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February is my birthday month.

For the last month, I have been trying to capture how I feel about turning 50.  I had some amazing plans to share my thoughts in writing, in photos, in little pictures, and. . . . BUT, the writer and artist did nearly nothing.

EXCEPT that I have been silently experiencing a sense of AWE. I can’t believe how blessed I am. How did I make it to this place in time?

While many see me as overcoming great obstacles, I don’t see my life in the same way. Not really. Instead I see myself as being fully alive and navigating all that is. With each and every step, I am surrounded by angels, loved ones, friends, and family. I am loved on so many levels, by so many people.

I am NEVER alone. NEVER. WOW!!!

With 50 years old coming this Saturday, I have decided to ask for the one gift I truly want. I would love your help in creating a piece of work that I have been calling the ‘DANCE OF EMERGENCE’. For nearly a year, I have been writing messages to myself through words and simple pics; I have also been asking a few close friends to add to what will be my very unique vision board. I owe a few friends the canvas rectangles and I am wondering if any of you would like to help too. If so, I will mail put the canvas rectangles in the mail on Friday morning, the day before my birthday.

Directions for your 3 x 4 inch canvas:

  1. Use any permanent medium you want to decorate the canvas.
  2. No need to worry about borders – you will see what I mean when I put it together.
  3. Email me your home address in Facebook or email.
  4. Return within three days if at all possible.
  5. What do I want on the canvas? a saying, a picture from your heart, a blessing, a word, or . . . .

In the rectangles that I have previously created, I have included:

  • little pictures
  • verses from poems, prayers, songs, and Torah
  • sayings
  • favorite words
  • and so much more. . .

On my birthday, I will take the time to create a larger canvas with a picture from my heart and the words ‘DANCE OF EMERGENCE’.

Let me know if you want to join me as I celebrate my life and my future.

Thank you for being part of my life.

With love, light, and blessings,
Chava

 

 

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In a perfect world, celebrating your child’s birthday should be a given.  When our children come into our lives, we expect that good health will be a given and each day will be full of living and thriving.  Sometimes we aren’t blessed with such a beautiful scenario.  Sometimes life is a struggle.

Today is a day full of gratitude for everyone in our family.  Aryeh came into this world with a roar; he was a fighter from the start and that has stayed with him as he faced and continues to face each chapter in his life.

Aryeh and Pita

Life is not a given.  Good health is not a given.  Our family was fortunate.

Aryeh’s strength and character has served him well.  I am thrilled that he was a fighter during his health challenges at birth when he was the first child to survive a horrible blood disorder and then again during his early teenage years when he struggled with complications of a 6.5 cm arachnoid cyst in his brain.  Nearly three years in bed did not destroy his spirit.  It did, however, cause him tremendous pain.  Even with that pain, Aryeh always persevered.
Aryeh fought for his life!

Next week, my precious child will do what many parents take for granted.  Aryeh will be traveling to Israel on a birthright trip.  He will be traveling the country with other adults from all over the United States and from the Jewish Renewal movement.  Before the last year or so, it could have never happened.  Aryeh’s struggle with health meant he couldn’t do what is normal for other children.  Summer camp, going abroad, even college was not a possibility until a year or so ago.  Today the only limits that exist for Aryeh are the limits he places on himself.

Aryeh’s name means lion in Hebrew; we didn’t plan to have his name represent his essence, but it does.  With tears of joy and intense emotions flowing through my soul today, I am ecstatic that Aryeh has always been blessed with a spirit for life.  May he continue to roar with each and every leap he takes.

Aryeh is 19 years old!   Yay!!!

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The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin has inspired me to take stock in how I walk through the world.  While I am generally someone who almost always finds the light within challenges, I am not someone who expresses pure joy easily.  I will benefit from developing my own tools or personal commandments to better strive for not only more contentment, but dare I say simchah (happiness) within my daily life.  For the next 13 days, I will become transparent as I actively develop my own personal Happiness Project.

I am struck by a very simple reality.  Even though I feel a strong sense of inner peace and contentment, I don’t necessarily feel real joy or happiness on a regular basis.  Intensity permeates my being; I am constantly reflecting the realities of world, the communities I live, and my own life too.  I love life and yet I, like so many, have become trapped by life’s realities.   Allowing oneself to be trapped does not serve us well.  My hope Is that by creating more simchah tools, I can go to a ‘happy place’ more frequently.

Perfection is far from my realm.  With each breath, I make mistakes.  This journey is a work in progress. Regardless of how perfect or imperfect things seem, feeling inner happiness more frequently is the goal. I’d love to find moments of pure simchah each and every day.  For me, finding simchah, can only happen when I find balance in spite of all the realities that exist as I celebrate the good.

As a seeker. I need to embrace the light more and to figure out the meaning of happiness on a personal level. While this may be the busiest time period in my life, I will post each day over the coming 13 days.  I will explore my own personal commandments towards my own search for happiness.

Simchah, joy, is one of the forty-eight middot (values) that are expressed/taught in Pirkei Avot, Ethics of our Fahers. Each word in the book teaches us how to walk through life.  With that I will use my writing to explore my own personal eleven commandments over the coming days.  Who says there has to be only Ten Commandments?

Looking forward to finding out how my Eleven Commandments evolve through my writing and actions.  Hang on for the ride and consider letting me know your thoughts.  Over the next thirteen days, I will explore my personal commandments each day discussing one of the below commandments in order.  My guess is that some posts will be short and sweet and others will be a bit longer.

Growth can only come with action; my hope is that as I delve into my thoughts, I will utilize the tools that exist as a means of striving towards actively feeling and engaging in simchah.  On the last day, I will wrap up with this writing journey and try to move into more actively engaging in joy while utilizing each of the tools that touch me.

Personal Commandments are

  1. Be myself.
  2. Be the change you want to see in the world
  3. Take spiritual time each day
  4. Live more consciously
  5. Seek peaceful connections
  6. Honor your body
  7. Breathe deeply
  8. Listen before speaking
  9. Find the light
  10. Trust the universe
  11. Allow nothingness

This list is inspired by the Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.

Catch you tomorrow as I explore the first commandment and work towards transformation.

l’Chayim (To life),

Chava

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 ‘Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.’ ~Thich Nhat Hahn

Lately, I have been considering what I want in my bucket list.  No worries, I have no plans to go anywhere other than to live life fully, but I am considering how do I really want to fill my life.  What do I want to have in my life?  What do I want to do with my life? Who fuels my soul? Who makes my life more meaningful and is worth making the time for?  Living fully means making some very conscious decisions about your life.  About 16 years ago, I worked for a education director in a day school who used to make me begin every lesson plan with “begin with the end in mind.”  That lesson has followed me every where I went since I first heard him use Stephen Covey’s teaching a springboard for my own classroom teaching.

Creating that which I want jazzes me.  I, quite literally, love life and love engaging in it.  There is so much that makes me smile; there is so much that I want wrap my hands and heart around.  The goal is finding the core elements that will allow me to soar as a human being while following my dreams and being reasonable too.

Action needs to be about thriving as the person I am.  It is so easy to fade into routine, to settle for the norm, or to continue on the road that has been part of your life for what seems like forever.  In truth, I have found that settling is no longer an option.  Life needs to be lived to it’s fullest.  The bottom-line of life is that you don’t know when life will be taken from you so living with integrity by honoring your soul with your actions is the only way to go.

After a short hiatus of actively engaging in life, I am feeling empowered to embrace life again.  I am part of the living and all that I do needs to be for the purpose of honoring my soul and actively engaging in life.  My life needs to be surrounded with many creative pursuits including writing, painting, chanting, drumming, and movement; it also needs to incorporate activism for that which I believe in modern day slavery, Israel politics, environmental issues, Darfur, among other things.

Time to follow my passions and to remember from Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark that you “can’t start a fire without a spark’.

Time to ignite the many sparks inside and to create meaningful fires too. The bucket list is a tool that helps me see where I want to go and institute a plan of how to get there.

Interested in seeing parts of bucket list posted, keep your eyes open. 🙂

With light and blessings,

Chava

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“The body is the first instrument of the Soul.” ~Henry David Thoreau

 A year ago, the doctor told that I needed to stop having all sodas and caffeine due to some health challenges.  In that one sentence, something in my soul clicked; an epiphany occurred.  My health had become a symbol for what was happening at the core of my being.

I listened to the doctor completely and then continued to make some vital changes of how I ate and how I moved.  The bottom-line is that I made dramatic changes with how I choose to nurture my body.  Sugar – gone; caffeine -gone; soda-gone.  I learned to move more and then life started happening a little differently than I had grown accustomed to in recent years.

After struggling with so much of life for so long, the doctor’s wisdom made me realize that I had to take the reins in my hands and start figuring out the course of my life.  Trusting myself needed to become the norm and listening to the wisdom that was ingrained not only in me but around me too.  My world is full of insightful, wise souls that share their wisdom freely and their love too.  I needed to learn to listen to the world that surrounded me.

So while the doctor enticed me to give up caffeine and soda as a means of becoming healthier.  I started to make some dramatic changes with how I walked in the world.  And it all began with an affirmation that a dear friend, Mersh Lubel Kanis helped me to develop.  “I give my body what it needs to be spiritually and physically health!”

What became obvious each and every time I wrote or spoke that affirmation is that I had to find a way to make all that I do become a manifestation of becoming more spiritually and physically balanced.  I had to not only eat better; I had to move more and take time to laugh too.  I had to live actively in present times and enjoy what was a little bit more.

Below is a list of what I have either learned this year or developed more fully over the course of this year.

  1. Live with integrity in all that you do; integrity comes from within.
  2. Speak your truth and listen deeply in return.
  3. Friends should fuel your soul and inspire you to be the best that you can be.
  4. What matters is not what happens in your life, but how you choose to walk through it.
  5. Silence has its place in this world, but only through action do you get things done.
  6. Take time to dream and then reach for your dream; actively and consciously give voice to all that you wish to accomplish and then actively engage in making it happen.
  7. Nurturing my spirit allows me the space to live life more fully.
  8. Always keep yourself moving to the best of your abilities.
  9. You never know what tomorrow will bring.  Don’t fear that reality, just let it guide you in how you walk through life.
  10. It is what it is.

While the doctor initially told me simple instructions, they became a spring board for me in every area of my life.  I found myself moving and reaching for things that I had been stagnant in my life previously; I also learned that I could ask for help as I moved forward.

During the last night of Chanukah, I sat around the table with not only latkes, but amazing friends and family too.  At the end of the meal, I had everyone pick a card from my beautiful new angel cards (from Israel).  Before picking the card I asked, “What will I need as I journey into this next year and all my endeavors?”  I picked the card which said gratitude.

With gratitude, I feel the blessings that surround me.  I couldn’t have made it without my beautiful family, my beloved friends, and work of my soul.

May I continue to see the blessings that surround me and strive to be a light to others.

With love and light,                                                                                                                                         ~Chava

Keep on moving!  Keep on reaching!

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Aryeh and his friend Isaiah on Aryeh’s Birthday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Shehecheyanu interpretation by Rabbi David J. Cooper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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