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April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
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Chol Hamoed Survival Guide

Friday, April 6th, 2012

If you are anything like me, Chol Hamoed can be just the teeniest bit stressful. Okay, maybe very, very stressful. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way.

Yes, you just spent a minimum of two to three, or more, weeks scouring every square inch of your humble abode, cooked up massive quantities of food in a minimum amount of time in pots, pans and appliances that you barely even recognize as yours, have spent countless hours washing endless streams of pots, pans, silverware and dishes and then Chol Hamoed rolls around. Despite the inevitable exhaustion that is oozing out of your every pore, your entire family wants you to not only prepare gourmet food but structure social activities that are fun, enticing and will make them the envy of everyone they know.

If you are anything like me you will try your best not to have a meltdown as you explain to your family members that with all the work you have done preparing for Pesach you have zero interest in being designated the family social director as well.

Take a deep breath and remind everyone, including yourself, that you don’t have a cape, you don’t have superpowers and you can’t possibly do everything, for everyone all at once. What your family is envisioning requires you to be in multiple places at once and requires an endless supply of money, which you probably don’t have, having just bought matzah, food for an eight day eating extravaganza and clothing for the entire family. So tell everyone to take a chill pill and remember that if they want to live in Fantasyland, they need to head down to Disney World. Because you can either prepare gourmet meals every day of Chol Hamoed or you can plan exciting activities to keep everyone entertained. You can’t possibly do both.

But that’s okay, because neither can anyone else. So just relax. You have worked so hard to get this far; it is finally time to enjoy a well-deserved break. Let’s start with the food. Go check your refrigerator. Got leftovers? Great. Then put them to good use.

Flake up leftover roast and serve it with a salad for supper one night. Dice up extra chicken and resurrect it as chicken salad or chicken potpie. (Skip the bottom crust. Trust me. No one needs all those extra calories this week.) Don’t have any leftovers? Cook up a pot of hot dogs or buy a package of cold cuts and remember that this just isn’t a week for dieting. Feel free to add some easy veggies to your menu: think bagged salad, grape tomatoes, mini sweet peppers (depending on your minhagim), or even a jar of pickles, all things that don’t require cutting up. Round out your meals with all those leftover kugel pieces and potatoes that are taking up valuable space in your fridge.

Try yogurt, leben, smoothies, fruit salad or even brownies for breakfast. Lunch choices can include tuna, eggs and if you eat gebrokts, matzah pizza or matzah brei. If you are planning a day trip, try serving a serious breakfast – say scrambled eggs, matzah and lots of sliced veggies – giving you the option of a lighter lunch which could consist of yogurt, string cheese, fruit, nuts or anything else that is easily totable. Feel free to freeze a few water bottles to take with you. Not only will they keep your perishables cold, but you will have drinks for the family as well.

Now that at least some of your meals have been taken care of, you can enjoy some quality time with your nearest and dearest. With this years’ long Chol Hamoed, there is ample time for lots of family fun, but as always, use your head and plan wisely. It is entirely possible that your teenagers may want to spend a day or two with their friends. Let them. It gives you the perfect opportunity to plan activities that are geared towards either older or younger family members. Check the weather sites and see what the forecast is for Chol Hamoed, taking advantages of the best weather for outdoor activities.

If your family enjoys the big outdoors then budget friendly opportunities abound. Try hiking, biking, rollerblading, or if the winds allow, kite flying at your local park. Stroll across the George Washington or Brooklyn Bridge. Pay a visit to the nearest (or not so near, if you are in the mood of traveling) botanical gardens and enjoy the most fascinating time of year as the trees start to leaf and the flowers start to bloom. (For those of you with springtime allergies, don’t even think about leaving the house without taking some form of allergy medicine.)

My Girls

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

My children were growing up and leaving the nest. Wanting to fill up my days with a challenging project, I heard through a friend that a local high school needed an English teacher.

I love kids and am a freelance writer, so I interviewed for the position. The principal, however, was doubtful that I could make headway with a pretty apathetic group of students.

No one expected anything productive to sprout forth from this group of 13-year-olds. I had a teenaged daughter the same age, and I assured the principal that if he just handed the girls over to me, he would see results.

I never took a methodology class in college; in fact, I was not very enthused about being an education major, and thus changed my field of study.

What I did have was a love of the written word, and being a “people person” I felt that I could find common ground with my charges.

My students and I were in for a mutually rude awakening. Accustomed to merely getting by, they were not prepared for someone who meant business.

I wrote my own curriculum and expected my students to do the work that was assigned to them in a timely fashion.

In addition to their tests, every homework assignment was graded. The girls were required to rewrite each piece of work so that they would learn from their mistakes. Remembering how I would cringe as a kid when having a paper returned to me festooned with numerous red-inked corrections, I used a green pen in order to grade the work assigned to them.

My students were in shock. Their teacher was running a tough-love boot camp. They didn’t know what hit them!

There were tears and tantrums, but I would not budge.

I told them that I cared too much about them than to not insist that they work up to their potential. This was certainly a foreign concept to them. Here was a teacher who actually believed that they could do good work. Hmm.

It took weeks for me to see results. The battle was hard fought, but we – teacher and students – all prevailed beyond our expectations.

Although I was a middle-aged grandmother at the time, inside me still lived a 13- year-old that had suffered the slings of the sort of teachers who today would have been chucked out before they started.

Words hurt. Their sting can last forever unless and until someone comes along and cares enough to believe in a child’s ability to succeed.

When required to re-write her assignment, the student who threw the tantrum at the beginning of the year had only one mistake this time. She cheerfully redid the entire paper – without hesitation.

My students became known as “My Girls.” At the end of the school year, a fellow teacher told me that the faculty now viewed “My Girls” with respect. They were no longer an apathetic group of young ladies. They now walked with heads held high, believing in their abilities – all because I loved them too much to not believe in them.

Four years later I received an invitation to their high school graduation. The return address noted that the invitation had been sent to me from “Your Girls.” I don’t know who was prouder of the graduating class that night, their parents or their former teacher!

It has been 10 years since that wondrous year. Yes, 10 years. That was the year that 9/11 occurred.

In an e-mail sent to me recently by one of my students, she recalled how I came to class not knowing the fate of my husband, who works near Battery Park. During class word came that, thank G-d, he was safe!

I taught my girls the word “ambivalent” on that day, and they still remember how their teacher could encapsulate with one word the emotions of that day – feelings seared into the collective memory of our country.

Graduations, weddings, and the births of a new generation of precious children have come to “My Girls,” and I am there front and center sharing these wonderful occasions with them.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/jewish-columns/lessons-in-emunah/my-girls/2012/02/22/

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