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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.)

My children are everything to me. I went through hell to have them both and ultimately  my love is beyond unrelenting.

I am a mother before anything else. Yes, I am also an writer, an educator, a human being, and some many other things. But being a mother is what rocks my world. I don’t take a day for granted – how can I? I almost lost my older son multiple times and my younger son was really ill for such a long time. Life has not been easy.

Here’s the thing though. . . when you have children, life is never simple. We have to care for them when their tired and we are sick. We have to show up when we’d rather curl up in a ball and read. And sometimes, their curiosity has a way of being destructive and inviting us to clean up.

I remember thinking that each and every stage of their younger years was my favorite stage. I loved watching them grow. Playing with them as little ones and having them still be central in my life as adults is the best!

Day 16 - your people are my peopleCreating the best possible life for my children has always been the goal. While I have never had extra money and I have often gone without some important basics, I would do anything I could to keep them safe from sickness or the ills of the world. I would cross borders illegally; I would climb mountains and give them my last bite of food. My children are EVERYTHING to me.

So what are we doing about the children being kept in detention centers? You know, the ones torn from their parent’s arms? If we are loving humans then we are doing what we can. For me, I am planning to work with Project Lifeline and caravan to McAllen, Texas on Saturday, September 29th.  https://www.facebook.com/events/201578690513600/

  • Will you join Project Lifeline on this journey?
  • Will you donate money for supplies? or supplies?

Please take a moment to open the link above. We need your help. These children, their parents, their families are OUR PEOPLE; they are my people.

Join Project Lifeline or HIAS in trying to make their lives better. And if you know of other great organizations, please share. We need to know who is on the ground and doing amazing work trying to make a horrific situation better.

Note: This artwork and blog was inspired by Shoshana Jedwab’s ‘Where You Go’. Take a moment to listen to this AMAZING song!  https://bit.ly/2KbGfWf 

Onward with love, light, creativity, & 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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Truth

Life is full of dichotomies.

How is that the same person we love with such intensity is also the person that can push us over the edge emotionally and/or spiritually?  While the question is very real, the answer is not.

Opening my eyes this morning, I realized how profoundly affected  I am by  life’s dichotomies.

  • The National Parks celebrated their 100th anniversary this summer. Growing up not far from the Appalachian Trail, or the AT as I refer to it, helped define how I see beauty. While some people dream of luxurious vacations to cosmopolitan cities, I can’t wait to sit quietly in the Redwood Forests next summer.
  • Angels have surrounded me during so many harsh times of my life. When my son was critically sick, old and new friends helped support us in a variety of very tangible ways. When unemployment/underemployment left me penniless, both strangers and friends alike made certain my sons and I would thrive. And yet, poverty surrounds me on every street corner and many children go without the necessary food to survive.
  • The color of someone’s skin is unimportmant to me, but this week, we ordered a Black Lives Matter sign for our front yard.  Living in a world that often subjugates many in the human-race deeply troubles me.
  • Theoretically, we live in a time were the government has checks and balances which allow for all people to be treated equal, yet we have a presidential nominee that incites a population to violence and is not being held accountable for it.
  • Climate change is a huge challenge seen in increasing numbers of intense rainfall events and the rising of  global temperatures. Yet there are many political leaders that are denying the very real reality.
  • My love for Israel runs deep, but I question the integrity of a country that has a poor track record for how she treats Palestinians and others. AND yet, when a natural disaster occurs, Israel is one of the first countries to set up a field hospital and to help a traumatized people.
  • Children are absolutely precious and treasured in the world that I live, yet there are so many children that are violated, abused, and essentially treated horrifically.
  • In Houston a few months ago, a man was shot up while trying to stop a man on a killing spree. In the end, the innocent bystander ended up in critical condition and a suspect.

Reality is full of gifts and challenges. The world’s complexities wreak havoc on those of us that are unable to shut off the troubling stories that impact our world at any given moment.

Moving forward in the world is not easy, this means we need to do so with open eyes and a willingness to do our part to improve the world we live in.

May we all find our voices as we decide how we will impact the world for good.

Onward with love & light,
Chava

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Note: I will be Counting the Omer for a total of 49 days, from Passover to Shavuot or from Slavery to Freedom. For many, this is simply the Counting the Omer; for others, it is a tool for exploring the kabbalistic teachings in an organized way. For me, it is a time to actively reflect on my Journey Towards Wholeness. The more I am whole, the more free I will become.  [http://t.co/dBPYjDxSGj . . . .]

Photo Courtesy of Randall Miller: Western Minnesota

Photo Courtesy of Randall Miller:
Western Minnesota

How many times have you felt like you were sinking in quick sand?  Or perhaps you felt like you were simply treading water and getting absolutely no where? Hard times happen.  Deep sadness breaks our hearts. Health challenges take the vitality and sometimes the lives of those we love.  And there are days, weeks, months, years, when our own lives are feeling challenged physically or emotionally.  Life isn’t easy – at least not all the time.

Over the course of my life, I have faced some really horrible moments, seriously ill children, financial difficulties, a broken heart (or two), and more.  And quite honestly, I have always sought to stay clear of devastation. Even when each of my children suffered serious illness at different points in time, I quietly told them to go if they needed to go. . .I let them know that I would always love them and that I would somehow be ok if I lost them. I am not sure if I was being truthful, but each time I said that, I believed what I was saying.

Moving forward is the only I way I know to persevere through the hard times.  We have to take one step and then another; we have to cross the bridge or bridges the best way we know how.  I am not suggesting that this happens instantaneously, sometimes it takes a while to figure out how we will survive or thrive the roads we are being forced to endure.

I live in a place of gratitude. I am grateful for what have, when I have it.  And while it sometimes takes a while, I usually find the beauty in what was –even the things or loved ones I have lost.  Although, I do love those that have been in my life and struggle to let go.  That is my holy work, because relationships often don’t last forever. Some end; others ebb and flow.

And as I am getting older, I realize that health is not a given. Emotionally and physically, people go through their challenges.  My own children did and countless friends have been faced hell. I have had my own ill health, but I have always chosen to seek the best route possible.When illness strikes, it is my job to pray, actively life to the fullest and help others to do the same.

I love that I have experienced working with both children and seniors that have endured emotional, physical, and mental disabilities. The individuals and their loved ones have taught me that thriving is a non-negotiable.

Moving forward is the only I way I know to persevere through the hard times.  We have to take one step and then another; we have to cross the bridge or bridges the best way we know how.  I am not suggesting that this happens instantaneously, sometimes it takes a while to figure out how we will survive or thrive the road we are being forced to endure.

Photo Courtesy of Lori Fortang taking a beautiful photo of her beloved Ren crossing the bridge. Each of us find our own ways to cross the bridges of life.

Photo Courtesy of Lori Fortang – Lori captured Ren, her beloved, crossing this stunning and secluded bridge.
Note: Each of us find our own unique ways to cross the bridges of life.

May each of find the strength to take one step and then another until we can cross the bridges that need to be cross.

With love, light, and blessings,
Chava

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Middah (character trait) focus: Loving My Teens & All My Students For Who They Are

Note: I will be Counting the Omer for a total of 49 days, from Passover to Shavuot or from Slavery to Freedom.  For many, this is simply the Counting the Omer; for me, it is a time to actively reflect on different middot (character traits) that will lead me to my own rebirth.

Over the years I have been transformed by the young people that have touched my life; each and every one of them added depth to my life.  Somehow they trusted me and as their trust grew so did my ability to connect with them.  What I love about all of the children and teens that I have known over the years is that as long as I was willing to listen, I could build relationships with them.  I am so humbled by the different connections I have experienced.

Back in 2002, when I started working at Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation, I had no idea how to work with preteen girls.  But I didn’t actually realize that I didn’t have the skills, I faked it and somehow with each success I grew.  I loved the girls that were to become my Rosh Hodesh Girls (a group that met during the first days of the new moon each month); my life was better because of the work I did with them for several years.  The work transformed me and made me more aware of what it means to be a teacher, a mentor, woman, and a friend.  I wish I could thank each and every one of the young women today, but I have lost contact over the years.  Sigh.

Why am I reflecting back to my Rosh Hodesh Girls now?

Loved my time with Lucy Heller, Karen Judin, Rachel Rheingold - shown with Chava Gal-Or (from left to right)

Loved my time with Lucy Heller, Karen Judin, and Rachel Rheingold – shown with Chava Gal-Or (from left to right)

Today, three amazing young women took me to lunch.  Two years ago, I met them when I began working at Temple Emanu-El in Tucson.  Two of them taught Israeli dance and one was a madricha, (a teaching assistant); all three of them were giving and wise with their students and their friends too.  Within a very short time of meeting these three teens, I grew to like them very much; they became people that I now consider to be friends.  While I have always treasured the relationships I have built with my students, it was my relationship with the now college students from Adat Shalom that opened me up to really building meaningful relationships with those that were once simply my students.

One of the things I treasured most about my time with the Temple Emanu-El teens today was when they told me how I impacted them.  What I know now is that I touched their lives because I respected them as individuals and as teens; I listened to them and appreciated whatever they brought to the table; I trusted them to be leaders.  The bottom-line is that I do not believe in coercive leadership; I believe in building partnerships.

So often I work with rabbis, teachers, and parents that feel the need to tell our teens and all of our children not only how to walk in the world. but how to use their minds.  I don’t feel this way.  I want to open a door or a window.  I want to share the tools I treasure and the knowledge that has guided me throughout life; I want to give those I work with the room to play and to experience Judaism in a way that is comfortable for them.  My goal is always to hear both what those I work with are saying and what they are not yet saying; I want all the children, teens, and adults that I work to be comfortable with me and the gifts I have to offer.  My door is open.

Today I realized that all three teens were not just my co-workers, but my friends.  May they always remember that my door will be open to them.  I have grown to love them not simply as I love all my students and families; I love them as the beautiful souls that they are; I love them as my friends.

I will always be grateful to the Adat Shalom girls and the families that trusted me so many years ago.  Without them, I would not be the person I am.

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Tonight we counted Day 25 of the Omer, which is 3 weeks and four days of the counting of the Omer. Today is referred to as Netzach sheh b’Netzach, endurance within endurance.

Endurance squared. . . .

Thriving is what we do.  We climb mountains.  We have marathons with our beloved work, our children, our interests.  Stopping doesn’t happen because there is always so much to do.

Endurance squared. . . .

What would our worlds look like if we truly stopped?  I am not certain it would be pretty.  Yet we have to be honest with what our bodies and souls need.  Sometimes we can’t function without stopping to take a deep breathe.

 

 

prepare-to-stop-sign-road-8x6

Endurance squared. . . .

May each of us have the ability to honor what we need to endure as we do what jazzes our soul and makes us feel truly at peace within our bodies.

 

 

En

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Today, every area of my life is full of questions.
question mark
With each and every question, I wonder how I will navigate all that is going on in my head and in my soul.  While riding the waves is what I do, I am really in a curious spot.

My guess is that this is life.

What is funny to me is that every one who reads this blog will wonder what’s going on with me.  If you know me, you will wonder if I am ok or if one area of my life or another is feeling challenged.  If you don’t know me, you will wonder if there is a secret message.  The answer is no.

Life is full.  Work. Relationships. Passions.  Passover.

Sometimes I wonder how will I get it all done.  The questions are overflowing; here are a few:

  • How will I manage all that is going on at work?
  • When will I find the time to nurture my body and soul so that I can thrive?
  • Is exercise a choice or a necessity?
  • What will I cook for Passover seders?
  • How will I ever find time to really clean my house for Passover?
  • Can I take a day to curl up in a ball and do nothing?
  • Will my kids have fun in Atlanta at their first cousin’s wedding?
  • Am I kind enough to those around me?
  • Did I scar my children with any of the choices I have made?
  • Do I need more silence in my life?
  • When will I find time to nurture my spiritual energy and share that with others?
  • How can I walk a little more gently in the world?
  • Will I ever complete everything I need to get done?
  • Is it possible to better navigate all that I feel  without feeling a little too well-done?

Sometimes the overload I am feeling cuts deep and other times I thrive on riding the waves.   Today, I wish there weren’t so many waves to ride.

While so many questions surround me and not enough answers are coming to me, I am deeply aware that being able to openly grapple with the world as I do is a gift.  May we all be blessed with to wrestle with the questions inside our heart.

With love and light. . . .

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