Monday, December 10, 2018

Where Was I . . . The Code of the Universe




If I get up at night to visit the bathroom, I pass three windows on my way. My house sits high on a hill, and when I glance out those windows, I can see across a small valley to the next street over where the light from a gas lamp pierces the darkness and sends out rays of light, shining like a star. For some reason, that small light always makes me feel better.

After the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue, I’ve been thinking a lot about light. The tragedy happened at the darkest time of the year, making the grief and sorrow that has descended upon those living here seem that much bleaker. Dwelling in darkness is not comfortable, and I believe a longing for light has been encoded into our souls because ever since we’ve discovered fire and the sun, humanity has been attracted to light. 

Most every religion, ancient or otherwise, celebrates or incorporates light into its practices. The ancient Druids had several light festivals. Hindus, Jains and Sikhs celebrate the festival of light known as Diwali.  Jews celebrate Hanukkah, which commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, when a miracle happened. Even though they only had enough oil to keep the Menorah lit for one day, the lamp burned for eight days. Christians light candles, Christmas trees and decorate their homes with light at Christmastime.

The sacred books are filled with references to light. In fact, the third verse of the Old Testament tells us that one of the first things God created was light saying, “Let there be light.” In John’s Gospel in the New Testament, he tells us in the Nativity narrative that, “What has come into being in him was life, life that was the light of men; and light shines in darkness, and darkness could not overpower it."

A few nights after the shooting at Tree of Life it occurred to me why that small light I see in the middle of the night gives me hope and comfort. It’s because no matter how dark it may get, light cannot be vanquished by the darkness.  But light can defeat darkness. In the midst of a bright summer day, have you ever seen a patch of darkness? No. However, you can see light shining in the darkness, but you will never see a patch of darkness penetrating the light. Not only are we created to embrace the light, it is foreordained that light overcomes the darkness. Therefore, no matter how dark it may feel this December whether from the loss of daylight, genuine sorrow or sadness, know that in the end the light always triumphs—it’s written into the code of the universe. 

Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas!

This originally appeared in the December 2018 issue of  Northern Connection magazine.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Happy Grandparents Day!


Where Was I . . .  Best Job Ever!


This month we celebrate National Grandparents Day on September 9. I have been a grandmother for a little over three years now to two little girls, and I can say that next to being a mom, it is the best job ever! But it is not without responsibilities. You’ve probably seen those cutesy sayings like, “The best part of being a grandparent is spoiling your grandchildren and being able to give them back at the end of the day.”

That’s funny and true to an extent, but I think that reduces the role of grandparents too much. I think grandparents are essential, and you are blessed if you have or had one in your life. In fact, the famous anthropologist Margaret Mead said, “Everyone needs to have access both to grandparents and grandchildren in order to be a full human being.”

I certainly do enjoy treating my granddaughters, but I want to be more than a soft touch for cookies and toys. So what kind of grandma do I want to be? What do I want to do for my grandchildren? What do I want to teach them? When I’m long gone, what do I want them to remember about me?

To answer this, I thought back to my own grandparents and what I remember about them. I was fortunate to know two great-grandparents and four grandparents. These are some of the things they gave me of which I’d like to pass on. They gave me a sense of who I was. They told me stories of who they were, where they came from, what their grandparents, parents and my own parents were like as well as telling me what their own lives were like. Through their stories, they picked up my little life and wove into our family tapestry and made me feel I belonged to something bigger than myself.

They provided good examples and passed on their faith. They were funny and fun. They taught me that although times change, people essentially are the same. They talked about bullies in school, boys who tried to get “fresh” with them, and mean bosses they worked for. They passed on their resilience. One of my great-grandma’s favorite things to say was, “Oh, kiddo, it’s a great life if you don’t weaken.” 

They also passed on their hope that there was something even better waiting in the next life.
They demonstrated love. I never, ever had to wonder if they loved me. I can still think back to times when I’d sleep over at my grandma’s. We’d lie in bed together, and she’d say let’s hold hands until we fall asleep. Or I can see my grandpap when we’d come to visit, opening his arms and saying, “Where’s pup-pup’s girl?”

So yeah, spoil the grandkids, but also give them something that’s lasts a lifetime like your faith, your hope and your love. 

This originally appeared in the September 2018 issue of Northern Connection magazine.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Life Lessons From Physical Therapy


If you’ve been reading my column, you know that back in April I had knee surgery. I’m progressing in my recovery, and after nearly two dozen physical therapy sessions, I’ve discovered some PT lessons that apply to life as well. 

The setting where I receive my therapy is a large room filled with various types of exercise machines and equipment, and there are usually several other patients there rehabbing at the same time. I’ve seen numerous people from teens to octogenarians who are coping with a variety of physical impairments from concussions to back pain to regaining movement in an arm after rotator cuff surgery.

One thing we all have in common is a lack of patience. Every new person comes in and says the same thing: How long before I’m back to normal? I want to get better as fast as I can. Patience is a virtue, and I’m hoping the training I’m receiving in it, will result in more of it in life.
It goes without saying that no one likes pain. Sometimes its distressing to watch other patients grimacing as they work to regain motion. But in life we all, at one time or another, must endure pain. Sometimes, you just have to gut things out.

Progress is not linear. Recovery, like life, does not progress in a straight line. Some days we move ahead two space, and some days we move backward, but being persistent and consistent is crucial.
Balance is key to much of life. In therapy, I have learned that you must push yourself, but not so much that you do harm. As my therapist advised, “Do the exercise, but stop right before it causes pain.” We all need to challenge ourselves in life, but we need to be kind to ourselves too.

When one thing goes out of whack, it can cause a cascade of consequences. When my knee was messed up, I subconsciously learned to compensate for it by altering my gait. We are slowly realigning my body and getting the kinks out. This happens in life as well. If you allow something to get out of control, it often leads to other problems. For example, if you spend too much, it can cause financial distress, induce anxiety and impact your future retirement.

Finally, progress sometimes is difficult to assess as it is happening; hindsight is often the best way to evaluate how far we’ve come. It’s only when I think back to those initial therapy sessions and how stiff, swollen and painful my knee was that I can appreciate how much better I am, that I can see my progress. I hope all of us can look back in hindsight and be pleased at how much better we and our lives have become.  

This column originally appeared in the August 2018 issue of Northern Connection magazine.