Monday, April 30, 2012

Imagine you are a Waterfall

What if I asked you to imagine yourself as a waterfall instead of a droplet? Would you understand the impact that you have on a lot of people rather than just one? Over the past few days, I have had overwhelming waves of emotion as I connect to others. I have been grateful, surprised, and joyful all because of different experiences with others. Here are the connections that I made with friends and strangers this week.

At the gas station this week, one could only pay with cash. In our automated society, we have become dependent on our debit card. As I walked up to the register to pay, signs all over told us that “credit card machines were down, cash only.” A man in his 30’s was in front of me buying a cup of coffee for $1.59. Once he realizes that he can only pay cash, he opens his wallet to find only one dollar. I realized that the cashier was not in a generous mood. Suddenly, I heard myself say, “I’ll give you the $.59. The cashier just stared and held out her hand. The guy turned to say, “Thank you.” I gave the cashier the money and the guy left. I was grateful to be in that place at that time. I smiled inside the rest of the afternoon.

Recently, by email, someone introduced me to another colleague. The words that my friend used to describe me were new to me and I was surprised with my own response to reading the email. I received compliments before, but this was so specific and unique (in a good way). I was incredibly flattered. I often say that unless you tell someone, they don’t know the impact they have on you. Last year, in my daughter’s fourth grade class, the birthday experience is a lesson in accepting compliments. The birthday student sits upfront while his/her classmates offer compliments. As a parent, it was a proud moment to hear such wonderful statements made about your child. As a woman, I understood the importance of learning how to listen to kind words. In society, we are bombarded by negative messages and criticism and we often push aside the positive remarks. Nine people can say something positive, but then the tenth is unkind and that sticks with us.

Back in January, I signed up for two classes – meditation and tennis. The groups are both small and I am learning so much from the participants. Both classes bring me great joy. By just focusing on the learning, the gifts of friendship have come with great joy. We support each other, challenge each other and strive to do something new each week.

Like a waterfall, our energy, passion, love, anger, frustration and criticism flows onto to others. How we manifest our emotions do not just impact our lives, it affects everyone we touch. This week, do something nice for a stranger, give someone a very specific compliment and think about people who make a positive impact on you. Wishing you all a great week.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Random Acts That Connect

Today was one of those days when random acts somehow seem connected. Whatever one believes about how things happen or why, when it happens to me, I always think maybe someone or something is looking out for me. Here is a glimpse of my day today.

Random Act 1 (in the morning) – While I was checking out at the register today in CVS, a woman in her late 30’s and wearing casual, maybe even workout clothes, came in and asked the cashier for a shopping cart. The woman said the following, “I need a cart.” She had no smile, barely looked at the cashier and was in fact about 15 feet from the cashier. The cashier was kind and pointed to where the carts should be, but explained that often people take the carts off the property and don’t return them. . As I was watching this woman, I turned my attention to the cashier, when appropriate I made a point to include, “Please” and “Thank you.” The cashier then called for the manager. When he walked up to the customer, with no smile and little eye contact, she repeated, “I need a cart.” The manager said that he would go get her one. By the time the manager walked up, the cashier had completed ringing up my purchase. We might have even discussed the weather or some similar social banter. When I left, I smiled and said, “Thank you so much and have a nice day.” She said, “Thank you and have a great day” and she, too, smiled. This experience happened almost 12 hours ago and I am still annoyed by that woman. I left the store and knew I had an idea for today’s blog. I left before she got her cart. By the way, how much is she buying in CVS that she needs a cart?

Random Act 2 (in the afternoon) – On my way to a meeting, a man was holding an elevator door for me. What I found interesting was that I was quite a bit behind him; he heard me coming and was kind enough to hold the door for me. By the design of the lobby, I didn’t know that he was even in front of me so I was happily surprised when I saw him. I thanked him. And then he said something about how easy it is to be nice. Of course, I agreed. And just as he got off on his floor, he said something like this – “The Dalai Lama said today on the radio if you are nice in this generation, then the next generation will be better.” (I did try to look up the exact quote on the internet, but was unsuccessful.)

Normally, I would have been satisfied by a gentleman’s kindness. But today, it felt bigger and more important. After seeing the woman today in CVS, throughout the day, I thought about how we must stress the importance of manners and the critical need to be kind to one another. I was put in that elevator for a reason and I was grateful to receive the message from a kind gentleman.

At the end of every Ellen DeGeneres, she thanks her guests and says, “Be kind to another.” I think that is a great message to hear every day. And it is even better when we put it to action.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tell your story…often and as it unfolds…

In the course of my work, I am fortunate to hear extraordinary stories of survival, triumph and fantastic journeys. I am blessed to know people who want a better life, not for themselves, but for those less fortunate. Ordinary people working hard to volunteer their time, create new programs that serve unanswered needs or help find funding for community services. While we all live in the busy and crazy days of our life, below are a few anonymous people who inspired me today.

A great couple - As the children of survivors, these two people are deeply committed to raising proud Jewish children, serving the community, and challenging others to do the same. They work respectfully with professionals sharing ideas and partnering to creative innovative projects for a new generation of philanthropists. Today, I was inspired by them because as we discussed a new project, their eyes sparkled, their banter was sweet and their commitment strong.

My colleagues – I am fortunate to work with individuals who don’t just come to work, they show up for the cause. As I watched them today move through an event, I realized how much meaning we bring to our work. When we listen to a donor share how the organization made a difference to them, we are proud parents. My colleagues and I share our joys and frustrations and are always looking for new ways to inspire our donors.

Friends – I am so lucky that through my daughter and her friends, I have found an incredible group of moms and dads. Through our kids, we share our parenting life. As we come across problems, we share ideas, solutions, and simply give each other support. This week was no different. I needed one of my friends and she was right there to help with answers, support and love.

There is inspiration all around us and even within us. When you need help, ask for it and when you see someone in need, tell them your story. It will do you both some good.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Dinner With Friends

In our fast paced society, it is the moments with friends that take hold of me. Living in a city of great restaurants, fantastic sites, and celebrity sightings, the connections that I make with friends are truly what touches my heart and elevates my spirit. Reconnecting with old friends and making new friends helps turn a dull day into a special day. Here are some true stories that occurred at dinner parties that I have hosted.

Meditation Before Dinner – This year for my birthday, I wanted share my new passion with my friends. I invited some friends over for a special meditation and dinner. Our meditation leader chose a beautiful chant and thoughtful text for us to discuss immediately following the meditation. Afterwards, we all ate from a buffet dinner from a local restaurant. I kept the invitation list small to give my old and new friends the opportunity to meet each other.

Easiest Surprise Party – For my husband’s birthday last year, I invited our friends over for dinner. I told him that we were going out to dinner with our family. Instead, I had invited a few friends over for dinner. I ordered in and had it delivered to my neighbor (who is my brother and sister-in-law). Before the guests were to arrive, my daughter had some friends over. And just at the time the guests were actually arriving, I told my husband to go see our daughter in her room because the girls want to present a birthday skit. While he was distracted with the skit, our guests arrived, I set up the buffet dinner and when he came out of the room, he was surprised with a birthday party at home.

Shabbat Dinner – If you are ever lucky enough to get invited to a Shabbat Dinner with friends, don’t miss it. This is a dinner party with a spiritual glow. I have hosted and have been fortunate to be a guest. Discussions of life, love, spirituality and anything else carry on all through the night. Opportunities to learn, teach, get advice, give advice, and laugh deepen my connection to my friends. I have been part of some dinners that leave me crying from laughing so hard. Some of my favorite moments happen at Shabbat dinners.

Dinner parties can be easy. Invite friends, cook or order in, and if you want to add a theme, choose something that you love. Show off a hobby, invite a guest speaker, or simply gather your friends and let the fun begin.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Pray... Right Now... Someone Needs You.

Pray. Right now. Take five minutes, less even and pray for someone you know. If you are uncomfortable with the word pray, then I suggest you simply think about some who is struggling. Many times we think of the strangers who are poverty stricken in another country, but right now, I am asking you to think about someone you know who is having a difficult time. This practice has helped me in the following ways:

Perspective – By taking a moment to offer a prayer for someone who is struggling, you step away from your own chaos. By thinking of another person, your heart and mind can reboot.

Reduce Anxiety – By offering prayers for another, you can stop thinking about your concerns and take a few deep breaths. This allows you to recognize that perhaps your problems are solvable.

Community – My favorite part of this practice is the immediate feeling that I am not alone. When offering a prayer to another, you are no longer alone. Whether they know it or not, the spirit or of the prayer connects you to the one in need.

And finally, there is simple joy in acting with love and kindness. Again, whether you share your prayer and thoughts or not, creating a moment in your day that is dedicated to someone else will refresh your spirit.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Vacation 101

Vacation is over, routine returns today. Bittersweet. Getting out of my routine is vital for my family and to reconnect, relax and refocus. With this vacation, our family strived to have no plans and be spontaneous. We rarely looked at a clock and my husband had to remind me to stay away from my emails. Here is what I learned from this experience:

Research – After we decided where we were going, we researched local family activities on Groupon, Living Social and other discount websites. We purchased several coupons that saved us some money, but we only selected activities that were open and had no time constraints.

Local restaurants – One of my favorite things is to find out what restaurants the locals recommend. If you ask the concierge, their first answer is usually restaurants in their hotel or other top tier spots. Ask them where they eat. We have had some fantastic dining experiences at the suggestion of those who live there.

Do Something You Love – Even in a new location, we want to feel comfortable. We chose activities that we knew we would have fun.
Do Something New – Visit somewhere unique to the city and new to you. It is a great feeling to do something different and out of your comfort zone. Every city has their own culture, enjoy it.

Looking forward to getting back to my routine and planning our next vacation.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Look Back, Look Forward and Remember Someone

Working in the Jewish community provides me with so much good fortune. One of the most nurturing benefits is sharing with colleagues how we all celebrate the holidays – Jews and non-Jews. As Passover approaches, it has allowed me to think about what Passover brings to my life. Passover is such an incredible holiday to start anew. Like the New Year, it allows me to cleanse a piece of my life, find a new beginning and take time to regroup. Here are some thoughts as we begin to celebrate Passover tomorrow:

Looking Back – There are great lessons to be learned from stories of our past. Whether we are looking back at our ancestors who crossed the Red Sea, at what the Jewish people have endured in the past century, the arts that we have created, the medical and science advances we've made or even how different we all express our Judaism, it is important to learn about our history and to cherish it. Not always beautiful and not always horrific, we must remember both and pass them onto the next generation. Often I watch the show, “Who Do You Think You Are?” which researches the ancestry of celebrities. I love that the name of the show is in present tense and it allows you to look into your past. I always wonder what my family history would show if I delved into my family history. I think something extraordinary happens to you when you can walk the streets that your ancestors walked or find out how they lived, survived or fought for something they believed.

Looking Forward – It takes great faith to carry on every day. Though our ancestors lived enslaved, they hoped for a better future. After the Holocaust, our community said, “Never again.” So many of us work towards personal freedom from some modern day enslavements – financial crisis, body image, family loss, sickness or broken relationship. At the same time, we also work to educate, protect or even liberate people. Almost two years ago, I visited the Jewish communities of Vilnius, Lithuania and Riga, Latvia. While devastated by the murderous acts of WWII, the next generation are taking hold of their Jewish identity and rebuilding their community. Sitting next to a 20-something newlywed who was about to embark on a 4-month immersion leadership program in Israel, I asked her, “Do you want to move to Israel?” She looked at me with a wonderful glimmer of pride and commitment and said, “No, I want to come back here, this is my home.” I will not forget how inspired I was in that moment knowing that the future of the Jewish community in Vilnius, Lithuania was in her hands. This past November, while on a mission to Israel, I visited a pre-school with Ethiopian students. Their families suffered and survived to get to Israel. They look towards the future with a drastically different perspective than I and I am grateful that the Jewish community helped them fulfill their dream of coming to Israel.

Why Me? A friend and I were talking today and wondered out loud, “What is our purpose here?” We were remembering a donor who passed away last year at the young age of 57. He had big dreams of living a long life with his wife and kids and of giving away $50 million dollars. Why would he be taken when he had some much more to do with his family and for his community? One of my colleagues said today that as we approach the holiday we often think of those who are not here to celebrate with us and I think he is right. My dad was someone who loved having his family all around the table – any table, home or restaurant. He simply enjoyed celebrating with his family around the table. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I enjoyed watching the pure enjoyment on his face. As we celebrate tomorrow night, I will remember those who are not with us. I will use their memory to inspire me, guide me and lead me to be better than I was yesterday.

Wishing everyone a wonderful Passover and may this week bring you renewal, vision, and lasting memories.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Passion – It’s in the Spelling

Every self-help guru says you have the passion in you and you should unlock it. Today I thought PASSION is the one driving force that crosses all facets of our lives - passion for your partner, your work, your politics, your hobbies and so on.

P – Pursue it and pass it on! Share it with everyone. One’s passion always elevates others; it is infectious.

A – Allow it to drive you. Do everything you can to hold onto it and let it guide it.

S – Share it to everyone who will listen. When it is in your gut and feels right, you need to tell others.

S – Savor it. While you are working on your project, enjoy even the small moments.

I – Imagine how far your passion can take you. Dream big and make it happen.

O – Own it. With every breath and deep in every cell, live the passion and your confidence will shine through.

N – Never let the negative chatter within you and or from others get you down.

If you know your passion and purpose, congratulations and keep going. If you are still looking for it, hang on and be passionate about finding it. It is only a matter of time.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Live, Love and Connect!

Call me at the office. You can reach me at home. Try my cell phone. Email me. Text me. You can message me on Facebook. Direct message me on Twitter. These are all ways for us to communicate today and there are even more ways.

Looking back to the 70’s when I remember our first answering machine. How genius it was that someone can leave a message for us when we are not at home. Like my kids today, I knew how to work the machine better than my parents, at least at first. So here are some reflections on how the environment has changed:

• Cells phones used to be for emergencies. First it was for doctors and law enforcement; they definitely had emergency situations (remember they had beepers before cell phones.) It was then every girl’s promise to her parents that the cell phone was restricted for emergency purposes. And of course, the parents needed cell phones in case their kids needed them too. Now, my husband and I were recently in a store and a woman walked by completely engrossed in her conversation. She was completely unaware of others within the sound of her voice. She continued to tell her very personal story to the listener. She said, “I’m looking for growth and right now I am static.” I’m just not sure that walking through Costco with others around is the right place for that deep introspection. Perhaps if she walked through an experience and saw the others around her, she might have a better chance for growth. In my mind, people on cell phones are involved in business, a situation has some urgency or a decision is time sensitive. To my children and clearly others, the cell phone is an accessory.

• We buy electronics to entertain our kids. Most days in the back seat, my kids fight over the Ipad. “It’s my turn, you have to give it to me now, your turn is too long, give it back.” And then, “Mom, can I have your cell phone while he has the Ipad?” Then my husband and I fight over the kids having the Ipad. When I was younger, my brother and I would play a game called “Got You Last.” Basic instructions of the game were that you had to tag the person and say, “Got you last.” Pretty easy, no assembly required and you didn’t need any equipment to play. However, if you are confined to the back seat with no place to run, it often escalated to some form of hitting, simple annoyance and then of course, yelling from Mom and Dad.

• With all these methods available to make a connection, why are we still struggling to communicate? When I was younger, I used to get excited to walk in to see that I had messages. Simple – someone was trying to reach me, looking for me, needed to speak to me. Who doesn’t want to feel wanted? Can anyone really use the excuse “I couldn’t reach you” - not really. And how many of us ran to the answering machine hoping our new love had called us? And how many of us have left messages only to have them unanswered. It is frustrating, it hurts and it makes one feel unimportant when we don’t get a call back or an email response. I try very hard to return all phone calls or emails within an appropriate time frame. Life does get in the way and I admit, my priorities sometimes get mixed up, but even if I don’t have the response that I know the caller or emailer want, I still feel the need to respond. It is better to be responsible and kind than have all the answers. I also recognize that most people want to be acknowledged for the contact they made even though I don’t have the information they need. Everyone wants to be heard and make a connection. No one wants to be ignored.

Call someone you love, or email, text, send a message on Facebook or Twitter or any other social media. Just reach out today to tell someone you care and that they matter. Live, Love and Connect.

Plant Seeds….Flowers Bloom

How do you see your own growth? How to you measure inner strength? Three months ago I began meditating and discussing Torah text. I began this practice because I had one experience that was so powerful and cleansing I knew it would be beneficial to integrate meditation into my life. At the same time, I started taking tennis lessons and writing my blog. I’m not sure if the combination of all three has led me to this peacefulness I feel or if I should credit just one. But what I do know is that today I witnessed my growth.

Today, in our teacher’s absence my friend and I led our meditation class. When first asked, I thought that I could not teach; I was ill equipped. With support, encouragement and partnership of my friend, we decided to share the responsibility. She took the role of meditation guide and I led the discussion following. Like a child marking their height on a wall, we both saw this as a significant moment in our spiritual growth. Born from learning and commitment, my friend and I focused on bringing the best of our experiences to share with our class. And in our first experience as leaders, we trusted to class to be open to our teaching and they did not let us down.

I’m not a Rabbi nor do I have a Ph.D.; I am a student looking to learn and share ideas with others. Three months of working hard and enjoying these new rituals have truly enriched my life. As I continue to learn and grow, I will pay attention to incredible moments that symbolize growth.

I’m excited for what the next 3 months will bring and I'll watch the flowers bloom.