Tuesday, December 28, 2010

your best

Life is made up of experiences...some good, some not so good, some absolutely beyond imagination....

2010 has provided a great amount of inspiration for ideas, innovations and experiences.

I'm curious: what's been your BEST experiences of 2010? Don't be shy - go ahead and share....inquiring minds want to know!

Happy New Year - wishing you all best for 2011.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Miles, a tribute (April 1991 - December 21, 2010

It was a pretty hot day – somewhere in the mid 80’s. I remember clearly because the air conditioner in car (our trusty 1989 Chevy Spectrum) never worked well, and we were all feeling it on the way home. There they were, in the back, panting. Two little kittens we had just acquired, cute and fuzzy and small enough each to fit in the palm of a hand. The black one – with white nose, muzzle and paws – had already demonstrated his precocious personality. He let out a little yelp that was all attitude. I said “that’s it, his name is Miles” (after my favorite jazz man with attitude). For good measure, we named the other one, female, Ella.

This was May 28, 1991, a day before Deb’s birthday. We had decided, upon moving in together, to get a cat. And now we were going home “as a family.” The kitties, who came to dominate our lives in so many ways, were the first birthday gift I ever bought for my not-yet spouse. Our lives have been enriched in so many ways over the years – making us chuckle every time we think of the original receipt: $5.99 (no tax on livestock).

Miles and Ella were with us through grad school, ordination, and finding our first jobs. They moved with us from Cincinnati to L.I. to Westchester to NJ and then South Bend. The cats were the first to welcome home our children (there’s a great picture of Miles in the borrowed bassinet we set up for Benjamin; the cat slept in it before the baby). How they climbed up and jumped off the walls while playing. Playing ring-toss with the plastic rings from a milk bottle…Miles swatting down a bat (yes, a bat) in the middle of one summer night…Ella rolling around upside down and squawking for attention…their love of raw veggies (!) rather than chicken parts…They were always entertaining, and a source of concern. As any pet lover knows, they became integral parts of the family.

Nothing lasts forever – even beloved pets. Ella died a little more than 5 years ago, just as we were looking to move from NJ. It was difficult, as she suffered from disease, and had been with us 14 years. And yet, the kids were younger, and easily more adaptable to (and perhaps less cognizant of) this change.

We just figured Miles would go on and on. He was never fazed by anything, and remained very healthy even as he aged. He too was affected by kidney problems, which often happens in older cats. However, in the few years since his sister’s demise, treatment had advanced quite a bit. As a matter of fact, the first thing we did to address his condition was feed him chicken soup. No kidding. The vet said “you need to maintain his intake of liquid and protein, so I want you to give him chicken soup.” “Really?” I muttered quizzically. “Yes”, doc said, “you’re Jewish, you get it, give him soup.”

For several months, the addition of chicken soup alone buoyed his strength and slowed the progress of disease. And of course, eventually, we had to engage other treatments and medications, until finally, yesterday, the time had come. Miles was no longer responding to meds, getting progressively weaker. Not wanting him to suffer, or go through any real physical crisis – it was clearly time to let go, say goodbye. Easily the most gut-wrenching decision we’ve ever had to make. Some times doing the right thing still hurts.

So now as a family, we mourn Miles’ loss. I know over time we will only look back with fondness, love and deep appreciation to his role in our lives: nineteen years and eight months of blessing.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Best of 2010 - your choices

2010 is coming to an end. I'd love to know what have been your best experiences of the year:

Favorite book you've read?

Best meal you've had?

Most enjoyable music you've heard?

Coolest day trip/outing you've taken?

Most unexpected fun you've had?

Let me know, and we can share our good times into the New Year ahead...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Safe place

"There is nothing more whole than a broken heart." This statement by Menachem Mendel of Kotzker (the Hasidic master known as the Kotzker Rebbe) expresses a profound understanding of the human condition, and the range of experiences and emotions that go into framing our lives. Often, we are prompted to ignore (or "overcome") life's difficulties - yet they too are part of what make us who we are. Not that we should "like" or "appreciate" the garbage that comes our way; we do have the capacity to embrace and manage the tough stuff we face. This does not make us weaker: rather, acknowledging - and working to manage - our challenges (illness, stress, career, family, whatever they are) allows us more fully to grow toward our potential, and live with meaning. And - we all need some way to address our broken hearts. This past weekend, I was privileged to conduct such a conversation with those attending our Shabbat morning service. Some shared their personal perspectives, looking back on the most challenging episodes they've endured, having come to see that navigating roadblocks along the path of life is part of a sacred journey. The group discussed how - even though our individual circumstances differ - we all share the "same broken-ness." There was a powerful connectedness felt through the room. And afterward, one participant took me aside, saying "thank you for making this a safe place where we can talk about what's really important." One of the most simple, most touching comments I've ever heard. What's your "safe place"? How do you embrace, address and flourish beyond the challenges you face? What helps make your broken heart whole?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

It’s December 7 – famously declared by FDR as “a date that will live in infamy.” This morning, surfing various news programs and listening to the radio, I didn’t hear even one mention of this significant anniversary – the attack on Pearl Harbor that plunged the US into World War II. And I recall that a few weeks ago, on November 22, I saw no attention paid to the assassination of JFK – perhaps the most tragic occurrence in modern American political history.
Growing up, it was as if these days were added to the ritual calendar (especially in our house). Both my parents, who were born during the depression, reflected on Pearl Harbor a day that changed the world entirely. As a kid growing up outside Boston (in the land of Kennedy) – the shooting of the president demanded somber respect as well as utter fascination long after it happened. For those who remember these experiences, they became defining moments in their lives. Ask and you’ll be told exactly where they were, what reports they heard, what pictures or film they saw, and the reflections of those who commented in the news, trying to bring meaning to these terrible times. For many, these were epoch-changing episodes. After Pearl Harbor, the US had to become a greater player on the world scene; after JFK’s death, we lost the post-war benign innocence of Camelot. Have we lost our collective memory as well?

In less than a year, we will commemorate the 10th anniversary of the attacks of 9/11. That day also stands out as one of those transformative times – indelibly etched into the minds of anyone who witnessed, near or far. I wonder if after a few more short years, or in a generation, the powerful impact of that day (and all the events that have followed from it) will be lost among the debris of “other stuff”, and our over-saturation with the chaff that becomes momentarily important. Yes, it’s important to take advantage of today’s media, and our ability to know almost everything about anything. It remains our responsibility to understand that some things – ideas, facts, and parts of our past – are actually more important than others, no matter what, throughout time. Let us not forget.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Wishing you a groovy Hanukkah

It's been a very full week gone by - between Thanksgiving with friends and spending last weekend in Medfield for my 25th HS reunion. Great to see so many people, and especially the chance to spend some time together with certain longest-time friends (Big Dave, MCB, etc.) and dearest ones (Rick & Lauren). Added bonus to see my own brothers after too long.
And now, we welcome Hanukkah. The Festival of Lights begins tonight, and as if on cue, the snow started falling here in Michiana over the last several hours. It's gone from a mild fall to a surly winter in just more than 24 hours.
Anyway - Hanukkah, the minor holiday that we've jazzed up with lights, decorations and gift-giving, is really yet another chance to consider all of those things in life for which we're grateful - the warmth of family and friends, good stuff to eat and enjoy, and the meaningful (and fun) things that occupy our time. As you watch the glow of the Hanukkah candles this season, I hope you have the chance to reflect on all life's goodness.

CHAG URIM SAMEYACH - wishing you a very happy Hanukkah!

And all that jazz...