Life's Tool Box – A Guide for Parents and Educators

August 23, 2017

Not a Total Eclipse of the Heart

Filed under: Tools for Life Posts — by Life's Toolbox @ 12:13 pm
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I have not written a tool box post in quite a while.  My father, the reason I began this blog was ill, and I found it difficult to write.  His valiant battle with vascular dementia ended on August 14th.  Even at his worst, nurses noted what a handsome, nice, lovely man he was.  I always wondered how they could tell, he was withdrawn, largely non-verbal.  They were skilled in seeing beyond his illness.  His wife of 63 years, my mother, related to him, until his last day, as her loving and beloved husband, a man with a quick mind and clever, craftsman hands, a man who loved so many things in life, but most of all his family.

My thoughts after the profound loss of a man who means so much to me and my family are quite scrambled.  But in the midst of the eclipse, one thought became clear.


For 7 days of shiva, as is the Jewish custom, I sat with my mother and siblings while we were visited by friends and family, all sharing memories of my Dad.  It was wonderful to remember the Dad who danced, who built beautiful things, whose favorite summer pose was bare-chested surveying his pool.  We had, in recent years, known a quieter dad, one who vascular dementia crippled and limited.  We had, by necessity, become focused on Dad’s medical and emotional needs as more and more areas of function were impacted by illness.  This week, hearing stories from his colleagues and past students, from nephews and cousins, in-laws and friends, we remembered the essence of who Dad was.  It was magical and healing, but also very sad. We lost him in stages, and with each debilitating change, we adapted to the new normal.  Reminded of what an amazing whole man he was, we lost him again in full, and it is surreal and terrifying.

I got up from shiva and, as is also the Jewish custom, went back to regular life and to my office.  At 2:30 in the afternoon, I arranged to meet my daughter in law and together observe the once in a lifetime eclipse of the sun.  In New York, where we were observing it, the eclipse was not total, we were never in the dark.  It became somewhat cooler, and the light was certainly different, but the sun, even blocked by the moon, was a glowing presence.

That, I thought is how the world feels now.  There is something missing.  I can’t feel the warmth of my father’s hugs, I can’t see his face light up as he sees one of his grandchildren, or his great grandchild. I can’t call him for advice on the latest broken appliance, or share news of an adventure.  That is gone.  But it is not gone totally.  When I saw the orange glow of the sun, eclipsed by the moon, but still there, I realized that is now my reality.  Dad will always be with me, in the stories my family shares about him, in all the ways he shaped us.  He may not always be obvious, but I will look for him, in the furniture he built and the lessons he taught me and my family.

Like so many during the eclipse, I left my routine and took time to look at the sky.  There were moments when you looked in the sky and saw nothing.  The clouds obscured the eclipse.  But if you were patient, the sun, a golden sliver, peeked through.  I expect, at times, I may not be able to feel my father’s presence.  But I hope I will learn patience.  I hope I will be open to sense him in my life, always.  How he would have watched this eclipse with awe.  How I miss him.




March 9, 2017

Terror and Trauma – For Young and Old

Filed under: Tools for Life Posts,Uncategorized — by Life's Toolbox @ 2:56 am
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The recent events prompted me to post this blog on the Huffington Post.

May we be blessed with calm, happy times!



December 24, 2016

Snipes on a Plane

Filed under: Uncategorized — by Life's Toolbox @ 11:18 pm
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Following the recent event on a JetBlue plane, I posted the following on the Huffington Post Blog.  Click below to read it.

Snipes on a Plane



August 25, 2016

The Most Critical School Supplies

Filed under: Tools for Life Posts,Uncategorized — by Life's Toolbox @ 3:55 pm
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It’s almost September, and I posted this on the Huffington Post about the most critical supplies to consider as we approach a new school year:



May 6, 2016

The Terrifying Reality of Mothers Day

Filed under: Tools for Life Posts,Uncategorized — by Life's Toolbox @ 10:06 pm
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In preparation for Mother’s day – a blog post with my sobering tribute to mothers and motherhood – especially those we do not always recognize or consider.
With my wishes and admiration for mothers everywhere.

April 20, 2016

A Passover Seder for All

Filed under: Tools for Life Posts — by Life's Toolbox @ 12:14 pm
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Yesterday, (Tuesday) did a pre-taped interview on Miriam Wallach’s radio show on JM in the AM – it will air Thursday am at 10:30. Almost had a panic attack when she said Seder is tomorrow night!!!

Seder this year is on Friday night, and Jews young and old, worldwide, will be blessed to sit together and celebrate the redemption from slavery to freedom.

Here is a link to a blog post I did for Yeshiva University re: how to make your seder engaging for all ages 

Happy Passover to all!



February 29, 2016

Adult Behavior Unbefitting a Child

Filed under: Tools for Life Posts,Uncategorized — by Life's Toolbox @ 9:57 pm
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My latest Huffington Post blog bemoaning the political landscape from the point of view of educator and child psychologist.


December 29, 2015

Mindful at the New Year

Filed under: Tools for Life Posts,Uncategorized — by Life's Toolbox @ 9:36 pm
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Here is my latest post on the Huffington Post blog.  I guess my mind is quite focused on gratitude these days!

Wishing all a mindful new year.


November 24, 2015

Thanksgiving and Thanks Getting

Filed under: Tools for Life Posts — by Life's Toolbox @ 4:48 pm
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I know I have written about gratitude before – but here is a post that I recently published on the Huffington Post.

Happy and peaceful thanksgiving to all!





September 9, 2015

Counting Your Blessings – A Wish for the New Year

Filed under: Uncategorized — by Life's Toolbox @ 2:30 am
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We have been to too many funerals of young people. We have visited too many hospital beds. We have watched too many horrific news stories, witnessed too many seniors struggle with loneliness and illness. In the days ahead, like so many others, I will pray that the new year brings us brighter days, good health for all, peace and prosperity. And I will have unwavering faith, that those things I cannot understand are guided by a power much wiser than I. But neither my prayers nor my faith will prevent me from a realistic acceptance that life may continue to come with significant challenges, and even gut wrenching pain. So I am thinking, if I dig deep in my toolbox, is there a tool that might help?

So much is being written about optimism, the power of believing in possibilities, and focusing on the good, rather than the bad. Another positive mindset receiving a lot of attention is gratitude. These notions of positivity may be a cornerstone of modern positive psychology, but grandmas of generations ago were already combining them into great wisdom, advising us to count our blessings. They did not, interestingly, only offer this advice on sunny days and in good times. “Count your blessings” was a mantra for dealing with some very non-blessing like contingencies.

Are there some secrets to make counting your blessings work for us? Is there a manual teaching us how to do this? Since we cannot count what we cannot see, the first step to the optimistic, resilient mindset of blessings is to notice them. This is easy when all goes well, when we are blessed with health, wealth, happiness. It is sometimes easy to notice our blessings when we see those less fortunate. When we witness the pain of others, even those very close to us, the slight distance from the epicenter of trauma allows us to resonate with our blessings. But when life directly challenges us, when we feel least blessed, can we look deeper? Can we find the kind words of a friend or stranger that are, in fact, a blessing? Can we shift our focus from the trauma of a loss to note instead what we have not lost? And is this even possible or appropriate?

There was a time when a popular cognitive psychological tool was something called thought exchanging. Patients would be taught to replace negative, depressive or anxiety producing thoughts with positive but realistic alternatives. This is a powerful technique, but in terms of counting blessings, a bit simplistic, and almost insensitive. Imagine someone who has lost a loved one, survived a trauma, struggling with illness, wouldn’t it seem absurd to advise them to “replace your negative thinking with a focus on your blessings” . Thankfully, the amazing truth about the human psyche is that we need not replace one set of thoughts with another, our minds have room for both. We can mourn, grieve, hurt deeply, worry intensely, and all the while, count our blessings. We can cry at the pain of a beloved relative in one moment, and smile at the antics of an adorable toddler. We can swell with pride at a child’s accomplishments, even as we note with distress the deterioration of our elders.

Counting our blessings is a tool, not a panacea. Blessings are not the antivenom, neutralizing all life’s poisons. They are our emotional vitamins, building us, strengthening us, giving us the nutrients we need to move forward.

The beginning of the academic year, and following close on its heels, the Jewish new year prompt both introspection and consideration of how we will change, what we will do different this year. We may spend the new year praying for blessings, for ourselves, our families, our communities, and for the world. Perhaps, at the same time, we should pray for the wisdom to see the blessings in our lives, when they are obvious, and when they are not. While we pray for a year with no sadness, no struggle, no catastrophe, no pain we should pray, too, that no matter what happens, no matter what painful, difficult thoughts we harbor, we can, at the same time feel ourselves blessed.

May we be inscribed for a wonderful year of blessings


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