Archive | June 2016

Unexpected Life Lessons From My Triathlon

This was not my first triathlon. It was actually my 4th.  It was Seth’s second, and since it had been a couple of years since our last one, we put ourselves in the “beginners” group. Our group was the last wave to begin, and wetsuits on, at the foot of the Boulder Reservoir, we were waiting for the horn to blow. As we were all waiting, a bunch of rafts were put in the water. Each raft had a child in it. One child had cerebral palsy, one had muscular dystrophy…You get the picture.  They were part of My Team Triumph. I asked an observer who was wearing a My Team Triumph tshirt what the organization was about. They give kids, teens, and adults who have disabilities the opportunity to experience endurance sports. Each raft was pulled by a swimmer attached to it. Each bike was attached to a trailer with a person inside and the bike rider pulled them along as they rode, and each runner pushed the person in a jogger. I was so moved that I started crying. So did the lady.

Then the swim was about to start and I had a little voice inside of me saying “why are you at the front of the group. You should go towards the back.” But I ignored the voice and the horn blew and off we all went into the water.

A few meters in and I started to feel suffocated. Between the constriction of the wet suit and the amount of people on my tail and passing me, I was overwhelmed. I saw a lifeguard on a small raft and swam over to him to catch my breath. I started to unzip my wetsuit as I felt like I couldnt breathe.

Then we heard the sounds a woman calling for assistance. It was her first triathlon and she started to panic in the water. So we swam over to Jackie (I asked her name) and (I like to think) I helped to calm her down. She was so mad at herself for not being able to do it. I told her it was normal to feel frustrated, and that it was also a huge accomplishment just to sign up for the race! We hung out holding onto the raft for a few minutes and I was starting to think that I might be able to continue the swim, when the triathlon staff told the lifeguard we had to come to the shore. It was too late to continue, and we had to hand over our chips, as we were disqualified from the race.

I told Jackie I felt like crying. She did too. I cried for about 10 seconds as I let the feeling wash over me.  Then it was gone.  I asked Jackie if she wanted to do the bike and run with me (we just wouldn’t be officially timed) and she said that she would find her friends and go with them. I told her that I hoped she wouldn’t be too hard on herself.

When I got to the shore the triathlon staffwoman said to me “Is that a skirt you are wearing over your wetsuit?” I said “Yes, I am Jewish and observe the laws of modesty.” I wasn’t sure how it would go over with her, but a big smile spread over her face.

I went to transition, got that awful wetsuit off and got my bike gear on. Seth came through having just finished the swim, I told him I freaked out but would continue on. “See you at the finish line” I said as I knew that he would finish before me and be there waiting for me when I came in!

So here are some lessons that I learned or was reminded of today. I am sure there are more, but here is what comes to mind and in no particular order:

  1. We can only “tri” our best. Results are not up to us.
  2. People come in all shapes and sizes and can do triathlons.
  3. People of all ages can do triathlons.
  4. You can be 79 and finish a triathlon (yes, there was a 79 year old woman in the race!)
  5. You can do an triathlon in a skirt (I got lots of compliments, by the way).
  6. Get a good bike seat.
  7. Never take your health for granted.
  8. We are each on our own journey.
  9. Always cheer people on.
  10. My anxiety eased when I focused on helping someone else.
  11.  Everyone has insecurities.
  12. When you are speeding down a hill on a bike, take a moment to enjoy the thrill of being alive!
  13. Just like you have to shift gears on a bike depending on the ups and downs, you have to shift gears in life depending on the ups and down.
  14. Swimming, biking or running slower so you can pull or push a fellow human being who can’t, is better than any personal record anyday!
  15. Listen to that little voice inside. It is usually right.



Thoughts on Father’s Day 2016

Seth and I got up early this morning to go open water swimming at the lake in preparation for our triathlon next week in Boulder. While we were driving I was reflecting on Father’s Day. We got married 25 years ago on Father’s Day. We celebrated our 25th anniversary a few days ago.  Seth is a great “Abba” to our 5 children. I am a blessed woman, and they are blessed kids.

Forty nine years ago I had my first and only Father’s day with my father of blessed memory, Harvey Michael Werstein (Tzvi Moshe ben Eliyahu Leibal). I was 3 months old and he was 28, and newly diagnosed with stomach cancer. He died the second night of Rosh Hashanah that fall. Although my physical relationship with my birth father was incredibly limited, when I was about 24 years old I learned via classical Torah Judaism (the stuff that was studied and practiced for thousands of years) that my father and I could be infinitnely connected spiritually and practically. Simply put, what I do there, affects him up there.

And although I lost my father when I was just a baby, I am so grateful for the father figures that God put in my life over the years.

My mother, widowed with 2 small children at the age of 24 got remarried when I was 4. She was married for 40 years to my step-father Ben Wolf of blessed memory (Binyamin ben Yitzchak).

My Uncle Gene Greenberg, may he live and be well until 120, was a father figure as well. I moved to Los Angeles and lived with him and my Aunt Miriam (my father’s sister, may she live and be well until 120) when for a few years when I was finishing college and began working. Then I met and married Seth, which gifted me with another father figure, my father-in-love (not just law!) Stephen Parkoff, may he live and be well until 120.  I remember the first time he met me, when Seth brought me back to NJ for the High Holidays. He grabbed me and gave me a big hug. He has always treated me like a daughter and I am grateful for that.

Shortly after Seth and I married we had to move to a small town in west Texas where there were basically no Jews. So we trekked to San Antonio one weekend to sight see and drop in at a shul on Shabbat. We (thank G-d) walked into Congregation Rodef Shalom and met Rabbi Aryeh Scheinberg (may he live and be well until 120). He and his wife Judy treated us like their kids, and we spent many Shabboses and Sundays with them that year. Rabbi Scheinbergs love for every Jew and his love for Torah, and Judy’s warmth (and suggestion that we go to Israel when Seth got layed off from the Air Force) led us to the desire to live a Torah observant life. So for any of you who have come closer to Torah because of my classes, talks, or friendship….Rabbi and Judy Scheinberg get that merit.

My step-father, Ben Wolf passed away five years ago. I was blessed to have been able to be with him (and my sister Judy and my mother) when he took his last breath, and to make sure that he had a proper Jewish burial (it REALLY matters!…more on that another time).

When my mother was not even looking for it, a wonderful man showed up in her life. A Jewish retired police officer! About a year later they got married. So another father figure showed up, Larry Norvin, who my kids affectionately call “GrandpaLa” (short for Grandpa Larry). We were blessed to have Grandma and GrandpaLa at our seder table this year.

So I have certainly been blessed with many father figures in my life, from my birth father t GrandpaLa, I know that no matter what, I will always have Avinu Shebashamayim (our Father In Heaven), and He loves me and you more than we can ever humanly imagine.

Happy Father’s Day!

Musings on Smoothies

A few weeks ago when I was leading a group of Denver women on a fabulous journey in Israel with the JWRP and The Jewish Experience, my friend and colleague Esther Shore told me that the best parenting advice she ever got was to realize that when her teenager was having “a thing,” to just imagine that they are in a blender! You can just watch them spin and spin and eventually the blender will stop and they will return to their senses (temporarily!)

I got to thinking about that….

Actually, I am in the blender at times too!  Thinking whirls around in my head and because of the way the neuro-pyscho-spiritual system is, our moment-to-moment thoughts become our moment-to-moment reality. And that “reality” LOOKS SO REAL! Eventually the thinking slows down (it always does) and I am back to my senses. So while teenagers may be in the blender a lot or even most of the time, I know that we are all have had our turns in the blender and will continue to have  in them as long as we live.

While there is no way I can change the system, understanding how the (simple) system works has made it so much easier for me to navigate life. I know that sometimes I will be in the blender and I know that sometimes my family members, co-workers, clients, will be too.  These experiences have gotten a lot less scary somehow. I know that eventually I (or they) will settle down.

Then I got to thinking about smoothies!  We are a big smoothie family thanks to our Vitamix and I was thinking how you throw a whole bunch of stuff in the blender like fruit, chia seeds, and even kale (don’t tell my kids!). It often looks disgusting as it mixes around like crazy, chopping, crushing, and spinning, and it makes a continuous blasting motor noise.

Eventually, however,  it is ready to settle down and that is actually what it does. It slows down and finally stops. And there is a delicous healthy smoothie to enjoy.

Life is like that. We get whirling. And while I often get caught up in the “reality” of the moment, I know at some level that I no longer have to try to figure out why and I don’t even need to try to stop it (which often can even make it stick around). Instead, I am comforted to know that it will ALWAYS settle down (because that is how it works) and a smoothie (a more settled feeling or even clarity) is always waiting for me to enjoy.