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When the World Around Us Is Crumbling, Embracing Inner Change

Just this morning, the LAUSD (Los Angeles public school system) and other school systems received “credible threats” leading some to shut down the doors  to the schools. We hear this news and we are scared, insecure and feeling powerless.

But sometimes it seems that changes in the outer world have the odd benefit of causing self-reflection.


Recently I’ve been thinking about how I’ve changed  over the years. Most importantly, my identity about who I am versus who I was is more defined for me these days than it ever was.

At the core, I’m still the same person. Yet, my hobbies, how I occupy my time, my life goals, and my overall perception of myself have gone through small and large gradations.

On the exterior, I’m a hybrid of middle aged dieter and sometimes-exerciser, part time music therapist, English teacher, home owner (new kitchen remodeler!), broken ankle survivor, grandmother, writer, blogger, friend, daughter, mother-in-law. (not in that order, please).

My relationships keep expanding: Friends, acquaintances, more grandchildren, new daughters-in-law, colleagues, social media friends and so forth.

But on the inside I’m a mixture of the former and insecure together with the new and evolved and more confident. My struggle throughout life seems to be to peel away the layers of insecurity one by one, and hopefully emerge as a whole person.

When I was newly married, I’d fill out forms and where they’d ask about occupation, I’d write “housewife.” There was no hesitance as I checked off that box.


There was no place for “stay at home mom” (and the term wasn’t yet in vogue) so “housewife” was the closest thing to my truth. I spent my days at the park or library,  shopping for groceries, carpools and cooking uncomplicated meals.

You know, Mommy-ing.

I also taught piano lessons up to ten hours per week, and taught Music Appreciation at local elementary schools.

I was a Mom who stayed home and who also went out to teach part time. When posed with the question about what I “did,” my answer was “Mom, mother.” Not very glamorous on today’s standards, but that was my answer.

Whatever work I did, it wasn’t “real” work, to me. The other non-Mom stuff were more hobbies to me than form of profession.

Looking back, I don’t think I was completely truthful. Maybe I felt guilty admitting that I wasn’t really a full time mom, so I fudged the whole truth on those forms. (You know, like the weight on driver’s license? Okay, that’s different, but you know what I mean).

So, it wasn’t until I started to work as a music therapist, specifically when I did my full time grueling music therapy internship, that I thought of myself as something other than a Mommy. After years of music therapy school, studying, auditioning and practicing more hours of piano than I can believe, I changed my self-perception.


After getting my first (music therapy) job, I declared myself a professional.

Finally, I embraced the real me – the one who did enjoy Mommying and nurturing, but had a drive to help in the outside world. The one who could feel whole and complete doing the things that I always wanted to do with my music, with people and for the world.

Being a professional to me was more than just a term that defines the protocol for gaining respect in the corporate world. Professional didn’t only mean practicing ethics and values deemed appropriate for my job.

Professional standing – and my admitting that I am a person with a profession or career – helped me carve my identity in my other roles.

I suddenly became in touch with my raison d’etre and my dreams.

I had always dreamed (a far-off seemingly unattainable dream) of becoming a music therapist, ever since my first piano teacher – whom I adored – had worked during the day as a music therapist for children with autism. She would discuss what it was like to be a music therapist (in between teaching me songs I would ask questions!) and I was fascinated.

So, in my early 30’s, when most of my then four kids were in school, I went back for another degree, earned my music therapy credential and a few years later, my Masters in Special Education and started to work. As I built up my music therapy practice,  I realized more and more how fulfilling my new career can be.

Fast forward to about 8 years ago when I became a grandmother, I suddenly was overcome by a newly emerging identify. I was a grandmother. Hey, I wasn’t young anymore. I wasn’t a Mom of little kids.

I gave birth to a new identity – that of grandmother.

I began to write. My first article – which I called “Naming the Grandparents”  was published in a local magazine for Jewish women. The editor gave me a column every other month and I jumped at the opportunity.

I realized that I had been touching upon a relevant topic to women of my age. Every month or so, I would sit down to write my thoughts about this new stage of being a grandmother, mother-in-law and mom of adult kids.

As my younger sons were growing into young men, I was starting to see large themes and topics burst into articles of interest and humor. I took stories of my life and wrote about them.

Then came the birth of my book, titled “Mazel Tov! It’s a Bubby!” – a collection of my stories about the joys and oys of being a grandmother and mother of adult kids.

Then came blogging and publishing on social media.

As we watch our children all “growed” up and our grandchildren doing so well thank G-d, my husband and I feel we’ve done a pretty okay job at the Parenting Profession. (Yep, he gets a lot of credit for that part..)

Now, I am knee deep into many other professions – that of adult parenting, grandmother of toddler, pre-school and early elementary school grandsons and other roles.

I’ve broken my ankle and gone through surgeries, gained lots of weight (7 months of non-weight bearing will do that) and gone through other challenges.

Looking back at the changes I’ve made, I can be proud. I can now look forward to more changes to come within myself.

And if those terrorists continue to make threats at Western Civilization, maybe others can work at changing the world. I’m just going to try to change myself with one song, post, article, school lesson, or kind word or hug at a time.



My Takeaways from Chanukah Music


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.


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.

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.



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

Paying it Forward

I’ve been feeling very fortunate lately for a variety of reasons. Maybe the word is blessed. Not that everything in my life is rosy. There is definitely room for lots of improvement.  What I’m referring to is a certain sense of calm and peace of mind and acceptance that I don’t think I had when I was younger. Continue reading

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