I was already sweating when we walked into
the yoga studio. We had been running late, as usual, and I had double-timed it
from the car to the building. Just before walking in, I remember hesitating.
Did I really want to go to Mommy and Me Yoga?
The truth is that I did want to take him
there. He had been going with his mom during the last couple weeks of her
maternity leave. She had been raving about how much fun he had in the classes.
I also knew this firsthand because she had talked me into going with her to one
a week earlier. Now, Mom was back to work and I was staying home part-time to
take care of the little guy. There was still a week left of yoga classes on the
package and I wanted to make the most of the investment. More than anything, I
wanted to make the most of my time spent at home with him.
As I walked into the room, staring back at me
were eight new moms and their little babies. I was the only dad in the class
and was having trouble making eye contact with anyone. I shuffled to an open
corner and laid out the mat, the baby and the blanket as quickly as possible.
Everyone was sharing their name, their baby’s name and age. I can’t remember
any of the other names because until it was my turn, I spent the whole time
rehearsing what I was going to say in my head.
It was my first time attending a “baby and
me” event all by myself. I was feeling so vulnerable and judged. Did these
women think I was creepy? Had they ever seen a dad at one of these classes?
What about the other babies, how were they stacking up to mine? That other boy
looks about the same age as mine, why is he moving more? Those women are breast
feeding, should I signal to them somehow that my bottle has breast milk too?
It’s not my milk, of course … I just know that some people can get judgmental
of others who use formula.
Then the music started and the teacher calmly
directed us into all our poses. My baby laughed when I did a cat-cow and
released a huge breath right into his hair. His giggles and smiles melted my
anxiety away; we spent the next 45 minutes breathing and stretching together.
At the end of the class, the teacher said that she hoped that I would come
back. I hope that I will too.
I’ve always been a bit of a
Right now, when asked where
I go to synagogue, I say, “I go to five.” I work at Temple Jeremiah, and I love
my community there – meeting all of the congregants has been one of the best
parts of my job. I enjoy attending synagogue with my family where I grew up, at
Beth Hillel Congregation Bnai Emunah in Wilmette. I attend two synagogues in
Lakeview, the neighborhood where I live – Anshe Emet Synagogue and Anshe Sholom
B'nai Israel Congregation. And I co-lead Windy City Minyan, a monthly Friday
night minyan in the city.
I love Jewish communities. I
love the diversity of customs, melodies, faces, teachings, architecture and
So it’s no surprise that on
Yom Kippur last year, I found myself in three different synagogues in one day.
I spent the morning humming the melodies of the High Holy Days while greeting
congregants and meeting new faces at Temple Jeremiah; in the afternoon I sat with
my mom, listening to my dad, brother, and sister-in-law sing in the choir at
BHCBE; and I spent the evening Neilah service with my friends at Anshe Sholom.
That day, I experienced a
cross-section of our larger Jewish community, splitting my time between the
Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox synagogues. During Neilah at Anshe Sholom, I
found myself not paying so much attention to the words on the page, but
reflecting on Jewish peoplehood. The Jewish community – our kehillah – is made up of so many different
kinds of wonderful, dedicated, intelligent, interesting, and friendly people.
Our beauty is in our
We Jews are a tiny
percentage of the world’s population. I pray that we can come together as a
larger Jewish community to be enriched by the uniqueness of our brothers and
On that Saturday afternoon
in September 2013, driving back and forth between Northfield, Wilmette and
Lakeview, I had the chance to truly feel the richness of our people; to me, it
was like seeing the face of God.
“So he has dyslexia.”
This is what I had
surmised after an hour-long staffing of a bunch of big words and adjectives
being thrown around in an effort to explain why our bright child was struggling
so much with reading in school.
“Well, yes. But we
don’t call it that anymore,” they said.
“OK. But that’s what
it is, right?”
Phew! I felt an
enormous sense of relief and gratitude. Relief that his struggles had been
noticed and pinpointed with a workable diagnosis and gratitude that qualified
help was on the way. What I didn’t factor in was the ripple effect for me.
I’ve written before
that I struggled in school, without any explanation as to why,
until 7th grade when a math teacher told my parents I was stupid and lazy. (I
guess you could do that back then without losing your job.) To be honest, the
wicked lady was half right. I had
become lazy – as a smokescreen. If I didn’t try, mediocrity and failure didn’t
feel so humiliating and it explained quite simply why I had done poorly.
So when my own
diagnosis of learning disabilities revealed itself, (outdated term again
apparently, but I earned it so I’m keeping it), I felt that same sense of
relief I felt for my child. I knew something was funky – for me, for him – and
when I was right, I felt vindicated.
Although I could
always see that my child was bright
and struggling, as a learning-disabled kid myself, I felt differently about my
own struggles. I believed when my parents told me I was bright, creative and
intelligent, that they were blinded by their love for me. (Translation: “My
parents don’t want to admit they have a dumb-ass for a kid.”) But when
objective, outside forces and people (with Rorschach pictures, stats and
everything!) revealed I was in fact a highly intelligent and capable child, my
world changed. I could suddenly hear that. My diagnosis was truly that
significant and I began to believe the good stuff.
I am hoping my child
feels this way. I’m hoping that the early diagnosis for him may have been so
primary, that all the self-doubt, shame and fear around school learning that I
felt, didn’t have a chance to nick him.
This whole process
reopened a tremendous amount of reflection for me. And like I said earlier,
relief and gratitude were the emotions at the top of my list. Also, somewhere
in there, I have experienced a tremendous amount of compassion for the young
girl I used to be, who spent so much time feeling inadequate and incapable,
trying so desperately to cover up my imperfect tracks in hopes of just getting
I read this post to my
son in hopes he would be okay with publishing my thoughts on his journey. His
“I really liked it. I
thought it was really good.”
And this girl is left
feeling like she’s on the honor roll.
hungry is a funny thing. By funny, of course, I mean crazy. Is there a more apt
way to describe the raging forest fire that controls your every move? There
really is no better way to qualify it. Hunger is funny. Your last-minute decision
to have Arby’s for lunch, the attitude you gave your mother this morning, those
salads you’re force-feeding yourself – hunger did all of that. I don’t know
about you, but food can make me bark like a dog and cluck like a chicken any
old time she wants.
every day, hunger reminds me that I am not yet a grown up. I regularly have to
talk myself out of walking down the candy aisle at the grocery store. Those
negotiations sometimes fail and when they do I can be found looking like a
third grader who has just returned home from trick-or-treating. The evil 8-year-old
in control of my brain often has other plans.
most recent run-in with my inner child involved an incident with Girl Scout
Cookies. In addition to having little self-control, I’m a bleeding heart. I
want everyone to win, so when a friend called to tell me her daughter was
selling Girl Scout Cookies … I bought a whole case.
case, like I’m Oprah. As if the way to save the world is by purchasing 24 boxes
of Samoas. I am a 38-year-old, grown-ass man. Why do I need 24 boxes of
cookies? Why couldn’t I just be a normal person and offer to buy three boxes? Three
is a nice sane number. No, I couldn’t do that. I needed 24 boxes. That’s 360
cookies, in case you’re wondering. I bought 360 cookies at one time with no
intention of sharing with anyone.
you’re one of those positive people, and you’re picturing me carefully packing
away my loot in a freezer. Twenty-four boxes, that’s a lot – surely he has a
plan to ration those cookies for a whole year. Well, thank you for believing in
me, but you’d be incorrect. What? I’m supposed to eat a cookie a day for a year
except on Yom Kippur? That’s ridiculous. Who has that kind of willpower? Not to
mention: cookies can’t go in a freezer; they don’t wear coats. That’s cruel and
first I was mostly responsible. I had a cookie or two after dinner. I’d have a
cookie as a random snack. Then my crazy inner 8-year-old lost his tiny little
mind and declared war on that case of cookies. I couldn’t control myself. Here
a box, there a box, everywhere a box. I had a box for breakfast. I ate a couple
boxes of Samoas while watching TV. Three boxes for dinner. I was off the rails.
I had cookies as a midmorning snack, cookies in the car, cookies in the
bathtub. I was a hot cookie-addicted mess.
not sure how hunger works for most people, but mine definitely has a split
personality. The 8-year-old is absolutely in control more often than he should
be. When he isn’t sitting in the driver’s seat ordering fried chicken and
eating bags of Smarties, it’s the princess of kale, Gwyneth Paltrow, who’s in
charge. The two sides duke it out on a regular basis, which I think means I
have a bi-polar eating disorder.
had been sitting quietly in a corner waiting for the Cookie Monster to do some
serious damage. It wasn’t until she noticed that my pants were fitting a little
tighter that she sounded the alarm. Gwynnie went into full-blown “captain of
the Titanic mode.” She was raising her eyebrow and wagging the stinky finger of
judgment in the face of all of my cookie-filled thoughts. Once I finished the
case of cookies, and yes, I ate an entire case of Samoas without any help thank
you very much, Gwyneth began enforcing very strict rules. She apparently has no
respect for goal-oriented eating.
course, agreeing to cut back on cookies wasn’t enough. I had to go completely
wackadoodle. Our first order of business was to completely rid my life of
sugar. The princess of kale is evil. I’m not sure if you’re aware, but they don’t
make cookies without sugar. At least not any cookies that you would actually
want to eat. This was going to be very hard. I had been subsisting almost
exclusively on Samoas and Diet Coke and now I was in Girl Scout Cookie rehab.
dragged me kicking and screaming to Whole Foods and forced me to stare at their
lush produce. After gawking at piles of dead plants for what felt like an
eternity, GP challenged me to prepare a vegetable that I had never cooked
before as a way to get my health back on track. I reviewed the options and decided
to give beets a try. I choose them because they seemed harmless and when you’ve
been deprived of sugar they look like giant balls of chocolate. Challenge
whipped out my phone and turned to the queen of the kitchen, Ina Garten. Ina taught me how to roast a Thanksgiving turkey;
beets would be a piece of cake, or cookie, depending on where your politics
lie. I gathered the beets, fresh thyme, raspberry vinegar and a large orange
per the recipe’s instructions and rushed home.
got right down to work the moment I walked in the door. I peeled and sliced the
beets and cut them into quarters. Those little suckers should have come with a
trigger warning; they bled all over my kitchen. Beet juice was everywhere. My
house looked like the set of slasher film. I tossed the horror scene onto a
baking sheet and into the oven for 40 minutes. I spent most of that time
scrubbing my hands like a surgeon and performing Lady MacBeth’s sleepwalking
scene. “Out, damned spot! Out I say!”
beets were delicious! I felt like a magician turning those purple mud balls
into something worthy of eating. I had eaten beets several times before and
loved them but this was different. I guess food that doesn’t come from a can
really does taste better. I missed my cookie diet, but I was proud of myself
for expanding my menu.
morning after roasting the beets I got up to go to the bathroom as usual. Apparently
taste isn’t the only difference between canned and fresh produce. I had the
most gorgeous fuchsia urine the world has ever seen. At first, I was
certain that I was on death’s door and immediately blamed the Girl Scouts and
their disgusting Samoas. It took me a few minutes to calm my panic attack and realize
that the beets had given me this little present. Then later, on my way to work, I get this
text message from my husband: “I have purple pee and poop, disturbing yet
consider yourself warned: Beets, much like hunger, are a funny and sometimes
unpredictable thing. The real lesson here is moderation. Life should be 40
percent cookie and 60 percent beets, or is it the other way around? I never can
3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, minced
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
Juice of 1 large orange
the oven to 400 degrees.
the tops and the roots of the beets and peel each one with a vegetable peeler.
Cut the beets in 1 1/2-inch chunks. (Small beets can be halved, medium ones cut
in quarters, and large beets cut in eighths.)
the cut beets on a baking sheet and toss with the olive oil, thyme leaves,
salt, and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, turning once or twice with a
spatula, until the beets are tender. Remove from the oven and immediately toss
with the vinegar and orange juice. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve
If before the season started someone told me the
Bears would be 1-1, I’d say that sounded about right. But I’d assume that meant
a win at home against Buffalo and a loss in the new stadium against San
But even after losing in Week 1 the way they did, I
did not count the Bears out on Sunday night. Going into Sunday, it didn’t look
good for us – Alshon Jeffrey and Brandon Marshall were still questionable on
the injury report, the defense was coming off a pathetic performance against an
underwhelming offense, and the 49ers were prepared to run all over us on the opening
night of their new digs. The script sounded like it had already been written.
And as the game started, it sounded pretty accurate. After a “just don’t ‘F’ it
up” three-and-out drive, the Bears’ punt was blocked and the 49ers very quickly
made it 7-0. Yup. I rushed home, avoided all social media and normal human
interaction for this? The hazards of being a Bears fan.
The Bears were playing not to lose. Partially
paranoid about making some of the bad mistakes they made last week, and
partially because of their injured receivers, who, even though they played,
looked slow and allowed the 49ers defense to focus on stopping the Bears’ short
game. But despite the tough start, the defense was actually keeping them in the
The turning point came with under two minutes left
in the first half, when Jay Cutler took a helmet cannon to the sternum that
left me short of breath and clenching
my chest. But there was something about Cutler’s face when he got up that
struck me. I said out loud at that moment, “this is the turning point.” The
next play was one of the most incredible catches I’ve ever seen: a one-handed
grab by Brandon Marshall that looked like it could only have been made with
“Stick ‘um” like Rashid “Hot Hands” Hanon from Little Giants.
From that hit to the sternum on, Cutler
went 15-of-16 for 138 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions. But
it wasn’t just that. The Bears defense grew some cahones and ultimately kept the Bears in this game. Willie Young
was outstanding; Chris Conte made an interception flying through the air;
rookie Kyle Fuller had two picks; Jared Allen was pressuring the quarterback.
This was the defense we hoped to see. Not great, but forcing turnovers and
doing enough to keep them in the game.
Now, we cannot talk about this game without at
least acknowledging the fact that the 49ers accumulated about 800 yards in
penalties. That didn’t hurt. They got some big breaks. But a win is a win, the
Bears are now tied at 1-1 with everyone else in the division, and it’s all
about what you learn. I do think they learned some things this week. But I
still have concerns. The special teams are atrocious on both ends; injuries are
starting to get out of hand on both sides of the ball – most recently with the
report that Charles Tillman will be out for the rest of the season. And the
Bears still have a really difficult schedule ahead of them where the margin for
error will be non-existent.
The Bears have an extra day off this week to
recover, and then are back on the road and in primetime again on Monday night.
I still don’t know what to expect from this team week to week. They have yet to
establish an identity. But for at least the time being, they have given us all
permission to take our collective heads out of our ovens.
It is not a secret that holding onto something — an
idea, an object, or a person — isn’t healthy, but we all seem to do it. People
often tell me that they have unexplainable pain, and after we talk they start
to breathe and the pain magically disappears. As so perfectly quoted from the
movie Frozen, we all just need to “Let it Go.”
We are about to approach Shabbat Tshuvah, the Shabbat
between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, when we ask for forgiveness. However, we
also need to forgive. In the movie Frozen, Elsa, the eldest sister, can
never forgive herself for hurting Anna, the younger sister. If Elsa would have
forgiven herself she wouldn’t have turned everything into snow and ice.
There are many ways to work through emotional pain
and stress. We can exercise, sing, dance, paint, or even get acupuncture.
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medical treatment used to help all kinds of
problems, including stress. It is based on channel theory, where each channel
relates to a different organ, and each organ correlates to a different emotion.
Acupuncturists ask their patients a series of questions to find out which organ
seems to be the source of a problem.* Acupuncturists will then feel their
patient’s radial pulses (the pulse on the wrist closest to the thumb) and look
at their tongues to help clarify their diagnoses, and then they will treat
their patients. Tongue and pulse diagnoses are acupuncturists’ x-ray machines.
They are the primary indicators of how their patients’ bodies are working.
How does acupuncture treat stress? Everyone’s stress is
different, but acupuncture can help build you up if you are weak, calm you down
if you are anxious, and even relax your muscles, which will help you let it
To further explain how an acupuncturist heals, I am
going to compare your body to the movie Frozen. Oh, yes.
Imagine your body is Arendelle, the kingdom in Frozen.
At the beginning, the town is beautiful, people are happy, and the king and
queen are alive. As time goes on, the town starts to fall apart. The king and
queen die, the princesses don’t know how to act, and eventually the town
becomes frozen. Our bodies go through the same thing. We start out with a clean
slate and as time goes by we become more rigid and life becomes harder.
Eventually, Elsa decides she is going to be okay and she belts out “Let it Go,”
but she isn’t better and the town is definitely not better. Throughout the
movie, Anna looks for Elsa to try to save her, and just when we think Arendelle
is ruined forever, the town is back and it’s blooming. The situation improved
because the root of the problem was fixed. Elsa accepted her powers, and Anna
realized that she didn’t need a man to be happy. That is what acupuncture does.
It works on the root of an issue and fixes it.
An acupuncturist strategically places needles in
acupuncture points to help nourish and strengthen the patient’s body. Each
point belongs to a different channel, and each point has different benefits.
Usually, this will allow an emotional release and help a person heal. People
are often stuck, and something within them needs to be moved. Acupuncture
points help stimulate the needed movement within the body and people start to
feel better. The only way to truly understand acupuncture is to consider it as
a means to allow the different parts of the body to work well as a unit.
In order for us to really feel good and be able to
belt out “Let it Go” on top of a beautiful ice castle, we need to relax and
find what makes us healthy. It could be, as in Frozen, accepting the
fact that you have gifts, or that the man you once loved is not all he’s
cracked up to be. Whatever it is, it’s about acceptance so that your whole body
can be healthy.
This Shabbat Tshuvah just, “Let it go! Don’t hold it
*Note: When an acupuncturist talks about an organ
they are referring to the qi, or energy of the organ, rather than the organ
itself. Please do not worry that you have a problem with your spleen if your
acupuncturist says you have spleen qi deficiency.
With the Jewish New Year creeping upon us, I thought I would
provide some thoughts on how to change your money mindset for 5775.
Take a minute and think: have you ever asked yourself if you had
time to brush your teeth before bed or run to the bathroom before leaving for
work? Most likely not. You don’t evaluate whether you have enough
time to brush, you don’t add brushing your teeth into your daily schedule. You
just do it. If I asked you, “How do you manage to find time to brush your
teeth every night?” you would look at me like I was crazy. You don’t have
an alarm that goes off to remind you (or maybe you do … ) – you just do it.
Why should your money be any different?
My New Year’s resolution for you is to answer, “I just do it,”
when someone asks you about how you handle your money. How can you get
there? Pretty simply – change your mindset.
Start by telling yourself five simple things:
success is possible
Many individuals start off their financial journey thinking
pessimistically. Don’t! Start yourself out with a positive
attitude. Don’t whine, complain or talk badly about your finances. If
you want to build a positive attitude, start thinking with one!
2. Good things
come to those who act
It is not thinking, but acting that creates change. No matter
where you are in your financial journey, keep taking the next step, day after
day, year after year. Automate your savings. Pay extra on your
mortgage. Seek opportunities to increase your income. Stay active and
financial success will become foreseeable.
3. There is
enough to go around
The money supply is growing. Your money is yours to use in
the way YOU want. Donate to a charity, save more for a vacation … use your
money your way. Don’t feel bad about splurging on that shirt you always wanted,
the restaurant you have been dying to try or the play you have been dreaming of
seeing. Just because you have more does not mean someone else has less.
like a millionaire
In Thomas J. Stanley’s book, The Millionaire Next Door, he describes the average American
millionaire – his total income is $131,000 per year, he never received an
inheritance and he didn’t go to private school. He drives a 5-year-old Toyota
and wears inexpensive clothes. He’s a homeowner who has lived in the same home
for over 20 years. He is a meticulous budgeter who invested nearly 20 percent
of his household income over the course of his life. Act like this millionaire.
5. Be curious about money
Educate yourself. Make money matter to you.
Stay curious and never stop learning and growing.
tovah – may 5775 be a sweet and prosperous one for
you and your family.
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