Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Can you buy happiness?

Money, money, money...

Most commonly people in the Western world start their lives out poor and end up richer and richer for as long as they live. That is the general definition of a successful life. Others do it the other way around, or rather go in cycles or waves throughout their lives. I belong to the latter part. The the most prosperous period of my life so far was when I was between 23 and 30. I had a graphic design job where I made good money, but it did not make me happy. Breaking up from that was probably the bravest thing I had done so far because it set the standard for what I have dared to do later on in life.

I left my well-paid job and went to work with horses in Germany for food, shelter and some pocket money. The months I spent there gave me time to analyze my situation and crystalize what I really wanted to do with my life and that thought process brought me home and to the university. There I spent 6 years on student money, but I was still pretty well off since I also earned some money from study-related employments at the university.

Then the next brave decision appeared before me. I met this charming Israeli guy who made me pack up and leave everything I knew and move to Israel merely 10 days after I defended my MSc thesis. I had an open road before me to do research at home but I chose to leave and lay my trust into that this new life eventually would open new opportunities of the same kind.

The first years here I did not make any money at all. My new love was generous enough to care for the both of us, but also when I did start to earn some money by doing graphic design, it never came to more than pocket money. Nevertheless, my attitude made something grow in my man as well, and soon he also took the leap and left a well-paid job that had made him unhappy. Since then we have struggled and turned the coins, but never have I doubted our decisions and intentions to find true happiness in our lives.

Then almost a year ago my dream job finally surfaced. I never doubted that it would, but sometimes I doubted my own ability to return to science, but luckily it turned out that I was wrong. I have a great position, with inspiring assignments and future prospects, and a warm and lovable group of colleagues. I don't make a lot of money, yet, but definitely better than before and it will only get better. Same goes for my husband.

So where am I going with this rant? I have been thinking a lot lately about what we appreciate in life and what really makes us happy, and I can say that years of hardship teaches you to cherish the small things and not take anything for granted. I know that it sounds like a cliché, but I can promise you that these thoughts don't come from a desire to try to hide enviousness.

I haven't had a smartphone for about a year, since I quit a design job that I had. This really is a first world problem, but I have honestly enjoyed the time, simply because it gave me a break from the constant pressure of participating in social forums. The computer has been enough, that's for sure! Now we decided that we had money enough to buy me an iPhone and tonight I am going to get it, and the anticipation and long time when I haven't really spent anything on myself makes me really excited and happy about this gift.

I haven't bought much clothes for myself during the last few years either. Now I have found an excellent second-hand shop here in Tivon, so all of a sudden I could make a substantial addition to my wardrobe for not a lot of money at all. Second-hand is another subject that I could spend a whole blog post on all by itself, but shortly I really think that all kinds of thrift and consignment concepts are an amazing alternative to constantly buying new things.

Now we are reaching the subject of consumerism. I am not against consuming, but I haven't consumed much during the last few years and it has made me more aware of how and what I am consuming, and also more appreciative of what I have been able to consume.

Often when I see people that are driven by consumerism it is sadly enough accompanied by chronic unfulfillment and shallow happiness. I don't say that all rich people are unappreciative of what they can buy, but money can certainly not disguise unhappiness.

Our family is struggling and sometimes our worry about our economy affects our relationship, but on the other hand it brings us closer together as well because we are on this ship together and only together can we make things change for the better. Love is what matters and I only hope that if I ever get rich I will still keep the same values and appreciate the small things in life. If not, please remind me of this blog post.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Mummy's little helper

There has not been a lot of action here since Eden was born, and I would like to think that this is a good thing, because it hopefully means that I am spending most of my days parenting. However, occasionally I am reflecting over something that is too complex to make a quick Facebook post out of, and then I guess I have to dust off the blog. It should not come as a surprise, but it is about parenting.

Eden is crazy about sweeping the floor. With a regular broom, or a water scraper, the tool is irrelevant, but he finds them wherever we go, grocery stores, cafés, the synagogue (Ziv's bar mitzvah), restaurants, neighbors front yards, you name it, and he gets furious unless he gets to use it! The vacuum cleaner is also famous for being the only thing that can bring Eden out of his occasional infamous afternoon rages.

When I mention this to people, or they see Eden in action, they usually chuckle and say that it will not last. Then I am thinking to myself if they ever questioned why it doesn't last? Usually me and Eden we sweep the floors together at home, but if I ever try to rush it, by either correcting his method too much or excluding him altogether, I notice this totally confused disappointment on his face, and it makes me start thinking. I believe that children are natural-born learners, with an innate desire to be social and because of that they imitate our chores and other activities to learn our skills. Traditionally, it has been normal that children take part in house chores, each and one according to their own capability, and this is still the case in most native societies. Therefore I see it as pretty denigrating to refer to this desire to help out as "childish play". As a matter of fact, children learn new skills through play, and this drive is just as dead serious as a kitten playing with a toy mouse.

In the Western world we do not have time to "play around" with the house chores since our days are packed with work, school, sports and other scheduled activities. This comes with a price, and what we sacrifice is our kids enthusiasm to take part in the daily chores. Imagine yourself if you offer to help someone and you are met with a frustrated attitude that only criticizes what you do, if they will at all let you even try. Not only will this make you feel incapable, but it will also give you the feeling that house chores are only a burden that you cannot possibly enjoy. Now imagine this child growing up into a teenager who all of a sudden is expected to help out around the house. Not very coherent expectations!

I am not going to say that Eden will grow up loving to do house chores, probably not, because although that I try hard to always be patient enough to include him, I know that many times I cannot help myself but rushing things. At least I think that it is important and positively challenging to try to be more in the moment with your child and find the joy in doing things together, although it will take more time and not turn out perfect. Seeing the satisfaction in the eyes of your child is worth so much more, so let go of the need for control and do not look at the watch for a while.

As an anecdote I can say that today Eden wanted to help me hang the wet laundry outside in our backyard. The ground is bare dirt, so if anything falls, it will inevitably get dirty. He took one item at a time and I helped him to reach up on the hanger, and the most funny thing was that he started to shake the clothes like he has seen me do, before he hung them up. A few things ended up in the machine again, but who cares. Everyone was happy and with a feeling of accomplishment and good self-esteem. What more could we ask for? For me, this is a radical transformation from being pretty much anal retentive with many things. I can only thank my wonderful son for that. He is the best teacher I could get!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Child abuse is obviously acceptable according to Facebook Community Standards!

On Facebook there is a video depicting a woman physically abusing a baby, hitting him hard with a pillow as well as her hands. She is pinching him hard, slapping his face and shoving him around roughly, while he is screaming for mercy.

Here is a direct link to the video, but I want to warn you that the content is utterly disturbing.

We are several people who have reported this video as graphic violence, but got the answer that it is not violating the Facebook Community Standards. I got an answer in English, while a friend of mine got hers in German. Every day Facebook's policy police is blocking breastfeeding pictures and educational material like illustrations of vaginas, while women-degrading and sexually explicit material is left untouched.

If this is not graphic violence, I don't know what is! Do they need blood? Death?! The video makes you sick to the stomach and I would personally want someone to trace this poor child and remove him from his inadequate caregiver.

The answer I got from Facebook on my report.

I posted this report on my wall (public post): It includes the screenshot of the answer I got from Facebook and comments from people who have seen it. There is also another link to the video in the commentary.

I have contacted several media sources in order to ask them to draw attention to this issue.

Friday, May 17, 2013

My 5th Shavuot

I just went to my 5th Shavuot dinner at my mother-in-law's. On the 26th of May I have been here for four years. It means that I am going in on my fifth year in Israel! Where did time fly?

On the holiday of Shavuot Jews eat only lost of different dishes with dairy, like milk and cheeses. Actually it is the Jewish holiday that I appreciate the most, culinarily, since me and my mother-in-law don't agree much on how meet is supposed to be cooked, or destroyed beyond recognition. Say no more...

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Competition in cyber space...

I am blaming Facebook for the lack of life on this blog. It is so easy to post things over there and most of my friends are there as well, so the blog became kind of superfluous. However, I cannot leave my witty brand name, so I will try to pick up the pace again.

This is Eden. Or Mr Egler as he calls himself! He was born at home, breech presentation, and it was the most amazing and empowering experience! He is almost 14 months old now, and another reason why I don't have peace to write creative blog posts.

I am finally back to science! I work part-time as a lab manager in a plant genomics lab at the University of Haifa. Our group deals with plant genomics; genomics of plant disease resistance; characterization, utilization and conservation of wild cereals. In half a year or so, I will go up to full time to pursue my PhD.

That is enough recap. Laila tov!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Life sign

My husband has started blogging (Hebrew)! That means that I have to kick my own butt and kick some life in my own blog.

This summer a revolution started in Israel, protesting against a monopolized economy that has skyrocketed the living expenses to a degree where only the richest can get by without a struggle. Besides that, liberal democracy is in jeopardy, with rightist fear-mongering as the general discourse among the ones who rule the country.

Pita on a demonstration.
Her sweater is a word game:
"Yesh li pipi ve kaki" means "I need to pee and poo"
On the sweater instead it says "Yesh li Bibi ve kaki"... ;)

I was demonstrating this summer, so was my dog and so where our kids and their mother with boyfriend - all but my husband. I know that he has the heart in the right place, but I could not seem to break him out of his indifference. Maybe not indifference, but rather despair.

Then a few days ago he just told me "I want to start a blog!" and I helped him set it up and there are two posts so far and all of a sudden he is far more outspoken and engaged than he has been even in our private discussions. I look forward to more of his thoughts. For you non-Hebrews, there is always Google translate!

Me and Pita.
She is 8 months old and
I am 22 weeks pregnant in the picture.

Another thing that has been neglected on the blog is that we are expecting a baby. As of today I am 24 weeks pregnant with a boy. He will be born around the beginning of April, at home in a birthing pool accompanied by a midwife. That is of course a separate story all by itself and there will be more about it.

Now I have to tend to my husband who just came home from a 35 km run together with Pita. He is preparing for Tiberias marathon on the 12h of January. Pita can follow him on those long runs, but Barak cannot. He is not the athletic type... ;)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Chasing wild pigs is not a good idea...

Even in the land of kosher food, pork products are available in special stores. The wild cousin of the domestic pig is also roaming the lands, something Barak got painfully aware of the other morning when he was our running with Yoram and the rest of the running group. Barak has a strong prey drive and sometimes follows scents out in the vegetation and this morning Yoram heard more noise than Barak possibly could create himself. Suddenly a whole family of wild boar comes out from the grove and stand some 20-30 m ahead of Yoram. He thought that his last moment had arrived, but luckily the pigs took off in the other direction. Barak first joined up with the rest of the group and when they all gathered, the other guys told Yoram that Barak was probably stabbed by one of the pigs, and surely he had a wound on his thigh.

When Yoram came home with Barak I shaved the area around the wound opening, which was approximately a 3 cm cut and we saw that it bled pretty abundantly. I took him to the vet and at this point he also had a large bump on the thigh, which was indicating a hematoma inside his thigh muscle. He was put under anesthesia and our vet started to work on him.

He had to cut a 15 cm opening to be able to remove all the coagulated blood and damaged tissue in his muscle. After that he got stitches both in the muscle tissue and two levels of stitches in the skin, plus a long drainage tube exiting in two directions.

ּBarak was pretty docile the rest of the day, but ate his dinner in the evening. Already the next morning he was behaving just as usual, with no tendencies of pain. He is on antibiotics and he is keeping the drainage clean all by himself. I wonder, though, if he learned a lesson from chasing wild pigs - especially with babies...

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Inherited wisdom




Distracted Mum, focused Pup

The previous pictures do not depict inherited wisdom. They show how brilliantly fast I have succeeded to teach Pita the basics in obedience. We progressed a lot in the beginning, but then we kind of leveled for a while, but I definitely need to continue bring things forward. The thing is that the season has now reached real Israeli summer and outdoor activities have to be moved to evening time to avoid the midday heat. We have taught some tricks with the clicker though, indoors, such as giving high five and rolling over, where the former was a piece of cake, while the latter is still in progress.

If we are getting back to inherited wisdom, Barak definitely learned quite a few things from his late girlfriend Goshen. I can see that now when he applies the same tricks on Pita. For example, if Pita has a bone that Barak wants, he lures her with some other toy, or even just a stick, and since her innocent curiosity demands her to check his toy out, she leaves the bone for Barak to sneak over and take. Goshen always did like this with Barak and I expect Pita, with her female brightness, to develop the same strategy, and sooner or later overcome Barak.

When it comes to what to stick in your mouth, little Pita has not come that far yet. The other day she started puking, and during the afternoon she emptied her system completely, and not until late evening I got her to keep a bowl of boiled rice with liver bullion. She was also quite pitiful and quiet. The dogs had gotten raw beef bones earlier on that day, and Yoram immediately blamed that, but since I already feed her raw on a daily basis without any problems, I did not buy that theory, but instead I believe that she had eaten something inappropriate from somewhere outside. She basically sticks anything organic into her mouth, and happily carry and chew also completely inedible things that filthy people have thrown where it does not belong, alas, the risk of getting irritants into the system is quite high. Luckily, the morning after she was fine again, with full energy and appetite.

I have slowly increased the amount of food she gets during every meal, and now I add raw meat to the puppy kibble both for lunch and evening dinner. In the morning I still only add the unsalted cheese to the puppy kibble. Besides that I improvise, with things like carrot, alfalfa sprouts, garlic, yoghurt, liver bullion, raw tahina, broccoli etc., and whatever is in the bowl, she finishes. She weighs more than 7,5 kg now.


Last, but not least, a short movie of the dogs enjoying their raw bones.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Social security

I have lived here for a bit more than two years now, and the road to recognition in the form of visa and insurance have been anything but fast and smooth. My A5 visa, which entitles me to get social insurance was dated to the 9th of June, but things would not start moving automatically from that day. Not only did I need to go to Bituach Leumi, the most infamous of the Israeli bureaucracy entities, but I also found out that the possibility to get Kopat Holim (universal health insurance) would take another half year. Misrad Hapnim (Interior Ministry) have evaluated that I am allowed to reside in the country, but now it is time for Bituach Leumi to decide whether I am worthy of all the economical benefits. Certainly I am coming here for the 14 weeks of maternity leave, when in Sweden I would get 280 working days. Duh?! I simply want permission to pay from my salary to get health insurance, like everybody else.

This news really ticked me off, since I have been counting the days until we are able to start working on an additional human member of the family. Doing that without health insurance would simply be stupid. If things go as planned, I will not burden the system significantly anyway, since I am a natural childbirth advocate and want to give birth at home with a midwife (which is not covered by the health insurance), but just in case something would go wrong, I need a backup.

Today we went to Bituach Leumi in Haifa and arrived 7.45 to precede the worst queues. There were about 30 people waiting outside and they immediately informed us that we were last in line. When they opened everybody gathered and formed the queue that they previously only kept in their minds. We passed security quickly and after some confusion we came to the right person.

All the staff at Bituach Leumi drink bitter juice for breakfast and they all look intimidatingly angry sitting there behind their counters. However, no wonder with such a job! My husband on the other hand, is one of the most socially gifted persons I have ever met, and he goes up smiling and joking, turning the lady into soft jelly in his hands, including putting a big smile on her lips.

We got two good news. Pointer Software, where I work, has unwittingly paid social insurance from each of my paychecks, already during my simple working permit, and those money we will get refunded. Second, yes, it takes another six months to get Kopat Holim, but I am practically insured from when the A5 was issued and if I need medical care during these six months, I should just save the receipts to get it refunded retroactively.

Restrictions have been lifted and I am hoping that it will take quickly. I am 38 years old now and it is about time to squeeze at least one kid out.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Horse & Hound

I have not been in the stable for a long time, first because I started working full time, then because of the move, and the last few months cannot be blamed on anything else but me being way too comfortable in my new home.

Before the weekend I stumbled upon Anat in the supermarket, a woman who also comes and rides regularly, and speaking to her was nudge enough for me to decide that I would meet up with her today. I left Barak at home and brought Pita.

I unleashed her when we arrived, but I was not prepared for just how debonairly she would roam the place. When I started to bring the Shepherds I needed to nanny them in the beginning, Barak since the place is full of cats, but also Goshen since she was not used to horses. When I rode I often had trouble keeping the dogs from herding me and my horse.

Pita on the other hand, immediately made friends with the stable dog Whisky, an old Vizsla male and she confidently went up and smelled the horses when they were taken out of their stalls, although she intuitively restrained herself from entering both the stalls and the arena. All the horses are more or less bomb proof, so I am not particularly worried that she will get kicked. I saw a few occasions were she was sniffing around between their legs and when the horse just lifted the leg, Pita moved away, and I think that this were lessons enough to teach her that these creatures can actually move.

When I rode, she stayed in the stable chatting around with the people that were hanging there. The stable is with no walls and the
stable alley is clearly visible from the arena, so I could always keep an eye on her, but there really was no need.

She loved rolling around in the manure, smelling, tasting, just like any dog. After we finished with the horses we went down to the fruit groves to pick some blackberries and mulberries, and as if she was not dirty already she found some really swampy areas, due to the irrigation, and after playing around there, the whole dog was muddy and needed one shower before she could even enter a car, and then one more shower to really clean her when we came home. Five minutes later she had passed out of exhaustion.

ָA Muddy and happy Pita
(Before the mud down in the grove)

I rode Noor, and I had heard that she had changed a lot and become lazy, so I did not have any high expectations on her rideability, but she surprised me. No doubt, she was a bit more stiff in certain areas than when I rode her daily, but she gave her face and she moved away nicely for the legs, and she stopped from all gaits, just as if I would have worked her yesterday. Had she had sliders, I am willing to bet that she would have slid!

All in all it was a very inspiring day and I will surely go back to my previous routine of going there at least a few times a week when I am not working. Surely it will be good both for my own well-being, but also for Pita's socialization and environmental training - and of course for poor Noor who probably was just bored to death from carrying kids around.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Video of Pita

I have put together a little video of Pita, playing with Barak and showing off some newly achieved skills through shaping with clicker and also some regular obedience.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Unknown age

Full after a meaty lunch

Pita and her litter mates were rescued together with their mum and therefore no one knows their exact age. Estimates have ranged between a present age of two to three months, but we have gone with the older age. In her vaccination book there is a birthday written in as the 20th of March, and that is also what my qualified guess supports, around three months. Today we took the stitch in her forehead (by the way she has healed perfectly) and we asked the vet for an age estimate and he said around 3-3,5 months, so we will keep her birthday as is.

She has killed my tomatoes in the garden and she weighs way over 5 kg already. Right now she is digesting a big chunk of meat, laying between daddy's legs on our bed. This afternoon we will try to catch some obedience training on video. Stay tuned!

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Not so tiny anymore

There is definitely nothing wrong with the appetite in this puppy! She eats three times per day, and every meal is a bit different, but based on the puppy kibble. For breakfast I mix in a non-salted fresh cheese (normally used to fill burekas), and for lunch I let the kibble soak for a while in some of the liver bullion I got left over when I pre-boiled the liver to make oven-dried liver treats. In the evening she gets raw meat with the kibble, this week it has been from chicken, including meat, fat, skin, cartilage and some pieces of bone, to slowly get her used to eating whole animals. She is doing perfectly on it and has no problem whatsoever to digest it into normal poo. She also sleeps good throughout the night, except for that we take her out once or twice to relieve herself.

Then every afternoon she eats a good handful of the dried liver, during our training sessions, and then of course she chews on the bones that are laying around everywhere, both the marrowbones, but also different raw-hide bones. During the last few days she has gained 100 g per day, which is quite impressive, and we have a fun time weighing her. It is a game for her now, and we don't need to fight to make her sit still on the scale, or weigh her together with us. She just steps up and sits quietly until I allow her to step off again. She will hit the 5 kg mark before the weekend. On Monday she is three months old!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Realtime puppy

I am really trying to imbibe every precious moment right now, since I know that before you blink, the puppy has grown up into a big dog. She has been here for almost 3 weeks and already so much has happened. When she came she weighed 3,2 kg and now she is up on 4,7! When she arrived she was a baby, timid and seemingly fragile, and the first few days we lifted her out into the garden to pee and poo. She could neither walk on a leash.

Now she joins for every trip with Barak, and she walks nicely on the leash. She runs and plays like crazy and we have even brought her on a few longer walks (1-2 km) in the fields and she never gives up and whines. She also sleeps less. The first week she took long, regular naps all along the day, but now she stays alert all day except for a few shorter naps. This also means that she demands a lot more stimulation, and she also gets it. I am continuing with the obedience work and she is now started on the "heal", both sitting and walking. She is doing great! We have also started to work more in various environments. She has also learned what the clicker is all about, and it took me only one session to teach her to get up on the scale and sit down on it. Teaching tricks through shaping is sooooo fun and rewarding for both handler and dog and I am looking forward to teaching her loads of tricks with it.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Pita got a painful lesson

Bringing a new dog into a home where there already lives an older dog is always a bit of a risk, and the coexistence project will go on for quite a while before everybody have completely accepted each other and set the ground rules and hierarchy. During the first two and a half weeks that Pita has lived with us, Barak has slowly allowed her to come closer and closer to him, and although she has been quite obnoxious, he has most of the time put up with it. We have also corrected her when we feel that she has bothered him too much. When she has crossed the line, he has barked at her and that has been enough to deter her for a while. We felt pretty confident that he had the situation under control by that, but obviously he did not agree.

We have had the dogs together also unsupervised from almost day one, since they have access to the whole house and the garden, and I don't like the idea of separating them. They need to learn how to get along, and I know that they also appreciate each others company. Although they are not laying bundled together (yet!) I know that they seek each others company.
Usually, both of them sleep during the time when we are away somewhere.

Yesterday we went to aikido in the evening and the dogs were alone for about three hours. When we came home both of them greeted us, happy as usual, but immediately I discovered that Pita had blood on her head. Looking more thoroughly, she had some scratches, a bit of swelling and one 2 cm long deeper cut in the soft tissues on her skull. At first, probably due to denial, we discussed whether she could have been stuck with her head somewhere, but soon enough we acknowledged the fact that it must have been Barak that gave her a "kiss". The reptile brain then tried to plant hysteria in me, but that is of course to no good. Neither was this any proof that Barak is a viscous dog that needs further restrictions. She was a pest, and he nipped her. Simple as that! He is also solid enough to not go completely bananas on her. I know him that well.

This morning we took her to the vet, and some antibiotics and three stitches later, she is as happy-go-lucky as always. Actually she was just that even last night when we came home, so no signs of emotional trauma - except for the fact that she seems to respect Barak's boundaries and integrity a bit more than before. I hope that is a lesson that lasts. Nevertheless, we will be even more tedious with correcting her bad behaviour towards him. Another month, and her ability to understand subtle body posture signaling will have developed fully.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Salmon cakes again

The first time (and only time so far) I made breaded salmon cakes for the family was last fall, and it resulted in severe frowning from big one, and a complete refusal from the small one. The cakes were mild and tasty and not at all "fishy", so it was all a matter of exercising power. Today we made them again, this time with sweet potatoes instead of regular potatoes, and they were covered with crumbs and sesame seeds! Delicious! The big one even looked optimistic while he watched us in the kitchen and he finished two cakes without any fuss, and the small one finished one, although accompanied by some whining, and a lot of determination from us. Sometimes it is only a matter of giving it some time and work on other things, and then things seem to fall into place by themselves.

Food routines

We bought a huge sack of a very good puppy food for Pita, that is supposed to last her entire first year. We also bought a small double bowl for food and water. The first week I did some obedience training with kibble and then let her continue to eat in the bowl, but I quickly realized that this routine made her eat less from the bowl. She became hand-fed, which is something that I do not desire, so now obedience will be rewarded differently. We also saw that if Barak did not finish all his food (which is pretty unusual) then she dived into his bowl head first with all her enthusiasm. Then I understood that not only was his food tasty for her, but she also liked the large bowl. From then on, she is fed in Goshen's old bowl, and she is standing with her front paws in the bowl to reach all the food. We also mix in a few of Barak's kibble in her kibble. Tricking a puppy to eat is evidently not different from tricking kids. You just need to be a bit attentive and creative. Tricking her or not, she is thriving in our care and has gained a kilo since she arrived two weeks ago.

This is how happy Pita is after chewing on her bone

As I said previously, our dogs also get a lot of raw food, and yesterday we brought two huge cow hip joints for them. It was hilarious to watch little Pita hauling around a piece of bone that was almost the size of herself. Today I will boil half a kilo of beef liver, cut it into small pieces and then slowly dry it on low temperature in the oven to create liver treats for training. It is the ultimate treat. No dog can resist it.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Love, eat, learn, sleep, poo, pee...

Yesterday my little Pita became 10 weeks old, and she has gained 300 g during that first week in our home. She had almost only puppy kibble, but I want to slowly get her used to a mixed diet of raw meat, bones, organ meat and fish, complemented with some kibble, just like my other dogs. One day she got a chicken back and she went completely bananas with it, but I did not let her run and hide with it, since I want her to get used to us messing with her food irrespectively of how attractive it is for her. I grabbed the piece of chicken carcass while she was chewing on it and she did not show any tendencies of food aggression, which is a good sign. She did get slightly loose in the tummy from it, but nothing serious. I will give her another piece tomorrow.

Pita is eating and growing!

Pita is now officially a bed dog. My husband has always said "never any dogs in bed", and that is also how we started with Pita, and it worked OK. However, slowly she broke him down, and first she was allowed to be on the bed while we were sitting there with our computers, but soon she also spent the first night with us. Truth is that it has made the toilet business at night much easier. Now we notice immediately if she wakes up, and we can take her out right away, while when she was on the doggy bed on the floor, we always had accidents at night. I don't mind either. There is nothing more cuddly than spooning with a warm pup, and I am sure that the future will sort itself out. The funniest thing is that my husband blamed Yuval and said "You know, Yuval said that you can never keep pit bulls out of bed!". :)

Pitas left eye is still blue as the sky, while her right eye is somewhere between green and amber. It is clear to me now that she will stay odd-eyed.

Today I practiced some obedience with Pita in the park for the first time. Barak was also with us and I worked with them both intermittently. At first she was a bit too excited, and jumped on me instead of sitting down in front of me in the recall, but she soon focused and worked beautifully. In the kitchen she handles a "stay" both sitting and laying for up to 15-30 seconds, and I can also get up and move a few steps back and forth, while I have her absolute focus. One time I even circled 360 degrees around her without her moving, which is very well done, after merely a weeks training.

She is tirelessly trying to seduce Barak to play with her, but most of the time he just ignores her and moves away, and if she gets too rough on him, he educates her. However, the other day he actually bowed down for her for the first time, and sometimes he drops toys in front of her, so I think that it is only a matter of time before they really play.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Furry piranhas needs education

This afternoon we walked to the park nearby for the dogs to run off some steam. We have not taken Pita to the fields yet, since she simply cannot manage such long walks just yet. She is still too small. There was a couple sitting on a blanket on the grass, and we let the dogs off the leashes. Barak is very aloof and never approaches strangers, while the pup of course (also being a Pit bull) ran straight up to them, and they were of course enchanted. Right now she does not scare anybody, but in time she will have to learn to stay with us and not run up to unknown people. Anyway, they started to play with her, and of course she used her teeth. They just kept on triggering her. At that point I started to intervene, upon the woman explained that she didn't mind. Then I explained to her that this little pup is actually not allowed to use her teeth on humans, simply due to the fact that although it might be cute now when she is 9 weeks old, it will not be that cute when she is a 9 months old muscled Pit bull. Then I added that she is actually a Pit bull and not a poodle, and that she has to learn good behaviour. They understood and looked a bit embarrassed. This attitude is precisely what makes ignorant people lose control over their powerful dogs, and it really ticks me off.

Visiting Goshen

This picture was taken the weekend before we got Pita, but I just love it and want to share it. We took a walk out to the fields with Barak, to where Goshen is resting, and we put new flowers on her grave. The sorrow feels somewhat lighter now, and if nothing else, a brand new baby pup will keep our minds busy.

Me and Barak by Goshen's resting place

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Trading places

OK, there is something peculiar with my dogs. My Bully pup is taking corrections like an attentive German Shepherd, while asking my adult German Shepherd to respect boundaries is like banging your head to a wall. He is stubborn like, yes, a Bully.

Usually my dogs have free access to both the house and the backyard, through a constantly open back door, but while I clean the house I expect them to stay outside. Goshen always respected that, but Barak, he still never learned. He keeps trying to walk inside while I have soap all over the floor and it drives me crazy. Today was the first "cleaning house" experience for Pita and I began to ask both dogs to stay out. Pita was laying on her pillow on the porch, and she did not leave it until I was ready, while Barak tries to trespass as usual. I guess that it was not only my request, but also the fact that I was messing around with water, mop and a floor scraper, but nevertheless, I am very proud of her.

Pita being a good girl while Mummy cleaned the house.

I prefer to educate my dogs with as little corrections and physical reinforcements as possible. The emphasis should be on positive reinforcement, but I am also aware that with a powerful dog you cannot avoid situations where things get physical.

Barak was 2,5 when he came to us, and poorly educated, alas, he has demanded quite some physical corrections to learn to respect our boundaries and integrity. Little Pita is a carte blanche, completely undestroyed, and however she develops, I cannot blame anybody else. She also needs physical corrections to learn not to jump, nibble, charge at the cat, and so on, but with the obedience it is different. I have taught her all the basic commands without touching her. No pressing on the butt to sit down, no jerking on any leash - only voice and treats. The only correction is that the treat/praise is withdrawn when she doesn't do what I ask of her.

I have made the family agree to not use certain commands with Pita yet, since I want to make them absolute. I only ever say these commands when I have her absolute attention and when I feel certain that she will obey, because every time you say a command and the dog gets off the hook, that command is weakened. I also only train these things in the kitchen, so far. Obedience commands need to be taught in several steps, and successively you increase the level of difficulty, by adding time and distraction. Taking a pup to the park to start practicing obedience is like putting a 9 years old kid in a PhD course - not fair.

So, me and Pita we still do obedience in the kitchen, but I started to increase the time she stays in a "sit" or a "down" before she gets the reward, which is the first stage of "stay", and in that moment she was showing attitude. She got pissed with me for not rewarding her instantly, but now I think that I got the point through that I just ask her to stay for a longer time in the position. Educating a pup means walking on a fine line. If she makes mistakes, you can almost exclusively blame yourself. Either you moved too fast, with time or distraction, or you simply did not register the signs that the pup has lost her motivation and attentiveness. A pup in Pitas age has a concentration span of 5-10 minutes, and after that you do more harm than good. Divide the training into many short sessions during the day, and never try to teach the pup something when it is tired or winded up for some other reason. It is useless. Pita gets three scheduled sessions every day, one before each meal, and also ongoing lessons about "who's in charge" during play.

Yesterday evening we took the dogs to the park and they ran around freely. Barak has not really figured out whether he can play with her, but she surely tries to play with him. He is slowly coming around, though, and he is not keeping her on the same distance anymore and his patience is expanding. During the night she even went to his bed once and laid down beside him, and although he finally moved away, he actually stayed with her for a moment. I am sure that she is breaking him down slowly, slowly... ;)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Welcome Pita the Pit bull

It has been a few intense weeks since Goshen passed away. Already when she was still with us, we discussed getting another dog, so when the sad loss hit us, it came natural to immediately plan for a new canine member in the family. But, what? Puppy, or an older dog? What race? Buy, or adopt? Yoram's ex planned to take puppies from the Dogue de Bordeaux Marta, but now we suddenly found us in a situation with one grieving and lonely Barak, and we felt that we did not want to wait for her to get into heat, be mated and give birth. That would take at least another 3 months.

However, we borrowed Marta for a few days, just to cheer Barak up, and it helped. He did not refuse the food anymore, and he had someone to play with. I started to make plans. Close to Netanya there is a shelter run by Yuval Mendelovitz (Facebook page), aka the Angel of Pit bulls. He is the only one in Israel that in an organized way rescues and rehabilitates Pit bulls and other stigmatized dog breeds. I am well acquainted with the breed and know that it is a superior dog - in the right hands. A Pit bull is a working dog, with a lot of energy and will power, and without proper guidance they can definitely develop out of hand, but that goes for any powerful breed.

The day before we were supposed to visit Yuval the first time, Marta's owner told us to not get a dog, since they did not have room enough for Marta, and that they most likely would like to give her to us. Yoram and Marta share a special love, and we were all happy. She was already functioning in our home and we looked forward to taking her. The next day we were told that they either wanted to take a litter of puppies on her, or have us pay some money for her. We discussed it, leaned towards paying for her. She is pure-bred, but without papers, and I am principally against backyard breeding. However, they asked for much more than it cost to adopt a Pit pup from Yuval, and since that felt more appealing for all other reasons, we were in doubt. The next day, Yoram gets a phone call asking why he is not picking up the "lady", upon he shares that he wants to discuss the matter. Then he is being told to forget that, she is ours, free of charge. He picked her up. We notice that Barak was signalling that she is about to go into heat, and then we decide to neuter her. We thought that just to be nice, we share this with the previous owners, upon which they got frantic and started chanting about "misunderstandings" and that they definitely want to take puppies from her. That made us boiling mad, but the dog moved back home. We don't want to "borrow" a dog! What were they thinking? That they would save some food money from keeping her with us, and then take her back? Heartless idiots, really!

Now, we were determined to go to Yuval, and last Friday afternoon we packed Barak and the kids in the car and drove to his place. We had a discussion about our life, about Barak and our cat Karma, and we all agreed that it would be most appropriate with a puppy. Barak will get used to her in his own pace, and she can also get used to the cat while growing up.

When we saw "our" pup, a female from Inbal's litter, I melted immediately. I noticed that one of her eyes will stay blue, while the other one will turn amber, and that did the trick! She also seemed very gentle. We finished the deal and took off home with our 9 weeks old baby girl.
Yuval had given her the name Lynn, but we decided to rename her to Pita! It lays better in the mouth, and cuts better through the air than Lynn. Our little pup got car sick on the way home and threw up all over me, and since she also was very dirty from laying with the litter in the shelter, the first thing she got when she got home was a good bath, and I also cut the tips of her claws with Yoram's nail clipper. She kept us up all night the first night.

Pita, the Pit bull girl

Pita resting in the park

Odd-eyed Pita

Now Pita has been with us for five days and she is making amazing progress, but we are also working determinately with her. She is almost house-broken, except that she still cannot physically control her business all the time. She sleeps all through the night, except that we take her out a couple of times during the night. I am feeding her three times per day, and then she gets to eat as much as she wants during 15 minutes, and then the food is gone until the next meal. I also use her motivation before every meal to do a short obedience session. She already knows "sit", "down" and "come here" (although in Hebrew), and she has started to sit down right in front of me also on other occasions, just to please, so she is a very clever little dog. Now when I have a small pup, I am seriously considering engaging in formal obedience with her, not for competition but just for fun. She definitely has the drive, and the intelligence.

She is also not as gentle as she was the first day. ;) After becoming "warm in her clothes" she has started to show a very high energy and a lot of confidence. When she is not sleeping she is all over the place and the kids have not really figured out how to deter her from putting her sharp puppy teeth in their legs, so we have to supervise them all the time, except when she falls asleep in their arms. She is also getting boulder every day with Barak and she is challenging him to play by nibbling his tail, balls and groins, but he does not play with her yet. He just gently, but firmly, corrects her and his assistance in educating her is invaluable.

Thus, little Pita is not a beginners' dog, but of course we knew that from the start. She will need lots and lots of exercise, boundaries and discipline, but also endless love. She also gives endless love, just like the Pit bull is bred to do. We have a whole dog life of endless love ahead of us. Aren't we lucky?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Our beloved Goshen - Rest in Peace

Goshen laughing, one week before she passed away

We have unexpectedly lost our precious Goshen. I have been crying comfortless for days and it is not until now that I can gather myself to write about it. Saturday morning she was happy as usual and we had planned to go and visit Yoram's mother in Karmiel. For some reason, I did not feel like going, and Yoram left alone with the kids just before lunch. I cannot say if that was intuition or destiny, or just pure coincidence, but I am so happy that I stayed at home, because right after they had left I noticed that Goshen was acting strangely. She went out and laid alone in the garden and I went out and called her up on the porch, and then I noticed that she was wobbling and could not stand up properly. I immediately checked her and noticed that her gums were completely pale and that she was breathing heavily. She did not even want to eat a chicken heart, but she did drink some water. I called Yoram and explained the situation and they decided to come home earlier than planned. I feared some kind of poisoning, but could not figure out what that could be.

When Yoram came home she was not any better and we tried to reach our vet, but he was off duty and he recommended us to go to a clinic in Haifa that backs him up when he is gone. We had to carry out a very weak Goshen to the car and we drove there. The young vet on duty started to examine her and took blood samples, but the blood initially seemed OK. Her tummy was not hard or swollen either, so we could not explain her shock state. Not until she examined her tummy with ultrasound, she could see something suspicious on her spleen, some liquid accumulation. We also took a few x-ray shoots on her, which confirmed the same. By now, a new blood sample revealed that she was actually loosing blood, and the accumulation in her tummy was just that, a big hemorrhage. The young vet called in the head vet of the clinic, who explained the condition and prognosis. He said that there was a 70% risk that the hemorrhage was caused by a tumor on the spleen. This type of cancer is called Hemangiosarcoma and it is very common on some larger breeds, and German Shepherd in particular. It is a blood-fed type of tumor that rarely is discovered until it suddenly bursts and causes a sudden death from inner bleeding. What he could have done was to open her and remove the spleen and send it to biopsy, but since Hemangiosarcoma is a malign type of cancer, and also very metastatic, the risk that it had already spread to other tissues was very high. Besides that, Goshen was already too anemic to safely be put under general anesthesia, so although it was excruciatingly painful, we understood that we had reached the end of her life.

I have never seen Yoram cry before, but now he broke down like a child, and so did I. Gal was also with us, and at first I don't think that he understood the reality in what was going on, but when he did he cried as well. I was sitting face to face with Goshen when she got the sedative and the anesthetic that put her to sleep and I can swear that I saw peace in her eyes, acceptance and contentment. She was OK with passing on and satisfied with her life. No fear or stress, or signs of disagreement. Although I found it sad that this did not happen with our regular vet, who has known Goshen all her life, I am also grateful that it was on a Saturday and we were home and could take care of her. I cannot even begin to imagine how it would have felt to come home from work to a dead dog. Now she had company during her last day in life.

We put Goshen back in the car and drove home. Yoram went to the neighbor and borrowed some shovels and I went in and took Barak out. He smelled me differently already in the house and when I opened the backdoor to the car, he saw Goshen and smelled her. He jumped up into the car and sat down on her, just as if he was claiming her for the last time. Then he jumped back out and looked away as if that was enough. We put him back in the house and drove out into the fields to a spot that Yoram had thought of as suitable.

Goshen's last resting place

We laid her down in front of two small trees that are standing solely on a small hilltop, viewing out over the Jezreel valley. We covered her with rocks to prevent the jackals from digging her up and we put some flowers. I opened a bottle of wine and we toasted her and thanked her for our time together, and then we all went home to a painfully empty house. Everybody cried themselves to sleep and the kids were calling her name in their sleep all night...

Goshen's wonderful view over the valley

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Welcome Karma!

A petite semi-long haired tortoiseshell tabby girl

I knew somewhere deep down that our family would not be complete without a cat, but with two notorious cat-chasers in the family the cat needed to be made of a special material, brave, but cautious and smart. Destiny would bring us that sooner or later, was my belief, and Sunday evening she arrived.

The dogs were inside and the cat was meowing in the backyard so we went out and talked to her and gave her some food. She seemed very confident, so we took Goshen out first, since she is the easiest one. She was just sitting still watching the cat, however intensely, and since the cat did not mind the dog, Yoram took Barak out as well, but on a leash. He was very excited, but had no choice but to sit still.

Suddenly the cat jumped off, and both dogs tried to charge after her. Goshen stopped on commando, and Barak was hanging safely on his collar. We took the dogs inside and within minutes the cat was back. We said goodnight for the night. In the morning she was outside and she got some breakfast. In the afternoon I bought a muzzle for Barak on the way home, since I knew that he would nip her if he got the chance. He had it on for a while when we spent time together on the porch. He quieted down so after a while, so I took it off. I wanted him to smell her so I let him stretch his nose over my lap, and suddenly, without any notice, he just took her foot in his mouth! I almost panicked, bent his mouth up and disciplined him harshly. The most strange thing is that the cat only meowed and did not seem to care more than that. It did not scare her, and she did not take off. Obviously it did not even hurt. It is possible that he did not bite her hard, but still fought me to not let go.

In the evening Yoram came home and he just let her into the house, and she did not hesitate. I was very nervous over Barak, but Yoram assured me that he would not do her anything when we all watched over it. He did not. I guess that I just did not trust him, and that energy probably affected the whole situation. From that moment, indoor coexistence was no problem.

What still is an issue is outdoors. Whenever the cat wants to leave the porch and go out in the garden, the dogs prey drive is involuntary, at least in Barak. Goshen has understood to let her be, but Barak just cannot control himself, so there we need to supervise thoroughly. And of course, we never leave them alone together anywhere just yet.

Comfortable on the running washing machine

Bottom line is, that she is a brave little cat, our Karma. She walks between the legs on the dogs in the kitchen, and if they get too close, they get a paw on the nose. She stretches out purring on the bed, while the dogs keep intense attention to her. It sure complicates our lives quite a bit, since we need to be more alert, and we cannot just open the back door anymore and just let the dogs out without checking if she is there. Sometimes, Barak is simply leashed in the yard, but sometimes not. Depends on how much effort we can spend. I am working with a lot of positive reinforcement, by rewarding Barak when he is calm around the cat, but if he charges after her, he will get punished, because that is a nono!

The cat has learned exactly how to navigate around our home. She knows how to pass the dogs to get out of the back yard, and when she wants to get back inside, she meows on the front door. In the evening she comes inside, during dinner and the evening chores, and then we spend some time with her in bed before we let her out for the night. Even if all the animals learn to get along, I think that she will stay out during the nights. After all, cats are nocturnal animals. Tomorrow we will take her to the vet to get her spayed. I guess that we are her family now. Since you cannot own a cat. A dog has owners, while a cat has personnel. We will cherish every day that she chooses to keep us.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sedulous wins...

... or shame on him who gives up!

Happy boys with a mountain of pancakes!

About two years ago I moved in with a four years old and an eight years old, who never had eaten anything else but white bread, white pasta, breaded schnitzel, burekas, Bamba and Bissli. We took off on a bumpy journey together, since I have different ideas about food than they were used to. We have taken baby steps, blended with a lot of friction, and had periods when the little one refused all food, period. Their father also saw the need for a change and we fought the battle together, sometimes with frustration, but with as much wisdom and patience as we could bring forward.

For a long while we were stagnated at a few vegetables, tuna, fish schnitzel (containing mostly soy), egg and an occasional fruit, but I wanted to introduce more veggies, more fruits and berries, and above all more fish. Canned tuna, with all due respect, is not a sufficient source of omega-3, and I dreamed of getting them to eat salmon. Maybe 6 month ago, I made delicious salmon cakes ones, which the big one tasted, but rejected, while the little one refused to even look at them. That was a loss that I grieved.

Nowadays they both are very interested in what is healthy and not, and our meals often involve discussions about food and health. They also see their father and me eat with a good appetite and filled with joy, and also that we prefer natural and healthy foods. The other evening we had bought a small jar of pickled herring and a jar with fresh mackerel in oil. Only for the two of us, of course. No unrealistic expectations here! Imagine our surprise when Junior wanted to taste the herring! And he found it tasty, and had a few more bites! Me and Yoram were sitting with our jaws down on the table.

A few days later, last Friday, Yoram said, let's make salmon for everybody. We had recently bought 3 kg of Norwegian salmon from our local fish dealer, and we took out an appropriate piece from the freezer. No attempts to hide anything, we just cut it into mouth-piece chunks and fried it with sesame oil, teriyaki sauce, ginger, garlic and sweet pepper. On the side we had fried potatoes. Delicious, juicy and a little sweet. We put potatoes and merely a few pieces of fish on each plate to not overwhelm the kids, and now it was time to drop our jaws once more. Initially, we had to encourage them slightly, but the big one took a piece of salmon to his mouth, and here the wonder happened. His face broke out into a big smile, that for us was worth a thousand bucks! To his surprise it was actually very tasty. They both finished their plates, and we felt more accomplished than ever before.

Yesterday we had a BBQ quite late in the afternoon which cancelled our customary Shabbat evening pancakes. Today I am home alone with the kids and I promised to give them their pancakes today instead. They have Passover holiday and Yoram works his last day before the holiday. I asked the kids if we shouldn't do the day the other way around and eat pancakes for lunch and something more proper in the evening after their water polo. I also promised them as many pancakes as they could eat. They were hooked on the idea. Then I said that instead of only having their regular chocolate cream or honey on the pancakes, I would do two other fillings. I made one with mashed strawberries and banana and one with grated apple, cinnamon and some honey. Both of them had one pancake each of the "new" things, and the rest with chocolate or honey, and I did not mind. Just tasting the other things was more than I could have ever asked for half a year ago. I ate seven, Ziv ate six, and Gal ate five, although the two last ones went down very slowly for Junior.

We are beginning to find harmony in relation to food. Food is no longer a power tool for the kids, but instead something that brings joy and pleasure to our lives, and the kids feel the same way. We are still balancing on a fine line, but the worst obstacles have been overcome.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Blueberry + Sabra = True

Sometimes Israelis that I know well ask me how I cope with the infamous sabra mentality. It happens after they see me interact with some totally cold and arrogant person who almost seems to evaluate whether I am worthy of his service, or not. Truth is, that although I am a pretty well-grounded person, with a "water on a goose" ability to shake things off, I was sincerely moved by this behavior for quite some time before I started to just ignore it.

However, I don't think that I ever took it personal - I was rather fascinated with how people had become that way, and of course there are many aspects that together forced this tough surface onto the native Israeli Jews. Because it is only the Jews. Never that you go into an Arab establishment and they look at you as if you would have arrived from outer space.

The term sabra was coined by the early Zionist movement, mostly in the kibbutzim and moshavim, where the new generations of Jews grew up, born in Israel and with Hebrew as their native language. At this time, the kibbutzim were strongly ideological communities, far from any happy-go-lucky hippy collectives. They consisted of hard-working people who went as far in their communal lifestyle as to keeping all children in children's homes, separated from their biological parents. This created a few generations of more or less emotionally detached individuals, and I have heard Israelis explain this as an altruistic sacrifice to get through the difficult times during the build-up of the Israeli nation.

This is certainly not an excuse for later generations, but the Jewish collective memory of the pogroms during Diaspora, as well as the fact that Israel has been under constant existential threats from neighboring Arab nations, from the beginning up until today, can also explain the tough and thorny skin on the Israelis. I would not say that Israel is a destination for the convenient traveller, who wants to meet cheesy (and false) smiles wherever he goes. I even know Jews who made aliyah, but gave up and moved back into Diaspora again, not only because of the sabras, but life in general, which can be quite demanding and frictional. I guess that a challenging life needs to be up ones ally to really thrive here.

The nuances in the behavior differ between a tough guy in a sandwich bar in Ramat Yishay, and a snobby barista in Tel Aviv, but the essence is the same. What furthermore is the same, is the soft and sweet inside. It is always there - you just need a little patience to penetrate, and when you succeed the love story is a fact. With the roughness of the sabra comes also a strong spirit that inspires you in ways that I would not replace for any superficial friendliness in the world. For me, sabra is something genuine and honest, and the blueberry is thriving among them.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Our new home in images

Green garden

Fragrant Citrus flowers

Colorful trees (Judas tree, Cercis siliquastrum)

Home + dojo = Hojo

O'Sensei watering us with knowledge

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Endo..rphines and hardened noodles

Check yourself!
Why do you do like you do?

How are you being perceived by your partner?

I have just spent 10 days in Stockholm. First a week-long seminar with Endo Sensei, and then a few days more with the local heroes Jorma Lyly and Jan Nevelius. A whole week of Endo seminar consists of a yudansha part, only for black belts, and then an open weekend seminar. An Endo yudansha seminar is a privilege to attend, since it so rarely happens that you know that you actually will enjoy practicing with each and every one aikidoka present. It is extremely crowded on the mat, but every person in the room is advanced enough to handle such a situation and we all practiced under the highest concentration and commitment.

This kind of intense practice makes you transcend into breathing, feeling, thinking, dreaming and talking about aiki. As we practice, we refine not only our bodies, but our minds, emotions and spirit. This week led me to a metaphor of the refinement of your physical qualities - how another person perceives you when you touch each other.

Most beginners can be compared to unboiled pasta. They are stiff and inflexible, but at the same time very easy to break (their balance). The separate body parts cannot move irrespectively of each other and they often feel reluctance in their bodies for certain movements. They avoid deep contact and fall in a clumsy way as they go down. Then they learn from the teacher that they should relax...

After a while they can do that, and then they become like boiled noodles. Over-boiled noodles to be more precise! Now they learn how to fall softly and follow their partner, but they also move excessively, like the wobbly noodles they are. They do not keep their physical integrity and they show a lot of openings. This is a time where the more advanced aikidokas need to take care to not hurt the "noodles", since they in this stage often are quite ambitious and very enthusiastic due to their newly-discovered flexibility, and they happily let people throw them around although they are not really yet collected enough to always stay safe on their own.

The next phase is the longest one, since it will go on for as long as you keep on practicing aikido. This is when you turn into a metal spring, that gets thicker, tougher and heavier, without ever loosing its elasticity and ability to store energy. If you think of it, it reminds a lot of the physique of a wild animal. This is the quality of a true warrior...

Monday, January 31, 2011

Landed here for 5 minutes

Jan Nevelius has been here again and we have had five days filled with wonderful aikido revelations. He also visited Tivon one day, as well as our own little hojo, which was an honor. What happened there will stay there, but it did involve aikido, yes. The result from everything is that we have a lot of new material to work on, mostly in our own dojo, where we are more free to express what we want for ourselves.

On Wednesday I go for my annual February vacation in Sweden, which will span over four packed weeks, in Malmö, Stockholm and Västervik. I will manage family, friends, as well as a week with Endo Sensei.

My new job has somewhat eliminated my efforts to keep a steady pace on this blog, and my boss would probably be happy to know that. Nevertheless, I am not planning to shut it down just yet, since we are living in interesting times here in the Middle East.