The Magic of Midnight (100 WCGU)

The midnight hour holds the deepest magic.

Once a year, colored lights fill the sky as midnight strikes; celebrating a new beginning and scaring off the evil spirits of yesteryear. Anything and everything becomes possible, balancing on the line between what was and what will be.

A kiss at midnight, either that of true love or the icy touch of a departed loved-one as he says goodbye.

At midnight we can let go of yesterday and take our first steps into tomorrow,

The known and the unknown lie in balance; it’s up to us to embrace the magic and step into the unknown.

My first night in Bratislava.

Night time magic in Bratislava, Slovakia

Carrying Paradise Inside

I have learned some important lessons over the past few weeks.

The lessons began with the horror of Newtown, when I started to question where we’ve gone wrong to create a world that is full of so much cruelty, horror, and unspeakable acts. I learned from a childhood friend, neighbor or a child who was lost, who spent the days protecting his neighbor’s and his town from the predatory journalists, armed only with a video camera and a caring heart.

Who would have thought the little blonde boy I used to babysit would grow up to be such a kind, caring man.

Who would have thought the little blonde boy I used to babysit would grow up to be such a kind, caring man.

The lessons continued with the passing of my father; the first time in my life that I really had to face the reality of our mortality, and let go of somebody I love.

Photo by Steve Kramer

Photo by Steve Kramer

Then I found myself in Hawaii, spending the holiday’s with my husband’s family. Despite the fact that I’ve spent many holidays with them, there’s always a certain amount of awkwardness in my time here. This year, that feeling was multiplied by the sadness I carried in my heart. I found myself trying to hide from:

  • the awkward reactions from people who did not know what to say to someone who just lost her father
  • the even more awkward reactions from people who simply didn’t say anything and avoided the topic all together.
  • Nathan’s father’s sometimes naive (although I believe unintentional) anti-Semitism
  • the overwhelming holiday spirit that I simply did not feel.
  • the somewhat hypocritical attitude of people who claim the virtues of living in paradise, but never really take advantage of the place they live in
  • a constant clash of cultures

As I’ve been experiencing all this, I slowly began to absorb the lessons that surround me. For example, paradise is only paradise if you take the time to appreciate its beauty.

Sunset at the luau.

Sunset at the luau.

You can find paradise on an island, but you can also find it everywhere. If you spend all your time complaining about traffic, or focusing on other things like work and money, it doesn’t matter what the sunset looks like or the weather feels like–because you won’t see it.

I’m learning that paradise is actually something you carry with you.

It can be found in the smiles of children, who learn that new friendships can be formed over the joy of hanging upside down.

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It can be found in the moments when we stop, relax, and simply enjoy the sun.

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It can be found in those moments where we run, dance, and fly.

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It can be found spending time with old friends.

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Paradise is the place where you stop and realize that the small moments, and the inexpensive pleasures filled with love and laughter are the ones that truly matter. My wish for all in the coming year is that you take a moment to stop and celebrate the life you have.

It’s simply too short not to enjoy with all the passion and love you carry inside.

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A palm with holiday lights.

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Dolphins know how to be joyous!

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Sometimes being different just makes life even more special.

Simple joys, like blowing bubbles and swimming through them, are the things that make life worth living.

 

Transitioning

I find myself once again sitting alone in an airport. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. I was supposed to leave last Thursday, with my over excited 9-year-old and my almost as excited husband. But, on Wednesday, as I transitioned from professor to person on vacation, my father made a larger transition—from life to spirit.

Transitions have been on my mind all day. Whenever I fly long distance, life takes on this surreal appearance. This morning I was with my mother, tears falling down my face as I admitted that I felt bad for leaving to head on this trip.

“I want you to go,” she said. “Dad would want you to go to.”

Now I sit in San Francisco airport, with the clock telling me that I have transitioned through time—in that usual bizarre way when time passes and yet you go backwards.

Now I sit in transition, waiting for the connection that doesn’t come for hours.  It is quiet here, for the moment, as I sit by my gate where nobody else has gathered. It’s that between time, before a new flight comes in and another flight goes out; before the transition into the next moment of reality; before the next moment of life.

How does one transition from the celebration and sadness of a life lost far too soon to join a celebration of another kind, with a loud and boisterous family that only knows a part of you?  I’m trying to find my holiday spirit, but the black ribbon pinned near my heart reminds me of a gaping hole—of a family that was once whole but now has a rip in it, just as the ribbon has been torn. I don’t know how to put on a “I’m going to Hawaii” smile when it just reminds me of all the trips I didn’t get to take with my father, and all the transitions yet to come.

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I know that life can’t stop, and that a life without transitions isn’t a life well-lived, but sometimes, just for a moment, I wish I could just freeze time and make everything stay the way I want it to be.

Do you ever feel like that?

He Was My Father

I said farewell to my father today. I kept looking for him to be sitting next to us, but he wasn’t there. My mother asked me to write a eulogy for him, and these are the words I said.

 

Photo by Steve Kramer

Photo by Steve Kramer

He was my father.

 

He shared his love of reading with me. He said that, as a child, he always loved to read, and he carried that with him throughout his life. I follow in his footsteps.

 

He was the person I went to when I doubted my own words; we’d argue over the use of commas.

 

He was the only one who voluntarily read my dissertation. I’m not sure what he thought, except he told me he needed a dictionary in parts.

 

He was the person I’d call when I applied for jobs and was unsure what to say. He made me believe that anything was possible.

 

He came to my rescue when I needed help with Sarah, whose toddler days sometimes meant I couldn’t always get my work done. Nathan had to be away for some reason, and I had a big interview to prepare for, so he came and stayed for a couple of weeks, to play with his granddaughter and even take her to the beach for the first time.

 

He printed out images of Snoopy on a dot matrix printer and handed out punch cards with messages on them as he wowed my elementary school classmates with a room full of computer technology.

 

He charmed my friends whenever they met him.

 

He told awful jokes that I’m now passing down to Sarah.

 

He greeted every spring with this memorable poem, “Spring has sprung, the grass has riz, I wonder where the birdies is, the birds is on the wing, no, the wings is on the birds.”

 

He mastered the art of telling the Passover story as quickly as possible so we could get to the food, and of giving me hints (without anyone knowing) which allowed me to find the Afikomen before the big kids.

 

His snore scared away the bears, but his joy on one particular canoe trip made the adventure even greater.

 

He made connections with people in Japan faster than most Americans who lived there.

 

He led the way on every journey we took. He loved to walk and we had to scramble to keep up.

 

He was my personal GPS system, even though I believe he and I have a completely different understanding of the term “short cut.”

 

He jumped over my wedding dress when my parents walked me down the aisle.

 

He always said that, when he was young he “walked to school barefoot in the snow uphill both ways.”

 

His favorite childhood story involved a skunk, a dog, tomato juice, and the missing seat in his pants.

 

He was the silliest looking samurai ever.

 

I learned early on never to pull his finger, and that beans were a musical fruit.

 

He played endless games with his only grandchild, who has these words to say:

 

I MISS YOU PAPA

I loved the way you laughed.

I loved the way you played games with me.

I loved that you watched me when I was a baby.

I wish I was brave enough to go to your funeral.

I miss you SO much Papa and I love you.

Rest in Peace! Sarah

 

 

He was taken far too soon, by a disease that deprived us of his wit, wisdom and his voice. Two years ago, Nathan, Sarah, and I tried to capture his memories using techniques from StoryCorps. From that interview I learned how much he loved my mother, how much he had hoped to spend his retirement traveling with her, and these words from his mouth

“I had a great life.”

 

I will miss you forever, Dad.

 

 

Baruch Dayan Ha’emet.

 

 

 

 

 

R.I.P.

Bennett Lee Kramer

May 22, 1933-December 19, 2012

Grandma and Papa-6 Sarah  and Papa 2010 Grandma and PapaLater adventures Debbie Graduates from Smith Family fun Celebrating Dr Kramer

‘Tis the Season of “Bah Humbug!” (100 WCGU)

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Bah Humbug!
Words I want to yell
in a holiday season that’s gone to h#@%

What’s there to celebrate
in a world gone mad
when every day brings word of one more sad?

Children killed
before their life begins
warped people yelling that it’s because of a world full of sin.

I look for hope
from the kind ones I know
who hurt as much as I do, to see the world so.

I yearn to celebrate
a time of peace and joy
not just an excuse to buy another toy.

Instead I find myself
In search of a sign
that there is love in the world, and it is benign.

 

I Can’t Imagine

Candle

Candle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I can’t imagine . . .
the pain they are feeling now
as infinite tears pour down my face
and I rush home to hug my child.

I’m lucky I can.

I can’t imagine . . .
what could induce someone
to destroy so many lives
with such destructive force.

I’ll never understand.

I can’t imagine . . .
why people don’t see
that violence begets violence
and leaves nothing but pain.

I’ve lost all hope.

I can’t imagine . . .
how we can fix this
as long as people cling to
their right to defend themselves.

Who is the enemy?

Today I mourn
not just for young lives
snuffed before they really lived
but for all humanity,
all who believe that war
and murder and violence
are not the answer.

We’ve lost our way

I can’t imagine . . .
how we’ll ever find it.

My Relationship with Food

Yesterday I found myself in a place I never thought I’d be.

Over the summer I was on track to “writing myself right” and I was walking my way to health.

But then something shifted, and I lost my way again. A few weeks ago I found myself in my doctor’s office, looking at a number on the scale that was higher than its ever been before. My doctor terrified me with the words that, “if you’ve gone this high it will be not time before your weight doubles.”

I didn’t agree with her words. I’ve gained and lost my whole life. I know, deep in my bones, that I can beat this. However she convinced me to sign up for a Bariatric Surgery consultation. “You don’t have to have the surgery,” she said. “It’s really a program to help you deal with your weight.”

“I know what I have to do,” I said. “I know what I have to eat,” It’s just that my head knows but my body responds in its own way.

I went home and cried.

Yesterday I found myself in an introductory meeting, surrounded by people who (for the most part) had more severe weight issues than I do. I listened to the explanation about the program, the expectations before surgery, the different types of surgery. All the while my mind was screaming “How did I get here?!” and I fought back tears. I learned that I wouldn’t even really be a candidate for bariatric surgery, or at least for a surgery covered by insurance, because my BMI is not high enough. I felt relieved, but I still wondered how I’d even gotten so close to needing the surgery. Throughout the presentation I thought, do I want to follow this program in a non-surgical track? Is this program right for me?

At the end of the presentation a group of patients who had the surgery done went up and shared their stories. They all said how it was life changing, and hard work, and took commitment. They’d all lost (or were on their way to losing) well over a hundred pounds of weight. The all seemed happy, but . . .

They all admitted that they couldn’t see their thinner selves in the mirror. They still saw their overweight selves.

One of  them had admitted that she also had a tummy tuck, plastic surgery to remove the excess skin that came after her bariatric surgery. She was still in pain two years later.

A few of them said, “the excess skin isn’t beautiful, but it wasn’t beautiful before when we were fat.”

Why not? I asked. Why can’t fat be beautiful?

Now, granted, there are many health reasons to lose weight, and extreme obesity is a dangerous condition. But it doesn’t mean people who carry extra pounds are not beautiful.

I felt like I was at a sales presentation, marketing procedures that will make you beautiful and, in that way, make your world perfect.

It doesn’t work like that.

I left thinking, this program isn’t right for me. While they do include psychological help, as well as nutrition and physical therapy, it just didn’t feel like a match for me. Maybe I’m making excuses, but I have to go with my gut here.

But then again, my gut has been leading me wrong for a long time, or I wouldn’t have been there in the first place, would I?

This morning I woke up with a new determination. I am getting back on track. I’m going to find my way back to a healthy weight, by eating with awareness and exercising. I will go back to the plan to “write myself right”. I will believe in myself and my ability to do this. I will confront the issues that lead me to seek comfort in food.  I started today, eating a healthy breakfast and then doing a 1 mile power walk with weights (a video exercise program)

While I’m doing this, however, I’m going to get up every morning, look into the mirror and say to myself, “You are beautiful just the way you are.”

Lisa the fairy queen

 

 

Post-Partum Blues: Giving Birth to a Novel

Tweeting the birth of a novel

I tweeted that this morning.

I announced it on Facebook as well. I received a lot of likes, and suggestions for how I should celebrate (many of which included alcohol and/or a massage). One of my friends wrote, “Congrats! How long did it take (don’t say ‘my whole life’)? Do something nice for an old person, to please the gods.”

ME: I won’t say my whole life. The idea for this story has been years in the making, but I officially started working on it in March 2012.

HIM: Excellent, lots of wonderful things gestate in about nine months! I sometimes think it never gets better than this very moment, the afterglow of the first draft. Bathe in it like I know you will!

ME: LOL, I didn’t even connect that it was nine months, but I on twitter I said, “My novel is born.” 😛

However instead of bathing in the joy of the completed draft, I seem to be wallowing in the doubt-filled craziness of what happens next.

When I brought the infant Sarah home, I remember looking at her and thinking, “what do I do now?” She was so tiny, I thought she’d break. I didn’t have that instant bonding moment that some mother’s claim. I mean, sure I thought she was a precious miracle, but  falling in love with her took a while. Struggles with breastfeeding that led to me pumping milk every two hours, so she could be bottle fed with mother’s milk until she was able to get enough the natural way,  made me feel more like a cow than a mother. Nathan was better at diapering and bathing her, because he’d had experience with his sister who is 13 years younger than him. I thought I was on my way to being the world’s worst mother.

Sarah_1

I felt lost in the confusion of what happens next. What do you do to give this tiny creature a healthy, loving, wonderful life? Sometimes I still ask that question, whenever I face a difficult moment of parenting or one of the new challenges come along as she gets older, smarter, and more and more independent.

But, the thing is, even with the doubts and fears that come with parenting, I know that she will go out in the world. She will be recognized for everything that makes her special–her intelligence, her kindness, her beauty, her creativity. She will, someday, become someone in her own right, and go on to do amazing things.

Close up of Sarah

When you give birth to a book, what happens next?

I have to finish the course that was associated with the beginning off this novel. My final assignment asks me to:

  • fill out a publisher (or agent) choice form
  • write a cover and a query letter
  • write a synopsis
  • My instructor also requested I send him the next chapter.

Basically, I will have created a complete submission packet, and will get feedback from someone whose been there, done that.

After that, I’ll need to edit and really make sure the manuscript is as strong as it can be before I send it out into the big, bad world.

I’m terrified. Since I’m still not 100% sure what genre this book is (although I’m pretty sure it is a New Adult novel) I don’t even know where to start looking for publishers. I’m waiting on the newest book of publishers provided by the school, in the hopes that it might contain listings for those who are embracing the New Adult genre.

Or, should I look for an agent instead? Somehow that feels right, but how do I know for sure? How do I find the person who will be willing to work with me?

Is my written child strong enough to be sent out into the dark, scary, competitive world out there?

I always get that what next sensation after finishing a project. I just wish I was better at celebrating first.

How do you feel when you’ve completed a project? What do you do to celebrate a job well done?

Moments of Joy, Moments of Sorrow: The World in Balance

It amazes me how quickly moments of our life can change, bouncing us through a second of pure joy only to have us stop at a minute of total sadness, then we twirl back into the giddiness of the journey, only to be swallowed by the inevitability of the end.

I’ve been on a journey like that for a while now.

As some of you may know by now, I’m writing a book. Over the past week or so, the story has taken on a life of its own allowing me to pour thousands of words onto the page in an incredible rush of creative power. I’ve met characters I never expected to meet. Plots and subplots have become entwined in a tale that, I believe, only partially comes from me. I have become the conduit of the unseen world of creative energy to tell a story that wants to be told.

An old creation of mine, as I learned to connect with the pool of creative energy.

An old creation of mine, as I learned to connect with the pool of creative energy.

This is exciting and energizing, but can also be terrifying and demoralizing. On a good day, I find myself writing without the knowledge of time passing. I end with a feeling of exhaustion mixed with awe and joy. Some days, however, the writing becomes a torturous journey through badly written sentences, ideas that hit brick walls, or the worst feeling of having no clue what happens next.

The change can happen in an instant.

The writing isn’t the only thing taking me on this fast-paced emotional roller coaster ride. Life in general has a way of doing that.

A few posts back I announced that I put myself out there and applied for a directing gig at a nearby university. I felt good after the interview, but knew then it would just come down to whomever those students wanted to work with, and had very little to do with my talent or ability as a director.

I didn’t get the job.  I figured I hadn’t when I didn’t get word from them last Monday, so once I received the actual rejection I’d protected my heart from total crushing, but it still hurts.

I buried myself in writing instead.

Other things, though, have crept in to make sure my joy is balanced by sorrow.

The other day, Christine Grote, a talented writer whose shared her story of her sister and her family with beautiful, powerful words, posted “A Love Story” a poignant tribute to her father who has Alzheimer’s and her mother who was recently diagnosed with cancer, and their life-long love. Reading that, brought the reality of what is happening to my parents into sharp focus. Our situations differ, slightly, but I’m still losing my Dad to Alzheimer’s and watching my mother have to learn to let him go.

Yesterday, I mourned. I struggled with the emotions I haven’t shared with anyone about what’s happening. I feel guilt. I feel sorrow. I feel anger. I feel it all.

So I write.

Yesterday, Stuart Nager, who has been going through his own struggles lately and whose passions in life are similar to mine, posted this lovely post, called “Rededidication, First Light, First Night”. In it he describes the joys of a Chanukah celebration, despite the sorrows he’s faced over the past year.

I have been lighting candles this year with a mixture of joy and sadness. I always cherish the flicker of the Chanukah candles, but this year they sing to me of loss and sadness. I miss the days of my childhood menorahs, one of which you can see in this lovely post of my brothers called “Tradition . . . tradition”. One of the family menorahs played Ma’otzur from a music box. I hold that sound in my heart, and sang it after we lit our own candles last night.

Tori’s “Tiny Spark” series, though, has reminded me that sorrow doesn’t last and we can, indeed find beauty and joy despite the pain. Read today’s contribution “A Helpful Heart”, written by the fabulous Jamie Shea  from The Life of Jamie. I read it this morning, and realized the wonder and kindness that does exist in our world, even if sometimes it feels like its hard to find.

Life can’t be all joy. Life can’t be all sorrow. Life is living from moment to moment in this whirlwind of chaotic emotion, some good some bad. All we can do, is hold on for the ride and never give up.

 

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