Dear Debbie, Vol. IV

Six months passed yesterday.

With the warm breezes of June it swept in like a burst of sandy wind across the skies in Utah as I saw the day pass by one moment at a time. The sun beat down, the sky stretched out blue, cloudless, like a picturesque day.

I found myself breathing easier, although embarking on my own new journey brought more mental work than I had anticipated. Exercising your mind, your spirit, and your essence of humanity takes conscientious thought, strength, and work. That is where I am currently residing at the present time. I found Gabrielle Bernstein’s work and have been knee deep in the majestic possibilities that time, thought, and love can bring forth.

I listened to the Dalai Lama yesterday. He was visiting the University of Utah for a special engagement. You would have loved his words, his insight, and especially his humor. I found this particular story enlightening:

A question from the audience was answered by the Dalai Lama, “My father passed away from suicide recently. I find myself filled with sadness all the time. What guidance can you give me about the place that he is now in?”  The Dalai Lama ended his explanation of what grieving may look like with the words, “No amount of sadness can bring your father back….Your father can feel your sadness if you remain as such…you must work to fulfill his will and live.” One more phrase that spoke to me was, “Compassion, love, open mindedness, investigation, questions, these bring forward the opportunity for answers.”

I felt that it must have been beshert that I was here in Utah. Here visiting Katie. Logged into the wifi as a guest, saw the universities home page and was struck by the opportunity that laid out in front of me…the Dalai Lama, his message, and the sense of love that his presence provided was eloquent timing for me as a mere mortal on Earth.

If I were to recount what the past month has brought forth in my small little world, our Oregon community, our nation, and our world it would be filled with joys, with sorrows, and with a flood of tears and rainbows. I do not wish to recall this list because I know that your presence is felt and already knows.

I will end this blog with a beautiful array of faces and places that mark moments on this journey. I shall leave this blog with some quotes from your sweet boy who enlightened me days ago.

“Aunt Rachel, what do you think death is like? Does it all go still and black, or do our bodies stop, but our mind goes somewhere else?  Wouldn’t it be cool if we went on to continue with our thinking, and go to this other place?!

Sometimes I think about what other people have seen, you know? Like what has he or she seen in their life? In their experiences. I want to know!”

I’ll end with this quotable moment…


Dear Debbie Vol. 1

Dear Debbie,

It’s been over two months since I talked to you. I think that’s the longest we’ve gone without speaking since I was born.

One of the first things I did after we left the hospital was pull out my letters to you and re-read them. Dating back to 1991, when our pen pal adventures began. It made me feel better. Don’t start worrying, Andy’s got you covered with that.  His first question to me was, “Whatcha’ doing? Is that going to make you sad? Are you sure that’s a good idea?” I snappily replied in wonderful Rachel fashion, “Yessssss, I’m very happy….” and went back to my land of happy in the midst of your wisdom from your freshman year of college.

In the last two months there have been so many times when I’ve stepped towards the phone and thought, “Oh I just need to call Debbie…” and then stopped myself.

I’m not going to lie. That sucks. It just sucks.

The words from Avenue Q. popped into my head, “It sucks to be me… It sucks to be you…It sucks to be ….” fill in the blank… that was one of my favorite memories of you and I. It was late spring, and we took a selfie and didn’t know it would later be called a, “Selfie.” Hahahaha. We were so ahead of our time, what else can I say? Our smiles say it all.


Today for instance a beautiful soul in my classroom eagerly pealed open her new copy of, “A Wrinkle in Time,” she beamed up at me and said, “I just can’t wait to finish it, I have the whole series, it’s so AWESOME!” Her enthusiasm it was palpable, she is a reader after your own heart, you would have melted. She and Anne Shirley have much in common. They both hide books under their desks during arithmetic. I’ve played Ms. Stacey’s role many times. I love it. She knows how much it means to me to hear this from her too. I told her it was one of your favorite books and she was so excited to start it. Your work is never done big sis. We’re keeping it alive.

The same child wrote to me the following in early January, “Dear Mrs. B. I’m so sorry for your loss. I hope that wherever she is, that she’s happy. I love you.” I cried when I read that, of course. I have to appreciate the wisdom of a child when it is dispensed. Speaking of wise children…segue to the best there is, Declan.

We had a really sweet date night a few weeks ago. We wrote letters to Lenore. I wish you could have seen his joy upon digging through my sticker bag. (We know what a big deal it is to SHARE the stickers we treasure…) He found these beautiful scrap booking writer’s stickers and reveled at how perfect they were for his letter to Lenore. He bounded down the stairs and dove into creating the card, decorating, picked up the pen, and then looked at me. All I said to him was, “Do you want to write a rough draft first?” He nodded and began. I gave him a non-teacher-y lesson in how to write a letter and begin the process. He was a natural and prattled off questions and all sorts of things to share about his thinking. I was so proud of him for drafting, editing, and creating a final product by hand with lovely handwriting. He received a big high five from Aunt Rachel for that one.

That night we read a couple thoughtful books about loss. One of them he had read with you, “Boats for Papa,” and the other one was, “Missing Mommy.”  I didn’t push the topic or conversation. I simply said when picking out some story time books, “I have a couple books I’d like to read with you if you’re ok with it.” In true Declan form he said, “Oh yeah, which ones? …. Ok! I read that one with Mom.” Of course you did kid. 🙂 We had a sweet little chat about the concept of still being a family even though we can’t see you, you’re still here with us always in our hearts. I think I feel my strongest and my best when I’m with him and our family. I do ok when I’m working and staying busy too, or at least I try.


“Idle hands are the devils playground…” is that how that saying goes? Well, irregardless, night time is the hardest for me. Perhaps it is because I am tired, emotional, calm and or, just finally listening to my heart.

I remember I had a conversation with a friend years ago about why we like youtube and she told me that, “Sometimes it’s nice to just step into someone else’s story and out of your own for a while.” And I’ve done just that.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve been reading, I’ve been exercising, seeing friends here and there, sharing, talking, being social, and I’ve been writing.  I just haven’t felt like sharing it. I had nothing to say for a while. Then everything to say. And then nothing again.

I compose a lot of drafts in my mind. I have always done that though. I write a lot of letters, and messages I would rather write than speak. That is the introvert in me though. I’ve been working on writing out ideas here and there. Sometimes they are emotional rants, diary entries, what have you, and other times they are story ideas or skeletons of things I’ve muddled around for a while.

When I went through a writing training for Lucy Calkin’s work I was first taught, “Writers write best about what they know…” So that’s what I’m doing.

That is one of the reason’s I started the blog.  That and I realized it was high time to put my ideas into one place to share and not be afraid of my own voice.

A book I read this fall had a character in it who basically lived a shut in life after a turn of events.  However, he did reach out in his own way.  He would broadcast his own type of radio channel and music through a special radio he built for himself. He had lost a sibling and felt that the best way to reach him was to put out into the universe what he hoped would some how reach him.

I think that’s what I’m doing here.

I’m writing to you because having the conversation in my mind just isn’t working as well anymore. It seems natural in some way though. I blogged for you last year and loved every minute of sharing our memories to help surprise you every day you had that blasted radiation.

So for now, after this long winded and rambly letter I will leave you with this. A list that came back through, “Facebook memories,” something that you posted back in 2009 on my wall.  Sending you sparkles into the universe. 3 x 3 = I miss you. I love you. My sister Debbie.

Debbie Alvarez  March 5, 2009 at 7:08pm (Here’s what you’re supposed to do. Copy, paste in your notes, delete my answers and type in your answers. Then tag a few good friends! The theory is that you will learn a lot of little known things about each other. **I’m not keen on spam, don’t feel obligated to do this… :)**)

Three Names I go by:

1. Mrs. Alvarez

2. Mrs. Library Lady

3. Mommy

Three Jobs I have had in my life:
1. Data entry clerk for a trucking company
2. Waldenbooks Employee
3. Library Media Specialist (10 years and still loving it)

Three Places I have lived:
1. Anchorage, Alaska
2. Bellingham, Washington
3. Beaverton, Oregon

Three TV Shows that I watch:
1. How I Met Your Mother
2. Scrubs
3. Heroes

Three places I have been:
1. Hawaii
2. New Jersey
3. Europe

People who e-mail me regularly:
1. Family
2. Way too many advertisers
3. OBOB Folks

Three of my favorite foods:
1. Thai noodles
2. Pesto noodles
3. Raspberry Sorbet

Three songs you love:
1. Somewhere over the rainbow- the Israel Kamakawiwo Ole’ version
2. Ice Cream – Sarah McLachlan
3. Most Paul Simon and most Beatles songs are way up there.

Three books you would read more than once:
1. Inkheart – Cornelia Funke
2. Twilight Series
3. Goodnight Moon… Any Sandra Boynton Book… Kitten’s First Full Moon

Three movies you love:
1. Princess Bride
2 You’ve Got Mail
3. Grease

Three friends I think will re-post:
Ech, brings me back to that 25 things I hate about Facebook movie… ☺

Things I am looking forward to:
1. a healthy household
2. Spring Break time with Declan
3. Summer Break time with Declan

Three drinks:
1. Chai Tea
2. Thai Iced Coffee
3. Hot Apple Cider

Three people you miss:
1. My grandparents… and family sprinkled all over
2. Jessica in Singapore
3. Good friends spread out all over…

Three sports teams:
Totally NA, not my thing.


Alef, Bet, Vet, Day 20

When you are a young child, who teaches you information? Who guides you along the way? Your parents, or guardians, yes, yes of course, well one would hope that they do. However, your siblings provide the examples.

Watch a child, any young baby, or toddler when they are amongst other people. They are fascinated by the alternative human beings beyond those in their small niche. They are most intrigued by other young people. They can distinguish between adult and child. Their stares and interest are paired with a hard wiring in the brain that encourages them to try to emulate the behavior they see. This is the learning process folks.

My guide was Debbie. Now I realize I have already touched on this subject a bit in previous blogs, but this topic of learning is different.

Debbie taught Hebrew classes at our synagogue in her late high school and early college years. I loved it. I can still see you walking down Temple Beth Shalom’s hallways with a giant Hebrew alphabet board and a bag of books slung over your shoulder. You sang the alef, bet, vet, with my kindergarten class, I’m not sure if you remember.

My teacher was Joy Grisan. I loved her. I felt special in her class and I enjoyed her story telling and art projects combined into one.  I can fondly recall the story of baby Moses in the reeds. We used pipe cleaners to fashion our tiny Moses baby and made itty-bitty baskets to hold him within.  I can see the tiny dixie cups filled with grape juice for snack time.  Our mom was the executive Hebrew School coordinator and long time volunteer for years.  Sunday school was a familiar affair.

Correct me if I’m wrong, I mean, I was little, but I think Joy took you under her wing and showed you some ideas, lessons, and helped you organize yourself as a traveling Hebrew teacher. I know that this was one of your part-time jobs in Bellingham during your first few years of college, or maybe it was all four years. Your days at Temple Beth Shalom helped shape your abilities as a teacher. Early classroom management, choral reading, and literacy skills were being fostered under your tutelage.

I used to sing the Alef, Bet, Vet, with you along with Debbie Friedman’s music. I loved those times in the van with you. Singing was always my favorite and still is. Go figure… 🙂


Sharing in this same experience of Jewish culture with life in Hong Kong was so important to me this past fall. I am grateful for the Shorashim experience we had together. I loved it. Every minute of sitting with you and Declan. I loved how he’d look up at me and see if I was singing along too. He was adorable. I loved sitting in services and being given the gift of a community experience to question the Torah and think together. This is one of the most important things, I believe about our culture. The ability to question and have a shared learning with other people. It all goes back to education, and the connectivity of all of this with music.

I love you Debbie! Have a Happy Monday of vacation. xoxo.