Cat like visions

I was a cat in a previous life. I am certain of it. I think that the essence of former lives can be carried over into another life and tangibly or metaphorically driven into our view. I have many other feelings about who I might have been before this life time as well, but they’ll lay in the banks of my mind for now.

                                                                                Why a cat?

I am quiet, but always thinking.
I am loyal yet conscientious.
I lay low, and pounce when I need to.
I take mental notes, and I consider upon them later.
I care not for what other’s may think of me, yet I listen still and cast aside the unnecessary commentary that does nothing for the speaker nor myself. 
I have no problem staring down a culprit and pinning them with a knowing look.
I know that when truth is sought, it will become free, and there is little that I need to concern myself with in the interim. 
I can curl up and nap anywhere.
I like to cuddle and snuggle up under a blanket of warm clothes.
I make piles  to organize myself.
I drag around bags of items to and fro with teaching, to exercise, to home. 
I leave my friends and family little presents of my time or trinkets to bring them joy. 
I am content and happy to sit upon a spot  and read, just simply be, write, or what have you, for hours on end. 
I fear not when I am left in the lurch because I know that my skills will see me through. 
I speak up when it is imperative, and yet I choose what I say and do wisely.
I am an introvert. 
My claws come out when necessary, but only when I feel that the life situation has left little else to draw upon. 
I believe in karma and cats have 9 lives.
I see the truth in other’s eyes and continue watching.
I believe my spirit animal is a panther. 

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I try to believe the best in people, always.  I have a friend who taught me this phrase. I did not have the right words for a long time to express that particular notion. But there it is now, and there it shall remain. However, I will always seek the truth in the humanity around me.

In my daily life, I have found that, as of late I can be bombarded with so many signals, messages, gestures, information, and pieces of communication that have very little to do with who I am, deep inside my heart of hearts.

I think it is essential to stop, quiet my mind, and really consider without all of the noise, “What am I seeking at this current moment in time? Am I believing the best of myself and those around me?”

Sometimes it is easier to busy ourselves with another person’s story. Another person’s trials and tribulations. Another person’s words. Another person’s vision. Another person’s thoughts. Another person’s actions. Another person’s feelings for this… or that… Tit for tat.

Anything but our own mind, our own story, our own hardships, our own fears, our own feelings, our own grief. I stop and ask myself though, “What have you done to be honest with yourself, as of late?  Do you face your fears head on?

Are you honest with yourself about how you feel, about yourself, about what reflections you leave with the actions you take?

These are the questions I stop and reflect upon when I feel the tendencies as a human to slip into habits that are easier to manipulate than forcing my brain muscle into what I need and want, versus what is easy.

Life is made up of little moments. Small choices, like pebbles we leave behind.

What are the shades of your pebbles you leave on this pathway in life? Are they a reflection of your aura or are they misconceptions of what your scattered visions are with interrupting signals from afar?

So right now, in this current moment, I am choosing to be like my cat. I am going to quiet my mind, remain loyal, and continue to seek truths of all kinds for myself in my cat -human state.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

 

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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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

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:

Hong Kong a year later…

Hong Kong a year later…according to my brain as of late

“Here and there and every where.

The bustle, the travel, the hustle, the flow.

The ebb of the tide, the flow of the roll,

the glow of this city’s lights.

Entrancing, never letting go.”

A poet, I am not. I shall leave that genre of the written word to my father, however, I may tilt my pen towards the muse of rhyme from time to time… 

“Reflections 365 days later…”

Life in this city was astounding, loud, noisy, enticing, invigorating, crowded, thrilling, overwhelming, amazing, and technologically fascinating.

The circumstances in which I went to Hong Kong were dire. Traveling to visit a loved one fighting the battle of a life time was so overwhelming, and humbling. I couldn’t wait to sit at my sister’s side, hold her hand, and give her hugs all…the…day…. long.

We did all of these things.

And so much more.

I provide for you a visual imagery of some of the things we saw, felt, touched, and experienced together.

Life is so precious. Remind yourself to appreciate the little moments. BREATHE, reflect, and appreciate.

Every day is a struggle, every day is a gift, every day there will be a whole bundle of tumult rolled into a package we call life.

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When I arrived on Halloween, we wore matching wigs as a necessity of course. “Hi there, yes we are sisters, yessss….we are wearing wigs, thank you for staring. Good day sir.”

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This view from a high rise building where I waited while she attended healing yoga for cancer patients astounded me. This is a really large city. I am jet lagged. I sat down and faced another direction because I got dizzy so quickly.

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Hello peaceful turtles in Hong Kong park. 🙂 I did a little jig when I saw turtles, because I mean, TURTLES!

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This is my beautiful nephew, we take selfies, yes he’s cuter than me. Shhh, don’t tell him though, it’ll go to his head. 😉 JK!

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There was this waffle place, when one sees a waffle place, one stops to eat of course. He even posed for a photo patiently before digging in.

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Photo session on the bus back home after synagogue. This took 3 photos to actually capture all of our heads, but I mean who was counting?!  It was so much fun. Except for the part as we went to get off 2 blocks before our stop, and we waited 12 minutes because of traffic….. 🙂 thank you Hong Kong.

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After a long morning of chemo, we took a walk through the park to get sunshine and matched with our smiles.

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What caught my attention was the first two bold printed lines. My brain role played back as follows, “Yes, you have my attention, awesomeness, I’m interested…”

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My first panorama attempt at a fancy posh-y soccer/ dare I say football field. Thank you brother in law. 🙂

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I like this quote today, “Don’t find fault, find a remedy!”

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I took a lot of bathroom photos. My brother in law thought this was quite strange. What can I say? I’m pretty strange…that’s an understatement.

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I was really interested in this pink wig option. She didn’t feel it was an every day look though…. Beautiful salon visit to help with a wig adjustment. Loved those stylists.

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Colorful and lovely back drop of the H.K. smog-city sky line.

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These photos are included…just because they are funny and we were laughing. 🙂

The photo list could go on and on. I’ll reflect more later at some point. Sparkle on friends!

How To Succeed in Life…

How To Succeed in Life…

“Another curtain rises, and falls. Another door opens and closes. I turn toward the lighted pathway of new opportunity just ahead.”

Over the last three months I have been part of the creation and fruition of a summer musical in Oregon. “How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” knocked on my door in February of this year. Auditioning, hoping, waiting, receiving that email offer, and accepting gave me such thrills and great things to look forward and now the curtain has fallen on this show.

When I was a little, tiny girl my love for entertainment began. I would plop on my tutu slip, the kind that had a silky undershirt connected to a large goofy tulle skirt. I’d skip throughout our bedrooms, I would slide across the hallway wood floors, and burst into song just for my mom while she cooked. Her loving patience and applause would greet me after every heartfelt rendition of, “Wee Sing Silly Songs,” or Peter Paul and Mary’s, “Puff the Magic Dragon.”  There is a cassette tape floating around somewhere in the midst of our homes with me dedicating this very same song to my sister.  However, I digress… The point of this trip down memory lane is this:  I loved to perform. But mostly, I loved to make people laugh, to see a smile, and to connect through song and action.

Skip to a few years later, ok maybe 23, and here we are in the present of August 2015.

Life provides opportunities, moments in time that you either show up for, take a risk or a chance with, or you don’t. My dad told me once, “Life is about showing up kid, so do just that, show up.” So I did.  I had showed up years before 2015 to the very same theatre company.  I had been so hopeful and excited about the prospects of auditioning for my ALL TIME FAVORITE MUSICAL, “Fiddler On The Roof.” I walked in, I smiled and I sang my song confidently, I don’t remember what I sang…and then I left. When I did not receive an email or a phone call I was rather heart-broken. But that’s showbiz kid, so get used to it. I kept my chin up. I continued to practice and I auditioned again.

There is a word or phrase of sorts in Yiddish, “Beshert,” which roughly translates to, “It was meant to be.” (I know for some readers I’ve touched on this word before.)

And that particular production my friends, was not beshert.

However H2$ was.

Thank you to all the friends and family who were able to attend the performances. I appreciate the time and effort it takes to see a live production and your support does not go unnoticed. I feel like my best two performances were on the closing weekend when my sister and my parents attended. Having my sister in the audience meant THE WORLD to me on Saturday night. I cannot begin to express how special it was to have her there front and center after all these years working towards performing on stages and having her across the sea in Hong Kong. Thank you for always believing in me and being such an adoring advocate of my musical endeavors. Your support and encouragement have always brought me so much joy.  I love you to the moon and back Debbie.

Life is a funny thing because really, perhaps in theory, but more so in my mind it is all too similar to a play.  We live our lives out in stages, in acts it would seem.  We see times when the lights are all too bright and somewhat glaring, and others glistening sparkling beams that kiss our cheeks. There are times when there is hardly any light shining at all, dim and some what unkempt with a foggy mist. We are met with applause, we are also met with silence, and all of these things help us continue through each part of our lives.

Life is never predictable, much like live theatre and live music. You never quite know what might be beyond the curtain, who might be in the audience, or who you will connect with on that stage.  A few things remain certain though: being present, engaging, and believing. If you believe in your ability to connect with others, if you give yourself completely to a moment with that one or one hundred other people, you’ve succeeded. That’s what life is really about. Count not the tangible successes or trophies you will receive or the applause you will or will not hear, but rather seek out the connection you can make with one another, for that is what succeeding is really all about.

*Sparkle on friends.*

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Fathers and Daughters

Dear Friends,

There is something to be said about the bond between a father and a daughter.  My father was the first model of a what a man could be like in another person’s life. There are certain things that trigger fond memories for me. I think psychologists call it the, “close connection to the limbic system.” This is the area in the brain that is connected to the olfactory bulb which is associated with feelings and connections to memories.  (Insert warm fuzzies here.)

My hippocampus, or associative learning response for senses that were conditioned responses linked to memories are quite strong when it comes to my childhood and family. More specifically, my father. Whenever I smell strong caffeinated coffee I think: Dad, especially, wait for it…Folgers. “The best part of waking up, is Folgers in your cup.” Gotta love a good jingle every now and then, right?!

More smell memories come to mind… Polyester material, old spice, dial soap, the list could continue you on and on…

There are other conditioned responses that also come to mind when I hear specific poetry, read works of literature, or listen to music.

My father was my first dance partner. I think he was over joyed when I really began to dig the 1950’s tunes from the days of his teenage years. He taught me how to jitterbug on the thick rug in our family room. Jamming out to the cassette tape I got for my birthday. His creaky 50 year old knees moving and-a-grooving to the sounds of the harmonized voices.

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My competitive streak comes from my father’s side of the family. You don’t want to play a board game with me…or maybe you do?!  My nephew and I had a raucous last two summers of playing Monopoly games that went on for DAYS.  I was a terrible Auntie influence whenever I lost. I’d demand a re-match!  When he learned about hotels in Monopoly land, it was all over…but I digress. Thanks for that dad!

Dad taught me how to play, “Old Maid,” “Go fish,” solitaire, “Shoots and Ladders,” and chess. He purchased this beautiful chess set in Malaysia on his all star paid tour of South East Asia, as he likes to refer to it, or better known as, the Vietnam War. Not most people my age have a parent that served in this war, but mine did. This chess set always made me wonder about where it was created, what my father saw, and experienced beyond the short lived stories he would share with us as kids.

This chess game set the stage for years of Thanksgiving post-dinner time fun, Winter break hours spent at the dining room table, and summer hours ticking by. I learned what each piece represented, was valued as, and the basics of chess strategy. We later became quite obsessed when watching, “Searching for Bobby Fischer,” taking the interest in chess and bond between us just a little bit further.

How many of you save pocket change? Anyone collect coins?

The summer of 1995 my grandfather shipped $25 worth of coins to my dad. We went through each and every coin that summer, searching for one thing and one thing only: A 3 legged buffalo head nickle. Now, here’s the thing about the coin we were searching for: it was printed in 1937 D, the buffalo stamp had 3-legs, and it was valued between – $500.00-$1000.00
This peeked my eleven year old interest in many ways. I used that giant magnifying glass and helped search through every coin we had. I learned about history, and numismatics. However, more importantly I learned about my family’s history and the connection between what collecting and being a researcher meant to my dad and grandfather.

The list of hobbies that my dad helped support goes on and on. He built my sister and I a clubhouse, with his own hands. We had two sandboxes, a ladder going up the backside and a slide going down the front, it was built upon 4 stilts and looked like a giant cache. For my fellow Alaskans, we know that a cache is a small house built on stilts, that was used for drying salmon. 🙂 When the slide began to chip away he took that down and built a miniature staircase and two accompanying swing sets.

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When I decided that miniatures was my thing at age twelve he helped me put electricity into my doll house, running tape wire along the walls of all three levels and showing me the basics of conductors and insulators. When we finally got that dang thing to light up the dining room chandelier we jumped around that room and high fived each other.

I can’t forget the hours of driving to and from piano lessons, recitals, the few competitions I participated in, or the endless voice lessons he drove me to. We have shared, cried, and loved music together. You and Debbie were my first duet partners. I know that we could still play a mean rendition of, “Heart and Soul.” Although my favorite thing to hear you play and sing is, “Stranger in Paradise.” Thank you for introducing me to Edith Piaf and Johnny Cash, among just a few of the great legends you’ve loved and passed along.

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After thirty one years with a father who loved, supported, and encouraged me I have gathered many stories, collected many tears, and memories along the way. However, a few dad-isms are being passed on from me to my students each and every day. Here’s just a few to brighten your day below. Thanks for being my father Jim. I love you to the moon and back.  Love, Your Favorite Youngest Daughter

“Molehills are mountains if you want them to be…

Half of life is showing up kid, so show up.

You gotta learn how to fight your own battles at some point.

The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Hey sugar, pumpkin, kid!

90% of communication is non-verbal, so watch what you do, and also say…

Kill ‘em with kindness.

Always keep a sense of humor about yourself, laugh and joke it off…”

~Jim Hipsher…isms….~

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At the end of the tunnel

Dear Sister,

Through them all, before, during, and afterwards there are always ways to find happiness. The light within the day that can shine bright and lift your spirits. The idea of finding happiness and joy amidst the last year and a half with cancer has been a roller coaster. None the less, you are surviving and you are here to tell the tale.

I recently watched, “The Lady in Number 6,” about the life of Alice Herz Sommer. She was undeniably inspiring but she also brought so much clarity forward for me. I feel like I am a rather cognizant person regarding my first world issues and “problems.” Watching this documentary helped remind me of  the importance of finding beauty within the mundane, the archaic, and the painful. Sitting and watching her speak amidst mountains of tissues and tea I felt really grateful. I was grateful for the calmness of my couch, the ability to sit and relax, and to have a home in which I can reside comfortably. I felt really grateful for my hubby and my kitty.

I know that this experience of living with three diagnosis of cancer and being a resilient survivor has tested your will time and time again. I can only imagine how you have felt. Through meditation and prayer I say daily, I’ve focused positive energy for you. I know that it has not been easy, any step of the way, but there are some positives amidst this vast trial. These are in no particular order….merely a flurry of thinking I am sharing and sticking with a “chai,” 18 number for you. “TO LIFE, TO LIFE, L’CHAIM!”

1. Friendships: You have made and strengthened the bond with some amazing humans in H.K. I cannot say how grateful I am for these people. I love and appreciate them all.

2. Family: Even though they may be far away, we’re always with you in spirit, every step of the way. I wear something you have given me every day. I say multiple prayers and think fondly of memories throughout the day. I know that we’ll make many more this next year.

3. Declan: His love, kindness, and his forthright commentary bring wisdom and joy on a daily basis.

4. Doug: Steadfast love and true of nature, thoughtful and full of humor with the quiet tenacity to challenge you when the timing is right.

5. Mervic: Considerate, helpful, and kind. Always anticipating one’s needs along the way.

6. Mom: Your avid researching advocate and love force from birth.

7. Dad: Humor filled and articulate, sharing and pulling for you all the way.

8. Sheli: The boundless sea of energy and will, forever and always will be your caring best friend from youth.

9. Health care professionals: Even though they may be humorless and scary at times, gratitude for the consistency in putting what they can do for you first and making things work throughout this last year especially.

10. Daily appreciations for life.

11. Small details in ones day that make you smile i.e. random bugs and plants at your school. 🙂

12. Building and regaining strength.  Showing gratitude towards what your body can still do and will do in the months that follow.

13. Hope for the future that is to come.

14. Amazing comic artwork drawn for a 30 day challenge!

15. Travels around Asia that would have never been experienced first hand if you hadn’t shown bravery to venture for change.

16. Challenging your creativity and wisdom with words and writing. Celebrating your work with colleagues near and far.

17. Celebrating life and finding daily celebrations in simple things: breaths to and from footsteps in and out of the door. Smiles on your student’s faces. Daily reminders that humans care for each other. Nature’s simplicity in a crazy urban hubbub of Hong Kong.

18. Finding spirituality and honoring your wisdom, your ability to learn and grow as a beautiful human regardless of circumstances that feed your daily surroundings, and ultimately love. Loving life, loving your family and friends, and loving those slow deep breaths that you can draw strength from.

In closing: I love you. You can do this, (I know that you know this), but sometimes… it’s nice to hear a cheerleader pepping it up for you! Right?! 😉  Sparkle on sister of mine, xoxoxoxoxoxo!  Here’s some happy paws for you: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3cBdBvrkpg&feature=youtu.be

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