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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Ninth Year

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

Imagine that place.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Introducing: The Incredible Kimmy the Wonder Pup…

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

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

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

 

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.”

rose 2016 PRG

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.

Labels or Love.

A long time ago I was slapped with labels that were hard to understand as a child, but became quite vivd when I looked deeply at the perceptions that swirled around my exterior.

Label: Female

Label: Daughter

Label: Sister

Label: Friend

Label: Jew

Label: White

Label: Quiet

Label: Nice

The trouble with a label is the sense of belief that goes along with the label itself. When you start to believe in the label itself being more important than what you offer as a human being, you run into trouble.

Ask yourself what labels you see when you look into your own eyes in the mirror?

Who do you see?

Do you see skin?

Do you see hair?

Do you see you or what you perceive to be yourself?

I have been working on a journey of self discovery for the past 40 days. It has been a rocky uphill mind battle that has brought me to a precipice of sorts. I see happiness and love, or I see what I have learned to identify as my ego and fear.

It’s a conscientious choice that you can make with yourself, to think.  Much like a label. As a human you have the ability to think, to consider, and then to act.

Before you speak: think.

Before you respond with words: consider, are your words those coming from who you truly are with love or from your ego and fear?

While you think: choose the words you wish to share wisely. Once said, a word cannot be taken back.

Act with love and integrity.

Love before labels.

I stumbled across this amazing video which spoke to me from Prince Ea:

 

Action vs. Mirrored Silence.

Do you want to know a secret? 

All human beings are made of the same matter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life is a precious gift.

Every day you wake up.

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

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

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

 

life

 

Mind shifts day 9.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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M.T. to end M.S. Benefit Concert

MT to end MS poster

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

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M.S. 

This is an acronym that stands for multiple sclerosis. 

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

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

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

Do you own a vacuum?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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