to the touch over the whole chest area. The sternum (breast bone) has been bound with wires to
close the rib cage and then I’ve been stitched up on the skin between the breasts. It does look as though I have a zipper in front.

The wires and leads in my chest!

The Bionic Lunatic

I’ve had pacemaker leads positioned in situ, in case of an emergency at a later date. They do this as a matter of course these days I’m told. They look like miniature car battery leads as you can see in the x-ray above, along the collarbone (clavicle) area.

Now, a month after surgery, I am mending at home. The cold is a huge problem though, because of the metal – I have both front and back now! I’m not allowed to drive for another couple of weeks, or carry heavy items or stretch too high above my head or stretch wide. And I haven’t been allowed to swim yet (biokinetic aquatics) – which is MY exercise. Reason for this is exposure to infection in the water with open wounds of which I have many of these, from the pipes into the lungs for so many days… as well as the actual surgery and also the broken bones do not do well in water. I do walk as often as I can, around the house and in the garden when it’s not too cold.

Nicki went back to the USA 2 weeks ago. Apparently she was here for 10 days – 3 of which I knew nothing about. She was an incredible help – for Basil as well. B is fine TG and doing all the shopping thank goodness and shlepping me for my follow up appointments.

This was a very frightening experience even for someone like me who has had 9 massive surgeries over time: back, kidney, etc. This 10th one is making me question my mortality and because I’m still weak, I was feeling rather panicky. But, they say that’s normal in open-heart surgery and those feelings are sort of gone this week. My sternum is mending, while wrapped in metal – which is now clicking on the metal on my spine – uncomfortable, but I guess I’ll get used to it. I’m a bit of a Moaning Minnie right now because I’m housebound and I do get cabin feverish.

After seeing both the cardiologist and heart surgeon a week ago, to find out my ‘fate’, I was told I can leave around the 27th! TG! :). I was anxious to still go on the Caribbean cruise at the end of August and then to kids, and that is what I am going to do: will start with the Caribbean, & not go to the East Bay. I will be missing Stella’s 1st birthday on the 21 but Tania will bring her to meet me on the 28th in Fort Lauderdale. C’est la vie. Things change, but a positive attitude and will to survive I guess, do help to make “things” possible.

We still plan to drive to Atlanta when we get off the cruise. Taking 2 or 3 days through Florida So hopefully we will see our friends and family!

Bypass SurgeryREF

(Also known as CABG or “cabbage”, Coronary Artery Bypass Graft and Open- Heart Surgery) treats blocked heart arteries by creating new passages for blood to flow to your heart muscle. It works by taking arteries or veins from other parts of your body – called grafts – and using them to reroute the blood around the clogged artery.
A patient may undergo one, two, three or more bypass grafts, depending on how many coronary arteries are blocked. The operation requires several days in hospital.
It is one of the most common and effective procedures to manage blockage of blood to the heart muscle and improves the supply of blood and oxygen to the heart. It relieves chest pain (angina), reduces risk of heart attack and improves ability for physical activity.

Posted in Health, Health & Recovery from Open Heart Surgery, Personal Journal | 12 Comments