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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My Grandson’s Kindergarten Graduation Takeaway

When Robert Fulghum wrote that all he ever needed to know he learned in kindergarten, he wasn’t kidding.  I had a similar experience in kindergarten just by watching my grandson and his peers sings songs at their graduation.

silhouette-kids-holding-hands

The other day I attended the 5-year old graduation and listened to them say their valedictorian speeches – sing the songs and perform for the parents and grandparents with such clarity of speech, twinkles in their eyes and motions of their hands.  I realized for myself that these kids know everything they have to know already. Today.

They learned it already and they don’t have to learn it anymore. From here on in, it’s just review and repetition.

Robert Fulghum’s list of material learned in kindergarten included sharing, being fair, cleaning up your own mess, being nice and even flushing the toilet. Lots of things. You can check them out here. They all have to do with behaviors, rather than attitudes or values. Behaviors are important because the more we do them, the more practice we get at being good at them. And the more someone who we respect praises us for doing the behavior (kids love mitzvah notes!), the more we want to do it more.

I wonder: After kindergarten, is there is anything more to learn about how to act properly, with manners and politeness? Or is it just trial, error, repetition, review, feedback, practice and refinement of the basic lessons?

Beyond behaviors, there are attitudes and values. Attitudes and values are important because they are the pillars that hold up what we believe to be important in life, and they motivate us to do the things we do.

My grandson and his buddies sang so many songs (they were each very short!) that my heart was singing and dancing. I couldn’t stop kvelling (pretty typical for me but ok).

Songs about values such as honesty, visiting the sick, being nice to guests, knowing that even bad things are all for the best, loving others, and appreciating what others do for us.

These children have learned things in kindergarten and learned it well.  I saw it in their eyes. I felt it in their smiles. And I watched it in their hands that moved in unison.

On that day, in that classroom, at that graduation, those 22 kids dressed as little sailors sang songs about values and beliefs that they will hopefully be mindful of every day of their lives.

Here they are sitting together and watching a slide show of the various activities they did this year representing the values they learned.

sailors

And now? Where do they go from here? We hope and pray they take these values and self esteem they have had this year and go forward from strength to strength.

And to that blessing this grandmother says “Amen!”

 

 

 


SCHOOL DIARY #1: First Day of School Jitters (and how to deal)

computer-and-school


My grandson who is seven shared with me the other day that he is “scared” of second grade. Now mind you he’s a very bright student and a confident child…(Spoken like a true grandmother!). But still, he expressed what many of us feel each year as the summer winds down and the new year –with the first day of school and other firsts — creeps up on us.

Fear. Worry. Concern. How will things go?

All beginnings are hard, our sages tell us. As a teacher of high school, I have my own share of jitters in the weeks leading up to the first day of school. Will my students do well? Will they behave? Will I have a good lesson planned? And so on.

I shared how I’m also nervous, but not to be a student. I’m jittery about the first day of school (in a few weeks) when I will be an teacher after a 6 year hiatus from that job.

In the 1980’s and 1990’s, I taught music in various settings. Between 2000 and 2009, I taught high school English in a local high school. Then, in 2009, I “retired” from teaching, partly due to burnout and partly to focus more on my writing career, my grandchildren, and my music therapy career. Sounds like a lot, and it was.

And now, I was approached by the principal of a small school to take on several English and language arts classes. This teaching job of approximately eight lessons per week will be on top of my already full load of music therapy patients.

As I told my grandson, I’m nervous. Why? Several reasons, but mostly because beginnings are often difficult and it’s relatively normal to have butterflies in our stomachs when starting new things. New auditions. New rehearsals. New roles. New anything.

So what do we do when we are worried about starting something new?

We draw on our old experiences and remind ourselves what we did right. And do more of that. In my case, I took out all my materials from years ago, and sorted through it all.

Things are different these days. More material online. Communication between administration, I’ve noticed, is less on paper and more via email and text. Grades are posted online. And students have computers in the classroom.

Kids have things to worry about too. Will they make friends, will they understand the material, and will they get picked in sports? Among other things.

This is also the time before the Jewish New Year, when we pray for a happy new year and lots of good things to come. A  certain amount of concern and vigilance is in order. 
 
Maybe it’s a healthy sign for us to have some degree of anxiety at this time. That motivates us to pray, to prepare ourselves for the High Holy Days.

How do you get motivated to do the preparation necessary for good beginnings? Do you have any sense of fear or anxiety when starting new things? How do you cope?


On Celebrating Mistakes and Making Music

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When my 6 1/2 -year old grandson came over after school a few weeks ago,  he pulled a worksheet out of his backpack and sat down at the dining room table to do his homework.

The sheet had a series of incomplete phrases, pictures and blank lines where he was supposed to fill in the blanks with the word that matched the picture. The first word was “bike,” which he found on a list of choices and copied correctly onto the blank. Further along the page came a picture of a lake. He saw that and started to write the word, but he somehow skipped the “a” and wrote “lk” which I pointed out to him, by asking him to look at it again.

Oops,” he said, and turned over his pencil to erase it. And just as he was beginning to erase the letter, he said, “Wait a minute,” and turned the pencil back again upright. Then he drew a circle around the K and wrote the remainder of the word “ake” alongside the  letter l followed by the circled K. The lake now had a huge circle in the word, which somehow annoyed me slightly but I said nothing, so as not to distract him.

But when he did it again on another word further down on the page, I asked what was going on with the circling of mistakes.

He shrugged and said, “My teacher says we shouldn’t erase, but we should draw circles.”

Playing after homework!

Playing after homework!

Okay. Who am I to argue with what the teacher says?

A few days later I’m faced with a situation that reminds me of my grandson circling his mistakes.

I’m about to play the keyboard for a group of students who are visiting a facility for the elderly.  As part of a program in memory of a creative member of our community, Avigail Rechnitz, I’ve coached the students in a local girls’ junior high school to sing several Hebrew and Yiddish songs. This is the big day. The girls are prepared, excited, ready to go.

All ready to go...

All ready to go…

I turn on my keyboard so I can play the intro, to cue the girls to begin their first song.

I peer into the digital window and see no electricity. Nothing. I bang on the keyboard in vain. I search my bag for extra batteries. None.

I motion to the girls to begin singing a cappella, which they do. They sing the three songs we’ve prepared and then an encore or two.

Everyone thanks the girls for the performance. The residents are thrilled and the social worker in the home is grateful for our coming.

But I’m annoyed with myself. Why did I forget the batteries? How could I be so disorganized?

Batteries out of juice....

Batteries out of juice….

A week later the girls are going to another rest home to perform. This time I remember the batteries. And the strings for my harp, in case one of them rips. And the stand for my music and some extra sheet music, just in case.

The performance goes over well. I’ve circled my mistake from the time before so that I know not to do it again.

Imagine if I could do that with all my missteps. Just circle what went wrong and then correct it the next time. All that energy wasted on “what if,” and “oh no,” can be transferred to new energy with brand new batteries. Or harp strings.

I’m reminded of the story about Itzhak Perlman at a concert, where one of his violin strings popped in middle of a piece he was playing. (Incidentally, this also happened about 25 years ago when my husband and I were at the Hollywood Bowl watching Perlman’s concert and when a string broke, someone just brought him another violin. The audience applauded, Perlman made a joke and the concert went on – but that’s reality. I digress.)

So according to the supposed story about Perlman at the supposed concert, he began to play the music using the three remaining strings while the audience gasped in awe. He changed keys, modulated so that he was able to avoid the missing string and produced the same piece that he had rehearsed on all four strings.

Whether that story is true or not (it’s been bandied about online for many years), I love it because of the alleged remark that Perlman made after playing the modulated song:

“Sometimes we just have to make music with what we’ve been given…”

How have you coped with mistakes in the past? How have to gotten past sweating over mistakes, and instead celebrating them, circling them and learning from them?


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.

ACTS OF KINDNESS

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”)

 

 


Musical Survey and Contest

HARP

Where words fail, music speaks. For the past few months, I’ve been composing music to reflect the emotions and experiences I have gone through with my broken leg and the accompanying challenges.

Now that I have this collection of healing music with lyrics on various topics and life themes, I would like to expand my repertoire. I turn to you, my readers for help in deciding where to focus my energies. Here are some topics that are out there. Please tell me which of the following themes appeals to you as important and interesting.

Rules: Please list from most important to least important and write your answer in the comment section below. Everyone who writes an appropriate comment according to these guidelines by August 22, 9 am PST – will receive a free Mp3 song emailed to them.

Rate the following topics in the comment section below -from most interesting to least interesting, with 1 being the most interesting and 6 being the least interesting in topics for songs

a) Empty Nest loneliness

b) Parenting adult children

c) Coping in the caregiver role

d) Sandwich generation

e) Dealing with life’s curve balls and challenges

f) Recovery and 12-step topics

THANK YOU!


30 Ideas for Bored Bubbies (Grandmothers)

The Case of the Bored Child goes like this: The child has a day off from school, and flops around while whining, “Mommy, I’m soooo bored! What should I do?”

To which the mom calmly points to the Bored Check List that is posted on the fridge door. The boldly typed fridge list has 30 ideas faster than a child can utter,  “I’m bored.”  And the kid gets the unspoken message – loud and clear from mom: Listen, it’s time for you to figure it out and find a way to entertain yourself.

Okay, so that’s what’s done when kids are bored stiff.  But, what about when grandmothers are literally bored out of their minds? How do they occupy their time? Continue reading


Musical Memories: Finger Plays and Silly Stuff

When I think back on the fun and quality times with my children, I recall the music and singing.

At one time or another,  my sons took piano  clarinet, violin and trumpet lessons. But that process of practicing and performing is not the music I remember as fondly as I do the finger-plays.

The little ditty rhymes that I chanted with each of my sons when they were toddlers. Continue reading


Happiness is…

Remember the Peanuts characters? Which one was the character who used to say “Happiness is…?

Happiness Is...

Happiness Is…

Was that Lucy? Or was it Linus? Or was it Charlie Brown? Or maybe it was Snoopy?

I don’t recall who it was, but I do find that these days more things make me happy.

And more things make me sad.

But still –  this post is focusing on what makes me happy. 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


The Aftershocks of Criticism

It happened yesterday. I thought I could push it off for at least another few months. But alas, the inevitable occurred. Deep down I knew it was bound to happen, but I was in denial and I was enjoying the honeymoon. And when it — the inevitable –happened, it hit me between the eyes. I felt the sting for about a minute. Then the pain , having reached its peak, began to subside. After several minutes of deep breathing, I was fine. Yes, I survived and yes, I am here to tell the story. Continue reading


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