We’ve all heard different versions of the same story centered on the oxymoronic platitude that change is the only constant in life. Over-spoken as it may be, there is irrefutable truth to the phrase. The storytellers’ aim is always to prepare their respective audiences for the inescapable peaks and valleys that lie ahead, and to some extent this is accomplished. What they typically lack, however, is depth, often resulting in their failure to acknowledge the vast variation among kinds of change. Certainly, it is no secret that there is a disparity between the natural progression from preteen to teenager and the level of adaptability required to cope with the loss of a loved one. Natural and expected change often warrant enthusiasm – even on the occasion that predictable change pushes you far beyond your comfort zone, the presence of a silver lining is clear. But what do you do with unsolicited change? Lacking in preparation, and often moderately paralyzed by shock, the stress of unexpected and unwanted change can be overwhelming. It is not easy to navigate through the repercussions of detrimental change, but we all have to at some point.
Fourteen months ago my father was diagnosed with cancer. The news of this identification was terribly surprising, as he had led an active and healthy lifestyle for the majority of his lifetime. He breezed through chemotherapy and radiation without any trouble at all, relative to the more common horror stories of the immense discomfort that typically accompanies those kinds of treatments. This perpetuated my sense of his invincibility. After his surgery, however, he endured just about every complication one might imagine. My sister and I were witness to sights, both in the hospital and at home, that I wouldn’t wish consciousness of on any daughter. I wasn’t ready for the reality of it. I was not ready to walk into the ICU and see a skeleton of the man who raised me. I was not ready to partake in eerily tinted discourse with a half-conscious stranger of a conversationalist. But most of all, I was in no way ready to be rushed out of his room multiple times in response to the dreadful flat line. That’s the thing about unwarranted change: no one is ever ready for it.
Confronting death is terrifying. There are all kinds of unknowns associated with it regardless of your faith. It is debilitating to think that someone who plays an integral role in your life – someone who is responsible for your existence, even – could potentially no longer physically be a part of it. Viewing a parent as mortal for the first time generates a major shift in perspective; perhaps it is time to go from being taken care of to being the caretaker, perhaps not. The answer to that is both situational and relative. Regardless, this shift does not diminish faith, love, respect, or even authority. Rather, it is the reality check that affords both sides the opportunity to be aware of present circumstances and take action when necessary to provide support, comfort and relief.
It has been nearly six months from the day my father was released from the hospital. His progression, though inconsistent, has been immense. In our case, there is a major role reversal at play – I have been home with him almost every day since his return, doing my best to aid him in his recovery. It has been uncomfortable and awkward, and at times very scary for both of us. We have had to put our former collective identity on the back burner in order to embrace a new and sort of unnatural dynamic. We have seen each other both for whom we’ve always known we are, and for whom we never expected the other to be. Clearly, everything has changed. An unfamiliar standard for normal has been imposed on our family, and although initially staggering, I feel confident in making the claim that we have all changed for the better because of it.
When hit with unsolicited life altering events, it becomes incredibly easy to focus on a newfound absence of the luxuries we tend to take for granted on a daily basis. Our capacity to choose seems to vanish, as we absorb responsibility for others and find ourselves no longer in charge of our own schedules. With this notion of a lack of control setting in, self-pity creeps up on us while we mourn the reality we inhabited prior to our misfortune. This is a natural, slippery slope reaction to an impactful and unfavorable event – this is the beginning of the formation of a pattern of negatively charged thought, and it is the result of passive and detached consumption. What seems to fly over our heads in these moments is the fact that we do in fact possess the opportunity to choose how to react to the events that have taken place. We get to pick what kind of perspective to adopt. Rather than allow myself to ruminate on the diagnosis itself – how unfair and devastating it was – I chose positivity. I chose to make a conscious effort every single second to channel all of my anxieties into finding a silver lining that would not be obvious, but would be profoundly meaningful and indicative of some form of a beneficial new beginning.
When faced with adversity, the form in which it was delivered to you matters much less than the way you go about overcoming it. Unsolicited change is a form of adversity, and the way to vanquish it is to recognize the value in the seemingly less significant factors of restoration. It has been nothing short of a spiritual blessing to be consumed by my father’s progression from healthy to ill and back. I have been afforded a great deal of quality time with my dad, a level of which that would have never been possible otherwise. Our family has broken through surface level encounters and superficial interaction, and we have grown much closer, bonding through hardship. Over all else, we are more appreciative than ever of our time together. I truly feel lucky to be in the position I am in; there is nothing more beautiful than the reassembly of a broken soul, and I get to witness the process of that every single day.
IsraAID is launching the Humanitarian Professionals Network (IHPN) in Los Angeles and Bay Area
World-renowned Israeli Humanitarian and disaster relief organization expands presence in U.S. by offering Americans training andopportunities for Disaster relief deployment
Los Angeles, CA – On January 10, 2019, in Los Angeles, disaster relief NGO IsraAID will launch its new aid initiative, The IsraAID Humanitarian Professionals Network (IHPN), an elite program that trains doctors, dentists, nurses, engineers and mental health professionals in disaster response and deploys them around the world to helpsave lives.
IHPN members become part of a network of likeminded professionals at the top of theirfields, joining a robust roster of professionals in Israel, and have a chanceto share Israel’s humanitarian ethos with communities in need. Current IsraAID missions span disasters such as the wildfires in California, refugee crises in Greece, Kenya, Bangladesh, violence in Uganda, and cyclones in Vanuatu.
“IsraAID draws on Israeli social innovation and expertise to benefit people in need around the world. We are now leveraging our organization’s unique capabilities to train professionals in the U.S. interested in developing life-saving skills and joining humanitarian relief missions globally, hand in hand with professionals from Israel” said Seth H. Davis, Executive Director of IsraAID U.S. “IHPN will equip skilled individuals in hands-on disaster relief experience and provide enhanced capacity if local disaster were too strike.”
The first event, entitled “What You Need to Know About Humanitarian Aid,” will feature speaker Tim Burke, MA, MPH, who lead IsraAID’s work in South Sudan for five years, where he oversaw programs in public health and post-conflict development. Subsequent speakers include atmospheric physicist Colin Price and refugee crises expert Dr. Nir Boms.
With deployment in 49 countries, and currently active in 19 countries, IsraAID is an expert in training professionals to deploy. In the U.S. alone in the last year, IsraAID has provided humanitarian relief in Florida, Texas, North Carolina, California, and Puerto Rico.
“IsraAID will make Los Angeles more secure by leveraging their unique expertise in disaster response to train professionals in our community,” said [Paul Koretz]. “I look forward to working with IsraAID to help them rollout their IHPN program in California”
About IHPN: The IsraAID HumanitarianProfessionals Network (IHPN) is an exclusive network of professionals at thevanguard of global aid relief activities. Members of IHPN receive expert briefings, emergency-preparedness training, access to enrichment with field leaders,and priority access to deploy on IsraAID missions.
About IsraAID: IsraAID is anon-governmental organization that provides lifesaving emergency relief andlong-term, sustainable solutions for populations affected by natural disasters, epidemics and post-conflict situations. Our teams leverage Israeli innovation,work in full collaboration with local partners, and educate the public and professionals on disaster prevention and relief. IsraAID (US) Global Humanitarian Assistance, Inc. is an independent 501c(3)organization.
High Collars, High Holidays
Never in a million years did I think I would be fond of the ‘high collar’, also known as the ‘turtle neck.’ I still cringe everytime I hear the name. I remember my mom making me wear them when it got cold outside… But hello, we live in Los Angeles. When does it get cold?
Dressing already modestly, by covering my knees, elbows (song playing in my head), the thought of covering my full neck is like dude, can I show any skin!? It almost felt like I was covering too much, as if I couldn’t breathe! It is as if someone is choking and restricting my head!
Seeing this trend all over magazines and fashion blogs, I decided to give it another chance! Lo and behold… I fell in love. The choking high collar has NOW become my ultimate favorite thing. Just ask Judith, co-founder of our fashion line RaJu. I keep adding turtle necks to all our styles to the point where we’re almost tired of it. The high collar has a sense of class and elegance to it. It has personality, dimension and is more mysterious. Wearing this dress, with all of its details, print and ruffles, I felt like the high collar tied it all together. The high collar makes you of high end, it’s a luxury, a lifestyle. It forces you to carry yourself in a certain way by maintaining a straighter back and a better posture. Everything manifests differently because of this magical collar.
The high collars forces you to hold your head up high, like a princess. When I see someone wear it, it really adds a beautiful sense of royalty and confidence. As we come into the High Holidays (the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur), a solemn time, a time for judgement and reflection, we must remember that we are all daughters and princesses of a king. Wear what you may, during these High Holidays… you know what I’ll be wearing!
Six Mindful Eating Tips for Your Body and Soul
The average person spends at least one hour a day eating. So by the age of 30, you’ve spent the equivalent of two years just putting food in your mouth. How can we make this a more pleasurable, productive and meaningful experience?
Traditional Jewish thought has much to say about what we eat, how we eat, when we eat, and even why we eat, and much of it is also recommended by modern scientists.
- Eat Hungry.
When was the last time you pulled over at a gas station to fill up your tank that was already full? Probably never. However, when was the last time you ate something when you weren’t hungry?
Checking your hunger gauge before popping in that random bite will allow you to keep your weight in check as well as build your self-control.
Going to your second event of the evening, already fed, and still have an urge to pop down some more food? Like the modern day nutritionists, King Solomon advises against the unnecessary consumption of food, saying “The righteous eat to satisfy their souls” (Proverbs 13:25).
- Sit Down.
Late to work? Running after the kids? Doing errands? No problem–it’s just not the best time to be chomping down your meal. Although it may save time, it’s a bad idea. The Talmud uses harsh terminology against those who eat while standing. The Rambam, in his magnum opus Mishneh Torah, says that one should never stand or walk while eating.
Modern day scientific research also claims that this kind of eating is fattening and unhealthy. In fact, there is even a diet based on this understanding, called ‘The Sit-Down Diet’, which suggests that we consume fewer calories when we eat sitting down versus while standing up or walking. We are also more likely to digest food better when we sit down and chew our food properly.
You’re hungry and sitting down to your meal, now recognize where the food comes from. Taking three seconds to acknowledge basic details of the culinary dish placed before you can set the tone for rest of the meal. Something as simple as verbally acknowledging the work of the cook, especially if it is a parent or spouse, can have a profound effect on your mood. Paying attention to all of the individual ingredients can make the experience even more tasty.
On a deeper level, every time any food is consumed, Jewish sources tell us one should recite a blessing of recognition prior to taking the first bite. A common misconception is that the blessing or bracha that is said before eating is a form of thanksgiving. This is not accurate; while the after-blessing of Birkat Hamazon clearly mentions the act of thanksgiving, the initial blessing makes no mention of thanks. It is a statement acknowledging that God is the Creator of the food (Blessed are you Hashem … Creator of ….).
- Remove Distractions
Imagine our reaction to someone in a movie theater who is on their phone half of the time. Would we have the same reaction to the ever-so-common sight of someone munching down an entire meal while consumed with an iPhone, TV or computer screen? One cannot fully enjoy a meal while answering emails or scrolling through their Facebook newsfeed.
Unlike many other religions whose ordinances promote abstinence from physical pleasures, Judaism incorporates the pleasure of eating in every one of its holidays. However, we rob ourselves of this enjoyment every time we mindlessly eat.
Don’t care about enjoyment? Distracted eating causes your digestion to be less effective in breaking down your food, leading to less flavor and increasing the possibility of bloating, gas and constipation. Trying to lose weight? Research shows that the more you distract yourself during a meal, the more pounds you add. Doing simple acts of mindfulness, such as paying attention to the smell, taste, appearance and texture of the food, can keep the focus on your meal.
- Chew, Swallow, Wait… Repeat.
Ever mindlessly wolf down a meal in one minute? Scarfing down an entire meal can leave you feeling disheartened, but it can also leave you with unwanted extra fat on your hips.
Taking your body off of autopilot mode while feasting has great spiritual benefits as well. In describing ways of going against animalistic eating habits, the great nineteenth-century Iraqi sage Rabbi Yosef Hayim, in his famous book, Ben Ish Hai, gives a recommendation that is sure to slow your scarf. He writes that one should not reach for the next bite until the previous bite has been completely swallowed.
Speaking from experience, this one tip is much easier said than done. However, once mastered, this habit is sure to leaving you feeling in control and elevated, especially if you take it to the next level and put down your utensil between bites.
Now that you’re satiated and your spirit is recharged, it’s time for some thanksgiving (without the turkey). Saying thanks is much harder when you have somewhere else you want to go. Maybe that’s why the only biblically ordained blessing is the Grace After Meals and not the blessing before the meal (Deuteronomy 8:10).
Being appreciative is a core Jewish value. In fact, Jews are called Yehudim from the word L’hodot, or to thank. Messages of appreciation are found in the stories of our forefathers and foremothers. Gratitude permeates the entire Jewish experience, from the first words that are uttered by our lips when we wake up in the morning, “Modeh Ani”, to the thrice-daily communal prayer service throughout the day.
Surprisingly, recently discovered side benefits of gratitude include improved health, increased self-esteem and even better sleep. Taking the extra minutes to appreciate our privileged satiated stomachs should now seem more meaningful and hopefully a little easier.
Although not practical for every meal, striving towards these goals should help us lead more meaningful, in-control and healthy lives. For what it is worth, I will personally vouch for it!
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