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Posts Tagged ‘Hurricane Harvey’

img_2267Being a truth teller isn’t always easy. Sometimes it is downright hard.

Since facing Hurricane Harvey over two years ago, I have seen friends post that they are really perplexed, even angry at those that decided to ride out a hurricane or any other natural disaster and stay home instead of seeking safer ground.  These diatribes often leave me feeling a little stunned at how inconsequential I feel in settings that I usually feel valued.

While I love what I do as a Jewish educator, I do not make an income that affords me to live with any sort of financial ease. As someone who has essentially raised two sons on her own from teenagers into adulthood, I’ve done great, but that doesn’t mean that life has been easy. And it doesn’t mean we have had all of our needs met.

Well-meaning community members and sometimes friends don’t see the larger picture, the realities of my life. In truth, I don’t tend to share either. But here are some realities, if you looked at my finances as a Jewish educator:

  1. I would be forced to stay home if a hurricane or another natural disaster was on the horizon if it wasn’t for my beautiful tribe of friends all over the country that love me unconditionally and who always want to save my family from sadness and/or hardship.  In fact, as Hurricane Harvey was getting ready to bare it’s ugly teeth, I was faced with wondering whether I could even afford to be stuck at home for two to three weeks. At first leaving wasn’t even an option. I couldn’t afford a hotel and besides, in our case, the mayor and my neighbors were telling us to ‘stay put’. But as I went to the grocery store to buy protein bars, non-perishable food items, and other necessities that we would need in the event of being stuck in our home, I was really worried. I mean I was scared. Without the extra funds, I wasn’t certain that we would be ok. AND we have a tribe. One childhood friend offered me money just to leave. Another friend from Philly, started looking for hotel rooms. And then others offered their homes on the east coast.
  2. Basic needs sometimes fall by the wayside.
    • When my back started hurting badly last year, I couldn’t afford the physical therapy co-payments, I simply did what I could at home. Good health insurance doesn’t make a difference unless I can pay for co-pays. The only reason it is good is if something major happens.
    • Sometimes I wait for an extra long period of time to do some of the basics. Yes, it is time for me to take the guys and I to the dentist. AND yet, we know it is important.
    • My sons have really yucky health insurance policies; we pay for the best we can afford.
    • Since Hurricane Harvey, my breathing can be a challenge sometimes, but running the air conditioning is costly; this means I have to decide whether or not I can afford to keep it on (in more ways than one).
    • Life is what it is.
  3. When Maddie, our aging dog, had an accident and tore her ACL. We couldn’t afford the surgery, nor did we think it was the right choice. Instead we decided to do palliative care, only that had a cost too – about $200/month. Our old girl kept hanging on and we have made the value choice to keep her alive as long as her pain is totally managed. Once her pain couldn’t be relieved any longer, there was a part of me that was relieved that we wouldn’t have to pay for the medicines any longer. And even now that she is gone, I miss her deeply. How wrong is that! I didn’t want her to suffer, but there was a cost at keeping her alive. AND I’d never have let her hurt or euthanized her for my convenience.
  4. Until a year ago, my son Aryeh and I shared one car. It was ok and it was what we had to do. It used to drive me crazy when people would tell us to simply buy a second car. Affording a second car is complicated. Car payments and car insurance are realities. At the moment though, I am eternally grateful to the fact that someone actually made it a possibility for Aryeh to buy and pay off a car.
  5. My brother and his five children, their partners, and now one great niece live in Israel. I haven’t been there in years. Sigh. . . .

I often find myself stunned at how often people want to enlighten me. They want to tell me how I should spend my money or that let me know that I should do more for myself:

  • pedicure
  • concert
  • the latest movie
  • shop
  • take a trip

Before Aryeh, my older son, was sick years ago, I worked for a community that included me at every step. I felt part of that community in every way. In fact just today, I had the chance to connect with one of my dear friends and email with another from that community. Sadly, that experience is the exception, not the norm.

The good news is that after four years in Houston, I am finally having sweet windows of loving connections. I adore the rabbi and the amazing administrator I work with! It did take a while, but a couple of the congregants have become dear friends. AND due to Hurricane Harvey, I have made close friends from the church that now shares space with my synagogue until they find a new spiritual home.

The reality is that I am so blessed to be able take care of all my family’s needs and I am grateful that one of my sons is able to make a difference in that journey. We keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. . .such a blessing.  And I am profoundly aware that even as I share reality, my challenges really are  #FirstWorldProblems.

I don’t waste money; I don’t make frivolous choices, but still I don’t have much. If a natural disaster happened and my friends couldn’t show up, I’d be stuck. In fact, if I got sick and couldn’t work for a period of time, I’d have to simply leave Houston and ask for help from those I love.

Looking into the future

As I get older, I am now fearing what aging means. Without a savings, I wonder where I will end up in 15 years or when I can’t work any longer. The good news is that I am starting to make different decisions and looking ways to supplement my income outside of my full time job. At the same time, I know that if I were to lose my position at the end of my contract or to be fired for whatever reason, I would not be able to receive unemployment. Most Jewish organizations and nonprofits do not have to carry unemployment insurance which leaves those professionals in a tough spot. How lovely it is that these organizations save themselves money with this loophole, but how difficult it is for those of us that have been faced with unemployment. A few years ago, I worked for a congregation that lost 150 families over a short time which meant that they could no longer afford a full time educator. In the end, I found odd jobs, seriously pulled out my back when I took a position that I was poorly trained to do, and had a tribe of beloved friends that ultimately saved me from the dire straits that I was in with my sons. I am one of the lucky ones – really.

Hopefully different financial choices will allow me to better prepare for retirement or perhaps just a rainy day – no pun intended. I am always moving forward!

Reality is what it is, for the most part, I have been ok with what is, but this week, I found myself triggered. I am so tired of people that don’t understand the realities of those that aren’t where they are financially.

Over the last year, I have seen two painful GoFundMe campaigns from beloved friends, Jewish communal professionals, that needed support so that they can get the support they need.  My heart breaks for these people and it hurts for many of my colleagues that seem to constantly be paddling upstream against the current. The good news is that I know that I am not alone; the challenging news is that most non-clergy Jewish communal professionals struggle especially if they don’t have a partner to help them manage.

In all honesty, I am struggling for myself and for the many colleagues that are now my dearest friends. So many, including my ex-husband have been negatively impacted by their experiences as a Jewish communal professionals. Passionate Jewish professionals, like my ex-husband have left the field so that they could better sustain themselves and their families or simply because they needed a retirement fund. For a community that is so awesome at caring for the larger world, it is time for them to step up to the plate to care for their professionals.

We need to do some holy work within the Jewish world to make things rights.

Onward with love, light, and blessings,
Chava

 

 

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(Note: To learn more information on #The100DayProject which is also known as #ActivistCardsByChava, you can see https://wp.me/pthnB-3cH.)

Day 12 - Follow Your PassionIn a funny way #ActivistCardsByChava have fueled my passion for activism in a way that I never saw coming. In this moment, I am charged by all the beautiful things I am doing both professionally and through activism.

Just this morning, I woke up and took my 5 mile walk so that I could make sure I took care of myself. If I don’t take care of myself, I won’t be able to do half of the things I want to do.

In the last 36 hours, I have not stopped except to sleep. EVERYTHING I am doing feels like holy work from collaborating on a workshop with two amazing people from the Episcopal Church that post Hurricane Harvey is sharing space at my synagogue to getting ready for a new program/school year at my congregation.  I love my work!

And then there is my work with Door l’Door, my nonprofit which gives Jewish ritual objects to those that lost their homes due to natural disasters. One year, post Hurricane Harvey, I just got off the phone with not one, but two families that are rebuilding their Jewish toolboxes. They lost nearly everything to the floodwaters that would not stop coming. For more information: https://www.door-ldoor.org/ Fortunately Door l’Door will be able to make a difference, we will be able to give them a kosher mezuzah to go on the doorpost of their homes and other Judaica too. This is only due to the generosity of those that have given money and ritual objects to Door l’Door.

And tonight I followed up with the visionaries behind Project Lifeline and let them know that I was ready to recruit some people for our amazing caravan to take supplies to the children in McAllen, Texas. https://www.facebook.com/events/201578690513600/ On September 29, Join Us in Standing Up for Humanity. We need to witness as we try to get the supplies to the children that are missing some of the most basic of needs while being held in detention centers.

And I have been active in political actions as well as seeking ways to bridge gaps between people that simply don’t see things along the same lines. I am seeking to support preexisting organizations that are creating opportunities to listen and share differing political views. I am also working towards becoming a better listener myself.

And I helped a neighbor who was struggling with her precious, but tenacious rescued puppy. Of course, I also took time to love my own rescued puppies, one who is 8 months and needs some serious training. I wasn’t looking for this puppy that desperately needed a home; this spring was not the best time to adopt a puppy. And yet, how could I do anything differently than I did.

Creating these Activist Cards is inviting me to look inside myself and ask, “Am I doing enough? Am I showing up and making the world a better place?” While in some ways, I think what I am doing is AWESOME, I also feel insignificant sometimes and wish I could do more, give more, and be more. But here is the deal, I am showing up with a full heart and a willingness to give it my all.

My passion for life runs deep – always. And I haven’t even mentioned my writing and  nurturing my own family and friends. Life is full, but sometimes there is no tomorrows, so today I am showing up and trying to be the best person that I can be.

I’d love to know what your doing?

Onward with love, light, & creativity,
Chava

PS – I’d love your feedback on my blog, my writing, my thinking, and/or my Activist Cards!!! Feel free to like or comment. I will try to respond to all comments to this blog. Input is always welcome.

 

 

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Sometimes life hurts. There is no way around this reality. The question is not whether or not we will hurt, the question is how will we walk through the storms?

Turning my wounded heart towards living out loud has been my soul work.  Except for the times that my loved ones needed me to focus, I have always shown up in any way I can. I simply open my arms and do what needs to be done. There are a myriad of tasks that need my love and attention. Our country, my neighbors, my friends, my family, and our world.

In the last month alone I have:

  • taken care of a sick friend recovering from a double mastectomy.
  • called our politicians.
  • visited with friends who needed a pick-me-up.
  • picked up trash.
  • given mezuzot, ritual objects, to those who lost their homes to disasters.
  • mailed chai (life) clothes to people who were suffering.
  • wrote politicians as well as blogs and Facebook posts to make people think about things differently.
  • helped rebuilt a house destroyed by Hurricane Harvey.
  • donated money to several causes.
  • watched two different friends puppies so that they wouldn’t have to board them.
  • helped a friend who professionally needed the guidance.
  • rallied/resisted against Trump’s policies that allowed for children to be torn from their parents’ arms.
  • tried to help a young woman reunite with her son and find a stable home.

Did I miss the mark in different areas? I’m sure. But the point is that I have chosen to live differently as an adult than what I experienced and saw in my youth.

For me, my life challenges seemed to have been ingrained on a cellular level. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the moment of my conception was what started the train wreck that has often overshadowed me and in truth it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that on most days I have navigated life’s journey and embraced the hand that showed up. While I am not sure that I had a choice, from a young age I seem to have decided to wake up each day and take one step and then another.

Although there are moments when I wish that things could have been different, they weren’t.  For the most part, I have reached this time in my life and found a way to absorb the blessings reverberating from my soul.

Living out loudI am alive. I am thriving. And I have emerged to be the woman I am today.

Thriving or simply surviving has not always been a given. At each and every stage of my life, I faced some harsh realities. If it weren’t for my inner strength, I may have found myself devastated or worse destroyed.

I’ve been battered both physically and spiritually; I have seen violence and watched my children navigate ICU on multiple occasions and even sat by their bedsides expecting that no tomorrows would ever come. And yet they did come.

My heart has been shattered and sometimes trampled beyond recognition. And yet somehow I have found my breath. I have learned to inhale the light and exhale the pain and darkness. And nearly every time I needed, an angel showed up to make a difference in both small and large ways.

Much of my life, I have felt like I was rock climbing up extremely treacherous terrain. The only problem with that is that I was born with two left feet; I am a total klutz in every way.  The fabulous news is that even as I have struggled to find a healthy place to stand, I’ve have always found the solid ground I was seeking.

With my past as a guiding force, I find meeting new people challenging. My life is full of skeletons that are harsh for any person to absorb. Yet each and every story has opened doors for me and made me the woman I am. Instead of wearing a mask, I want to touch people as I transcend the darkness with my resiliency. And I want to take what I have learned from all the pain that has hammered my life and bring light into the world; in as many was as possible, I want to make our world a better place.

Today, I allow myself to ‘live out loud’. I share my thoughts, my pain, my politics, my soul.  I share my writing, my art, and my spirit without apology. Today I climb mountains and accept the fact that I may fall. I know that I am surrounded by my sons and other loved ones. I am not alone.

My inner wise soul has turned life’s monsoons into the vibrant beauty that often follows a storm. Instead of hiding behind the shadows, I have actively chosen to ‘live out loud’ in every aspect of my life by loving deeply and engaging in the world is what drives my spirit.

Hineini, here I am!

 

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Today is Day 13 of My Selfie Challenge. This is my time to look at how I walk in the world and to shake loose from some of the very things that bind my spirit.  And if I am going to be really truthful, it is my hope that as I take each photo, I will learn to be just a little happier with the person that I am. As a seeker, it is my time to find the beauty that is me.

~ ~ ~

There is so much going on in the world. . .horrible stuff that needs our attention. Here is just some of what is filling my mind:

American Disabilities Act
Common Sense Gun Reform
Human Rights for all
DACA
No Wall
Racial Inequality
Fairtrade
Pipelines
Education
Climate Change
LGBTQ Rights
Refugees/Immigration
National Park
and
Hurricane Harvey/Natural Disaster Recovery
and
Israel
Palestine
Shalom

There is so much on my mind – now & always. My heart is racing as I realize how daunting this never-ending work is.

Day 13Tonight, I am wiped. I haven’t stopped for what feels like eternity, but somehow I still have hope. I also have the deep realization that although I don’t do enough. I do the best I can. I have done and will continue to do whatever I can for humanity and all of it’s moving parts.

What’s beautiful right now are the many grassroot organizations as well as more established organizations that are motivating and inspiring so many of us to act.

My list is no where near conclusive. I can’t stop adding to it.

Native Americans
Voters Oppression
#MeToo

What about the challenges of individuals, communities, and countries everywhere.

Hinieni (Here I am)! I am here to serve.

Sending love, light, hope, & blessings. . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking,
what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means.
What I want and what I fear.”
~ Joan Didion

Shift happens. One day you wake up and you realize that your world is changing and you have a choice for how you will navigate the journey. Will you do it with open arms or will you fight what may ultimately be the inevitable? My guess is that throughout my life, I am not alone in that I have probably done both options and variations in the middle.

While I am unsure of exactly where I am going now. . .metaphorically speaking, I am certain that my health journey will involve my body, mind, and soul in ways that are developing as I go. The intensity that is flowing through my body and soul right now is beautiful, harsh, and a little scary too.

What keeps coming up for me as I move through what I call Post Hurricane Harvey is that life is fragile and sometimes fleeting; I know that I have yet to impact the world in a way that works for me. I am not sure when I began to see my presence as insignificant, but I am so aware that I have more holy work to do. And that if I don’t operate with more intention, I will spend my life standing still or riding waves that take me nowhere. OK, let’s get real, I will never ride a wave, at least not via surf or body board. 🙂

In truth, this transitioning is rolling fast and furious since Hurricane Harvey wreaked havoc on Houston, but it started in March when walking and functioning felt nearly impossible. My body was telling me what my mind wasn’t willing to acknowledge. I wasn’t living according to my values. I wasn’t eating right, moving enough, or nurturing my spiritual journey in healthy ways. This led to back surgery followed by 6 weeks of intense healing which is continuing to this day.

In order to thrive, I have to not only have values, but live according to them. That means breathing a little deeper, moving a little more, being intentional in how I spend my time, and listening to the quiet chatter that never stops. Funny that this is coming to me as I am (again) home – this time with a respiratory infection that hasn’t let up in three weeks, in fact it has gotten worse until today. I do believe that healing can happen with more ease when you take care of yourself better and for me that means opening my eyes and really seeing what I need to see; it also means that I need to rest/sleep more, sit quietly, and write from heart. And as soon as I can catch my breath, I need to move my body.

BreatheBreathing has become a metaphor for this journey.

Inhaling Life by writing, moving, dreaming and healing.

Exhaling Life by releasing all that doesn’t serve my essence.

All is for good!

Yesterday, I received an email that supported what has become a driving force for me. People. Touching their lives by being present and supporting them in their life’s journeys. At this moment, I seem to be able to touch people’s lives simply by giving them a mezuzah and supporting them as they navigate loss or devastation of home.  A family member of a clergy leader in Santa Rosa reached out to me and said that she wants to do something for the thirty families that lost their homes as they were incinerated to the ground by the wild fires that scorched their homes this month. Looks like I have more mezuzah scrolls to collect, for more info https://door-ldoor.blogspot.com.

My heart holds a lot of pain for the loss that is facing our world and specifically the United States at this moment. The disaster in the White House, natural disasters that are happening at break-necking speeds, and the very troubling human dynamics that are eroding our climate. This doesn’t mind that I am not also devastated by the rest of the world – I am.

My job is to remain present within my own beautiful world. I am blessed with a beautiful family and precious friends. I am healing from what ails me. I am finding my life’s purpose. And I am beginning to touch lives that extend past my own little world. And through it all, I am finding the time to honor my body, my mind, and my soul by choosing life by doing whatever I need to do to best human being I can be.

I got this!!! Will you join me? If so, how?

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December 2016 - looking out into waterSometimes I am blessed to open a book of poetry to the perfect poem, a magazine to an article that I needed to hear, or just maybe, the person I most need to see shows up in an unexpected moment. Today seemed to be that day for me, in fact in a weird way all three  of these scenarios seemed to be covered when I opened up the book Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown.

Isn’t it funny how life works? I found a passage spoken by poet Maya Angelou and I read a chapter of a what I believe will be a great book written by someone I have no doubt could be my friend if we crossed paths. A few minutes before opening the book, I felt myself go into a dark place as I realized that I have never belonged anywhere – not really.  On a good day, I find peace with myself and enjoy what surrounds me. On a tougher day, I feel deep loneliness that feels like it shreds my heart. On most days, I see-saw back and forth between feeling like I belong and knowing I don’t.  While the journey can feel daunting, I often ride these waves with ease, finding balance along the way.

Post Hurricane Harvey has been challenging. Harvey gave me a lot of time to worry about what I may lose and accept that most of it didn’t matter or at least didn’t matter much. That lead me to reflect about what actually matters to me and who matters. Harvey also brought me face to face with some painful realities and impending losses. I guess you can say that this storm shattered my heart and right now I am taking the time to cry, to heal, and to embrace new opportunities in how I walk in the world. None of the specifics matter in this moment, but this journey has reinforced that I really fit no where and yet I can fit everywhere.

What’s surreal to me is that I do have beautiful villages of people that surround me. For the most part they are somewhat connected while often not connected at all.  Each village gives me places to go when I am looking to surround myself with beloved friends or when I need shelter from a brewing storm, but I am so aware that at any point I can leave without my footprint being missed for too long. This could come from the fact that I am a wandering Jew who has lived in many different places over the years – rarely settling in one place long enough to plant serious roots.

In Brene Brown’s newest book, she quotes Dr. Maya Angelou from an interview she gave Bill Moyers that aired on public television in 1973, she said:

You are only free when you realize you belong no place–
you belong every place–no place at all.
The price is high. The reward is great.

Why is this coming up today of all days?

In part this is emerging because today is Yom Kippur and I am not feeling well enough to be in services. And besides not feeling well, I am having what has become my tug-of-war with this time of the year. I question EVERYTHING about what this time of year means. So. . .what does someone that doesn’t necessarily believe in God do with this energy? How do I navigate what I believe with my love of Judaism and the Jewish people?

On Yom Kippur, traditional teachings tell us that on this day God will decide who will live and who will die. The problem is that I have never believed in THAT God or quite honestly, I don’t really believe in God at all.  For me, Yom Kippur is a time to go inward and to reflect on how I fit into the world and to question do I do enough to make this world a better place. I do believe in the power of the universe, but my faith allows me not to have all the answers, instead I am ok with the unknown and I don’t have to look for God in my life. Instead, I simply chose to adopt an attitude of love for creation and a desire to have a positive impact on the world I live.

For the most part, I have come to accept that even though I have a strong suspicion that I don’t quite fit in to any Jewish community or anywhere, I am still confident that I can navigate nearly any road and visit with ease. I can struggle with God yet still inspire a love of creation and a devotion to Judaism.

Through my writing, I have learned how and when to be a chameleon and when to let my true self shine.  My writing gives me an outlet to comfortably share my vulnerability instead of hiding my views behind my silence; I no longer want to have secrets that force me to be what I am not. Like so many others, I have done that too much in my life.  I guess that is why I am choosing to share what I truly believe about God: I don’t focus on what God is or isn’t, instead I root myself in Godliness or God-energy.  (More on that in a future blog. . .)

Belonging would be lovely, but for now I think it is better that I remain rooted in myself, perhaps even belonging to myself. This way I can be the woman I am — striving to stretch and grow with each and every step I take.  And at the same time, I have found the few friends I value deeply while embracing others that are simply a beautiful part of my life. I guess you could say that while I sometimes feel dark, I am (mostly) content for what I do have.

Have you ever opened up a book that was perfectly aligned to what your spirit needed at the time? I am so grateful that I was able to do exactly that on the holiest day of the Jewish year. I am fairly certain that Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown will continue to motivate me to write more blogs.

Sending love, light, & blessings,
Chava

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