A Rock Solid Start to the New Year

A Rock Solid Start to the New Year

To kick off our new series, The Young Adult Project, we met with Estee Rosenberg, who came up with a creative exercise to help her family begin again after losing her dad to a long battle with cancer.  

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When I was in middle school, I was going through a really difficult time coping with my dad’s illness and handling stress.  On a really tough day, my mom took me to visit my grandmother at her apartment. At the time I wasn’t sharing my feelings with anyone, but on that cloudy day my grandma or as I like to call her, Nannie, handed me a rock. She told me that during hard or scary times she would hold onto a rock for strength.

From then on, I kept the rock she gave me and brought it with me everywhere, from the first day of high school to college interviews. The rock acts as a stress ball and it has the ability to ground me. When my grandma handed it to me, I felt as though I was supported in an indescribable way. There were no words necessary to comfort me, just this symbol of fortitude and courage.

When I visit new places or do new things, I collect rocks as reminders of how far I have come. They are physical symbols of difficult times when I have showed strength or overcome something.


Rosh Hashannah celebrates the beginning of the Jewish new year. It is a time of self-reflection and deciding what you want the new year to look like. My mom and I always hold the celebration dinner at our house, yet this year was different. In September, my mom and I finally downsized from our old house to our downtown condo. We had been trying to move for a couple years, ever since my dad passed away in 2014.

To me this condo presented itself to be a new beginning for my mom and I. We not only moved to a smaller space now that my two older brothers are in college. We also gave away the majority of our furnishings to Community Warehouse, keeping only what we needed to get by. We wanted a blank slate to start from and are slowly making design choices for our new home. 

This Rosh Hashannah was my opportunity to create a beautiful first memory in our new home.

Before the holiday, my mom and I were in NE Portland for a college interview and afterwards we walked around window shopping for table decorations. I remembered this really gorgeous shop I had stopped at during my freshman year with some friends called Artemisia. 

The store specializes in providing a space to create terrarium art and centerpieces with natural elements. Together my mom and I created a terrarium that was symbolic of our hopes for our new space and the upcoming year. 

I thought it would be a beautiful physical representation and reminder of our relationship and values. It was super fun to make and spend quality time with my mom discussing our aspirations for the 2017 year. Artemisia has a wide selection of gorgeous stones that you can add to your terrarium, but my mom and I thought it would be super special to use our own personal collection for our centerpiece. 

After we brought our terrarium back to the condo, we found it really difficult to choose and place the rocks. So, I suggested that as an activity we ask our family and friends at the dinner to create a one word resolution for a rock that speaks to them and place it in the terrarium.

I think my family and friends found it to be an exciting opportunity to share their hopes for the new year and grow closer. Everyone, from a 5th grader to a 96-year-old, responded with a different hope for the new year that pertained to them.

For their resolutions Estee chose the word Authentic. Kim, her mom, chose Peace.

For their resolutions Estee chose the word Authentic. Kim, her mom, chose Peace.

I have always found it difficult to find my place within my family and connect to them. So, this activity was really special to me because I got the opportunity to get to know some family members on a deeper level and connect with them through the meaning we assigned to these rocks.

Simple STEPS to follow.

1. With someone close to you, go to Artemisia or create a terrarium on your own.

2. Choose a variety of different and unique rocks for your terrarium. These can be from outside, a trip, or a store like Artemisia or New Renaissance Bookstore.

3. At a gathering of family or friends ask people to participate in the activity by choosing a stone to represent an intention or resolution and sharing that goal with everyone at the event. After they've shared with the group, each person places their stone in the terrarium.

4. There are two ways the exercise may conclude. One would be to leave the rocks in the terrarium as an installation. The other would be for everyone to take their rock home to carry with them, as I have done.

I am exploring other ways to use this exercise. As an ASB officer at St. Mary’s Academy, we have to brainstorm new warm-up activities to bring students together and ensure a comfortable environment for sharing. So, I am excited to try a similar activity at school with my fellow peers about creating a positive and intentional school year. 

There is no perfect way to articulate what losing my dad was like. I felt a plethora of emotions and at the same time felt nothing at all. It was isolating to experience all of that grief. Yet, after awhile, I realized that my dad did not want me to feel this way for the rest of my life and neither did I. So, I threw myself into my art and auditioned for the school musical. I found a new community at school and refocused my energy into doing something I truly love. I just try to continually choose to participate in what I love and create the most of my life.

D. Larson, Editor