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Posts tagged ‘Gratitude’

New Fruit

We just celebrated the beginning of the new Jewish year, 5778, Rosh Hashanah, literally “head of the year.” Jews celebrate not with frivolity and booze, but with contemplation and prayer. We are entering the period before the Day of Judgement, Yom Kippur. We want to think about what we’ve accomplished, how we treated others, our relationships with people and G-d.

New Fruits for the New Year. (c) JustHavingFun

New Fruits for the New Year. (c) JustHavingFun

Many include a “new” fruit as part of their new year celebration. This beautiful custom entails eating a fruit that one has not eaten in a while or one that has not been encountered before. After making a blessing on the fruit, there is a blessing thanking G-d for bringing us to this season. Then the fruit is eaten.

Our local kosher supermarket, Seven Mile Market, stocked numerous “exotic” options to choose from: lychees, fresh figs on the stem, golden berries, jackfruit, and prickly pear to name a few. This year I bought lychees. (I chickened out from buying a slice of jackfruit.) I can’t remember if I ever ate fresh ones before! It was a delightful experience.

New beginnings are the theme of this season, returning our thoughts to our core values and making use of the ability to turn ourselves away from directions we may have taken that stray from the true path. I have the opportunity to make amends, to look inside and see where I’ve erred. G-d allows me to start over again, freshly invigorated and reoriented if I’ve gone astray.

I feel doubly blessed this new year having started a new position and new career after a long job search. It’s a new beginning in many ways, working for a non-profit organization that strengthens our community by helping neighbors acquire and maintain housing… among other benefits. It’s a chance for me to give back in Gratitude for the many kindnesses bestowed on me.

I’m sending all wishes for a good, healthy new year in 5778.

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Happiness is My Choice, 12

Expanded, ballooned, swelled—that’s how my heart behaved when I heard the announcement. Increased, surged, rose—that’s how my joy reacted upon learning the news.

One of my oldest friend’s oldest daughter just got married! I held this child when she was four hours old and now she and her beloved stood under the chuppah/marriage canopy as her parents did before her. I danced and hugged. My heart was full.

Other friends just became grandparents! The first grandchild, a girl, was born to their firstborn whose wedding I was privileged to attend last year. I delighted in the family’s joy at the wedding and blessed the new couple for a long, happy married life. Their well-being became my heart’s desire, their future as precious as that of my own children. Now the joy continues.

So why am I so happy some might wonder. Others might be jealous, blasé, or worse, bitter. I am grateful to have a heart that sings when others encounter happy tidings. Why not be happy for my friends? Their fortune, their gains, the fruition of their dreams does not detract from anything that is due to me. I am not losing anything or threatened.

Quite the contrary. The Creator wants us to be happy so He gives us opportunities to be happy. We need to recognize these opportunities and grab them with gusto! When we are happy with our own lot, the world looks brighter and everyone else’s good fortune rains upon us as well.

Ben Zoma says:
Who is rich?
The one who is appreciates what he has…
(Talmud—Avot 4:1)

Don’t I deserve happiness? Of course I do! That is the way Man is meant to live. Hashem gives me all I need; my needs will always be met. I know that everything coming to me will be provided… but sometimes it doesn’t feel that way. My wants are not always in concordance with my needs. I need shelter, clothing, nourishment, health. I have all that. Maybe I also want that vacation trip, a newer car,  relief from bills, and the ability to eat anything I want when I want without consequences. (The former three are within the realm of the possible and the latter is a pipe dream for sure!)

So how do I stand it—no, bask in it—when others around me “get” something and I don’t? Reframe the situation.

Others receive no gifts that are being withheld from me. Others get what they deserve. For whatever reason, I am not destined at this moment to receive that same gift. That doesn’t mean I will never have the new car or the means to go on vacation. I understand that if I do what I need to do in this world to be a kind, moral, and righteous person, I will be showered from Above with all that is coming to me.

Sharing joy in the blessings my friends experience enlivens me and wraps me in the surety that there is a Presence for Good in the universe. It binds me to my people. It creates good will. Sharing someone else’s happiness grows and grows. When we can view the world with eyes focused on the bounty available to us, we can only increase our own happiness and satisfaction with our lives.

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Happiness Is My Choice, 11

Windowsill

Looking up and outside all I see is possibilities.

Sitting on the sofa, glancing outside: the window blinds are open, sunlight illuminates the plants on the windowsill, the sky is blue, and  a mug of coffee steaming on a coaster — life is good.

I woke up. Yikes, those birds are loud!  Look! It’s a whole hour earlier than I’d planned to wake up. Better turn off the alarm clock so it doesn’t startle me later. Don’t want the toes to be cold; slide feet into the fuzzy slippers. My knees creak as I walk across the room. The mirror catches my eye. My hair looks like the rooster’s pride!

I woke up.

I woke up.

The furnace clicks on and the blower purrs warm air. An unseasonable freeze grabbed the region last night. I’m warm and decently clad. Heat some water for the coffee. Breakfast choices? I’ll settle for oatmeal, my old favorite.

Thank you G-d for starting my day with comfort and optimism. Did I ever thank you for the color green? Thanks. And thank you for hair I can simply tame with the pass of a hairbrush.

Happiness is My Choice, 8

My happiness, serenity, contentment, appreciation, and ability to give depends upon my attitude. Any challenge I am given is a loving nudge from G-d saying, “Hey, you need to work on something to refine your character and here’s a chance to do so.” He only gives us good. How we view situations changes agitation to mere irritation, anger to understanding, stress to an opportunity to practice patience, and adversity to a chance to grow.

What is my attitude toward things that happen in life? Where does it come from?

The people I surround myself with influences my attitude greatly. When I’m with an impatient crowd awaiting a bus that is wildly off schedule and late, I can pick up on that irritability, anger, stress and go along with the crowd, start to feel twitchy myself. Where is the bus? Harrumph, I can huff and puff while looking at my watch every two minutes. Each glimpse at the watch face without the bus appearing hikes my anxiety higher. How dare they? I’m going to be late. Mutter mutter. I’ve even heard people complaining about how much time it takes to pick up wheelchair-bound people, delaying the bus further. Grumble grumble.

I am stronger than my surroundings, however. I can choose to channel the anxiety, fear, disappointment into thoughts that bolster my spirit instead of feeding the snake of ill-humor. I can focus on the good even though the situation discomfits me. To those who grumble about wheelchairs, let them never suffer the helplessness you feel when you are dependent upon others for transportation, the lack of autonomy and diminution of the ability to travel. I remember with great gladness how my ability to walk was restored to me after an injury that rendered me incapable of even bending my leg! What a wonderful thing that people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to travel unassisted can now travel by public transportation!

I choose to wait patiently at the doctor’s office as a gift. Fuming will not make the appointments move any more quickly. Anger and annoyance won’t get me into the exam room any sooner. I sit back glad that I have doctors to watch over me, happy to have health insurance coverage. Or, on a more esoteric note, I’ll contemplate why dogs are hairy and rabbits are furry while I’m waiting. Look at my fingernails. Compose a blog post. Ripple my abdominal muscles. Ponder why Pluto was demoted from planet status. Wonder what the world will look like in 2100. Etc., etc.

Changing ones attitude requires being aware what attitude exists in the first place.

When I surround myself with kind, thoughtful people who act in a genteel manner, I become more like them. I remember to say please and thank you. I give smiles readily. I greet people with a glad face. I act respectful and feel respected. I absorb attitude from those around me. I gravitate to people who exhibit their happiness in spiritual ways. Being around them makes me feel uplifted. I feel hopeful and get sparked that I can better myself.

I ask myself when I do something or react to something: Is that the way the person I want to be would act?

Did you ever imagine yourself to be the Queen?

The person I want to be is kind, soft-spoken, friendly, respectful, pleasant, loving, disciplined, ladylike, calm, and giving. Benevolent, even. By envisioning and trying to live like that person, I take on her characteristics. Therein lies one aspect of my happiness. It’s all in my attitude. I’m not being handed troubles; rather, I’m given challenges from the One Who has my best interest at heart.

I can make happiness my choice.

Video

Happiness is My Choice, 6

Jeremy Bennett is a man who suffered from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and depression. He was able to retrain his thoughts and diminish the effects (he says he “beat it”) of his condition.  His message is clear: you mind does billions of things and you can control [some –ed.] of your thoughts. I ascribe to much of what he has to say. I learned greatly from Dr. Bernie Siegel, pediatric surgeon and author of The Art of Healing, and Love, Medicine & Miracles. He showed how the body’s healing mechanisms can be harnessed to healing–with cancer patients. Powerful stuff.

I’m not saying that positive thinking and harnessing your thoughts can vanquish serious diseases. Rather, I’m highlighting that much of the “Happiness is My Choice” outlook relies upon harnessing the power of our minds, training our thoughts to go in positive directions. I truly believe this activity can alleviate the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even other life-threatening illnesses. This is wholly within the purview of traditional Jewish thought. It’s not spooky stuff. It’s part of a spiritual outlook. Living this way leads to health, or barring that, it leads to acceptance and handling of difficult situations.

Psalms 100:2 says: עִבְדוּ אֶת-יְהוָה בְּשִׂמְחָה; בֹּאוּ לְפָנָיו, בִּרְנָנָה (Serve G-d with gladness; come before Him with singing.)

Align our hearts with gladness and song. When we turn our thoughts toward the positive, we can choose to be happy. Ancient wisdom for today’s times.

This is a well-made video. I hope you enjoy it.

Blizzard ’15: Update

Service changes rule the System as the MTA normalizes service.

Service changes rule the System as the MTA normalizes service.

 

QUIET…

The City was silent last night. But for the sound of salt trucks and snow plows, an unnatural, yet welcome silence blanketed the City. Yes, a blanket. Puffy, white piles of snow mounded on the sidewalks, cars, trees, fences.

But now we’re getting back to “normal,” that is, what is abnormal: the busyness of the City. I hear distant sirens; is it some poor ill soul or a vehicular accident?

Restarting trains and buses, the MTA’s progress seems to be a health report of the City. The transit system is its pulse, its heart, and its medical condition is revealed in the transit schedule.  Right now, there are no buses on Broadway—at least none I can hear—and I usually can hear them.

The baby next door cries and quiets. A few children outside sparkle the air with their amusement. My husband, home from work, makes cooking and washing up noises from the kitchen. It is peaceful. An automobile drives by, its tires sounding slushy. Someone’s shovel scrapes the sidewalk.

This lassitude, this ease, this torpor, this languor, this lethargy, this tranquility, this calm—THIS is what it’s like to live “out of town,” i.e., NOT in New York City. Peacefulness. As much as I like the activity in the City, I miss the quiet of “town,” my type of normal, snowy day.

A snow day is rare. Rarer still is subway shutdown. Is the patient moribund? Or just having a heart transplant? I hope it’s the latter. NYC can do with a change of attitude.  A storm can take her to her knees but won’t take her down all the way. She’ll rise again, a remade entity, and wait for the next challenge thrown her way.

We’re safe, we’re warm, we’re well-fed. We’re grateful and taken care of.

Happiness is My Choice, 3

Crutches

my crutches” by dmitiri_66, used under CC BY-NC 2.0

Chanukah is over but its lessons are not.

One of the great lessons of Chanukah is rededicating ourselves to thanking Hashem on a daily basis –‟V’Ahl Nissecha SheBeChal Yom Imanu” 1 — for all of the ‘little’ and not so little miracles that are with us every day. 2

Thankfulness. Gratitude. Awareness.

The body is an amazing creation yet I wake into it daily and walk it about, taking it for granted.  I never thought about what a miracle it was that my knee could bend … until one day it couldn’t bend, after the anterior cruciate ligament had torn.  Why and how it snapped, I’ll never know.  One day I was clambering about on Puerto Rico’s rocky shore, capering for the camera, preparing to leave after a successful business trip. Hours later on the jet homeward there was a moment of blinding pain and the knee ceased to function. When I couldn’t bend my leg by my own volition, I thought I’d never walk again. I was who-knows-where over the Atlantic Ocean, in the darkness, a zillion feet above the icy water, when it happened. Nobody saw anything, nobody noticed me falling onto the empty seats in my row, not even the coworker I’d spent four days with. I couldn’t fathom what had happened.

Gratitude at that pain-filled time? Yes!!!

2012-12-13 17.57.23 HDR

Chanukah menorah lighting in New York City.

Strangely, I remember feeling blessed, taken care of and calm. At that moment I was spiritually-centered and had a flash of clarity. I realized that I could have been liable for a worse outcome, such as a hijacking or a plane crash and death in the freezing waters, two of the most dramatic scenarios possible. I knew that G-d had spared me from worse. G-d gave me the clarity to acknowledge His kindness at that moment where I could have despaired but instead saw His hand in the works.

After momentary searing pain I notified the air crew, assuring them that nothing due to the operation of the flight caused my injury. An unscheduled landing sent me to a Baltimore hospital where a screaming woman in the next cubicle with a dislocated her knee was getting it realigned. I wondered if that was my fate, but they released me with splints and crutches. The airline picked up the tab for a hotel room, rescheduled my return flight, arranged a cab to the airport, and I winged back home the next day. I started physical therapy and ultimately had surgery. It took a few months to reestablish nerve pathways and relearn walking. Twenty-some years later, I walk mostly unimpeded, thoughtlessly, expecting my foot to contact something solid where I guide it. Bending my knee. Walking. Little things? Actions taken for granted?

I choose to dedicate time to acknowledge my gratitude every day. 

I’d like to be disciplined enough to write a daily gratitude journal. From time to time I start one but don’t carry through. Despite this, I’m able to focus on gratitude daily, even if I don’t write it down. I’ve made a choice. When I’m outdoors, perhaps rushing to the subway station past a few blocks of apartment buildings, parked cars, and piles of trash set out for collection, I whisper to the Creator, “Thanks G-d-for giving me the ability to walk.” I’ll hear a bird chirping or see one flying overhead and give thanks for the ability to enjoy its sweet song or follow the arc flight. If the train arrives after I get to the subway platform, instead of leaving a moment before I descend the steps, my lips smile, recognizing where this boon originated.

Everybody loves a cup of coffee!

My cup is neither half-empty nor half-full.

Does this mean I see my cup as being half-full?

Chanukah commemorates the historic event of the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt of the 2nd century BCE. Rededication of the Temple itself, the edifice, required preparation of the building (i.e., removal of idols, cleaning up pig blood, restoring order) and having the proper tools (e.g., menorah, pure oil) to do so.  Rededication was not limited to the structure; it required intensive preparation by the priests for restoration of the order of prayer. The worshipers, too, needed to be in the frame of mind to take on this holy duty and be immersed in the Temple experience. They reconnected with the Source of All Good in that time and place. I resonate to the message of Chanukah because it is my birthday and validates a fundamental truth: we are not in control of the world but He is.

How do I maintain a spiritual connection today? My attitude sustains my connection, and my choices produce my attitude.  Happiness is my choice, satisfaction with my lot. Gratitude propels me toward happiness. It’s my choice to look at things with a good eye.  It’s my choice to  remember to be grateful. Those choices bring me happiness.

My cup is neither half-empty nor half-full; rather, it is brimming over with gifts and delight.

—————


1. Part of the “Modim” מוֹדִים אֲנַחְנוּ לָךְ prayer in the Amidah prayer, recited three times daily by devout Jews.

2. Hakhel Organization, Hakhel Email Community Awareness Bulletin – Rote Map?!?‏, December 26, 2014.  [To subscribe: send an email to majordomo@hakhel.info (leave the subject line blank) with the the words “subscribe list” (no quotations) in the body of your email message.]

21 years

happy birthday 21

Happy 21st birthday guys!

Twenty-one years ago today a miracle occurred. Two lives came into the world, my twin sons Z & Y. When I learned I was expecting twins, tears of joy ran down my face. Talk about surprise!! I’ve been totally grateful since G-d blessed me, entrusting me with raising these two little souls. The pleasure experienced through the years of their development far eclipses the sheer exhilaration of that moment.

The soul is an amazing thing. We cannot see it; we have no direct evidence of its existence. Yet, we know that each person carries a spark of the Divine as evidenced by his actions: kindness, generosity, thoughtfulness, caring, selflessness, loving. To think that I was entrusted to raise little people, souls within mortal bodies, so they could express these actions on earth! I can think of no higher calling.

Now we enter a different phase as they are longer children but men. I am always going to be a Mother, sometimes a confidante, friend, and adviser. I love them as a special part of myself taken wing. My soul soars higher, lofted by the beat of their wings. May their souls ever rise higher and higher!

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