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

[breadcrumbs]

Who’s the Boss Here Anyway? (and lessons I learn as a Grandma)

When my kids were little, my husband and I  faced many parenting stresses. Through it all, we felt that we were in control of our children’s lives and were the conductors on the train that our kids were traveling on.  Major and minor decisions – from what school to send them to, to where they would go to camp, to bringing them to play-dates, to dealing with negative issues that arose, to taking them on outings, travel, buying them new things, everything was our department.

As the children got older, we involved them in discussions according to their ages and developmental levels. We might have scoffed at times at the overwhelming reality of too much on our plates, but there was a constant sense of purpose, busy-ness, and important-ness in our daily lives.

And that position of control felt comfortable for us. It felt important. Smart. In charge. As if we were responsible parents.  And it’s a feeling that we got used to having.

Fast forward many years.

Our children grew up  and moved out and onto yeshiva and/or college out of town.  One by one, they married.

All that control and decision making power now fell from our laps right onto  our adult children’s shoulders. We were told – directly or indirectly; passively or aggressively – to back off. The only exception was when they wanted our advice and we happily gave that to them when asked (and at times when not asked).

We were no longer the bosses of our children’s destinies. We were dethroned.

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Okay, it took some getting used to and I kicked, screamed and had a few tantrums (to my husband or anyone who would listen), but overall I accepted my new position.  I mean, I felt the hurt when things didn’t go my way, and was  annoyed when they did things differently than I thought was the “right” way.

When my oldest grandson was about five, I compiled a collection of magazine articles I had written since he and the others were born. The articles were  on empty stage syndrome and other middle-aged topics, so I added some fresh material and then wrote a book about being a grandmother. Within that year, I held book signings and other events and a friend of a friend asked me to lead a workshop at a well-known synagogue not far from my home. The audience was a group of synagogue members who were  vibrant and active seniors. After my presentation which included readings from my book and sharing some personal experiences as a new mother-in-law and grandmother,  someone raised her hand and asked the following question:

“What do we do when our grandchildren don’t thank us for the gifts that we give them? And why don’t their parents – our children – teach them the proper thing to do?”

I could hear others in the group mumbling comments in agreement with the questioner, and a few called out some other transgressions that their adult kids did with child rearing. Apparently, this was a hot topic, one that many in the group related.

It became immediately clear to me that this theme of non-grateful grandchildren was a topic I wasn’t at all prepared to discuss and advise about.

I wanted to relate to these women’s situations but I really couldn’t understand all the angst. At the time, I didn’t get the big deal if the child doesn’t say thank you. A thought occurred to me that many of these women were grandparents of older grandchildren than my pre-school aged grandsons. Some had grandchildren who were 8, 9 or 10 and others had teenage grandchildren.

I offered them empathy as best as I could. And then I gave some generic advice along the line of how we have to keep our mouths shut even if we think the adult kids are raising their kids with poor manners.

This led to some more sharing as the group offered some other examples of how poorly their adult kids were raising the little ones these days.

But I left the group feeling confused.  In my mind, this wasn’t the most successful event I had led. I felt I was not on the same page as these more mature grandmothers and I certainly didn’t feel that I had offered them concrete tips in the areas that were important to them.

Fast forward four more years. I now have (G-d Bless them) grandchildren who range in age from almost nine years old to almost six months. I’ve had countless experiences where I had to choose between expressing my opinion one time, several times or many times (one time wins!), arguing with their decisions or keeping my mouth shut (keeping mouth shut wins!)

But in the earlier days most of our interactions were with our adult children.

For example, where they sent the kids to school or what synagogue they chose to pray in, or where they lived, or how they spend their money or choices they make or friends they have —- all these issues have been between us and them.  I practiced the cardinal rule of zipping up my lips. The best thing to do (unless they ask for our input) is to keep quiet because it’s really up to them. Not us. Their business, not ours. A tough pill to swallow sometimes but the truth.

A few weeks ago, I received a letter from one of my grandchildren and for a reason that I can no longer fathom, I found it to be lacking in appreciation.

What? Me, who four years ago couldn’t understand the need for kids to express appreciation, was having a problem with this? Yes. True.

And not only did I feel disappointed in the letter, I expressed it to him on the phone. Looking back now, I’m thinking, “What was I thinking? The kid wrote me a letter and I’m complaining?”

Well, needless to say he told his Dad who shared with me that the child was pretty insulted.

Gulp. I messed up.

After talking it over with the child the next day on the phone and patching things up,  I realized an entirely different – but related lesson.

Even our kids have don’t have control over other people – their growing kids! That’s right. While we think we can tell our kids what to do because we have control over them and they have control over their kids, it’s all just an illusion. The only ones we can change are ourselves. We knew that already, right? But

So for those senior grandmoms who complained that their adult kids didn’t teach their progeny how to show appreciation, my response would be (four years later in case any of them are reading this!):

We are not in control. Our kids  are not in control either. Everyone does his or her best to teach their kids how to act and be. At the end of the day, the kids eventually have minds and hearts of their own. Only we can influence our relationship with our grandchildren through our kindness and acceptance.

If you want to give gifts, give them. If you don’t want to give gifts, don’t give them. Nobody wants a gift with strings attached.

The key component in any relationship – including the grandmother/grandchild dynamic – is warmth, understanding and acceptance. No preaching and no expectations.

Letters, conversations, warmth. Those are worth more than formal thank you’s from young children and teenagers.

And that’s my lesson of dethronement – we’re no longer in control and we never were. Not even when we were young moms and dads raising our kids.

And as a grandmother, that realization is very freeing today.

 


A Tale of Two Trips – Part I of II

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A few weeks ago I traveled to New York for a quick one day/one night trip. While there I visited my mom and my oldest son and daughter-in-law and kids, which was wonderful. But my main agenda on that short trip was to meet a new person who happened to be my son (#4)’s friend, whom he’d been dating  for a few months. They were getting serious and he wanted me to meet her.

I was a little jittery, and also excited and hopeful. My son had dated for marriage for awhile and we were thrilled that he had found his match. Everything seemed to click. I could tell from his voice stamp and his tone that he was completely happy and content.

All my feelings mixed together formed a big blob of nervousness.  Somehow that general nerve blob colored my travel experience and translated that experience into Bad Trip.

In fact, when I arrived in NY and my sister picked me up from the airport the next morning, she noted that all I could talk about to her in the car was how exhausted I was and how long the trip was.

The fact that I was there in NY for an exciting reason was lost on me. I was in a bad mood. I was nervous, anxious and worried. And unsettled.

So, what was so bad about this trip, you ask?

Well, one factor in the trip’s difficulty was its length. The sheer flying time cross country should be about 4 1/2 hours from west to east. But this trip was different.

In our attempt to get a ticket in a short amount of time, we rushed into getting an inconvenient ticket arrangements with not one, but two stopovers.

Since we had little mileage left for use at the time, the only normal direct ticket was about $800. In our effort  to find tickets for me to go meet this wonderful girl on a short notice, my son (who shall remain nameless – isn’t it great to have several sons so one never knows which one I’m talking about?) picked  the only itinerary that was available for a decent price. This itinerary was one with a stopover in Phoenix and another stopover in Charlotte, NC.

So at 5:45 pm on a Wednesday evening I took an Uber to Long Beach airport to wait in line and then fly to Phoenix.

Now a little geography here: Long Beach airport is about 35 miles from Los Angeles where I live. Yes, that’s right. Part of the allure of this wonderful cheap inexpensive ticket was that it flew out of the doo-hickey airport of Long Beach which is about the size of my backyard.

Wonderful airport and very quick service, but hello. It took the Uber (my second son, by the way, ) 90 minutes to get me there from LA in rush hour. And that was with using the carpool lane!

And by the time I got there, I had just about 15 minutes to get my boarding pass, go through security, wait on line and then board.

Finally, I was the plane – all was well, we took off, we landed  a little less than 2 hours later and then we deplaned.

The new gate to depart from Phoenix to Charlotte was about 20 minutes away by foot on those moving sidewalks or whatever they are called. And so I lugged my luggage across Phoenix airport, around and around until I found my gate.

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I checked my second boarding pass (yup, I had 3 altogether, isn’t that cool?) and the plane was to take off 3 hours from then.

Hmmm. I took out my food that I had taken along and ate some of it, being careful to ration, because it had to last my full journey across the  U.S.

At 11:15, we got called to get on the plane, and luckily I had a “priority” seating marked on my boarding pass (cost me $12 at the kiosk – best $12 I ever spent). This meant that after First Class folks, I was invited on to the plane to load my hand luggage in the still-empty overhead compartments. Such luxury.

My good mood about my priority seating was aborted by the sudden drop in temperature on the plane bound for Charlotte. This flight was about 4 1/2 hours and for some reason it was freezing cold. I had to wrap myself in my light jacket that I had taken with me and was still shivering. I could barely sleep.

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I asked the flight attendant for a blanket because I saw some of the First Class folks use blankets. No blankets anymore, I was told.

Anyway, after 4 1/2 hours on the plane to Charlotte, we landed, got off, and it was even colder in the airport. The airport was beautiful with white, wooden Adirondack chairs for lounging, and lots of outlets for charging phones and ipads. The accents were a bit hard to understand so that was a little annoying but the main issue was that I was freezing.

By then it was 6 a.m. North Carolina time (same as NY? are we almost there yet?) and I still had to walk across the airport to the departing gate (far!),  wait 2 hours in the airport (yes, I checked my crumpled boarding pass) to be called up to board “Prory  boarding” which is Charlotte accent for “priority boarding” I realized after asking, “excuse me? excuse me? did she call our group yet?”

Anyway, finally we were on the last leg of the journey across the good ol’ USA and I was headed from Charlotte at 8:15 am.

Destination: La Guardia Airport – so says my crumpled boarding pass.

When I landed in LGA, I turned on my phone and saw a few texts from my sister. I went outside and noticed how warm it was (everything is relative compared to that plane with no blankets), and I started to look for my sister.

I found her. She found me. I got in the car.

It was 10 am. It took us 45 minutes to get to Brooklyn, to my mom’s house. Just enough time to freshen up before having the meeting we had planned the trip for in the first place.

Total flying time: 8 hours.

Total waiting time in 4 airports (Long Beach, Phoenix, Charlotte, La Guardia) – 6 hours

Total driving time to and from airports on each coast (2 1/2 hours).

Listen – you do the math – I’m too tired! But basically, in that time…I could have flown to Israel, right?

Oh – and in case you are wondering, I loved meeting my son’s friend (who is now my future daughter-in-law!). I traveled back to California the next day on minimal sleep and only had one stopover.

I was cranky as ever, came down with a lousy cold and had to take erythromycin to get rid of my bronchitis.

Mazel Tov! Stay tuned for the next installment of…..A Tale of Two Trips – Part II. Over there, I will discuss another trip – one which I had an entirely different experience than the one in this post.

Hint: The next trip (also no-frills and quite long) was sooooo much more fun! Hmmm. I wonder why.

See you at my next post….sooner than later!

 

 


Thumbs Up to 10 Blogging Buddies

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As we enter the New Year of 2016,  I thank a group of  people who enrich my life with their insights and creativity. They enlighten me with their humor and spirituality. And they inform me with their knowledge and wit.

Most of these women are  younger than me; some are older and a few are just about my age and stage. Whether they blog about parenting, spirituality, grandparenting, midlife issues, world events,  religion or anything else…their sharing of ideas online  has improved my life.

Without further ado, I wish a Happy 2016 t0 the following talented bloggers (listed below in alphabetical order).

1.

An Empowered Spirit. Cathy Chester

From writing and advocating for those who have multiple sclerosis to bringing a positive angle from events….to teaching us the value of friendship and love….kindness and creativity to her friends and acquaintances…to reminiscing about oldies in movies, books and culture…to sharing exciting happenings in showbiz and musicals…..and how to age with grace and love and humor, and mindfulness….Cathy’s prose always inspires, hits the spot. Her ideas expressed on popular sites  and her personal blog resonate with spirituality and her words sing with just the right tones and beats, encouraging us all to find the beauty in the everyday lives we lead. Cathy’s blog has garnered a great deal of public attention, winning numerous awards, especially in her capacity as an advocate for people with disabilities.  One of these days, Cathy and I will meet – hopefully sooner than later.

2.

Cycling Grandma. Lisa Winkler.

Lisa and I began as grandmother friends as we both have grandma blogs and found each other online. Pretty soon we were swapping stories and grandchildren cute antics through email and some posts. Eventually, we actually met IRL when Lisa came to Los Angeles last year. Lisa is a woman of many passions: bike riding (“cycling”), knitting, play scripting,  teaching, stimulating her grandchildren’s growing minds, reading, traveling, and of course writing (I’m sure I left out a lot!).   I consider Lisa a dear and supportive friend who has given me many tools and tips for coping in my personal and professional life.

3.

Empty House Full Mind. Sharon Greenthal.

Sharon is one of  the founders of  Midlife Boulevard, a community of women who blog.  I joined that group a few years ago and met some like-minded and similar-staged friends. Sharon’s posts on her personal blog and other online platforms cover versatile topics including being a “mentsch” in social media, dealing with empty nest syndrome, perspectives on marriage, relating appropriately to adult children, and appreciating the good in our middle aged lives.  Sharon’s subjects are relatable and timely but always with an original twist that keeps me entertained and enlightened.  Her material is a reality check reminding me to laugh, relax and enjoy the ride. Sharon recently  became a columnist on About.com as their  expert in young adult parenting.  Thanks, Sharon!

4.

Friend for the Ride. Barbara Younger.

Barbara, a fellow grandmother was one of the first people that I met as a blogger. Barbara ran a guest post of mine and the rest is history.  Recently when I had a health scare that related to  menopause, Barbara gave me the encouragement I needed (and everything worked out well thank G-d!). You see, menopause –and everything tangentially related to it – is Barbara’s niche and expertise. Barbara is a hoot and expresses  serious medical topics with refreshing humor and candidness. Barbara’s bravery and optimism along with the accurate information that she posts are what attracted me to her blog. Her stories about being a grandmother and mom who juggles the sandwich generation are always relatable. Thank you, Barbara for being there.

5.

Grandma’s Briefs. Lisa Carpenter.

Lisa’s blog struck me from the beginning as the consummate “Grandmother Blog.” I loved the way Lisa gave her grandsons anonymous “bloggie” names on the blog. (Check them out on her blog in the sidebar). Lisa’s sense of humor, down to earth writing and really professional layout are what got me coming back. Lisa’s recent subjects on her blog have been movie reviews, combatting weight gain around holiday time, and other family matters. Lisa is the coordinator of an event where bloggers contribute their best post in one spot. She calls it the Grand Social and holds it weekly, inviting other grandmothers to submit their links on any topic (even non-grandmother topics – just no sales).  Lisa loves traveling and can often be found visiting her daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren in nearby Arizona. Check out some of those fabulous photos and videos  she takes of her grandsons. Thanks, Lisa for the inspiration.

6.

L.ife in the Married Lane. Rivki Silver.

Rivki, SAHM mother of four, musician of too many instruments to count (clarinet, piano, saxophone and more) published writer, and performer,  blogs (in her free time…) a potpourri of ideas including Judaism, parenting, music, marriage,  motherhood and general “of interest” subjects.  Whether she’s covering serious or funny topics, Rivki’s writing is both engaging and gripping.  Check out some of  Rivki’s published posts and amazing you-tube videos where she articulates thoughts on spiritual growth and healthy priorities. Enjoy her musical selections such as “Ode to a Cosmic Carrot” that she’s composed and arranged. Rivki’s story about her spiritual journey and her gifts at combining technology,  spirituality and art with down-to-earth topics, inspire me to personal growth.  Thanks, Rivki!

7.

Nina Badzin, Writer.

In the beginning I read Nina’s blog to gain insight from an accomplished writer and blogger. I saw how vast her publishing experience was and I wanted to learn from her. But soon I realized that I was learning more about character traits and relationships than about knowledge on how to write. Nina has an intuitive sense of honing in on a theme and  is the go-to person for  how to navigate the complexities of social media;  I read her  friendship advice column and am amazed how spot-on she is. Nina seems to get so much done in a day that often I’m dizzy (in a good way) after reading her posts. From Challah baking groups to the myriad books she devours and reviews…. to the creative things she does with her cute kids, to her ambitious yet pragmatic outlook, I’m constantly inspired. But what I most enjoy about Nina’s writing is her solid voice with a sense of who she is and who she aspires to be. We can all identify with her  practical and sensible advice that always has a positive and hopeful tone. Keep teaching, Nina and thanks!

8.

Out of the Orthodox Box. Ruchie Koval.

Ruchie Koval’s blog’s title is reflective of her mission to bring Orthodox Judaism out of the box or to demystify the customs and practices of Orthodox Judaism for the Jews of all ages, affiliations and levels. Besides being the the author of the newly published book, Conversations With God,  her articulate posts offer perspectives on hosting unaffiliated guests for Shabbat meals  , a young Orthodox girl’s  conviction to wear a skirt for gymnastics, Orthodox Jewish women covering their hair after marriage, parenting, and relationships. Ruchi and her husband are the dynamic team who run the Cleveland program of Jewish Family Experience or  JFX, an organization for Jewish outreach. They, their seven children and staff  bring  Jewish people back to their roots through lectures, programs, entertainment and trips to Israel. With raw honesty and sincerity,  Ruchi breaks down complex issues into little understandable bites. Thanks, Ruchi.

9.

Rebecca Klempner’s Blog.

Rebecca Klempner, my IRL friend before my blogging friend,  was the one who got me motivated to get into blogging. She is the mother of four, science fiction fiend, and talented author of children’s book. Additionally, she has published anthology collections online and on the website Tablet magazine, and countless short stories and essays. A regular contributor to several print magazines and periodicals, Rebecca has become the go-to person in our community for knowing the ins and outs of the publishing world. Rebecca’s blog is about writing including her journey as a writer, her writing process, struggles and successes in composing essays and novels, news about her new publications, and general tips on writing for all of us readers. I always learn about the industry and the craft of writing when spending time with Becca or reading her blog.

10.

Renee Jacobson’s Blog.

Talented artist and painter, writer, blogger, lover of cute hats,  Renee and I met when she organized a Hannukkah Hoopla blogging event for a group of bloggers in December 2014. After that, we became fast Face-book friends (love that alliteration…) and Renee even painted a set of colorful canvases (!) for my new kitchen. Renee’s creativity in fashion, writing and teaching are only a small part of who she is. I’m happy to have met Renee online and look forward to meeting one day! Maybe you’ll come out to LA and give an art workshop. Who knows?

 

My wish for the coming year is that we continue to enjoy to gain inspiration through reading, writing and sharing our thoughts. Happy 2016!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


A Glimpse Into Another World (A Guest Post)

globeIt’s almost January 1, 2014 2015. On to a new year.

First, I announce the winner of my giveaway from the commenters on my blog post on the Hanukkah Hoopla. The winner is: Lisa W from Cycling Grandma! I will send her a copy of my book, Mazel Tov! It’s a Bubby! (Israel Bookshop Publications, 2012). 

Here’s Lisa’s blog, if you have a chance to get a look! . (Thanks again, Renee Schuls-Jacobson, for planning the Hanukkah Hoopla!)

Next, I’d like to introduce Revital Belz from Israel, who blogs about being a Mom of five boys (sound familiar?). Revital has been published in the Jewish Journal, and blogs at  Ajudaica.com, where she enjoys creating stylish items for men, including personalized yarumulkas and T-shirts.

Enjoy Revital’s special simchas hachayim (Hebrew for joie de vivre) that comes through in her writing. Please feel free to comment below. Revital and I would love to read your thoughts!

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A GLIMPSE INTO ANOTHER WORLD by Revital Belz

I introduce myself as Revital, a mother who is  blessed with a large family.  revital

There is so much talk about these “wonder ladies” that I want to open a window and give you a peek.  It is a chance to share with you the joys and enormous satisfaction I derive from raising my large family.

I come from a traditional home but became strictly Orthodox in my teenage years.  I married at the age of 22 and today have five children ranging from two to ten with a set of twins in the middle.  In spite of my heavy home commitments, I work in our family Judaica business.  I know that I am a walking advertisement for motherhood so I make sure that I am always put together and  I don’t leave the house without makeup.

“When people ask me what I am doing with my life, I tell them that I am a Judaica artist.  I was granted five packages of raw material – human substance – and given the task of forming them into learned G-d fearing Jews who will make a contribution to their family and the community – beloved in the eyes of man and Heaven, individuals!  Sotheby’s recently sold a small statue for $100,000,000  (one hundred million dollars – in case the zero’s confuse!).  How much would they give for my artistic creation?”

“I don’t understand it when people asked me if I feel burnt-out or deprived.  Do they ask a doctor who sweats for five years to get his degree and another few years as an intern if he is neglecting his personal development”

“Motherhood is the greatest challenge to my personal development.  I was a spoiled indulged child when I got married.  I could just about boil an egg.  Over the years, I have learnt to be giving and compassionate, patient and diplomatic.  I never knew I had these qualities or that they were so important to life.  My husband and children have enriched my life.  Yes, sometimes I would like to read a book, attend a concert, or drink coffee with friends. I do not deny myself these personal pleasures.  I simply say to myself – not now.”

“I often think of my grandmother’s life advice – nothing worthwhile is achieved without hard work.  Sure, raising a large family demands energy and is sometimes draining.  I make mistakes.  I have learnt to pick myself up and continue.  Everything always works out in the end.”

“Before each birth, I wonder how I will divide my love to include an additional child and every time I discover anew that with each child, love multiplies not divides.  Children growing up in a large family have a unique opportunity to share and give and be considerate.  Of course, my kids fight and argue and have tantrums – like kids everywhere.  But, growing up in a large family is giving them the best tools for life.”

“The secret is to make your children your first priority.  I try to constantly be aware of their needs.   This demands thought more than time.

When my oldest had a major test, he found a candy in his school bag with a note wishing him success.

When Dudi was having a rough time in school, he got lots of extra ‘I love you’ hugs. My little one needs to feel good about himself.  I cooked him favorite lunch and told him that he is the greatest kid.   From time to time, we have a ‘king for a day’ project.  On that day, the lucky child will put a crown on his head in the morning and know that it is his day – the day that he is spoiled by everyone.”

“The climax of the week is the beautiful Shabbat when we sit around the table, talking and singing together.  No matter how exhausted my husband and I are, Shabbat is children’s time.  We tell stories, play games and check up on what they have studied during the week.  We relish the Chagim (Jewish festivals).  Each one has its special flavor that is almost tailor-made for children and gives wonderful family experiences.”

“Sometimes, I wonder if I am doing a good job.  My best endorsement came last week from my seven years old (the inspiration for this article).

He has just learned to read and proudly uses his Siddur (prayer book) every day.  With great self-confidence he confided in me, “Imma” he said, “I am praying to G-d that you should bring us another baby.  I would like triplets!”

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Thank you for reading Revital’s post. Please comment below! And check out Revital’s Judaica blog.


Lessons from My Father

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My father, Mr. Alfred (Shalom) Stern, passed away three weeks ago at the age of 88  in Brooklyn, in his home. He is survived by my mother, may she live and be well, 6 of us children, and many grandchildren and great grandchildren. (The photo shown was taken circa 1949).

Dad was born in 1926 in Antwerp, Belgium and traveled through France, Portugal, and Cuba to the U.S. from 1940 to 1943. They arrived in NY in January, 1943, and my father attended Torah Vodaath Yeshiva — Jewish High School and post high school  (“Yeshiva“) at that time, followed by Brooklyn College and Columbia University. In 1949, he married my mother.

Over the past weeks, I have been thinking about all the things I want to write about my Daddy, who was my children’s Opi (grandpa in German). I thought of all the lessons – both book learning and life skills – that my siblings and I learned. During the shiva (7 days of traditional mourning in Judaism), we kept going over and over these concepts that I just had to put them down in one place. I’m not sure that I practice all my father’s lessons 100 % all the time, but they are on my mind as I trek through my daily life.  Even if I’m not as perfect in inculcating these lessons, I am very much aware of them.

  1. Life is full of disappointments. When one of us would complain about something that wasn’t going the way we wanted, rather than lecture to us about learning to deal with the bumps of life, my father simply stated that phrase, often with a wink and a smile (because it was so old already).  It became kind of a joke between us and we would giggle at it and say, “Ya, ya…whatever..” but would know that my father a) sympathized with us b) was reminding us of a lesson. Interestingly, he didn’t throw in a long speech of how to handle the diappointment. That, he left for us to figure out.

  2. Everything in its place and a place for everything. A master of organization, my dad had a desk whose contents would rival Staples. No wonder we came to him for replacing lost pencils (that was me!), or lost scissors (that was my sister, the artist), or missing rubber bands (my brothers.).  Ditto for his red pens, blue pens, and black pens that he used for his accounting books. My father had a business and did his own bookkeeping. His organization was a tough act to follow. But we try!

  3. The teacher is always right.This may have been a by product of our generation, but I believe that many of the parents in my generation of baby boomer kids believed that teachers were perfect and incapable of poor judgement. Thus, if I complained about a mean teacher, my parents wanted to know what the students did to trigger it. It may be that behind my back, my parents did advocate for me to the teacher, but to us, he always maintained that united front with the teachers. Looking back, I believe that although I felt somewhat frustrated at his strong stance at the time,  I did have  that respect for authority because of my father’s strict attitude. I believe that I passed that down (with some tempering) to my children in my own parenting skills, as I always insisted on my kids respecting their elders and teachers. As my husband likes to joke to our kids, “Rule Number 1: The Teacher is always right. Rule Number 2: If teacher is wrong, refer to rule number 1.”

4. Make the garbage compact.  No, we didn’t have a trash compactor in our 1960’s style kitchen, but still my father was very conscientious about getting the trash to fit into the grey tin cans that were ubiquitous in our Brooklyn street. I have visions of my father pushing the trash down, so as not to waste space.

  1. Follow your passion and study hard. My father believed in hard work, and modeled that to us in his every act. Whether he was learning Torah, going to work in his jewelry business, or raising funds for the high school we attended, he did everything thoroughly. He expected each of us to follow our school studies and was supportive of our outside projects, to the point that he and my mom didn’t mind if we were out at a friend studying late, or at a school function. Our father was our cheerleader, whether he was rooting for two of my sisters’ artistic and haircutting talents, to my writing and musical interests, to my other sister’s acting hobbies, and my brothers’ athletic goals with their friends, and pursuing their intellectual and rabbinic studies

  2. Respect your mother. If we said or did anything against our mother, we were reprimanded big time by my father. It was a “wait till your father gets home” moment for us. My father was more particular about our respect for our mother than for himself. Although one of my sisters claims she got away with murder (her confession at the shiva), the others and myself claim that Dad would give it to us if we were “fresh.” (the popular term in those days for rude).

  3. Do loving acts of kindness. This was something modeled by my mother over the years, and my father would encourage and praise her deeds in front of us. Our home was open to all kinds of guests who needed a place to stay when visiting our neighborhood. Since we had a large home, my mother was happy to host people. Often, my mother drove people to hospitals in Manhattan – those who were too weak to drive themselves – for treatment for various illnesses. My father and mother had that kind of home, and stressed to us that it is the way to live. I try to emulate their ways in my own life.

  4. Take good care of yourself and do what’s right. As much as my dad was a man of few words, (my mother and sisters did most of the talking!), he did give me a lecture one time when I got into trouble in school. I think the issue was that the class was doing some shtick on the teacher, and I followed along. My father gave me a speech about taking care of myself and not following the pack or the crowd, if I know what’s right for myself. My father was a big believer in standing strong for what’s right – even if everyone else is doing something nutty.  (One big speech we got – “Just because everyone is jumping off the Empire State Building, doesn’t mean you have to!”)

  5. The chickens come home to roost.  This was said in the same manner as “life is full of disappointments,” except the scenario was different. In the chickens scenario, we were usually suffering a consequence of bad planning or poor organization. So, the message in that simple statement was “hey, you made your bed, now sleep in it…” but somehow “the chickens come home to roost” was gentler and cuter than the former one about making one’s bed. Just as my father was into accepting disappointments that are beyond our control, he was into dealing with natural consequences of something sloppy that we did.

  6. Write things down. Make lists. My father was a firm believer in making lists, both for what you have to do and what you delegate to others. My father often delegated chores to us, and put them down in writing. Also, he took copious notes when he attended classes given by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, his guide in Jewish analysis and “lomdus.”  I learned from my father to underline and highlight when reading material in books and to take notes for later use.

  7. Look it up. My father was a lover of words. He spoke 7 languages, partly because he lived in several countries when escaping Europe during WW II, and partly because he was interested in languages and books. When my father would use what we felt was a “fancy” word, he would not translate it for us, but would say, “Look it up.” That meant we had to go find the unabridged dictionary in his study and look up said word. (Most of the time, we didn’t necessarily do it that minute, but it made an impression on us to expand our vocabulary and appreciate nuances of different words!)

There you have it. 11 things I learned from my father. As I go through my days in these weeks after his passing, I often think, “what would Daddy say?” or “what would Opi say?” and suddenly I feel an answer come to my mind. It’s very comforting for me to have these lessons as anchors to hold onto. By heeding these lessons of discipline and love in my daily life, I believe I am honoring my father’s memory, and carrying on the message to the next generation who observes me.


Helicopter Grandparents

We’ve all heard about helicopter mothers, the moms you see in the soccer field cheering their kids on from the stands, and if said kids do not happen to be on the winning team, these moms get very upset.

Hovering Grandparents Swooping Down...Be Careful....

Hovering Grandparents Swooping Down…Be Careful….

Helicopter Moms  —  coined by Jim Fay and Foster Cline, have  received a bad rap – and for good reason. These parents hover just above their kids’ heads (and hearts), watching their kids’ every move, and basically living their own life  through that of  their suffocating and frustrated children.

But what about Helicopter Grandparents? How do they fit into the picture? Do Helicopter Moms (and Dads) who are unchecked (and haven’t worked on themselves to undo their annoying helicopter behaviors) grow up to become Helicopter Grandparents?

Continue reading


Fake It Till You Make It

The email in my box from my friend read “Are you okay? I’m worried about you. You haven’t blogged in days.”

Did I have to apologize to my readers – or even this reader, who is a good friend? I’m not sure if I have to ‘splain, but that’s what I do. I ‘splain. I was busy, I was swamped. All the usual excuses. But as my dad always told me, “Qui s’excuse, s’accuse.” I only sound more foolish with silly explanations.

Okay, onward. My topic today is about faking it. No explaining. No excuses. Just pretending to do things the right way.

What am I talking about??? Well let me explain – I mean let me elaborate! 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!


Time Out – Not Just for Kids!

During the past several weeks, when our families were all together under one roof, lots of dynamics took place. One particular phenomenon was the increase of the “Time-Out” implementation for a particular few children. Listen, we all act out from time to time, and kids are no different.  I heard  this consequence being meted out to several young boys in my home the past few weeks. Now, I did not pay too much attention as I was usually in the kitchen taking care of something; it’s just hard to ignore the chant and refrain, “okay, Time out! That’s it. Consequences…” or whatever terminology was used between mom and child.

(When Child A gets a Time Out,  his close-in-age siblings or cousins  suddenly act  like little “tzaddikim” (pious ones), because hey, the heat is not on them right now! …but I digress)

It can’t be fun for the Time-Outee. But alas, time-outs are a fact of life, and I support the moms who have the stamina to follow through on warnings. And it is wonderful afterward – to see the shining behavior after the time-out.

Time Outs for children are  practice sessions for life. When we become adults, we begin to implement our own time-outs. Hopefully, we can figure out when we need them, and take them! For some a “time out” is a walk around the block and a breath of fresh air. For others it is a break to read a book. And for still others, it may be taking a nap when things get too intense. Oftentimes, we have too much of one thing for too long a time, and things get a bit “intense” – as if one would be in a squabble with a little cousin or sibling. At these times, one just has to realize that, and move away from the situation.

Shift gears, and take a break. Regroup, meditate and move on in newer and fresher ways.

I think I’m going to try that. I’ll let you know how it goes.

But for now, I will write my little guys a note, telling them how proud of them I am for their amazing behavior while at my house. Because at the end of the day, we remember the smiles and kindness in those adorable kiddies!


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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