Don’t Mess With My People

This morning, with everyone in my community milling around getting ready for the first Passover seder, I’m going to my local JCC (Jewish Community Center) to work out in the first time in forever. Why? Because I want to make a statement: Don’t mess with my people!

Yesterday’s news of the horrific shootings at the Kansas City JCC and Jewish assisted living facility nearby, leaves us breathless and disgusted. But sadly, not surprised. Video showed the suspect – the biggest loser of them all – sitting in the back of a police patrol car and shouting, “Heil Hitler.” We’ve seen people like him before. We hear about their hate crimes almost daily still, 69 years after WWII ended and their cowardly brain-washer killed himself.

In all, the gunman shot at five people, none of whom he’s believed to have known. He killed three. A grandfather and his grandson. A woman. Turns out they were not all Jewish. 

When I pull into the JCC parking lot, I will see the boy, his grandfather and that woman in my minds eye. When I pant, sweat, and feel like croaking on the elliptical, I will go even faster in fury, unable to keep the murderer out of my mind. When I leave my community center, I will smile and wish the employes who work there a peaceful and meaningful holiday, because even if this tragedy did not happen here, we know in our hearts it might as well have.

We can only begin to imagine what Passover (and Easter) will be like for the families who have been affected by these devastating losses. The traditional passover meal question asked by the youngest child around the table, “Why is this night different than all other nights?” takes on a whole other meaning in light of such immediate tragedy.

Tonight when we talk about the meaning of freedom, I will make sure to remind my kids to use their freedom of speech to speak up against hatred and intolerance.

speak up

 

 

The Facebook Birthday Wish-Frenzy

I rarely step out of bed in the morning feeling grouchy, but today it’s happening. The Facebook birthday wish frenzy is getting ridiculous. I’m one known to chipperly get my kids up on dreary mornings, turn on music, light candles, make us breakfast and exclaim encouraging words. I look for the sunrise to bless and announce another day of opportunities. And that’s normal for during the week around here. But today that’s just ruined and so not happening. I’m feeling annoyed. That’s my status, if you should care.

It’s 7am, the sun is not shining despite the forecast, and I have just realized I came late to my mother’s Facebook birthday wish bash.

I hardly ever think of Facebook as a burden, or dumb, although I do occasionally say it is a potential downright waste of time. I admit this by now antiquated blue and white social networking website has become my default choice of down-time, rather than, say, TV for example. I’ve even been dubbed by some similarly aged friends who couldn’t be bothered as a total Facebooker-hooker with my frequent turning of tricks. But the ease and dare I say pressure of wishing everyone and their cousin (fine, mine, too) “Happy Birthday” on Facebook is getting to me.

FB-Notifications

Aside from reminding me I am a mormon for having forgotten it’s my mother’s birthday until the I see the 9 million other people having posted greetings before me on her timeline, (never mind the 6 hr time-lag; she’s in Norway and I’m in the US; I’m her daughter!), I am feeling the accumulated pressure of all the friends’ birthdays I chose to ignore by not clicking my way onto their timelines, helping them feel like the center of the universe for a few precious cyber space nano-seconds. Whatever that is.

The solution here is simple, and I know it: stop checking Facebook before I get out of bed in the morning (the horror!); and when I do go on at the two designated times during the day I will allot myself (to wean me from behaving like an addicted lab-rat running back and forth to the divinely but arbitrarily drug laden food dish 600 times an hour looking for “the” stimulus), simply notice all the reminders of birthday wishes, be happy for them and for all the posting friends, and then step away from the car, eh, I mean screen. How zen.

Just like I know I should floss daily, eat less, exercise more and drink water.

Only water.

Incidentally, as I type these last words, the sun is rising in the horizon and I’m thinking my mom’s feeling happy being remembered by people who care from all over the world on her birthday, Facebook and all.

And I haven’t even stepped out of bed yet.

Facebook Birthdays

To Share in the Shearing

A good friend of mine has cancer.  She recently asked me to take her to the hairdresser to have her hair shaved off, or what remained of it. After weeks of chemo treatment, and as the poison is hard at work in the fight, she seems to take the many side effects in stride. The pragmatist that she is –  both down to earth and far from vain –  the hair loss thing is the least of her troubles. “I cover my head now mostly for other people’s sake,” she said with a smiling but tired face the first time I saw her wearing a colorful knit hat, made by a friend, enveloping her balding head. She was sprawled on the couch under a cozy blanket, pellet stove going, with yet another friend visiting. She doesn’t have to say it. We all know she has bad days, followed by awful days, and then a few decent days; maybe even a good afternoon here and there.

The day of the scheduled “shearing” I know she rallies to find the energy, since she told me the night had been restless and spent partially on the loo – her body telling her the new anti-nausea drug did not go over as well as hoped. Comfortably installed in the barber’s chair, the clippers turned on to make that familiar buzzing sound (I have three boys, I know this sound but with such other associations), the hairdresser is herself a cancer survivor and handles the situation with such grace I feel I am observing an angel at work. Her hands running swiftly and gently over my friend’s head, she speaks candidly and quietly about her own ordeal from hair diva to hairless warrior. Just quietly enough for it to be a private conversation, but loud enough to include me, as I sit in a chair on the side watching the remaining thin locks gently fall from my brave friend’s now well defined round fuzzy head and down to the floor. They agree it feels better like this. Bald. Honest.

Bald is beautiful

It just so happens that there is a wig store next door, five feet away. “Will you get a wig?” the hairdresser asks after telling the newly hairless warrior her new ‘do is on the house. “I wasn’t planning on it,” my friend replies, looking at her, then me, seeming perfectly open to any and all suggestions. “Your insurances covers a chunk, so why not see if you find one you like?” the pro offers, adding that she herself found it had come in handy on what might have been called “bad hair days” other times, but now were just days when it would be ok with some hair. Sure enough, after a brief visit next door and some fun modeling of every style from “your husband might like this long blonde one”(coming from me), to “absolutely not,” and “no, no, no, this one makes me look like so and so”(coming from her), the perfect fit finally found its new owner and we stepped out into the warm spring afternoon, mission completed. She even got some colorful bandana head wraps for balmy summer days, thanks to the owner of the wig-salon’s deft insurance knowledge and helpfulness; another lovely spirit so obviously sensitive to the her clientele’s situation.

Wigs

Thinking all this shearing sharing and wig-sampling might have exhausted the now hairy warrior, I ask if she feels like some lunch or if she is totally pooped after our successful hit on hairdo-row. “They fill me up on drugs to counter the horrible feelings caused by the chemo, but some times even these ‘good’ drugs make me feel terrible,” she offers with a sigh. “But today, I think some soup would be good. I feel like Thai.” I pull away from the curb and gladly head toward my favorite Thai place a few blocks down, and we start to compare notes on different Thai restaurants in town, getting our shared foodie palates into an excitable mode. Smacking our lips, we decide to hold off with the pedicures until next week.

One day at a time, of counting the blessings of such simple things as being able to enjoy a hot bowl of soup, of perhaps sleeping comfortably through the night, and feeling the longed for warmth of the spring sun while sharing a laugh or two with a good friend. Of course, I too count those blessings with my friend, being privileged to have shared such a meaningful afternoon, otherwise just a regular spring day.

Thai soup

 

 

I Was on Fire

Have you ever been “on” for a job, project, or event, and while engaging with your audience (of one or many) realize you are on fire? I don’t mean the accidental, literal, “oh shit my shirt caught on fire! Help! I’m going to die!” kind of realization, but the sort that invites you to recognize, in delightful albeit brief, fleeting moments of pure presence, there is a sort of combustion going on, of magnificent, sparking energy between your mind (your knowledge), your body (the way you move and interact) and the other participants. And although you were perhaps a bit worried (in some other chemically unpleasant place different from the fabulous fire site) while waiting to go on/in/up, you now notice you are on some mind-blowing auto-pilot, where all your bullet points and plans simply vanish into the thin air, as the magic takes over and you hear yourself think: I got this. I love this. Shit, I’m on fire!

On Fire

The other night as I was speaking at an annual film festival at a local college, this happened to me, and it was almost, dear I say, an out of body experience. These are clearly other chemicals at work now (yay, yummy ones: endorphins!) than the pre-show worry ones, and the lingering feeling of euphoria for hours later is truly something to behold. It’s the same high that happens when I teach a really good class. I realize that the precious present (the now and the gift) of that dynamite moment is all about connecting with others, and what a marvelous experience it is when you know you’ve managed to connect. The associations of bright light, heat, and smoke that the state of being on fire necessarily brings are of course not actually real, but in their own right practically palpable. When your inner world successfully connects with the outer world around you, there’s all that. Schwing.

My elixir might be just this. All the reading, research, thinking and planning I do on topics that interest me is my alchemy, where I am the practitioner of a kind of transformation of matter – but theoretical matter, to convert it into a magical potion. And when I am able to share this offering, in all its fully present enthusiasm, life and work makes a lot of sense, because it feels right.

So, c’mon baby, just light my fire.

On Fire II