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November 28, 2014 / 6 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘stress’

Easy Weeknight Dinners

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

With loads of camp laundry to wash and fold, and school prep on our minds, we are all busy with one thing or another. No one needs the added stress of planning tomorrow night’s dinner! Look below for several quick and tasty dishes to serve the family.

Chicken & Rice Bake

It’s still August and the heat of summer is hitting us full blast! I’m hot and sweaty and the last thing I want to do is turn the oven on or have to stand in front of the stove for a long time. This recipe is quick and easy at it’s best. It’s a one-pot dish that makes for a flavorful dinner with an easy cleanup. I like ginger, however, if you don’t simply keep it out and replace it with your favorite spices.

Ingredients:
1 small onion, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped spinach (I use frozen)
1 cup of rice, raw not yet cooked
2 cups of vegetable or chicken broth
4 pieces of chicken breast, cut into small pieces
Salt, pepper, garlic, and ginger to taste

Directions:

Saute onions with olive oil in a large pot until golden.

Season with salt, pepper, garlic and ginger.

Add the chicken pieces and cook until no longer pink.

Add rice, broth and spinach to the pot.

Cover and simmer until liquid is absorbed.

Roasted Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons

This dinner is tasty and fun for the entire fam! The grown ups will enjoy the rich flavor in the soup while the children will adore the mini grilled cheese sandwiches floating on top.

Ingredients:
1 container of cherry tomatoes
Salt & pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, diced
1 can of diced fire roasted tomatoes (14.5oz)
3 cups of vegetable broth

Directions:

Place cherry tomatoes in a baking pan. Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil over the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Coat well.

Place in oven on 400° for 30-35 minutes until beginning to brown.

Once the tomatoes are roasted, saute onions and garlic with remaining olive oil. Once golden, add the broiled tomatoes and allow to cook for 2 minutes.

Add the canned tomatoes and mix well. Allow to cook for 2 minutes.

Add the broth and bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Puree with an immersion blender and serve with grilled cheese croutons. (Grilled cheese sandwiches cut into mini squares)

Creamy Spinach Mushroom Linguine

I was craving Fettuccine Alfredo the other night and decided to experiment in the kitchen. I wanted to eat pasta that was rich and creamy, yet lighter on calories than the original dish which is loaded with fat. I skipped the heavy cream and butter and swapped them with low fat cream cheese and olive oil. I added the mushrooms and spinach for extra nutrition and flavor.

Ingredients:

1 box of whole grain linguine
1 onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, diced
Mushrooms, sliced
Spinach, fresh or frozen
1 8oz. container low fat cream cheese
1 cup of 2% milk
1/4 cup of parmesan cheese
Salt & pepper

Directions:

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain well.

Meanwhile, sauté the onions and garlic in some olive oil. Once golden, add the mushrooms. Cook until tender and add the spinach. Season with salt and pepper.

Allow to cook and then add the cream cheese.

Once melted add the milk and parmesan. Combine well.

Add the pasta and stir over low heat until heated through.

Top each serving with additional parmesan.

Road To Recovery

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

Dear Brocha,

Hi, I’m not sure how writing to an advice column can help, but I feel so alone and have nowhere to turn. My 25-year-old daughter is addicted to prescription pain killers (Percocet), and so far she doesn’t seem to want help or even acknowledge that she has a problem. About two years ago she was in a horrible car accident. She was given pain medication, yet continued taking it long after the doctors stopped prescribing it for her. She keeps going from doctor to doctor telling them of fictitious aches and pains, convincing them to prescribe various pain medications. There are some months where she can go to more than 10 doctors! She has also called Hatzolah and had herself admitted to the hospital. Why, you ask? Evidently, after being admitted she is then able to get the “stronger stuff” by I.V., while continuing to take the pills she brings with her.

When I try to reason with her, we end up arguing and I have to walk away. I fear for her life. She has a 4-year-old daughter, my granddaughter, who I’m currently responsible for. While I appreciate having my granddaughter around, I am well aware that she would be better off having two healthy parents. As a result of my daughter’s addiction, she and her husband have separated. While I can’t blame him, it’s extremely difficult to explain all of this to my granddaughter.

In the back of my mind, I also fear for my granddaughter’s wellbeing. She will sometimes call me Mommy when we are out in the park or the pizza shop, and I understand it is because I am filling that role in her life. She is a sensitive child and will never do that in front of her mother, yet it hurts me to see her in this position.

My daughter’s history of abusing pills has seen many ups and downs. About a year ago, she was in a treatment facility. However, she relapsed this past Pesach. She blames it on her siblings coming for Yom Tovwith all their children, which she says stressed her out and she needed to take the pills to cope. I so badly want to help her, and protect my granddaughter at the same time. I try to give my daughter a stress free life – I pay the bills, take her daughter to school, etc. yet it seems that once she starts popping those pills, there is no stopping her.

Alone and helpless

Dear Alone and helpless,

Welcome! Please know that you are not alone! There are many people who suffer from the disease of addiction. It does not discriminate and continues to afflict people from all socioeconomic circles. This disease kills, and those afflicted will face the choice of either death, jail or institution – unless they seek recovery. What we must realize is that it is a disease, and those afflicted by this disease need help and treatment to stop.

I recall the time I finally acknowledged that my first husband was an addict. My initial instinct was to “fix” him and his addiction. I tried canceling all of his online prescription orders and flushed whatever I found of his pills down the toilet. Yet as the whirlwind continued, I was becoming sicker. I learned later on that by fixing all the obstacles that came our way as a result of his using I wasn’t allowing him to hit “rock bottom,” and see how the addiction was affecting his life and ours.

For example, he once had a car accident and sideswiped a neighbor’s car. The neighbor approached me and I told her that I would pay for it, and she should not bother him. I did this in order to save him from the embarrassment. In reality, I was enabling him to avoid dealing with the consequences of his addiction. At that point I thought I was protecting him from stress, which I thought was the catalyst for his using. However, I was helping him use by shielding him from the consequences of his actions.

After a couple of years of this ensuing madness, I was at my wits end and realized that nothing I was doing was stopping or even curtailing the active addiction. I was not a good treatment center. Someone suggested that I go meet with Rabbi Abraham J. Twersky. I went, and poured my heart out to him.

Why Batman Matters

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

It’s important to acknowledge this right from the beginning: I love Batman. In fact, no one loves him more than I do. He and I have a history that goes back over four decades.

Since receiving semicha from Yeshivat Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan twenty years ago, I have been involved in various aspects of education – everything from teaching in yeshivot and seminaries in Israel to doing outreach work on college campuses to teaching police officers (Jews and non-Jews alike) about stress management using techniques ultimately derived from the Torah literature.

Different contexts, different audiences, different levels of Torah observance, different ages and backgrounds.

But there’s been one constant throughout (besides my wife’s support and patience) in my teaching style: my love for Batman and my use of the Batman mythology to illustrate and motivate many – perhaps most – of the Torah Truths I teach.

Increasingly, however, I barely recognize the character in the comics and movies they keep calling “Batman.” The Batman I know and love, the Batman who inspires me, represents steadfast commitment to principle, nobility of character, and altruistic benevolence. Long before the tragic shootings at the premiere of the newest Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises,” in Aurora, Colorado, I had experienced discomfort with the depiction of Batman in various media because it represents a falsification of his character.

That shouldn’t be too surprising to anyone who knows anything about Batman and his portrayal over the past couple of decades or if you know anything about human nature and the culture in which we live – a culture whose values and mindset are reflected in and expressed through its pop culture.

Since the mid-1980s there’s been a tug of war between two groups of comic book creators – a struggle for the very soul of the Batman character. Consider it a battle between the traditionalists and the reformers.

A brief introduction to the character for those not familiar with Batman:

Born to a life of wealth and leisure, eight-year-old Bruce Wayne was walking home from an evening at the movies with his wealthy philanthropist parents, Dr. Thomas and Martha Wayne, when the three were confronted by a gun-wielding hoodlum who stepped out of the shadows and demanded Martha’s jewelry. A brief struggle ensued, after which the criminal shot and killed both Thomas and Martha right before young Bruce’s eyes.

In an instant, the world the little boy had known was gone forever. Traumatized by his parents’ deaths, Bruce swore at their graveside to avenge their murders by dedicating the rest of his life to fighting crime. Propelled by his oath, Bruce devoted every waking moment of his formative years to developing his mind and body to unparalleled perfection. Reasoning that criminals are a superstitious, cowardly lot, Bruce used the fear-inspiring image of a bat to design a costume that would strike fear into the hearts of evildoers.

By day, Bruce Wayne maintains an image of a bored, idle man of leisure. But that persona is little more than a mask for Bruce’s alter ego – Batman.

One of the comic book writers of the new school of thought describes the character thus:

“Batman…was the externalization of a psychologically dysfunctional man who worked out his rage and abandonment issues by becoming scary, in the process avenging his parents and bringing criminals to justice.”

That’s dark stuff. And definitely not the Batman I fell in love with as a child.

I don’t mean to suggest that the Batman I love is the campy hero of the 1960s TV show (though that was my first introduction to the character). In fact, there is a serious alternative to the “psychologically dysfunctional man” that writer described.

No, the Batman I love isn’t the dark, dysfunctional, broken, angry, principle-less character many comic book creators like to portray in these dark, dysfunctional, broken, angry, principle-less times in which we live. Their Batman vents “his rage and abandonment issues by becoming scary” and beating people up; fortunately, his actions are socially acceptable because the people he beats up are criminals.

The Batman I love – and whose example I invoke in my teaching – is the hero who responded to and triumphed over an experience of unspeakable tragedy and loss in childhood by creating a life of meaning and heroism through his relentless efforts to spare others the pain and loss he had experienced firsthand and knows so well. As a child of a Holocaust survivor who spent her childhood years fighting for survival and went on to create a family and life filled with meaning, compassion for others, and dedication to justice, it is a model with which I am very familiar.

It’s My Opinion: It’s All in the Attitude

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

The lobby of the doctor’s office was crowded. I slid over to accommodate an older gentleman, who was moving toward me.

“Don’t worry,” he said, “my walker has a built-in seat, but I’ll sit next to you and be your guard!” He was dressed simply. His eyes were twinkling. His smile was wide.

Time dragged on. Many in the waiting room showed impatience. They glanced at their watches. They complained to each other.

The gentleman beside me sat patiently. We exchanged pleasantries. We became waiting-room friends. I asked him where he was from, and he told me he was born in Poland. Little by little, he shared his story.

He was a teenager when World War II broke out. He had been in several concentration camps. His body carried the badge of his experience. He wore the death camp numbers on his arm.

“Life is beautiful,” my new friend asserted. “Every day is a gift.” He continued to speak in a highly positive way. He had children. He had grandchildren. He was “privileged” to have visited Israel.

My name was called and I entered the office for my appointment. When I came out the gentleman was still sitting in the waiting room. I went over and thanked him for sharing his story with me and being a role model of courage and tenacity.

“You know,” he said, “what happened to me when I was young, actually was the reason that I have a good life now. I never get upset over the little things that drive other people crazy. I enjoy every day that I am alive. I know they are all a gift. I am truly happy.”

I went outside to give the valet the ticket for my car. As I contemplated my recent conversation, a woman burst out of a black Mercedes. She was elderly, well dressed and coiffed. She was muttering and sputtering as she passed by, but I could clearly hear what she had to say.

“The [expletive] golden years,” she exclaimed, “Well, they stink!” Her face was red. Her voice rose to a wail. “I’m so annoyed,” she added. “Now I’m late for my appointment!”

Yes, things happen. We are late. We are early. We mixed up the date. There are delays and mistakes and problems we deal with all the time. There are bridges that are up and computers that are down, cars that won’t start and leaks that won’t stop.

There is success and failure, joy and angst. There are fender benders and fatal crashes, big catastrophes and minor annoyances and everything in between.

Certainly we should not judge someone from an isolated incident. There is often a “back story” to explain someone’s actions. Nevertheless, I could not help but be compelled by how these two people handled the stress of life.

“Life is beautiful.” “Life stinks.” It’s all in the attitude.

Orthodoxy And Obesity: Is There A Correlation?

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

It’s beautiful how much emphasis there is on Shabbat and holiday celebration in the Orthodox community. However, celebration of the values of health and exercise is sorely lacking. Parents often don’t stress health and exercise for their children, and day schools fall short when it comes to creating rigorous health programs.

Happily, though, religious celebration need not compromise our commitment to health. Obesity is a major problem in the United States and a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and Type 2 diabetes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 36 percent of American adults are obese, and the problem is getting worse.

As of 2010, every state had at least a 20 percent obesity rate, and twelve had a rate of 30 percent or higher. Even more alarming, 17 percent of children ages 2-19 are obese, and physicians are now seeing Type 2 diabetes (a disease with a normal onset age of 40) in this population. Although today about 7 percent of our population has diabetes (almost all with Type 2), the CDC predicts that one in three children born in 2000 will develop diabetes during his or her lifetime – in large part due to obesity.

U.S. statistics do not record data based on religion, but Israeli data confirm the high incidence of obesity in the Orthodox community. The Israel Health Ministry has reported that haredim are seven times more likely to be obese as other Israelis. The ministry noted, “The haredi lifestyle focuses on the dinner table…. At the same time, they don’t engage in any physical exercise.”

Other factors included a lack of practical health education in haredi schools and the poverty of many within this community, which leads to consumption of cheaper, simple carbohydrate-based foods (such as potatoes, pasta, rice, and sugar) combined with high-fat meat rather than more expensive complex carbohydrates and protein-rich foods.

There are many excuses people use to deny the seriousness of this problem, such as the claim that professional athletes are often “obese,” using current BMI charts. However, there are relatively few professional athletes among us, so in the overwhelming majority of cases obesity is a critical risk factor for many diseases.

Others do not think they are obese. Researchers at the University of Illinois found that 80 percent of individuals in the normal weight range correctly reported their weight as normal. But an alarming 58 percent of overweight individuals incorrectly categorized themselves as of a normal weight. In the overweight category, only 10 percent accurately described their body size.

Judaism addresses this issue; the sages even joke about the correlation between religiosity and health. Reish Lakish was in great shape until he became pious and lost his athletic ability, missing his typical leap over the river. Further, the great sage Hillel explains that we must take care of our bodies, since we are created in the image of God (Leviticus Rabbah 34:3).

Rav Kook (Orot HaTechiya33) suggests that exercise is actually a mitzvah. We not only sustain our lives but prepare our bodies to serve:We need a healthy body. We have dealt much in soulfulness; we forgot the holiness of the body. We neglected physical health and strength; we forgot that we have holy flesh no less than holy spirit…

Our return (teshuvah) will succeed only if it will be – with all its splendid spirituality – also a physical return, which produces healthy blood, healthy flesh, mighty, solid bodies, a fiery spirit radiating over powerful muscles….

The exercise the Jewish youths in the Land of Israel engage in to strengthen their bodies, in order to be powerful children of the nation, enhances the spiritual prowess of the exalted righteous, who engage in mystical unifications of divine names, to increase the accentuation of divine light in the world. And neither revelation of light can stand without the other.

In addition to neglect of exercise and over-consumption of meat and sugars, we should be concerned about the Jewish prohibition of achilah gasah (overeating). By learning moderation, improving our diets, and taking care of our bodies, we not only fulfill the mitzvah of preserving our lives and caring for our loaned bodies created in the image of God, we also teach our children the importance of living a balanced, holy lifestyle.

Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz is founder and president of Uri L’Tzedek; director of Jewish life and senior Jewish educator at the UCLA Hillel; and a sixth -year doctoral candidate at Columbia University in moral psychology & epistemology. His book “Jewish Ethics & Social Justice: A Guide for the 21st Century” is available on Amazon. In April, Newsweek named him one of the most influential rabbis in America.

Getting Your Children To Sleep

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Dear Dr. Yael:

I am having a very difficult time putting my children to sleep at night. My four-year-old son constantly barges out of his room after he has been put to bed. This usually goes on for about an hour – no matter how many times I put him back in bed or threaten to punish him. I also have an eight- year-old who is afraid of bedtime because she can’t sleep. As a result, she sometimes stays awake until midnight just lying in bed. Other times she will wake up during the night and stay up for hours. I have shared pleasant thoughts with her, trying to help her relax – but it doesn’t seem to help.

My marriage has become extremely tense because I am spending all my time with my children instead of with my husband. How can I get my children into bed so I can spend more time working on my marriage?

Y.Z.

Dear Y.Z.:

Your sleep issue, while obviously very frustrating, is not unique. Many children have a difficult time going to sleep. When children go to sleep they view it as a separation from their parents, which can make them feel extremely uncomfortable. – which causes them stress. Some children even feel they are missing something fun and exciting if they go to sleep. And then there are the children who are afraid to go sleep because they think they might not wake up.

It’s possible that you are putting your son to sleep too early. If he goes to sleep an hour later and wakes up in the morning on his own, the amount of sleep he’s getting may be sufficient for him. If putting him to bed an hour later is too problematic for you, then give him the privilege of staying up for an extra hour, as long as he plays quietly in his room. When the hour is up you can go into his room to tuck him in. It is also very important to have a sleep routine. How do you put your son to bed? Do you read him stories, speak to him in a loving way, listen to his stories about his day, or engage him in a pleasant conversation? The time before a child goes to sleep is precious and should be used wisely. Children will often tell you anything and everything in order to steal a few minutes. Since children generally have such a strong desire to stay up “for just a few more minutes,” this is the best time to foster and enhance your relationship with them.

A bedtime routine whereby your son bathes, brushes his teeth, says Shema, and spends some time with you or your spouse (either in storytelling or pleasant talk) before he goes to sleep can help him know what to expect. This kind of consistency often helps make bedtime easier. This can also help your son separate from you without feeling anxious. Even though it is very tempting to threaten your son with punishment when he continuously comes out of bed, try to avoid this. It may be helpful for you to record a tape for him to hear, expressing your love for him and extolling his virtues. Your son can play the tape in his room after you leave, so that his separation from you is easier to handle. I would also recommend storytelling tapes. Children will often fall asleep much more easily when they are listening to a story before they go to bed.

As for your daughter, she appears to have a more serious problem. First, make sure that you are not allowing her to have any caffeine. Some individuals are more sensitive to caffeine and any amount of it can cause sleeping difficulties. If caffeine is not an issue, you should investigate whether your daughter is afraid of something related to bedtime, i.e. going to sleep. If something is troubling her, perhaps talking about it in a reassuring way will help her sleep better.

Even though your daughter is already eight years old, she also needs a bedtime routine – whereby you give her love and attention. Children are never too old to need special time with you. Even teenagers, who have a loving and communicative relationship with their parents, love to talk to Mom and Dad before they go to bed.

A child’s worst fears frequently emerge right before they go to sleep, possibly causing them immense difficulty in falling asleep. If you talk to your daughter before she goes to sleep about what is bothering her, you might uncover the root of her problem. If this doesn’t work I suggest that you seek professional help, since she may be phobic about sleeping and may have something deeper bothering her that must be addressed.

‘Living in De Nile’

Friday, March 30th, 2012

I love Pesach. Really, I do. Even with the stress and preparation associated with March Madness (I still have no idea why my father thinks it has anything to do with basketball), I enjoy it. Maybe it’s because of my mother’s spinach kugel, or the way I still love actively searching for the afikoman. Maybe it’s the Manischewitz brownie mix that gets more expensive every year. Maybe it’s singing “Who Knows One” as fast as possible, or maybe it’s the way my brother sneaks extra wine into the charoset when he thinks my mother isn’t looking. Maybe it’s the way you can find the entire Jewish population of Columbus in Graeter’s ice cream an hour after Pesach ends. Whatever the reason, I love Pesach.

I also love cleaning for Pesach. (Yes, you read that right). Every year some newsletter always addresses the fact that Pesach cleaning does not have to be spring cleaning, and every year almost everyone ignores it. I love the lack of clutter as much as the next girl, but believe me, I’ve seen households take it to a whole other level and not only wash the mattresses, but the walls too. I think it should be simple. Putting things back in their place. Donating the toys and clothes no longer used. Finding a drivers license from years past. The dust is gone, the whole house smells fresh, and you can now start to deal with the chametz.

But, in this case, the chametz isn’t the last stale cookie crumbs in your sock drawer or the M&M’s wedged in your sofa cushions. It’s your limitations. Chametz can be anything that prevents us from being the person that we know we can be. And during the year, it is so easy to become so enthralled with our own ego that we actually lose ourselves. We forget that the real present is not the wrapping paper at all, but the neshama inside.

This is where the matzah comes in. Matzah is more that just a cracker that we wave around at the seder (although, even I admit that after the first couple of bites, it really does become the “bread of affliction”). While yeast causes chametz to rise with it’s own self-importance, matzah remains flat and humble.

In order to achieve this level of humility, we need to take away the distractions. We can’t focus solely on our outside. We must cultivate our minds and perfect our souls. A person with this level of humility is not in constant competition with others, and although they realize that physical attributes and goals are important, they also know that they need to constantly work on their inner attributes, for it is those that make them truly unrivaled.

During the weeks leading up to Pesach, we must try to work on ourselves as well as our households, for in order to establish and maintain a good relationship with G-d, we must first establish one with ourselves. That’s why we have Pesach. By eliminating the chametz and making room for the matzah, we have the opportunity to recreate ourselves. Pesach is known as Chag HaAviv (The Holiday of Spring) for a reason. Think about it. Spring is a beautiful season. Everything that’s gloomy and lifeless during winter is renewed. From barren trees cherry blossoms begin to bloom. Daffodils shyly start to open their buds. And we, too, are given the chance to renew ourselves. Pesach breathes new life into us. We can recreate. Refresh. Renovate. Repair. And if once a year I had that opportunity, I would take it. Wouldn’t you?

Wishing you a chag kasher v’sameach!

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/teens-twenties/living-in-de-nile/2012/03/30/

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