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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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.

 

 

 


Eight Personal Miracles of 2014

I’ve been invited by the very creative writer Renee Schuls-Jacobson to post today, on the 2nd day/3rd candle of Hanukkah. Renee was given my name by Rivki Silver, another amazing blogger.  (Thanks, Rivki!) Anyway, this special activity where a bunch of bloggers (eight to be exact!) are each posting on a different day is called Hanukkah Hooplah!

And…in honor of Hanukkah Hooplah, I have a really important announcement to make:

I, Miriam, mother/grandmother/MIL blogger, am  taking  a BREAK  from blogging about my BREAK.  You know? My ankle break? Yeah. That one.

So? What does non-blogging about something have to do with Chanukah?

Bear with me as I explain:  Chanukah  commemorates miracles that happened to the Jewish people. Right? And  my ankle healing story (which began back in February)  would have been a really cool miracle for me to write about here. Kind of like my own personal miracle, right?

Good things a-coming

A BREAK FROM MY BREAK!

The problem is that I’ve  blogged  enough about the break of my ankle and  its ramifications. I’ve written about my convalescence and recovery here; my seeing the bright side  here and my gratitude for kindness and G-d’s miracles here.

I’ve written stuff here. And here. As they say in Hebrew: Maspik. Enough. Finished.

Not that anyone’s complained about my constant talking and writing and blogging about my ankle. No. People are very nice  and they listen to me. Still, Chanukah is my time to realize  that it’s not all about me about my  foot.  That miracles are really all around us at all times. And we don’t only have to break a leg – and then get better – to see them.

Just because my broken foot, in all its glory of swelling and redness and painfulness led me to see the light in a dark situation,  doesn’t mean I have to blag (that’s blab and blog) about my foot all the time.

Just because   as a result my foot healing,  I am a more grateful woman and just because I’m now  thrilled with little things like for example, uh…walking with two feet, and having almost no pain or stiffness anymore in my ankle, doesn’t mean I have to blag on and on about said foot and its healing.

So just to reiterate:  I’m NOT talking about my foot anymore. Got that? Good.

exclamation-mark-white-13658752462hm1NOT talking about foot!!

Okay! So, today, in this post I’m talking only about 8 other miracles of going from dark times to light times  in my life.

Because Chanukah is celebrating the light in the dark. The one small bit of oil that miraculously lasted for 8 days, and created so much light.

My miracles were the kind  that while they were  going on, I didn’t realize anything significant was happening. But  when I looked back weeks or months later, I thought “hey, I can’t believe the good that came out of that event  – what a miracle.”  I bet some of you can relate.  Over time, things have evolved in your life that represent a  remarkable change from dark to light.

Gradually evolved good stuff that makes us all happy and surprised  at one time.

slide-3Happy and Surprised!

Many of the Eight miracles below have occurred gradually. Knowing they have happened helps me see the light in the darkness with newer challenges that come my way.

Here they are (not in any particular order.)

Good-bye to my annoying mother-in-law behaviors. Some time after I broke my ankle was injured last February, which happened to be around the time that one of our sons got married, someone asked me about my new daughter-in-law. My response was “What? Who?” I seriously forgot that my son had gotten married. I was so absorbed in my pain and frustration of the broken ankle situation, that I forgot to be a mother-in-law! To me, this was a huge miracle that evolved over time. Hello! Who FORGETS to be a nagging mother-in-law? And my darling son and DIL (all three of them) got benefits  from my injury in that I left them alone for all those months. How cool (for those newlyweds)  is that?

milhoodladies2Boy, she looks like a mean mother-in-law, doesn’t she?

I got to keep my job.  When I did not work (because of my injury, I mean situation) at the hospice agency where I’d provided music therapy for clients for the past 7 years,  I worried I would not be able to work anymore. Thankfully, I returned to work, and the position was still available after so many months.

Son cured from  illness.  One of our married sons had headaches (which actually began last Chanukah 2013).  When they  didn’t subside, he went to the doctor for CT scans, which were negative. Then one day, he felt other strange symptoms. He checked into the hospital where they took more tests and after several brain scans and spinal MRI’s, he was diagnosed with an auto-immune illness (the antibodies created to kill the headache virus, attacked his spine), affecting certain functions.  But now after many months he is miraculously out of the woods, and has very slowly swung back to his regular self,  to the joy of his wife and children, and all of us. Thank G-d!

Layoff had happy ending. Early this year,  my husband’s software company laid off all employees. While this was a big shock, it turned out to be for the better, because after almost 2 months of looking for a job, my husband got a better job with better conditions. Looking back, we realize now that  his losing the first job led to a miracle of a much better job. (And…as an added benefit while I was in bed because of The Miracle that Shall Not Be Named, he was around to help me while he was temporarily laid off!)

Attended my father’s funeral (yes, that attendance was a miracle..read on).  My father recently passed away at the age of  88.  Sadly, I was not able to visit him during the final 9 months of his illness because I was not allowed to fly (from California where I live, to New York)- due to my situation. But,  when we got the call after the Shabbos that followed Rosh Hashanah this year that my dear father had passed away , I was already weight-bearing (medicalese for standing and moving on my feet). And so, I was able to attend my father’s funeral the next day in NY. A pure miracle, considering the fact that I had been immobile my situation.

No more sweating the small stuff.   I find that I don’t sweat the small stuff as much as I used to. Unfortunately, it took having several serious hardships  for me to get my priorities straight.

Grandma and kids on wheels

Medical scare with happy ending thank G-d – I found a lump about a year ago and to say I was terrified would be an understatement. It was over a Holiday weekend and I couldn’t reach my gynecologist. By the time I went to his office on the Monday, I was in tears. Hysterical. Thinking the worst. My doctor (who knows me for many years, having delivered almost all of my children), calmed me down, sent me for a biopsy. Diagnosis: Infection. Miracle of miracles. Antibiotics for 5 days and I was good as new.

New baby grandson.  Several weeks ago, our son  and daughter-in-law had a new baby.  Mazel Tov. Thank G-d.

Gentle now...k?

So there you have it: The 8 personal miracles that my family and I have  experienced as gifts from G-d. Sometimes it takes having all kinds of tzoros for us to really appreciate stuff.

And to think that I wrote this entire post without  mentioning my broken ankle even one time! Wow.  What a miracle.

Ummm.  Almost. Sort of…

 My question to you: What ONE miracle of a really dark situation that turned to light has occurred to you this past year?  Write a comment below describing a DARK to LIGHT situation in your life. The winner will receive a GIVEAWAY of my book mailed to them. All residents of the U.S. are eligible.

To win a copy of my book  please leave an AWESOME comment below sharing a  miracle  that you experienced  in the past year.

Mazel Tov! It’s a Bubby! The Joys and Oys of Being a Mother, Mother-in-law, and Grandmother   makes a great Hanukkah gift!

HAPPY CHANUKAH  TO ALL and may all your challenges be miraculously overcome! Leave a comment below, telling about one of them!

And oh! Click on this  Hanukkah Hooplah menorah right here– go ahead. Click on it to  get to the other 7 blogger gals’ posts about Chanukah too.

I’m participating in a #HanukkahHoopla with 7 other Jewish bloggers. In the spirit of the season, we’re giving 8 gifts to 8 fabulous commenters. Click on  Hanukkah Hoopla menorah above to be magically transported to the schedule where you’ll find links to visit other fabulous writers and increase your chances of winning holiday cyber-swag!

 Photo Credits: Exclamation point graphic- publicdomainpics.net.  #Hanukkahhoopla Graphic: Renee A. Schuls-Jacobson.  All other photos property of Miriam Hendeles.


The Middle Holiday Syndrome

Recently, I read an article about how Chanukah has become “merchandised” and “Christmasized.” The blogger, Nina Badzin, describes Chanukah as a relatively to-the-point holiday where we eat potato pancakes and donuts, give presents, light the menorah, sing beautiful songs, and say some special prayers. In her article she expresses how she cherishes Chanukah. And she observes with some displeasure,  that these days, folks (mostly stores and businesses)  tend to over-sensationalize the holiday with extra decorations and fussy products,  as if to “compete” with Christmas.

I agree with Nina. I don’t like competition.  I – as a Jewish person and as a women — like to be myself, do my own thing, what I know and believe to be correct, and do it all as best as I can.

You see, I am a Middle Child. There’s my confession. Continue reading


8 Things a Grandmother needs to get before hosting her children for the Holidays

As the holidays are approaching we are excited to have time together with our married children and our grandchildren.  Mothers-in-law and grandmothers can use this list for preparing for any extended family gathering for special occasions or holidays –including Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkos…followed by  Thanksgiving, Chanukah, Christmas and New Years – whatever Holiday you observe.

grandmother1

The 8 Things a Grandmother Needs to get before hosting her children for the Holidays:

1. Get Baby-Friendly: This doesn’t mean you have to cover up sockets, or put child locks on the cabinets – although that would be a nice idea. Getting yourself into a child-friendly mindset includes: Continue reading


Light-filled Days

I love Chanukah for many reasons. None of them have to do with the parties and presents and festivities. Nor do the reasons I enjoy Chanukah have anything to do with vacation from work and/or school. Actually, I enjoy Chanukah because of the contrast between the dark nights in the winter and the light-filled windows. Continue reading


Top Ten Toys for Today

Usually, when Chanukah rolls around, I practically forget about buying gifts. After the Jewish holidays of October, I’m so glad for the plain old month of November, (besides Thanksgiving which is only 1 day for heaven’s sake!), that I barely realize that it is December.

Until this year. Maybe it is because my grandchildren are entering school, but I just am excited to buy them gifts. Notwithstanding my previous post which condemned and criticized all expectations, I still want to buy them gifts. I have that need, okay? So whether or not Chanukah is really a time for giving gifts, (which is a topic of debate for many scholars), I have compiled a list of  ten toys to give one’s grandchildren. I may just give to my grand-children some of them. (not all of course!) Continue reading


Holiday Happiness Habits

Holidays are an exciting time. Many look forward to getting together with family and friends and celebrating the winter holidays, whether they are Chanukah or Christmas. People want to be happy all the time, but during the holidays, they expect to be happy. During the holidays, many of us feel entitled to be happy. After all, “everyone” is happy, right? (remember we said that to our parents: “Everyone has that toy, everyone has those shoes….” Remember the answer our parents gave us?)

Lots of scholars have written about what constitutes happiness. In fact, Dennis Prager, renowned radio personality devotes an entire show to that elusive feeling called “happiness.” He calls it “Happiness Hour.”  Some people are forever chasing happiness, and others find it right within their self. They are satisfied with their lot. No expectations. Continue reading


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