Wednesday, June 13, 2012

oneness and completeness

a quick thought my friend shared with me:

so i've written before that the jewish understanding of marriage is that two individuals who each have a half a soul, come together to unite that soul and really they are like one person...

so here's the thought: when our other half is doing something we are not pleased with or that we look down upon, instead of criticizing and judging, we can look at it as our own personal lacking, and therefore we can on our pick up the slack and work on that area ourselves, therefore completing who we are as a total person... the hebrew word is to be 'mashleem', to complete...

sometimes an easier way of doing this is the old 'putting ourselves in somebody else's shoes'... but if we do this genuinely and really picture how we would feel/ want to be treated in that situation, we can often gain tremendous compassion and insights to move forward with... and it could be just what we need to judge favorably and be motivated to work on that area of growth ourselves, on their behalf...

a tricky concept, but i thought it was worth a quick mention... questions welcome...

toda

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

happiness

when I first got married, my husband and I had the opportunity to live in Brooklyn for 2 months en route to immigrating to Israel (East 10th and Avenue P for those of you in the know). We took a cute little 1-bedroom basement apartment and equipped ourselves with just a few necessities for our humble abode. New to domestic life (having your own apartment for just you and your husband cannot be compared to dorm life or even rooming with friends in college*... note: i'm pretty sure my roommates and i called our landlord if we needed a lightbulb changed... we were super oblivious to the requirements of running a home), I was having fun experimenting with cooking, cleaning, and even having a laundry pile for two :).

I remember one of the first weeks we were there, we were preparing for Shabbat and I decided that I would figure out how to wash the floor (specifically in the Israeli style of "spongea" where you take a long squeegie stick and wrap some type of absorbent floor towel around it, pour soapy water all over the floor, and then basically rub the towel all around- not sure why the old invention known as 'the mop' never made it here...). So there I was, swishing and pouring and having a grand old time, and I realized that I was actually so excited about what I was doing... I had zero feeling of 'ugh i'm stuck doing this chore when i'd rather be doing something else'. rather, I felt like a little girl playing house, only it was real! there was a husband and a home and a whole real life that I was privileged to be at the center of. And cleaning the floor was just an expression of that reality and so it filled me with absolute joy!

Ok great. So I was a blissful newlywed and the dirty floor water didn't get to me. What's the big deal?

Well, let's fast forward a little bit to our home in Israel which is *Baruch Hashem* busy with little ones, lots of action, and lots of guests, specifically on Shabbat. So Friday afternoon when we are busy finishing all the preparations before Shabbat starts at sundown, there can inevitably be a lot of pressure and even stress. So when the floor is still not clean and then I have to race to try to get it done (my husband is actually extraordinarily helpful around the house, but it turns out this whole spongea business is kind of an art and he has yet to tackle it and learn this most valuable trade himself, so meanwhile floor-cleaning is my responsibility)... so when i'm racing and rushing, let's picture it, do you think i'm in that same blissful state of absolute joy??

probably not!! i would probably look more like a mean angry person who just wants everyone else out of her way...

so how is it that the same act of cleaning the floor can bring so much happiness in one instance (reminding me of my blessings of having a husband and home) but in another it could drive me to resentment, anger, or even despair?

I think the answer comes from two things. 1) Expectations & a feeling of Entitlement. 2) Willingness to see and accept the good.

Now while we might be tempted to say that really the second situation I just described is genuinely harder (trying to accomplish ANY task with young children at foot is never simple) than the first, I can assure you that that is not the real issue here, because there have also been plenty of times when I set aside time to clean the floor when the kids were at school, there was no time pressure, and little else to do, and yet STILL it did not arouse in me the same feelings of bliss that are apparently achievable while spongea-ing!!

Ok, so number one, expectations and entitlement... when we feel like we deserve something or expect it to go only our way, and then it doesn't or we don't get what we want, it is very easy and most natural to then feel down about the situation. So if my floor needs washing and I start saying 'oh poor me I can't find any cleaning help (which urgh btw is true, really haven't found anyone!)' or 'it's not fair, why should I be doing this when really i have better things to do' (which is also true to some extent, i really do have a lot of other obligations) or 'cleaning the floor is beneath me' (ha that last one i made up, not one of my usual complaints)...  then I have both long-term and short-term options to deal with the situation:

long-term: if i feel my concerns are legitimate, then instead of whining or having self-pity, i better just decide to fix the situation (i.e. hire someone to do it for me or teach the kids to do it... which btw i really did, they just used water and no soap and had a great time (note: spongea= way cooler than mop, if you didn't catch that yet), but then you have to worry about them not slipping, it taking too long, etc.... so there's a balance)... but basically, what i'm saying is that if you feel like something in your life is not the way you would like it to be, then by all means, go about finding a solution to fix it for yourself, that is totally legitimate... but if your solution does not include changing the circumstances that have got you to this place (either because it's not worth it for you or maybe it's just beyond your control) then we are left with the choice of being miserable or of changing our attitude...

so what's the short-term fix? it's that attitude change... if i know that today i'm the only one who will be cleaning my floor and i do want it clean, then i could mope my way through the chore (feeling bad for myself and ever more resentful towards the rest of the world as i go), OR (here it comes...) I could throw away those feelings of entitlement and those expectations that things should be otherwise, and simply accept the task at hand. And once I've shed those negative thoughts and can say 'ok so right now my job in the world is to clean this floor' then I am free to move on to the next step, willingness to see and accept the good.

So let's go back to newlywed-me. Not only did I not have any expectations that someone else should be doing my chore for me, but I naturally felt grateful that it was MY chore because of my new stage in life. So seeing the task as mine, I could easily look around and see all the wonderful things that went along with it (which by the way are just as true today... thank G-d I have a husband, a home, energetic children who 'get in the way' of cleaning because they need my attention which really I am so lucky for, etc. etc.... ). The good is there, we just have to let ourselves tune into it.

And this applies for everything in life. If I was expecting a promotion but didn't get it, I have to first shed my expectations and entitlement that 'that job was mine- I DESERVED it.' Once I can say, 'no, I have the right job for me and another opportunity will come along in the right time' (and btw I'm allowed to think of why i DIDN'T get the job and try to learn lessons for the future so maybe next time I will get it, it's just the unproductive negative feelings we want to get away from right away), then I can make a list for myself of all the things I'm grateful for (I still have my old job, I didn't get fired, I have friends, family, a car, 2 hands, my eyesight, nice jeans, comfy shoes, really yummy gum... we can choose whatever we want)! The point is that happiness is ALWAYS within our reach no matter how hard things are.

SO remember, when things don't go your way and you want to choose to be happy, you've got to:
- throw out your feelings of entitlement and expectations that things should've been another way
- look for the good, focus on it, and feel good about it

I hope this will help you all out, and hopefully I will listen to my own advice!!!

I also just ask everyone to please keep my father in your prayers for a complete recovery- his name is David Yaakov ben Golda.

Thank you all, love julie

Saturday, March 17, 2012

2,524,608,000 seconds

One week ago today i experienced what was probably the most terrifying experience of my entire life. 

I thought that my precious, beautiful, sweet little red-headed 2-year-old girl was dying in my arms. Thank G-d she is and was fine, but I don't think I will ever forget the fear that pulsed through my body at that moment.

I was walking home with my family on a sunny Shabbat morning through the stone streets of Jerusalem's Old City where we live. It was me, my husband, my kids, and my husband's cousin and his young family walking home after a peaceful outing to shul and to the park. Very near to the end of our short walk home we had to climb a set of stone stairs. I was at the tail end of our group, facing backwards as I bounced our baby and stroller up the stairs with the skilled technique of an old city resident. Half-way up I heard my little daughter start to cry, seemingly because she wanted something.

Before I even knew what was going on, as I climbed the last couple of stairs, I started my usual line about how we use our words when we want something instead of crying... And as I scooped her up in my arms to finish telling her this, I could hear my husband and cousin attempting to explain to me that she had fallen during her protest and was now crying for good reason. But their words were just an echo ringing in my head because as they spoke I quickly began to realize that something was very wrong. My daughter started arching her back as one might do in a temper tantrum, only I realized that as she did it her body went stiff, her eyes rolled back, and she went limp in my arms. She very quickly turned blue in the face, I saw she wasn't breathing and I started screaming hysterically. 

"Get a doctor! Save my baby! Why aren't you doing anything?!" I shrieked urgently. My husband had grabbed my daughter from me and was trying to get me to calm down but I stood in the street hysterical as passers by stopped to try to help and figure out what was going on, only I didn't know myself. 

It turns out that when my daughter had been upset about whatever it was, she had lost her footing and fallen down very hard on her tailbone right onto our ancient stone sidewalk, which was apparently a much harsher fall than I had realized, having not seen it myself. So my husband and the others around me understood that she had just had the wind knocked right out of her and she would be fine. As soon as he took her from me, she actually came to and started crying, and I heard voices floating in the air with claims that crying is a good sign, which somewhere inside me rang true and I calmed somewhat although only on the inside (I'm pretty sure I was still crying and possibly screaming on the outside). Luckily, within a moment or two, a friend and neighbour stepped out of his house and saw the situation, quickly re-assuring us that she had only fainted, as his daughters unfortunately have a tendency of doing quite often, and there was nothing to be alarmed about. When she had fallen so hard, she went to cry but was a little shocked and couldn't catch her breath- hence the not breathing and fainting... 

So thank G-d, this near-death experience was a fake-out. But it made me realize that it just as easily could not have been, G-d forbid. When she went limp, not-breathing and blue, I felt like someone pulled this mighty off-lever of life, one like you might see controlling a factory floor. It was like in one split second, for no reason, out of the blue, my baby's life was just being shut down and there was nothing I could do about it. So I just started screaming. All I could think was, if we need to get her breathing again, we only have a few seconds to do it, and not being in the middle of an emergency room surrounded by a team of doctors with all the right equipment, I felt like a traveller in the desert knocked to the sandy ground from thirst, with no water and no salvation in sight. 

From this, I learned two things. One: we cannot wait for the off-lever to be pulled. I did a google search to see how many seconds are in an average human life. I came up with the title of this post- 2,524,608,000 seconds (or 80 years, if we're that lucky). Two and a half billion seconds and how many of them do we really use? In how many of them are we really grateful that we're even alive? That we have loved ones? That I even have a precious little 2-year-old baby girl? LIFE IS JUST TOO SHORT. We just do not have the luxury of time. 

We have to be who we want to be and live the way we want to live TODAY. I live in Israel. Today I might be in more danger living here than if I lived in Germany in 1939. A nuclear Iran could wipe me off the map, and you know what? The day before would be a normal day, just like today. And if it was my last day, how would I have used it...

SO WHAT ARE WE DOING??!! WHY ARE WE WASTING SO MUCH OF OUR LIVES?

Enough pettiness! Enough complaining! Enough 'if-only's! Every second is a gift to be treasured, experienced, and elevated towards a higher purpose. 

The Jewish understanding of G-d is not just that He made the world and left it to run by itself. The Jewish G-d is not only Creator, but also Sustainer and Supervisor. You know what that means? That for every second I have with my precious daughter, not only is He not pulling the 'off-lever', but He is pushing the 'on-lever'! 

And that was the second thing I learned. Not only must we appreciate every day, hour, minute, second... but when we are scared or feel like we don't have anywhere to turn, we have to be real that there is somewhere to turn- the Source of it all. As I stood there screaming, helpless, what I was really crying out for was for the green light to go back on, to hear the sound of the power-up... the gift of life to come rushing back into her- the gift of life that comes from G-d at every single moment, only normally much less noticeably. 

So if G-d is the one giving life, then why call out for doctors at all? 

In this world we have to put in our effort (it's called "hishtadlut" in Hebrew). In my situation, I was right to be calling out for help and doctors, because that's the way G-d created the world (e.g. that medical issues are solved by medical experts), but that doesn't mean it stops there. Because in addition to our efforts to work things out for ourselves in the physical world, we also recognize that there is a spiritual world that impacts what happens. And that is why we call out in prayer. So not only do I call out to the people around me, but I must also call to our Father in Heaven to make the change, to flood my daughter's little body with life again, to save my nation from another horrific onslaught G-d forbid, to save other loved ones, to rid the world of evil, poverty, starvation... First our effort, then our prayer to finish the job... that's the way it works...

We needn't wait for death and doom to loom over us before we wake up and see how good were 'the good ol' days'. Rather, let us see that we are in them now, that no matter what hardship exists, there is always good to be experienced and cherished. 

If any good comes from any of you reading this, may it be in the merit of the full recovery of my father, David Yaakov ben Golda. Please take a moment to pray for him if you can.

Thank you. 
Love, Julie

Monday, February 27, 2012

floor-baking incident part 2

so my father lovingly pointed out that to the unknowing, outside observer, not punishing children who pour baking ingredients on the living room floor does not in fact appear to be a sign of fantastic, stellar, brilliant, out-of-this-world parenting that I claim it to be, but rather it may appear more like negligent, incompetent, and all around poor parenting...

so which is it??

well... clearly it's the first! ha! especially since it is what i endorse and i am the writer of this blog... but please, let me explain...

first of all, I have to reiterate what I wrote in the last post, which is that not yelling/getting angry/punishing at the time of misbehaviour is only one component of the parenting strategy, and by refraining from doing these things, we are NOT ENDORSING the misbehaviour. Rather,


we are CONSCIOUSLY CHOOSING to seek out the MOST EFFECTIVE WAY TO EDUCATE AND TEACH OUR CHILDREN WHAT THE DESIRABLE BEHAVIOUR IS IN A WAY THAT THEY ACTUALLY HAVE A CHANCE TO START DOING IT!!!


that means that in a situation like this I have to do a few things:
1. In the moment of misbehaviour I have to communicate unconditional love (i.e. the message that the child is inherently good, only the behaviour is bad, and I love them no matter what they've done even if I don't love the behaviour) [check. we did this when we reacted calmly, without losing control or our temper, and by not saying something mean and therefore inappropriate]
2. Diffuse the situation. [check. we did this by removing the little ones from the situation (put them on the couch) and putting away all renegade kitchen items]

now this is what I want to focus on today...

3. Identify the behaviour that needs to be worked on-- in this case there are a few different lessons I can choose, like the importance of not wasting food or of mistreating our home by making a big mess, but I think they really do know these concepts because most of the time they don't have any problem with them... the problem really seems to arise when they know they are without direct adult supervision for a few minutes... so with that in mind, the desired behaviour I will aim to teach them based on this is 'personal self-control and choosing to do the right thing on your own and not just because someone's watching you", and maybe we'll throw in a little 'proper morning behaviour etiquette' while we're at it...

4. Look for a Quiet Moment that you can then use as a TEACHING MOMENT. A quiet moment is one where there is a positive, loving atmosphere between parent and child, things are calm, and they can really focus on one another. It is essential to choose a time like this to teach the lesson you want your child to learn. And like I mentioned in the last post, teaching methods can vary and depend on the child's age, but examples include modelling the behaviour yourself (you should really try to do this no matter what anyway!), telling a story that exemplifies it, making a puppet show (for little kids), noticing when it does happen and giving positive encouragement, just sitting down and talking about it, etc....

Ok, now we're ready for my real life illustration of points 3 & 4 which I am happy to say happened just in time for this post!!!


So I just have to mention, that when we are talking about the teaching principles, they really apply mainly to my son (who's 4 1/2) cuz the other kids are really still too little...

Ok so I've already done my step 3, choosing what I want to teach my son... then yesterday I had the opportunity to do step 4. It was the early afternoon, my mother's helper couldn't come yesterday and so it was just me and the kids. The baby and my other daughter had both fallen asleep, and I was having some quality 1-on-1 time with my son, lying on the couch playing with clicks (possibly the best toy ever) and telling stories (for anyone who knows my son, you will know that he LOOOOOVES being told stories)... so here we were in a perfect quiet moment (1-on-1 time, atmosphere of love, time to focus on each other) so I decided to try telling a story that would exemplify the desired behaviour. it went something like this...

Once there was a boy named David and one morning he woke up in the morning and he washed netilat yadayim (Jewish ritual hand-washing in the morning) and said Modeh Ani (exclamation of thanks to the Almighty that we are alive and have another day ahead and it's awesome). David noticed that he was the first one up in his home, and then he went into the kitchen. When he got there he saw.... a huge bag of chocolate chips on his kitchen counter! (ha true story, this actually happens often, which btw is a reminder that the parents also have to set up their kids for success, meaning NOT leaving chocolate and candy in accessible places and then expecting them not to touch it when we adults ourselves have a hard enough time with self-control around food as it is!). So at first David got really excited and thought about how he wanted to take the bag of chocolate chips, go get his arts & crafts scissors, cut them open, and eat them all! Yay that would be fun!... WAAAAIT! Then David thought about his Mommy... how she would be upset. she would tell him that all that chocolate could hurt his tummy. she would say chocolate is not for breakfast. she would say that spilling the chocolate chips out could make them dirty and unusable and that's a waste. and so he decided that he wouldn't touch the bag of chocolate chips, and instead he went to the living room, and sat down to look at the pictures in one of his books (too young to actually read them) and wait patiently until Abba or Imma (our other names for daddy and mommy) come downstairs. 

Ok so after he sat enthralled listening to every word, when I had finished, right away he said "Ima, tomorrow I'm not going to take any treats. I'm going to sit nicely with a book!" Great. he identified with the protagonist and wants to be like him. So now I respond "Good for you! You are such a tzaddik (good/righteous person)!" This is a good start, let's see what happens. 


Alright, ready for the best part? So when I come downstairs this morning, what's he doing? Sitting very nicely on the couch looking at one of his books! WOOHOO! So of course right away I go crazy with the positive reinforcement, telling him how wonderful he is, what a huge mitzvah it is, how he listened so nicely, he's so responsible, such a big boy, etc., etc. He is beaming... then a few minutes later my husband comes down and right away my son says "abba! abba! guess what i did this morning?!". he tells  him, and then right away my husband proceeds to make a huge deal of it and we decide that today he will get a special treat...

So now yes it's true that we have to keep going with this for a little while to establish a PATTERN of the desired behaviour, but it is really amazing to see such a clear example of this strategy in action. So I want to say again, thank you Fran (Fran being my parenting coach and teacher)! And also thank you to my parents for encouraging me to clarify what it's all about...

hope this was helpful, and feel free to ask me questions if anything i write doesn't make sense. chances are i will be able to clarify!

wishing everyone a fabulous day,
love julie

Monday, February 20, 2012

aaaaaaahhhhhh

ok just in case anyone thought they had wild kids, i would like to inform you that on one of my hazardous 5-minute sleep-ins this week, my husband and i came downstairs to discover that the kids were "baking"... a.k.a. they had taken out just about every mixing bowl i have and some pots and utensils, laid them across the floor, and proceeded to pour a bag of flour, 3 separate containers of sugar, a container of chocolate powder, and probably at least a handful of pretzels into the bowls and ALL OVER MY FLOOR AND HOUSE!!!!!! sooooo Baruch Hashem, my husband and i were both feeling pretty calm and we put the rebellious little ones in captivity on the couch and quietly and calmly proceeded to clean up the disastrous mess (which btw only took about 5 mins to clean)... and then we told them we would think about an appropriate punishment for later because we don't waste food, disrespect our home, etc... but we didn't really get mad or do anything harsh at the time of the incident, and you know what? that was the end of it...  no rage. no power struggle. no harsh feelings... just a little clean-up, a few kind words, and on we go... (btw they never ended up getting any punishment because it didn't seem necessary later on after the moment had passed)...

ha ok and so tonight when they took their yogurts into their room and started doing splash art all over the curtains i realized that they had in fact perhaps not learned their lesson, but now at least we know what to work on...

so i wanted to tell you a little bit more of the principles behind this strategy... i learned this method from my friend and teacher fran (pnina) merzel (btw anyone in jerusalem i emplore u to take her course! ask me for more info!)... and just today i got to hear fran teach again about some of these principles...

so the title of the class today was 'loving our children in the unlovable moments: the power of unconditional love'... anyway i'm not going to go into all of it now, but i will tell you a couple things...

she said that there are two dangerous assumptions people make during a child's misbehaviour that lead to inappropriate & untimely criticism: 1. If I say what the child did wrong, he will correct himself and do it right the next time. 2. if i don't say something, the child will not grow up to be a good person (at least in this area) later in life... but she says that not only are these assumptions wrong, but they are dangerous, because the more harshly we react with a child in a moment of misbehaviour, the less chance we have of fixing it, and in fact we might be doing a lot more damage by sending our child the message that he is unlovable!!

so... this means that in the moment of misbehaviour, we are not getting mad, shouting, or punishing. the first thing we do is look for CREATIVE SOLUTIONS to end the misbehaviour (including distraction, 'replaying the scene' (offering the child the chance to go back and re-do what just went wrong), humour, displays of love, ANYTHING)... because yes we want the misbehaviour to stop, but THE TIME OF MISBEHAVIOUR IS NOT THE TIME TO FIX IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!! this is so counter-intuitive, it takes some major digesting...

rather, when a child misbehaves (like a child who smacked his brother that took his toy truck) we want to and should diffuse the situation (make sure the smacking has stopped), but then instead of on the spot going into why the child should not have done that, whether it's an explanation, a punishment, anger, or something else, what we SHOULD DO is make a mental note that we have to teach this child ways to communicate without using his hands...

and then later on, in a QUIET MOMENT we will be able to teach that skill, whether it's through modelling the behaviour ourself, telling a story about it, talking about that skill with an older child, or any other creative and age appropriate method, we actually have a chance to teach the child the desired behaviour!!!!

ok, this is just a snippet of a much broader philosophy and even only a few of my notes from today's class, but still thought it was worth sharing! hopefully will share more soon...

good luck!!

tranquility part 2 and a life of tests

so in my last post i wrote that the secret to tranquility is being present in the current moment by allowing our strengths/ inner talents to find expression.... and when i thought about this a little more, i got a little further clarity on the idea, which i want to share with you now...

we learn from the Torah that every person has a unique purpose and mission to fulfill in this world and every aspect of our lives is perfectly designed in order to fulfill that mission- even the hard stuff. In fact, it is the challenging moments in our lives that make us who we are by giving us the opportunities to actualize our potential. Abraham, the Jewish forefather and spiritual role-model, underwent ten major trials/tests in his life (in hebrew this type of trial is called a 'nisayon'). His trials were so difficult we probably wouldn't wish them on our worst enemy (e.g. jumping into a fiery furnace in the face of an evil king, having a different evil king kidnap your wife, leaving behind your entire life to start over in a new, foreign land, etc. etc), and yet it's because of the extreme situations Abraham faced that his hitherto dormant, massive potential was released and he became the great person that he was.

Now in our own lives, we also experience these nisayons, sometimes on a large scale, and sometime on a much smaller scale (btw in the quest for spiritual growth we certainly do not hope for awful things to befall us in order for us to grow, we just hope that with whatever does come our way (which we hope will be pleasant and enjoyable) we will be able to do our best and grow in that situation)... you know, they say that it's easy to be a righteous person when no one's around, because there's no one to fight with... but it's not worth very much... but now try when the person you live with (roommate, sibling, significant other, whoever)... steps on your toes and doesn't do things exactly the way you want (e.g. eats the ice cream you were saving all week for this specific occasion, leaves dirty laundry everywhere, speaks rudely to you, etc., etc...) then how will you react? will you be patient? loving? give them the benefit of the doubt?


it is only when we are challenged that our innate strengths and inabilities can shine the most. so if a well-meaning lady in the street stops me to tell me my baby's too cold and needs a hat (they say an israeli mother is like a jewish mother on steroids! so you can imagine what it's like walking through streets full of them :)... ) i could just think to myself 'who does she think she is? what a rude woman to tell me how to be a mother, i know just what's right for my baby, etc, etc...' OR i could use my trait of humility to put my ego aside and say 'maybe she's right, let me put my baby's hat back on her' (ha btw this is a true example and she even had her hat on, it had just slid half off!) or i can use my trait of judging favourably to view this woman as kind and considerate and genuinely concerned about the welfare of my child and willing to do what she thinks is right even if i might think she's rude, pushy, controlling, etc.etc.etc!

then there are more serious examples, like G-d forbid illness, which often reveal incredible strength of character in those affected and their love ones... but the point is that while all of these situations may feel difficult, really most of the factors involved are beyond our control. the only thing we do have power over is our own reactions and if we will choose to let our inner greatness shine through...

which brings me back to the idea from my previous post: when i'm feeling anxious/upset, i can either ask 'what's bothering me?' or i can ask 'which of my strengths/talents is not being expressed at this given moment?'

and i think that if we start to feel that anxiety/upset at any time that it is a signal that we do in fact have a test before us and when we choose to engage in the moment by giving expression to one of our strengths/talents, what we are really doing is passing that test by letting our inner potential come out.

so i hope you all can give this a try the next time you find yourself in an uncomfortable or G-d forbid very challenging situation, and that the strengths you didn't even know you had will shine through

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

"Menucha"... a.k.a. Tranquility/ Calmness

so our Rabbi, Rabbi Noach Weinberg zt'l (of Blessed Memory) used to say if you see a 2-year-old learning to scribble and try to speak in sentences, you would say 'aww that's so cute', but if you come back the next year, or the year after and that kid is still doing the same things, you would start to worry, something's wrong, why hasn't this child advanced at all? so too, things that are perfectly normally for a ten-year-old to do could be appalling in a twelve- or fifteen-year-old... and even a teenager's irresponsible, rebellious behaviour we hope will be grown out of by the time an individual hits 20 or so... but what about after that?

why is it that if someone acts in a certain way at 25, 35, 45, and even 55 (30 years later) we are not alarmed at the lack of growth that we were during the first two decades of life? in actuality, Judaism teaches that this too would be alarming, as we are all responsible to grow and better ourselves not only every year, but every day, hour and minute! that's a lot of growth! and how do we do this? we are meant to be constantly learning and introspecting in order to try to achieve this goal...

so as a result, although i initially learned a huge amount about myself and my religion when i decided to become religious, my growth did not stop there. rather, every single day, I (and all other religious Jews) strive to grow, reach new levels of understanding about ourselves and the world, and improve our characters and behaviour...

so just this week I attended a really incredible class (by my teacher Rebbetzin Dina Schoonmaker) about Menucha & Shalom in the home (which basically means tranquility and peace in the home), and i want to share with you some of what i learned...

First of all, she taught us that all 'middah's (or character traits) have 2 parts: first there is the chomer, which means the raw material (nature), then there is the tzurah, which means shape and refers to the more developed, worked-on form of the trait (nurture)...
for example, the character trait of happiness certainly comes easier to those with a naturally happier disposition (with a lot of the chomer), but others can also work on it objectively, by thinking positive thoughts, focusing on gratitude, etc. (developing the tzurah)...

basically that means that there is hope for all of us, and while 'nature' is certainly important, we can shape ourselves based on our own 'nurture' as well...

so with regards to tranquility, we learned that the key is to FOCUS ON THE PRESENT MOMENT
You have to try to find meaningful moments in the present and then use your own strengths in those moments.

She explained that when we are using our own strengths and letting those parts of ourselves find expression, we will gain a sense of calmness/tranquility that will actually allow us to be in the present moment AND make it meaningful. We have to INJECT A PART OF OURSELVES INTO THE MOMENT.

So what does that look like? Well since we were a room full of young moms, we went with examples about the kids...
e.g. your child runs out the door to school and forgot his bag. you run after him and are chasing him down the block to try to catch him. finally you get to him, and instead of letting it be just a stressful/ tiring moment, you decide to use your strength that you are a funny/playful person, and you give it to him with a smile and a little tickle, then off he goes... by doing this you are using one of your own strengths, you're engaging with that child in that moment, and therefore you have maximized its potential...

similarly if you are spending time with someone but you are thinking about your work assignment or fight with someone else, then you are not really there in that moment with that person and the time spent together is worth so much less...

We also learned something amazing. She taught us that when we are feeling anxious/upset, there are two things we can do. The first is to ask "What's bothering me?" This attributes my discomfort to some outside influence. However, the second thing we can do is to ask "In which area am I not using my strengths/ natural talents as an expression of myself?"

Meaning that really if I just express myself via something I do well, I won't feel anxious anymore! amazing...

ok there is more i want to share but i'm falling asleep! so that's it for now...
laila tov

subscribe!

hi friends,
ok so i'm officially feeling sooo fancy... just figured out how to create an option to subscribe to my blog by email! so for anyone who wants... check it out on the top right-hand side of the screen...
p.s. thanks to deidra who helped me get the whole rss feed/ subscription thing going!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

criticism...

so first of all, the basic rule about criticism is DON'T! Ha. No seriously, whenever possible, just avoid criticism all together!!!

The Hebrew word for criticism is "tochacha" but a better translation of this word might actually be 'rebuke', meaning basically that you are saying this for a purpose, not just because you're bothered or annoyed by a situation, but because you are thinking of helping this person fix their actions/behaviours/outlooks for the future...

so here are some of the guidelines about the right and only way to criticize (keeping in mind our goal is successful, loving relationships and building up ourselves and those around us!):

When you feel like criticizing, ask yourself the following questions:

1. Am I emotionally charged about the situation?
If you are angry at the person or upset about the situation, you MAY NOT CRITICIZE... chances are you will not say the right thing as your perception is skewed... wait until you cool down and can be objective (this could take a few minutes, hours, day or days, or even longer...)

2. What do I want to achieve?
E.g. if your significant other is constantly late when meeting you, you need to identify your GOAL in the situation... do you want to berate and belittle him (if you read my last post, you will know the answer to that is NO!)? do you want to just vent your frustration by focusing on what he did wrong? or maybe you want him to STOP BEING LATE? If you can identify a specific, tangible goal then you can start working on constructive strategies... instead of criticizing, there could even be other solutions, like maybe he just needs a new watch... 

3. Is there a reasonable chance the person will listen in a way that they might be able to take my message to heart?
If you don't think there's a chance they will listen/change, you should not go ahead with what you want to say because it will only cause damage (by straining your relationship). 


4. How can I say it with love?
Whenever you do have to say something critical, make sure the person knows that it is coming from a place of love, because you want to help them improve and you really think they can. One way which should actually probably be used every time, is to create the proverbial criticism sandwich, where the negative comment is sandwiched by two positive ones..
e.g. in the late husband example... he walks in the door late, again... first of all, wait until you are calm and the situation is right to talk about it... so when he walks in, maybe the first thing you do is jump up to greet him, and maybe ask if he'd like something to drink (he can do this for you too, btw, this is not just for women)...  YOU WANT HIM TO FEEL LOVED WHEN HE WALKS IN THE DOOR- YOU WANT HIM TO WANT TO BE THERE... later when things are calm, you might say to him:


"honey, i know how much you care about me and do everything you can to make me happy [positive statement #1]. unfortunately, it's kind of hard for me when i'm expecting to meet you/ have you come home at a certain time and you don't come at that time. ["critical"/negative statement] I also know how much you have on your plate and how hard it is for you to fit it all in [positive statement showing you're not angry and giving him the benefit of the doubt]. can you think of a way we might be able to work on this, whether it's you calling ahead if you know you'll be late, or trying to schedule less right before you're meant to meet me... any ideas?" [giving him the option to come up with a solution]


in this example, you are creating a situation in which the husband (one being criticized) WANTS to do what your asking (achieve your goal of being more punctual) because he does love you and does want to please you, and hasn't been put down (and therefore put on the defensive) in the process... so who knows, either you'll get a more punctual husband, or at least you've created even one more positive interaction to bring you two closer!


Good luck!!!




Ooh, and one more thing... so the whole jumping up to greet your husband thing is actually an important lesson in and of itself. One of my teachers, the amazing Rebbetzin Lori Palatnik, gives the example of a woman chatting to her girlfriend on the phone in the kitchen one afternoon when all of a sudden Oprah and her t.v. crew come rushing into the house... clearly you don't stay chatting on the phone, you hang up IMMEDIATELY because what's going on is much more important... so what's the moral of this funny example? Who's more important, your husband or Oprah? Clearly your husband!!! And if that's the case, then every single time he walks in the door, you quickly say to your friend on the phone (and loud enough so he can hear you and get the message), 'my husband's home, gotta go, bye.' WOW... your husband is going to feel like the king of the castle, and you know what that makes you? the queen...  here's a quick (4 min) clip of her explaining this- MUST WATCH!!!

http://www.aish.com/sp/lal/48918952.html 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

men and women

so it seems to me like this is a topic we could talk about til we're blue in the face (a fine expression, if i do say so)..
there is so much to say, so much to learn, and ALWAYS room to grow... in our relationships that is...
so let's start with a few basic points...

1. men and women are DIFFERENT. we look different, we are biologically different, we act different, we talk different, we have different needs, and WE THINK DIFFERENTLY. that's a lot of different...
(although i have yet to read it myself, i have heard that 'men are from mars, women are from venus' is an awesome book and a must-read, hopefully will get to it one day...)
*btw i am about to make lots of generalizations. there are always exceptions, but i find these generalizations generally hold true enough to be useful, so let's continue...

A man's greatest need is to be RESPECTED and a woman's greatest need is to be LOVED.

Remember this, and you will go far.

How does this principle manifest itself? First of all, let me just clarify that men and women both need both love AND respect, we are simply talking about who needs which more. In fact, I think it could also be that respect makes a man feel loved, and love makes a woman feel respected... but for now let's look at each for it's own sake...

Let's illustrate respect for a man... (oh and by the way, i generally talk about relationships in terms of husband and wife because i am assuming that level of commitment exists within the relationship, although these principles can be applied to dating as well)

Example:
Your husband comes home from work feeling deflated because his boss called him irresponsible for not handing in his report on time. 


wrong approach:
"well what do you expect? you really are irresponsible, you never follow through with what you say you'll do."

right approach:
"wow that must have been so upsetting. it shows he really doesn't know you very well. you're always running to take care of your responsibilities at home, whether it's taking out the garbage or walking the dog... how do you feel about what happened today?"

*note: it doesn't matter if you actually think he's irresponsible yourself!!! by putting him down (especially in a situation like this where he's already feeling low), not only will you not help him to become more responsible, but you will also drive a wedge between you... rather, in the 'right approach', the wife sympathizes with her husband, finds an example of some part of his life where he does show that positive trait (responsibility in this case), and finally allows him the chance to talk about how he feels (when he might say how it was upsetting, but unfortunately his boss was right and he does want to work harder to get his act together).... therefore there is potential for him to grow, and most importantly, the husband and wife are actually drawn closer together by this RESPECTFUL communication...

Illustration of love for a woman...

Example:
A wife has worked hard to prepare a beautiful dinner for her husband and is anticipating a romantic evening together...


Wrong approach:
The husband comes home, sees the food, quickly sits down at the table, eats as much as he can as fast as he can, says 'thanks honey that was awesome', gets up from the table and goes to watch tv...

Right approach:
The husband comes home, sees the food, says "wow you must have worked so hard, this looks great"...[appreciation]  sits down at the table, waits for her, LOOKS INTO HER EYES, asks her how her day was, and really wants to hear and know the answer [attention]... as he eats the food he tells her "the fish is great, i love the way you seasoned it"[compliments, and even better, a specific compliment- this feels more genuine and is more meaningful]. then as she tells him about her day, he does 'active listening'.... this is basically where you show signs to the other person that you have heard what they said, and usually is as simple as repeating back to them what it was...

example:
wife:"i had such a hard day"
husband: "you had a really hard day"
wife: "yeah i was a few minutes late for work and i had trouble catching up and then I missed my break and then I came home and the kids were acting up and it was just really hard"
husband: "you had so much on your plate. work was challenging, you didn't even have a break, and then the kids were giving you a hard time... that is so tough"

*note: the husband did not offer any suggestions, advice, or judgements, he simply repeated back to her (in her words or his own) what she said, and the result is a woman who feels loved! to feel heard is to feel known, which in turn is a feeling of being loved..

the Jewish sages say that 10 parts of speech came into the world, and the women got 9 and the men only 1! and this is not meant to be derogatory, but rather factual... women really and seriously have a need to talk about how they feel, and they generally (almost always) do not need solutions to their problems! they just need to know you heard them! so simple! any guys reading this, if you can master the whole active listening business, you will seriously be set for life...

and ladies, just as important as it is for us to know what we need, it's important for us to know that men simply don't share this deep need to talk about their feelings and feel understood... their #1 need is to keep their EGO in tact!!!! (and this comes through respect)... yes that's right, a man has a strong ego, and this is good and important... (too much is a separate problem, but not enough ego can be just as harmful)... so allow a man to keep his pride, and don't assume that he wants to talk about how he feels, chances are he doesn't! (shocking, i know... i'm still trying to swallow that one...)

and you know, it's funny, but the more a man puts himself in a place where you find it hard to respect him, the more he will need your respect to bring himself back up... so let's all be smart and think about OUR GOALS when we are communicating/living/interacting with our significant other, and hopefully what comes out of our mouth and the actions we take will be purposeful and productive.

so remember,
man- wants/needs respect
woman- wants/needs love

ok love to everyone reading this, hope this is helpful!!! btw if we're gonna do a whole advice column thing here too, i am very happy for anyone to send me relationships (or other) questions and if i have anything worthwhile to share, i would be very happy to do so!!

love from jerusalem...

an apology

ok so first of all, i just want to say... SORRY!! for my long absence... so i don't know if you recall, but i mentioned before that i have this problem where as soon as i feel things are under control, i take that as a sign to double my workload and get back to drowning-in-stuff-to-do-no-way-out mode... right... (gotta work on that)...
so you see, once we had the whole blog thing going i think i felt extra motivated so i decided to simultaneously launch an entrepreneurial career i'm not really trained for, clean every square inch of my house, recruit and train people to help me with my kids and my life, do more volunteer work, and squeeze in a weekly dance class or two... rrrrright... well as you may be able to imagine, there is not enough time in the day for all such things!!! so unfortunately, although i did try to blog a few times during this period, each time it was usually late at night after a long whirlwind day and either the post would be illiterate or i would fall asleep at the computer before it even came out! *deeeeep breath*

ok so now, I am blessed to hopefully be embarking on a new path of order in my life (let's see if it works!)... my wonderful friend Naomi Rivkah did me this enormous 'chessed' (act of loving-kindness) and found me a fantastic girl to be a mother's helper... and this fantastic girl comes 3 afternoons a week, and she in turn found me another fantastic girl to come a different 2 afternoons a week... so as of today, i seem to have a whole lot of help! YAAAAY!!! so hopefully this will translate to sane, happy, in-control, productive mommy/wife/julie... (in that order... when you're tired/over-extended, it's first hardest to be all those things as a mom, then a wife, then your own person... )

ok and in addition to the blog, the whole entrepreneur thing (which btw i keep spelling without the second 'r' and getting blocked by spell check, although i still think it looks better without it... ha which reminds me of my roommate katie thinking it was hysterical that i insisted the word nauseous was spelled 'nautious'... anyway, i digress...)... ok so yeah, inspired by my dad the entrepReneur, who since i was a kid has been trying to get me to turn every single pastime i ever had (which is a lot, i am the type who likes to dabble in everything instead of focus on one thing... not sure yet if that's good or not...)into a business, i am finally trying to embark on said journey!

you see, right before my daughter sarah was born, i took a course in web design, thinking it might be a fun thing to do on the side from home, seeing as how i had decided that mommy-ing was career choice #1... but then she was born, and a few months later i managed to get tangled up in a web of several different part-time jobs that sucked me into a blackhole of overwhelmingness that i only managed to get out of right before my second daughter rivka was born- ah! (that story for another time, perhaps)... so now here i am, as Rivka approaches 10 months, I am finally getting ready to launch my web/graphic design career, only sooooo annoying, in the last 3 years i have apparently forgotten most of what i learned!! urghh... so actually that's not completely true... i remember a lot and have been having fun experimenting, watching video tutorials (tutvid.com is one of my new favourite sites- soo much to learn about design it turns out!), and doing small design projects... but the problem comes in when you find yourself having to do things that you do forget, and then spending an hour or two to re-learn them (go tutvid!) before you can get on with the project... ok and wanna know something else funny? i decided i would make my own little design company and out of the blue i thought of a name which i thought was so super cute (toast with jam designs... nice, right?) only to find out like the next day that the website of a friend of mine who is actually a real and incredibly talented designer is called 'toast it'! so weird... anyway if anyone would like to name my company, we're back to the drawing board...

ok so yeah i guess that was all i wanted to say- to offer a little explanation of where i've been and to say sorry for anyone who was disappointed by a lack of posts (namely my family members!), and hopefully with my new life of mother's helpdom i will find the time to blog away!

ok love to everyone, here we go...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

women & Torah

so lately there has been a lot of media attention in israel on the question of Jewish women and how we view them in the Torah world.

I want to share with you an article that originally appeared in the jerusalem post and is now on aish.com, written by a religious women who eloquently describes a little bit about how we (religious Jewish women) feel about the current situation and about being Jewish women in general. I really recommend taking a look at it:

http://www.aish.com/ci/w/Women_on_the_Bus.html

----------------

also, i had kind of forgotten certain stereotypes that people have about women in the Torah world (because they are so far from the truth), but I was recently exposed to a couple and wanted to share my thoughts...

firstly, there is a law in Judaism called "Shomer Negiah" which literally translates as 'guarding touch', which forbids adult men and women from touching members of the opposite sex who are outside of their immediate family (meaning spouse, parents, grandparents, siblings).

so i was recently watching this documentary about this woman who goes all around different middle eastern countries and kind of gets a feel for their cultures among other things, and when she gets to israel, she meets with an orthodox rabbi to get a 'feel' for Torah Judaism... ok so first of all it was totally annoying because you could tell that everything was set up in a way to make it look weird (which made me wonder how mis-represented the muslims were in their interviews)... but anyway, the first thing she does is try to shake the rabbi's hand, and when he says he can't shake her hand, she protests "but i'm clean!"

dude, seriously. that's really what people think?? that when an orthodox Jewish man doesn't want to touch a woman who is not related to him, it is because he views her as 'unclean', dirty, or beneath him??!!


THIS COULDN'T BE FARTHER FROM THE TRUTH!!!!!!!!! 


in reality, the real reason why Jewish men do not touch other women (and vice versa) is precisely because of their deep, utmost respect for them! you see, shomer negiah means guarding, or protecting, touch. what does that mean? it means that touch is a powerful, wonderful, valuable thing that has to be protected in order to be utilized in the most meaningful way. now which woman do you think a man should respect the most? is it a stranger he's never met who wants to shake his hand? clearly not- it is his wife. so now we know two things: 
1. touch has to be protected in order to be used most profoundly
2. a man should respect his wife above all other women

(please note I am describing shomer negiah from a male perspective because that seems to be where the trouble digesting this concept lies... most people are not outraged by a woman refusing to touch a man)...

so when we restrict the amount that we touch other people, it can take on a whole new level where it matters most, within the marriage... picture for a minute a 14-year-old girl with a huge crush on a boy in her school... let's say he brushes past her in the cafeteria line-up- would she not swoon or maybe (depending on how big the crush is) refuse to wash the shirt where he touched her shoulder so she could linger in that moment much longer? that's the type of excitement we want to feel EVERY time we touch our spouse! you might ask, what's the big deal about a handshake? it's not an intimate gesture and it's so commonplace, why can't you just do it without it meaning something? Is there something wrong with Jewish men that they can't just have a handshake without it becoming a sexual act?

but that's exactly it, we don't even want to become de-sensitized to the power of a simple handshake! when we refrain from even shaking hands with people who we don't need to have a physical relationship with, we allow ourselves to feel excited by that same simple act when it is allowed- with our spouse. and obviously all the more so with other levels of physical contact. but even with the simple acts, whether it's a handshake, brushing past each other, or a kiss goodbye on the cheek in the morning, if we allow ourselves to be sensitive to these types of touching, then each instance will serve to enhance our marriage relationship, bringing us ever closer to the one who truly matters most.

and you should know that the same goes for the way we dress. Jewish women (and men too, for sure) have a modest code of dress which includes covering our chests, shoulders, and arms, and wearing skirts to our knees or longer, and covering our hair (for married women)... this is a whole topic in itself which i love to talk about and perhaps will write more on later, but for now, i just want to say that this allows us to fulfill that same principle:

restricting where it doesn't matter in order to benefit where it does

just like in a non-Jewish society where most women do not go around topless, a man would certainly be excited to see such a sight... well so too in a Torah society, can a man (or woman) get excited by the sight of a body part that is not normally exposed! so really, it's kind of just a case of mathematics... because in that case, the more body parts that are normally covered, the more possibility for pleasure at the sight of them! and now when we bring this back to the case of the marriage relationship, this is particularly empowering to the woman, because now, when her husband sees just her upper arm, or for that matter any part of her, he feels privileged because only he gets this opportunity, and furthermore, he is much more likely to be excited and find his wife beautiful because he is simply not comparing her to other women, since he doesn't see them in this exposure! brilliant! so instead of competing with air-brushed magazine models or worse, a Jewish woman knows that she is beautiful exactly as she is and her husband has the ability and sensitivity to perceive that based on the restrictions of their society...

and so what if you ask, well if a woman is beautiful, why can't she put that on display and benefit from it by showing it off? well again, let's ask what we are trying to accomplish... are we putting beauty on display for its own sake or are we using beauty for the sake of intensifying love? If it's the latter, when a woman 'saves' her beauty for her husband (e.g. only he gets to see her luscious hair, which btw is certainly one of a woman's most sensuous features), she sends an incredibly powerful message that she is devoted to him alone and they are one.

so there you have it, just a few quick insights on why we Jewish women LOVE the way we live and wish other people were also blessed to share in the amazing joy of a sanctified and protected marriage relationship.... please feel free to send me any questions you might have on this topic...

a chocolate tidbit for a laugh

so tonight after i tucked my kids into bed, i went out to my desk and had a bite of chocolate, mmm... then of course, i had to go back in to re-tuck several times... so on the time after the chocolate bite, i bent down to kiss my son on the cheek at which point he immediately perked up, like a guard dog whose ears shoot up on alert, and he demanded to know 'what you eat?!" (4-yr-old grammar)... (because of the potent chocolate smell on my breath) at which point i tried to avoid the question and say goodnight as i walk out of the room... only to hear him continuing to ask this question in escalating tones of urgency as i struggle to suppress my laughter outside his room while explaining to my husband i have been caught eating chocolate at the exclusion of my son!

anyway it was just pretty cute, maybe you had to be there :)

nothin' gets past those little guys...

my elusive staff

ok so first of all, i have discovered something AWESOME about blogging... I am now finding it a lot easier to be objective about my life experiences because I am articulating them in this forum and then I can review them and actually process my thoughts and reflections, leading me to actually learn something from what I'm going through- incredible! for example, in my last blog i wrote about how the stress i experienced during a particularly long day seems to have mainly come from 'technical problems' in my life and that clearly there must be solutions for them... soooo, perhaps only because of this blog, i am actually going ahead and trying to find said solutions! yay!

which brings us to the question of my staff... ha... yes remember my self-imposed title of CEO? well, it's about time i got some serious employees in this joint, right?! hmm perhaps, although at this point they are all only imaginary people who live in my head! although one of them is actually a long-standing and faithful (imaginary) employee... she is my housekeeper Marina, who, when I can't believe all the housework that stands looming in front of me, I call out to and ask her to take care of it! My husband also gets a kick out of calling upstairs to Marina to come take care of the dishes or bathe the baby! Now, what, you may ask, is the point of an imaginary housekeeper, since she never actually shows up for duty? Well, just the very idea of someone coming in to save the day can do wonders to soothe the soul! By having a laugh and getting out of the gloom/stress that might be impending (or already there), and feeling like the weight is not all only on our shoulders, we might just get feeling light enough to go ahead and do it ourselves...

But the same is actually true of our relationship with G-d. You see, the Jewish understanding of G-d is that He is an all-powerful, all-knowing, infinite being that created, sustains, and is constantly involved with all aspects of Creation. That means that if I can't find my keys, I slept late, or I stubbed my toe, these are all Divinely Inspired incidents. (We don't reserve only serious events in life like illness, birth, or finding our soulmate to ascribe to the Will of our Creator- every single thing that happens in the world is also a reflection of His Will). So what does that mean? It means that there is an all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving (oh yeah, forgot to mention that one!) Creator of the world who is involved with every aspect of my love, and who I can turn to whenever I need something, ANYTHING!

The Rosh (Head) of our Yeshiva (Jewish Learning Institution), Aish HaTorah, Rabbi Noah Weinberg of Blessed Memory, used to give a great example for the way we turn to G-d in prayer (excerpted from a longer article called "How to Get Your Prayers Answered" which I really recommend taking a look at!):

"You live in a small town in Midwestern America. There is an extremely large and unsightly pothole in front of your house. For the last four months the local municipality has ignored your insistent requests to have it fixed. Finally, in an act of frustration, you call the White House and ask for the president. (Hey, it's worth a try.)
To your utter amazement, the president himself gets on the phone. You quickly explain your problem. The president listens for a minute and then hangs up. You don't really expect anything to be done about it.
The next morning you look out your window and, lo and behold, the army corps of engineers is busy at work fixing your road. The President of the United States took your request seriously and sent in the troops to help!
That is what it means to get your prayer answered.
Now who is the one person who can always get through to the president?
The president's son, of course.
That is our relationship with God ? Father and child. Just as a parent fulfills a child's request, so too God answers prayers. The Infinite Genius Who created every molecule on this earth, can alter the course of existence in order to answer your prayer.
To really talk to God, you need to know He is willing and able to do it all. Otherwise, you're only talking to your finite concept of God ? and not to our true Father in Heaven."
(full article at http://www.aish.com/sp/pr/48965861.html)

ok, so back to my Marina example... so let's say you're faced with a daunting task and you're feeling slightly depressed because you're not quite sure how you're going to tackle it (and therefore you're feeling kind of alone and incapable)... so according to this, you're really not alone, AND you're totally capable!! that is, so long as what you want to do is in line with the Will of your Creator (i.e. what is good) (e.g. if you're trying to rob a bank this prob won't help you too much), you can just call out to G-d and ask Him to pitch in or at least show you how to get going! And you know what, it works!! (Hey this is way better than no-show-Marina)... anyways, it is worth a try!

Now on another note, i want to tell you a little bit more about the non-imaginary, real staff people I am trying to find! I have decided that I am ready to up the amount of outside assistance I receive in order to better the general well-being of myself and my family (one of my Rebbetzins (rebbetzin=female teacher and/or Rabbi's wife) once told me that when her family was young and she was on her own with a few little kids, one of her own teachers saw her and thought she looked kinda frazzled and asked her "Are you getting enough help?" and made her think very seriously about it, at which point my rebbetzin kind of collapsed and realized that she was running on empty and she did indeed need (and was entitled to) getting some more help! And by the time she taught this to me, she had (kanaina hara- Jewish expression meaning, like 'don't jinx this' or 'no one should be jealous of this thing which is a blessing') several more children, and she said that this realization changed her life, and allowed her to be happy and more-present with her children, and all around, more highly functioning!

So now I believe that I too have arrived at that point in time where I just need more help, and I have to accept that that is ok. Many Jewish women suffer from what's referred to as 'martyr's syndrome', where we think we have to put ourselves way at the bottom of the list, completely neglecting ourselves while going to super-human efforts to give, give, give, give to all those around us... however this is not a Torah perspective and we must recognize that this is unhealthy, and not an ideal (even though it is so common). Rather, we are queens and must treat ourselves as such!

so for me, practically speaking, that means i am now looking for regular cleaners as well as a mother's helper/babysitter every afternoon/evening of the week (niiiiiice)... ha meanwhile, i hired a potential candidate for each of those two positions this week, only to have them both quit before they ever even started! bah... so the search continues, but at least we're looking... (anyone with leads for such peeps in jerusalem, feel free to send 'em my way!)... or if anyone wants to come be my au pair and sleep on my couch (note: no extra bedroom) then come on over!

on that note, i would like to give us all a blessing that we should let ourselves get the help we need, and remember that we are like royalty and deserve all the good in the world (and in fact our loving Creator is the one and only destination to get it from!)

much love,
julie