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best photo ever!Awakening

Opening my eyes I found:
my spirit soaring.
my heart beating strongly.
my entire being at peace.

The universe has been waiting for me.

With the patience of a lover, she kept calling me from the distance and waiting. . . always waiting.
Beckoning me to breathe a little more deeply
Inspiring me to honor my own rhythm
Asking me to listen to the silence
Empowering me to release what no longer serves me

And I listened. Hineini, Here I am!

***** ***** *****

Yesterday I returned home from the most amazing spiritual retreat I’ve had in over a decade.  After spending nearly five glorious days and nights in South Padre Island at the home of dear friends, I feel more grounded than I have in years.  Sacred time nestled between the Gulf of Mexico on the east, and Laguna Madre on the west was truly a gift in every way.

From the moment I got to my newly found oasis until the moment I left to return home, I felt at peace with the land, the water, the sunrises, the sunsets, the wind, and even the cool weather. I relaxed, I created, I took long walks, and I rested. I felt the sun warm my soul while my friends nourished me in every way.

For so long, I have needed to allow my rhythm to be my guide. I needed the quiet and to put down my ‘to do’ list. I needed to feel the wind in my hair and the sun on my skin. I needed long walks, awesome food, and love. It feels like forever since I allowed myself to decompress the way I did.

I even took time to watch AWESOME movies, become inspired by some of the most thought-provoking TED Talks. I know my friends wanted to show me the dolphins, the local birds, but all I needed was the water, the sun, and the time we had together.

sunset - bayNext time I need to soar, may I remember to take the time to ground myself with nature, with friends, or if I am lucky – with both. I am so lucky that the universe beckoned to me and that I listened.

South Padre Island nurtured me on down to each and every one of my cells. My heart feels a little more whole, my spirit feels more grounded even as it soars, and I feel ready for the rhythm of the next six or so weeks. I needed this sacred time so that I could refuel for all that is ahead!

Onward with love, light, & blessings,

Chava

 

 

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and i said to my body. softly. ‘i want to be your friend.
‘ it took a long breath. and replied
‘i have been waiting my whole life for this.’

~nayyirah waheed

 

 

Shadow at a labyrinth

My body aches. My spirit is a little bruised. And I really am OK.

Last Saturday, I became contaminated with gluten which left me completely debilitated and unable to fully focus. With my joints swollen and an inability to fully think, I became temporarily despondent. Of course, I also worried that this was not simply a reaction to someone with celiac disease being contaminated with gluten. Instead I thought that perhaps I had a serious illness and the timing of me being contaminated with gluten was simply a coincidence. I think many of us get dramatic when we are physically and emotionally depleted.

After a few days of feeling absolutely horrible, I became desperate, took a deep breath, and asked my Facebook Village for help. And of course they did. Even more amazing, I listened. I decided to make some different food choices, take supplements, drink a lot more water, and allow myself to go through some of my deep frustration and sadness.

In response, it is so awesome how eating the right foods, etc. gave my body a chance to begin healing and made me feel a little better with each passing day. This morning, I felt a better than I did yesterday and this evening not as well. Being on a seesaw is never fun for me, but it is a normal trajectory in any healing journey. While I have a ways to go, I know what I have to do. AND I know that all will be ok.

There are some bummers in this journey. I have decided that it is time to refrain from eating out again unless I eat simple salads or perhaps a few really sensitive vegetarian restaurants. I also realize that it is time for me to find some new doctors because my reaction to gluten contamination is growing more significant. And I am also dealing with how vulnerable I feel around this challenge.

Opening up and sharing my inner thoughts is so very hard when anxiety seems to reign inside my body. Yet over the last couple of years, I have learned time and again that I am blessed with good friends who really are present when I need them. While remaining in the shadows is somewhat easier when I am having a challenging time, the key is to take a deep breath (when ready) and reach out as appropriate.

Would love to know your thoughts and how you move forward when you feel paralyzed in any way.

With love, light, and blessings,

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 . . . .]

Learning To Listen
My Body & My Spirit

My body and heart is so very complicated.

This weekend became a time for opening my eyes and purging that which I don’t need. Know that I am reeling from it. I am also stretching and growing.

Courtesy of Elizabeth Loebman Window Open to the Blue Mountains

Here is a window into what is going on for me and how I am choosing to navigate:

  1. Initially, I realized that how I was eating and what I was putting into my body was making my daily living cycle difficult. So on Saturday morning, I decided to stop playing with my awake/sleep cycle in any way. With that in mind, caffeine and alcohol went out the window until I figure out what my body needs to thrive.
  2. Saturday evening or maybe this morning, another light bulb went off when I realized that every morning after breakfast, I need a nap. Before breakfast, I am feeling alive and vibrant. And then after I eat, I need caffeine to function. Sigh. So today, I had no grains and I didn’t crash once!!!
  3. This afternoon, I went through my closet and put a bunch of stuff into the “Share Pile”.
  4. I am navigating some challenges and choosing to be as authentic with myself and kind with others as I can be.
  5. This weekend, I also prepared a D’var Torah (Torah Discussion), went to services, took a bunch of walks, and chanted.
  6. My family and I walked, talked, played, prepared food, and ate a lot together!

The bottom-line is that this was a weekend for figuring out how to honor my body and my spirit. I took great care of me and allowed myself time and space to do some powerful healing work by actively letting go of that which doesn’t serve me any longer.

I will always be a work in progress, but it felt so good to let go of some food, some words, some heartache, and some stuff. While I may be facing a little overload, I am feeling so much lighter and ready for precious sleep.

Life is good!

With love, light, and blessings,
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

When I think of being whole, I keep wondering if it is time for me to eat more consciously.  What if I just started with three ideas?

  1. Saying blessings before and after each chow time.

    Blessings before eating: When we say traditional blessings before we eat, we are noting how each bit was provided for us.  Did it grow on a tree or in the ground? Was it a baked good or hardy drink? There are a few other blessings, but the key here is that we can take note of what we are eating and how it was created.

    Blessings after eating: These blessings are a way to give gratitude to the God, the universe, or perhaps you are simply taking a moment to acknowledge how fortunate you are to have food in this moment.

  2. Being fully present with each and every bite. Can you imagine putting your phone down, closing your computer, or not trying to multitask while eating? As someone who has a choking disorder, I am often aware that if I would focus on each bite and not on talking while eating, I would avoid seriously challenging moments.  But even without a choking disorder, most of us could enjoy the tastes, textures, and looks of the food so much more if we weren’t eating without being focused elsewhere.
  3. Eating foods that are better for your body. My goal here is to invite you to pay attention to the foods you are putting to your lips. Most of us know that there are foods that taste good, but aren’t good for our digestive systems or maybe our waistlines. Sometimes we eat foods that we love the taste of, but may cause us to feel bloated. Why eat things that are not good for our bodies? Just wondering out loud. (Over the coming days, I will become more specific with this.)

Let’s face it, food is a central part of our lives. Our lives can be healthier just for managing our eating choices better.  There is lots to consider before we eat. What we are eating? How we are eating? When we are eating?

May each of us find more meaningful ways to engage in eating.

With love, light, and blessings,
Chava

Oranges anyone?

Oranges anyone?

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Note: Storytelling is one of my favorite past times.  What I love most about them is that a good story sometimes changes over time.  I wonder if my sister-in-law Eudice would remember this story as I did.  Hmmmmm. . . . 

Traditions and/or rituals.  Many of them have the potential to keep our family grounded and  actively engaged in life.

Since my later teenage years, I have grown to love family traditions around Shabbat and other Jewish Holidays; nearly every Jewish practice incorporates food.  From nuts to bolts, my family always tries to create tasty and healthy meals that conclude with dessert.  I love that this particular tradition was due to my amazing sister-in-law Eudice (who probably dragged my brother Ricky along for the ride).

Traditions need to be followed.  Regardless of whether or not, money is tight or any of us happen to be on diets; dessert is always part of the our Shabbat/holidays equation.  And if you are blessed to have an occasion when you may have financial challenges and/or weight struggles.   Oy.

With this in mind, I feel compelled to share one of most treasured memories because of the ridiculous nature of how it unfolded.

When I was a teenager and living in Israel, my sister-in-law and I were trying to honor our limited budget and our health journey too.  We had no extra money, but company was coming for Shabbat dinner.  With a tight budget and our diet looming, we started looking for a cheap dessert recipe that neither of us liked in the least.

After what seemed like hours of looking , we found it!!!! We found what we were looking for, a dessert that sounded disgusting to both of us.  I think that we believed that since it was called a dessert, it must be good to everyone else.  Somehow we lacked the wisdom to think that if it looked  gross to us, it probably wouldn’t be good for anyone else.

The making of  the ‘Orange Rind Pie’
As luck would have it, we not only found a recipe for what would ultimately become our infamous Orange Rind Pie, but we also had all the ingredients in the house.  We couldn’t help but laugh at our great fortune.  We were so happy to find a dessert that neither of us thought we would like.  So we mixed all the ingredients together and baked our scrumptious dessert.  When it came out of the oven, we looked at it with disbelief.

The pie looked absolutely disgusting.  It looked so yucky that my brother suggested that he try just a sliver to make sure it was edible.  Well, it wasn’t. . . .if I remember correctly, my brother took one bite of the pie and ran as quickly as his legs could carry him, he ran to the bakery so that he could buy some ‘real dessert’.  So much for finding a recipe that was gentle on our budget and good for our diet.

Guess now it is a good time to reflect that sometimes looks can be deceiving, but not always. 🙂

The D'Isa family's teeny tiny pie.  Made with love. (No doubt, THIS pie was amazing.)

The D’Isa family’s teeny tiny pie. Made with love.
(No doubt, THIS pie was amazing.)

With blessings & light,
Chava

PS- In case you are wondering, the reason I thought about the Orange Rind Pie today, was because yesterday, a good friend of mine emailed me a recipe for a dessert that needed orange rind.  Do you think I should try making it for this coming Shabbat?

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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 me, it is a time to actively reflect on different middot (character traits) that will lead me to my own rebirth.

Middah (character trait) focus: Humility

It’s not all about me.

Really. . . .As hard as it is to believe sometimes, I am not the center of the universe or the center of the earth’s story.  There is a much bigger world that surrounds me; I am simply  a small particle within the larger cosmos.

Things That Grow at My Palace of Peace: tomatoes, peppers, chives Photo courtesy of Shay Seaborne

Things That Grow at My Palace of Peace:     tomatoes, peppers, chives
Photo courtesy of Shay Seaborne

I need to do the best Ihu can with the part of the world that is mine to navigate.  Every aspect of my world is a metaphoric seed that can be planted to sprout new food, enchanting ideas, or gifts to be celebrated.  We all make a difference and have the capacity to heal or hurt what exists.

Perhaps humility is simply the understanding that each and every aspect of the world matters.  While it may not be all about me, I still can make a difference for good.

May I walk gently, remain unobtrussive, and do my best make a difference for good.

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Aryeh with Pita

Always in tie dye, this time on a camel
Summer 2012, Israel

For well over three years, my son Aryeh fought the fight of his life.  As he struggled between life and death at times, I began to see the world through renewed eyes.  Our family felt virtually alone as we dealt with the daily agony of our teenage son and Dovi’s brother.  We navigated each day with endurance, yet we were in pain too.

While the darkness felt impermeable at times, it wasn’t.  There were so many angels that entered our lives, sometimes for a moment and some of them are still active in our lives to this day.  There were friends cooked our food, others that created a fund to offset the costs of Aryeh’s medical bills, and still others that were there at the drop of a hat.  Some of our closest friends couldn’t be present, but virtual strangers opened up their arms to help.  We felt surrounded by love so much of the time.

One of the most loving acts came the day we came home from Aryeh’s first brain surgery.  We had been forced out of the hospital too soon because the “only” bed available was in a room with another teenage boy who couldn’t stop screaming due to his own agony.  The boy’s screaming paralyzed our son in so many ways.  While we were in the hospital someone was supposed to come over with food and fill our refrigerator, but she became too anxious because of our significant food allergies/needs and instead brought nothing. We came home physically and emotionally wiped to no food; it shouldn’t have been a big deal, but it was.  Aryeh was not ready be home and we were all in pain.  I remember Michael, Aryeh’s father, calling our friends Paula and John; he was so distraught at what was going on and they rushed over with enough food to sustain us for days.  They looked at their house and used all the food they had and then some to prepare for our needs.  Paula and John continued to cook for us for years and probably would continue if we lived a little closer.  🙂

Following this day, our friend Wicca (and maybe someone else) organized all of our food for months and months.  People took care of us; they tried to take care of Aryeh.  Aryeh was too sick; it was years before he was ok.  Later we needed to go from Washington, DC to Los Angeles and people helped us every step of the way.  We couldn’t have made it emotionally, physically, or financially if people weren’t there.  One special angel was my friend Miriam who was with me as Aryeh quite literally fought for his life in an LA hospital and then opened up her home for us to stay for weeks following surgery.

Every step of the way, people were there.

Our friend John and his sons opened up their home to Dovi.  Dovi must have stayed at their house for weeks if not months during Aryeh’s illness.  They never asked for a dime; John just assumed he had three sons.  And later when were able to celebrate Aryeh’s life, John and his housemate Patrick, opened up their home so that we could have a Celebration of Life Party in honor of Aryeh’s recovery.

Amy gave and gave in so many ways; as did our friends Stuart and Lisa. Idie and Tamar came for the holidays so that we would have the holidays; Pesach was the hardest, but you would have never known because of how they chipped in to take care of us in every way.  People were coming out of the woodwork to help support us through hell.

A few friends drove two hours to the hospital to drop off food even though we couldn’t be with them.  Some people drove Dovi to and from where he needed to go.  A couple of Marines dropped off a large screened TV because Michael went on Freecycle and shared our story.  When Aryeh came home initially after the first surgery, he struggled to see; these two strangers gave us a TV so Aryeh would be able to see it.  And then they stayed and just hung out with our teenage son.

Simple acts of kindness go a long way.

In those years of serious illness, I learned that a smile makes a difference.  A hug can make everything better if only for a moment.  A pack of colorful, silly tissues are worthy of having in your hand.  A box of citrus chamomile tea warms your heart.  Mandalas made by friends and strangers surrounded our family with healing powers while hundreds of my Jewish Educator friends from all over the world sang a healing song for Aryeh as struggled in ICU for his own healing.

We were surrounded by love and care.  Aryeh’s friends made him tie-dye sheets that are still with him to this day; in fact, we made sure he was wrapped in his sheets even as he laid intubated after his second surgery.  Nothing about this time was easy, but we made it through because of simple acts of kindness by some of our closest friends as well as some strangers. Some made time to sit with us and be present sometimes in silence and sometimes to play games.  Others made sure our daily needs were met.  The bottom-line is that even when we felt alone, we weren’t alone, not really.

Each and every act made a difference.  Strangers, friends, loved ones sustained us when we had little hope.  And new friends joined us as we healed.  I will forever be grateful for Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation where I worked during the beginning of Aryeh’s illness and Bethesda Jewish Congregation where I worked during the healing years.  Both communities were loving, kind, and present when our family needed them.

Simple acts of kindness allowed us to focus on healing from what could have been a tragedy.

May each of us be blessed to touch another’s life for good! May we remember that we can make a difference when we choose to step up to the plate.

With love, light, and gratitude

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