There is a feeling unlike anything else that could be described, but more so felt in one’s depths.
Felt in a way that I know when I’m in synch with myself.
Radiance is something that can be witnessed, when you see it captured in eyes, a motion, the fluidity of an energy surging and flooding the space shared.
Similar to flashing light. It’s there. That spark within that can radiate out, unbeknownst to our own consciousness. These are the moments I revel in. Small moments I pocket for later when the gray can settle in.
When I see them running with abandon and reveling in the sunshine. The sound of a belly laugh rumbling from a human soul. Moving so freely and making eye contact for a fragment of a second and sharing that fleeting joy. The warmth of a heartbeat pressed close to my chest and holding fast to our beats as they synch. Small fingers curled around mine and the smallest of a squeeze to know that I’m still there. The morning dew rising from the fence and the sunshine sparkling the droplets, playing tricks on my eyes.
Life’s littlest moments are what truly make up my days. What about you?
They say, “A smile is worth a thousand words…” What a genius *they* were. I chose the photo for a few reasons; one it is was a photograph by my oldest and closest friend. Two, I need an updated head shot post life and two children and the pandemic, but I had not been photographed professionally in over two years. Finally it reminded me of what I thought I had lost.
She said my name, I turned and laughed, click. In one click that moment in time was stilled to a screeching halt. If I close my eyes I can see it, I can see it all flash like lightening out the window in the heat of the storm. I see that moment, and I see her and I see me…
The news, the phone calls, the fourteen-hour time difference, the lab results, the surgery, their visit, the return, the results, cutting her hair and her curls falling, falling, falling. Her story, not your story, but still the fall while I was running, running, running. Flying to visit on my first solo trip abroad. The anxiety beating in my chest. Waking up vomiting. Her making me laugh saying, “It’s nice to hear the sound of someone else puking and it not being me.” God she was so funny. Why. Why. Why. Why are good people punished? Is that even something that is valid to ask? Screw it. I said it. It was, it is, and it sometimes still crosses my mind. The flight home and feeling like a chunk of my heart lay in Hong Kong receiving the drip, drip, drip, hoping the life force of chemo would somehow heal the broken body. The waiting, the wondering, and the waiting some more. Time halted with the call; they’re coming home. She’s coming home. Home. What is home for them? The last four and a half months, like a count down before me. The last time we watched a movie together. Choking down popcorn. Fucking cancer. The call from the stupid company thinking that if only they had her take more of their potions it would change things. Leave, my sister alone, for the love of God. That last show. The blood on her tissue. Thinking to myself I should go over and cuddle with her. Texting, calling, and waiting. Curling up in the corner of the hospital bed and holding her hand. Gently waking her to speak with the doctor. Talking, talking, talking, they’re talking at her and she’s not even awake. What the hell is going on? Surgery, for what? No more pain, no more needles, she said no more needles don’t touch her. Losing my mind in the hallway calling mom choking up on the phone. Yelling at, sigh, a priest when he offered me help. I’m not CATHOLIC I yelled. I’m JEWISH. Wow. So that happened. I just sat there taking turns holding her hand, taking turns, and crying and praying that her labored breathing would ease. My God. How selfish could I be, I asked God to make it stop, what is wrong with me? That last moment. I see her hands; I see the soft rounded half moons on her nails. The same hands that held mine. Hands that braided my hair. That took pictures together. That passed book pages. That shared chocolate. That cooled a forehead. That taught me to drive. Hands. Hearts. Hands intertwined. I missed her smile. The audience packed over three hundred souls in the room to honor her. I was numb. I just kept thinking, I can’t lose this one too, in the bathroom praying the blood not to come. Waiting, not feeling right. The blood tests. The ultrasound. Hearing, “I’m so sorry, please wait here.” The look on his face. God, make it stop. Here I go again. Calling out to God and where are… they? The hospital lights dimmed as the drugs smoothed the edges of my raw nerves. “How are you feeling?” she asked, I rolled my head over to her and smiled, “So good.” Hobbling to the bathroom and thanking the nurse for helping me. The blood, that’s to be expected. The color stained behind my eyes. Every month I saw it again and again, and again. The pulsing life force within me that kept me alive, and reminded me monthly I had more to give, I had more to live for, to grow for, I had to reframe my perspective, ‘cuz this ain’t it kid, this ain’t it. What did she tell me?
“Hineni,” Hebrew for, “Here I am.” That was it, here I am, and here I will stay. I am not my sister, and she was not me.
Click. Click. Click.
The rush of the moment. The train station walls illuminated as the dusky lights of night descended upon us. All in a moment, all was still, and the laugh subsided. We sat to take a rest after shooting in the park along the Willamette River. Shooting one another and covering her camera with what we lovingly referred to as the camera condom. The humor from middle school never seemed to disappear between us. Old habits die hard, “Was that a good one?” She chuckles, “Yeah I think I got it, you smiled!”
They say age is like wine, it gets better with time.
I’m not sure who they are, but I couldn’t agree more. Life’s bit bittersweet with a flaky exterior. If I were to define age it would be the conscious knowledge of a number, and yet the fleeting feeling of freedom. When I was a child, I would wonder who I would be one day. What does it even mean to be? In the Spanish language it conforms to: ser, to be….
To be or not to be, that’s always the question, isn’t it? I have been an official adult for twenty years now. I am not sure of everything I have learned and how I could possibly put it into words. I think the description would need to be written as multiple stories instead.
All I truly feel is: gratitude. This gratitude for just being, going back in time to my writing of the Hebrew phrase: hineni: here I am.
Being in motion.
How lucky am I? I think I am similar, and also very much changed. I don’t make room for as many things anymore. I shed them like a cloak each year that I realize the lack of importance they held. Take for instance, doubt.
If I had given into doubt, I wouldn’t be here, writing, this, sharing it on the ethers of the internet.
If I had given into doubt, I wouldn’t have the memory of us holding hands in a foreign land and comforting her in the largest trial of time.
If I had doubted my gut instinct and not held his hand that one day, I wouldn’t be here with my family today.
If I had doubted my abilities, I wouldn’t have sung in that room with a panel of music faculty members judging my every move, and been awarded a scholarship.
If I had doubted my kindness, I would not have made my lifelong friend again and passed her paper in study hall.
If I had doubted my hope I would not have believed in rainbows after the storm and held both of my babies close to my heart.
If I had doubted my self-worth I wouldn’t face my fears and discuss them monthly with a trained professional therapist.
If I had given into my doubt I wouldn’t submit and submit, and revise, and edit, and resubmit my stories again and again.
If I had given into my doubt, I wouldn’t have crossed the 13.1 finish line and completed a half marathon three years after taking my first steps as a runner.
If I had given into doubt, I wouldn’t have made countless friends and spent hours at a dance studio I called my second home.
If I had given into fear I wouldn’t have a fifteen minute birth story and a beautiful human to care for.
Doubt is like your shadow. It tags along for the ride, trying to pull you back, or pull you down. But at some point, you must know how to embrace it. Remember that first time you discovered her? The shadow friend waved back, didn’t she? Sometimes doubt, and fear can high five you, just to see how far you have come, and give you a nudge to keep going.
Life is like that too. All the shadow friends fall behind, as you turn and face the light. It’s better if you look up most days. Take a power stance, and find the light of the sun, or the moon, and allow its shine to lift you up towards the sky.
Cheers to 38, the strong years, and all the ones that came before. They made me into this human form that helps me charge forth with passion and integrity.
What does spirituality mean to you as an individual? I was recently listening to a podcast on, “Unlocking Us,” with the Nelson family. They were discussing what spirituality meant to them in their family and I connected to something I hadn’t thought of in a while. There are always these thoughts that linger just below the surface before emerging with impeccable timing. Call it God, call it the universe, call it what you like, but it released something I had been holding onto.
The idea of how spiritual I feel, and have felt when playing music revived itself. They say, “don’t lose yourself,” when you’re mothering. I understand how true that can be. I have worked hard to continue to be myself and evolve with each pregnancy and birth I have been blessed to experience. With each one, I have become a new version of myself.
Is it not amazing to be alive and experience all of the highs and lows of being a human? Over the last eighteen months we have all had a collective experience, and yet an individualized one at the same time. How unique it is that as a whole, the entire earth has bared witness to this pandemic and continued to revitalize and find ways to connect? Albeit connection without touching, at times, but connection none the less. However, I do think that in some ways it has come at a cost and for myself, I have realized how much I have to break away from the technological connectivity I had grown accustomed to…
I often sit on my bed and gaze out the window when I am writing. There is a beautiful cherry tree that continues to grow each day. This tree and I have seen many stages of life together over the past decade. When sitting down to write today I realized something, I am so grateful for this view. The leaves now delicately quiver in the winter wind. They dangle on bare branches reminding me of how much I can dangle on the precipice when I feel at my most raw and exposed. There is something to be said about the seasons and how much it can invoke these instinctual feelings within me.
I often analyze and over think ideas. It is something I have grown aware of with age, and also grown to appreciate about myself. This characteristic, not flaw, allows me to have the ability to be a natural researcher, thinker, and empath. I am constantly considering what I think the other being might feel or be going through. I also weigh choices heavily, and I have learned to release my worries quickly.
The act of mindfulness has been a slow process I have been cultivating over the last few years. It has recently blossomed with my commitment to meditation. Through the act and practice of exercise with a friend’s partnership on social media, I committed myself for four months to a daily ritual. It helped me realize that I can do the same with my mindfulness and take it to another level with meditation. Ultimately this practice helps me two fold: be a more present human being, and be a steadier rock in the turbulence of my children’s springs. I will be the first to admit that their waves of emotion can greatly affect me. As an empath it is extremely challenging for me to not become washed away with their tides, but I am holding firmer ground and breathing deeper now.
Where am I going with all of these collective thoughts? I’m rooting them here, in this virtual ether captured by a moment in time. It had been a while since I sat down and wrote a flow of thoughts without trying to conform the ideas or control the output.
I realized that sometimes we all just need to let things go. Let go and let God. The only thing to fear, is fear itself. What takes up your mental space can consume you, carefully tread my friends and find those spaces that bring you back to what truly matters. This time of year brings back many memories of collective effervescence for me. The act of being together, the act of singing together, and feeling that spiritual moment that you cannot explain. It may look different for me now, but the emotions still rise the same. May this season bring forth a renewed energy filled with hope and light. May we all be taken to, “church,” and find that moment where our souls ring and feel lightened by the load of what being a human means.
If you had asked me ten years ago if I would be a morning person someday, I probably would have scoffed at you. I have always, and by nature will be a night owl. However, with small children, the early, wee hours of the morning have become my sacred space. I am an introvert and as such, crave and need alone time. Don’t get me wrong, I am completely grateful for my family and companionship, as human beings we all require this for healthy development, but I fill my tank sans other humans, aka solo.
When you care for small, young human beings, it takes patience, consistency, and care. When I am depleted, one of those tasks does not function at full capacity and the deficit shows in my child’s behavior in response to mine. In turn, I have learned that if I power through and think about how I will feel, later on, I will get moving sooner. I will skip the extra hour of snooze time which, invariably may lead to grogginess or a headache, for my quiet, hooded, writing/reading/meditation time in the sunrise hours.
The first person I can think of that was a morning person was my grandpa. Grandpa Woody would get moving at dawn, I could smell his aftershave and coffee in the hallway as I padded down our carpeted stairs to the kitchen. He would greet me with a hug and a whiskered kiss. I can still feel his scruff, see his lips, and sense the texture of his short sleeved button down shirt. One early morning together, on his visit to the land up north, I looked at his forearm and said, “What’s that?” What, I was unaware of, was my grandfather’s tattoo he had chosen during his time in the CCC camps, working as a cook. “That,” he replied, “Is a mistake of my youth,” and he promptly unrolled his dress shirt sleeve and buttoned the white button around his wrist. This interaction became a story that I have gone back to in my head from time to time. I thought of it when I was younger and contemplating large, permanent decisions for myself. Those early mornings with Grandpa are still as vivid to me as my first home of childhood. It’s funny how something can stick with you like gum, glued to my brain, forever a part of my minds eye. The Hipsher side of my heart is a morning glory, and the Cohen side is a night owl. Two birds of a different feather, so to speak.
As I write these words, I can see the light from the sunshine streaming through my Ikea curtains. The tree branches in the wetland behind our home forming a backdrop for the sun’s rays. The early hours provide for me, a semblance of solitude, a feeling of ‘what if,’ time to reflect and create with the fluidity of thought. I think that, in essence, is what I find challenging as a parent, as well as, when I was teaching.
I need quiet to think clearly, I have to pause and reflect. It’s just part of my core, and I communicate it, most of the time, to my family. If I am in the midst of one task, I need to pause, physically and mentally before moving to the next one. I function at a high level, don’t get me wrong, I am the queen of multi-tasking, but, when an idea needs thorough consideration, I have to set aside the distractors before truly considering and communicating.
I taught my son how to, “Take a break,” and he will verbalize this in his own play time that he narrates so articulately, all. day. long. <Insert laugh and heart bubbles here.> He often says mid play, “Take a break mommy, take a break,” and he will pause, sit, or stop his motion for a few seconds before resuming full speed and charge ahead.
If a little person can realize the power of this and put it into practice, I wonder if more adults could? Perhaps that is the secret silver lining of the quarantine time we find ourselves still living in. Take time to reflect before: acting, saying, and doing. Consider what is in front of you before you decide to do, say, be, or go somewhere. If we all better understood what our tanks or hearts are desiring, perhaps there would be less reaction and better action. So the next time you find yourself at the cross roads of a decision, take a break. STOP your body, your mind, your tongue and: Think, about the option, reflect about the choice, and then move forward. No one else can make a decision for you about how you feel and if you feel better, positive, hopeful, grateful, loving, then your feelings will melt into your interactions which shed light or darkness in our world.
The end of August is always an incredibly busy time for many people. It is especially so for educators that start their new year of teaching. For the past eleven years I was one of those teachers who would plan, prep, sweat, and build my classroom for the coming school year. Not so this year. My husband and I decided to switch roles after he interviewed and was offered a job. We traded spaces as teachers to be with our son. The largest gift in life is time. No one can buy it or give you more of it. With this being said, the shift of how a person spends their time greatly impacts them as an individual.
Thus, my time and priorities have shifted this fall. There is one thing that remains constant for me and that is the inner teacher, the guide, and the desire to share. So, with all of this being said, I decided to share more regularly, what I am: reading, what I am reading, cooking, doing, watching or inspired by.
~We re-read, “Roller Girl,” by Victoria Jamieson, I say, “we,” because Leo helped me read it throughout morning snuggles and diaper changes.
~Currenly I am reading, “burnout the secret to unlocking the stress cycle,” by Emily Nagoski, PhD and Amelia Nagoski, DMA. I have a hard time putting this book down, I talk about it with everyone I know, thank you to my beloved friend for sharing this work with me.
~Leo absolutely loves, Gyo Fujikawa’s children’s book work:
*A Child’s Book of Poems
*Oh, What a Busy day!
*A to Z: picture book
There is something timeless about her illustrations. He is transported to the world of the babies in the pictures and he’ll pull her books off of the shelf to read again and again. He loves recognizing other babies, animals he knows, and saying the sounds they make.
There are a couple of interesting youtube videos about her work with Disney and the ethics in the theater available for perusing, as well as a great Newyorker article linked below.
*Podcast: Levar Burton Reads. This evokes the childhood reader in me. I am transported back to reading rainbow days with Levar’s voice and I absolutely LOVE. IT.
*BlacKkKlansman: Spike Lee’s film is hands down, the best movie I have watched in the last year. Do yourself a favor and watch it, read about Ron Stallworth’s life and work in Colorado. It is chilling how true to form the ideology of his experience is still true today.
*Nikkivegan: This woman’s youtube channel has really impacted my cooking life. I became inspired over summer to make a new recipe each week. Here was one of our favorites linked below! Easy potato taquitos and bean salad. Tasty!
Something that is a daily activity for me is some sort of physical exercise. We take two walks on average with our dog and baby. I have been trying to wake up and do yoga most week day mornings and it has great impacted my mood, outlook, and mobility for the day. A friend recommended: Yoga with Adrienne on Youtube and I love her work. One of my happy places in town is Diva Den Studio, and it is a place where I can exercise, connect, laugh, dance, and sweat to recharge my batteries.
I have been challenging myself to use my time more mindfully. There is nothing quite like having a young child to put your view of time into focus. This is a daily challenge for me because I can be easily side tracked, interested, or fall down the rabbit hole of scrolling. Sometimes I put myself on a fast from social media in order to refocus on the priorities I have for myself. This often times helps me to be more cognizant and truly appreciate the season, my personal goals, and the quiet times I spend with family.
Time has a way of bringing significance to something that you never really considered in the moment. Seven hours and four minutes into the evening in 2018, our son was born. On July fourth, 7-04-2017 we found out we were expecting a child. Up until this moment, on our baby’s birthday, I had not realized the significance.
Life has a funny way of bringing things full circle. Here we are, numbers, moments and life at play later. These events roll past, the day moves by, and we look back over our shoulder at the impact these events have made in the tapestry of our lives.
I had not paid much attention to all of our little one’s numerology, but the idea behind the moment of his birth and the date we learned of his existence, is purely beshert.
Nothing can quite explain the feeling of hearing your child’s cry for the first time, and holding them close. I waited years for him to come. In the first moment he looked at me, and I at him, it felt as though time stood still, and spun around all at once. There are very few things in life that I am sure of, but one of those is the fact that I was always meant to be LDB’s mama. Thank you for choosing us as your parents little one.
What is the biggest risk you have taken in your life?
The first thing that comes to my mind is the risk to stop giving into fear and instead, turning around, metaphorically speaking, and facing it.
For the longest time I was fearful of a great number of things. These included but were not limited to: Saying no, standing up for myself, tolerating bullshit from friends and relationships, worrying about things I could not change, fearing the worst when falling ill, and reading articles about all the, “what if’s,” that could happen in my life.
Then, in the course of one month, over three weeks, I learned a lesson: all things can go wrong, shit has hit the fan, and I am still standing. I am still here.
I attempted to make lemonade out of the lemons I was dealt. Nothing motivates you more than facing that fear and realizing how ludicrous it is to give into it. Another motivating factor is realizing how imperative the nature of today, really is. The gift of this breath, and the moment you are being given when the person you love, whose hand you were holding, slipped away before your eyes. Life never simply prepares you to deal with the tragic, it merely provides you with experiences in which to learn that you are capable of handling it, because of the experiences that propelled you until you reached the edge of the mountain.
There were a few things that propelled me into 2016:
One: My sister’s death.
Two: Having two car accidents over the course of a month.
Three: Seeing a positive pregnancy result, seeing blood weeks later, and learning that it was not an actual viable pregnancy, but a molar one.
Four: Being told that the D&C was successful, only to find out that the betaHCG results had risen ten fold, I needed a chest X-ray to make sure cells had not traveled and multiplied in my body forming cancerous masses, receiving an internal ultrasound twice, and then taking chemotherapy shots in order to resolve the issue.
Five: Going weekly for six weeks to see an oncologist and receive chemo shots for an unviable pregnancy after walking similar pathways with my sister the year before for different reasons.
Life has a way of providing opportunities for rebirth.
That was my moment.
I hit my rock bottom on a cold, dreary day in January after leaving the hospital. I drove home in a wash of tears and bathed my sorrows away. Later, I found myself still grappling with many frustrations in the aftermath of grief for multiple reasons. I happened upon a video and blog that changed the course of my life. Gabrielle Bernstein’s work propelled me to make a dramatic shift. I cannot say how grateful I am for the book I read, May Cause Miracles, and the course work I practiced. I opened myself up to facing my ego, learning from my fears I had clung to, learning about my desire for control and deciding to grow as a human and not cower in the shadows of comfort.
Here’s the thing: it is never easy to take a risk. Be it in a small change, or a large shift in your life. However, in doing so, committing to the risk will invariably provide you with room for growth. Change does not happen over night. It happens in your daily thoughts, routines, and the patterns that you pave in life.
Risk is what you make of a situation, not what makes you falter.
This past year I learned many a lesson as most of us do. I was propelled forward in a new pathway towards becoming a mother. I taught students, I learned what may come, and I healed, by releasing my fears.
Life is what you make of it, and in this year especially, I have learned what this truly means. It boils down to one word: Time.
Time is of the essence when you give birth to a little one. It seemingly ticks by slowly at first, but then suddenly two seasons have passed and your little one is literally crawling through life. It flashes, like bursts of light.
Flash, flash, my thoughts land on a memory…crystalized in my mind’s eye. Two eye lids, fluttering lashes, one tiny nose, and two small fists slowly uncurling along his mouth.
This memory helps me slide into the vault of best kept experiences this year. Most of them firsts, naturally, with the introduction of our first child. I sift through the pictures and suddenly these, “firsts,” come into view…
The first time I felt a complete baby roll in my tummy, the first time I could not get out of bed until I rolled sideways, the first time I identify with turtles, completely but in reverse shell to tummy placement, the first time I felt contractions hit and knew that life would never be the same again, the first time I heard my baby cry, the first time I held him close, the first time he nursed with me, the first diapers, the first daddy hugs, the first cries where panic set in but I did not relinquish to the fear in my tummy, the first time I saw my parents as grandparents to our child, the first time he looked at me, the first time he smiled, the first time he sat up, the first time he reached for me, the first giggles, the first time I left our babe for work, the first separation feels of mommy baby heart tugs, the first time he laughed with us, the first time he crowed for his fur sisters, the first time he clapped, the list is a long endless one of beauty and gifts from life.
There was never a time that I truly felt as raw, as out of control, and as completely content as I did this year. Surrendering to the unknown is utterly frightening and also comforting. The realized I did not have to feel in control any longer, and that there was no room for manipulation of choices with the time I am allotted. I learned to withdraw from the desire to control completely, focus on my breath, and see the scene with fresh eyes.
The gift of tomorrow sheds new light upon today. The sky has opened up, blueness poured forth and the light crept in whilst I typed. The babe stirred, and the dog yawned, time began to click again, slowly but surely, a steady rhythm always balancing out the the days and the light. Renewed opportunity lies ahead. Go forth and obtain your firsts. A bouquet full of them awaits.
Sometimes someone who knows you well says just what your heart needs to hear. “Don’t let yourself be hardened by the world Rachel. Don’t close yourself off from those feelings. Enjoy those times and keep your heart open.”
(Insert tears that spring forward.)
Something about this time of year is challenging for me, for a number of reasons. So I reflected and realized a few things.
Each school year I am reminded of the fresh opportunity I have to work with the next generation. I am so reminded and reminisce on how I would share with my sister our plans for the next school year. To say that miss her is an understatement, it is a yearning I feel in my soul and always will.
Everything changes in an instant, in a moment. The only constant is change, this I know. I have watched my baby boy growing like a weed over the last five months and it feels like just yesterday he was in the womb kicking me to let me know he was there. I look at him and I wonder who this little person will be. I watch him in wonderment as he observes the world.
Whenever I read a new book or see a, back to school book list, I stop and think about Debbie. Occasionally I still have a mind slip and think of telling her something. It’s like a small heart tug when that happens. A little pull each time I long for communication.
This school year I am excited for the new group of students to work with, the new and old book friends that I will get to share with them are inspirations from Debbie. I can’t wait to share with my students and continue to tell our son how this amazing librarian auntie of his still touches lives today.
We always read one of her favorite books to LDB each day, The Very Hungry Caterpillar 🐛. Much like in the book, I felt enveloped in a cocoon these past five months. I am ready to spread my wings and fly, but unfurling the wings and jumping off is always the hardest part. 🦋