I realised I felt a little internal pressure to do something amazing, wonderful, or remarkable. I just couldn’t think of anything. In the past, I watched “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” on my birthday as a sort of personal birthday tradition.
I still love that movie, but didn’t really feel like watching it this time around. I briefly thought about watching “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” instead, but I’ve watched that amazing movie recently.
Birthdays are strange days for me. I enjoy my birthday, even though I’m ambivalent about growing older, and between my friends and family wishing me a terrific day, saying I should do something remarkable, and be spoiled, I realised that I put a little pressure on myself to do something noteworthy.
Ultimately, though, this day is really more of a “me” day when I get to take a breather from work, and indulge myself in some small way.
Taking a “me” day
As is my custom, I took the day off for a “me” day.
The only thing I had planned for the day was to head to Cafe Greg in the mall for a Diabetic friendly apple crumble.
I started off my day with breakfast (as one does), after which I took advantage of the quiet to meditate for around 15 minutes (by “meditate”, I mean continuously try calm my chattering mind for 15 minutes), and then switch to Netflix.
I’ve been watching The Crown, and finished off the second season, and started the third before heading out to the mall. I took my camera with me, and captured a few scenes along the way. Winter is settling in here in Israel, and that means very welcome rain, and colder weather.
The apple crumble was pretty good, and I returned home for more of The Crown before the kids returned home. We had lunch together, I went out to the post office to collect a package that turned out to be one of Aaron’s birthday presents that I thought wasn’t going to arrive, and then returned home for more of The Crown.
All in all, it wasn’t a wild celebratory day, but it was my day, and that worked for me.
I had Gina and the kids with me. Aaron made me this awesome card, and Faith made me a Minecraft world to play around with, and involved a lot of cake at the end. Interestingly, when you eat cake (and probably other things) in Minecraft, you eat it in slices. 🎂
Also a Gina day
The real, big news of the day was that Gina started her new job yesterday, after six months searching for work.
Its been an extremely wild 6 months. It was fun. It was stressful. It was enlightening. I got to spend time with Paul, even though he was working during the week. I got to eat lunch with my entire family, every day. I played games with the kids, took them to the park after school and helped with homework. I got to spend the entire summer break and all the Jewish holidays with the kids and Paul. I fell into a funk, especially after each rejection email from a potential job opportunity. I worked through each funk. I started running (and need to get back into it). I taught myself a new skill. I read. A lot.
My wife contributed a post to the All Things Mom Sydney blog titled “The Religious Effect: Raising children within a Jewish Family” which I enjoyed reading (of course I’m biased but you may find it interesting in itself). She wrote about the decisions we have made to ensure that our kids grow up in a Jewish home and the balance we strike between religious practice and a degree of secularism in our lives.
Just over two years ago, we made the decision to emigrate to Israel. While it’s been a rather large adjustment in terms of culture (Israelis are a loud, pushy, obstinate, loyal, happy and friendly bunch) and language, it’s also been easy in that Israel is a Jewish state. This means that we are not in a minority anymore in terms of religion. But, while we are not in the minority anymore, there are still dozens of other religions represented by the citizens of Israel as well as many cultures our children have never been exposed to since there are people from all over the world that call Israel home, Russian, French, American, British, Australian just to name a few. So, we still make a point to explain the differences between people’s cultures and religions to our children.
I think the biggest and most important lesson we have taught and continue to teach our children is that everyone is different and that no person is above or below anyone else. That people have different beliefs and that we need to respect them regardless of religion.
As our children grow up, retaining strong links to our culture and traditions is increasingly important to me. We can’t take living in Israel for granted. Even this Jewish State has strong tugs in different directions: towards complete secularism on one hand and towards stricter religious observance on the other.
We walk somewhere between both. I’d like our kids to be exposed to more of our religious practices because I think there is a lot of wisdom to be gained from many of our practices despite their religious connotations. In addition, much of our culture stems from our traditions and losing that means losing much of what it means to be Jewish.
Where that leaves us remains a bit of a mystery to me. For the time being, we’re mostly figuring this stuff out as we go. I hope that our kids will grow up with a strong sense of pride that they are both Jews and Israelis. We have a long history and there is something special about who we are.
Today is our 10th wedding anniversary. Wow, 10 years. A lot has happened in the decade since Gina and I stood under that chuppah. Here are a few things that stand out for me. I’ll probably come up with more after this is published so I don’t make any promises that this post captures all the highlights.
When it all began
I met Gina in November 2003. I think it was around the 17th but that remains a little controversial. Our first date was a blind date facilitated by our mothers who met through a widows’ group (Gina’s dad passed away in 2001, mine in 2003). I had recently broken up with a girlfriend and my father had passed away from pancreatic cancer a few months earlier. I decided to spend some time on my own for a while.
My mother called me and told me about this woman she met (Lindy, my then-future mother in law) who, as it turned out, had a single daughter who her mother was pretty keen to introduce to someone. I wasn’t really interested but told my mother than if this girl is/was a Sagittarius, Leo or Ares, I’d meet her. If not, I wasn’t interested.
This may sound very weird or hippy but I’d had a few bad experiences dating people in other signs so this seemed like a reasonable compromise to me. My mother thought I was a bit difficult (she may have said I was “full of sh*t”) but she said she’d find out.
My mother called me back soon after and told me that this girl is/was a Leo. I’d basically committed myself so I agreed and took down her phone number. I called her, introduced myself and we arranged to meet at JB’s Corner in Melrose Arch a few days later. At the time I had a beard and when I told Gina this she apparently thought her mother had set her up with some religious guy (oy!).
I wasn’t sure what to expect so I staked out the restaurant from a public square across from it until she arrived. This was more to brace myself in case she wasn’t quite what I was expecting (whatever that was).
When I saw her she didn’t disappoint at all.
We started talking and didn’t stop until after we were asked to leave the restaurant when they closed. The highlight of that evening was our discussion about how Star Trek: Nemesis really disappointed both of us. A fellow Star Trek (and Star Wars) fan? I was hooked.
We had a second date a few days later (when she opened her door she was even more beautiful than I remembered from our first date). That was our beginning.
Then she said “yes!”
We dated for about a year and a half before we finally got engaged. I think about relationships in terms of an ocean metaphor. If your relationship’s depths are calm and life affirming, you’re off to a great start. You’ll need those quiet depths when the surface becomes stormy to keep you grounded and help you through difficult times.
I wrote about how I proposed a day or two afterwards:
Rabbi Rose married us at the Waverly Shul. I’m glad we did it there.
My bride was absolutely stunning. I think she actually took my breath away when I first saw her in her wedding dress just before the marriage ceremony. I know grooms often say something like this but she really was (and still is) beautiful.
Our wedding reception was at the HOD Hall in Orchards, Johannesburg.
We started our new life together with our honeymoon in the Drakensberg. We stayed at the Drakensberg Sun which is one of my favourite hotels/resorts in South Africa. It was a terrific break although I took my laptop in case I had to work (not the best decision but I had started my own business about 6 months before).
Starting a business is tough and I remember when I decided to leave Werksmans and go on my own how Gina supported me. She supported me for the 9 years I had my own businesses, through all the tough times that affected our family. I didn’t always appreciate how much she supported me when the easier thing to say could have been “Stop this and go find a job”.
The early years
I remember at least one conversation with Gina, some time around our wedding, in which she informed me that she expected to be in the labour ward a year after our wedding. I was a little taken aback but my wife can be pretty convincing. As it turns out we fell pregnant (by “we” I mean I made a contribution, she did all the real work) in early 2007. It was possibly during our first wedding anniversary weekend back at the Drakensberg Sun.
Aside from going off chicken entirely for most of her pregnancy, it all went fairly well. At least from my perspective.
Aaron arrived a few weeks early and, within the space of a couple days, my great love affair expanded to two people.
Our first year with Aaron was probably fairly typical for new parents: a lot of panic, having no idea what to do when he cried or had colic and also beginning to appreciate having this incredible little person in our lives.
2008 turned out to be a tough year with the Great Recession but we made it through with a few emotional bumps along the way. I think I learned a lot about how to deal with challenging times towards the end of the year and realised (a little more) what an incredible my wife is in tough times that doubtless stressed her out too.
2009 was an expansion year. Mostly for me, I seem to have ballooned a little. Gina, on the other hand, was as beautiful as ever.
Of course, 2010 was also the year our family grew again. We found out that we were pregnant again and we dubbed our baby “theSQL” (it is both geeky and a little funny).
Our little girl, Faith, was born in December that year (just a few days after my birthday). She brought a new dynamic to our family and joined her proud brother as my new great love.
Our life seemed to start moving really quickly after Faith arrived. I was trying to build a business and we had two growing kids, each with their own personalities. Just as figuring out how to be a good father to our children, being a decent husband to Gina has been an ongoing process. If anything I have learned how I let my own issues get in the way of a better relationship with my family.
In 2013 I was diagnosed with diabetes and Gina practically changed our kitchen over to diabetic friendly foods almost overnight. My diagnosis was a shock to me but she helped me adapt and probably did more to shift me onto a healthier diet than I even realised.
She helped me bring my blood glucose levels down to normal levels within a few months and I managed to remain pretty well controlled until late last year when something in my body changed and my levels rose again. We’re going back to some basics with my diet and, once again, she is making changes behind the scenes to improve our diet to help me regain control over my diabetes.
2015 was a challenging year. It was our first year in our new home in Israel and the changes weren’t always easy to process. It was also a year that really emphasised for me just how important my family is to me. My wife and our kids are basically what my life is all about. Practically everything else is in support of our new life here.
Being a husband takes a lot of work. For me, most of that work was on myself because I have a tendency to let my inner Crazy really get in the way of better communication with my wife. Communication really is so important. I see the difference when I get it right. Those are the times when we are back in sync like we were right in the beginning (and many times since then) when we agreed about that Star Trek movie.
This time 10 years ago we were at the Protea Hotel on Corlett Drive trying to stay awake long enough to eat an early supper. We didn’t get through the meal and passed out soon afterwards on our hotel room. The next morning we woke early and drove to the mountains to start our honeymoon and our new life together.
Every morning is an opportunity for me to be a better father and a better husband. I haven’t always made it easy for my family but if there is something worth working for every day, every moment, it is that. I hope we have many more periods of 10 years together. Each of the moments that make up those years are opportunities to spend with my wife and our children and that is what matters most to me.
Happy anniversary, angel. Much, with tons and stuff.
My wife is a talented woman! This last weekend she baked sour dough bread for us that went really well with her home-made chicken soup. If you are into baking, take a look at her post titled “A lesson in patience“:
What impressed me was that she grew the yeast she used to make the bread. I didn’t think about documenting that process before but I’ll make sure I do for next time. As I understand it, she grew the initial yeast, used some of it for the bread she baked over the weekend and left the rest of the yeast to continue growing. I forgot the term she used for it (I want to say “culture” but it’s not that).
Of course I took a few photos of the baking process (my roles are usually taking photos of her culinary process and enjoying it afterwards).