A year in the tides of grief

One year since Deborah Leah Alvarez left this earth has meant that: 12 months, 52.1429 weeks, 365 days,  8760 hours, 525600.432 minutes, 31536025.92 seconds have passed.

~Analytically speaking it means all of the information above.

~Speaking from the heart it means that all of the varying shades of the rainbow and everything in between has gathered, washed, and moved through me in this time frame.~

It has been the crashing of waves.

It is the rise and fall of the sun.

It is every first sighting of a bright shining star.

It is the moon beams slipping through cracks in my window.

It is first moments when a heart leaps for joy and falls in the realization that the one you are about to tell cannot be spoken to directly. 

It is the re-learning to accept your new heart’s layer, with all its flaws and all. 

It is the re-building of faith when seeking through the depths of a hallowed despair. 

It is the first feelings of happiness and allowing the heart to feel joy. 

It is learning that love may not be diminished by the inability of the tangible, yet transpired into the spiritual realm.

It is what Truvy said in Steel Magnolias, “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.”

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Death has a strange way of bringing the best and the worst out of the people it touches. I have found that through my own grief I have learned to love myself in ways I never thought possible. I have learned that forgiveness is a crucial component to my happiness. Forgiveness has taught me that I do not need to seek a right or a wrong answer, but rather seek to find a state of contentedness that I dwell with and release my tethered connection from anger in order to allow the emotions to turn into love.

Never does a day go by that I do not think of my sister or long to share something with her. She was my closest friend, mentor, and supporter. What she has bestowed upon me and continues to bestow upon all of us is the love and light she shed while here on this earth. So many wonderful humans near and far have shared their love and connection with Debbie over the past year. Connectivity was something Debbie strived for. She believed whole heartedly in the fact that humans need to seek for love, education, honor, humor, forgiveness and generosity. Thank you for connecting so many of us Debbie and continuing to do so. Your rainbow touches near and far.

Through writing I have allowed myself to find solace in words that were far too difficult to communicate in person. Thank you so much to all of Debbie’s and our friend’s, our family members, her colleagues, her admirers, her blogging friends, and her supporters over this last year.

~Like waves crashing upon a shore, rays of sunshine were beamed down upon us, with which we were able to dry our tears with each loving gesture, made by all of you.~

Thank you. 

I leave you with words, as my sister would have wanted.

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For me, I leave you with a song that speaks to my heart:

 

May her life be a blessing: Deborah Leah Alvarez.

 

Add some vinegar to it…

One of the best gifts my sister bestowed upon me was her knowledge.

Knowledge for life.

Knowledge as a mentor teacher.

Knowledge about being a human.

Knowledge as a mother.

Knowledge as a daughter, a sister, a wife, a woman, a human, you name it.

Most of all, it was the knowledge that she learned about self-care in her last three years of life that enlightened our relationship. It was through our discussions, her advice, and pearls of wisdom that I truly grew as a person.

I knew what self-care meant as a concept, but I did not always act upon it.

She taught me that it was not selfish to put yourself first.

It was not selfish to eat healthy, take time to create and cultivate, to exercise, to love and cherish my body regardless of the pain that I went through from time to time.

She taught me that boundaries are healthy and that kindness is a choice that you can always act upon.

One beautiful gift she shared with me along the lines of self-care was acupuncture. This act of sharing an amazing healing arts center revolutionized my health. Acupuncture has been a key ingredient in my recipe for survival and loving myself through my life journey in the last year.

I often have joked that the acupuncture specialist I see is also my therapist. She is an advisor, a healer, and a listener. She helps me feel more balanced, and allows me to feel safe enough to strip away the outer coating I shield myself with. This provdes me with the opportunity to expose my truths and reveal myself openly to my connect my mind, body, and spirit.

There is something to be said about allowing yourself to be vulnerable with a health care advisor whom you trust and recognize has wisdom to share, when they truly listen to you.

She asked me recently, “How are you feeling…” and I said, “I’m getting there, working on feeling better, not there yet…” She said, “You need a little embellishment, a little bit of balsamic vinegar to take the recipe to that next level… to get it there, here we go…”

Small prick one, small prick two, “What about now? (Pulse check) Yes, that’s it.”

Who knew that the girl who feared shots and begged for them to be over as a small child would regularly seek the counsel of a Chinese medicine specialist. This same girl looks forward to the tiny pricks that provide balance with miniscule needles.

Sprinkle some vinegar into your routine and see what comes of it. You just might surprise yourself.dsc_7048

Photo credit: K. Sciuto

Love, Life, and Laughter

“I have decided to stick to love…Hate is too great a burden to bear.” 
― Martin Luther King Jr.

“When an introvert meets the right soul magic can coincide.” My words of wisdom ~RAB~

My soul mate sister and I met twenty seven years ago. We were surrounded by glitter, kindergarten hugs, and high fives.

My spaghetti-o eating, longest haired girl, gymnastic jumping friend met the quiet, imaginative, and loud laughing friend in me.  Little did we know that when we were in our 30’s we would still hold hand prints on our hearts for each other.

She has seen me at my best, and at my worst and in between….and vice-a-versa.

You know those human beings that fill your heart with joy, make you feel content, and happy just breathing the same air? That’s her.

Only a few humans know the truth of what has happened to me in the last month and I am ok with that for right now. At some point I may change my mind and speak all my truths, but for now, they remain in the presence of those that I trust and love deeply.

Memories run deep, so do wounds, especially those that only the heart can see and do not meet the eye.

Thank you to all my friends who have supported myself, and my family. I feel so grateful for the relationships that are tried and true through the waves that we ride in this life.

Here is a small glimpse into the moments of beauty that transpired in the last 48 hours. ~All photos are the property of myself Rachel Ann and my friend who is the beautiful photographer, Katie.~

My sentiments on this weekend’s reminders of love, friendship, and one of life’s greatest joys: Laughter.

“I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it’s the thing I like most, to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills. It’s probably the most important thing in a person.” 
― Audrey Hepburn

“With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.” 
― William ShakespeareThe Merchant of Venice

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” 
― Martin Luther King Jr.

 

TIHS kind of day (use a mirror)

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

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

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

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

I’m feeling 32…

birthday 32

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have seen love and loss.

I have experienced the unimaginable. 

I have discussed.

I have cried.

I have written. 

I have sang.

I have acted.

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

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

I have found solace in the arts.

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

I have worked towards relinquishing my desire to control. 

I continue to struggle with many things. 

I have found love, and shown kindness whenever possible. 

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

The small, simple moments bring me boundless joy.

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

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

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

 

Roxanne

When I was a young girl there was an amazing human in my life. Her name was Roxanne.

She and my mother were in a mahjong group together. If I listen carefully to my mind’s eye I can still hear the tiles as they would gently slide across the table and click slowly into place.

Four players.

Four women.

All of them bound by a unique organization called Hadassah.

The word Hadassah itself translates from the Hebrew word meaning: compassion. Which further explains the namesake of the organization that is run in Israel known as Hadassah.

With compassion I write tonight.

I thought a great deal about Roxanne this past week.

I had the opportunity to spend time with my thirteen year old niece who is a wonderful young lady.  It’s crazy for me to stop and look back upon my memories with her. We met when she was six months old, a tiny sleeping baby in a crib visiting her Grandparent’s and Uncle Andy with her mother. Now she is a tall, beautiful, smart, sarcastic, and quick-witted teenager making her way in the world.

I thought of Roxanne when I drove to pick up my niece that morning.

Her small stature. Her quiet mischievous grin when I knew we were about to embark on an adventure together.

The little girl with the long brown hair and dimple that flashed with glee upon entry to her home.

She was the mother of two boys, always wishing for a girl to dote upon. She later became an amazing grandmother to a lucky little girl who I am sure felt the same way I did when spending time with this woman.

I was such a lucky girl circa at the age of six.

I so admired her immaculate persona, the air of Chanel on her person, Gucci hanging from her arms, and the red nails like slippers donned upon each finger tip.

What I loved most of all about her was how she made me feel.

They say that what people remember most about you is how you make them feel. It is ever so true friends.

She always made me feel like a talented princess. Roxanne had this special way of creating a make-believe world in her basement with me. I would dress up and march around waving my imaginary scepter, and she played along as a royal subject. Pink cheeks, singing Disney songs, and bouncing from couch to couch.

Little did she realize that along with my parents, especially my mom, they all helped set the stage for my belief in the magic of the theatre. I was a tiny star in her living room creating a world of imagination and ruling the castle one couch at a time.

I can fondly recall upon one play date when her husband came home and threw on his Groucho Marx mask and wig. I was scared out of my wits and jumped into this tiny woman’s lap. She laughed and laughed and yelled at her husband Gary to take off the mask while I squealed into her chest.

Another special event took place on a gray spring Anchorage day. Dad dropped me off and went about whatever errands he and my mom had to take care of that afternoon.  I spent the day with Roxanne watching a Disney film, playing on the kitchen table while she prepped a meal for lunch. Then suddenly she looked at me and said, “Do you hear that? It’s the ice cream man!” She rushed me outside with her, she darted past the rain puddles and into a stream of sunshine. The rainbow sherbet pop wasn’t the greatest treat that day. It was the memory that became nestled into my brain instead. Now, I think of her when I see raindrops and sunlight touch, meeting again for a moment back in that afternoon sky.

Sometimes I think I can see her in a crowd.  That shoulder length reddish-brown hair with the crisp blunt edges swaying just above a black turtle neck sweater and Chanel-esque cardigan.

She wrote to me at sleep away camp in 1997.  I was in the grim years of my life, the early teens, the awkward age of 13. This time was marked by training bras, awaiting the time when I would finally become a woman…oh we ladies know what I am talking about…

My mom called and asked her to write because even back then, I had quite a mighty sword with my pen.

I wrote to my parents telling them how homesick I was. How alone I felt. That I had no friends and no one to talk to. This was all true the first of the three weeks of camp. I slowly fell into a rhythm and made a couple of friends. But this is a story for another blog post.

The point was that Roxanne was there when it was needed.

She even wrote me as a pen pal the first year we moved to our new lower 48 state home. I should dig out those letters sometime. I have them all still, along with all my other correspondence over the years with friends and family.

Taking my niece out for a girls date of coffee treats, mall shopping, and laughing made me ache with a desire to call my sweet Roxanne and say thank you.

Thank you for making me feel beautiful when I was an ugly duckling waiting to blossom. 

Sometimes life deals you these cards that are just glaringly unfair.

I wish there was a magic eight ball of time that I could shake and go back to that place and find her and embrace her and say all that is on my mind.

However, that’s not the case. It’s not possible. As much as I wish it were.

So instead, I laughed with my niece that day, and I looked at her with love in my eyes.  I hug those moments in time when we can laugh like I did with Roxanne and enjoy the simple things about being a girl.  Discuss the in’s and outs of life as we pass by glittering dresses we hold up for one another and joke about trying the ridiculous attire on.

Roxanne, you made me feel beautiful. Your spirit comes forth whenever I see a rainstorm pass over and the sunshine through the clouds.

I can only hope that one day my niece might think back and say, “Aunt Rachel made me feel beautiful and loved.”

Sparkles for Roxanne.

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From one concerned citizen to another…

When you take any position in the world of education it is because you are passionate. You are passionate about life, about the future generations to come, and you aspire to provide them with the tools and knowledge that will help them create a spark for seeking out the world around them.

A friend of mine has been attacked. She is one of those humans who you are lucky to meet in your lifetime. She has inspired hundreds of students at Lewis and Clark College and beyond. I am deeply saddened that she will not be able to work directly with high school students in Portland because of two words: prejudice and fear.

The year is now 2015. Why then I wonder do we still accept the fact that organizations, schools, and public officials openly oppose the very essence of someone else’s ability to love. Who is to say what someone should or should not do with their life?  Why is it that it is acceptable for public or private organizations to oppose and secretly pay off people to not share the hateful doctrine from which they build their work upon?  It is not acceptable. Nor is it morally founded no matter how it is spun. Have we learned nothing from previous generations who toiled, fought, and sought justice to speak freely, educate, and empower human beings? This situation is a problem, it is not ethical, it is appalling.

Please do not tell me that St. Mary’s Academy in Portland, Oregon is not opposing her life choices, because they are. They would rather pay off this woman with money and benefits than have her be honest, open, and outstanding in her job position at their school.  This is another tried and true event based in the fundamentals of fear.

Fear as defined by Webster’s dictionary states: : to be afraid of (something or someone); to expect or worry about (something bad or unpleasant); to be afraid and worried.

My friend is none of these things. There is nothing bad or unpleasant about someone merely asking a clarifying question regarding a statement that was presented to her in an email. Why is it that people are so afraid of another person’s happiness?

Did not Pope Francis say, “This is important: to get to know people, listen, expand the circle of ideas. The world is crisscrossed by roads that come closer together and move apart, but the important thing is that they lead towards the Good.”   Why is it considered moral or good to let a hired faculty member go and then, when they refuse to sign paperwork agreeing to such, go so far as to pay off someone for their silence about a topic which embeds and is their life?  Is it really good when someone is dismissed without the consideration of their moral character, their work history, and job qualifications?

Pope Francis also stated that, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”  Lauren went to the interview, was offered the job, provided valid and glowing references, recommended to apply for a higher administration position, stated that she was wondering IF it would be alright to bring her girlfriend to social gatherings for faculty members at the school, was she then asked to leave quietly without even beginning her work?  One word again my friends: fear, not religion, not morality of the doctrine founded in Catholicism, it is fear.

I believe in the power of change, in the power of love, and the power of free speech. My friend is standing up for what is right and this practice will never ‘get old.’ She is taking a stand and living her life honestly and openly.  She is a beautiful example of what too many men and women have had to hide for decades.  We should not be judged or discriminated against based upon how we love or whom we love in this life.  Her human character is outstanding, her belief in the hopes to inspire a future generation of students to stand up for what they believe in and in equal rights is well founded. I hope that her stance will help let the young LGBTQ generation and organization flourish.  You have my full support Lauren Brown.

If you would also like to show your support for this woman, please share, and stand up for what you believe in. Thank you Lauren for being a brave and wonderful human!

Links below in connection:

http://www.wweek.com/portland/article-25286-vow-of-silence.html

http://www.kgw.com/story/news/2015/08/26/catholic-school-rejects-hire-due–same-sex-marriage-view/32381067/

Sky photo

For my kindred spirit

Ours started out with ‘spagetti o-’s and a ream of notebook paper. However, this might seem rather strange to the unknowing stranger. So let me set the stage better, shall I?

In 1989 we were both shy, quiet, long brown haired little girls entering kindergarten. I remember you as the tiniest of all us tiny tot’s with a trail of flowing brown hair and a thermos container full of ‘spagetti-o’s. Your best friend was a boy whose name started with the letter D, I won’t involve other people in this birthday blog though. 🙂 Out of pure courtesy of course…

We knew one another because all kindergarteners play together, however we weren’t best friends then though. We were in different classes first through second grade. Then you moved to another school and the elementary years passed by. Cut to 1997 at Hanshew Middle School in Anchorage. The looming hallways, business of middle school days, and crowds of people. I remember seeing you with your violin case on the second floor of our school. Good gravy it’d been a while, but I’m sure we both looked very similar to our little kid faces of ’89. I recognized you and was delighted when we had study hall together.

We re-bonded through the passing of notes and requests for lined notebook paper. Who knew that we’d go through so much paper?!  I on the one hand, an early Mary Poppins had pretty much everything I could possibly need and or hold in my binder including excessive amounts of notebook paper.  I think one of the most memorable things about that class, aside from sneakily passing notes and reading silently was that study hall teacher’s sneezes and nose blowing. I had never heard a human being make a sound that likened to a trumpet. His ability could have rivaled even the best players in the band, with only a single nose blow. Haha, I chuckle even thinking about it.

Cut to 8th grade, we came up with a secret language, or code, shall we say; for talking about the most important topic for any eighth grade girl to discuss in private… boys. We had Mr. Blue Eyes, Horse guy, Bob, and Fred, I really can’t remember anymore off the top of my head right now, and I’ve already embarrassingly stated enough names as it is. I read through some of those hilarious letters about 7 years ago when I needed to empty out my closet at my folks. Let’s just say that I couldn’t remember how to re-fold many of those triangular shaped letters packed with juicy gossip and all the latest news.

The best summer moments I had with you were in-between June of 1998 and August of 1998. Driving to and from, “Music Machine,” practice with your friend A. on Lake Otis Parkway, your mom patiently carting us around. Those were fun times!  We were so cool. I mean, learning how to wear eye liner and mascara was pretty exciting if I do say so myself!  I can still see your fancy winged-out liquid liner and blue eye shadow. YOU were so cool. I really couldn’t compare with my Walmart maybelline pink shadow and mascara. 🙂 We got to be partners for, “Make ‘Em Laugh,” and, “Broadway Baby.”  Sharing the stage and the lime light with you was the best thing ever. Whatever happened to those shirts any way? Or the video tape of our show?! 🙂

Although, I think one of my favorite memories throughout our years of school together was probably when we shared a locker. I just need to re-paint a picture here of that gigantic locker at Robert Service High School. We were probably, maybe 5 feet, I might have been about 5 foot three at the time in ninth grade, who knows. Point being, we were small people. We could have both fit in this locker if we really had wanted to. I’d wait to meet you and chat first thing in the morning before classes began. Our locker was chock full of all sorts of interesting odds and ends. I still have the same mirror that I did in high school, it now lives on a cabinet in my classroom. It makes me smile and think about those moments we shared. Applying lipsmaker sparkly lip balm was serious business when we were fourteen going on fifteen, right? Or decorating for birthdays?! 🙂 But the best collection and items in the locker were your Sobe bottles. Can we just take a MOMENT please and talk about those damn bottles. Girrrrrrrrrrl I think the only time I have EVER yelled at you, was about those dang bottles. Bahahahhaa, one fell when I opened up the locker and that was it, I started throwing them out, caps and ALL. People must have thought we lost our minds when you saw me throwing them out, you started shoving them in your backpack. OH my, we’re still friends. We surpassed the episode and saga of the bottles. Ha!

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Here’s the thing, having written about all those flashbacks. You, my friend are one of those people who come once in a life time. You are a kindred spirit and a friend for life. Even if months pass by, we can always call one another and then a few hours pass by before we even realize how long we have been on the phone. I always love how we can see one another and it’s as if no time has passed by what-so-ever. We both march to our own drum beat. We’re not morning people, we like quiet and subtlety with words, we show kindness and we stand up for what we believe in. Our motto is and always will be: Alaska Girls Kick Ass. Well, that and, “Pudding is better than jello!” Snaps for anyone else that knows where that quote comes from! 🙂 We dance like no one is watching, and don’t give a damn if they are. We wear crazy toe socks and rival Shania Twain at singing in the car at the top of our lungs.

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I feel so lucky and grateful to have you in my life. You’re one of the best people I know. You go after what you want to in life and you always have. I’m so proud to call you my friend. I talk about you with my students. They think it’s amazing that I have a best friend who is a high flying skier, death-defying stunt actress, sister, graduate, auntie, creative woman and scientist rolled into one package.

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You’re the only other person who has a laugh equally as loud as mine, aside from my big sister. 🙂 We know each other inside and out. If you needed a kidney, I’d be right there to give you mine. When we’re really old, wrinkly, and moving around with glitter canes, we’re gonna live together with our five cats and yell at each other from down the hallway. Like they say in girl scouts, “A circle is round and has no end, that’s how long I want to be your friend.”

I love you! Happy birthday beautiful! May this next year be filled with amazing opportunities, new adventures, and moments of beautiful silence in nature. Big hugs like this one below!!!!! SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEZE!!!!!!

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