Oodles of love! xoxo!

Me and Grandma (in one of her many stylish wedding suits) at my wedding, 2008. HAPPY HAPPY 95TH BIRTHDAY GRANDMA!

by Rose Kowel Durbin

Now that I’m a congregational rabbi, I start my own Cheshbon haNefesh (accounting of the soul) a lot earlier then I used to. I used to walk into services on the high holy days and really give my behaviour and actions in the past year a thorough going-over- and I have never been one to go easy on myself. I fully embrace the notion of humbling myself before God  so that I can truly focus on becoming a better person in the year ahead. This year, the process started a few weeks ago (yes, I thrive under pressure) when I started reflecting on how this year I want to  LIVE with perspective- instead of just appreciating my blessings inside my head and heart- actually living and acting in a way that shows this appreciation.

And thinking about how to do this leads me to  my wonderful Grandma, WHO TURNS 95 TODAY! Thinking about the way she lives her life helps me figure out  how I can be a better person in the year ahead- and how I can hopefully inspire my congregation as well.

  • Grandma gets so much  joy out of  her everyday routine.

I’m constantly bragging to everyone about how wonderfully my grandma is doing, mind, body and spirit. My aunt takes her to bridge twice a week to “keep her sharp-” and sharp she is- she admits (when forced) that she usually wins at bridge and is quite the sought-after partner (especially by the gentlemen!) She loves her bridge games, watching sports on TV and rooting for her Chicago favorites, reading books, checking her email, and getting together with her family members who live nearby. Grandma never complains of being bored and she appreciates everything she gets to do everyday.

  • Grandma doesn’t let distance stop her from expressing her love or from loving fully.

My grandma, of course, is not just “mine.” She has 12 grandchildren (not including spouses) and my daughter Eliana is her 11th great-grandchild (but definitely not her last), and we are spread out all over the country. In her room, she has shelves lined with photos of each of her grandchildren (her great-grandchildren each get a spot of honor on the fridge).  She has a special love for each one of us, even though we don’t get to see her as often as we’d like. Grandma feels so connected to Eliana even though she has only gotten to meet her a few times, but of course I send her lots (and lots) of photos and videos- and she always responds (via email, of course)! Grandma never forgets a birthday (or holiday) and always writes cards in her beautiful cursive handwriting.

  • Grandma gives you gifts you need (and gifts you didn’t even know that you needed)

My Grandma bought me the practical  laptop I requested for high school graduation, even though she really wanted to get me jewelry. A few years later, she went with her first instinct and sent me a pearl necklace  that I always wear whenever I want to look especially professional. I always could have gotten a computer, but I never would have bought myself these beautiful, grown-up pearls.

Ellie meeting her great-grandma for the first time at my brother’s wedding in San Antonio, Texas!

I’m so blessed to be 32 years old and have a healthy, vibrant grandmother who still sends me beautifully handwritten cards, AND cheerful emails on a regular basis. All signed of course, “oodles of love! xoxoxoxox!” Grandma, we love you. Here’s to a year of health and happiness and oodles of love!

And here’s to a healthy and sweet new year to all of you out there and your loved ones! May this be a year of appreciation for all of our blessings, and a heightened awareness of the miracles happening all around us. May this be a year of  striving to do good and to feel good about ourselves inside and out. May this be a year of perspective, of reflection, and of finding joy and holiness in the mundane of our daily lives. xoxoxoxoxo!

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