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

Five Simple Steps to Emotional Well-Being


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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 SHARE MY STRESS!

Mornings are often difficult in my household.

There’s so much to do to get 4 kids out of bed, ready for school, and out the door on time.

And this is a never relaxing experience.

******

06:45.

T-minus 40 minutes and counting.

Wake up the kids.

(Except for the two younger ones who are up when the rooster crows.)

My daughter gets up without any problems, which I am oh, so forever grateful for.

My older son?

I just turn on the lights on his room with a cheery, “Good morning!”, then strip the bed of all his covers at which point, he screams at me.

“NO!!!!!!!!!!”

“LET. ME. SLEEP!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Why, oh why, is this such a struggle every morning?

Perhaps I should be putting them all to bed by six in the evening.

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

06:50.

T-minus 35 minutes and counting.

Get kids dressed.

Which 3 of the 4 can do quite well now on their own.

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But, one child claims he doesn’t know how to.

Which, of course, he can.

He just doesn’t want to.

And, he’d rather bury his face in the sofa chair and cry about it rather than unzipping his sleeper to get the process going.

And while this hysterical scene is going on, another kid cries he can’t find matching socks.

And another one can’t find one shoe.

“Well, shouldn’t it be where it belongs?”I half whine.

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

07:00.

T-minus 25 minutes and counting.

And, I’m already feeling like I need some help around here.

Picture 019“Husband, where are you?” I call from the kitchen.

No answer.

None.

So, I try to stay on track without losing it.

I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.

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

Time for make the doughnuts breakfast.

And time to pray that the children arrive to the table without their pajamas on.

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One child wants this bowl.

Another child wants that spoon.

This one wants this cereal, this one wants that one.

I do not like green eggs and ham.  I do not like them, Sam I Am.

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And this one just complains, “There’s nothing ever to eat for breakfast in this house!”

So, naturally, he goes to the refrigerator, opens it, and stands there.

Looking.

Staring.

What dear G-d is going on in his mind?

Invariably, he shuts the refrigerator door and returns to the table empty handed with a droopy face.

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

07:10

T-minus 15 minutes and counting.

As I continue with the morning routine, pouring second helpings of cereal, picking up dropped spoons, cleaning up spilled milk, filling up cups of water, I turn to look at the empty lunch boxes that need to be filled.

Picture 040But, wait!

One child is calling to get his butt wiped.

Why, I don’t know.

He’s 4.

But, he still asks, and I still acquiesce.

But, yikes!

The lunches need to be made!!!

And I’m running out of time!

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

07:15.

T-minus 10 minutes and counting.

Picture 023

3 elementary school lunches!  (Or, as it were in Israel, the 10 o’clock meals).

Which consist of a sandwich and a fruit/vegetable on the side.

And, of course, this one wants a pita and this one wants a roll.

This one wants tahini and this one hates tahini.

This one prefers peanut butter and this one only wants jelly.

And I’m about to tear my hair out.

I look up again calling out to my husband.

Picture 019 Hello?????

Anybody there????

I’m going a little crazy down here.

And would love some help.

I’m running out of time.

They’re going to miss the bus!!

Hello?????

No answer.

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

07:20.

T-minus 5 minutes and counting.

As I frantically put the lunches in each school bag, and notice some of the kids are still half dressed and some have dried milk all over their mouths and one can’t find his kippah, and the other still can’t find his lost shoe, and, and…

And I’m literally feeling like I’m going to lose it…

Guess who shows up?

Picture 037Striding right in.

Cool as a cat.

All calm.

And refreshed.

Showered, dressed, and having undisturbed bathroom time.

With not an ounce of stress in his body.

Smiling ear to ear.

And, instead of hearing “Good morning, honey.  What can I do to help?”

I hear, “I just put a load of laundry in.”

Which in other words means, “Soon after you get the kids off to school, you’ll have to hang the laundry (since we don’t have a drying machine) before you start your work.” (I work from home.)

WHAT?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

I couldn’t handle hearing that.

I didn’t want to hear that.

I started to cry.

And he started at me as if I were crazy.

“Are you ok? I just said I turned the laundry machine on.”

And, I started to attack.

“Laundry? How can I think of laundry? I’ve got 3 kids needing to get to the bus, another kid needing to get to gan, lunches half made, bags not ready, a kitchen full of dishes…

And you’re talking about laundry?????”

SHARE MY STRESS WON’T YOU??!?

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

Yes, I got stuck.

Naturally.

But, only for a few minutes.

Because once the kids left and I calmed down (read: once I stopped ranting and raving), and I took a deep breath, I was able to acknowledge what was underneath all of this.

My frustration that my husband is not sharing in my stress.

And, at the time, I really felt I wanted him to be participating in my stress.

Because, as my kids remind me, it’s not fair!!!!

Why should I be carrying all the morning stress alone?

Whoever claimed this was my role?

But, I came to another perspective.

I don’t really want my husband to share my stress.

He’s got enough of it of his own, with his business, and with supporting a family of six.

And he certainly wouldn’t want me to share the stress that he has in his life.

And so instead, I asked him to help me figure out a way to lower the morning stress that’s in our household every morning.

To which we brainstormed together:

Wake the kids up earlier.

Picture 035Teach them prepare their own lunches in the morning (or even perhaps the night before).

Pick out their clothes (and socks and shoes) before they go to bed and make sure their bags are ready to go the night before.

Remind them that the chalkboard hanging in the kitchen is there for a reason.  If there’s a food they want in the house and we don’t have it, take responsibility and write it down.  Most likely, we’ll pick it up (as long as it’s not some utterly bad for your health processed food with 1,000 ingredients in it).

Encourage self-care (and remind them that if they know how to wipe their butt in their own in kindgergarten, they can certainly wipe their butt at home).

***********

Which is what I did.

And after this processing experience, life became a lot less stressful in the mornings.

And now I’m able to respond to the “I just put a load of laundry in” with a half chuckle, smile, and a hug.

and And I love you right up to the moon.  AND BACK.


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STUCK on Crocheting

I’m stuck on crocheting.

And here’s 27 reasons why.

1. Once you have the finished product, not much can be done to ruin it.  It can’t be accidentally dropped and broken. The worst things that could happen to a finished project is that a) you either get bored of or outgrow it, or b) no one ends up using/wearing it.

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2. But, the good thing is, you can always recycle or use leftover yarn and make something extraordinary out of it!

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3. You can feel indescribably fulfilled when you successfully follow directions to a pattern,

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4. Though truth be told, figuring out patterns on your own can be as equally satisfying.

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5. You can crochet things that you actually need instead of buying them at a store, like a pencil holder,

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6. or fingerless gloves,

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7. or let your imagination go wild with other unheard of ideas.

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8. It’s something you can do alone in the space of your own home or that can be enjoyed in the company of friends,

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9. And the finished projects of the evening you organized can go towards a certain community cause.

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10. You can crochet something simple,

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10. or something more intricate.

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11. You can create something that takes five minutes,

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12. Or something that takes five hours.

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13. You can crochet practical art,

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14. or crochet a rug to beautify any room.

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15. And because it’s lightweight and compact, you can crochet in the car (as a passenger!), in front of the T.V. , while waiting for your child’s extra-curricular activity to be over, or at any boring really exciting community meeting.

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16. And there’s no need for any complicated or expensive machinery.  Just your G-d given hands and a small hook.

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17. You can allow yourself to be silly!

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18. You can get your kids into it,

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19. and they can end up making some pretty impressive stuff!

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20. You can even donate your time at the local pre-school and teach more kids the fun and fulfillment of crocheting!

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21. You can crochet birthday gifts,

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22. And watch how kids’ eyes light up when they receive their very own, unique, hand-made piece just for them.

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23. You can transfer the skill to other things, such as weaving,

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24. And suddenly realize what else you can do with those skills!

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25. You can enjoy wearing something that’s not made from China.

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26.  And, you can connect with those who invested time and love into their own hand-made gifts to your children,

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27. And admire their talent which you may have never appreciated before!

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I guess some things are just worth being stuck on.


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STUCK on Thinking the Worst

Last night my husband and daughter, along with a few other adults and teenagers, went to see the play, The Wave.

the waveThe play is based on an extraordinary novel, that “explores the nature of fascim and the appeal of mass movements through the true-life story of a California high school which began an experiment in the 1960’s that rapidly ran out of control.”

I saw the movie when I was in high school.

And as my daughter is beginning to learn about and read Holocaust literature on her own, I very much wanted her to see this play.

Apparently, it was amazing.

Yet, I didn’t hear that from my daughter.

Because my husband arrived home solo after the show.

Apparently, since the group traveled in two cars, my husband decided to take advantage of being off of the kibbutz to go food shopping when the play was over.

Not wanting to go food shopping, my daughter chose to go with the rest of the group in order to get home right away.

But, she didn’t.

“Where’s Ayalah?”, I asked my husband as he entered the house with the groceries.

“I don’t know.  What? She’s not home yet?  She should have been home over an hour ago,” he said.

Not the kind of news any parent wants to hear.

Where could they be?

I bet they just stopped for a bit to eat, I thought to myself.

Simple answer.

That’s all it could have been.

Right?

So, I called my daughter just to check in.

No answer.

I called the other adults in the group.

No answers.

I sent one text.

No answer.

I called one of the spouses waiting at home.

Who knew nothing about what was going on.

And then I panicked.

More than that, I got stuck.

On thinking the worst.

I quickly stepped outside so as not to frighten the rest of my family.

With my “stuck” thoughts.

A horrific car accident.

Israel is notoriously known for its high rate of fatal car accidents.

I’m sure that’s what it is.

That’s why no one is answering the phone.

They’re probably all….

Wait.

Wouldn’t it be on the news?

Wouldn’t have someone contacted us?

And, of course, in light of the recent abominable news coming from Jerusalem, I got stuck on…

Worse than the worst.

A terrorist attack.

Just outside the theater.

NO!!!!

It can’t be!!!!

And just as I was preparing myself for the worst of the worst, preparing myself to have to find the light within the darkness as so many are having to do during these difficult times, preparing myself for how to move on….,

I heard footsteps running down the path towards our house.

“Ayalah?” I called out.

“Yeah, hi mom.”

“I called you!!! You didn’t answer!!!!”

“Yeah, I just got it now.  We stopped for pizza.”

Oh.

With a deep exhalation, I closed my eyes.

Great.

Pizza.

So glad.

And the show?

Amazing!

So glad.

And so grateful a happy reality woke me up from my horrendous stuck thoughts.

And that I didn’t have to personally deal with the worst of the worst.

And instead can working on heeding the request of the 4 widows and orphans of the most recent terrorist attack, to set aside the day of Shabbat as a day of unconditional love, a day during which we will refrain from words of disagreement and division, from words of gossip and slander.

May it be Thy will.


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STUCK on I WANT MORE CORNFLAKES!!!

Not me.

My youngest son.

Which, by the way, is an example of the impetus for my idea of writing a children’s book in the theme of “stuck on the muck”.

Which of course, never happened.

But, I digress.

You see, screaming about not having enough cornflakes has somehow become a routine in our household.

My 3 1/2 year old wakes up at 6 am.

And he’s starving.

I mean starving!

He wants cornflakes.

I pour him a bowl.

But, it’s not enough.

Of course it’s not enough!

What in G-d’s name was I thinking for pouring him such a small amount of cereal???

But, of course, it is enough.

It always is.

You see, my husband and I have learned from experience that our kids never (ok, never is a strong word… 99% of the time they never) finish their cereal.

So, we pour it for them.

Giving them what we think they will eat.

And, if they want more, we gladly give them more.

(Not a very democratic approach, I know, but then again, that’s not our parenting style.)

So, I pour the cereal in the bowl for my youngest son.

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But, he doesn’t like this idea.

Now, you may wisely say to yourself, “Shira, why don’t you use a smaller bowl?  Then, it would appear that he has more, and then he wouldn’t make an issue of this.”

But, no.

He wants the blue bamboo bowl.

And if he doesn’t eat out of that bowl, he cries.

OK, yes, this kid is spoiled.

What do you want?

He’s the youngest of four.

So, what does he do?

Well, today, he decided to pour half of it on the floor.

Image1Then, he screamed.

For like an hour.

Ok, not an hour.

Maybe 3 minutes.

But, enough time to wake up the whole kibbutz.

And all my efforts of trying to just get him to eat the cereal that was in his bowl (because neither my husband nor I were certainly going to cave in on this one), didn’t really help.

I took the video out about two minutes into this saga.

He didn’t like this one bit.

Image5Yet, his brothers did.

They got a kick out of it.

But, you know what?

It kind of helped.

Because slowly he started to accept the fact that he wasn’t getting any more until he first finished what he had.

He finally heard me.

Then, he begrudgingly began to eat his cereal.

Image4And, miraculously cleaned it up without any assistance by me.

He got unstuck!

So, maybe the book idea wasn’t such a great idea after all.

Maybe instead I should just go house to house and video children’s tantrums in action, thereby helping to quell their unmanageable behavior and alleviate the frustration of struggling parents.

Oh, now wouldn’t that be fun!


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STUCK on I’m Perfect!!!

Tonight the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur begins.

The day of atonement.

The day we ask forgiveness from G-d.

After a year of intentional and unintentional misdoings.

And after a month’s long deep introspection and of asking forgiveness from our family, friends, and neighbors.

***********

Since moving to Israel, I’ve made an effort, in the week leading up to Yom Kippur, to select three people from my community and approach them regarding anything I may have done, intentionally or unintentionally to hurt them in the past year.

Usually this conversation comes as a surprise to these people.

Perhaps because I select people that I am not necessarily close with and that may not necessarily even desire a close relationship with me.

Yet, I do so because there is something obvious in the air between us with which I wish to ease.

In the past, the conversations have been “successful”.

Whatever was in the air would somehow be cleared and we would “move on”.

Yet, I know I must have put these people in an awkward position, as I asked them to think of some specific incident that I may have done to hurt them in the past year that I can now apologize for.

It’s always the same response.

“Oh, you did nothing.  Everything is fine.  Really.”

I guess I always put these people on the defensive, without even knowing it.

That is, it was *I* that always was in control here.

It was *I* that chose the people.

And, *I* who initiated the conversations.

And, I would basically ask them to own up to their grudges without requiring me to do the same on my end.

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

This year, I had the experience of being on the other side of the boat.

Someone approached me.

Someone who I actually am close with (in a familial kind of way).

Someone who I thought I could never do any wrong towards.

Someone who I don’t even see on a regular basis, which therefore limits the opportunities for wrongdoings on my end.

And how did I hurt this person?

Not by a specific incident that she could put her finger on.

But, rather a general sense that I just stopped showing affection towards her.

Which apparently was expressed in my very few phone calls this year.

Just to check in.

And ask how she was doing.

********

perfectMy natural response would have been “Nonsense! I’m perfect!!! I’m a perfect mother!  A perfect wife!  A perfect friend! A perfect community member!  How could you expect any more of me???”

But, instead, I “S”topped.

And listened to her hurt.

And, felt her hurt.

And, as she spoke, I “C”hose to see a different perspective.

I chose to look at the bigger picture in her life.

And realize perhaps, how lonely she may be, without ever really noticing that before.

Which made me realize that, I’m not perfect.

And that there was validity in her words.

That is, that I could do more.

Like picking up the phone, on a regular basis, to just check in with her.

To ask how she’s doing.

And show some affection.

And basic respect.

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

And, as I swallowed all of this, I felt so grateful.

Grateful that this person felt comfortable to open up to me.

Grateful that she spoke the truth.

Grateful that I was able to accept the truth.

And grateful because it made me realize that there very well may be another person in my world  _______ (fill in the blank: parent, sibling, grandparent, parent/sibling-in-law, best friend, new friend, neighbor, cousin, aunt, uncle, etc.) feeling the same way towards me without me even knowing it.

And now, I can be more aware and be more proactive, if need be, in checking into some of my other relationships as well.

What a great lesson.

I couldn’t ask for more, going into this holiday.


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STUCK on G-d

There are people in this world that are blessed to go through transformative life experiences.

Just like I had such an opportunity during my unexpected trip to the hospital a couple of weeks ago.

While in the I.C.U., one of my visitors, Rabbi Serebrowski, said something that struck me more than anyone else’s words of comfort or prayer.

“Speak to Hashem” (one of the many names of G-d in the Jewish tradition), he said to me.

I must have given him a quizzical look, because he repeated it once again.

“Really.  Just speak to Him.  Like you’re having a conversation.  Tell Him your fears.  Tell Him how you feel.  Ask of Him. But, above all, just speak to Him.”

*****

Talk to G-d?

In the I.C.U. hospital room?

Was he kidding?

What should I say?

How should I say what I want to say?

Do I speak out loud or just from the heart?

For how long should I speak?

Yikes!

I’m alone here in this hospital room with all these questions!

********

Now, before I go on, I must take an aside to tell you two things: 1) I am Jewish and 2) I received a Jewish education growing up:

I went to afternoon Hebrew school 3 days a week.

I went (out of my own desire/my parents would drop me off each week) to the children’s Shabbat services.

As a family, we lit Shabbat candles, sang the Kiddush, and had a festive meal each Friday night followed by attending services at our synagogue.

I had a Bat Mitzvah.

I was quite involved in our chapter and regional youth group.

I attended a Jewish overnight camp (which heavily emphasized Jewish prayer and study).

I traveled to Israel for the first time at the age of 16.

I continued to study in an informal Jewish educational setting through the end of high school.

I minored in Judaic studies in college.

I learned to read, write, and speak modern Hebrew.

I returned to Israel at the age of 18 to volunteer on an army base for 3 weeks.

I was a counselor for Jewish and Israel programming for high school youth both in America and Israel.

I prepared youth for their Bar and Bat Mitzvah.

I volunteered on a monthly basis leading Shabbat services to the aged at the local Jewish living center.

I taught in the Hebrew school where I grew up.

I married an Israeli.

I moved to Israel with my husband and children.

I headed the synagogue committee on our kibbutz for one year.

Need I go on?

This is just to say that the path I chose in life is not necessarily the most typical route that a Jewish child growing up in a non-Orthodox home would choose, and to say that I have a decent amount of knowledge of the Jewish heritage and tradition.

******

GodSo, back to the I.C.U.

I spoke to G-d.

Among other things, I told G-d that I was afraid.

I told G-d that I didn’t want to die.

I reminded G-d that I have 4 children that I love and that I want to return to being their mother.

I asked G-d for more time on this earth.

******

And, when I did (thank G-d!) make it to the other side, was in tremendous pain and had too much time on my hands to just sit and rest, I became deep in thought and fascinated with how someone with so many years of Jewish education, could have been stumped by the concept of speaking to G-d.

I thought about how, in the presence of deeply observant Jewish people, I often hear the words “Baruch Hashem” (Blessed is G-d) uttered on their lips so many times during any random conversation:

It’s a sunny morning.  Baruch Hashem!

It’s raining out.  Baruch Hashem!

No matter what the weather was, how one was feeling on any day, what one’s financial situation was – Baruch Hashem!

Because it’s truly all in G-d’s hands and everything happens exactly the way it’s meant to happen.

At least that’s the collective belief of Orthodox Jews.

And while sitting in the hospital, it dawned on me that I don’t have that frame of reference.

And while my Jewish education emphasized Hebrew, and learning how to read Hebrew prayers, and other very practical matters in Jewish living, I never truly received (or at least I never internalized) two basic and utterly important concepts for Jewish daily living:

1) The awareness of G-d in every moment, and

2) Acknowledgement of that awareness.

*******

And while I’m not regretful nor do I have any judgments on the education I received, this recent transformative life experience has encouraged me to consider how I act now as an adult and how my husband and I are raising our four children.

That is, yes, we observe the Sabbath and the dietary laws (Kashrut) in our home; yes, we have mezuzot on all the doors of our home; yes, we live in Israel; yes, we speak Hebrew; yes, our children attend an Orthodox school – BUT

am I aware of G-d in our home on a moment to moment basis?

And, do I acknowledge His presence regularly?

And, the answer is probably and unfortunately “no” to both.

********

And, so, I’m stuck pondering all of this as I say my goodbyes to my family and friends who have deeply nurtured me during my recovery and I plan my trip back home to Israel.

And while I could go through the acronym of “S.T.U.C.K.” and see if I could “choose” another perspective so that I’m not stuck on God (because the intention of this blog is to be aware of what and for how long we are stuck on emotional attachments), I am reminded of many prayers in the Jewish prayer book (siddur) in which the words attach/cling/stick are actually used to describe our desirable relationship to G-d.

That is, we are supposed to be stuck on G-d and we are supposed to attach our hearts on fulfilling His commandments.

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Good thing I’ve got a 12 hour flight ahead of me.

And lots more recovery time at home to continue pondering all of this.

And a wonderfully, open-minded husband who I bet can’t wait to talk about all of this with me.