Monday, June 19, 2017

Zahal Shalom – Welcoming Israeli Vets

At the airport this morning, we said goodbye to our new friend that we met two weeks ago.  It is a bit sad, as we do not know when we shall see each other again, but through the wonders of technology, Debbie, Gab, Bec and I will be able to keep in touch.  In these brief two weeks, we have enjoyed time, meals, conversations and various activities helping to create a bond and shared memories.  For us, it was a chance to do something different, something a little outside our comfort zone, and an opportunity to help someone else.  But, I am getting a bit ahead of myself.

In 1993, I remember my parents telling Debbie and I that one of their close friends was starting a group to bring injured Israeli Vets to America and that they were going to join in a dinner for them.  “That’s nice,” I said and then promptly filed that away, along with the many other tidbits my parents told me about that did not directly concern me.  I know that my parents each year mentioned this annual hosting “thing.”  I do remember thinking that it was a nice thing to do.  However, starting and focusing on having a family, this item along with many others things that were not a priority proceeded to move out of my mind’s forefront and into some deeply locked area of my brain.  They say that our brain is one of the greatest computers ever developed and can retain immeasurable amounts of information to be stored for either current or future usage. 

Fast forward to 2017…About two months ago, Debbie called me to say that friends of ours asked if we would be a buddy-family for some group called Zahal Shalom.  “What is that and what do I have to do,” was my first response.  OK, a little cold on my part, but unfortunately, if I took on something new, it meant making room within my busy schedule for something else that would need to have my attention.  As Debbie was explaining this to me, it dawned on us that this might be the same group founded by my parent’s friend 25 years ago.  Now this mitzvah (good deed) had some sentimental value. 

Finally, after weeks of waiting, the group from Israel arrived and we met our former soldier, Yan.  All we knew was that he was in his 30s, recently married, an engineer and liked to swim.  The first time I met Yan was over a family dinner with the host family, their parents and us (buddy family).  We all felt a connection while engaging in the ancient ritual of breaking bread together and happily welcomed Yan into our little group.  This was a great beginning and over the next few days, our friendships grew.

While Yan and the other nine vets were in the US, they had a series of planned trips to New York that include museums, sites, meals and a Broadway show.  They also went on a 3-day trip to Washington D.C., where our local Congressman met with them.  Of course, there was some time for shopping and a little free time to do some activities with the host and buddy family.  These were two busy weeks for our visitors, and unbeknownst to us when we signed on, for us as well.

Debbie went with Yan on trips to NYC and a High School presentation.  Gab took Yan shopping and all you can eat sushi.  I went to a blues club in Greenwich Village with the group.  Together, with our friends and family, we drove to Queens so Yan could visit with family, went to various dinners (including one at our house), desserts, and a fun Zahal Shalom pool party.  At the organization’s 25th Gala Celebration, it was great to see the happy faces and watch these vets, no matter what they went through, leave their issues off the dance floor, and dance with abandonment at the celebration of life. 

As humans, one of our greatest gifts is to give of ourselves and of our time, to helping others.  In the end, this was our personal “investment” in this wonderful program.  Best of all, we have made a new friend, to visit when either we go to Israel, or, next time he comes back here.

For more information, or to help support this wonderful organization, please visit

Monday, June 12, 2017

My Family Is Precious to Me

I know this seems weird, but, this has not happened since November – all the Zeilers are in the same state!  I know it is odd to have that thought, but I did as I lay in bed the other night.  Yes, these are the type of thoughts I have in my downtime – I concluded that whether traveling, being a snowbird or at college, we have not been “in the vicinity” at the same time in eight months.  I have the chance, once again, to reflect on how fleeting time can be, how precious it is to spend time together and how blessed I feel when these times occur.  As our children grow up and take on lives of their own, being together will change and take on new meaning.  For now, I focus on enjoying the time we have.

Spending time as a family was something I learned while growing up.  My parents always believed that we should always eat dinner as a family.  I remember eating over friends houses for dinner and it was just my friend and I, or the two us plus his sibling(s).  I did not comment on it aloud, but found it “different” from what I was used to.  When we became parents, it was important for Debbie and me to have our dinners with our girls.  It was a chance to share what we did during the day, have an open line of communication and discuss any issues we needed to.  They may be all grown up, but we still eat dinner and other meals together as a family.  Even at “family dinners,” we always sat together, instead of having an adult dinner and a children dinner.

When we were a young family, there seemed to be a lot of time and opportunities to spend together.  As we have all gotten older, the amount of potential time spent together has changed and has become more sparse.  I have always like the song, “Cat’s in the Cradle,” by Harry Chapin, but found it haunting and sad.  Here was the story of a father that was too busy for time to spend with his child and once he had the time, the lessons learned (through actions) came to fruition and the son had no time for him.  The old adage “what goes around, comes around” has some merit.  We spent a lot of time with our children, involved with sports, activities and time together.  We never thought about the day they would decide to move out – we spent the time together because we wanted to, and we still do.  We love being a family.

I know that this summer’s time together is short-lived, with Bec still a student and about to leave us for the summer for her internship.  We are excited for her opportunity, even as we miss her.  And Gab? Though she would like to find a job close by, there is still the chance that she will have to look further away to find what she is looking for.  Time together is precious.  Enjoy your children and spend time with them while you can.  Enjoy spending time with your spouse while you can.  Enjoy the time with your parents while you can.  Life is fleeting, so the times we have to spend together must be important.  Life is busy and we are all active, so when the time comes to be together, we live in the moment and enjoy each other.  And when we are apart, we look forward to the next time we can spend as a family.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Eating as a Lifestyle, Not a Diet

Diet = Do It, Eat This

"We test your DNA to determine the right diet for you."  "I had this drink and my infirmities went away, my golf score improved, etc."  Let’s face it, healthy eating as a fad has become big business.  Yes, I understand that sometimes we need help starting us on the path to proper eating and there are many good products meant to point us in the right direction.  The reality is that in a world of ice cream, chocolate bars and decadent cakes, who has time to think of kale, cauliflower and asparagus?  When stepping out to walk to the places where I get salad for lunch, the scents from the potential lunch places I pass on the way do make me salivate.    "Have I got a diet for you," says the slick man in the magazine, on television or on the radio.  30 day, 90 day, etc. time sliced bromides that benefit our bellies, and provide a transformation back to a better size.  This is a far-gone cry from the guy with the horse drawn wooden storefront that sold concoctions for health, or is it?

While I am all for help, the lingering question remains - What happens the day after?  We all know people (including ourselves) that go on a “diet” and it works wonders; then more often than not, a few weeks later, all the weight loss has evaporated, and in some cases, plus some.  Where are the hawkers telling you that you must be diligent in what you eat EVERY DAY OF YOUR LIFE?  I have fought the Battle of the Bulge my entire adult life (and I do not mean one of the last major battles of WWII).  And while I have done some short-term diets, it was changing the way I eat every day that made the longer lasting impact.  Once I stopped relying on someone else dictating what I eat and took on the responsibility of what I put in my mouth, how I track myself and reminding myself where I want to be, my body reacted as I had wished for.

WebMD defines obesity as being 20% over what is considered your normal weight and could lead to an increase in having:

  • Heart disease and stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Some cancers
  • Gallbladder disease and gallstones
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Gout
  • Breathing problems, such as sleep apnea (when a person stops breathing for short episodes during sleep) and asthma

Similarly, our government’s CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) also sight the potential health risks:

  • All-causes of death (mortality)
  • High blood pressure (Hypertension)
  • High LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, or high levels of triglycerides (Dyslipidemia)
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Osteoarthritis (a breakdown of cartilage and bone within a joint)
  • Sleep apnea and breathing problems
  • Some cancers (endometrial, breast, colon, kidney, gallbladder, and liver)
  • Low quality of life
  • Mental illness such as clinical depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders
  • Body pain and difficulty with physical functioning

On the World Health Organization (WHO) web site, they estimate that: 

  • In 2014, more than 1.9 billion adults aged 18 years and older were overweight. Of these over 600 million adults were obese.
  • Overall, about 13% of the world’s adult population (11% of men and 15% of women) were obese in 2014.
  • In 2014, 39% of adults aged 18 years and over (38% of men and 40% of women) were overweight.
  • The worldwide prevalence of obesity more than doubled between 1980 and 2014.

I do not include these statistics as a scare tactic.  I do not include these facts to sell you anything.  I include these external references to show that I am not just talking out of my “tuchus.”  And I get it that the food industry is in it to make money by appealing to our baser desires.  My purpose IS NOT TO POINT FINGERS, but to merely point out that EACH OF US has the ability to make choices that are beneficial to ourselves.  Am I saying that I never indulge in a piece of chocolate or cake? No, because I enjoy these tasty treats…on occasion.  When I enjoy too much, my body reacts and my weight goes up.  Do not just diet, but move towards better eating habits.  Eat smartly, eat wisely and eat healthy, as it will help us to live longer.

Monday, May 29, 2017

OMG – We Have a College Grad!

I cannot believe that our little Gab is now a college graduate.  She IS a young adult, and logically I know that she is old enough…WHERE DID THE TIME GO?!  In my mind, I still see my little girl, dependant on her parents.  OMG.  OMFG!  Gab is a college graduate!  Yes, she worked hard, graduated Summa Cum Laude and with University Honors; she deserves all the rewards of her efforts.  We are extremely proud of her!  She not only graduated from her formal education, but also graduate from this part of her life.  As both Gab and Bec would say, she is now a real person.  They are right – even though my graduation from college was 32 years ago, I remember being excited, nervous and a little scared at the realization that I had the entire world and lifetime ahead of me.  I am very excited for Gab reaching this milestone, even as I hold back the tears.  I did not expect the flood of emotions, and for someone that general does not display or talk about them, it was unexpected.
As the baccalaureate candidates moved their tassels from the right to the left side of their caps, it dawned on me, that in some way, Gab is not the only one to graduate.  As parents, Debbie and I, in part, subtly graduate as well.  Yes, Bec is still in school, but with Gab, as she moves onto the next stage in her life, we, too, have to begin to transform ourselves as parents to help her with this new phase.  As a student, Mom and Dad are always there for them, and whether living at home or away, we have always been there.  But, with this next stage in life, there are new transitions, new challenges and new opportunities ahead.  While Gab has to face them, we need to be able to provide a new and different support for her.  While we received no “Marriage Handbook,” and no “Raising Children Handbook,” the “You Now a Have College Graduate Handbook” did not show up either.  This is a time to embrace the opportunities before us, whether as a college graduate, a parent and, to some extent, as sisters.
“I love graduation season!” Bec happily exclaimed.  She reflected on the excitement of her graduation of High School and how now that Gab is graduating, she will be next.  There is something exciting about leaving your school life behind.  32 years ago, when I graduated from Lehigh – I was done with school and looking forward to the future before me, to make my own path, to put my mark on the world and take on whatever came my way.  Life is exciting!  As we age, we take on responsibility that could weigh us down…but, only if we let it.  I am still excited at looking forward to what is to come, for my girls, for Debbie, for myself and as a family.  As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Life is a journey, not a destination.”  While graduating school might seem like a destination, it is merely one-step on a life long journey.  As Lao Tzu said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”  Each step along the journey should be happily celebrated, and as we graduate each phase, we can happily look forward with great anticipation to the next step.
Congratulations to all who have graduated this season, and best of luck as this journey we call life continues!