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“It is not up to us to complete the task
(of repairing the world).
Yet neither are we free to desist.”
~Pirikei Avot 2:21

Making a difference matters to me. With every ounce of my being, I realize that taking care of not only myself, but my community and the larger world have to become the forefront of my existence.  While I have done my part, I truly believe I need to do more.

ChavaWithKippah21Nov2015

Don’t get me wrong, I know that I haven’t done nothing to make the world a better place. I have given many dogs a safe home for the remainder of their lives; I have opened my home to a homeless, pregnant woman and her toddler, as well as those that needed a place to stay for a long while; the environment and making conscious living choices have guided my every step; human rights is always being addressed in my shopping choices, my politics, and my teaching others. As much as possible, I walk the walk and I talk the talk. I’ve started a nonprofit and stood up for what I believed in.

I have also had years when I had to step back and take care of my family more than the world around me.  Those years were hard because I always felt like I wanted to do more, but that just wasn’t reality. There were years when I stood by my son’s hospital bed so that he would one day thrive again. And he did.  And the best part of that journey is that he now actively engages in the journey, as does his younger brother. We all do our best to make the world a better place.

Over the last few months, I have been settling in my new home in a new city, Houston.  As is often the case, many of us compartmentalize during transitions. I was no different.  But the last few weeks has created a sense of despair for me. Our presidential candidates have been talking about immigrants, refugees, and the Muslim people as if they were the lowest of human beings. I have hated watching victims turned into villains.

Politicians want to turn the Syrian refugees back to the brutality of their homeland.  How disgusting!!!!

Last night, as I was feeling despondent over the realities of the Syrian refugees, I received an email from MoveOn.org telling me about a local rally, Texas Stands With Syrian Refugees.

YES!!!

I couldn’t believe how driven I felt to go. Even the questionable weather didn’t matter.  Nothing could stand in the way of my desire to go to THIS rally. Over the last week, I have written letters, called politicians, but still I felt like I needed to do more and I also felt so alone with each task.

Earlier this week my older son asked me if we would do our part to help the refugees and I said ‘absolutely’. There is no question that I will help if I can figure out how.  I barely have what I need and yet I would open my home in EVERY way I could.  Our family may be struggling, but we really do have all of our needs met.

Over the last decade, I have stood up against domestic violence, Darfur, Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, slave labor, and consumerism.  I have helped all sorts of people in all sorts of situations. I have also done my part to care for our environment and animals – although not enough.

But this past week pushed me over the edge. I found myself feeling such intense pain for those that need so much. Every fiber of my being was yearning to hang with people that believed as I did, people that wanted to help those in need of help.  So receiving the email talking about the rally was perfect.

In truth, yesterday’s action felt more poignant, maybe even personal, then many of the3 cultures 21Nov2015 other actions I have participated in over the years.

In case you are wondering why. . . . Back in the late 1920’s or early 30’s, my father’s family escaped from Kiev. Pogroms could have crippled his family, but they never actually succeeded. Instead my grandfather Yidel, his wife Esther, and their two children Jack and Phil made it to Canada where they survived and even thrived having two more children, my father-Morry and his little brother Sid. Had they not escaped, they would have potentially died or suffered great losses. While my father’s immediate family survived, there were many people that were left behind and some of those were killed because they did not have the ability to reach freedom.  As a matter of fact, there is no that we know of who was left behind or that has survived to this day. Between the pogroms and the Holocaust, the only family that survived were the ones that got away.

To make it simple, my brother and I are alive today because my father’s family got away.  Had my grandfather stayed in Kiev, my brother and I would never have been born.

Chava with Federico Salas-Isnardi and Donna Olson-Salas. 21Nov2015

From left to right, Donna Olson- Salas and Federico Salas-Isnardi with me at Texas Stands With Syrian Refugees Rally

What I am learning about our my socially active journey is that none of us could do what we do alone. Today, I connected with passionate people who were willing to do their part to make a difference. None of us are islands. With the political climate what it is today, I am so grateful for the new friends and my friends all over the globe that are doing their part.

“We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims.”
R. Buckminster Fuller

A few years ago, I created a nonprofit called My Second Foundation for adult survivors (or what I call thrivers) of childhood trauma. What I learned during the initial process of creating my organization is that you need a village. While I am only now starting to consider how to fully make my nonprofit thrive, I have learned that we all need to help those that are struggling. There is nothing acceptable about anyone suffering from violence of any type or poor health due to poverty.  We have enough resources in this world to keep people safe, so we all need to do our part.  It really is not optional.

And as for me, I am also choosing to do whatever I can to make sure that the human race does not perpetuate another genocide if at all possible. Haven’t there been enough?

Yesterday’s action seemed so simple, but with our current political climate and the ‘limited’ thinking of many, our village needs to stand firm and do WHATEVER we can to save a life. And let’s make sure there is NO QUESTION!

STAY LOUD. STAY CLEAR….REFUGEES ARE WELCOME HERE!

All lives matter!

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Little Miss Molly decided to stop by for a visit tonight. The last time she came over was one morning last week when Aryeh let Maddie out for a quick pee and in came Molly while Maddie was still doing her business. What I love about this dog is that she doesn’t look at the time, she just decides it’s time to say hello to the neighbors.  Wouldn’t it be great if more of us felt comfortable enough in our skin to disregard ceremony and just knock or bark at our neighbors’ door.

At about 9:30 PM or so, Aryeh yelled to me that we had a visitor.  While I wasn’t feeling particularly social, I decided it would be rude for me to ignore whoever felt compelled to drop by.  Much to my surprise, our visitor put a huge smile on my face and more importantly brought joy to our Maddie.

So much for my grumps, they disappeared as soon as Molly made herself at home.

Sometimes it takes a visit from a special friend to help someone lose their bad mood.  At least it worked for tonight. 🙂

Molly on sofa

Little Miss Molly makes herself at home on the sofa while looking down at Maddie.

Molly on foot rest

Little Miss Molly is the queen of our house for the moment. Adorable! Don’t you think!?!

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Shachar and Maddie snuggled together on the many miles from Tucson to Louisa.

Shachar and Maddie snuggled together on the many miles from Tucson to Louisa this December.

On Friday morning, I had to make one of the hardest decisions of my life; I had to euthanize our beloved mutt for unpredictable aggression. After too many episodes with the final episode being the worst, I was forced to make a decision that is devastating to our family.  My heart is healing from saying good-bye to my precious Shachar and my body is healing from the pain I endured when trying to keep my beloved four-legged creatures from hurting each other (it didn’t work).

Just over a year ago, we found Shachar outside the local mall.  At the time she was nearly 20 lbs. underweight and terrified.  We adored her from the first moment we brought her home.  We weren’t sure if we would be able to keep her; Shachar cowered when we tried to pet her and she had no idea how to walk with a lead.  But it took only 24 hours for me to find her curled up on Aryeh, her head resting on his chest.  We were in love.  Even Maddie loved her!  But nearly 8 months after bringing her home, she turned on Maddie. For 5 months we kept them apart and trained each individual dog; we also hired an amazing trainer to bring the girls together and to work with us on doing this in the best way possible.  We were thrilled to have our family back in tact. Sadly, it didn’t last. . . . And the war wounds were too great.

While four days have passed, the emotional and physical pain has knocked me off my feet.  If it weren’t for the fact that Aryeh, my older son, is suffering even more deeply than I, I would have folded into a pile of mush.  Nearly each and every moment, I find myself willing her back into our physical world. I miss Shachar’s sweet presence; I want to feel her snuggles, her warmth, her heartbeat, her obtrusive nature. . .

Except for Aryeh’s profound sadness and Maddie’s (our other dog) sad and healing body.  Life’s realities have barely mattered; I have been almost numb to the realities of money or my own physical pain.  $400 poorer due to unexpected veterinarian fees and hoping that none of the injuries that I sustained need a physician.  (So far, so good on that front.)

What has helped has been my friends and my sons.  Within hours of our loss, our friends David and Jennifer showed up on our doorstep.  And my sons have been making me as many mint or chamomile-citrus lattés as I need to warm my heart and soothe my battered soul.  At times, Aryeh has had to hand me the cups gingerly and grab it as quickly as I finished drinking.  On Saturday, I struggled to hold my mug; I am still struggling with the pain and achiness that I sustained when I tried to save my dogs from one another.  Healing.  And while there was almost nothing that anyone could say, it has helped that nearly 125 friends have actively reached out and offered their love. (Facebook ability to document how many comments are generated does help for some things.)  There wasn’t much that anyone could say, but a few friend’s nailed it perfectly when they said:

You gave her love and she knew it. She did the best she could and so did you. 
Lynn M.

You loved her and gave her a home, she will always know that.
Sharon G.

“so sorry to hear this. Sending you love and condolences.”
Rain Z. and so many others.

Today was the first day that Maddie, Shachar’s furry sister, started moving with more ease.  While I was awake and reading at 5 AM, it took her until nearly 8 AM to start moving, The good news is that when Maddie did get up this morning, she seemed to be able to move, to play, and to bug us whenever someone was prepping in the kitchen. Yay for this huge gift! We are all getting used to a quieter house with no puppy energy; it is too quiet.

We will always miss the way that Shachar loved to wrap herself up to us – the closer the better.  If possible, she tried to rest her head against our heart.  Both Aryeh and I loved feeling her body against us.  Healing will happen, but in the meantime, tears will be falling for a long, long while.

Shachar doing what she loved to do most.  She really had no clue that she wasn't a lap dog.

Shachar doing what she loved to do most. She really had no clue that she wasn’t a lap dog.

Shachar really did need to be as close to us as possible.

Shachar really did need to be as close to us as possible.

 

  We love you Shachar – now and always.

 

 

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Blogging is what I do.  I love writing and sharing my heart, my mind, and my soul.

Reflection Time Selfie

Reflection Time Selfie

If this is your first time reading this series of my blog, please take a moment and read the introduction Elul Journey: A New Year Is Emerging – 5775  http://t.co/Y6vmXdO6GJ

Today is 28 Elul or 2 days until 5775; it is a time to reflect and to choose ways in which I can best move towards the High Holy Days and the days that follow.  While it is not easy to navigate life’s journeys, I always get to decide how to approach my life.  In this moment, I am choosing to walk gently and embrace each step with openness.  As I say this, I also realize that this would be a good time for a reality check.

During each blog post of my Elul Journeys, I will share a poem, a saying, a teaching that has helped me navigate the world.  Let me know what you think!

~ ~ ~

Breathe!

~ ~ ~

Regardless of how much I need to navigate, I am determined to take time to breathe-deeply.  Lately, I have been taking time each day to take three to five breaths; my hope is to feel the breath flow through me to every part of my body.  And for those few minutes that I am taking the time to breathe deeply, I feel myself grounding and feeling centered.

My life is busy, crazy busy.  Still I believe it is in my best interest to nurture my body, my mind, and my soul.  Breathing is just one tool I use; I also take time to stop and do things that inspire conscious breathing.  I:

  • watch the cycle of the moon
  • write
  • smell flowers
  • connect with friends
  • actively enjoy my sons
  • pet my dogs until they become mush in my hands
  • remain present with those that need me as a care-giver
  • take long walks
  • chant
  • hold the door open for strangers
  • see the beauty surrounding me
  • read spiritual and books poetry
  • etc

The bottom-line here is that while I am sometimes overwhelmed by the life I am leading, I am able to endure when I connect deeply to the earth and the things I love to do.  Only through breath, can I be fully connected to the world I live.  So. . . .I am learning to take more time to breathe.

With blessings & light,
Chava

pet-rock

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Middah (character trait) focus: Keep returning home

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.

As I was flying home from Boulder  to my sons this week, I was overcome with ambivalence. I found myself wondering, what makes a place home?

At this moment in time, I am in an incredibly expansive space; I am open to any and all opportunities.  I am happy to continue in the field that I have loved for almost three decades and I am excited that an entirely new doorway may call to me.  My physical home may continue to exist in Tucson or perhaps I will end up somewhere completely different.  The world is wide open to me and possibilities abound.

In some ways it is so simple to say that I am going home.  Home is where my family lives, my dogs await my return, or where my ‘stuff’ is.  And yet when you are navigating a possible transition to a new locale, a physical home feels more like limbo.

And then the idea of home came again on Saturday morning when I went to the Temple I used to work.  I was quite surprised that I felt comfortable there in spite of my losing my position due to financial challenges within the community.  I am still feeling lots of mixed emotions as I struggle to make ends meet.  Even so, I do have very warm feelings towards the community; I am not sure why I am shocked, but I am.  One friend let me know that she hopes that I still find Temple to be my home community.  While I don’t have the answer, I realized that the mentioning of Temple as my home left me again wondering.  Where is home?

And then this morning, the answer came to me loud and clear when I listened to the brilliant TEDTalks of Elizabeth Gilbert.  When she said, “I am not going to quit (writing), I’m going home”, I realized then Gilbert eloquently expressed what I know to be true.  For me, going home means that I am writing and that I am in a writing place.  Writing makes me feel at peace, it makes me whole.

For me, I feel balanced and complete when I am writing; it really does make any place feel like home sweet home..  Where is your safe place? When do you feel most at peace? Where is your home?

May we all keep returning home to the whatever jazzes our soul, makes us feel centered, and nurtures who we are.

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Feeling restless in Tucson. . . .

My mind never stops.  Never.  I seek, I reflect, I rewind, I consider and reconsider.  I love the way I walk in the world.  Mostly.

And that is just my mind.

Grappling with the life that surrounds me is not always about confrontation, it is about reflection and conscious living.

Alas, the time has come for me to silence my mind and allow my quiet to overtake my restless mind.

AND I am constantly moving.   Work. Dogs. Parenting.  Exerce. Did I say dogs?

Many journeys happen with these feet.

Many journeys happen with these feet.

This week, I found myself struggling with the constant motion in my world.  To be fair, I am coming off of an active period of work;  we found a new dog last Monday; and I don’t seem to have enough time to chill.

The good news is that I am acknowledging reality and looking for ways to quiet my restless spirit so that it becomes possible for me to walk a little more gently.

Part of quieting my mind is to quiet the constant inundation of information that is surrounding me.

  • Turn off Facebook
  • Stop texting
  • Give myself set times to connect online
  • Allow uninterrupted productive time
  • Exercise daily
  • Take time to chant, to read, and sit in silence

The time has come for my restless mind and my restless body to stop and become more present with what is.

“Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.”  Thich Nhat Hanh

 

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Learning from our aging dog

Most of you know I adore creatures, all creatures.  Having said that, you should note that I still have so much to learn about human interactions and my relationship to those interactions. I don’t like conflict – no one does, right? I am an incredible optimist, so those that often wear their heart on their sleeves challenge me.  Yet I am still a present friend; people cry on my shoulders and allow me to be there for them when they are in time of need.  Internally, though, I sure have a lot to learn from Mukseh, one of our aging dogs.

Sometimes we find Mukseh looking at us and just crying.  She reminds us that even though she is no longer in the center of attention she needs to be loved.  Mukseh loves human contact; she thrives on being stroked with whatever limb is available to her.  She loves to be raked out (similar to brushing) and included in all of our conversations.  Just because she misses a little more about what is going on doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to be part of things.  Once she notices that she wants to be nurtured, she let’s us know. And sometimes all she needs is for our presence.

Have you ever tried to walk with an injured friend, a elderly parent/grandparent, or a friend that is just a little slower than you?   The truth is that I can and do walk with people at their own rate fairly easily – mostly because I know it is a limited time commitment.  At 13.5 years old, Mukseh is a member of our family and she needs to be walked three to five times a day.  She also struggles with aging and arthritis.  We have always loved walking our dogs a lot over the course of the day.  Well as Mukseh has grown older, she wants to walk less and she walks so much slower.  Lately, I have taken to walking her by herself allowing her to choose how slowly or quickly she wants to walk on a specific day.  The walks are so much more pleasant when I am not trying to coerce her into going where I want to go as quickly as I want to travel.  And when I allow myself the time to walk as she wishes, Mukseh is so much happier; I don’t even think she misses her walks with her other canine siblings.

Each of us has days when all we want to do is relax and take it easy.  Lying on a hammock in the trees would be blissful if we could take the time.  I love how Mukseh can just find her place and chill.  Her favorite spot in the world is lying on the cool wooden floor in front of our front door.  We have all learned to open the door very slowly for fear of hurting her as we barrel through the doorway.  I love how she is happy just being close to us, but also likes having her own space.

Sometimes when she feels pain, Mukseh cries.  Sometimes she allows herself to take the steps real slowly.  What I love about Mukseh is her ability to listen to her body.  She doesn’t do what she can’t do.  She now sits down and let’s life happen around her without being the instigator.  Her love is pure to each and every one of the creatures in the house.  No one is sad without Mukseh checking in to see what she can do about the situation.  And she is often the one who just sits near a sad person without need to get in their space.

Mukseh is one of the most present beings in our world.  She nurtures our family and she still protects us by letting us know when evil is emerging.  I will always treasure that Mukseh has taught me how to allow life to be as it is.  We can’t fix everything we want to; sometimes we just need to be present and to live simply live our lives.

Thank you Mukseh – I love you! We all love you!

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