Saturday, October 8, 2011

Yom Kippur

Last night began the highest of holiest holidays in the Jewish religion - Yom Kippur.  It's our Day of Atonement, when we ask Man and God for forgiveness of the sins of our year and our lives.  It's a day when we make a sacrifice to God by fasting in the hopes that our sins are forgiven.  Contrary to Christianity, our sins aren't washed away by someone else's blood.  Our sins are our own until God Himself sees us fit to be forgiven.  I find it much more meaningful and satisfying being a Jew.

Since I am not a member of any Synagogue here in Tulare County (although there are two), I'm spending Yom Kippur alone, and am glad for it.  It's a day of reflection, contemplation and planning.   I sit here with my Siddur and read the Shabbos prayer for Repentance, a perfect call to God for forgiveness:

Holy and awesome God, we stand in Your presence filled with regret for our many sins and failings.  Though there is greatness in us, and a deep longing for goodness, we have often denied our better selves and refused to hear Your voice within us calling us to rise to the full height of our humanity. 
For there is weakness in us, as well as strength.  At times we choose to walk in darkness, our vision obscured.  We do not car to look within, and we are unwilling to look beyond at those who need our help.  O God, we are too weak to walk unaided.  Be with us as a strong and wise Friend, and teach us to walk by the light of Your truth.   

Lord our God and God of all generations, help us to break the hold that the impulse to do evil has upon our hearts.  For You have created us  able to do Your will.  But in our nature there is a wayward spirit that hinders us and keeps us from doing what we should.  O Lord Our God, help us to subdue it, so that we may, with a whole heart, make Your will our own.

So for today, I must ask all who have been wronged by me in the past year, my sons, my students, my family, my employers, my ex-husband, my friends both near and far, my mentors and muses, to please find forgiveness and look upon me as God does.  We are not perfect beings, and thereby having our Day of Atonement is the most important day of the year so that we may know a better life, a more beautiful life filled with joy and laughter, music and art, love and passion.  I pray that God has mercy upon me to forgive my sins, clean my slate, and allow me to begin again.  For tomorrow will be more mistakes made, as I am human, but made in Your image so that I know I am beautifully and wonderfully made.

As such, I forgive all sins made against me this past year.  I chose to look upon those I love with the Eyes of God.  All debts be forgiven; all hurt feelings turn to love; all evil words spoken erased; and all material things taken forgotten.  Today shall be about love and forgiveness and quiet reflection.  Even sitting here in a place I no longer wish to be, a city I long to leave and a house that doesn't feel like a home, today they shall be all those things and more.  Today I look upon all things in my life with the Eyes of God, and give absolute forgiveness and love.

Suddenly, the room got brighter, my shoulders lighter and I know God loves me.  Thank you, Hashem, for loving me so much and so unconditionally that I can hopefully one day love myself as I love others.  My goal for this new year is to find that love for myself, respect for myself, and to honor others above myself.  As I prepare to leave this country to help those in more need than I, let me find all the strength, love and courage through my God, my friends and my family.  May my sons come to an understanding of what I must do and where I must go, and that they will be with me always.

May we also, as a human race, forgive each other all over the world.  May we come to understand what true Tikkun Olam really is all about - repairing the world.  May the leaders of all the countries of our planet come to see that we're all the same.  We all bleed the same blood when spilled; we all need the same resources; we all cry the same tears at loss.  I pray that somehow this world sees each other through whatever God or god they believe in and find Truth in, and can come to love each other not only for what we have in common, but for the love of our differences.  This Earth needs more healing than it's inhabitants do, and I pray this will be a year of world healing.  Hope is never lost.

I wish for love, joy, happiness and blessings for you all.  When we are oppressed by heavy burdens, or come to doubt the value of life, are tempted to turn our heads away from evil and when we become immersed in material cares and worldly pleasures, I pray that we will turn to God for light, understanding, guidance and meaning so that we may have a complete and fulfilled life.

Avinu Malkeinu, be gracious to us and answer us, for there is little merit in us.  Treat us generously and with kindness, and be our help.

Amen, and God bless everyone today and always.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

To Resolute or Not To Resolute

So another year is coming upon us, and tis the time of the season when we worry about changing the bad habits and lifestyles we've picked up along the way.  Actually, there are quite a few times during the secular year when people can decide to make changes: the Jewish New Year; Chinese New Year; birthday; anniversary; end of the school year, and so on.  But the New Year according to the Gregorian calendar is when most people choose to make "resolutions" or promises that they will make certain changes.  

I'm just as guilty.  Every time something is marked on the calendar I swear up and down that THIS will be the time I will start losing weight.  My cross to bear; my Everest.  I need to lose a good 80 pounds, but would be happy to start out by losing 30 by the summer (doesn't matter why the summer).  Last year I even donned my yoga pants and walked a mile on New Years Day!  Whoo hoo, I was raring to go.  Then, as usual, something happens like I don't have enough money for proper healthy food, or some emotional trigger sets off in my head, and the drive to work out is gone.  It's sooo much work; so daunting and overwhelming and I get discouraged easily.

Then there's also the thought that, well, do I really want to lose the weight?  I'm healthy; my sugar level is normal; my cholesterol level is normal and my blood pressure is a bit high but that's cause of my job.  Also, it's too easy to just slip back into old habits.  The boys don't care; they don't see me as fat and their friends think I'm hot so no one really bugs me about it.  And really, if I do lose the weight will HE just magically fall in love with me the next time he sees me?  SIGH  I still like to think so.  LOL

Resolutions should be made only if you mean it because then you feel like a total failure otherwise.  I say instead of saying I'm going to lose weight, how about I say I'm going to cut out the crap, and by crap I mean the junk food.  No more fast food, no more chips, cookies, chocolate and the like.  I've already cut out pasta (almost - I made a shissle full on Christmas Eve but that was special) and I only miss it sometimes.  I'm not going to give up white rice; brown rice is just awful.  I can't afford to go all out and re-learn how to buy healthy foods so I have to make small changes.  Smaller portions, less junk, less bread (not cut it out completely just yet).  

So my resolution this year isn't to lose the 30 pounds I want to lose by summer, but to make the necessary changes to get there.  I have to be like Bob and baby step it all the way.  If I feel deprived, I'll get pissed of and resentful and say "screw it" and go right back to eating what I want, damn the consequences.  That's not the person I want to be, so why set myself up in the first place?

My advice to my friends who want to make resolutions:  Make one or two small changes until they become habits; then another and another.  I think if we do that, we'll be successful at whatever we attempt.  

So, here's to a new year and a new idea of making resolutions.  And until the new year, ENJOY!!!!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Lioness vs. Phoenix

I haven't written a word in months.  Neither on my blog nor on my novel.  I have so many great ideas and hopes and dreams, and never do anything about any of it.  I have realized a few things that have changed in me over the past years, and I think there is a time for a change in many areas.

First, I am no longer a Phoenix.  I have risen above the ashes, and have stayed alive and thrived.  I no longer need to continue to die and rise again.  Being the Phoenix represented a time in my life when I didn't know what I was, who I was and was still stuck in between the broken pieces of my heart and my life.

Thanks to my friends and my sons, my heart has been pieced back together.  The glue is still wet and sticky, but my heart is whole again.  It cannot handle too much pressure, though, until the mortar solidifies and heals completely.  But for the most part, I'm ready.  And so, a new animal guide was necessary.

I am a Leo, born August 11th.  I have every characteristic of a typical only child Leo.  Lions have always represented God, power and strength.  Oh, and I have four cats.  I have always loved big cats, probably stemming from my mother's love of tigers.  But it's always been the lion that drew me in.  One of my prized possessions is a statue of a lion with wings, but it's not a griffin.  It's a royal looking lion with wings.  He stands proudly atop my bookcase and has always had a place of honor wherever I have lived.  He's kind of like Aslan with wings.  So when it came time to find another animal to identify with, the lion was the obvious choice; and as I am female, the lioness it is.

And so, the new title of my blog - The Lioness Roars.  I am opinionated and passionate.  I have so much to say, and really no one to listen to me.  Sometimes I can get my sons or my students to listen, but I think a blog is a great way to get some of these thoughts "out there".

So, let's try this again.  New title; new attitude; new design and new outlook. 

Paws crossed!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Lessons From A Bus Rider

For the past week I have been taking the bus anywhere I need to go in Porterville.  At first, I thought how humiliating.  I'm a teacher, a college graduate, dammit.  How did I manage to find myself in this position?  Losing two cars due to my own stupidity (not up for discussion) was humiliating enough.  So, on Monday I mustered up as much reserve as I could find, got the schedule online and waited for the first bus I would take in 23 years. 

I got on the bus and the first thing I did was judge everyone on there.  What a bunch of losers (not counting the teens on the bus going to school.  They were exempt from my disdain).  Then I began to hate myself for ending up right next to "them".  There was someone on the bus I had known when I went to Porterville College, and I was ashamed that she saw me.  I averted her eyes and kept to myself.  I hugged my purse to my chest on my lap and made no eye contact with anyone.  I put in my earphones, cranked up the music and thought about Gerry - what I usually do when I can't face reality. 

We got to the Hub and I had to ask what to do next.  How I hate doing that.  I'm the type who likes to be the one who knows everything; and here I was, helpless and stupid.  I found my second bus and prayed that God would spare me the further humiliation of having any of Butterfield's students on it.  Luckily, He took pity on me.  We got to the Adult School/Butterfield stop, and had to wait to go in; further proof I was a loser.  My self-esteem was in the toilet. 

Then my cousin Erica reminded me that our Grandmothers, our sheroes in our lives, had always taken the bus to get wherever they needed to go.  As a child, my mother and I schlepped everywhere around Brooklyn by bus, and instead of being proud of where I came from I was sad to be back in that situation.  Self-pity and self-loathing are two of my best friends, you know.  They come with me wherever I go, reminding me of my failures.

Tuesday was payday, and I had to figure out how to leave work at 10:30, cash my check, buy a bus pass, eat, etc., and be back to work by 2:00.  I could do this.  I had no choice.  So I waited out by Butterfield for the bus to come when the online schedule said it would be there.  And I waited; and I waited.  Almost 30 mins passed and I realized something wasn't right.  So I had to think of Plan B.  I would walk up to Savemart, see if they would cash my check, get something to eat and get the bus pass another day.  I walked toward Henderson and as I got to the corner of Milo and Westfield, there was another bus!  I thought well, I'll get on that one and take it to the Hub.  It worked!  I got there, and then walked to the bank, cashed my check, and felt pretty good about things.  I walked back, had Subway for lunch, and then went into the bus station.  I paid $36 for my pass (worth it), took a horrible picture and got a schedule.  The online schedule was WAY off.  I had an hour to kill to I went to Savemart and got some stuff then went back and waited 30 mins for the bus back to work - which got me there by 1:15. 

It's now been a week of all this, and I've come to realize that it's pretty neat taking the bus.  Some of the lines take me all around before getting me home, but I don't have to walk very far at all to get home!  Pretty much door-to-door service!  I can sit in an air conditioned bus (my car had no air), read my book that I'm turning into a screenplay for Mr. Butler, listen to my music, and hope that my Mother, Grandmother and Great Aunt are proud of me.

Today I needed to get to the store and back, and it was awesome!  I read, I shopped, I read again, and I was home.  Yes, it took longer than if I had a car, but really, it was really .... FUN.

I've come to recognize some of the same riders, and even have started talking to the bus drivers.  Yes, ME - the educated teacher snob.  For the most part, everyone is really nice and like everyone else in the world just want someone to talk to.  The drivers are really nice, and there are many ways to get through town. 

I'm thinking of hopping on some bus lines I've never rode (is that correct English?).  I think it would be fun!  An adventure in Porterville.  See where things take me. 

The best gift from all of this is realizing that I don't have to be a spoiled brat in order to take care of myself.  I just have to muster up that good Russian stock inside myself and know that I am the result of three generations of strong women who never let anything stop them from going and doing (cocking and fahling, in Yiddish).

 So, I think God is teaching me a great lesson in humility, trust and strength of character.  I gave up on myself this summer, resorted to many self-destructive behaviors and actions.  I think now is when God is saying, "Hey, dumbass!  You're better than that!" 

And, so is my lesson of the bus.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Mental Illness

From January 18, 2009

I just figured something out. I have been wondering why it is that when people suffer from a physical illness everyone rallies around and is loving and supportive, as we all should be; but when someone has a mental illness, something as simple as depression, it seems that people pull away or get tired of the constant sadness and the depressed person usually ends up alone - thereby making the illness worse!

So, I thought about it and what I came up with is that a physical illness, like cancer (God forbid) is seen as something not in the person's control, whereby mental illness is something we're told to just snap out of. Depression or just about any other kind of mental illness is seen as something under a person's control. And it's not.

I've been watching the Seven Deadly Sins on the History Channel and the sin of Sloth is being discussed. One historian says this, I paraphrase: In the ancient world, descriptions of depression are not accompanied with any particular stigma. But by 400 AD when Christianity became more prominent, the idea of depression as a sin became very prominent.

When the original creator of the eight sins (before Pope Gregory changed them to 7), and listed sloth as two sins (acedia and tristitia), he changed the way society viewed sloth. Mental illness was then seen as a illness of the SOUL - a PUNISHMENT from God. And THAT'S how mental illness became very shameful.

I wish more people understood that no one CHOOSES to live with mental illness anymore than a person chooses to live with diabetes or any other physical ailment. But people with mental illnesses are ostracized by society, and even their own friends.

People with mental illnesses are still seen as just plain old crazy, not worthy of attention and help. When a person who has just had surgery can't move to clean their house or make dinner, someone is always there to help. But when someone who suffers from debilitating depression can't get off the couch to clean or eat right, it is seen as a situation they put themselves in and should just get over and get up and do what they're supposed to do.

Friends and family of people with mental illness should realize that it's just as debilitating to be depressed as it is to have a cast on your leg. The desire is usually there; it's the energy that has been depleted. It's the overwhelming feeling of "what for", "why bother" and "it's not worth it anyway" that causes people who are chronically depressed to let their lives get away from them. It's not a choice; no one would choose to live like that.

Yes, there is medication to help. Absolutely, and just like any other illness or disease, when someone suffers from mental illness they should go to the doctor and discuss it, get medication and therapy. The sad part is, many insurance companies also treat mental illness like it's unimportant. They usually give a person 6 or so therapy sessions, or don't pay for the right medication. It's all the same crap as someone with a physical illness and health insurance (don't get me started on the health insurance industry). And one last fact . . . many people who suffer from a mental illness do not have health insurance.

So, I ask that if you know someone with a mental illness or who suffers from chronic depression, please - be more understanding. Lend a hand more. Talk to them. Let them cry on your shoulder. Everyone needs someone to cry to, someone to hold them when they do. Don't just stand there and ignore it. Make the effort . . . pretend they have a cast on their legs, cause sometimes that's what it feels like. And if it seems like it's not going away, that's because depression and mental illness ISN'T a broken bone. It's a broken brain . . . and that's not easily fixed. It's like having diabetes or cancer . . . and the longer it goes untreated or dealt with the worse it gets.

And yes, it can have the same fatal ending . . .



Check out Absent, a documentary a friend of mine is working on. It's about the affect of absentee fathers. Very important issue!

10th Beginnings

Well, I've decided to start blogging again. I'm going to write about various issues, things that pop into my head - things I think other people need to know my opinion about. LOL

I hope you'll follow me on this journey as I try to understand our world. Feel free to leave comments, etc. I have a few blogs that I follow, and please read theirs as well.

What this will NOT BE is a Gerard Butler blog. This blog is going to be used about life issues, what I'm thinking about, etc. Perhaps he'll creep into the topic once in a while, but this will in no way be a fan blog of any sort.

This will be used to voice my opinion about issues that are important to me such as bullying, education, health, some celebrity, probably not politics, maybe religion ... I have a VERY STRONG opinion about things, and am pretty liberal politically. Comments are more than welcome, so are discussions, but arguing with me is not going to be okay. This is MY blog - you want an argument go somewhere else. This is purely for discussion and thought provoking only.

I look forward to emptying my head of useless information, maybe some not so useless information, and your feedback.

Thanks for your friendship!