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A Letter to a Friend:

On several occasions you have questioned whether Facebook friends are really listening or whether you are being heard at all. You seemed to be wondering out loud whether Facebook is some sort of alternate reality.

You are not alone in wondering about the power or purpose of Facebook. Since joining Facebook in 2009, I have watched myself evolve in how I connect with the world in large part due to my interactions on this form of social media. We seem to be asking similar questions and perhaps coming to different assumptions.

fb

On a personal level, I have grown to love it!!! At nearly anytime Рday or night, I am surrounded by people that jazz my soul, inspire me to be a better person, nurture me when I am down, and/or support me when I need a kick in the tuchus (tush). And sometimes there is little or no real interaction; sometimes friends are just on the ride of life with me. The more direct I am, the more substantial  the help can be. Help has come in the form of information, resources, and/or supportive listening. My response to these interactions have helped me navigate into more healthy connections and out of friendships or connections that no longer serve me.
Facebook is not some sort of alternate reality. It is full of life (gifts and challenges), experiences, politics, information (true and false). People share what they are comfortable with sharing; this is no different than life in any other social realm. People share what they want you to hear and some are more authentic than others. This seems to be the reality whether on the phone with friends, at work, in synagogue or any house of prayer, at the park, or even the local grocery store.
When tough times hit, people can’t always help and don’t know what to say. The same can be said for all interactions.
Finding personal support for me seems to come mostly when I share what is going on and what I am doing about it. When I have been down for too long (which I have), the responses stop showing up with frequency. It doesn’t necessarily feel good, but each of us only have so much time in our lives to deal with our own crap let alone every one else’s crap. Sigh.
Politically, I have had to face that my strong opinions make people uncomfortable. And if someone is a really close friend, we learn to refrain from commenting on political posts or we accept the explosions that follow a ‘confrontation’. AND I have been known to end friendships or lose friendships when passions run deep. I love knowing where I stand with people even when it means that saying good-bye feels like the only option. I don’t have time to hang with people whose values I find troublesome.

I use Facebook to share all of the moving parts of how I walk in the world. I share poetry, sayings, politics, pain, joy, gratitude, and sometimes hell.

For me, Facebook has opened many doors to opportunities for learning, stretching, and connecting. While I love this tool, it is also one tool of many that I use in my life.

With love and light,
Chava

PS – Some examples of how Facebook has added to my life:

  1. Politically now, I have more information at my fingertips.
  2. Advice is always available for the asking!! And sometimes when not asked. ūüôā
  3. When I needed a job, opportunities surfaced.
  4. After I lost my job, friends from all parts of my life showed up to help; I am not sure how I would have survived if people didn’t come out of the woodwork.
  5. If I am sad or lonely, depressed or scared, there is always someone who shows up to comfort me.
  6. While many people have profoundly different views from me, there is always someone there to give me a different way of seeing things.
  7. Whenever I post a link to my blog, it gets read. ūüôā
  8. Whether I need a place to eat in Houston, a place to stay in Washington DC or a good book to read – Ask and I will end up with a ton of answers.
  9. I have found the best sayings just by lurking on Facebook. Did you know probably have over 70 pages of quotes that I have saved?
  10. AND so much more!!!!!!!

 

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Inca trail to Macchu Piccu -Credit Lauren Rader's Art and Releasing the Creative Powers Within Classes

Inca Trail to Macchu Piccu; Photo Credit: Lauren Rader

A year ago I was in a very different place. Even though I was able to do what I needed to do, I was despondent and not sure how I would muster the strength each day to not only sustain my family, but to create that which would jazz my soul. ¬†I was struggling with all of life’s moving parts.

With a baggage of regret and deep sadness, I began a trek that would lead me to dig deeply in hopes of finding a better direction for my life. With the help of friends, I packed up a storage space with most of my belongings in Tucson and my family moved to a friend’s house between no-where and no-where else in Louisa, Virginia.

Over a tough period of time, I navigated so much loss Рjob, friendships, and a sense of belonging.  I also questioned whether or not it was time to leave a profession I loved. Today I can look at most of the losses a little differently than I did at first. The best things about closed doors is that you know EXACTLY where you stand.

Each and every step of the way, gifts emerged when I least expected it. When I couldn‚Äôt afford groceries, provisions and/or money showed up; other times friends showed up in unexpected ways. Even part time jobs found their way into my life, I, quite literally, had what I needed to care for my sons ‚Äď ALWAYS. And when the sink busted at my friends house, a neighbor saved the day. And when the toilet busted. . . I saved the day! I really did learn what it meant both¬†ask for help and to rely on myself.

Throughout the journey my sons, Aryeh and Dovi, grew and evolved. It isn’t my place to tell their stories, but I am so proud of the young men that they became. Both of the guys navigated the best way they knew how. And we did it as a family!

Funny how looking back is hard now and yet it was nearly impossible to look forward when but when life was the toughest.

If I am completely honest with myself, my struggles began nearly three years ago when I realized my move to Tucson was professionally not a good move. In retrospect, it was a great decision because that move probably got me to where I am today. I believe that all that happens in life makes up where we are in this moment. If so, Tucson’s toxic work environment made me stronger and more clear in what I wanted for my life. It also gave me some amazing connections and allowed me to more clearly see the many beloveds in my life.  Wow!!

I don’t know how to thank each person/family that gave me money to sustain myself or those that enabled me to find rewarding work along the way. Many guardian angels gave their love, their time, their skills, their money, and their prayers or positive energy. When my computers died, a refurbished one showed up. When I needed enlightenment, an inspiring book showed up. When my car died (many times), people helped. When my tears were falling, music propelled me to new heights. All of this happened because of the graciousness of those that believed in me. Even as I write this, tears are welling in my eyes. I may still be struggling, but life is AWEsome. Because of so many, I am blessed and thriving (and my sons are too)!

Today I am working in a community in Houston that warms my heart and inspires me to stretch; together with so many others, I am working to create an amazing learning environment for all.  I am also starting to plan how to birth my nonprofit, My Second Foundation, which will create retreats for adult survivors of childhood trauma. And I am finally taking steps to make a difference in the world. Human rights for all has always been a driving force, so now I am actively engaging in actions that I believe will make a difference. At least, I am able to show up for all of life.

In my free time, I am doing so much to nurture my spirit. I am working with a beloved friend Rabbi Jill Zimmerman who has created Hineni: The Mindful Heart Community. (Check out http://www.ravjill.com/hineni-the-mindful-heart-community/ and consider joining this group, it is simply empowering.) I am also writing, drumming, chanting, and connecting with the earth. I am endeavoring to honor the person I am by allowing my energy to flow. I am also becoming more authentic with each step I take.

So while the last years have caused me to reflect and to climb many mountains, they have also enabled me to shine and to emerge as the woman I am.  I am finding balance and hopefully allowing my spirit to better shine.

Loving the universe. Feeling the blessings. Treasuring what is.

May I always find the AWEsomeness in life’s gifts and challenges. May I always see my guardian angels.

O N W A R D!!!!
Chava

(Note: My hope and my prayer is that I am as loving a soul as so many have been to me and my family.)

 

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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 . . . .]

Honoring My Bruised and Fragile Heart

Picture by Chava

Picture by ME

Life is good. Really good. My sons are growing into awesome men. My dog still loves to herd. Over the last year, I have been held and supported at each and every step I have taken.  I have a job that I love now. . .one that I am hoping to continue in some capacity as time moves forward. And in less than two weeks, my sons and I are moving to Houston so I can begin an amazing new position.

So. . .while my world is blessed and full, I also have some shadows that keep me stretching and growing. As someone who honors the intensity that is within me, I have to acknowledge that there is so much on my mind at any given point.  I grapple with past hurt, deep feelings, and the state of our world. I struggle with wanting to me wiser, healthier, more beautiful, and most importantly impactful to the world I live. I wonder if I will ever be enough, do enough, and learn to articulate my thoughts better than I do now. Sometimes I simply feel bruised.

We all have so much to learn. I am certain that I am not the only person out there that wants to become a better version of myself. After a lifetime of struggles, there are parts of me that are wounded. So not only do I manage my body, my mind, and my soul, I also navigate the fear of the unknown. Will I have what I need in the coming months? home/food, health insurance, necessities, a way to help my kids with their education.

The beautiful part of my life is that I ALWAYS land on my feet – ALWAYS! But the years of challenges don’t go away just because things have ultimately worked. There are moments that I feel the pain of my heart being stomped on, remember seeing my child in ICU multiple times, or felt the wrath of someone’s anger. There are arguments and challenges that I remember clearly and moments when I felt silenced even though my voice should have mattered.

Part of¬†my ability to live in a place of joy and inner peace is that I also recognize¬†the dark moments. I allow myself to remember, to feel, to cry, and to mourn. I also celebrate that whatever happened to me didn’t permanently hurt my spirit. All that I went through fertilized my foundation so that I could become the person I am.

Each and every one of us have done a lot of work to grow into the people we are.  How beautiful is that?!?!

Today, is one of those days that I value who I am and how I got here, but in this moment, I am remembering and mourning some of the losses that got me here.

May we be blessed to live a life that leaves us celebrating the gifts even as we sometimes feel fragile.

With love, light, and blessings,
Chava

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Anxious and Humbled
How can that be?
Really?!?!
That’s me

What's beyond this bend?  Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Loebman  Jamaica

What’s beyond this bend?
Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Loebman
Jamaica

 

Transition has been happening since last December when my full time job went to half-time without benefits.  And then again in June when my half-time position went to unemployment.  Along the way, I keep moving forward, finding part time gigs and navigating in the only way I know how.  The good news is that I am navigating.

The moment anxiety starts to rear it’s ugliness to me, a friend or an acquaintance show up and offer me¬†tangible help, a way to move forward. ¬†On the moments, that I have felt most afraid this year, a door has been opened for me. ¬†Sometimes it happens in the way of a job, a call, or a gift. ¬†I seem to be surrounded by people that are trying to make my life easier for not only me, but my sons too. ¬†Most recently, some of my closest friends got together and convinced me to start a Go Fund Me drive¬†gofund.me/g8o220; never in my wildest dreams did I think people would reach out to help me. ¬†But they did. ¬†Friends and strangers alike are trying to help my family move back to the East Coast. ¬†I am feeling surrounded by those that are propelling me to a better place.

What’s astounding is that so many folks have stepped forward and are nudging me to a place of healing; financially and spiritually I am being supported. ¬†People from my past and my present gave; People that I love dearly and people that I don’t know gave. ¬†My friends are reaching out to their friends and sharing my story.¬†Sometimes though, the anxiety wells up in front of me and I can’t believe believe both how far I have come and still how far I have to go; it can be daunting. ¬†And yet, I am not alone, I have beautiful friends that are trying to making it possible for me to move forward. ¬†I am breathing deeply and praying that I can hang on for the ride.

A warmth spreads over me when I reflect on the myriad of ways that I am receiving loving treasures.  So many have given and offered their sweetness. Some have given without being asked over the past many months.  Some are calling me and reminding me that I am loved.  One friend send me a box of amazing food goodies and another friend send me awesome fair-trade chocolate from London.  My soul is being nourished in all ways that count.  My hope, my prayer is that I am truly worthy of the trust and love I am receiving.

On Thursday, I was feeling overwhelmingly vulnerable.  And within moments of being completely overwhelmed, a friend called from Oregon just to let me know he was thinking of me and then another friend wrote and shared this poem to me.

Keep on truckin’, Mama.
Know that you are loved
by sooo many
by the Moon
and Sun and Stars
by the Universe
by God

You are light
a special spark
let it burn low for a little while
let life feed the fire for you gently
follow the wind east
pace yourself
breathe

you who give so much
receive
and be peaceful.

Written by Melissa Schaffer

What’s beautiful about my life is that somehow it works out. ¬†Somehow the sun always rises in the east in the same way that somehow I always land on my feet and discover a better place. ¬†So while I am not sure how moving back to the East Coast will work, I have to believe it will. ¬†I have to do the best I can¬†and tread beyond the bend. ¬†Wondering what beauty I will find as I emerge?

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

Reflection Time Selfie

Reflection Time Selfie

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

Today is 19 Elul or 11 days until 5775; it is a time to reflect and to choose ways in which I can best move towards the High Holy Days and the days that follow.  While it is not easy to navigate life’s journeys, I always get to decide how to approach my life.  In this moment, I am choosing to walk gently and embrace each step with openness.  As I say this, I also realize that this would be a good time for a reality check.

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

~ ~ ~

‚ÄúFind beauty and gifts in simple moments, but acknowledge the entire picture too.‚ÄĚ
Quote by Me

~ ~ ~

All of us have default responses that show how we walk through the world.  As someone who has been been beaten in a multitude of ways both violently and emotionally, I choose to see the world as beautiful and to celebrate life at every given opportunity.  Life is hard, but amazing moments happen with each passing day.

Reality is what it is and I am choosing to be transparent about what we are currently experiencing.  At the same time, please know that many blessings surround my family.  Yes, times are painfully difficult, but drowning is not an option.  My sons and I have chosen to thrive by diving into the water, swimming as best we can, and sometimes treading so that we can stay afloat.  There is no question, we will make it to shore.

Reality first:

  1. On December 16th, my youngest son’s 17th birthday, I was told that my job would go to half-time and that I would lose all benefits unless I could afford COBRA. ¬†I couldn’t, so not only did I lose half of my salary, I lost health insurance and the ability to take care of my nearly adult children or myself.
  2. In June, after I had learned to manage on half-salary by supplementing my income, I lost my half-time position.
  3. June is too late to find a professional position in my field; now I need to wait until next winter if I choose to stay in my field.
  4. I struggle to afford even the most basic needs and sometimes I can’t even afford them.
  5. My Temple (as well as many spiritual communities) did not pay into unemployment insurance, so I have no benefits that are often available to those that have lost their jobs.  (Note: If you are a leader or a member of a spiritual community, be part of helping the community navigate good and ethical decision making.  Unemployment should be a given-not a loop hole.)
  6. I am a single mother who is barely supporting my sons on whatever I make.
  7. My family moved to Tucson and left many of our closest friends for a job that left us stranded.  Jewish professionals do not make enough to easily save the kind of money that would allow us to move back east.

I am sorry that the congregation I worked for is struggling; I am also tremendously sorry that I live in fear of homelessness because of their choices.

Life is hard, really hard. And the good news is that I get to decide how I will walk through this journey.  And during this weekend alone, I found so many awesome gifts:

  1. Aryeh found my dog playing with my thumb drive; I thought some important documents had been lost forever.  Now I have some back-ups to do.  Can anyone help me create a cloud that can contain all my computer documents?  Unfortunately I do have some significant limitiations. :/
  2. Loved when my friends shared with me what was good about their week before Shabbat when I asked; Facebook is a great way to stay in touch with so many folks in our lives.
  3. The boys and I had a simple salad for Shabbat dinner; we loved just being together.
  4. After dinner, Aryeh and I taught Dovi to play backgammon!!! And he actually won one game.
  5. Saturday morning, I visited my 98 year old friend and took her to the DeGrazia Museum in the Sun. While it wasn’t a total success, I did get my friend out for awhile. ¬†AND I can’t wait to go back by myself later this week.
  6. The DeGrazia Museum is a hidden free treasure for all visiting or living in Tucson; go when you can and be sure to leave a donation.
  7. Aryeh and I had an amazing time at our friends house; we swam, ate good food; and laughed a lot!
  8. Had an hour conversation with one of my closest friends in Tucson.  (Wow, Tucson really has given me some close friends.)
  9. Another friend found me a great High Holiday position in NY, but it ended up not making sense to take it.  But when the offer came in, it brought tears to my eyes and made me feel a little more worthy than I have been feeling.

Continuously Reflection and gratitude:

  1. I have had some amazing time to think about my values and what I want to accomplish during the second half of my life.  What do I really want to do? Where do I really want to be? Who do I want in my life? I want a life that includes thoughtful people doing things that jazz their soul; I want to be that person too.
  2. A good friend helped me sustain myself by giving me a job; another one helped me find more work when the first job stopped producing enough hours for me.
  3. There are many friends that keep calling, sending notes, and believing in me.  They support me when I am feeling good, when I am devastated, and when I am just ok.  My most beautiful friends see me as I am, positive (for the most part) and navigating tough times; they support me by being there and letting me know that they are!
  4. Since December, I have been a caregiver to those that are aging, in medical crisis, and/or dying. ¬†Helping each individual and sometimes their families as they navigate some of life’s hardest times has been an amazing experience for me; I believe that I am making people’s lives a little easier when I am their caregiver.
  5. When we really needed help, financial help has shown up on three different occasions since December.  Still every month since December has been terrifying.
  6. AND last week a dear friend offered me her house in Charlottesville, VA; I am seriously thinking about trying to get there.  I am wondering how to afford getting there and/or the storage costs of that transition.
  7. Two friends offered to drive a U-Haul truck cross country so that I wouldn’t have to pay movers.
  8. Countless friends have offered me real solutions so that homelessness wouldn’t happen; one challenge to many of the solutions is that we have two dogs that for now we are choosing to keep. ¬†They have already been homeless in their lives; I don’t want them to experience that fate again. ¬†(Besides when our newest pup became a problem this summer, we couldn’t find a home for her. Sigh.)
  9. A fabulous congregation in Boulder offered me a position that I’d love to take, but it is half-time. ¬†After the holidays, perhaps I can find another half-time position to compliment the first position. ¬†They have a temp Director of Education there for the next couple of months.

What can you do to help?

  1. Visualize we are good and pray for us to find the sustenance that will help us thrive.
  2. Give me a job.  I am good with people in all sorts of settings.
  3. If you hear of a job that you think would be good for my soul. Let me know.  I am looking for either a career position in Jewish Education or Social Action work AND I am also open to doing a job in a great environment that is a 35-40 hour week job that will allow me the time to write and do Social Action when I am not working.
  4. If you are a doctor or dentist living in Tucson and you are willing to be there for our family for lower or no costs, let me know.
  5. Keep your eyes open. . . .I am considering asking for concrete help that will allow us to go to the east coast.
  6. Light a candle and visualize us spreading light and being full of light.

The good news is that I believe all will be ok. ¬†I am patient and hopeful; the right door is emerging as I type :). ¬†Today’s text response to a¬†local friend that had asked me how I am was –“up & down. . . .but mostly navigating with a positive outlook.” ¬†This is how I walk through life. ¬†I believe that blessings surround me¬†and I pray that all of us will remain healthy (medical emergencies are not an option). ¬†I am actively engaged in living positively as we also play the waiting game for a good job/position that will help sustain my family.

May light surround our family and flow through our family now and always; may that light help make the world a better place.

With blessings & light,
Chava

 

 

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

Reflection Time Selfie

Reflection Time Selfie

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

Today is 7 Elul or 23 days until 5775; it is a time to reflect and to choose ways in which I can best move towards the High Holy Days and the days that follow.  While it is not easy to navigate life’s journeys, I always get to decide how to approach my life.  In this moment, I am choosing to walk gently and embrace each step with openness.  As I say this, I also realize that this would be a good time for a reality check.

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

~ ~ ~

Sweet Darkness

When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.

When your vision has gone
no part of the world can find you.

Time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.

There you can be sure
you are not beyond love.

The dark will be your womb
tonight.

The night will give you a horizon
further than you can see.

You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.

Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
to learn

anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive

is too small for you.

¬†— David Whyte
from The House of Belonging
©1996 Many Rivers Press

This has been a challenging few days or maybe even a few months.  I have been in a cocoon of  darkness while sorting out how to navigate my job journey, my parenting journey, and my soul journey.  It has been hard, but it has also been necessary.

What has been profoundly amazing is that I have felt held by loving friends that are waiting with outstretched arms to hold my spirit and nurture me just as I am.  I am feeling so blessed even as I face some very real darkness.

While darkness has been my companion, I realize that light always burns deep inside me and radiates throughout me and into the world.  Still I have to navigate what is and trust that everything will be good.  Time and again, I have learned that in order to see the full spectrum of colors, I have to be willing to face all the parts of me.

Knowing that I am surrounded by precious beloveds and faith can make it possible for the darkness to be quite sweet.

With blessings & light,
Chava

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Middah (character trait) focus: Loving what is

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.

“The more clearly you understand yourself and your emotions, the more you become a lover of what is.” ~Baruch Spinoza

In this final week of the counting of the Omer, I feel like it is a good think about considering where I fit into the entire universe with all of it’s gifts and challenges. ¬†In traditional circles, this¬†is considered the week of malkhut/kingdom. ¬†With that in mind, I want to openly consider what it could mean to really rebirth or navigate our towards freedom.

Life is hard, really hard at times.  Sometimes it is difficult to tread the challenges.  Yet once we fully connect with what is real, even what needs to be transformed within ourselves, we can love what is because it is all part of the journey.

I always seek to find the light that surrounds me. ¬†This past week, I found out that I wasn’t a candidate for a position even though I had spend over four hours on the phone with folks. ¬†What is lovely is that the calls were full of positive interactions and I was able to articulate many of my ideas and hear other ideas in healthy exchange; the interview process including the rejection letter were really quite lovely. And after reflection, I believe I could have had a good¬†experience, but it was probably not the best environment for someone who often thinks outside of the box. ¬†I need a position, but that one lacked what I needed in a career position.

Finding the gifts within all aspects of life, good and challenging, is the only way I know how to walk through the world. Loving what is offers me a chance to embrace the moment even the ones that need to ultimately be transformed.

 

Finding light within darkness.

Finding light within darkness. . . .

 

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