Category Archives: Mom’s 10 Commandments of Health

Grateful for Those Openings and Closings

Asher YatsarWe don’t talk about pooping in polite company but boy if you can’t poop, it’s nearly all you can think about.

When I was creating the Mom’s 10 Commandments of Health poster, I knew I wanted one of them to focus on the miracle of the systems of the human body—circulatory, respiration, digestion—all those (usually) silent systems that keep us going by oxygenating our blood and lungs, digesting our food and sending the nutrients where then need to go and sending the waste on its way so we can go.

A couple of years ago I participated in a year-long Jewish education class. One of the requirements was to adopt a new ritual—blessing the Sabbath candles, studying Torah (Hebrew Bible), finding a weekly reading to share with others. I decided to memorize the Hebrew text for what is colloquially called “the bathroom blessing.” Yep. We Jews have a blessing that can be recited after doing one’s business (wash hands, leave the loo, then say the blessing). In Hebrew, the prayer is referred to as “Asher Yatsar,” which references the One Who fashioned our bodies. It is included in the series of daily prayers recited each morning.

“Blessed are You, Hashem our God, King of the universe, Who formed man with wisdom and  created within him many openings and many hollows. It is obvious and known before Your Throne of Glory that if even one of them ruptures, or if even one of them becomes blocked, it would be impossible to survive and to stand before You (even for a short period). Blessed are You, Hashem, Who heals all flesh and acts wondrously.”

This blessing encompasses all the working wonders of the human body. It is so simple and yet so profound. Where would any of us be if our openings didn’t open and our closings didn’t close in tandem with one other? Asthma, heart attacks, constipation—all conditions where our openings and hollows are stricken. The blessing also acknowledges the body’s miraculous powers of self-healing, properties which are now being assiduously studied as part of the cure to any number of diseases.

About the time I had memorized the entire Hebrew text, and was pretty good about remembering it each time I needed to recite it, my mother (now of blessed memory) was diagnosed with rectal cancer. Surgery to remove the cancer also removed the God-given openings and many hollows. The miracles of modern science crafted for her new, and permanent, opening and closing. For a while, every time I recited the bathroom blessing, it was with sorrow for what had to be done to my mother’s body and admiration for the equanimity with which she managed this new process.

photo credit: R.H. Hensleigh

How We Know What We Know/photo by R.H. Hensleigh

Good friend and artist Lynne Avadenka turned to this blessing for inspiration in creating her sculpture How We Know What We Know. Lynne was one of eleven artists invited to create a work based on discussions with scientists and doctors affiliated with the Taubman Cancer Institute in Ann Arbor, MI. The works were auctioned off with proceeds used to benefit the facility.

Her conversations with Dr. Lawrence, who works at the Institute, “ranged from topics of scientific complexity to notions of empathy, the gift and luck of good health, and the awareness of the time we have to do our work.” Avadenka said this led her “to consider a traditional daily prayer of thanks that draws attention to the miracle of the inner workings of our bodies: the openings and closings that allow us to be alive.”


How We Know What We Know/photo by R.H. Hensleigh

How We Know What We Know/photo by R.H. Hensleigh

 It’s your turn …

Create an atmosphere of gratitude for your family’s own openings and hollows. Order Mom’s 10 Commandments of Health and maybe even invite your kids to create a version of the bathroom blessing for your own family to memorize.

It IS Easy Eating Green

screen shotWhen the kids were little, I planned out the week’s meals every Sunday, organizing my grocery list according to Kroger’s aisles. Nowadays, meals are more ad hoc. If all Cook wants to make is scrambled eggs or oatmeal, then that’s what we eat. On most other nights we eat what Mom’s Seventh Commandment advises — greens and grains, proteins and fruits. But making salads is so involved. There’s all that rinsing, peeling, paring and chopping. For just one salad or dish. Tedious. Repetitive. Ugh. Life was so much easier when we followed the holy triumvirate of nutrition. Meat, veggie, starch, and you were done.

Last week while unloading the groceries, I had an inspiration. Maybe all of you out there have been doing this for decades. If so, why hasn’t anyone suggested that instead of putting it all away, prep it first and THEN put it away?

securedownloadI started with the broccoli, cutting off the stems and peeling them to crunch on while I worked. I rinsed the florets and put them in a container. Then thought, well why not make vegetable soup while you’re at it? And what about making up a pot of rice to have all week? And if you’re going to be here for a while anyway, roast a few yams (one of my favorite breakfasts, peeled and smooshed up with a teeny drizzle of maple syrup.) Out came my soup pot and a box of Imagine vegetable stock. In went the rest of the broccoli stems and a handful of florets and some other veggies that were fresh and feeling lonely : corn off the cob, a handful or two of those baby carrots, a quartered onion, and some frozen mixed stir fry veggies.

While the soup bubbled I turned to the rest: washed and trimmed cauliflower, spinach and pea pods. When I got to the radishes, instead of tossing or composting the green tops I washed and bagged them. Next morning I threw them into a breakfast smoothie.  A bit piquant but a great boost of natural chlorophyl courtesy of Mother Nature’s photosynthesis.

If you don’t have an immersion blender, look into getting one. Greatest little gadget around. Years ago I saw one in a grocery store for under $30 and It’s been my kitchen bestie every since. I used it to whir up some of the veggies to thicken the soup and added a cup of the rice, which by that time was done and ready to be containered for a future meal or two of stir fries.

Usually I try to put away the groceries quickly and get on to (supposedly) more important things. Last week’s experiment was much more pleasurable, creative and in the long run time saving, as I’m still using every bit of what I prepped.

That nifty little poster up there? Mom’s Ten Commandments of Health  is something I created for my kids when they were newly on their own. Order one for yourself, or for someone else whose good health matters to you. They’re available at my new Etsy store, or by contacting me directly.

Since Mom’s Seventh Commandment invites ice cream, here’s a home made recipe. Substitute maple syrup or any of the other sugar substitutes if you don’t want to use sugar.

6 tablespoons Kosher salt
ice to fill 1/2 gallon Ziploc® bag half to three-quarters

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon sugar

Mix salt and ice in gallon-sized Ziploc® bag and set aside. Put cream, vanilla, sugar in a quart-sized Ziploc® and nestle it inside the big one. Wrap the bags in a towel and start shaking and rolling them together. Take care not to get frostbite! The bag with the salt and ice will get very cold, so keep the towel around the whole thing. After five or ten minutes carefully check on the ice cream in the smaller bag. If you want it a bit firmer, put it in the freezer for a few minutes and then do the shaking and rolling process all over again.  It won’t get as hard as grocery store ice cream; more like custard in texture. You can add anything you want to it—chocolate bits, sliced bananas, strawberries or blueberries…..


On Air: Mom’s 10 Commandments of Health!

On air with Kam Carman.

On air with Kam Carman.

Lights! Camera! Action! And there I was on air talking with Fox 2’s Kam Carman about Mom’s 10 Commandments of Health.  A never-before-had experience but enjoyable just the same. In advance of Mother’s Day, Kam invited me on to talk about the inception of my Mom’s 10 Commandments poster (lovingly and privately called the mobile-mom-app reminder to my adult kids to eat well, get adequate rest, exercise, and treasure the blessing of their good health.)  Was I nervous? Yes. Was it fun? Yes. Did I appreciate the opportunity to talk about issues we all want to instill in our kids whether they are 8, 18,  or 28? Yes!

Mothering kids of any age has its blessings and challenges. Infants may keep you up all night but you know where they are 24/7. Toddlers learn to say no, but they also hit you with jewels such as “Look, Mom, don’t the snowflakes make you think of God?” (my son’s stunning observation). When our kids are young we have great influence over their health and nutrition, playing a big role in establishing lifelong good health habits. And if we’re a bit challenged in this arena, having kids is great incentive to begin modeling such habits. Mother’s Day, and forward, is as good a time as any to start, or start again. It’s a lifelong process — never too early and never too late to make good health choices, to eat nutritious food, to exercise, get the rest we all know we are short on.

A four-minute TV segment flies by, but I hope even our few sound bytes will encourage those who were watching to consider the silent, perpetual miracles of the human body (Commandment III) and add even one good-health ritual to the family.  Or to start a family tradition of weekly walks or other physical exercise (Commandment VIII).

A big shout out to Lynne Golodner of Your: People for connecting me with Kam. And to Kam Carman for hosting me on Kam’s Corner.  Mom’s 10 Commandments of Health poster is now available for purchase on my new Etsy shop. Gift yourself; gift your mom; gift anyone whose good health is important to you.  Catch the segment here.  Enjoy!


All quiet on the set!

All quiet on the set!



Mom’s 10 Commandments of Health: A One-Act Play

On the fridge, Mom's 10 Commandments of Health prompts a great conversation

On the fridge, Mom’s 10 Commandments of Health
prompts a great conversation

I originally wrote Mom’s 10 Commandments of Health for my young adult children. I wanted to impress upon them that they were now the stewards of their own health. I was no longer around to remind them to get adequate sleep, eat well, exercise. I realized that all parents could probably use a springboard to discuss important health and body image issues with their kids. So I had the text illustrated and voila! Mom’s 10 Commandments of Health became a poster. I have big dreams (OK, outsized dreams) that over time, this poster will spark meaningful conversations between parents and their children about making wise choices, the miracle of the human body, the way the media bombards us with unrealistic standards of what that body should look like, and more.

A dear reader sent me the photo above and shared an exchange she had with her 15-year-old son. I was thrilled to receive her note. Just as I had hoped, the poster prompted a quick but meaningful conversation, the thread of which she can weave into her already resourceful parenting.

I modeled the commandments one-for-one on the Original Ten. For instance: Thou shalt not steal became: You shall not steal your body’s tomorrow health by blowing off exercise today.

Thou shall not commit adultery became  You shall not eat adulterated foods, but consume instead greens and grains, proteins and fruits. And some ice cream now and then!

I love that my friend’s son thought the poster was “cool” and interpreted Mom’s 10th Commandment—You shall not covet your neighbor’s waist or her hair, not his height or biceps, nor any physical aspect that is your neighbor’s – as a caution to be yourself.

So here, in one-act, a brief play inspired by Mom’s 10 Commandments of Health. Setting: a kitchen in Michigan. Personae Dramatis: Mom and Son. Time: a school morning

Son goes to the fridge to get his lunch out, stops.
SON: What’s this?
MOM: Debra Darvick sent it to me.
(pauses a moment) I like it.
SON: Yeah.  It’s cool.
MOM: What’s cool about it?
SON: I like the Biblical phrasing. And it says…(points to each commandment in turn) I. Respect your mom. II. I don’t really know what this is about.* III. Respect your body. IV. Sleep well. V. Respect your mind. VI. Don’t do drugs. VII. Eat good food. VIII. Stay (acting out movement). IX. (screws up face and voice goes up with uncertainty) Don’t get tattooed? X. Don’t try to be someone else. (pauses a moment) I like it, too.
MOM: Good.

He proceeds to open the fridge, gets his lunch and packs up to leave the house for school.

MOM: (to the dog) That was easy.

And the *? It’s poignant that Mom’s 2nd Commandment—You will have no other body but this one—stymied my friend’s son. Young people sometimes live in blessed ignorance of this immutable truth: We have no body but this one; ergo, take care of it!

Ready to start a discussion with your kids? Order a poster of your own by clicking on the Contact Me link at the right. We are gearing up for e-commerce so please leave your name and email and I’ll get right back to you when we are up and running. To your health!

It’s your turn! How do you encourage your children to make wise food choices? Get adequate sleep and exercise? And how about you? What’s your biggest health challenge and how do you meet it?  Share this post with your Facebook friends and stay healthy together!

Debra Darvick’s 10 Commandments: What would you add?


A detail of the central imagery in the Mom's 10 Commandments of Health poster, designed by artist Rick Nease.

A detail of the central imagery in the Mom’s 10 Commandments of Health poster, designed by artist Rick Nease.

Your enthusiastic response to Mom’s 10 Commandments of Health tells me that we are all looking for ways to stay healthy—and to help our kids and other loved ones form and maintain as many healthy habits as possible.

Among your responses in this first week …

I got a few suggestions for additional commandments: 
“Pizza is not a food group.”
“Remember to brush and floss.”
“Wear clean undies!”

Friends came up with ideas for expansion: Making the poster’s message into a little book or writing journal, creating a needlepoint canvas or a set of pillows, setting the words to music, even. For now I look forward to writing more columns that expand on the theme of healthy living by sharing recipes that I find, telling you about healthy tips that really work, or helping you to spark discussions on “inviting wonder into our lives” or “chasing away self-destructive thoughts.”

RICK NEASE, the artist who designed the poster, did a terrific job. I appreciate the way Rick created eye-catching images, and still managed to incorporate a lot of words on a poster that’s only 8-by-11 inches. Could it have been larger? Sure, but we heard from many people that 8-by-11 is the biggest size that will fit conveniently in appropriate spaces around the house, such as: a refrigerator door or a spot on the bathroom wall.

Rick included a series of apples in his imagery and that prompted more reader questions:
“An apple a day?”
“A reference to Adam and Eve?”

There’s a practical value in having one prominent, white apple shape in the middle of the poster: You could customize the poster with a commandment of your own.


If you like this project—please help me to share the news and develop future columns that will explore subjects that you’ll find helpful. You can do this by adding a comment, below, or by visiting my Debra Darvick’s Reading Room Facebook page, where I share more thoughts with readers on a daily basis. I’ve even got some intriguing photos on Facebook that you might enjoy!

Keep sending me your questions, suggestions and tips for more healthy commandments.

What would you write in that white apple space in the middle of your poster?


Introducing: Mom’s 10 Commandments of Health

JOIN US in encouraging health in our households. From top: My friends Amy Crumm and Howard Brown show off the first copies of this 8-by-11 poster. Below is my own bulletin board with a fresh copy of this poster.

JOIN US in encouraging health in our households. From top: My friends Amy Crumm and Howard Brown show off the first copies of this 8-by-11 poster. Next is my own bulletin board with a fresh copy of this poster.

What’s a parent to do when the kids are all grown up, living far from home—but we still wonder: Are they eating well? Getting enough rest? Exercising? Making time simply to delight in their surroundings?

How do we encourage this balanced approach to healthy living?

The solution I’m sharing with you, starting today, is Mom’s 10 Commandments of Health—a nifty little poster sporting ten health reminders, modeled one-for-one on the Original Ten.

Reminders like: You shall not take the miracle of your body for granted.

And: Remember the power of sleep and keep it wholly.

And: You shall not covet thy neighbor’s waist or her hair, his height or his biceps.

When we’re young, we assume we’re invincible. Nothing will wear out, except perhaps our sneakers. Or the iPhone battery. We consume whatever we want and assume our digestive tract will just deal.

I wrote Mom’s 10 Commandments of Health as a way-in for parents and their kids to discuss the blessing of good health, the miracle of our bodies, and how best to respect and protect them.

In the coming months, I’ll focus on one or two commandments each month, either in this column—or sometimes on my Facebook page, inviting discussion, sharing health tips I find interesting, links to good reading and good eating. The goal is for some “healthy” interaction on the topic of health and wellness.

My hope is that the words on this poster will be assimilated into a family’s conversations and way of life. Among the many examples: Perhaps one day, an 11-year-old girl whose classmates measure their self-worth against one another’s physical attributes, will remember the commandment about not coveting another girl’s hair or her waist and will find within confidence to be exactly who she is.

IT’S EASY TO FIND THIS PROJECT! We’ve set up a very simple Internet address to find the latest on this project, (Tell a friend about this now.)

Want a poster of your own?  Visit my new ETSY shop. They’re ready and waiting for you to give to anyone’s whose good health is important to you. (This includes you!)


And now it’s time to make this interactive: What was your mom’s No. 1 health commandment when you were growing up? Have you incorporated it into your life? How? What health commandment holds sway in your own house?


UPDATE, February 17: Readers are responding enthusiastically and, in a second column, I invite readers to share more ideas. I call this follow-up column: What would you add?