Wednesday, October 29, 2014

My New Perspective

Every time I walk to and from shul, I pass by this tree.  Last week, as I was walking home from shul, I was taken by the power and strength of the tree and noticed how beautifully it leans toward the sky. I wondered why after 10 years of passing by this tree, on this day, it made me stop and say, "Wow."

Almost four weeks ago, I began a new job that I love.  I was promoted to a new position and now weeks later, I am finding that this organization I have worked so hard for these past 8 years (and 5 years before that with a 3 year break), looks slightly different.  I am taking what I know and looking at it with a new perspective.  It is exhilarating, refreshing and my brain is bursting with ideas.  

As I was preparing for a presentation, I used this photo to illustrate the point that my experience allows me the comfort of walking right in with no fear and using that same experience to bring a new set of eyes to this area of the organization.

Trees could be symbols for so much.  Today, it represents my hope to balance a solid foundation plus reaching high to accomplish big goals.  I have a plaque in my office that was given to me from a friend that reads, "Think Big, Dream Big."  Seeing this tree reminds me that dreams take time and we need to nurture those seeds of change and inspiration in order to reap the benefits of what is to come. 

Enjoy my tree.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

What Are Your Guiding Words?

"Trust yourself.  Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life.  Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement." 
--Golda Meir

This is one of the quotes that I used during a staff retreat this past week.  It was one of many that I included in two vision boards.  My goal was to give my colleagues a new perspective and offer words to wisdom from heroes all of whom had made an extraordinary difference in the world.

Throughout the week, I spoke with several younger staff and realized that I am, to them, the older generation.  Twenty years ago, when I started in this field, I looked up to my older colleagues as mentors and teachers.  They had done incredible work and the lessons they taught me I still use today.  Now I find myself in the role of teacher and as my mentors did for me, I hope to guide, inspire, and bring out the best in those around me.

In her quote, Golda Meir said, "Trust yourself."  I wish I learned this earlier, but I got it now - the strength in being 50.  She goes onto say, "Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life."  I believe this takes a lifetime of learning to continually integrate your values into our days, years and as life happens to us, we hold onto those values to help us through our trauma, crises, and those moments on shaky ground.

And my favorite part of the quote, "Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement."  Try.  Take those moments of letting yourself dream big and think big and know that the possibility is a probability.  The past five years I have redirected my energy to lead me to what I want and stay away from the voices that remind me of what is missing in my life.  It was the greatest fix to what I saw as the problems in my life.  And now, as Golda Meir said, I listen to those tiny sparks and nurture them so that I can create, feel productive in our community and know my purpose in the world.

What is your favorite quote and how does it help you in your daily life.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Joyfully Busy in 5775

As the new year begins, I listen to all the sermons, teachings, thoughts from friends in New Year wishes, comforting words in quiet conversations in the hallways, and my own inner voice as I am guided in meditation.  The transition of the new year allows me an opportunity for transformation.  But to what?

This year brings a new professional challenge.  Excitement and ambition drive my creative energy daily and I am approaching this new role with hope, enthusiasm and thoughtful planning.  With this new position, I have received incredible support and love from family, friends, and colleagues.  This transition is clear to me.

Sitting in shul these past few days reminds me of how much I want to continue my Jewish Education.  Before the holiday, I took a Hebrew class to help me read a little better and therefore, I was able to follow along much better and feel connected to the service.  Still not enough.  I used much of the time trying to meditate and immerse myself in my own prayer both in English and Hebrew (when I knew it).  I felt vulnerable, open and emotional.  Following the services, the days were filled with family and friends.

But I didn't feel back at home until I walked into Shabbat Service on Friday night and then again on Saturday morning.  I know I should be trying to dig deeper and feel enlightened during the high holidays, but those feelings have come in the rituals of my expanding Shabbat experiences this past year.  High Holiday services evokes anxiety of expectation: What I should be doing at the service?  Am i doing it right?  Am I listening and am I getting the message?

This morning, I am back to myself.  Meditation and Shabbat service felt like a recalibration.  I'm renewed.  Perhaps it was the 3 days in total and it is all connected, but when I walked into shul on Friday and then again on Saturday, my confidence was back and sense of belonging was at its peak.

When I came out of the fog, I made this decision - no more "to do" lists.  From now on, I'm focusing on an "I did" list.  Celebrate my accomplishments, focus on my successes, baby steps to giant leaps.  This is how I will take an active part in my transformation - reflect on results and enjoy the experiences as they come.

5775 - I'm going to be busy, joyfully busy and I am looking forward to every sermon, teaching, guidance, friendship and connection that will help me grow.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Hello 5775

As the Jewish New Year begins, I find myself with mixed emotions.  Tonight, our family celebrated alone.  I worked today, we took our son to the doctor, we grabbed lunch, and then I took my daughter to her piano lesson.   An ordinary day.

After the piano lesson, I went to pick up the special kugel I bought thinking that I might cook a nice dinner for the holiday, but it didn't happen.  My daughter and I had an interesting conversation about how we observe Judaism and why my insides don't match my outsides.  How is it that we are so connectedly Jewish outside our home and to our community, but once we step in our house, we are struggling to find our Jewish spirituality in our home.

I have been on a path of learning for the past 10 years, more seriously the last 3 years.  Meditation, Torah study, conversations with Rabbis, and even a little Hebrew to give me more confidence.   I see this only growing.  I love going to shul to be part of the community and it gives me great joy and satisfaction.  My husband is on a path also, engaged in the community and as a teacher at a Jewish school.  My kids go to a Jewish day school and get a beautiful and rich Jewish education.

We are all immersed in the Jewish community and yet, inside our home, you could never tell.  Our home is not kosher; I cook for my family, but don't feel comfortable inviting others over to our non-kosher home; and frankly, our lives have been so busy outside the home that being at home alone is the only time I can relax.  There is not one answer.  I could easily bring in kosher food, cook only vegetarian and at least, invite over those I know won't care.

Something stops me.  Time, energy, insecurity, and life.  In 5775, I want more.  I want more than to be a guest.  I want to invite people in - to study, to share, and to eat.

And I will also forgive myself for creating a life that is busy within a community that I love so much.

Wishing everyone a year of growing, forgiving, and taking the opportunities that are given to you and making them special and important.

L'Shana Tova!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Lessons in August and Welcome back September

 "August" - I needed to know what it meant.  It has been a very emotional month for me as I searched within myself for the answers to some questions.  These are the words that appeared when I searched Webster's Thesaurus.

distinguished, respected, eminent, venerable, hallowed, illustrious, prestigious, 
renowned, celebrated, honored, acclaimed, esteemed, exalted; great, important, 
lofty, noble; imposing, impressive, awe-inspiring, stately, grand, dignified

I was a bit surprised since these are not the words that I have been experiencing in the month.  If asked, I would have chosen words like vulnerable, raw, rustic, helpless, and soft.  August was always the month of dread - we didn't want summer to end, we didn't want school to begin.  August was also the sweet spot of the summer, forcing you to see the end of the fun and step into the next phase of your life.

And it did not fail me.  I did a lot of soul searching this month, deciding what is best for my family, looking to make decisions that are right for so many people (not an easy challenge).  I was at my most vulnerable, thinking and rethinking and overthinking all that could happen to my family if I did, if I didn't, if we did, if we didn't.

And then I asked for help.  Thanks to the guidance of good souls around me - I received the following advice  ( and I am paraphrasing as I heard it):

  • Don't worry so much about making the right decision, spend your time on how you will make the decision right.   (This spoke to me because I often think of decision as opportunities and not always as right or wrong.)
  • What does your mind, your heart, and/or your gut say?  Are all three voices aligned?
The final exercise that someone gave me was the following:  Pretend you are you a year from now, what letter would you write to your "today" self?  Here is what I wrote:

                           Dear Lori,
I am so happy that you made this decision - Good for you!! 
I know it wasn't easy, but I am so proud of you---

That letter I wrote to myself is now framed and will be sitting on my desk for quite awhile.  

So August turned out to be impressive, lofty, noble, grand and in my spiritual search, it has been quite awe-inspiring.  So thank you August for an intense, forceful, spirited and thought-provoking month.  I did more than survive it, I embraced it and held it close.  

Now in search of September and its meaning.  Happy September, may it be all you want in a month.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Learning with Rabbis - Today I Noticed

If you told me 20 years ago that I would be immersed in my synagogue, studying with Rabbis and even calling some of them friends (the real kind, not like on Facebook), I would have laughed and told you that you were crazy.  Luckily, this is what my life is today and for that I am extremely grateful.  As we say in meditation, today I noticed.

First, a little background: I would periodically attend shul because my kids attended the adjoining school and my husband worked at the school as well.  It was my obligation to show up for my family and to participate in all the required activities.  I enjoyed many of them, but I began to notice that I didn't have my own relationship with the shul, school and Rabbis.  Then my dad died, and then my father-in-law died and through the shiva minyans, I saw that I was part of a beautiful community.  (Shiva brings out the best in a community).  I began to be drawn in, but without regularity.  And then it happened.  At a Shabbaton, Rabbi Kligfeld and the then Cantor Magda Fishman gave the most beautiful and thoughtful morning prayers service.  They discussed them, we sang them - no we chanted them and it was transformative. I physically felt different and I told my husband later that I now understood what people meant by a powerful meditative experience.

Within a week of that Shabbaton, my friend told me about a meditation service at my shul ( I had no idea) and I didn't miss a beat, "I will be there."  From the first meditation and learning experience with Rabbi Ruth Sohn, I knew that this is where I had to be.  That was 2 years and 9 months ago (but who is counting).  I rarely miss it.  In fact, I have even led some.  Each week brings me closer to Judaism and to ritual.  There is still a lot to learn, but I can definitely say that I have my own beautiful and rewarding partnership with my shul.

So why did I notice this morning?  Because today was a 2 parter.  I went to my regular meditation minyan Rabbi Ruth Sohn and then attended a Torah study with Rabbi Adam Kligfeld.  Both experiences were fulfilling in ways I wasn't expecting and again, thanks to meditation I noticed.

  1. I am no longer afraid of that voice telling me I don't know enough Hebrew, Torah, or Talmud.  The truth is clear - I don't, so that is why I want to know more.  But it is not about whether I know enough compared to others, it is about my own comfort level in the group and honestly, I just love listening to the discussion.  I chime in when I can and appreciate all the different thoughts and ideas that are voiced.
  2. Rabbis (at least mine) are very kind.  They appreciate all who show up to learn and say thank you when you share an idea.  "Glad you brought that up."  "Thank you for sharing."  
  3. When I leave shul, I am aware of how these lessons will carry me through my week.  And I look forward to returning the following week.
  4. I have started attending Friday night services.  I still feel like the least experienced participant in the room, but again, I don't care.  The singing and the teaching from the Rabbi helps me end my week and think about Shabbat as more than just Saturday morning services.
  5. I am grateful to all who meditated and studied today - I loved every minute with you.  Your presence is also why today was so special.
Looking forward to more and more.  Wishing you all a week of learning and noticing.  And if you want, join us at Temple Beth Am.  

Sunday, August 3, 2014

My Perfect Day - Visitors Day at Camp

I know what you are thinking - "just a long drive for a brief visit; it is hot; other than seeing our kid, what else should I be doing and did I bring everything she asked for?"

I admit it; I was not looking forward to the experience.  Of course, I want to see my daughter, her friends, meet her counselors and hear all the stories that she didn't include in her letters AND I was so worried about the heat, the drive, the time going too quickly and then the part about leaving her.

But that didn't happen today.  Today was different.  Though my husband and I arrived on one of the last buses, our daughter greeted us with pure joy as if camp was her own home.  She completely embodied, "Welcome to my home."  We found a place to have our picnic, and before we even begun our meal/snacks, she was sharing stories, introducing friends and so truly grateful to be with us.  Her smile never left her face.  Her confidence shined through every action and she also showed great compassion during a few significant moments in the day.

So what is so special about Camp Ramah?  I can only share what I witnessed today.  My daughter and others are immersed in beautiful balance of friendship and spirituality.  While I realize this is not everyone's experience, she and her friends are always happy to see each other, even when I know that they had only been apart for less than an hour.  Where is G-d in this?  For my daughter who is sometimes searching, G-d is definitely at Ramah.  Her soul is richer and her curiosity and commitment to engaging in this religious exploration is with great determination and joy.

As we left today, my daughter and I were both fine, happy to go back to our remaining days apart.  While my husband and I drove home, tears came to my eyes when I realized how often my daughter will look back on this summer as one of her best.  You can feel it and now I understand again why she referred to Camp Ramah as her "Garden of Eden," and her "paradise" last year in her bat mitzvah drash (I've included the link below if you want to read it).

My Daughter Wants To Be More Like Eve

The tears in my eyes also reflected how true her words remain a year later.  She may not realize it, but it is not lost on me.  I am so proud of her.  I am so glad that she made the decision to go to this camp and allow herself to experience all that it has to offer.  She has deepened her friendships as well as her own search for her spirituality.

This will definitely be filed under "Best Days" file.  And boy, did I need this one.