Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Day of Truth - I'm now 51

As I sit here the day after my birthday, I realize that the word for 51 is truth.  All masks are gone, pretending is a waste of time.  The weekend was filled with every emotion, highs and lows, transition and stability, joy and sadness, power and powerlessness.

"But you should celebrate," one said to me.  "I can't," I responded, "I am exhausted and my birthday present to myself is to go home, get in my pajamas and order in."  Which I did.

Here is the beauty that bloomed in my home last night.   My son, Elliot (7) made me birthday cupcakes all by himself (seriously, very little help from us).  We ordered in sushi and sat at the table enjoying our favorite food.  

My husband, Perry bought me the box set of ESPN's 30 for 30 - which I am so excited to watch.  If you have seen any of these, they are truly inspiring and thoughtful stories about great moments in sports history.  Love it!  

Next, we remained at the table so the kids can do their homework and I worked on my new Harley Davidson puzzle (thanks to my friend Natalie).   It is a very hard puzzle and every piece I find that matches gives me a great sense of accomplishment.  

My daughter, Maddy (13) shared her favorite music with me - most of which I like.   She also gave me some great insight into her life.  

I read some of Allegiant by Veronica Roth - I'm about half way through and can't wait to find out what happens.

I meditated with some nice music app.

I put the kids to bed.

Went to sleep with the house quiet, a peaceful calm was in the air and at the moment I closed my eyes, I was grateful for the life that I am living.  Good. Bad. Hard. Beautiful. Scary. Joyous. Lucky. Hopeful.  Moments like these are not designed and still have a place in the extraordinary.   Glad it was my birthday. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

B'nai Mitzvah - Ritual or Spiritual

As I have written before, I look back at my daughter's bat mitzvah as a pivotal experience for my family.   Following the bat mitzvah, I accepted the role of Chair of our synagogue's B'nai Mitzvah committee.  Right now, there is such collective wisdom and questioning about how to give our teens an appropriate and meaningful experience.  But how do we do that when parents and teens have very different perspectives about what is an appropriate and meaningful experience?

In the past few months, I've participated in a number of conversations including last week's collaborative "lunch and learn" spearheaded by JEDLAB's Yechiel Hoffman, Adat Ari El's Johannah Sohn, BJE's Phil Liff Greif and BJE Impact's Alisha Pedowitz.  With so many great educators and those invested in the identifying impactful ways to mark this time in our teens' life, it is clear to me that my goal at Temple Beth Am is to help the family design and implement a learning experience.   As I have mentioned before, if a parent's passion is baseball or theater, it is a joy to introduce and teach the love of the game or the show to one's child.  So using this model, parents would need to have a love, passion, or at the least, some interest in learning with the child about their upcoming day.   At our first meeting with the Rabbi, he asked my husband and I about our b'nai mitzvah experience, and as we answered, we realized it was probably the first time we were sharing this with our daughter.  I was terrified and excited.  My bat mitzvah was at 42 and around it swirled a whole host of adult emotions.  My husband had his own experiences which he shared.  Both of us reflected on the feeling of being alone in the experience meaning no one learns with you.  You are taught to prepare and then present.

My proposal is easy - the entire family should be invested in the bar or bat mitzvah.  While studying trope or the meaning of the torah portion may be tedious for the teen, with support and sharing of ideas, teens and parents (and other family members) can learn together through a partnership with and guidance from the synagogue.  My husband and I learn best when we are in a group.  I watch my daughter and see that her best and most gratifying learning has been on school projects or team learning.   And as this is the time that teens are developmentally separating from parents, this gives the family an opportunity to continue on the bridge toward adulthood together.  With guidance and discussion from the clergy, the parents are team members rather than task masters.  In partnership with the clergy, parents can elevate the day and create a new dynamic in the growth of their relationship with their child.  The clergy further develops the relationship with the family which will help the family stay engaged past the b'nai mitzvah dates.

My hope is that our b'nei mitzvah committee will act as a coaching system and peer support for families approaching their special day.  Our goal is to help the families create a beautiful and meaningful day for all members of the family.  We want to help the families navigate the spiritual institution and assure them that the anxiety and stress doesn't have to cloud the better parts of the experience.  There are great opportunities in our community for shared knowledge, best practices and even new partnerships.  It is an exciting time and I'm thrilled to be part of it.

Stay tuned for more on the growth of our b'nai mitzvah committee.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Being a Grown-Up, It's About Time

You wake up and you are here.  Years ago, I thought, "What would it be like when I grow up?"  And with some excitement, I always looked forward to being older.  In the past week, good and bad, I have felt my age.  Good meetings, frustrating conversations, great events, strong partnerships, moments of weakness, quality talks, heartfelt hugs and the ugly cry.   I'm 50 and during this roller coaster ride this week, I didn't have to try to be 50, I woke up and it just happened.

How did I notice?  Just now, I was thinking about the week and thought that in every crazy, up and down moment and experience, I was still breathing and able to focus.  Life is a mixed bag, we are all mixed bags, and sometimes navigating life is confusing.  But it doesn't have to suck you in all the time.  What I noticed this week is that I held my breath, my joy, and my sadness in for as long as I can and then just collapsed.  Sometimes, I am sad and I file it away because it is not a convenient time.  But then I do feel it, all of it and probably more, coursing through my body, and I recalibrate.

I want to be a grown up.  I want to face all of the good, the bad and the inconvenient.  In 4 days, I will be 51 and there is no fear, no anxiety and frankly, very little excitement.  Again, for me, this is neither good nor bad, it simply just is.  I will apply the fear, the anxiety and the excitement to all the experiences in my life.

Happy Birthday to Me!!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Lessons from Meditation - 2x Adar, 2x Happiness

Today, I was asked to lead meditation.  It wasn't the first time so at least, I was mentally prepared.  I hadn't read anything for the week so I was intellectually unprepared.  But in the lessons of the week, I found my talking points.  Beautiful texts about the month of Adar and of Terumah, the building of the Mishkan.

What I learned most today - this incredible group of women who show up every week are a mishkan for me, my temple, my holy space, my peace of mind.  Over the past two years, this group at Temple Beth Am has become my shul, my sanctuary, my Shabbat.  The women around the table helped guide the conversation, shared their experiences and their learning which again made the morning holy.  And right now I sit in a space of happiness because I didn't do it alone.  This morning reminded me that I am surrounded by love, support, friendship and community.  My heart is full and joyful.  

Words on a page are black and white.  With my meditation group this morning, these words danced in the room and brought happiness as the month commands.  Below are the texts we used this morning.  I hope you find as much joy and meaning as we did.

And to end our session, I shared this - Rabbi Karen Kriger Brogard - The Essence of Adar

Thank you to all of the Rabbis for their inspiration and to Rabbi Arielle Hanien for always bringing light to my life.