~9 months of passing times~

During my morning drive the waves of feelings emerged as the sun streamed through my window pane. Today is the 21st.  Today is the day that nine months ago my heart broke as my nephew had said to a friend. My heart broke and felt like it dropped out of my chest and numbed with stillness. Over the last nine months my heart continues to thaw. Sometimes it bursts with happiness. Sometimes I catch myself and my breath in one go as it all comes whirling back in my mind.  A loss is difficult to explain. All to easily  or simply put when asked simple questions throughout a day.  I am always holding the threads together and forever weaving and unraveling all in the same motion. Yet it is the act of continuing that I stride with.

Pursuing.

Remembering.

Sharing and reflecting, this is what helps ease the process of grieving.

Life was never meant to be tread easily.

It is with each step of action that I take, I consider my blessings, and multitudes of gratitude that I can meditate on to help lift me up.

Today is a day that I have an opportunity to build upon with my future. How wondrous it is to be a given the very gift of life. I am here. Hineni. הִנֵּֽנִי

She is with me still. Two hearts became one in spirit. Love you to the moon and back Debbie, always and forever.

We Remember Them

By Sylvan Kamens & Rabbi Jack Riemer
At the rising sun and at its going down; We remember them.
At the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter; We remember them.
At the opening of the buds and in the rebirth of spring; We remember them.
At the blueness of the skies and in the warmth of summer; We remember them.
At the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of the autumn; We remember them.
At the beginning of the year and when it ends; We remember them.
As long as we live, they too will live, for they are now a part of us as We remember them.

When we are weary and in need of strength; We remember them.
When we are lost and sick at heart; We remember them.
When we have decisions that are difficult to make; We remember them.
When we have joy we crave to share; We remember them.
When we have achievements that are based on theirs; We remember them.
For as long as we live, they too will live, for they are now a part of us as, We remember them.

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Ninth Year

Think of a time when you felt safe, felt grounded, and felt happy.

Imagine that place.

Can you bring your olfactory sense back to the location? Can you see what it looks like before you? Perhaps you see it and walk within that realm when you dream. Or maybe it reappears every now and then when something strikes a memory chord in your brain.

I can still smell and feel parts of the interior walls of my elementary school. The smell of glue, the wet pavement outside on the playground, and the crisp air after snow has fallen and stillness unfolds.  These smells and the combined shine of the tile in the main hallway are emblazoned upon my memory. I can almost feel the painted brick wall on the outside of the gymnasium. If I close my eyes I can see the hallowed entryway of the leaded windows in the circular library with slivers of light darting across the gray carpeted floor. That smell of the books, dust, and a sense of comfort intertwined with one another can bring me back in an instant.

Walking into my school building four days ago, for the beginning of a new school year, I felt a rise of positive anticipation bubble up within me. There is something magical about watching all of the hopeful children of varying ages walk towards their next school year with fervent glee and nerves.

The twenty six individuals that entered our classroom on Tuesday all carried with them a sense of expectation, a sense of wonder, and an overwhelming sense of jitters.

Their day started off with a gift bag that was stapled together and laid upon their desks, with what they did not know was a plethora of supplies buried within each bag. A mentor colleague of mine taught me about this, “mystery bag,” game as a welcoming first day activity. Each year I have carried on the tradition with a new class.

As the day progressed the student’s nerves eased and my heart melted. I love watching students begin to unfold, ever so slowly they uncurl a tiny layer of themselves, their level of trust builds as they explore the beginning of friendship and community. The sense of innocence in their questioning and steadfast belief in, “doing the right thing, even when no one is watching,” is truly everything that adults strive to go back towards in time.

As an educator it is part of my job to teach about compassion, kindness, patience, and above all: love.  There is no curriculum that can encompass masterful lessons for these essential skills we need in life. It is merely a lesson in every interaction I have with a child, every question I answer, and the laughs that we share. I focus on sharing these ideals through the stories I select for students. They experience, read, and listen to these works of art every day. Children intrinsically desire to show kindness towards one another and I build upon this instinct to create a unique structure every year with a new community of people.

Going into this ninth year I felt a shift in myself as an educator. I realized my level of gratitude had been raised in the last few months. I felt grateful for the opportunity to share my passion for literature and life long learning every day with a new bundle of children. I felt hopeful about what my role could bring to the table in this year of growth for these students. I also felt a rise for my love of humanity, in which I dwell within as I walked through the doors, and down the halls, on the beginning of my ninth year.

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Introducing: The Incredible Kimmy the Wonder Pup…

In mid-July my husband and I expanded our family and adopted a pup named Kimmy. Little did we know that she was facing a life-threatening illness after we brought her home from the shelter. Within the first 48 hours of her life with us she faced parvo, an upper respiratory infection, and a deteriorating immune system. With supportive and knowledgeable vets, loving parents, and determination she survived.

Today she is thriving, chewing, playing, licking, cuddling, talking, and loving life. Sometimes the best things in life occur when you least expect them to do so.  Today she received shots and the knowledge that she is now 29 pounds, a great improvement from the mere 12 pounds a little over a month ago.

The Incredible Kimmy the dog is a Plott Hound, Retriever Lab mix with… maybe a little Great Dane, or Pitbull, who knows?! But this we do know: she has become a part of our hearts and we are eternally grateful for this new life. ❤

 

Kill ’em with kindness

“Kill ’em with kindness dear.” These were the words that my father always said to me growing up when I would complain about a situation at school with a friend. “Be proud of the choices you make every day.” I later learned and taught myself: You always have a choice that no one else can take away from you: the power of your choice to respond right now.

Respond with love or respond with the ego and use anger?  Why be so defensive any how about any choice made in life?  Shun the negativity or consider it as a lesson to learn from? Which one do you want to choose? This is what I ask myself.

When I stop and recognize that I have to, “delve a little deeper,” and figure out what is bothering me within then I can free myself from seeking the approval of another. There is no way to make someone else happy or feel better about who they are deep inside their being. The only way for someone to truly be happy is to make peace within, find the miracles in the day to day life that they’re blessed to lead, and use the “F” word as Gabrielle Bernstein writes and speaks of, forgiveness. Forgiveness of self, of others (for doing the best they can), and for the experiences that we encounter and choose to respond to.

The following song embodies the concept of kindness and forgiveness through the manifestation of a song sung by Selena Gomez.

Life is far too short for perceptions of a distorted reality, victim mode truths, and anger. I would much rather get real with myself about life’s most important opportunities: love, life, humanity, nature, and caring for myself. Sometimes it is scary for people to see your reflection of love and not responding with anger when provoked. I had never really liked the phrase, “Hurt people hurt other people,” or at least they try to. No one can truly steal your joy, your truth, or love unless you allow them to walk around in your brain and consciousness. Putting myself, my health, my happiness, and love first allows me to be happier human. My experiences do not define me, it is how you choose to respond to them that can transpire into something far greater as a reflection upon yourself and your soul.

Action vs. Mirrored Silence.

Do you want to know a secret? 

All human beings are made of the same matter.

We are all the same beings on this planet we call Earth.

Yes we may have varying degrees of desires, perceptions, experiences, memories, and emotions.  BUT, we are all the same.  We come in this world the same, and we go out the same way.

I normally write about my experiences in life while focusing on the themes of love, raw emotion, and my truths. Here it is plain and simple: taking another human’s life is never ever, “ok.”

Having watched someone so close to me die this past year I felt the intense urge to NEVER have anyone else go through the same gut wrenching pain that I felt. EVER. I know that this feeling was irrational, but it was how I felt at the time.

Watching, reading, and considering the events as of late that have transpired in the United States of America in the last few years, let’s not mention the last couple centuries, I felt at a loss. I wanted to hug all of the family members who had lost the lives of their dear ones, and sit and listen to their stories.

I am referring to the list of black men, women, and children who have been gunned down at the hands of racist, despicable human beings in positions of both authority, and regular citizenry. When I stop and think of the faces of these beautiful humans walking down the street, sitting in church, driving their car, walking in a stairwell, I can imagine myself in that position. I know that white privilege exists. I have seen it unfold in schools. I have seen it transpire in grocery stores. I have seen it acted out upon my friends, my students, and my community members. THIS is not, nor has it ever been ok. Racism is a problem, and it always has been. One of the reasons I became a teacher was to empower youth to learn, to learn from one another, to inspire each other with experience, value culture, empathize through their struggles and work in the classroom, and above all, learn to love one another. Through education and our voices may we spread the idea that we are all valuable humans. No one human is better than another ever. Human life is what it is: life. #blacklivesmatter

I am referring to the young children, teachers, and administrators murdered in Sandy Hook. I am a teacher. The moment I heard this over the radio my thought process went immediately to, “How would I protect all of my students if I was in that situation?”

I am referring to the beautiful people dancing and enjoying themselves at a Pride Celebration. No one should ever feel so entitled as to march their way in and despicably take the lives of human beings whose only crime was love and joy. I cannot imagine any of my friends in a dance club being gunned down by a hateful person.

It is abhorring to see what has unfolded at the hands of human beings.

ACTION: I did a little research that took me exactly thirty seconds to find out the following:  I searched for a state legislative address by, googling the state representative for my city of residence, and there popped up all the information I needed. I am currently working on a draft of a letter that I will send every day for as long as it takes to stop the madness of gun violence. 

I challenge my fellow bloggers, friends, and humans to do the same. You want action? Write an email, write a letter, and send it daily. Flood the boxes, in-boxes, voice mail boxes of your state representative until your voice is heard. Posting on social media is one form of activity. I challenge you to take it to the next level.

Life is a precious gift.

Every day you wake up.

You breathe in, you breathe out, and you have a choice to do something with your life.

If you value this gift, than act upon it and speak up.

Life should never be cut short because of the ignorant whim of another human being.

 

life

 

Mind shifts day 9.

Once upon a time there was a little girl who was gloriously happy. She would sing, she would dance, she would play in her world of imagination. She saw possibility in the impossible. She said unabashedly what she wanted to without fear. She questioned, and she believed in miracles.

She was disillusioned by the world when she began to see the shadows of doubt become life forms around her. Fear became an embodiment that soon became a practice of thinking. 

Self doubt set in and the voice of love dissipated  from within.

Further down the line, the voice of love re-emerged when the sense of independence became possible. Clear air circled, perspective shifted, and education of communication, relationships, and the journey of adulthood began to take fruition. Through personal commitment to growth, shifts began to transform her perspective. The sea of voices became drowned out. Surfaces of light flickered, but never formally ignited.

In the hallows of the last year, the shifts have become more pronounced and ever changing.

You see, when you face your ego which drives the fear mindset, you become able to release it.  The constant self doubt, negative self talk, and pervasiveness that once embodied my desire for love evolved into a light that was once submerged.

The tiny girl, the happy dancing, gleeful child is re-surfacing. She does not give in to the harried surroundings or burbling thoughts of negativity any longer. She reflects, she chooses a mind shift, a perspective of positivity, possibility, and a power from within. 

What would happen if we all reconnected to the ~ing that we started with in life? What would he or she have to say about who and what we are today? What would they think about ourselves and our perspectives of this life that we lead?

Do yourself a favor and consider Gabrielle Bernstein’s work.

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M.T. to end M.S. Benefit Concert

MT to end MS poster

On July 8th, 2016, at Portland State University, we will be presenting a benefit concert titled, MT to end MS. This is a concert that has been six years in the making. One that my husband, our friends, and family have helped us to bring to fruition. We will be joined by four friends to present a musical theatre concert filled with humor, hope, and harmony. If  you feel so inclined to join us, or purchase tickets for other people to attend, if you live far away, please visit this website for ticket information: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2554413

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M.S. 

This is an acronym that stands for multiple sclerosis. 

What does that even mean? To me it means my husband has a disease that we have minimal control over. It means that six years ago his health changed, our life together changed, and we face it together to this day. M.S. means that with research, with funding, and with clinical trials there may be a cure in our lifetimes.

The technical explanation goes something like this: M.S. or multiple sclerosis can be a disabling disease that affects the central nervous system in a human’s body. The central nervous system controls everything you do as a human. Consider this, when you lift your hand or arm, you use your nervous system.  If you have to turn a certain direction and move your head, or perhaps you want to articulate the protocols for a specific procedure at work; your recall of thought comes from… you got it… the central nervous system. The central nervous system in turn controls the ability to follow through with your desire and your independent function in life.

The fascinating and frightening thing about M.S. is that something signals the immune system in our body to attack the brain and spinal cord. After these attacks take place there are lesions or ‘spots’ left on the brain that indicate with MRI that the person has MS.  We were told once to think about it like this:

Do you own a vacuum?

Does that vacuum have a thick cord that plugs into the wall?

Yes?  That cord, if cut open has a thick outer layer protecting all the complex wires beneath the cord.  That cord is similar to your spinal cord, and all the nerve fibers coursing through your brain. Except that in your brain these are covered with what is called myelin.  This myelin is similar to the vacuum cord’s plastic covering.  The outer layer that protects your nerve fibers and spinal cord is a vacuum cord essentially.

The immune system will suddenly attack the myelin all the way to the core which will then interrupt signals that are sent to the brain and leave lesions or spots from the damage. Therein causing unpredictable symptoms such as numbness, tingling, blindness, mood changes, memory problems, inability to walk, the inability to move your appendages, paralysis, this list could carry on and on, it depends on each individual. 

For my husband it was numbness in his hand, arm, and later optical neuritis that signaled to us that something was going on with his body. Something serious. Something that took months and months to diagnose. At the end of a six month journey we had a diagnosis, we had met with many medical physicians, and finally we had found an amazing neurologist that gave us options for RRMS, remitting and relapsing MS. The unknown can seem daunting, however with knowledge, with questions, and with the ability to focus on the can do’s and not the can not’s you can move forward with your life.

Raising awareness for this cause is crucial, not just in a personal way for my husband and friends living with M.S., but for future generations to hopefully not live with or experience this disease.  For more information please visit the National M.S. Society’s webpage at: http://www.nationalmssociety.org/What-is-MS

All proceeds from our event will be put directly into the bike MS fund for my husband’s 2016 team.  All funds received go directly to the National MS society for further research to find a cure.  Thank you for reading this friends. Have a sparkling day.

Note: I first wrote of my husband’s journey years ago before his first Ironman Competition. It was titled, “Footprints Along The Way,” and can be found in my blog archive list for July 2014.

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…

happiness-quote-from-gabrielle-bernstein-s-may-cause-miracles-a-40-V3lL0y-quote

Stop. Just breathe.

Stop.

It’s a four letter word that has power. It holds the opportunity to communicate a clear, yet simple message.

So why is it so hard to say?

It is the one word I use when a student is being inappropriate, a boundary violator, or seeking my advice as to what to say when someone bothers them.

Say, “Stop.”

What is it about all this noise around us today? It seems to be a spinning vortex of information, misinformation, communication and miscommunication. It is nestled into every moment of every day.

Stop.

Are you listening?

Do you listen when someone speaks, or do you wait to respond? Sometimes I do both. It’s a work in progress.

Do you ever find yourself oversharing or emotionally vomiting with words?

Stop. Just say, “STOP self.” And do just that, stop.

No one needs to be the bearer of your misinformation, your quandaries about another, or the oversharing bulldozer of what is unnecessary data.

Hanging in my classroom is the following poster below that has the word THINK written vertically. It was made into an acronym for a few concepts.  I saw the idea online a long time ago, and I made my own poster. Consider the following before you speak, share, or “share” through social media…

T-is it TRUE?

H-is it HELPFUL?

I-is it INSPIRING?

N-is it NECESSARY?

K-is it KIND?

All too often we are not provided or providing the possibility for communication that is quality, confidential, and kind. Listening to my friends, my loved ones, my colleagues, my acquaintances, often times I see my reflective behavior in them. My energy level shifts, my mood can fluctuate, and can be a barometer at times unless I truly concentrate on what the person is saying, before I allow my emotions to come forth.

I have practiced something with my students this year called, “problem solving mediation.” Now, it might sound simplified and silly, but it is the same elemental principles in having a crucial conversation as an adult. It can be challenging, but with continued practice, it can work.

Instead of saying, “YOU this, you that, you are, you did that….stop and think.” What impacted you as an individual? The, “I, me, my, mine of the issue.” Start with an I statement, breathe, and proceed providing adequate time for the other to share and communicate when they are done.

Now, it does not always solve every issue, but I do feel that learning the basic techniques of communicating your personal perception, emotion, concern or question is essential for little and older people alike. Start with the I, use THINK, and then communicate. It is better to attempt to work it out, then ruminate on a negative vibe or feeling that festers with time.

If I have learned anything from my losses this year it is this…

Life is too short. Don’t waste it with, “I’m going to….you should’s, or he that’s…” speak up, enjoy it, work on it, make progress with the simple steps you take every day.

If you need to take some steps backwards for grounding then do so.

Quit apologizing.

Stop agonizing.

Get up, get moving, and start doing.

Do for you, do for Debbie, live and enjoy what you are offered today, and simply be grateful for the opportunities that are presented.

As challenging, as uncomfortable, or as difficult as they may seem.

Face it. Live it. Love it.

Breathe.

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יום הולדת שמח אמא

יום הולדת שמח אמא

❤ Happy Birthday Mom ❤

mom

You came into this world unknowing your purpose but yielding a great light that no one knew would lead you across the globe and back again.

You have lived many lives within your time here on earth. The unwavering thread throughout them all is your un-foundering strength that is like a light in the distance that carries us through.

As a young girl raised in the post WWII era of the east coast which bustled with your fellow second generation Americans, making their way through their daily lives, you made your way. The daughter of a soldier turned business owner and a frustrated artistic mother whose endeavors were anything but colorful and brilliant. You were taught to work hard, stand up for yourself, and respect what had come before you. Your knowledge, wit, and wisdom took you through careers untold, friendships passed by, and roads few have traveled.  You paved a way for future women to stand their ground and challenge what was to come.

You passed on this wisdom to both your daughters and now your grandson. We never once doubted if mom shed advice. We would question when we wanted to have the conversation when we would face telling ourselves our own truths that you revealed through loving advocacy.

I owe you a great debt, obviously my life itself. Thank you for nurturing me for eight months in bed, in order for me to be your miracle baby, to live and to breathe.

You invested in my future and held my hand when I was scared, and you still do today. Thank you for introducing me to the greats of music, art, literature, both on the stage, or on the page. Thank you for instilling a love of the natural surroundings of earth both man and God made. I have a depth of knowledge of plants and architecture rolled into one. I always have my students stop and breathe in the crisp cool air while admiring the colorful sky line before we go into our classroom each day. You reminded me to take in the scenery of my childhood. For all the eye rolls and sighs I responded with, I heard you.

You are the most knowledgeable human being I know. Your wisdom knows no boundaries and your memory will not fail.

I know this day might not be seemingly filled with the one person we miss most, but she’s here still. Just know that with your love, support, and encouragement, her words still reach out towards others. It was you behind all those paper we wrote, book reports you edited, and books you slid onto our laps. These are the moments of the unsung heroine in both of our lives. Our mom.

We love you ever so much. For all the quips, and snaps, all the back-breaking soups you have made, and the hugs you have given, just know that they were all appreciated and much loved. Sometimes being humble is difficult, but not when it comes with the gift of your mother’s hand. Thank you mom and happy birthday. I love you to the moon and back.

*Here are some sparkles for your next year, and some Joni Mitchell with our favorite friends too. * ❤