Monday, September 1, 2014

Sweet Summer Longing

artistic contribution by Zal
So much change in the air. What a cliche. Just returned from one of a remaining handful of long summer walks down this glorious road I have come to call my own. I have walked many a mile on this road over the past eight weeks, in the company of myself, and occasionally, in the company of friends. This road I follow is home to camps, old decrepit bungalows, a beautiful vacation community, a gorgeous golf course replete with rolling hills, babbling brooks, ancient rock walls. A century old home sits on an oversized manicured lawn, with giant flowering bushes, perfectly trimmed evergreens and piles of firewood neatly stacked for the winter. Across the street there are maple trees with tapping marks and a neglected raised garden bed. Further along there are fruit trees, wild flowers in shades of purples, blues, yellows and white, overgrown bushes, weeds and dense forest. This road has hosted my walks, my runs, my thoughts, my breath, my tears, my songs. This road has been an intimate part of my summer. 

I resist this time of year. the rapidly dwindling summer days, the ever approaching autumn. It was 66 degrees this morning. balmy for the end of August. The sun shone brightly and the trees were very still but there was a wind rushing through me. I tried to make sense of it. How the leaves wouldn't rustle, yet I felt the breeze coursing through me, even heard its sounds. I don't need to understand.

It's hard for me to part with summer. It's hard for me to part with every summer, but especially this one. I am so resistant to change, but this has been the summer of so many changes. I've learned a lot about myself. About my beliefs. What I'm capable of. Some things that I didn't want to know. Yet, I'm so grateful for all that. Acknowledging that I have been keeping myself in a box, a box that never really fit. Granted, it was a box of my own creation. My own structure. My own, self-imposed limitations. Discovering that it really didn't work for me was unsettling. This summer was a great big hand, turning my box upside down and shaking everything out of it.

I believed things about myself that were simply not true. I've learned so much about the various meanings of strength, resilience, love. About become softer to get stronger. Surrendering to find a deeper, inner strength. I've broken through boundaries that I had placed for myself. Boundaries that helped me grow and boundaries that held me back.

I don't want this summer to end. I want to bottle its emotion, its scent, its warmth. I want to keep it in my pocket. I want to reach in and squeeze it. 
This summer has brought me peace and love and light and pain and beauty. Resilience and surrender. Many mutually exclusive concepts that came together. So many gifts. An awareness of how blessed I am. How G-d watches over me.

This walk brought me to a state of melancholy and also of peace and joy. An awareness of how the changes I resist facilitate the greatest growth. I have experienced many an introspective walk over the course of the last two months. I aspire to keep these walks in my soul, and tap into them, regardless of the environment, the lights and sirens, the city bustle. It's nourishing to be one with nature, but peaceful and beautiful exist within. 


To peaceful introspection,

Chana


Friday, August 8, 2014

Hurting and Healing

I have hurt someone that I love. I have caused pain to someone very close to my heart. It was not intentional. It came from a place of concern, compassion. But I am not here to defend myself. The purpose of this writing is to get in touch with my experience, with how I have been impacted.

An awareness dawns that this pain contributes to growth, the growth of this dear one, and, if I accept it, to my growth. This pain is an inherent part of the journey. Another's journey. My journey.  I am resistant to this part of myself, this part that causes pain to the people I love. I prefer to think of myself as someone that fixes things, that resolves issues and situations, that heals broken hearts and soothes tormented souls. And while I am grateful to those teachers in my life that have contributed to my growth, to my journey, those that have handed me my pain, I just don’t want to be that person.

I recognize that it is neither realistic nor possible to contribute in a solely positive way, yet also, that pain and growth are ultimately positive.

So I sit with this pain in myself, for having caused pain to another. Not so long ago I may have wallowed in shame or found a distraction. It's a testament to my growth that I no longer go down that road. I don’t numb this pain with food or shopping or cooking or social media.

While I would like to close my eyes and hold my breath and wait for it to pass, I find the courage to look my pain in the eye, and face it, and inhale deeply, and feel it coursing through my veins. I embrace this pain, this necessary part of my journey.

This experience has taught me well.  I am not likely to repeat this one, but I’m sure there will be other such moments. I will, once again cause pain to someone that I love, unintentionally, but pain, nonetheless. For that is the cycle of life. I have free will, but I am not in control. The effort is mine, the results are not. Even the purest intentions can cause harm. On that same token, the goodness that comes through my action, the positive impact that I have, that does not belong to me either. I am merely a small part of something much greater than myself.

I pray for a time when I can make peace with all of my journey, where I no longer judge this process, where I can surrender to this rhythm of life, where I recognize that my choices, and my intentions, do not determine whether I aid in the recovery or I contribute to the pain. I have no control or equal control of the part of me that heals and the part of me that causes pain to those I love.


In deep humility,

Chana



with so much gratitude to Dr. D for her insight and perspective

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sefer Torah Soulfest

The moment a child is born it begins to take its cues from those present. If all are waiting with bated breath, the newborn will hold its breath. If those attending are afraid, the little one experiences fear. And when all are peaceful, the baby knows he’s safe.

When I attend a birth I am cognizant of this honor, of this responsibility. I make an effort to leave that which doesn’t belong - outside of the birth room. I consciously welcome the new little soul with joy and acceptance. Sometimes, I think, I might be the only one present in that state of mind. This imprint carries considerable weight and is significant in the first experience of life earthside, and I like to think that I’m doing my part to make this child feel safe, loved and welcome.

As the summer drew to a close, my brother and sister in law celebrated the completion of writing a Sefer Torah. We drove to Montreal to join the festivities. This Sefer Torah was written in the merit of their family expanding. They have a sweet little girl whose conception defied the laws of medicine. Truly a miracle baby. When I say that emotions ran high, I mean tangible, chords being struck, alive with feeling, eliciting resonance, a fully charged event.

The sofer called upon those present to aid in completing the last few words. I thought of the soul of the Sefer Torah, of those present to greet it, to mark its entrance to our world. I thought of the imprint, of its first impression, and I was humbled.


Sweet Chana looks on as the sofer fills in some letters
my brother and his torah 

Who am I to greet a Sefer Torah? Would my presence make it feel safe? It was certainly welcomed with love and joy, but was I present to the torah and its message? Was my soul alight for this special torah? Would it be content in that room? Who am I?


The scenario replayed itself many times  through my mind for the days that followed. I thought about the journeys of the souls. My soul, as other souls, came into this world, having chosen its journey. My parents, my siblings, my spouse, my children, my story, my passage, my progress. And I imagine the soul of the Sefer Torah did too. It chooses its journey. For some that journey is filled with righteous people and for some, they are surrounded by the more mundane. Yet they all have a purpose, a mission to fulfill.


I like to think that my soul and the soul of this particular torah are intrinsically linked. That we planned this encounter way back when, in our pre-embryonic stages, long before we were a twinkle of anything in this earthly world we now reside in.
my brother holding his babies
  
My grandparents with the new torah

no caption needed
I'm very grateful that we made the trip, that we were able to share the experience, that I was present for the birth. I pray that in merit of this special torah, another beautiful soul will join our family.

To beautiful births,



Chana


Update: On the 7th of Av, 11 months after this beautiful event, sweet baby Kayla was welcomed with love and gratitude. G-d is so big. (pic to follow)

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Pieces UNreview and Drumroll, My First Giveaway EVER




For fear of not expressing myself exactly the way I intend to, I postpone writing and I find myself here with a bunch of words stuck in my throat like a big fat lump that I can neither swallow nor spew. So many words. So many.


Perfectionism, you have reared your ugly head yet again, but I’m on to you. I recognize you, I know your game, and I’m going to stand up to you. Okay, maybe I’m a little slow on the uptake, but hey, it’s my journey. Don't rush me.


In other good news I was fortunate enough to come upon Sara Hecht’s new cd “Pieces”. That I have a new cd, that’s still new (just released) is pretty big - I’m usually a year behind. The gift of online shopping means I hardly venture into brick and mortar shops and I don’t know what’s new and exciting because those products taking up all the checkout space really do work for people like me. Did that make sense? Sorry, but I’m just trying to get the words out.

Back to the music. Let’s call this my un-review, because I really want to tell you about the cd, but who am I to write a music review?

First, a little something about myself. I love to sing. Since I’ve been a little girl, I have found singing to be incredibly therapeutic. It nourishes and soothes my soul like nothing else can. I am that person that sings on the top of her lungs, mostly when I'm alone or with my kids, but if you're walking down Eastern Parkway and a really big sound comes out of a passing car it just might be me. Hopefully not at a red light with the windows down, but yea, that probably happened too.

There are many albums in my collection that I really like and I find myself singing along to, but none has ever resonated the way Pieces does. I can’t remember the last time an entire album had me this engaged. It plays in the background and my entire body is filled with a deep, reverberating sound. I feel more sensitive, more in tune, aware of myself.
One of my pet peeves with some artists that I really admire: there are so many songs that I can’t sing. Songs sung on really high keys or low keys, or the melody is not so, well, melodious. Or words that can’t be heard. Every one of the songs on this cd is sing alongable, yet not at all predictable. Decidedly NOT predictable. Each piece is original, has its own strength, tell its unique story. And each word is clear. I could make them all out, even without the lyric sheet!

The lyrics are introspective, intuitive, conscientious. They speak of rich history, personal growth, sweet longing. They invoke a strong feeling of connection within me. My soul is alight, harmonious. There are many levels of shared humanity, as a people we have so much in common, but connecting in the realm of music is really deep and moving. It’s like coming home and being greeted by myself.

Which brings me to the sound. The music is exceptional. Artfully arranged. Powerful vocals. Incredible range. Have you ever met Sara? She gave some classes at Bais Chana in the Berkshires when I attended a few years back. She’s this tiny little thing. When I put the cd on I couldn’t believe the magnitude of her voice. Don’t be fooled by the tiny body, it’s capable of big, big sound. Soul stirring sound.

GIVEAWAY
This is a whole new thing for me, but I’m so excited about this cd, I'm going to send one
to a very lucky reader. Here’s what you need to do: Visit Sara’s facebook page and give her some love. Like her page and leave a comment here that you’ve done that, and you get an extra entry if your comment also tells me why you think you should win or something else of interest, because comments that say ‘liked’ don’t quite call my name.
EDIT: If you've already liked Sara's page, push yourself past your comfort zone and post something there. Let me know you've done that and you'll be included.

This cd deserves your full attention. Only one of you is getting it from me, the rest of you need to go buy it. It’s available through CDBaby, iTunes, directly through the Sara Hecht site or those judaica shops where counters are covered with new releases.






to good health,

Chana



ps I've never done this before. How long do giveaways last? A week? Does that sound reasonable? Done. Drawing to be held Sunday, November 10th at 10 pm

UPDATE: We have a winner. Shoshana, please contact me so that I can mail your CD.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Permission to Cry

My heart shatters into many bits and pieces and somehow puts itself together again. My child is in pain, physical pain; and while I’d like to crumple into a heap and sob, I need to remain present and strong for her. I breathe with her and and brush her hair. I encourage the use of imagery, I make an honest attempt at energy healing. I’m guessing I look ridiculous, because she giggles, and in that giggle a small part of my soul mends. I assure her that one day, she too will be willing to stand on her head and spit nickels if that’s what it will take to diminish her child’s pain.


She cries and screams in agony and I bury my face in her hair and cry. I give hugs, kisses, massage. In my limited way I do my best, but my best is not enough for tonight. “I wish I was dead.” I break in half, in quarters, into fragments. I am not so resilient. Please G-d, give me her pain.


Medication and distractions slowly kick in. We all breath a sigh of relief. We all experience the respite. Now I can safely cry.


Everyone settles, by the grace of G-d, and I find comfort in mundane tasks such as sweeping the floor and washing dishes. As I get ready for bed my baby stirs and I scoop her up in my arms and we nurse. I can hardly say ‘she nurses’, this is a mutually beneficial situation. I am grateful for the hormones released into my bloodstream as she gulps and snuggles and stretches. I feel calm and settled and marvel at the miracle of this child, at the blessings she brings to my life and the tears are flowing once again. Just as I put her back down, as a fat little thumb finds its way into her mouth and I kiss her sweet head, I hear my six year old calling.


I help her with a drink and adjust her blanket and sit with her as she drifts back into peaceful slumber and with her eyes closed, the sleepiest voice says “I’m so glad you’re my mommy”.


Sob. Weep. Overwhelmed with gratitude. Vulnerability. Blessing. My heart overflows. Resilience is not needed. I am not alone. My light is rekindled by the abundance of love that surrounds me. I am truly blessed.


I’m thinking that I have been given written permission to cry.


~Chana

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

finger limes, hibiscus salt, perfectionism

Oh the endless list of things I’d like to do, include all things I want need to do very well. Ideally, I would be an excellent mother, wife, friend, writer, photographer, cook, homemaker, runner etc....

Ideally, good enough would be good enough, but alas, it isn't.

For the record, I do think I'm an excellent doula, secret keeper, a very good wife and mother, a pretty good cook and friend. This is in no way about my feeling inadequate, rather of my feeling compelled to excel.

Case in point:


Pinny picked up these cute little finger limes at the co-op. Never seen those before. About an inch and a half in length, and the color of true limes, a quick google search told me that they originate in Australia, are also referred to as citrus caviar, and are undoubtedly going mainstream. The origin sounds authentic, and I can see the caviar, but not so sure about finding them at shoprite.


I cut them open to find a bunch of these tiny little balls of lemon/lime that burst in your mouth and they look strangely like, umm, caviar.



A lot more effort than I would have anticipated was needed to get a picture that adequately depicts the multitude of little gems inside.



Ok Chani, I think they got it.


Wondering what happened to just taking a picture and moving on. 

A friend was here over shabbos and while exploring my cabinets, we discovered this hibiscus salt I made a while back.



What's hibiscus salt?

Hibiscus salt is a combination of dried hibiscus flowers and salt, ground up in a mortar and pestle. The taste is tart and salty, almost like unsweetened kool aid. Hibiscus is the flower most commonly used in a certain cheap tea brand (don't drink those teas, they have dangerously high pesticide levels) where their many varieties share a color.

Hibiscus salt is a finishing salt, and when used on something that contains liquid, will add a beautiful shade of purple to the dish. I've previously used it to top eggplant salads and fish.

dried hibiscus flowers

steeped in water, to illustrate my point

on the chance that the above photo was inadequate  

So I took my finger lime/citrus caviar and sprinkled its content over sliced avocado, and topped it all with hibiscus salt.


It would be embarrassing if I had to divulge the vast quantity of avocado photos shot. Fortunately, we don't have a full disclosure policy.


What's at risk to my not performing up to par? What would happen if I just took one picture, if the quality of my work was mediocre? If I dropped some expectation? What's at risk? So much attention is give to the 'dangers of mediocrity', what about the dangers of unreasonable expectations? Of over extending ourselves? Of chasing down perfectionism?




You'll find me at the pool, embracing mediocrity.

to good health,

Chana 










Friday, March 1, 2013

Purim Pix, Food and Dill Rice Recipe


Been taking the easy way out and posting my culinary creations on facebook. No writing required. Upload photos and share. The pictures go exactly where I expect them to, which is more than I can say for blogging. But I have a standing tradition here of purim/food posts, and this seems like a tradition worth holding on to. 


my son read the megilla for us

 The last couple of Purims had us feasting on various ethnic foods.  We had an Indian theme and a Persian theme. This Purim brought us the Keep it Simple theme. There's a new, precious little person in our lives, and we have different priorities. I may have experienced a brief twinge of disappointment with the realization that something's gotta go, but that would have been so brief, it may not even have happened. What I definitely experienced, was gratitude for the awareness of my limitations. And let me tell you my friend, I am limited.

The menu I wrote included:
Herbed Bread
Fennel Salad in a Citrus Marinade
Chumus
Arugula Salad with Roasted Beets and Sliced Pears
Herbed Chicken 
Persian Meatballs 
Roasted Baby Bok Choy
Dill Rice - recipe below
Hamantaschen
Chocolate Fudge Squares

I was super organized and marinated the fennel salad on Friday - and forgot to serve it. I also prepared the chumus on Friday, but when it came to party time, I decided against it.

The hamantaschen were finished long before the festivities began, and the chocolate fudge squares never happened.


hamantaschen - basic cookie dough and poppy seed filling

Then there were a couple of unplanned add-ons: Sliced avocado & blood oranges over baby spinach, lightly dressed, and sourdough flatbreads that were originally supposed to be herb breads, but the dough didn't seem to be rising well so Pinny decided to turn that into flatbreads and I prepared a batch of yeast dough for the herb rolls. I also made a simple baby chicken for my picky eater.

pomegranate seeds patiently waiting to top the meatballs 

bok choy - drizzled with toasted sesame oil and salt.
 layered to prevent the leaves from burning. 

baby bok choy, roasted and ready

Baby spinach and blood orange 
Perfectly ripe avocado slices for my salad
very lightly dressed with olive oil, parsley, lemon, salt and pepper

baby arugula with roasted beets and sliced bosc pears

sourdough flatbreads - topped with sesame seeds, nigella and zaatar

chicken with mint, parsley, cilantro, garlic, sumac and amchoor

persian meatballs. about 50% meat. The other half consists of
pistachios, hazelnuts, parsley, cilantro, tarragon and onions.
Roasted rapidly and then topped with pomegranate molasses and baked a lil longer.
 Sweet and savory and sticky and delicious.

hope you're not tired of seeing this salad

I derive such satisfaction from being creative in the kitchen with food, photography, and especially when I get to share said food and photos with loved ones. My kids also enjoy playing with food and the camera, and I cherish those moments of inconspicuously observing their joy, and the pride they experience, as they admire their own creations.

Enough about me. Here's the recipe. Best dill rice ever (if I may).

Dill Rice
1 large onion, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
2 cups white basmati rice - rinsed well
1/2 cup fresh dill, chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt
4 cups water/veggie stock

Cook onions, cardamom & jalapeno in olive oil for a few minutes.
Add the rice and stir until the grains are well coated.
Add the dill and salt and cook over low heat for a few minutes.
Add the liquid and cover and cook on low until the rice is tender and all the liquid is absorbed – about 25 minutes.
Allow to rest for 5 minutes and fluff with a fork.

This recipe is really simple and tastes wonderful. The bite of the jalapeno blends perfectly with the sweet cardamom. Be sure to remove all the seeds of the jalapeno so that your rice isn't spicy.

Promise me you'll only use fresh dill for this one.

freshly chopped dill mixing in with the seasoned rice




There you have it folks, the Purim roundup. I'm a little disappointed that I didn't get pictures of the herb rolls. Beautiful rolls, pillowy soft with flecks of golden saffron and vibrant green herbs. Next time... and I hope to have a chocolate fudge photo op soon. If you haven't seen it in the next week or so please remind me.

To good health,

Chana