Contact Me

Any time - drop me an email
miriamhendeles@gmail.com
1-323-243-7116

Contact Me

Any time - drop me an email
miriamhendeles@gmail.com
1-323-243-7116

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About bubbyjoysandoys

Hi - I'm a kvelling grandmother who loves to write and blog about my insights and observations related to being a "bubby" as well as other favorite topics. I'm also a music therapist, author of a grandmother book, "Mazel Tov! It's a Bubby!" about the joys and "oys" of being a mother, mother-in-law, and grandmother. Finally, I'm a self-proclaimed expert on mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationships, with another site called http://milhood101.com, where I give tips to mothers-in-law for coping.

Fidget Spinners and Other Fun Grandchildren Bonding Activities

 

One of the reasons I love being a grandmother is that I think of every interaction with them as fun. Just having a silly conversation and making funny faces with my two and a half year old grandson is a blast but that’s another article!

A few weeks ago, reader Leah Hastings of Pure Flix media, wrote in to suggest I post some ideas for grandmothers to do with their grandchildren. Thanks, Leah!

So….Here are 10 fun ideas which are a mixture of culturally Jewish ideas and general population ideas. All are good, but since I’m a Jewish Bubby or grandmother, I veer towards the Jewish stuff! So come along with me and explore these ideas….

  1. Listen to CD’s of a  funny tape: My grandchildren love to listen to funny tapes which are usually educational stories and songs acted out by professional writers and actors and sold in Judaica stores. Really fun tapes filled with lessons on good character traits  are “When Zaidy Was Young”  and “The Marvelous Midos Machine”.These are wonderfully entertaining – for adults and children –and are useful for playing in the car during long and short errands. Play it at home in the kitchen or family room and sit around and laugh and learn. It’s great stuff and the lyrics and tunes will stay with you for a long time.
  2. Sharing Fads and Crazes: When I was a child, it was the Hula Hoop. When our kids were growing up it was the Rubik’s Cube which went out of style and then came back a few years ago when my own grandsons were pre-schoolers! How perfect. Just these past few weeks, the newest fad is the FIDGET SPINNER.                      It’s wild. It’s great for the kids to have something to share with their friends (during recess only, I’m told!) It’s not too expensive or hard on the parents’ wallets.  It’s fun for those kids with or without ADHD. (but don’t we all have a little bit of ADHD?) And best of all, it’s great as a conversation starter.  I love listening to my grandsons tell me about this fad, showing me how it works and asking my many silly questions (they are very patient with me!).
  3. Friday Night Shabbat Meal: Another fun activity revolves around our Friday night Shabbos or Shabbat meal when our son, daughter-in-law and grandsons eat with us. Every week, they come home from school with a handout from their teacher. The handout consists of questions on topics from the Torah Portion or Parsha of the week that the children have learned. My husband and my son read through the questions and when one of the kids doesn’t know the answer or hesitates, my husband makes up some silly choices with the correct choice being the only logical one. This always gets the boys to laugh and warms my heart because I know we are creating memories.
  4. Baseball Game Outing: Every summer we take the boys to a Dodger Game and the boys love it. It has become a tradition for the past six years since our older grandson was only three. It’s hard to believe he sat still for the entire game at that age, but he did. Anyway, we bring along hot dogs from home and other snacks and take lots of pictures and my husband explains the game to the boys and it’s really a lot of fun. Their mommy and daddy don’t come along, by the way. It’s a great way to give them time off. Oh yeah, we are due for that trip to the ballpark this summer, but the season just started so we’ll wait a month or so.
  5. Day at the Park: This is simple fun – we usually do this on a Sunday afternoon. We grab some balls of all sizes, sandwiches, water bottles, mitts and some scooters. And we head to the park and have a picnic. We haven’t done this for some time and just writing about it is making me excited to suggest it for a future Sunday.
  6. Playing Board or Card Games: As mentioned above, the most popular one is chess. I rarely beat my grandsons and the game goes by pretty fast before they “check-mate” me, so this one doesn’t take that much time. But it’s fun while it lasts.
  7. Reading Books – I love reading “The Cat in the Hat” to my 2 year old grandson. He gets really into it and  he points to the pictures on the page, enthusiastically naming  them. We have a blast, turning the pages (when he lets!)  and discuss his topics about the “fish,” and the “water,” and Thing One and Thing Two.
  8. Singing Songs and Finger Plays: I love singing songs to my toddler grandson. I also enjoy doing the motions and watching him giggle, sing and imitate my motions. He already knows some of the songs like “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and others from his playgroup so he’s an experienced guy. Recently we did “Head, shoulders, knees and toes….” and I just adore the way he’s picking up all the names of body parts.
  9. Piano Lessons: The old expression is that the shoemaker’s kids go barefoot, but this piano teacher is not going to allow her grandsons to grow up without piano lessons. So even if I have to give them a lesson here and there when we see each other and when I and they have time, I will do that! So far it’s been fun, if not sporadic. A few lessons on rhythm, note reading and such. They love it, I love it, and it keeps us bonding. And by the way, when they prepared an anniversary card for my husband and me several months ago, they wrote about us “Omi (that’s my grandmother name!) teaches us how to play piano!” And reading that made me proud!
  10. Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf: It’s always a fun tradition to take the boys for a cookie or Danish, or other snack at the Coffee Bean near our home. It serves as a special time with grandparents.

Is Busy the New Lazy?

Hello everyone! I’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t had a chance to post on my beloved blog for the last two months.

Excuses. Excuses. Busy. Busy. Busy.  The truth? I kept procrastinating. I told myself I was “Busy,” but I knew there was more going on that I wasn’t admitting to myself.

And so, I wrote an article, which was published in this past week’s Binah Magazine and  the title of the article is “Busy No More.”

This Sunday is Purim when many of us get so busy preparing food packages for our myriad friends and acquaintances, cooking the food for the holiday, and dressing the kids up in the sharpest costumes ever.

Do we miss the points of the holiday (joy, gratitude, friendship) with all our busy-ness?

Can we just relax and live in the moment? Can we be present in the here and now and not worry about all the things we have to do in the future?

Since writing the piece, I’ve been trying to live my life without talking about the B word. (not breathing – that’s a good B word).  It’s a process for me, one minute, hour, day at a time.

I’m curious to know what my readers and followers  (who are no doubt just as B as I am) think about this idea of “Busy No More.” Let me know in the comment section below.

And now, I can return those phone calls I let go to voice mail because I was too Busy, I mean Focused on composing this post.

Hope you enjoy and don’t forget to Breathe!


Give Them a Break, Okay?

It’s getting a bit unnerving the way the media is grabbing every opportunity to  find fault with Donald Trump’s family.  I know that President Trump has many quirks, all great fodder for cynical writing. I know that he argues and gets defensive and twitters and tweets and all that.

I get that. And I’m not going to debate that here.

But can’t the media give his family a break? Why does the media have to poke fun at his wife all the time?

In my opinion, the Ralph Lauren blue dress she wore to the Inauguration was beautiful and classy.

But instead of leaving it at that – a beautiful first lady in a very appropriately chosen dress – the media has to rip it apart and analyze it.   They write that  she “channeled” (code for copied) Jackie Kennedy’s blue outfit back in 1961.  Like they know what was on her and her designer’s mind.

Now, I don’t remember what Jackie wore back then (I was only 1), so I did a search  and my impression was that the only thing the two outfits had in common was they were both blue. Melania is a woman with class in her own right and she is not trying to mimic Jacqueline Kennedy.

But the media already has decided that she did. And so it becomes fact.

Then there’s the son, Barron. From the facts I’ve read about him, he seems like a smart and typical kid. He seems pretty cute to me. On the night of the election he was tired and seemed to struggle to stay awake. Big deal.

The media has to rip him apart. At the election three months ago, he wasn’t smiling and seemed tired and bored. Hello, it was late. One time a kid is bored and tired and suddenly everyone is making up stories. Playing the game of Dr. Google.

Suddenly people are inventing – no, diagnosing  things about him that are just untrue.

A famous celebrity and someone else actually wrote false things about him having a certain neurological disorder. They have since apologized and hopefully retracted (but not before Melania threatened to sue), but this is wrong. Children of politicians are supposed to be off limits to rude comments.

Today I saw a clip of him playing peek-a-boo with his toddler nephew at the inauguration. To me, that’s a perfectly appropriate behavior for  a kid his age. I think all the Professor Googles can put their diagnostician hats away.

It’s none of these people’s  business. It’s none of anyone’s business to diagnose another person’s child, or to project what’s going on in their own life onto someone else’s life.

It’s none of anyone’s business why the First Lady is keeping her son at his NY school till June. That’s her  prerogative to decide, and frankly, I respect Melania for that. She’s putting her motherhood before her position as First Lady. I think that’s admirable.

Another thing – while I’m on the topic of ridiculous things that the media writes about is the green outfit that Ivanka wore the day before the inauguration. I read in a particular article that the green symbolizes growth, change and moving forward. And, then the writer  went on to say that green also signifies jealousy.

Maybe someone can enlighten me as to what the point of that article was?

And finally, the mystery gift that Melania gave to Michelle Obama before the inauguration was received awkwardly according to the press and now the media is up in arms and pointing out that Michelle must have disliked receiving the gift.

Instead of just saying “oh, isn’t that lovely that she gave a gift to Michelle,” people have to analyze and overthink things.

Whether it’s a beautiful dress at a special event, a young child’s fatigue or boredom, or a gracious gift given to another politician, I really wish the media would just take some things at face value.

I know there’s a fascination with the family of the president but can’t people just give them a break already?

 

 


No More Complaining About the Weather!

In NY where  it gets cold in the winter and hot in the summer, people don’t really talk much about the weather. Over there, where the leaves shed from trees in the fall and the flowers bloom in the spring, nobody talks much about it. They don’t complain. They don’t boast.  They are grateful for the pleasant seasons and are quiet when the not-so-good climate changes come around.

The only time someone might bring it up is if they address a practical concern such as how to dress for the weather. Or someone might grab the topic  as an anchor in order to politely redirect an unpleasant conversation, as in “Ummm, how’s the weather down there?”

But here in Los Angeles, we talk a lot about the weather.

When it’s sunny, we boast and gloat. When it’s chilly — that means 60 degrees or below — we complain.

And when it rains – and boy does it rain in a typical winter of December through February —  the conversations begin in unison while putting on boots, rain jackets and other gear.

girl-with-umbrella

 

As we bundle up, dramatically pulling a scarf around neck, we share  with friends how we either love — or hate– the rain.

And then came The Drought. No rain for five or six years. Yeah, a trickle or a tease here and there. And maybe a few short ten minute showers, but for the most part? Nothing. Nada. Grass turned brown. The air was dry. The reservoirs dried up.

We conserved water. We set our sprinkler timers to spray water one or two times per week. Or we ran the hose around the lawn for a few minutes only. We took shorter showers, loaded larger and fewer washing machine and dishwasher loads.

Instead of chatting calmly to each other about the weather, we listened to the experts warn us: If we used too much water from our starving reservoirs, we’d be fined.

We silently hoped, wished and even prayed for rain.

Now, after five or so years, we  finally have some serious rain.

And…something interesting happened.

People stopped complaining.

For one, it’s no longer politically correct  to whine about the nastiness or draft. These days,  no self-respecting Angelino after experiencing the drought would complain about rainy weather.

But the real reason we don’t complain about rain anymore is that we’re happy. We genuinely appreciate that rain, the freshness, the feeling of water coming from a higher Source.

Once we lose something we miss it.

And then if we are lucky and blessed enough to have that lost thing or experience returned to us, we value it. We know that good things in life are not to be taken for granted.

We realize that there are some things in life that we just cannot take for granted,  can’t control or hold onto forever.  At the end of the day, we don’t have control over every facet of our destinies.

We can lose stuff in the blink of an eye. We saw that with the rain.

We may have personal instances where we lose things in our lives and then are fortunate to have those things returned.

A lost item is found. Someone without a job finds a good one. An ill friend is cured.

A stream of bad fortune in life is followed by some happy occasions: An engagement, a marriage, a new baby.

Bad times  become good. Things in our lives improve.

When I broke my ankle three years ago, I was in pretty bad shape.

Buzzzz…ohhh. it tickles

For the better part of a year I dealt with surgeries, bed rest, and pain. Finally, after almost nine months, the physical therapy began. And when I was once again able to walk, I was thrilled.

As the pain lessened, and my limp lessened and then disappeared, I felt gratitude for every step I take on firm ground.

Till today, I wear comfortable shoes and have banished most high heels but I don’t care. Three years after I broke my ankle, I remember the pain and anguish I suffered. And I will (almost) never forget to be grateful  for the miracle of a working ankle.

Nowadays when it rains here in the Hollywood, you’ll hear people saying, “isn’t it great?” or “don’t you just love this weather?” Or  “Oh, yes, G-d knows we need it,” or “We prayed for this.” Because even if people hate cold weather no one would express that during these days of rain after drought.

Let us look around us at all the blessings we have today. Things are far from perfect. G-d knows, our country has its arthritis and its bones are aching. Many are without jobs. Families and friends have stuff that’s going on in their lives that makes things hard for them.

But let’s open our eyes and ears for the good that comes our way. When we do get those showers of blessings, let’s embrace them.

Let’s sing in the rain how happy we are.

Let’s show empathy for those who have less in some areas. Let’s have courage to try to improve the lacks in our own lives.

Just yesterday I heard the radio announcer predict rain for today and the weekend and although I was tempted  to vent, complain, kvetch and rant, I stopped myself.

Instead I say:

Bring on the rain!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


My Grandson and His Step Stool

My two year old grandson loves to stand on his orange and yellow step stool.

He pushes the plastic stool over to a cabinet, steps on top of it and peers over the counter. He then comments on something he desires at the moment, or recites one of his newest vocabulary words while pointing to said item “up dere.” Some of his oratory includes words like  “dis,”  “cake,”  “milk,”   “cup,” or “Mommy, dat!”

Last week, on one such morning while his Mommy was preparing the other kids’ lunches at our house, when the little guy stepped onto his orange and yellow step, this grandmother (that would be me) walked by.

“Hey, Sweetie, could you just move over just a bit. Omi wants to get something from this cabinet?”

He stood there perched up on that stool and didn’t budge.

So, this grandma (me!) ever so gently moved his tiny body off the stepstool, moved the thing a tad,  took out the item from the cabinet, put it on the counter and then set the stool back in his place.

“Here,” I said, “Now you can go back up.”

He stepped back up onto it, but not before his lips puckered up into a  frown while he let out a roaring wail.

After a few minutes of soothing him, I got him to calm down and he became the happy babbly camper again. But I thought about the crying which I assume was  because he was insulted and humiliated. I mean, he had been high up on his pedestal and I had the gall to take him down a notch.

This incident got me thinking about our relationships as adults and how this “taking someone down a step or rung” is hurtful to others. My husband tells a joke and I say the punch-line before he has a chance. Ouch.

A friend shares exciting news and I jump in with, “yea, I heard already.” What for?

Or my son tells a story at the table and someone (not saying who) corrects him on a detail.

It’s all about the kid and the stepstool. There really is no harm in allowing others to stay on their pedestal. It doesn’t hurt them and it doesn’t hurt you.  Let it be.  I try not to jump in to change or move things around. It can wait till later.

Maybe I could have waited till his mom had taken him out for the day to get that item out of the cabinet. Or asked his mom to move him.

No need to rain on another’s parade. Step out of the way so they can enjoy their fun in the sun.

 

 

 

 


Shalom and Good-bye to 2016 and Hanukkah and some Book Reviews

So tonight we lit the last light of Chanukah for this year, which coincides with the last night of 2016. Here on the West Coast, we have 4 more hours to 2016 and about 22 hours left to Hanukkah.

And I still have 3 books to review. Books that were sent to me by Kar-Ben Publishing company. These books were delightful reading for my grandchildren this past week.

First, the board book, Hanukkah Delight by Leslea Newman is a perfect book for bonding with a toddler. Here’s some of the text:

“Friends and neighbors to invite, Ancient blessings we recite, Gleaning candles burning bright, Crispy latkes taste just right…”

I will leave you in suspense about the ending! The language is a perfect fit for our 2-year old grandson who already loves words that rhyme with light, bright, and so forth. Seven syllables on every page keeps things predictable and the bunny rabbit characters celebrating Hanukkah were very creative and fun. I’m wondering why the illustrator chose bunny rabbits over other animals but my grandson loved pointing to the bunnies and the various objects and symbols of Hanukkah.

So, if you want to snuggle up with your toddler kid or love bunny, get this book and discover the cute and fun Hanukkah world of dreidels (tops), latkes (potato pancakes) and menorahs (candelabras).

Next, the graphic book Joseph, The Dreamer was a perfect book for this past weekend where we read about the dreams of Joseph in the weekly Parsha (Torah/Bible Portion). The book tells the story in pictures and graphics and my grandsons were excited to talk about the story at our Shabbat table this past Friday night. Becky Laff does a great job telling the story (using bunny rabbits again…hmmmm) of Joseph and his brothers. The artwork is excellent and well done. However, bunny rabbits pictures disturbed me in this particular book because I felt it cheapened the story in the Bible. When I gave it to my grandson to read, I made sure to tell him that in advance. Not that he woul think his favorite characters from the Torah were actually rabbits, but still…

Finally, the coloring book L’Dor VaDor a Keepsake Coloring book  uses as its title the Hebrew words (L’dor Vador) to express the theme of generation to generation how we pass on our values of spirituality from one generation to another. Judy Freeman does a superb job of creating art pieces that any age can fill in. From child to adult to middle-ager, anyone can benefit from the calm and relaxation from coloring in this book. Each picture stands on its own and can be colored, framed and displayed as a work of art. Trains, shells, turtles, valleys and more…. are some of the images in this coloring book.

So, as the holiday of Hanukkah and the year of 2016 wind down, let’s find some good books to read to our children and ourselves.

 


Conversations With Grandparents

 

It’s  Chanukah and we’ve had a few family get-togethers with all grandparents (my husband and me!) and great grands (my mother-in-law), plus a few aunts and uncles and cousins. I always enjoy being with family, especially when the various generations get to mingle together on the holidays. During holidays, some grandparents reminisce about their past. Others are more quiet about their histories and need to be drawn out and engaged in conversation. And finally, there are those who try to reminisce and no one really listens. Or even worse, no one asks.

As a child, I was one of the few who had  grandparents. Most of my friends’ grandparents had passed in the Holocaust and my friends’ parents emigrated to the US to start new families.  My grandparents each survived the War and traveled to the U.S. with their children – my parents – in the late 1930’s and early 40’s respectively.

Many of my friends tell me that they didn’t grow up hearing stories about the Holocaust from their survivor parents.  Aside from the stamp that their parents  had on their arm indicating the years in concentration camps, there was little proof that they had experienced atrocities. These survivors were reticent to share their horror stories with their children and grandchildren.

And then there are those who do talk about their experiences. In his later years, my father-in-law who passed in 2001, freely shared stories of how he and his brother escaped from Poland and other interesting stories. My husband and his siblings lapped up these stories as well as those still being told by my mother-in-law who is well into her 90’s (may she live till 120).

Children ask a lot of questions but adults don’t always want to prod. They may have the dilemma of how much to probe, to ask, to engage in conversation. They may wonder: Do the elders really want to talk? Are their memories really accurate? Is this act of eliciting reminiscence really for their catharsis or therapeutic benefit? Or is it for us – so we can record it all for posterity?  How do we know if we are being sensitive to their needs?

This is the subject of a book that I’m reading now called The Conversations We Never Had by Jeffrey H. Konis.  Mr. Konis recalls his Grandma Ola whom he adored and spent a lot of time with, but after her death twenty years earlier, felt regret at not getting enough information from her about his family’s history.  His father never asked questions and he repeated the trend of not asking anything, despite having spent a lot of time with his grandmother. And so, he set out to write this book which is a recollection of his thoughts on his grandmother combined with what he did know about the Holocaust and his conversations here and there with his father. He weaves together all the warm and loving memories about his grandmother.

The book’s  title is somewhat self-deprecating if not self-critical. He wishes he would have asked more, started more conversations and he has a fantasy that his grandmother might have poured forth with story after story.

Notwithstanding his not having war discussions, the author had a most loving relationship with his grandmother.  His Grandma Ola –who actually was his “real” grandmother’s sister, raised his father after the war because the actual grandparents died in the War before his father turned nine.  Grandma Ola found her little nephew hiding on a farm in Poland and brought him  to America to raise him as her own.   Thus, Grandma Olga (“Ola”) was the only grandmother Mr. Konis  knew.  As a young adult, Mr. Konis spent time with Grandma Ola when he was in law school, living in her apartment which was close to his school. She doted on him, made sure he was comfortable and gave him the space to study, party, and be his own person.

Many of the elderly who went through the Holocaust do not want to relive their past. My own father (RIP) and my mother (till 120) were/are Holocaust survivors. Although their stories may be fewer and less dramatic than those of my in-laws as they did not experience concentration camps, they did not regale stories of their past. The only thing I remember is my father telling us bedtime stories about his childhood in Antwerp before the war. A few years before his passing, my brothers recorded him as he spoke on tape about some of the more fascinating escape stories – leaving Belgium, France and coming to the USA.

The opportunity to interview our elders – both informally and informally – are many but often we don’t grab the chance.  Either we think they aren’t interested in talking, or perhaps they really are not interested. Or maybe we aren’t asking the right questions to get them to talk and share.

Bottom line is that many of us go through our lives without having these important conversations with our grandmothers, grandfathers and even our parents.  Later we may regret those missed moments and conversations.

I think the message of Mr. Konis’s book is that we ought to delve into the situation with our elders and find out what and how much they are willing to share. If they are willing to share and reminisce, then we take out a pen and paper and write down what they say. Pull out the tape recorder or  video camera and record them talking. Make a collage or scrapbook using old pictures. Interview them, tape them and give out a CD to the cousins.

But if they are not willing to share, accept that reality. Enjoy their presence and glean your own stories from the time you had with them. That’s what Mr. Konis did and his story “Conversations We Never Had” is a testimony to his great love and memory of his time with his grandmother.

 

 


Why “A Hanukkah with Mazel” Inspires Hope (A Book Review)

Sometimes we need a little extra touch of  optimism in our lives. Maybe we are feeling sad. Maybe our children seem a bit hopeless about stuff in their lives. We pray, we hope, we sing, we laugh… but nothing seems to be working for us.

Words can help. Stories can inspire.

That dose of faith or spoonful of hope and promise for our future that everything will turn okay is often found in a good story. No matter if that book is truth or fiction. Never mind if it is short or long; for kids or for adults.

Recently, I was asked by Kar-Ben Publishing Company to review some books. Subsequently, they sent me several Hanukkah books. These were: Hanukkah Delight, L’Dor Vador, and Joseph The Dreamer, all of which were delightful and will be reviewed in a future post.

In particular,  the picture book story, A Hanukkah with Mazel by Joel Edward Stein, hit the spot and helped me feel optimistic and hopeful. I got that good fuzzy feeling in my stomach and I just had to read it again and again. Then, I shared it with my grandsons who loved it.

A Hanukkah with Mazel by Joel Edward Stein, (Kar-Ben Publishing, 2016), tells the story of Misha a poor farmer, an artist who has barely enough money for his own food and what happens to him when a cute stray cat  appears in his barn next to the cow. How he uses his kindness and resourcefulness to make a better future for himself. The cat, whom he names “Mazel” symbolizes the hope and gratitude he feels for having found and helped the cat. And then,  after that, as Misha celebrates the holiday of Hanukkah,  things just become better for him.

The illustrations by Elisa Vavouri are realistic without being trite. The language is simple and unpretentious without being too childish. The book has a universal and classic and Jewish feel to it without being cliché.

Hanukkah is  when we gather round with our family and loved ones. It’s a great time for instilling feelings of hope and faith in our children and ourselves. This story mirrors the one of Hanukkah where one little amount of oil lasted for eight days. Misha has no money or much oil but he does have talent. Talent for art. A heart to care for the cat and a brain to figure out what to do. All that combined with someone else who comes into his life, combine to make  a story of small and large miracles.

This book can be purchased online on Amazon or at the Kar-Ben website.

Happy Hanukkah to all who celebrate! And may all our days be happy and filled with light.

Disclaimer: I received the listed Hanukkah books in compensation for this review.

 

 

 


Should Age Be a Private Matter?

A few  nights ago our family was invited to the100th birthday party of my mother-in-law’s cousin.  To me, the celebration of his becoming 100 indicated that he and all around him were grateful for his blessings of a long life.

It was a time to announce his age to those who were there. Something that is often private was the topic of the event.

My MIL has lots of friends around that age, including someone from our synagogue  who turned 100 a few months ago and celebrated with a party in synagogue on Shabbat. Oh, and did I  mention my MIL’s best friend, Anne who turned 102? That was a milestone which our family and Anne’s children celebrated at a restaurant.

Until about 6 years ago, my mother-in-law’s age was private. No one seemed to know her age and if they did they certainly didn’t discuss it.

After that, her age was officially public knowledge and no longer a taboo subject.

So I’m wondering: Why wait till you’re 90 or 95 to announce your exact age? I think it should be something to boast about when we are still in our 30’s, 40’s and beyond.

I guess this belief stems from my childhood and how I was raised.

The adults in my life always discussed their age. I had two sets of grandparents growing up and I knew all of their ages as a child. And that’s not just because I was a nosy kid who asked a lot of questions! (although that may have something to do with it.)

But seriously, when my maternal grandmother was in the hospital and not feeling very well the last year of her life, she maintained her sense of humor and shall I say, brutal honesty.  When the doctor came in to examine her and asked her how old she was, she said, “90 1/2,” in a decisive tone of voice. No one was going to leave out that half a year that she was proud of.

Every year one of my sisters writes a poem using my mom’s age that year as a takeoff for a theme. That poem gets emailed to all the cousins and friends by my mother herself.

So I grew up with the adults around me treating age as a number denoting an accomplishment.  Nothing to hide or be ashamed of. Another birthday means we have arrived. And thank G-d we have more time on this earth to accomplish things.

Still, age continues to be a taboo subject in some families and cultures. It’s still considered impolite for children or adults to ask one another how old they are. I get that.

But I wonder whether the hiding of one’s age or considering it not a topic of conversation in polite company contribute to unhealthy messages about our aging bodies and souls.

Personally, I think it’s a good thing to be open about one’s age, because it helps us grow and move forward emotionally. I believe that when we pretend to be what we are not or forget that we are 56 (that would be me!), maybe we won’t take care of our health. We may neglect ourselves and skip mammograms or colonoscopies or bone density exams or other checkups… because we think we are still 25 or 35.

By contrast, when we focus on the positive aspects of growing old such as having more wisdom and experience we embrace our age.  Rather than getting depressed when we reach a new decade or big number,  I do think it’s better to reach a place of acceptance.

That celebration doesn’t have to be in the form of a party or getting gifts. It can be in the simple acknowledgment of our moving forward. Our growth. It could be a time to take stock of what we’ve achieved the past year or years and what we want to achieve in the next year. A time for gratitude and prayer.

Children are proud of their age because it denotes being more grownup and having more privileges. To them every fraction of a year counts. My young grandson has been keeping track of when his 5 1/2 years became 5 3/4 until he turned 6.

We don’t have to have that kind of glee for a new age or fraction of an age. And some people choose to keep it private. Whether we admit it or not, we feel our age. Every. Single. Day.

But instead of seeing that as a negative, let’s see it as a reminder of our blessings.

So the next time the subject comes up, be proud of your age. Whether you are 20, 30, 40, or 50 +, let’s celebrate our birthdays, not just with a party and lots of cards.

Oh and by the way, my birthday is coming up soon in a few months and I’ve been reflecting as I reach that number and as I watch others have birthdays. It could be this post is my way of working through my unconscious anxieties about the new number. Or maybe I’m just reflecting on a common societal trend of age and privacy. I don’t know.

All I know is that I  pray that we can all embrace and celebrate our birthdays by having our cake and eating it too. That means being grateful, taking care of our physical and emotional health and reaching out to loved ones.

 

 

 

 


How My Mom, Sisters and I Had our Great Experience

My husband and I never travel to exotic places and we’re pretty much okay with it. We have thank G-d a lovely climate here in Southern California where the sun shines pretty much on most days and where we get to complain when it’s 50 degrees how freezing it is. Our idea of a good vacation is a drive to the San Diego Zoo or Laguna Beach.  Even Disneyland is out of the question as the prices have become astronomical (sorry, Disneyland).

But all that aside, it has been my dream to go to Israel for like forever. I had been there as a child with my parents, then as a high school graduate with my friends and 22 years later with my husband.

I’ve wanted to have what’s called a “chavaya” – a memorable experience in Israel that is imprinted on my mind. I wanted to really feel like I lived there – even for just a few days, not in a hotel or motel, but in an apartment with friends or family.

I wanted to go to the Holy places such as the Western Wall to pray. I yearned to pray at the graves of our matriarchs such as Rachel’s Tomb  and the Cave of the Patriarchs or Me’arat HaMachpeilah.

I wanted to visit our youngest son who is there now in Israel and to experience the new and modern country that I’ve heard from friends that Israel has developed into since I’ve been there over a decade ago. In fact, the only time we went together in all our married years was when our older son was there for yeshiva and we went to visit him. I still remember that trip because it was several months after 9/11, tickets were cheap and the entire country was devoid of tourists.

Still, I longed and pined for that next honeymoon with my husband but figured it wasn’t going to happen very soon. I was content with the amazing mini-vacations to San Diego and Laguna and the great theme park of Knotts Berry Farm (sorry, Disneyland; Knott’s is more affordable). And we are fortunate to go  the East Coast for nieces’ and nephews’ weddings, for family events and so forth. And even though we miss many such family events, I feel blessed to be able to go to the ones that I do.

It’s all good. One of the many lessons I’ve learned (and tried to practice) over the years is  to have gratitude for the good in my life  and to keep my expectations realistic. Dreaming and longing is nice but when we have high expectations that are over our budget or lifestyle, we set ourselves up for disappointment.

So I put the dream out of my mind.  I told my husband when we win the lottery or win one of those many raffle tickets we put in $18 for to win that elusive “trip for 2 to Israel”,  we will get to go.  That and also if  he gains more vacation days at his workplace (right now all his yearly vacation is used for Jewish Holiday breaks),  and we have enough to spend on a hotel and a few tourist attractions….we will go somewhere. If all that’s in place, we will fulfill our wish list of travel.  Israel was at the top of that list followed closely by Alaska in the summer (to see the midnight sun – my husband’s dream).

Then last month we traveled to NY from LA for our niece’s wedding.

At the wedding I was schmoozing with one of my sisters when she told me that our mother was asking to visit Israel this winter and this sister wanted to take her there. As this sister and another are the ones who live closest to our mom, they had heard my mom expressing a longing to visit the Holy Land and see her cousins whom she hadn’t seen in over ten years. Additionally, since my father passed away, our mom hasn’t traveled much and she felt lonely and an eagerness to go somewhere special. To see and pray at the Holy places and  to visit with family and friends who lived there.

That’s when I blurted out, “Oh, that’s so nice. I want to come along!” I didn’t think of the cost or the time off from work and how that would be possible. I just had this sudden urge to go with my mom and sisters. For some reason, I disregarded any of the kinks that would have to be worked out such as leaving my husband behind.

And suddenly money became irrelevant as my husband and I talked it over and his remark was that this was a trip of a lifetime and we would make it work. (Even if we had to work Sundays and evenings and extra hours for the next few weeks.)

Within a day, I had a ticket to Israel for three weeks later,  found my recently renewed (whew!) passport in the place where we keep them,  my husband’s blessings and encouragement, my three sisters including the one who initiated it coming along, and my mother extremely excited that her four daughters would be traveling with her to Israel. Oh, and our spouses, our brothers and their wives were not invited, thank you. This was an all-girls event.

For the next few weeks we went back and forth with plans for the Big Trip. The anticipation was so much fun. From the beginning our goal was to make my mom happy and that we were doing this for our mom. That meant that we would fill our days with activities that my mom could do. Since she is thank G-d in her late 80’s (may she live till 120) and doesn’t walk as fast as she used to, activities such as climbing Masada and touring the North or South of the country were out.

The trip lasted 9 days of which we were in Israel for just under 6 days. But no worries. We knew were going to have a blast breathing the air of Jerusalem and other places we went and just being with each other.

A day before we left to Israel we found out that El Al airlines was on strike and we had to quickly scramble with the airline to get a refund and buy new tickets with a stopover. Still, we were thrilled that we were able to work it out. Never mind that our trip was cut short by about 12 hours since we had to make do with whatever return tickets we could get on the new airline. Never mind that I had to quickly get on a plane that night (a day early) to NY to meet my sisters and mom at the airport for the new flight outbound. And never mind that I had to pay extra for that quickly made flight.

Nothing mattered because we were going to be traveling together and having  a blast on the trip of a lifetime.

And as we took off on that Monday evening on the plane, the only regrets I had were  for the flight attendants on Brussels Air who had to put up with our constant standing up and loud talking. Our passing diet food brought with us to each other. Our laughing and giggling and loud playing of word games  (word mix is a great one by the way!) on the screen.

Still I had so much to be grateful for: First, I had a husband that was fine (thrilled) with my getting away for a week (oops 9 days including travel). Second, my adult kids were thrilled for me and their grandmother and aunts. And finally, this was an easy trip to plan for since I wasn’t leaving any carpools, babies, school schedules and play dates for someone else to worry about. In fact, the only baby I was leaving in the care of my husband was my new kitchen. He had strict instructions written down how to care of the various appliances.

One of the things I’ve learned as mother-in-law and grandmother and in general a middle aged person is to have lower expectations of events and happenings.  That philosophy ends up being quite freeing. It’s a way of letting go and allowing things in life to evolve the way they will. It means letting other people including friends, relatives and our children be who they are. It means  allowing our married couples to make their own decisions without us offering unsolicited advice. It means doing the best we can do in situations using our skills without beating ourselves up when we make mistakes.

And when we do all that, we can free ourselves to let in all the fun and laughter and just enjoy the ride . (and lots of city walking too!)

Visiting one of the holy places

 

 

 


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