Yesterday marked an important milestone…in exactly 8 weeks, on Sunday September 11, Rachel and I will be riding in the 2011 JDRF Ride to Cure Diabetes. On that day we will pedal the 78 miles around the circumference of Lake Tahoe along with groups of other folks riding for the same cause. My training for this started several weeks ago, and I must say that my physical conditioning has gotten noticeably better along the way.
Yesterday, as a part of my training, I participated in the American Cancer Society Bike-a-thon here in South Jersey. Along with thousands of other riders who were helping to raise money and raise awareness for this important cause, I rode the 50 mile route…I started by myself, but after the first 15 miles I met up with some friends from my neighborhood with whom I ride during the week…that’s when it got really got fun!! We rode the next 30 miles at an average speed of 21 mph!!! I had no idea I could do that…felt like a Tour de France cycling star!!! Being a 40-something year old guy who just got back on a bike, I thought that this was a tremendous accomplishment!
Why is this so important?? Why have we decided to to a bike ride this year?? Jake and Matt must live with Type 1 Diabetes every day, and until we find a cure, I will need to teach them at least two important things. First, they need to stay physically fit. By getting myself off of the couch and back into the saddle, I set a good example for them by making healthy living a priority. Second, and probably more importantly, by accomplishing things that I did not think were possible, I show them that they WILL be able to overcome the challenges put in front of them. Since I started my training rides in May, I have personally logged nearly 500 miles (about the distance from Washington DC to Boston!!!), and I will keep plugging away every day so that ultimately I can climb the mountain passes at Lake Tahoe and successfully complete this personal challenge that seemed a far reach just a few months ago. As that relates to our battle against T1D, we must keep traveling the road toward beating this disease one mile at a time, and eventually we will win the race for the cure!!
To that end, I still need your help! Our fundraising goal is set at $15,000 and we are almost there. Please help me in one of a few ways…first, please click or copy this link ( http://www2.jdrf.org/goto/teamkasper ) and make a donation today!! Every penny counts and we appreciate any contribution no matter how large or small. Second, if you already have made a donation (for which we are very grateful!), please forward this note, share it on your FB wall, tweet it, or email it to your contact list so that others see that you have a friend in need of their help. I think you would be shocked to find out how many of your friends and extended family have some connection to this disease, and they just may be willing to help get us to our goal. Third, come out and help support our team!! The South Jersey JDRF riders who are training this summer for the Ride to Cure Diabetes would love to grow our group. If you are a cyclist, a beginner or a seasoned pro, come out for a training ride with us…just let me know your interested and I’ll make sure we add you to our list.
In exactly two months, Rachel and I will conquer the Tour de Tahoe and hopefully we will be $15,000 closer to conquering Type 1 Diabetes. I know we can accomplish both goals!!
I first met Lori and Tommy on a blustery day in Philadelphia when we did their engagement shots. A few months later and they have tied the knot! Congratulations to this wonderful couple…I wish them a long life together filled with health, happiness, and prosperity!
Here are just a few shots for them to peek at before they leave for their honeymoon!
Last night (Saturday April 9, 2011) was the JDRF Black Tie Gala to raise money to find a cure for Type 1 Diabetes. The of the Gala was “Unfinished Business”, as we will have unfinished business until we find a cure. Here is a picture that I took (it was used as the cover the of program book) of many of our kids who have Type 1 Diabetes with our Gala sponsor Brian Radwell.
I was honored to have been asked to provide the evenings Fund-a-Cure speech (see entire text below). As I spoke the photos that are imbedded below were projected on several large screens and monitors throughout the ball room. Immediately after my speech an auctioneer began asking the room to raise their hands if they can donate a certain amount….he started high ($25,000) and worked his way down to $100…in about 15 minutes we raised over $100,000 through generous donations of the 350 people sitting in the room….AMAZING!!! Below is a copy of my speech. If it moves you…if you feel like you want to help…please feel free to contribute by making a donation to the JDRF Ride for the Cure ( http://www2.jdrf.org/goto/teamkasper) that Rachel and I are doing in September. Our personal goal is to raise $10,000 and I think we can make it with a little help. Thanks so much!!
Good evening. First and foremost, as a dad of two kids with Type 1 Diabetes and a member of the JDRF South Jersey Chapter Board of Directors, I want to thank you all for coming out tonight to help us in our mission to fund the cure for type 1 diabetes. As I look out across the room, I see several hundred of my friends and family all gathered to accomplish the same mission. I use the word family because, as I am sure all of you know, we all can relate to one another and the challenges we face on a daily basis in a way that non D families cannot imagine.
I have always believed that there is a silver lining in every dark cloud, and a reason behind everything that occurs. To that end, I am thrilled to have gotten to know each and every one of the members of this extended family, and have grown relationships with many of the people in this room that I know will last a life-time…that’s the silver lining. On the other hand, I have to be perfectly honest…I am dreadfully sorry that we ever had to meet!
We have all heard the saying that you can choose your friends, but you cannot choose your family. I guess none of us had the choice to join this family. My mission is to prove that saying wrong by working tirelessly to fund the research needed to find a cure for type 1 diabetes so that we can all divorce ourselves from the clan. While I love you all, I just don’t want to be a part of this family any more! I want out…but I do want to be invited to the reunion. I want our outstanding Gala Chairs, the Petcoves and the Mogells, to begin planning a reunion gala so that this family can get together and reminisce about the trials and tribulations of what we used to go through before our kids, mothers, sisters, brothers and all 3 million Americans were cured! I want you to think about how you can help get us there through your generosity and support tonight. I want you to think about how truly important it is to all of us to find the cure!
Since family is my theme this evening, I want to give you a snapshot of the Kasper family…we don’t have a white picket fence or a cat or a dog, but aside from that we are the typical family living the American dream. When our nuclear family gathers we spend time comparing notes about work, we debate politics, and we talk sports. We also compare pump settings, count carbs, brag about our new glucometers, and wake up at 2 o’clock in the morning to check blood sugars. You see when my family gets together we have a group of type 1 diabetics that include 2 young boys, their grandmother, their aunt and their cousin…it really is a family affair.
But what is the impact? How has this shaped our lives? Why is so important to find a cure?
The bottom line is that life with type 1 diabetes, especially for these kids, just plainly stinks. It’s not easy…there’s one challenge after another. For example, whether it’s making a seven year old diabetic or a thirty-seven year old non-diabetic school room mom understand the importance of diet, it’s clearly a challenge. My seven year old will say something as innocent as, “but I only ate a small candy bar” when his blood sugar is 400, or the room mom at school who will say something like “he can eat anything at the party as long as I don’t put sugar on it”, life is a battle of managing normalcy with good diabetes health. Until we find a cure that battle will cause me to wake up every night, as I have for the past 7 years, to check my sons’ blood sugars, or to simply look in and make sure that they are still breathing and not in a hypoglycemic coma.
What about from the kids’ perspective? We are, after all, a family and their input matters? How do we know how they feel about it? One day, I set out to determine just that. First I approached Jake, who was 5 at the time, and asked him to tell me one word that described what it was like for him to live with diabetes.
He quickly and simply said, “Brave!” Having been diagnosed at the age of 13 months, he has essentially known no other way of life, but has been on the receiving end of needles and syringes ever since. He knows he has diabetes. He knows he needs to check his blood sugar. He knows he needs insulin. But at the time he was only 5 and doesn’t truly understand what all that means…he only knows he needs to be brave!
When I got done with Jake, Matt was my next target. He and Ryan (who is my middle son and does not have diabetes) were at the kitchen table. Matt is shy and reserved about expressing his feelings…typical pre-teen!! He was hesitant to engage in this exercise, but I kept pushing. In the mean-time, Ryan interrupted and was told to wait just a minute until I was done with Matt. The discussion ensued…Ryan interrupted several more times, and each time was told to wait with an increasing tone of sternness. Finally Matt said to me “it’s difficult.” I told him I knew it was difficult, but if he could just try to think of a word I would leave him alone.
“no Dad, that’s my word. My life is difficult”…from the mouth of a 10 year old kid!
So I was done focusing on Matt and Jake. I got what I needed. My goal had been reached. I was able to describe in one word and with a photograph, how diabetes had touched the lives of two of my sons. It seems that they are always the focus. At meal time its blood sugar checks and boluses. Family activities are interrupted because of emergency site changes. Plans are altered or cancelled because of ketones and sick day rules…all because of diabetes, and in Ryan’s young mind all because of his brothers….Oh, wait, I almost forgot. What about Ryan? He had wanted to say something while I was focused on Jake and Matt. Finally I gave him his turn. “I wanted to tell you my word,” he said.
“I wanted to tell you that diabetes makes me feel Invisible!”
This is very important to me, and I hope it is to you as well. The fact is that there are 3 million Americans living with type 1 diabetes. If the experience of my family is any indication of the impact of that, it means that there are 7.5 million people living in families with diabetes who are impacted as well. I would never presume to compare the impact of those who live with the diagnosis to that of those who live with the diagnosed, but the reality is that this disease has had a profound effect on all of us, and we all need to find a cure. We need to find a way that when Ryan asks, as he gets ready to go to bed, when it will happen to him that I can say it won’t…we found a cure, we discovered how to prevent, we were successful and we can protect you!
As I am sure you expect, I will end this speech with a plea to open your wallets and pocket books and contribute as much as you can to help fund the cure. Before I do that, however, I want to tell you one more story that illustrates the fact that this disease impacts every aspect of family life.
The kids decided that they wanted to play Sorry. I thought okay, that’s fun enough, and doesn’t last all afternoon the way monopoly does. Rachel was reading a book (if you can still call it a book when all one does is scroll from page to page on the Kindle), I was available, and it’s a game for four players….perfect!! Well, not exactly. One of the things my kids like to do most is NOT put stuff away when they are done playing. As it relates to this story, that means that there are no green Sorry pieces left.
“That’s okay Dad”, Jake said. “I know what we can use!” Off he went toward what we refer to in our home as “The Cabinet,” where we have a veritable pharmacy of diabetes supplies. Within moments he returned with four cone shaped objects, just the right size to substitute as a Sorry game piece. It did not strike me at first, but as I got my first turn I quickly realized that the pieces he had provided were, in fact, packaged needles for the insulin injector pen.
Diabetes has, in large part, impacted every aspect of our lives. About this, Rachel and I are very sorry! We’re sorry that two of our boys have to grow up with the daily complexities of life with diabetes. We’re sorry that my middle son wonders whether he will ever become diabetic, feeling invisible while he wonders. We’re sorry that, perhaps, something we did or something we genetically passed on has caused this to happen…on a daily basis we are sorry!
That day, without even missing a beat and without realizing how NOT normal this is, my six year old resorted to using insulin injection supplies to play a board game … not just any board game … a game of Sorry!
How ironic is that!
Please donate. Please give generously. Please help us raise the funds needed to enable the researchers around the world find a cure so that next year you’ll be invited to that reunion rather than another fund-a-cure Gala and that we’re all not sorry that we didn’t give more sooner!!
- Step up the pace (scottkasperphotography.wordpress.com)
It’s that time of year that I must give a shout out to my peeps!! Here’s the story –
Spring is in the air!! For some, the first sign of the fact that spring has arrived is marked with the return of Daylight Savings Time…you know, that annual ritual during which we push our clocks ahead one hour, change the batteries in our smoke detectors, and spend about a week walking around like zombies trying to recover from that lost hour of sleep. For others, it’s the fact that the daffodils pop up through last season’s mulch and start to add a little bit of bright green and yellow color to the otherwise drab road-sides which are scattered with piles of the fall’s decaying leaves that did not get picked up before winter’s first snowfall.
There are other signs of spring as well. In New England, the sugar maples are bursting with sap. The steam from the roof pipes and sweet smell from the maple sugar houses are a tell tale sign that spring is here. The first Robin that lands on the rail of the back yard deck, the wiggling tad poles in the neighborhood pond, and the swollen buds on the flowering pear trees are all natures tip off that spring is just around the corner!
I love all of those things, and frankly spend all winter waiting to get my camera and get out to document this year’s coming of spring. However, there are two other transformations that happen right around this time of year, one of which is my absolute favorite.
Each year in the earliest part of spring, the supermarket shelves transform into two distinctly separate ethnic sections that cry out with the change of season. On the one set of shelves, the grocer overstocks the boxes of Matzoh, jars of gefilte fish, containers of egg kichels, and a smorgasbord of kosher for Passover staples. As odd as it may seem, I love that!! The fact is that most of this food is just too gross, too plainly nasty to ever eat at any other time of the year. However, I actually look forward to stocking up on my horseradish and gefilte fish. I can’t wait to fry up some matzoh brie for breakfast (click the underlined link if you have no idea what that is!!), complete with cinnamon sugar or strawberry jelly. I long for a heaping bowl of matzoh ball soup with crunchy egg kichels floating on top. I also look forward to the fact that Passover lasts for only eight days and I can go back to eating normal food before terribly long!!
The second set of shelves, as you may now have guessed, contains the brightly colored, highly fattening, and mouth watering foods associated with Easter!! Who wouldn’t look forward to all of the chocolate goodness – regardless of whether its shaped like a bunny or an egg! I mention the Passover stuff first, strictly out of loyalty to my Jewish heritage. However, out of all of this stuff, it’s the peeps that I look forward to the most!!
I’m not sure why this is. Among all of my early childhood memories is the fact that my mom would always buy each of us a small box of the marshmallowy, sugary, gooey, little yellow chicks each year. To this day, my wife will surprise me at some point between now and Easter with my very own box of peeps to enjoy. I savor them…I eat one a day…heads always bitten off first…and make them last as long as possible. I like the yellow ones best. I only eat them at this time of year and when I do I know that, beyond a shadow of a doubt, spring has arrived!!
If you are, or ever were, a parent of small children then you may have experienced the following phenomenon.
It’s a busy hectic morning. Mom and Dad are both scrambling to get ready for work, make lunches for three kids and get them out the door, respond to a couple or personal email before the work day begins, clean the kitchen after breakfast so it’s not a total mess upon returning home for dinner, sign the permission slip that was due yesterday and is just now being presented as the school bus pulls in front of the house, get the garbage and recycles out to the curb, grab a few bites of a bagel in order to sustain until lunch, and get to work in time for the first meeting of the day. Sound familiar?
Add to this the constant barrage of questions that come from all angles and I know my response…tune out and go on autopilot!
When that happens I generally go into one of two modes: “yes” mode or “no” mode. I honestly make an effort to avoid “no” mode. One child psychologist, I call her mom, once counciled me that “no” is the easiest word for a parent to say. The reality is that most requests are benign and the answer, albeit requiring some effort on a parents’ part, could be “yes”. The further reality is that the “no” response only serves to get the kids upset and elicit a response such as “you never let me do what I want.”
Unfortunately, sometimes when one makes the effort to engage the “yes” mode, one falls into the trap of saying “yes” without really listening to the question at hand. I’m referring to the dismissive “yes” when the word comes from one’s mouth, but the meaning behind it is really something like “if it means you will leave me alone, then go ahead and do what you want!” Still sound familiar? You’re lying if it doesn’t!
Words of advice: start listening and understand that there is a difference between listening and hearing. We all hear the noise that is around us all the time. Human physiology makes that a passive process. However, if we truly actively listen we can distinguish between that which is noise, and that which is truly meaningful! This lesson was reinforced this morning when I responded blindly to a question amid the barrage of noise. I heard the question, but did not listen to the specific words that were asked.
I heard “Dad, can I have some cereal in a cup?” That seems benign enough and I was in “yes” mode. “Sure, you can take a little,” I responded quickly.
Apparently the key word amid the noise to which I should have paid greater attention was the word “my”. In this context there is a huge difference between the words “a cup”, which I interpret as one of the many kid cups that we have in the cabinet, and “my cup”. You see, we don’t have assigned drinking cups in our home. Therefore, the possessive “my” cup should have immediately clued me in to the one specific cup that is his, and his alone!
Rachel and I have decided to participate in the 2011 JDRF Ride for the Cure at the Tour de Tahoe. Please let me tell you why.
For the past several years my family has been involved in the Walk for the Cure. The Walk is the main event in JDRF‘s efforts to raise money to find a cure for Type 1 Diabetes. Well, there is still no cure, and as a result 2 of my three sons must do many things every day that other kids their age don’t have to worry about.
- My two sons still need to check their blood sugar multiple times every day.
- They continue to be tethered to insulin pumps.
- They continue to be hooked up to continuous glucose monitors.
- They get needle sticks to change those insulin pump sites every three days.
- They go to the school nurse to have their blood sugar checked when other kids go right to gym or lunch.
- They sit on the sidelines of the lacrosse game because their blood sugar bottomed out even though it’s their shift to play.
- They watch other kids eat all of the things that they truly desire but know would be very bad for them to eat.
- They have to remember to never leave the house without their “kits”…the supplies that the require to take everywhere they go.
- They trade in their Halloween candy.
- They wear medical identification everywhere they go…or at least they’re supposed to….(Matt, are you wearing an ID today???).
- They add up every carbohydrate for every meal and snack they eat.
- They end up in the hospital when they get a routine stomach bug.
- They get woken up in the middle of the night, sometimes more than once, to have their blood sugar checked and they’re tired the next day because of it.
- They have parents who have not slept through the night since the day of their diagnosis.
- They have a brother who wonders whether or not some day he will become diabetic.
They have to do all of this, and more, in order to avoid immediate life threatening emergencies and/or long term co-morbidities of T1D such as heart disease, blindness, neuropathy, and kidney disease.
I’m tired of waiting for the cure…I’m tired of walking…it’s time to step up the pace!!
To those of you who know me, it’s no secret that I need to work on getting myself into better physical shape – that is not an invitation for snide remarks in reply – You’ll see that I’ll handle that on my own shortly if you keep reading. It’s also no secret that Rachel and I have worked tirelessly to raise money to help cure Type 1 Diabetes. So, it seems that an opportunity to put the two together is the perfect combination!! This year our South Jersey JDRF Walk takes place on a weekend that we will be in Boston celebrating the Bat Mitzvah of one of our cousins. Although we won’t be here for our Walk this year, Rachel and I feel strongly that we need to continue our efforts in funding the research that will come up with a cure for our sons. At the same time we acknowledge that the training regimen for the walk does not accomplish my goal of losing weight and improving fitness. So in an effort to continue our JDRF fund raising efforts, and in the interest of transforming my abdominal keg back into a six pack, we have decided to step up the pace of both our exercise routine and our fund raising.
Yesterday we registered to participate in the JDRF Ride to Cure Diabetes in Lake Tahoe in September. We will be riding the 72 mile circumference of Lake Tahoe with lots of others who have the same goal. As we train over the next few months, and as we ride through the High Sierras, we’ll be focusing on that long list of stuff that my kids need to do, and hope that it inspires us to pedal our way through the ride to help cure Type 1 Diabetes.
What can you do to help? Well, if you’re up for one of the most scenic bike rides in all of the United States and want to help raise money for a great cause, then click this link to sign up and join us.
If you’re not that ambitious, but you are feeling generous, then please feel free to click in this link (http://www2.jdrf.org/goto/teamkasper) and make a donation to help support our cause….we would truly appreciate the support!
I know that riding 72 miles in the Sierra Nevada mountains won’t be easy. But it’s nothing compared to the feat that my kids, and everyone else with T1D, accomplish every day in beating this disease. I know we can beat it for good, and I’m not gonna stop trying until we do!
For those of you who read my previous post…which seems like it was so long ago…I wanted to follow up, as I mentioned that I had already started planning my Valentine 2011. So, today is Valentine’s Day, and the photo below is what I created for my wonderful wife….I love you Rachel!!!
Did you all come up with a creative way to express yourself, or did you once again resort to commercialism? Try it next year…I think you’ll be pleased with the results!!
Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!!!
Chanukah is a distant memory. Christmas 2010 has come and gone, and we have all recovered from our 2011 New Year celebrations. In the world of retail America that means only one thing…the stores are already decked out with the pink and red decoration of Valentine’s Day! I noticed this during my recent trip to the grocery store, where the aisles are already stocked with heart shaped boxes of chocolates and the shelves of cards are now dominated by mushy expressions of love and requests to “be my valentine”.
It caused me to think.
In the Edmond Rostand play Cyrano de Bergerac, Christian relied on the eloquence and assistance of Cryano to express his love to the woman of his dreams. In the movie Roxanne, based on that famed play and titled after its heroine, Chris McConnell needed that same help from his Fire Chief, C.D. Bales (played by Steve Martin). The play will go down in history as one of the classics, and the 1987 movie, in my opinion, was hilarious. I am a huge Steve Martin fan!!
Stepping outside of the Broadway lights and Hollywood sign, life in 2011 seems to be not much different. When Valentine’s Day comes around millions of people throughout the world rely on today’s real life version of Cyrano and C.D. Bales; The greeting card! Beginning in 1910, Joyce C. Hall began helping others express their feelings when he launched the Hallmark Company (known as Hall Brothers until 1928). Since then the company has evolved, and the chain of Hallmark stores is actually filled with a variety of festive home decorations and a candy case to die for…in general it fills a perfect niche market. However, as someone who holds himself out as a romantic, I don’t like Hallmark cards!
I do, however love my wife. I’m not ashamed to state that here on the world wide web (do we even use that term any more? I’ll have to ask Al Gore), and I also enjoy figuring out creative and personal ways to express that to her (evidenced by photos in today’s blog). I don’t mean to imply that it’s always easy. It’s not. The fact is that the expression must be a combination of words and actions…the actions cannot be underestimated and must be sustained over time, but my purpose today is to focus on those occasions when the words are important…like Valentine’s Day. Finding the right words is often a challenge, but meeting that challenge helps to sustain the foundation of the relationship. Meeting that challenge forces one to think about one’s feelings and to strategize about the most effective and meaningful way to express them. As challenging as it may be, I can earnestly say that each year I try!
Frankly, Hallmark has taken the romance out of the love affair. It has become all to easy for us to simply run to the store, pick out a card, sign it, stuff it in an envelope, stick it in the top of a bouquet of flowers and present it as a testament of our love and devotion. Where’s the challenge in that? More importantly, where is the creativity, inspiration, and personalization that should be the true expression of our feelings?
So on this Valentine’s Day 2011 I issue a challenge to all of you, and you have 29 days within which it must be completed. Don’t buy a card! Don’t succumb to the American way of life dictated by the path of least resistance and the convenience store! Don’t be lazy! Be creative. Be proactive. Be personal. Be inspired. You’ve now seen some of my past expressions. Now it’s your turn. Create something unique for your loved one on Valentine’s Day…I already have my plan in the works for this year!
That was yesterday’s date…January 1, 2011. What a cool way to be able to numerically describe the new year (and by the way, it’s NOT “New Years”…it makes me nuts when people say that…it’s only one year that is new, therefore the “s” at the end can be left off!!).
It deserves a toast: May 2011 be a year filled with health, happiness and prosperity. May creativity and creative opportunity abound!
2011 is new year with new beginnings and, I am sure, new challenges. But with the coming of the new year, reflections of the year gone by give one the opportunity to remember the important things that make us so lucky in life. With respect specifically to photography, already the new year has given me the opportunity to reflect and remember.
Over the past year or so, my photography has taken me down the path of people. Whether weddings, engagements, babies and kids, or family portraits my work has been focused on the human world. I love that work and truly love some of the remarkable images that I have captured. I am grateful for the people who have chosen to include me in their lives and allowed me to help document their moments “on film” (or, using today’s technology, in pixels).
Yesterday, my sons and I took a spur-of-the-moment trip to meet my parents, my brother and sister-in-law and their kids at Longwood Gardens in Kennet Square, Pennsylvania. Longwood is a most beautiful place with acre after acre of manicured and sculpted formal gardens and an indoor conservatory filled with acres of flowers of all types, sizes, shapes and colors. In reflecting on why I love photography and began shooting seriously several years ago, I remember that my love of floral photography is the root (pardon the pun) of it all. So I am pleased that the start of my 2011 included the opportunity to get back to my photographic roots (am I using the pun too much?) and fill my memory card (formerly a roll of film) with the wonders that Mother Natures bestows upon us. Below are a few of my favorite images from yesterday’s adventure at Longwood Gardens.
Upon further reflection, I also thought I would share with you a random handful of my favorite images (specifically not including images of my own children) from throughout 2010. There are so many that I really like…it would be impossible to include them all. The images below each have a particular significance in my life, even though they may be images of others. I hope you enjoy! By the way – feel free to take the time to leave a comment if any of these are included in your favorites from 2010!
That’s Philadelphia above and Boston below.
Here’s looking forward to a wonderful 2011 documented through digital imagery!
Okay….for those of you following this blog I will have to teach you how to pronounce this when I get home…There is no easy way for me to do so in writing, and even the Garmin said it differently each time…in any case, that’s where we went today.
Tsefat is a very old city in Northern Galilee that has grown to be a thriving center for two things….first, it is an artist colony. Second, it is a center for Kabbalah, or Jewish mysticism. Let’s talk about each of those separately.
As we made our way toward the old city, we wandered into a bakery…OMG!!!! The smells from the fresh baked breads and pastries was out of this world. I bought a big bag of sorted rugelach for the kids to share. If you don’t know what a rugelach is, click here to read more. If you do know, or once you find out, you’ll understand why I also bought a few extra for me…chocolate and cinnamon. The only thing better than the way the pastries smelled, was the way they tasted. Packaged ruggies from Wegman’s will just never be the same again!
From there we continued wandering until we found the Artist Colony. To get there we had to descend a few steps, but once at the bottom we were faced with a variety of genres and shops from which to choose…we chose the one with the biggest sign…”Glass Blowing: Live Demonstration”.
After stopping into a few shops along the way, we finally made it to the glass blowing shop of Sheva Chaya Shaiman. She was a very pleasant young woman, originally from Denver and a graduate of Princeton University, who immediately started to show us some of her favorite water color paintings, and then began to demonstrate how she works with glass. As she transformed a rod of glass into a set of glass eye glasses, she explained the connection that her art has to the forces of nature and Judaism. While we were all impressed with her art, some felt that her attempt at teaching was a bit odd….personally I liked it, and since this is my story that’s all that matters!!!
After the demo, we wandered through the streets where some galleries were large, almost museum like, and others were simply small one room cut-outs from the wall with a roll down door that doubled as the store front when closed. Behind the door, when opened, are the tiny shops that consist of a single glass counter in which hand made crafts, jewelry and art was displayed. As we wandered some of us saw pieces of art in which we were interested, but in trying not to buy the first thing we saw, we pushed onward through the maze of shops and galleries.
After lunch, which consisted of over-priced salads, pasta and quiche (I think it was Ryan who said “why did you come to Israel to get French food for lunch?”), we made pour way back through the shops.
One of the first ones we stopped at was that of a silversmith who made hand crafted jewelry. One of the pendants he had was crafted in the shape of two hand touching. The space between the hands resembles the Hebrew letter Aleph. In Hebrew, each letter also has a numerical value, and the letter Aleph is also the number one. Therefore, these two hands joined form the letter Aleph, which is one….two combine to make one. I liked not only the artwork itself, but also the symbolism behind it. As I mentioned in previous entries, my wedding anniversary was earlier this week, so this became a perfect gift for Rachel.
The symbolic meaning behind the two hands is a simple example of Jewish mysticism, or kabbalah. To know and understand kabbalah requires a great deal of study. In recent years it has been introduced to pop culture by celebrities such as Madonna and Demi Moore. I have always been interested in this stuff, but since I don’t understand much of the mainstream aspects of the Jewish religion, I have not ventured far into the teachings of kabbalah.
That said, I did also buy myself something today….a double silver pendant with a Magen David, or Jewish star in the front behind which there is a Hebrew engraving of a song written several hundred years ago by a famous Rabbi. The song itself is supposed to inspire peace. In addition, the first letter of each line of the song combines to spell the Hebrew name of God.
Anyway – once we were done in Tsefat, we headed toward home. Along the way we stopped to let the kids take a quick swim in the Sea of Galilee. Now, here is where I will know those of you who read through the end of this long entry….this is the humorous part. When we were done swimming I brought the kids to a public changing room to get back into dry clothes….we had forgotten to bring towels. The place was nasty! Before we left the room, Jake told me he had to go the bathroom. Knowing that the stalls were even nastier than the rest of the place, I specifically asked him whether he just needed to pee, or whether he also needed to……you can fill in the blank. A few minutes later I hear a little voice say “Dad, there’s no toilet paper in here, and I really need some toilet paper!”
Ugh!!! I looked in every nasty, filthy stall in the place and there was not a single shred of paper to be found. I told him to sit right there (like he was going anyplace else) and that I would be right back. Immediately I did what any father would do in such a situation….I ran to the car to get Rachel!!! Its not that I could not have handled the situation….I would have glad sacrificed my socks, or torn my shirt into several smaller pieces to help clean up the situation. However, why do that when your wife speaks Hebrew and can ask one of the Israelis in the area whether or not they have a few pieces of TP that they would be willing to share with woefully under-prepared Americans. My plan worked….not only did one guy have some, but he had wet wipes….even better!!!!
Thus ends another day in the adventures of the Kasper’s trek through Israel….tomorrow involves hot springs and a water park…I’m sure we’ll get ourselves into some interesting predicament to report on….until then….Lila Tov (remember, that means good night).