Or-Tal's Writings

entrepreneur/mother/education revolutionist/high tech addict



My Cousin, and Organs Donation

My cousin, Daphna, an amazing woman, sister, friend, kindred spirit, passed away surprisingly last week from an unknown disease, which consumed her within days.

The shock of losing one of my very closest family members, who was younger than me, is mixed in with a level of denial, of the mind’s refusal to accept such a horrid possibility.

When asked, the family immediately consented to organ donation. The surprising fact we have discovered this past week about organ donation is how strangely comforting it is. Initially the feeling that a part of our loved one is still alive in our world. Then that strange sensation of not all is in vain.

There is no end to our sadness and pain. She left a loving husband, 2 daughters and a son. Her parents, my aunt and uncle, who can’t stop crying, and her 2 sisters who were so close. She left a gap in my life and in the lives of so many others, and it was this week we discovered just how many lives she had touched.

May she rest in peace, and we can forever treasure her smiles, her love, kindness and humor.


Saying Thanks

I admire the Thanksgiving concept. Really, having a holiday dedicated to saying thanks and being appreciative of what you have is really a fantastic idea. Too often we find ourselves busy with what we don’t have, haven’t yet achieved, what we’re mad about and miss a lot. We talk about what frustrates us, or makes us sad or angry, and don’t stop enough to note what’s making us happy, what causes laughter, what gives us pleasure.

So here’s what I am grateful for:
I am grateful for our health, my family and mine. I am thankful for our home, food and cloths. I appreciate every minute we have as a family, whether traveling or spending a restful weekend at home. I am thankful when I see my kids smiling and happy. I share their joy when they complete a drawing, play a musical instrument or read a book under the duvet.
I am grateful that my husband is happy and healthy and I am thankful every time he makes me laugh. Thanks for my growing family, nephews and nieces, new sister-in-law and everyone’s happy moments. Thanks for every moment of interest, and being busy. It what makes getting up in the morning worth it.

Thank you all for this feeling that the world is changing, and I am taking a part in the change, even if it’s only a small part.
Thanks for reaching out and joining hands from across the world. I have readers from the US, Russia, the UK, Canada, India, Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, France, the Philippines, Ukrain, Sweden, the United Arab Emirates, New Zealand, Taiwan, The Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Brazil, Pakistan, Turkey, Singapore and so many more… It feels like we’re all in it together. Thanks for global fraternity.

What are you thankful for?

Travels With My Family – Part II

With A Camper In New England

It was a first attempt, and a pretty good experience. We decided to rent a camper for our long route through New England. This turned out to be a really smart decision. We had all the convenience of, well, a small mobile home really. The camper felt nicer, better equipped and safer then the Airbnb rental we had experienced in New York the week before. Comfy beds, kitchen and bathroom travelling with us everywhere… And the kids being able to switch seats, and not be pressed together most of the time was one of the best features.

We prepared a long route and based our timing on references made by other travelers before us. But we hadn’t taken into consideration how slow we are in getting organized in the mornings, or how many times the iGo GPS will lead us through the wrong route. We had extended our camper rental for a day, and we still didn’t get enough of the beautiful New England views, sites and towns.

The worst of this part was my 9 year old breaking his arm. We took him to the wonderful Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and he got his arm in cast. He was particularly disturbed by not being able to draw and not having the chance to see whales, since we had to continue south, towards the next site on our route. On the bright side, the cast is coming off next week and the whole thing has been marked as just one more experience.

I think perhaps one of the best days of this tour was our visit to Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth New Hampshire on the very day they had a harvest festival. We enjoyed the shepherd dogs demonstrations most of all and got very excited by the whole happy atmosphere.

Museums With Kids

It amazes me when people say that “New York is not for kids”. What do you mean? I ask, what about all the museums?

For some reason most teen-parents we spoke with think a family vacation is Disneyland oriented, totally dismissing museums and defining them as “boring for kids”. This was never the case with my kids. Not that they don’t like Disneyland. They did. Still, with all the excitement we had experienced in Paris 2 years ago, I am not sure where they got more excited – at Disneyland or in the Louvre. We almost got kicked out at closing time, the kids simply refused to leave.

Similarly we had this fantastic experience now in New York. Two visits to the Natural History Museum, one to the Metropolitan and one to the fantastic (wish we had time to go back) MOMA. Why would anyone think this could be boring is beyond me. Each museum is like an expedition of something new, surprising, exciting or beautiful.

My 13 year old son is an amateur photographer, with way too simple cameras, and he collected many of his impressions through the lens of our old mini Cannon. We really should get him a serious camera (recommendations welcome).

Travels With My Family – Part I

Repeating Experiences

When my daughter was 12 years old we took a vacation together in London. This was our first ever mother-daughter vacation, and it was great. It wasn’t only a 5 day vacation. It was the foundation of phase two relationships between mother and daughter.

We strengthened it two and a half years later, taking a 2 week vacation to spend time in New York, Washington and Boston.

This fall we decided to take a family vacation in the US. Packed the family – one husband, one 17 year old daughter, one 13 year old son and one 9 year old son and went for the longest vacation we ever dared to take: 23 days. Some of it was re-visiting places for me and my daughter.

Revisiting has its own charm. The exchange of meaningful looks between us girls, or the enthusiastic chase towards a familiar site we visited 3 years ago. But most of all, it is so important to know you can return. That good times, or good vacations, aren’t a “once in a lifetime” occurrence. It’s so good to know you can do it again.

We also had a chance to improve on another experience. This time I haven’t lost her on the subway. She took her travels freely and happily to meet us at the Metropolitan Museum one morning. That one was for me…

In the movies

I had full intention of sharing my travel log with my readers. But too many things prevented it from happening. To count only a couple – lack of internet connectivity throughout most of our vacation, and me getting really sick for a big chunk of it.

So I’m left with bits and pieces. My 13 year old, on a first glimpse of Manhattan, 6AM, from the taxi riding into town said “I feel like I’m in a movie”, which became this vacation’s slogan.

We had the privilege to celebrate Rosh HaShana, the Jewish New Year, twice – once at my brother’s apartment in Manhattan, and on the following night with their kind friends at their apartment not far from there. People tourism is the best type of tourism. The kind that fills you with real excitement or revelations. And having that privilege of being invited to join a festive meal with people we met for the first time was moving. Thanks Dara and Seth Kessler. More to follow.

Rosh HaShana Desert

School Year, Fall 2011

This September is very eventful. The ongoing social demonstrations and protests across the country continue. The school year opened. The Palestinians intend to declare their independent state. A game, from Israel, “Shaker” won Techcrunch Distrupt in San Francisco. Saveby has launched and running a successful alpha version. And by the end of the month we, that is myself, hubby and kids, are on our way to a first ever family vacation in the US.

There were so many topics to write about, I just kept starting and never got to finish any of my posts.

New School Year
My eldest daughter has started her last year of high school. All education revolutions we are talking about for the past 3-4 years will have no effect on her. I just hope some changes will happen before her future born kids will begin their own schooling.

My son started 8th grade, which is the last year of elementary school here; next year he is starting high school. This year he will choose a high school, and hopefully will be accepted into any program he chooses. Isn’t that what parenthood is all about? Opening as many options to our kids? This year is so crucial that we have jointly decided to give Ritalin a chance. A bit sad, in my view, that a child needs to be sedated in order to make it through a school year. But the effort to keep up without it has become a real burden. Grades are just too important this year.

My youngest joined a new school this year. For him we chose a Waldorf Education  school, fortunately not too far from home. He is still hanging to his skepticism about “any school ever fitting” his state of mind regarding education.

Shaking Disrupt
I was very excited at the winning of Shaker at the Techcrunch Disrupt in San Francisco. Not only because it’s one more representation of the startup nation, coming from Israel, but because it is a game.

The gaming (not to be confused with gambling) industry is moving forward big time. From the launch of Maple Story, to the launch of Q2L, a public middle school in NYC dedicated to games and game development, and now the winning at Techcrunch of an entertainment feature. Not technical, not tool, not another commercial innovation – all those are great, and fantastic, and every new idea is exciting, but the winning of this game puts another crown on the head of this industry. “People want to have fun”, I told a colleague who was wondering about this choice. “And it’s time we acknowledge this need across the board. From the obvious social networking, to other aspects of life, like education systems (yes, that again) and you know what? even health systems. We Want Fun!!”.

Shaker holds a tremendous promise and great potential for many other industries, way beyond Facebook. I really hope I get to meet with these guys soon and share some thoughts with them. Congratulation Ofer Rundstein, Yonatan Maor and Gad Maor.

Saveby a Totally Different Way
Saveby is my own startup, on which I am slaving for the past year with my co-founder, Yoav Perry. After a lot of research and development we released our alpha version and sent out alpha codes to willing participants across the US.

Saveby is the self-service group-shopping platform where parents from across the web -who are interested in the same product, band together to get it at group discount. Merchants accept these group offers to get volume sales.

Saveby is NOT another daily coupon, local deal or private sales site. It is not a middleman, haggler or merchant. It is simply a platform where parents can form or join group offers for the things they want -and have quality merchants accept their offer. Saveby is free to use. Payments are processed securely with PayPal. We really aim to disrupt current ecommerce by finding a real way to restore the power of the masses, the shoppers, to their hands.

Merchants are only happy to participate: “it’s our turn to sit back and relax and get best deals offered into our inboxes”. So this can really be the breakthrough ecommerce needs now. If you want an alpha invite too – let me know.

Launching the alpha isn’t a simple task. And it is especially complicated when half of the company isn’t located where the market it. But that’s how things are at the moment, while we’re still bootstrapping.

The idea about an “alpha” stage is that it isn’t perfect. Our alpha testers are people who have agreed to help us make the suit fit better. They take the time to share their feedback with us, make suggestions, try it and of course – tell others about it.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank some alpha participants for taking the time to go over the system with us: Josh Becker @DadStreet, Jim Turner @genuine, Amit Knaani @amitos from Vikido and BabyFirstTV, Aparna Vashisht-Rota @parentella and many more. I hope to meet face to face with some of my favorite parent bloggers during my visit to the US (starting next week) and introduce the system to more alpha testers. Next stage will take us to a full commercial testing.

A First Ever US Family Vacation
Vacation? Now?? Indeed this sounds strange. Who has the time to take a vacation during an startup launch?? Well, apparently we do. Even startup founders need to take some time to breathe and relax and renew. My kids and hubby deserve some quality mom time. Of course this cost mom a lot of hours in planning, reserving, ordering, arranging (getting a house sitter…)… And did I mention I intend to use some NY time to meet with my favorite business and blogging connections face to face? Let me know if you want in my schedule, between a sea of museums my kids (yes, it is them) insist on visiting. Oh, and recommendations are welcome.

Startup life: It’s a family effort

One month into the summer vacation and the kids are pretty busy. They keep themselves occupied, they don’t get bored, and they seem to be really happy with their freedom. I get to see them during meal times mostly. They don’t complain, yet I can’t escape the guilty feeling that’s creeping on me: What a terrible mom, not dedicating quality time to my kids during their summer vacation.

At the height of it, when I finally decided to take an hour off emailing and social networking to play a board game with my 9 year old son, he accepted me with a hug. Enhancing that guilty feeling.

But they know, and I even heard them explain it to their friends, that their mom is working, working really hard, working a lot. Sure, mom is at home, but mom is in her study, and shouldn’t be disturbed.

So it’s not only me paying the high price of a startup set up. Not that I ever believed it was only me. I can safely say that I am lucky my family accepts my crazy work hours and supports the startup effort.

Happy Birthday, Shaii!

Been inspired to write something a little more personal today. It’s a special day today. It’s my oldest daughter’s 15th birthday. It’s on this day, 15 years ago, that I became a mom, and my husband became a dad, and together we officially became a family, family with child.

In three weeks we will be marking our 23rd wedding anniversary. A wedding is also a life changing event. But it’s not the same as having your first child. And it takes years to realize just how much a life changing event this is.

Beyond experiencing joy and pride over the little person emerging, an adult responsibility is revealed and takes over. A new grasp of reality is happening. My father’s stories, which he told us when we were kids, so full of humor and wit, about his childhood adventures in war struck Europe and all of his solo travels all done before he was 10 years old, suddenly took a turn. The full responsibility over the lives we have created is still not sinking in even 15 years later.


Different parents have different perspective of their responsibility towards their generated next generation. I always had a tendency to take things seriously.

And so, over the past 15 years, and a total of 3 kids, I’ve assumed responsibility for their health and manners, well being and education. I’m responsible for the set of tools with which they will set off to meet their adulthood. Until they are capable of it, it is still my responsibility to make sure they learn how to eat balanced meals and behave well and get that promising education.

Shaii, 15 years old today, has 3 years to high school graduation. I think I’ve done pretty well with her. She knows how to learn. She was born curious and will probably always be. This makes her an open and friendly girl, who never gets bored. She will make the most of every environment she’s in.

I still wish, though, that I could do more for her, and for my boys, and for all learners, to make that education work better for all types of learners and for the march forward.

Happy birthday, Shaii.

Vacation Can Happen!

I don’t have to submit a vacation request to my employer. I am an independent consultant, after all. I can come and go as I please. Last year I had heavy doubts before I dared to take some time off during the summer with the family. This year it was a little easier.

I still worry about taking a vacation without jeopardizing my one-person-show business. The same questions keep popping into my head about when to stop and then how to restart. But the summer has its own pace and a vacation seems to be a part of it.
Seeking approval I discussed this topic on the DEI (Digital Eve Israel) list last year. Got reassurances all around. Some suggested using blackberry or a laptop, other suggested a complete relax, provided I don’t leave a project in its course. Last year was OK: I finished a project just before going and got back days before the beginning of the new school year, marker of new projects beginnings.

So here is a quick reminder why a vacation can happen even when you are a sole proprietor:
-The fact is that I am a marketing and communications consultant. I am not solving global warming. The world won’t end if I’m gone a week or even two.
-I must inform clients and contacts in time, finalize projects before the vacation. Plan the schedule so it won’t interfere with significant clients’ events. Go for August, most people all over the world are going for August anyway. How significant can anything done on August be?
-I try not to start new projects until after my getaway. And tell everybody. Set a vacation response for my email.

Go for it.
I just want to turn off my brain and stop the ongoing convincing. The summer is slower anyway. Let’s look for a totally different environment. An internet connection is preferable – but I am setting myself in a vacation mode. No emergencies. I want all the family to relax into a non-emergencies atmosphere. Enjoy each other’s enjoyment. Fill your lungs with air and water your eyes with fresh sites.


Next: getting back.

In: dependant woman

If you are a woman, around 40, and god forbid you have a husband and kids – you can kiss the job hunt goodbye.

This is of course somewhat generalized. There are exceptions. However, I have found that out about 5 years ago, and I wasn’t even 38.

After several years of juggling between freelance and employee positions, I have arrived to a decision. I will become the boss of me. An independent woman.

It is amazing to discover the difference between a freelance, pen for hire, and a consultant, an independent outsource. It has been a year since I made that change and began calling it “a business”.

And as businesses often go, the beginning can be tedious, hopeful at times and discouraging at other times. I think I probably made every possible mistake in the book and I go on making more mistakes every day.
The first mistake was the illusion that I am going to become an independent woman:

Sorry girls. Independent women, married, with kids, do not exist in reality. Not even the virtual reality. We are always dependent on something, or people are dependent on us, which, of course, doesn’t let us become really, well… independent.

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