Thursday, July 25, 2013

Book Review: The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

I have been into historical fiction lately, and this book was perfect reading for me.  I loved the Red Tent by Anita Diamant and The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman which is also written through the voices of women appealed to me.

The book itself is in 4 sections,  each a narrative of the four main characters:  Yael, Revka, Aziza and Shira (Aziza's mother).  There is a final section that is a bit of an epilogue (which I won't ruin for you and leave it at that).

I have always found the story of Masada so intriguing, heart breaking and tragic.  In short, a group of Jews, trying to escape from Roman soldiers finds refuge at Herod's palace in the desert, called Masada. They live there for a few years before the Romans figure out where they are and the soldiers are relentless in capturing the well secured Masada and its rebels.  Eventually the Romans build a ramp to the walls of the Palace and the Rebels fearing captivity take their own lives.  Josephus wrote about this era and I think this is how we know a lot of what happened on Masada (the experts can correct me here).

The Dovekeepers tells the story of four of the residents of Masada during that time.  Alice Hoffman does an amazing job describing the brutality of the Roman era in Judea (Israel).  She also describes each of the characters' lives in vivid detail, and I found that I really connected with them.  We really get a sense of each character's relationships with their families, their romances and their surroundings.  Yael is mysterious with her red hair and the way she can talk to the animals.  Revka, the wife of a baker, is motherly and protective.  Aziza is rebellious and won't let the fact that she is a woman stop her from male-centric activities like wielding a bow and arrow.  Shira who might be considered a witch by some, knows her way around spells and potions.

The book itself is intense at times, this is the Roman Legion we are dealing with.  I think if it was a movie, I'd probably turn my head away for some of those scenes.

Like The Red Tent, there is idol worship (mostly with Shira), and since that is a big no no in Judaism, I do wonder who did what in Biblical times when it comes to idol worship...or is that just a plot thing for the books.  (Anyone want to shed some light?)

I've never read any of Josephus' works, and now I feel I should to get more of the backstory.

Years ago, I watched part of the mini series, I was only 9 so I really don't remember too much of it (and I'm pretty sure I was sent to bed before it was over).

When I read a book, especially one like this with a lot of detail, I do wonder whether they will make a movie out of it.  I'm sure the book will still be better though :)

Kitchen Kvetch (or trying not to!)

I haven't written in quite some time!

A month and half ago I noticed a stain on my kitchen ceiling...right underneath the toilet upstairs...after some investigation by the contractors hired by the insurance company, a massive crack in the drain pipe was observed gushing water.  DRAIN PIPE.  From the toilet.  Yeah.  Into the kitchen walls.
The contractors assumed the walls contained asbestos
because of the age of the house

The contractors donned their asbestos masks and suits, set up containment areas and removed drywall and mouldy stuff.

My kitchen cabinets were taken out and a few temporarily put back in so that I would have a kitchen sink.

This weekend drywall was put up and cabinets returned to their original home.  I am slowly getting a normal kitchen again.

My husband has been surprised how not frustrated I have been with the whole process.  I have been trying REALLY hard to not complain. There are some good moments and maybe not so fabulous ones in my brain.

I am grateful that insurance is covering this massive repair job.  I am grateful that we have running clean water.  I am grateful that I did have a temporary kitchen.  And now I am more appreciative of our kitchen and dining room space.  I am grateful that the general contractor was someone I worked with five years ago and he is taking very good care of us.

I am trying to let those feelings of gratitude in and the frustrated feelings out.  I was annoyed today about some paint splatter the painters left behind yesterday.  I realized that in time, I won't notice it so much, just as the other little defects have disappeared into the background noise.

I am very happy though because this Shabbat dinner will be in the dining room!

See that open ceiling?  That's where that leaky pipe was.  Bathroom toilet leaky pipe!  Ew.

Friday, July 5, 2013


I know that I am grateful for all that is in my life.  Some days I guess I guess I have less than the fully warm and fuzzy feeling around gratitude.

I get sucked in  let myself get pulled in by the negative emotions around a given moment.  Frustration, tension...I feel my shoulders tense up, my negative internal voice kicks in, "this shouldn't be happening."

I once learned the way to get out of this pattern is to change the thought pattern.  Think of something positive and the cycle will be broken.  I started to interrupt my moments of frustration to verbalize my gratitude for all the gifts in my life.  I haven't done that in a while, and I really should start up again.

When I do prayers with my son at bed time, we start with the Shemah, then we spend time asking G-d for the things we want and for the friends who need help (most of this is my right now, but my son hear's my voice and will learn in time).  At the end of prayer time, I spend time with my son thanking G-d.  We thank Him for all that we have in our lives, and we thank Him for the little things too, someone holding the door open for us, or the new recipe I found online.

I know, no matter how badly I felt the day went, at night time, I will spend that time with my son, speaking words of gratitude.

An amazing thing happens, in those moments, I truly feel G-d's presence, like He's listening in on us.  It's exactly like my son's book The Goodnight Sh'ma we received from PJlibrary:

I say the Shemah and I feel G-d's Light Shining on me all through the night.  

How do you express your gratitude?  Do you keep a gratitude journal (I have one of those too!)? Do you express it daily, weekly?