On the first night of…

On the eighth crazy night, when the Menorah was ablaze with the miracle of Hanukkah… Oy, we should only make it to the eighth night! Nu, at least they make good birthday candles too.

On the first night of Hanukkah, my kinder, they said to me, “When will we go get our Christmas tree?”

On the second night of Hanukkah, the maideleh’s, they asked for Santa, so I asked my Mrs.,  “Please! Pass me more Mylanta?”

On the third night of Hanukkah, this came from the mouth of my Little, “What’s with those latkes burning on the griddle?”

On the fourth night of Hanukkah, Big, she said outright, “This is what happens for eight crazy nights?

By the fifth night of Hanukkah, the menorah was buried on the shelf. Mensch on the Bench has nothing over that meshuggeneh elf!

By the sixth night of Hanukkah, we did homework and gai schluffin; the mention of dreidel sent the kinder a-runnin’

By the seventh night of Hanukkah, our Christmas stockings were all lined up. Hanukkah, jeez… why am I dreying my kup?

By the eighth night of Hanukkah, clearly not going as planned. Us Jews, we must schmooze and do a total re-brand.

So for all who may attempt the menorah with delight, have fun, nosh on latkes, and to all a good night.

Yiddish proverb:

If grandma had a beard, she would be grandpa. Oyb di bobe volt gehat a bord, volt zi geven a zeyde.

That’s Hanukkah in a Christmas world. All is good.

A bei gezunt! In good health!

Some great folks I like to share with…

Invisibility

Yiddish Proverb:

How many will listen to the truth when you tell them? Vi file veln hern tsu dem ams ven ir zogn zey?

Truth time.

My Mrs. and me, we did not meet at a book club. Yes, we read To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, and yes, we loved it (in fact this is a book everyone should read, especially today). We even convinced our friends to name their first daughter Scout, and our first pug was named Atticus Finch. If at some point in our lifetime together, we told you that this is how we met, I am sorry. We weren’t quite healthy enough to speak our truth. Thankfully, we are now well over the stigma and only want to help where we can.

Here is our real story: About one million years ago, or at least a couple or so decades ago, we both arrived at our first meeting for women with eating disorders. We were at one of the very top treatment centers, The Renfrew Center, in the suburbs of Philadelphia. As the young therapist unlocked the door and turned on the lights, not one of us in the group made eye contact. We scuttled about uncomfortably searching for a seat that could somehow feel safe. Everyone stared at the floor. No one made a sound. Occasionally, one could hear a belly growl or the sounds of digestion. If pins were to drop, we would have heard them. And after what felt like hours of bone-chilling silence at a call for introductions, the person who is now my Mrs., she said, “Oh, okay. I’ll go first.” 

Slowly, painfully, we made our way around the room. Not one of us admitted sickness. Not one of us ‘needed’ to be there. The very long, often unbearable road to health and wellness had begun. 

You might say, Lisalah, why now? Why are you telling us this? The answer, as always, is in the eyes of my Big and my Little. We want desperately for them to hold on to the joys of childhood and develop a strong foundation of self-confidence, self-worth, and self-esteem. We are trying to raise our maidelehs (sweet girls) to be brave and mighty, rebel girls as they grow up in this harsh, misogynistic world. We also want them to become women who have a healthy relationship with food. Imagine that! Eating, breaking bread, a nice nosh, all such an important part of our life in terms of sustenance, social interaction, nurturing, and sensuality.

To the caregivers of all of the beautiful kinder that are out there, please know that children, they have ears that hear what you, relatives, friends, teachers, coaches, say, even whisper. With social media, unhealthy messages are persistent for vulnerable children and adults. Know, be on the lookout, be prepared. Catch it early. Eating disorders are one of the mental illnesses that have a 20% mortality rate. That is too high. I vividly remember that day in 1983 when Karen Carpenter lost her battle to anorexia nervosa. Understand that you have an ally in me. No stigma. No judgment.

Today in America, over 30 million people of all ages and genders are suffering from an eating disorder. Suffering — that is a kind word for it. As a person in full recovery, this stat, which is on the rise, makes me so profoundly sad. I know the loneliness and sorrow that fills their people-pleasing, loving hearts and souls. I know the pain and overwhelming lack of self-worth that comes from seeking invisibility first hand.

I write about this today for three reasons:

First, so many people, caregivers, parents, and patients all, live in denial. It’s easy to look away, and say, “Nope, not me.” “Not my kid.” “They’ll grow out of this.” If you suspect your child has an eating disorder, learn about eating disorders. Educate yourself to what may be ahead. Talk to your child openly with compassion and empathy. Listen. Love. DO NOT make your talk about appearance. If you say something like, “…you are nothing but skin and bones…” you can easily validate that they are on the right path. This disease, and it is a disease, affects the mind too. Emphasize to them that it is not their fault.

Second, the holidays are fast approaching. Group meals, big meals, family gatherings will feel threatening, frightening to the eating disordered person. They will avoid it at all costs. They will feign sickness, volunteer, say they are eating with friends, all in an effort to avoid the Festivus you are so eagerly awaiting.

Third, you must act compassionately and quickly. Your silence can be deadly. My eating disorder was a cry for help, screaming as loudly as I could scream — a young woman with no voice.

Here are some important things to look for in your child/friend/neighbor:

  • Any weight changes, up or down
  • Differences in eating patterns, like avoiding family meals, or an inability to eat with others
  • Pushing food around the plate; excessive use of condiments; you may even notice the family pet gaining weight
  • New dietary regimes like vegetarianism; fear of certain foods, obsessions with other foods
  • A dramatic increase in physical activity and exercise
  • Going to the bathroom immediately after a meal; spending a long time in the bathroom
  • Missing food that may be hidden away for another time, or eaten when alone
  • Mood and social activity changes
  • Distorted sense of body image; wearing big or baggy clothing
  • Thinning or brittle hair
  • Digestion or bowel issues
  • Abnormal blood counts
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dehydration
  • Insomnia
  • Tooth and gum problems (often times the dentist is the first to notice)
  • Fine hair growth over the body

If you see these symptoms in your kinder, offer your compassionate heart. Be a loving, nurturing part of the journey. The causes of eating disorders, as the layers of an onion, are so complex. Genetics, environmental, psychological and cultural issues all come into play. Emphasis on diet, looks and body shape only add to the dangerous mix of complex behavioral issues lurking in our society.

I had an eating disorder from the age of thirteen. I sought help, at 32. A lot of damage was done in between those years. It was an excruciating battle to overcome what I believed was ‘my very best friend.’ No number on the scale ever offered satisfaction. Tied in with anorexia, as it oftentimes is, was a major depression. I desperately wanted my outline to get smaller, lighter until it, until I, disappeared. Nothing less than that would be deemed a success.

I had an ‘entire team of people’ trying to help me, help myself. I had a therapist, medical doctor, nutritionist, and psychiatrist, all specializing in my illness. I even spent several months outpatient at a clinic. I called it ‘food camp’ and ‘my unfortunate incarceration.’ At 35, I had to re-learn how to feed myself. When I had to use the bathroom, I had to leave the door wide open and sing the entire time I was in there.

I had never really tasted a food, any food until I was 40. Yes, you read that correctly! The Mrs., and me, we went on a bike trip through Tuscany. We were both finally healthy and happy — new foods and flavors danced in my mouth in a way I had never experienced. Nu? So this is what people have been talking about?

Over time, a great deal of damage has been done to my body. I have had multiple painful gum surgeries to stop the gum recession in my mouth from acid reflux caused by not eating and from throwing up. Too much diet soda led to kidney stones. Malnutrition and missing periods for years at a time led to infertility and brought on early osteopenia and osteoporosis. I even have bone loss in my mouth and jaw.

I am so very grateful I figured out, with a great deal of help, that I was worth the fight. We are proof that this awful disease can be overcome successfully.

Yiddish Proverb:

Love is sweet but it’s nice to have bread with it. Lib iz zis ober es iz feyn tsu hobn broyt mit im.

 

 

 

Happy New Year, from the Jewish Atheist!

The Jewish Holidays… whenever the kinder (kids) ask about them, usually, historically, the answer is, “Some group of people hated us [Jews], so we ran, and through some miraculous, super-hero-like mumbo-jumbo maneuvers, we made it, we survived, and so, we ate!” Ess a bissel. Eat a little! Nu? Jewish history in a nutshell.

Please know if you are new to this site, or even if you are a regular I love you both I may throw in some beautiful, robust Yiddish language to better turn a phrase, and yes, I was raised Jewish, I do have serious doubts about all organized religion the man behind the curtain, and tend to live more on the side of humanism. But this is not the slippery slope we are headed down on this day. Don’t get me started…

L’Shana Tova. Rosh Hashana. Happy New Year! This, I can revel in! For Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, is a time of reflection usually with a nice brisket, some noodle kugel, and apples, all drenched in the sweetness of honey, creativity, thoughtfulness, and questioning about any and every thing around. Well, that is just another day around here. This is behavior (hopefully) we all do every day, as people on this planet. This process of inquiry and self-examination is what goes on in my head each night as I lay in bed, thinking over the day, and listening to the soft hum of the maideleh’s gay shluffen (sweet girls sleeping). 

No question, I’ve been reflective, and that reflection quite coincidentally has led up to this holiday, this New Year.  Tsuris (troubles)? We all have our fair share. Time? We are all racing against the clock of inevitability. Some days the tick-tock is louder than others. Some days, it is rather deafening.

Yiddish Proverb:

In a quarrel, leave the door open for reconciliation. Az da krigst zikh, krig zikh azoi du zolst zikh kennen iberbeten.

I am an adult most, well, a good majority of the time and I am in control of my thoughts, my behaviors, my actions. So, to continue in my daily efforts to lead a life of compassion, empathy, and mindfulness, and to raise good kinder who are always listening, always watching and learning, I made a very big move to change things. To heal.

Hi Mom and Dad,
It’s been a long time, and I want you both to know that I have been thinking about you and hope you are well. Today’s world is filled with so much chaos – thought perhaps we could all use a little peace. Peace is good.
xo
L
And I hit send. In a very short time after, I received this:
Dear Lisa,   We too have been thinking about you on a daily basis for a long time.  Mom got up this morning and told me she had a dream about you last night. She does not remember the dream-all she remembers is she hugged you.  Yes, it has been too long. Let’s not waste any more precious time. We love you.  Mom and Dad
The ganseh mishpocheh (the whole family) has grown. The gift of nachas (joy). ❤
Yiddish Proverb:
When things go right, you become rich. Ven es gait gleich, vert men reich.
A bie gezunt. As long as you’re healthy… And, go call your mother!

The puzzle that is time

Where does the time go… 24/7 is our new normal? Oy, fraig nisht (don’t ask). Eighty-one years is the average age of life on this planet in the U.S. its probably much less with mrt at the helm to live. If you’re a man, you get an average of 78.7 years. How many heartbeats? How do we spend our time? What makes us happy? What constitutes a life well lived? These answers change from person to person, and I have been doing a lot of mulling this over of late. So much so, my head hurts (se tit meer vay der kop).

Everyone’s road is different. Life, it is filled with zillions of invisible tugs of war, pulling and tugging at us — some good, some not so much. Sometimes we fly through tsuris (trouble) with ease, other times, we need more agility — extra adeptness, newfound compassion, empathy.

Can we get balance among the commotion? When do we know what feels good and what hurts, pains us? What about ethics, morals, values, pain, conflict, money, love, empathy, gratitude, compassion…is there a pattern? There is no manual, I do know that…

If our time is finite, we probably should handle it with care. Even when our email is full and voicemail is no longer accepting messages If our energy is fixed, we should do our best to expend it wisely. If we crave healing, we should actively seek restoration. If we desire love, let the heart sing. Can we afford to bargain at this table? I don’t think so… and yet I know I have danced along the ledge. I was young, pained, not yet so wise… So what? (Iz nu?) 

Tseitn derlaibt! Oh, the times we have lived to see! 

May there be many more tomorrows for us all…

Shvesters

My recipe (note, I’m no cook!):

  • Do work that is meaningful
  • Follow your heart
  • Always, always, always, be kind to others
  • Live out loud

 

Are you living your life well?  It’s never too late to change things up a bit. Tell me how you do it?

 

The week that was… different

Spring break and we have been counting the days to our trip to see my mishpocheh (family). We’ve had four Nor’easters in 3 weeks, snow up to my tuchas (tush, derriere) and all too much tsuris (troubles, stress, woe) filling our minds. The thought of 80-degree weather, sunshine, swimming, and laughing my ass off with my shvester (sister) until we literally wet ourselves was naturally the stuff of dreams… like unicorns, L.O.L surprise dolls, and glitter falling from the sky. And the kinder (my girls), they love seeing their Aunt, Uncle, and Cousins more than anything!

A blast from the past! From the top, schvoger, shvester, me, little, big

T minus two days, and the fever, she burns through my Little. A temperature of almost 104She had complained of a tummy ache, and like all good Jewish-atheist momma’s, I told her to sit on the potty. She has had so much junk food of late, a good poo would be a relief like it would for all of us. She tried, my madelah (sweet girl). We watch The Greatest Showman on the telly.

This is my magical cocktail, keeping me safe. TY Ilaria! Notice how my cup is marked — no sharing with the sickies — my glass, half-full

T minus one day, fever sticking around like gum underneath the table in a diner. Lethargy and skin as pale as fine porcelain said porcelain will play a role very soon. We plan, we pack, we share the news of germs and we try to stay positive. We watch The Greatest Showman, then we snuggle off to bed, my Little wrapped tightly in my arms. A few tired hours pass and we all awaken to a fountain of vomit. Nothing really says love more than getting thrown up on, and only worrying about the helpless, unhappy, scared little patient in your arms. We clean her up. Big, she helps us to change the sheets and blankets. The Mrs. presses the ‘sanitize’ button on the wash cycle.

There is a strange calm in the air, with a scent none too pleasant. Little, she fell fast and hard to sleep, again tucked close by my side. I could hear the soft crying moans from Big, realizing that we wouldn’t be taking that big ol’ jet airliner in a few hours time. Tears roll down my cheeks, silently. At 4 am I text my shvester, our friend who was to stay with Gatsby. We are a no go. Ix-nay on this oliday-hay.

Has the world ended? No. Are we grateful that we only have a petite passing pathogen that will eventually vanish? Of course. Are we all desperately disappointed? Big time.

Day of. I let all three of my girls sleep. I promise my Big that we will find a way to make it fun. That we will take turns taking her out of the sickly house and have some well-earned fun. I speak several times with my mishpocheh. My schvoger (bro-in-law), he punches frantically in the keyboard to see if we can squeeze out different dates of travel, salvage our trip. We have teary-eyed FaceTime calls. So many plans they had in store for us! Vey iz mir. (oh my effing G). 

Gatsby, so happy

Little, she cries for my Mrs. to stay with her, so Big and I make our way into the world. We have a nice nosh (little something to eat) at Starbucks. And head to the movies in a gray, teary day. We see A Wrinkle In Time. The woman at the ticket sales booth is 803 years old if she is a minute. In the past, she has given me the senior rate, to my dismay. Today, she again rings us up, 1 senior, 1 child. I feel the dark cloud above, rather than reveling in the 8 dollar savings. f*ck it and enjoy the show with your daughter

We had a lovely afternoon and decided Little, she would have been afraid in this movie. We bring home a vast array of popsicles (they used to call them poppa-sicles) for the sick one, in hopes of getting her to eat/drink. We learn of the day spent in (and close to) the porcelain seat, now the excrement exodus from the southern region. Oy. This reaffirms our tough decision. We watch The Greatest Showman. 

Little finally wakes up with no fever and no symptoms. We convince her of just one more day indoors. The 24 hour, fever free rule — to keep the rest of humanity safe.

photo by my Mrs., hair by my Little

Her hair has begun to form dreadlocks. We all fear the brushing of that mop. The Mrs., she starts round one, and Big, me and Gatsby head out the door to explore our new ‘hood. We walk for an hour, in hopes of better hair days. We have such a good time! Gatsby is loving the spring and leaving pee-mail messaging around for all his new friends.

We open the front door to a geshrei (shriek, loud, unearthly Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween cry). At least another hour goes by, and I am summoned so Big can get out’a dodge with the Mrs. Armed with a brush, conditioner, and really bad TV, I sit with my muse. It will be 4:45pm before I claim victory. Her head, like a BP oil spill, finally combs through. We did it.

Later that night, we watch The Greatest Showman. Who knew our spring break, our circus, would also be our groundhog day. Aud-o, Steve-o, Max, Vic, we love and miss you all so much.

Yiddish Proverb:

A mensch tracht un Got lacht. Man plans and God laughs.

 

From The Greatest Showman:

‘Cause we’re dreaming with our eyes wide open.

So come alive!

And of course, a bei gesunt. As long as you’re healthy! Stop by tonight! The Greatest Showman, 8pm.

That’s it. Period.

Guess what… this a not a political rant or a thumbs down to the tsuris (troubles) our world is facing due to mrt kind of passive aggressive of me, eh?. This is a girls story. My Big, she is growing up. Born not ten minutes ago, yet my shana maideleh (sweet little girl) is soon to enter double digits. She is gaining wisdom, confidence, curiosity and her own personal identity, wrapped in a blanket of kindness and love. Oy, here I am kvelling (enthusiastically bursting with love and pride), again…

Big and Little, so grown up!

I should probably show a Georgia O’Keefe painting right about now because I am going there… Periods. Girls are getting them. There is chatter. We have chatted. And we are doing everything we can to keep it positive, normal and free of shame as we begin to prepare for this milestone gallstone kidney stone. She’s got two moms — this should be a walk in the park for us, right?

But I gotta say, she just learned to ride a bicycle. Am I ready for the menstrual cycle?

Which of course got me thinking about my own very strange, first-period experience. It was the Saturday of labor day weekend, 1976 and I was thirteen. We lived in south Florida and it was hotter than hell in a sauna on those particular September days. School had begun in August and I had welcomed the 3 days off. The Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon played on every TV in our house. I went to pee, and there it was – the small red blot. It was more of a dot than a blot. Definitely a dot. I was rattled I wanted to write, ‘mortified’ but you’ll soon see, my father’s name is Morty. Some of my friends had already gotten their periods, so I knew time was not on my side. I read Judy Blume’s, Are you there God, It’s me, Margaret, a few times by now.  I just did not want it to happen. Gay avek (get lost, go away)!

So I very inconspicuously left that bathroom, and quietly went into my room with Buttons, our poodle, and my closest confidant. I closed the door and sat on the floor quickly putting my legs up on my bed. I went vertical, in what I now know was a yogic shoulder stand. I was upside down. Dammit, I was going to send this period back where it came from… Surely if I stayed this way, there was no way for the ‘flow’ of Aunt Flo to wind its way, well, down. Why had no one else tried this? I was brilliant! Buttons agreed.

Day 1: After the initial spatter, I was fine. Feeling positive that I had this entire situation well under control, laughing with Jerry Lewis. Buttons, she was just happy we were staying in the air conditioning. Day 2: Coasting. Not even Dexter could find any blood spatter. I stayed on the phone, watched the telethon, Buttons at my upside-down, side. Day 3: WTF What happened to physics? How could this happen to me? I was in a shoulder stand for three solid days! I was as invested in this endeavor as Jerry was in raising money. I had to do something. I had to call my mom… Ugh!

They were at the tennis club. This was all pre-smartphones. I picked up my princess phone and dialed the club. Max, who manned the front desk and was 90-years-old if he was a minute, answered the phone. He paged my mom. Yes, called her by name over the loudspeaker and told her she had a call. Kill me now, before she picks up. A bolt of lightning. Divine intervention. Thankfully her doubles match was over and I wasn’t too much of a burden. I told her I didn’t feel so good and could she please come home. That was all I said.

Inside Red Canna, 1919 Georgia O’Keefe (c). I had to put it in…

Instantly, she screamed across the entire restaurant, “Morty! Lisala got her period! Let’s go!” They came home, my father teased me incessantly and my mother handed me a futon-sized bedroll and called it a maxi pad. She said, “You know everything, right?” I mumbled, “of course I do” and slinked, head down, in shame, into the bathroom where this nightmare began. She added, “Be careful of the sheets at night, from behind the locked bathroom door.

Later, on that dreadful night, they took me out to dinner an alleged celebration at The Rascal House where they embarrassed me by telling everyone in line, the waitress, the guy who brought the pickles, the other guy who cleared the dishes, the cashier, that I just got my period. Wasn’t it bad enough that everyone could tell I had a mattress between my legs? I prayed for invisibility well before Harry Potter had the cloak.

Needless to say, things got way worse before they ever got better, and there will be more stories, to share, I am sure. And I never wore white pants again.

Who doesn’t love a nice carousel ride

Last week, I was invited with my Big to go with her to Diana Circle. It’s like the happy, hippy, feminist version of Girl Scouts no judgment here, no cookies to sell either. They are an empowering, safe, and inclusive group that celebrates modern young girls as they experience their own, unique rites of passage. In a world filled with mixed messages, misogyny, double standards, a stunning amount of sexual harassment, and thankfully, oceans of #strongwomen in #pinkpussyhats marching the earth, I am so very grateful to Tara R. and her spiritual girl-guidance. She helps us to help our kinder (kids) embrace life, take the bullshit by the horns and grow up to be strong, healthy, and proud women.

At the previous gathering, one of the older girls got her first period and she was celebrated in a beautiful and moving way. The Mrs. and me, we are trying our very best to do right by our kinder. May they never be shamed for their bodies or their natural bodily functions. May they embrace the challenges of growing up as their uniquely beautiful selves free from adolescent misery and filled with love, connectedness, and honesty. A way I never knew was possible until a decade or so of therapy.

And friends, I leave you with this Yiddish Proverb:

No one knows whose shoe pinches except the person who walks in it. Keyner veys nit vemen der shuckh kvetsht, nor der vos geyt in im.

Nu? What’s your first-period story? Share with us and we all become a bissel (little) closer. Here’s to #mightygirls becoming #strongwomen!

      

      

      

Eat a little, ess a bissel!

Normally, I say to my Gatsby, “Ess a bissel eppis, tatelleh,” (eat a little something, my darling boy. Then I feed him his 5,6,7 times a day nosh (meal). I always thought nothing is too good for my boy, until this happened! Oy vey…

Big is wrapping the injured hand of Millie, while our cute, but very guilty Gatsby, looks on… Millie, she smiles like all Wellie Wishers do!

Camille and Willa, American Girl Wellie Wishers, arrived from dear friends for Channukah for Big and Little. Nachas! (Joy!) Clearly, they love them! They take them everywhere and play with them non-stop. As a review, 10 stars out of 5! These dolls are a perfect size, easy to play with, less fear about ruining their well-coifed hairdo’s, and a lot lighter on the ‘wallet inflicted pain’ than their taller cohorts command. (This review is my own. I am not paid for my opinion. I should only, one day, be so lucky! Pooh, pooh)

One minute we are playing ‘Simon-says’, and the next minute, Camille (nick-named Millie) goes from 10-fingers-perfect to nine-OMG! One furry bruder (brother), guilty with his ‘jaws in the finger jar!’ Chicken bones are very nice, but the fresh, full-flavored fingers of a new Wellie doll, dee-lish! I look, I run, I scream, “DROP IT!” Out pops a very little, doll finger.

One minute we are playing ‘Simon-says’, and the next minute, Camille (nick-named Millie) goes from 10-fingers-perfect to nine-OMG! One furry bruder (brother), guilty with his ‘jaws in the finger jar!’ Actual size, less than 3/8 of an inch.

We recovered the damaged doll digit and somehow managed to save the injured soul of my Big, who did everything possible to successfully keep her emotions in check. I promised her I would soon perform a much-needed fingerectomy on dear Millie. I would reattach the pummeled pointer with the very best of my Jewish-doctor abilities. She knows I am a well-trained tinkerer, I fix things. I will make Millie whole.

Yiddish proverb:

When I am eating, everyone can go to hell! Ven ich ess, ch’ ob ich alles in dread.

Gatsby, he thinks, his only crime is getting caught! Lucky for him, he is so darned cute.

Caught, finger in mouth

Wishing everyone all the best the holiday season has to offer! Health, happiness, and prosperity! ❤