Archive for the ‘Mind & Spirit’ Category

Written on December 13, 2012

We’re smack dab in the middle of the holiday season.  Tonight is the 6th night of Hanukkah and we’re less than two weeks away from Christmas.  Last night we had my brother’s family and some friends over to light the colored candles on our menorah, say the Hanukkah prayer and eat yummy latkes (potato pancakes).  There was something comforting and wonderful about spending yesterday preparing for our guests and wrapping the Hanukkah gifts all while listening to Christmas music.

Festival of Lights

I love our Episcopish (Episcopalian and Jewish) household around the holidays.  We have our Christmas tree in one corner, our menorah on the mantle surrounded by holiday cards, and the crèche in another part of our living room.  The Littlest E is learning baby Jesus’ story and the story of the miracle of Hanukkah.  Even though I’m 100% Jewish, growing up we celebrated both holidays and I’m glad we’re continuing that tradition.

What’s really so special is that we can and do celebrate both holidays in our household.  There was a time when interfaith marriages were taboo and frowned upon.  In the 21st century, there’s a greater acceptance and interfaith marriages are more common.  The holidays aren’t so much about which religion is the “right” one, but a celebration.  I don’t know, maybe I’m getting too philosophical.  God is infinite love and is everywhere.  So doesn’t it make sense that we’re all God’s children regardless of our religion?  No one gets left out.  When it all comes down to it, for me, the holidays are about love and sharing that love with the ones who are dear to us.

Our Episcopish Home

It’s so easy to get caught up in the materialism of the holidays, too, thanks to endless commercials and advertisements about the biggest and best gadgets, “must have” toys for kids, and the perfect holiday diamond every wife/girlfriend should have.  I count our blessings that my husband and I can provide a delightful holiday for The Littlest E and he’ll be getting a number of gifts from us, our relatives, and, of course, Santa.  It’ll all be within our budget.  It’s possible to do the holidays without going into massive debt.

In my past, I’ve had lean holidays and holidays of abundance.  One thing that has remained a constant throughout has been the joy of giving.  It’s the best when you find just the right gift for someone whether it’s handmade or purchased.  The look on my loved one’s face when they open their gift is priceless.  It fills my heart and my being to witness that.  Another thing I absolutely love is decorating our Christmas tree.  There’s an art to it, finding the ideal placement for each ornament so a Christmas tree light reflects off it creating a glowing effect.  You also have to place ornaments within the tree, not just on the outside, to add even greater depth and illumination.

Christmas Tree 2012

I look forward to the holiday season every year.  It comes and goes so quickly though.  When I get ahead of myself and start to feel nervous like I’m not getting everything done, I remember the spirit of the holidays and step back into the love and joy, ’tis the season after all.

©Melanie Elliott


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In one of my first blogs, I wrote about the need for time with myself to regroup and recharge.  It was especially important since I was a new, adoptive mom and my son, The Littlest E, was just over a year old.  Now that my son is in preschool going half days two days a week, I have a few extra hours to myself.

Usually, those hours are spent running errands, cooking, writing and doing regular household chores.  One would think six hours is a lot of time, but with the commute to preschool and the daily work that needs to get done, it doesn’t allow for a lot of Mom-Me time.  I’m sure I’m like most of the readers who are moms that stay at home; I don’t have a nanny or fulltime sitter, so it’s all on me to accomplish the day’s tasks.  Therefore, the necessity for Mom-Me time is still prevalent.  I confess I sneak in an occasional DVRed television show while The Littlest E naps though it’s not the same as official Mom-Me time.

If I can have a couple of uninterrupted hours to myself to get away, that’s all it takes.  I come home with new energy and a fresh perspective, ready to tackle the rest of the day or night with vim and vigor.  Another confession – as time has gone on and I’ve adjusted to mommyhood, it has gotten easier to tell my understanding husband I need to take a break.  No longer does the plea come at the end of pulling my hair out (figuratively, of course), or is the finale of a melodramatic meltdown.  If I put it out there, my request is honored.  And I reciprocate when my husband needs his time alone, too.

Fortunately, The Littlest E’s Mamama (my mom) was in town recently and was more than happy to, in fact she was quite eager to, get me out of the house so she could babysit.  Mamama spent the morning with her youngest grandson who doesn’t see her all that often, The Littlest E visited with his Mamama whom he loves, and I had some splendid Mom-Me time.  It was the perfect scenario!

I previously made plans with a fellow mommy friend to go to the Olympic Spa, a Korean day spa for women only, while Mamama babysat.  I heard about it and was thrilled to go.  For roughly four hours and $15.00 (massages were extra), it was absolute bliss.  There were several hot pools, one of which was a mugwort tea pool.  Mugwort is an herb that the spa’s website says “promotes circulation,” helps with the immune system, and “detoxifies.”  It felt like sitting in a massive cup of tea, yet it was so relaxing.

The spa had steam rooms, saunas, and a heated marble floor where you could lie down with a blanket and sleep.  Women of all ages, shapes and sizes were there, doing exactly what my friend and I were doing, having a soothing, calming, and enjoyable time.  All in all, it was fabulously restorative and I had fun with my friend.  The only drawback, I wore my contact lenses and couldn’t stay in the sauna for too long for fear they would shrivel up.

There was a restaurant attached to the spa that served delicious Korean food.  For a few more dollars we had a yummy lunch.  Since the entire facility was for women only, we ate lunch in our bathrobes, which other women were also doing.  The entire experience that morning was wonderful, soothing, and rejuvenating.  As I sit here typing this piece, I recall the feeling of utter relaxation.  I’ll take it with me until the next time I head out to the Olympic Spa.  If you’re in the Los Angeles area and have the time, you may want to check it out, or if you live in a metropolitan area, there may be a Korean spa close to you.  I highly recommend taking a little spacation day for some meaningful, relaxing Mom-Me time if you can.  You’ll be happy you did!

Image: choffee (John)

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My last couple of blogs have focused on my two-year old son’s obsession with Santa Claus and experiencing the holiday season through his eyes.  For some reason, I find Christmas magical.  I don’t quite know what it is, the twinkling lights on Christmas trees and on many houses in our neighborhood, the festiveness of jolly old St. Nick, the joy and wonder in my son’s eyes when we speak of the holiday, or, perhaps it’s the spirit of giving.  I’m not even supposed to be celebrating this holiday because I’m Jewish.

Both of my parents are Jewish, but we grew up celebrating Passover and Easter, Christmas and Hanukkah.  Santa represented Christmas and Easter involved the Easter Bunny.  We enjoyed these holidays.  I loved Christmas morning seeing all the presents Santa left for my family, and it was wonderful lighting the Hanukkah candles and saying the Hebrew prayer.

I thought at one point that maybe I’d end up marrying someone Jewish since I was the eldest daughter.  As fate would have it, my husband, the man of my dreams, happens to be the son of a retired Episcopal priest.  I consider myself more of a spiritual person rather than a religious one and the God of my understanding honors all religions so I didn’t have any internal conflict marrying my husband.  Our wedding ceremony seamlessly blended an Episcopal service with a Jewish service.  We had two officiates; an Episcopal priest and a Jewish friend (and minister) presided over our wedding.  We’ve been married for over eight years and each year we celebrate both holidays.

It is really fitting that we keep both.  Our respective families are multi-cultural honoring a number of differing religions and our son is Ethiopian born.  Ethiopians have their own calendar and holidays that we also celebrate.  We are a welcoming family.  And, why not honor both traditions? We are not the first family to practice two religions.  Too many people believe their religion is the “right” one.  In our household, it’s not a question of right and wrong, which is what we’ll tell our son when he’s old enough.  Mommy believes one way and Daddy believes another.  Both are okay.  Now that we are a family, we get to start our own traditions, mixing in what my husband and I have each grown up with and creating new ones.

One tradition we’ve started is asking our son what he’d like to give his grandparents for the holiday.  He’s learning that Christmas isn’t just about receiving, but giving as well.  He picked out yogurt snacks, freeze-dried mango and cookies and had a blast decorating those yummy sugar cookies.  He’s excited to give these gifts to Mamama and Poppy, Grandpa and Nana, and Bubba.

My husband has placed his crèche on our hutch so our son can see it and touch the wooden characters.  We also have a little Christmas tree adorned with ornaments, and there are various holiday decorations on our mantle, including Christmas artwork made by our son and a Star of David handcrafted from Popsicle sticks by a friend’s three-year old daughter.  We utilize our advent calendar every night after dinner when our son opens the day’s square with a little help from his Daddy.

When Hanukkah begins, each night, we’ll light the candles on our menorah and say the Hanukkah prayer.  To celebrate, we’re also planning on having another family over for latkes (potato pancakes) and applesauce, and present the kids with a little Hanukkah gift.  For Christmas, we’ll go to an early service at my husband’s church on Christmas Eve.  We’ll leave out cookies and milk for Santa and carrots for the reindeer, then, on Christmas Day we’ll celebrate the day as a family.  We’ll tell our son in an age appropriate way about the miracle of Hanukkah and the miracle of a special little baby boy born in a manger.

As our family evolves, our traditions may grow and/or change.  We’ll delve more fully into the each holiday’s story.  For now, these are our traditions.  Our home is filled with light and love, laughter and music, compassion and generosity, and the spirit of the holiday season.  Wishing you all peace and blessings.

Image: hoyasmeg (James Emery)

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As many of you know, I am an adoptive mom.  My husband and I brought our son home from Ethiopia a little over a year ago.  We decided that I would stay home to be with him.  It was tough transitioning from a full time job to being the full time mom of a 1 year old with all the responsibilities being a mom entails.  That first year, I was overwhelmed and my tasks seemed never ending.  A big challenge was finding the time to recharge my batteries, what I call Mom-Me time, so I could be more fully present for my family and myself.  Mom-Me time is getting out of the house and really taking time for myself like having a cup of coffee, seeing a movie, getting my hair done, or having lunch with a friend, etc.  Living on one income, we couldn’t really afford a sitter to give me that time.  I had to find other ways to take a break.

One thing I found that helps lessen the stress a bit is waking up at 5:00 a.m. on weekdays, the same time as my husband.  It’s ridiculously early, but I basically have 2½ hours all to myself.  Once up, I start my day with a hot shower then read some spiritual literature and practice meditation.  My meditation lasts only 5 minutes and I find it difficult to clear my head, still I get somewhat centered as a result.  During the rest of that precious time before my son (The Littlest E) gets up, I prep for the day, check emails, and catch up on DVRed TV programs.

While The Littlest E is taking his nap, there’s a limited amount of time that is usually busy time as there are things to do, cleaning, preparing dinner, and other household duties.  I confess that, if he takes a longer nap and I have the time, I watch TV.  It’s somewhat relaxing, yet I’m still home and in the thick of things.  I wish I were a daytime napper, but I’m not.

Throughout my first year as a mom, I did my best to use those brief periods of time to unwind; I had to.  Often it worked and the stress level remained manageable.  Inevitably, I’d get overloaded and not know how to communicate to my husband my state of being.  Only in the midst of a meltdown was I able to spit out the words “I NEED A BREAK!”  My husband’s a wonderful man, but he can’t read my mind.  He doesn’t know what I need until I state it.  Once he knows, he’s more than willing to give me some down time.  So, after that first meltdown, I took my Mom-Me time and went to a movie.  It felt so good to get out.  I came home much more relaxed and ready for anything.

Over time, I don’t know if being a mom has gotten easier or my ability to communicate has improved, but when I need my Mom-Me time, I can ask for it without any angst.  It doesn’t take much for me to feel rejuvenated, a couple of hours are sufficient, and when the Mom-Me time happens, it’s absolutely wonderful.

My son just started preschool and now I have 6 extra hours a week.  2 of those hours will be spent driving to and from school, so that gives me 4 hours – major Mom-Me time.  Those 4 hours are my new best friends.  I get excited thinking about how I can spend that fabulous 4: jogging, running errands, reading with thought, writing, and visiting friends.  It’s not much so I best make the most of it.  I’m a lucky gal to have made it through my first year of parenting with my sanity in tact.  I have my husband and my valuable Mom-Me time to thank for that.

Image: d3b..*

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