Holidays Without Mom

by Rivka Frankl

November 4th, 2016

“Happy Holidays”

I don’t remember much from before my mother’s diagnosis. I remember going to school and playing with friends. I remember coming home to find some after-school snack my mom had prepared for us (yes, everyday). I remember going upstairs to tell my dad about whatever happened at school (when he worked from home). I remember little things. I don’t really remember anything special about how we celebrated the holidays, but I’m sure we were just like everyone else. You know, a “normal family”.

My mom’s diagnosis was like a slap in the face. I all of a sudden realized what was really important in life. Family. Everyday was a gift and the holidays became an extra-emotional time for us. Every holiday that my mother got to celebrate with us was a huge milestone.

The holidays became a time that I dreaded. It felt like we were all just faking it and pretending to be a “normal family”. It all just reminded me of how we weren’t one and probably never will be. The whole “faking it” thing continued even after my mother passed and after my father remarried. The first year was just uncomfortable and a little awkward for everyone…

Now we’re 3 years later and this year’s holidays have been somewhat, different. They were nice… kind of fun even. Everybody helped with the cooking and cleaning, everybody sat around the table for the holiday meal (which is VERY rare). Everyone smiled. Real, happy smiles. We ate, we talked, we laughed. We sang holiday songs on the top of our lungs and it was amazing.

img-20161014-wa0009We’re never gonna be a “normal family” but I’m okay with that. Our family isn’t complete, but we’re not broken. We’re different from most families and we don’t look it, but we work together. The holidays were proof of that. I’m happy to say I now love the holidays, and I love my complicated family.

I hope your holidays were as meaningful as mine.

Happy Holidays,

Rivka Frankl.

Neve Daniel/Golan Heights.

Why Nov?

by Yarden Frankl

October 15th, 2016

For those who don’t know, I’ve just begun my third year of high school at 12417604_1101785176507696_8664324219225421311_nUlpnat Eyal BaRama, located in Moshav Nov in the Golan Heights. As you can imagine, I get asked quite a lot why I chose to go to a school that’s roughly 4-5 hours away from my home, in Neve Daniel, Gush Etzion. Usually, I answer by simply saying that its special and I absolutely love it. Now all that is true, but the real answer is just too long to say to someone during a casual conversation.

So here it is:

The year before you go to high school should be filled with excitement and spending time with your friends before you go your separate ways. You should be focusing on getting a good report card and getting into a good school. As many of you know, by reading my dads blog and following our family’s story, my year was a little different. I wasn’t focusing on school at all. I was focusing on my mother and how my family was gonna live without her.

My mother passed away on November 14th, 2013. I was 13 years old and had just begun 8th grade, otherwise known as my year before high school. While all my friends were looking at different schools, excited for the future and so full of hope my world fell apart. After 2 and a half long years of fighting, my beautiful, strong, amazing mother had lost her battle with cancer. I was a complete mess. I wouldn’t eat and I would stay in bed for days at a times. I’m not gonna get into everything I was going through at the time, but I was very much depressed. It took months before I finally went back to school and even then, I would only go for an hour or two. I didn’t have any grades and didn’t think that any school would accept me. I applied to the one school I thought I had a chance to get into (where my sister went at the time) and didn’t get accepted.

LIFE LESSON #1: POSITIVE THINKING MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE

While everyone around me was trying to get me into that one specific school, I started doing some research. I don’t know how or why, but I took me not getting into any school and perhaps not having anywhere to go next year, as an opportunity. A sign that maybe I wasn’t meant to go to that school. Maybe there was something else out there for me. I always liked the idea of living at a dorm, so I started searching. I also wanted a school that offered a dance program, since dance was (and still is) one of the things that can always make me happy.

LIFE LESSON #2: WHEN IN A DARK PLACE, NEVER EVER GIVE UP ON THE LITTLE THINGS THAT STILL MAKE YOU HAPPY.12967406_1771310506421805_5319054379293934649_o

After a few solid days of online searching, I found the website of a little dorm in the Golan. The more I read, the more I wanted to go there. It was far, but I hadn’t been excited about anything in a while and this was definitely getting me excited. I began emailing the secretary at the school, and asked if I could come check it out. I gathered and sent all the documents she had asked for and she gave me a date to come in for an interview.

LIFE LESSON #3: TAKE A CHANCE.

After some convincing, my father agreed to go “check it out” with me. As you can imagine, he wasn’t too keen on the idea of his youngest daughter going so far away. He was against the idea, to say the least, yet he still took a chance with me. So on April 1st 2014, we took a rode trip up to the Golan (along with a close family friend whom I had asked to join). I can safely say that the first time I stepped foot in that school, I fell in love with it. When asked what makes Nov so special, I say the people. They make you feel so welcomed from the minute you enter, they start conversations with you seconds after they’ve met you and its always with a huge smile. The more I looked around, the more I started seeing myself fitting in there. My father realized I had already made up my mind and that if they would accept me I was going. I had not been so sure or excited about something in so long, and my dad could see it. The next day we got a call. I had been accepted. I wasn’t sure what to do with myself, I was so happy. At that moment I knew my mother was watching. I don’t know how, but she had made this happen and I wasn’t gonna let her down.

It wasn’t easy but I got myself together, and knew I was given a second chance. I was given the chance to start over and I was not going to waste it. I took a chance looking into Nov. It was a risk, but I have no regrets. Its been a hard 2 years at Nov, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. This school has done so much for me its unbelievable. I’ve learned so much about myself and about life. This school helped me get back on my feet after a tragedy, it gave me all the help, love and support I needed. I am forever grateful for this  amazing place and the even more amazing people in it. It has changed my life and in many ways saved it.12508836_1101786209840926_2642813544951878495_n

And that is why I go to Nov.

-Rivka Frankl.

Neve Daniel/Golan Heights.

A Request from My Daughter Rivka

by Yarden Frankl

October 2nd, 2016

hadarHadar Buchris Z’L, was a kind and talented young woman who learned at my high school in the Golan. Like me, she loved the school and everyone at it. Her sisters also went to my school.

Last year, Hadar was brutally murdered 5 minutes from my home in Gush Etzion by a Palestinian terrorist.

We’d like to build a music room at my school to honor her memory and we need your help. Every donation helps

Click here to help.

May we all get to learn from this wonderful person and all she stood for.

Many thanks,

Rivka Frankl

Stella’s Army — Can You Help?

by Yarden Frankl

July 24th, 2016

Hey Stella’s Army,

I am posting this in hopes that someone will be able to help Esther get the cancer drugs she needs. I know her personally and she is a wonderful, kind neighbor, much loved by her/my community of Neve Daniel. Her post has gone viral and it should until she finds the medicine she needs.

Please share.

Thank you.

–Yarden

Shalom. My name is Esther Caplin, from Neve Daniel, Israel.

After a year of treatments for stage 4 breast cancer which has spread to my liver, my oncologist decided to put me on Ibrance (with Faslodex) providing me with a free 3-month supply of Ibrance that he had obtained from a former patient.

Unfortunately, Ibrance is not one of the cancer drugs supplied on the health plan in Israel and my oncologist hoped to use the three month period to assess its effectiveness on me and to try to acquire more of the drug from Pfizer on compassionate grounds.

While the Ibrance has succeeded in halting the spread of the cancer, the request to Pfizer did not work out. As buying the drug was not a viable option, I began a search in my support group (Inspire) for women who were once on Ibrance and since moved to a different treatment, the idea being that some people have Ibrance that is no longer being used. I was successful so far in obtaining enough pills for two more months of treatment.

I am asking you to please spread the word – if you know anyone who was once on Ibrance and wishes to donate her left over Ibrance pills, please contact me at esther.caplin@gmail.com

As I see it, the unused medicine eventually will be thrown out, but for me, every 21 pills means another month of life.

Thank you so much for passing this on to whomever you think may be able to help me.

In appreciation,
Esther Caplin

 

Saved by the Yellow Jerseys of Alyn

by Yarden Frankl

July 19th, 2016

31423_1387729867555_3978911_nI’ve been doing a lot of mountain biking lately. Usually, I find myself on beautiful, desolate trails and ride up into the hills as the sun sets. (Yes, it does get dark and that can lead to problems, but that’s for another post.)

Yesterday morning, for some reason unknown to me at the time, I grabbed one of my old Alyn Jerseys and threw it in my bag.

The Alyn Hospital is a children’s rehabilitation hospital. They provide all different types of treatment for kids who have survived terrible car accidents, terror attacks, and other traumatic events, as well as kids born with severe challenges. (They actually do a whole lot more, so click on the link above.)

They do great amazing work with these kids. But that costs a lot of money. So every year, people come from around the world to participate in their 5 day bike ride to raise money to help these kids. Good people get to go on a great ride and kids can get the treatment they need. It’s a win-win.

Before Stella got sick, I went on the ride 5 years in a row. I loved every minute and saw more of this country than most Israelis. We road up hills, through valleys, in the rain and the sun, and I got to know a great bunch of riders.

I also collected a lot of yellow Alyn jerseys, most of which sit in my closet. But yesterday, without thinking, I took one with me.

After work, I was eager to get right on the bike. So even though I noticed the back tyre (that’s an Australian spelling BTW) was a little low, I decided just to ignore it. Yeah, I know. Like riding after the sun goes down with sunglasses. (Again — that’s another post.)

Twelve kilometers from your car is not where you want to have any problems that make your bike unrideable. Of course, that’s where I decided to put some more air in the tire (I can’t help it, back to American spelling. I am a patriot) using an old pump that had not been used in years. BTW — the purpose of a bicycle pump is to add air into a tire.

My pump worked on a completely different principle. That pump actually took all the air out of the tire. Maybe that would have come in handy if I had found my tires had a bit too much air in them and wanted to take some out.

But that was not the case. So after using this wonderful pump, I found that I no longer had a bike that was hard to ride. I now had a bike that was impossible to ride. (And a pump that was not going to make the situation any better.)

But I tried anyway and was not making much progress when I turned the corner and to my surprise, I met up with about a dozen folks wearing the Alyn yellow jerseys. (Remember those?) A few of them were old friends I hadn’t seen since I “retired” from riding. In no time at all, we had pumped up my tire, and I joined them for a fun ride.

Even more amazing, this was a group that was made up of local riders and young people who had been treated at Alyn. One young woman I rode with had been hit by a car four years ago. She had a traumatic brain injury and needed extensive therapy. At the time, the idea of her riding a mountain bike was simply not realistic. But she, and the rest of the riders did just great.

I know what it’s like to have to dig really really deep to find strength. I have been there — in the middle of the night when your hope is sapped and you feel the darkness closing in. I know what it’s like to want to quit — more than anything else. I have been on ultra marathons when my legs felt like giving out. And I have had to face the prospect of raising my children without their mother.

You know, I really feel sorry for people who have never been placed (or placed themselves) in situations where the only thing they can rely on is that buried reserve of strength that we all have deep down.

When Max completed his three day try-out for an elite Army unit, I was very proud not just that he had accomplished the ordeal, but that he now had an experience he can fall back on whenever life seems to get hard — or even impossible.

But when someone suffers serious injuries that prevent them from walking, talking, eating, etc — that ordeal is every day — every single day. You don’t get to cross the finish line and relax when every day life gives you more fences to climb, more kilometers to pass.

So for me to see a group of people who should not have even been walking — riding mountain bikes in the Judean Hills — it was truly remarkable.

Yes, Alyn riders helped me out with a little thing like a flat tire. But what Alyn riders really do is help kids with really big problems get the care that they need.

And I would take my hat off to them, except my hat is a helmet and it’s a really bad idea to take your helmet off while mountain biking.

Yarden Frankl, Neve Daniel