Monthly Archives: July 2015

Making gratitude and forgiveness a daily habit

Lately there has been a lot of focus on the importance of healing our world through love for others.

Last night we were discussing why this love was so important and also why it is so challenging.  I believe it’s because our generation struggles on a massive scale with lack of self-knowledge and self-love, and you can’t love others when you don’t love yourself.

The following process that I’m going to share with you is one that has helped me to be more loving toward myself and others.

1) Gratitude list – First thing in the morning you write five things you’re grateful for.GratitudeJournal-esolla[1]

I’ve been writing gratitude lists for over twenty years on a regular basis and this is a wonderful practice for keeping your mind in a good place.  There are so many wonderful things even on the worst day but you don’t notice them unless you make a habit of it.

Learning to recognize the good makes life much more easier and more enjoyable.

2) Forgiveness list – Next you write down five people/things/situations you forgive; it can be for something small or big.  I determine what goes on the list based on my feelings of resentment.  It doesn’t matter how minor these resentments are; if I keep them inside they’re toxic to me and I need to practice forgiveness for every single one.

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Don’t say you don’t have resentments; we all do but we often bury them inside and don’t recognize them for what they are.  I used to think as a pretty positive person that didn’t have many resentments. That was until I learned to recognize those twinges of frustration, irritation and upset for what they were!  Resentments.  Get the resentments out of you and down on paper.

Sometimes I put people down repeatedly on my forgiveness list because if I feel resentment or tension when I think of them after having put them on a prior list, I know I still have negative energy to release.  Sometimes I need to put myself down on the list – to forgive myself for not doing something in the way I wanted to do it.  I think we all have to forgive ourselves for being imperfect in the many ways we tell ourselves we’re not enough.

3) After you write these two lists, read your forgiveness list out loud to yourself.

4) Then you read your gratitude list out loud.

5) Finally, follow the reading of these lists with an enthusiastic verbal declaration, “And that’s why I’m having/going to have a great day!”

This process starts your day by focusing on the good, releasing the negative and giving your mind a powerful message of positivity.

What I’m experiencing as a result of this daily practice is that I’m moving through irritations much faster, even before actively releasing them the next morning!  For example, a few days ago I was loading my groceries into the taxi to go home. When I had loaded half the groceries in the car (it was half of a full shopping cart), the driver informed me he was going to charge me extra above the set fee since I had more than one shopping cart.  I told him I had just one cart and that the cart next to mine was someone else’s but he started yelling at me that I had two.  So I unloaded all my things and got a different taxi to take me home.

By the time I was driving away from this scene with taxi driver no. 2, I was already thinking, “I’m going to put this driver (and the driver of the taxi in front of me that yelled at someone with young children for not getting in fast enough) on my forgiveness list tomorrow” and it took away so much negative emotion.  It’s empowering to have a tool to actively let go of negativity toward someone/something.

This technique is so simple but very powerful – I highly recommend it if you want to become a happier, more peaceful and more appreciative person.  (If you try this, I’d love to hear what your experience is after a couple of weeks.)  

When it comes to feeling love for others – it’s so much easier to feel positively towards others when you make appreciating and forgiving them a regular part of your life.

Avivah

What are your biggest summertime challenges?

I’m going to be speaking in the next week on, “Transforming Summer Challenges into Opportunities”, and I want your feedback!

What do you find to be the biggest challenges of the summertime?  I’d love if you could detail in the comments box about why this is a challenge.  I want to tailor my talk to the things I hear people struggling with most often.  If you’re not struggling but you’ve heard common threads with your friends, please share!

For those in Israel who asked about details of where/when I’ll be speaking in the next couple of weeks, here’s a list:

– Yavniel – Monday July 27, -11 a m – 1 pm – “Transforming Summer Challenges into Opportunities”, presentation followed by a question and answer session.  I hope to leave additional time to answer questions one on one.  This talk will have a parenting focus but not focus exclusively on parenting, will be addressing concerns of women of various ages.

– Tzfat -Monday, July 27,  8 – 9:30 pm: “Transforming Summer Challenges into Opportunities”.  This talk will have a parenting focus for mothers of school age children and below.

– Ramat Beit Shemesh, Aug. 1, 4:45 pm: Shabbos Nachamu parsha shiur, Nachal Noam 12/1.  Spiritual lessons with day to day relevance based on the weekly Torah portion; specific topic to be announced.

– Ramat Beit Shemesh, Aug. 9, 8 – 10 pm: “The Truth About How Kids Learn”.  This talk will be geared toward those interested in learning more about homeschooling, with an extended question and answer session to follow.  Nahar Hayarkon 22/4

I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts – thanks for your help!

Avivah

A strikingly different and refreshing idea about acceptance of others

Several weeks ago I attended a play called, “Seeing the Beauty in those who are Different”.  I really wasn’t sure what to expect and had some apprehensions about attending since I knew it had something to do with Down sydrome and I have a problem with the limited and stereotypical presentations of those with T21.

The two person play was powerful but left me with mixed feelings.  The play was followed by a question and answer session with the audience that was compromised mostly of teen volunteers who worked with children with various disabilities.  The director who played the main character with T21 led this and his comments were quite insightful.

Afterward I spoke to the director and I shared with him my ambivalence about seeing a person with T21 portrayed in a way that might feed into common social perception.  He agreed with me that people with T21 can and do achieve wonderful things and live mainstreamed lives.  But, he said, the unfortunate reality is that many people with disabilities don’t have the family support that my son has.   He explained the background of the character to me, and said that far from being stereotypical, the main character has a lot of strength and independence – he is living in an assisted living facility, forgotten by his family.  He works, buys his own clothes and despite his loneliness, refuses a visit from someone he suspects is doing it out of pity.  He has no outside support and yet he maintains a courageous attitude toward daily life.

At the end of our conversation, I asked the director, “How would you sum up your message in this play – to accept others?”

He adamantly said, ” Who am I to accept someone else?  Acceptance implies that you’re better than someone else.  We don’t say we have to accept someone who we feel equal to and certainly not someone we feel is above us.   What I want people to do is look into another person’s eyes and recognize their humanity, and interact with them from that position.”

I was struck by the power of this thought.  To me acceptance was a pretty good thing to strive for societally but his comment helped me recognize that I was living with a limited sense of what acceptance really is about.

It was a major paradigm shifter for me that can be applied to many situations that go far beyond the disability community.  Really, it applies anytime you encounter a person or idea who isn’t aligned with you and your way of thinking – to see the person and not focus on his actions, and relate to him from a position of respect and honest connection.

How does this idea about acceptance impact your way of looking at those who are different than you?

Avivah

A kosher phone or not a kosher phone, that really isn’t the question

Last year I decided to join the twentieth century and got a cell phone.  Yes, I realize I’m about twenty years behind everyone else. :)  I resisted because I didn’t want to be on call all the time and try to limit my usage of technology because of my concerns about how it’s encroaching on our lives societally.

Anyway, the time had come that I needed unlimited long distance calling and I could get that affordably with a particular cell phone plan.  I was given a choice of a kosher or non-kosher line (a kosher phone is one that can’t access the internet) and chose a kosher phone.  I have no need for anything more than the most basic phone so this worked for me.

Fast forward a year and we moved to Ramat Beit Shemesh.  When we got here, I had terrible reception with my cell phone provider. After two months of not being able to make it work, we were happy to finally find another cell phone provider that had good coverage in our area and also had an unlimited long distance plan (the most important criteria for me since I call overseas daily).  But it didn’t offer a kosher phone option.  It didn’t really make a difference to me since I have a simple phone that isn’t capable of accessing the internet and don’t want anything more, so I got the non-kosher option.

Today dd and I met with a principal of a high school (yet another one!) we’re considering and after we finished went down to speak to the secretary to schedule the follow-up interview.  The secretary asked what my phone number was.  I started telling her the number, and she exclaimed, “It’s not a kosher number?!”  (There’s a one digit difference in numbers that are kosher or not.)

I told her that I had a kosher phone until recently but changed because of a lack of coverage where I lived, at which point I was abruptly cut off and told that of course there’s coverage in my area, that it’s a big problem that I have a nonkosher phone since parents in that school aren’t allowed to have them. (This school has a strict policy on technology usage as they don’t want a home environment that conflicts with values and attitudes they want to convey.)

I felt bothered that she was implying I was lying or making excuses or whatever negative thoughts she was having about me, but told her of course I would switch to a kosher phone if that was the school rule but right now this is the number I have.  She responded in a way that felt hostile and judgmental to me.

I left, fuming inside, and by the time I got to the bus stop a two minute walk from the school I was ready to call and cancel the follow up meeting for the next day.  No way would I send my daughter to a school where a secretary spoke to me in that disrespectful way and dared to judge me by the number of my cell phone.

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But then I started thinking, what do I stand for and what do I really want?  Is this really a deal breaker or is my ego getting in the way?  I don’t have a philosophical issue with having a kosher phone or not since I use the phone the same way regardless.  I knew this school had rules that were more stringent than what I would personally choose but chose to look into it further because in many ways it’s the best fit for my daughter.  In some ways it’s not.  Every institution is going to have something I don’t like about it and the spirit behind the rules is in line with the spirit I try to raise my children with.

But the interaction I had was unpleasant for me.

I thought about this issue and what it represented to me from all angles, and determined that I was letting my ego get the better of me.  I don’t know why the secretary reacted as she did rather than politely notify me what the school policy on this was but it was a mistake for me to assume that she was judging me.  It felt that way to me but feelings aren’t always facts and it’s presumptuous for me to think I know what goes on in someone else’s mind.

But I do know what goes on in my own mind.  It’s so easy to get stuck in ego and convince ourselves that it’s about the principle of the matter!  This is why I had to think so much about this, to clarify what this interaction of less than five minutes was honestly about for me.

You know what?  It wasn’t about the cell phone policy.  It was about me being resentful that I was judged unfairly.

Fear of judgment and ego.  A bad combination to make decisions from.

I didn’t cancel the next interview, so dd will continue the interview and testing process.  Perhaps she’ll be accepted, maybe not.  Maybe she’ll be accepted and decide she would rather attend a different school, maybe not.  I’m open to accepting whatever the outcome is, because I’m taking my ego out of the driver’s seat of my decision making and leaving the final result up to G-d.

Avivah

All Lives Matter – Karen Gaffney

Earlier this year a friend told me she cried when she found out that Yirmiyahu had Down syndrome.  I asked her why?  After all, I didn’t cry.  “Because it was so hard.”

That’s what I would have thought before I learned about Trisomy 21, too, but it’s not the reality.  That’s a perspective based on very limited information that isn’t globally applicable.  No, I don’t have the amazingly sunny personality that enables me to see bad things as good things – I’m a very realistic person.  Reality is what a friend of mine with a daughter with T21 told me several years before Yirmiyahu was born: “Down syndrome is just not that big a deal.”

I know it’s hard to believe.   Yes, people with Trisomy 21 do have challenges but they also are capable of far more than what is generally assumed to be true.  Learning this as a mother of a very new infant with T21 gave me an entirely different perspective and vision.

Below is a talk by T21 advocate Karen Gaffney.  Karen herself has T21.  Hearing Karen speak is such an encouragement to me and in the TED talk below I think you’ll also appreciate what she has to say.

Avivah

A radical parenting concept – stop trying to control your kids!

Today I had several conversations about the long term dangers of using control as an educational/motivational method – one with a young adult in the midst of experiencing this, one with the parent of high school aged daughters, and one with the mother of a nineteen year old who is choosing a different life path than his parents.

Control is when someone tries to impose his will upon someone else to get a desired outcome.  It’s very commonly used and sadly, is too commonly taught to parents.

Trying to control your child is an approach to human interactions that makes behavior more important than relationship and works against a child’s best interests in a number of ways.  It undermines the development of intrinsic motivation by suppressing a sense of competence and autonomy.

In simple words, you take away a person’s desire to act in the way you want without you being on top of them.  When you try to control someone, they react by either resentfully submitting to your will or with visible defiance.

controlling parent

I’m going to be speaking in various locations in the coming weeks and while the specifics of each talk will vary somewhat, the common thread underlying each presentation will be the discussion of the most important factors in raising/educating a child.  (**I have an opening to speak in Tzfat on July 27 or 28 – if this is something you would like to help set up, please be in touch with me!**)

Too often, parents and teachers want to know how to get a child to behave, but they don’t realize that they need to approach a child in a way that support his long term growth. This is unfamiliar to many of us and we resort to what we already know, using techniques that seem to give us fast and good results.  But short cuts in parenting almost always backfire and create long term detours.

The most effective thing a parent can do is take time to learn how to support a child, how to connect with him and how to appropriately create healthy boundaries.  It’s not easy but it’s worth the time spent learning and applying a new paradigm to get real results that will last a lifetime.

Avivah

Guess who’s turning three?!

Guess who’s turning three?

Close your eyes and guess!

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Can it be?

"Yes, its ME!"

“Yes, it’s ME!!

There are a lot of words the doctors used when they told us about Yirmiyahu’s Trisomy 21 diagnosis.

Most of them were sad.  And depressing.  And limiting.

There wasn’t one word that intimated to how our lives would be enriched.  Not one hint that he would be smart, capable and personable.

There was just one thing I remember them saying that was accurate:  “How your child develops depends very much on how much you invest in him.”

Do you know what it means to invest in your child?

Love him as every other child.

Yirmi falling asleep on ds16

Yirmi falling asleep on ds16

Include him as every other child.

Yirmi with ds6, ds7 and ds9

Yirmi with ds6, ds7 and ds9

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Believe in him as  any other child.

Yirmi learning on the computer

Yirmi learning on the computer

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Did we ever guess what joy was going to become a daily part of our life when this little boy was born?

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Even if they had told us we wouldn’t have believed them.

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Sometimes words are just inadequate.

Avivah