Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Anxieties of War

 I might be overstepping and making assumptions -but the way the world looks to me right now it seems that everyone is struggling with some level of anxiety.  As Jews, our world has been upended.  And while I am an American Jew who can't even begin to imagine or pretend to understand what the people in Israel are living through and the anxieties that might be plaguing them, I can speak to what my experience here is like and hope that together we can help each other through this.

I don't know about anyone else but I need to write this for me - I haven't had much time or energy to write in the last few months.  Life gets busy.  I think everyone is overall doing the best they can (even pre war) to live life and I am not always sure people need more advice, especially unsolicited.  So back to the blog I came to try and organize my jumbled thoughts into something cohesive that I can use to make sense of a world which has lost all sense to me.

I have gone through so many stages of thought in the past few weeks it is hard to keep track.  It started with flat out denial - while it was still holiday, I could somehow assume that people were exaggerating the "rumors" they heard.  There had been a bad terrorist attack or something but war, no that wasn't possible.

As the reports were verified and the phones were turned back on, denial turned to shock.  The enormity of what happened was slowly coming out and I don't think I could process the sheer numbers.  It seemed like something out of a horror movie, not something that our people could be living through.  Eventually, shock turned to grief and sadness.  Hope creeps in and out.  Stories of miracles trickled in.  Unprecedented unity took center stage.

But then the world, as it tends to do, turned on its axis and some people started to change the narrative.  Their voices, too loud, told the world a different story.  And so began a second war - a cyber war. 

Over three weeks have passed.  The world has both stood still and kept moving.  

Many are struggling to figure out how to be right now.  

How do we continue our "normal" lives while our people are being attacked? 

How do we feel any sense of purpose in what we usually find satisfaction with while we know there are wives holding down the forts at home while their husbands are at war? 

How do we keep breathing when we know babies are being held hostage by monsters? 

How do we function and not let the anxiety and the pain overwhelm us?

Tensions are running so high and everyone needs to find the balance that works for them to keep going during such trying times.  I can share some thoughts of what has been working for me and hope that someone somewhere is able to get through this time a little easier.

  • Step away from the (fill in the blank) ____________ (TV, News, Instagram, Internet)  
    • I'm assuming anyone reading this isn't an advisor to the Israeli war cabinet.  For the rest of us average citizens - it won't help you to check the news multiple times a day.  It will only intensify the feelings of what you are experiencing.  Many people have warned against not watching the traumatic footage - but even the good stories and the constant updates get draining and overwhelming.  Take breaks, make a time every day to check on what is happening - whether at a war room site where they consolidate the information or simply with a timer and a hard stop time.  You will breathe easier and realize that you get just about the same amount of information this way without the added anxiety.
  • Find something meaningful to you to do
    • There are so many initiatives going on so no shortage of options here.  Whether you want to make cards and packages for soldiers, send messages to wives who are home alone, spiritually "adopt a hostage" (this is my personal one which we have found meaningful), take on learning or praying or good deeds - the list goes on and on.  There are more ways to fight than being on the battlefront - fighting in spirit goes a long way to calming and helping us feel less helpless.
  • Talk to your kids - take their pulse on the subject
    • A lot of our kids are hearing and seeing so much about this war that they don't know how to process or shut out.  Make sure to keep the conversations open and be ok with them just wanting to turn it all off and be kids.
  • Be Kind to Others ...and yourself
    • Seems random to be on this list - but its hard to know how someone else is processing facts and events.  They might sound harsh or judge-y - just give everyone a little more leeway.  It might be a day they're not coping well.  They probably don't realize how harsh they're coming across.  Try to give everyone a tiny bit of extra kindness.  You'll feel better and you'll likely avoid unnecessary arguments.  And while we're on the topic - allow yourself a bad day here and there.  We can't be positive all the time and that's ok.  Just don't wallow too long.
  • Don't engage
    • If you have haters in your life - whether it be at work, online, or just generally people you meet - don't engage.  They're likely just ignorant.  Most don't want to know the truth - if they did they'd be able to see through the lies and realize what they're saying is ridiculous.  Post whatever truths you want on your social media or wherever, but don't engage with the negative feedback loop.  
There are times when we know we will never go back to the people we were before.  This is one of those times.  The world has changed.  We have seen the bad and the ugly.  We have seen antisemitism and hatred at levels we never imagined possible.  We have seen never again and it is terrifying.  But we have also seen Jewish unity in a way I don't think we knew was still possible.  We have seen true heroes.  We have learned new definitions of selflessness and sacrafice.  We are an eternal people who have been here before- we are not victims, we are survivors.   So like so many before us, we will pick up the pieces, we will find a way forward and forge a new path.  

Monday, May 1, 2023

It’s been a minute

 Life is full of ups and downs, busy seasons, organized chaos and some not so organized... This year has truly felt like one of those packed seasons. My husband has been traveling almost constantly for his businesses, one of my kids has been sick a lot and turning into somewhat of a medical puzzle, work is very full time, and life is just busy. I’ve written far less than I had planned. But today I want to talk about finding those moments of calm in the chaos. 

Every once in a while, despite the busy stuff of life, we need to find a space of calm. Sometimes it is harder to find than others. The space looks different for everyone- we’ve definitely talked about self care and making time for you in the past.  Today is less about the bigger picture self care and more about the moments of calm. The deep breath you may need to steady yourself in a crazy situation. The time-out you give yourself when your toddler or teen is out of control and you need to figure a better way to handle it. The hour you take off to hit your reset button. 

Yesterday was rainy and gloomy. My kids were feeling a bit stir crazy having a rainy Sunday with a bit of emptiness since my husbands traveling yet again. I couldn’t get out to exercise in the morning between various driving and the rain. It felt like a day that was going to be very long. Then I realized we needed to do something for them and then something for me. We went to Target, assembled some art supplies and watched a few YouTube videos to learn a technique and spent the next few hours as painters. When all was done and cleaned up, the kids told me I was free to get a run in. It was my moment. I didn’t think twice - just grabbed my shoes and was out the door. 

Whenever there’s a discussion about self care - as much as I’m pro the idea - I remember the times in my life when there was not time or a way for me to get real time in to care for myself. Whether you’ve got a lot of small kids and can’t routinely get out the door or you’re just too busy between work and kids - or you’re solo on a regular basis. It’s not always possible to have consistent me time. 

I often get asked about how to get into shape. My first piece of advice is always to take on small manageable things. If you start off by saying you’ll exercise for an hour every day, you’ll likely last a month if you are lucky. Often taking on too much is the best way to do nothing at all. Start small, build a foundation and brick by brick you’ll build strong walls. 

So don’t worry about not having enough time for self care. And don’t let that stop you from taking your moments and making the most of them. After all, a 10 minute Power Nap is still a nap. You’ll rarely regret giving yourself a minute. Eventually, the moments will build and you’ll have carved out space and time that helps you get through the chaos and find the calm amidst it. 

Friday, January 13, 2023

Staycation? Home bound?

 A friend asked me to create a post about what to do when you’re at home with kids - whether it’s a staycation, a random Sunday or your kids are home sick and you don’t want them on screens all day. Here are some activity ideas which my daughter came up with to keep them busy:

  • Make your own frendship bracelets- you only need tape, strings, and scissors

  • Pot holder weaving - you can find great kits at craft stores. We use this one ( look on the bottom for pictures)

  • Do Coloring pages- you can go online and print them or you can draw your own

  • Build a lego city

  • Pretend to be at the spa - have fun with hair and makeup, nails, etc

  • Do relay races inside or out

  • Make up your own board game with cardboard boxes or poster board

  • Make a play store with packaged or plastic foods - you can also make a cashier

  • Decorate a calendar for this month

  • Make a pillow fort

  • Write a silly story

  • Write letters to your friends and family

  • Make something with  beads

  • Read a story 

  • Do an arts and crafts project

  • scooter/bike/go on a walk outside

  • Play hide and seek in your house - there are a lot of fun hiding places you can find in your house. In closets, behind the shades, etc.

  • Do a baking/cooking project - do a recipe you’ve never tried before

  • Do a treasure hunt inside with cool items from your house

  • Play dress up

  • Make a maze with tape on the floor and have toy cars go through it

  • Make a race with cars

  • Have a tea party - a lot of little girls like to do this ( I used to also)

  • Play the floor is lava - put pillows and other soft items down on the floor and JUMP!

  • Turn a room into a different world - your playroom can become the ocean, a mountain top, plenty of places to explore. You can even let them research places in a book of maps and let them create one of the places.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Friendship and Support

 Dear Kids,

Today I want to write you a letter that brings back over 20 years of memories and illustrates so much of what I want you to have when it comes to friendships and support.  

It started with a message I got on WhatsApp - letting me know that a friend's son (who had been diagnosed shortly after Yehudis was) got engaged.  I'm flooded with memories of what we went through during those years.  

Here's a short recap of how it all started.  I heard through the communal grapevine that a family in a city not far from ours was dealing with a brain tumor diagnosis.  These were the days before WhatsApp, social media or any of that stuff.  I wasn't sure if reaching out to them was an invasion of their privacy but I felt that they knew who I was (old camp connection) and I had gotten reach outs from another frum family in Israel when we started and it had helped me so it was worth a try.  I left a message on this woman's voicemail letting her know that I had heard about their diagnosis, I was here as a resource if she wanted or needed the support, and that she did not have to call me back if she didn't want to.  I figured that was my best shot at trying to help.  I got a call back, and it began a friendship which has stayed strong for over 20 years.  When we were in the thick of treatment and the aftermath, we wrote daily "missives" to each other.  Email was our form of communication.  Our letters could fill a book.  We shared our journeys and carried one another through the hardships.  To say I've cried many tears of joy since the news came last night would be fairly accurate.

So why does this constitute a blog post for you guys? I think what my friend and I have is a great way to see the need for a support system.  Our stories are extreme.  I pray you never deal with what we dealt with.  But life has so many ups and downs.  Raising your children takes an inordinate amount of strength.  Growing and evolving as a human being takes work and thought.  You will, G-d willing, have your spouses to support you.  But don't discount the role of building a great support network.  I'm always saying it takes a village, and it does, but within your village you will need one or two key people.  For fear of revealing my love of Grey's Anatomy, I quote Christina - "You’re my person. You will always be my person.”

Those people will change depending on the situation - you won't necessarily have one friend who you go to for every thing. You need a few, but a small few.  Support looks different for different people, but please remember you don't need to go at this life alone.  You have your family, but you always need friends.  You don't need a million likes on a social media post, we're not talking Facebook friends - I'm talking about the real kind, who you can share the deepest struggles with and never feel judged.  People who understand you and understand what you are about and what you are going through.

If I could only teach you two things about friendship - it would be to be a loyal friend to someone and to let someone in. I think the second is the hardest thing of all.  

You might have an occasion where you let someone in and they let you down.  Try not to be too harsh on them - they are human.  But also remember that friendships do change and evolve and if you can't keep them in your inner circle, that's ok.  Different friendships are for different times.

If you're lucky enough, as I have been, to have more than one friend in your life that you can say is your person, you will have a very rich life indeed.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

How and What

 I’m noticing that parenting goes in phases. As I approach my 45th birthday this month, reflecting on the first half of this decade, I’m noticing a shift. My parenting devolved into chaos fairly quickly in phase 1. Between having 4 kids in under 6 years and a child battling a severe illness for years - I think phase 1 can best be defined by an attempt not to drown in the turbulent waters.  Phase 2 - where those kids began to grow, we transitioned to maintenance and understanding the long term effects of treatment - can best be described by a take control method. I wanted to be in charge of my own life, figure out how to make things work and recover and heal from the trauma of illness. I believe phase 3 began sometime in my 40s where I have begun to see there are so many amazing opportunities for growth and development if I take a back seat, listen and learn. In the spirit of that concept, I’ve been trying to listen, read and absorb as much as possible from any and every person I can to see what I can learn from them. One great find has been Dr Becky, a podcast parenting personality I discovered. I recently listened to something she put out about tweens and their specific issues and how to approach them. It was the type I wanted to stop running and takes notes!

I’ll have to recap some great pointers but the main idea that struck me as so on point was this - we need to teach our children how to think not what to think. 

Pause. Absorb. What a brilliant concept. 

We spend so much time telling our kids do this do that think this think that and we don’t even stop to consider that what we really need to be doing is giving them the tools to figure out what they think. They lack a lot of the life experience and cognitive skills that we have as adults, but they are so capable of absorbing the skills necessary to begin to think in specific ways. The best thing we can do for them is give them those tools without trying to indoctrinate them into thinking the same way we do.

She gave a lot of really good tips about how to talk to your kids about anything. For example, sometimes especially as kids get older it’s hard to sit down and just have a conversation with them because they find a lot of topics awkward. She suggested talking to them while driving in the car because there’s no eye contact. Sitting next to a kid who is doing art and just kind of having a discussion and make it be chill while doing another activity. She discussed open ended conversations where you listen to an issue or recognize a struggle your child is having and instead of giving them an answer - you pose the dilemma back to them in the form of a question (ie: who wins in that situation? Or what’s your next move?). To listen to this episode - Click here - there are so many more good tips. 

As always, remember there are not so many clear rights and wrongs in parenting as there are good processes and wins and learning experiences. Keep in mind you’re a great parent - you’re trying to be there for your kid and love them unconditionally and learn in the process. Every phase has its pros and cons so embrace them and take the wins. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2022


 I was listening to a great podcast about parenting by Arthur Brooks (How to Build a Happy Life) and he touched on a topic that inspired me to write a post. The discussion was about parenting and safety messages that public health officials give out. The interviewee was saying that the messages are very black and white - something like - co-sleeping is dangerous. Parents, who don’t know the risk factors and analysis, hear this and immediately write it off as an option. She said that in an effort not to co-sleep, some parents go to the couch and end up falling asleep holding the baby which is far more dangerous than co-sleeping. 

I have no intention of having a discussion about co-sleeping or any other public health issue for that matter. It made me think about how we, as parents, approach our messaging with our kids. Do we categorically disallow or disavow things? How can we approach topics in a healthy way that allows room for error? 

I especially think about this as it pertains to safety, good decisions and religion. 

I have found Safety a hard topic to approach with teenagers. With their all knowing attitudes and lack of long term thought, I find they often assume some behaviors are safe despite the obvious. It’s important to choose your safety lines carefully and to give them reasonable margins of error. If we were back in the times when seatbelts were optional, I’m sure that would be a topic of discussion.  I wonder how our grandparents and/or parents approached that discussion when they realized how seatbelts saved lives but were definitely not in vogue.

When it comes to religion - there’s so much to talk about it’s impossible in a short paragraph. At a recent wedding we attended in a very religious area, I noticed that the kids there who had “rebelled” were far more notorious than most I had seen locally. Part of me wondered if this was partly due to the lack of nuance in their religious approach. In the neighborhood where we live, there are many levels of observance.  You have the spectrum of ultra religious to modern and I believe it shows kids that there are many ways to observe. If their particular family approach isn’t working for them - they can still see many other variations which allow them to remain observant with more flexibility.

I don’t have a particular feeling of the best way to approach this with your kids - I feel every persons parenting style dictates different types of conversations. My main thought is that we should be leaving loads of room for error - parents can and should make the lines and boundaries clear - but there shouldn’t be a my way or the highway attitude. If kids know they can always discuss and question they’re more likely to take on some reasonable version of whatever the topic is. If the approach is always line in the sand - it leaves little room for growth and experimenting safely. Those lines should probably be left for the high risk safety situations (call when someone drank don’t get in the car, say no to drugs, you get the idea). 

 Drawing a line in the sand does not work.”

The path to anything that matters in life is never linear. It twists and turns. It seeks solutions rather than charging obstinately into what it does not care to understand.

And if you ever found yourself in a sandpit like the one I described, you know that drawing a line is an invitation for others to cross it. When that happens, everybody loses.

We must learn judgement, and to pick our battles. We must learn how to be flexible, allow ourselves room to manoeuvre, and time to consider.” (quoted from “The 8 Percent”)

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Against the odds

 Here we go again...Against the Odds

I like to start a post before the thing happens and come back and finish it.  Always good to see the before and after process.

This coming Sunday, I'm attempting the Marine Corps Marathon.  This training cycle has been quite a different experience than my last.  I decided to make a slightly shorter marathon training plan than I had last year since I felt I "over tapered" - basically I got bored taking it slowly down for 3 weeks so I just cut out some time on the front end and decided I would try a shorter taper.  Unfortunately, that wasn't the only new thing I tried and to make a very long story short - adding a new pair of shoes incorrectly (didn't really know that was a thing but apparently it is) ended up with my shin getting injured and having to stop my training - completely - for over a month.  While all my fellow runners were basking in the weekend long run glory - I was cross training like mad hoping not to lose too much time.  When I was finally given the go ahead to train again, there simply wasn't enough time to really build up.  I started with a hopeful - lets see how this goes - and within two weeks got COVID.  Of all great luck and timing, this was not the finest moment.  Either way, I was pretty sick for a solid four days and on day 5 I woke up feeling somewhat better, got out there and managed a 10 mile run.  It gave me some hope that I was getting back on my feet - but I only had a total of about 14 days til the marathon.  I've slowly regained my energy and I'm gonna make an honest try of it.  We will see how many miles I can get through.  But I have definitely learned from this process, lessons I least expected.  Also, some of my friends have said the wisest things on runs and I will share them here.

"Less is more.  Follow instructions" - some people have an easy time with this.  If you don't naturally enjoy movement or the after feeling, it might be hard to relate to the pushers.  But sometimes doing less or just following instructions makes more sense than just pushing yourself more and more. 

"Never make a decision on a hill" - my friend Kenny told me this early on in this training cycle.  The worst time to bail is when something is seriously challenging.  You have to wait, get through the moment, and then make a rational decision.  This advice has served me many times, not only throughout training and all of these ups and downs, but in my life as well.  Breath, get through, then decide what needs to happen next.

"Toss the preconceived notions" - nothing epic here, just something I had to constantly remind myself.  When I started my cross training because I couldn't run, I kept thinking "I'm a runner, why am I not running." Only once I realized that I'm a mover and shaker, not just a runner, did I open up and embrace the other forms of movement and found a lot of joy in the process.  Instead of thinking I was replacing my running, I thought about augmenting my running and how I want to make time for all of these things once I could run again.

"Attitude is the only thing I can control" - realized on a long run which was actually painful (followed some super bad advice and ran too soon) that the only thing I could truly control was my approach to things.  Clearly, we can't always decide our circumstances but we can choose how to navigate them.

“Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when you have no control over the outcome” - Brene Brown. In her book, Daring Greatly, she does a deep dive into how to be vulnerable and why it’s so good for us. Being honest about not knowing if I can do something but still giving it my best try and not being embarrassed to fail is something I’m trying hard to embrace.

"You cannot Amazon your way to good health" - my friend Adrienne said this on a run the other day and it struck me as so wise.  In today's day and age, we think if we just buy another gadget or piece of equipment, we will exercise or get into better health habits.  The truth is, you have to consistently get out there and do something if you want to live a healthy life.  It doesn't have to be running, frankly, it should be more than one thing (something I definitely learned from this process of cross training) but you need to do it consistantly.

"Surround yourself with great friends" - throughout my running I have been blessed with so many great friends to run with.  Its been one of the biggest blessings of my last few years and I truly cherish these friendships.  What was amazing for me to see was how they rallied around me during this injury.  One friend took me road biking and opened up new ideas for what I was capable of.  Another took me aquajogging to teach me how to stay in the game while I couldn't be off my feet.  More than one met me for walks.  It was an amazing feeling to be so cared for.

"Throw away the playbook - AKA Just do it" - this is something I have had to embrace as the plan and circumstances changes over and over.  You can plan all you want but I tend to think G-d has some humor and replans and diverts over and over.  Sometimes, just follow no script and run free.

Post race recap:

This was an amazing day- I won’t lie and say there weren’t a few moments of panic where I had no clue what I thought I was doing by attempting something this huge without real training.  I breathed, reminded myself I didn’t have to do anything and I should just enjoy. I met some amazing people - one woman was a brain tumor survivor - that felt like divine providence. Another was an awesome Dad of 4 who got me thru the halfway point. And at the end, me and Locksley, an elderly gentleman, helped each other with the final push. I beyond grateful for this accomplishment and super proud and appreciate this opportunity and experience.

The Phantom Tollbooth, a terrific kids classic, has a quote I've thought of often during this process.  Milo, the main character, sets out on a journey which is rife with difficulties. Once he finally completes the journey, the King, Azaz, (who sent him on this quest) tells him:

"That's why," said Azaz, "there was one very important thing about your quest that we couldn't discuss until you returned.
"I remember," said Milo eagerly. "Tell me now."
"It was impossible," said the king, looking at the Mathemagician.
"Completely impossible," said the Mathemagician, looking at the king.
"Do you mean----" said the bug, who suddenly felt a bit faint.
"Yes, indeed," they repeated together; "but if we'd told you then, you might not have gone---and, as you've discovered, so many things are possible just as long as you don't know they're impossible."