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I slept so well last night but woke up with anxiety running really deep. I think I get where it’s coming from, but I’m not 100% sure yet.

Before I even opened my eyes, I decided to seek the wisdom of some cards I had on my nightstand. (See above) I haven’t been doing this practice as regularly as I once did, but it’s a powerful tool for gaining inner wisdom. So before even turning on the light, I picked a card that called to me from Juicy Living Cards by SARK. What’s funny is that I think I may have picked this card one of the last times I used this particular deck – not including a couple of nights before when I felt called to seeking wisdom in this way.

The card I picked makes so much sense. I need to play. . .really play!!! My soul has been painfully aware of the many dichotomies that I live. My calling is wrestling with it’s many parts. My activism reminds me that the work that needs to be done is overwhelming and even scary. And my creative spirit needs so much more nurturing. AND even though my dreams are unfolding leaving me with new opportunities, I need to take care of myself with each breath.

This morning, I am taking time to drive out to the country to look at a retreat center/camp for our upcoming Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom retreat. While I have just begun this journey with my holy Muslim and Jewish sisters, I feel like I am finding a beautiful new rhythm for my life.

Ironically, I don’t have time to play or to nurture new connections, but I don’t have time not to. My soul needs the connections I am building with the Sisterhood and with a new beloved in my life. While I don’t know where any of these journeys will take me or even what tomorrow will bring, I do know that I am need to do whatever it takes to navigate what my teacher SARK calls the ‘marvelous messy middle’.

My life is full. I am just coming off of a writing sabbatical with so much more writing to do. My work is inspiring me to give more and more – not to mention the programming year is beginning this weekend. I am writing a book called, Thriving: No Option. . . . And my activism needs me to show up to the table again and again and again.

The good news is that EVERYTHING I am doing fuels my heart and soul! EVERYTHING I do nourishes me even the hard stuff. As a beloved friend recently wrote to me, “your heart beats for many. We’re all fortunate to have those heartbeats drumming away to heal us, like your djembe does for you.”

And I am tired. . . .tired to the core. This morning, I found myself chanting, drumming a little, writing and excited for what is ahead. I am so looking forward to what’s coming this morning and beyond. Driving out of the country today is exactly what I need. I will have a chance to see my sisters and if I am lucky I will also have a little time for me. In anticipation, I am bringing my journal, some watercolors, and my markers ….

This week has been particularly hard on my spirit; there is so much for me to do and a small health concern I am navigating. On top of it all, I still need to remember to breathe deeply and honor my spirit.

I’m understanding some things about myself that are leaving me afraid. I’m also loving the possibilities with an understanding that it will take time for life to unfold so that I can get to where I need to be. A difficult dichotomy to be sure. And yet, full of hope.

Healing seems to be the message I need to hear because two nights ago, I picked another healing card from the same Juicy Living Cards by SARK:

 

 

The moral of how I am currently walking in the world is:
“The only journey is the one within.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

Onward with love, light, and blessings,
Chava

PS: Thanks for reading what will likely be part of my memoir which at this point is being called, Thriving: No Option. . . . If you like what you are reading, please take a moment and like it on WordPress or any social media site, And if you have feedback, I’d love to hear it.

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Initial Reflection post last night’s Houston Vigil Against Detention Camps at SW Key:

Last night, I went to an action/vigil against detention centers or what I now choose to call concentration camps. Together I joined hundreds of people in front of the SW Key Juvenile Detention Center in Houston; ironically this center is on a street that was recently renamed Emancipation Ave.

As I stood strong against these centers, I found myself wondering why more of my friends didn’t join me; I do understand some were bound by Jewish law so a Friday night or Saturday vigil is not appropriate for them, but I have been at a bunch of actions and I haven’t been seeing enough of them. If we are supposed to take care of the stranger, the widows, the orphans, the poor, why aren’t more of our faith based leaders and their congregants joining this holy work?

As the evening progressed, I watched as the police officers initially charged at the peaceful activists with their aggressive energy and a bunch of horses too. Watching them, I found myself fully grasping that they were  following orders regardless of their beliefs. Is that what many Nazis did? Follow orders without wondering the full ramifications of what they were responding to. To be clear, the officers were not cruel, they were simply ‘doing their job’ and following orders. But I wonder if they even considered that all of the protesters were feeling deep pain for what brought us to stand for hours to protest how our country is treating refugees and undocumented people.

And finally, I stood in awe of the protesters. People of all ages, backgrounds, and spiritual traditions who stood together chanting, singing, drumming, and sharing their thoughts. The vigil was grounded in values and kindness. People were coming together for love of humanity and anger about how horrific our government is treating those they deem illegal. No human is illegal!

Salas Haider and I

7/12/2019 Houston Vigil Against Detention Camps at SW Key with my beloved tribe including Donna Olson-Salas, Chava Gal-Or, Sarah Haider, Federico Salas-Isnardi  

 

 

 

Deeper Reflections: 

As a young girl, I remember questioning, ‘where were all the Germans when their beloved neighbors were being taken away?’ I also used to question how all of those Nazi soldiers could have been OK with the dehumanization of people. I am still wondering those same questions.

Today, the questions are the similar. Why aren’t more people standing up for humanity?How can the border patrol, police officers, and other ‘professionals’ who work at the Deportation Centers live with themselves? How can we have so many leaders who essentially describe refugees as vermin?

As we watch parts of our government dehumanize those seeking asylum from their own hell, I am wondering why more moral people aren’t standing up against the atrocities we hear about daily in the news? Why aren’t more people actively engaged in loving humanity?

While the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum may demand that people don’t use “Holocaust” terms to describe the current treatment of refugees, I feel certain that many of the “Detention Centers” could be better described as Concentration Camps on a good day. Children have been ripped from their families; families have been separated from their loved ones; there is a shortage of water, beds, food, and all necessities for those that are being detained.

And meanwhile, there are many loving people that are choosing to do little or nothing to help humanity. What’s wrong with this picture? LOTS!!!

A long time ago, I came to understand that I can do many things and some will be done well, some less well. Regardless of the fact that I can’t do it all, humanity always needs me to do as much as I can. That means I can love and care for my family, work for a living, have a nonprofit that helps people, write, paint, and I can still do more than one thing. Babies are in jails instead of being loved and held by their mamas and papas!  And that is not the only issue I care about; I also care about the environment, education, health care, and so much more.

And what angers me more than anything right now is that I have good friends, community members, and neighbors that would probably watch their neighbors be taken to a concentration camp before choosing to show up and defend them. What is their excuse? Work. Family. Hobby. Too much to do to take on one more thing.  Or perhaps they think they can only do one thing at a time. . .  I call BULLSHIT! And I am not talking about my friends who have loved ones who are struggling with health challenges. They need to focus on navigating health challenges. When my sons were critically ill at different times, I also stopped doing what I could to make the world a better place, but as soon as I could, I returned to showing up in the world or at least I really tried.

Young families have their own challenges too. . .I get it. AND I also understand that my own sons learned that I cooked for those who were sick, went on actions for humanity, used to volunteer/sleep at a homeless shelter one night a week throughout the late fall and winter.  My sons understood that I showed up. They also watched their father leave the house to go on volunteer calls with the Red Cross whenever disasters hit our community. Our children can handle us showing up to make the world a better place. In fact, if they see us parents caring deeply, they may even choose to show up themselves. One of mine does; the other, not yet. 

My Past Is Guiding Me:

As a child, my neighbors stood by as I suffered. They did nothing! They heard the screams; they closed the ears. I want to be better than that.

Hineini, Hear I am. Where are you?

Onward with love, light, and blessings,
Chava

PS: Thanks for reading what will likely be part of my memoir which at this point is being called, Thriving: No Option. . . . If you like what you are reading, please take a moment and like it on WordPress or any social media site, And if you have feedback, I’d love to hear it.

 

 

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57 CollectionLast night, I finished Day 57 of #The100DayProject / #ActivistCardsByChava. Ironically, the card I created was HOPE. From the beginning, this project was supposed to be my journey towards sharing my light, my optimism, and my belief that our world would be good during this time of political divide. I wanted to use these cards as a tool to help us heal from the travesties of our  disastrous political climate. The only problem is that somewhere along the way I slipped into complete darkness around our country’s politics and became despondent for our future. And so, #ActivistCardsByChava became my personal journey towards healing my spirit so that I could keep doing whatever I could to repair the world.

Each of the 3 x 4 inch cards that I have painted using watercolor and markers holds an idea of what activists can do to improve our world. Not only broad actions are included, but self-care ideas too. Activists will burn out quickly if they don’t take care of themselves while also doing the holy work of caring for the larger world. Each and every card was inspired by an article, a picture, a poem, a Facebook post, a song, etc. Ironically on a day when I was really lacking hope, I tripped over ‘Show Up With Hope’: Anne Lamott’s Plan for Facing Adversity.  https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2018/10/embark-essay-anne-lamott-hope- Day 57’s card, HOPE, was inspired by this reading. In fact, nearly ever one of my Activist Cards was inspired by the wisdom of others.

Another gift came yesterday when I remembered the most inspirational line from Flashdance, my favorite movie of the 1980s, “If you give up your dream, you die.”* So while my spirit may have officially broken this past week it also did some healing too. We all have dreams to birth and work to do.

img_2296While I love each and every one of these cards, my favorite is Choose To Thrive. Maybe that is because regardless of whether:

  1. Trump is POTUS.
  2. Brett Kavanaugh is on the Supreme Court.
  3. I am navigating the loss of a dear friend.
  4. Climate change is destroying our environment.
  5. Antisemitism is out of control.
  6. A loved one is healing from sexual violence.
  7. My voice is feeling silenced in so many ways.
  8. Ted Cruz is currently my senator.
  9. I am feeling abandoned by a beloved friend.
  10. I am losing faith.

My job is to show up and embrace the world and to ‘Keep On Movin’ On’.  Personally, I hope you know it’s your job too!  Have you seen the angels? Angels who are organizing the activists to canvas for amazing people in the political arena, to register citizens to vote, to drive voters to the polls, and so much more. And let’s not forget the creatives who are inspiring us all through their art, writing, and music.

Even an optimist like myself has bad weeks of wrestling with darkness around what is happening in the world. The good news is that ‘the sun will come out tomorrow’ and if you are keeping your eyes open, you will find messages everywhere to counteract despair.

Onward with love, light, and hope!

(Note: for fun here is a link to Flashdance, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zH4tNhN5gQc}

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(Note: To learn more information on #The100DayProject which is also known as #ActivistCardsByChava, you can see https://wp.me/pthnB-3cH.)

Tears can be cleansing and necessary and yet all week long I have been stopping myself from letting them flow.

This week I heard the beautiful rabbi I work with telling a child who was acting a little shy, “It’s ok honey, you just do you.” Something about the timing and my raw spirit at that second resonated. I wanted to “do me” too. I was so tired of showing up and being present when all I wanted to do was hide a rock. I was also tired of feeling the need to couch my thoughts and opinions so not to be offensive. And yet, there is so much value in the last comment too. I guess the key is to find balance.

While I love so much of my life, I have grown a little weary in the last period of time. I have been intensely sad as I have seen some of my beloveds facing some earth shattering pain and devastated with my inability to make a difference. I have had to show up at places simply because it was the right thing to do or perhaps just my job. And throughout it all, I have seen myself become a little unglued at moments.

With the politics of our country what they are and so many people hurting, I have needed to cry, but instead of decompressing I just found myself moving forward and doing the next best thing.

And then there is the reality of changing relationships that has at moments left me bereft with the realization that I am simply not enough nor can I give enough. Each realization has left treading water and wishing I could be more grounded or maybe just hide under the rock until I feel like I am.

Have you ever noticed how our expectations are often different from what reality looks like? Perhaps that is the gift from the universe; perhaps it is a curse from the universe. Life is simply a game that I get to re-frame each and every minute if I am going to find what my teacher SARK likes to call the “marvelous messy middle”.  This is what enables me  time to find the sparks of light that are often just below the surface or to re-frame deep sadness into learning opportunities. When I am really observant, I find the angels that emerge from the darkness to spin a cocoon around my heart.

This week challenged me to the core.

Every second of my week felt overwhelmingly full. The blessing is that even when I wanted to get lost in my pain, I found the inner strength to show up for those I love. When I wanted to curl up into a ball and shout about the unfairness of it all, my friends surrounded me and reminded me of how loved I am. And one treasured moment came as I watched a loved one start to heal from the inside out after having experienced horrific pain. Things are rarely all bad or all good. Maybe I should celebrate that I actually had a few balanced moments.

Yet seesawing seemed to be a never-ending story.

The unfolding of the news around Brett Kavanaugh’s potential nomination to the Supreme Court was and still continues to devastate our country and show the ugliness of our divided country.

Doing me meant that hiding under a rock was not an option.  Instead I did political activism. by showing up at a panel discussion last Friday night and then going to McAllen, Texas last Saturday so that I could bear witness and stand in solidarity with the children being detained away from their parents. The good news is that I was surrounded with so many others who wanted to make a difference.  The sad news is that those children are still locked in detentions centers and tent cities too.

Unfortunately the 11+ hour trek triggered my own memories of childhood loneliness and sadness, of foster care and violence. And yet, there is no questioned of how blessed I am as someone who has always thrived in spite of my experiences. I pray the same will  be possible for the thousands of children who are suffering so much more deeply than I can imagine.

And then on Monday afternoon and early evening, I continued to push myself by  canvasing for the Democratic Party and doing my part to register voters. I was doing what I had to do. Our world needed me to push myself even if I felt like I couldn’t. So I did just that!

And then as I was finally decompressing Tuesday night, I received the unexpected call that none of us want to hear. My friend called me to tell me that his beautiful wife had just died. Immediately, I asked if he wanted me to come over and when he said yes, I rushed to be by his side. When I arrived a short time later, I was able I see Ellen who had just a few short hours again been alive and doing her best to survive some very serious illnesses.  As soon as I saw her, I asked her husband if I could sing the Shema to my beloved friend. He said yes which allowed me to sing what I consider to be the holiest prayer of the Jewish tradition to my Episcopal friend reminding her spirit and my soul of our shared love for God. As soon as I finished, the funeral home arrived to take Ellen out of her home for the very last time. Even with the deep sadness, I could also feel holiness reverberating.

While I knew that my new friend was really sick, I had hopes of being part of her life for more time. In the short time that I had known her, Ellen had quickly become both dear to me and my writing mentor – only she didn’t know it yet; she inspired me and reminded me to live – only she died too fast.  I had originally planned to visit her on Monday afternoon, but I was so tired after my very long weekend of activism followed by an incredibly long workday on Sunday which included wrapping up of the cycle of Jewish holidays.

Sadly, I lost another a last chance to be with Ellen who I had only met after Hurricane Harvey devastated her beautiful church which was now housed at our Temple. Even now it is wild to think that I would have not met some of my closest friends if Hurricane Harvey had never come a year earlier.

As the sun began to set yesterday, the many triggers of the week finally opened up the floodgates making it impossible to hold back my tears any longer. I cried for the world, the children in detention, the families separated because of our cruel government, my sadness over evolving relationships and devastated friends. I cried for Ellen and for the love that is bubbling up in my heart, but has no where to go. I even cried for my sweet puppy that is not training with ease. The tears came at a breakneck speed and now even in my exhaustion, I am feeling so much better. I simply needed to cry.

After my spiritually exhausting week, the rawness took  over and opened the door so that I could “do me”.  Hineini, Here I am.

Day 55 - Tears Can Cleanse your heart and spirit

Onward with love, light, and blessings,
Chava

PS – Will probably be editing this piece one more time.

 

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(Note: To learn more information on #The100DayProject which is also known as #ActivistCardsByChava, you can see https://wp.me/pthnB-3cH.)

Day 28 - HineiniNearly every day, I take time to go inward through my journaling, meditation, and chanting practices, I often focus on remaining present. Breathing deeply, focusing inward, and ultimately figuring out where I am truly meant to be. This isn’t always easy because in truth I am also a bit scattered.

With Rosh HaShana on the horizon, this reflection seems more poignant than ever. Learning from those moments that I allow myself to go inward, I know that I need to navigate my life differently then I did this past year so . The goal is to ultimately show up for others as needed, but also honor my own needs.  It’s time for me to prioritize all the moving parts of my life while also creating boundaries around the things that I hold sacred.

May I always be present – not only for my family, my friends, and my world, but also for myself.

Hineini. Here I am. I am present. I am exactly where I should be.

Onward with love, light, & authenticity,
Chava

PS – I’d love your feedback on my blog, my writing, my thinking, and/or my Activist Cards!!! Feel free to like or comment. I will try to respond to all comments to this blog. Input is always welcome.

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(Note: To learn more information on #The100DayProject which is also known as #ActivistCardsByChava, you can see https://wp.me/pthnB-3cH.)

Deep sigh.

I’ve been wondering lately how to navigate life authentically. Today I believed I failed. I lacked the character that would allow me to shine in my true light and be truly honest.

Authenticity is a value that I hold deeply. And yet, sometimes I can’t show up fully. Maybe it is the responsibility I hold as a Jewish educator,  a mother, an activist and/or a friend.

There are lies that I live. How horrible is that? I am silenced by my roles and yet I do know that my voice matters.

Still, I am not alone when I say that I fear the power of my voice. Katy Perry has a beautiful song ‘Roar’.  It is an anthem to the type of woman I want to be.

I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter
Dancing through the fire
‘Cause I am a champion, and you’re gonna hear me roar

Day 26 - Embrace Authenticity, Embrace DarknessMay I always show up and embrace the authenticity and the darkness that sometimes envelopes my spirit. Only then will I be able to use my power to impact the world.

Embracing my darkness and my authenticity is the only way I may emerge and ultimately shine my light.

May we all keep moving forward!

Onward with love, light, & authenticity,
Chava

PS – I’d love your feedback on my blog, my writing, my thinking, and/or my Activist Cards!!! Feel free to like or comment. I will try to respond to all comments to this blog. Input is always welcome.

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(Note: To learn more information on #The100DayProject which is also known as #ActivistCardsByChava, you can see https://wp.me/pthnB-3cH.)

“Almost all creativity involves purposeful play.” –  Abraham Maslow

Life works in mysterious ways. Creativity courses though my veins; it’s in my blood. And yet, I never seem to be able to play enough.

Day 25 - Play morePerhaps it is time for me to reconsider things and see Abraham Maslow’s point that “almost all creativity involves purposeful play”. That would make me feel a whole lot better about my lack of playing.

None of us can accomplish making a difference in our world without being creative and taking care of ourselves.

Perhaps we all need to play more. 🙂

Just thinking out loud.

Onward with love, light, & action,
Chava

PS – I’d love your feedback on my blog, my writing, my thinking, and/or my Activist Cards!!! Feel free to like or comment. I will try to respond to all comments to this blog. Input is always welcome.

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