Saturday, December 31, 2016

Shiny, Happy New Years!

The earth has completed its rotation around the sun again, which means one thing – it’s time for New Year’s.  Time for sparkly dresses, champagne, gym ads, diet fads and those often spoken-never kept words – resolutions.  We hear the term “new year, new you” over and over and as I get older, I think we are getting it all wrong.  You don’t need a “new you” – you just need to strip away what’s not real. It’s not time to start over to create something new.  It’s time to take stock of what’s not working, get in tune with what is, and share that awesomeness with the world. THAT is the new you.

What did you hold back in 2016? Were you afraid of success? Did you place other’s happiness above your own?  Did you forget what makes you happy? Did you forget to dream?  If you answered, “yes” to any of these questions, it is okay because we can start all over again right this second.  2017 can be Your Year!  Give yourself permission.

Let’s start by peeling apart the layers of what is not working.  What layers do you need to shed?  Is a job holding you back? Is negative energy your roadblock? Are you eating poorly? Are you in toxic relationships?  These are all things you have control over.  Give yourself love and permission to fix what is broken.

What is working?  Are you finding success in a career you adore?  Are you in love? Are you proud of yourself?  Do you make a positive influence in someone’s life?  Are you a role model?   Are you a good friend? Now that you can establish what has to go and what you are proud of, you can take YOU out of the equation.  It is the interaction and relationship with others that give meaning to life.  That’s what’s important.  What do you have left to offer?  What are things you have left that can be shared with others? 

Do you have a special talent, or trait, or time to share?  I know you do.  Everyone has something to give of themselves that can impact someone else in a positive way. Taking time to make note of them in the New Year, may uncover some fantastic action.  For example, instead of thinking about becoming a vegetarian, maybe someone will teach a cooking class at a community center for seniors?  Instead of promising to spend more time with the kids again this year, maybe someone will sign the entire family up for Tae Kwon Do.  Instead of complaining about the political climate of 2017, maybe someone will take action and write their congressman or March on Washington?   Whatever, it may be, we all have the ability to take action, to encourage, to make change or to influence.  We all have special gems that make us sparkle.  The trick is not to keep them hidden.  We need to encourage those around us to shine and grow.  I am “simply positive” if we focus on our real selves and let the best parts of us shine, we will live in a bright, sparkly shiny 2017.  Happy New Year!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Tradition, Tradition

Christmas is a magical time spent with family and friends.  It is also a time rich in tradition.  I often hear this word thrown around during the holidays but I hadn’t given it too much thought.  Obviously, there’s the “tradition” of putting up a tree, and going to church and all the things people who celebrate Christmas, do, but what about the rest of us?  What does it mean for us? 

My initial mind bubble took me to our own customs of lighting the menorah and playing dreidel – those are our Jewish traditions.  But really, traditions are so much more important that just the practice of repeating something year after year.  These rituals or customs are what connect our present to the past.  They are placing importance of where we came from; appreciating and celebrating where we came from; and acknowledging how we got to where we are today. It is establishing importance on where we’d like to see our next generations go.  It is so much bigger than today.  Our private jokes, secret handshakes, goofy smiles, special rituals, cultural stories, heirloom recipes, religious customs – these are the things that blend together to form family.  They connect us and unify us.  They give us comfort and security.  They are things to be treasured and appreciated.

I have had almost twenty years of building my own family traditions, and as my children are about to move into adulthood, I’m feeling a push to put our traditions in Broadway lights so they don’t forget them.  I wanted to make this years’ holiday this best one yet, so I decided to take on a new tradition in our house – An Evening of Gluttony: The Christmukkah Dinner on Christmas Eve. 

I shopped and cooked and cleaned and prepped…….and then I shopped and cooked and cleaned and prepped.  I had forgotten how much work it was to throw a dinner party.  The truth is, I love it.  I love all the little details….of matching every little detail; putting in the extra touches to make my guests feel special; to set the mood for a special memory.  It was three full days of preparing and shopping, but I really was just happy that I had special people in my life to share the evening with.

Day one, I set my table, which is my favorite thing to do.  I love bringing out my grandmother’s china and silver and setting a beautiful table.  Setting the table reminds me of when I was a little girl, as that was my job for family holidays.  The dining room is filled with family heirlooms and I always feel surrounded by love.  It dawned on me that the tradition of setting this table had been passed down for hundreds of years and I had never really taught my own children to set a proper, formal table.  This holiday was reminding me more and more, that even though I did not have Christmas traditions, my family had plenty of their own.

On day two of my prep, my sister-in-law came over to prepare latkes with me.  This is a very, very labor-intensive job of peeling potatoes, chopping, shredding and frying.  It is super messy and super smelly.  Friends who heard I was doing this asked why in the world I would do this when I could buy them at Trader Joes and spare the work and stench?  Truth be told, I was cherishing the memory of making them with my late father and loving the idea of making new traditions of making them with my sister-in-law.  It turned out to be even more fun than I thought and David joined the fun as well.  My house still smells but it was worth it. 

The day of the dinner was Christmas Eve and “Julie’s Mommy’s Pistachio Cake” fell so I had to GASP run to the grocery store for new supplies.  This cake has been part of my life for over 20 years.  My college BFF’s mother makes this cake for every occasion and still makes it each Thanksgiving when my friend comes home for the holiday from the west coast.  Every time I make it, I still call it “Julie’s Mommy’s Pistachio Cake” and it’s written that way in my cookbook. 

Overall, the dinner party was a success…..we ate and drank champagne and laughed and enjoyed one another.  After dinner, I made all the kids sit around the table and play dreidel, just like they’ve been doing since they were five.  Now that they are all late teens, I expected some push back but they all grabbed their candy and ran to the table.  Hearing their laughter and chatter over their competitive top-spinning year after year is a tradition I will miss terribly in a few years.  We ended the night with an inappropriate game of Cards Against Humanity (which used to be Apples to Apples when they were little).

Yesterday was the big finish of my big, traditional holiday – Christmas!  We bundled up in our ugly Christmas sweaters and went ice-skating downtown.  After lunch at the iconic Lafayette Coney Island, we all came home exhausted and lit the Hanukkah menorah.  While they will likely not express it verbally, I know my boys really appreciate our family traditions.  Their excitement, laughter, smiles, exuberance and overall silliness say it all and is the best gift I could ever receive.  Watching them grow up is both the hardest and best thing in my life.  I can’t imagine our traditions changing, but I know that in the next few years they will.  There will be girlfriends, and then wives, and then children…..but isn’t that the point of tradition anyway?  To move from generation to generation?

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Keys to My Success

Every person has different tools in their toolbox of life to build the life that makes them happy.  What I’ve discovered for myself is that these things can be super simple. Discovering and using those tools is the key. Through my “happiness journey” I’ve established three key factors to maintaining my positivity.  Food, Shoes (yes, shoes – I will explain), and Kindness are my keys to successful living.  If I am not on top of my game in one of these categories, one
glitch can turn a bad moment into a week of bad habits….and bad habits directly affect my positivity.

I am not a regimented, diligent kind of girl by nature, but I typically give it the good ole’ college try.  Last Sunday was a crazy day.  My son was flying home from California in a snowstorm and a dear, sweet adopted family member earned her angel wings.  The stress and sadness brewing was an easy recipe for laziness.  I ate poorly, didn’t exercise and fell out of my daily routine. I wasn’t motivated to write my blog, which has never happened to me before. It astonished me how easily I allowed myself the distraction of feelings to give excuses permission to take over.  Instead of picking myself up, the pattern continued for the next few days, and my laziness in being healthful both emotionally and physically, turned to laziness in my journey of positivity.  I found myself impatient, cranky, and judgmental.  I let little things bother me; I was intolerant with my children over small things; I indulged in gossip; and spoke ill of someone behind their back.  These are all things I don’t tolerate from others so how did I so easily lose myself?  As nasty as this pattern was, the positive spin was that I was aware of it and quickly pushed my Reset Button.  Through this process, though, I realized it was important for me to evaluate what led me to that place so I could make the decision to crawl out of it and not repeat the pattern.

I am “simply positive” that, for me, the key is routine.  While my instinct is to fight it, I am healthier and happier when I adhere to a routine.  Giving myself an internal schedule obviously lends itself to predictable behaviors.  When I fall out of routine, it’s important to acknowledge it as quickly as I can and start again.   When I eat well, I feel great and when I don’t eat well, it makes me cranky and I don’t treat people the way I should.  When I put my shoes on first thing in the morning, I am super productive and set the tone for a successful day.  I get things done; I exercise; I take care of business.  When I don’t put my shoes on first thing in the morning I am lazy, I stay in bed too long, I feel bad about myself and that translates to how I treat others.  When I don’t wake up with a smile, it is more challenging to spread kindness and that makes me moody.  These are three very, very simple things, but for me, they are key.

Everyone has different keys to their own success.  Finding your own can take years and even decades….and they can change.  Give yourself permission to learn them and take the time to use the tools to build your own positive life.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Taking a Snow Day!

I'm "simply positive" that sometimes ya' just have to take a Snow Day!  See ya' next week.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Accepting Change

One thing I know for sure is that I have no control, and letting go of that need is a key factor in my happiness.  Change is happening all around us all the time and the only thing we can do is give in. Going with the flow is a characteristic most of us are not born with.  It is normal to resist change. 

I learned to live with change at a very early age.  Family changed. My homes changed. Friends changed. Love changed. As soon as I felt everything was in it’s place, a puzzle piece moved or was lost.  Everything was always changing, and while it’s hard to understand it at a young age, I figured out pretty early in my life that giving into the change is always for the best, because we do not have control anyway.  Sometimes change hurts so much you feel like you won’t survive; sometimes change puts us in a better place.  The older I’ve gotten, the more I have become a fatalist – everything happens for a reason – I am just riding the ride and having faith that the journey I’m on is the one meant for me.

As humans, we are ever-changing.  I am a work in progress each and every single day and every day I’m making a conscious effort to change the attributes that I’m not happy with.  I am not the same person I was 20, 10, 5 or even 1 year ago.  In that spirit, I trust that everyone around me is also changing.  While I used to “write off” those who have hurt me in the past, or offended me, or displayed characteristics I found ugly, I also trust they have the ability to grow and change.  It pleasantly surprises me that I have the openness to forgive and accept.  I don’t expect it, but when it happens, my heart is usually open.  This is a gift I unknowingly gave myself. In that same vein, however, I know it is impossible to make anyone but me change and to expect change in others is wasted time.

Seeing my world with optimistic lenses, I see most change as positive.  I read a great quote recently: “If we don’t change, we don’t grow.  If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.”  Being a little uncomfortable sometimes is a good thing; it allows us to grow. Holding onto things in fear of what could be is only holding ourselves hostage to growth.  I’m “simply positive” we all need to give in to change.  It may be unnerving or scary, but we can’t move forward in knowing ourselves, or living with the uncertainties in life, if we won’t accept the inevitable.