Monthly Archives: December 2015

Being treated to fresh bagels by ds9

No, I haven’t fallen off the other side of the world!  My evenings lately have been full with attending the weddings of friends’ children, doing parenting consultations and getting to sleep at a reasonable hour – all of which has limited my writing time here.

My mom arrived for a visit today and for dinner ds9 put together a bagel spread in honor of her coming.

A few weeks ago I was given a stack of Hebrew language magazines that I gave to him, and he discovered that each one had a recipe.  He started by making baguettes (by himself), then asked if he could make bagels.  I thought that was a bit ambitious for a nine year old relatively new to baking to do on his own, but since I try to give my kids support in doing something that interests them I told him he was welcome to go ahead.

He impressed us all and did an amazing job.  They were delicious!  (And when ds16 was home for Chanuka vacation and wanted to make bagels, he turned to ds9 when he had a question on proper procedure – which ds9 answered with forced patience.  :))

Then I found wheat berries at the store and that coincided with someone bringing me the part for the electric grain grinder that has been unusable for a looong time… and for the first time since we left the US in August 2011, we had freshly ground whole wheat flour!

Ds9 has made bagels at least once a week in the last month (which makes us all happy – who wouldn’t be glad to have fresh bagels for lunch or dinner?), and told my mother that he planned to make some for her when she came to visit.  Today he went shopping with me to get additional ingredients he wanted – sesame seeds and dehydrated onions to top the bagels, sliced cheese, cream cheese and hummus as options for the filling.

When we got home, he got busy grinding flour, and decided to make the bagels a mix of white and whole wheat flour since he said it would make the texture better than just whole wheat alone.  It did.

Then he set the table for dinner, put out fresh vegetables, spreads and of course, a stack of his freshly made bagels.  And then…it was amusing how quickly everyone came to the table once he announced dinner was ready.   :)

I looked over at one point and noticed ds3 eating what looked like everyone else’s very non-gluten free bagels.  When we went shopping, we had bought him gluten-free rolls and ds9 said he could cut a hole from the center so ds3 would feel he was eating a bagel like everyone else.  But what I saw on his plate was most decidedly not the gluten-free rolls that I bought.

Ds3 likes to eat what everyone else is having and sometimes will sneak some bread if he can, and I thought maybe without anyone realizing he had taken a regular bagel.  I asked about it and ds9 told me it was gluten-free.  I wondered aloud how that was possible since it wasn’t the bread I bought.

Ds9 told me he made bagels out of coconut flour and topped them with dehydrated onions so that ds3 would have bagels that looked the same as everyone else’s.  Wasn’t that thoughtful?  (Don’t ask me how he knew how to make a gluten free bagel, I think he made it up!)



How to trust yourself – listening to your inner voice instead of everyone else

I recently received the following question from a reader, and it’s one that many parents have verbalized to me over the years:

dollarphotoclub_85640637[1]>>”How does one come to access, acknowledge and act on ones own intuition?! and make a habit of doing so?! I would really like to hear your say on this! There are so many of us parents who mean well and sense that there must be a better way, but just can’t take that gargantuan leap to access, acknowledge and act on our own intuition.”<<

I’ll rephrase this the question.  How do you trust yourself and your own sense of what is right to do, when those around you are making different choices and the unspoken (or spoken!) message to you is that you would be wrong to do something different?

There’s not a guide for “Take these 3 easy steps and you, too, can trust yourself no matter what others are telling you!

It takes courage to recognize what your heart is telling you.  It takes courage to recognize the gap between what you really want in your life and what you have.  And it takes enormous, enormous courage to then take actions based on what your heart is telling you.


It’s not easy.  Most of us have been trained to look to others on the outside to give us validation and tell us that we’re okay, that we’re enough, that our choices are the right choices.  There’s a metamessage that we live with – if we do what everyone else does, we’ll be safe and have a good life.

When you begin to consider making choices that are different from those around you, you’re suddenly deprived of something that has given you emotional oxygen your entire life – the tacit or active approval  of your friends, family or society.

It’s seductive, that approval.  To act in the absence of the approval we’ve come to depend on will trigger many fears. Fears…

Fear – of being different, of making a colossal mistake, of resulting financial instability.

Insecurity – if no one else does this, how I can even think of trying it?

Compliance – if everyone I respect doesn’t make this choice (religious leaders, parent advisors, educational professionals, child care experts), then it must be wrong.

These fears can be overwhelming.  The fears seem very real and your inner heart’s desire seems very puny in comparison.  And that’s why so many people live a life that is determined by their fears rather than what is truly important to them.

You begin by recognizing the fear and looking at what’s keeping you in fear.  Having the validation of others doesn’t make you okay.  It doesn’t keep you safe, and it won’t make you happy.

You can challenge your fears both intellectually and emotionally. You can fill your mind with positive thoughts, put up inspiring quotes, write affirmations of your self-worth.

You can look at the choices you’ve made in the past that have brought you satisfaction and joy even if it meant pursuing a different path than others.

You can look for mentors, live or virtual, who have some quality that you value and give you encouragement to make the choice that is close to your heart.

I’ve done all of these things.  But what has been the most powerful and helpful approach for me, is to become centered within myself so I can connect to what G-d wants of me.


I believe we have each been created with a soul that remains connected to its divine source at all times.  The soul’s voice is drowned out by the louder voices of living.  But it knows the answers and if you can connect to your soul, you can connect to the true answers.

When I have a question about what I should be doing I try to get very quiet inside myself and ask G-d: what do You want me to do?  Is this the right thing for me to do at this time?  Is it the right way to go about this at this time?

When I do this, it becomes very clear what the voices of fear are and what are the voices that I should listen to.  It’s not always what I expect.

I can – and do! – get very intellectual in my thoughts but that’s not the place that I can access inner wisdom from.  It’s powerful to be open to Divine perspective and take action from a place of inner spiritual alignment.

Listening to your intuition is like using a muscle.  When it’s inactive for a long time, trusting yourself even with something small is hard.  You build that spiritual muscle by starting with the small things.  When you start with the biggest life decisions it’s overwhelming because your spiritual muscles are so out of use and the fear seems so real!

One action at a time, one choice at a time.  You’ll find plenty of small opportunities in a day to practice listening to your inner voice.

As you start to make those little choices from a centered place of self-trust, you begin to create a positive cycle.  The more you listen to yourself and take action based on self-trust, the stronger you feel and the easier it is to make the next decision that comes along.


How to stop being your own worst enemy and transform challenge into opportunity

hopeless[1]Sometimes life feels very bleak.  A blog reader contacted me yesterday and asked me to point her to something I’ve written, something from someone else, anything…to help her deal with the crushing life circumstances she’s facing right now.

I don’t know what I’ve written in the past that will be helpful.  I don’t know if what I write now will be helpful. But I’ll share some of my own process with you in the hope it will help someone else.

Everyone goes through hard times and most people are struggling to some degree on a regular basis.  We don’t see what others are experiencing and they may have a sunny exterior that fools us.  We’re all living through difficulties and sometimes the unfairness of what we’re experiencing can be overwhelming.  We may think it’s easier for others to deal with things because they’re blessed with gifts that we don’t have in our lives.  But it’s a lie.

I’ve always thought I was an honest person.  But I’ve come to realize that I tell myself a lot of lies. If your mind is filled with negativity about yourself, others or the world in general, then you’re lying to yourself, too.

Here’s some of the lies we tell ourselves: “I’m not enough.  I can’t.  It’s too much for me.  Others are luckier than me.  It’s not fair.  If only I had a loving husband, well-behaved kids, a higher income, been raised by emotionally healthy parents ….then my life would be fine.”

Maybe you’ll say, “Avivah, it IS true.  That’s what my reality is.  Don’t tell me I’m lying to myself and don’t expect me to deny my feelings.”

I can’t tell anyone else what the lies they tell themselves are.  For me, my thoughts of fear and scarcity kept me safe – safe from having to be more or do more. That felt safe. It was like Dr. Laura says about a toddler with a dirty diaper who doesn’t want to be changed – it stinks but it’s warm and it’s mine.

We move into adulthood and we’re like big toddlers – we hold onto our pain and stinking thinking because it’s familiar and it scares us to death to think of moving away from that.

I’ve had a challenging month and last week was an especially intense and emotionally challenging time for me.  As someone said, it was like “the gates of poop opened up” on me.  That was a nice way to put it – it felt much worse than that.

But you know what ?  It’s okay.  It really is.  It’s more than okay.  There’s no question that G-d is orchestrating something powerful in my life by sending me so much challenge from so many angles all at once.   The question is about what each of us chooses to do when faced with a potential opportunity like this.

Last week I heard a speaker say, “Where you stumble (struggle) is where you find gold.”  I’m coming to deeply believe that.

But what do you do with the pain?  With the agony?  With feelings of rejection or unworthiness or being unloved or persecuted or whatever else you’re feeling?

This isn’t something I can speak to from a place of having resolved this once and for all.  It’s something I come back to daily.

It’s a balance – to honor your own feelings and feel the pain – but not get lost in the pain.   To be honest about what your needs are, and then make taking care of your needs a priority – without wallowing in self-pity.  And to continually turn to a loving G-d to reconnect to your true value, and trust that this is all being done for your ultimate good.

Here’s a beautiful and inspiring talk that I found so powerful and so true, by someone born with no limbs.

If you’re going through a hard time, be kind to yourself.  Don’t push yourself too hard.  Recognize that invisible challenges take up a huge amount of emotional space and give yourself as much space and compassion as you can to get through.

Focus on love – starting with loving yourself as you are right this minute.  Yes, loving your hurting, messy, imperfect self – and know that there’s no such thing as you being inadequate.  When you hear the voices that tell you lies about who you are and what you can do, remind yourself: “I am enough right now, as I am.  I am  enough.”


You really are.  And that’s the truth.


Lighting a candle in the darkness – light up someone else’s life today!

candle_light[1]Years ago my family was travelling from NY to MD and we stopped at a highway rest stop to give everyone a break.  While we were there, we noticed a young mother with two little kids sipping a cup of coffee.  Somehow I started talking to her (my kids don’t know how I end up talking to people wherever we go but that’s how I am!) and she shared that she was headed for home but was so tired that she was worried about driving safely – hence the coffee.

When I learned that she lived in the same general area that we did, I had a powwow with my husband.  He had been driving the first half of the four hour drive so that I could sleep and we planned that I would drive the second half while he rested – this rest stop was halfway through and where we were going to switch places.

I told him about this young mother and asked him if he felt able to drive the rest of the way home.  He said he did. I asked him how he would feel about me offering to drive her home in her car, and he said he thought it would be a good idea if the woman agreed.

Having gotten dh’s okay on this, I approached the young mother.  I told her I was headed in the same direction and would be happy to drive her family in her car if she would find that helpful.  She very gratefully agreed. (I’m a pretty safe looking person, especially since she saw me with my van full of kids.  :))

I told her she could sleep on the way home, but we ended up chatting the entire 1.5 – 2 hour drive.  It was a pleasant drive.  I never saw her again – I don’t remember her name and wouldn’t recognize her face.

Sometimes we have a chance to do something for someone else, something that’s big for us and big for them.  Sometimes it isn’t so big for us but is big for them.  Sometimes it’s something small for someone that is small for us.  It doesn’t matter how huge or how insignificant what you do may seem to be – it all makes the world a kinder and more loving place.

I’ve tried to teach my children to keep an eye out for ways to help others, even if those people have no idea you’re doing something for them.  I don’t generally mention the ways I try to help others I casually encounter – but I do sometimes mention it to my younger children and I involve them when appropriate.

Doing something nice for others is surprisingly easy to do, once you open your eyes.  It doesn’t have to be something big.  Smiling at someone as you pass them, reaching a high shelf at the store to get something for a shorter customer, making a kind comment to a mother whose child is publicly tantruming, offering a ride to someone waiting at a bus stop or whose car has broken down on the side of the road, clearing an elderly neighbor’s walkway or windshield of snow before it turns to ice – there are so many ways to do a good turn for someone else.  And it feels really good!

I think of all of these actions as lighting candles in the darkness.  In the darkness, it
seems like one tiny flame won’t make much of a difference.  But one little candle can dispel a lot of darkness.  When people have thanked me and asked me what they could do for me, I suggest they pass it on by doing something for someone else when they’re in a position to do so. Then one candle lights another and then another and a huge amount of light can be created.  All beginning from one little action.


Here’s a new Chanukah music video by Ari Goldwag that I enjoyed watching with my kids.  You’ll see the connection to what I shared when you watch the video!

It’s almost Chanukah, the Festival of Lights – it’s not a coincidence that this holiday takes place when the days are shortest and there’s more physical darkness than at any other time of year.

What can you do to light up someone else’s life?