Giving it up for love

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As I held the little bundle in my arms, a brand new baby girl, I looked down at her and knew that she was mine. All mine! I continued to purvey her little hands and feet the size of my thumb, that oh so delicate nose, and I knew, without a doubt, that I had no freaking clue what to do with this baby!

The years have gone by, and now I am a mom of five kids. Five rambunctious, personable, make me laugh out loud, sweet, infuriating and all consuming little people. I still don’t know what I am doing, but I do know today that the mamma love that I had when they were small, is not even comparable to the love I have for them today. Truth be told, back then, at a time when I had three little kids under the age of 6, I probably didn’t have enough consciousness about me to even decipher any grander thoughts than when my next nap was going to be. As a new mom you really don’t realize that these little delicate creatures are going to become people one day. It is only a matter of time and invested energy coupled with mutual experiences that will allow you to learn to love them in an unyielding way.

But there is something else that I have learned about love. Something that was staring me point blank in the face. I had to experience this for myself to truly believe. (Life Epiphany number 33)

It is not those who give to you that you love the most, it is the ones YOU give to that creates within you a drop dead, do anything for them, never stop until you die, always thinking about you LOVE.

Now it seems so obvious (slap my forehead) as I look at all of the evidence pointing to this fact. Our ancient language seems to have figured it out already since the word for love in Hebrew, “Ahava” is based on the root “hav” which literally means: to give.

Giving is what love is all about.

Tell this to all of the people who write on their dating profiles that they are looking for a woman/man that knows how to pamper and give to them. Tell that to couples who fight because they don’t think the other one is doing enough for them.Tell that to parents who can’t connect to their children because they don’t feel like their kids are giving enough back to them or appreciating them for all of their efforts.

I think about my role models growing up.

The love I saw that was all about giving, not about taking. My grandmother who supported my grandfather’s rabbinic post, who looked after the kids and the home, who loved unconditionally. When my grandfather would arrive home and he would see her looking distressed he would sit her on his lap and play with her hair while she spoke to him about the problems and issue she had dealt with that day.

From the first time my father met my mother he let her sisters borrow his sports car, he gave her whatever she needed and just continuously took pictures of her all day long. I love to look at those pictures of young love, of my mother brushing her long, thick hair in the mirror with the reflection of my father in the background. Just the other day I was sitting in the kitchen with my parents and my mother offered my father soup. His response was one that I have heard over and over again throughout the years, “Whatever makes you happy!” because although he loves her soup, he knows that when she serves it to him it makes her oh so very happy. My father doesn’t buy my mother things simply because she wants them, he does it because he truly wants to make her happy. They allow each other to live out their own lives and yet, they are joined in a way that is truly a blessing.

Ma and dad

Love is my Mom and Dad

Even when I went away to University, back to Toronto, I lived with my Aunt and Uncle whose love had never diminished over the years. This was a true example of that type of giving with no holds barred. When it snowed and my aunt had to get into the car, my uncle would reverse the car into the driveway so that she wouldn’t have to walk all the way around to get to the passenger side. Every week she would bake his favorite cake for him and every week without fail, he would exclaim wholeheartedly that this was the best cake he had ever tasted in his life!

Even the older generations such as my great uncle loved my great aunt oh so much. But he was not a shmoozer and after a family get together he would say goodbye and leave. He knew that my great aunt was one of “our kind”, and loved to say goodbye for half an hour, so he would sit patiently in the car and wait for her.

That was love.

And my other aunts and uncles whom I spent a lot of time with growing up were in love from their youth, they had grown together, were best friends and were used to giving to each other for many, many years.

There was no account balance that was tallied daily in their lives. In their minds, there were no withdrawals. Love was all about those never ending deposits, day in and day out.

I want to tell you one other little secret that I have discovered about love. When you give, it can’t be in order to receive in return. It has to be true giving, straight from the heart, no strings attached. You don’t need to be a doormat, but you need to realize that the account balance for love is not about your half in the pot.

I don’t give to my children because I hope that one day they will look after me in my old age, (after all, there is a huge excess of retirement homes in existence for a reason people!). I give to my kids because I want to, because I love to, because it makes my bond to them even stronger than you can ever imagine is humanly possible. I give to my siblings because I know that it makes me love them more and, as an adult, I try to give to my parents in the same unyielding, unconditional way that they gave, and continue to give, to me. I know that I will never be able to reach the level of love that their kind of giving entails, but I will damn well try.

Because love means never checking your account balance.

Don’t count your love, make your love count!

(Published originally in the Times of Israel, February 2013)

Favorite quotes by Groucho Marx

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“You’re only as young at the woman you feel.”

“I sent the club a wire stating, “Please accept my resignation. I don’t want to belong to any club that would have me as a member.”

“Behind every successful man stands a woman. And behind her stands his wife.”

Taking Nutrition Seriously in the face of Illness

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Introduction

Nutrition plays an important role in our overall well being and is many times overlooked when a person is feeling unwell or is facing illness.I know that I personally found a huge difference in my level of energy and my overall health when I changed my eating habits and learned to be in tuned with my body when feeding it. Thank God being healthy and well I can only imagine what the benefits of proper nutrition can be for someone suffering from a life altering illness such as cancer.

Jillian Mckee

Which is why I was so pleased to receive an email from Jillian Mckee one day out of the blue. Jillian, a Complementary Medicine Advocate, blogger, and outreach coordinator at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance since June of 2009 spends most of her time on outreach efforts and spreading information about the integration of complementary and alternative medicine in  conjunction with traditional cancer treatment. Jillian really touched me deeply with her openness and generous nature so when she asked me to guest author a post on my blog, I of course said yes!

She wrote:

I stumbled across your blog…I am wondering if you allow guest posts because I recently have been researching and writing about how beneficial eating healthy and living a healthy lifestyle is for someone going through the battle of cancer… This is an important message to get out there….Thank you for all you do in making a difference.

I was so happy to see that my personal story was reaching out to people and giving them strength. Once we had worked out how we would go about this, I eagerly awaited Jillian’s response until yesterday when I saw her name in bold my inbox:

…The article attached, which I recently completed, is about the benefits of eating healthy during and after a diagnosis of any kind of cancer. Each different cancer has its limitations, but if one can keep a healthy body, they can have a better chance to overcome this awful disease.

Jillian, your work is inspiring and I am honored to have your post here on my blog.

Nutrition Plays an Important Role in Cancer Treatment

By Jillian Mckee

Being diagnosed with cancer is probably one of the most difficult moments in a person’s life. Unfortunately, millions of people hear this horrible news each year. Thankfully, there are successful ways to improve your quality of life besides simply going for regular treatments or surgeries for mesothelioma cancer or any other types of cancer. While a healthy diet is not a cure for your cancer, it can definitely help your body heal faster and gain more energy to get you through those difficult treatment sessions. How can a healthy and nutritious diet can aid you in the healing process and how does one incorporate this into his/her own life?

Food can successfully act as a medicine, a healer of sorts, when dealing with chronic illnesses.  As stated before, a healthy diet will not cure your cancer, but it does have a number of benefits that your body will enjoy.  The first benefit of eating a healthier diet is the amount of energy you can gain.  Fresh fruits and vegetables all have a variety of vitamins within them.  When eaten, especially during treatment, these vitamins can replenish energy that you may otherwise be lacking.  You will find that it is a little easier to get through your day when you have enough energy to make it through.

Another benefit of having a healthier diet is your body’s increased ability to heal itself.  During cancer treatment, you may find that you are tired and in pain all of the time.  Your body needs to heal itself between treatments so that you can feel better and face the net treatment.  With a poor diet, you are not introducing any of those much needed vitamins into the body, which is definitely not good when it comes to regular living, let alone healing.  A healthy diet will help you to heal faster so that you can feel good between treatments and get on with your life instead of focusing solely on your cancer.

For those who are seeking treatment for mesothelioma or another form of cancer, it is imperative that you speak with your doctor before doing anything to your diet.  Your doctor may have already put you on a very strict diet that is high in calories.  Before making any changes, you need to speak to your doctor and let them know what you want from your daily nutrition.  Your doctor will tell you whether or not to make these changes in your life.

Living with cancer can be incredibly difficult, but you can improve your well-being with the right diet.  Living on junk and processed foods does nothing for your confidence, energy, and health. You need a healthy diet in order for the body to heal itself and be provided with sufficient vitamins each day. Only your doctor will be able to tell you whether a diet change is within your best interest or not.  If you do go through with a change, you will begin reaping the benefits within a few short days.

Salsa dancing in Jerusalem

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Before I talk about Salsa dancing, let me just thank Dudu Almodi for letting me use his photographs for this post. He is very generous with his art.

Ok now back to me and Salsa….this is me:

Me and Dudu Nahari a Salsa instructor

I happened to discover Salsa by chance and it was at the Candela Salsa club that I started to dance regularly. I wont tell the story here because it’s too long.

Eti Amzaleg a sexy & talented Salsa instructor

Eti Amzaleg a sexy and talented Salsa instructor

Suffice it to say that over the last 4 months I have persevered with level 1, 2 and 3.  This week my instructor, Eti Amzaleg, who is a patient, talented and amazing person all around (as are all the instructors in the Candela club) basically said to me, “Devora motek (you always have to say motek or mami to be taken seriously), the time has come for you to move on to the Masters level!” Woo hoo!

Of course, my usual hesitation when moving up a level is that I will be the worst in that level as opposed to being the best at the current one and then it will annoy people who have to dance with me. It’s always tough to have to dance with someone who is too slow for you….even if people pretend otherwise. It’s a fact. I console myself with the fact that dancing with someone a bit below your level is nothing compared to having to dance with someone who just applied half a bottle of Brut cologne or who hasn’t used any personal hygiene products at all that week, so it cant be that bad!

One of the experienced dancers, Elinor, told me that she doesn’t dance with someone if she doesn’t feel like it and yet she always looks like she is having a good time. She just says no! She’s my Salsa hero! The amazing thing about so many experienced dancers is that they enter the club looking like regular people out on the town, and then when they get on the dance floor it is just a miracle to behold.

Eddy is always a great dance partner

I myself find that there are some dancers who I love to dance with regularly. For example, this bachurchik Eddy, a sweet  guy who is a great dancer and is never pushy but always quick on his feet. Whenever I would make a mistake while we are dancing I would see him make a sort of discreet face sort of like “whoops” in face language. I would call him on it by saying, “Eddy, you are doing it again!” and he would laugh. Some of the instructors make me laugh over and over again. For example, Moran the DJ and a master dancer always yells at me when I start leading, “Where do you think you are going Devora??? In Salsa the man leads, leave your life at the door!”. Tomer would tell me that he is losing circulation in his fingers from me holding on so tight, hee hee. (I am sure there is a lesson in here somewhere if I just look hard enough.) Dudu and Yonat are able to have fun at all times.

Moran DJ/instructor and Yonat Instructor

Moran and Yonat twisted up an smiling

The Salsa club offers levels from beginner, never danced before in my life level classes, to masters “I really didn’t know our bodies were made for that position” classes. Thursday and Saturday nights start off with line dancing at 9:15 and then at 9:45 they divide up into groups for your lesson. Afterwards is some practice time and then the floor opens up for the rest of the night. Married couples come, singles, people of all ages and even couples who have met at salsa and are married now not to mention my favorite: the pregnant women.

Things I usually worry about are non issues like theft since there are 14 closed circuit cameras in the club, the bathrooms are actually clean, the wood floors are nice overall, and there is always fans and fresh air with no smoking allowed inside the club. There is a bar but since I am almost always driving I stick to my diet coke and water.

I think there are some events coming up soon as well like the Salsa winter ball mid January and and at the beginning of February there will be a Salsa event at the Yellow Submarine in Jerusalem, can’t wait!

Eti and Dudu instructors

Yonat and Tomer Salsa instructors

I’m back baby!

Running along singing my songA few of my friends have asked me why I haven’t written on my blog lately. I guess it’s just because my life is so busy. I know, I know, that is the worst answer ever! I can’t believe I use that line because I have always been a big promoter of the idea that if you want to do something you will find the time for it.

For example, I used to be a night runner but I just found that lately I was just too tired to run at nights. There is no way I wanted to give up running so instead of running at nights, I decided to start going to sleep early and set my alarm for 5 AM. Sometimes I might even sleep in my running clothes so that it requires minimal effort for me to get out the door in the wee morning hours.

I have been running for over two years now and although I love to run alone, I did recently start to notice that I should start pursuing an activity that is more social. I considered group sports but then I realized that I just don’t care enough. I just don’t care! I don’t want to fight someone for a ball and I don’t want to try to get that ball, puck or thingy ding into some designated hole, net or basket. I mean, really, if the other team wants it that badly…they can have it!!!

Until I found SALSA…To be continued…

Being Considerate Only Takes A Second

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A divorced male friend of mine mentioned to me that another male divorcee explained
to him that as a single man he is “shaveh” of great value and that he should
keep this in mind when looking to date. He needs to be aware that he is a greater
commodity than the women he is dating. I was appalled by this blatant disrespect that
one person could have towards another. I quickly interjected that there is no
one person who is more valuable than another. If he wants to assess that a
match is not suitable for him then that is legitimate but he must always have
respect for another individual and behave appropriately.

Of course, while I am writing this I realize that maybe someone out there is thinking
poorly about me or my behavior and wondering how I have the gall to write about
this topic in a critical manner. I guess from recent experience, both in my
personal and professional life, I have come to the conclusion that it really
only takes a moment to show the proper courtesy and respect towards another
human being so why don’t we?

Just as an example of professional disrespect: Someone mentioned to me how they spent time
travelling and attending a job interview and couldn’t understand why the
interviewing side didn’t take the time to show them the courtesy of an email letting them know either way.

As an example of personal disrespect: A close friend of mine was in touch with another person for dating
purposes and couldn’t understand why all of a sudden there was silence on the other end. One side, it
seems, decided that it was not suitable for them but didn’t even do as much as send
an email or SMS to inform the other side. Ignoring is not an acceptable form of
rejection. It exists, but it is cowardly and rude at best.

Israelis have a tendency to look down on manners and polite behavior. It is a high tension
life here in Israel with the political and social situation always contributing
to a life of constant rushing around, yelling and even pushing. Israelis are good
at heart and if you trip and fall a million people will rush over to look after
you, and if your kid wanders off in the mall he/she will have ten mothers taking
care of him in a second, but respect for one another goes far beyond our instinctive
responsive behavior, it is introspective, well thought out and calculated.

And don’t try to slap me with, “well, would you rather someone act politely on the surface and then
ignore you and be distant afterwards???” I don’t understand why that is a
legitimate argument. Don’t people  already know that two wrongs don’t make a
right?? Listen, I love to live in Israel but can’t we all just try to show each other the
respect that we as humans should for one another? Be conscious of our actions and I
am sure that with the changes we nurture within ourselves we will also be able
to influence others in kind.

Self Healing

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Healing yourself

Self healing

There are many times where you have no choice but to rely on conventional medicine to heal you. This is usually in times of great emergency where a homemade tincture and a kiss from your mother won’t help. I have had many, many times in my life where as a rambunctious, accident prone child, teen and adult I needed the services of the emergency department.

Let’s see, if I had to list it chronologically it would include: running into the corner of a door, almost cutting my finger off, having my teeth knocked in, falling down a hill and breaking my tailbone, barreling down a hill on my bike at full speed and flipping over at the bottom, twisting and breaking my ankle repeatedly, carrying a wooden canoe alone and hurting my back, being in a terrible car accident, pouring a pot of boiling hot chicken soup over my body, having an allergic reaction from a medicine, gall stones, and five births…all of which left their mark on my body and my overall well-being. There are way more incidents of injury, but I can’t even remember them all.  Yes, I know that this list might remind you of a medieval torture chamber but that’s just me! My mother was always on constant Devora injury alert.

For these types of injuries, the medical profession is well prepared. The things they can do with a half severed finger these days is miraculous! The problem seems to be when conventional medicine fails and you need to consider that another type of healing may need to be sought out.

After giving birth to five babies and having many side effects from the pregnancies and births, carrying around extra weight, the leftover back pains from my car accident and constant digestive problems from my gall bladder surgery and from ongoing suffering from heartburn I realized that the time had come to heal myself. The only solution conventional medicine could offer me at this point was pain killers for my back, pills for the heartburn and some possible physiotherapy.

I completely changed my lifestyle. I changed my eating habits completely: no eating when you aren’t hungry (unless there is ice cream or donuts to be had, of course), no eating until you are too full, no foods that upset my stomach, lots of healthy foods, fresh fruits and veggies, and exercise. I started walking every day and eventually after 8 months of walking I started to run a bit here and there. Eventually I reached a point where I could run for an hour straight or even more without feeling overexertion. I do my stretching, push-ups, sit ups, and squats at the end of every run and I am done.

Two and a half years later and 50 kilos lighter, I feel great and so much healthier than if I had medicated my symptoms or if I had dieted (diets don’t work, by the way). I never feel hungry or deprived. I live a high quality of life because my body and my being are in sync. I am grateful that I have the health and energy to maximize my time.

Another runner once said to me, “We won’t necessarily live any longer than anyone else, but our quality of life will be better.”

Today I am boycotting God

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Lisa Latchaw A"H

My friend and colleague Lisa Latchaw A"H

Today I am boycotting God…

This is what my friend Sarah Williams said to me yesterday
when we laid to rest our good friend and colleague Lisa Latchaw in the Beit
Almin cemetery in Beit Shemesh. She was too young to go and too many people
depend on her for her not to be around. A husband and two little kids who need
her, friends, family and last, but not least, her work. Lisa was my colleague.

What does it mean to be a colleage in our company? We are made up of a motley
group of people and yet we all respect and appreciate each other so much.
Sometimes I think that our group of coworkers is representative of what society
should strive for.

I have had the pleasure of working with smart, driven, kind
wonderful people, Lisa one of them, who all had two things in common: they
worked for our company and they are Olim. They have all chosen to leave behind some
form of life to come to Israel and start a new one.

When Lisa and I were once talking she told me about how she had
worked so hard for so many years to build up the typical life for herself in
America: a house, cars, a career, marriage. And yet, when all that was
accomplished she looked around at her empire and said, “Hey! This is not what I
really want. I want to be in Israel!” They then proceeded to move to Israel and
start a life for themselves in Beit Shemesh. Lisa was so skilled and capable
that even though many Olim might find that they are struggling with the job
market here, she worked hard and was continuously promoted.

Another one of my colleagues, Dawn Richman, said that we
have a purpose on this earth and when we have fulfilled our goal we are taken
to the next world. Maybe Lisa was so skilled that she finished her project
early. I don’t know. I think I will go with Sarah on this one. I have a picket
and I am picketing.

In our company many people work remotely and come in to the
office only once or twice a month. So even though I know Lisa is gone I keep
waiting for her to walk through the door, put her bags down and come over to schmooze
with me. I was saving a Bon Apetite magazine for her because it has tons of
recipes with chocolate and I know that she loves it.

We will miss you Lisa…and God, I am not talking to you!

Running the Marathon of life

 

Eitan Davis: one of three organ donors this weekend (picture courtesy of his family)

While I was busy running the 10K in the Jerusalem marathon this Friday and feeling utterly invinceable, 11 people were running the marathon of life when they received notice that they would be getting the organ donations they were so eagerly waiting for,  as Airel Noy put it so wisely in his online article on Walla: http://news.walla.co.il/?w=//1809580

The list of organs is extensive and were all given selflessly by three families in order to give 11 people a chance to live. Two of the donors and a third by the name of Eitan Davis died over the weekend due to unforeseen circumstances and their families helped donate their loved one’s organs so that others could go on living. The organ recipients ranging in age from 6-59 years old were given a new lease on life so that they can continue to love and be loved. The donors will continue their legacy in this world even upon their passing.

 I cannot stress enough how important I feel this move is in our country where we can help others to live. Let’s renew our lease on life and be proactive.

I am filling out my card here:

https://www.kartisadi.org.il/form.asp

I hope you will too. Once you have submitted it you will get a card in the mail that you should proceed to carry on you always.

Watch this video, it is very moving all about religious families who have chosen life even when facing death:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5cfaAWTH5zM&feature=player_embedded