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Posts Tagged ‘learning’

Closed doors have always had a way of blocking me from wherever I wanted to go. Yet few shut doors have kept me from doing what calls to me. Once I can visualize what is possible, determination and perseverance propel me forward.

From my earliest memories, I struggled to function like “normal” children. My home was not the only challenge in my young life. With almost no coordination and poor hearing, I seemed to live in my own little world. Walking didn’t happen until I was well over 2 years old and I don’t remember hearing much until I was 5 or 6 years old when my tonsils and adenoids were removed along with some other surgical procedure on my ears. 

Somehow the little girl that could barely find her place with others learned that she could do almost anything she set her mind to do. Can’t was not part of my vocabulary and it still isn’t.

  • After nearly nine years of speech therapy, I learned to talk with clarity.
  • Somewhere around 8 or 9 years old, my second grade teacher taught us to write in cursive. I really struggled; I just couldn’t do it. So each and every night, I would go home and practice writing late into the evening. The more I practiced, the better I was able to write.
  • Around 10 years old, I was mortified that all the girls in my class could jump rope. I couldn’t – not at all! So instead of giving up, I went home every night and practiced jumping rope from the moment I got home until the moment it turned dark. The GREAT news is that I did learn to be an excellent jump roper; the BAD news is that within a day or so of learning, I woke up to the worst pain I can ever remember. My leg muscles had totally seized up and I could not take even one step. One of my sweetest memories of my father was when he gently picked me up and put me into the hot bathtub to try to loosen up my muscles and ease some of the pain. It worked.
  • Better late than never, at 11 years old, I decided that I would learn to ride a bike. With my friend Elizabeth by my side, I remember feeling freedom and joy as I biked down Pikeswood Drive for the first time. And that feeling returns each and every time I get on a bike.
  • In junior high school, I decided that I wanted to be able to do at least a little gymnastics. It was hard for me to watch all the other kids do front rolls and back rolls during our Physical Education class. To say that I was being a dreamer is an understatement. And yet, I’ll never forget trying to strengthen my muscles, teaching myself to do front rolls, back rolls, cartwheels, and even backbends! After weeks of practicing in class and at home, I was finally able to do all of those things, but also create a really AWESOME routine for the uneven parallel bars. The best moment came when Mrs. Brown, my PE teacher, yelled, “Slow down, you are moving too fast for the spotters to keep you safe.” I never could walk across the balance beam, but that didn’t matter to me. I was so proud of all I did accomplish through sheer determination and perseverance.
  • I always dreamed of being a runner. It didn’t matter to me if I was slow, I just wanted to be a runner. So, at 16 years old, I took up running. At first I could barely go one time around my high school track, but that didn’t last for long. A short time after starting to run, I was able to run three miles daily until I decided to run for 10 miles daily which lasted for years.

Walk Up Hills Slowly 1In reality, I had a lot of time to myself growing up. I didn’t have too many friends until I was older and my family wasn’t there for me either. So I learned to use the time I had to work on becoming a stronger and better me. Every time I was led to believe I couldn’t do something, I responded with silently telling myself “Watch Me!” If I wanted to do something bad enough, I found the inner strength and character to do it.

In truth, I wish I could say that I no longer struggle with poor coordination or bad hearing, but that would be a lie. To this day, I am sometimes sad that I don’t have the coordination to do serious hiking. That doesn’t mean that I don’t go hiking, it just means that I am honest with myself about what I can do. A few years ago, I decided to hike by myself in Madera Canyon, outside Tucson. When I came home, I was pretty battered with some “war stories”. My sons who were in their late teens and early 20s lost it with me. AND they were right. So now, I do a better job at honoring my abilities with honesty.

And to this day, I am initially anxious nearly every time I stand up to speak in front of others. I worry whether or not I am articulate or making sense. When I am really tired, I know that I don’t speak clearly. This doesn’t mean that I choose to be silent, it means that every time I stand up in front of people, I take a deep breath and I do say what I have to say. And for the most part, I have learned that even if I am having a rough day communicating, it’s really good enough and sometimes great!

I live my life by believing that I can and then I do! I take one step and then another. I rest. And then I do it all over again . . . and again . . . until I have accomplished my goals.

One of the things that has impacted me more than I thought previously possible, has been listening to the wisdom of so many others over the last several years. Through reading a lot and really listening to great podcasts, TEDTalks, etc., I am inspired! With nearly every written and spoken word, I am gaining insight and ultimately choosing how I want to better walk in the world. Ironically, my most profound lesson came from the first United States woman to summit Mount Everest without oxygen after trying to do so five other times. Melissa Arnot Reid said, “I walk up hills slowly.” AND that is what I have always done and will always do.

Onward with love, light, & blessings,

Chava

PS: Thanks for reading what will likely be part of my memoir which at this point is being called, Living Out Loud: A Thriver’s Journey. If you like what you are reading, please take a moment and like it on WordPress or any social media site, AND if you have feedback, I’d love to hear it.

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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.

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On a personal level, I have grown to love it!!! At nearly anytime – day 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. 🙂
  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. 🙂
  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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(Note: If this is your first time you are stepping into my Elul Reflections 5776, please read the Introduction to this series at http://wp.me/pthnB-1Nm.)
easel-in-corner
Learning has always caused me a tremendous amount of excitement. Not only do I love to work as a Director of Congregational Learning, I also love to stretch and grow myself in different ways. There is NEVER a time I stop being the seeker that I am.

With this in mind, I was listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Magic Lessons (a series of podcasts) when I heard:

At the end of the day, the only thing that’s perfect is a blank sheet of paper
– untouched with nothing on it. And if you’re questing for perfection,
then you will leave that blank paper blank.”
Neil Gaiman (Podcast: Magic Lesson Episode 207) 

As a passionate writer, an amateur artist, a mother, a storyteller, a friend, an educator, and more – I tend to struggle with a strong desire to reach for perfection.  And yet a person who plays so many roles, I know for a fact that I can do little or none of these roles perfectly.

My guess is that if you took time, to read every word that I have written in this blog post, you would find a spelling mistake, a grammar challenge, and a few unclear phrase or two. And if it is a natural skill or your personality, you could probably find something wrong with most everything I do.  Oh well. . .

My holy work is to create, to play, to explore, and to connect with the world around me. And to make sure I do this while finding peace in the mess that I sometimes leave in my wake.  I can’t always say the right thing or use the ‘right’ color/word/whatever. Life is full of imperfections. And many of those realities lead to beauty.  And while I may seek perfection and get frustrated by my many imperfections, the interactions with the world around me are too delicious to stop.

Always learning. . . .

The blank paper or intense silence doesn’t necessarily lead to the sparks that ignite when I take chances to interact with all the moving parts of my environment.  And yet the blank piece of paper or the silence may be exactly what I sometimes need to become grounded and ready grow or learn. Isn’t it all perspective?

As and educator, a mom, and a friend, I believe that most of us thrive using the myriad of tools to tap into learning. When free choice is coupled with the capacity to trust our spirits, it can be rather easy to soar.  This sort of awareness enables us to interact with the many environments that surround us in the  most authentic way possible.

For me and so many others, the innate curiosity  courses through our veins; it has a way of inspiring each of us to explore the world by using each and every one of our senses. That is, if we allow for our spirits to take that leap.

Always learning. . . .

Learning doesn’t have to take place at a desk in order to be called learning. Gaining knowledge takes place when I take the time talk to people, listen to the birds chirping, read an amazing book, or sometimes when I paint on the blank canvas.

All learners and all facilitators of learning know that it takes a certain amount of chutzpah, to stretch ourselves. You have to be willing get a little messy sometimes, take chances, trust your instincts, and yes, sometimes you need to make mistakes.

Hmmmm. . . .I see a metaphor forming here.

None of us succeed without doing “something” with a blank sheet of paper or a blank canvas. Success comes when we push ourselves out of comfort zone, create using all the tools at our disposal, and choose to consciously live life in the ways that feel right for you.

With the High Holy Days being right around the corner, may  we celebrate the opportunities we have had this year and seek new opportunities in the coming year. While perfection would be awesome, sometimes messing up leads to greatness.

Perhaps it is time to paint on that blank canvas at the top of this blog? What do you think?

May we find peace in the journeys we have taken this year and find new ways to stretch this coming year.

Onward with love & light!
Chava

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Honor Yourself

Courtesy of Terri St. Cloud of BoneSighArt.com 

One of the most powerful transformations that I have made since the fall Jewish holidays has been learning Torah twice a week with two groups of passionate woman (by coincidence). Both have become the highlight of my professional and healing journey. I am processing life with others and the Torah is fully becoming my guide to living more fully. Simply put, I have found a new way to honor myself differently than I ever have before now.

Last week in my Thursday afternoon Torah Study, we spoke about Jacob’s devastation over the loss of Joseph, the son who who he loved “best of all”.  While I don’t understand what it means to love one son over another son or to have one of my children die, I do understand that losing a child is perhaps the worst kind of loss that any of us can imagine.  So after Joseph learns that his son was devoured by a beast, his reaction is totally understandable:

Jacob rent his clothes, put sackcloth on his loins, and observed mourning for his son many days. All of his sons and daughters sought to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted, saying, “No, I will go down mourning to my son in Sheol.”  (Genesis 37: 34-35)
The conversation that followed our reading of the above verse was heartbreaking and enlightening.  One person understood such a loss and allowed us a window into her experience and I finally understood more clearly why in traditional shiva houses, houses of mourning, we do not supposed to reach out to the mourners until they initiate a conversation.

Going to Sheol after learning of a death of someone you adore makes sense – always. Even if we are surrounded by loved ones, we are also feeling desolate and alone. And with that discussion came an enlightening discussion about mourning practices within the traditional Jewish world. Torah came alive.

Today’s Torah study was a fountain of flowing energy that ignited my soul – it always does. While we explored the difference between being a sage and showing discernment, we grew to understand what it means to have knowledge and the ability to impactfully work with others.  We also spoke about our health journeys and how we need to take care of ourselves. We also spoke about the mourner’s kaddish and the problem with how many progressive congregations do it today. How can we support mourners when we all rise together? We spoke about the options.  Finally, we wrapped up with how we say perhaps the holiest prayer in our tradition. We spoke about how we say and teach the Shema, our communities proclamation that we have One God. (Note: In Progressive Judaism there are many ways to see God and Godliness. What I LOVE about our tradition is that even if some of us see this a little differently, the Shema is a central prayer for all of us.)
Woven through every discussion was a thread of knowledge that came from the way Joseph interpreted dreams and how he, his father and his brother lived their lives. There is so much to learn from the tangents that are all part of Torah.
Each and every time I learn Torah my heart feels broken open differently than it was before we started.  My Monday morning Torah Study has strengthened my connection with five people. I can not imagine this connection ever fading. For one hour women from all corners of the United States talk Torah, education, and life.  Individually we are broken vessels that somehow emerge more whole when we grow/learn together.  Another way that my friend and study partner Iris Koller articulated our experience was that, “We each bring our fragments of lights that shine through”; our time together creates one of the most beautiful rainbows that I have ever seen.
On a side note, it has only been in the last 15 or so years that I have developed close connections with women. Before that time, I was rarely close with more than a couple of women at a time, but now I am so much more balanced because of the many soul sisters that have touched my life. Wow – I feel blessed.  I find myself thinking and opening up different that I ever have and it makes me want to cry.  I love that Torah is coming alive as it is.

There is so much holiness that comes alive when the two groups of women I study with bring our many moving parts together            in order to study together. The learning of life’s lessons through our study of Torah is making me more whole.

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Truth

Last night, as I closed my eyes, my mind started to focus on the role of truth in our lives.

With that two Jewish teachings popped into my mind.

Teaching One

The world stands on three things:
on justice, on truth, and on peace.
Mishna, Avot 1:18

and

Teaching Two

Truth vs Falsehood
אֱמֶת ושֶׁקֶר

“The Talmud (104a) finds great significance in the form and order of the Hebrew alphabet, devoting nearly a page to understanding the symbolism behind the order and design of the alphabet. The most famous of these passages is the analysis of the Hebrew words for truth and falsehood, emet and sheker. The base of the letters (aleph mem taav) of emet is solid, while the letters of sheker (shin kuf reish) are wobbly, having only one “leg” each. Furthermore, the letters of sheker are the 21st, 19th and 20th letters respectively; whereas emet has the first, last, and middle letters of the alphabet. While one may have to look for truth, truth is true everywhere; whereas lies, readily available, have to be constantly updated for each new situation.”
By Rabbi Jay Kelman in http://bit.ly/1ExqL1c

Both teachings focus on the significance of truth within our lives.  Balance really is much easier to find when you focus on living a life a truth.  I love that Judaism surrounds me with teachings that support the act of living consciously.  And I am fortunate that in this moment it supports what I intuitively believe around truth vs falsehood….Jewish teachings don’t always work so easily. 🙂

Making Truth vs Falsehood Personal

Throughout my life I have experienced deception on so many levels both big and small.  Sometimes it is as simple as navigating half-truths or silence; sometimes it is as complicated as denial or downright lies.  But as I move into what could be the second half of my life, I realize that I want to live in a place of authenticity and grace regardless of where I stand.

In my life, I have, like many of us, been known for being silent or sharing only half truths and I have experienced the same realities from those in my life.  As I move forward in my life, I crave people that inspire transparency and allow me the space to be transparent.  Whether friend or lover, employer or employee, I want to be surrounded with people that don’t need to hide behind half-truths or downright lies. I also want to be the person that can hear both what is being said and what is not being said.

Trusting my heart to receive the truth and to share the truths will only happen as I develop a practice that is worthy of such a life. In order to make trust an integral part of my life, I need to first make practice a conscious one. I prefer to choose to live with integrity and surround myself with those that live in a place with a similar practice.

When considering Teaching One (see above), I find myself faced with a question.  How can we have justice, truth, and peace with each interaction? We can’t – of course.  Justice and truth do not always leave us with a sense of peace.  Dealing with truth and sometimes justice can be hard.  Our feelings are a huge variable in this journey.  And what feels good to one isn’t necessarily good for others.  Ugh!

Lately, I have been considering the role of true friends in my life.  I am actively trying to find a way to navigate those that really see things in a way that I find, quite honestly, sick.  How can they be close friends if their values or thought processes make me extremely uncomfortable.  Recently, a childhood friend became furious with me because of an article I posted on Facebook.  In truth, this person is sort of like family. I shouldn’t have been happy to have her out of my Facebook life, but I was thrilled!  We all have own truths, our own ways of seeing things.  And sometimes, I just don’t want to debate or to hear the other side. . . I have to, how else will I learn?  Sigh. Balance. . .always working towards finding balance.

When you don’t like how someone thinks, it is really challenging to navigate a warm relationship in which peace can grow.  There is no way that someone can convince me that that certain politics makes sense.  PERIOD. I don’t understand how people shop at Walmart when they don’t need to. Why would anyone that understands slave labor purchase products that support such practices.  And if I have to silence my passions, can I be in a place of truth within a friendship.  In the same way that each of us have our own truths, each of us also have to choose how to live and to make decisions based on our values.  Aren’t we all evolving?

I am struggling.

And since I am already a little cranky about how to connect with people when I dislike some of their values and belief systems, why not explore another challenging aspect of my struggle with truth.

I am learning; I am growing.

Not everyone feels the need to share their soul or raw energy as openly as I do – that has to be ok.  I am blessed with so many different types of people in my world and not all of them walk in the world as I do.  Just because someone chooses not to share the entire picture, doesn’t mean they are speaking a half-truth or falsehood.  Does it?

Close relationships may be the perfect place to hold back just a little.  Do we really need to fully express our feelings to those closest to us? As a mother, I wonder.  Part of helping my sons to develop into secure adults is by allowing them the room to express themselves without me needing to influence them.  With them, I am learning to say that I think it is best for me to refrain from sharing my thoughts at this time so that they can best figure out their thoughts for themselves.  But what about a partner or a spouse, sometimes we feel like we need to know everything, but other times people need their space.

The key to all interactions is realizing your non-negotiables, what aren’t you willing to be flexible about. Finding balance is not as easy as always being in truthful place, but to me I keep seeking to find the best way to navigate with others; I need to cultivate the solid footing that comes with walking the path of אֱמֶת, truth. Perhaps what I need is to hold myself with transparency and grace, then I can hope to surround myself with those that do the same.

Relationships are so complicated.

“The Universe doesn’t like secrets.
It conspires to reveal the truth, to lead you to it.”
― Lisa Unger, Beautiful Lies

May truth emerge in each and every human interaction.

 

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Last night we counted Day 24 of the Omer, which is 3 weeks and three days of the counting of the Omer. Today is referred to as Tiferet sheh b’Netzach, beauty within endurance.

Writers_Clock_ Black

To me there is nothing as beautiful as someone who is actively and passionately engaged in some aspect of life over a long period of time.  This could doing acts of Tikun Olam (Repairing the World) or an art form or maybe even someone who loves some aspect of physical movement.  Beauty comes from loving to learn and sharing that love with others.  Passion and drive take incredible amounts of endurance.

May we all find the drive and passion that fills us with beauty as we develop, grow, and move forward.

 

 

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sugar1

Giving up all added sweeteners is a journey worth taking, but in the beginning mistakes happen.

Yesterday, I walked into my day with a positive attitude and a conviction to succeed.  For the most part I did until lunch time.  My work serves this awful powered lemonade drink and it is often what I drink out of habit.  Can’t really understand why that is a habit except for maybe it has SUGAR.  Well I offered lunch and drinks to my teachers for our teacher meeting and I did what I always do. . . .I took a cup (or 3) of the lemonade.

Ugh, on my way home from work I realized that lemonade has sugar! OY!

Mistakes happen, especially in the beginning.  I have also not created my new rule list for moving forward, but I do know that lemonade is not on the approval list.

I am learning; I am growing.

Let the journey to being kinder to my body continue.

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