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24 hours = 500,000 #MeToo tweets + 12 million #MeToo FB posts, comments & reactions. #MeToo is about women screaming out and saying that they were sexually violated. This has been a profound experience for because it took me decades to find my voice and tell anyone what happened.

As a young child, a neighbor who was also a friend’s father molested me on a regular basis.

And then at 14 years old, my best friend’s step-father molested me multiple times and raped me. There was no one to talk to and no one to listen. I was alone. This came at a time when the foster care system became my stomping ground because my mother couldn’t control her violent rages. Tracy’s family had wanted to take me in and treat me as their own, but Gary believed he had the right to do as he wished with my body and ultimately my soul. And he did.

Years later, I don’t really relate to the acts as being sexual assault; I seem them as violent acts. I was forced to endure what no child or adult should experience. In my mind, I was violated and thrust into the world of #MeToo.

Sunday night, I found myself in a total PTSD (or post traumatic stress disorder) meltdown. As #MeToo unfolded and then became viral, I found myself reliving the agony of those experiences and later the re-surfacing of those experiences. For just a couple of hours, I was temporarily back into the devastation mode. I remembered. I hurt. But I and so many others were being heard. How beautiful is that?!?! I was touched each and every time I saw a Facebook status line that said, “I believe”, “I hear you”, and “I am sorry”.

I’ve done a lot of healing work over the years. I also have done my part to empower young women as a way to break the cycle, and now I am sharing part of my story. And perhaps the best thing is that I have parented two amazing sons that understand that they have a responsibility moving forward. And after this past weekend, there a whole lot of women that know that they are not alone and a large group of witnesses to support them.

May we do this work together. May #MeToo become #NoMOre.

Image result for #MeToo No more

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Feb 2015  Walking from behind

I don’t think I am alone when I say there are so many things I used to fear and that there are many things that I still fear. . .

I used to fear being destitute with all that that would mean. But bankruptcy in the 1990s and a significant job loss in 2014 didn’t destroy my spirit. While both experiences were anxiety inducing, I found ways to change the tide and become grounded again. I learned to live better within my means and to trust the universe a bit more. Things are still not easy, but for the most part life financially work s (except when it doesn’t). My family really has what it needs.

I used to fear losing my husband and being alone to raise my sons.  Divorce after a long separation ended up empowering me to live a more authentic life and provided me with wings to fly.

I used to fear being traumatized by violence, but I not only survived serious childhood abuse, but I survived rape. Some may even say I found a way to not only thrive but to to help others navigate to a safer place whenever possible.

I used to fear loss, but since I live life as fully as I do. I find myself loving intensely and losing those I love sometimes through death, sometimes through abandonment, and sometimes through the realities of time and space. With each loss, I take the good memories and create new ways of living life more fully in the wake of those losses.  And I know that while the deep sadness may always inhabit a part of my heart, the ‘dance of life’ continues.

I have always feared for my children’s lives. After nine miscarriages and devastating illnesses, I still do. AND that doesn’t mean I allow the fear to infiltrate the way I live. Instead I open up my arms and reach for life with the many moving parts that that entails. And I (mostly) trust that my sons will take their own journeys.

As Émile Zola said, If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, I will answer you: I am here to live out loud!”

I know that I am blessed. Regardless of what has transpired in my life, I find the inner strength  to emerge as the woman I am. On more than one occasion my friends have referred to me a warrior. While I love that term, the term spiritual warrior resonates more deeply for me. All that I do, I do because of love.

Now for honesty, I have always emerged from fear. Always. BUT that doesn’t mean that I do not live in fear.

This past week, I have faced being stalked and feeling threatened by three neighbors. I have been forced to explore what I think about guns, how to handle the myriad of views about what is happening to me, and how to move forward.

Over the last week, I have had people tell me that I have asked for the violent energy by living my life as I do and I have had to wonder if maybe there was truth to what was being said. In the end, I am furious with those that think I should silence the way I live. That is not the world I live in; that is not the world I want to live in.

I am a writer, a protester, and an activist; I am a woman, an educator, and a dreamer. There is so much work to be done and I can not do it by walking in silence.

The man who now sits in the White House and surrounds himself with darkness needs to be held accountable for the way he walks in the world and the trauma he is causing humankind. So, while I am afraid of my neighbors, I have work to do.

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Truth

Life is full of dichotomies.

How is that the same person we love with such intensity is also the person that can push us over the edge emotionally and/or spiritually?  While the question is very real, the answer is not.

Opening my eyes this morning, I realized how profoundly affected  I am by  life’s dichotomies.

  • The National Parks celebrated their 100th anniversary this summer. Growing up not far from the Appalachian Trail, or the AT as I refer to it, helped define how I see beauty. While some people dream of luxurious vacations to cosmopolitan cities, I can’t wait to sit quietly in the Redwood Forests next summer.
  • Angels have surrounded me during so many harsh times of my life. When my son was critically sick, old and new friends helped support us in a variety of very tangible ways. When unemployment/underemployment left me penniless, both strangers and friends alike made certain my sons and I would thrive. And yet, poverty surrounds me on every street corner and many children go without the necessary food to survive.
  • The color of someone’s skin is unimportmant to me, but this week, we ordered a Black Lives Matter sign for our front yard.  Living in a world that often subjugates many in the human-race deeply troubles me.
  • Theoretically, we live in a time were the government has checks and balances which allow for all people to be treated equal, yet we have a presidential nominee that incites a population to violence and is not being held accountable for it.
  • Climate change is a huge challenge seen in increasing numbers of intense rainfall events and the rising of  global temperatures. Yet there are many political leaders that are denying the very real reality.
  • My love for Israel runs deep, but I question the integrity of a country that has a poor track record for how she treats Palestinians and others. AND yet, when a natural disaster occurs, Israel is one of the first countries to set up a field hospital and to help a traumatized people.
  • Children are absolutely precious and treasured in the world that I live, yet there are so many children that are violated, abused, and essentially treated horrifically.
  • In Houston a few months ago, a man was shot up while trying to stop a man on a killing spree. In the end, the innocent bystander ended up in critical condition and a suspect.

Reality is full of gifts and challenges. The world’s complexities wreak havoc on those of us that are unable to shut off the troubling stories that impact our world at any given moment.

Moving forward in the world is not easy, this means we need to do so with open eyes and a willingness to do our part to improve the world we live in.

May we all find our voices as we decide how we will impact the world for good.

Onward with love & light,
Chava

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Palestine - Israel Flags
Twenty-eight of my friends posted this awesome & poignant piece written by a young Muslim interfaith activist, Nadya Al-Noor.  In the piece called Palestinian terrorism and Muslim hypocrisy: An open letter, Al-Noor fails to mention a crucial reality in the terrorism that exists in Israel and what I would refer to as the Occupied Territories/Palestine.  http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/palestinian-terrorism-and-muslim-hypocrisy-an-open-letter-from-a-muslim-woman/   
 
If you subjugate a people, you create a pressure cooker that leaves them angry & wounded. The longer it festers, the more they explode. 
 
Yes terrorism is wrong. And yet, I have NO problem understanding the growing violence and hatred.
 
I am happy that this writer clearly articulated a reasonable view point, put I also fear that if we keep negating the other side of the story, terrorism will continue to unleash it’s devastating consequences.
 
We have to be willing to explore why terrorism continues to destroy lives and then look for solutions to change that trajectory.  After many decades of war, violence, subjugation, and pain, it may take decades to alter our future. In this week’s Torah Portion, Shelach Lecha, God decides that the Israelites who were originally freed from slavery will need to die before the Israelites are allowed to enter the promise land. Essentially  God was saying that the old mentality needs to die out before really moving forward.

I do understand that the realities of history and how each of us perceive history is part of the challenge here. Yet, it is also time to realize that until Palestine and Palestinians stop being subjugated by Israel, terrorism will flourish. The devastating cycle will not end. Parents on all sides of this story, will bury their children too young.

Healing takes time and I pray that I will see healing in Israel and Palestine as I remember seeing in South Africa.

May coexistence emerge from the darkness that is now filled with hatred, disdain, and terrorism on all sides.

(Note: My views may infuriate some of you. I am writing to make sure that voices like mine are heard. I am so profoundly saddened by the tragedies that continue to unravel the land that so many would like to call home.)

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I  AM LOVED

Two Naked Trees - Santa Monica California Beach - Jill Berkson Zimmerman

Photo Courtesy of Rabbi Jill Zimmerman

You are seen, You are heard
You are loved for who you are
You are enough, You are complete
You are loved

I am seen, I am heard
I am loved for who I am
There is nothing I need to change
I am loved, I am loved

I am seen, I am heard
I am loved for who I am
I am enough, I am complete
I am loved, I am loved
I am seen, I am heard, I am safe,
I am enough, I am worthy, I am loved
Words & Music by Karen Drucker

Life has given me incredible moments to stretch, grow, and thrive. Sometimes I  see these opportunities with awe, but other times, not so much.

I’ve always said that ‘the gift is the challenge’ which means that I strive to find light in even the darkest hours. Mostly I am able to reach that goal and at other times that goal feels like an impossibility.

Over and over again, I have faced some daunting struggles. Mental illness and violence destroyed some of the people closest to me and sometimes left me battered not only emotionally, but physically. Loss of too many pregnancies and adoptions forced me to question my belief in God. And watching my son Aryeh face life and death challenges again and again within his life as both an infant and later a teenager could have destroyed me. Dovi, my younger son, also had a very serious health challenge as a toddler.

When life is at it’s most painful, you don’t have time to cry or lash out at the world. You are forced to go through whatever it is you need to do. Survival has never been an option for me. Breathing deeply and pushing forward is truly the only viable option. At least this is so for me.

In 2007, I legally changed my name to Chava Gal-Or. I wanted my name to be a testimony to who I was and what I wanted to continually be. I chose the name Chava as a celebration to my surviving a sometimes traumatic existence. In my heart of hearts, I have always seen myself as a thriver; regardless of what experiences have come my way, I find a way to soar. And my last name is reminder that I want to find light in those I meet and to find the beauty or light in that which I endure regardless of how it appears on the outside. For the most part, I have done what I set out to do.

And over the years, I have also created the most amazing village that has supported me emotionally, spiritually, and even financially. My world has been full of gifts at every turn. Without a doubt, I know that blessings abound.

Today I shared with my chanting siblings how a recent car wreck challenged me physically and emotionally; in fact what I didn’t say is how broken I was actually feeling since the accident.  Just before the car crash happened, I was finally landing on my feet after a roller coaster ride that has been going on longer than I care to admit. The grand finale, in particular, caused me enormous self-doubt. How could I end up in a community capable of causing such spiritual chaos? As my position in Tucson came to a crashing halt, my spirit tumbled. The good news is that I chose not to openly stay in the rubble; I chose to do what I had to do so that I could ultimately emerge. But the being rear-ended suddenly reinforced that I was not doing nearly  as well as I thought.

The last few years have been hard, really hard. And there have been so many times that I felt alone and afraid how I could support my family; I honestly did not know how I would feed my family or handle another serious illness. Going to the dentist was and maybe still is a luxury. And I wasn’t sure how my closest friends could continue to hold me metaphorically or otherwise. And in truth, I was blessed with friends that were there in most ways. Some couldn’t be, but most chose to be.  When I felt most alone, it was because I couldn’t recognize what was in front of me.

When I was completely honest with myself, I knew that my name should have never been changed. I was so far from life or light; I was not thriving and I certainly had no idea how I would emerge. And yet, I persevered. With some incredible fortitude and a village to guide me, I was able to do what I had to do.

When I initially reached out to my chanting siblings today, I was bordering on lost.  Yet within moments, three of my chanting siblings reminded me that I have work to do.  There is a world that I have touched with my light and I have more work to do. Wow. . . I needed to be reminded just that. I am full of light, but I needed the reminder.

The moment of impact reinforced me to face the vulnerabilities that lie just below the surface. I live in fear that at any moment my life could end. Who would take care of my sons? Who would birth my dreams? I have so much left to do. Would anyone besides my sons miss me? Do I really make a difference in the world?

We all have our own skeletons, our hidden secrets, our intimate fears. I am no different.

My teacher, Rabbi Shefa Gold reminded me that I am “surviving and thriving and reaping the hidden blessings.” And my friends reinforced it again and again.  The evidence is and was clear, I need to turn off the inner voice that sometimes tells me that I am a farce; I am a strong and vibrant woman.

I love that  I am healing, moving forward, navigating vulnerability, and feeling blessed. I am doing exactly what I needed to do.

(Note: in the early morning hours, I found a gift from my friend Rabbi Jill Zimmerman, she emailed me a link to I AM LOVED. Words & Music by Karen Drucker. I am still trying to wrap my head around Jill’s timing. This was the song I needed to hear as a reminder that I am loved and that I also really do love myself.)

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“there is no map.
you gotta write your own.
you gotta carve your own.
you gotta sweat, cry, grieve,
laugh, and love your own.
and when you’re all done,
that’s all that will have mattered.”
© Terri St. Cloud

Life has been filled with amazing gifts and undeniably difficult journeys. Yet, I have been blessed with the ability to ALWAYS find ways to navigate. In my younger years, I often felt alone; over the last half of my life, I have felt held and loved with every step.

As I move towards my 50th birthday, I am intrigued by how far I have come. But lest you think it is about the specifics of my life, it isn’t. Each and every one of us are unique. While we may have those that guide us in our journeys, there is no one like me (or you) out there. We can learn from others, but they can’t make the trek for us.

Tonight, as I was talking to a friend. I realized that I could tell her how I would move through a challenging situation, but then I stopped myself. Sharing my intuition or my insight is one thing, but I am not qualified to do more than share. My friend has to make her own decisions.

Light and blessings surround me at every turn. Dark moments happen, but enlightening sparks are never far behind. I have always emerged from sadness, pain, violence, and challenges. That has been my choice. . .it is what I do. Not only do I emerge, but I soar. I find the gifts within the challenges, the light within the darkness.

I love that my map is guided by my spirit; I am one of the luckiest people I know.

With love, light, and blessings,
Chava

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Note: I will be Counting the Omer for a total of 49 days, from Passover to Shavuot or from Slavery to Freedom. For many, this is simply the Counting the Omer; for others, it is a tool for exploring the kabbalistic teachings in an organized way. For me, it is a time to actively reflect on my Journey Towards Wholeness. The more I am whole, the more free I will become.  [http://t.co/dBPYjDxSGj . . . .]

Standing on Holy Ground

Hiking Boots

3:1 Now Moses was keeping the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian; and he led the flock to the farthest end of the wilderness, and came to the mountain of God, unto Horeb.

3:2 And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush; and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.

3:3 And Moses said: ‘I will turn aside now, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.’

3:4 And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said: ‘Moses, Moses.’ And he said: ‘Here am I.’

3:5 And He said: ‘Draw not nigh hither; put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.’ (Exodus 3:1-5

Above is one of my favorite verses/teachings in the Torah! Since we read the entire Torah each and every year, I am given a chance to reflect on this verse once a year.

While this portion isn’t the cycle for this week, it is coming to mind because I am realizing that Baltimore has some of the holiest ground I know. As someone who grew up there and who loves the community, the people, and the landscape, I am struggling with what is happening. In fact, today I can’t get Charm City out of my mind.

When we stand on holy ground, we need to take our shoes off or maybe just become at one with the earth. We need to step forward and say that I am here to serve, to make a difference, to do whatever I can . . .

” הִנְנִי Hineni ”
Here I am

This morning, I woke up wasted after a lovely, but long weekend followed by a nine hour drive yesterday. While I couldn’t make it to Baltimore today, I know that I will head “home” during the weekend. I need to go there, I need to walk in the city of my youth. I need to see for myself what happened. And I need to stand with peaceful protesters that believe that Freddie Gray’s life mattered. And if possible, I need to do my part to clean the streets of my “home”

Violence doesn’t negate the holiness of any place. Wherever there are human beings working towards making the world a better place, there is holy ground. I am so inspired by some of the stories I am hearing.

  1. Toya Graham, the woman who’s video went viral, figured out that one of those desecrating property and throwing rocks at police was her son. Her reaction was priceless! With seemingly little awareness, this mother literally beat her son silly in front of video cameras. She didn’t want her son to be another Freddie Gray. While I struggle with violence, I couldn’t believe how full my heart felt when I realized she was letting her son know that what he was doing was wrong.
  2. One father woke his kids up at the regular time and told them they they were going to help clean up their city. While Baltimore City Schools were closed for the day, there was work to be done!
  3. Hundreds of people were out on the streets today cleaning up and showing their support.
  4. The peacemakers — clergy, Gray’s family and brave residents — placed themselves in the rioters’ way.
  5. Robert Valentine, a Vietnam veteran stood between police in riot gear and teens saying, “These Kids Need To Get Their Butts Home And Study; I’m Not Black, I’m An American.”

and so much more. . . .

Living on holy ground means we need to be present, we need to be willing to push the envelope by helping people in the best ways possible. We need use our voices, our hands, our strength, and our money. As long as we have the ability to make a difference.

Living on holy ground means that we need to think positively, act with loving-kindness, and walk gently in the world.

Living on holy ground means that we need to hear the different narratives and actively learn from them.

Living on holy ground means that we need to be the change we want to see in the world.

And sometimes, living on holy ground means that we need to disconnect from people that espouse values and beliefs that we deem toxic. (I am in the midst of exploring this particular idea and will expand upon this in the coming days.)

” הִנְנִי Hineni ”
Here I am

There is so much work to do and I am here to do it.

For My Journey Towards Wholeness, I wish that I could take off my shoes, like Moses, and become one with the earth, but this is not that time. Right now, I have work to do and it may be better to keep my shoes on and maybe get some work gloves for my hands. 🙂

With love, light, and blessings,
Chava

PS – I often find that I am superstitious about the numbers that I see. What made me smile a moment ago was seeing that once I signed my name, I had written 911 words. . . . .  wow.

Guess I need to get to Baltimore. . Anyone care to join me?

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