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

~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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8 months with dragonfly tears

Reflect: Sunday the 21st marked 8 months.

Eight months of grieving and missing, and waking up and realizing that it wasn’t a dream, but that my sister is gone and I miss her every single day. I still find myself thinking, “Oh I can’t wait to share this with… I know that Debbie would love…”

Acknowledgement: It wasn’t until a day later that I really had a full, long cry of sobbing, angry, and sad tears of longing for my sister.

Find joy amidst the tears, always: I went back to her youtube channel and was watching videos she had posted for me throughout the years. I was trying to remember her voice perhaps. Hearing it made me realize just how much I missed it. Those quick chats, phone messages, and conversations I thought would always be available until two year’s ago reality clunked into view. Hearing the intonation of her sharing her thoughts in her vlogs throughout the years she lived in Hong Kong made me smile and laugh.

The tightness in my chest released with the flow of tears that over came me.

Communicate: While enjoying the view of our beloved, Portland Rose Garden recently I remarked to to my husband, “I sometimes find it hard to believe that she is gone because I feel like she’s right here with me, like in my heart, but I know the physical reminder is there.”

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Maybe that is why it was so hard to watch the videos….because it reminds me that she isn’t here, physically any longer.

Miracle moment: I had a beautiful moment while meeting a friend the day before the 21st. She had just sat down and a dragonfly fluttered by and landed briefly on her head. It was beautiful, sleek, green, with iridescence.

Dragonflies.

I never would have thought it before, but whenever I see one, which has been very frequent this summer, I know it is a sign from Debbie. A little glimmer that her spirit has transformed and she is listening from afar.

I smiled and said, “It was a dragonfly! Whenever I see a dragonfly I feel like it’s a message from my sister, she’s here with me.”

I had a recurring dragonfly encounter while visiting Utah this past June. I was walking to and from my friend’s research building on a campus in SLC. I exited the building and made my way across the grass that laid underneath the scorching sun and 100 degree day’s heat. Suddenly, I was being ushered to my bus stop by a fluttery friend, a beautiful dragonfly. It flew with me for about  a block and disappeared. Sure enough, on my way back hours later, the dragonfly visited again when I trudged back towards the building.

Same thing the next day.

Nature provides the best escorts, what can I say?

Take Action and Honor: This past month I completed a wish for Debbie. Well, really began the process after careful consideration, thoughts, and emails with a couple of her close friends. I began the process to archive her personal blog in order to create a book of her work that she cultivated while trying to cope, survive, and research her experience with cancer.

Find healing: It felt cathartic, and challenging to work on it extensively. I realized how important it was for my words to be as clear as possible in the creation of the forward and afterward, and the importance of the bibliophile I was writing about. Honoring her memory, her work, and her perseverance brought me closer to understanding what an amazing woman she was.

Small miracle moments of hope fly all around us. Sorrow has been transformed into something beautiful, effortless, and full of joy.  Watch for rainbows and dragonflies friends. And of course, for sparkles in the light.

Dalai Lama on Loss:

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.

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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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…

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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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Dear Debbie Vol. III

Today marked five months.

Five.

I still approach the number twenty one now with caution and angst.

Today was a long day. I had this urgency to clean. To clean everything in the house. I am sure that part of it stemmed from wanting to,”spring clean,” prep for people coming over, but also a deeper reason that lingered beneath the surface.

I wanted to clean and get something out of my system.

I clean for two hours and sweated it out while scrubbing versus dancing today.

Then I spent two hours in the car going back and forth to what I thought would be a first activity at the D. Center for Declan, which turned into hours in the car…. Oh well. Ce la vie. There will be other ones. Lesson learned: always check the location especially when they do not communicate it to you.

A few things I want you to know about life in the last two months since I last wrote to you:

~Everything changes regardless of your emotional or physical state. It all changes, constantly. I know, “news flash…” right?!

~Spring has sprung: My tulips bloomed and blew away. My irises grew and opened, and stood tall and proud. They made me think of you every day and how much you loved purple irises, just like mom does. I brought her some on Passover.

~Passover was lonely without you to sing Dayenu with. I missed you. Terribly. Especially our silent communication we would have with subtle eye glances across the table.

~Declan has gotten taller, and thinner, and gangly. I told him he might grow to be six feet five inches tall the other day. He rolled his eyes at me. I could feel it through the back seat of the car while we had the conversation about, “Why kids don’t drink coffee. … so they can be tall of course,” Hahahahaha.

~He won an award for his P. Theorem Project. You would have been so proud of your boy. He explained, THE WHOLE, thing to me, at the STEM Fair, and I listened intently to each word he said. Smarty.

~He made cookies with us recently and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. He told me today all about his Pioneer Camp/Field trip and how his favorite part was making biscuits. His love of carbs, like ours, runs deep.

~Declan still gives the best hugs, after Andy of course.  The squeeze you hard, hold on fast, and feel the love kind of hugs. That boy was taught right. Hug, hold, and love. ❤

Lastly these are my cosmic nature moments where I felt your presence the most…

I spotted a faint rainbow last month, it was one of those that are hard to see, but is fleetingly beautiful. If you rub your eyes, than it’s gone. But I saw it. I saw you.

When the robin followed Declan and I home on our walk before bedtime, she hop, hop, hopped after us, and then was there when walking down our street again. Watching, and hopping along, and waiting. I felt like she was this happy little robin mommy walking us home.

My crow crew greets me each day when I come home from work. I always think of the book and movie, “Cold Mountain,” when I see a crow. They say that they are the birds you see that represent your family who have come and gone. So I always think of you, and Grandma Lilli, and Grandpa Bob. I think that there must be some circular process to which nature presents itself as this loving force that reminds us of all that has been before us, with us, and that will come after us.

There are so many more things I want to tell you, and I do in my head, all the time. I am working on focusing my energy into all the positive memories we made. I am really trying ever so hard to retrain my mind on positive happy visuals of you and me and our family. I have found some books, positive mindset videos and speakers, and I am actively working on my mindset daily. Key word: work. Life is such a process. The journey is raw and real.

Lenore once told me something I remind myself of, “Grief is a part of our lives. It is an important part of life. But it is important that grief is not what makes up your life, or the only thing about your life.” Just know that I will heed advice and live and laugh profoundly, but I will always remember and say your name to whoever will listen. You left such a legacy of glistening moments in so many people’s lives. I love hearing their stories and collecting them. I learn from them, and I am beginning to let moments sparkle again. I am singing again, and it feels spiritually healing and also exposing of many wounds from the past that we shared and I am working on mending alone. I love you with sparkly tears.

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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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Mercury in Retrograde

Understatement: In the last month I have felt shifting, sifting, and negativity permeating the air around me. Miscommunication has flown and delving deeper within myself became a necessity.  I have come out the other side with a better understanding of myself and where I stand as a human being.

I can see my spirit wading through the abyss and it has been a rough experience. Today a virtual body slam occurred when I heard of another school shooting, in my home state, again.

Again.

I do not like seeing that word in print, nor how it sounds.

I am not going to, “take a stand,” or write about my thoughts on our rights as citizens in the U.S.A., HOWEVER, it is my blog and I do have some positive things to share…

No more violence, no more guns, no more anger please. Instead wouldn’t it be a surprise to see bullets turned into flowers raining down from the air?  Words spill out with haste and hatred should instead turn into moths that turn towards the light and keep fluttering until the light dims.

There is something to be said with the idea of, “letting go,” releasing all the tension, the anxiety, and the ‘ness’ that fills our days. Find a healthy and loving way to bring yourself peace of mind and release through an art form.

Over the last two weeks I attended two aerial yoga classes with a beautiful twist of meditation at the end of them. I found them cathartic, and therapeutic. It would be wonderful to provide yoga as a required component into all work force fields on a daily basis. Being more mindful and conscientious humans provides us with the opportunity to be creative, breathe, and center ourselves.

Healthy mind, healthy body, healthy you.

Life is about being given the gift of opportunity to share, to learn, and to grow. The next time someone speaks, let’s agree to listen. The next time someone asks for a hug, let’s give it.  Finally the next time someone asks for a hand, let’s give it, or better yet, let’s extend our own hand as an olive branch and see where it takes us all, as a society.

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