Stuck on the Ferris Wheel- Some Thoughts For Couples

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All couples argue.  It’s usually the typical stuff- money, housework, in-laws….  But have you ever noticed that most couples argue about the same few topics over and over again?  For all of you married readers out there, I am sure you can relate to this on some level.  Sometimes you get stuck on this ferris wheel of arguments and you can’t seem to find your way off.  Just when you think you’ve solved things and put the issue to rest, the same episode rears its ugly head again and you’re back where you started.

 

Having a repetitive argument does not mean you have a bad or dysfunctional marriage.  Every couple is made up of two different people from two different places.  Even the happiest couples don’t agree on everything!

 

Having said that, remaining on a ferris wheel of problems forever doesn’t have to be your solution either.  There are many actions that couples can take to solve these repetitive issues and even prevent them from happening again.

 

1)      Stop defending yourself and acknowledge your spouse’s frustration.  Try to put yourself in your spouse’s shoes.

 

For those of you who aren’t familiar with my blog, I have twin girls who will be turning two in April.  As many of you know, toddlers can be very stubborn and temperamental.  They want what they want when they want it!  Multiply that by two and I have a very challenging situation on my hands!  I learned a very helpful technique from a book called “The happiest toddler on the block” by Harvey Karp MD.  He explains that when your toddler starts throwing a tantrum but you can’t give in to her, instead of ignoring the tantrum and trying to distract her, get down on the floor to her level, look her straight in the eyes and acknowledge her feelings by saying, “Your mad, your mad, mad, mad, mad!  You wanted that cookie didn’t you?”  Then, slowly change the subject by offering something else.  Surprisingly enough, this really works!  It’s not necessarily the cookie that the child is screaming about; it’s the need for having her feelings validated before moving on to an alternative.  The same is true for adults.  Most level-headed adults know that an argument isn’t about winning or losing, but by acknowledging your spouse’s feelings, you are automatically giving this message: “I hear what you are saying.  I see how you are feeling and I’m sorry for that.  I can’t give you exactly what you want but I want to work with you to come to some sort of resolution.”

 

2)      Strategic planning.  Set boundaries to avoid future conflict.

 

I am a very quick, multi-tasking mommy, wife, graduate student.  I like to get lots of things done in a short amount of time and I like to get an early start.  My husband is a very slow mover and loves to take his time.  We recently had a recurring situation which would cause us to argue every week.  Our girls are at an age where they love going places and trying new activities.  We try to take them somewhere every Sunday, whether it’s to a park when the weather is good or the art gallery when the weather is bad.  They love going out but they also need their afternoon nap (which is somewhere between 1 and 2 pm.)  Over the summer, Marc and I would decide where we wanted to take the girls and I would tell Marc every Saturday night, “I would like to get an early start tomorrow morning.”  He would agree.

 

Sunday morning, he would leave the house at around 8:30, go to synagogue, followed by a short Torah-study session.  Then he would swing by the café, pick himself up a coffee and return home at around 10:30 or 11:00.  By that time he would be starving, so he would go about making himself a nice brunch and sit down at the dining room table to eat.  In the meantime, the girls and I are getting more and more anxious to leave and I would be getting increasingly annoyed with my husband.  “I thought we were supposed to get an early start!”  We would leave for our outing around 11:30 or 12:00, argue all the way there and mess up the girls’ lunch and nap schedule.  It was a mess and it was happening every weekend!  Finally, I had an idea.  One Saturday night I turned to Marc and said, “What would happen if I told you that I would like to get going tomorrow morning around 9:30?  Would that be possible?”

 

“Sure he said.  When you give me the exact time of departure, I know exactly when I need to be home and ready to go.”

 

Problem solved!  A little strategic planning and our cycle was broken.  Now, this was obviously not a serious or extreme example, but you get the idea.  Instead of waiting for the argument to happen over and over again, what can you do to prevent it ahead of time?

 

3)      Learn to let go.

 

Your spouse is not perfect.  Neither are you!  Everyone has a background and everyone has faults.  There are always going to be things that your spouse does which drive you crazy.  There are things that you do which drive your spouse crazy as well.  Remember that you are not living in a perfect world so there are some things you can agree to disagree on.

 

4)      Enlist a third party.

 

If there are certain issues that you and your spouse can’t seem to find a way to work out together and they are affecting your relationship, do not hesitate to seek some marriage counseling from a therapist or clergy member.  These people are here to help and going to therapy is nothing to be ashamed of.  It is far better to nip problems in the bud than to let them drag out before it is too late to reverse the damage.

 

5)      Only YOU can change your behavior.

 

You may not be able to control your spouse’s behavior or choices but you can certainly control your reactions to them.  Part of the reason couples get fired up is because they feel criticized or looked down upon by their partner.  There is a great quote by Tony Robbins which says, “If you keep behaving the way you have always been, you will keep getting the results you have always been getting.”  Instead of being so quick to jump up and criticize your spouse or to automatically defend yourself, stop and think about what you are about to say.  Will these words be affective?  Will this conversation end up being productive or destructive?

 

At the end of the day, a good marriage is built on love, respect, support and communication.  Try your best to focus on the good!

 

 

 

 

Toxic Beauty

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I’ve always been a bit of a “girly girl.”  I’m not the most materialistic person, but I love fashion, jewelry and makeup.  I love looking nice and I love being creative.  For those of you who follow my blog, you also know that I try my best to live a pretty holistic lifestyle.  I recently had a major wake-up call when those two worlds collided.

I’ve always taken care of my skin as best that I could, but I never put much thought into it.  I’ve always washed my face with Cetaphil, (dermatologist recommended) and used mainstream makeup and skin care brands like MAC and Clinique.  However, over the past few months, I slowly started having reactions to makeup.  My eyes started to itch and water like crazy and lip gloss became a toxic substance for me, causing my lips to burn and instantly blow up like balloons.  I tried only using Clinique, which is marketed as “allergy tested.”   My problems just got worse.  Eye pencil felt like burning acid and mascara caused red welts to form at the corners of my eyes.  I started reading up on makeup allergies and found that I was not alone.  I tried a few more brands of makeup that are advertised as “hypoallergenic” and “clean,” such as Physician’s Formula, Tarte and Josie Maran.   There was a slight improvement but something was still going wrong.

One day, I woke up with swollen eyes and a large cyst on the inside of my left eye.  I was freaking out.  I looked scary and I had no idea what to do.  The next day was even worse, and to add fuel to the fire, our dear friends were getting married that night and I could not miss the wedding!  I got dressed and tried to put some makeup on, but everything I used was super irritating.  I also felt very self-conscious about my swollen eye with a cyst pressing in on it.  I was glad that the lights on the dance floor were dim and hoped that no one would notice my face.

The next morning I woke up looking something like this:  (without the facial hair, of course).

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I was an inch away from heading to the emergency room.  Luckily, my mom convinced me to try and get an appointment with our family doctor who was kind enough to get me an appointment with the dermatologist who worked in her office.  I also made an appointment with my homeopath for later that afternoon.

“Well, you’re obviously reacting to something,” concluded the dermatologist, looking at me with concern.  “But I don’t know what it is.  Put this antibiotic ointment on the cyst for a week and use this other one for the swelling on your eyelid.  In the meantime, no makeup, no nail polish and no skincare products.”

“But what could it be?”  I asked her.  “I use mostly products from Clinique.  Is that a good brand?”

“Yeah, Clinique is good.”  She answered.  “Unless you’re reacting to it.  And then it’s not.”  OK, thanks.  This is getting better and better.

Two hours later I found myself sitting in my homeopath’s office with a bag of every skincare and makeup product I had been using.  He read through the ingredients on everything.

“OK…. Well, this is toxic.  This is pretty toxic.  Yup this is full of parabens.  I can definitely see why you’re reacting here.”  What???  All this stuff is hypoallergenic and dermatologist recommended!

That’s when I got my new education.  Let’s start with parabens.  Apparently, lots of people have bad reactions to them and even if you don’t, they’re still pretty toxic.

Wikipedia defines parabens:

Parabens are a class of chemicals widely used as preservatives by cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. Parabens are effective preservatives in many types of formulas. These compounds, and their salts, are used primarily for their bactericidal and fungicidal properties. They can be found in shampoos, commercialmoisturizersshaving gelspersonal lubricantstopical/parenteral pharmaceuticals, spray tanning solution, makeup, and toothpaste. They are also used as food additives.

So basically, parabens are chemicals that lots of people react to and I am now one of those people.  I said goodbye to my facewash, my toner and moisturizer.  I said goodbye to my regular shampoo and conditioner and to all my makeup.  I got a big bottle of Dr. Brauner’s castile soap, the most basic formula around and used it to wash my hair, body and dishes.  I took a homeopathic remedy from my homeopath and I used the antibiotic ointment from the dermatologist.  In a few days, the cyst burst, the swelling went down and I no-longer looked like a star-trek character.

Shortly after, I went with my mom to visit a large health food store in Toronto that sells organic and all-natural skincare and makeup products and I stocked up on some new goods.

My skincare routine is now as follows:

Cleanser: Weleda Almond Milk Cleanser

Toner: Rose Water

Moisturizer: Pure Coconut Oil

Makeup Products: 100% Pure (made from dried fruits and vegetables) and Pure Anada (Mineral based, made from ground rocks.)

When I’m done, I feel something like this:

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So that’s the first part of the story.  I have added a new aspect to my holistic lifestyle.

But here’s the second part.  I didn’t want to leave my house.  It’s one thing to go out without makeup.  I don’t always wear makeup, but I feel a lot better when I do, especially if I’m going to a public event like a wedding.  But it’s another thing to go out looking like something is seriously wrong with your face!

The day I went to the doctor, I stopped off at the health food store afterward to pick up some organic oatmeal cookies for my kids.  I got a few freaky looks from people and one lady offered for me to go ahead of her in line.  We had promised our newly married friends that we would make them sheva brachos (a dinner party during the week after the wedding), but I came home that night and told my husband that, although I will cook, I won’t go downstairs looking like this!  He suggested dark glasses but I was not convinced.  By the time the sheva brachos came around a few days later, my face was almost back to normal but I still could not put any makeup on and that was hard for me.  I started explaining to people what was going on and why I looked so washed out.  I didn’t feel pretty and there was nothing I could do about it.

Then I remembered something a mentor of mine in New York had told me several years ago.

“It’s fine if you want to make yourself look attractive and feel attractive.”  He told me.  “But never let that become your identity.  Being a pretty girl is not who you are.  If you allow yourself to identify as a pretty girl, what will be left when you are old and grey?”

The more I went about my new makeup-less existence, the more this message started ringing through my head.  I have so much other stuff to offer, why am I so self-conscious about the way I look?  The truth is, I’m not sure most people even noticed the change.

The last verse in Eishet Chayil (Woman of Valour), a song which husbands sing to their wives on Friday nights reads:

“Grace is elusive and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the L-rd- she shall be praised.  Give her credit for the fruit of her labours and let her achievements praise her at the gates.”

Now, I certainly do not claim to be the most righteous Eishet Chayil out there, however, I definitely work hard in my life!  What I realized during this new personal challenge is that the way I look has very little to do with how others see me.  Putting on makeup every day might make me appear more attractive, but to the outside world and to my friends and family, it seems to be a very small part of who I am to them.  Looking pretty is mostly about pleasing myself!  Now that I’ve had some time where makeup has not been an option, I’ve let a lot of that go.  It’s the beauty that comes from the inside that really seems to matter.

Now that my eyes have cleared up, I have been enjoying my new “clean” “organic” makeup.  It doesn’t last as long and the colours are not as diverse (after all, how many different coloured rocks are there?) but it still makes me feel beautiful in a certain kind of way.  On days when I am short on time, or I’m feeling a bit allergic, I skip the makeup and go about my day.  Nobody asks questions and I don’t make excuses for looking washed out.  I am also grateful to know that I am no longer feeding my skin toxic chemicals that my body doesn’t like!

I’ve become more aware of the “toxic buildup” that occurs in our home on a daily basis.  Toxic buildup is the buildup of chemicals in a person’s body over time and is said to be one of the reasons people can develop these kinds of allergies.  I’m careful to use organic, preservative-free baby soap for my kids and coconut oil on their dry skin.  And I’m done with Sunlight and Dawn for the dishes.  For now, I’m sticking with Dr. Brauner’s castile soap and it’s working just fine.

I’m very curious to know your own similar experiences.  Please share with me your thoughts on makeup, allergies, toxic buildup and any other thoughts that come to mind from this post.  I always enjoy reading your insights!

Shavua Tov.  A good week to all.

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New Recipes!

Anna Soup

Hi Everyone!

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.

Enjoy!

A Personal Message on Sukkot

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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.

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A Tisha B’Av Special

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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.

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It’s All About Kale

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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

Ingredients:

1 bunch kale

Olive Oil

Sea Salt

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!

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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!

Ingredients:

1 medium yellow onion

3 cloves garlic

1 small potato

1 small sweet potato

3 carrots

½ a parsnip

1 bell pepper, any colour

1 or two zucchini

3 stalks kale

¾ cup crushed tomatoes or tomato puree

Olive Oil

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.

Ingredients:

2 soft-boiled eggs

1 bunch kale

3 radishes, julienned

1 avocado, cubed

Olive Oil

Sea Salt

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!

The Ten Plagues and the Four Horsemen-This Passover, Bring New Meaning to Your Marriage

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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?

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