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Posts Tagged ‘Hineini (Here I am)’

Flooding 1Life is forever altered.

(Note: Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant address this again and again in their book, Option B. If you haven’t yet read it, rush to purchase it and embrace the wisdom.)

No one ever wakes up one day expecting a moment (or many moments) can change the course of life, but sometimes it happens. For us living in Houston, Hurricane Harvey did the job.

Option B is my new norm and has been for just over a week. Although, it has only been over the last few days that I am feeling the long-term impact. Our new norms have left me unable able to take a deep breath (literally); I have, at least temporarily, shed the calm armor of grace and bravery.  AND I do know that at some point soon calm waters will appear. I have faced enough challenges in my life to trust that somehow I always find a way to navigate new norms.

Here is just a short list of how life has been altered:

  • The air quality is making it difficult to breathe.
  • Four or five hours of driving time have been added onto our daily commute. Although we will be looking for ways around this.
  • The possibility of flooding is a constant fear. With water levels so high. . .
  • While Houstonians are resilient, they are also bone weary.
  • Time to take care of myself via exercise and whole food cooking is gone. Although, a recent physical has dictated that I make some significant changes.

These are the biggies, but their are so many more.

Last night, the new realities hit me or should I say sucker punched me – knocking all the air out of me. The good news is that today, I am reflecting on how to navigate the new norms without allowing a sense of despondency to envelop me – Option B. I have NO doubt that my family will find new norms that work and a healthy new center.

Keep sending your prayers and sweet visions our way!

Even with the stress, I am immensely grateful.  We have our home and I have a widespread village to support me. While the harshness of the new landscape is not easy to integrate into my life, I am hoping that those that love me will be able to handle that I am a little more sensitive than usual.

Maneuvering Option B is going to take some time, but it is happening – a little by little each hour. And the only way that I can do it is with my amazing village by my side.  While my village is extraordinary, I want to share some insights and advice for better supporting me.

  • Sometimes I just need a ‘witness’ to listen.
  • Being transparent on Facebook is what I do, if you want to know how I am. . .check out my status; it will probably let you know exactly how I am.  AND for the meantime, I will continue to do my Facebook Live at 5 (or as close to 5 as I can).
  • While I know that I didn’t lose my house or anything of significance, this new norm is hell. I don’t need to be reminded that I should be grateful. I am. AND I am also acutely aware that Hurricane Harvey is even more devastating for others. Still, I have a right to feel as I feel.
  • Suggesting that I take care of myself doesn’t serve either of us well. In the early days of the disaster, I was constantly on the phone and connecting with those in need. Drumming and chanting would have been great, but when I had time, I needed to sleep/rest. The one thing I do multiple times a day is journal. Trust that I will find the pockets of time and embrace them. Telling me to take the time is a reminder that time is not what it once was. And hearing that again and again by the same people makes me crazy.
  • Social media offers so many gifts. At any moment, I may choose to engage or disengage, that is my prerogative.  I love the support of it, the information I glean, the sayings, the inspirations, and stories/music shared.  Telling me to unplug is infuriating; I am more than capable of deciding what I need to do at any moment.
  • While I love the support that surrounds me, I am fairly clear about what I need. If I ask you to connect with me or not in a certain way, please listen. I won’t be demanding or disconnected for long.

The vulnerability I feel right now can be earth shattering at times. The new norms petrify me. I can’t explain it all just yet, but I will over time. I am comfortable with transparency, but I am hurting right now and I am not always clear that I have the resiliency to navigate.  Yet I have a long history of thriving and my guess is that Hurricane Harvey will be no different.

Hineini, here I am, riding the waves. . . .  I don’t have Option A any longer, so Option B will simply have to do.

A few days ago, I shared that I am finding myself creating and humming a lot of niggunim, wordless melodies. There really are no words to adequately describe the mixture of emotions that each and every person in Houston is feeling. Today was my first effort in writing.

Moving forward. . .

Tell me, what is it you plan to do 
with your one wild and precious life?

~Mary Oliver, The Summer Day

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A friend of mine just send me a quote that resonated to the deepest part of my soul.

The only way you can endure your pain is to let it be painful.
~Shunryu Suzuki , Zen monk and teacher
who helped popularize Zen Buddhism 

After over 11 weeks of pain and now healing, I have a new insight into the rhythm of life. The challenge of dealing with excruciating pain gave me the opportunity to reflect on not only myself, but on the larger wold.

Almost nothing about life is simple or easy; sometimes it is simply hard or feels like too much.

While March’s hell took over my ability to function and forced me to ground myself differently than I ever have, the sadness that permeated my being over the ensuing weeks may have been worse in many ways. With too much time on my hands and an inability to focus on writing, reading, loved ones, or work, I went towards darkness. Sometimes it was as if I was in a very long tunnel; the only problem was that I couldn’t see the other end of the tunnel; I couldn’t see the light.

Even with my beautiful sons, sweet phone calls from loved ones, and a couple of visitors, I felt more alone than I may have felt since my early years. My heart and soul ached with deep loneliness and the world’s politics made me feel hopeless. Even as my body healed, I understood that I was grieving deeply. I was grieving from the lost dreams – personally and globally. With each passing day, the daily beatings left me battered and bruised and sometimes even hyperventilating.

What I learned during the darkest moments was that I couldn’t hide from my pain. There was no cocoon big enough to hold me and no one there to hear the depths of my pain. Although my beautiful sister-in-law reached out to me daily, I wasn’t able to be consoled; I also chose to only share about the physical pain. I believed and still believe that the depth of what I was feeling was too much to put on any one person’s shoulders. So instead, I allowed me the time and space to go through it.

The good news is that I have always found light in the darkness and as the sparks have begun to make room for more and more light, I have slowly become more grounded. With each passing day, calmness emerges and light shines a little more brightly; not only my body is healing, but so is my soul.

The single most valuable tool for healing came from giving my pain a voice. As we all know, it is impossible to sweep boulders under a carpet. I’ve tried, but to no avail. So with perseverance, I started naming my fears and addressing my pain by actively allowing myself the room to feel and even to cry before trying to move mountains.

Even as I share a taste of what was weighing me down, know that I am aware that all is intertwined with each other and nothing stands on it’s own even if it may appear that it does. There are many parts of life’s puzzle that impact each of us; I am no different.

Humankind has not woven the web of life.
We are but one thread within it.

Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.
All things are bound together.

All things connect.
~Chief Seattle

“My back hurts!!!!
The physical pain may have been hurled at me the way that bombers explode their targeted locations with precision, but finding the right doctors and medications put me on a healing journey. Surgery probably saved my ability to walk and now physical therapy, yoga, and losing weight will move me to an even better place. My health journey has had horrific moments, but loving practitioners and doctors have made each passing day less painful.

Core Belief Tree June 2017.FinalOnce I started finding ways to navigate the pain, I began to see that my back’s pain was in part due to my need to strengthen my core and better align my soul with my roots (values) while working towards what I really want in my life (the fruits of my labor). I needed and still need to become a healthier and stronger me so that ‘real’ healing can occur on every level. That meant and still means that in order to be healthy I need to better engage with my root values so that my core can thrive. And only through pollination will blossoms sprout fruit. This realization lead me to understand that I had to navigate a lot of moving parts in order to blossom and ultimately see the fruits of my labor. This light bulb moment followed a fabulous online class art class that I took before surgery.

The vision above is what emerged. I have drawn several different versions of this tree and each one brings more clarity.

What the ‘F’ am I going to do? I never have enough money!
As a Jewish Educator and a single mother, money has often been a challenge for me. I have always faced without hesitation and mostly with a positive attitude. It is what it is. Yet. . . .illness, medical bills, and reality got to me during much of my recovery. Still, I tried to seek positive solutions to overwhelming fear.

A couple of weeks ago, I posted the following question on Facebook, “How are you becoming fiscally more socially responsible?” The first response came from someone who believed that this question can only be asked of people that have a means. Initially, I I was asking that question because I literally don’t have enough money to thrive, but yet I really do have what I need-mostly. On most months, I can prioritize, but it is really tight. And getting sick did nothing to make it easier.

My tight budget got tight enough to put me over the edge. With an inability to drive, my sons had to start taking Uber (no good transit system here), I had to buy medications and more medications, I had to meet a deductible that was outside of anything I could afford, and I had to pay co-pays for every doctor’s appointment. And when I needed to go to the ER because I was fighting an infection, I opted out of going; I just didn’t have the mandatory $400 for an ER visit. (Fortunately, my decision to wait until morning worked out just fine.) The good news is that I had a credit card or two; the bad news is that I used them. A tax refund paid off most of the debt and this month, I finished paying off the rest except that left me with barely enough to navigate this month.

Even as I write about my realities, I am so grateful that this is simply a ‘first world problem’. I profoundly aware of how fortunate I really am; I am always ok. I am blessed that one of my sons works and gives nearly every penny towards our household. And while things are tight, I always make it and I always have. Mostly. Are things easy? No. Do I waste much money? Sometimes. . .still I am careful. Was I fortunate enough to navigate the hundreds of dollars that illness has thrown in my direction? Yes. In my illness, I figured out how to pay down payments for surgery, medications, other unexpected expenses.

Regardless of the monthly medical expenses, the doctors and hospital still need to be paid, I am making it and even starting to hope I will have a solid savings plan in place by September if not sooner.  I have food on the table, an ability to cook in a sweet little kitchen, a beautiful home with an amazing landlord, a car (with car payments), and a lovely neighborhood. Basically, I really do have most of what I need/want. I have a beautiful life.

Back to my Facebook question, I believe that everyone of us can make socially conscious financial decisions. Are you directly supporting sweatshops or purchasing your clothing through thrift shops and clothing swaps?  Do you buy chocolate bars at dirt cheap prices or limit yourself to a fair-trade chocolate bar every few months? Are you using the dryer or hanging your clothing on a clothesline or drying rack? When you go to grocery stores or any store, do you use paper or plastic? Perhaps you simply bring your own bags; I know I do. While I am far from perfect, I am trying to make socially conscious decisions at every opportunity and if I am really thoughtful, I am also saving money with each decision.

This month, I am fixated on three very real realities, I want to purchase a compost, I need to put off going to a dentist for a little bit longer, and I am sad that I can’t make all the donations that I want to make. There are a lot of beautiful nonprofits doing amazing work. Let me know if you’d like to give to any my favorite organization; I definitely have a bunch I could suggest. Some of my deepest sadness comes from the fact that I am not giving as I would like or doing enough. But I do know that I am doing the best that I can AND the more I learn, the more I try to make responsible and loving decisions not only for our family, but also for the greater world.

Our World Feels Like It is Falling Apart
Mother Earth is crying. Human beings are being delegitimized based on where they live, the color of their skin, their religion, their socio-economic status, their gender, and/or their sexual orientation. Add these realities to the fact that not only the United States government, the Israeli government, as well as so many other governments are filled with ill equipped leaders who are toxic at the least and seemingly fascist at the worst.

And regardless of how bad it is, I am amazed at the angels that are showing up. Whether at rallies, at organizing meetings, at the offices of elected officials, or on the street, I am meeting passionate people who want to make our world a better place. I have even been touched by elected officials who have integrity and are helping guide those that want to do whatever they can.

Healing My Body, My Mind, and My Soul
I took the weeks needed to heal not only my body, but also my mind and my soul. Admitting that the pain felt overwhelming and I felt alone was the only way to move forward. At times crying cleansed me and sometimes it paralyzed me for a moment or more, but in the end I have worked through the deepest depths of loss. I have allowed myself time to grieve and at times I am allowing myself the space to still grieve. In so many ways it feels like I have nine lives or perhaps twenty-nine lives. 🙂

Living is holy work and I am absolutely up for the task. Hineini, Here I am!

With love, light, & blessings,
Chava

PS – To remind me of the power of ‘Choosing Life’, I think back to John Denver’s song, I Want To Live. There is so much beautiful work to do! Are you with me?

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My mind is
spinning
spinning
spinning

I close my eyes
I breathe
I find the center
I find the quiet

There I am

There I am
Not ready to do the next thing

Just ready to see that
There I am

by Jennifer R. Zunikoff

Hineini. Here I am.

As the sun was getting ready to set and the rain was getting ready to fall, my entire being needed to feel the wind pick up while weeding the incredible growth in my backyard.

I’ve never been someone who really knew what to do with any yard I have had. My talents lie in being reflective, connecting with people wherever they are, and writing.  I am also someone who craves being present first and foremost for myself and yet struggles to do just that.

The world seems to call to me and say that I need to do more, I need to be more. And yet I am becoming clear that it may be my time to go to a more insular place. My entire being is gravitating towards a more silent and less kinetic life.

Weeding 16April2016

Hineini. Here I am.

As I reached towards the earth, I realized that pulling the weeds was much more to me than the action I was doing; each weed pulled was a metaphor for the voices in my head. I found myself reflecting about all that I need to weed in my life so that I can become even more whole and authentically me. As always, I need more simplification so with each weed pulled, I asked some hard questions. What do I really need in my life?  What do I want to fill my life with? What do I want to lose?

With Passover coming next Friday night, I should have been cleaning my house and preparing for the holiday. While I don’t have chametz (leaven, or food mixed with chametz (leaven, prohibited during Passover), I do have some things to clear away; I have some spiritual soul work to do. I have a whole lot of clutter inside my heart, mind and soul. I also have some excesses surrounding me that need some reckoning.

May each weed pulled lead me to a little less noise and the ability to release a lot more stuff. May the freedom be sweet and the breath be deep.

Hineini. Here I am.

Weeds and chimes

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Tornado Sunrise 17January2016

Sunrise with hint of looming tornado Photo Courtesy of Iris Koller

Each day I awake
to the rhythm of my heartbeat.
to the intensity of my soul.
to my breath.

Each day I
feel the holiness of the world.
thank G!D for the beauty that surrounds me.
pray for the strength to move through the storms of life.

Each day I
believe in human kindness.
trust in my beloved village.
hope that life’s nightmares will go away.

Each day I
watch the waves of life crash against the waters’ edge.
sensing that that there is more I can do to make the world a better place.
and yes, doubting that I have what it takes.

And yet
giving up is not an option.
managing the turbulence that often guides me is my work.
striving to NEVER GIVE UP.

Hineni, Here I am. . .
navigating passion that resonates deeply.
dreaming that calm settles the turbulent rush of the water.
believing that the rippling of pebbles makes the world a holier and more beautiful place.

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L I V I N G is holy work.
 
Reflection Time Selfie

Reflection Time Selfie

 
Life is so profoundly full
My body craves less
My mind would love some emptiness
My heart desires just a little more.
 
Dance is the hidden language of the soul. (Martha Graham)
Stretching my entire being
Reaching for the stars
Allowing my body to sway to my own rhythm
 
Losing what I don’t need
Addictions, loved ones, and inner turmoil
Body weight, too much stuff, and lots of old stories
Wanting to celebrate what was
while letting go of what is no longer needed
 
Craving what I need:
Writing time
Creative experiences
and spiritual moments
 
Chanting
Drumming
Journaling
Moving
 
My body
My mind
My soul
Needs so much less and so much more
 
Each time I reach inward, I find more that I want
He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how. (Nietzsche)
My soul yearns to make a difference
My body and mind yearn to see the world through a different lens.
 
Let go of the old, make room for the possibilities
 
In front of me is a bridge
Only once I shed what I don’t need
Release what no longer serves me
Take one step and then another
Only then, will I be able to cross the bridge
 
L I V I N G is holy work
So I will do ALL that I have to do.
Hineini
Here I Am
Pantano Wash, Tucson Arizona

Pantano Wash, Tucson Arizona

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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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I am hard on myself. I never believe that I am enough, that I give enough, that I am present enough. This is especially true for doing my part to repair the world (tikun olam) or to stand up for the politics I believe in.

Instead of lamenting about what I could have or should have done before this time, I have decided to begin doing what I can now. This actually started weeks ago, but over the last days, I have really been called to action.

Here I am; I am here to serve you!

Here I am; I am here to serve you!

 On Wednesday night, two things happened that nudged me out of my inertia.

  1. Nine beautiful souls were massacred at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
  2. A devastating fire in the San Bernadino National Forest near where my son is working in Angelus Oaks, California forced the staff to evacuate from where they were camping. For this moment, the camp is safe, but all is not looking good for that area. At this point 17,000 acres has been destroyed and the staff only have the belongings that they had on their overnight. I am happy that the residents and firefighters are safe at this point; may that continue! I am devastated for the wildlife.

The visceral reaction that I had initially shifted to a deep desire to ‘do something’.  By Thursday, I asked my chant group for possible chants so that we could shift the energy, I created resource sheets for comforting those in mourning, those affected by the deaths, and for the wildfires too.

Nearly every waking moment since Wednesday, I have chanted, prayed, visualized, healing for all in need. I haven’t been able to sleep or eat much either. I have allowed a few tears to fall and my heart to crack open.

And yesterday, I called a local reverend to ask if he would mind if I joined his upcoming vigil. I also emailed my rabbi to see if she would be willing to have my new congregation host a shloshim* gathering for the local AME church. Regardless, I will be reaching out to them myself and finding out if perhaps I can organize a mandala making gathering so that we could send cards or mandalas to each and every member/family of the Charleston church.

The bottom-line is I am a tree hugger and a lover of all life-force. I may not be able to do much, but I can do something. There is a part of me that is simply not able to sit back and do nothing.

Over the years, I have been inspired by people that make a difference. Today, I have the ability to touch lives. Just because I have yet to do enough for others doesn’t mean I have to stay on that trajectory.

Politically, I plan to find my voice over the coming year for the upcoming elections, gun control, and the environment. Next summer, I am hoping to find a trip that will allow for me to learn more and have a greater impact in American policy towards Israel. I live in Houston, Texas now; it is my time to step up to the plate. I can’t hide from being involved any longer.

It is also time for me to celebrate that my life is quite amazing. My sons are healthy young men that are beginning their launch into adulthood. During much of their growing years, I was absorbed with their healing from serious illnesses. (They are both healthy now.) And in recent years, I had some of my own personal challenges to contend with.  But it is important for me to remember that I rarely sat back and did nothing. There were years when I volunteered in shelters weekly, took in a homeless family for six months, did work for the environment, stood strong for Israel, worked towards eliminating modern-day slave labor, and did my part for local and national politics. BUT I truly have not done enough and I am ok with that. As long as I stand by the below equation now:

KNOWLEDGE + VOLITION + ACTION = RESULTS**

After my older son healed from serious illness, I had a false start and thought I would do more, but it wasn’t my time. I have to find peace with that reality. I am not the same person I was then. I have faced a few more demons, fear of homelessness, and what it means to work for a hourly wage. Both my spirit and my body were seriously impacted by what happened to me in Tucson, but I am thriving now.  Still, Tucson gave me one of the most precious gifts imaginable, it gave me the ability to hear differently and the determination to help others.

So, here I am. Hineini. I am here to serve others, to impact the world for good, and to weave my words so that others may be drawn to reflect, to stretch, and to grow.

With every fiber of my being, I pray that my actions and my words do their part for tikun olam, repairing the world, while I walk gently and lovingly with each step.

With love, light, and blessings,
Chava

Notes:
*In traditional Judaism, the first 30 days after someones burial is for intense mourning. For this situation, I am thinking we could mark 30 days after the massacre and create a healing ritual.

** This equation was originally found from Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D., but I do think I have seen it elsewhere as well.

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