Posts Tagged ‘celebrating life’

Aryeh’s graduation rocked my world and brought joy to my soul.  Not only did my son graduate high school this weekend, but he is also a thriving human being in every way.  There are very few things in life that are a given; no one knows what tomorrow will bring. The good news for Aryeh is that while his life has had many periods of drama and health challenges, he has always found the endurance to forge forward and persevere in every way.

For seven years, my son went to a democratic school called Fairhaven School in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.  The school nourished his spirit and made him hungry to live actively in the world around him.  The entire school environment empowered Aryeh and his fellow students to thrive as individuals.  There are quite literally no words that can accurately describe the gratitude I feel for the Fairhaven community and the remarkable staff that has touched Aryeh’s life through the years.

Miracles happen at every turn; hopefully we are blessed to see the miracles even as we deal with the trials and tribulations of life.

Aryeh’s existence was filled with emotional drama from the beginning; our son’s survival was not a given.  He was born with 12,000 platelets per microliter of blood, but the number quickly dropped to 3,000 platelets per microliter of blood.  If my memory is correct, most of us are born with 150,000 -250,000 platelets per microliter of blood at birth.  With a low platelet count, he also suffered from severe bruising throughout his body including his brain. The monitors that covered his body only marked the tedious passing of time; they would have never saved him.

Doctors studied Aryeh for well over a year before they discovered that no other child had ever survived the specifics of his birth condition.  And not only did Aryeh survive, but, he thrived in every way!!!  This has been a reoccurring theme of his from the very beginning.

For many years, Aryeh life appeared to move in a healthy, normal trajectory. And then as a young child, something occurred in Aryeh’s development and he failed to thrive as educators, neurologists, etc. thought he should.  A leading neuropsychologist told us that Aryeh was wired differently and we should never expect him to thrive as a self-sufficient adult.  Well without going into too many details, I am so happy to know that the doctor was WRONG!!!!! Everything he told about our son’s development was WRONG.  (For more info, read part 1 of this blog http://wp.me/pthnB-5v)

Raising Aryeh was not always easy, but once we got through a few really challenging years, life worked well.  Since Aryeh could articulate his thoughts easily, as a family we were always able to get through the hard stuff.  BTW, the neuropsychologist also told us that Aryeh wouldn’t be able to communicate as others.  The good news is the doc was WRONG!!!  Michael and I always believed in Aryeh and his ability to thrive.  As parents, we didn’t know what it would look like, but our job was to keep on moving forward!!! So we did!!!

Aryeh was delayed in some ways, while he soared in others!! I loved watching his mind work and his world reach new heights until hell struck again.  At 13 years old, in March 2006, our world spiraled out of control.  Aryeh’s world was engulfed in pain, he couldn’t function, sometimes he couldn’t walk, he had trouble physically (mechanically) getting dressed, and his entire body was absorbed with pain.  Over the next 5 months, we consulted with many doctors, each telling us to do something different.  In order for Aryeh to survive, brain surgery was a given, but we had so many opinions to navigate.  Meanwhile, we weren’t sure that Aryeh would survive this challenge, a 6.5 cm cyst in his brain.

The next three years were filled with darkness and fear at every turn.  Aryeh was suffering every step of the way.  Two brain surgeries and multiple complications brought him little reprieve from pain.  At 15 years old, we found a doctor that brought life back into our son’s world.  We finally found a doctor who knew what Aryeh needed and gave it to him.  The results took six months to start working, but at least we had glimmers of light during this part of his journey.

The time-line during the three years of Aryeh’s illness is a blur; I guess timing doesn’t matter so much.  We were filled with so many gifts through this journey.  We had amazing friends, Fairhaven School Community, and Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation.  We were surrounded by love, but we were still very much alone.  Unfortunately that is the reality of serious illness or at least it was for us.  The good news is that we made it through the rain, the horrible torrential rain that lasted for so many years.  Today we can easily celebrate life, all of our lives.

Aryeh’s life is a gift in every way!!! I can’t believe how lucky we are to have Aryeh in our lives and how he helps many who know them become more thoughtful individuals.  Whether he is keeping the news in the forefront of our minds or perhaps the individual rights of modern day slaves, Aryeh cares about the world around him.  In school, Aryeh became an extraordinary member of the community.  As tribal death clerk, he cared for the dead animals that were found on campus; and as the Assembly president, he showed his love for the entire school community.

Aryeh was an eloquent speaker during his graduation!  He was thoughtful and prepared with each and every word he spoke.  He prepared his speeches, crafting each and every word. (I wish his neuropsychologist could have seen him.)  When he spoke about his friend Isaiah, every person in the room saw Isaiah’s beauty!  When he acknowledged others for helping him move on his journey, it was easy to feel the gratitude through Aryeh’s eyes.  One of the most touching moments happened when Aryeh thanked his little brother Dovi for putting up with him during the years of illness, many had to wipe their eyes when he ended his remarks with “I love you Dovi”.

For each of us learning takes a different shape.  I am not sure where Aryeh’s journey will take him, but I am so profoundly grateful and happy to admire my ‘little’ boy as I do.  He is amazing as a person who never forgets that he is part of a larger world!!!  May Aryeh be blessed with time to make the world better because of all that he has done, continues to do, and will do in the future.

Aryeh has taught through example that though we don’t always have a choice on what life brings us, we always have a choice of how we travel on that path.


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Life has taught me so many lessons.  With each experience, I find myself looking at both the gifts and the challenges.  When I am really self-aware, I know that growth comes from both sides of the spectrum.

In Judaism, we have a tool for marking sacred moments or what I call shehechiyanu moments.    The shehechiyanu is a blessing that is said to mark:

  • The beginning of a holiday
  • When a ritual is observed for the first time during a year, or for the first time in a person’s life
  • When something happens for the first time (for instance, when the first snow falls in a season)
  • When food is enjoyed for the first time in a season (for instance, when fruit comes into season)
  • When you wear a piece of clothing for the first time.

I also choose to say the shehechiyanu, when I note something precious or sacred happening and when I experience something I don’t frequently note. Rainbows bring tears to my eyes; double rainbows make my heart sing.  A beautiful piece of artwork touches me deeply and a gift of nature leaves me speechless.  Yesterday, I saw the branches of a tree in a unique pattern, for that I recited shehechiyanu.

Lately, I have found myself saying shehechiyanu when I hear a beautiful song or see children playing.  Each and every moment counts and it is my hope that I treasure each moment and mark many of them with the blessing.

Blessed are You, Lord our God, Spirit of the universe, who has kept us alive, and sustained us, and enabled us to reach this moment.

Within the last couple of weeks, I found myself struggling through darkness in one area of my life.  The stress brought me down and I had a hard time embracing the challenge and finding beauty anywhere within my realm.  When I realized that I needed to find a chant that would propel me in a healthier direction, I asked one of my holy chant sisters if she could suggest one.  I knew that chant could be used as a tool or medicine to guide me through this challenging doorway.  She gave me the most precious gift when she said that she would think about it; within a very short period of time she suggested the Shehechiyanu chant by our teacher Rabbi Shefa Gold.  The power of the chant helped me to again find balance within and notice the world around me too.  The link to Rabbi Shefa’s Gold is:


Shehechiyanu reminds me to receive the gifts of life.   Regardless of what is happening, sacred moments can be found.

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The Journey Song

Lyrics by Debbie Friedman z”l and Tamara Ruth Cohen; music by Debbie Friedman

Where does the journey begin?
Where will we go?
Hours pass, the answers might change
As we keep moving along.

Each Friday night, I light my Shabbat Candles and then recite the blessings to the niggun (tune) of the above song.  I think it is my way of acknowledging that life is always a journey.  With each Shabbat, I can look back to the journey of the past week and celebrate so much of what has been and is.

Like my sister, Miriam, before me, I am doing the dance across the sea.  Instead of timbrels in my hand, I hold my drum and I move with all my heart and soul.

Every day of my life is a journey towards the living.  I am blessed with my ability to breath deeply and with the beat of my heart.  I am also blessed to be a work in progress that is transitioning towards being a sounder and healthier me. I am truly a woman who is filled with so much joy even when I navigate some dark moments.  My life is a gift.

Today I celebrate my 45th birthday.  Grappling with life’s questions and allowing time to answer the questions of my soul is what I do.

The celebration of my life is intense this year; I am not certain why.  It could be that I have just completed counting 45 days towards building an even better foundation for myself.  In truth, while intellectually I know it is huge deal, it ended up being easy to live with the choices I have made.

Forty-seven days ago, I went to the doctor and he told me that due to some health challenges that I had to take myself off of all caffeine and soda. I knew he was correct in his wisdom, plus I decided to take myself off of all added sweeteners (fake and real) with the exception of honey.  Sweeteners are trigger foods for me and they feed into addiction.  Since I have always struggled with weight and food addiction, I decided it was time to take the ‘bull by the horns’ and actively seek a healthy me.

What has happened is that I dropped over 30 lbs; I feel better; and I have more visions for my future.  My mind is so much less foggy and my drive and intuition seems to be soaring.  I am feeling grounded and joyful in ways that I have rarely felt.  While losing the weight is awesome, what I am valuing most is my ability to find my derekh, my prana, my path with much more clarity.

And what I found most profound about this part of my journey is that I had a fairly tough time for only a couple of days.  Days three and four of weaning myself off of highly addictive foods was tough, but then it was really easy.  My body has adapted to these food changes easily; it is as if I should have been this way all along!!  My body is responding exactly as if I am giving it what it needs and it is appreciating my new choices.

With each passing year I am learning to do more things to honor myself.  That doesn’t always come easy, but it is now an integral part of my life.  In order to love myself fully, I have to take care of myself and allow myself wings to fly.

My world is wide open.  While it is still unclear exactly how I will evolve, I am thriving in so many ways and it is my hope that this year will be filled with fabulous physical health.  My body needs to start becoming a sacred vessel in the same way I take care of my spiritual self.  The soul work that I have been doing now needs to make room for a healthier and more conscious physical being.  I am alive.  I want my inner being to be filled with incredible light, spiritual energy, and physical strength.  Only through loving my body, my mind, and my soul will I become that light.

My amazing journey continues. . . .

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I am blessed.  That feeling is in my coursing through my veins.  Nearly every aspect of my life today is filled with blessings, even the challenges.

Twenty days ago, I started a Journey towards Better Health https://lightwavejourney.wordpress.com/2011/01/02/my-journey-towards-better-health.  So much has happened since then and the bottom-line is that I am learning to love what is while loving the gentle support of many different friends and my family too.  Two profound things have touched my life and have inspired me to move forward.  My teacher and one of my favorite Jewish Folk singers, Debbie Friedman died far too young and I read the book Hope Will Find You by Naomi Levy.  (Over the coming weeks I will write about how both events helped propel me forward.) So much can happen in just a moment’s time.  The bottom-line is that new opportunities emerged and developed because of the influences that surrounded me.

I have rarely asked for friends to support my journeys; I have often asked that my friends and family celebrate when I have succeeded in reaching a goal, but today I am feeling differently.  I am openly utilizing Facebook to share my journey.  And with each step I have both new and old friends giving me both insight and support.  I am feeling both centered and buoyed as I make the trek.

One special bi-product of taking this journey so openly is that I have some friends that have made the decision to create their own journey towards health.  I love that (perhaps) I am inspiring others to care for themselves even better.  Yayyyyy!!!

The most profound reality of this journey is that I feel good.  I don’t feel like I am missing anything.  This reality reminds me of a story.  When I changed my name, one of my board members was talking to his son (who worked for me at the time) and he was saying “Chava this and Chava that”; my employee turned to his father and reminded him that he NEVER remembers anyone’s name.  With that, my board member responded that that was because Chava was the name she (meaning me) was always supposed to have.  Perhaps that story illustrates where I am today.  Perhaps these transitions were always supposed to become my norms.

A few friends have emailed me offline to ask what I am really doing.  Here is the simple list of what I am still doing as of Day 20. I am doing the following:

1.      taken out all soda and caffeine out of my diet.

2.     Eating NO sweets, sugar, fake sweeteners, etc.  I do allow myself to have honey on occasion and looking for some alternatives to mayonnaise that has sugar.

3.     Doing yoga once a week and hoping to add another class in the coming weeks.

4.     Taking extra long walks (1 hour plus) three to five times a week.

5.     Journaling

6.     Writing an affirmation 18 times a day to symbolize life.

7.     Chanting daily

8.     Trying to pray regularly

9.     Planning my next steps as a way of being healthier.

10.  Reading books that are motivational in some small way.

11.    Drinking lots and lots of water and herbal (non-caffeinated) tea.

The truth is that I am not really that hungry; I am feeling so full.  I am eating half of what I normally eat.  I am creating new norms.  When I snack I eat as much fruit or nuts as I want.  I might need to limit this at some point, but not now.  I have lost nearly 20 lbs in two months and 8 of that in the last 13 days.  I am not trying to lose which is helping my morale.  I am also finding that my energy is good; I don’t need sugar and caffeine to sustain my energy.  And yes I have had moments when I wanted to eat something just because I wanted it, but I have not given in to the urge.

I have no expectations for this journey, but I do have hopes. I am working towards being the best me that I can be and I trust my intuition with each and every step.  Some of the things I hope will evolve are that I will:

1.      Breathe easier.

2.     Move fluidly.

3.     Become more physically balanced.

4.     Use my knees without pain

5.     Be able to run again.

6.     Grow my flexibility.

7.     Stop creating trash due eating excesses.

8.     By-pass the genetic realities that I live with.

9.     Look beautiful with a toner body and clearer skin and hair.

This health journey is blowing me away.  I used to pray that I would one day run again and be healthier.  I was trying to get in the mindset before Aryeh was sick, but then he got really sick and the journey/hope was forgotten.  Today I am remembering each of my dreams and embracing them to become my reality; I am doing everything I need to live consciously and healthy.  I am working toward honoring my core values so that I am truly living the life I have chosen.

I realize that I may never run again, but I know that if I want to try that my I won’t have to take the journey alone.  Friends have offered to run with me and/or given me tools so that I can try to do it on my own.  The bottom-line is that I want to be the healthiest me that I can be! So I will do whatever I need to do so that I get there.  If I can’t run again, I will find something else to do.

At the end of my initial 45 days, I am hoping to be an even healthier me.  I am hoping to be stronger and about making healthy choices.  My journey is a lifetime journey, but I needed time to build my foundation to health.  Wow, I love when things are basheret (meant to be).  When I started counting the 45 days, I didn’t realize it was 45 days till my 45th birthday.

So I have 25 more days to strengthen my foundation!!! Yippee!!! I can do it.

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Each day is a gift.  Remembering the gift while also realizing that nothing lasts forever creates a sense of purpose.  Life is a humbling experience filled with ups and downs.  Dreams come true; darkness looms too.  With each breath, comes the realization that only now exists.

Tomorrow is no guarantee.  That realism can burn a hole in your soul or it can leave you laughing out loud and dancing your way through life.  The choice is ours.  The metaphors are ours to play with, but in reality, we always have our minds.  Our minds can create positive energy; our visions can generate peaceful and joyous moments even with the challenges that surround us at times.  Approaching life with a positive disposition doesn’t necessarily make you a Pollyanna; it makes you a person who makes the best out of what you have.   For me there is no choice.

My life has included some stark realities.  Medical crisis have scarred me deeply.  I have seen my children profoundly sick; I have watched my parents die; I have been forced to face some of my own demons.  Life is not always easy, but I always have a choice.  I can take a deep breath and move through the muck or I can make the best of life’s trials.  Sometimes I feel like I have seen one too many storms, but each and every one of the storms has also brought me rainbows.

The one thing I have learned through living is that I have no choice but to live life fully.  I love with all my heart and I laughter permeates my being. While I thrive on as a deeply intense person; I also celebrate living fully.  Nothing in my existence is taken for granted.  Each friend is beloved; my family means the world to me.  Tears fall freely, but my smiles are never far behind.  I actively seek inner peace while I strive to reach as high as I can reach.

Growing older has allowed me some beautiful realizations.  I have learned to rest more.  Besides my children, writing brings me more happiness than anything I ever thought possible.  Every person on this universe matters.  The world needs people to care for it.  And taking time to look at people in their eyes can make a difference.  No one should be invisible.  Music soothes my soul.  And mostly, I have learned to trust my need to live consciously.

I am alive because many people have touched my life and allowed me to touch their lives too.  Those I love have given me a foundation that seemed impossible when I was a child.  Today my family consists of many precious individuals; they know who they are.  Each beloved person supports me and motivates me to be the best that I can be.  They also accept that I am a person who will always be a work in progress.  I have many moving parts that need to be oiled regularly; I am humbled that my family and friends care enough to be part of my life.

My life has had so much darkness.  Today I am surrounded by light.  As long as I remember to:

Live life fully

Love the world

Laugh whenever possible


I am blessed to be alive!

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“How many things are there which I do not want.” Socrates

Life is full of wonder and full of gifts yet to be noticed.

Recently, I was reflecting that I never really shut down.  I rest.  I sleep. I zone.  And through it all my mind continues to embrace life.  I love life.  I celebrate life.  And I spend countless hours reflecting on life’s truths (as I see it).  And yes, even with my love of life, sometimes I go into contemplative spaces that would make others dark.  For me, those spaces are like a cocoon; they allow me the freedom to connect with my inner most thoughts.

Most people would find my mind too cluttered, but not me.  I want to explore every conversation, every thought, and every dream.  In her CD, Word by Word, Anne Lamott explores the role of daydreaming to a writer.  She believes that every writer has to have time to daydream; she probably believes that most of us need time to daydream.  I certainly do.

On any given day at any moment, I contemplate so much.  While I smile on the outside, I am constantly in many places at the same time – that is just part of my being.  I love people. I treasure people.  I also treasure my own mental space.  The good news is that for the most part I have learned to remain present within most interactions.  I manage to stay connected to most of what I am doing.  However, when I am alone within my thoughts – WATCH OUT!  I love my intensity.  I love the way my mind constantly tries to wrap itself around conscious living, conscious choices and my feelings about what is going on around me.  I tend to accept who I am and where I am.  That doesn’t mean that I don’t strive to reach higher or make better connections, but it doesn’t mean that I live in darkness even when there is darkness surrounding me.

In terms of my intensity of late, anyone that has read my writing knows that I am always introspective . . . I have so many blessed moving parts that fill my soul.  Below I wanted to share a sample of what goes on in my mind on a daily basis.  I am certain that I am not alone, but I’d be surprised if most have stuffed minds in the same way that I do.

  1. As a people person and a Jewish Community professional, I am touched by so many lives.  Simply put, many people I care for are going through challenging life experiences.  I love people so their life experiences touch me.
  • A couple of weeks ago, my friends had a little girl born with a serious genetic challenge.  She had surgery last week, but I have heard nothing.  Last I heard she was in NICU; my prayers are with them.  I know that they are overwhelmed and I wish I could support them better.
  • A few friends are dealing with the potential loss of a partner and others have just lost or are coping with the impending loss of someone they love.
  • Another friend is struggling with his partner’s ill health and potential rapid decline.
  • Rachaeli Fier is an 8 year old that lives with Tay-Sachs; I don’t know her family, but I remember them from our time in Atlanta. I am broken hearted by Tay Sachs and how it has touched the lives of the Flier family and their loved ones.  I am thinking about writing an article for the post about it.  Tay Sachs research is making huge strides, so we have hope, not necessarily for Rachaeli, but for future generations.  In the last week, since finding out about Rachaeli, my heart has been full and I have been doing a lot of reading.  Eric, Rachaeli’s dad, was tested for Tay-Sachs and was not a carrier; Nicole, Rachaeli’s mom, was a convert and did not test because you need two carriers for a child to be born with Tay-Sachs.  Eric’s test results were not read correctly. There story is so profoundly sad and yet I love that they are trying to teach others and help others through this challenging process.
  • The list goes on with some people I love being in treatment and sick.  I am blessed with some amazing friends.  The other day, I was laughing sarcastically because it just so happens that most of my of my closest friends are dealing with physical or emotional darkness.  They are unavailable to me and I am personally stretched beyond my comfort zone; I can’t be there for them as I wish and most of them are not asking because they need some space.  The good news is that I am listening to my body, I am not rushing over to care for people; the bad news is that I am not the kindest friend I can be.

2.  In the last couple of weeks, people reaching out to connect with me have touched me deeply.  Some of them are telling me what my kindness meant to them.  Some are sharing their treasured writing. I want to respond to each and every person, but the words feel inadequate.  I am humbled that I touch people as I do.  As silly as that is, I wonder how I could deserve the respect and sometimes the love I receive.  See above, I am not necessarily the best of communicator or friend.  I am close to those I love intensely and to those who can fit into my chaotic life.  I am fiercely private except that which I share in a fairly premeditated way.  And as I say that everyone thinks I am so open.  This I find touching and a little funny too.

3.     My writing is flowing constantly these days and sometimes I am blessed to touch people with the words I weave.  Both realities warm my heart.  I want to write more, sometimes that desire is easier said than done.   Lately, I have been receiving emails from people previously unknown to me that have been touched through my writing; that makes me want to write even more!  Perhaps one day, I will make a difference in the world through my writing.  In truth, I hope that my writing becomes worthy of sharing in a larger way.   The words I wrote when I was 14 years old are still true today.  I wrote:

the song of my heart;
the meaning of my mind;
the feeling of my soul;
Is what makes me ONE.  (sometimes I say Whole).

4.     My spiritual journey is constant; it encompasses my religious journey and the journey of my values.  My goal is to live consciously; sometimes it works, sometimes not so much. I really fit nowhere and I am feeling some angst about that.

I also thought I would be at a place where I could begin my rabbinical journey and yet, I am not certain if I am worthy of it or if I have what to give.  I am also struggling with much of what I see or don’t see in the rabbinical schools that interest me.  I know so much and have connections with much of Jewish ritual and yet I am someone who struggles to fit within any establishment.  For those of you that know me, I am sure that that will not come as a surprise to you.

Recently, I was asked to work with someone who is highly regarded and positioned within the government work that they do. I realized that I don’t have the skills they need, but I found myself contemplating why they believed I could help them in their endeavors.  What do I have to offer?  As I ponder this question, I know this is my challenge.

Am I progressive? Would I fit in a gathering of total liberals that share my beliefs? When I consider that I am yet to be a rabbi, I want to cry because I have felt like it was my calling since I can remember.  Unfortunately the silent voice of unworthiness and belief that I am too limited to succeed sometimes challenges me.  I am blessed to surround myself with really wise and smart people and yet sometimes I feel invisible.  I know that that doesn’t make sense especially because of what I said above, but it is part of my reality nonetheless.

When Aryeh was really sick, I got accepted into GW, where I took course, I realized two things.  One, I really am on a different planet than most other people.  Two, I don’t know that I have the “book smarts” that I need with any graduate or rabbinical work.  Of course, the key here is that I was stupid enough to take a course while Aryeh couldn’t function at all and which ended days before his first surgery.

I am also just sad that my journey is still lacking clarity. I wish that money wasn’t a factor in me making the decision, but it is.  As are some philosophical factors.  The good news is that I am on a journey; I am not silently watching life pass me by.  I am starting to understand that the process is as important if not more important than the actual destination.

5.     I think about everything I buy.  Was it made with slave labor? Were the workers treated fairly?  How about food – Is it organic? Why can’t I make the vegetarian leap again? (I am getting there.)  How much packaging goes into it? Why aren’t I making more from scratch?  Although, I did commit to not buying canned beans, etc any more.  That means I will be making more from scratch!  Yeah.

6.     Israel.  Need I say more?  I love Israel, but I find the country in trouble in so many ways.  The issues are many and sometimes I want to scream, often times.  How can Israel continue to treat Palestinians as they do? How can they not recognize the human right for Palestinians to exist? How can Israel continue to create the pressure cooker as they do? How can “our rabbis” (said loosely) try to ban Israelis from renting to Palestinians?  How can we go into “the territories and destroy their mosques and their homes as we do?  Black and white? I don’t think so, but I also think that Israel repulses me sometimes.  They keep building where they shouldn’t? They keep displacing people from their homes?

Now let’s talk about the intense prejudice that plagues Israel.  People of color are often treated like dirt, Recently an African American family, new converts to Judaism, were harassed terribly by Immigration Inspectors.   The family was physically battered including a pregnant woman.

The Israel of today is troubling.  What I shared is only the tip of the iceberg.   Another source of sadness for me is the hatred that exists for different groups of Jews that are on opposite sides of the table when it comes to the Palestinian question.  It is said that the Second Temple was destroyed in part because of the hatred amongst Jews or baseless hatred (sinat chinam). Sigh.

7.     Conscious choices in all relationships.  My goal is to have meaningful relationships as I refrain from being around those that don’t fill my life in a positive way.  All interactions matter; all relationships are sacred or should be.

8.     Parenting – No details are needed here.  The word parenting says it all.

Change is the air.  The more conscious I have become, the more I want to listen to those voices in my head that guide me towards making healthy choices about everything.  As I grow older, I have become more contemplative about every aspect of my life.  In short I need to continually ask myself:

o   Where I live and how I live in the space I have?

o   What I do with the time I have?

o   Are my friends good for me and I am good for my friends?

o   How I eat? How I shop?

o   Am I loving enough?

o   Do I support my children as they grow into young men?

o   Do I allow the values I have guide my actions and my words?

o   Am I honoring myself in how I live?

Life is full simply because I openly and frequently grapple with life questions.  It is such a gift that I can and that my world allows me the safe space to contemplate the fullness of life. Life choices matter in ever way.  Passion guides my every thought and many of my steps.  I take nothing for granted.  Health, happiness and inner peace are tools that work towards as I move towards and even fuller and healthy life.  Life’s framework should be filled with living at harmony with my physical and emotional environment.

Soul work is what I do! And with that reality, my mind remains full even when it appears that my mind is elsewhere.  As my dad uses to say, “it is what it is.”

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What’s Normal? An Aryeh Update

Bike riding is such a natural part of childhood.  Running in the fields on a cool spring day, playing games with other children, learning the basic skills of writing and math are all normal activities for children.  Parents kvetch (complain) about their children’s activities, their teenager’s attitudes, and the craziness of the household as they try to complete all their work, chauffeuring, and life’s mundane activities.  Parents also kvell (brag) about their children’s successes however big or small.

Not everyone experiences the “normal” childhood as seen above. Some childhoods are fraught with educational, behavioral or health challenges.  Those norms are quite dissimilar and can often feel quite agonizing at times.  Sometimes normal is about navigating your schedule according to the medication schedule; sometimes normal is living without sleep for days on end so that you can take care of your child’s every medical need; sometimes normal is watching your child zone on the television set for hours and hours because he can’t do anything else.

Normal is as different as every person and every family is from one another.

Watching my 16-year-old son bike ride on Sunday for the first time in over 3 years, brought tears of joy to my eyes.  Never in my wildest dreams did I think he would instantly taking to riding a bike again and not in the first 5 minutes of being on the bike after such a long hiatus.  It has been just over three years since we faced the devastating affects of a 6.5 cm cyst in Aryeh’s brain.  There have been times over those three years that Aryeh has struggled to walk and even see.  We have continually believed that he would be OK only to see him flounder without any real progress to his health for weeks, months and even years.

On Sunday, our son started a new road.  In the poem, The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost, I see part of Aryeh’s story. The poem’s last lines are:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Well Aryeh took a different journey than any of us could have mapped out, even down to going to the only doctor in the US that performed the type of surgery that ultimately saved his life.

No matter what our journey we all make it our way and Aryeh is no different.  His journey towards life has really “made all the difference”.  He is alive; he thrives; and he moves to his own rhythm.

The great thing about Aryeh is that he always persevered; he always strived to be an active part of the living; however, often that was easier said than done.  It is really tough for a child who can’t go to school, feels intense pain every moment of his life, and who has been unable to handle any significant sensory integration to actively engage in the world.  Aryeh has always been willing to try.

Sunday, for a few hours, so many of the recent past’s pain went out the door.  Aryeh was an active teenager, having fun looking for a bike; in fact both of my sons, Aryeh and Dovi were both trying to find a bike. YEAH!!!!  Aryeh was so much easier to get a bike for than Dovi.  But Dovi really does have an opinion about nearly everything; Aryeh is better at just going with whatever.  Of course, in reality, Dovi is not only opinionated, but he is also between sizes, so it really isn’t a problem that he was being a little difficult.  In fact, it was great!!!! For the first time in many years, our boy were able to have what others would consider to be “normal”, but to us was exciting beyond words.

And today, as I finish typing these words, Aryeh has had a great few days at school and with his friends.  In fact, I almost think my child is happier than I have ever seen him.  Last night he hung out all night with 5 friends watching movies and playing D & D; today he went to school, ran school meeting, and came home to a full evening (studying Hebrew, walking with Michael, hanging out with the family).  For the first time in so very long, our child is creating a new normal.  Aryeh is thriving and actively engaged in living.  Joy is permeating Aryeh’s world.  I hope this norm stays for a long long while!

With gratitude,


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