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It Takes a Village – Endless Kindness

Stuff to Be Kind

By M. Hendeles (lyrics); A. Kaufman (vocals, recording); Jana Stanfield - music

Last week my husband sponsored  a kiddush reception for all our friends and relatives at our synagogue on Shabbos. The reception was a come and go type of event and the purpose was to give thanks to everyone  – our entire community, friends, relatives and acquaintance –for their help to our family and especially me during my recuperation from several foot surgeries the past 9 months. Now that I’m doing much better and walking, we wanted to give public thanks to Hashem as well. Many friends showed up and it felt good to have a tangible way for closure to an period in our lives that was challenging. During those months, I lost the ability to walk and get around. But I also discovered a lot of love and kindness around me.

One of the things my husband said during his short two-minute blurb or speech was that people came through for me in our community in amazing ways. And “just when Miriam was about to lose it, someone always came through by visiting, cheering her up or cooking a meal…” I laughed at his wording; did I really “almost lose it?”  He was trying to convey how much everyone really helped out and in his effort to do so, he may have exaggerated a bit about my situation. But did he exaggerate? I thought about it for a minute.

No, he did not exaggerate.

Truth is, when I thought about it, I realized that yes, I did almost “lose it” many times. I recall the time I had a serious meltdown on my way to the bathroom when it took me ten minutes to get there and everything was hurting me. I began to cry hysterically and my thoughts revolved around things like “I’m dying, they’re not telling me, they’re keeping it a secret from me, but I’m really seriously dying…”

Shortly afterward, a friend texted me “hey, Miriam can I bring you an Ice-Blended from the Coffee Bean?” A light in the darkness is how I viewed the text and I answered “Yeah, I’d love that…”

Things like that happened throughout the time of my ups and downs and complications. There was the friend from NYC who was visiting her own children in LA where I live, and she came by to visit, bringing me needlepoint projects to do. She also brought CD’s of classical music spanning composers from Bach all the way to Rachmaninoff. Listening to that music over the next few weeks made me feel like I was back in music school, and took my mind off my pains and complaints.


Other friends cooked for us huge  gourmet meals (did I mention my husband and I are empty-nesters and we are only TWO people?), and still others went shopping for me. I received constant texts from friends to the tune of “Miriam, I’m at Costco – what do you need?” or “I”m at Target, can I get you something?” or “I’m going to the market tomorrow, call in an order and I’ll pick it up for you..”

One friend came by and played her cello for me, and another friend sent me a bunch of you-tube clips of Brahms  symphonies and sonatas so I could divert my mind to something outside my own pains. Just to cheer me up.

My daughters-in-law ran errands for me, and brought the kids over to visit and watch videos together with me. One DIL brought me a book of crossword puzzles and some friends sent balloons and flowers and cards. On Shabbos afternoon, friends and neighbors came by to keep me company, and while I had my leg raised on 8 or 9 pillows, these friends shmoozed, laughed, listened and cared. It was truly magical.

When I needed to go to the doctor, and my husband was at work and couldn’t drive me, a friend or relative would come by and give me a ride. Our community has an organization called Bikur Cholim  which provided drivers for me when I needed a lift.

What did all this teach me? The power of love. The power of giving. The importance of visiting someone who is not well. The creativity that one can use when trying to help someone else. Whereas some people are cookers, others may be drivers, and yet others may be visitors. Some just wrote emails or texts and others called to check in. There’s no one way to do a kindness. It’s all good.

Thankfully, now I’m better and I am on the other side of fence, helping others when I can. I’m able to drive, walk, cook and visit others. I feel so blessed to have reached this point. But I will never forget the feeling of helplessness of needing, because that feeling of “losing it” is the rock bottom that made me appreciate the kindness even more so.

While I was in bed, I did some composing, and one of the songs I wrote is featured at the beginning of this post. I hope you enjoy it. It’s called:

“Stuff to Be Kind” – lyrics composed by yours truly

Vocals by Arthur Kaufman; and Music by Jana Stanfield (“If I were Brave”)



Saying Hello to Sending Greeting Cards


In spite of the growth of technology in society, and explosion of social media, American Greetings and Hallmark cards are alive and well in our shopping malls and outlet stores. The last time I was at Target, K-Mart or CVS, I’m pretty sure I saw a few aisles of greeting cards, from birthday to anniversary to Thank you cards to funny cards.

The past few months, I’ve been on the receiving end of lots of kindness. That came in many forms, such as people bringing me food, running errands, calling, texting, emailing, and visiting. And people sent cards. I love getting cards, and it gives me warm and fuzzy feeling to read them. The knowledge that the person took the time to find the right card, fill it out and mail it, is very special to me.

A card takes a certain amount of effort. Let’s say you want to buy a wonderful birthday card for your favorite mother-in-law. Unless you have a stack of Hallmark cards filed away in your home, and you know exactly where they are when you need them (I know some people are annoyingly organized…ahem!), you will likely have to remember to buy a card when you’re shopping for milk or juice. Now, if you’re like me, you don’t exactly think of going down the greeting card aisle when you’re thinking about eggs and cheese (in my store, the greeting cards are not far from the eggs, but still..)

So chances are you have to make a special trip to get said birthday girl a perfect card. Then, you have to pull out and read through the various types of cards and figure out what fits the person you are buying one for. Not too mushy, not too serious, not too funny. Just nice. Simple. To the point. If you are really buddy-buddy with the person (we’re not talking about the mother-in-law anymore), you might opt for one of those really corny cards. You know the ones that have strangely exaggerated illustrations and somewhat in-your-face humor.

If you’re cutesy, you’ll buy a Peanuts characters cards or a Ziggy (remember those?) card or some other cartoon strip. And if you think your person is extremely serious, you’ll buy one of those long winded poetry cards with flowers all over the cover and inside, and long, flowery messages.

Then, the question is whether to put your own message in the card. Hello, you can’t exactly send a card and just write, “Dear Mom,” (should you say, “Dear?” or just “To,” or just “Hi?”) and then sign off under the printed message. You just can’t. That would be really insulting, wouldn’t it? You have to write something like “Happy Birthday, Mom!” Now, that’s very personal. Right? Better than leaving all that blank space.

Finally, you have to decide how to sign the card. Should you write, “Love,” or “Sincerely,” or “Yours truly,” Or xoxoxo… or “Love and kisses…” I mean these are important decisions. Really crucial. You really don’t want to mess up, do you?

So after all that, you have to look up the person’s address and zip code, find a stamp (again, if you’re organized that’s a cinch), and get to one of the 2 mailboxes that exist in your entire neighborhood (because the USPS has ripped out those friendly blue corner mailboxes, which are now few and far between). Otherwise you drive by the post office and mail the letter there.

Now you’re done. Hopefully you’re pleased and proud of what you’ve done. You’ve accomplished something amazing, especially in this era of text, emails, and singing e-cards. Yes, you’ve risen above the temptation to send an e-card, and you’ve gone the old fashioned way of sending a greeting card.

You’ve made someone happy by thanking them, wishing them a Shana Tova or Happy New Year, a Get Well, Happy Birthday, or whatever occasion. And that’s something to be proud of.

How about you? Do you send greeting cards? Or do you use e-cards, texting, or emails. Or do you sing Happy Whatever on the telephone message machine?

What is your mode of greeting carding?

Future Mother-in-law Prep: A Guest post by Beily Paluch

Just when I think I’ve written everything there is to write on a topic,  I remind myself to seek out other perspectives. Recently, I asked one blogger-friend to do that on a guest post for my blog. And on another occasion, another blogger-friend wrote a post for my blog right here. Both were from the perspectives of  daughters-in-law, and/or moms of little kids.

Just the other day, I posted my review of the new book, “Boy Oh Boy,” the engaging guide for mothers of young boys, written by Beily Paluch. Continue reading

Reflections on a Special Person

These days, with the Internet, social media and other forms of news, there is no shortage of information coming at us. In fact, much of the news is bad and sad. After all, does happy news sell? Not quite.

The truth is that in the community where I live, several people I know have suffered terrible tragedies the past few weeks. One woman, Avigail Rechnitz, an extremely kind, sweet, benevolent, intelligent and beautiful person, has succumbed to cancer last week after a two year battle. Continue reading

6 Gramma-Relationship Errors

We all want to be good grandmothers some day. And if we are already grandmothers, we want to get along with our grandchildren and bond with them in a healthy way.

Baking cookies is a nice way to bond with grandchildren

Baking cookies is a nice way to bond with grandchildren

Recently I read a post by Carol Tice of “Make a Living Writing” website. Carol wrote  about grammar mistakes writers make that scream out “I am amatuer!”  Then she listed the 7 fixes for these  egregious errors  of bloggers.  I noted some of my own blog no-no’s featured in those pointers. Whether we are amateurs or not, we all make mistakes from time to time.

The trick is to learn from our mistakes. Continue reading

Stay Out of It…or not?

The question often comes up for many of us whether or not to get involved. Recently, I attended an evening class with some members of my synagogue, and we got into a somewhat lively (read: heated!) discussion. A particular scenario was described in which one woman’s daughter noted that her classmates were breaking a particular rule. The question for this woman was whether or not to counsel her daughter to report on the classmates.

Well, rather than discuss that back and forth of the various women in the group regarding this discussion (did I mention it got heated?), I will relate something that happened with my 4-year old grandson. (you thought I could go for one entire post without boasting – I mean describing him? Well, think again!).

And from that story of my grandson, we can (hopefully) glean some insight into how we, as adults can act.

Anyway, my daughter-in-law described to me the following conversation between herself, the Mommy and my (darling) grandson:

Child: Two boys in school today were fighting so badly, and were not letting Mashiach (the Messiah) come! I was so worried, and I tried telling them to stop fighting.

Mom: So did they stop?

Child: No, (looking sad) – they didn’t. They kept fighting and fighting.

Mom: So what happened?

Child: I tried more, and they still didn’t listen. So I told the teacher and she got them to be friends again.

My daughter-in-law then proceeded to explain to her son how G-d is proud of him for caring so much. But G-d really wants him to take care of himself – first and foremost.  Maybe those boys didn’t listen to him. It’s okay. He can’t change that.  As long as he is always nice to his friends (which he is…), (and doesn’t get hurt by the bullies? — is what this grandmother was thinking silently..??)

I’m not sure what else she told him, but it sounds like that was a powerful message for one 4-year old guy!

And I choose to take that message with me for my own everyday life!

A Not so Serious Look at Guilt

I used to be a huge fan of Erma Bombeck, may she rest in peace. My mother read most of her paperback books – filled with humor about raising children and running a household  in the 1960’s and 1970’s.  So naturally, if my mother read them, I read them too, and we laughed together at Bombeck’s inimitable and self-deprecating style.

One thing Erma Bombeck talked a lot about was the G word. Yes, guilt. No, she was not Jewish, but yes, she understood guilt and how we moms (and grandmothers) tend to feel guilty all the time.

I want to banish guilt from my vocabulary. That is not to say I don’t want to change and grow and improve and all that good stuff. But hello – what can be good about “Oy, I should’ve, could’ve….what’s wrong with me? I’m soooo bad….oy – I messed up, ….” ????

I know that Bombeck once wrote that as housewives we make more decisions in a day than judges in the Supreme Court!! Now, that’s very true. I’d like to draw a parallel.

As a middle aged mother and grandmother, I use the word “guilty” more times on myself in a day than the D.A. in a court of law does in a month.

Seriously, let’s give examples here: a) Oy, I might have asked a personal question to that friend after shul. b)I mistakenly excluded that person from the community project we were working on. c) I forgot to wish so-and-so mazel tov on her recent simcha d) I was too tired to go to that person’s event on Shabbos. d) I spoke gossip about so-and-so….

You get the point….notice the pattern here? I, I, I, I…
Hey – how much power do I really have over other people? (rhetorical question!)

And that’s only referring to the self-inducing guilt. We have not even begun to talk about the guilt-trips many put on others (hey, you grandkids never call me!!) — but that’s the subject of another article…..oy vey iz mir! (wo is me! in Yiddish)

Basically, (and I’m going to use the royal “we” here…) WE all do our best with our interactions with other people. We try really hard to be nice and kind, and good citizens as our mothers and fathers and teachers taught us. Remember the song, “Let’s be friends, make amends, now’s the time to say I’m sorry…” (usually sung during the time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur by children in Jewish Day Schools.)

Yup. It’s all about treating others the way we would like to be treated.

And the rest is really not up to us. We can only do our best. And really at the end of the day, we have to just be kind to ourselves, and forgive ourselves for being human.

No place for guilt here….right Erma?? Move forward, carry on, and smile!!

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