Friday, September 19, 2014

The Depth of "Modah Ani" on My Birthday

Yom shishi, 24 Elul 5774.

Lovely artwork by my dear daughter-in-law, Tova.
The days of our years among them are seventy years, and if with strength, eighty years. ~ Psalm 90, a prayer by Moshe Rabbeinu

So it's my birthday.

Ahhhhhhh!
And on my 57th birthday, it suddenly occurred to me at about four in the morning that unless I get special dispensation, I can only expect about 13 more years of life. (And that's without any disasters happening.)

This is not meant to be morbid. Nor is it intended to frighten my friends who are closer to seventy (and with strength, eighty) than I. It wasn't fear of death that waked me in the wee small hours.

It was the need to assess. How do I want to spend my last decade and slightly less than a half?

A short commercial announcement for my very religious friends in the Kine Hora Puh-Puh-Puh Club. Of course I believe that God will decide when each of us moves on to our next adventure; and of course I will be delighted to stick around until a hundred and twenty -- but only if it's in good health. And I hope that my speaking the words in the paragraphs above does not trigger your fear that I will make it so by saying it. I like to believe that God is not troubled by words, if they are used thoughtfully.

End of commercial.

Thirteen years to be all I can be. To do everything I ever wanted to do as Ruti. The mind boggles at the shortness of the time to do so very many things!

While I have no intention to quit my job and go off to hike the Alps or volunteer to save babies in Ethiopia -- though I have a certain admiration for those who do -- I hope I will live with more keen awareness of the value of every day.

A country song comes to mind. (Doesn't it always?) This song, written by Tim Nichols and Craig Wiseman and performed most famously by Tim McGraw, says it well.

For the usual reasons, I prefer the version by my son, Aryeh... but until I can record it, here's the original.



Seems like a nice message for the upcoming Days of Awe, too. For my birthday present to you, I give you the blessing that you will live your nice, long, healthy, happy life... like you were dyin'.


He said I was in my early 40's,
With a lot of life before me,
And a moment came that stopped me on a dime.
I spent most of the next days, lookin' at the x-rays,
Talkin' 'bout the options and talkin' 'bout sweet time.
Asked him when it sank in, that this might really be the real end.
How's it hit ya, when you get that kind of news.
Man what ya do.
And he says,

[Chorus]

I went sky divin',
I went Rocky Mountain climbin',
I went 2.7 seconds on a bull name Fumanchu.
And I loved deeper,
And I spoke sweeter,
And I gave forgiveness I've been denying,
And he said someday I hope you get the chance,
To live like you were dyin'.

He said I was finally the husband,
That most the time I wasn't.
And I became a friend a friend would like to have.
And all the sudden goin' fishing,
Wasn't such an imposition.
And I went three times that year I lost my dad.
Well I finally read the Good Book,
And I took a good long hard look at what I'd do
If I could do it all again.
And then.

[Chorus]

Like tomorrow was a gift and you've got eternity
To think about what you do with it,
What could you do with it, what can
I do with with it, what would I do with it.

[Chorus]
Sky divin',
I went Rocky Mountain climbin',
I went 2.7 seconds on a bull name Fumanchu.
And I loved deeper,
And I spoke sweeter,
And I watched an eagle as it was flyin'.
And he said someday I hope you get the chance,
To live like you were dyin'.

To live like you were dyin'.
To live like you were dyin'.
To live like you were dyin'.
To live like you were dyin'.


Thanks, kids! Loved the candles, too!
Dear Young People: You can tell the elderly by the fact that they like to talk about their health, the weather, and how the weather affects their health.

Stay tuned for a post about the weather. ;-)


And thanks for the love!

Stayed overnight at my recently marrieds, and was met with these lovely gifts. Deluxe, five-star accommodations!


Lovely artwork by my dear daughter-in-law, Naomi.

The shot glass was to add to my collection. But the award from his peers in 20 countries was probably inspired by his midot as much as his skill. And that is a pretty great birthday present for a mother.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Finally. Eating Mindfully. Dumping Excess Weight. WooHOO!

Yom revi'i, 22 Elul 5774.

"Heaven never helps the man who will not act." ~ Sophocles*

HWC breakfast of mango, blueberry, lichi and pomegranate
So I'm on this new diet. (Of course I am. I'm an American woman. It's our national pastime.)

David J. Zulberg wrote the book The Life-Transforming Diet: Based on Health and Psychological Principles of Maimonides and other Classical Sources.

I purchased the newest (2014) edition four months ago, and decided to go through the book religiously (you should pardon the pun).

Honestly, there was something comforting about following a diet (that is not actually a diet, per se, but a manner of mindful eating and exercise) that the Rambam would have approved. And the fact that it is Jewish means that it takes into account how to eat over Shabbat and the chagim without necessarily going off the plan. One can even dine out! Even though this is called a diet, which implies weight loss, some people use this approach to gain needed pounds, or simply to feel healthier, with more alertness and energy.

Another thing I like about this way of eating is that one can tailor it to her particular food likes and dislikes. For example, I have had more success eating a protein-centric diet as opposed to grain-based. Some of my friends are the opposite, and cannot eat a lot of protein, or respond badly to it, or have issues with gluten; some are vegetarians. The Life-Transforming Diet (LTD) allows for all of these styles of eating. The only people who would struggle, I think, are those who despise fruits, vegetables and exercise... but even for those, the secret of the diet -- incremental change -- might get them past their issues toward eventual success.

The initial steps of the LTD were so slow, I felt like I was cheating. In the first week, all one is expected to do is to add a high-water content meal -- melon by itself, or fruit, or salad, or soup. The next week, one adds five minutes of exercise. "FIVE MINUTES??? Who can't do that?" I thought. The ultimate goal of the diet has much less to do with weight control than relearning the art we lost when we were about three years old of knowing when enough is enough. In short, learning to listen to our bodies, rather than following after our eyes and hearts and the "Supersize me" ads. The idea is that, over time, one learns through a "subconscious accumulation process" to eat appropriate amounts at the right times, and to learn to see exercise as pleasurable rather than daunting.

Another feature that I like of the LTD is the smart approach to snacking. When diets informed me that I was allowed a half-cup of cottage cheese and some carrot sticks, I felt like I was in jail. But when you give me a sort of choice hierarchy, and leave that choice to me, I feel like I'm in control. At a certain level, it's a psychological trick. But it has made sense as a means of teaching me how much food I actually need between meals.

Since this is the most success I have ever had -- success being measured in disappearing pounds and in not feeling nagging hunger pangs -- I am considering teaching this to anyone who wants to learn it, once I reach my goal weight. I have currently dumped six excess kilos (a little over 13 pounds). I'm eating less than I used to think I needed without feeling hungry; and I'm on my elliptical or on my bike nearly every day -- and enjoying it! Dare I say it? I'm actually having fun on this program.

With Rosh Hashana right around the corner, I'm planning my future menus with lots of shemita produce to take advantage of the holiness of this very special year, foods my whole family will enjoy, and that will help me to keep discarding kilos. L'chaim!

So far, David gives food recommendations, but no recipes. So I thought I would begin to share a few of my own, based on his principles. Please let me know what you think.

HWC Fruit Breakfast (pictured above)

1 mango, diced
1/4 cup blueberries
3 lichi nuts, peeled and chopped
4 tablespoons pomegranate seeds
dash of cinnamon
dash of coriander
salt to taste

(I've written measurements, because I know it makes you happy; but all measurements are actually approximations. Make it the way you like it. Since we aren't counting calories here, David recommends a nice big bowl of fruit. Remember to eat melon alone. Or with one close friend. Ba-dum-BUM! Ksshhh!!!)

Light One CF Meal: salad with ground beef
For lunch, I often make a big bowl or ice cream tub of salad. Thank God the Israelis never heard of iceberg lettuce, and that the vegetables are fresh and seasonal with lots of flavor! I top it with salmon or some other protein, such as chicken or canned tuna, or even ground beef (pictured) or entrecote, and maybe some seeds. There are wonderful varieties of seeds for sprinkling on salad; and they take care of my need for something a little earthy or salty. Also, Israel introduced me to zatar (a mixture of hyssop and sesame seeds) which makes any salad a party. Drizzle with a little olive oil and lemon juice, and I have a lunch that keeps me satisfied for hours. (If you prefer carbs to proteins, you can use pasta or starchy vegetables instead of meat or fish in this salad.)

For Shabbat, we will often prepare a whole salmon, as it's cheaper to prepare a lot at once, rather than buying the little packages of salmon pieces. That means we have a lot left over for the week (during the weeks our young marrieds and soldier are elsewhere). With a little oven-baked pumpkin and various greens, the lightly-steamed salmon is really delicious. (And again, for people who prefer a pasta main dish to protein, this dish might be made with noodles and vegetable sauce, instead of salmon.)

One CF Meal: Salmon with Pumpkin and Salad
Once I reach goal weight, I will begin incorporating whole grains more often. I would eat them now; but grain products tend to get in the way of my goals -- so I'll save them for later. Other people, as I said before, respond differently.

I don't only eat salad, by the way. It's just that the fresh salad greens are plentiful right now, and so flavorful. I look forward to experimenting with ways to continue my new way of eating using winter vegetables and fruits and, please God, to continued success.

I strongly recommend this approach, and this excellent book! And I give you my bracha for success in your efforts to become your best self in 5775.

*Every week, David recommends keeping a very simple diet and exercise journal, at the top of which it is recommended to post a "summary statement" that inspires success. He offers recommendations on his Skinny Habits Facebook page.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Bal'mer BYOB and B BBQ... A good time was had by all.

Yom sheni, 9 Tamuz 5774.

When the world is on fire, nothing is as comforting nor as strangely empowering as surrounding oneself with family.

On Shabbat, we surrounded ourselves with our boys and our girls and our neighbors. There was food and laughter and song and silly, silly games. ("Dani, no one knows why you keep inviting us to play 'Hunger Games.' Of course everyone is going to eliminate you first. Duh. You are the most competitive person on the planet.") For twenty-five or so hours, we didn't think about the Middle East, or about the world.

Today, we gathered our other family, the Four-One-Oh Club, formerly known as Baltimoreans. Most if not all of us are former -- and forever! -- members of Rabbi Menachem and Rebbetzin Bracha Goldberger's Congregation Tiferes Yisroel. Not everyone could make it, but we know your hearts were here with us. There was food. There was laughter. The song was recorded, but was good, nonetheless; and instead of games, we played the game parents and grandparents prefer: catching each other up with what is going on with our amazing children and grandchildren. (How did those little kids suddenly end up parents of six kids???)

Because it's all about the people, here are some of the faces we love. Those who know, know.

Dani had to fight with the Neve Daniel winds while he struggled to make those barbecue grills stay alight. Leave it to the ingenuity of Captain Crunch to solve the problem.
A metal tub used by the Arab workmen for mixing concrete becomes Dani's barbecue windshield, supported by a couple of 30-pound weights. You go, Dani!

Keren Bat Heyn reminds me of one of the great Vermeer paintings in this shot.

Moshe Shaul, making everyone else smile and laugh with his jokes (ALWAYS clean), shares a smile of his own.

Yehudis and Eileen, looking elegant.

Ah, friends. When you love someone, there is such comfort in her presence.

Nechama and Shoshana, so good to see you together in our home!

Yes, we waited too long to feed Nisan...


Son Avi and proud father Alvin

A hug from a kid you watched grow up is good for what ails you.

Tova and Dovid leave smiles wherever they go!

Good to see you again, Moshe! And yes, I'll always be Mrs. E. Don't be scared. That's just the way it is. ;-)

Aaron and Avi would have looked good anyway -- but somehow this shot is just right with the Israeli flag behind them.

Aharon and Feige Rochel ("Just let everyone know that even though Avivah and her family couldn't make it, they are so very grateful for everyone's prayers. And she's doing great!")


Baruch giving me his "Whadaya want from me?" shrug, which comes whenever I aim a camera at him. Just glad to have you here, friend.

Shoshana, Keren, Sandra and Yehudis... how long have we been friends? Ages!

When you invite Jews to a "bring your own beef (or alternative) and beverage barbecue," you get enough food to feed a small army. Which is what happened to the leftovers: they were transported to hungry soldiers. Thanks, Baruch and Avrum!



Joani, somehow I failed to get a shot of you -- but you are there somewhere in Avrum's smile. Thank you so much for joining us!



Hey, Pinchas! Thank you for dropping by and representing your family (some of whom were off dedicating a new community in memory of Eyal zt"l, Gil-ad zt"l, and Naftali zt"l).


A man and his son-in-law

Eileen, Ruti, Sandra, Keren and Feige Rochel

Jerry and Avi
A lovely new friend and fellow writer



Alvin and Avrum

Richard and Moshe Shaul

Richard and Jerry

Brothers and friends and brothers...

Thank you, new friend, for helping to bring back our old friend's smile.




Jerry and Eileen, thank you for inspiring this reunion!
Thank you all for lifting our spirits, for strengthening us with your presence and your love, to get through these trying times. As one of our lovely guests said, "It was nice to spend time with people I understand, people who are all more or less on the same page." In a word: family. May we share better days!

May the time we spent together, listening to each other, sharing with each other, add in some small measure to our cumulative efforts to bring the day when there will be no more sorrow, when there will be only light and joy, gladness and honor... when there will be peace for all human beings.