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In 1982, I received the gift of a lifetime. I was given wings to fly and a safe place to call home. For the first time in my young life, I found solace in the land that my people had called their homeland, Israel. And I was able to close my eyes at night without the fear of being woken by loud screaming or crashing sounds.

For one year, I went to an amazing high school, traveled the country, and found what I thought would be my permanent home. While it wasn’t exactly what happened, it was the most trans-formative experience in my life. With every ounce of my being, I believe I am healthy and vibrant because my brother and his wife gave me the gift of a lifetime; they made it possible for me to go to school in Israel.

Israel provided me with a safety net that had never been afforded to me. I had friends and family that loved the wounded teenager and supported me so that I could emerge into a stronger human being. Kfar HaYarok, the High School I went to, provided me with tools to stretch and to grow as a young woman and a future leader. I am the woman I am, in part, because of my time there.

Thirty-five years later, I am coming to grips that as of Monday Israel is no longer open to me…not really.  It is the country that has closed it’s doors to people who are holding her accountable for her actions and who are consciously choosing to boycott Israel on small or large scales. People that love the land, but feel strongly that the Occupation should cease to exist. The Knesset has voted to close it’s doors to people that question. Israel is no longer open to the Jewish people (at least not all). Sigh.

For now, I need to walk gently not with those that read my blog, but for myself. As I sit here mourning the loss of Israel in my life, I am struggling. Will I ever visit my family again, walk the streets of Jerusalem, hike Ein Gedi, climb the hills of Safed, swim in the Mediterranean? Or will I stand with those that actively support BDS and peaceful/non-violent protests?

Before the Knesset ruling, I supported boycotting those that perpetuate the Occupation, but in this moment, I am doing my best to refrain from going to a more dramatic place. Perhaps I will end up there, but tonight, I will just sit with the deep sadness that comes with losing an old friend.

l’Shalom – May we find it in our day!

Note: When I was a child, I was forced to withstand some pretty horrific family dynamics including child abuse; it is all that I knew.  Just because it was my norm doesn’t mean it should have been. I feel the same way about the Occupation.

 

 

 

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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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“To be alive──is Power.” 
~Emily Dickinson

Life doesn’t always work out as expected; there are times when all of us feel railroaded. 

For the most part, I find that the best way for me to ride the waves of life, the tumultuous storms, is with a sense of optimism that has the ability to light up any room. Wouldn’t it be lovely if that was always the way ‘it’ worked out?

Over the last few days, I have been triggered by some shadows that are leaving me painfully reflective. While the triggers hurt deeply, I always know that after the moment or moments pass, the sun will shine down on me again.

beautiful blue skies

Tonight, I am allowing myself to breathe into the realities of my life, to feel the raw emotions instead of ignoring them, and to take an evening off of engaging with the world. I am allowing myself the time to live inside my heart without apology.

Transition is often challenging, even when it is ultimately for good.  There is a vibration of vulnerability and excitement, fear and gratitude, playing off of each other. As much as we think we are moving through our transitions alone, we aren’t. There is a village surrounding us, friends and loved ones that are in our court. And in my case, I have my sons that are hanging on for the ride. The biggest challenge of the last two years has been really rough for my guys.

The cost for my younger son, Dovi, was great. The good news is that today I have a strong sense that he is now turning the corner and making conscious decisions to emerge from his darkness. YAY!!! My older son, Aryeh, had to give up a lot in order to help keep our family thriving.  I will always feel enormous gratitude for his perseverance. I am not sure that Dovi and I would have made it without him. Aryeh not only kept us eating healthy meals, he also gave his earnings so that our family could function.  There were so many days that I could have curled up into a ball, but why?

While life hasn’t always given me what I have hoped for, it has given me a spirit to soar and feet to land. I am OK and so is my family!! All of us keep growing and stretching our souls. How beautiful is that!

Most of us can probably relate to the sensation of traveling on a roller coaster.  As we suddenly get thrown downward, we find ourselves screaming or crying out in fear.  And then after the fear passes, we feel a sense of exhilaration as we begin to take the next curve.

A few months ago, I learned that some of the leadership of the congregation I loved so deeply did not believe that my son was as ill as he was. While my son almost died and fought for life, there were those that didn’t understand the extent of his illness and the unimaginable realities of his healing. Really?!?!?!?! YET we were NEVER alone, there were so many others that stepped up to the plate and stood with us every step of the way. 

Learning the above made the ending of my marriage a little over a month ago even rougher. While it was a long time coming, there is no joy in this ending. I thought our connection would last forever, but life didn’t work out that way.

With this period of deep reflection. I am striving to find peace within the storms of my mind. Life didn’t give me what I expect, but it gave me the fortitude to thrive!

This is my time to explore all of the relationships in my life and to better examine what I want for the next half of my life. How do I want to live? What do I want to do with my time? How will I honor the world I live in? Can I better take care of myself and my sons? Will I ever truly be enough? Can I do what it takes to thrive in the world? Will I ever make a difference and have a lasting effect?

The answers to these questions don’t really matter.  What matters is that I know that no matter what happens, I know that, for me (and hopefully my sons), the sun always returns.

I/We got this!

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“From a certain point onward
there
is no longer any turning back.
That is the point that must be reached.”
Franz Kafka

This has been the year of trials and tribulations.  In so many ways 5775 has been a nightmare and in many more ways it has been the year that I will always remember for the many and very real blessings.

Sunrise ove the Boise River which flows through Treasure Valley Courtesy of Dianne Hoff

Sunrise ove the Boise River which flows through Treasure Valley
Courtesy of Dianne Hoff

Sunrise always came, despite the floods that seemed to leave me profoundly dark and sometimes fearing for how I would navigate life.

This was the year that I said to good-bye to so many chapters of my life. My marriage formally ended, I nearly lost my profession, and hope was nothing more than a dream. Loneliness became my friend, becoming destitute was nearly a reality, and I was forced to say good-bye to some of the most beloved souls within my life.

5775 was a nightmare, it was a dark tunnel.  AND within the dark tunnel, I found some of the most amazing sparks of light.

Financial Challenges

My position as a Jewish educator ended abruptly, leaving me void of income and the finances to move forward. Yet doors opened up and my family never starved.

Whenever I feared that I would be destitute, jobs came out of nowhere.  Jobs emerged because my friends found positions for me. When my career went half-time and then ended, care-giving allowed me to care for people that were sometimes at the end of their lives, but always challenged by life circumstances. Physical pain was part of their every move; emotional challenges were inevitable. My kindness, my gentleness, and my strength allowed some beautiful souls to live with as much dignity as possible; I made a difference.

And when care-giving couldn’t sustain me any longer, so many friends afforded me the possibility to survive and ultimately thrive. While I feared survival, I never really had to a reason to worry. Everything I needed to survive was available to my family. A friend gave me a home to live in for six months, beloved friends and family gave us what we needed to move and survive until I could start working, at every turn positions allowed our family to have exactly what we needed.  And just as I was getting ready to sustain myself on hourly wages, and another friend nudged me to apply for the position that lead me to be exactly where I am supposed to be at this time. As tears run down my face, I can’t believe how fortunate I am to be in Houston with an amazing community including co-workers that fill my life with joy.

I love forever. 

And this year couldn’t protect me from the pain of loss. I did have to say good-bye or let go of what could no longer be part of my life.

After years of separation, my marriage formally ended. For now, I can share that when I married nearly 26 years ago, I didn’t believe that my marriage could end in any way other than death. It did end and while I have had years to get used to what that ending meant, it is still profoundly sad.

When I was forced to say good-bye to our beloved Shachar, my sweet puppy. I was comforted by the belief that my family gave her enormous love in the year that we had her. Her abused spirit ended too early, but for one year she was treated with the love that was part of our every interaction, even the ending of her life. And as I was struggling for our family’s loss and some very physical pain, Jennifer and David showed up. They didn’t hesitate to come to Aryeh and I who were buckets of tears and pain. They just held us metaphorically and helped us move forward.

Finally, I had to let go of my best friend, a person who I thought would be in my life forever. For reasons that are somewhat beyond my grasp. . .there are no tomorrows. Sometimes all you can say is good-bye. I only wish I had the grace to say good-bye without sharing the deep loss that was a part of me; my heart quite literally shattered as my entire being yearned to understand.  This was the year I was forced to simply let go; I was given no choice.

With each and every step, I was never alone; I was surrounded by love. My friends always showed up in some very profound ways.

This has also been the year when I faced my inability to be present for those I love. I can send love letters, I can pray and send healing energy.  But I have so many friends who are facing very real physical pain.  Their pain is deep and all I want to do is wrap my arms around them and I can’t and I may never again.  The reality that sometimes there are no tomorrows cuts like a knife. While my life has been full in all the right ways, today I don’t have the means to be more present.  And there are people that I love as deeply as I love my family, they are my family of choice. Realizing that I can not be there breaks my heart.

As I get older, I have learned that life ends, accidents happen, physical pain hurts. . .with and without warning.  When my dear friend Helen died a few years ago, I was crushed that I couldn’t be there for her family, but I couldn’t.  At the same time, I have learned the most valuable lesson possible. I have learned to love completely and to treasure what is.  Even when you lose a beloved friend or lover, what you had lives on.  That love is what made you what you are.

The World
And the world, can we talk about Israel, Black Lives Matter, Our Nation, Refugees, Climate Change. . . .the list goes on and on; my mind never shuts off.  The world is struggling and I am struggling with her. Beauty comes as I stand with so many other individuals that care. I am not alone. Regardless of what language we give to each of the issues, I am surrounded by passionate people who care and want to make a difference for good.

While I can never do enough; I am doing what I can and that has to be enough for this moment.

Finally
Moving forward means acknowledging the pain, but willingly deciding that life is worthy of swimming upstream.  Thriving is not optional. The world is precious and full of so many beautiful souls. While tomorrow is not a given, this moment is here. So to quote my ‘virtual’ friend Jeff Keni Pulver, “Live, Life, Now!”

Every morning the sun rises. Life may sometimes have painful moments, but I know that I am always surrounded by light.

5776 – Hineini, Here I am!

Onward with love,
Chava

PS – To each and every one of my friends that have been there for me – thank you! I wouldn’t be where I am without you.

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Everything we say and don’t say matters; everything we do and don’t do matters.

Words and Silence – Action and inaction. . . .

Over the past many weeks, I have been more selective with what I say and what I do. Allowing myself to room for silence of voice and action has sometimes grounded me and has sometimes left me profoundly uncomfortable.

Too much is going on in the world. Every day, we are bombarded with information on the Iran Deal, US politics, climate change, the illness of loved ones, poverty, racism, human trafficking, refugees, immigration, gun control (or lack of control). The world feels really dark and painfully out of control. Opinions, prejudices, and biases emerge as if they are fact. And the facts are skewed by whoever is sharing them.

While each of us may see or hear about the same event, we tend to interpret what is happening based on our life experiences and views. I am no different. And I am realizing that so many people lack the power to discern what is happening in the world because they are being influenced by whatever sunglasses they are wearing instead of by interpreting the facts with the openness to really embrace the facts.

With so many human travesties and a feeling of hopelessness, I find that I am doing less than I should. I am not visiting the sick, helping teens navigate the world; I am not taking the time to care for others or the environment as much as I should.  Instead I am feeling stuck; I am unable to process the world as I once did.

Add the above to life’s normal challenges and some not so normal challenges, I have been feeling paralyzed and unable to make a difference in the world.

With all of this in mind, over the recent period of time, I have found myself going a little more inward and looking for quiet ways to care for myself more. This week alone, I have slept more, read a little more, taken some amazing yoga classes and listened to some amazing podcasts. I have allowed myself some time to invest in close friends and my sons. This time has brought core exhaustion to my core, but it has also brought about some intense realizations.

When I allow my momentary sense of hopelessness to surface, I live in fear that the world can never recover from the human conditioning that exists today. And then. . . just as I settled in myself sparks began to emerge, so many beautiful moments. There are people that are really trying to address the horrific issues of our century. A couple of days ago, I received an email with the following link http://www.globalgoals.org/prayer-for-everyone/.  Open it up and allow yourself to dream, to believe, and then to join those that have created Global Goals, those that have yet to give up on the human atrocities. There is work to do; we can make a difference.  At the same time, that I woke up to find the above link in my mailbox, a couple of new friends and old friends alike have found ways to let me know that my voice matters.

A day doesn’t pass without me looking deeply into the world.  With that responsibility comes the opportunity to listen and to share; we can learn from one another.  Listening and sharing leads to action and sometimes inaction. There are things we must do and sometimes we simply can’t do it all.

As I move towards 5776, I am aware that my voice matters so I need to find my voice even as I listen to all of the voices that surround me. In the coming year, may I leave the very tight cocoon I have woven for myself and be the butterfly that brightens the world around me. May I truly make a difference by impacting the world and doing things that make improve the lives of not only my family, my community, but the larger world too.

Can I be a butterfly that makes the world a little more beautiful? Courtesy of Karen Judin

Can I be a butterfly that makes the world a little more beautiful?
Courtesy of Karen Judin

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Today I realized that I am happy.

With every ounce of my being, I realized that the pain of the last few years has been easing up and evaporating. My entire focus is now on growing healthier, nurturing friendships, soaring spiritually, and gaining knowledge at every turn.

Today I am blessed with two healthy sons, a new home, a new city, a new position, some new friends, and healthier lifestyle habits. I am aware of the infinite possibilities that are available.

Somehow, yesterday doesn’t matter – not really.  What matters is that I have learned from each and every experience. I am who I am because of the way I walk in the world and what I have endured – the good, the challenging, and simply life.

The last several years have included some intense pain and loneliness, but I have been blessed at nearly every step. I was never really alone; I was shedding life’s extra weight while a community of beloveds gave their love, their money, many precious gifts, and heartfelt prayers.

While there were moments when I literally feared for my family’s well-being, they were few and far between. Friends and acquaintances opened their homes, offered food, and made it possible for us to thrive. All of our basic needs and more were met.

I am in awe of how beautifully things worked. Reflecting honestly has caused my spirit to soar.

May I be a person that shows up when I am needed and who gives in every way I can.

With love, light, and blessings,
Chava

This week, I started filling my happiness jar with positive things that happen each day.
This week was the week I started filling my happiness jar with positive things that happen each day.

PS – Intensity is part of who I am, but I am grateful to the fact that my personal life is landing in a great place; I haven’t forgotten that I was brought into this world so that I could make a difference for good.

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Yesterday, I felt like a broken vessel that had nothing to give to the world around me.  With deep sadness, I began to untangle the spiritual hell of the last few years and 2014 in specific.  I allowed myself the space to mourn the loss of time and some beloved connections.

As someone who chooses to find light in the midst of darkness, I wasn’t sure how to navigate out or if I could in fact do it.  The good news is that I literally have no reference for failure in my personal life.  I have always moved towards the light and found the sparks when life felt destitute.

The beauty of yesterday and the dark times that preceded yesterday is that even in my deepest sadness, I knew I was being held and loved.  I just had to go through all that I was feeling.  My heart felt like it was shattering nearly every moment of the day, but by night I was easing into a quieter and less dramatic space.

Today, I am far from joyous, but I am feeling the light warm my heart; I am opening to life’s realities and breathing a little more into the pain; the pain is breaking up.  With each breath, I am finding a little more balance and a little  hope too.

No tears have fallen today and I have had time to rest, write, and read.  In the midst of it all, I loved preparing a nice breakfast for my family and mostly acknowledging that I was moving forward. And in a few minutes, I will be chanting with some new and old friends.   With each act, I am putting my vessel back together.

2014 can not define who I am, but it can help me to grow.  My spirit may be wounded, but with each crack more and more light can enter.  Rumi was correct when he said, “The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”

May sparks of light make 2015 a year of blessings, peace, and love.

celebrating with a mint tea latté. While today is a day of reflection, healing, and moving forward, it is also a day of celebrating what is. Yum! לחיים! To Life

Celebrating with a mint tea latté.
While today is a day of reflection, healing, and moving forward, it is also a day of celebrating what is. Yum!
לחיים! To Life

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