Saturday, December 27, 2014

Blessings and Miracles

"May the New Year be filled with blessings and miracles and may you always have the wisdom to recognize them". For the past several years, that has been my New Year’s wish and I don’t expect it to change any time soon.

One definition of a blessing is "something fortunate". I don't care what your religious beliefs are or if you have any, the fact is that life itself is a miracle and that every day we have blessings. Every breath, every meal, every time we go to sleep with a roof over our head, we are experiencing a blessing.

The great challenge for us is to be able to recognize how much our lives are filled with blessings. Now that I look back over this past year, I see that my life has been filled with blessings. Few people always have enough money in the bank. Many of us have health conditions that provide us with a bundle of daily challenges. Some people who live in the United States are surrounded by violence, drive-by shootings, rioting, tornadoes, hurricanes and less than perfect weather (I live in Southern California and will never complain about the weather!). And yet, we make it home, safe and sound every single day and that is a blessing.

 If we made it through this past year, then we are blessed. If we have a roof over our heads and food in our bellies then we are blessed. If we have people in our lives to care about and people that care about us, then we are blessed. And if we can sit down at the end of the day and begin to recognize how blessed or fortunate we are, then we are extremely blessed.

My hope is that I, and all of you will have the wisdom to recognize all of the blessings that fill our lives every single day. Happy New Year.

Monday, November 3, 2014

"I feel as though a piece of me has died"

"I feel as though a piece of me has died". These are the words my father-in-law used today to describe how he felt about his older sister passing away, our Aunt Lola.

We understand how he felt. They came from a very loving family of seven, five siblings and a mother and father, all of whom died during the Holocaust. He thought that he had lost everyone and by a stroke of luck found his sister after the war. Since then they shared an extraordinary bond and her passing meant that he no longer had any of his family.

Sure, he still had his wife of 64 years, two children, four grandchildren and one great grandchild. But nothing can compare to the bond that one shares with a brother or sister or parent. I have a brother and am certain that I would feel much the same way if I ever lost him.

My father-in-law and Aunt Lola were so much alike in so many ways. They are both kind, loving and generous in every way possible. My beautiful wife has inherited many of those same characteristics.

A big difference between the two of them is that they were both raised in an Orthodox Jewish household and Aunt Lola maintained many of those same practices when she came to the United States and my father-in-law did not. That may be the biggest difference between the two of them.

We often referred to Aunt Lola as the "Zsa Zsa Gabor of Brooklyn". She wore a lot of jewelry and many times when my wife complemented her on a particular ring, brooch or bracelet, she just took it off and gave it to her, saying "if you like it, then I want you to have it." And once she made up her mind to give you something, there was no arguing.
You were going to have it.

Aunt Lola had a twinkle in her eye and all three of her children seemed to have inherited that same trait, a marvelous trait indeed.

We are scheduled to fly to New York this coming Friday and had made plans to see her and the family on Monday, knowing that this may be our last chance to see her. Aunt Lola is 91 years old and in poor health. I guess that our timing was just a little off and that we will have to say goodbye to her in other ways.

Like my father-in-law, Lola is a survivor of the Holocaust. Both of them have incredible stories to tell and both of them have written books to tell them. Lola was personally responsible for saving hundreds, perhaps thousands of lives during this time. Her book is called "A World After This" and is an incredible introduction to this amazing woman.

I often tell the story of the funeral that my father had attended and afterward he approached the daughter of the gentleman who had passed saying to her "I am sorry for your loss". Her response was "I haven't lost anything. Everything I ever got from him I still have, I just stopped gaining".

Certainly we can all feel that way about our Aunt Lola. We have all stopped gaining.

You will be missed and will live forever in the hearts and minds of those who knew you. You may be missed most by your brother.

Friday, July 4, 2014

I celebrate my independence on Independence Day

I wrote this blog a few years ago and since it is Independence  Day, I thought that I would update it and repost it. I hope you enjoy it.

 I stopped driving about 10 years ago and was very concerned that I would feel a loss of independence. But I didn't. I stopped walking almost 4 years ago and thought that I was done and there would be no chance for independence. But that didn't happen. Why is that? I think that it is because my mind is free to think and my heart is free to feel.

 Yes, I do need help and am dependent on others for assistance, but that is not how I define independence. My feelings of independence really do come from what I think and feel, from my relationships and from my activities. Sure, my  activities outside of the house are limited. Having a computer gives me the opportunity to have unlimited activities online.

 Does needing help make me feel dependent? To some extent, yes. But the truth is that everyone needs help. My needs may be more visible than the next guy, but so what. The seemingly physically healthy person may have more mental and emotional issues than I do and I would rather have my physical challenges than those any day. (well, at least most of the time)

 We all need help in other ways too. We all need doctors, accountants and mechanics. We may need electricians and plumbers. We need teachers and preachers. We need clothes, jobs and roofs over our head. In other words, everybody needs help And knowing that allows me to feel a little better about the help that I need. I also feel pretty good about the mental and emotional freedoms that I enjoy every day.

 Let's celebrate our independence on the 4th of July and everyday.

 Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

My favorite nameTo be called is "Dad".

 Over the years I have been called many names. Mister, boss, buddy, sweetheart and a host of more colorful names that I won't bother to mention. But without a doubt, my favorite name to be called is "Dad". For me, being a father or "dad" is the greatest privilege that I have ever enjoyed.   

 I have two great children, now ages 31 and 30 (can I still call them children?) and they have given me more joy, pride and happiness than I ever could have dreamed of. I distinctly remember the day that my daughter was born, she is the older of the two, and feeling as though my world had changed. I felt as though a whole new instinct had taken over and suddenly I knew how to love in a way that I had never dreamed of. Over the years I have continued to tell people, especially friends and close friends of my children who were pregnant, that you may love your husband or wife, you may love your parents, and you may love someone else who is very important and close to you. But the love that you have for a child, for your own flesh and blood, is completely different. You made them and that creates a bond that is different than any other in life.

 In the beginning we spent a lot of time cuddling, holding them and feeding them. As they grew, our activities changed. We added peekaboo, tickling, playing with toys and rolling balls. Then, before we knew it, they were in preschool, kindergarten and elementary school. In fact, for many years I said that my favorite years were when they were 2 to 5 years old. It seemed as though every day they were adding new words to their vocabulary. They were still so wide eyed and innocent and honest and every experience was new to them.

 As they grew, they became involved in more activities. Dance classes, Little League, shows at school and so much more. They began to socialize more and develop relationships and they made good choices about who they would be friends with. In high school they both became involved with theater and music (Hmmm..... I wonder who they got that from?) and every single performance was an opportunity to fill our chests with pride.

Today they are grown. I love seeing them and watching what their lives are becoming and who they are becoming. They have both moved away for school and even further away during college to study in London and Washington DC and they did it quite successfully.  Our daughter came home and has stayed. Our son moved to Washington DC where he lived for several years and found the love of his life, married her and now we have a "new daughter" and together they live in Austin, Texas. But we are confident that when they are ready to start a family, they will move closer to us.

I know that not everyone has had the same experience as we have. Good kids can come from terrible parents and terrible parents can produce great kids. I believe that having good kids is a combination of parenting and luck of the draw. We have been very lucky.

Among their very first words was the word "da da" which eventually evolved into “dad” and they still call me that 30 years later. Of all the names that I have ever been call "dad" is still my favorite.

Father's Day is the day that I can celebrate being a father. I can thank my two great kids, and their incredible mom for that.

I do hope that all of the dads out there feel the same way I do and have a very happy Father's Day.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Last week was MS Awareness Week and I missed it…but not really.

For me, I am very aware of MS every day, every week. every month and every year. That is because I live with MS and it is has had a great impact on my life and the lives of my family and friends.

The challenge of MS Awareness Week is to raise awareness. Well, we did that last week and will be doing it again this week and next week and for the next few weeks. That is because we are raising money for Walk MS 2014 and our team, the JiggyWiggits. All the money raised goes to the National MS Society who funds more programs, services and research than any other organization. With their help, and with your help, we will find a cure for a disease that affects almost 2,500,000 people around the world.

We do a lot of things to raise awareness about MS. I run a support group, write a blog and usually post those blogs on Facebook, and more.   We attend MS events (and are sometimes asked to speak), go to educational seminars, make comments on MS related blogs and read a whole hell of a lot on the subject to stay informed and to know what is happening in the MS world and community.

That is what a person living with MS needs to do in order to feel as though they have some influence over the course of their disease…. or I should say that is what I do so that I can feel that way.  

Become a participant or supporter of our team at Walk MS 2014. Do the Walk with us or make a contribution that will make a difference for years to come.

To learn more, join our team or make a donation click here. Increase your awareness of MS for a lifetime.

Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.