The S.T.U.C.K. Method

Five Simple Steps to Emotional Well-Being


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Stuck on: How Dare You Turn Me Down!

Hands down,  the community I live in is quite amazing when it comes to community support.

When one family is in need, another family is there is to support them.

Whether the family is celebrating (a new baby, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a wedding, a new home) or is in mourning (the loss of a loved one) or is struggling (the husband is in reserves for the month, the loss of a job, the lack of finding a job, sudden illness), the community is there to help in various ways.

One way is by providing meals to one another.

Seeing this as a good deed, I typically volunteer whenever possible.

And although I typically don’t make big efforts with meal preparation during the week for my own family, when it comes to opportunities like these, I do make efforts.

Recently there was a call for help, I signed up to prepare a meal.

I came up with a menu in my mind, went food shopping, and spent a couple of good hours in the kitchen preparing my meal for this family:

French onion soup,

Home-made sourdough bread,

bayit l'zayitBayit l’zayit (miniature rolls with olives tucked inside),

and a salad.

You can say it was a pretty nice meal.

And as I always do, I contacted the family mid-day to ask what time would be good for me to bring the meal over.

I wrote a text, but was surprised to receive the following response:

“We’ll pass this time.”

What?

Did I miss something here?

Am I misunderstanding the Hebrew?

So, I wrote back:

“Sorry, I don’t understand.”

The response in return was, “We really have plenty of food. Thanks anyway.”

What?

Thanks anyway?

Do you know how much time and energy I put into this meal?

Do you know that it’s not very nice of you to do this?

Do you know you have no right to turn me away?

I’m trying to do a good deed, for Heaven’s sake!

I felt myself getting worked up about it and recognized I was stuck.

So, I stopped.

Closed my eyes, took a deep breath and let out a long exhalation.

I told myself that I was stuck on disappointment.

I looked at my beliefs, but then checked their accuracy.

How would this person have any idea how much time and energy I put into preparing this meal?

Who’s to say what rights this person has? If she wants to turn me away, that’s her right.

And then I considered, maybe our community has been overly generous and this family has received too much food to know what to do with?

I also considered that had the recipient known I had gone into all this effort to make this elaborate meal, she wouldn’t have turned me away.  She probably would have found something to do with all the food.

I considered writing to this person and gently expressing my sorrow that I couldn’t bring over the meal I had already prepared. In addition, I pushed myself to consider to tell her I look forward to hosting them sometime in the near future.

I considered I don’t always have to make such elaborate meals for community members and if I were to keep things simple, I wouldn’t necessarily have been so disappointed as I was.

Finally, I considered spontaneously inviting another family to dinner with all the extra food I had anyway.

I chose to invite another family for dinner (which ended up being a terrific and fun night!) and writing to the receiver that although they couldn’t enjoy the meal I had already made, I look forward to sharing a meal with them soon.

She responded apologetically and expressed regret for not realizing the meal was already made.

We both expressed gratitude towards one another and moved on.

No harm done.

I got stuck on disappointment, but it’s OK. I moved passed it quite quickly, thank God, and no rip was created in our relationship.  In fact, if anything, the back and forth text messages only strengthened our relationship.

And then I woke up the next morning and sat down to work.

And looked at my calendar.

And noticed that I was set to prepare a meal for this family exactly a week later than I had originally thought.

Oy, Shira!

So, of course, I texted to my friend, “You’ll never believe what happened….”

And she wrote back, “What a relief! I was feeling so badly the whole night…..”

And the communication ended with happy face emoticons going out to each recipient.

And we all lived happily ever after.

Life should be so easy.

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Stuck on It’s YOUR Fault!

Monday afternoons are challenging for me.

I drive my kids to various extra-curricular activities, drop one kid off here, drop another kid off there, do a food shop in between, pick one kid up and then pick the other kid up and then finally head home.

It’s quite exhausting and by the time we return home it’s nearly 7 pm.

When I walk into the house with my packages, it’s never quite clear if my other two children, who stayed home with my husband, ate dinner or not.

Last night, I came home famished and noticed there was no dinner on the table.

I asked my husband if he could make a salad which he generously agreed to.

As I was putting the groceries away, I heard my husband tell the kids the salad was ready, but no one came to the island to eat.

“I don’t think anyone wants to eat,” he said to me.

“Great,” I responded. “A quiet dinner just the two of us.”

We just started eating when our five-year old approached the island and started bouncing up and down yelling, “I want salad! I want salad!”

“OK,” I responded, “So sit down!”

But, he kept bouncing.

20160216_063551 - CopyAnd then inadvertently hit his head on the corner of the island.

Agh!

He started to scream.

And so did I.

I turned to my husband and whined, “Why did you say the kids don’t want to eat?”

Dumbfounded, he responded defensively, “What’s the connection between whether or not the kids came to the table and the fact that Amir just hit his head? Are you trying to blame me for Amir getting hurt?”

Feeling the situation escalating, I responded in an extremely calm voice, “You don’t need to yell at me.”

“But, why do you do that?” he continued to insist.

And all during this exchange, our son was still screaming and receiving no attention.

So, I turned to him, gave him some ice and a big hug.

He calmed down within seconds, climbed up to his bar stool, and began eating.

But, my husband and I weren’t done with the scene.

“Can we talk about what just happened?” my husband initiated.

“No, I’d rather not talk right now,” I replied.

“Well, I’d like to talk about it,” he insisted.

Frustrated with his insistence, I stopped and quickly thought about it. I told myself I was stuck on frustration. I uncovered one belief: Because my husband did not insist that all our children come to the table, Amir hit his head. I checked on my belief and realized it wasn’t 100% accurate. In fact, it was far from the truth.  I considered that the incident had absolutely nothing to do with whether or not my husband insisted our children eat with us and I considered I was wrong for blaming my husband for it.

“Look. I got stuck. I’m sorry. Can we move on with our lives?” I pleaded.

“Ah. An apology. It’s all I wanted to hear,” he said.

Hmph.

And then I began to cry right into my bowl of salad.

Not because of my husband’s behavior, but because I was mad at myself when, in the heat of the moment, I forgot to pause.

To stop immediately when I get triggered.

Then I remembered I forgot “K”.

So, in that moment, I held myself in compassion and told myself that it was OK I got stuck on frustration in the first place and that while I have the best intentions to slow down my lightning fast reactivity, I don’t always succeed because I’m not perfect.

With that, I became grateful my husband accepted my apology and grateful for having the tools to be able to get unstuck and move on with my life and with mindful well-being.


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Stuck on We Need a Little Orange in Our House

On Sunday night, I facilitated a S.T.U.C.K. workshop.

We met in a friend’s home on the kibbutz and convened in her living room around the wood-burning stove.

20160120_172722I happen to love meeting in this person’s house.

The environment is cozy, welcoming, and warm.

When the workshop ended and the participants left, I found myself lingering.

As the host and I chit-chatted, I mentioned how much I enjoy sitting in her living room.

Comparing her house to mine, I mentioned that there’s something about my home that just feels cold.

I mean, I know, it’s winter. It’s cold.

But, I mean the overall ambience of our house, specifically our living room feels cold having nothing to do with the temperature outside.

20160119_200943She responded, “Well, sure, you’re house is mostly in the blues. You need some more earthy colors to warm it up.  You need to add some orange.”

Yet, of course, orange. That’s what I need.

So, the next day I measured our windows and while out food shopping, I stopped at a home decor store and picked up some peachy colored curtains for our living room.

I thought it would be perfect for our house and that it would really warm up the living room and make it feel more cozy.

Tonight after dinner, I took the package of curtains and walked into the living room.

My husband asked me what was in the package.

“Well, you know, I was thinking. Our living room feels a little off-balanced color-wise. I think we need some orange and…”

“What about the red yoga mat on the floor?” he interrupted sarcastically.

Huh?

What the heck is he talking about?

What does a yoga mat have to do with anything?

Is my husband for real?

He had no idea what was in the package in my arms.

It could have been artwork.

It could have been a tablecloth.

It could have been a lampshades.

And yet he was being so negative!

He had no idea what I was going to say, but he did know that we didn’t need it.

God I hate when he does that.

But, I stopped.

I took a deep breath.

He’s triggering me again.

And I’m not gonna get triggered.

I think I can. I think I can.

I ignored my husband’s comic remark and went on with checking if these curtains would look good in the living room.

I took them out of the package and held them up to the windows.

But, he continued. “We don’t need curtains. Why are you being so stubborn? They’ll cover up the sun and light that comes through from the southern windows which we really enjoy. And curtains don’t even fit on bay windows. How do you think people are going to be able to sit there if curtains will be hanging on top of the seat?”

Hmph.

I was so stuck on frustration.

And my daughter noticed my frustrated face.

She came up to me and acknowledged my efforts. She told me she loved the curtains and she thanked me for caring about what our house looks like.

I love my daughter.

But, stuck, I knew I needed to “stop” again.

I left the scene.

I took out my S.T.U.C.K. workbook and walked into one of my kid’s rooms.

I sat down on the bed and started to process.

I wrote down my beliefs about this story and came up with new considerations.

But the time I reached “K”, I already felt the situation was resolved and that I was ready to move on.

And then, my husband walked into the room and sat down next to me.

He put his arm around me and apologized for speaking to me the way he did.

Thank God for my daughter. 

At least he listens to her!

Then, he looked over at my pad and paper and said, “What’s this?”

And he read out loud:

20160119_200654“Emotion – Frustration.”

“Is this about me?” he asked.

“He never listens,” he continued to read.

Which brought a smile to his face.

“He always interrupts.”

He started to giggle.

“He’s cheap.”

“Why am I cheap? I’m not cheap!” he said emphatically.

“He doesn’t care about, about… what does this say? I can’t read your handwriting. Oh, aesthetics.”

He let out a guffaw.

Which made me laugh in return.

And together, we couldn’t stop laughing.

It was really a funny moment.

Probably one of the funniest moments we’ve had together in a long time.

He tried to read my chicken scratch of considerations, but he couldn’t make them out.

It didn’t matter that I wrote that maybe he was right that the curtains wouldn’t fit on a bay window, or that orange curtains won’t necessarily make me happier, or that I just caught him by surprise (which made him stuck!) and that we could actually move on with my curtain idea as long as we discussed it together – like a partnership.

I chose one of those considerations and got out of the muck.

And for me, the cherry on top was, he apologized!

There is a God!

I got stuck on desire.

It happens.

I often times get stuck on believing that my desires will lead to happiness, but after processing through them I’m able to see the broader picture.

That desires are impermanent and that they cannot bring me to happier place than I already am.

Because happiness is something that comes from within.


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Stuck on a Double Whammy

Last week was winter vacation from school in Israel.

In the past few years, I filled each day of vacation with some sort of fun family-packed event for my kids such as hikes, museums, and festivals. And, as a member of the Israeli National Park system, I’ve been taking my kids to as many as those historical and archeological sites as possible.

And these vacation days are great times to do just that.

But this year, with the recent rise of terrorism and the near-death accident we were in a few weeks ago, I kind of wanted to keep a low profile for the week.

In fact, I didn’t really want to leave the house at all.

I kind of just wanted to sit home and work on writing my book, to be honest.

So, we didn’t go anywhere.

On the first day of vacation, my boys jumped out of bed at dawn (my teenage daughter sleeps in) and screamed, “No school! Yippee!”

They danced around the living room and did hula hoops in their pajamas.

(Makes me kind of wonder, “Is school really that bad?”)

Anyway, after a few more hurrahs and a quick breakfast, the kids asked, “So, what are we doing today?”

“Uh, nothing?” I responded.

“Why?” they quickly retorted.

“Well, because,” I stammered, “we have no plans for this vacation.”

“So, what are we supposed to do?”

Oy vey!

“I don’t know,” I grumbled.

“Find something to do. Play a game. Clean your room. Practice your guitar. Go for a walk.”

They all looked at me quizzically.

Apparently those were not good ideas.

And they had a better one.

Like wrestling on the floor.

Because what else do three young boys do with their free time?

And, in the meantime, I turned on the computer and started compiling the blog posts that would go under the chapter in my book named “Stuck on Desire”.

But, the wrestling only lasted for about ten minutes because invariably one of the kids got hurt in the head.

“It was his fault!” one said.

“But, he started!” the other griped.

“Now what can we do?” they whined.

“We’re bored!” they moaned.

Starting to lose my patience, I responded, “Go up to the basketball court. And don’t forget to take your ball!”

“But, no one is there!” they continued to whine.

“Everyone is on vacation!  Except for us!”

Guilt trip.

“Can we go on the computer?”

“NO! You cannot go on the computer at 8 AM.  You can go on the computer in the afternoon and you know each of your has a time limit on it anyway. GO. FIND. SOMETHING. TO. DO!”

And as for me, back to writing.

Now, what was I thinking about a minute ago?

Sh*t.

I lost it.

And it was such a good thought!

Agh.

And so went my vacation.

I got frustrated with my kids.

And frustrated that I was stuck home with them.

And stuck on wanting to anything other than be stuck in the house with them.

I just wanted to write.

And in the between my kids’ screaming and hollering and whining, I found myself going to the kitchen.

Mindless EatingFor a handful of this and a handful of that.

A latke here.

A jelly doughnut there.

And somehow, between trying to find something for these kids to do and writing down a fragment in my book, I kept returning to the kitchen.

Apparently, all I wanted to do was eat!

I must have been so hungry!

At one point, I almost ate the entire refrigerator!

It was obvious I was stuck on a desire to eat.

Or was there something more hiding behind that?

Somehow the morning passed and in the afternoon when the kids sat down for computer time, I went to my bedroom, lay on my yoga mat, and focused on my breath.

One inhalation, one exhalation.

Two inhalation, two exhalation.

The thought of, “Get off this mat, Shira, and go down for some hot chocolate,” came to mind a few times.

Three inhalation, three exhalation.

My belly felt full.

Overfull.

Which is when I realized that I wasn’t even hungry at all.

And, I wasn’t even hungry then.

All those times that I kept returning to the kitchen for more food wasn’t out of true hunger.

I was eating out of some other emotion.

And it dawned on me that I was eating out of my unsatisfied desire for wanting to work.

(Yes, the irony.  Most people in this world are seeking vacation and here I am desiring to work.)

Four inhalation, four exhalation.

I did a progressive relaxation exercise throughout my body.

And noticed my furrowed eyebrows.

Which I released.

I thought about the concept of needing to work on this book.

And how my kids are just taking away from that precious time.

Five inhalation, five exhalation.

I considered that I don’t really need to work on this book right now.

It can wait.

But my kids can’t.

They’re growing up before my eyes and now is the time to be with them.

After a few more breaths, I got up from my mat and reunited with my kids.

“Who wants to go wall climbing?” I asked.

“Me! Me! Me! Me!” they cried. (My daughter woke up by then.)

And so, we did.

I was reluctant to get into the car, but I did so anyway because my kids were anxious to wall climb.

And, I wanted to be with them.

I got stuck on desire (twice!), but it’s OK.

I am grateful I was able to see past both of them, save my body from any more harm that I already caused it, and savor the rest of the vacation with my kids.


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STUCK on You Did What To Your New Closet??

Today I woke up with an itch to clean the house.

Maybe it’s because I’ve kind of neglected my house over the past few weeks.

Maybe it’s because today is the first day of winter school break, I have no work and I have no activities planned for the kids today.

So, when I woke up, I straight away started to pick up and clean up.

Call me crazy, but that’s what I was doing at 6 AM.

And my two youngest children who were watching me got excited to join in.

(Because who said kids know how to sleep past 6 AM when it’s vacation? And who said kids don’t like to clean the house during their winter break from school?)

“Can we help?” they screamed.

“Uh, sure,” take these cloths and start dusting.

And off they went.

They dusted my bedroom.

They dusted the dining room.

They washed down the front of the refrigerator and the pantry closet.

“What next?” they asked eagerly.

“Uh, your room?” I suggested.

“Why don’t you check out the status of your room? Pick up the clothes off of the floor. Make your beds. You know, just clean up.”

And, off they went.

Two eager beavers.

It was a wonderful sight to see.

Because it doesn’t happen too often.

Or ever.

As I went to wash the dishes, I sung some morning prayers to myself and reminded myself how blessed I am.

I finished the dishes and called the kids over for breakfast.

When they finished eating, I told them to get dressed and I would take them to the playground.

When I cleaned up the breakfast table and did the dishes again (I do the dishes approximately 15 times a day), one of my children called from his room because he needed some help getting dressed.

“Sure, here I come,” I said with a hop and skip.

I looked at my 4-year-old son who was only half dressed.

“How can I help you?”

And then I looked at the floor to ceiling custom-made closet in their bedroom.

The beige one.

The new one.

Coloring on the ClosetThe one with fresh red crayon drawn all over it.

“What is this?” I screamed.

My youngest pointed to my 3rd child and said blamingly, “He told me to do it.”

“What?” I asked, looking at my 3rd child.

“Why would you tell him to color on your closet?”

“Because the closet was clean,” he responded slowly and innocently.

Clean? What are you talking about?” I was dumbstruck.

“Well,” he continued, “I couldn’t clean the front of the closet because it was already clean.  So, we put crayon on it so that we could clean it up.”

I looked at him incredulously.

Did I just hear what I thought I heard?

Is this kid for real?

Furious, I yelled, “Well, clean it up! We are not leaving this house until all of that red is off!” and stormed out of their room.

The audacity!

The chutzpah!

What was he thinking?

Why would he do that?

And in that moment, I had a flashback.

Going back to about 1980 when I was about seven years old.

When my younger brother and I colored on the white walls of the living room in the house I grew up.

With crayon.

Lots of them.

(Though, I don’t think we did it because the walls were looking too clean.  I think I told him to join me because the walls were looking too plain to me. They needed a bit of decorating for my taste.)

Anyway, I won’t ever forget that.

Because I remember getting yelled at.

And not quite understanding what I did that was so terrible.

And I also remember having to clean it up.

IMMEDIATELY!

Yikes!

Back to here.

Stuck on anger with my son.

And I didn’t want to stay stuck on anger with him.

So, I processed.

*****

S. Stop. I stopped and took a deep breath.

T. Tell. I was stuck on anger. I felt it in my face.

U. Uncover. I believed that my kids should know by this age (4 and 7) that coloring on the walls is not acceptable and it’s not an option.

C. Consider. I considered that my son really had no bad intentions. I considered that, as they were in the process of coloring, my son really believed he would be able to remove it easily with his rag, just as he was successful in cleaning up the rest of the house. I considered that they were just being creative, and creativity is something I honor and encourage in my kids. I considered that my sons felt badly and wrong for what they did. I considered, “What’s really the big deal? It’s just a closet.”

I went back into his room and witnessed the two boys working quite hard at getting that color off.

They were giggling while they worked.

My frown turned into a smile.

I told my sons that I was sorry that I yelled at them.

I told them I just reacted automatically in the moment.

And I reminded them we only color on paper, not furniture.

K. OK. I got stuck on anger and it’s ok.  Processing through it helped me notice how I react automatically sometimes and it created space for an apology that I needed to say and that my kids needed to hear.

It also helped remind me that my kids and I don’t always think alike.


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STUCK on I Despise Jogging!

As a kid, I used to exercise a lot.

But, I didn’t call it that.

I called it playing out in the backyard,

or dancing in the basement,

or playing basketball,

or fishing for pennies at the bottom of a pool.

I certainly never called those things exercise.

They weren’t things I had to do.

I did them because they were fun!

Because that’s what kids do!

And no matter what form of so-called exercise I did, I was in heaven when I was in it.

I loved the feeling of sweating.

I loved the high of getting my heart rate up.

I loved the feeling afterwards of being tired and hungry.

*****

I live on a small kibbutz in the middle of nowhere, with no gym nearby (where I would otherwise swim and take yoga classes).  And, I can’t exactly say I feel uninhibited enough to just go outside and play on the playground alongside the other kibbutz kids.

(Which I kind of feel like doing some days.)

Therefore, I feel limited with my exercise options (because yoga, while I’m passionate about it, doesn’t do the same for me as aerobic exercise does – even though I do maintain somewhat of a yoga practice).

exercise shoesSo, I took up jogging a few years ago.

Because I had to choose something to get my heart rate up.

But I hated every minute of it.

I hated putting on running shoes.

I hated being cold when I went outside at 5:30 AM and then having to strip down to a tank top when I got hot and then having to carry my sweatshirt while attempting to failing to jog up and down hills.

And I hated realizing how little time I could actually jog without stopping.

(It was like 8 minutes tops.)

So, I took up walking.

Which, with captivating podcasts to listen to (thank you, On Being and the Israel Hour!), I found enjoyable.

I cherished the stillness at dawn,

the majestic view of the surrounding mountains and water,

and saying good morning to the horses and cows.

But, it wasn’t enough.

I wasn’t getting my heart rate up enough and I wasn’t sweating.

It wasn’t elevating my mood.

I mean, maybe it could’ve been enough, if I had pushed myself.

But, at that point, why not just go back to jogging?

Because I despise jogging!

With a passion!

And I’m frustrated that I have no other options!

**************

It dawned on me that I was stuck on all of this while watching my daughter passionately dance around in the living room the other day (she does this several times a week) with her favorite music accompanying her in the background.

It is obvious that when she dances, she’s in heaven.

Just like I was when I was a kid.

Hm…………

20151026_050542

Stop. And take a breath.

T Tell.  I’m feeling frustrated that I don’t have a regular exercise program that I enjoy.

UUncover. Why are my beliefs?  I believe that there is no other effective way to exercise on this kibbutz besides running and jogging. I believe exercising is a necessary part of mental and physical well-being.  I believe exercising should be fun. I believe we are not meant to suffer in this world.  I believe I shouldn’t despise the exercise I am doing. I believe that if I despise the exercise I’m doing, I won’t keep at it. I believe jogging is boring and not very motivating.

C

Consider.  I can challenge myself by considering that there is another way of exercising on this kibbutz; that I can find a way that is actually fun; that dancing could be that way.  I could consider finding a dance class nearby; that dancing in my living room, just like my daughter, could be something I can take on; I could consider dancing with friends and even hold regular dance parties on my roof (though, my neighbors may not agree). I could consider dancing while taking breaks from work. (Don’t worry, I work from home. No one’s looking.) I could consider dancing while cleaning the house, cooking, and more.

So, I chose to dance.

I just put on YouTube one day, searched for Latin music (my favorite), cleared the living room, and started dancing. (I even closed my eyes at one point and pretended I was being led and turned in inconceivable ways by some professional dancer from “Dancing with the Stars”!  Arriba!!!)

And there I was.

Sweating.

And getting my heart rate up.

And enjoying every minute.

Unbelievable.

How did I not think of this before?

And I said to myself that it’s oK that I got stuck on despising jogging.  Look what came of it! K


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STUCK on a Baby’s Name

No.  Not mine, thank you very much.

Been there.

Done that.

I’m talking about friends of mine.

Who just had a baby girl.

And, for their baby naming ceremony, I wanted to give them a gift.

A song.

A new tune – specifically with the baby’s name in it.

That could be sung at the ceremony, but also could be kept with them forever and remembered as a gift from our kibbutz community.

You see, this couple is not an ordinary couple.

They are the ones that bring ruach (spirit) to our prayer services.

The husband, Dr. Rabbi James Jacobson-Maisels, is the founder and guiding teacher of Or HaLev – A center for Jewish spirituality and meditation in Israel.

The wife, Debbie, regularly leads our community in prayer filled with joy and song.

And, I am indebted to them for who they are and what they give to our community.

So, I thought it would be perfect to give back something to them.

To let them receive a bit of what they have been giving to all of us for the past six years.

But, there was one problem.

They had no name for the baby.

And they said they may only choose the name the morning of the ceremony.

Which left me with nothing to work with.

Because without a name, how could I possibly create something that could be meaningful enough for such an occasion?

I was stuck on utter disappointment.

********************

So, I…

20151026_050542Stopped and took a breath.

TTold myself what I was feeling and acknowledged my disappointment in this opportunity.

U

Checked what may have been Underneath all of this: Perhaps feelings around “no good deed goes unpunished”?  I feel like this theme follows me around my life sometimes.

C

And considered if I could Choose another perspective.  Yes, of course I could. I realized I didn’t have to create a song with the baby’s name in it and instead choose words from one of our traditional prayers and create a tune around that. A tune that could possibly later be introduced into our regular prayer services.  That Debbie or James would lead, of course.

I realized could offer this as my gift rather than the one I had in mind.

The one I was stuck on.

And so, I did.  I created a chant using the words from our morning prayers which speak about G-d’s great love and great compassion that He has for us.

And you know what?

It worked.

I created a beautiful tune.

And the song offering that morning was not only well received, it was fun!

And I felt complete with this gift to them.

K

And, I reminded myself that it was oK that I got stuck on needing a baby’s name to create the perfect gift in the first place.