Visit Back Home

On the way to a family wedding in Monsey.

We stopped back home in Riverdale, NY after 20 years.

Wow, old building still here. 

And the KeyFood supermarket too. 

Had a nice lunch at Kai Fan kosher Chinese food (the Sesame Chicken was great!). 

Went up to my parents old apartment and saw the outlines of where the mezuzah had once stood. 

I wanted to hear their voices through the door and go in to see them again.

It was very emotional, but I felt like their presence was there with us. 

Enjoyed seeing how some (very few) things have changed and all that has otherwise stayed the same 

With seeing my wife’s family, some after many years, it was like I had never not seen them. 

I imagined that this is what dying must be like when you go to the afterlife and there is no time and you see everybody and it’s just like they have always been there. 

That was an amazing realization and feeling for me. 😉

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal) 

Holiday SHOULD BE Giving To Children’s Hospital

Thought this was a pretty good display with the Three Bears for holiday donations for Children’s National Hospital. 


While it gets your attention (who sees three pink bears lite up on the street at night?), asking people with a small impersonal sign on the floor to remember to login and make the donation later isn’t very effective. 


People act on the spot, especially when it’s an emotional appeal for charity for sick children that need help.  


The children deserve for there to be a way for would be donors to actually give on the spot–where they can swipe or tap their credit card, write a check, or drop some money in for giving. 


Later, later, later…and unfortunately, it may never happen for the Children. 


Come on–it’s the new roaring 2020s–we can create some urgency and convenience and do better than this!  😉


(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Leading Change

I heard a great presentation on change management.


Some highlights I really liked:


– U.S. Army War College in developing high performance leaders seeks to develop competency to operate in an “VUCA” environment:


Volatile

Uncertain

Complex

Ambigious


– The key is NOT to get “emotionally/amygdala hijacked” where our “reptilian brain” in response to threats jumps to:


Fight, Flight, or Freeze


– Instead, we need to manage change methodically as “transitions” (which are personal and emotional) so that we understand that:


Every Ending is a New Beginning


(G-d does not close one door without opening a new one for us.)


–  When one thing in life comes to an end, this is where there is enormous potential for growth in:


The Reinvention of Ourselves


Release the emotions and be ready to move on!


– In short, it can be difficult to accept change unless we realize that:


Problems = Opportunities


And this is the critical place where we can try new things and learn and grow. 


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Emo Art

So I’ve been wanting to post this example of this special art form from my daughter, Rebecca. 


She makes this novel art called, “EMO”, which stands for emotional.


In this art she mixes children and monsters–and it depicts how innocent kids have to deal with the monsters they find in an often unscrupulous and morally-tarnished society. 


I love the feelings and message of this art in that it encapsulates how children enter this world in purity, but how so many bad people and things around them (and us) can corrupt that. 


I always learned that the goal for each person was to leave the world a better place then the way we found it; however, I think a more personal goal should also be for us to leave here as better human beings than the day we arrived.  


Challenging ourselves–learning and maturing–yet at the same time keeping that essence of decency and integrity of mind, heart, and deed–that is a life where we can grow up, but not turn into the morally-bankrupt monsters that we see all around us. 


(Source Art: Rebecca Ochayon)

Enter With A HANDSHAKE & Leave With A HUG

Hug.jpeg

So after almost 6 years at the U.S. Department of State, I am moving forward in my career to a very exciting role at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 


As I look back, I have fond memories of the wonderful high-performance division I was part of and the many amazing achievements we had together, and what our Deputy Assistant Secretary called, the “A Team.”


But one thing today is sticking out in my mind and it’s this image.

“Enter with a handshake and leave with a hug.”

On the first days, when I arrived it was all formality and firm welcome handshakes.


We don’t really know you and you don’t really know us, but we’re embarking on this journey together, and where it takes us no one really knows, BUT we wish you the best of luck–now go out and do great things!


Then on the last days, as I was preparing to leave, the formal handshakes were long gone and instead they were replaced with warm heartfelt hugs (and some special emotional words and cards). 


I was no longer a mystery of a person, with just my reputation, coming in to do G-d knows what. 


Now, I was a human being that had a genuine history with them, formed relationships with many, had faced challenges together, and had touched not only minds, but also it was apparent, hearts. 


I will not forget the special people, nor the many times shared, our accomplishments as an organization, and how we grew. 


I am moving forward not only with their tight hugs to more handshakes anew, but also to once again hopefully grow heart-to-heart with people, as further relationships are formed and we make, please G-d, amazing new progress together–for the mission and for the people. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Nourishment For The Soul

Aron Kodesh.jpeg

So the Rabbi , a Kabbalist of mystical Torah interpretation, told my wife to concentrate on 3 commandments.

1) Shabbat

2) Kosher

3) Going to Synagogue

Today, we had a little delay and almost didn’t make it to synagogue, but my wife said, “Remember what the Kabbalist said about going every week,” so we went even though we were a little late. 

We went to a conservative synagogue today called, B’nai Israel, in Rockville – it was our second time there. 

The services there are so orchestrated down to the tiniest of details…you could tell that a lot of thought, planning, and effort goes into every service. 

I was really impressed at how meticulous they were for example: 

– Explaining everything and even handing out the sources to their Shabbat speech

– Having everyone ready for their part of the service whether leading the prayers, reading the Torah, or making the blessings over the wine and bread (which was already on a cart on the bimah–alter)

– Including a women who read the weekly Torah portion, children who led some of the prayers, an elderly lady who spoke about upcoming events for the Seniors group, and they even sang Hanukah songs in everything from Ladino to Yiddish.  

At the end of the service, we spoke briefly to the Rabbi and thanked him for such a “perfect service,” and my wife commented how he had such a cool radio voice when he leads the congregation (and he really does..like JM (jewish music) in the AM).

After service, I told my wife how happy I was that we made it to synagogue, that is was like nourishment to my spirit and soul for the week.

We have to feed ourselves physically as well as intellectually, emotionally, socially, and of course spiritually.  

Like the fingers on our hand…we need them all to hold unto life itself. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Prove Them Wrong

Your Not

So I was recently teaching a certification class. 


And this was a very high-caliber class of professionals attending. 


One gentlemen was a wonderful African American who I will call John. 


As part of one of the class assignments, John,  a very successful man, told of how as a young man growing up in the DC projects, a neighbor told him something very hurtful and potentially devastating to him.


The neighbor angrily said, “You’ll never be anything in your life!”


And John described how he pursued his education, his career goals, his family, as well as philanthropic pursuits to give back to the community–and he went quite far. 


He told with great emotion and tears in his eyes how ten years ago, he went back to his old neighborhood to thank this neighbor for motivating him (even though in a negative way) to go as far in life as he did. 


You could hear a pin drop in the class–I think a lot of people could relate to this story in their own lives. 


I know that I for one certainly could. 


For me, while I am a simple person and have not gone so far, I have certainly had an interesting life and lots of wonderful opportunities.


Yet, I too remember more than 20 years ago, when I had taken a job in a wild pursuit in my youthful ambitions that one crazy boss that I was briefly working for who was considerably older than me and with his own business abusively said to me one day, “You’re not half of what you think you are!”


BAM! Like a huge sledge hammer hitting me right across my head–I was still relatively young and impressionable.


Also, I came from a pretty blue collar-type working family and although upwardly mobile, and I was certainly trying to become “more,” I never really felt at all entitled. 


Anyway, the story this student told really brought my own experience hurling back to me from my past. 


In the class, John said–you have to go out and “Prove them wrong.” 


And while I don’t exactly feel that proving others who wish us bad to be wrong is the point, I do agree that we shouldn’t let any of these negative nellies in our own lives drag us down. 


We all have our mission in life–and it’s up to us to become the best people that we can–and to hell with everyone who looks down on us, discourages us, maybe are competitive with us or jealous in some way, or simply don’t wish us the best. 


So John is right–go out there and do great things! 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Self-Aware Grafitti Artist

Writing
So got to hand it to this graffiti artist. 



He/she is quite introspective. 



They wrote on this pole in D.C. “Writes his problems away!”



Thus, it’s not just any old graffiti that often desecrates public or private property, but in this case it is an emotional and psychological catharsis for the artist.  



Sure when you write, you can express yourself and your feelings–you can think things through and work them out in your head. 



Also, you can share of yourself with others and influence them too. 



On the lamp pole, bus stop, or building wall–ah, not the best place to work these things out. 



But on paper or the computer, if you have something important to say, get it off your chest–go for it–and you can feel better too! 😉



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Pain Pain Go Away

Ripped Face
So I am more the emotional type who cries at sad songs or heroic endeavors. 



But with the hip surgery, I have to admit that I have had some moments of literally screaming pain. 



The surgeon said he did about a full half hour of cauterization to prevent another bleed (hematoma) and infection that happened last time…so not sure if this is causing the extra-extra sting. 



Usually when they ask my level of pain, I say like 2-3, because I imagine a 10 being some horrible torture like being sawed in half (while hung upside down–actually saw this in a movie) or flayed of your flesh, burnt alive at the stake, or quartered by horses–or countless variations on these.



Let’s just say, the medieval tormentors had this torture stuff down.



In a way, I almost feel guilty expressing my post surgical pain (sort of child’s play) relative to these made-to-order cruelties.



Of course for pain, the doctors give you medicine, but honestly I don’t like to take these because of side-effects and even addictive properties. 



But the nurse and physical therapist told me not to let the pain get ahead of me, because then it is harder to control it (and also harder to do the full PT and get the benefits from it).



In the hospital, I was amazed that some people had so much pain (i.e. me) and others just sat there in PT seemingly shrugging off the whole experience. 



Still I made it the full loop with the walker the first day (which the therapists told me is maybe 3x what most others do at that point).



Another thing that I am thinking about with pain, is how do you compare emotional and physical pain–which is worse?



The loss of loved ones, deep disappointments, suffering with sickness or disability, anxiety and depression can certainly cause a lot of pain inside–those are the screams that often no one hears.



Also, that hurt can often lead to physical sickness and bodily pain and vice versa–so they are not mutually exclusive.



My father used to tell me that “When you have your health you have everything.”



I think this is partly because if you don’t have your health, you can’t really do or enjoy much else anyway–so good health is sort of a precursor to all other activities and pursuits.



Probably the worst pains are the ones where their is simply no hope of getting better…and you just have to accept the loss or the end. 



The corollary that my father taught me was “Where there is life, there is hope!”



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Moving And Emotional

Teepee 2

So we are supposed to be moving in a few weeks, G-d willing. 

Not going far, but after 15 years in the same home, it’s time. 

We found a place that we like and could agree on…following primarily the rule of thumb on location, location, location.

Lot’s of places to shop, eat, workout, play, and pray. 

And close to public transportation…and of course, good ‘ol work–his and hers.

As we’re preparing for the move, there seems like a million things to do to get ready, but the hardest is figuring out what to take and what to leave. 

My friend told me to throw out half, and then come back and throw out the other half. 

You know what, a little extreme, but not a bad idea. 

So as I am going through things I bought or saved over the years, I am left scratching my head at what was I thinking for many of them, and for many of the memorable items that I can’t believe any of this really happened. 

It’s emotional looking back, and it’s emotional looking forward–just different emotions.

Back–yes, where did the years go and with that regret for mistakes made, but also joy at things accomplished, lives touched, and beautiful memories made with people I really love. 

Forward–Oy, am I getting older (well, still middle age but…), there is excitement for what comes next, also some anxiety there–I hope all goes well, please G-d–and then there is the acknowledgement that it’s not forever, and I better make the most of every moment of every day. 

My father used to tell me, when you are with those you love, you can live in a tee-pee and be happy…and I believe he was absolutely right. 

Moving to my next tee-pee with those precious to me…I don’t care so much where, but just that we are together and happy. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)