Sunday, January 31, 2021

#31 Virtual Backgrounds That Work

Some days you're just grateful to find a virtual background that works!
Bonus point when the background is your favorite school. 

Sometimes they don't work...

Saturday, January 30, 2021

#30 Perfect Timing (or: French Fries for a Grieving Soul)

 Today was a grief day. I don't know why, some days are just like that. I cried on and off all day. What was great was that I wasn't full of self-pity and I didn't try to distract myself from feeling the feelings.

Knowing being around someone could be good for me, asked my friend Jessie, who also moved this this school from an American school in Abu Dhabi, if we could have a work party today.

I didn't go over in time to work, but after a run at 5 I stopped over for a visit. She immediately offered a hug ❤. As we chatted she mentioned the amazing french fries she had for dinner. I instantly went to the delivery app to get my own when she said she had an extra order! She hadn't realized the sandwich she got came with fries so ordered some, so she had two! Apparently she was pre-ordering for me.

Don't you love it when you think something is an accident but turns out to be for a reason you couldn't foresee? This happens with presents all the time for me: I buy gifts from my travels (well, I used to) and the person I am buying it for always appears later.

They were just as delicious as they look and yes, that is Heinz Ketchup. 

By the time we got to french fries the grief had passed, but I got to enjoy dinner with a good friend that I know is there for me. (Who also lent me a fuzzy sweatshirt for my walk home!)

Friday, January 29, 2021

#29 The perfect desk

 I'm digging deep today. As with many of us, today was pretty much like yesterday and the day before that and the week before that and...well, you know. And the idea of the daily gratitude is no repeats.

So today I am grateful for my desk. Here it is:

This desk is perfect for teaching at home. I've got the shelves that are perfect for organizing my work stuff; plenty of room on top for the document camera and I don't have to sit at the kitchen table or on the couch to teach.

What I really happy about with the desk, however, is that I bought it off of someone that was leaving the school last spring. I was very unhappy with my choice in apartments (there were a lot of tears) BUT I had this great desk that was moved into my apartment before I arrived so it, along with all the other stuff I bought off other people, was already moved in and ready to go when I got to Israel. It was one of the few things that was initially perfect about my move over here!

It was originally in the bedroom. Next to the "bedding" left for us ;)

Also good for scrapbooking

Thursday, January 28, 2021

#28 Life lessons from Groundhog Day

Yep, I'm watching Groundhog Day this evening. Spoiler alert--I'm going to talk about the entire movie!

I decided to watch this after I listened to an episode of Hidden Brain called Minimizing Pain, Maximizing Joy. One of the main ideas in this episode is that we create our own suffering--that the bad things that happen aren't necessarily the source of our suffering, but our reaction to what happens is what causes us the most pain. Here is a link to the transcript on a site called "Happy Scribe" I found.

The premise of Groundhog Day is that Weatherman Phil gets stuck in the same day over and over again, which happens to be Groundhog Day. Phil is a pretty miserable, mean, conceited guy who complains all the time. We watch him try all sorts of stuff to free himself from the day. To quote the podcast, Phil hasn't figured out that the world is not the cause of his problems.

No, he can't. He's he's trapped. He hasn't figured it out. And a lot of people actually haven't figured it out as well. A lot of us normal people, that much of the suffering we experience is due to our response to the events of life. And that's a tragedy. You know, you have one life to live and to spend it living the same day over and over when you have other options open.

The first time I watched this movie was only a few years ago and I thought that he didn't get released from "the curse" until he learned to help other people. On the second go-round tonight I still agree with myself, but I see another meaning after hearing Hidden Brain. It is about taking ownership of my own life, of deciding to be happy despite circumstances. Or, like the podcast says, of not creating my own suffering.

There is a line in the movie that just went by. Phil is trying to convince Rita that he is stuck in the same day. She says to him, "I don't know Phil, maybe it's not a curse. Maybe it's just how you look at it." 

That just about sums up my life of lockdown in Israel. I can think of it as a curse and make my entire life revolve around work as a way to endure the monotony. Or I can do more things to nurture my own self, things that I should do wherever I live, no matter what is going on: scrapbook, get up early and enjoy the sunrise, enjoy flannel sheets, stop working in the afternoon so I have time not work, figure out how to cook, maybe take Hebrew lessons. Whatever it is, the point is that I can be happy despite covid, despite lockdown, despite whatever the outside world is doing. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

#27 Early mornings

My morning dream came true today! Mornings are the best and I love them. The problem is that I love staying up late. But the alarm went off at 4 a.m. this morning and I got up! 

The view from my balcony
The morning cushy chair sit

I thought my motivation was to attend a meeting the Rocky Canyon Sailtoads, the committee I am privileged to serve on that puts on a half marathon in Boise called the Race to Robie Creek (The toughest half in the Northwest, by the way). It meets at 7 PM on Tuesdays each week in the spring, but that is Boise time. Boise, Idaho, United States. So yeah, I am pretty proud of myself. Of course the committee usually meets in person, and I was fully prepared to resign from the committee this year since I have been gone for a few years and helped a little remotely. Then Coronavirus transformed Tuesday nights and the race from in person to virtual. I decided to stay on this year since I can now attend the meetings and probably help more since so much is digital.

Thus I began my morning in dark, quiet Tel Aviv with laughter and greetings and warm wishes from friends back home. 

But there was so much more to this morning! 

Walking in Park Hayarkon

I sat in my comfy chair drinking tea, writing in my journal and reading. I did a little laundry. I went on a long walk while the sun was rising. I discovered it is warmer outside than in my house. All of this I did with an unfamiliar but wonderful sense of calm. The calm I think we are going for during yoga or meditation--the calm where everything else falls away and the mind really lets go of the future and the past. I wasn't worried about planning for work and I wasn't hurrying to get back to work. I felt no sense of urgency. In fact I "got to work" a little earlier today because I wasn't rushing. It could not have been a better start to a day.

Now as I prepare for bed (at the very reasonable time of 9 PM)  I am tired. I haven't turned on the TV since late afternoon. The calm remains. 

Turns out I didn't get up just to go to the Robie meeting! I went to the Robie meeting to prepare myself for a perfect morning.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

#26 I finally got into Crow Pose!

I payed attention all day for my gratitude and had something ready, but then I "went" to yoga [read: zoomed into the gym] with Pauline and I was able to do crow today!!  Like really get into the pose and hold it for at least 5 seconds. Twice! It was so cool...I could feel myself consciously trusting my wrists and fingers, playing with my weight. I had control (at least for a few long seconds) twice and was able to think and breathe and not just worry about "getting into it".

What I am loving about these poses is that over time I can see my improvement. I think this may be one of the obvious points of yoga, but it is so cool to experience! Three times a week consistently and I really truly am getting better!

This is what I'll look like one day!

Monday, January 25, 2021

#25 Getting Lost in Creativity

I've made it to Nepal! (in scrapbook time) 

I spent several hours today working on the scrapbook! It has been so long since I engaged in this delight that I had forgotten how wonderful it feels to get totally lost in and engrossed in a creative activity I love.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

#24 The scrapbook stuff is back out

 The scrapbook stuff is out! Finally I encountered a moment where the only thing to do was not work or exercise or cleaning, but something for pure pleasure.

I didn't finish any pages yet, but at least the dust is off, the Nepal trip pictures are organized chronologically and the materials are ready for creativity to take ahold...

Saturday, January 23, 2021

#23 Yoga (or "trying something new")

I've been thinking a lot of about yoga lately. 

When I was living with Kelli during coronavirus in Abu Dhabi I attended a couple of classes with my friend Mandy from the UK; before that it has been ages since I did hot yoga in Boise on Broadway pretty diligently. Before that it was a stint of Vinyasa Flow with Jenny L. (I think?) at Gold's on Park Center in Boise. 

Here in Tel Aviv I've been going to my great little gym Subterra consistently 3 times a week for about 2 months (the Friday class is only possible because we are working from home). I have a habit of feeling less than in many areas and in the physique department that has been exacerbated in this city. Everyone has the body of a supermodel. Perhaps it is coming from America (where I heard today 2/3 of the population is overweight or obese) to the UAE (where one study found 70% of adults overweight or obese) to Israel, where this report says only 50% are overweight or obese in Israel but all the other reports say it is just like America. Anyways, in my part of Tel Aviv, it's supermodels as far as the eye can see. All of this just supports my case for the day. 

Here we go. After 2+ months of consistent yoga-going I have had the following experiences and epiphanies:

  • When I went to the first class the teacher, Talia, walked straight up to me, introduced herself and asked me what my level of ability was, totally shattering the stereotype in my head about stuffy, elitist yoga teachers. She also teaches in English, which is super helpful for those of us who do not speak Hebrew.
  • One day after I had been going for a while a new woman came to the class. On her first day she tried some stuff that she was able to do. On her second day she tried a headstand and was successful! Now I've been attending class after class, by passing the headstand parts because "I can't do it." I know that part of yoga is not comparing yourself to anyone else, but that small episode turned on this little voice....why haven't you tried it?  It's a valid question. It isn't like I was saying, I need to be as good as her, I just wondered why I hadn't tried at all after all these classes. Not even just putting my head down and trying to balance. When I looked for the answer I found excuses and fear. I'm afraid I'll fall and crack my head. I'm afraid no one will help me. I'm afraid I'll hurt my knee. After that, I tried. I even asked Talia for help and, to my unwarranted surprise, she came over and coached me through it until I got as far as I could. No judgement or name calling. Just coaching. 
  • I began to notice little things that Talia would say, like "keep your abs tight here," or "engage your quads here," and I began to hear them. Then I began to apply them. This is when it all started to come together. Before this I was going through the motions, putting my feet where they were supposed to be at the right time, but I wasn't having the same experience I heard Talia describe. When I really started engaging ALL of me I began to have a better experience. I didn't feel like I was just moving my body around in a sequence of movements but instead began to see each pose as its own task. 
  • Consequently, I also began to "get" some of the poses and get to confront a whole new set of obstacles. Crow pose, for example. I can now get into it and am beginning to stay in it for 5 or 6 seconds at a time. Now I am confronted with a new issue: trusting myself. Do I trust my wrists to hold me up? Do I trust that if I fall on my face I will be okay? 

These minor epiphanies in yoga are extending out into the rest of my life. Take the trusting the wrists thing. At work I am trying a different way of planning and when I find myself procrastinating one of the things I asked myself is, do I trust that I know what I'm doing? After all, I am in my 10th year of teaching. Just like my wrists are strong and can hold me up, my experience and training have prepared me to create a good plan. 

Another example is with running. My trainer Kenny years ago told me how I carry myself while walking can help train my body to stay in good form while I run. Did I listen? Not so much. But now that I see the connection in yoga with keeping my core engaged to better do something I thought I was doing pretty well--downward dog. Listening to Talia I realized that I wasn't engaging all of my--my shoulders were relaxed and my core was kinda limp. When I corrected it became a whole different experience. Now as I run I engage those same core muscles and guess what? My knee doesn't hurt as much during of afterwards.

A final example is with work--am I engaging my entire "body"? I wasn't before break, but I am now! I am "all in" at my job these days. I don't want to just muddle through, I want to excel. I am going the extra mile that somewhere along the line I stopped doing. It wasn't that I did a bad job, but I wasn't aiming for my absolutely best. Turns out, I feel way better when I engage my everything. In work, yoga and most of life.

Friday, January 22, 2021

#22 There IS enough (or: Getting rid of more stuff)

Before I moved abroad I "Spark-Joyed" my house. It took the entire school year, but I did it just like Marie Kondo suggested: beginning with the clothes, I put them all in a pile on the bed, then held up each one  and asked myself, "does this bring me joy?". Yes: keep. No: donate. Then there were the papers, the books, etc.

One of the benefits of the perspective change I had during winter vacation in Africa and Dubai has been the revelation that I was creating my own misery. Not just by complaining and self-pitying, but by clinging. I have too much stuff.  Even after living here just 5 months, Marie Kondo was right. When I moved here I was so afraid of not having enough that I bought up things from people leaving the school so that I wouldn't have to go without anything. The result has been that I arrived to a bunch of more or less crap in my house. 

What a good lesson it has been to realize that while I do advocate reusing and buying second-hand, I did not need to compulsively buy things that were kinda or not at all close to what I would really use out of a desperate attempt to overcome scarcity thinking. You see, when you move to an international school, they generally provide you with the essentials for living, which includes not only furniture and a basic set of towels and sheets, but a new set of dishes and cookware. 

I, on the other hand, had about 4 boxes full of someone's old stuff that was well, well used and too much. Of all of that stuff I have basically kept an iron, a few kitchen utensils, a towel and a space heater. Today I took my final batch of stuff outside: this is the equivalent of donating to Idaho Youth Ranch or Goodwill, except there is no tax deduction for leaving it on a bench outside!

So tonight my kitchen and my heart are a little less crowded. 

The bend I take stuff I don't want or need anymore. I forgot to take a picture of the stuff when I put it out before my run but when I came back 1 1/2 hours later to get a snapshot, the stuff was already gone.

The last of the stuff I currently realize I don't need anymore.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

#21 Flowers and Soup to Warm My Soul. And My Body!

I am FREEZING!! Laugh at me all you want, Boise people, I don't care. I CAN'T GET WARM! 

So I took my freezing self wrapped in enough layers to run in on a long walk. A long, fast walk. For a couple of hours. I stopped at the equivalent of the Boise Coop to get cooca to make vegan hot chocolate with and got some flowers as well. Who doesn't like flowers to brighten the day?

When I went outside again I was EVEN colder! But on the way home is a super little restaurant called Zuppa that sells great soups and happens to be right around the corner from my house. So now I am home in my warm-ish house (that's a lie--I'm freezing in here, too) eating warm, yummy soup with flowers decorating the table. 

I don't really like pictures of food unless I'm cooking from a recipe, but since it was the main gratitude of the day I just had to.

Today this blog saved my perspective in a way. I woke up feeling a bit lonely and battled it all day. However I knew I had to come up with something to write about so I had to be on the lookout for the treasures of the day. Here's what came up.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

#20 A Peaceful Transition of Power

What a great day to be an American!

No matter who was being sworn in today, we  a smooth transition of power. I watched the speech while enjoying Wolt Wednesday. 
I also went on a walk today donning my U.S. scarf I bought in Normandy, France on the 75th anniversary of D-Day. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

#19 I've got mail

 I got mail! After the vaccine the other day we stopped by school, which is where I get my mail. Although the packages I am expecting still haven't arrived, I had two surprise Christmas cards!  Thank you, Scott and Cyndee for thinking of me. How delightful to get real, physical snail mail!

P.S. Because I didn't come to America this year for Christmas I didn't send out Christmas cards--for the first time in ages. So if you didn't get yours this year it's not because you are off the list but because no one got one!

Monday, January 18, 2021

#18 First cold weather run of the year (and last year, too)

It is COLD here!  Like 50 degrees F (shut up, Boise people, I've acclimated to living in the Middle East). Consequently I have been avoiding going out to run. Also, there is this thing here called rain, and I have completely forgotten how to function when water falls from the sky.

I dug out gear I haven't run in in years--well, since I left Boise. It felt strange to be cold on a run but exhilarating! When fully dressed I looked overall like a slightly less poofy Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and once I started running I passed a bunch of people running in shorts and sleeveless shirts, but I didn't care. 

You know that feeling you get when you finally start working out again and you're motivated to keep doing the good things for yourself?  That's how I feel.

Oh, and when I walked into the vegetable stand after the run, the guy working there that knows me said, "HI" really loud (which I thought was just about me but turns out he was saying that to everybody that walked in) but then he said, "WOW" with a big smile looking straight at me. I assumed it was a compliment but I didn't clarify.  Don't burst my bubble.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

#17 I got the fist dose of the vaccine today!

 I am elated! As has been reported widely, Israel is inoculating faster than any other countries. Teachers were allowed to get the shot starting last Sunday but those of us at my school who are no citizens are have private insurance rather than the national health insurance. The distribution of the vaccine is through HMO's so we had to wait for our private insurance to get around to us. We got the email on Thursday with our appointment time.

It was so organized! I mean, jaw-droppingly organized. Aside from the corona testing, it is the only thing that I have seen that has been totally dialed in in this country so far. Thank you, Israel, for not forgetting about us guests!

Jessie and I waiting to be taken to the tent where the shots were being administered.

While we were waiting we ran into friends from school who were in the 15 minute post-vaccination waiting period.

The technician who administered my shot.

The waiting area in the tent.

The line to get into the tent that we got to skip.

#16 Flannel pajama pants

On cold weekend days nothing beats flannel PJ's.

Especially when they were a gift from one's mother.

Friday, January 15, 2021

#15 Cookies, Kitchens and Joyfulness

 I finally made sugar cookies today and this post is in danger of being one of those long recipe posts with too many pictures...but I will try to tone it down. The reasons this tops today's gratitude list is threefold:

First, they are absolutely the most delicious vegan/gluten free sugar cookie I have ever made! There are lots of difference recipes I have tested but they all had something about them that marked them as "free from" such as the taste or they were too dark or didn't form properly. Not so with these. I know my taste buds have adjusted to the taste of vegan sweets (I have been allergic to milk, eggs and gluten for about 6 years) but I am going to test these out of some friends tomorrow--I don't think you can tell the difference between these and the "full lead" ones. Here is the recipe, and here a a couple of pictures of the dough I am so proud of!  I was also happy to discover I have a rolling and a plastic juicer that doubles as a cookie cutter.

They look just like they are supposed to!

The second reason baking these cookies delights me so is because I actually did it! How many times during and even before Coronavirus, when my life moved to home, have I made declarations to myself about things I want to do: bake cookies, cook meals, finish that scrapbook, write that blog post....
These cookies are a physical manifestation of that intention. Sometime on winter break some magical switch flipped inside of me and I now find myself following through. I am taking care of myself--exercising regularly, sleeping properly, putting my all into my work, not complaining. I feel energized and refreshed and motivated in a new way that I can't really explain. 

Finally, by following through with these simple cookies I discovered that in my apartment--and probably in Israel--oh, let's face it, in life in general--I can flourish. Realizing that I had everything I needed to make these delicious cookies in this little apartment which I have spent so much energy complaining about was a revelation. If I have everything I need to create delicious, beautiful treats in this tiny, inadequate kitchen stocked with a bunch of makeshift ingredients I used Google Translate to verify while blocking the aisle in my local organic store, perhaps I have everything I need to be joyful anywhere.  

Perhaps what I really needed to do all along was just pick something and start doing it.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

#14 Rain

 It rained today in Tel Aviv! A couple of things about this make me happy.

1. When it rains I often think of the 5th grade trip (I think it was 5th, can anyone verify that?) to the LBJ Ranch in Johnson City, Texas, the beloved home of President Lyndon Baines Johnson. I remember riding on the little shuttle and hearing "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" while the tour guide told us it was LBJ's favorite song. I also remember this little scene 3 or 4 times--it's one of those field trips you do over and over again if you grow up in Austin. [Disclaimer: It could have only been once, the memories kind of run together after a while]

2. In three years in the UAE it rained a total maybe 5 times. The rain here is great! It is torrential and loud and accompanied by thunder and lighting. One strike was so loud this morning while I was teaching I visibly jumped in my chair.

3. Because it rains the plants I was gifted on Halloween (thanks Brittany) are actually growing since they are not dependent on my for their survival. 

4. You can go walking in the rain with the proper equipment. I don't know why but I absolutely love walking around in the rain in my raincoat! My raincoat, by the way, which I love. I bought the best raincoat ever in Ireland during the first year of my Masters but then left it in Bucharest at a friend's house. France in 2019 on the 75th anniversary of D-Day I found an equally awesome one at a Decathalon. All of that is to say that I love the rain because then I wear my awesome raincoat in which I am in the rain but not getting wet and remember all the great times I had in the rain in that raincoat (or one exactly like it).

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

#13 Wolt Wednesdays

 It's Wedensday! Time to order from Wolt! 

When school started at the beginning of the year I believe it was "Happy Hour Wednesday". I went to that once, but of course Happy Hour isn't so much my thing. Maybe it's because I don't drink or maybe because I'm not great at small talk, but I only went once. 

However, I love to eat. So when Happy Hour turn into dinner delivered through the Wolt food delivery app at someone's house, I was there--I haven't missed one since! It became the substitute when things were sort-of open but restaurants were restricted to delivery only. Wait--that's still how it is :(

With nothing else to do and no one to do it with, Wolt Wednesday is an event I look forward to. Some weeks it is the event I look forward to! It is such nourishment to the soul to gather (in a very small group, of course), laugh, cry, share stories and emotions. Every week I leave refreshed and reassured that the feelings of loneliness, emptiness and depression that randomly visit throughout the week also visit other isolated souls. I can listen to a hundred podcasts recounting the suffering that others are experiencing all over the world due to isolation, but hearing these women, whom I have grown to love and trust in the last 6 moths, say they, too have dark days is more powerful than a monthful of podcasts. 

Bon Appetite!

Tuesday, January 12, 2021


 While I am definitely happy for my freedom as an American, today I am grateful for my personal freedom. 

I'm out of quarantine!  Here's some pictures I took from my first walk of freedom down to the beach in Tel Aviv, just in time for the sunset.  

All pictures by Joy

Monday, January 11, 2021

#11 - Less that a day until "freedom"

Yesterday was day 9 of quarantine, which means I was eligible to get a 2nd Covid test in order to shorten my isolation time. If your test upon arrival is negative you can test again on day 9 to be free after day 10 instead of after day 14.

I'm free tomorrow!!! 

[which really means I can go to the grocery store and go on a run since we are in lockdown, but I'm not picky)

Sunday, January 10, 2021

#10 A taste of freedom

 I got to go outside today!!! 

It was to get a 2nd Coronavirus test, but the reason was not important. I WENT OUTSIDE FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 9 DAYS!

If this test comes back negative, quarantine is shortened from 14 days to 10. (We ARE in lockdown, but I will be able to go outside to exercise every day.)

 Fingers crossed!