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.

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

 

 

 


How the Election Made Me More Tolerant

The other day I was mad at a certain person in my life. Really upset. I was ranting and raving and venting to my husband about it.

Then I thought about it and slept on it. The next day I woke up, went about my day and thought about it. I started to realize that the other person has a difficult situation in his/her life and that’s why he/she is acting that way. And I started to understand where they were coming from. I wasn’t mad at that person anymore. Wow.

I believe that this election fever and overall stress gives me a chance to practice my skills of switching gears and seeing things from another point of view.

This Election has brought out the worst in many of us. People are bickering online and in person, on Facebook and on Twitter. Relationships have suffered as voting has morphed from a basic right and privilege into an unpleasant phenomenon of political arguments, fights and de-friending on and offline. Nobody wants to discuss who they are V-ting for (the V word) for fear of repercussions – both real and imagined.

And yet, in spite of the bickering these days  we can find some common ground between us.   Whether we’re voting for Trump, Clinton, Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, a write-in random candidate, or none of the above, we all agree on one thing.

We are  completely stressed from the whole thing and we can’t wait till it’s all over.

There are many anxieties that we share and misery does love company in this case. We can comfort each other, knowing  it will eventually be over at the end of Election day. And yet.  We fear that things will drag on. We have nightmares of a repeat Gore-Bush situation of the hanging chads and recounting. We are tormented by the chances that one candidate may protest the result and maybe there will be a big ——-

Stop! Stop! Stop!  It’s no use obsessing about it. I mean that’s all we’ve (me!) been doing the last few months and it’s time to put an end to the negativity and prepare to move forward

It’s time to look at the bright side of all this. It’s time for ME to see the silver lining from all this and how everything happens for the best.

It’s time for me to realize that there is a Destiny or G-d or a Higher Power out there that is protecting us from horrible things. It’s time to do my best and have some faith.

It’s time grow from all this.

First, it’s time to be a little easier on myself. So what if I flip-flop every day and can’t make up my mind who to vote for because I like his or her stances on the issues – or because I just can’t stand the OTHER candidate. So what? Right?

Here’s my process: I listen and read everything I come across. I do lots of research. And I decide that I’m in favor Candidate A and I’m totally for him/her. I mean I think she/he is aligned with all or most of the values that I believe in. And not only that, I’m convinced that the other candidate is the epitome of evil.

And then – I go to sleep, wake up in the morning, read a few articles and voila, I’m thinking “Hey, so and so really represents my view of how things can be better – based on my values and what I consider to be important for a President.”

Etcetera. Etcetera. Etcetera.

I start to challenge my previous decision. I realize that there is a whole other way to look at things. And I make my decision to (maybe) vote for the other candidate.

This cycle repeats itself several times per week. It’s been somewhat annoying because as Election date is upon us, I’m still undecided. And I’ve even pondered voting for a third party candidate or not at all.

I’ve been thinking about this flip-flop tendency of mine and been pretty upset with myself over it. And then it hit me the other day that maybe it’s not such a bad thing. Maybe it’s actually a sign that I can see two sides of a situation, empathize with it and be able to argue both sides of the debate.

Through this election I learned that I’m fickle, somewhat gullible. Or maybe it’s just that I’m open-minded or tolerant? Hmmm. To me things are not always black and white, and that characteristic is more evident this election.

After this election is over, we will still have our relationships with friends (hopefully) and even if the issues of the election will be behind us all, we will still need to reach across aisles to feel another person’s pain and experience.

Understanding another’s viewpoint is important. That’s what I learned from this election. I see Hillary’s viewpoint and I see Trump’s. I get them both. I just have to decide which one I’m willing to give the job of President.

I’ve not made my firm decision yet on that. But one thing I’ve decided is that for better or worse – I can’t stay upset at people for very long.

And that’s something I think we all should vote for.

 

 


A Tribute to My Father on his YahrTzeit

What do you say when someone asks you for information that is readily available on the Internet?

Google it! That’s code for “Look it up. Figure it out. You can do it….”

My siblings and I reminisce that my father would encourage our independence in learning new things, by telling us to  “look it up.”

In honor of  the yahrtzeit or anniversary of my father’s passing two years ago, I write this blog post. This one’s for you, Daddy.

Shalom Stern, or Shalom ben Shlomo (the son of Solomon) Halevi (a descendant of the Levites) passed away after a diagnosis 14 years earlier of Parkinson’s Disease. My father passed on September 28, 2014 but the Hebrew date falls on today’s Hebrew date which is the day after Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year). Today we lit a candle that lasts for 24 hours and my brothers recited kaddish in my father’s memory.

My father was a paradigm of punctuality. Descending from German ancestors, his motto was “a place for everything…everything in its place.” This time of year which precedes the holiday of Sukkos has a theme from the book of Ecclesiastes which reads, “A time to mourn, a time to rejoice…..a time for everything.” Similarly, my father believed that there is a time for everything and he stuck to a sensible daily schedule in his life.

My father was born in Antwerp, Belgium May 27, 1926. He attended Cheder (traditional Jewish elementary school) there along with his sister. He had a relatively uneventful childhood with his parents, many cousins and friends in the little town where they lived. In the early 1940’s,  the political situation changed and they left their home and moved from country to country, town to town, living over the next few years in France, Portugal, Cuba, followed by the U.S.

IMGThis is my paternal grandmother

According to stories we heard from my father and my aunt, “everything was an adventure” during these unstable times. Yes, they were afraid but it didn’t cripple them. They trusted their parents, prayed and continued on with their  daily activities and schooling in each place that they lived. Time to be afraid and time to move on. My aunt recalls saying the prayer “Shema Yisrael” in her bed as the war planes were flying in earshot. My father spoke about his countless stories of escape and survival into a recording and one of my nephews created a CD for all the family which I cherish.

When my dad came to the U.S. at age 16 (1942), he attended high school in Brooklyn and learned the English language rapidly. After high school he continued in with his Jewish studies in a local yeshiva while attending Brooklyn College to earn a degree in Economics. In 1949, my father met my mother and they married that year in June. He went into business while my mother stayed home with the children and together they raised a family of six children. They were the matriarch and patriarch of  many grandchildren and great grandchildren.

dadyoung

My father had a very disciplined and hard working nature. I was proud to have such a “perfect” father who was so smart, wise, kind, learned and accomplished. On the other hand, there was this pressure to keep up, to do things correctly. My husband spoke at a small memorial meal that we sponsored in my father’s memory last Shabbos (Saturday). One of my husband’s key comments was that he felt that our father was someone to look up to, to emulate and to aspire to be like.

He had a meticulous schedule in which he rose early, prayed, studied Talmud, ate breakfast, went to work and then came home at the same time each night. Looking back, it seems kind of idyllic in some ways. The predictability, the security and all that. At the same time as I said there was this pressure to do good work. It was sort of an unspoken expectation of “You can do it. You will do it.” Each one of us siblings has differing interests. But, we each try to do our best in whatever we do.

daddyThis is my father speaking at a family event in the final year of his life.

My father learned and studied Torah deeply and often could be found in his study poring over books either alone or with one or several grandchildren. Even in the last days when his PD had progressed to its worst symptoms of not being able to talk above a whisper, my father enjoyed listening to stories about Torah. This energized him. I believe this means my father was a very spiritual person.

Additionally, in his life, my father was active in founding a girls’ high school in our community and he gave charity to many institutions around. My father had a witty sense of humor, enjoyed being around people and socializing in the free time that he had. He liked traveling, people and words.

momdadMy Mom and Dad

Just this morning, I asked my brother a question and my brother’s return text to me was “as Daddy would say, ‘look it up!'”

I recall my father’s study with his unabridged dictionary and huge atlas along with many encyclopedias and books surrounding him, we always had to resources to “look it up.”

As we come out of the two intense days of the New Year and move forward into the 10 days bridge until Yom Kippur, I make that my new mantra. Whenever I struggle with something, I will think of my father and how he used all his abilities to look things up, to figure things out and to grow. I will remember his motto of a time for everything, a place for everything.

Whether I’m studying, reading, learning, blogging, working or socializing, I will be mindful of doing things carefully and properly to the best of my ability at the appropriate time.

My father was a tough act to follow – but definitely someone to aspire to. All in the right time.

May his memory be blessed.

daddymatzeivah

 

 


10 Things You’re Doing that Drive Your New Daughter-in-law Crazy….and How to Fix Them

milhoodladies2

I originally wrote this post for my website page that offers help exclusively for mothers-in-law on how to cope. I launched that page in 2013 and this was my first broadcast I sent out.

Well, I’ve come a long way since then. Many people have corresponded with me through that site with questions on how to cope. I have tried to answer their queries to the best of my abilities based on my own and on others’ experiences shared with me. However, I sometimes wonder whether I have fallen behind in some of these skills. Having had several more sons get married thank G-d, increasing my number of daughters-in-law to four (and counting!), I’ve had some tricky scenarios occur in our family(and no, I will not share them in this post!). I can picture my daughters-in-law reading this and thinking, “Hmmm…” Yes, confession: I have broken these rules (from time to time!).

Rereading my own tips leads to me realizing I need a tune-up and some studying of my own rules.

So in hopes of increasing my own commitment to these guidelines and possibly helping others in the process, I’ve decided to rewrite and slightly revise them with updated 2016 situations such as text and what’s-app and Facebook. So, without further ado, here they are:

10 Things That Drive Your DIL crazy….and how to fix them

1. You call your daughter-in-law too much. The rule of newlyweds is “don’t call – let them call you.” By your calling them, you may be pressuring them to talk when they may be busy with something else.

How to fix:

a) Tell your new couple that for the first few months, you are available if they need you – and mean it. Make a commitment to them never to call them in the beginning. When I was a new mother-in-law, I remember picking up the phone…and putting it down. It took all my inner strength to refrain from calling.

b) If they call you, return their call within a reasonable period of time, and help them out if you can. This will build trust as they realize you are there for them, while not hovering over them. Better to let them find a time that works for them and call you, rather than put them on the spot. This applies to leaving messages too.

c) You may text or “what’s-app” them but do so with just information that you are giving them about something upcoming in the family, rather than with expectations of them to respond.

2. You compare your own family members to your daughter-in-law and/or her family. Okay, you’re proud of your own family and biological children. Fine. But, by comparing openly or talking about another person too much, you may be giving the unwitting impression that you don’t value your new daughter-in-law as an individual.

How to fix:

a) When you are with your dil, don’t share or brag about your own family. At least in the beginning few months, be a listener, more than a talker and sharer.

b) As a side note, this comparison factor may come into play when the various couples start to have children. It’s best to listen to your individual daughters-in-law share and discuss about their children, without interjecting comparisons about another of your daughter-in-law’s children.

3. You ask open-ended questions such as what she is making for dinner, or how she spends her time. To you that may be a matter of conversation, but to her it is personal and perhaps not something of interest to her.  Starting conversations with a question can only lead to defensiveness, or feeling pressured into sharing.

How to fix:

a) Avoid appearing curious and asking too many personal questions.

b) Allow the relationship to build through your sharing with her and then letting her share spontaneously.

4. You give her advice that she does not ask for, or you give your son advice about something that pertains to both or one of them. When your children get married, they are under new management. They are adults in charge of their own life. By you offering advice, you are demonstrating that you still see them as children. They should know that you are there for them (as much as you can) when they ask. But never ever offer unsolicited advice. Whether it’s about housekeeping, finances, child-raising, health. Anything.

How to fix:

a) No advice at all. Only if they ask. And even then, reflect back to them by saying, “So what are your options? How do you want to handle it?”

b) Now, it’s okay to say, “if you need any help, feel free to ask” to them or to offer your opinion – ONE time, but then you need to drop it. Try never to bring it up again.

5. You criticize and find fault with her. This will drive her crazy and will drive a wedge between you and her. If you see your son or daughter-in-law doing things “wrong” in your eyes, keep you mouth shut. Do not criticize her. Ever. Let’s say she makes bagels and cream cheese for dinner five days a week (maybe an extreme example). Don’t say anything about it. Don’t offer advice on other nutritional offerings (see rule #4). And don’t tell her how unhealthy an unbalanced it is to serve such dinners. Just let it be. Whatever she does or is, is not your business.

How to fix:

a)  If you notice that you are criticizing too much, stop.

b)  Apologize if she or they were hurt and resolve to never find fault.

c)  Realize they are a married couple and if you want them to be happy, then finding fault with either one of them is not going to create good feelings or happiness between you.

d) Maybe find a friend or mentor to share and vent with about your thoughts. Try to find solutions within yourself to reframe situations so that you don’t appear critical.

6. You rarely praise your couple and/or daughter-in-law. Not only is it important to avoid criticizing (rule 5), but you must find ways to praise them sincerely. A mother-in-law who rarely finds good in her daughter-in-law is at best going to have a stilted relationship. You can offer the praise to your son about her, some of the time. It doesn’t have to be always to her, but still she must know that you approve of her. If you don’t approve in some areas, find other areas that you do approve and make sure she knows.

How to fix:

a) Make a list of things that you appreciate about them and try to remember to point out every now and then when you truly admire something they did.

b) Be grateful in your heart for their good qualities and make mention of them from time to time.

7. You pop into their home without calling first. I don’t think I have ever popped into my married couple’s apartment without calling(or texting, emailing or calling) first. Even if you have something you want to bring them or give them, never just show up.

How to fix:

a) Always call to ask if you can come before even considering coming to them.

b) If you have something you want to give them, leave it in a special place in your home and mention to them that the next time they are over they can come get it.

8. You follow up on issues or events that they confide in you about. Let’s say your children share with you such as a visit to the doctor, or a challenge they’ve had with something. While it’s okay to follow up afterward with friends in such a situation and say “hey, how did that go…” – with daughters-in-law and especially newly married couples, it’s best not to keep tabs on their private lives. They shared. Fine. Let it go. Maybe in a few weeks or months, you can say “by the way what happened with that?” But in the meantime, don’t go there. What you view as concern, they may view as intrusiveness.

How to fix:

a) Try not to obsess about things they share with you. Unless it’s an ongoing thing that they may need support with, just put the details of their life out of your mind.

b) In your daily prayers, offer a thought or beckoning for help in whatever area they (or you) may be struggling.

c) Keep busy in your own life and you will resist the urge to follow uop.

9. You remind them about invitations and obligations. This can be a biggie. You know, thank you cards after the wedding or after a baby is born. Right? You have the urge to remind them of keeping to the family tradition of good manners. Right?  Or here’s another one: Let’s say there’s a wedding in the family. Everyone has received an invitation that you know of. It’s probably best not to prompt the new couple and say, “don’t forget we have that wedding….” Or even worse, “Um…please be on time to the wedding…” This will drive them up a wall. They may have their own plans or agenda for that day and it’s between them and the hosts whether they come. You can ask casually if you will see them there. But to actually prompt them and remind them as if they are children is not appropriate.

How to fix:

a) Realize that their behaviors are not a reflection of you. They are their own entity now and their coming or not coming to an event on time (or at all) should have no bearing on you and don’t be involved.

10. You insist that they come visit. It’s perfectly okay and wonderful to invite your married children for a weekend or ask them to come over for the afternoon on a Sunday or evening. But when inviting becomes insisting, you are instilling pressure and having expectations.

How to fix:

a) When they do come to visit you, make your home a pleasant and fun place to hang out. They will be more likely to come by more often.

Conclusion:

Remember that the more we mix in and the more expectations we have, the more we are setting ourselves up for disappointment. All of the above missteps are okay once in awhile.

We are all human and perfection is not the goal. I have made many of the above mistakes and learned from them in the process. Just be aware and be careful, and if you make a mistake, discuss it and move on. And yes, fix it using the tips for fixing above. That’s what it’s all about – improving and repairing our relationships that need it.


Copyright 2013 by Miriam Hendeles

Original Source: http://bubbyjoysandoys.com/miriam-hendeles-2  or http://miriamhendeles.com

Email: Miriamhendeles@gmail.com

 

 

 

 


Life is Grand at the Old Ballgame

It’s a week or two before the Jewish New Year, with lots to do in preparation for this auspicious time of year. Still, it’s a good a time as any for  my husband and I to spend quality time with our grandchildren. Since every summer we have a tradition to take our two young grandsons (now ages 5 1/2 and 8 1/2) to watch a ballgame, we found time to do that last night.

Admittedly we were a bit delayed with the ritual due to our older son’s wedding a few weeks ago. But, we did end up finding a good time on our calendar. And so, my husband – whose favorite childhood pastime was baseball- and I  headed off last night with our baseball fan grandsons to Dodger Stadium.

Last night Los Angeles Dodgers play against the San Francisco Giants. Even though both teams are from our home state, we naturally rooted for the Dodgers.

One of my grandsons wore his fun  Jackie Robinson shirt with “Brooklyn” scrawled across the front. And our younger grandson said, “I go for the Dodgers.” I could tell by their cheers of “Let’s go Dodgers!” throughout the game that they really did want the Dodgers to win.

Win or lose, what could be bad about a night out (past their bedtimes) to the ballpark? What’s more fun than home made hot dogs taken along in a plastic bag, buying super expensive drinks at the park, and sitting with baseball caps cheering and watching the Dodgers play  the Giants?

And what could be more exciting and hearwarming for us than taking our grandsons out for a night, watching them enjoy themselves, and just having the quality time with them?

In this day and age, when life seems sometimes doom and gloom, we couldn’t have asked for a more fun night.

It started off with my husband coming home early from work so we could get an early start out for the 7:10 game. No such luck. We left at 6:15 later than planned with two eager guys in the backseat, holding onto their mitts in the hopes of catching a fly ball

Pretty soon we hit traffic before reaching the freeway. But our spirits were high and so were the boys’ spirits  as they talked about all their favorite and not-so-favorite sports teams. We kept our eyes on the eventual road signs pointing to Dodger Stadium.

Eventually we arrived, parked and walked quickly to the ticket booth. The game had already started, but the boys  were already glued to the screens visible from the ticket booths. While my husband negotiated seats with the salesperson, the boys were focused on one thing only: The Game.

As I said, life is good at the ballpark. Here they are waiting in line.

ballpic

We got our tickets and found our seats which turned out to be really great ones. And even though the game crawled — hey baseball is a slow game — the kids seemed to have a grand time. And even though their team was losing –with Giants leading 1-0 for most of the time, my grandsons had that glimmer in their eyes, of focus and attention.

And an exciting game it was – with the Giants in the lead till the 9th inning.

And me? I listened with half an ear to the baseball chatter between the guys and kept myself busy taking pictures.

ballpic2

In the 8th inning, there was some talk about switching pitchers for the Giants because they wanted to make sure they would stay in the lead. But alas, it wasn’t to be. Even though they did change to a rested pitcher, the Dodgers scored two runs and won the game.

By this time, we were already on our way home listening to the game on AM 570 in our car because true to our tradition of going to the ballpark, we left at the bottom of the 8th inning.

As the final plays were occurring, we were heading towards our street, and soon turned into our driveway. Before dropping the boys off, we sat in the car and listened to the final plays until the win. Yay!

It’s a win! 2-1! At last the Dodgers won the game! Go Dodgers!

smilingball

 And now it’s time to get home and go to sleep…good night!


They’re Just Married: A Mom’s Muse

just-married-1448733362sch

A few days ago I received a text from my newly married couple. Two words: “We arrived.”

Those two words told me everything – they had arrived at their new apartment a week after the wedding and the ensuing celebrations. Although I would have liked just a bit of a longer text (2 words? Come on?), I understood that they were busy and needed to get on. School, work, life. They have things to do.

And there’s another piece here. After a couple gets married they need space from their parents in the first weeks of their marriage. Actually, the first year – known as “shanah rishonah” in Hebrew is a time for the new couple to bond.

The couple needs settling and so do we, the parents. Our family recently celebrated the wedding of our fourth son (mazel tov!) and it takes more than a few days (weeks?) for us as the parents to settle back into what was pre-couple normal. Things have been kind of hectic around here ever since these two individuals – our son and his lovely wife met each other over six months ago, dated, became an engaged couple, and then….the wedding a few weeks ago!

Fatigue, stress, anxiety and endless to-do lists. Those are only part of the equation of making a simcha. So yes, for the past three months we’ve been preparing a wedding which took a lot of emotional and physical preparation. Getting acquainted with a new family, dealing with many different people and accommodating many kinds of events brings out the best (hopefully not the worst!) in all of us. We were in constant contact with each other, communicating various plans via email, texts and phone calls.

The day after we returned from Cleveland where the wedding took place,  telltale signs of the simcha were visible.  Many who make these parties and events will relate; there were chairs that had to be returned, thank you cards to be written, fridge and freezer leftovers to be dealt with, and some empty suitcases still lying around.

But now, all that has been cleared away. The suitcases are back in storage, the chairs returned to their owners, most of the thank-you’s written, and my house has a semblance of order.

As we accept the always welcome Mazel Tov wishes from friends and acquaintances in the market, some of us are getting over the colds and viruses that we caught on the plane or from one another as we traveled. Stress of the excitement and pressure catches up to us and our immunities are lowered, bringing out those upper-respiratory infections in many of our family. Thank G-d for Z-Pac. It  works wonders (many thanks to Dr. U – my internist who found time for us in his schedule!).

And then – and then — we move on. The couple is settled into their new home and they are a separate couple. Besides for the occasional gift that comes to our house and gets placed in our upstairs guest room (for the next time they visit), we really have little day-to-day activities revolving around the wedding.

Yes, there are bills to be paid, work to be done (to pay those bills!) and more mazel tovs to be accepted. There are the pictures to choose from the photographer’s proofs, and copies to be made at Walgreens and Kinkos. It’s all a lot of fun and pleasant. These activities are what I’m supposed to be doing.

These activities of choosing and framing pictures, giving thank-you gifts to kind friends, and writing thank you notes to those whom I appreciate, are all appropriate social behaviors for mother of the groom to do post-wedding.

I enjoy these tasks. But I would be remiss if I didn’t at least acknowledge the void in my heart that I can’t just pick up the phone and call my son and daughter-in-law anymore. They are a new couple with their own life and my job is to give them that space. This is something I remind myself for each one of our kids as they grow and fly the coup.

I go back to work, visit my clients who I’ve neglected for the past few weeks, and spend time with my husband. I call my mother a little more often, my mother-in-law and sister-in-law too, and I spend more quality time chatting with my grandsons. Things are a bit more relaxed.

Still, the void is there. And that’s okay. That space in my heart where I was preoccupied with this son and his bride can be filled with hope and love and warmth and pride.  That excitement of planning and thinking about them is now redirected to moving forward in my own life and things that I enjoy doing for myself. (pictures of kids counts as doing for myself!).

As I write a list of “things to tell the new couple” when they call before Shabbos, I remind myself that this exact situation is what my husband and I have prayed for. We don’t want to hover and want our children to be on their own.

We don’t want to be picking up the phone every time something pops into our heads of what to tell them. This is the time to refrain from overwhelming. To sift, filter, and perhaps pick up that phone – only to put it back down again.

The good news? Shana Rishona is one year only. Not more. Okay – two weeks down. Fifty more to go. I can handle this.

 

 

 


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