Contact Me

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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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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 Takeaways from Chanukah Music

happy-hanukkah-holiday-text

While lighting the first candle of the Chanukah menorah this evening, my husband sang the traditional hymn “Maoz Tsur” song with my accompaniment on the piano.  After the guys left  to eat the latkes, I continued, playing almost the entire book of Chanukah music.

Chanukah is a holiday that holds a great deal of meaning for me, and so it’s no coincidence that its music puts me into a good mood. Although there aren’t oodles of  songs out there for Chanukah, the Chanukah songs we sing are representative of deep and relevant themes.  Catchy melodies are set in major keys, evoking a peppy, uplifting and happy spirit.

Growing up in NY I heard Christmas Holiday songs while shopping with my mom during the winter holidays season,.  These childhood memories come in handy nowadays as a music therapist, when I sing and play music in nursing homes.  After all, my gentile clients are not so interested in Hava Nagila or Chanukah songs.  Why should they be? So I take out my green and red anthology of Holiday music, and I play for them on my instrument.  Many of the tunes are familiar and I play by ear.  Others are not, so I  sight-read the music and I’m good to go.

But, in  real life I’m a Jewish mom and mother-in-law (and little girl at heart) who loves her Jewish Chanukah songs. The ones that my first piano teacher, Miss Miller taught me when I was in 4th grade to improvise on the piano with cool arrangements.

The songs our family sang every year  and the melodies that my children sang and performed in school plays.

The tunes my husband and sons and I sang at the top of our lungs while any one of our piano lesson-ed sons played the piano.

Each of those compositions has a message. The lyrics resonate with relevant themes today in modern times, although many were  composed decades or centuries ago.

Many Chanukah songs were originally composed for young children – often in pre-school – but the tunes are endearing. so even adults enjoy them. The messages are timeless, ageless, conveying themes that encompass all our lives whatever our age and stage.

Here are a few of my favorite Chanukah Songs.  Click on the links and enjoy the music provided on videos. For more Chanukah songs, see this anthology

Dreidel Song – when I hear or play this song I think of happy children spinning their “tops” (dreidel in Yiddish, sevivon in Hebrew) while the lights of the menorah are burning. I think of the warmth and security of the children and the blessings we have while G-d watches over us in our homes. I think of how the children during the time of the Maccabees had to hide in caves and pretend to play these games while the Romans showed up suddenly. Anything but to study their Torah forbidden by the Romans.

top

English version
I have a little dreidel. I made it out of clay.
And when it’s dry and ready, then dreidel I shall play.
Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made it out of clay.
Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, then dreidel I shall play.
It has a lovely body, with legs so short and thin.
When it gets all tired, it drops and then I win!
Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, with leg so short and thin.
Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, it drops and then I win!
My dreidel’s always playful. It loves to dance and spin.
A happy game of dreidel, come play now let’s begin.
Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, it loves to dance and spin.
Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel. Come play now let’s begin.
I have a little dreidel. I made it out of clay.
When it’s dry and ready, dreidel I shall play.
Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made you out of clay.
Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, then dreidel I shall play.

Maoz Tsur – the timeless song of the Maccabees’ fight for freedom. I think of the concept of victory of few against the masses, when it is meant to be and when G-d is on our side. I think of hope, faith and courage in the face of troubles and storms. I think of perseverance and doing what’s right and what’s true to ourselves.

English:
Rock of Ages let our song,
Praise thy saving power;
Thou amidst the raging foes,
Wast our sheltering tower.

Furiously they assailed us,
But Thine arm availed us
And Thy word broke their sword,
When our own strength failed us.
And Thy word broke their sword,
When our own strength failed us.

Oy Chanukah, Oy Chanukah – When I listen to this song (it’s usually sung in Yiddish, so I’m not so good at the words!), and then play it on the piano (too difficult for the harp so far!), I think of the happiness in the air during Chanukah. The festivities. The celebrations. The donuts, the potato pancakes. The celebration of the little tiny oil that lasted for 8 days, the gratitude we have for all that is good, because even though there is darkness in this world (for sure!), there is that little light that illuminates our world, and we can make that happen. That’s what I think of when hearing the words to this song.

Oh), Hanukah, Oh Hanukah
Come light the menorah
Let’s have a party
We’ll all dance the horah
Gather ’round the table, we’ll give you a treat
Dreidels (or Sevivon) to play with, and latkes to eat
. ( (
And while we are playing
The candles are burning bright (or low[2])
One for each night, they shed a sweet light
To remind us of years long ago
One for each night, they shed a sweet light
To remind us of years long ago.

 

Chanukah Blessings – this is the blessing (melody) we sing on the candles, in which we declare our gratitude to G-d for the miracle of Chanukah. There are actually 2 blessings.

menorah-bokeh

 

So, from gratitude to strength to courage to optimism to confidence and to peace….

To any important value out there –music really does it for me, and Chanukah music really gets me going faster than you can say “Happy Chanukah!”

Happy Chanukah to all! Don’t forget to sing! – And OH  – here’s a video of the Maccabeats a cappella group doing their latest (unconventional) version of Chanukah music


Drizzles Can Become Showers

Turning the Corner

Today, my husband and I took our grandsons to the park so their Mommy and Daddy could have a break (and my husband and I could enjoy the cutie-pies). It was a beautiful, sunny day with gorgeous blue sky, but very hot and dry, so we headed out in the mid to late afternoon, after the heat of the day.

As the kids rode their bikes in the residential area and we followed behind them, I thought of how it hasn’t rained here in Southern California much for the past two years. We are in the midst of a drought. Something so mundane as rain is so huge for us. While some of us (especially East Coasters like me) may have grown up taking rain for granted, we no longer do that.

These days we kind of have to ration our water. As dictated by the Department of Water and Power. Yep.

girl-with-umbrella

There’s a limit to how much water we can use to sprinkle on our grass. Also, we have to limit the length of our showers, and how often we run our electric dishwashers and washing machines. (think: full load before using).

No longer do we see a green lawn and get impressed. These days we look down upon people who have the gall to have a gorgeous green lawn (not so nice of us, but hey, we’re human).

When a little drizzle of rain happens here in LA, we get really excited, because we have so little water coming through rain these days. And it’s a big problem.

So a little thing – rain – has become a big thing to appreciate and long for.

As my husband and I were walking about a half block behind the kids and chatting, I thought of the simplicity and purity of this activity. Nothing fancy. A walk to the park. We had packed a few shovels for the sand, some balls, a mitt, and a big beach ball that needed to be blown up. And a few other playthings that they chose.

As simple and mundane as a trip to the park is, it’s such a necessary and joyful part of childhood. It’s huge.

From the choosing which things to take to the park to sharing what they did take, to waiting patiently at the end of each block, to staying within mine and my husband’s views, they practiced discipline.

When we got to the park, there was an ice cream truck and we bought them a colorful Ices cone. So much fun for them and refreshing in the heat.

They played ball with each other and took turns with the one mitt that they could find in the house. Cooperation. Fresh air. Exercise. Good old fashioned fun.

The kids giggled and laughed as they threw the ball back and forth, and I thought about how little kids need to make them happy. And as we walked home, there was a slight breeze, I thought of how we just pray for the little things to be good in our lives.

Some of these little things include ours and our children’s health, along with their good characters and happy dispositions.

As much as we can put in lots of effort to raise good kids, the ultimate result is not up to us. We have to hope and pray for the best.

musickids

And when we get that – pure, unadulterated, uncomplicated fun (and maybe even a little rain??), we are very….happy!

Let’s hope and pray that we learn to view the little things in our lives as big and important, and enjoy them all for the beauty they bring. Every drop of rain counts! We here in California should know!

What little things have meant a lot to you in your lives? Please share below something “small” that brings pleasure.

 


Good-bye and Good Riddance: 10 Things!

Let’s be perfectly frank here. I’m getting a little tired of my broken ankle. It’s been almost 7 months that I’ve had this thing in my life, and I’m ready to say good-bye to my life of being “with-cast.”

That will be in a few weeks, but I’m all ready. I’m pumped. I’m preparing for the good-bye, and getting really into it.

This time of year, many of us are getting ready for the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. One of the ways we do that is by counting our blessings, appreciating the good in our lives, and refraining from complaining.

Great goals to have. So at this time, my way of NOT complaining is to express how HAPPY I am to have come this far…to experience soon the end of my foot journey.  I am very excited to bid good-bye  to the lifestyle I have led the past 6 or 7 months.

Here are the 10 things that I’m looking forward to saying good-bye to very soon. Good bye and good riddance!

private-keep-out2

Go away. Don’t come back!

  1. Good-bye to awkward getting in and out of cars. I’ve used a scooter to get around and when someone drives me places, I have to edge the scooter close to the curb, then hoist half my body onto the seat of the car, while holding injured foot in mid-air. Then I move my injured foot with a plop onto the floor of the seat, while pulling the seat belt around me. Reverse for getting out of cars. Hello easy meneuvering!

  2. Good-bye to scooter. I will be able to put weight on and use both feet and legs. What a concept. Walking, driving, and getting around and putting weight on both feet – not just my good foot. Hello 2 feet!

  3. Good-bye to plaster cast. I will be able to see my leg in the flesh. I will no longer have the cumbersome, itchy, and stuffy cast hovering around my bones and holding my healing ankle stiffly in place.  As I will be transferring to a “walking air cast” – i.e. removeable cast in a few weeks, that will give me more freedom. Yay! Hello open air on leg!

  4. Good-bye to four walls and stale air of my home. Most of the days I stay at home. Soon I will get to go outside more often, because of my upcoming independence.  Hello fresh air!

  5. Good-bye to bad posture.  Today I was in an elevator in a doctor’s office building, and I noticed that I was standing hunched with my knee on my scooter. It’s an inevitable pose, given my state of being with-scooter, but it’s hardly good for posture. Hello straight back!

  6. Good-bye to Facebook 24/7. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. But you know what I mean. When you have a life, you don’t need facebook all the time, or do you? Hello Life!

  7. Good-bye to denial about weight gain . Hey, it’s easy to deny weight gain when you can’t put foot down to weigh oneself on a scale for all these months. Not to mention a heavy cast that would distort the weight anyway. Hello facing the music!

  8. Good-bye to lack of structure in day. Yes, I’ve kept very busy the past half year with many hobbies and other pursuits. But my days were unstructured. I’m ready for a set schedule in my life. Hello real job!

  9. Good-bye to only elevators. Ever try going up a staircase with a scooter or crutches? It ain’t easy, and depending on the number of stairs, it is downright impossible. Hello stairs and escalators!

  10. Good-bye to pain killers. This is something I’ve said good-bye to a few weeks ago already, but I look forward to not having even a low level of pain. That may take some time, as I am going to have physical therapy which is likely to be painful at times. But still, I’m moving in the right direction of recovery and I’m looking forward. Hello to comfort!

What I will do with all these things remains to be decided. I don’t think I will be throwing out the above ten concrete or abstract things, but I will definitely be happy to say good-bye.

And on that note, I say good-bye to this post. Stay tuned to a future post where I thank all the wonderful folks who have helped me survive this journey.

What are you saying good-bye (and hello) to during this season of High Holidays?

Photo Credit: www.publicdomainpics.net


Bubby’s Blessings

Recently, my supervisor at my workplace, asked me what “Shana Tova” means. She is a Christian, but – living in Southern California – is  familiar with Jewish terminology.  Often she asks me to explain certain words, phrases or customs. I told her that it means “Good Year” literally, but is the equivalent of “Happy New Year.” She smiled and said, “May you have a good and happy new year!” And then I told her about “Shana Tova U’Metuka” which means “Good and Sweet Year!” She agreed that all are good to have: good, sweet, happy. It’s all good!!

Which reminds me of how many ways one can wish blessings to others at this time of year.  Some say, “gut gebentched yahr” (German/Yiddish for a “good and blessed year”). Others list all the different areas in life one is to be blessed: health, livelihood, success, etc. In Hebrew/Yiddish it somehow sounds much better:

Gezunt (health), Parnassah (livelihood), Hatzlacha (success), Brachos (blessings), Mazel (fortune), Nachas (pride/pleasure).

I could get carried away giving (and receiving) blessings. It makes me feel good to spread warmth and good cheer around, especially at this time of year. And writing this post, I could  probably list more languages, customs, and styles in various cultures here (in Hawaii they say “Shaloha!” for Shalom/Aloha!”).

But then this post will be way too long.

So instead, I will end with a mini-blessing: whatever the language, whatever the style – may we all have a good, happy, sweet, healthy, fulfilling, blessed New Year!

Amein!


Simchas and Stress

This morning I woke up feeling charley horse, achy, and with a sore throat. As I reached for the Advil, I wondered why I was feeling this way. True, I had attended an out-of-town  family wedding the night before, and yes, I had traveled quite a bit the past few days both by plane and by car. But I didn’t do much exercise to warrant all the achy feelings; aside from a little bit of circling around the bride in a joyful dance, I didn’t exert myself too much. I didn’t drink any wine, so no excuse for a feeling of a hangover, and I didn’t even stay up too late.

So why was I feeling this way? Well, to quote my friend, a Bubby: “traveling and simchas are always exhausting.” (a Bubby quotable quote!)  There is just no way out of it.  If every day, we have the usual stress of work and the phenomenon called life, then when we travel on vacation, and/or when we participate in family occasions, we have a unique form of stress: SIMCHA STRESS.

Simcha Stress:

This unique form of stress- (for those planning it, and for others who are close to those who are planning the event), manifests itself in  heartache or physical aches. Simchas, which are supposed to be happy occasions, are peppered with little annoyances and bumps in the road. Simchas, which are joyous weddings, engagements, bar mitzvah’s, and graduations are often accompanied by deadlines, pressure, lists, shopping, expenses, and endless details that cause lots of tension.

Simcha – which means “happy” in Hebrew, produces anything but simcha, for many. But at the end of the day, no one is changing the word, “simcha” to “lachatz” which means pressure in Hebrew. Nope. No one is saying, “hey, can you come to my lachatz next week to be held at the Hilton Hotel?

 Time to Smile:

No Jewish person on the East or West Coasts is inviting their friends to their wonderful Pressure Party. Not any time soon.

You see, even though I have experienced my share of stress amidst simchas in the past (including the achy shoulder that I have right now!), I still feel that no Jewish family should be without a steady stream of simchas – happy occasions — in their life.

Stress and all. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Time to Count our Blessings:

I believe that simchas are what keeps us going. Simchas are the water that G-d sprinkles on our souls to fertilize our spirits to grow and soar. Simchas give us that message that G-d loves us, that life is good, that we are blessed, and that it is okay to feel happy and celebrate.

Simchas are times to socialize and accept mazel tov wishes.

And most of all, simchas teach us priorities, and help us realize what is really important. Even when little things go wrong and glitches arise, we keep our simcha as our goal — our families’ and friends’ happiness and joie de vivre.

Because when it all comes down to it, we can deal with a little bit of burnt chicken, canceled guests, and rain on the outdoor ceremony. After all is said and done, we can rise above the little inconveniences and feel gratitude to G-d for providing us with loving families, children, and grandchildren with whom to plan and celebrate simchas (and pressure too!)


Needometer Check

Every now and then, I like to check my “needometer.”  Similar to the odometer on my car, my needometer measures how high or low a particular factor in my life is moving. What is this factor?  Ahhh, my needs. As I get older, I like to think my neediness and insecurities diminish and my confidence and gratitude for what I have increases.  But in reality, the neediness does lurk beneath the surface – even at this stage in my life — and I have to keep it in check! Continue reading


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