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Archive for January, 2015

Some memories can never be forgotten; they are held tightly in the recesses of the mind.

Somewhere in late elementary school and early junior high school, I figured out that biking was the best way for me to be socially and emotionally safe.  I loved to bike and I was blessed to live in the most fabulous neighborhood for biking.

For me, biking was freedom; as long as I rode my bike I knew I was safe from the perilous experiences of being home.  So, I chose to bike often.

After one of my bike rides, I rode up to my house to find a Swat Team surrounding my house.  The experience was pretty surreal. As an awkward young teenager, I stopped to ask the police officer why a swat team was surrounding my house.  The police officer told me that my mother had called the police to say that gunmen had taken my brother downstairs; she was really quite terrified.

The scene could have been out of a one of the cop TV shows that were so popular in the mid to late seventies; the only challenge (well not really) was that my brother wasn’t actually in the script.  He was a paratrooper in the Israeli army and he hadn’t been in the States for a very long time at that point.

The look in the police officer’s face when I told him about my brother’s whereabouts would have been comical if I hadn’t felt totally mortified at the story that was unfolding.

I am not certain how long the scene lasted.  My guess is that once I told the officer that my brother wasn’t even in this country, it probably wrapped up fairly quickly.  While I wasn’t in the house when all unfolded, I will never forget the years of nightmares that followed.  For years, I re-winded the scene in my head and had nightmares as if my brother really had been held captive.  My brother was everything to me, the thought of losing him was devastating back then and still is to this day.

~ ~ ~

Facing mental illness is absolutely horrific for any family.  My mother was emotionally and mentally a very sick woman who had little or no control over her actions during much of my childhood.  The good news is that regardless of what I endured. . .  I survived, I thrived, and I was always able to keep moving forward.

Resiliency!

Another blessing is that with all I endured, I ultimately emerged as someone who chooses to make the world a better place.  If injustice is happening, I will do my part to make things better.  If I hear about abuse, I try to make certain the right people/organization becomes notified and the situation has a chance of getting the help it needs.  When I met a pregnant, homeless woman with a young child, my family took her in for months until we found her the right placement.  When a friend of mine had brain cancer, my older son and I went to St. Cloud, Minnesota to help care for her and her son.  When I am called to help someone in need or to provide shelter for a traumatized human being, I do it!

I learned from watching the world around me. Most people didn’t lift a finger to help me.  My guess is that they felt helpless or didn’t know what to do. My hope is that people now have their eyes open a little wider and are quicker to do their part.

One of the challenges of mental illness coupled with domestic violence is that, as a neighbor, you may just not notice.  I am not sure how this could have been so especially during the seventies when everyone was playing outside and windows were always wide open.

~ ~ ~

After the police and Swat Team realized my brother was safe and no gunmen could be found, they left.  Surreal.  My mother never really did get the help she needed.

My prayer for today is that this situation would never end that way. May we all be blessed with the capacity to reach out and help and if we can’t help, find someone who can.

BTW, I still love bikes, biking, and photos of bikes. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Randall- Tel Aviv Beach

BTW, I still love bikes, biking, and photos of bikes.
Photo courtesy of Stephanie Randall-
Tel Aviv Beach

Note: Why did I remember this story now? The community I grew up in has a Facebook page, Randallstown, MD – 1970’s and 1980’s,  that suddenly became really active. With that some of my childhood memories have flooded back to me.  At one point, I saw the name of the person who was biking with me on the day of the ‘incident’.  I am not 100% certain he came back with me to the house that day, but I think so. Anyway, judging by his Facebook page, he has grown in very different ways than me. . . so I am not reaching out at this time.   But the memory of this once very special friend brought back the memory of the story above.

 

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Liberty Road Shopping Center Courtesy of Maryland State Road Commission 1967

Liberty Road Shopping Center
Courtesy of Maryland State Road Commission 1967

Sweet memories are starting to form.

I was born and raised outside Baltimore in a fabulous suburb called Randallstown.  Randallstown was an awesome place to grow up for most people.

In the last 48 hours, I have had an amazing experience reconnecting with my Randallstown memories.  For three decades, I nearly never went back; I needed to heal from the a violent childhood that had little to do with my Pikeswood neighborhood and everything to do with what was going on in childhood home.  After three decades of healing, I am loving the memories that are now flooding my senses.  Caplan’s Deli, Baltimore County Public Library, Read’s Drugstore, Liberty Road Bowling (I can’t remember the name), Caples, Beth Israel Congregation, and so much more.

My first job outside of babysitting and a family business was scooping ice cream at Carvels; I loved that job.  And later I pumped gas at Crown Gas; I never could handle the money correctly.  Along that corridor, I also worked as a waitress at an all you can eat restaurant, a cashier at Tangier’s Crab House, and babysat whenever I could.  I learned a lot on the Liberty Road Corridor of my youth.

For the first time in so very long, Randallstown and the community I lived in is putting a huge smile on my face.  The stories are endless.  I wonder where all my neighbors have gone; I wonder about my old friends, the teachers we had, and the shopkeepers that we all knew by name.

I wish I could remember all the names of the roads.  For 10 years or more of my childhood, my bike was my safe escape; I used to bike on the road between Randallstown Senior High School to Deer Park Junior High.  The road didn’t go through, but that didn’t matter, we biked it anyway.  Not even the threat of being shot at by a bee-bee gun from one of the neighbors made us stop, we just rode as fast as we could.  I loved my neighborhood!

What’s funny is looking at the active Facebook page, and seeing so many names I can’t quite remember, but know that I know. 🙂 It has also been fun to reconnect with a few old friends/neighbors.  I am having a blast watching our memories go into overdrive.

While I missed out on a lot of my childhood due to whatever I was facing at home, I feel blessed to be remembering life outside my home now.  I really grew up in an amazing neighborhood.

And then there was Ms. Pfeiffer. . . 

Due to the Facebook page, one funny memory keeps coming back up.  While it isn’t the most important, it is a riot that so many of us remember THAT teacher.

On Facebook, where I am connecting to my old neighborhood, one person asked, “Does anyone remember Ms Pfeiffer? That teacher was so mean to me.” And with that the memories came flooding back.   Ms. Pfeiffer was mean to me too – so mean.  In the end, I became really disobedient when I was in her class. . . .I learned to push her buttons. She may have been the only vile teacher I remember growing up. Maybe.

My little cousin, made the mistake of going into Ms. Pfeiffer’s class during his first day of class and saying, “didn’t you have my cousin Toni Bloomberg (changed my name)?” He had a horrible year after that.

Funny, I had never been so disobedient before her and never after her. But it was with her that I decided to stick up for myself and push the envelope. Mostly I did this quietly, but I pushed back.

She used to make me write 100 times something like I should not talk in homeroom. I vaguely think the sentences were longer than that. In response, I decided to write her notes about what I really thought of her arbitrary rules.  Other times I wrote random sentences just to piss her off. It worked.

The good news is that she taught me resilience and how to advocate for myself.

The best part of the conversation about Ms. Pfeiffer is that I now know that I wasn’t alone.  I didn’t know that so many, if not all, of us found her to be vile. Wow!

We all grew up. . . .

Now that I am reconnecting to my roots, I am also reconnecting to some of my friends and acquaintances that were part of my Randallstown days.

One of the funniest things that I am realizing is that most of us have evolved.  Or maybe we have devolved (is that a word)?

Yesterday, I started thinking about what would it be like for a bunch of us to meet at Maria’s Pizzeria; I used to love that place!!!  The only problem is that at nearly 50 years old, my food choices are quite different and so is the way I think.  Here are some of my realities and preferences:

  • I am krunchy granola and full of passion.
  • I live as a progressive Jew – love the music, the learning, the practices, and the stories.
  • In 2002, I was diagnosed with celiac disease; I am now gluten-free (not to be cool).
  • Love quiet energy, small cafes, walks along the water or in the woods, and every now and then I love to hang with larger groups of friends.
  • I literally never stop thinking about the larger world – what can I do? progressive politics for here and Israel, workers rights, modern day slavery, the list goes on and on…
  • I am a writer – now and always.
  • Unfortunately, I don’t run 10 miles a day, I have had a few pregnancies, and my body shape isn’t what it was.  And yet I love what it is!
  • Oh, and I used to be Toni Bloomberg – I can’t wait to see people wrap their head around that. 🙂

I am not the same person I was and nor is anyone else.  And chances are if people haven’t changed much, I won’t have much to say.  Since I am a work in progress – now and always. Aren’t we all?

In this moment, I am so grateful to whoever started the Facebook page called Randallstown, MD – 1970’s and 1980’s and to Frank Davis for posting the picture above just a couple of days ago.  The memories have really brought me home to a neighborhood that was full of gifts.

 

“There are places I remember all my life
Though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain

All these places have their moments
Of lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I loved them all”

Written by Paul McCartney and John Lennon

 

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Look what I found on my journal page as I was writing this morning. :) Every moment can be the start of something great!

Look what I found on my journal page as I was writing this morning. 🙂 Every moment can be the start of something great!

I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking,
what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means.
What I want and what I fear.

~Joan Didion~

Writing is the way I come to understand the deepest part of me.

My son Dovi often looks at me when I am cranky and asks have I written lately.  Usually when he asks, the answer is ‘no’, hence the reason for my crankiness.

Lately, I haven’t been writing nearly enough.  Life’s challenges have been overwhelming and I haven’t wanted to note it in any way; I wanted to hide my thoughts from myself.  The good news is that this time, my lack of writing was not a sign of darkness; I was simply trusting the silence and allowing myself a little space from knowing navigating the intensity of my soul.

After flirting (in my head) with some new realizations about life and friends last night, I woke up ready to journal for the first time in over two weeks.  While I have been blogging and editing some of my writing for what will be a future book, I wasn’t journaling.  For me journaling is the most intimate form of self-expression that I can experience. In my journals, I have shared thoughts and feelings that I would rarely (if ever) say out-loud.  I use my stream of consciousness writing to unlock pain, process happiness, hope without judgement, and believe in endless possibilities.

In my journal, I reach for the stars and navigate pain; I allow myself to feel deeply.

This morning’s journaling practice woke up my spirit and calmed my sense of overwhelm.

While I often feel like I am treading water or peddling backwards, today I realized that I am always moving! I NEVER give up!!!  As long as I keep moving, I am doing the holy work of living!

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If you do not breathe through writing,
if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing,
then don’t write, because our culture has no use for it.
~A
nais Nin

I am a writer. In the core of my being, I am most comfortable expressing myself through the written word.

Recently, I have been astounded by people questioning the transparency of my writing.  Is there any other way? I think not.

My teacher (who has no idea who I am) is Anne Lamott; she has taught me to write with complete integrity, to share fully, and to not be ashamed of my thoughts and feelings.  One of my favorite teachings that can be found in her book, Bird by Bird, and also in her CD titled, Word by Word, is that I have a right to share my story.  If people didn’t want me to talk bad about them, they should have never done the things they did.  So while, I generally refrain from giving a ton of the darker details of my life, I do have Anne’s voice as my guide.  And her voice resonates-always. Each of her books (and now Facebook status lines) is an example of someone who speaks what she feels from her kishkes (guts). Lamott shares the good, the challenging, the ugly; Anne is a beautiful work in progress. I aspire to have her voice as my guide whenever I am sharing my voice, my thoughts, my writing.

Each and every one of my  written (and spoken) words come from my heart and are part of my essence.  If I write them to you personally, imagine that I am giving you the gift of my heart and soul. Imagine that you are worthy of my truest love.

And for the reader that reads my blog. . . I am sharing with you my purest being. In the moment that I am sharing my thoughts, know that they are coming from the deepest part of me.

Writing,
the song of my heart;
the meaning of my mind;
the feeling of my soul;
Is what makes me One

I am a writer. My words matter and have the power to impact.  My hope is to touch people in ways that make a difference in their lives; simultaneously I feel a positive energy with each and every letter and space that is part of my writing.  The rhythm of my soul is out there for anyone to treasure or to toss out.  Why would I want it any other way?

When I write, I am giving you, the reader, a part of my me.  With each word, I am weaving a personal idea, a thought, a dream; I am sharing the deepest part of the person that I have become.  And yet, what I write one moment, may evolve in another moment; I never stop thinking or growing.

With each breath, I have experienced the fullness that life has had to offer – sometimes with beauty, sometimes with pain, always finding sparks of light.  I am the person I am because of the life I have lived.  Life has blessed me with the ability to look inwards and to evolve as the trek emerges.  With each step, I write as a way to process all that was, is and will be. Capturing the many moving parts of my heart, my soul, and my mind is what I do.  Through writing, I allow the words to flow onto the page and to cleanse my being.  And sometimes, if luck will have it, my words can do something magical for someone else too.

My transparency is a gift.  I welcome you to experience a world that is mine.  Is it rational? Not always.  Is it precious? To me.  Are the moments when my emotions are intense? Of course.

May my words continue to be real –  now and always.
May my words help me stay balanced in a world that often feels off balance.
May my words inspire people in small and large ways.

May I always have the character to ‘say what I need to say’.

With love, light, and blessings,
Chava

Morning Pages Binder

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Shachar and Maddie snuggled together on the many miles from Tucson to Louisa.

Shachar and Maddie snuggled together on the many miles from Tucson to Louisa this December.

On Friday morning, I had to make one of the hardest decisions of my life; I had to euthanize our beloved mutt for unpredictable aggression. After too many episodes with the final episode being the worst, I was forced to make a decision that is devastating to our family.  My heart is healing from saying good-bye to my precious Shachar and my body is healing from the pain I endured when trying to keep my beloved four-legged creatures from hurting each other (it didn’t work).

Just over a year ago, we found Shachar outside the local mall.  At the time she was nearly 20 lbs. underweight and terrified.  We adored her from the first moment we brought her home.  We weren’t sure if we would be able to keep her; Shachar cowered when we tried to pet her and she had no idea how to walk with a lead.  But it took only 24 hours for me to find her curled up on Aryeh, her head resting on his chest.  We were in love.  Even Maddie loved her!  But nearly 8 months after bringing her home, she turned on Maddie. For 5 months we kept them apart and trained each individual dog; we also hired an amazing trainer to bring the girls together and to work with us on doing this in the best way possible.  We were thrilled to have our family back in tact. Sadly, it didn’t last. . . . And the war wounds were too great.

While four days have passed, the emotional and physical pain has knocked me off my feet.  If it weren’t for the fact that Aryeh, my older son, is suffering even more deeply than I, I would have folded into a pile of mush.  Nearly each and every moment, I find myself willing her back into our physical world. I miss Shachar’s sweet presence; I want to feel her snuggles, her warmth, her heartbeat, her obtrusive nature. . .

Except for Aryeh’s profound sadness and Maddie’s (our other dog) sad and healing body.  Life’s realities have barely mattered; I have been almost numb to the realities of money or my own physical pain.  $400 poorer due to unexpected veterinarian fees and hoping that none of the injuries that I sustained need a physician.  (So far, so good on that front.)

What has helped has been my friends and my sons.  Within hours of our loss, our friends David and Jennifer showed up on our doorstep.  And my sons have been making me as many mint or chamomile-citrus lattés as I need to warm my heart and soothe my battered soul.  At times, Aryeh has had to hand me the cups gingerly and grab it as quickly as I finished drinking.  On Saturday, I struggled to hold my mug; I am still struggling with the pain and achiness that I sustained when I tried to save my dogs from one another.  Healing.  And while there was almost nothing that anyone could say, it has helped that nearly 125 friends have actively reached out and offered their love. (Facebook ability to document how many comments are generated does help for some things.)  There wasn’t much that anyone could say, but a few friend’s nailed it perfectly when they said:

You gave her love and she knew it. She did the best she could and so did you. 
Lynn M.

You loved her and gave her a home, she will always know that.
Sharon G.

“so sorry to hear this. Sending you love and condolences.”
Rain Z. and so many others.

Today was the first day that Maddie, Shachar’s furry sister, started moving with more ease.  While I was awake and reading at 5 AM, it took her until nearly 8 AM to start moving, The good news is that when Maddie did get up this morning, she seemed to be able to move, to play, and to bug us whenever someone was prepping in the kitchen. Yay for this huge gift! We are all getting used to a quieter house with no puppy energy; it is too quiet.

We will always miss the way that Shachar loved to wrap herself up to us – the closer the better.  If possible, she tried to rest her head against our heart.  Both Aryeh and I loved feeling her body against us.  Healing will happen, but in the meantime, tears will be falling for a long, long while.

Shachar doing what she loved to do most.  She really had no clue that she wasn't a lap dog.

Shachar doing what she loved to do most. She really had no clue that she wasn’t a lap dog.

Shachar really did need to be as close to us as possible.

Shachar really did need to be as close to us as possible.

 

  We love you Shachar – now and always.

 

 

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“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.”
Quote by Aldous Huxley

I am an optimist.

By nature, I find the good in bad and strive to rise above whatever shit comes my way.  I also notice the rainbows after the storms – both metaphorically and figuratively.  I love life and I tend to make the best out it.

I don’t usually kvetch, whine, about human nature, but tonight I will.

So many well-meaning people feel inclined to tell people how to feel or how despondent they should be when difficult situations occur.  And guess what, none of them enlightenment; they need to be given room to feel exactly how they feel. That goes for me too! 🙂

Years ago, my seriously ill son was heading into his second brain surgery when he had a reaction to the lights and sounds of pre-op.  The lights and sounds physically and desperately caused him pain; in fact, his pain was beyond anything anyone expected for the then 14 year old Aryeh.   At one point, after unexpected hours of trying to prep my son for surgery, a doctor turned to Aryeh and said, “I need to give you a shot, but I promise you it won’t hurt.  Really.  I promise.”  At that, Aryeh started screaming, “Don’t tell me what I will or won’t feel; you don’t know.” To my amazement, the doctor responded beautifully when he said, “No, I don’t know. And I have no right to ever tell anyone how they will feel.”  Instantly, Aryeh calmed down and allowed the doctor to again explain what would happen while sharing how he may or may not feel, but not how he would feel.  And with each word, the doctor spoke with integrity and in the end, Aryeh told him how it felt.

From that very real life experience, I learned never to tell someone how they feel.  When I meet someone who has lost someone they loved or has been sick or whatever, I do not make any assumptions. Each and every one of us handles pain and sadness in our own unique ways.

At this point you may be wondering why am I sharing this now?

Many of you know that the last year has been often overwhelming and sometimes just down-right painful.  Under-employment, Unemployment, loss, and . . . .  well I am sure each person who knows me will have an opinion of what my year must have felt like.   But, I want everyone to stop telling me what I must feel or how hard it is or was.   Instead, take a moment and listen.  If you want to know how I feel, let me share it with you.

In my heart I know that nearly every person who is telling me how they think I am is actually sharing their empathy and how much they care.  But my challenges are my challenges; your challenges are your challenges.  Let us both listen to each other and share what is in our hearts.

While I know that I have been having some hard times; I have also found sparks of light in the darkness.  At any given moment, I may feel anxious or peaceful, sad or happy, joyous or frustrated.  I don’t need someone to enlighten me on how I should or do feel.

Each of us navigate life in the best way we know how; we all see those realities through our own lens.

Someone obviously thought this was a congested area; I saw it as an oasis of solitude.

Someone obviously thought this was a congested area;  I saw it as an oasis of solitude.

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Yesterday, I felt like a broken vessel that had nothing to give to the world around me.  With deep sadness, I began to untangle the spiritual hell of the last few years and 2014 in specific.  I allowed myself the space to mourn the loss of time and some beloved connections.

As someone who chooses to find light in the midst of darkness, I wasn’t sure how to navigate out or if I could in fact do it.  The good news is that I literally have no reference for failure in my personal life.  I have always moved towards the light and found the sparks when life felt destitute.

The beauty of yesterday and the dark times that preceded yesterday is that even in my deepest sadness, I knew I was being held and loved.  I just had to go through all that I was feeling.  My heart felt like it was shattering nearly every moment of the day, but by night I was easing into a quieter and less dramatic space.

Today, I am far from joyous, but I am feeling the light warm my heart; I am opening to life’s realities and breathing a little more into the pain; the pain is breaking up.  With each breath, I am finding a little more balance and a little  hope too.

No tears have fallen today and I have had time to rest, write, and read.  In the midst of it all, I loved preparing a nice breakfast for my family and mostly acknowledging that I was moving forward. And in a few minutes, I will be chanting with some new and old friends.   With each act, I am putting my vessel back together.

2014 can not define who I am, but it can help me to grow.  My spirit may be wounded, but with each crack more and more light can enter.  Rumi was correct when he said, “The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”

May sparks of light make 2015 a year of blessings, peace, and love.

celebrating with a mint tea latté. While today is a day of reflection, healing, and moving forward, it is also a day of celebrating what is. Yum! לחיים! To Life

Celebrating with a mint tea latté.
While today is a day of reflection, healing, and moving forward, it is also a day of celebrating what is. Yum!
לחיים! To Life

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