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Death, Bones and Souls

26 Feb

I want to close my eyes and hear my father’s voice. I want to remember what it sounded like when he called my name, “Rachel.”

Shit, I can’t remember, 30 years have gone by, he is still dead. I have a headstone to look at now, I would prefer his head and not that marble slab. That marble slab that I have called my dad for 30 years. It’s somewhere in New Jersey, I don’t even know the town. My last visit home we got lost trying to get there. I was so ashamed of myself. How could you get lost going to find your dad, going home? I should have it tattooed in my brain. Go here on the interstate, get off on that exit, enter the cemetery, go down to the far left corner and there it is, five rows back. I don’t have it in my brain, so I call my aunt and she tells me where to go.

I stand and read those beautiful words, “You are my sunshine……under you light we shall grow.” I stand there and get really freaked out. He is in a coffin under me. Yuck, I don’t want to be buried. I want to be cremated and my ashes scattered at sea. So I stand there and feel bad, I am standing on top of my father, it is so morbid. I look around and see that just a few rows away is our family friend Susan. She is near my dad, maybe they keep each other company. Maybe they reminisce about old times, when they were young and funny. I look further back and see the four jewish stars. The big stars that make up the headstone of the four children who died in the fire. I knew that story my whole life. I cried for them my whole life. I cried for their parents. I used to think my dad would look out for them too. He must have had a big job, trying to make all those souls laugh, he was such a funny man. Mel the Jew. I miss you Mel the Jew.



(My dad is a teenager here)

What would you look like if you hadn’t died? Would all of your hair have gone? You would still have those mesmerizing blue eyes, big like saucers. Would you still be skinny? A skinny man with no hair and big blue eyes. Wondering does no good because you are still dead, Mel the Jew is still dead. My dad is still dead. He isn’t going to put on that wig and dress up the Bert and Ernie dolls ever again.

Stuck in time and space. That is what happens when you die, I think. I am a big believer that your soul leaves your physical self and moves on. Stuck somewhere in time and space, watching over us, or maybe coming into another form. My memory doesn’t change, my memory doesn’t leave. Your body is the same in my visions. Mel the Jew will always look the same, he will always be the same. He will always be 38 years old, a big bald spot in his head, blue eyes like saucers, skinny legs in tiny cut off jean shorts. That is how you will always be, even if you aren’t, not really that person anymore at all.

The soul leaves but our memories stay. My step father Carl will always be strong and healthy with a thick head of hair and a big smile, his body gone, but not my memory. That is how he shall stay with me, just like that. My beautiful cousin Natalie. She will always be tall with those incredibly white teeth. She will always have those gorgeous big lips that red lipstick looked stunning on. She will always be young and perfect, just like that. My friend Pat who died 15 years ago, alone in a hotel room, he isn’t that. He is handsome and fit, he is the produce manager at the health food store, he loves Frank Zappa. That is what he looks like in my permanent record. I returned home at 5am from my sleep study. Half awake I opened my computer. The first thing that opened up on the screen was a picture of Ronan. I immediately fly away to New Mexico and think of his mom. How is she? I ran my fingers across the screen and touched his beautiful 2-year-old face. I thought this is his permanent record. He shall remain like this forever in time and space. Beautiful and golden.

Death will come to us all. I learned that far too young. Death means I will see you no more, not in the physical realm anyway. Death meant that your bones left, they went somewhere that I didn’t care to know about. It was your soul that I was more interested in. I needed to know that you could still hear me and see me, even though you were out of reach.

So your bones are in a coffin somewhere, or your ashes are out to sea, and your soul is floating up in the sky, but your picture is as it were when you were perfect and here. Your memory is when you breathed and laughed and called my name, “Rachel”.


4th grade writer

24 Feb

My teacher in the 4th grade was Mrs. Wheeler. A small petite woman with white hair and a raspy voice. She wore skirts that came to her knees and I always remember her fondness for plaid. One afternoon she came up and whispered in my ear that she wanted to talk with me privately. She had assembled a list of students whom she had created a special program for, it was a creative writing program. I was so honored. I couldn’t believe it. Every day at lunch while all the other children ate their Bologne sandwiches, we went to the library and wrote stories. I still loved reading and writing then, it still brought me joy.


When I entered middle school my love of learning started to fade. I replaced it with boys, cigarettes and pot. Once I found a new love my books and poems just got old and collected dust. My grades began to fall, and school was just a meeting place, it wasn’t a place of adventure anymore. I felt tinges of sadness when my poor english class grades came in, I felt ashamed because I loved to read and write, but it was quickly replaced with my latest crush, or the next party.

I dropped out of high school in the middle of my junior year. This is a very touchy subject in my family. I don’t have any regrets but there is always a wonder. I was to enroll in community college and get my GED, nothing ever works out as planned. Instead I went to work got a job managing a big health food store, I got life lessons. I always convinced myself they were more valuable than any book could give me. Truth be told, I wanted those books, I wanted the words swirling around in my head, I wanted to have a vernacular that would make people’s heads spin.

So my story got stuck there in the middle of my junior year. My “I AM NOT SMART ENOUGH. I AM NOT SMART ENOUGH TO BE A WRITER.” I got stuck there. I was like Robin Wright Penn in “The Princess Bride,” I was in the quicksand, but I didn’t have a prince to pull me out. So there my story stayed, for years it pulled me down.

I finally got my GED went to college, of course left a year shy of getting my BA. New story takes in. I CAN NEVER FINISH ANYTHING, AND I AM NOT SMART ENOUGH. They are perfect for each other, they go well together. Like a good wine pairing.

Over the years I dabbled in finding my love of books again, finding my love of words and writing. Nothing ever truly stuck with me. 35 years old now and I have that flutter in my soul again. I am giddy with excitement again over a good book. I am stealing away moments to fill myself with words on pages that I run my fingers through, scenes where I pretend I am there, lines I wish I had written. My sister reminded me lately, “If you want to write you have to read, and read all the time.” I listened intently to those words, I took them to heart, I sewed them inside my chest where I think my heart would be. So I read, and I read. I read essay’s, books, magazines, just anything I can.

I am time traveling. I am traveling back to the early 80’s in California. I am just 5 or 6 years old. I am a great reader, I am one of the best in my 1st grade class. I love reading and I see a bright future for myself. I think privately, “I am smart. I AM SMART.”


After reading my sister’s latest essay about the turns we take in life, the left turns and right turns, I thought about my life. Who would I be if I had taken a different turn? Would I have been a scholar? A history teacher (my major in college), An author? The owner of a multi million dollar company? Maybe, Maybe not. Maybe all the turns I took are exactly the right turns. Maybe instead of right turns I took left turns, that sounds like me, I never listen to what people tell me anyway. Maybe those left turns are the ones that will make my new-found love of writing more interesting. I most definitely lived some wild and crazy moments, maybe those are the left turns I needed to have. It never really is possible to know what, if any, of the choices we make are right or wrong, they just are.

I see the bookcase in my room in 1985 California. It is pine, completely filled to the rim with every category of book, mostly books on marine biology, another early love of mine. I sit and remember what those books smelled like and how they made my insides swirl with excitement. Here I stand now that same girl, filled with the same desire and joy to fill my soul with words and knowledge.


Here I am ready to change the story, to make a right turn.



The Gate Keepers

22 Feb
Elie Wiesel aged 15, late 1943 or early 1944

Elie Wiesel aged 15, late 1943 or early 1944 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Finally, two hours all to myself, I headed to the bookstore. I would  peruse the isles and touch all the books. I was going to get down on my knees and drop my bag and jacket and take up space. I love going to the bookstore. I love the smell and the order of all those words.


I entered the store, not a huge bookstore, but just big enough. Right in the very front is the book ‘Night’ by Elie Wiesel. I have heard my sister refer to his writing and words, I picked up the book to buy it. Two more books eventually made their home with me, but ‘Night’ was silently calling my name.


From the first word on the first page I am hooked. It isn’t a long book, it isn’t a difficult book. It is simple and pure. I can’t put the book down it is an addiction in the purest form. I feel my fingers run across the page and I close my eyes, the words are so gripping, in my soul I feel as if I am there with him. I see him as a 15-year-old boy in Transylvania, lost in a world of chaos.


When I read accounts of the holocaust it stirs up something deep in my soul. I am jewish. I know that most of my family escaped Europe before the war, but what if? What if my long-lost great-uncle Moishe was in Auschwitz. Will I ever know? Probably not. It doesn’t really matter. I still feel a connection. There is a massive web and I am part of it. I am Jewish and that is my heritage. I read the words of Elie Wiesel and my heart begins to hurt, it burns, my breathing slows down, I am immediately taken there.


How could anybody survive such atrocity? How could humanity have survived such madness?


I think it is immensely important that we never forget the times that called humanity into question. I will never forget. I will hold all those souls in my heart.


There is a beautiful line in the beginning of the book. As a boy Elie Wiesel was intrigued by religion and jewish mysticism. He was a student to the core, he read and studied and eagerly looked for a master to teach him the Kabbalah. Elie befriended a lonely, poverty-stricken outcast in town, Moishe the Beadle. This frail old man knew things that intrigued Elie. The two would sit and study together for hours and days. A special bond that jumped off the page at me. I recognized their connection, it is one that is so powerful it keeps you coming back, even when all those around you think you too have gone mad.  One afternoon after everybody had left the temple Elie remained with Moishe the Beadle, the two of them reading, praying, and questioning their faith together. Elie recounts that moment:


And in the course of those evening I became convinced that Moishe the Beadle would help me enter eternity, into that time when question and answer would become ONE.


I absolutely am obsessed with this line. I love this idea.


When question and answer are ONE.


I am absolutely moved to share with you the importance of this book. This work of art. Read it, re read it, and share it with a friend.


God Bless you Elie Weisel.


Thank you for being a Gate Keeper of History


I Am Balanced

16 Jul

Here we are less than one month away from my 200 hour yoga teacher training being complete. The last 4 months have flown by.

I knew without a doubt that this training would not only be educational, but also life changing.

Life changing doesn’t always mean pleasant. Life changing can be difficult and very uncomfortable. I have been very introspective over the last 4 months, and this past weekend was particularly tough for me. As my day ended yesterday I realized that I was looking at the darkest parts of myself that I dread the most, the parts that I wish were different. It is challenging for me to examine something about myself that needs adjusting and not tear myself down in the process.

That is what lead to me write this post. My life is completely new. It’s a new ride and I am enjoying the scenery. The major lesson that I am taking away from this experience of personal growth, is that I am always changing. I am an always evolving being. It is okay to have things that need some improvement, and I don’t have to make it mean something is inherently “WRONG” with me. We all have so many facets to our personalities and I am striving to live a life that is BALANCED.

I am seeking balance in my life.

Every day I get closer and closer to having that balance, and as I get closer so do all those in my life, especially  my children. Being a balanced parent is the biggest gift I can think to give them in life.  I want them to grow up knowing that they were heard and loved, that they had the freedom to be creative in life. I want them to dance to the music that lives within them. I can help them create a limitless life, just by making sure I look into their eyes every time they speak to me. I want them to always know that they are important and that they matter in this world.

That is the beauty of being a parent, as I shift in life I can help my children be the most amazing beings they were born to be.

What’s it Like?

11 Jun

What is it like to be me?

What is it like to be a “special needs mom”

What is it like to struggle?

What is it like to ask for help?

What is it like to go after your dream?

What is it like to be so in love with your kids, that your heart beats wildly every time you see them?


I sit and think questions like this all the time. Every time I see people walking down the street. I think to myself, “What is their life like?” “Who are they?” “What is their purpose in life?”

I am beginning on my journey, feeling purposeful, and proud. It is an amazing feeling.

I think about how I speak to my children on a much deeper level. I make eye contact with people when I speak to them. I smile and say hello to all those I encounter during the day. I make an effort every day to live a life that means something.

Today little guy went to skate at the park while big guy and I went to handle medical stuff. I went back to the park and watched my 3 year old in a park full of older kids skating his heart out and being loved by all. I decided to leave him with daddy and I took big guy home. We came home and sat in silence for almost an hour. He was learning math and letters on his IPAD as I read the Yoga Sutras. It was completely quiet and peaceful in my house, and then I read this line in my book:

Nothing in all creation is so like God as silence –Meister Eckhart

I thought it was such a beautiful line for such a beautiful moment.

So what’s it like to be me? Well, simply put, mostly crazy but I live such a full life.

I am grateful, are you?

For me it boils down to simply one thought process.

I want to live a conscious life.

I want to think before I speak. I want to make an impact in the world. I want all the moments in my life to have meaning.


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