Finding Happiness in Adar

Today is the 18th day of the Jewish month of Adar (Adar II, actually, since this is a leap year).  Adar is known to be a month of happiness.  Even in the code of Jewish law, the Talmud, it states: When the month of Adar enters, we increase in joy. -Talmud, Taanit 29a

Life has it’s ups and downs.  When down, we often choose to stay that way, riding the tide, until it passes or look for outside sources to “make” us happy.

Sure, the holiday of Purim which comes in the middle of the month of Adar is happy, but how does a 1 to 2 day holiday translate to an entire month being considered joyous?  We still have the same challenges (bills to pay, carpools to run, illnesses small or big to contend with…) as every other month.

One hint to the success of Purim transforming the entire month to being one of happiness and joy is in looking at the ways it is celebrated – we give additional gifts to the poor, we dress in fun costumes, we give gifts of food and treats to friends, we read/ listen to the story behind the holiday (The Book of Esther) and we have a special feast to “eat, drink, and be merry.”  We set aside our usual routines in every way and connect with our history, selves, and others.  

To look deeper into the source of happiness in the holiday of Purim we turn to the actual story of the holiday.  In reading “The Megilla”/ The Book of Esther, we see a chain of events that add up, in the end, to the Jewish people going from a risk of being wiped out by all the people who hate them all on one day, to having the tables completely turned and it being a day of all of their enemies at the time being wiped out.  All, with no open miracles.  G-d’s name is not even mentioned in the entire book – He is there, of course, orchestrating the chain of events, all from behind the scenes.  In fact, the turning point of the story was when “The king could not sleep”.  A simple sleepless night can have more impact than ever imagined.  And, there in lies the key to happiness – not the seeking of open miracles to inspire us to happiness, but utilizing the events in our every day life to make a difference and to appreciate the day-to-day miracles around us.  

… like my getting 6 costumes sewn in one week, around my work schedule, in time for the Purim celebrations, all while my kids did the treat baking and packing… Or, would that be considered more of an open miracle…. 

So, Purim lessons on keys to happiness can boil down to: give what you can to help others in need, do nice things for the family and friends you have, appreciate the great potential in seemingly small things, and celebrate life with others.

Another important lesson from the story of Purim is to “give credit where credit is due” as the whole turn-around of the story came from something reported to the king in which “…Esther said in the name of Mordechai…”  So, to do likewise, here are links to the great sites I got the pattern piece layout and instructions I used to make the two kimono above.

And to help get you in the mood of being happy, here is a great video – Pharrell Williams – Happy in Jerusalem!



Picture gift for my DH

Is life one long journey or a series of many journeys?

Is a journey a going to someplace or a leaving where you were?

When embarking on a journey do we carefully pick and choose the baggage to take along, or haphazardly bring extra “baggage” out of indecision and lack of clarity for what to carry into the next stage of our journey?  When physically traveling somewhere, extra baggage can be an inconvenience and perhaps an additional expense.  In personal growth, “extra baggage” can weigh us down more than we realize, stunting our growth as we carry the regrets, fears and emotions tying us to the difficult challenges in our past.

I recently read a commentary (from the book HaYom Yom, compiled by The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson) that explained the significance of the description of the Jewish People’s journey journeys from slavery in Egypt to the promised land 40 years later.  The wording was “goings forth” – “exoduses.”  Plural. They did not just leave the slavery of their past the first time the crossed over the threshold of Egypt’s border; they left it at each stage of their journey – all 42 of them.

In a similar way, we “need to break free from bondage of our own personal Egypt – from the shackles of [our] own unwanted habits and mental blocks, [our] psychological hang-ups…” (from Tackling Life’s Tasks Every Day Energized with HaYom Yom, excerpt for 23 Tammuz).

Reading this statement was so liberating to me.  It helped put into perspective the challenges I was facing in personal relationships and in professional growth.  Updating a basic 2 page resume to seek an OT position was no problem – just a brief list and description of the series of the experiences I have had over the past 25 years.  Adding additional information to a longer resume about my accomplishments at each stage made me aware of how much I really have done outside of taking care of my family.  But, filling out a job application requiring a description of “Reason for Leaving” each job made me uneasy.  Why?  And why was I so apprehensive about this current transition in my life?  What was holding me back?

To journey forward, we must first “exodus” – leave where we were.  Even though I want to go to a new “place” in life, my reluctance to leave “where I am” is what was enslaving myself.  This realization was liberating.  Even more so, now that I know I am “leaving,” I am better able to think about what “baggage” I am carrying with me – to choose to focus on my new awareness of my accomplishments and capabilities and to discard what I do not want to take with me on this next stage of my journey(s).

To achieve improved relationships, we need to let go of the emotions that were binding us to the past difficult experiences and instead carry with us the vision of where we want ourselves and relationships to be on the new journey to get “there”.  By doing so, we can travel lighter and happier.

Enjoy your journeys and may all the “baggage” you choose to bring with you enhance your joy and successes!

- DebBee

To choose life… Choose Joy!

Made-a-move #38: Commitment to live life with more joy

I started this posting two weeks ago.  Time has sped by – but I think the message of this posting is worth it for me to finish writing and try to ingrain in my psyche.

The 23 days leading up to October 10th of this year encompassed the holiest days of the Jewish calendar – starting with Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, followed by the 8 day holiday of Sukkot and concluding with the holidays of Shmini Atzeret and Simchat Torah.  “The Season of Our Rejoicing” is another name for these final holidays.  I have read in several sources, based on the teachings of the great leader referred to as The Bal Shem Tov, that what we accomplish with joy and dancing on Simchat Torah surpasses what we accomplish through prayer and fasting 3 weeks prior, during Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.  This doesn’t negate the importance of the serious introspection and affirmation of dedication to do better.  But, rather emphasizes the all-too-forgotten message that we need to LIVE life, and to do so be joyful.

In one of the weekly Torah readings not so long ago, The Creator told the beginning Jewish Nation “I give before you a choice … choose life.”  Not just existence.  But, choose LIFE.  It is oh so easy to get caught up in the “rat race” of busy schedules, going with the flow of trying to keep up with what others around us are doing, and would-could-should to-do lists, etc.  We need to choose our life.  Take a stance on what our core values are and choose to live by them…  with joy!  To really move forward into the year, rather than be caught in old holding patterns, we need to make conscious, and continual, decisions to live life with joy Not an easy thing to do by any means!  Still have the lack of chores being done.  Still have the messes in each room.  Still have carpool, work, childhood illnesses, family member melt-downs, housework, finance challenges, and other demands needing attention.  But, to face them with joy… that makes them part of life – not pulling us away from living.

I am struggling to make this shift in my daily life.  Old habits are hard to break!  Fortunately, my DH is working on the same shift and helping me along.  The beginning results… procrastinated housework is starting to get done, a workable budget is underway, more family-time, less arguments, more mindfulness of what I am doing and more awareness of what I want to do/ accomplish… including doing things to make others smile (like making mandel breit to give to others) and thinking up new project ideas I would love to do… and, at the very least can have fun dreaming about with materials in hand. (I think I need to stop my kids from convincing me to take them to Michaels Craft stores!)

So, how can I remember to Live Life with Joy?  This picture of my Rabbi on a zip line is a great inspiration!!

Have a great, and Joyful, week!

- DebBee


Bee Yourself

Made-a-move #37: Being true to myself… even beyond logic

About a year ago, my youngest DD bought this charm for me with a bee on one side and the message “Bee Yourself” on the other.  My “move” during the past week was doing just that.

Last week, I had a busy week between work, family, Yom Kippur observance (which included a 26 hour complete fast and many hours of prayer concluding on Wednesday night) and a Thursday of making challah breads (with many helpers) – from 4:30 am til the breads were done being packaged at about 3:30pm (well almost done, I went back later to finish putting the last away)So, when I heard a voicemail message late Thursday afternoon from someone who forgot to place their orderfor 30 more challahs,… hoping it wasn’t too late… my eyes went wide and I had to remind myself to breath.  In the back of my mind, I knew what my answer would be, but I needed to wait until I got off my feet for a few minutes and cleared my brain of the exhaustion.  As I am trying to be more responsible in communication, I let a couple women that frequently help me make challah on Fridays (that weren’t able to make it on Thursday) know that I was going to be baking again after all, and received confirmation that they were not able to do so this week.  Then I returned the challah order call and, of course, assured the caller that I would be happy to make the challahs for them the next day… no problem… I was planning on making a batch anyways – so I’ll just do a little more…  Afterwards, I was also able to tell the next 2 people who called that I would be happy to make a couple challahs for them as well… No problem… My pleasure...

Walking into the commercial kitchen I use the next morning at about 5:30 am to set up the dough felt so good As crazy as it would seem, I was being true to myself – I love making challah.  I love everything about it.  It is invigorating and touches me to my very soul.  With only the help of my middle DD, we made and shaped 3 big batches of dough (over 12 lbs of flour in each batch) that Friday.  The challahs turned out beautifully and I knew they would be enjoyed by many, many people.  No logic can explain the self-satisfaction that comes from being true to yourself.

With much appreciation to The Creator for giving me opportunity and strength, (and  for the assistance of my DD, along with the assistance of the many women who helped me make 8 batches of dough on Thursday!), to be true to myself and complete the challah baking last Friday, I wish you clear vision (that may even go beyond face-value logic) in the decisions and opportunities that come your way, strength and resources to succeed in your efforts, and satisfaction knowing you have done well as you follow the part of you that goes deeper than heart and mind.

Connecting with Life

Made-a-move #36: Connecting with others

Move number “36″… hmmm “Double Chai”.  Chai is the Hebrew word for Life and, as each Hebrew letter has a numerical value, the two letters that spell the word Chai (ח י) add up to the total of 18.  The number 36 is extra-special as it represents a double blessing of Life.  (This is why many Jews have a custom of giving gifts in multiples of 18)

At this time of year, during the time between Rosh Hashana (the New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Judgement), we reflect on our actions of the past year, make commitments to improve, ask for forgiveness for past misdeeds, and request that The Creator seal a favorable judgement for us with the blessings of health, peace, prosperity, and, most of all, LIFE.  How fitting that this posting carries the number 36 – Double Chai.  May this be a spark towards a doubly blessed life for all those who benefit from the HoneyTreeBuzz blog.

One of the goals I wrote for myself a couple years ago was to be more mindful in my interactions with others.  My previous self of constantly running from one task to another left me disconnected from putting time or focus into what I was doing or who I was interacting with.  I still have a long way to go, but am happy to see that I am being more and more involved with Life.  And, with it, I am now improving in my relationships with the people closest to me – family and friends.  One result of this is my improved ability to understand my daughter’s needs and encourage her in her own personal journey.  As she is thoroughly enjoying the Creative Writing class I encouraged her to take, she suggested I share her new poem with you here.

With the wish that your journeys take you to greater inner strength, deeper happiness, brighter futures and meaningful Life, here is a poem of my DD’s journey… by Shoshana

Where am I From?


Where am I from?
I am from the sky.
I follow the rays of the sun.


Who am I?
I am a bird who soars in the sky.
I paint the sunset,
as I glide through the air.
I rise with the sunrise,
and when my days have come and gone,
I slip to sleep with the sunset.


From where do I come?
Breaking free of the dark shell around me,
I came to light.
From a bed of twigs to a bed of clouds.
I ventured beyond the protective wing of my mother.


To where am I going?
I am going wherever the wind takes me.
I am going to fly high.
I will say “look how high I have gone.”
My wings are like that of an eagle,
carrying me higher than all others.
I will say “look at my strength.”
Built upon generations of strong birds before me.


Whom do I wish to be?
I will add to those wings.
So that my baby can do as I have.
So she can say “look at my strength.”
Built upon generations of strong birds before me.
Where am I from?
I am from a line of great ones.
Who paved the path on which I walk.


Who am I?
I am one amongst many.
I rise with the call of the rooster,
and when my days have come and gone,
I ease into an eternal sleep with the hoot of the owl.


From where do I come?
Breaking free of the dark forces in eastern lands.
I sailed west, to the promise of light.
From a bed of hay, to a bead of feathers.
I ventured beyond the safety of my mother’s house.


To where am I going?
I am going wherever my heart takes me.
I am going to go far.
I will say “look at what I achieved.”
My wings are like that of an eagle,
carrying me farther than all others.
I will say “look at my strength.”
Built upon my generations of strong forefathers.


Whom do I wish to be?
I will add to those wings.
So that my child can do as I have.
So she can say “look at my strength.”
Built upon my generations of strong forefathers.


I am all this when I spread my wings and fly.


Simple Words

Made-a-move #34: Getting grounded in the basics

The complexities of life so easily sweep us up in their constantly changing flow and draw our attention to navigating the obstacles and rushing current.  How fitting that with the start to the transitions of the new school year, including adjusting to my oldest DS going out of town for school, my move for this week was to delve into basics.  Starting with taking time to stop and marvel at a double rainbow on our way home from dropping our DS off at his new school.

Just as Emily Dickinson wrote that “To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee… and revery,”  I am striving to find and share meaning in life with basic elements – and, this week, my focus was on doing so with further exploring “simple words” – The words that say so much standing alone… Strength.  Health.  Happiness.  As Adin Steinsaltz said so eloquently in his book, Simple Words, Thinking about What really Matters in Life,

“Words are vehicles, and very powerful ones.  To use and ancient metaphor, the connection between the idea and the word can be compared to the relationship between a person and a horse.  The horse is far more powerful and much faster than the person, but it must be harnessed and guided.  The combination of man-horse is a very different thing from each of them as an individual being… We ride our words, but words have a tremendous power of their own.  They form a vehicle that makes the person within it a different being.”

This week I also looked to find out more about Annie Dillard, the author of the quote:

“The way we spend our days is, of course, the way we spend our lives.”

In doing so, I found many more inspirational quotes from Annie Dillard to share (and probably try to read from their original sources.)  Here are several I discovered:

“It is no less difficult to write a sentence in a recipe than sentences in Moby Dick. So you might as well write Moby Dick.”

“The dedicated life is the life worth living. You must give with your whole heart.”

“You’ve got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.”

“You do not have to sit outside in the dark. If, however, you want to look at the stars, you will find that darkness is necessary. But the stars neither require nor demand it.”
Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters

“He is careful of what he reads, for that is what he will write. He is careful of what he learns, for that is what he will know.”
Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

I wish you an inspirational week, filled with words of insight, blessing, and connectionAnd may the coming year (The Jewish New Year is just 2 weeks away) be good, sweet, healthy, and happy!

- DebBee

A face-lift – inside and out.

Made-a-move #33: Self-care

A couple weeks ago I mentioned reoccurring advice from experts in personal coaching and success that mutually recommend journaling.  Two other big messages these various experts repeatedly give are the importance of Reading and Self Care.

As for the Reading, I found pieces of myself in two poems in the book, Half Hours with the Best Poets.  From Robert Frost (1874 – 1963), The Road Not Taken.  I, too, in so many ways take the “one less traveled by” – it has it’s difficulties, but I think the “difference” that results from it is worth the effort.  Or, at least, I hope so since this is just how I do things.  I stumble through life foraging my own path – somewhere between the lifestyles that look so normal and smooth paths of the people around me.

The second poem describes the habits and direction I was falling into that I am determined to make moves to turn around: Abel Melveny, by Edger Lee Masters (1868 – 1950).  Though for me, rather than equipment left in the rain to gather rust, it has been crafting supplies, past interests, and business ideas and starts that accumulate inside and gather dust.

Self Care As my lack in attending to my self is well known by my family, they (my DH and DD’s) conspired together and got me to go for a make-up make-over (under the pretense that I was taking my daughter there for her to have the fun of the make-up appointment before the start of school).  Completely oblivious to their scheme, I didn’t find out until after the make up artist motioned that I should take a seat.   – Good thing I was sitting down when she told me!  Part of the deal was that I had to purchase make up too… I guess if I divide the cost by the nearly 20 years it has been since I last bought make up beyond a cheap eye pencil and a discounted tube of lipstick…

As one good move leads to another… next step was giving a ‘face-lift’ to the area around me – or at least putting in a very good start…



Keep Moving.  Keep Growing. Wishing you much success and joy in your journeys in this year and beyond.

- DebBee

Morning Musings

Made-a-move #29: Putting ideas into writings to share.

Building on last week’s posting, this week I decided to work on developing my ideas for compiling information on Emuna, Bitachon and Kavana.  I especially delved more into the concept of Kavana – heartfelt concentration and mindfulness.  Instead of mechanically reciting morning prayers, I went to the beginning of them and really thought, and wrote, about their meaning.   I didn’t get to far… I ended up writing three pages of notes on just the first 12 words that are said when first waking up in the morning.  I’m not including all of them here, but here are a few of my ‘morning musings.’

In this crazy age of running around and constantly doing there are increasing messages from the ‘self-help’ industry advising us to take a break to recharge ourselves – to live life with more mindfulness and purpose, to live life with “an attitude of gratitude,” and to think about where we are, where we were, and where we want to go.  One technique I’ve heard from several sources (including John Maxwell) is to use affirmations to start the day on the right foot… “Just for today I will…”

These suggestions are all encompassed in a spiritual way in the Modeh Ani prayer that, by Jewish tradition, is said first thing in the morning when the person first wakes up and opens their eyes.

Modeh Ani Lifanecha — I give thanks to/ before You

Melech Chai Vikayam — King who is living and eternal

Shehechazarta bi nishmati — For You have returned within me my soul

Bichemla rabbah emmunatecha — with compassion, abundant is Your faithfulness.

With these 12 (Hebrew) words, we start our day with gratitude to, and an acknowledgement of, a higher power that exists and is a constant force in this world – a point of stability in our ever-changing surroundings and circumstances.  A force that is not distant, but close enough to be talked to directly and referred to as “You.”   That our soul that infuses us with life was in safe-keeping with The Creator while we slept and He now entrusts us to have it back, take good care of it while we are awake, and use the life it gives us to the best of our potential.  That regardless of the mistakes we have made on previous days, He does not hold that against us and has faith that we will live up to using the gift of life in good ways, and towards our purpose, today.

When we know that someone (whether it be parents, employer, friends, etc) has faith in us, we don’t want to disappoint them.  We want to do things that will prove that their faith and belief in us was well placed.  It makes us more conscientious of what we are doing – especially in front of them.

By saying the Modeh ani prayer with kavana, we can carry these awarenesses with us into this day.  We can thereby live our life (Remember that quote from a few weeks ago? – “How we live our days is how we live our lives.”) with more gratitude, stability, compassion, faith, integrity, and purpose.

Wishing you a great, successful and meaningful day!

In Honor of Mom

Made-a-Move # 18

Every year there is always the question of ‘What to get Mom for mother’s day?’  Another craft book of things I would love to do if I had time that maybe she could find time for…?… flowers, again…?  Treats that will be enjoyed, but gone as fast as an empty sink gets refilled with dirty dishes ..?..  I know how about I stand up in front of a room full of over a hundred people (most of whom I don’t know) and tell them what a great mom she is :)

Ok, it was a week early and wasn’t really for Mother’s day.  But I did do the speech.  How many people get the opportunity to use a microphone to tell their mom how great she is?!  Moms do so much to contribute to the successes of, and make a positive impact on, so many people’s lives.  Some more visibly than others.  Each in their own, unique, way.  So, in celebration of my mom’s ways, here is most of the speech I said at a luncheon she was being honored at yesterday as a “Woman of Achievement” for her many years of contributions to her Synagogue:

When my mother first told me about the event, in her humble way, she was hoping at least I and a couple of my girls would come.   Like so many others who are here because she is being honored, my whole family is here today.  And, my brother, who lives in Germany and cannot be here today sends his warmest wishes and lots of love.  Who is Honored?  The question is asked and answered by Ben Zoma in Pirkei Avos (4:1) He who honors others.

Everyone who meets my mom sees how respectful she is of others.  She is ready to help others, but always in a quiet, unassuming and supportive way.  Rather than jumping in and taking over, she waits for direction of how and where they want her help.

When our first child was born, my mom came to help us.  As eager as she was to meet her new granddaughter, she waited (on our request) until we came home from the hospital and were settled before she came to St Paul.  Mom was there to help any way we let her, but managed to not step on toes as the nervous new parents insisted on changing all of the diapers and bathing the tiny baby themselves those first few days.

And when my husband reluctantly went back to work when the baby was 5 days old, Mom was there to help her crazy daughter surprise him by bringing the baby to his work so he could show her off to his co-workers.

While my mom keeps herself busy with exercise to take care of herself, activities with friends, working as a substitute (including being a very much loved Morah at her grandson’s preschool) and volunteering at her synagogue in so many ways, she clearly lets us know that she is always here for us when we need her.   Both for sharing life’s challenges and for sharing our accomplishments and simchas [joyous occassions].

She has mastered the balance (that seems to allude me) of taking care of herself, giving of herself, recognizing her limits, and maintaining the ability to help others in their time of need.  From driving across town to take an ill grandchild home from school in the middle of the day, to helping her daughter with a big fundraising event.  Without ridicule, and always with a loving smile.  :)   Albeit sometimes a tired one.

Honoring Parents is such a major mitzvah [Jewish commandment] that it is included in the 10 Commandments.  How can I give honor to my mom?  It says in the Torah that the way to know if a tree is good is by looking at its fruit.  So, I think it is, in part, by leading a life by her examples of how to treat others and making sure the fruits of her labor are sweet.  I think that is what the concept of “nachas” [mixed feeling of pride and joy] is all about.  Tasting the sweet fruits of your labor – seeing the growth and successes that stem from your efforts – be it the success of the Sisterhood activities she takes part in, or of the children and grandchildren she had a hand in bringing into this world and nurturing.

I’ve always been uncomfortable with receiving compliments – except for one.  Over the years, whenever anyone told me I was like my mom in some way, I always took that as a compliment.  She is one of the strongest people I know.  Like everyone, she has her own set of challenges in life – but she has the fortitude to control her reactions to those challenges and go on to enjoy life, greet everyone with kindness, and be there for others.

We love you, Mom, and I am still growing up trying to be more like you.
Mazel tov to you on receiving this much deserved honor, and thank you for inviting me to be a part of this very special event.  May you continue to be blessed with health and strength, love and respect from family and friends, and nachas from your children and grandchildren.

Leaving Slavery

Made-a-move #14

Artwork by Shoshana

My move for this week has been preparing for and celebrating Passover with my family – a holiday that commemorates the Jewish people leaving the slavery of Egypt to be free to fulfill our purposes in this world.  The participation and help of all of my family has been immense, each in their own way, and greatly appreciated!

The special Passover “Seder” meal the first night(s) of Passover are filled with symbolic items and actions that help us walk through the history of our people’s experiences as being slaves, of crying out to The Creator for help, and His rescuing us and bringing us to freedom.  As is said during the seder, “In every generation, a person is obligated to regard himself as though he had come out of Egypt… It was not only our ancestors whom the L-rd redeemed from Egypt, but He redeemed us with them as well.”   The symbolism presented on the table in front of us during the meal (and all of the hard work preparing for the holiday) set the stage, but to truly feel the redemption, we need introspection.

Artwork by Shoshana

So often we feel like we are “A rose among thorns.”  That harsh conditions around us limit our freedom.  Passover is a time to look inside ourselves and realize how much we are “a slave to ourselves.”  I’ve heard that in the process of training elephants, the baby elephants were chained, at their ankle, to a post when young.  As they grew big, they could easily have escaped the chains through their great strength, but didn’t even try out of memory of not being able to when they tried in their youth.  How much are we held back by our perceptions of our limitations?  Are the thorns really there?  Maybe yes, and maybe no.  Either way we need to realize that there is a way to get past them, blossom to our full potential, and share our beautiful contributions with the world around us.  We need to not allow past experiences blind us to the possibilities now and in the future.

Artwork by Shoshana

As we conclude the Seder with the words “Next Year in Jerusalem”, it is my heartfelt wish that this be a year that we break out of the confined image we have ourselves.  That we realize that we can call out to, and tap into, the infinite strength of The Creator.  That we recognize the incredible potential we have within ourselves.  And, that we can live fulfilling our purpose in this world – be that in Jerusalem, in our world, in our communities, in our family, in our jobs, or, and most importantly, in ourselves.

Health, strength, happiness, and success to you in all of your worthwhile endeavors!

- DebBee