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Archive for October, 2015

Polish-Slovakian border - Stephanie Randall

Polish-Slovakian border: Courtesy of Stephanie Randall

Not all those who wander are lost.’*

I wander a lot; I explore the world with every movement and every breath; I seek answers to questions that seem insurmountable, only to find the answer in a prayer or a chant.  On many of my excursions, I am not sure where I am going or how I will get there. Other times I think I know where I am going only to be end up somewhere completely unexpected.

All I know for certain is that I am on a journey. All of us are. With each step, I am trying to walk gently while being the most authentic that I can be. In those same moments, I am fumbling to understand the world I live in with all the wild landscapes that encompass each step.

While I often feel like I have a choice on how to get from point A to point B, more likely I am guided.  My feet may appear to move as if they have direction, but that is rarely the case. Mostly I look at my life as moments of Lech Lecha-ing; a gentle guide or teacher emerges to make sure I make it to the best possible place.

Sometimes I feel like I am tripping over my own two feet, but what I am actually doing is finding solid ground in the best way I know how. There is no straight and smooth path to take me from where I am; the path is rocky and sometimes quite daunting.

Just when I think I can’t take another step, I remember to breathe. Only once I take a deep breathe do I find that I have what it takes to continue with yet another step. Breathing deeply reminds me to see the beauty that surrounds me wherever I am.

I am alive; I am thriving; I am reaching; I am being exactly who I am. Halleluyah.

*”Not all those who wander are lost.” – probably inspired or written by J. R. R. Tolkien for his poem called “All That is Gold Does Not Glitter” for his fantasy novel The Lord of the Rings.

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One of Jamie's last photos  - Kauai: Paradise Found

One of Jamie’s last Facebook photos – Kauai: Paradise Found

I love deeply.

As someone who loves people as I do, I often connect with people instantly.  It is not something I think about, it simply is. What I have learned over the last fifteen or so years is that I either have a connection or I don’t.  Are there exceptions to this rule. . .absolutely, but it is still a guiding principle within my life.

Some of my closest friendships have been made in 20 seconds or less on a good day, up to a minute on a questionable day. For the most part, if a friendship takes too much work initially, it isn’t a friendship worth keeping.

The people that come into my life in under a minute quickly become my soul friends. I often forget that they haven’t been in my life forever. Which can become awkward when I KNOW they know something, that of course they don’t. Those relationships tend to transcend time or space. Those are the friendships I want to keep and hold forever.

The only problem is that those friendships don’t always last.  Sometimes they end because they had an expiration date and sometimes they end because of serious illness or death.

Just this week, I lost a new friend, Jamie Zimmerman. You wouldn’t have known it by how we connected, but it is what it is.  In my heart, I think we both believed that we would one day do something profound together; I don’t know what I mean by that. . .it was just a hunch. The only problem is that earlier this week, an accident on the beaches of Hawaii took her life. As soon as I heard this, I couldn’t stop sobbing.  We had just had a couple of hours together when she came to Houston a couple of months ago. Loved our time and couldn’t wait until we would meet again.

But sometimes there are no tomorrows. http://wp.me/pthnB-5i So as I am wiping my tears away, I wonder how to best remember this brilliant woman. With an amazing gusto for living her passions, she wanted to share all she knew and inevitably spread her light too. She was a born leader who generously gave her heart and soul. While Jamie was nearly 20 years younger than I am, I had so much to learn from this beautiful soul.  I am so sorry I don’t have more time with her, but also grateful for the time I did have.

Jamie’s death has forced me to look at how I walk in the world.  How can I face the reality of sudden loss? How do I process accidents at all? Last month another friend of mine had a cycling accident.  I took that one hard too and he really was ok by the time I knew of his fall – battered and healing.

Over the last several years, I have learned that dread and vulnerability fill me when I hear of sudden accidents and loss whether they cause death or simply physical challenges of all sorts. Perhaps it is because I realize that as a single mother, I fear that my children would be alone if something happened to me. Or perhaps I have felt and witnessed the effects of sudden loss.  Either way, I am struggling internally right now.

Early onset of dementia took another close friend away a few years ago.  In fact, my friend Sharon was the person, I had planned to give my most personal information before I realized that the door of opportunity had closed.  Life doesn’t always work as we expect. Sigh.

With every fiber of my being, I hope I never lose the ability to connect with people as I do.  And yet I do need to find a way to accept the realities that come with loving people.  Those that I love will not necessarily always be present. Nor is it a given that I will be present for them.

The responsibility to live in the most authentic way possible becomes a necessity when you don’t know what tomorrow will bring.  It also means that I am responsible for being fully present in life and with those I love.  Tomorrow will be what it is, so I have to actively engage in this moment and to be the best person I can be within each of my interactions with the world; whether I connect daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, or even less, my hope is that I will always the best person I can be.

Thinking about Jamie
Jamie was full of life; she actively engaged in life and strived to embrace all of life.  She also had a keen sense of how to honor herself and reach for her highest self.  I didn’t know Jamie well, but I wish I did.  Her spirit was full of light, she illuminated not only where she was standing at any given moment, but her beautiful energy brightened the world.  The world is a much better place because of her presence in it.

While I don’t know what Jamie and I may have accomplished if given the opportunity, I do know that I need to take the lessons I learned from our brief friendship.  And that is exactly what I will do.

~ ~ ~

May I learn to kiss the ground with my feet and reach for the stars with every bone in my body.

May I be blessed with the fearlessness to let my full light shine as I nurture my spirit a little more fully.

May I never stop loving as deeply as I do out of fear of losing the beauty of what was.

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Pantano Wash, Tucson Arizona

SEEKING LIGHT:Pantano Wash, Tucson Arizona

(Note: WordPress seems to have a mind of it’s own right now and will not let me organize paragraph’s and spaces as needed.)

     Forgive me, I am feeling the urge to purge some of the thoughts that keep racing around my brain. Yes, this is absolutely a diatribe. No matter how hard I try, I can’t stop my mind from living and reliving the many nightmares that I see surrounding me, my community, our nation, and our world. The world feels like it is getting worse by the moment.
     With information coming to all of us at a rapid fire pace, it is hard to convince myself that things aren’t really as bad as they seem. They are bad. Our world is a really challenging place and regardless of our politics, we are all feeling it.
Before I start, let me say, I am writing in my blog and I don’t want to be politically correct. Mostly I have been respectful of others on my blog. I share my journey, many of thoughts, and now it is time for me to say what I really about Israel, marginalization of black people, gun control, immigration, women’s rights, climate change, modern day slavery and the list could go on for hours.
     While I accept the fact that none of my thoughts are simple, they feel like they should be. Human rights matter!!! Period. No question. If you feel differently, please don’t continue to read. And in all honesty, if you have Republican leanings, it is due to so many of your beliefs and/or the staunch Republican politicians that our country is in the condition it is.
     I love people. I am a bleeding heart liberal that wishes that I could really make a positive impact in not only my community, and our nation, but in the larger world. I do what I can and I always will.
     Let’s start simple, why do people purchase items made from slave labor? Why would anyone want a sweet morsel of chocolate that comes at the expense of another human being. In truth, I understand that not everyone is aware of who makes their clothing or who picks their cocoa beans, but seriously, if you do know, why wouldn’t you change your ways and look for ways to end slave labor? I don’t have two spare cents to rub together, but I have made decisions for how I shop. If you want to learn more ask. . .I will share. But you don’t need me, there are amazing resources in the fair-trade world. And if money is your concern, don’t buy what you can’t afford or go to thrift shops, consignment stores, etc. to get what you need and want. At least, this way, those that are human rights violators don’t receive direct benefit. And if you really feel like you need something that you can’t live without then only buy exactly what you need until you can afford products that take human rights into consideration. And if your curious, yes that does mean that Hershey is ENEMY #1.
Next
     Climate change is hurting our universe. It isn’t a fabricated tale and yet there are so many limited people that believe this. Look at the storms, look at the landscape, the pollution, and look at your carbon footprint. And if your really curious, consider taking the time to study what scientists are saying, not politicians that want to fabricate a story to meet their needs. And look at the loss of lives, home, and land over the last decade.
Next
     Having a child is a choice. There are so many reasons that women need to make a choice that may not seem “right’ to you and even to me, but it isn’t my right to dictate how people take care of their bodies. As a survivor of rape, I can’t imagine how I would have responded to being told I couldn’t have an abortion. While I didn’t have that experience, I wouldn’t want it. And as for some pregnancies, if I were to have gotten pregnant during my fertile years, it would have been an unwanted baby. I wanted children more than words could say, but my one surviving birth was a miracle. I lost many pregnancies before and after my biological son was born. Once doctors understood my genetic reality, there was no way I would have wanted to carry a pregnancy to term or even until I miscarried it. Why should I even have to? Why should anyone?
     Let women decide how to take care of their bodies and meet their needs. And don’t make people go to back alleys and have abortions by scummy beings or doctors that are awesome enough to break the law. Let’s not go back in time and cause the devastation that once was.
Next
     All my life, I have heard about the countries that turned their backs on the Jews before and during the Holocaust. And now that refugees are trying to navigate towards safety and a life of freedom, we are perpetuating the same realities that existed in the late 1930s and in the 1940s. We are creating situations that allow for the black market to take over. Why can’t we open our country up and make immigration easier. I feel like I live in a population full of prejudice with an ethnocentric politicians/people.
     Instead of building a fence, make it easier for people to live and then watch them flourish. While it make take a while, people will thrive once they are given the room to soar.
Next
     How many more school children and students have to be murdered at the hands of someone that should never have had had access to a gun? For $200 you can go out and buy a gun. Perhaps you are facing an emotional crisis and you feel despondent for a period. No problem, just go to the local store and buy a gun, a couple bullets, and then take your life. Or better yet, you find out that someone screwed you, why not just buy a gun and blow them and their family away. It really is that simple. Why not consider a federal tax and a local tax for each and every gun you own. We can do this yearly or upon purchase. Heck, our dogs need a license to live in our homes.
     And seriously folks, who needs assault riffles? I am reasonably certain that no one does except perhaps military, law enforcement, and drug dealers.
     There are many steps that can be taken from all encompassing background checks, waiting periods, significant taxation, required training, and making it illegal for children to have access to all guns. Finally it should be illegal to have undocumented private transfer with no background checks.
     While I don’t understand why most people need a gun, I do understand that more can be done to prevent firearm related deaths.
Next
     Black Lives Matter! Period. While we can all say all lives matter, I know that as a white woman, the color of my skin will not marginalize in any way, shape, or form. I am secure that even if I made a mistake and ran a red light, I wouldn’t have to fear police brutality. And while I know the majority of officers are keeping our streets safe, there are some that aren’t and too many that are being kept on the force despite previous actions. And while I know there are challenges in the black community, we aren’t doing enough in society to change this reality. Violence begets violence – I pray that no more officers lose their lives due to hatred for ‘the uniform’ and I pray that those same officers show discernment while also keeping themselves safe.
Next
     Israel occupies territories and then wonders why a subjugated people are angry and ungrateful. Gaza is an open air prison that Israel has more or less created.
     No children should have to see their parents blown away on any side of the fence. And should I even discuss the fence? I will skip that here. No one should have to fear going out on an evening walk. And yet none of this is simple. Daily, there have been regular attacks on Palestinians in the territory, even the recent deaths of Israelis. And you wonder why violence is being perpetrated and people are ready to explode. We keep building settlements and destroying the dignity of those that live on their land. Again, I do not encourage violence, but I do think the current government is destructive and destroying any chance of peace in our lifetime.
Finally
     Our world could be so much better, if different choices were made. With every ounce of my being, I pray for peace for all.
From Langston Hughes:
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore-
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over-
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?

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This Photo of Philadelphia Tunnels/Doorways is given by courtesy of my beloved friend and fellow writer Wicca Davidson. I love how she captured this view. Wow.

This Photo of Philadelphia Tunnels/Doorways is given by courtesy of my beloved friend and fellow writer Wicca Davidson. I love how she captured this view. Wow.

Life is beautiful; life is also hard and messy.

Sometimes we look at people and we forget that inside their soul lies many layers of complicated thoughts and feelings, life experiences with sparks of pain and light, some on the surface and so many more on the layers that lie beneath what you see.  None of us know what is happening or has happened beyond the scope of what we see.

This Shabbat, we read the story of creation from this week’s parsha, weekly Torah reading. If you have ever followed this story, you know that all of creation started with darkness.  What a profound metaphor, only after we face the darkness can life or light emerge.

At the moment, I am considering this metaphor in a myriad of ways.  Besides the creation story, life often evolves from dark. The list is endless. All of us started in the womb, caterpillars spin a silky cocoon before they can emerge as a butterfly, seeds take root in the soil before they sprout, and life’s messiness sometimes leads to beautiful gifts (and sometimes not). What all of these things have in common is that so much is happening below the surface.

Yesterday nurtured my intense spirit as profoundly as I have seen in recent times.  And throughout each and every step of the day, I kept finding myself reflecting.

Things are not always what they seem.

As I sat at the memorial service for a 28 year old man who walked into interstate traffic without making it past all lanes of traffic, I realized that there was so much more to this story than I could have known by watching the news or even understood before knowing the fuller story. While some of you will judge this story based on your own experiences, you should know that appearances may be different than reality. And in this case, there is no doubt that what the average person would ‘see’ is far from what was.  May this man’s family and loved ones find solace in his memory being for a blessing. After hearing his siblings and his father speak, I have no doubt that that is exactly what will be.

And then I came home to find the eulogy of a 15 year old who committed suicide. As I read my friend’s eulogy, my heart broke open wide. So often we see what’s in front of us, but if our eyes are not open wide, we miss the entire story.

Every person has a role in the world we live. As a mother, a sister, a friend, a teacher, a human being, I know this. As someone who was a daughter, a wife, and a friend to many that I have lost, I know this even more. It takes a village to raise a child. And it takes a universe to make sure the child makes it to adulthood or at least it feels that way. And through our lives, it takes compassion and grace to support those we love and to receive what is offered too.

Things are not always what they seem.

When I look at a long and winding road. I treasure the beauty and notice the flowers, the bridges, the terrain, the wildlife.  I may even notice the tractors, the cars, or the people I pass.  But what I don’t know is what colored that beauty. Did someone die on that road? Did a flood or fire once leave the land barren? Did someone’s heart break when their beloved partner of 20 years told them that their relationship was over. All I know is what I see, that’s it.

In the last several years, I have been fascinated with Facebook. Some people believe that they know who I am based on my posts. Perhaps they are correct, perhaps not. My guess is that those who only use my facebook status lines to know how I am are only getting part of the story. I am far too intense to share my heart and soul so deeply. And in all honesty, I am quite private too.

Things are not always what they seem.

Yesterday, I learned what it means to look a little deeper. Since all creation can be messy, I know that I have to get down and messy with it. I have to plant the seeds, by playing in the dirt; paint a picture, by painting lots of mistakes before my skills emerge or a masterpiece is created; by kneading the dough before it makes yummy bread; and by writing poorly before I can write coherently at worst and meaningful at best.

Each and every day that I am alive reinforces what I already know. ‘Never judge a book by it’s cover’.  As hard as it is, take the time to dig deeper and forge beautiful connections. Find out what is happening deep inside, so that you can really understand what you see on the outside.

May light follow as it did in creation. May humankind find peace in our lifetime.

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L I V I N G is holy work.
 
Reflection Time Selfie

Reflection Time Selfie

 
Life is so profoundly full
My body craves less
My mind would love some emptiness
My heart desires just a little more.
 
Dance is the hidden language of the soul. (Martha Graham)
Stretching my entire being
Reaching for the stars
Allowing my body to sway to my own rhythm
 
Losing what I don’t need
Addictions, loved ones, and inner turmoil
Body weight, too much stuff, and lots of old stories
Wanting to celebrate what was
while letting go of what is no longer needed
 
Craving what I need:
Writing time
Creative experiences
and spiritual moments
 
Chanting
Drumming
Journaling
Moving
 
My body
My mind
My soul
Needs so much less and so much more
 
Each time I reach inward, I find more that I want
He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how. (Nietzsche)
My soul yearns to make a difference
My body and mind yearn to see the world through a different lens.
 
Let go of the old, make room for the possibilities
 
In front of me is a bridge
Only once I shed what I don’t need
Release what no longer serves me
Take one step and then another
Only then, will I be able to cross the bridge
 
L I V I N G is holy work
So I will do ALL that I have to do.
Hineini
Here I Am
Pantano Wash, Tucson Arizona

Pantano Wash, Tucson Arizona

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My name is the gift I gave myself.  It nurtures my essence and reminds me of all I am and all I want to be.

I am alive. I dance to my own drummer and navigate the world in my own unique ways.

Photo Courtesy of Aryeh Grossman; Composition by Marty Johnson

Photo by Aryeh Grossman;                          Composition by Marty Johnson

i am Chava
lover of life
survivor of blackened skies
believer of the future

i am Chava
beaten but not destroyed
strangled but always breathing
blessed to be exactly who I am

a women who finds light in darkness
a dreamer who never stopped dreaming
a drummer who beats to her own rhythm
a writer who knows that her voice matters

i am a wave of light
who seeks light in the shadows of nightmares
who finds sparks in tunnels
who navigates the murky waters of life
and calls wherever I am – home.

Gal-Or
the moon calls to me
the sun warms my heart
both soothe my soul

i am alive
i am thriving
i am soaring
my world is simply precious beyond words.

I am not sure when I learned how to dance or to sing. I can’t remember when I found my voice or my rhythm. And yet, I have.  My world was not diminished by the demons that had moments of breaking my spirit.

My heart broke, so many times my entire being felt shattered.  The tears fell and welts swelled – sometimes physical and sometimes metaphorically. And yet, the clouds allowed splinters of light to stream around me and into me.

The bruises have healed and my heart is now intact.  The door has opened wide and has beckoned me through.  Feel my heartbeat, imagine how deeply I can now breathe, and watch my spirit soar.

I am Chava Gal-Or.

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