I just posted a bunch of new recipes to the blog. Some are my own creations, others are from my favourite websites. All of them are favourites in our home. You can check them out by looking under the “Recipes” tab.
From the outside, most people think that I’ve got it all together. Successful marriage, two cute kids, nearly completed Masters Degree, clean and orderly household, great tasting healthy food….. Yeah, those things are true. I am a very capable, organized, successful person and in a lot of ways I am a “superwoman.”
I’ll let you in on a secret – sometimes I get anxious and sometimes I panic, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in that. This is not the kind of anxiety that keeps people from getting up in the morning and functioning throughout the day and not the kind of anxiety where panic attacks creep up on you out of nowhere. I get anxious when I am in certain uncomfortable situations where I feel out of control.
You might be thinking, oh, ok she’s a control freak. Nope, that’s not it either. I get anxious when I’m overwhelmed by too many pressures in my life; too many meals to cook, two independent and curious toddlers to take care of (yes, the twins are one and a half now), too much school work to hand in and too much laundry to fold all in one day. I get anxious when I bump into people from my past who make me uncomfortable, people who might make inappropriate comments about why I have twins and how long it took me to get pregnant or the fact that I was divorced (five years ago?) I get anxious when people push my personal boundaries and violate my privacy or my children’s privacy, and I get anxious when I know I have to say something to those people and tell them (politely) to back off.
These anxious feelings are not something I ignore and not something I’m in denial about. In fact, over the past year, I have been working on new strategies on how to deal with these feelings. This doesn’t mean I will no longer get anxious or panic, this just means I will have new skills and new ways to combat them or prevent them from happening in the first place. I know that many of you reading this post probably go through the same kinds of challenges so I will share with you my strategies for dealing with them. I hope that, in turn, you will share yours with me.
1) Be assertive! I am in control of myself. I have the right to my own personal space, boundaries and time. I am entitled to say no, ask someone to leave, or choose not to share personal information with people, even if they ask for it. It is ok to ask for help when I need it, or even just want it, as long as it is reasonable.
2) Learn to let go. If the Shabbos or Yom Tov meal has four dishes instead of five, nobody will notice. If the laundry isn’t folded by the end of the day, life will go on. If I see someone whose behavior made me uncomfortable in the past, who cares? This is the present. I am successful, happy and I look good for a mother of twins! They can say or think whatever they want. It is only a reflection of them.
3) Remember that G-d is the boss. I know I tried my best to be on time for this appointment, but the traffic is heavy. Panicking will not make the cars drive faster.
4) Remember that you cannot please everyone. I don’t know about you, but I’m a people pleaser and I hate letting people down. However, if pleasing someone comes at the expense of overexerting yourself or having your boundaries violated, it is not worth it. Your spouse, children and emotional well-being come first. Pleasing everyone else comes later.
Last but least, (you may not agree with this one)…….
5) If you know that there are certain people or places that make you uncomfortable, try your best to avoid them. Sometimes, you will have to be around them, but not as much as you may think. If it is people that are making you uncomfortable, avoiding can also mean making yourself busy in the kitchen when they’re at your house or keeping the conversation light when you see them. If you find yourself confronted, you are entitled to be assertive and disengage.
These are all great strategies, but it is important to allow yourself the freedom to not always be successful with them. We are all works in progress and change takes time.
We are now in the middle of the holiday of Sukkot. For those of you who are not Jewish or who are Jewish but not observant, Sukkot is the holiday that comes right after Rosh Hashana (the Jewish new year) and Yom Kippur (day of atonement). Each family is instructed to build a temporary dwelling outside of their home and dwell in it for one week. Sukkot falls during the time of the harvest for the Jewish people. This is a time of plenty and a time of success; a time when the Jewish people feel powerful. Just as the Jewish people are at the height of their material success, they are instructed to leave their homes and dwell in a temporary “sukkah” for one week. By dwelling in a sukkah with shaky walls and a roof made out of branches, the Jewish people are reminded that any materialistic pleasures which we bring upon ourselves are simply temporary and they can be taken away in one instant, if that is what G-d chooses for us. The idea is not to get too comfortable in the lives that we create for ourselves because, at the end of the day, we are not in control.
I haven’t blogged in a while. Since April, I have been working on my practicum hours for my Masters degree at an amazing Jewish agency where I counseled clients with various different issues. It was a fantastic experience and I feel blessed and thankful to have done my placement there. Between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, I went to meet with my supervisor to go over my evaluation, sign it and fax it to my professor. (I did really well!)
While rushing to get home before the nanny had to leave and I found myself in rush hour traffic. Part of me was so excited about my evaluation; the other part of me was a bit panicked about the time. About ten blocks before my street I realized that I would have to move into the right-hand lane before turning. I signaled and tried to speed up a little to move ahead of the car beside me. He sped up too. I slowed down to let him pass. He slowed down too. This happened about three times. I realized that something was wrong. I glanced beside me and saw a light brown, 1970’s Cadillac with an old, creepy man at the wheel. He had white hair in a ponytail and a button-down polyester shirt. He rolled down his window and started yelling at me. “Follow me! You must follow me and pull over! There is something wrong with your car! There’s something coming out of the bottom of your car!” At first I was confused as my car was driving just fine. My gut told me that this man was lying or delusional and probably dangerous. He wouldn’t let me go and kept following me. I must lose him, I thought to myself. Eventually, I reached a street where I could turn left and slowed down to put on my left-hand signal. He tried to stop but with all the traffic behind him he couldn’t, and he was forced to drive away. I happened to be right at the parking lot of a kosher grocery where I know the owners. I pulled in, parked, got out of the car and walked into the store, shaking. I told the owners what happened and the husband came out to inspect my car. Of course, the car was fine.
To make a long story short, I went home, called my husband who advised me to file a police report, did so, and tried to calm down while feeding my girls supper and getting them to bed. You can bet that I had trouble sleeping that night and the next. All I kept thinking was, what if this had happened on the highway where there was nowhere to pull over or what if I had my kids in the car? My husband kept trying to reassure me, “You would still be smart and do the right thing, just like you did today. You would drive away and lose him, you would call the police, you would get his license number, etc……” True, I can think fast on my feet and if it happened again, I would deal. I was just so shaken up and so scared. Then I decided to do what I always do. What can I learn from this?
Well, it happened during the ten days of repentance, right before Yom Kippur when we recite, who will live and who will die, who will prosper and who will be impoverished….. After that comes Sukkot, the holiday all about giving up control and being thankful for what we have. So I guess that’s what it all comes down to for me. I can’t control everything that happens to me and in this scary situation, I was fortunate enough to have the help I needed right away. It didn’t happen on the highway and it didn’t happen when my kids were in the car.
I guess that’s really what this whole challenge about getting anxious sometimes is all about as well. I can’t control everything that happens to me and I can’t always control how I feel. I CAN control how I react to, deal with and approach uncomfortable situations and I SHOULD be honest with myself about what I need, want and can handle. I should also remember to be grateful for all of the blessings, revealed and hidden that G-d gives to me, as well as the challenges that he feels I can handle.
So now I want to hear from you. For those of you who get anxious, how do you handle it? And for everyone, how do you view the challenges in your life? What about the blessings?
Wishing everyone a chag sameach. Happy holiday.
According to the Hebrew Calendar, we are now in the middle of a period called “The Nine Days,” a time of mini-mourning, leading up to the holiday of Tisha B’Av, the saddest day of the Jewish Calendar. Tisha B’Av commemorates the day when the Roman army set siege and burned the Bais Hamikdash (Holy Temple).
According to the deeper spiritual meaning behind Tisha B’Av, the Bais Hamikdash was destroyed because the Jewish people had reached a level of “sinas chinum”, hatred amongst themselves that was disappointing and unacceptable in G-d’s eyes. Circumstances were thereby created which punished the Jewish people. Their holiest place and safe haven was destroyed by the enemy, causing them to disperse into exile and spend generations working toward reaching higher spiritual levels in the hopes of one day witnessing the coming of the Moshiach (messiah) and the rebuilding of the Bais Hamikdash.
The nine days are known to be a very inauspicious time for the Jewish people; everyone is encouraged to play it as safe as possible, as bad things are more likely to happen during this time. Swimming is prohibited, flying is discouraged and people are encouraged to drive more carefully and responsibly. Speech should be guarded more closely and kindness should not be measured.
So, Monday was Rosh Chodesh Av, the first day of the month of Av and the beginning of the Nine Days. Wouldn’t you know it? There was a record-breaking storm right outside my window! Yup, Toronto was flooded, and in a major way. Power was out for hours in most parts of the city, residents were stranded on the highway, their cars floating in chest-deep water. Commuters had to be rescued from the Go-Train in row boats, and houses all over the city were flooded. Coincidence? Maybe. Maybe not.
Rescue teams ran to save everyone and volunteers dispersed around the city, bringing water bottles, snacks and warm blankets to those in need. Residents with power offered shelter and food to those who needed, and Facebook was filled with concerned posts and abundant offers. It’s beautiful to see everyone reaching out to each other in times of need, but it kind of makes me wonder, why does it take a disaster to make us all behave this way?
For those of you who are familiar with Rabbanit Yemima Mizrachi, (you can find her shiur here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cGfGeQwwL9U), she says in her slightly broken English,
“Why do we give and why do we love so much only when disaster comes? Why don’t we remember to love each other without bad things happening?……. NEVER MEASURE CHESED.”
So, I got to thinking. Nine days, sinas chinam, chesed (giving)… What stops us from doing chesed? What creates sinas chinam? I believe, that in this generation, a big part of our problem stems from judgment. Why are we always judging each other when at the end of the day, we are all brethren? When we let things like the types of clothes our neighbours wear get in the way of our feelings towards each other, then YES, it is hard to be responsible for one another.
Since I am just an average person who is affected by my environment, I will share with you a couple of recent, personal stories where my own judgments got the better of me. Luckily, I was pleasantly surprised by the outcomes which taught me some important lessons.
The week before Pesach (Passover) I was shopping in our local supermarket when I spotted a very chareidi (ultra-orthodox), Israeli woman in her fifties, waiting by the fruit with her grocery cart. How do I know she was Israeli? Trust me, I know the look. She donned an outfit of all black, no make-up, a very simple dark shaitel (wig) and very comfortable, black lace-up shoes. My mind instantly jumped to the first judgmental thought, “Poor woman. She looks tired. She probably has no money. She probably has a million kids. Her husband is probably never home. She probably hardly knows him anyways….” Suddenly, I see the woman perk up, a huge smile slowly spreading across her face. “Who is she smiling at?” I wondered to myself, and turned to follow her gaze. Walking towards her, I spot an extremely tall, slim, Chareidi Israeli man with a long black coat, a long, grey scraggly beard and payos (side curls) flailing past his shoulders. He wore a large black kippah and a sweet, friendly smile. Right. It was her husband, and she was happy to see him. As the two met in the middle of the supermarket, they began chattering in Hebrew and laughing, completely engaged in their own conversation as they shopped for groceries. Clearly, a very happy couple who just happened to be wearing very black clothes.
A couple of weeks after Pesach I was back in the same supermarket and I kept passing a certain man over and over again in the aisles. He was a casually-dressed man in his fifties, I thought he looked Jewish but did not wear a kippah and had a very friendly air about him. When I finished my shopping, I found the shortest line at the check-out and waited for my turn. Glancing behind me, I noticed that the same man had grabbed the spot behind me in line. His grocery cart was so full it was literally overflowing, practically bursting from the seams. As I looked closer, I noticed that all of the groceries were kosher and many of them were child-friendly snack foods- mini-yogurts, fruit roll-ups, cookies and crackers. My curiosity got the better of me. “You must have a lot of kids.” I said. He smiled and responded in a kind voice, “Fifty. I’m a daycare chef at Gan Yeladim.” “Wow.” I smiled back. “That’s a lot of kids to cook for.”
For those of you who reside in Toronto, I sincerely hope that you, your loved ones and your homes are all ok. To my Jewish readers, I wish you all an easy and meaningful fast. May our efforts to truly love one another and refrain from judgment allow us to merit the coming of the Mashiach and the rebuilding of the Bais Hamikdash speedily in our days.
Kale has become a huge staple in our home. Our girls love it blended up in a soup or sautéed with mushrooms over rice. We love it served raw in salads or baked into chips. Kale is full of iron, Vitamin K, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium and antioxidants. It is sooo healthy for you and it tastes great too!
Here are some healthy and tasty recipes straight from our table to yours…… Enjoy!
Note: According to Jewish Dietary Laws (Kashrut), Kale must be checked properly for bugs before consumption. In order to learn how to check properly, please consult your local Orthodox Rabbi.
Raw Kale Salad
1 bunch kale
3 red radishes
½ red bell pepper
½ red apple (your choice)
½ cup cooked quinoa (optional)
Juice of half a lemon
1) Wash and check kale and place in a large salad bowl.
2) Drizzle kale with olive oil and sea salt.
3) Massage kale, breaking down the fibers.
4) Add the quinoa.
5) Julienne radishes, bell pepper and apple. Add to kale.
6) Squeeze half a lemon over the salad and toss.
7) Serve and enjoy!
Tomato-Vegetable Soup with Kale
This is a rich and hearty soup, chock full of nutritious vegetables. Feel free to play around with the vegetables, adding some of your choice- broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms…… Get creative, this soup is hard to mess up!
1 medium yellow onion
3 cloves garlic
1 small potato
1 small sweet potato
½ a parsnip
1 bell pepper, any colour
1 or two zucchini
3 stalks kale
¾ cup crushed tomatoes or tomato puree
Sea Salt and Black Pepper
1) Peel and chop the vegetables.
2) Heat olive oil in a large saucepan and sauté onion on medium heat. Add garlic.
3) Add in order: potato, sweet potato, carrots, parsnip, bell pepper, zucchini and kale.
4) Saute until all the vegetables are soft.
5) Season with salt and pepper.
6) Add water to cover and turn up heat to bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
7) Remove soup from heat and blend with an immersion blender or in batches in a cuisinart.
8) Stir in crushed tomatoes and adjust seasonings.
9) Serve with crusty bread, a dollop of sour cream or yogurt or some melted cheese.
Soft-Boiled Eggs Over Raw Kale
This is an all-in-one, protein and iron-rich meal. Filling and nutritious.
2 soft-boiled eggs
1 bunch kale
3 radishes, julienned
1 avocado, cubed
1) Wash and check kale and place in a large salad bowl.
2) Drizzle kale with olive oil and sea salt.
3) Massage kale, breaking down the fibers.
4) Add radishes and avocado and toss.
5) Plate the salad and top with soft-boiled eggs.
6) Serve and enjoy!
We have now entered the month of Nissan and the festival of Pesach (Passover) is quickly approaching. Jewish homes across the globe are now undergoing a full spring cleaning, purging all signs of leaven in preparation for our upcoming festival. In just a few weeks we will sit around our dining room tables and read the Haggadah, the story of Exodus, when the Jewish people miraculously left Egypt and wandered in the desert for forty years before reaching Israel, our homeland. One of the biggest miracles in the Haggadah is the kriyas yam suf- the splitting of the sea of reeds (performed by Moshe with his wooden staff). Ironically, the Gemara Sanhedrin references this event when speaking of the challenge of making a successful shidduch (love match). The Gemara Sanhedrin states that the act of making a successful shidduch is as difficult as kriyas yam suf. Being an informal shadchan, who tries to match singles on a weekly basis, I can definitely relate to this verse.
But what about the challenge that couples face of making their relationship work once they are already married? Where do we find a discussion about that? In the past week, I have been informed of three friends from seminary getting divorced; all of them with two or three kids. In fact, it seems divorce is rampant these days, affecting over fifty-percent of marriages in North America. I just finished a course in my Master’s program in couples counseling where we learned about the many different reasons why couples get divorced, as well as the different therapies available to help couples from going too far down the wrong road before it is too late. The sad part is, many therapists will tell you that so many of the couples that show up at their practice could have saved their marriages had they made the decision to go to therapy earlier, but by the time they got around to actually going, too much damage had been done, leaving them beyond a point of no return.
Relationship expert, John Gottman, is most famous for his ability to predict divorce in couples. He can tell within the first five minutes of observing a married couple in conversation whether they will still be together in five years, with a 91% accuracy rate. According to Gottman, anger is not one of the causes of divorce. In fact, many couples who argue on a regular basis also report that they have a very satisfying and fulfilling marriage, based on honesty.
In the Haggadah, Moshe comes before Pharoah numerous times and begs him to let the Jewish people go. Each time Pharoah refuses, G-d creates a tortuous plague which he inflicts up the Egyptians. Blood, locusts, lice……. Finally, after ten horrific plagues, Pharoah finally gives in and releases the Jewish people from slavery. To some, a bad marriage can feel like a bad Egypt and eventually there are too many issues “plaguing” the marriage forcing one partner to escape.
Gottman states that divorce is caused by what he calls “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.” If a marriage is “plagued” by one the following four attributes, it is in great danger of one of its members heading towards “Exodus.”
Criticism- Complaining about one’s spouse is normal however, it depends upon the nature of the complaint. If the complaints become those of a very personal nature, attacking the person himself instead of the actions he does, turns into criticism.
Example of a complaint: “Samuel, I really find it difficult to pick up your things which you leave lying around the house every day. It is stressful for me taking care of the kids and running the household, perhaps you can help me out a little by being more aware of your belongings and putting them away.”
Example of criticism: “Samuel, every time you come home, you leave your stuff lying around in every room of the house. You are such a messy, careless and immature person with terrible habits. Why don’t you get some help for your problem? If you really cared about me, you wouldn’t make my life so difficult.”
Contempt- Criticism can lead to contemptuous comments directed at one’s partner. Some examples of contempt are when a person uses “sarcasm, name-calling, cynicism, sneering, mockery, eyerolling, and hostile humor.” Contempt is the worst of the four horsemen because it communicates disgust to the person it is directed toward. Contemptuous behavior makes it nearly impossible for a couple to solve a problem in their marriage because there is a message being sent that one partner is disgusted with the other.
Defensiveness- All of us are defensive at times because no one likes to be criticized. However, typically, when one partner uses contempt, the other partner becomes defensive. Becoming defensive is a very common reaction to being treated with contempt or criticism. Many people become defensive when they are being criticized, but the problem is that it never helps solve the issue at hand. “Defensiveness is really a way of blaming your partner. You’re saying, in effect, the problem isn’t me, it’s you.” As a result, the problem is not resolved and the conflict escalates further.
Stonewalling- Stonewalling is a way for one member of a couple to avoid the feeling of being flooded that usually occurs when a conflict escalates. The stonewaller tends to ignore his partner and does not give any signs of responsiveness, which makes his spouse even angrier. This behavior tends to enter marriages later, once couples have had a significant period of negative interaction. I think we have all experienced this with friends or family and it can be one of the most frustrating actions. Right?
Now, I must clarify a few points because I don’t want any of you to get the wrong idea here. First of all, some marriages do have one of more of the four horsemen of the apocalypse but are not on their way to divorce. These are, however, major signs to be aware of if a marriage is troubled. Secondly, not every marriage can or should be saved. Although it is tragic that the divorce rate has jumped so high and that many marriages can be saved but aren’t, some marriages must end in divorce for the sake of the sanity and well-being of one or both members of the couple and/or their children. Thirdly, if a marriage is troubled and, indeed plagued by one or more of the four horsemen, this does not mean that divorce is inevitable. Any individual and any couple has the ability to make the effort to work on themselves in order to improve their relationship, with their spouse as well as with the rest of the world. There are also many different kinds of therapy available out there specifically designed to help couples break these old and toxic habits and redirect themselves towards better and more effective methods of communication. With some hard work and maybe a handful of professional help, marriages that feel like Egyptian slavery can become marriages that feel like liberating teamwork.
So, I have given you one Pesach analogy based on marriage and relationships, but there are so many other ways that each of us experience bondage in our everyday lives. Please share with me some of yours and have you discovered your path toward Exodus?
Happy Purim Everyone!
This year, our theme is zebras. I got these funky paper boxes with zebra print from the Dollar Store to match our costumes. Then I filled them with Sweet and Salty Popcorn and mini Zucchini-Chocolate Chip Muffins. What were YOUR themes this year?
Recipes Included Below.
Sweet and Salty Popcorn
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon coarse salt
In a large pot with a tight-fitting lid, heat the oil over medium-high heat. add the popcorn. When the oil sizzles, sprinkle the sugar over the kernels. Cover and shake the pan until the popping slows down, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and toss with the salt.
Zucchini-Chocolate Chip Muffins
3 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
2 medium zucchini
1 cup oil
1 cup chocolate chips
Mix first 6 dry ingredients. Peel and grate zucchini to measure 2 cups and add to flour mixture. Blend eggs and oil. Add to flour mixture. Stir well until moistened. Add chocolate chips to batter and pour into paper-lined muffin tins. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.
Yours truly is featured as this week’s “Lady Wrap Star” on Andrea Grinberg’s blog, Wrapunzel. Check it out at this link: