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My Fault. . . .NOT!

Nearly two weeks have passed since ‘the call’ came in.  A neighbor, who I barely knew, felt the need to let me know that three men have been continuously taking turns driving past my house, stopping, staring, and staying for up to six minutes. My guess is that you may wondering why. . . I know we are. It appears they didn’t like the sign we had put in our window, but we don’t even know this for sure.

The call shattered any equilibrium that I was feeling. You see during my younger years, childhood violence was a norm which as an adult has left me navigating a very real deep-seeded fear of any kind of violence or rage. As much as I have tried, that fear often sits just below the surface ready to reappear when given a cause. On most occasions, I am able to quickly regain my footing when I encounter a ‘blip’ – not this time.

Having my house ‘watched’ has traumatized me and left me feeling some very intense fear and sometimes enormous anger towards the perpetrators and at those that feel the need to blame the victim.  I am also completely despondent that my sons and I are walking in the world differently than we did a few weeks ago.

In truth, the dynamics of the relationship probably originated with this story: https://lightwavejourney.wordpress.com/2016/11/05/yard-sign-troubles/

~ ~ ~

As activists, it was only natural for us to call our congressmen, write some letters, donate money, rally, and put up a sign. So after one of the airport rallies, following our new president’s immigration ban, my son put a ‘Refugees Welcome’ in our front window. Let’s just say three of our conservative neighbors reacted poorly, really poorly.

aryeh-holding-refugees-welcom

My son, Aryeh, holding up the ‘Refugees Welcome’ sign at the first Airport Rally following the Immigration Ban on January 28, 2017

What has stunned me most about what happened was not the neighbors that felt the need to instill fear, but ‘my friends’ and acquaintances that believe that we caused the situation and that we should have simply not displayed our views.

Chutzpah!!!! How dare someone tell me that in some way, shape, or form I am asking for it. Bullshit!

Each of us have a choice in how we walk in the world. Some of us choose to live consciously and to wear our hearts on our sleeves. That’s called transparency or authenticity.  For me, there is no option.

Violence, instilling fear, and bullying is never OK! NEVER! And I have a right to choose how I walk in the world without the fear of retribution for going against someone’s belief. Maybe things have changed since Trump took office, but the United States I treasure allows for each of us to have our own views and to express them too. Sometimes we have to navigate different guidelines, boundaries, or laws – that’s fine. AND sometimes, we have to stand by our principles and buck the system. I am OK with that too.

While  we later found out the ‘Welcome Refugee’ sign is not acceptable within our HOA (Homeowners Association), we didn’t know it when the sign first went into the window. Yes we still believe that refugees should be welcomed, we didn’t put the sign up to cause problems. The sign went up because we wanted to share our passion and maybe even ignite a others into action for refugees. And the sign went down when we realized we were not following the HOA bylaws. If the men were really representing our HOA, they could have followed procedures to inform us that were braking the rules. But that contact wasn’t what happened; stalking did.

How dare these men bully us by stalking our home.

As I said, the sign is down. And after about ten days, it appears the stalking may have ceased.  Fear now guides our evening and nighttime walks, but we are pushing through and starting to return to feel calmer.  And we still have a few people in our lives that probably fear for our safety and wish we’d simply live a little more silently.

Being silent when bigotry and hatred are guiding the political climate will lead to more of the same. So. . .even if I feel fear, I will join others who are trying to make our world a better place.

#NoBanNoWall #RESIST

Update: Since originally working on this blog, I have started to heal. I am still tired to the core, but I am starting to sleep better and believe that everything is moving in the right direction. Healing takes time, but my spirit is better than it was due to my fabulous landlord and some very thoughtful neighbors. 

Whatever fear I felt or may still feel is negligible compared to refugees and those that love them. #RefugeesWelcomeHere

I Used To Fear. . . .

Feb 2015  Walking from behind

I don’t think I am alone when I say there are so many things I used to fear and that there are many things that I still fear. . .

I used to fear being destitute with all that that would mean. But bankruptcy in the 1990s and a significant job loss in 2014 didn’t destroy my spirit. While both experiences were anxiety inducing, I found ways to change the tide and become grounded again. I learned to live better within my means and to trust the universe a bit more. Things are still not easy, but for the most part life financially work s (except when it doesn’t). My family really has what it needs.

I used to fear losing my husband and being alone to raise my sons.  Divorce after a long separation ended up empowering me to live a more authentic life and provided me with wings to fly.

I used to fear being traumatized by violence, but I not only survived serious childhood abuse, but I survived rape. Some may even say I found a way to not only thrive but to to help others navigate to a safer place whenever possible.

I used to fear loss, but since I live life as fully as I do. I find myself loving intensely and losing those I love sometimes through death, sometimes through abandonment, and sometimes through the realities of time and space. With each loss, I take the good memories and create new ways of living life more fully in the wake of those losses.  And I know that while the deep sadness may always inhabit a part of my heart, the ‘dance of life’ continues.

I have always feared for my children’s lives. After nine miscarriages and devastating illnesses, I still do. AND that doesn’t mean I allow the fear to infiltrate the way I live. Instead I open up my arms and reach for life with the many moving parts that that entails. And I (mostly) trust that my sons will take their own journeys.

As Émile Zola said, If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, I will answer you: I am here to live out loud!”

I know that I am blessed. Regardless of what has transpired in my life, I find the inner strength  to emerge as the woman I am. On more than one occasion my friends have referred to me a warrior. While I love that term, the term spiritual warrior resonates more deeply for me. All that I do, I do because of love.

Now for honesty, I have always emerged from fear. Always. BUT that doesn’t mean that I do not live in fear.

This past week, I have faced being stalked and feeling threatened by three neighbors. I have been forced to explore what I think about guns, how to handle the myriad of views about what is happening to me, and how to move forward.

Over the last week, I have had people tell me that I have asked for the violent energy by living my life as I do and I have had to wonder if maybe there was truth to what was being said. In the end, I am furious with those that think I should silence the way I live. That is not the world I live in; that is not the world I want to live in.

I am a writer, a protester, and an activist; I am a woman, an educator, and a dreamer. There is so much work to be done and I can not do it by walking in silence.

The man who now sits in the White House and surrounds himself with darkness needs to be held accountable for the way he walks in the world and the trauma he is causing humankind. So, while I am afraid of my neighbors, I have work to do.

If you don’t like the news. . . .
go out and make some of your own.
~Newsman Wes Nisker’s closing salutation
on radio station KSAN in the 1970s

Living in Texas, I have learned. . .
hatred doesn’t need a disguise.
police aren’t here to protect you.
the kindness of neighbors is not a given.

Living in Texas, I have learned. . .
red traffic lights allow for another three more cars to pass.
minorities expect disdain from every direction.
prejudice can be worn on your sleeves.

Living in Texas, I have learned. . .
giving up is not an option.
I am surrounded by an activist village.
when I feel alone, all I have to do is open my heart..

Living in Texas, I have learned. . .
that things are not always what they seem.
sometimes life is not black or white; in fact it is often grey.
what you see is not always what you get.

Living in Texas, I have learned . . .
there are beautiful people wherever you turn.
sometimes you need to look deeper to find the gems.
patience has a way of paying off.

Living in Texas, I have learned. . .
the importance of finding those that fuel your soul.
that my voice matters and can make a difference for good.
working with others makes all of our voices stronger.

Before coming to Texas, I believed that my voice didn’t matter. In fact, I was so sure of it that I loved my ability to fade into the wood work. That isn’t the case today, I have begun to realize that I have a purpose. And even if I want to hide, I can’t.

There is work to be done – a lot of work to be done.

Over the last two days, I have been blown away by beautiful souls that make up the Pantsuit Republic: Houston Chapter. I have found like minded souls that are willing to do what it takes to make our leaders accountable for their actions and to support the work that needs to be done so that no group of people go marginalized.

I am in awe of what I have found right here in my back yard, in Houston.  And I am even beginning to believe that together we can make our world a better place.

Authenticity and compassion reign.

Onward with love, light, & blessings,
Chava

Chai Wallhanging

presented by: Milky Wave Tie-Dye*

  • The tie dye says life in Hebrew; a friend made this for my son Aryeh when he was suffering a life threatening illness. . .it somehow feels appropriate now (different, but right).

 

Leave the door open for the unknown, the door into the dark. That’s where the most important things come from, where you yourself come from, and where you will go.” Written by Rebecca Solnit, in A Field Guide to Getting Lost

Walking into a total darkness over different terrains is the epitome of sweetness. The darkness soothes my battered spirit, invigorates my entire being, and allows me to go quiet, to get real, allowing me to eventually to emerge a bit more whole.

Only when I go through the ‘open doors’ and into the darkness do I find the light that I am so often seeking.

Chava's Shadow 17January2016

The seeker in me knows that finding the right doors can often be a challenge. I need to find the space that allows for the freedom to move, to think, and to curl up into a ball so that I can simply be. There has to be enough softness to hold my shedding soul or to cushion whatever is being birthed. I am always birthing a feeling, a thought, a belief, and sometimes a new reality.

Only when I allow myself to face the darkness can I find the light. As Leonard Cohen said so beautifully, “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

As I get older, I have begun to realize that I am more fragile than I once believed. The skeletons in my closet are at times overwhelmingly heavy. And happiness is an elusive emotion that is always just beyond my reach. Although I can smile broadly and feel momentary exhilaration, I am filled with a deep intensity that often leads me feeling alone in a crowd even when I am surrounded by my closest friends.

Life isn’t easy. All relationships have their challenges. This is reality.

Have you notice how complicated love can be? Over time, I have learned that love is not necessarily everlasting. All relationships evolve and sometimes we are blessed to evolve in ways that work for everyone and often we are not.  This is true for lovers and friends, family members and colleagues. I love as intensely as I live life; that means that there is no protection for my heart. There are times when it will shatter or break. And yet, I love connecting with people even as I understand that all relationships develop in their own unique ways and differently than I think they will.

Butterflies have always excited me. Perhaps this is because they emerge only after they have had their time in a cocoon. Burrowing in the dark allows me to face my deepest, darkest truths; it allows me to face the realities without interruption.

For the most part, I have found that sweetness abounds. Darkness may be part of some of life’s interactions, but not all. My life is full of beautiful connections. Surrounding me are so many beloveds who are doing the holy work of making this world a better place. (Sadly, I lost two friends in the last 14 months; both were engaged in the holy work of living consciously; both lost their lives tragically cut short way too soon.) There are also children that shine their light and give delicious hugs; and there are animals that embody unconditional love. All of this and more make a difference for good.

I am so profoundly aware of the many blessings that surround me at every turn. Inner contentment is often a very real feeling in the core of my being. I love the world I have made for myself and I do not take that for granted.The world I live in is full of beauty; I have learned to treasure that which is worthy. So while I may not be ‘happy’ in the traditional sense, light does fill my world.

Feb 2015  Walking from behind

Darkness and light are always being navigated. My work is to find the light in the darkness and the darkness in the light. Listening to the shadows that emerge may be the only way to make the world a better place.

May blessings keep us from getting stuck in the valleys and grace keep us from soaring too high from solid ground.

ONWARD
with love and light!

Chava

 

 

 

 

david-steinerSometimes we are blessed to meet people who inspire us to be the best people that we can be. You know those people that know just when to call regardless of what is going on in their own personal life. Or maybe the person that understands that in order to make a change in the world they have to be that change. Or maybe that person is someone who knows what they have to do in order to stretch, to grow, to evolve – and does the work! Or perhaps, the person is a dreamer who never stops going after his dreams.

David Steiner was that person and now he is gone. Killed doing what he has done first the first day I met him in 1982 when we were in Kfar HaYarok, a kibbutz style high school in Israel; he died touching people’s lives and making a difference. He died in Uganda while on a beautiful mission of his own creating. If you want to know more, here is an initial link that can lead you to more information. (http://abc7chicago.com/news/chicago-filmmaker-killed-in-uganda-crash/1673697/ and http://chicago.suntimes.com/news/chicago-filmmaker-david-steiner-killed-in-uganda-bus-crash/http://chicago.suntimes.com/news/chicago-filmmaker-david-steiner-killed-in-uganda-bus-crash/)

David and I lost touch after I left Kfar HaYarok, we weren’t initially close as teens, but he was someone who could light up any room he entered. Even as a teen, he stood for what he believed in and did the work that needed to be done.  In fact, one of my favorite memories of him was when he worked in the refet, with the cows. If memory serves me correctly, he woke up really early to take care of his calves and then was there whenever the mamas were birthing their babies.  David was always where he needed to be.

One of the clearest memories I have of David is that he made every person feel like they counted. And I do not believe that ever changed. Even when we re-connected about six years ago, he became present and available like no time had ever passed. He was so much better than I was at keeping in touch and managing his life.

In this moment, I am devastated for his loved ones and for all of us that at one time or another were touched by David’s presence in this world. I feel like my heart has been crushed, so I can’t imagine how his closest beloveds are coping.

Life isn’t always an easy package to navigate. We change. We grow. We evolve. If we are lucky, we honor how the new road emerges. We develop the skills and work tirelessly to be the best we can be. That is how I see David.

While I was licking my wounds at a failed marriage, job instability, and not living up to my dreams, David chose to consciously live life by opening his eyes and diving into the possibilities with the brilliance that made him the amazing human being he was.

And what I will miss more than anything is the possibilities that he represented. I always felt like spending time with him now would be amazing!!! We didn’t have the opportunity to reconnect in person, but we shared ideas, writings, and life from a distance. We were in touch. I was in closer touch with him because he would often pick up the phone or message me to ask my opinion, share an article, or make sure he was thoughtfully navigating a sticky situation.

At the moment, I am feeling a deep sense of loss. The heart-wrenching pain in my gut is paralyzing and yet I know I need to water some of the seeds that David planted. No problem there, I can’t stop shedding tears.  David found so many ways to make the world a better place. My hope and my prayer is that I can embody one spark of the passion and beauty that fueled David’s essence.

Shalom Chaveri (Good-bye my friend), you will forever be missed.

(Note: I want to thank Laura Smolar, a dear friend, who was kind enough to let me know before I found out about David’s untimely death on social media. One of the last things she texted me today was, “Start writing now. . .don’t wait….go, go now!!!” Little does she know how much she sounded like David who ALWAYS wanted to nudge me to reach more of my potential.)

Lori took of Ren crossing the bridge

Photo Courtesy of Lori Fortang taking a beautiful photo of her beloved Ren crossing the bridge.

The world is feeling a little dark lately.

Am I unique in this journey? Nope. . .I am really not. I am surrounded by friends that are grappling in very similar ways; they are actively engaging as seekers who simply want to make the world a better place.

In fact a couple of days ago, I asked my friends via Facebook, “Does anyone else feel like they are ‘on a narrow bridge’?” Twenty-eight people responded with the emoticons (like, love,  sad) and about thirteen people had more to say. The good news and the bad news is that I have now confirmed that I am not alone.

With every fiber of my being I struggle with the harsh realities that continue to permeate our world, the world of those I love, and even my own personal life. Devastation and destruction can be found everywhere. The world’s climate is struggling at every turn. And people I love are in their own depths of despair. Life is hard.

Here is a taste of what is filling my soul:

  • Our political climate is a disaster.
  • How could our Trump have been elected to be our next President?
  • Finances are tight, but we are navigating.
  • How could prejudice and hatred have so much momentum?
  • The Middle East is a disaster and Africa isn’t much better.
  • The Standing Rock Protests in North Dakota Pipeline are breaking my heart. I want to stand with our brothers and sisters. I want to physically support them with my presence.
  • Sometimes I can’t make a difference in the lives of those I love.
  • I am struggling to stay connected with all of life’s moving parts.
  • I could use help cleaning my house.

When I allow the painful rhythm of the world to carry my spirit, I can find myself lost with a sense of unrelenting helplessness. The beauty is that the moments don’t last, but they seem to be surfacing a little too often these days.

This rawness can easily control my spirit if I allow it to.What I have learned over time is that I have to allow the deep sadness to visit, but I also have to do the work to mitigate it. So that is what I am doing by:

  • Surrounding myself with people that nurture my spirit and share my core values.
  • Letting go of “anything or anyone that that does not bring you alive.” David Whyte
  • Embracing the many truths that are part of my life and becoming transparent with each step.
  • Eating better and doing more self care. over a month with nearly no sugar!!! 🙂
  • Standing up for what I believe in!
  • Donating money to causes that move my soul – not a lot, but what I can.
  • Painting and writing, journaling and doodling

With every step, I am actively engaged in the journey of life. Living life fully is not optional; there is too much work to be done. Still some days, I have to listen to the quiet voice that is talking to me and allow for myself to hear the messages of my soul.

Traveling the very narrow bridge means I am moving forward. . . and wow how beautiful is it that I am not alone!

Onward towards the light,
Chava

Yard Sign Troubles

ET struck again.

This morning, we woke up to find our Clinton-Kaine sign vandalized. We would love to have been surprised, but somehow we have come to expect that one neighbor has a vendetta of his making and perhaps another house a few doors down is fueling what one of my friends refers to as ‘deplorable’ behavior.

The cycle of vandalism began in mid-September when my sons and I put up a Black Lives Matter sign.  We were and still am proud of the movement.  Like all movements, it isn’t perfect, but it does do some incredibly holy work by trying to end the marginalization of black people (as well as others).

Unfortunately, our views and/or our BLM sign has incited a neighbor who we refer to as ET. Here is the outline of what has been happening since we decided to put up our sign from September – present:

  • Mid-September – First Black Lives Matter Sign goes up.day-1-blm-sign-goes-up-yay
  • Thursday, September 22 – ET (who we now know as a neighbor) confronted me very rudely outside my garage. He was waiting there at 7:15 AM when I left the house to go to work. At that time, I kept my cool and told him that we would be happy to remove the sign if he showed me the HOA rules. He didn’t. We believe based on interactions that he perpetuated what happened below.  (Btw, Aryeh has been with me during nearly each and every interaction.)
  • Saturday, September 24 – Black Lives Matter Sign pulled out of ground and left on lawn.
  • Sunday, September 25 Black Lives Matter Sign was vandalized to say Black Lies Matter. We then repainted the ‘v’ to return the sign to the original form.
  • Monday, September 26 – Black Lives Matter Sign was stolen
  • Thursday, September 29 – We created and put up a sign that said “God Sees Souls Not Skin” (Thanks for this sign idea Lea!)god-sees-souls-september-30
  • Friday, September 30 – Lakeside Estates Townhouse Community’s HOA gave us 30 days to remove our signs unless they are for a candidate.
  • Friday, October 7 – second BLM sign goes up
  • Saturday, October 8
    • Early AM – Found poop rubbed on sign and toilet paper in yard,
    • Yelled at by ET and others in the alley behind our house. When confronted ET admitted that of course he did it because he didn’t want “that shit” in the neighborhood. (ET seems to hang out a lot with the folks who live a few doors down from our house. There was a group of men hanging out in the garage joining in the rudeness. I did not pay attention to them because ET was in my face and/or louder; he was also outside the garage at the time.)
    • Police called – First time
    • And I decided that I would no longer confront ET on any level.
    • In the afternoon, we found chewing tobacco spit on garage door
    • Police called and came a second time.
    • We then put up a camera
  • Monday, October 17-
    • Second Black Lives Matter sign stolen while my son was walking our dog in the evening.
    • Later that evening, we put up our third and last BLM sign with a message to ET saying, “Grow Up, Have you noticed that we haven’t stolen your Trump Sign” on the back.writing-my-note-to-et
  • Tuesday, October 25 – Black Lives Matter sign taken down to comply with HOA deadline to remove our BLM sign; the sign was replaced with Hillary Clinton for President Sign.
  • Saturday, November 5- Pumpkin thrown at sign and all over yard.

While all of this has been troubling, I have found myself doing some serious soul searching, rethinking how I walk in the world.  How should I respond to external conflict.  Let’s face it, when you consciously interact with the world around you, you notice and experience life intensely.  So now I am trying to take more time to quiet my mind before I speak, breath a little more deeply and into my emotions, and allow for the quiet.

Initially, I was angry and fit to be tied, later I became a little scared. Anyone that has the ability to toss shit at my sign must be capable of doing so much worse. And then lastly, my conviction became fierce. I was not going to let my views or my values be silenced. But that didn’t mean I had to respond with the venom espoused by ET.

At the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on July 25, 2016, Michelle Obama said the words that I believe may have quite literally changed how I relate to the world as both an activist and more importantly a human being. She said, “When someone is cruel or acts like a bully, you don’t stoop to their level. No, our motto is, when they go low, you go high.

Within moments of allowing myself to get swept up by anger after ET admitted to throwing feces at our second sign, I took a deep breath and allowed Michelle Obama’s words to sink deep into my soul. “when they go low, you go high.”

Onward!
Chava