Tag Archives: New Jersey

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”.


To Be Special

10 Feb

“My daddy has a tractor, my daddy has a key for that tractor.”

This is what my little guy squeals out as we walked through the Tractor Supply store yesterday. I would like to state for the record that I never thought I would be shopping at a tractor supply store. Yet here I am writing about it as if I were discussing shopping at CVS.

“My daddy wears boots. My daddy hunts pigs and deer.”

It reminded me of a memory I had of myself when I was in the 5th grade. After living five amazing years in California it was time to move back to New Jersey. It was an incredibly tough time for me. I loved California. I loved my life there. I loathed Cherry Hill, New Jersey. We lived with some close family friends while my mom searched for a house to buy and call home. Our family friends were actually my godparents and I called them aunt and uncle. They had two sons I had always revered as my cousins. Both were boys and were athletic, popular and well liked in our town.

We finally found a house and began the move in process. Two houses down there was a boy who was 2 grades ahead of me. He was in the same grade as one of my “cousins.” I had an overwhelming feeling of wanting to belong. It was such a strong need and I didn’t feel I possessed anything special inside me. I remember meeting the boy who lived two doors down and the first thing I said to him was, “My cousin is _____ .” I said that to quite a few people. I thought well that would get me in. That would give me that sense of belonging, that sense of worth.

Years later the boy next door and I were best friends, as close as friends could be. One night while we sat on the  swing on my front porch, as we always did, he reminded me of the first thing I ever said to him. He laughed when he recalled the story for me as we swung and smoked cigarettes. I felt so silly, so many years had passed and as an older woman of now 14 years old, I laughed at my 10-year-old silly self.


I see this now in my little angel. I see that same expression in my little ones eyes. He so desperately wants to be special, to be wanted, to be needed, to be loved.

If you follow my writing than you know my youngest has some emotional issues. I worry about him and what his future looks like if his struggles continue to escalate. Recently a new issue has come up for him. If I look at him a certain way or confront him on misbehaving than his response to me is, “You hate me, you don’t love me anymore.”  My heart breaks into a million little pieces when he says that.

I felt that same tinge as I listen to him tell people about his special daddy. I am happy that he loves and admires his father, it is the intense desire and need to be special that makes my heart ache. It is that desperate need to feel like he is part of something, special and that he is wanted. I want him to feel that way all on his own. I want him to know he is special without validation from an outside source.

We all have a need to feel special and be wanted and loved. Some of us search for it harder than others, some of us are more content to find that specialness within. I was much more quiet this past weekend at the yoga retreat at Kripalu than I usually am. I still walked away with 30 plus new friends, and 30 plus people who thought I was great. I started to think long and hard about how can you share your specialness without throwing it out there in someone’s face. What are the ways that I can share my light with others without stealing the spotlight?

I want to share this idea with my children. We spoke a ton about this at Kripalu. We talked about letting out light shine for others. I want to teach my children to share their specialness with the world by shining their lights for others.

I don’t think we are ever to young to take a look inside.

I am curious to see the different aspects of myself that shall arise as I focus on being a light sender in my life?

If you shifted from wanting to be in the spotlight to being the light sender, what would shift in your life?



Wear Batman Pajamas!

18 Oct

It is a typical Santa Monica morning. Overcast and breezy and if I listen closely I can hear the rumbling of the nearby waves.

There is nothing that can take the place of being home.

For me, home is a confusing term.

I am not quite sure if home is Philadelphia, the place I was born, if home is New Jersey, where I also lived, and, the place my father is laid to rest. Maybe home is California, the place where I lived most of my life, and the place where my mother, stepdad, and my sister still live?

Mostly it doesn’t matter.

When I am in California, Philadelphia, or New Jersey I still have that same feeling. Like a gigantic sigh that comes from deep down inside of me. It is my soul is coming back home. My true Self is back in its favorite sweatshirt, the one with all the holes that you have had since the beginning of time but can’t bare to part with.

I love the sound of the ocean, the quiet deafening after the waves crash on the beach. I love that sound. I love the memories that come crashing into my mind every time I hear another break hit the sand. I can close my eyes and remember that house on Lincoln Blvd. I can remember that monstrous rod iron bed that I had as a little pipsqueak of 8 or 9 years old. A bed that required a step stool to get into. I remember leaving the window open in my bedroom to hear the ocean, the same way my sister does in her living room, right where I slept last night. It is as if I have time traveled. As a little girl I used to sit as I am now, listening to that quiet, an irony that is not lost on me.

I find it very difficult to be in silence.

Here I am, on this couch transported back in time, a time when I had my beloved Monet, our West highland Terrier. A time when my sister and I had hamsters, skateboards, and bicycles with banana seats. (You remember those awful seats, don’t you?)

Yesterday I took my youngest on a school field trip to a local farm. They have what they call a jumping pillow. Maddock was all over that, as you can imagine.  I watched as 20 of these jubilant 3 years old ran for that nylon filled air sack and jumped their little hearts out. They were so happy to bounce up and feel that squish under their feet as they came down. I watched those children jumping intently.

I thought to myself: What can I learn from this? What can I learn from being airborne?

Here is what I came up with. As kids, all you know is fun. Kids don’t know financial stress, they aren’t worried how the mortgage will get paid. They just want to know that Mommy and Daddy want to play with them and tuck them in at night. Kids don’t know love lost, they love everybody. Kids don’t know self-consciousness, they don’t care what others think of them. If they love those batman pajamas then they will wear them to school no matter what anybody thinks.

Kids can sit and listen to the ocean and imagine faraway lands, as I did when I was a child, or jump on a trampoline and imagine flying, as my son does. They aren’t worried about the stress of the day. There is no room for that when you are living that moment to the fullest.

There is a feeling you get when you are jumping. A sensation that takes over when you are airborne. You are weightless, fearless, and full of joy. You aren’t worried about hitting the bottom. You only live for the air beneath you now.

This is where I chose to live my life from today and all the days to follow.

I am airborne. I am going home.


Music Moves Me

27 Sep

Cover of "Mama Africa"

Sometimes it is a smell that brings me back in time. Sometimes it is an article of clothing I find that jogs the memory. Most often it is music that immediately transports me back in time.

Last night I made a rock and roll playlist for my class. We were just starting to get warmed up and “Killer Queen” by Queen came on. I start dancing immediately, it happens without any thought at all. As my body is moving I begin to realize that I am back in time. I am no longer in Georgia, I am in California. I am hearing this song for the first time on my sister’s stereo. For those of you who follow my sister Jennifer’s blog, you know how much she loves time travel. I love time travel equally, it must be hereditary. I love going back in time, even if just in my mind.

This week I have time traveled quite a bit. 

I was so tired yesterday. Can’t keep your eyes open tired. I was driving to run errands and ‘Mama Africa‘ by Peter Tosh came on my iPod. I was immediately thrown back 23 years earlier. I am 12 years old and spending the summer in California with our dear family friend who let me spend the summers with her. It was the best my mom could do to keep me happy after we left California and moved back to New Jersey. I remember us all going to the beach. The windows down in the VW beetle and Peter Tosh playing on the stereo. I remember the two little ones in the back seat. I even remember how blue the sky was that day. I remember thinking that life couldn’t get any better than this. I also knew right then that I was a lover of Reggae music even from a young age.

When I was in middle school I played field hockey, it’s a NorthEast thing. We used to love piling on the bus for away games. We all had our mix tapes and our Walkman’s.

You would play your jams and get pumped up. It was one of these mix tapes that had one of my favorite songs on it, ‘People Everday’ by Arrested Development. I don’t care who you are this song just makes you want to move. I mean get down. Funky bass lines and horns, I love it all. As this song played on my radio last week I time traveled twice, it was AMAZING. I was 13 years old jamming on the bus and then….it is February 2012. I am going through customs as I return home from my LIFE CHANGING MEXICO YOGA RETREAT. I couldn’t believe who was standing right in front of me, Speech, frontman for Arrested Development. Wearing a pair of overalls splattered with colorful paint. I was starstruck. I wanted to grab him and bust out my imaginary bass and start dancing. I couldn’t help but smile. Such a sad moment that my magical trip was over juxtaposed with the music in me bringing me back, way back.

I have had my fair share of sad and crappy times in my life. Through them all I can always find a song that makes me smile from that stage in my life. When you’re in the midst of a tough time in your life it is easy to see everything through rose-colored glasses.


The music in you can help you remember all the good times that were happening along the sucky ones. All the good things that you blocked out of your memory. All the good things that couldn’t really be good because everything in that year, that month, or on that day was so bad that good never existed.

The music can bring you back. The music can seduce those good memories back up to the surface.

My take on all of this is simple. You must listen to music everyday. You must move your body and smile, maybe you want to cry, if it moves you than do it.

I am living what I speak. It’s 9am I am on the sofa. I have some really ugly big blue headphones on as I write this. I am playing as much old hip hop as I can find. Every jam is a different decade, a different friend, a different wild experience. My kids are laughing at me as I sing out loud. What a lovely way to start a Thursday.

Namaste and happy singing.

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