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Archive for July, 2011

Aryeh and his friend Isaiah on Aryeh’s Birthday

Today is a miraculous day!  Amazing in every way!  Today my son Aryeh turned 18 years old; today he is healthy and thriving.

I love that Judaism gives us ways to consciously mark each moment in time; today is a Shehecheyanu moment.  Marking this moment gives me such joy! (Note: Every birthday is a shehecheyanu moment.)  What a gift to know that Aryeh is celebrating being alive for 18 years.

Health is a gift that has never been taken for granted.

In the beginning, Aryeh’s life began with 3,000 platelets at birth; he was the first child to ever survive the specifics of his birth condition.  For his first days, we referred to him as Bruiser because he was a tough baby who weighed 10 lbs and was nearly 22 inches long; he also had bruises throughout his little body including his precious brain.  Most of us are born with approximately 150,000 to 250,000 platelets; he barely had enough to keep him alive.  Once it looked like Aryeh would live, he became known as Champ; my boy was a fighter.  We believed he might actually stay alive, but we weren’t certain that our dream would be so.

At approximately 9 weeks old, Champ was a thriving baby who was very much alive and definitely thriving; only after his bris, ritual circumcision, did we use the name we had chosen for him just before his birth.  Champ became known as Aryeh.  Saying his name on the first days following his bris brought tears to my eyes.  We had always planned on calling him Aryeh, translated as lion, but we didn’t know that his name would be perfect for him.  Aryeh is strong and able to take care of himself as he faces life; his name really does honor his spirit.

At almost 14 years old, Aryeh’s life took another dramatic turn.  We found a arachnoid cyst on his brain.  It took us many neurosurgeons and neurologists, two brain surgeries, and nearly three years of recovery time to bring him to health.  I am honestly not sure how he survived, but HE DID!!!!

Our lion is beautiful, vibrant, and actively engaged in life.  I think it might take him a couple of years to become grounded in health, but today he really is so much healthier than he was.  This spring, Aryeh graduated high school and began actively figuring out his next years.  I love his spirit and I love his drive.

I am the luckiest imma, mother. in the world.  I have two beautiful children that are both thriving.  Today I celebrate that although health was not a given in Aryeh’s life; he has always lived to the best of his ability and we are celebrating eighteen years together.

Never take life or health for granted; treasure what you have and celebrate it, even when times are tough.  At this moment, I am feeling such gratitude to the universe; I have my baby boy (he will always be my baby) alive and well on his birthday.

Today is a Shehecheyanu moment. Aryeh’s birthday is a time to be grateful and to say 

Blessed be the Living Spirit of the Universe that we survive, that we are alive, and have arrived at this very moment

~Shehecheyanu interpretation by Rabbi David J. Cooper

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“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.”

~William James

Many of you know that I have been developing a vision statement/proposal so that a team may one-day create retreats for Jewish victims of childhood trauma.  The Retreat for Healing and Transforming Childhood Trauma has been a dream of mine for a long time and it is only in the last couple months that I have found the time to move this vision towards implementation.  In order to succeed, this vision needs the nurturing of many people.

The vision statement/proposal plan is available upon request.  Just send me your email address and let me know if you would like to view my dream.  After reading my vision, let  what you think and if you would like a role in shaping my vision; I’d love to have you join in the journey. There are many parts of the journey, I am only unveiling stage one at this time.  And there are leadership roles and support roles that will unfold over time.

In addition, if you know phenomenal healers in traditional or alternative methods of healing, I would be honored if you would share their names with me. My desire is to strengthen this retreat concept by inviting such healers to potentially serve in an advisory capacity or as facilitators/presenters for the actual retreat.

The vision statement/proposal is a working document that will evolve as the retreat develops and the advisory team offers the wealth of their experience and knowledge.   Creating a safe and nurturing environment to explore childhood trauma will ultimately help the journey towards healing and transformation.  This endeavor is exciting and I am hoping to work with many people to create a successful dream.

My plan is to have the first retreat in approximately 12-18 months followed by a second and third retreat in other regions of the country. Another important component of making this retreat work is to find partnering agencies that might consider working to make this concept come to fruition as well as potential donors and foundations to offer large and small donations.

Please feel free to pass this proposal on to anyone you know who might want to work towards making this retreat happen.  There is much to do, so even if you don’t have a ton of time, let me know if you want a small or large role.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

l’Shalom,

Chava

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“Believe in your healing; put your fears on a shelf.”

or

“Believe in yourself; put your fears on a shelf.”

 These words came to me yesterday as I was returning from seeing a friend who is suffering a significant health crisis.  As soon as the words came to me, I stopped the car, jotted them down, and thought about emailing the words to my friend. Upon reflection, I realized that these exact words were the words that I needed to hear too.

An hour after these words came to me, I was sitting across the table from another friend who had survived a challenging work environment until recently.  She was feeling fragile and wounded; normal feelings for such an experience.  As I spoke to her, I realized that the words above could be spoken to her too.

Transition is full of trepidation.  Fear can be paralyzing.  How could it not be? I have faced and am facing some of my own fears, as transition has been so much a part of my life for several years.  My son’s health challenges, my work environment, my dreams, and now my husband’s move to North Carolina.  Life is constantly evolving.  With each transition, I am usually able to find the joy, the silver lining, and the blessings.  But sometimes fear holds onto my core and leaves me in a state of utter despair.  The good news is that doesn’t last for long; I don’t live in fear.  Honestly, I always look for the blessings.

This past week, I reached perhaps the darkest point of my life in years.  Thankfully, it was just a moment in time.  The build-up has been taking place for weeks, maybe even years, but the intensity only lasted a about 24 hours.  Over those 24 hours, I was mortified by the fear I was feeling.  So many questions were tying me in a knot. Here are just a few of the questions:

  • Are my dreams possible?
  • Am I a good mother? Am I giving my children what they need?
  • Will Aryeh thrive physically or will he continue to be plagued with physical challenges?
  • As a writer, are my words making sense?
  • As a friend, can my friends forgive me for not being present in their lives?
  • Will I ever be worthy of higher education? Can I really be a rabbi when I grow up?
  • Can I do more for myself in order to be healthy?

When you are dark, the list of fears grows exponentially just because of the fertile breeding ground.

While it is important to take note of what you are feeling, sometimes it doesn’t serve you well.  A couple of years ago I listened to Anne Lamott’s CD, Word by Word.  I love the wisdom that she shared in this CD! In the talk that she gave, she said that sometimes our fears, our stories, and our experiences don’t serve us well. When this reality becomes apparent, it is time to disengage from them and to put “our stuff” on a shelf.

Yes fears exists, but they don’t have to guide us.  If anything, let fear nudge us towards action, towards actively engaging in life. Consciously figuring out what you can do to propel yourself forward.  In my case, here is my response to the list of questions/fears above:

  • Yes, my dreams are all possible; I just have to do the work so that they can happen.
  • Mostly I think I am a good mother, but my kids will have to answer that.  Staying present in their lives while loving them for who they are is a good start.
  • Aryeh is improving every day and when he has a tough moment or even a week, he bounces back quicker than he did in the past.  Focus on the good; there is so much of it!
  • My writing improves as I continue the practice of writing.  And the bottom-line is that it fuels my soul, so there is no need to spend time worrying about it too much.  Worry does not serve me well.
  • I hope my friends are OK with how present I am in their lives; I can’t give more than I have to give.  My friends are loving and amazing; hopefully they are communicating with me what it is they need from me.
  • Sure I can be a rabbi, when the time is right, I will do the work.  In the meantime, I will learn as I can and be the spiritual leader than I am!
  • Guess I need to put the nuts and dried fruit away.  Sigh.

Believing in our selves and seeing ourselves in the best possible way is crucial for us to thrive.  You really can’t survive if you don’t choose to actively engage in all that you want and need.  Fear might sometimes have a place in helping you propel forward, but it can’t sustain you in your goals, your hopes, or your dreams.

Finally, finding the light even in the darkest of situations is a gift you can give yourself.  Darkness has it’s place in moving through pain, but try to find a ray of light to help you journey along the way.

May we all soar and reach for that which we want.

With blessngs and light,

Chava

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Being a mother is constant; there are no days off, not really.

Nothing prepared me for motherhood.  As soon as my children were born they became the center of my world.  While past life experiences mattered, nothing impacted me like being a mother; all past experiences took a back seat to parenting.  I have loved mothering and continue to do so!

My children are such special souls; they rock my world and touch the world around them in such profound ways.  They are wise and kind, insightful and giving.  Dovi and Aryeh are also the most amazing teachers; they have taught me so much about living with integrity and kindness.  And much of their education has come from their own life experiences; both have suffered some horrible health challenges and have thrived in spite of the pain.  With each challenge we soar through the struggles, but it takes a toll on each of us.

This past week, my son Aryeh went to see a 3D movie, Transformers with both his father and brother.  Although he loved the movie, he didn’t feel too great during the movie.  Once the movie was over, Aryeh’s world became filled with a serious case of vertigo.  Walking became a challenge; standing was nearly impossible, daily life became an insurmountable goal for nearly a week.  My heart was breaking for Aryeh and Aryeh’s heart was breaking because the cycle of hell was beginning and he didn’t know when or if it would end.  Having suffered for nearly three years with significant neurological challenges and two brain surgeries, all of us know pain from this experience.

With every ounce of our being, we seek a ‘normal” life.  But each time an incident occurs, we crumble inside with a fear that perhaps this moment won’t end.  We might intellectually know that things will get better, but we are afraid it won’t.  For so long our lives were filled with roller-coaster rides in hell.  There were days when I would wonder if death would have been easier than the pain.  Thankfully, we all survived and thrived to make it through our hell.  And thankfully, there were no days when we were all dark, that would have been a disaster.

The good news is that with Michael’s parenting, some good doctors and some incredible patience, we made it through this past week.  As a mother, my heart is still feeling fragile and my body aching as it navigates the pain of the past week, but Aryeh is feeling better.

I am so grateful for each and every moment of health.  With the exception of this past week, both boys are doing great; Aryeh continues to get healthier and Dovi is perfect, both boys are perfect!  May none of us know the pain that Aryeh and our entire family has faced over the past years.  And if pain occurs, may we have the strength to soar through it.

With blessings and light,

Shabbat Shalom

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Everyone that is born will ultimately die.  No one knows the exact moment; yet it is a known reality.

My beloved friend lost her life partner; unfortunately, I had yet to meet him.  Schedules and distance made getting together a challenge; we were hoping to meet this month.  The good news is that my friend experienced a love that nourished her soul; the sad news is that they didn’t grow old together.  Their connection on this earth ended too soon.

Experiencing her partner through my friend’s eyes was a real blessing for me.  I learned about how I can be a better person; I learned about how I can make a difference in the world around me.  Each time a person dies, they leave a legacy for survivors to notice.  Sometimes the memories are not such a gift, but even the challenging memories give all of us something to note so that we can learn from the person who has died.

What did I learn from my friend’s fiancé?  I learned so much that I am not certain I can do it justice, but I will try.

  • Working with your hands fills you with satisfaction and benefits both your pocket and your disposition.
  • Keeping a promise is a way of showing someone they really matter.
  • Simple acts of kindness touch people deeply and have a lasting impact.
  • If you can make a difference in someone’s life, take the time.
  • No matter what happened in the past, you don’t have to continue doing what didn’t work for you or for those you have loved.
  • No one is a stranger.
  • Take time to touch people’s lives by going the extra mile when possible.
  • Treasure what you have; every moment counts.
  • Love deeply.
  • If you want something enough, be willing to work hard of for it.
  • Live with integrity through being the most honest you can be.
  • Mending fences takes work, but it is worth the work.
  • Life is short; treasure the moments that you have.

No one knows what tomorrow will bring; everyone dies.  The challenge is living your life fully and consciously.  Living is a gift, but living fully has the potential to impact not only your life, but also the lives of those you love and those you will love.

What will you be known for when your time comes?  How are you choosing to live your life today?  May each and everyone of us find at least one attribute that touches others and ultimately benefits ourselves too.

May we be blessed to live a physically and spiritually healthy life. May our lives ultimately be a memory for good!

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Part 2: Sanity Assessment Practice

(The current blog is part 2 of a three part series that will be posted this week.)

Since starting to take significantly better care of myself in the last seven months, I have grown really tired.  There are so many factors that could be attributed to this core level exhaustion.  While I am checking the physical possibilities, I am also doing some of my own emotional work and considering what is it I need to be the healthiest person that I can be.  My guess is that at the end of this journey, I will find out that I simply have too much going on in my life both personally and professionally.  In the meantime, I am being wise; I am continuing my journey to health both physical and spiritual.

As I move through my spiritual journey, I am working with my spiritual guide and teacher, Rabbi Shefa Gold who has given me one of the toughest homework assignments I think I have encountered  I am supposed to do a Sanity Assessment that is in her book Torah Journeys, page 79 in the Yitro section of her book; it can also be found on her website http://rabbishefagold.com/Yitro.html.   I refer to the Sanity Assessment as a Cheshbon HaNefesh (Soul Accounting).  I need to look at myself honestly and to consider what fuels my soul and also what drains me.

This journey isn’t easy; in fact it is painful.  Looking at myself honestly is a challenge.  I am a people pleaser; I love my family; I adore my friends; I want to be kind and good to the core.  But something is telling me that it isn’t working for me any longer.  The years of being a caretaker for so many essential people in my life has wiped me out.  Loving Aryeh and Dovi through serious illnesses was emotionally draining.  The gift is that we all survived and grew from the experience.  No one was an island not Michael, their dad, the kids themselves or I were alone.  We were a team moving through the many different trials and tribulations that existed.  I have also been a caring and nurturing friend to others throughout my life; it is what I do..  Maybe I am so tired because I can’t give like I once did.  And then there is the reality that I love nurturing myself through writing, chanting, and solitude.

Being honest with myself about what it is I want and what is attainable is tough, but it is necessary.  Whoever said that life is easy must not have lived life fully.  I have so many interesting dichotomies that make up who I am.  I love people, but I love being alone.  Being in a close-knit community is an amazing gift, but I dream of solitude in a cabin that would help limit some of the excess noise that surrounds me.  I want to walk gently with the land, but crave the simplicity of having easy access to that which I want.  The goal is to find balance and I will; it just means walking through life consciously.

Knowing what I want with all of life’s gifts takes a lot of deep thought and integrity.  How much sleep do I need? Do I love learning? What do I really love doing? What jazzes my soul?  What types of people to I want to surround my inner circle of friends?  What do I feel about eating meat? What form of exercise would benefit me and would I find positive?  What do I need to do to be the best professional I can be.  All of these questions and more need to be considered and I will take the time to consider them seriously.  Yay for time!!

What considerations do you need to consider as you Assess your own sanity. 🙂 Inquiring minds want to know.  So . . . .I am waiting.

Note, that I really do love afternoon naps.  Do you?

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(The current blog is part one of a four part series that will be posted over the next week.)

Temptation surrounds me at every turn; it surrounds all of us.  I keep wondering what I really need or really want in order to be a more centered human being.  While traveling from Washington DC to San Francisco for a 12 day retreat and vacation, I was perplexed by the fact that I brought a large suitcase full of stuff. Why did I need so much “stuff”? Why couldn’t I just wear my clothing 2 or 3 times over the course of my trek?  Underclothes need to be changed daily; although maybe that opinion is a bit subjective. 🙂  I could have also taken the time to do a little laundry, but I didn’t.

The desire for simplicity soars through my veins yet even I seem to struggle with refraining from buying books or music.  Recently I bought myself a new zafu, meditation cushion; my last cushion lasted comfortably for approximately 10 years. The question I should be asking myself before I purchase something is what gives my life more meaning and what detracts from finding balance.  In this case, my zafu will absolutely be used and loved unless I get distracted from utilizing it with all my life’s craziness.

This week while on the retreat I ended up getting a spiritual basket as part of a silent auction.  In the basket were three books, three CDs, and a tambourine from an artist that I love.  Did I need that basket of *stuff*? NO! Did I imagine I would win? NO!  I needed little in that basket yet I bid on it.  Now I could have just donated to Aleph, the Jewish Renewal movement, but that isn’t what I did.  Instead I stopped at a post office and mailed the *stuff* home.  When I told my oldest son about some of my great finds, he said, “Imma, it is just more *stuff*; you don’t need *stuff*.” Damn, he was right.  So now I will have to find places and new homes for some of the stuff.  What was I thinking?

Now, I will tell you that some things make sense, being a consumer is not all bad nor is it all good.  Making conscious choices is the right thing to do.  Reflecting on whether what you will want will bring some joy to your life, do you need it or does it add quality to your life in some large or small way.  The zafu cushion does because I chant for hours in a given week and love everything about my cushions and the sacred space they have in my life and in my home.  The books, the tambourine, and the CDs were lovely, but I didn’t need the *stuff*; I should have just made a donation.

And then there is instant gratification that surrounds at us every turn.  I have almost no liquid income; I have to spend money wisely.  Yes I can buy a few extras and I did this past week.  In most cases, I am wise and patient as I refrain from buying extras or adding more “stuff” to my life..  I also purchased a new iPod (cheaper version) to replace the one that was stolen two or so years ago.  I tried to go without spending the money, but I love music and without it, I am not a happy soul; so I splurged.  We all make choices.

But today, as I getting ready to go to the airport in San Francisco, I realized that I already read the one book I wanted to read and I had no other books I really wanted to read with me.  LOL! I just shipped three books back home and two of them are resources for my liturgical work, one of them I remember reading, but thought maybe I should have just in case.  I could have brought that book with me, but I shipped it.  The good news is that I decided to work on my writing, do a final editing of a proposal I am working on, and read the paper; I also needed to prepare for Friday night services that I leading this week.  Yay for good choices; my proposal is done, my blog will be done and posted; and I read the front section of the Wall Street journal!! I still have to prepare for Friday night’s service, but I will have a few hours of traveling ahead of me.  Life is good!!!

And then just when I think that I am free of consumerism once I board Airtran because I never buy drinks on the plane nor do  I ever go shopping via Sky Mall.  A sense of humor follows me at every turn; I opened my computer to find that Wi-Fi is available on the plane for $12.95.  This fact is so tempting for someone who loves connecting via my computer, but I decided to make a wiser choice and give myself time to write and time to rest.  Maybe I am learning to listen to my values of making conscious purchases. Perhaps.  And why do I need to spend money, can’t I go 7 hours without the Facebook, texting, IMing.  I think I can. . .I think I can. . .I CAN!

While I have made some poor choices to add stuff to my life this week, I have also made some great choices.   The bottom-line is that I have one life and it is really important to make certain I honor my values. Sometime learning happens after you realize that you have made mistakes. I am happy to say that I didn’t buy the usual coke and water I used to buy before getting on the plane.  I now bring my empty water bottle and ask the flight attendants to fill my water bottles so that I don’t create trash nor spend money purchasing my previously favorite drink in the world, Coca Cola.  So even though the advertisement for $12.95 Wi-Fi is telling me that I can:

  • Blog after you board.
  • Send a tweet from your seat.
  • Why nap when you can network?

I did remember my values and refrained from spending money. With every step I try to consider what it means to be a conscious consumer and also to consider my carbon footprint. I am not perfect, but I am constant reflecting and learning from my choices.

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