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Along with carving the ham and eating gingerbread cookies to our hearts' content, there's another big food tradition that comes on Christmas day.  For over a century, Jewish families in the U.S. have been paying a visit to their favorite Chinese restaurant for a special annual meal.  Today, the occasion has become such a tradition that Chinese restaurants fill up quickly and see business boom for the day. New York City's Shun Lee, for example, has received around 1,300 reservations for the day in the past.

But while people now excitedly anticipate the popular custom, its roots are bittersweet. Though there are several theories as to how this practice began, some experts agree that it's rooted in finding unity amid adversity.

Being the two largest immigrant groups at the turn of the century that weren't Christian, Chinese and Jewish people both understood "what it's like to be outsiders."

Jennifer 8. Lee, a producer of "The Search for General Tso," explained to The Atlantic that being the two largest immigrant groups at the turn of the century that weren't Christian, Chinese and Jewish people both understood "what it's like to be outsiders."

Published in Cultural Chef

The 2020 Intuit report starts with: "Imagine a world where companies motivate and manage employees who never set foot in their corporate office." This is a distinct possibility in coming years. Technology is empowering an increasingly mobile workforce. It's not just employees who are mobile — the makeup of workers in the U.S. (and beyond) is changing. Statistics today suggest that 33% of the workforce is currently independent or freelance, and as the infographic below suggests, this number is projected to be 40% by 2020.


Technology is empowering an increasingly mobile workforce. It's not just employees who are mobile — the makeup of workers in the U.S. (and beyond) is changing. Statistics today suggest that 33% of the workforce is currently independent or freelance, and as the infographic below suggests, this number is projected to be 40% by 2020.

2015 10 25 1445740837 2884848 coworking unite

Although many in the U.S. still have not heard of coworking, it will be a critical part of the evolving workforce. Starbucks coined the term "third space," which became an alternative to a home office, or a place to escape the office when you wanted to get work done. So if the home is the "first space," work is the "second space," and coffee shops are the "third space," then perhaps coworking is the "fourth space" for the evolving workforce.


Published in Business

When someone close to you dies, you initially receive a good deal of advice and support. Some of it is helpful. Some, not so much. I recently posted an article titled "The 8 Worst Things You Can Say to Someone Who is Grieving." This is the companion piece that offers suggestions for helpful things you can say to someone who is newly grieving.

1. "I feel your pain."
This is not the same thing as "I know how you feel," which is a statement I would avoid uttering because even if you've shared a similar circumstance, everyone's journey is uniquely their own. The words, "I feel your pain," however, is an expression of empathy.  In the book Grieving the Loss of Someone You Love: Daily Meditations to Help You Through the Grieving Process, authors Raymond R. Mitsch and Lynn Brookside maintain that the words "I feel your pain" are the four most helpful words that can be uttered to a grieving person.

"No other single sentence does more to break down walls of isolation formed by deep sorrow and regret," write Mitsch and Brookside. "When those words are merged with a touch or an embrace, they mend the heart and lift up downcast eyes. They tell [the griever] that [he is] not alone in [his] grief."

2. "How about a hug?"
I get that not everyone is touchy-feeling, but for me, at least, when I was newly grieving, I felt starved for hugs. I wanted to hug the UPS man who came to my door. I wanted to hug my spin instructor after class. I wanted to hug my neighbor and her little dog, too. It was almost as if I was a china doll that had been broken into pieces, and every hug offered a smidge of glue to help piece me back together.

Two weeks after my mom died, my son had an overnight field trip to the zoo. My husband was one of the chaperones. I packed them up and waved goodbye. As they pulled out of the driveway, an intense sense of loneliness settled into my soul. I remember going through my phone contacts and calling neighbors until one of them answered.

"Can you come over and give me a hug?" I asked.  I probably sounded pitiful, but that's what I needed right then and there. A hug wasn't going to take away all my pain, but it helped get me through that difficult moment.

3. "I'm sorry for your loss."
It's direct. It's honest. It gets to the point. It shows you care. And as Patti Fitzpatrick, a grief support facilitator and bereavement minister, notes, "Two simple but extremely helpful and healing solutions that anyone can do is to 1) show up, and 2) say, "I'm sorry for your loss. Period."

4. "I'm here for you."
Truth be told, grief makes a lot of people uncomfortable. It's hard to see someone you care about torn up emotionally. It's natural to want to fix them, but that's just not possible. Therefore, the most helpful thing you can do for someone who is hurting is to offer to just be there for them in whatever capacity they need.

Ben Keckler, the minister who runs my grief support group explained this notion beautifully when he said, "When you're grieving, you don't want to be around people who will see through you. You want to be around people who will see you through."

5. "I'll bring you some lasagna next Tuesday."
This is just an example. Offering to do something specific is an alternative to the usual phrase that folks utter: "Let me know if you need anything." People make this kind of open-ended gesture because they want to help and are not sure what the griever may need. But for those who are newly grieving, the truth is that they often don't know what they need, either — and/or they don't have the energy to figure it out and then call you to request it.

That's why it's better to just make a specific offer like, "I'm headed to the grocery. I can bring you some milk and bread if you'd like."

6. "Would you like to talk about your loved one?"
It's natural to worry that if you bring up the subject of the person who died, you'll make the griever sad. Actually, the opposite is true. When a person loses someone super close to them, after the death they will continue to think about their loved one constantly. After several months have passed, the griever is astounded by how rarely people mention the person who died. It's heartbreaking, really. So when you bring up a memory or share a story about the person who passed away, it lets the griever know that others remember their loved one, too, and that's really comforting news.

7. Ask, "How are you doing?" Then listen — really listen — for the true answer.
When you make it clear that you're asking for a real and honest answer and not just expecting the trite response of, "Oh, I'm fine," that promotes healing.

Keckler says that "fine" can be an acronym for "Freaked out, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional." That's certainly an apt description for those who are newly grieving because their feelings truly are all over the map. Sorting through them can be difficult, which is why it's nice to have people in their life with whom they can share their genuine feelings.

A few months into my grief, I remember telling my husband that I had figured out who my "safe" people were. Through conversations and interactions, I could tell which of my friends were okay with my being my authentic self and which were not. The "safe" ones checked in with me regularly. They sat with me and let me cry. They didn't mind when I called them sobbing so hard that they could barely discern a word I was saying. They let me share openly, and that's what I needed.

8. Say nothing.
Just so we're clear, I'm not suggesting that you avoid the grieving person or that when you talk to them you should pretend that you don't know their loved one has died. That behavior would be hugely hurtful. I'm suggesting that you not be afraid to close your mouth and open your heart. Hold their hand. Offer them a tissue. Make a pot of coffee. Ask if they'd like to go for a walk. Whatever you do, let them lead the conversation. Often the biggest gift you can give a grieving person is permission to speak freely.

Mitsch and Brookside write, "So many of us are taught not to talk about our wounds. We absorb the message, spoken or tacit, that 'talking doesn't help,' 'weeping doesn't change things,' 'talking about it will just make you sad.' None of those statements is true. Talking about our sorrow does not increase our sorrow; it purges our sorrow."

Read Christy Heitger-Ewing's award-winning book Cabin Glory: Amusing Tales of Time Spent at the Family Retreat. Visit her author website.
Follow Christy Heitger-Ewing on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ChristyHeitgeE

Published in What's New

A recent Time magazine article revealed that our societal drive to love our bodies more and to build self-esteem is just turning us into a more narcissistic culture. A truly positive body image should not feed your narcissism or your vanity.

Embracing your body as-is and loving yourself despite your flaws is trending lately, and that's a great thing. Jennifer Aniston's HuffPost essay on the objectification of women is just one voice in the growing chorus of positive body conversations. Loving our bodies is not enough though. What is fundamentally missing is the honest body image conversations. #BodyPositive conversations are on our collective mind as a society but they are tragically one-sided.

There seems to be an attitude from those within the movement to bash those who work on changing their body. Somehow those who are overweight are given more praise than those who are fit, and it's not driving the right message. I have been on both sides of the spectrum, being that I used to be morbidly obese. After having my son I got motivated to get healthy for my child, and since then I have received mixed feedback. Sure, there are more people congratulating me than not, but to my surprise I have gotten many, "don't get too skinny!" comments. People love to throw in there that no one loves a twig, and real women have curves. Funny thing is, I never once got a comment from someone telling me not to get too heavy, even though I was dangerously unhealthy. Thin shaming is every bit as problematic as fat shaming, yet most people don't blink an eye at it.

The misconception is that people who are working on their bodies cannot love themselves at the same time. The truth is, after growing and birthing another human being, I gained a new respect for my body. I decided that I loved it enough to treat it right, and that was the turning point for me. I didn't lose more than 100 pounds because I hated my body, I lost the weight because I decided to love my body and treat it how it should be treated.

I follow many other inspirational people on social media who have lost loads of weight as well, and I am shocked by the comments I see on their amazing transformations. They get backlash from getting surgical procedures done after losing the weight, as if that is a bad thing. I know the main surgeries after weight loss is the removal of excess skin, along with tucks and lifts, and they are not only for cosmetic reasons. Dr. Stephanie Power , a Toronto, Canada-based Plastic Surgeon says:

"As rates of bariatric surgery increase, more patients are seeking plastic surgery following massive weight loss. They present with redundant skin, which is often uncomfortable and negative for one's body image. Common body contouring procedures include tummy tuck and lifts of their breasts, arms, and thighs. These patients are not interested in purely cosmetic enhancement. It's more of a restorative process. Many studies have also shown improved quality of life following these procedures."

It can be plain old uncomfortable carrying around extra skin. Even if it is for cosmetic reasons, who are we to judge the choices someone else makes? If it makes them happy and increases their confidence, I am all for it. Our well-intentioned conquest to develop a positive body image should allow for people to make their own body change decisions without fear of judgement.

As someone who has had to watch what I ate for two years now, I know how hard it can be to face the pressure from outsiders who don't get it. "Oh, come on, eat the pizza!" Along with, "Enjoy life and eat what you want," are common remarks I get when I pass on the donuts or fast food. Why does eating healthy have such a negative stigma? Also, why does watching what you consume mean you aren't enjoying life? When I treat my body right I feel amazing inside and out, in so many ways. Knowing you have the willpower to avoid junk food, and the strength to work towards your goals is enough to keep you motivated day after day. Food is meant to be treated as fuel, and somewhere along the way humans have turned it into more than it is.

There is nothing wrong with treating yourself now and then, and you definitely shouldn't beat yourself up over it. You also shouldn't beat yourself up for working towards bettering yourself and your body, no matter what anyone says. Body positivity works both ways — you should love yourself no matter what size you are, and no matter how many stretch marks you have. That doesn't mean you have to accept where you are and remain stagnant. Change means growth, and I believe we should always be growing as humans. As long as you are healthy and treating your body how it should be, you should feel amazing.

Follow Gabrielle Pfeiffer on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mylifeonawhim

Published in Signature Chic
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