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

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

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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

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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


June 19, 2015

Fathers and Molds

Filed under: Uncategorized — by Life's Toolbox @ 7:56 pm

Unknown It has been too long since I have blogged – and I have been asking myself why? Often I write when something in the news inspires or more often irritates me. Sometimes I post after an interesting meeting or event. There have been no shortages of either in my life, so why no urge, need, or energy to write? I have thought a lot about the reason I began this blog and whether it has anything to do with my lengthy dry spell. Life’s Tool Box began as a testament to my father, a consummate teacher of Industrial Arts, Driver Education, and many other life lessons. His frequent comment that “everything in life is easier when you have the right tool” seemed particularly relevant for both parents and educators. My hidden agenda in writing the blog was quite personal – I wanted to continue to engage my father, who, even in the early stages of vascular dementia, needed prompting to share the wisdom and wit he so readily offered to anyone and everyone he met.

I suspect I have not written at least partly because of the painful struggle with the ever-changing reality of my Dad’s illness, and with the sadness of losing highly personal and valued treasures.   Yet even in the midst of Dad’s decline, our family continues to be blessed with moments of joy, and my father, ever the eye-twinklng sort, has beamed through weddings, graduations and the birth of his first grandchild. So as father’s day approaches, I am reflecting on how our fathers change, and how they change us.

In one of my father’s many iterations as a teacher, he ran a ceramics shop in high school. He learned to “throw” clay on the potter’s wheel, and taught students to use molds, filling negative space with substance, and turning out things of great form and beauty. What a seemingly perfect metaphor for fatherhood.   We are, each of us, who and what we are, thanks to the efforts of our parents who partnered in our creation.

Beyond bringing us into being, however, fathers mold us. They teach us lessons directly. In my dad’s case that included everything from how to bang a hammer and change the oil in my car, to how to make great spaghetti sauce, and how to recognize plants. They teach us indirectly too, as we watch them navigate the worlds of work and family, the realms of expected manliness, and if they are willing to share it, and we are fortunate to witness it, their softer side. Some of my most powerful memories are of my father’s passionate plea after his mother died, that I stay home from college longer, to keep him company, and of his teary visit to the heights of Masada and to touch the stones of the Western Wall.

I think that the mold metaphor for fatherhood is, however, critically flawed. First, fathers do not pour themselves into negative space. As all parents, they have a much greater challenge . . . to shape a living, breathing being who comes with factory pre-sets, built in temperamental tendencies and affinities. That is not the only problem with the metaphor, however. Using a mold to create something generally has minimal impact on the creator. Yet fatherhood is a particularly transformative experience. It molds men in wondrous ways.


Fatherhood turns big, strong men to mush. It challenges the male notion that every problem has a solution, since parenting comes with no road map and children deny simple solutions. Fatherhood creates opportunities for men to partner in new ways with others in their lives. Fatherhood makes every man a teacher, but it also makes every man a learner, with lessons that both elate and wound.

Of course, I did not witness my father’s metamorphosis. The great, loving dad he was and is the only version of him I have ever known. Decades ago I was privileged to watch my husband transform into a father. A sensitive but spontaneous and fun loving soul, it was no surprise that he became a doting and playful father. I have watched his heart soar and his heart break through the years of our children’s growing, and I know that he is who he is, and our children are who they are, because of the power of fatherhood.

More recently, I was blessed to watch the amazing transformation of our son into a Daddy. I was well prepared by friends and relatives for the delicious wonder of grandparenthood. And as all parents, I have long appreciated how happy it makes me to have my children happy. But I was totally unprepared to be so amazed, enamored, exhilarated, in seeing my son become a father. It is for him, and for us, a new level of happiness, of blessing, of a miracle we recognize and will jointly experience for years to come. I do not for one moment believe this experience will be diminished in the least when, with G-d’s help, we are blessed with more grandchildren, as our family grows and perhaps our other sons are fortunate enough to become fathers.

As I prepare to celebrate father’s day, I do not mean to ignore the miracles of motherhood. But for men, especially men in these transitional generations when old models of families and gender are no longer in play, fatherhood is perhaps the greatest molder of men. They are putty in the hands of the children they love . . . and they are shaped into superheroes and protectors, storytellers and lecturers, coaches and referees, advocates and enforcers. As fathers assume these roles and responsibilities they mold their sons and daughters. But Dads are molded too, made into men grander and richer than kings.


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