Five Question Friday: October 12, 2012

I hope everyone had a great week! For me, this ends the first week of a new quarter in school. I have been busy but I still have time for  5QF! Some of the questions are a challenge for me once again but I will make an honest attempt to answer them. Join in the fun if you choose, and leave some of your answers here. Or, if you prefer, click on the badge to be whisked to the home of Five Question Friday to get the questions and add to your blog posts. What ever you choose to do, ENJOY!

1. Did you have any homecoming traditions?

There are many ‘homecomings’ that may have traditions associated with them. This time of year one may think of football homecoming games. Since I was never a big football fan, and since I seldom attended homecoming games, and since those homecomings were many many years ago for me, I don’t recall the traditions of those weekends.

Another homecoming, and one that has more meaning in my life, is the Thanksgiving Saturday family gathering we have every year. My family is spread out over the country and seldom do we all get together at one time. But on the Saturday following Thanksgiving, we have a big family pot-luck get-together out at a retreat sight in the country. It started years ago when our children were young . . . and so were we. My brother organizes it every year. The first year there were a dozen of us who gathered in his back yard for a cook out. I don’t think any of us intended at that time to make this an annual event but that is what happened. Over the years, as our family grew, our children married and then began having children of their own, we had to relocate to the retreat center. We feast, play games, take hikes, talk and laugh, sing songs and play instruments (usually the children who roll their eyes when parents push them into ‘performing’ for the family), and have fun. About 60 of us made it to the last gathering. Seldom do we have everyone there, but as many as can will plan our ‘homecoming’ around this family gathering tradition.

2. Do you ask your spouse before spending money?

I don’t think we ask each other before spending money, but we definitely discuss money and how we spend it. Fortunately neither of us are “shoppers” and we both tend to be frugal. Both of us like to invest, too. Once we buy a stock, or add to our IRA, we are extremely reluctant to withdraw it. We are not rich, not even upper-middle-class. But we are making ends meet and are content with what we have.

3. If you could be famous for something what would it be?

This is a tough question. I have no desire for the “hollywood” life. Nor am I interested in lots of material possessions. But if I were to be famous, I think I would like it to be for inspiring people to live more wholesome, authentic lives. I am of the opinion that most of the ills of the world can be attributed to misguided beliefs about what is truly authentic living. We search for it in material things that will decay and pass away, and fail to grasp the awesomeness and beauty of living simply, in the moment, embracing the natural and sustainable gifts that provide sustenance and meaning for our days. Actually, being famous doesn’t fit into my picture.

4. Have you ever seriously thought you were going crazy?

Yes. 😉 I won’t say any more on this one!

5. How do you eat your steak? Burger? (as in, well done, medium, still moo-ing…)

Kosher! (hahaha…. yes, I keep kosher. 🙂 )

Weekly Photo Challenge: Family

I like to be creative when I participate in the photo challenges, however sometimes it is best to just be straightforward. I had a wonderful visit with my family over the Thanksgiving holidays. Unfortunately, with all of the pictures we shot, not one included the whole family. NOT ONE! What were we thinking? We were so busy talking, hugging, laughing and simply enjoying being in each other’s presence that we failed to shoot more formal shots that included everyone. I did however, get one shot of the three kids and myself which I will post here. Of course, the kids are all adults now, but still “kids” to me. Others assure me that they will forward photos my way, so if I have an inkling, I may add photos to this post at a later date . . . maybe. But here is a photo of my three children and myself. There were many many more family members around, but this represents my most immediate family. (We didn’t even get a photo of Richard and me!!! What were we thinking!?! Missed the photo of each of the children’s families as well. Oy vey . . . )

Reminiscing on This Thanksgiving Day ~

Yes, believe it or not it is Thanksgiving Day! Later we will be heading to Kentucky to spend the weekend with my folks. All the kids are coming in with their kids. My Colorado brother and his wife are flying in. Another brother is living in Kentucky, as is the family of my deceased brother. We will most certainly eat a lot, laugh even more, enjoy the camaraderie and the chaos. This will be the first time the family, all of us, will be together since my brother’s funeral in April, 2005. Just this year, Mom and Dad celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. Dad survived an aneurism that he was not supposed to survive. My son and his wife suffered a miscarriage which broke all of our hearts, but now they are preparing to foster children. Their strength and courage is awe-inspiring. My daughter, the older of two girls, stays active with her community involvement, volunteering and work. She and John are raising her son, my grandson Jacob. The younger daughter and youngest child is expecting her first child. She and Eric, along with his daughter, will also be there. We will all be in Kentucky, grieving our losses, celebrating our miracles, and loving with passion. Life is short, too short, and we know it. I am fortunate to be part of a family that celebrates life, the blessings and the curses, all of it. L’Chaim!

As I was thinking about whether to post today, it occurred to me that I began blogging two years ago this month, November 17, 2009, to be exact. I began blogging because I was going out of my mind looking for work, wondering what I should do, depressing my life away. I had no idea at the time that blogging would become such a big part of my life. Another example of someone changing one thing in his or her life and life responds in positive ways. One analogy is a plant that thrives but without water it wilts. I was wilting. When the plant is watered, a  seemingly dead  plant will spring back to life and flourish. Blogging was the water I needed, an outlet to express myself, be creative, whatever.

Blogging helped me uncover a passion, develop a life plan, form friendships across miles and continents. Now I am in grad school preparing for a career that I have talked about for years. I picked up the camera again, a hobby that I abandoned decades ago but now see as part of an income-generating side line. Life is brighter and more hopeful as I move forward. Instead of this one blog, this primary blog, I now have three blogs, and one blog set aside for creative writing–even though I haven’t touched it much . . . yet!  Those blogs are linked to this one in the menu across the top of this page, so feel free to take a “gander.”

I truly have bountiful blessings. I am a rich woman! Thank you. Gracias. Todah Rabah. Merci. Danke. Obrigado. Grazie. Thank you Thank you Thank you.

I have included a reprint of my very first post ever if you are interested. This is the one that started it all. Enjoy.

🙂

Well, the time has come for me to get with the times, hence this blog.  There are many reasons why this seems to be the right time for me to begin such an undertaking.  First and foremost, I enjoy the writing process.  It keeps my mind alert and focused.  As someone who has been unemployed for a year now (a sign of the times which deserves its own blog) I find that I need to do something that will keep my mind from atrophying.  There is no one subject or theme for this blog–at least not yet!  I feel sure that in time a  theme will begin to emerge, but for now I simply write what comes to my mind.

Secondly, I want to write for my family, especially my children.  I want to share myself with them.  They don’t  know my story, at least not my perspective on my story.  Do any of us really know or understand our parents unless they make a concerted effort to be open and vulnerable to our impressions and judgements?  I think that if we were to be more open, more transparent with each other — parent and child — we would find within ourselves a deeper compassion and love, one for the other.  At least I’m hoping that is the case.  Simply put, I want my children to forgive the wrongs I committed against them.  Mind you, I’m not talking about intent to do my children harm, rather the wrongs of the stronger over the weaker, the wrongs that occur when one thinks and acts out of their own pain and memories rather than with a sensitivity of how one’s behavior affects those in his or her care, in this case, one’s offspring, my offspring.

Third, this is one way to improve my writing skills, to exhibit writing “samples” etc, for prospective employers.  Bleh….  Secretly and selfishly, I really do believe I have something of value to write about.  To be a writer or blogger, one must be narcissistic enough to believe that others will be interested in what s/he has to write.  I fall in that category.  Seems arrogant to me, and in truth, that is an arrogant stance.  Sorta.  I guess.  Anyway, arrogant or not , I want folks to read my blogs.  Family foremost, friends second, future employers….well, maybe.

Bottom line, I just like to write.  I like the process.  I hate — strong word? yes, but appropriate — getting started.  So I expect that writing this will be a curse and a blessing.  I will write to my heart’s content.  I will share my world view, life experiences, lessons learned or not, trivia, profound thoughts (as I said, one has to be a bit of an arrogant narcissist to do this), and maybe more.  Please respond if you are so inclined.  Make suggestions.  Offer encouragement.  All I ask is that whatever you write, even if you vehemently disagree with me, that you express yourself truthfully but with absolute respect to me and others who might be reading this.  No name calling.  No foul language.  No insults.  Honest opinions expressed with civility.  (could write another blog on the lack of civility in these days and times.)

Looking forward to this process and your responses!

Chana/ Cecelia Rogow-Futch

Five Question Friday: November 18, 2011

Good Friday everyone! I do hope you all are waking up to wonderful possibilities today. And for those who are struggling for whatever reason, may you find the strength to get through your day, and comfort for having weathered the storm, whatever it is.

Nothing much has happened this week other than studies! By mid-December the quarter will come to an end and I will have completed one of the toughest required courses in this program. (The other mind-melter comes in the spring quarter!) Since not much else is going on, let’s get on with 5QF!

1. Do you have a go to song that always puts you in a good mood?

I have so many “go to” songs and music I don’t even know where to begin. MANY songs of many genres fit this bill. There is one however, that comes to mind right away. Not your everyday fare, but oh so uplifting! Maybe not your cup of tea, but I love it! dance to it! hum it! Enjoy. 🙂

2. Are you a real Christmas tree kinda person or do you go with a real fake one?

We are not Christmas tree kinda people here. Nope. Not at all. Instead, around this time of year we celebrate Chanukah. We will light the menorah for eight nights, have a few latkas with applesauce, sing a few songs, visit friends and relax. Chanukah is not one of our major holidays, but it is certainly a beloved holiday by many.

3. What are you thankful for?

Too much to expound upon here. Soooo…. I’ll send you to my gratitude blog. Click here. There you will find many things for which I am thankful! 🙂

4. Which fashion fad from the past do you wish you could wear today?

Nah….  None. Absolutely none. The clothes I wear aren’t so faddish anyway.

5. Do you wait until the “low fuel” light comes on before you fill up the gas tank?

Absolutely. Isn’t that what you are supposed to do? Makes my husband crazy. He thinks that one should never let the gauge go below the half-way point. I say, “why not?” After all, isn’t that what the low fuel light is for, to let us know when it is time to fill up again?

 

 

So, that’s it for this week. Have to get back to the books, but this has been a nice break. Y’all enjoy your weekend, and I’ll see you next Friday from KENTUCKY!

Morning Rituals

For as long as I can remember, Mom would get up long before daybreak to begin her day.  She would brew a pot of coffee, pour a cup for herself and one for Dad, add two teaspoons of sugar per cup, then return to bed, coffee in hand, where she and Dad would sit quietly talking for a bit.  We kids were not allowed to bombard them with our demands until they had some time alone together.  This was their daily ritual, one that never changed in all the years I was growing up (except when camping, then the roles reversed.)  It is a most wonderful and intimate way to start one’s day, I imagine.  I remember being on the other side of their bedroom door and hearing their muffled voices.  We never knew what they were talking about, and at times wondered how two people could always have something to discuss every morning, day in and day out. But, they did, and to us this seemed perfectly normal.   I was in high school before learning that this morning ritual was an uncommon habit not practiced in the homes of my friends.     

 Another morning ritual–winter morning ritual– from when I was very young also brings fond memories…now.  Although we lived in Louisiana, winter could (once or twice a year at least) produce a “cold snap,“ with temperatures plummeting into the 20’s.  Central air was a rarity found in few homes at that time.  Rather, we had open flame gas heaters in every room.  That way we could heat the rooms in use, and close off the rooms not in use. At night we slept with no heat in our bedrooms because Mom was too fearful of blankets accidentally being tossed onto the flame. That meant that when bedtime came, we would have to crawl in between marble cold sheets. To say that this was no fun is an understatement, but once I crawled in and made a little cocoon for myself, the chill would quickly dissipate.  It helped that the bed was piled high with Momma Futch’s (Grandma) or Mom’s home-made quilts.  The next morning while it was still dark, after Mom put the coffee on to brew, she would come around to each of our rooms to light the heaters while we were still in bed.  When we arose, the room would still be chilly but not frigid.  Just as bad as crawling into bed at night between cold sheets is stepping into icy clothes in the morning when dressing for school.  So, time permitting, we would warm our clothes before putting them on by standing in front of the heater and literally holding our garments over the flame.   My three brothers and I would each claim a heater for this purpose while Mom was in the kitchen preparing breakfast.  It’s a wonder we didn’t burn the house down!  Speaking of breakfast, we had a variety of choices the entire time I lived at home: Quaker Oatmeal, Cream of Wheat, Ralston. Add to that  a piece of toast (no one makes toast as good as Mom does.  Ask my kids.  She takes a piece of bread, dots it with dollops of butter, sticks it in the oven to toast, then slathers it with plenty of homemade jelly) and a glass of powder milk and we were set for the day! There you have it; our winter morning ritual on cold Louisiana mornings!     

my piano
My Piano

 

Our move to Kentucky when I was fifteen years old changed some of our rituals.  No longer did we have the open flame heaters.  Now we had central air. Mom was no longer the “alarm clock” who woke us up and started us on our days.  I missed that.  But we still had an alarm clock to get the family up and going in the mornings.  Me.  I played piano, but as I began high school, finding practice time proved to be quite challenging.  Mom’s solution?  Practice first thing in the morning before going to school.  So, each morning around 5:00 (or 5:30 if I overslept) I would get up and practice the piano.  Since I had to do this, it wasn’t like this was my choice, I would begin by practicing a few scales–in fortissimo!  I am told (by my brothers, and a couple of cousins who lived with us for a few months) that I played so loudly the walls would shake.  A bit of an exaggeration, I assure you, but practice I must, and if that was the only time available, then the family had to endure this with me.  The truth of the matter is that playing the piano was seriously important to me. Throughout high school I found ways and places to practice (the school‘s chorus room during study hall, the church piano when no one else was around, etc.)  At one time in my life I was pretty good, good enough to win a small scholarship to begin college.  After a couple of years, however, I forfeited my scholarship by changing my academic major.  Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I had continued with music.  Today my piano is a living room ornament, a dust collector, but from time to time I still enjoy sitting down and plunking out a tune.  Much to Richard’s relief, I gave up those early morning practice sessions long before I met him.    

negel vasser
negel vasser

 

My rituals have changed over the years to reflect the changes I have gone through.   When I chose to become Jewish, I took on the rituals of the Jewish people.  Even so, some things don’t change.  Much like Mom, I, too, am an early riser.  Once awake, I find it impossible to stay in bed (most of the time…there are exceptions.)  When the last of the kids left home, my mornings became my quiet time.  For the past decade, my ritual has included more “thank you” time, more prayer time.  Before my feet touch the ground, I thank G-d for having kept me through the night, and giving me another day.  I then wash my hands, pouring cold water over one hand then the other a few times.  This is followed with blessings, prayer and thanksgiving.  Only then do I make myself a cup of coffee as I ease into my day.  Unlike me, my husband the scientist wakes up immediately ready to discuss some deep complicated physics problem, or a burning world issue, and he wants my opinion, even if it’s four o’clock  in the morning.  Fortunately, however, over the years he has learned that trying to engage me in anything resembling deep animated discussion before I’ve had my first cup of coffee is a dangerous proposition.    

Morning rituals create fond memories and foster feelings of security.  But they do more than that.  Rituals are the glue binding families together, and oftentimes bring us back together for various events and holidays throughout our lives. How often do you and your family fondly reminisce about some ritualized activity when gathered together for some event?  Rituals identify who we are and Whose we are.  Rituals mark momentous events reminding us that we are part of a bigger world. They help instill in us our value as individuals within a community, be it religious, familial, cultural or ethnic.  Our days are filled with rituals from arising in the morning to reclining at night.  They are important, for the seemingly small, insignificant rituals become the fiber of our lives.  For me, not only do these rituals provide mooring for my soul, but in addition to everything else I have written here, they create that connection which strengthen my relationship with G-d, and provide markers along the path to holy living.    

Memories of morning rituals from my youth are strong and vivid indicating their importance to me.  Morning rituals continue to be vital  to my spiritual, mental and emotional well-being.     

What are some memories of your morning rituals? What feelings do you have about those rituals (then and now)?  How have your rituals changed over the years?

Thanks Giving 2009

Unemployment. Uncertainty. Unknowns. Hacks. Betrayals. Scams. Loss. Recession. Doubt. Depression. Fear. Terrorists. Thanksgiving.

What? Thanksgiving? How did that slip into this list?

Yes, Thanksgiving. In this country, the United States of America, once a year we take time to be thankful for all of our blessings. Sometimes, such as the present time, we may think there is little for which to be thankful. Just read the list again. Evil seems pervasive. Ubiquitous. How do we be thankful when we’ve lost our job? our home has gone into foreclosure? illness strikes? we are betrayed by someone we thought was our friend? Etc.

Many years ago, when my life was in enormous upheaval, there was a time when I actually believed there was nothing to be thankful for, or at least very little. I will spare you the details, just suffice it to say that that was a very bleak time in my life. During that time my enlightened youngest daughter gave me two small journals. She suggested that each night before I go to bed I write down at least five things I was thankful for on that day; just five blessings each day to record in a journal. The first days were tough. “Thank you that this day is over.” “Thank you that I don’t have to see or talk to anyone else today.” “Thank you that I don’t have to fake a smile, or sound happy on the phone, or make up things to be thankful for any more today…” However, sometime later when I went back to read some of the entries, I noticed that by the end of the first week when I recorded my five blessings for the day, a definite change was beginning to take place. “Thank you that I have a warm bed to sleep in tonight.” “Thank you that I had food to eat today.” “Thank you for the first crocuses I saw poking through the snow.” By the time I had been recording my blessings for the second week, I found that listing five blessings daily was impossible; there were too many blessings to narrow the list down to just five. In addition, I was adding prayers for others in need of recognizing their daily blessings. I could write endlessly about the blessings I encountered each day. Really. In two short weeks my attitude and sense of well being had changed dramatically. Even though my situation had not changed, I was changing inwardly which reflected outwardly, all because I simply paused each day to count my blessings. Thank you, Mary, for those small journals and your sagely advice. I filled both journals in short order and have gone on to fill other journals recounting the many blessings of my life.

A second story is not really my own, but it impacted the way I pray daily. I want to give credit to the person who told me this true story, but I honestly cannot remember the source. It seems that a rabbi was teaching a class of young children how to pray. The rabbi went around the room and asked each child what they would say to G!d if they could speak to the Almighty directly. The children were each listing all the things they would ask for, personal requests and, commendably, things for others, too. When he got to one young boy though, the child simply answered, “Todah. Todah. Todah.” Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Since hearing this story, my prayer life has changed. Today, every prayer I pray ends with three simple words: “Todah. Todah. Todah.”

The evil we encounter in this world is daunting, yes. Things happen in our lives that we must pause to grieve. Pains and fears grip us even as we seek to live exemplary lives. Exhaustion from tending to our cares blurs our vision. However, I have discovered that goodness expressed in the simple act of counting our blessings and giving thanks is far more powerful than the evil. Choosing to be thankful is in fact, a remarkable healing balm for our spiritual and emotional wounds.

Thanksgiving recognizes on one day the attitude to be exemplified every day. May we all develop the daily habit of counting our blessings and offering heartfelt thanks. Happy Thanksgiving.