Candle Lighter Award

Tonight I opened my page to discover that imexcited nominated me for the Candle Lighter Award. I’m honored and humbled with this recognition. Imexcited is a young mother who blogs beautifully about her experience as a first-time mother. She is an inspiration herself! Check out her blog if you get a chance (and ooh and aah over her baby!)

So how does this award work? To get a better understanding you might want to check out Kate Kresse at her Believe Anyway blog. Kate explains that her reason for creating this award is to encourage bloggers to write positively, to seek to lighten the load or illuminate the path for others. This award rewards positive people who write positive blogs. After reading this, I was even more humbled to receive this award. Thank you so much imexcited!

This award belongs to  those who believe, who always Survive the day, and those who never stop Dreaming, for those who cannot quit, for those who keep trying and if you find yourself in that category, you are entitled in this award.

What does the awardee have to do once he or she accepts the award? Nothing. This is an award without strings or limitations. Pass it on to whomever you think lights up the darkness with their blogs and positive presence in the blogging world! That’s it. If you do pass this on to someone else, I am sure that Kate (see Believe Anyway) would appreciate a link back to her, although this is not required.

If you look at my blogroll at the bottom of the page, you will see the blogs I subscribe to. (Mostly; I’m still in the process of updating and adding. I’ve come a long way during the break but there is more to do. Check back periodically.) I subscribe to blogs that are positive, artistic, creative, inspiring ~ in a word, blogs that light a candle in the dark. So each qualifies to take a candle and post it on your blog, and pass it along to those you want to honor.

Again, thanks to imexcited (isn’t that a positive blog title!) for granting me this wonderful award.

 

 

 

New Year Challenges: 2012 Here We Come!

You may have noticed the new badges I’ve added in the sidebar on my home page. For years I have taken on challenges that if attempted, afford personal growth and development. In other words, I want to become a better person so I accept challenges that will help me do that. This year is no exception. After searching and praying and mulling things over, I joined three challenges for 2012! At first glance, three challenges may seem like a lot, however if you know a little more about them, you will see that the challenges compliment each other in such a way that I feel this is very doable. One challenge is for the month of January only (but if it works out, I may continue on my own but in a modified way.) So, let me tell you about each challenge for this year, and if you like, you may choose to join me. :-)

This challenge involves finding and writing “small stones.” In order to find “small stones,” one must keep his or her eyes, nose, mouth, fingers, ears and mind open. Pay attention to the world around us and notice. Write it down. That’s it.  You may write a sentence, a paragraph, a poem or haiku. You may take a photograph, or simply string words together that suggest a mood or a color. Whatever you notice, write it down (one thing each day, NOT everything everyday.) This challenge is for one month only, but by the end of the month, there will be a river of “stones” consisting of the things you (I) notice in our world each day. Click on the badge above to find out more about this challenge. This is a “no pressure” challenge. I look forward to seeing what my “river of stones” looks like by the end of January!

Next is the “No Comfort Zone-2012 Challenge!” As implied, we are to step out of our boxes, out of our comfort zones this year. We are challenged to stretch, to grow, to face our fears, to do things that we dream of but never thought we could do. It may be something big (bungee jumping, hang gliding, skydiving, etc.) but more likely we will be challenged by the little things we do that stretch our imagination. For instance, getting up early one morning while it is still dark and driving the dozen miles or so to the lake shore to watch a sunrise is one of my challenges for the coming year! (Yes, if I do this, you will see photos! :-) ) It might be trying your hand at painting a landscape, or learning a new instrument, or asking the janitor’s name and then speaking to him or her by name every time your paths cross. It can be anything that is outside of your comfort zone. Maybe you will try something every day (rather daunting), or weekly (a little more reasonable) or even monthly (my comfort zone . . . hmmm . . . another No Comfort Zone-2012 Challenge to consider) or less. This is another no pressure challenge; participants set their own agenda, choose their own challenging behavior, and then write about it. The “River of Stones Jan ’12” is the first challenge I will attempt to meet this, the No Comfort Zone-2012 Challenge. (See what I mean about how these challenges work together! Awesome, huh. :) )

The third challenge, and one that works well with the previous two challenges, is the “Creative Every Day 2012″ challenge. (Click on the badge to find out more.) Participants are encouraged to think and act creatively every day, and that can mean anything. This involves thinking “outside the box” (see previous challenge), seeing and noticing (see first challenge) and writing about it, but not necessarily on a daily basis. Maybe I will attempt to make a winter coat for myself (I love to sew, but I’ve never attempted something this complicated, but it may be a daily creative endeavor every day for a week or more.) Or maybe I’ll write a poem about watching the squirrels play chase outside my window (see River of Stones Jan ’12 challenge), etc.

As you can see, any thing I do to meet one challenge, may also meet another or all of the above challenges. Each challenge takes a gentle approach so that there is no “guilt” if we do not do “it” perfectly, or daily. The idea is to further develop a creative, adventuresome, aware life! I think that is good.

I am looking forward to a great 2012. May we each create a year in which our potential bursts open in full bloom!

Five Question Friday: December 30, 2011

Wow! We have reached another Friday! Hope you had a wonderful week. Life was slow and peaceful for us as we celebrated the last few days of Chanukah. Thanks to all of you who followed my Chanukah posts at this site. I had fun refreshing my memory and then writing about the various aspects of this special holiday.

Now, back to a somewhat regular routine, and on with Five Question Friday!

1. What’s the oldest piece of clothing in your closet?

Well, that is a hard one. I am not a clothes horse and I wear clothes forever before discarding them, so all my clothing is old! Oldest? Hmmm . . . I would guess that a Guatemalan skirt I bought at a boutique in State College, PA at least 20 years ago is the oldest, or at least among the oldest garment I own. I still wear it. It still looks good! And I even get compliments on it from time to time.

2. How many random blog readers have you met?

Other than my family and friends, I have not met any “random” blog readers yet. I hope to some day. (Psst . . . Y’all come visit, ya heeah!)

3. Do you let your kids stay up till midnight on New Years Eve? (Or, if you don’t have kiddos yet, did you get to stay up until midnight as a child?)

When the kids were little I would put them to bed at their normal time, but then a few minutes before midnight we would wake them up to wish them a Happy New Year. I do not recall what we did when I was a child, however I do recall New Year’s Eve as being a great baby-sitting night! My favorite family (the Froelichs) would have me babysit, but they and their guests for the evening would return to their house around 11:30pm so that I could join them in ringing in the new year! AND, they were sober so I didn’t mind them giving me a ride home afterwards.

The worst nightmare I had was babysitting for a couple who didn’t return home till four in the morning, stoned, and they told me, a fifteen-year-old girl, to walk home . . . alone . . . which I did. Terrifying experience! My parents were none too happy either, and I was never allowed to babysit there again!

4. What are the gas prices where you live?

Too high! The prices range from $3.50 to $3.85 right now. We’ll see how high the prices are in the morning!

5. What is one resolution that you know you should do but are too afraid to try?

Oy . . . I’m not into resolutions because I always feel like a failure when I fail. On the other hand, I’m a sucker for a challenge. Challenges are easier for me to follow through with, and if I don’t meet the challenge, for whatever reason I don’t feel like a failure, rather I feel successful for having at least tried. And with a challenge, I usually learn something about myself (i.e. NaNoWriMo, I learned that I am not a writer, an avid blogger, yes, writer, no!) In my next post you can read about the 2012 Challenges I chose to take on!

On the other hand, one resolution I always work on is to be a better person, kinder, more accepting of differing opinions, more respectful of the ones I love.

There you have it! Next Friday we will be in a new year, a year I pray will be mentally, intellectually, spiritually, and physically prosperous for each of us. Blessings to you all.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Between

I’m a little late this week but better late than never! I don’t know why I didn’t think of these photos before, but my trip to Chicago this fall provided lots of “between” photo ops! Here are a few!

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Eight Lights

Tonight we kindle the eight lights of Chanukah. During the time of the Macabees, Chanukah signified the miracle of the few over the many, darkness illuminated by a light that increased each day. Take a few minutes to contemplate the power of darkness and the power of light. In darkness we are lonely, fearful, ashamed, oppressed. In a dark room we cannot see where we are going or what we are doing. If darkness fills every inch of space in a room, we are blind. But light one match, one candle; the amount of space taken up by the flame is minuscule compared to the space occupied by darkness, yet that tiny flame can illuminate the entire room. And if each day you add even a little more light, the darkness becomes less daunting, until the eighth night when all the flames are lit and darkness is no more! This is the miracle of Chanukah. In that regard, the miracle of Chanukah continues to occur each day. We learn from an historical event, but the miracle continues and is real today. Every kind word or good deed is a flame that illuminates the darkness of someone’s spirit. Every joyful expression, act of compassion, or sympathy extended, we contribute to the miracle of someone’s life. Each time we shed a little light for someone else to see their way forward, and with every prayer we utter to benefit the spirit of some soul and thus the spirit of this world, we are kindling the Chanukah light! A miracle occurs!

If you are able on this last night of Chanukah, draw up a seat near the Menorah, gaze at the flames as they flicker, and begin to reflect on the miracles you have experienced in life. After a while, one begins to realize that life itself is a miracle of magnificent proportion. Reflect on times when you felt G-d’s hand guiding you, times when you were saved from danger, times when the odds were stacked against you yet a miracle occurred and you prevailed. As you reflect on the miracles of your life, and the miracles of Chanukah, open to the wonder of your life and the events that have brought you to this place in this time.

Just like the menorah whose light grows with each day, others will begin to reflect back the light, too, much like a window reflects back the light of each Chanukah flame and the miracle it represents.

Finally, as you recognize the Chanukah miracle that lives within you, and with the acceptance of your life’s current reality, be open to receive greater!

I humbly thank you for taking a Chanukah journey with me this year. It has been a blessing for me to review and reflect on the meaning of Chanukah, the customs we observe, games we play, food we eat, and to share this special holiday with you. As we head into the new year, may you be blessed with prosperity of body, mind and soul; may you celebrate life’s joys, grieve its losses, and carry the miracle of Chanukah where ever you travel.

Chag Chanukah Sameach!

Shalom!

Chana/Cecelia Futch

We Kindle the Seventh Light of Chanukah!

Chanukah, the origin of the name “Chanukah”:

There is no one origin of the name “Chanukah!” When I looked up the origin of the word, I found many opinions and possibilities. I thought it would be interesting to list a few of the suggested origins here, and then you can pick the one that sounds best for you ;-)

(The following information was collated by Rabbi Nosson Scherman and can be found at http://www.torah.org.)

1. The name Chanukah was given in commemoration of the historical fact that the Jewish fighters rested – “chanu” (the FIRST THREE HEBREW LETTERS of the word “Chanukah”) – from their battles against Syrian-Greeks on the 25th of Kislev. 25 is spelled out chof-heh – the FINAL TWO HEBREW LETTERS of “Chanukah.” (source: Kol Bo; Abudraham; Tur; Ran).

2. The Hebrew word “chein” (the FIRST TWO HEBREW LETTERS of the word “Chanukah”) denotes grace. Thus ‘Chanukah’ could be meant to allude that the Jewish warriors found Divine ‘grace’ on the 25th of Kislev. (source: Noam Elimelech).

3. One of the most direct explanations of the name Chanukah is that it is related to the dedication (“chanukah”) of the Altar, [a centerpiece of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem]… We learn in the Talmud (Avodah Zarah 52b) that the Hasmoneans removed and stored away the Altar-stones which the Greeks had polluted with idolatry, and had to build a new Altar. That is why the festival is called ‘Chanukah’ which means ‘dedication.’ (source: Maharsha to Shabbos 21b; See also: I Maccabees 4:44-9 and II Maccabees 10:2-4).

4. The name Chanukah refers also to the dedication of the Second Temple, which occurred on almost the same calendar date (see the Book of Haggai 2:18). It is because of this consecration (“chanukah”) of the Second Temple that the miracle of the lights that happened in that season – generations later – is called Chanukah. (source: Rabbi Yaakov Emden).

5. Homiletically there is an allusion in the Hebrew name Chanukah to the fact that we conduct ourselves on Chanukah in the manner advocated by the School of Hillel. Hillel holds that we begin on the first night with one light, and add additional lights on each of the subsequent nights. (As opposed to the practice of the School of Shammai, who begin with eight lights and subtract one light on each of the subsequent nights). The initials of Chanukah spell: “Eight Lights, and the Halachah [a.k.a. Jewish Law]  follows the School of Hillel.” (source: Abudraham; Ateres Zekeinim; Pri Megadim).

6. Kabbalistically, at the time of the lighting of the Chanukah candles, there is a revelation of part of the “Ohr Haganuz,” the great light hidden away since the beginning of Creation – the light of Messiah. And that is why the festival is called Chanukah – because it is a spiritual preparation [“chinuch”] for our destined Redemption. (source: Bnai Yisas’char).

Whew! That is a lot of information! And there is more, but I’ve already begun to overwhelm you (or at least myself!), so I’ll stop here. No one is really sure what the origin of the word came from, but the possibilities, endless as they are, suggest nothing short of dedication, teaching and learning, and spiritual preparation, all attributes of the wonderful holiday of Chanukah!

6th Day of the Chanukah Miracle!

Chanukah, day six.

How about some LATKES!

Latkes, or potato pancakes, are a time honored Chanukah tradition. Many people wonder why latkes? These wonderful potato pancakes became associated with Chanukah because they are fried in oil! It is the miracle of the one-day’s-vial of oil that burned for eight days that we celebrate every Chanukah, so we eat oily food. Yuk! In this health-conscious age, we are reluctant to eat an eight day oily diet, but latkes! that’s a different story. Even the healthiest among us find it hard to resist a latke or two with a side dish of apple sauce. Yum! In recent years I have come across a number of different latke recipes ~ jalapeno, spinach, bell pepper, etc. ~ all with a potato base, but the simple potato latke is still the recipe of choice in most homes. Here is a recipe from the Labavitch Chanukah Guide. ENJOY!

English: Latkes (potato pancakes) frying in ol...

Image via Wikipedia

5 large potatoes, peeled                                     1 tsp. salt

1 large onion                                                        1/4 tsp. pepper

4 eggs                                                                  1/3 cup of oil for frying

1/3 cup of matzo meal

Grate potatoes and onion on the fine side of a grater, or in food processor or blender with a little water added. Add eggs and mix well. Add matzo meal and seasoning and mix well. Heat oil in frying pan, then add mixture 1 tablespoon at a time into frying pan. When golden brown, turn and brown other side. Serve hot. Add applesauce if desired.

I hope you enjoy your latkes! And be sure to check out the links below for other Chanukah traditions and recipes. :-)

Fifth Day and the Light is Spreading!

Day five of the Miracle of Lights!

What is “gelt” and why is it associated with Chanukah?

Gelt is the yiddish word for money. Back in the 18th century (and maybe earlier) in Poland, parents would give their children gelt to learn Torah during Chanukah. The children would save the gelt and on the last day of the holiday, each child would take 10% of the money they saved and give it to charity. In this way the children were learning Torah along with the importance of sharing what they had earned with those who were in need.

In addition to giving gelt to children to learn Torah, parents would give gelt for the children (usually boys because girls did not go to school at that time) to take to their rabbis during Chanukah, a gift of gratitude. Gelt was used for playing dreidel, too, and in early 20th century America (1920 to be exact) chocolatiers began making chocolate gelt, wrapping them in gold or silver foil, and packaging the gelt in small yellow net bags (money bags) for Chanukah treats. These treats make their appearance around Chanukah time to this day, and we are reminded of the importance of learning Torah, giving charity . . . and playing fun games and eating sweet delicacies during Chanukah!

Chanukah gelt English: Chocolate coins for Cha...

Image via Wikipedia

Day Four of the Miracle!

Four days, and the flame still flickers!

In Judaism it is important that the stories, the traditions, the beliefs and teachings of the sages be passed from generation to generation so that the Jewish people never forget that Hashem is our G-d. But how do you do that, pass on our stories, if the authorities forbid you to learn those stories, or to study the sacred writings and teachings? Well, one way was to design games of learning that to the outsider appeared to be simple games of chance, something the common folks would play. Children and youth would learn in secret, but when they heard the guards coming they would quickly hide their scrolls and bring out a game. And that brings us to the delightful dreidel game that has been played by Jewish children at Chanukah for centuries!

The dreidel is a four-sided spinning top. On each of its four sides is a Hebrew letter, forming the acronym for “Ness Gadol Haya Sham,” or “A Great Miracle Happened There,” thus insuring that as the children played, they would be reminded of the great miracle in the temple when the oil burned for eight days and nights. To play the game, everyone puts “gelt,” (money or tokens) in the pot. Each player takes a turn spinning the dreidel. If it lands on Nun, pass to the next player. If the dreidel lands on Gimmel, take the whole kitty. Land on the Hay, the player gets half the kitty, and if it lands on Shin, the player contributes to the kitty. When the kitty empties out, each player contributes equally back to the kitty once again. There is usually singing and laughter during the game, and every child knows the dreidel song by heart!

I have a little dreidel

I made it out of clay

And when it’s dry and ready

Then dreidel I shall play

CHORUS

Oh dreidel dreidel dreidel

I made it out of clay

And when it’s dry and ready

Then dreidel I shall play

It has a lovely body

With legs so short and thin

And when it is so tired

It drops and then I win!

CHORUS

My dreidel’s always playful

It loves to dance and spin

A happy game of dreidel

Come play now, let’s begin!

CHORUS

For some reason, this won’t embed properly. This is the best I could get it. Hopefully you will be able to enjoy it.

Blessed holidays to you all!

Five Question Friday (Sort of): December 23, 2011

 

Not surprisingly, no questions were listed for today. Therefore I’m doing things a little different than usual. Instead of answering five questions, I thought it would be nice for each one to share five holiday traditions that you celebrate in your home. You can elaborate if you choose, or not. You decide. Since I’m writing each day about our observances during Chanukah, I will just list five of our customs and let you read more detailed descriptions in the holiday posts that have already begun to appear here.

My best wishes to all of you during these days and holiday observances, however you choose to celebrate . . . or not! Have a great weekend and I hope to see you back here next Friday. :-)

Five of our Chanukah traditions ~

1. Lighting the Menorah each night for eight nights.

2. Eating latkes and applesauce (explanation coming soon)

3. Reading an inspirational Chanukah story after lighting the chanukiah each night.

4. Playing dreidle (explanation coming soon).

5. Learning Torah lessons for Chanukah.

 

Happy holidays everyone!