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Posts Tagged ‘violence’

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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“Be joyful, though you have considered all the facts.
Quote by: Wendell Berry

(Prologue: I have grown to love life and tire of people wondering if I am for real.  I am. I am human, but I am a thriver. Regardless of what is tossed my way, I will be ok. Always. I have a choice on how to move forward and I choose . . .)

Life happens.

With every breath, I get to decide how I will emerge and how I will face the holy world that I have and will continue to experience.

Struggles have been a part of my life – never by choice. In response, I have made a conscious decision to NEVER allow them to define who I am.  The trouble is that there are some people see my life as really hard and need to focus on just that. I see my life quite differently – full and blessed. The gifts have come in all shapes and sizes. Each passing moment has lead to new adventures – some simply divine, others challenging, and still others painful.  Yet, regardless of what has transpired in my life, I have come to find the treasures that have made me the person I am.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a work in progress.  I have had days that leave my heart broken with endless tears falling. But those days have been far and few in between.  When I look back at the trials and tribulations that I have endured, I choose to see the beauty that is often a consequence of life’s difficulties.

Life happens.

During some of the segments of my life, I have faced a few too many arduous junctures.  Ultimately, each has led me to find inner peace, phenomenal opportunities, and many open doors.  I am who I am because I have always found light, maybe not instantly, but eventually.

The last few years have had a few challenges. I recovered from the nightmares that plagued me once my son recovered from years of serious illness, I navigated professional challenges that left me jobless, and I treaded life’s waters as a single mother. Regardless, none of it destroyed any part of me. In response, I have found that I have special friends, people that will help me in countless ways. Struggling alone has never happened for me. My amazing friends have nurtured not only me, but my precious sons too.  Whether I needed emotional support, financial help, or a hand, my friends have been there for me.

Through it all, there is a inner joy that sustains me and allows me to thrive.  When I smile, my entire body feels the reverberations; no wonder, I am drawn to feel happy. I want to share my excitement with every one I meet and sometimes I am lucky enough to do so.  I am not certain where I found the inner joy that sustains me even as I navigate tough realities, but I have.  Yay!

Creatively, I am becoming the person I want to be.  My writing soothes my soul and confronts life’s storms.  Over time, I seem to have impacted others with my words. Wow. . . how sweet is that?  And I have also taken up drawing and painting (just a little); I even have a new piece of artwork that I have been creating.  None of this would be what it is if I hadn’t experienced life in the ways I have.

Educationally, I have learned to trust myself as an educator and to push myself to make more of a difference to those that I mentor and teach.  Only once I believed in myself fully was it possible for me to create and then share my creations with others.

And spiritually, I have found my voice.  Whether I am drumming, chanting, praying, or hiking, I find that I am becoming connected with the earth in profound ways.  I have grown to love how I walk within the world.  Sometimes I find myself dancing, and moving in ways that I have never done before.  I am alive, fully alive.

Nothing has ever destroyed my spirit. Even when I have had moments that I felt broken, I emerged stronger with tools that allowed for healing of my heart, my mind, and my soul.

A long time ago, I learned that while the world is sometimes dark, my spirit is full of light.  I always have the ability to choose to see the light and if I am really honoring who I am, I can be the light.

Only when I live in the light will joy exist within me.  So, I guess I need to choose light; there is no option.

Sunset near Pupukea Hawaii; Photo coutesy of  Kathleen Kendle

Sunset near Pupukea Hawaii; Photo coutesy of Kathleen Kendle

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Liberty Road Shopping Center Courtesy of Maryland State Road Commission 1967

Liberty Road Shopping Center
Courtesy of Maryland State Road Commission 1967

Sweet memories are starting to form.

I was born and raised outside Baltimore in a fabulous suburb called Randallstown.  Randallstown was an awesome place to grow up for most people.

In the last 48 hours, I have had an amazing experience reconnecting with my Randallstown memories.  For three decades, I nearly never went back; I needed to heal from the a violent childhood that had little to do with my Pikeswood neighborhood and everything to do with what was going on in childhood home.  After three decades of healing, I am loving the memories that are now flooding my senses.  Caplan’s Deli, Baltimore County Public Library, Read’s Drugstore, Liberty Road Bowling (I can’t remember the name), Caples, Beth Israel Congregation, and so much more.

My first job outside of babysitting and a family business was scooping ice cream at Carvels; I loved that job.  And later I pumped gas at Crown Gas; I never could handle the money correctly.  Along that corridor, I also worked as a waitress at an all you can eat restaurant, a cashier at Tangier’s Crab House, and babysat whenever I could.  I learned a lot on the Liberty Road Corridor of my youth.

For the first time in so very long, Randallstown and the community I lived in is putting a huge smile on my face.  The stories are endless.  I wonder where all my neighbors have gone; I wonder about my old friends, the teachers we had, and the shopkeepers that we all knew by name.

I wish I could remember all the names of the roads.  For 10 years or more of my childhood, my bike was my safe escape; I used to bike on the road between Randallstown Senior High School to Deer Park Junior High.  The road didn’t go through, but that didn’t matter, we biked it anyway.  Not even the threat of being shot at by a bee-bee gun from one of the neighbors made us stop, we just rode as fast as we could.  I loved my neighborhood!

What’s funny is looking at the active Facebook page, and seeing so many names I can’t quite remember, but know that I know. 🙂 It has also been fun to reconnect with a few old friends/neighbors.  I am having a blast watching our memories go into overdrive.

While I missed out on a lot of my childhood due to whatever I was facing at home, I feel blessed to be remembering life outside my home now.  I really grew up in an amazing neighborhood.

And then there was Ms. Pfeiffer. . . 

Due to the Facebook page, one funny memory keeps coming back up.  While it isn’t the most important, it is a riot that so many of us remember THAT teacher.

On Facebook, where I am connecting to my old neighborhood, one person asked, “Does anyone remember Ms Pfeiffer? That teacher was so mean to me.” And with that the memories came flooding back.   Ms. Pfeiffer was mean to me too – so mean.  In the end, I became really disobedient when I was in her class. . . .I learned to push her buttons. She may have been the only vile teacher I remember growing up. Maybe.

My little cousin, made the mistake of going into Ms. Pfeiffer’s class during his first day of class and saying, “didn’t you have my cousin Toni Bloomberg (changed my name)?” He had a horrible year after that.

Funny, I had never been so disobedient before her and never after her. But it was with her that I decided to stick up for myself and push the envelope. Mostly I did this quietly, but I pushed back.

She used to make me write 100 times something like I should not talk in homeroom. I vaguely think the sentences were longer than that. In response, I decided to write her notes about what I really thought of her arbitrary rules.  Other times I wrote random sentences just to piss her off. It worked.

The good news is that she taught me resilience and how to advocate for myself.

The best part of the conversation about Ms. Pfeiffer is that I now know that I wasn’t alone.  I didn’t know that so many, if not all, of us found her to be vile. Wow!

We all grew up. . . .

Now that I am reconnecting to my roots, I am also reconnecting to some of my friends and acquaintances that were part of my Randallstown days.

One of the funniest things that I am realizing is that most of us have evolved.  Or maybe we have devolved (is that a word)?

Yesterday, I started thinking about what would it be like for a bunch of us to meet at Maria’s Pizzeria; I used to love that place!!!  The only problem is that at nearly 50 years old, my food choices are quite different and so is the way I think.  Here are some of my realities and preferences:

  • I am krunchy granola and full of passion.
  • I live as a progressive Jew – love the music, the learning, the practices, and the stories.
  • In 2002, I was diagnosed with celiac disease; I am now gluten-free (not to be cool).
  • Love quiet energy, small cafes, walks along the water or in the woods, and every now and then I love to hang with larger groups of friends.
  • I literally never stop thinking about the larger world – what can I do? progressive politics for here and Israel, workers rights, modern day slavery, the list goes on and on…
  • I am a writer – now and always.
  • Unfortunately, I don’t run 10 miles a day, I have had a few pregnancies, and my body shape isn’t what it was.  And yet I love what it is!
  • Oh, and I used to be Toni Bloomberg – I can’t wait to see people wrap their head around that. 🙂

I am not the same person I was and nor is anyone else.  And chances are if people haven’t changed much, I won’t have much to say.  Since I am a work in progress – now and always. Aren’t we all?

In this moment, I am so grateful to whoever started the Facebook page called Randallstown, MD – 1970’s and 1980’s and to Frank Davis for posting the picture above just a couple of days ago.  The memories have really brought me home to a neighborhood that was full of gifts.

 

“There are places I remember all my life
Though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain

All these places have their moments
Of lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I loved them all”

Written by Paul McCartney and John Lennon

 

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Last night, I read and then posted an article that inspired me to reflect about my childhood.

http://www.slate.com/articles/life/family/2013/11/families_dealing_with_mental_illness_need_support_too.single.html

I remember as a young girl, my mother bounced from rehab for drug/alcohol addiction to ICU for cancer and other serious illnesses. Whenever she was ill with medical emergencies, everyone offered help; whenever she was in recovery for addiction, I sat alone for weeks or months on end as my father had to take care of his work and then visit his wife…..

Memories

In truth, life was easier for me when she was in a recovery setting.  During those weeks, violence and pain did not surround me, nor did harsh words and angry energy.  My mother was a violent drug/alcohol abuser when she was awake or she was passed out on the floor or wherever else she landed.  My home environment wasn’t pretty.  And when she was in the hospital, no one let me stay home alone.   If I was home alone, my brother would often visit from Israel because of the serious nature of whatever was going on.  Those weeks or months were awesome; when my brother was visiting, I somehow felt protected and emotional safe.

Growing up in an abusive home was never easy.  I didn’t know how to tell anyone what living was like.  So I retreated to a silent place.  I often wonder if “my friends” liked me growing up or if the kids just tolerated me because they had known me all my life.  I know I had friends, but the daily pain of surviving was really too intense for me to remember what it was like to go to class or to hang out with others.  At a very young age, I learned to be an actress; I learned that no one would understand what I was facing and that no one could help.  In truth, many of my neighbors and some of my relatives had a clue, but in the end it was only once I reached about 16 years old that I began to feel supported by adults that could make a difference.  Yay!!

May we each reach to find the beauty that surrounds us.

My mother died when I was in my early 20s…..nothing prepared for my life or her death, but in the end, I found the power to be what I am today. While the journey is truly never ending, I am blessed to be where I am -most of the time.  The single most reality that brings a smile to my face is that I am grateful that I didn’t become her in any way; I found the inner-strength to emerge into the person I am today.

When I was a child there were few words to express what I faced.  My friends would have never understood and others didn’t want to get involved.  Yet, I had many pockets of time in which my friends gave me a safe and sweet haven (mostly unknowingly).  During those moments, I could laugh, eat a healthy meal, and not have to look at what was behind me.  I treasure those moments when I truly felt safe.  Unknowingly, friends gave me reprieve from what I faced even if they didn’t know what they were doing.
As a young adult, I didn’t share my stories.  Instead I was healing from the rawness I had once felt.  While the nightmares were still part of my life, I treasured the daylight hours when I was safe.  Over time, I was able to move forward and heal.  Having a family and a community of my own gave me roots for the first time in my life.  Only when I was in my thirties could I find the words to share the reality of what had been a part of my life.  My guess is that I needed a few years of silence before I could speak of the darkness that surrounded my earlier years.
For my friend that asked if she was an ostrich, please know that I was a wounded child that didn’t know how to let people into my cocoon.  And you were a child living your life.  That is what children do!!! The good news is I am ok now and I have friends that can listen when I reach those sad moments of reflection that some days visit me.
No one should feel sad or guilty for not knowing….abused children are masters of disguise and I was no different.

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NakedTreeWinterEastCoast

Most of life has been good to me, but there have been moments in my youth that have come back to haunt me….not once, not twice, but many times over the course of my lifetime.  Even though I have been blessed to heal and move forward, my memory has remained.

 

All of us have moments of intense loss, painful tragedies, or stories that feel better left unsaid.  Life happens.  For the most part we find a way to move forward, to take one step and then another and then another until we find a new norm.  That, my friend, is one of life’s gifts.

Every now and again, something triggers the pain the memory, the fear. . . emotions take over and we seem to relive the moment that literally took our breath away and forced us to deal with our feelings.  Tonight was such a night.

One moment, I was walking, humming to myself, and thinking about some people in my life that are in need of healing.  I was in my own beautiful world, feeling calm and peaceful.  I was visioning people I love and care for in a better state of health and then I heard the noises that left me in fear for my life.  Loud screams, horrible pain, and violent sounds.  In a moment, I was transformed into a very scared human being who was terrified because I didn’t know what the next moment would bring.  After a moment, I called the police and I came home as fast as I could.  And I was ok; I am still ok.  For now, I am just dealing with the skeletons in my closet; they will be gone by morning.

In the 10 minutes that I was stuck outside with the noises and my fear, I felt my entire body tighten with fear as the sweat rolled down my face, down my neck, down my back.  A moment can change everything; a moment did change everything.  The tranquility I felt is gone, but at least in this moment, I feel safe.

While I don’t know what went down, I do know that the vulnerability I felt until I made it home cut like a knife.  I am ok, but nothing  can ever prepare me for that moment that the memories come racing back and I feel like the little girl that experienced violence and pain.  The memories never really go away; they find a quiet space to rest until the peacefulness comes to a screeching halt with a trigger.

Violence happens, accidents occur, and we do move forward. . . . .

Tonight was just a moment.  My hope is that all is really ok; perhaps all I heard was a haunted memory.  I am so grateful that the moment that brought so much fear is over and that I am safe at home.  My labored breath of an hour ago is becoming easier.

Tomorrow will be a great day! No longer do I have to live in fear. . . .the moment is over.

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