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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Farewell to Challah: An Open Letter

Dear Challah,

After many weeks of deliberating on my relationship with you, I’ve decided to say good-bye to you. I am putting this letter on a public forum in the hopes that others may also gain insight in what works for them.  I think it’s crucial that I finally address our co-dependent relationship. Hopefully, this will be the first step toward my recovery.

First, let me say that I appreciate all you have done for me over the years. Every Friday night at our Shabbat table, since my childhood, you’ve provided me with comfort, warmth and excellent taste. As my father would make the blessing on the bread with our entire family around the table, then cut you into even slices, and pass around a piece to each one of us, I’d wait with my mouth watering and eyes glazed with love.

Then, invariably, after everyone took their first bite, the compliments would flow. First my father would praise my mother for baking you so perfectly. My mother would smile and shrug, and kind of humbly say, “Oh it’s the new oven” or “It’s my friend’s recipe.” But we knew she was just being modest. You were great. Maybe she brought out the best in you, but still you were great and we all knew it.

Truth is, you were special and you excelled on your own, without anyone to help you out.  Your recipe was quite simple and accessible that when my mother bought me as a wedding gift a Kitchen Aid mixer, I learned quickly how to bake you almost as well as my mother.  Yea, I compared myself to my mother when around you, which was also a problem. But still, I felt good baking you so well and of course you were yummy to eat.

Your ingredients were so basic and earthly: flour, oil, eggs, salt, sugar, yeast. So even when you had a bad day and didn’t turn out as well as other times, you were still great to have around. Soft, sweet and tasty. The best comfort food around.

Over the years we’ve become attached at the hips – (mine, not yours).  I’d eat one piece, then two, then three. My mother would look at me with that expression of “control yourself, there’s a whole meal ahead of us.” But I was on a roll and I couldn’t stop. Back then, it didn’t matter that gefilte fish, chicken soup, brisket, salad, chicken and potato kugel were to follow. I wanted you and only you. I was willing to share my stomach with the others, but you came first.  Your aroma was enticing, your flavor and texture were wonderful. But you became addictive and  your calories were  way beyond my allotment for a meal.

These days I’ve evolved and have become more introspective than I was back in the day. But at some level, I’m still that little girl. I may tell myself that I’m big and grown-up and I can eat “just” one piece and stop. I may try to convince myself that “come on, just have the crust or end of a piece and stop right there.” And here’s the thing: I really like you. I think you are good.

But you don’t work for me. At least not right now. Dear Challah, no matter how many times I promise myself that I will just have one small challah roll (the equivalent of a few points on Weight Watchers) or just one end piece, I always go back for another. And another.

You’ve been calling my name for so long that I hear your voice calling out “Eat me, eat me…I’m here for you…” every week at our Shabbos table. I’m a mother and grandmother and I still find you very seductive.

I can no longer succumb. I have to say good-bye. Just as an addicted alcoholic says, “One drink is too many and a thousand is not enough….” I say the same about you.

“One slice is too many, and a thousand is not enough.” You are an addiction and I must let go.

A few weeks ago, I was at a wedding and a friend and we made a pact. We both promised ourselves that we would not eat the challah bread at the wedding. We were going to hold back, and just eat the meal. No challah for us. Well, it didn’t work. I found myself washing my hands, making the blessing and then eating it. I didn’t ask my friend if the pact worked for her, but for me, it was a no-go.

And so dear Challah, in spite of my efforts to cut down, to use portion control, to enlist a buddy to do it together, nothing has worked for me. Our relationship has become toxic.  We need a separation. I need to make that difficult decision to not even have a tiny piece of you. Because as much as you arouse those warm and fuzzy feelings of childhood, and as much as I adore you, our relationship is not working out well at this time.

I say this all with sadness. I admit you are delicious, charming, charismatic, warm and inviting, but I can no longer hang around you. Ironically, I can still eat your cousins – certain kinds of whole wheat breads and matzoh. For some reason, I am able to have them in my life in moderation. But not you.

You – my dear challah – I can no longer have you in my own life. Not for now.  Not when you’re clothed in whole wheat, spelt, white flour, or poppy seeds. Not your water recipe, nor your egg recipe. Not your raisin toppings, nor your sesame seed toppings. Not your round ones nor your oval shape.

None of you. I say good-bye.

Good-bye Challah. Farewell.

Your friend,

Miriam


On Illness, Recovery and Birth

It’s been a difficult year for our family.  Lots has happened since late December of 2013 and early January. And here we are in November 2014, and we are celebrating the birth of our 5th grandson, thank G-d. Yes, our second son and his wife  had their third son this past Wednesday.

 

After illness comes recovery for some, whether it’s a complete or partial recovery. But throughout that process, I have experienced various emotions, from sadness, frustration and mourning  all the way to happiness and fulfillment.

It’s as if the challenging times gave birth to happy times.

By talking about my past year, I don’t want to minimize what others go through. Nor do I want to over-dramatize what my family and I experienced. Everyone has rough times. No one is free from challenges in this life, whether physical, emotional or both. I continue to pray for all my friends and relatives who are suffering daily with various issues.  When my children were growing up, things were chaotic, crazy and difficult…and fun. And I came out on the others side stronger (I think!).

But this year for some reason was more intense, concentrated into one year.

And this week, after all that, we have a new grandson. That alone gives me the strength to know that bad times are often followed by good times..and so life goes. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

The Year in Review:

Last January, one of our sons was diagnosed with a rare auto-immune disease, called transverse myelitis. He was in the hospital for a few weeks and until the diagnosis was clear, we were quite afraid of what he actually had. Thank G-d, he has recovered almost completely from the illness and is now free of most of his symptoms, but it was scary.

I now appreciate, as does our son and his wife, every bodily function from breathing, walking to using the bathroom. When we realize what can go wrong, and actually have those things go wrong, we are all the more relieved and appreciative when those abilities come back. Our son still has intermittent headaches which is a symptom of the original problem but the neurologists all say that that is part of the process. It can take up to a year or more for total healing to happen.

A few months later, in February, our third son got married – which was a wonderful and exciting event.  The day before that, I broke my ankle. You can read all about how I coped with that, as well as lessons that I learned in the process. And now, after three surgeries, a serious bone infection of osteo-myelitis  and lots of physical therapy, not to mention 6 months being laid up in bed, I am so deeply appreciative of every step I can take. Limping. Waddling somewhat…but who cares? I’m walking. Little by little and step by step, I’m regaining my strength. I also am appreciative of all the help I got from friends, relatives and acquaintances.

And then throughout my period of being with my casts, splints and not being allowed to weight bear (i.e. “stand on my feet!”), my father was sick with end-stage Parkinson’s Disease, which he had had for 14 years, and suffered most debility the last year. I could not visit my father who lived in NY, because I was not allowed to travel. I could barely speak on the phone with him, because his voice was very weak.

And as many of you know, my dear father passed away at his home at the end of September. Fortunately, I was already able to walk when my father passed, (with crutches and a walker), and so I “hopped” on a plane together with my dear husband as soon as we got the call, and flew to New York from Los Angeles where we live to be at the funeral the following day. Then, I sat shiva with my mom, aunt and siblings and flew back to LA after that.

One month later, I flew back to New York for the Shloshim  event, which is the memorial our family organized for the 30th day after my father’s death.

It’s been a whirlwind.

But here we are, celebrating little Baby Hendeles’s birth….

Good times a-coming. Which reminds me: I better get to cooking for Shabbat. Everyone is coming for dinner tonight!


Relatable Themes in “The Shabbos List”

the-shabbos-list

These days with social media videos, blogs, articles, you-tubes and memes coming our way, we have the advantage of  receiving lots of support from others. We also get information about current events, opinions and passions of other people. The downside is that sometimes we can become desensitized to important values, ideas and suffering of others, simply because we are on media overload. But occasionally, in spite of the avalanche of material coming our way, a particular missive affects us in such a profound way that we are surprised. It sits with us, stays with us, and we just can’t get our minds off of it. We relate to its theme. We get it, and we instinctively want to share it with all our friends.

This morning when I watched a taped play performance called, “The Shabbos List,” written by Lisa K. Winkler, I was riveted to the screen and related to the themes brought out by the story. “The Shabbos List” is about a Jewish family whose son goes to Israel on a BirthRight trip for two weeks vacation, and returns as an Orthodox practicing Jew, with full religious convictions. His family, who is not religious, has a hard time accepting their son’s metamorphasis, and his many new and strange restrictions. The story is about the conflict that ensues. Inner conflicts of the various characters are explored as each work through their own issues as mirrored through their son.

Lisa Winkler, writer, blogger, journalist,  mom, grandmother, cyclist, knitter, is a friend of mine, which is why I took the time to watch it.  I’m so glad I did. The play moved me and would likely touch others like me who are moms, grandmothers, sisters and brothers, Jewish or non-Jewish.  I think all who grasp the complexity of raising children to adulthood and watching the generation below us mature in the ways that they do  will appreciate the universal message in this story. Our job is to raise our children to the best of our abilities, with all our resources. Good genes, good schools, good friends, good influences are all part of the picture. But at the end of the day, all the helicoptering that we do doesn’t help; our children do not do everything we want them to do, or turn out as  carbon copies of us. Nor do we want them to be.

I identified with the parents, and empathized with the younger generation.  As parents we have visions and dreams for our children, whether we realize it consciously or not. These dreams may reflect what they carry through in their lives, or may not, but what about those kids who do follow their parents’ dreams and then regret it?

Happily, that wasn’t the situation in Lisa’s play, which made it a perfect play for me. One with an upbeat and positive tone, while exploring some real imperfections in attitude that we, as parents may sometimes have.

The play ran for three days in mid-July in Manhattan, and since I live on the West Coast, I missed it. Luckily, I was able to see the video viewing, and look forward to the show eventually coming out to LA or other cities. It would be a special experience for me to see this play live on stage with the same or new actors. The actors did a great job with their roles, with the help of a really good script.

Lisa, a first time playwright, may have found her calling. This is a story that should be seen.

For more information, contact Lisa at her Cycling Grandma Blog.


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