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Archive for August, 2014

Catalina Mountains remind me to keep climbing. :)

Catalina Mountains remind me to keep climbing. ūüôā

Regardless of how life is
I find the light and focus on the good.
Light is full of shades from bright to darkness.

When the world is crumbling
Crumbling pieces are like remnants of cake.
Each morsel tasted and the sweetness digested

Breathing in light
Breathing out the darkness
Eventually after enough breaths, finding balance with each inhalation.

Thank God for new days
Bad days really do end
And new days emerge with beauty.

At the moment, I am keeping perspective while navigating the darkness that has been plaguing my life for way too long. Thankfully there are flowers that bloom constantly in the desert, a moon that illuminates even the darkest skies, and sunrises that revitalize the mountains while warming my heart and soul.

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Barely a week has passed since my father’s yahrzeit; I think about¬†him every single day and I miss his presence in my life in ways that make little or no sense to me.

Today, a friend of mine mentioned how his father was diagnosed with cancer on his birthday and died 10 days later; he would have been 89 today.  Although this friend is merely a Facebook friend, I wanted to reach out and comfort him. . .I understood in some small way how he may have been feeling.  My father was diagnosed with brain cancer a couple of days before his 71st birthday; 6 weeks later, he took his last breath.

I will never forget when my father took his last breath or the weeks leading up to it.

Aryeh wore this baseball cap for many years following his Zaydie's death.

Aryeh wore this Baltimore Orioles baseball cap for many years following his Zaydie’s death.

Somehow my father found the strength to allow the boys and I celebrate  his 71st birthday in his hospital room.  My kids had chosen to get him black shorts and an orange t-shirt as a gift; my father loved the Baltimore Orioles and my kids loved my father. (Orange and black are the colors for the Baltimore Orioles.)

My father was an amazing Zaydie who loved his grandchildren more than life itself. ¬† So, with that in mind, he did what any proud Zaydie would do, he put on the outfit and ate chocolate cake with us. ¬†It was the last time, any of us celebrated life with my Abba. ¬†I can’t believe how he pushed through the last birthday of his life not for himself, but for his precious grandchildren.

During the shiva house (week long traditional house of mourning), one of my nieces wore his orange t-shirt and black shorts and for all I know is still wearing them to this day. ūüôā

Zaydie believed that grandchildren were a grandparents reward for not killing their children. ¬†Dad also believed that grandparents and grandchildren had one thing in common; they both couldn’t stand the parents.

May my father’s memory continue to a blessing for good. ¬†I love you Daddy.

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July 24

A few weeks ago, I realized that I was falling in love with myself.  For the first time in my life, I have come to accept where I am, my own unique beauty, and the many realities that are me.  There is no man telling me that I am beautiful; there is no job that affirms my self-worth; and, I am a human being with deep loss and a violent past that has made me who I am today.  I am a mother, a sister, a friend, and lover of life; I am a woman.  And through it all, I have grown to deeply love who I am and how I walk in the world.

My entire childhood was surrounded by the barrage of angry words and mannerisms that showed me of my unworthiness.¬† One of my first memories was when my own mother tore my pajamas off and beat me.¬† She was the one to tell me that I was fat and ugly; she was also the person who believed that I was ‚Äėretarded‚Äô and limited in every way.¬† While I had a loving brother and a loving father, they never could make up for the damage that penetrated my earliest days.¬† And yet, knowing that I was loved was still a blessing.

Protection rarely came as I prayed and hoped it would, but it did come.  As a young girl, I was sexually abused at the hands of a neighbor and then raped by a man that was supposed to protect me from my family.  He didn’t.  Violating a child at any age can rip her spirit and shred it into nothing more than confetti.  And yet, even with those realities, I found my footing with an amazing therapist, a loving brother, and a strong inner core.

I grew up; I am still growing up.

A white picket fence has never been part of my life.   That doesn’t mean that I didn’t experience a loving family as an adult or many precious experiences throughout my life.  I am truly fortunate.

My body has been both my protection and my tormentor.  It has kept me safe even as it has suffered pain and defeat.  Each scar is very real.  While I have birthed one amazing baby (who is now 21 years old), I have lost at least 9 pregnancies by treating each as a toxic impurity that needed to be destroyed.  Thanks to the universe, one child survived.  A C-section, a hysterectomy, many laparoscopic procedures, exploratory surgery with a resulting appendectomy are part of my many physical scars.  And then there are the scars that no one will ever see, unless I choose to share.  Yet my body did protect me.

Chava with her first fruits

Chava with her first fruits

My heart beats strong; it has supported me at every turn.  My heart allowed me to run non-stop as a teenager and young woman; by running I was able to leave the world of drugs and stupidity behind me.  Each and every heartache could have destroyed me, but my writing kept me alive and gave me the room to sort out my pain and heal.  The strength has always come from my heart and allowed me to soar as a human being.

In spite of some of my challenging experiences, the parts of me that were once full of pain have become filled with beauty.  When I was a little girl, my mother chopped my beautiful hair off (perhaps for a reason, but I don’t recall).  Over the years, my hair has become a part of me that I have grown to love.  The texture, the curls, the wildness are all part of what I have grown to see as quite stunning. My body has received emotional and physical beatings at every stage of its life until now; today, I have come to not only accept all of my parts, but to see how precious and lovely they are.  And finally, I do not see myself as brilliant, I used to hate that I couldn’t figure things out like other people.  I wanted to have a mind that could do whatever I needed to do, but today I have learned to ask for help and to figure out that which I can.  In fact last night, I learned how to add a Hebrew keyboard to my iPhone.  I know that seems like small potatoes to some of you, but to me it was huge.  There is nothing about me that is retarded, there are things I can do well and things that I have not yet mastered. The very facets of my life that had once caused me pain have actually become what has helped me find my inner and outer beauty.

Over the years, I have learned to treasure who I am.  My writing has allowed me to touch people in positive ways and to make an impact for good.  My dreams to positively affect people are coming true over time; I have people in my life that I value and that value me.  And today, my dream of growing my non-profit called My Second Foundation for adult thrivers of childhood trauma is starting to take shape.

I am finding my inner and outer beauty.  Today, I look at some photos (mostly selfies) and see a beautiful woman.  I am a little stunned that I can see myself as beautiful.   I no longer cringe when I see all the photos of me.

While I would love to have a career that will financially sustain me as well as give me the opportunity to be fully me, I am strongly aware that my job doesn‚Äôt necessarily define who I am.¬† Today, I help people in ways that I never knew I could.¬† As a care-giver, I help people at the most challenging time in their lives as they are aging and sometimes losing their mental abilities; I do make an impact for good.¬† This is not what I ever planned to do, but it is a blessing that I can be where I am today.¬† And today, I have been given windows of opportunities to do things that allow me a greater understanding of me and what I hope to one day accomplish.¬† I am not bound or limited by the expectations I once had.¬† In fact, I know that when I take a new position in Jewish education, non-profit work, or in something I have yet to see coming my way ‚Äď the decision will allow me to be impactful and to touch lives professionally or as an activist.

 

Doors have never been closed to me; they are and have always been wide open.  I just have to be aware of the opening and to decide which side of the door I should stand or whether standing in the doorway is exactly what I need.

I love being loved, healthy relationships, and feeling beautiful in another person’s eyes.  AND I know that while I treasure that, I don’t need someone else in order to see each and every square inch of me as loveable, precious and worthy.  (OK, I’d love to lose my double-chin and it is time for me to deal with the excess arm fat, but neither of those things makes me cringe.)  My body, all of my body puts a huge smile on my face because all of it is part of who I am.  I feel blessed to have the ability to care for myself and to work on whatever parts of my body I want to.  While I want to have a man to hold and treasure me for who I am, I don’t need another person to label me in order for me to have self-worth.

Yoga gives me many of the tools I need to create a stronger and healthier yesod (foundation).

Yoga gives me many of the tools I need to create a stronger and healthier yesod (foundation).

My vulnerabilities are also part of who I am.¬† I am far from perfect.¬† My writing gives me the space to develop my ideas and share the real me.¬† I look forward to the time when I can financially and physically return to a regular schedule of yoga with a class that is safe for me to grow physically and spiritually. I‚Äôd like to lead a chant group or another spiritual group so that I can share all the tools that have made me who I am today; I am deeply introverted even if people see me as an extrovert.¬† I struggle with the fear that I won‚Äôt be articulate or that I will be laughed at for my spoken words.¬† As a young girl, I needed 9 years of speech therapy in order to be fully understood.¬† Whether I like it or not, that is still part of who I am.¬† My voice matters and I love sharing who I am through my voice ‚Äď written or spoken.¬† I hope that I always continue work on myself and be the best that I can be.

I am who I am because of the many parts of my life that made me that way.  Today, I have a beloved family consisting of my sons, my brother and his family, and friends that love me for who I am and who I also love.  I am beginning to realize that I don’t have to be anything less than what I am with each of the individuals that I call my family.  There are also other people in my life that have taught me valuable lessons at every step, not all are friends; but each person has impacted me deeply.  I am blessed.  The people around me are a reflection of exquisiteness that can be found within my essence; perhaps I have grown to be as charismatic as those I adore for who they are.

I am emerging as a butterfly after feeling surrounded by a loving cocoon called life.  I am thoroughly beautiful, inside and out.

Arms spread

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13 years later. . . . .

Let’s get one reality out of the way. ¬†My father was a deeply flawed human being that made significant mistakes over the course of his lifetime especially when it came to raising and protecting his little girl, me. ¬†Yet, I am blessed that I can celebrate another side to a man I love deeply. ¬†A long time ago, I chose to let go of the pain, to move forward, and to spend a lot more time remembering the extraordinary parts of my father. ¬†And regardless of some of the challenges, he was an amazing Zaydie to his grandchildren and a loving soul to those that crossed his path.

Everyone that knew my father loved him.  Everyone.

While he struggled with my mother and the challenges that she posed, he was able to leave most of those feelings behind once he walked out our kitchen door.  Morry loved the world and much of what it had to offer.  He was a passionate reader, a lover of music, and a kind soul.

I am who I am because Morry Bloomberg was my father; he raised me to love people, stories, and music.  A day has not gone by without me thinking about my father and the many legacies he left behind.

My father¬†guided me to walk in the world with a deep appreciation for each and every person in the human race while¬†sharing brief words, stories, or jokes with all. ¬†To this day, I feel guilty if I¬†don’t want to interact with a cashier or someone holding the door. ¬†My father taught me to be better than that, he taught me to acknowledge each and every person that I made eye contact with.

Sharing Stories and Jokes

I loved how my father had a story or joke to share with each and every person he met each day; he never hesitated to talk to any person that crossed his path; he always had a small offering to share. I was especially struck by his knowledge of everything going on in the news and how he would share information from all that he was reading at any given moment.  He was always reading.

Morry loved all people. Cashiers and family/friends were on equal footing; the doctor and the guys that took care of our yard were each human beings.  No one was better than anyone else.  And if anyone needed his help, he would do whatever he could to help.

Each and every person that I have met over the years believed that they were close friends with my dad. ¬†He always had time for the person that was in front of him. ¬†One of the reasons, I never use a cell phone in front of a cashier is because I believe he would quite literally have a cow if I every ignored a human being that was in front of me. ¬†I can almost hear him expressing his dissatisfaction if I had chosen to disregard any person in front of me. ¬†My moods didn’t count; I believe he taught me that I was here to serve, to bring joy into people’s lives for just a moment. ¬†A kind word, a sweet story, or a smile makes a difference.

Turn Table and record (vinyl) - Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Loebman

Turn Table and record (vinyl) – Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Loebman (who never stopped loving music or vinyl)

Music and Records

Another one of my favorite things about my father was his love for music.  He shared that love with everyone.  All of my friends loved that he knew more about vinyl and shared what he had with anyone that wanted.  But for me, I treasured how we used to take rides to any of his record stores and spend the entire time singing together.  On the rare occasion, that he could keep me out of my house for days on end, we would sing, share stories, and connect in ways that I will miss forever.  With him, I could find peace for as long as we were together.

Dad took me to my first concerts sometimes with my friends and often times with just the two of us. ¬†He even took my friend Elizabeth and I to a KISS concert; he couldn’t hear for a week after that. ¬†(And for the rest of his life, he never let me forget what he did for Elizabeth and I.) Our seats were center and close to the stage; I think he was as excited as we were to provide this opportunity for us.

My father introduced me to all music and many people in the music business.  I met musicians, sound men (they were all men back then), managers, producers.  I heard and learned about rock, country, bluegrass, pop, classical (although not much), and whatever was popular at any given moment.  My father taught me love of all music. Not only did he teach me, but he introduced music to everyone.  He was particularly kind and loving towards my friends and our neighbors on Pikeswood Drive outside Baltimore where I grew up.  Sharing music made my father feel happy and whole.

Today and every day, I remember how my father walked in the world and I realize that the apple didn’t fall from the tree. ¬†My hope and my prayer is that I am nearly as loving and kind as my father was.

I miss him, but feel grateful for the gifts he did give me.

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Living life actively is what I do, but at the same time I have always tended to play it safe within certain parameters.  At least I did until my job situation changed and I had no choice; I had to face my deepest fears.

Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free.  ~Jim Morrison

On December 16 of this past year, I was called into my executive director’s office at work. ¬†My job had been cut to half-time. The congregation I was working with lost members and our school lost students. ¬†Initially, I was stunned, never had I heard of a Jewish Educator going to half-time mid-year.

Instead of licking my wounds, I started really thinking about what I wanted with my life. Did I want to remain in Jewish Education? Did I want to stay in Tucson or move closer to the water? Could I find a way to focus on ways to grow while also sustaining myself financially.  There was and still is so much to consider.  The questions I was asking myself were endless.

What I had initially decided is that I wasn’t ready to push myself hard to find the ‘right’ position, I needed some time to breathe deeply and consider what I really wanted to do. ¬†And the good news is that while I now had no health insurance, I did have a half-time salary. ¬†Even with¬†everything being strained financially, I was willing to take the time to seek the best working environment for me by deciding what I needed to best thrive in a new work environment.

As the days of my new work situation turned into weeks, and then months, I have been allowing¬†myself the quiet time to figure out what would be next. ¬†I interviewed for new positions and learned how to live with less; I grew angry for what I was enduring and I let the anger go. ¬†I allowed myself to take this journey with few preconceived notions. ¬†I wasn’t sure how I would emerge from where I was; I am still not sure how I will emerge, but I will.

There was and still is a thrill in learning how to live with less and accepting help.  From the beginning, I thought about my needs and wants, my space and how I craved simplicity.  And then my son Aryeh found a job and helped financially.  And then a friend gave me a job as a care-giver for the agency she worked; this allowed me to supplement my income.  When my car broke down, a friend lend me part of the money to fix it and when I was short the rent money one month, it showed up as a gift.  I am still reflecting and learning how to deal with where I am today.

Torrey Pines State Reserve Photo courtesy of David Davidson

Photo courtesy of David Davidson: Torrey Pines State Reserve

The Journey continues. . . .

And then in April or May I learned that the congregation that moved me from Washington, DC to Tucson two years ago could no longer afford me.  Effective June 1st, I was no longer employed as a Jewish Educator.  I had no guaranteed income and I had lost my community.

While I was aware that I could lose my position, I was also hopeful that I could continue working part time as the Youth Education Director. ¬†Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case, the congregation said that they couldn’t afford my salary. ¬†The new reality made it time¬†to figure out the next chapter and quick (or maybe not so quick).

Moving forward is not optional.  Choosing to find light in the dark moments propels me to soar.  Allowing myself time to ask some important questions as I make this new reality work is scary, but feels wise too. With each day, I choose to celebrate the blessings that always surround me. My friends, far and near, have never wavered in their support; the desert mountains and the magnificent skies nurture my spirit even though I miss the ocean.

And in this moment, I am blessed to be working as a care-giver with some amazing people and earlier this week a friend gave me a short-term  freelance job within Jewish education. I seem to be staying afloat for the most part.

Reality 

From the moment I was given my walking papers from the temple, I was forced to look at my deepest fears directly.  As a result, I have always been terrified of not having the money I need to sustain my family with even their most basic needs.  Growing up without healthy food or the clothing appropriate for a girl in the suburbs was hard.   And for the first time in my adult life, I know that I there are times when I may not afford  rent, utilities, or basic necessities.  If something goes wrong, I will not have what I need to make things work.  And yet, I am blessed with friends and a belief that all will ultimately be good.

As a young teenager, my family ¬†didn’t have enough food and the fear of foreclosure was constantly¬†looming. Potential homelessness was a possibility then and now it is again. ¬†And while it¬†would be easier if I lived on the east coast because we do have friends there that would shelter us, my guess is that I have friends in Tucson too. ¬†The beauty of where I am today is that I am beginning to heal from the experiences of my youth; I also realize that I have more tools now. ¬†I understand what it means to thrift shop, borrow, and cook from scratch. ¬†As a child, I really didn’t have the tools to help myself. ¬†And today, I have something I never had before, I have friends and loved ones that are there for me and I am able to find the gifts within the challenges.

I am no stranger to financial struggles, as a Jewish professional (not clergy), I have always just made it financially. And when my children suffered health crises, we sometimes didn’t know how we would afford even their most basic needs. Yet, in the end, all of our needs and many of our wants have¬†always been met often with the help of friends. ¬†For me, darkness always turns into light.

What’s next?

I want to live consciously in all areas of my life.  Being authentic matters whether it is with people, my environment, or the larger world.  My words and my actions should support my beliefs and my spirit.

My foundation is what it is because of the role Judaism has had in my life.  The teachings have given me the wisdom to grow and the room to wrestle. Doors have opened to me because of my many interactions with the social actions of my previous communities.  When one door opens, I often find many other doors ajar.  Some I will go through; some I will not. I am who I am because I listened to the values of my faith and used it as a springboard to move me through life and learning from others.

So now, I have to figure out how to have a career that either nurtures who I am and/or allows me the time to make a positive impact within the world I live. ¬†My hope is that I can do both. I love people and working with people; I also love the idea of working behind the scenes to get things done. ¬†Even though, I have only really worked within the Jewish community, it doesn’t mean that I have to stay there. I have learned so many skills that can take me wherever I go. ¬†I really am looking forward to the next chapter and hoping that it allows me the room to be creative either on or off the job.

My purchases should be mindful of the people and the physical planet I live; my interactions with family, friends, and others should always be sweet and caring.  Living in the world means I have a responsibility for walking gently and lovingly with each step and with each word.  Everything I do matters.

Today, I am considering ways to ignite my non-profit organization, find or create a meaningful work environment, taking time to write, and living into the answers of my many questions.  Today I am fully embracing life.

Each step in this 8 month journey has been scary. Yet it is also exciting to explore what is now meaningful to me and how I will afford my needs for now and into the future. ¬†I don’t have all the answers, but I know that I am trusting the universe and¬†doing what I need to do to move forward.

May today and every day lead us beyond our fears and towards freedom.

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Three Deaths in Two Weeks

The gift is often the challenge.

Professionally, I have always worked within community.  For the most part, I have been blessed to work in the synagogue world.  Within that role, I have had the opportunity to connect deeply with many people from staff to congregants and their families too.  My students, their parents, my teachers, and their families have always become a part of my life.  And now is no different; I work the aged, most if not all are in the last years of their life.  My guess is that regardless of where I work or where I choose to be, I will always build relationships with those that surround me.

People are born; people die.  And in the middle of it all, people live.   They have experiences that fill their lives Рincluding gifts and challenges.

Life is full of cycles

Life is full of cycles.

Over the last two weeks, I have been touched by the strength and integrity of the living and the pain and/or resolve of death.  And in the middle of it all, I have been touched by those that have lived and those that have died.

Three Deaths in Two Weeks

Loving people is what I do; no one is a stranger for long.  All are welcomed into my life including my home.  And within each connection, I try to give fully and be as present as I can be.  Sometimes people are part of my life for moments, sometimes for hours, sometimes for days, and sometimes much longer.  And for that moment that I am blessed to be in a relationship, whether a close friend or for a momentary exchange of words, I treasure the moments however large or small.

Within my work, I build relationships. ¬†And within each relationship, I care deeply. ¬†Whether I connect with people daily, once a week, or only on the holidays, they impact my life and I pray that I impact their lives for good. ¬†Often I do, sometimes I don’t. ¬† ¬†The bottom-line is that I hope and pray that most of my connections are full of light and positive energy. ¬†When people go through hard times, I struggle with them – it is simply what I do. ¬†And when they live fully, I celebrate with them – that is also what I do.

Three Deaths in Two Weeks

So far in two weeks, I have gone to one funeral, one shiva minyan (memorial service), and another funeral on Sunday.  I also needed to help transition a client, who is now a friend, to a 24-hour care facility.  She is having a rough transition; her husband is profoundly sad too.  Life keeps moving forward.

Today, I saw a baby in a sling and a toddler eating dinner with his parents and puppy.  I also had a few hours talking and hanging out with my 17 year old son.  Life keeps moving forward.

Life-cycles happen.  I am learning to say good-bye with more regularity than I wish, I am also learning to take note of the life that surrounds me.  The baby, the toddler, the aging, and everyone in between.  I am also noticing the birds and the saguaro cacti; I am watching pomegranates thrive on a tree and flowers open and close on the cacti.  And each evening I look up at the sky and I take note of the moon and her cycle.  I am also waiting and hoping the sky opens up and the rain comes storming into my beautiful desert.

Life. Death. Everything in between.

May I treasure what is and continue to build relationships with the living.  And when people die, may I remember them and honor them by continuing to build connections with the living.

Three Deaths in Two Weeks

People matter and each of these three souls impacted my life for good.

l’Shalom – May their souls go towards peace.

 

 

 

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