Comunidad para mi hermana…

Community: 

A unified body of individuals.

The people with common interests living in a particular area. 

I am always astounded at how many beautiful people there are in the vast communities that surround my tiny nuclear family. In the last twelve days this community has exploded into a vast array of artists, writers, teachers, friends, family members, doctors, nurses, musicians, and humanitarians.

If you look for the bad in (hu)mankind expecting to find it, you surely will. -Wise words from Mr. Lincoln.

I like to think of it this way: When you look for the good in people you will surely find it… -A Rachel take

In a time of grief and loss there are no words that can absolutely console or express the feelings that reside within. Although, all I have left are words in fact. These words helped guide me through the last handful of days. The first day I sat and read words, re-read emails, searched and searched for more of her words, looked at photographs, and cried. I read and wrote and cried some more. She would have understood and so appreciated my quiet little tribute on the couch with the cat.

I wish no family member or friend to go through the grief of watching someone so full of life slip away before your eyes. And yet, even in those moments of gray clouds there were bursts of energy, twinklings of starlight that illuminated our little room. These messages, these outpourings of concern, of love, of humor, of photographs, of inspiration, of hope, and caring kindness from a community that once I thought of with fondness and now feel akin to with love.

A friend from afar shared with me a bit of ideology I shall insert here:

“You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.
And at one point you’d hope that the physicist would step down from the pulpit and walk to your brokenhearted spouse there in the pew and tell him that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off like children, their ways forever changed by you. And as your widow rocks in the arms of a loving family, may the physicist let her know that all the photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are her eyes, that those photons created within her constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.

And the physicist will remind the congregation of how much of all our energy is given off as heat. There may be a few fanning themselves with their programs as he says it. And he will tell them that the warmth that flowed through you in life is still here, still part of all that we are, even as we who mourn continue the heat of our own lives.

And you’ll want the physicist to explain to those who loved you that they need not have faith; indeed, they should not have faith. Let them know that they can measure, that scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time. You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they’ll be comforted to know your energy’s still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you’re just less orderly. Amen.”

-Aaron Freeman.

This so eloquently embodies how I feel. I realized that what I miss most is the immediate sense of being able to share with Debbie. It felt so natural for me to email, write, text, call, Facebook message, FaceTime, Skype, JUST BUG her in general with these flutterings of ideas, jokes, blogs, story ideas, lesson plans, links, pictures, videos, DIY plans and suddenly I realized but wait….where do I send these now? Sometimes I catch myself thinking, “Oh I gotta tell Debbie that, she’d think that was so….” Dang it. Then the thought occurred to me…

I can still tell her. I can still write to her. That I shall do.

I feel a sense of energy when I fall asleep, and when I rise up each morning. I work through those moments in time when I feel like becoming moss on the silent log in the woods. I push myself as she did every day, I do not succumb to the voice in my head that says no, I turn around and scream back in response a resounding: YES.

Life is too short to not partake in the ample opportunities that surround you. Reach out to your community whomever that might be. Find those that inspire you and shed light on the joint ideologies that lift up one another.

I shall leave you with a quote from one of our favorite humans, Mr. Rogers:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

Look for the helpers my friends, be a helper, and shed love wherever you go.

❤ Sparkles for Debbie, always. ❤

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Debbie Alvarez, Human Being Extraordinaire

Beautiful tribute for my sister Debbie Alvarez. ❤ Thank you Lenore. ❤

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My good friend, Debbie Alvarez, Mother to Declan, Wife to Doug, Sister to Rachel, Daughter and Granddaughter, Avocate of children’s authors and illustrators, Fierce Reader of books, Enlightened Keeper of Literature, Adventurous Traveller, Inspiring Leader, Brave Warrior, Human Being Extraordinaire, passed away this week.

I am heartbroken.

The above photo shows Debbie, just minutes after we first met, when she welcomed me to the Bradbury School library in Hong Kong, for Author’s Day in 2012.

The next year, she and her family joined me at Shaolin Temple in China for a week of Kung fu lessons.

Earlier this year, she invited me to stay with her while I was on book tour in Hong Kong.

We had many heart-to-heart talks, the kind you have with a BFF you grew up with. Here we are during our final dinner together, with another wonderful librarian friend that she introduced…

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Styling Librarian: Special Book Feature The Bullet Catch

Can’t wait to share this book with a student in my classroom. Follow my sister’s blog, it’ll be posting for weeks to come, the planner she was. ❤

The Styling Librarian

Every once in a while a special book comes my way and I want to celebrate it… here’s one I couldn’t resist featuring:

The Bullet Catch – Murder by Misadventure by Amy Axelrod and David Axelrod – Historical Fiction/Mystery – 4th grade and up – I read this book aloud to my son and it was fantastic. There were shorter chapters at times which helped with the read aloud element. There were characters my son immediately connected with and was concerned about. There was fascinating elements throughout from learning about the life of a pickpocket in the early 20th century New York City. My son’s favorite elements by far were the magician portions. We read about a magician who never really was as popular as he dreamed he would be. This magician was friends with so many interesting people including Harry Houdini. There were tests of friendship, risks of trust…

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The sounds of silence…

When you grow up in a musical home you look back upon your life through melodies…

My earliest memories are interwoven with the sounds of ’60-70’s folk music. One of my favorites for washing over the soul is, Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water.

They trickle down from there into the sounds of klezmer. Occasional 90’s beats that move into more traditional Jewish music. I can see the years through bar and bat mitzvahs, weddings, and times of ruach shared with these melodies. One favorite is L’cha Dodi by Debbie Friedman who my sister introduced me to. Her voice feels like an anthem for my childhood days…

In times of crisis, joy, and heartache I have always drawn the melodies of familiarity toward my soul. They dance throughout our minds and hearts right now, leaving trails of healing beats on our souls.

The sounds of silence came to me earlier today, and I found solace in Simon and Garfunkel’s words.

I have no words for what is happening before my eyes. Only melodies that seem to flutter into my brain, I find them online, and share them with my family at this time of imminent need.  I’ve seen and experienced so much love for my sister and our family within the last four days, and it has been such a blessing. I’m left with only this, Mi Shebeirach by Debbie Friedman:

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I wrote the above as a blog that I now edited while I sat with my family surrounding my dear sister. I have no words for what has happened. Her passing feels surreal. Someone who I thought would always be with me, a rock steady in the stream of life has now taken flight and moved forward. I do not feel lost, I know what she would have wanted. I feel as though part of my soul is now in a region I do not know of.

She believed in love, life, laughter, literature, and above all else, education.

She was an AMAZING human who will now wink down upon us from the sky. A shimmering diamond in the sky taking on new endeavors and ventures that know no boundaries of us earthly forms.

I asked close friends and family to please read a book to their children or read on their own in her honor. Please hug your family tighter and read more often. If you feel so inclined, donate a book in her honor to a local library or children’s organization. (For Debbie Alvarez) Let your life take flight, explore, encourage, and enrich your life through adventure and literature.

I love you Debbie and I always will, to the moon and back.

Love,

Your little sister Rachel

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Here is more information on my beautiful sister if you’d like to read what our newspaper wrote: http://www.oregonlive.com/beaverton/index.ssf/2015/12/debbie_alvarez.html

Think: P-O-S-I-T-I-V-E

“Positive,” this word’s meaning, per our friend Webster is defined as: consisting in or characterized by the presence or possession of features or qualities rather than their absence. (or) With no possibility of doubt; clear and definite.

When my sister’s struggle with cancer began three years ago she was given a diagnosis, a surgery, and a new decade of life, all in the same moments of time. Taking on the decade of 40 was a challenging task beyond belief. She had no idea what this would all entail.

When you watch a loved one experience pain, there is no worse feeling in the world I assure you. Worse yet is being powerless to stop it all when it takes place before your eyes. It’s like a form of Chinese torture. That slow grip on your soul that just never quite releases and squeezes you without warning when the worms of cancer release.

I remember my beloved Cosby show father character once telling his daughter, “There’s a battle going on inside of you. See you’ve got the white blood cell good guys fighting for you, and then you’ve got these other bad guys and they’re just waging a war inside your body.” Sometimes I think about that moment of hearing an explanation of disease. It makes sense and is simplistic and honest.

The unpredictability of disease has not stopped her from the positivity in the world of experiencing life, living, reading, loving, educating, reaching out, traveling, dancing, laughing, being sarcastic, fighting, and questioning and exploring. She always puts the conscientious thought of love first. That’s something that I have learned from her. “Don’t shut yourself off from being open to the possibility of what someone can bring in, connect, and appreciate Rachel.” We’re doing that together. She has wonderful care right now. Each day has been a blessing of opportunity to laugh, and experience things together.

I felt the desire to write, about what in particular I was not quite sure. What is currently on my heart and mind, my sister Debbie.

I have found writing and music to be extremely therapeutic over the last 72 hours and will continue to share that with Debbie. Currently I am playing d.j. while she dozes and we are all enjoying some Schumann. Thank you for the positive thoughts and love friends. Keep the energy going. ❤ Sparkle on.

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TIHS kind of day (use a mirror)

For lack of a more interesting beginning: I’m exhausted. 

     Over the last 3.5 months I have been rehearsing for a Christmas musical a friend wrote, working full time, working out 6 days a week, stressing about family, worrying about health, planning, driving, organizing, talking, singing, practicing, and walking that balance beam we call life.

Sometimes I just want to throw all the pieces up into the air and scream while I watch them all fall back down and turn into glittery confetti…if only.  The current positives that are milling around in my mind proceed as follows:

  1. I am three days away from winter break from teaching. You know all those crazy memes of teachers running for the doors screaming? That’s me right now. I’m done. I’ve had it with attitudes, misspellings, sighing, requests x 27 and then some, repeating myself, filing paper work, making copies, making phone calls, writing emails, responding to emails, giving band aids, mending wounds both physical and emotional, mediating, locking and unlocking doors, searching for items, listening to demands, entering grades, having paint all over my hands, being sneezed on, being coughed on and glared at when I ask them to cover their mouth, wiping down tables, reminding for courtesy and the amount of general lack of gratitude. My bucket is not filled at work right now people I need recoup time.
  2. I wrapped the Christmas show and made new friends. I was grateful for another musical experience that pushed me as an individual, but I have to admit it was hard. It was challenging for me to force myself to drive across town the last week for rehearsals. It was not that I did not want to be there or follow through, it’s just that I am emotionally drained.
  3. My body tells me when it has had enough, and I generally listen. Like tonight when I stepped out of the car for dance class and my foot cramped and hurt immensely, I stopped and thought, “I think that’s a sign that you need to go home Rachel.” So I listened, and I did.
  4. Small glimmers of hope with my sister’s recent PET scan were also dashed and then thrown against more frustrating new growths in an already ravaged body, which made me want to yell into the wind: FUCK YOU CANCER. I should have been a scientist.
  5. I watched part of my birthday present from my sweet guy tonight, “Cinderella,” helped me lose myself in the fairy tale.
  6. I have a fluffy quilt, a couple pillows, and a bed to sleep in after writing.
  7. I had yummy home made pasta, and chocolate to wash it all down with.
  8. I realized after this last birthday that I could feel an emotional shift of ,”not caring,” about what people think of me slowly slipping away. See the meme below for my current feelings.
  9. I have a wonderful set of friends, family, and humans that I love and who love me. ❤ Case in point, my bff, Resa.Resa's bday party 2015
  10. I saw an amazing meme that sums me up.  That is my life update for this evening.  I’m going to dream land and will wake up and do it all again tomorrow. Enjoy the meme and one of my favorite Hollywood legends, The Norma Jean, aka, Marilyn Monroe. ❤ (PS I don’t know who created or posted the original meme below, I don’t own it, nor do I intend to pass it off as something I created. Rather, I appreciate it and am sharing it. Thank you.)Marilyn quote meme

I’m feeling 32…

birthday 32

My mother said that the night before I was born she had a conversation with me in the womb. She told me it was time for me to come into the world. She had stayed in bed for nearly 8 months in order to bring me forth into the world and that it was finally time. 

I generally follow directions, but I definitely march to my own drum beat still to this day thanks to my mom.

I followed the plan she laid out before me, but I arrived with a bang before my father even had time to arrive that early morning. My mother had her best friend Ann with her.   I like to think that she lives on within me, inside my heart, with my middle name and hers being the same. 

Friendships run deep in my life. Clearly from the first moment I breathed life, friends were surrounding me. 

I am a loyal human. I may kick, and I may scream my way through situations, but I will remain by your side. Much like my childhood likeness. I was the type of friend who would steadfastly watch their best friend branch out with other people and friends, but stay rock steady when they returned. I sought no comfort in constantly seeking other’s approval. I knew who I was even as a little one, and I loved my friend even from afar. I never looked at friendships as an, “end all be all per say,” but rather I cherished those whom I felt made a lasting hand print on my heart. 

The last 32 years have brought forth many recollections when I stop and consider the life that I have lead thus far. 

A few things hold true: life will always ebb and flow. It will continue to test you. No matter how prepared you might be, you can never prepare for the change that will set forth when you least expect it. 

I’ve found within the last year that spontaneity, pushing my limits, and testing my boundaries and also the human’s within my life makes my vision become clearer with this life.

We are given a gift to wake up and face each day for all that it will bring into our lives. 

I have watched those closest to me fight a battle of cancer.

I have seen love and loss.

I have experienced the unimaginable. 

I have discussed.

I have cried.

I have written. 

I have sang.

I have acted.

I have performed and put on a mask to make the smoke and mirrors reflect what they should from the stage. 

I have gotten up each day. Taken many deep breaths and washed away my sorrows through sweat and tears combined.

I have found solace in the arts.

Ultimately I have danced away carefree in those melodies and sparkling lights. 

I have worked towards relinquishing my desire to control. 

I continue to struggle with many things. 

I have found love, and shown kindness whenever possible. 

Life will always be challenging, and yet, I am anticipating what lies ahead.

The small, simple moments bring me boundless joy.

Cheers to you my blogging friends. Here, where readers and writers unite. 

I applaud all of you for sharing your quandaries and quests. May we all bring forth a flood of words to wash away our tears, and the anguish that our world is pulsing with. 

Peace, love, and sparkles is my wish on this, my 32nd birthday.

 

Sagittarius Birthday Eve…

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My husband should blog. Poem courtesy of him.  Thank you to all the amazing fellow bloggers through wordpress. It’s been wonderful to connect, write, and inspire one another. I am so grateful for this community. Sparkle on friends.

I leave you with a few of my favorite things on this 32nd birthday eve: