A Smile

They say, “A smile is worth a thousand words…” What a genius *they* were. I chose the photo for a few reasons; one it is was a photograph by my oldest and closest friend. Two, I need an updated head shot post life and two children and the pandemic, but I had not been photographed professionally in over two years. Finally it reminded me of what I thought I had lost.

She said my name, I turned and laughed, click. In one click that moment in time was stilled to a screeching halt. If I close my eyes I can see it, I can see it all flash like lightening out the window in the heat of the storm. I see that moment, and I see her and I see me…

The news, the phone calls, the fourteen-hour time difference, the lab results, the surgery, their visit, the return, the results, cutting her hair and her curls falling, falling, falling. Her story, not your story, but still the fall while I was running, running, running. Flying to visit on my first solo trip abroad. The anxiety beating in my chest. Waking up vomiting. Her making me laugh saying, “It’s nice to hear the sound of someone else puking and it not being me.” God she was so funny. Why. Why. Why. Why are good people punished? Is that even something that is valid to ask? Screw it. I said it. It was, it is, and it sometimes still crosses my mind. The flight home and feeling like a chunk of my heart lay in Hong Kong receiving the drip, drip, drip, hoping the life force of chemo would somehow heal the broken body. The waiting, the wondering, and the waiting some more. Time halted with the call; they’re coming home. She’s coming home. Home. What is home for them? The last four and a half months, like a count down before me. The last time we watched a movie together. Choking down popcorn. Fucking cancer. The call from the stupid company thinking that if only they had her take more of their potions it would change things. Leave, my sister alone, for the love of God. That last show. The blood on her tissue. Thinking to myself I should go over and cuddle with her. Texting, calling, and waiting. Curling up in the corner of the hospital bed and holding her hand. Gently waking her to speak with the doctor. Talking, talking, talking, they’re talking at her and she’s not even awake. What the hell is going on? Surgery, for what? No more pain, no more needles, she said no more needles don’t touch her. Losing my mind in the hallway calling mom choking up on the phone. Yelling at, sigh, a priest when he offered me help. I’m not CATHOLIC I yelled. I’m JEWISH. Wow. So that happened. I just sat there taking turns holding her hand, taking turns, and crying and praying that her labored breathing would ease. My God. How selfish could I be, I asked God to make it stop, what is wrong with me? That last moment. I see her hands; I see the soft rounded half moons on her nails. The same hands that held mine. Hands that braided my hair. That took pictures together. That passed book pages. That shared chocolate. That cooled a forehead. That taught me to drive. Hands. Hearts. Hands intertwined. I missed her smile. The audience packed over three hundred souls in the room to honor her. I was numb. I just kept thinking, I can’t lose this one too, in the bathroom praying the blood not to come. Waiting, not feeling right. The blood tests. The ultrasound. Hearing, “I’m so sorry, please wait here.” The look on his face. God, make it stop. Here I go again. Calling out to God and where are… they? The hospital lights dimmed as the drugs smoothed the edges of my raw nerves. “How are you feeling?” she asked, I rolled my head over to her and smiled, “So good.” Hobbling to the bathroom and thanking the nurse for helping me. The blood, that’s to be expected. The color stained behind my eyes. Every month I saw it again and again, and again. The pulsing life force within me that kept me alive, and reminded me monthly I had more to give, I had more to live for, to grow for, I had to reframe my perspective, ‘cuz this ain’t it kid, this ain’t it. What did she tell me?

“Hineni,” Hebrew for, “Here I am.” That was it, here I am, and here I will stay. I am not my sister, and she was not me.

Click. Click. Click.

The rush of the moment. The train station walls illuminated as the dusky lights of night descended upon us. All in a moment, all was still, and the laugh subsided. We sat to take a rest after shooting in the park along the Willamette River. Shooting one another and covering her camera with what we lovingly referred to as the camera condom. The humor from middle school never seemed to disappear between us. Old habits die hard, “Was that a good one?” She chuckles, “Yeah I think I got it, you smiled!”

Click.

“And once again!”

Photo credit to: K. Sciuto. ❤

Yahrtzeit: Six years passed.

There are days that feel so heavy to be a human. I felt those all weighing down on me when I woke up today. Each passing year feels so different.

Some years (pauses), God, I just wrote years, as in plural. As I shake my head at the realization of the length of time, I visualized something. The distance of days, turned months, turned years feels like more and more time built between the two of us. Maybe I need to talk that one out… Regardless, unpacking my thoughts and feelings is a daily task these days.

Back to my thought: the heaviness. Sometimes humanity weighs heavy in the heart. Maybe it’s the turning of the season today, the official beginning of the hibernation period, the winter solstice begins. Maybe it’s the remembrance of what we all lost when you left this Earth? Maybe it’s the fact that so much humanity is ever changing? The world still feels frozen, but why? Maybe it’s the fact that I’m feeling all of the things I allowed to become numb?

Maybe it’s all of it.

It is all of it.

All at once.

The crashing waves. The water washed over me, and I just let it all flow. In ways, like these words. I always turn to here. Let it all out in writing. Maybe that’s why I hadn’t blogged in so long. What do we say when we have too much to say? Or if we find ourselves without the words to fully express our feelings, where do we begin?

I turned a lot to podcasts this year. Unpacking, and repacking what I’m experiencing, listening to, mulling over, and chewing on in my head.

Often I take the feelings, and I weave them into an armor of something in my mind. The fabric of this life. The frayed edges worn with time. Here I stand alas, holding onto that scarf and hoping it still warms me, even after the years have unraveled it’s thread.

Golly, I’m at a loss. I hate that. I don’t like not understanding, or not knowing. That is definitely the type A coming through…

My patience runs very thin these days, it reminds me of ice. Cracking and refreezing, and the water still moving beneath the surface. What is it like to full submerge, and feel that sting? I remember all too well that frigid cold feeling in 2015, of knowing the inevitable was coming, and I was incapable of stopping it. That’s it. Right there. That knowingness of watching the inevitable unfurl. That was the submerge, the slow spiral, and the waking up knowing.

Sometimes I turn, and I think that I see your reflection in the mirror. I hear the same sound in my voice, that I once heard in yours, and the ice cracks. Perhaps it’s knowing that all things have changed, and so many remain the same.

Humanity keeps spinning in it’s web. The universe is still shifting, and yet in the quiet hours of the morning, in the repeated numbers on the clock I have seen the: 222, the 444, and the 555’s, I think of you. The buzzing of a picture frame on my birthday. The song titles you loved, as recent discoveries of unknown artists sing. These are universal signs. The dragonflies that passed us by in Fall. The shooting star that Andy saw last week. The birds that stop, and meet my eye. All of these are natures way of saying, keep going dear heart, I see you there. These reminders repair the frays. I turn my head and the breeze gently sways. New winds begin to blow.

I cried more today, than I can remember in the last 365 days. Maybe it’s because I feel you more, and I feel you less, all at once in the caverns of my heart. Maybe it’s because the fleeting feeling of time ticking becomes ever present with the growth of these two babes. There’s nothing quite like being needed to remind you of what’s important. I heard a new song by Ashley Monroe titled, Gold, and I thought about you. Her voice reminds me of Alison Krauss. These little things help reweave the threads hanging loose.

I don’t know if I believe the phrase, time heals all wounds, is accurate any longer. Maybe it’s more like this: time cloaks the wounds, and your heart grows less heavy. Regardless, here I am. I broke a few stress cycles with the tears today. You would probably say, “Look at you, healing, and stuff, haha, and be healthy you. I’m proud of you.” I’ll go hug the babes, and take a walk now.

I’ll leave you with this Big sis:

Your son’s doing well.

He’s nearing six feet.

He’s driving now too.

Imagine that.

We all love and miss you.

The books you should see coming out in 2021, ahh, I hope you do see.

I saw a hedgehog on google today.

I chuckled aloud, and thought you’re so funny.

Leo said you wink at us when the stars twinkle bright.

I hope that he’s right.

xo,

Your little sister

RAB 2021.

Blow out the candles

They say age is like wine, it gets better with time.

I’m not sure who they are, but I couldn’t agree more. Life’s bit bittersweet with a flaky exterior. If I were to define age it would be the conscious knowledge of a number, and yet the fleeting feeling of freedom. When I was a child, I would wonder who I would be one day. What does it even mean to be? In the Spanish language it conforms to: ser, to be….

To be or not to be, that’s always the question, isn’t it? I have been an official adult for twenty years now. I am not sure of everything I have learned and how I could possibly put it into words. I think the description would need to be written as multiple stories instead.

All I truly feel is: gratitude. This gratitude for just being, going back in time to my writing of the Hebrew phrase: hineni: here I am.

Being here.

Being still.

Being in motion.

Being.

How lucky am I? I think I am similar, and also very much changed. I don’t make room for as many things anymore. I shed them like a cloak each year that I realize the lack of importance they held. Take for instance, doubt.

If I had given into doubt, I wouldn’t be here, writing, this, sharing it on the ethers of the internet.

If I had given into doubt, I wouldn’t have the memory of us holding hands in a foreign land and comforting her in the largest trial of time.

If I had doubted my gut instinct and not held his hand that one day, I wouldn’t be here with my family today.

If I had doubted my abilities, I wouldn’t have sung in that room with a panel of music faculty members judging my every move, and been awarded a scholarship.

If I had doubted my kindness, I would not have made my lifelong friend again and passed her paper in study hall.

If I had doubted my hope I would not have believed in rainbows after the storm and held both of my babies close to my heart.

If I had doubted my self-worth I wouldn’t face my fears and discuss them monthly with a trained professional therapist.

If I had given into my doubt I wouldn’t submit and submit, and revise, and edit, and resubmit my stories again and again.

If I had given into my doubt, I wouldn’t have crossed the 13.1 finish line and completed a half marathon three years after taking my first steps as a runner.

If I had given into doubt, I wouldn’t have made countless friends and spent hours at a dance studio I called my second home.

If I had given into fear I wouldn’t have a fifteen minute birth story and a beautiful human to care for.

Doubt is like your shadow. It tags along for the ride, trying to pull you back, or pull you down. But at some point, you must know how to embrace it. Remember that first time you discovered her? The shadow friend waved back, didn’t she? Sometimes doubt, and fear can high five you, just to see how far you have come, and give you a nudge to keep going.

Life is like that too. All the shadow friends fall behind, as you turn and face the light. It’s better if you look up most days. Take a power stance, and find the light of the sun, or the moon, and allow its shine to lift you up towards the sky.

Cheers to 38, the strong years, and all the ones that came before. They made me into this human form that helps me charge forth with passion and integrity.

Rain drops on roses.

Church

What does spirituality mean to you as an individual? I was recently listening to a podcast on, “Unlocking Us,” with the Nelson family. They were discussing what spirituality meant to them in their family and I connected to something I hadn’t thought of in a while. There are always these thoughts that linger just below the surface before emerging with impeccable timing. Call it God, call it the universe, call it what you like, but it released something I had been holding onto.

The idea of how spiritual I feel, and have felt when playing music revived itself. They say, “don’t lose yourself,” when you’re mothering. I understand how true that can be. I have worked hard to continue to be myself and evolve with each pregnancy and birth I have been blessed to experience. With each one, I have become a new version of myself.

Is it not amazing to be alive and experience all of the highs and lows of being a human? Over the last eighteen months we have all had a collective experience, and yet an individualized one at the same time. How unique it is that as a whole, the entire earth has bared witness to this pandemic and continued to revitalize and find ways to connect? Albeit connection without touching, at times, but connection none the less. However, I do think that in some ways it has come at a cost and for myself, I have realized how much I have to break away from the technological connectivity I had grown accustomed to…

I often sit on my bed and gaze out the window when I am writing. There is a beautiful cherry tree that continues to grow each day. This tree and I have seen many stages of life together over the past decade. When sitting down to write today I realized something, I am so grateful for this view. The leaves now delicately quiver in the winter wind. They dangle on bare branches reminding me of how much I can dangle on the precipice when I feel at my most raw and exposed. There is something to be said about the seasons and how much it can invoke these instinctual feelings within me.

I often analyze and over think ideas. It is something I have grown aware of with age, and also grown to appreciate about myself. This characteristic, not flaw, allows me to have the ability to be a natural researcher, thinker, and empath. I am constantly considering what I think the other being might feel or be going through. I also weigh choices heavily, and I have learned to release my worries quickly.

The act of mindfulness has been a slow process I have been cultivating over the last few years. It has recently blossomed with my commitment to meditation. Through the act and practice of exercise with a friend’s partnership on social media, I committed myself for four months to a daily ritual. It helped me realize that I can do the same with my mindfulness and take it to another level with meditation. Ultimately this practice helps me two fold: be a more present human being, and be a steadier rock in the turbulence of my children’s springs. I will be the first to admit that their waves of emotion can greatly affect me. As an empath it is extremely challenging for me to not become washed away with their tides, but I am holding firmer ground and breathing deeper now.

Where am I going with all of these collective thoughts? I’m rooting them here, in this virtual ether captured by a moment in time. It had been a while since I sat down and wrote a flow of thoughts without trying to conform the ideas or control the output.

I realized that sometimes we all just need to let things go. Let go and let God. The only thing to fear, is fear itself. What takes up your mental space can consume you, carefully tread my friends and find those spaces that bring you back to what truly matters. This time of year brings back many memories of collective effervescence for me. The act of being together, the act of singing together, and feeling that spiritual moment that you cannot explain. It may look different for me now, but the emotions still rise the same. May this season bring forth a renewed energy filled with hope and light. May we all be taken to, “church,” and find that moment where our souls ring and feel lightened by the load of what being a human means.

Lingering leaves of 2021.

Spring Tidings

The turning of seasons always brings forth a renewal of the mind, the body, and the spirit. It is in the shadows we reveal our true characters. In the depths of winter’s despair I withered, but in the sunlit corners of spring, I can shake the cobwebs of the ego and step into the light of who I choose to become.

I always find it astonishing how change can truly set me reeling or is it realizing? In a fight, flight or freeze state of being I often choose freeze and breathe, and then internally I would like to flee. However, the ties that bind hold me firm and my heart knows what’s best, but my mind does not always follow.

Wading through the world in pandemonium and in the tides of postpartum has not been an easy task. As insurmountable as the mind may be, there are times when I have to face the truth which is exhaustion and fatigue are ill suited when you’re a parent, but they are none the less the cloaks handed out for free during the care of young children’s daily lives.

I saw a meme recently of parental sleep feeling like the following: baby is down for sleep, parent face plants on bed, an alarm or the baby calls and the parent jumps back up. That pretty much sums up how I felt on some days. Everything is magnified during this time, for every human being on the planet. Be it naysayer, be it believer, be it scientist, be it politician, nurse, teacher, or child care worker, everyone is tired. Tired being a relative term with a thousand layers of meaning. However, there is one thing that remains constant ticking by every moment of the day: time.

Time, that elusive shark, always showing itself on the surface and sliding back down beneath the waves. Just when I feel that sense of, “caught up,” I settle back in for a sure fire wash of reality. Often I find myself watching time slip by when I get caught up with my to do lists, or while playing a game of what if, but one things brings me back to reality and that is: love.

She’s that warm cloud of purple that bubbles up and fills my heart when I’m overwhelmed. Sometimes she helps shed tears that relinquish all of the feelings that have been simmering. Other times she makes me laugh uproariously at the hilarity that is a three year old ‘s mind. Most days I feel a warm kindling deep inside knowing that I am loved, and that I get to love others. Then I settle into the realization that in essence, that is truly everything. As Elton John said…to love and be loved in return.

So, when you find yourself being over or under whelmed, or awash with the current rules, regulations, and regularity of your days, stop and remember what love you get to feel and who you get to share it with.

We are in the midst of Pesach. The holiday that always makes me feel the sense of hope and loss intertwined as one. I cannot help but pause and think of what the past year has brought forth for those fellow humans who have loved and lost. I always go back to the voice of Debbie Friedman with her beautiful song, Mi Shebeirach. I included the lyrics below as a source of inspiration to those in need of healing. Spring is here, and with it a new opportunity for life. I hope it is one filled with love and a garden of possibility.  

I wanna hold your hand dada.
Colorful tulips, my favorite.
Filled with the promise of sunshine.
Beauty in the trees.
Tiny blooms for my babe.

Mi shebeirach avoteinu
M’kor hab’racha l’imoteinu
May the source of strength,
Who blessed the ones before us,
Help us find the courage to make our lives a blessing,and let us say, Amen.

Mi shebeirach imoteinu
M’kor habrachah l’avotein
u
Bless those in need of healing with r’fuah sh’leimah,
The renewal of body, the renewal of spirit, And let us say, Amen.”

-Debbie Friedman.

Sisterhood

Every year as December 21 approaches and passes I am filled with more emotions than I can explain. Most of them leave me with twinges of sadness or longing, but today I feel more than that. I feel fully grateful now.

When my sister died, I felt like an invisible tether was cut and my lifeline floated away with her. 

Then, with time’s passing I realized that the many humans in my life could help me regain my tether and form a new lifeline, if I let them. I’m grateful for all the family and the friends that shed light over the last five years time. I have learned more than I could possibly explain, but most importantly I have come to realize that gratitude is the key component to making my days robust. 

I am grateful for the circle of friends, (thank you to Maeve Binchy for your book to reference, but I digress), specifically the women who have become pieces of a sister puzzle in my life. I have learned that no one can or ever will replace or fill the shoes of my birth sibling. But here’s the thing, perhaps even the secret to understanding my personal loss and grief is this: time heals all wounds, or rather time transforms everything

I can now see that Debbie and I had the fullest relationship and set of experiences that taught me lessons, filled me with joy and hope, and can still make me laugh today. That was the true gift that time bestowed upon us, our memories and the moments that we shared. 

Now, I can clearly look at my other relationships that have blossomed in my garden. I know that each woman knows how grateful I am for them, but sometimes it’s helpful to say it out loud: Thank you. 

Thank you to the friends and family who have helped shape a new meaning of sisterhood for me. Thank you for sharing your little people when loss filled my life. Thank you for sharing a momento as a reminder of love I can wear every day.  Thank you for reading my blog and holding my hand from afar. Thank you for covering me with prayers and kindness when waves crashed down. Thank you for sharing humor and holidays when I missed that sense of knowing someone else’s thoughts on familiar days. Thank you for dropping off food, letters and care packages when I had tiny humans to hold and feed. Thank you for writing, texting, and calling me when fear and judgement clouded my mind and I sought refuge in your council.  Thank you for reaching out and sharing your gifts of time. Thank you for filling tea and coffee cups and holding my hand. Thank you for passing the cupcakes and saying eat up without judgement. Thank you for welcoming me to your city and showing me new adventures. Thank you for shedding advice on love, loss, and motherhood when the going got rough. Thank you for answering my texts, calls, and keeping a connection going, even with distance and time. Thank you for allowing new bridges to be built and time to heal. Thank you for holding me in hugs and allowing tears to flow without explanation. Thank you for sharing your weekend days and time to meet and chat. Thank you for holding my tiny baby boys and filling their hearts with love.  But most of all, thank you for allowing me the space, holding space and time and loving me just the way I am. 

You know that if you read this and connected in some way, I’m giving you a virtual hug and that I love you. 

Thank you.

Gratitude exemplified through joy and laughter.

Perspective

How would your perspective change if I told you that you were picked for this life specifically. This moment, this time, this year, these people, your surroundings? How would that make you feel? Would you be startled? Would you shift or change? 

When I began to shift my mindset about the seeming, “hardships,” I experienced, my heart opened up. I’m not here to cast a stone and say that whatever it is that each of us is facing doesn’t feel how it feels. That’s not what I’m saying, but what I am trying to articulate is this: if you can take ownership of your feeling and harness it, then you can drive your ship.

Every moment is made up of these micro experiences. These experiences become your vision and a part of your memory. Which in turn, becomes the story that you tell yourself about your life. What if you paused and considered that you can harness those emotions and shift your perspective. 

In my current moment I am sitting on a bed, with a pillow table, earplugs in my ears, smoke covering my neighborhood, poor air quality, and thirty minutes of time to write. I asked for the time. I asked for this plate, this life, these people. When I look around me I could see: all of the things I think I should see, but if I stop skimming over the surface and look deeper I can see: all of the ways I affect those around me in turn. 

Outside of my house the smoke is so thick that I can barely see the trees in the neighborhood park. The beloved home state I live is literally burning and the world feels like it is upending upon itself. I realized when I woke up today, day three of smoke filled lungs that I had the opportunity to pause and truly ground myself. If I feel my head spinning, if I feel my heart wrenching, how is that in turn affecting those around me? My responses are powerful and they are directly driven by the effects of a mood. There is little else that I feel like I have control over right now. But I do have control over my mind, which, if I admit it: is everything. Your mind is the epicenter of everything you are capable of doing and have done. 

As Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” 

As I say to my two year old, “Feelings come and feelings go, feelings show, it’s alright to cry, it might make you feel better,” a mish-mash of quotes from, Free To Be You And Me. With all of this being said, I encourage myself, and you to to think about your perspective. Health is wealth, if I have that and my family, I have everything. That’s my perspective and I know that with endurance of mind and spirit I can lean into perseverance, which is key. 

Bionic

Body.

It’s the image that you, “see” when you look into the mirror. However, what are you really seeing? Is it a true reflection or a perception of what you think you see?

After carrying and delivering two nine plus pound babies, my, “body,” has been fully transformed. It’s a work in progress. Truly. It always has been. The first time I can recall comparing myself to another human, I was eight years old. Second time I was lost in comparison was when I was twelve years old. Life’s too short for comparison, that’s what I would tell my eight year old self. That’s what I’m telling my thirty six year old self as well, to who I thought I was a year, two years, or even three years ago. 

The word bionic came to me during my yoga practice today. 

They say to shut off technology, shut out the negative self talk, shut out the doubt and fear, and the fluidity of your true self comes forth. Genius right? Easy to do? No. Especially for a left brained perfectionist tendency driven human. 

I am constantly redefining the way I perceive and “see” things in life. I redefined my day to day purpose last September when I switched from full time teacher mode to mom/teacher at home mode. I have to constantly shift and change my perspective throughout the day in order to keep up with the tides of a toddler and newborn. My attitude is everything. I love the saying, “An attitude of gratitude.” I repeat this over and over until I shift my mindset, it always brings me back to the core of what is essential: love, appreciation, and dedication for care.

I am not perfect. I am not my body. I am not my perceptions. Say that or read it again, now say that to yourself in the mirror. What flows forth? Feelings? Tears? Smiles? Gratitude to release yourself from what you previously perceived?

I think that Christina Aguilera had something right when she aptly named her album after giving birth to her son, “Bionic.” 

I am choosing that word as the new descriptor for my perception of my body. I’m tired of my frustrated attitude and ungratefulness in the throws of postpartum with how I perceive this vessel. I grew two human beings eyelashes, fingers, hearts, and bodies. My body literally pushed those beings out of me, one, without any medicinal support. So. I am now calling myself: bionic. I am ever changing. Ever growing, and ever shifting. 

The next time you look at yourself in the mirror, think about what you’re seeing. Are you seeing your spirit, your core, or are you zooming in with the ego’s eye? Try bionic as a descriptor. You’re capable of so much more than what your perception of self, “sees.”