Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Imagine One Day

It is both a blessing
And a curse
To feel everything
So very deeply.
- Unknown

I woke up to see this quote first thing this morning. It summarizes my state of mind right now. This post is not about facts and figures. There are plenty of those available with a simple google search and a discriminating mind. This post is about my heart.

Perhaps I have too many news feeds. Perhaps I am reading these news feeds more than I should. Perhaps I am weary of being tolerant. Perhaps I am a bleeding heart and I do want to save the world. Perhaps my heart is exploding. 

I am worn down by trying to understand why others do not understand.

Children must be taken care of in this world. No matter where they are or how they got there. The conversation starts and ends at this place. That migrant child could be my child. It could be my grandchild. I am simply one of the lucky ones to live in this amazing country. I am not special that I happened to born in the right place at the right time. I honestly wish all the refugees of the world could come live here. I am having a hard time understanding why there is any circumstance that would prevent us for caring for a child. It is so simple really: care for the child, love the child and the adult they become will be caring and loving.


I have never felt more Jewish. The war in Israel and the world's reaction boggles my brain. The anti-semitism is frightening. It makes me afraid for my Jewish sons and their future. I Stand with Israel. Not sure I would have typed that one month ago. As a student of history and understanding its connection to the present, the purpose for a Jewish State is crystal clear to me.


There is the Congo and Syria and Darfur and Gendercide and Genocide and Female Circumcision and Child Trafficking and how can all of this go on in the modern world? And Rwanda and Cambodia. Really how does this keep happening?

I want my heart to burst each day. The alternative is unacceptable. And I will share this heart with my children and we will attempt to put actions behind our beliefs.

So tomorrow Oldest Son and I will attend the "Dallas Supports Israel Rally" at City Hall Plaza. On Thursday we will attend a press conference held by Dallas Area Interfaith at Temple Emanu-El where a letter advocating for the migrant children and signed by religious clergy from all over Texas will be presented.

And I will push the Publish button on this post. I refuse to be part of the bystander effect. "The probability of help is inversely related to the number of bystanders. In other words, the greater the number of bystanders, the less likely it is that any one of them will help." The astonishing reality is that we do not need to study history to see this happening; it is all around the world today.

There are so many much more eloquent than I ... and my tears will stream as I listen to these lyrics over and over.

Click here

John Lennon - Imagine

Click here

Matisyahu - One Day (Cover by ‎Sara Merson)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Time Recaptured

Sometimes my country Southern upbringing wraps around me like a familiar, comfortable sweater. I can feel my Texas twang seep into conversations and especially my exclamations. The interplay of genuine hospitality and a dusty warm afternoon sipping sweet ice tea is like a calming balm.

Yesterday was one of those days.

Yesterday brought back a list that neither my children nor I often experience living inside the loop in Dallas:

  • Crossing a rusty cattle guard and opening the gate to a grassy, mesquite tree filled pasture
  • Sitting on a wrap around front porch avoiding the dirt dobbers dashing about our selected spot
  • Feeling the soft breeze off the hills of central Texas while attempting to stay in the shade
  • Walking across uneven cracked, linoleum floors to stand in front of a cool window unit air conditioner
  • Listening to the sounds of dirt bikes and the hoops and hollers of the riders
  • Stepping around cow patties and prickly cactus
  • Watching bursts of color all around us as both the real kids and grown-up kids set off fireworks purchased from a beside-the-road stand 

But the best part is intangible and hard to describe. Growing up with cousins, aunts, uncles and life-long friends in a small town has a cadence. To recapture that rhythm and the associated chaos even for an afternoon is a gift. 

Commuter Husband, Oldest Son and I spent Sunday in Jacksboro, Tx. We were welcomed into our friends' slice of Americana where the relationships are the unrivaled part. While we were technically the outsiders, we were easily embraced by the gathering of kin. Land and a house tie this group's past, present and future together. They are so fortunate.

And for a day, we were fortunate too. The thought of the chirping cicadas as dusk rolled into a night filled with big bright stars brings a smile even as I type these words ...

Commuter Husband sprays the wasp nest as Oldest Son and Friend dash out of range. Supposedly there were 30 wasps targeted!

Teenage boys and dirt bikes ... Enough said.

Front porch swings are timeless.

Placing fireworks - it was a spectacular show!

Just sitt'in on the front porch ...

"The Farm" house with a thousand stories.

A windmill. A sunset. Simple pleasures.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

These Are Children

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever does.

(Margaret Mead)
Tonight I attended the Immigration Response Meeting: Temple is working with Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins' office and Dallas Area Interfaith to address the crisis created by unaccompanied children fleeing violence in Latin America. This is an informational meeting to have a say in Temple's response.

A couple weeks ago, I called my friend and Program Director at Temple Emanu-El to find out if Temple was doing anything to help the children. Her quick response was "Of course" and she proceeded to tell me about the information meeting on July 16th.

We learned the following:
  • 60,000 children have crossed the southern border and 90,000 are expected by year end
  • Most of these kids are in the Valley in detention centers
  • 85% are being placed with family members in the US while awaiting a judicial hearing
  • The remaining 15% need care (the math results in over 10,000 children)
  • 80% are suffering from malnutrition
  • Expect to need foster care families
  • Lawyers are needed to help in immigration court, which will be in city where the child is placed
  • Providing a "Know Your Rights" presentation to these kids but many are too young to understand thus using World Cup analogies to explain the situation to them
  • There was a large Interfaith Coalition meeting at Park Cities Baptist on July 15th
  • Judge Jenkins taking the lead and 2,000 children are expected in Dallas county by the end of July
  • Three Dallas locations were visited by Health and Human Services yesterday and construction is expected to start this weekend to prepare the facilities
  • 400 cases already in Dallas courts last week - immigration courts will be overwhelmed
  • This is a fluid situation and not clear on roles yet
surge 2008-13
READ this article CLICK HERE: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/06/child-migrants-surge-unaccompanied-central-america
Then Rabbi Asher Knight asked us:
  • What are the moral implications and tensions of this crisis?
  • What would it mean for Temple Emanu-el to be a leader responding to the crisis?
Unfortunately I had to leave before this last part of the meeting played out. However, I can provide a personal answer to the second question. Two weeks ago when I wanted to help, my first thought was to call my Temple. I expect Temple Emanu-el to help when there is a humanitarian crisis. I look to my Temple to help the community and to help congregants like me navigate to a helpful place. Tikkun olam, repairing the world, through social action and social justice is humanity's shared responsibility.

In my mind, there is NO option but to help these displaced children in this moment. I am thinking of the mothers who made an unspeakable choice; or of the abandoned child's anguish I cannot possibly imagine that would send them on this perilous journey. The conditions and situations surfacing about this crisis are beyond my real comprehension.

And I am comforted by these words from a child ...
How wonderful it is that no one need wait a single moment to start to improve the world.
Anne Frank

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Mouse in the House ... Still

The remodel lives on and now it has brought us another friend. Tuesday evening Oldest Son and Youngest Son were waiting for me to join them at the back door to unlock it.

As I was walking up the sidewalk, Youngest Son ran towards me shouting "We have a mouse!"

My mostly tired response was "Are you sure it is a mouse and not a rat?"

The boys had seen it scurrying across our unfinished wood floors and under the plastic covered furniture.

Youngest Son replied emphatically "It is bigger than my dwarf mouse was and smaller than Shakespeare was; it is a mouse." Shakespeare was the 2nd grade class rat we cared for one summer break.

Both boys were hyped and Youngest Son was nervous about the loose rodent. I called Commuter Husband but knew this was my chore. Unfortunately, small furry animal disposal falls into my role if it hits on a weekday. There are many moments when being a Commuter Family is NOT optimal and this certainly was one of them!

Tom Thumb only had poison. I know what happens when mice eat poison and crawl somewhere to die. The smell can be worse than having the live creature about the house. I was off to Home Depot before they closed in 10 minutes. I could not bring myself to buy the sticky paper which seemed cruel even to me. I opted for some fancy plastic contraption and headed home.

Well, while I was away our creative boys were busy.
YOUNGEST SON: Created a trail of feta cheese with a string tied to one piece at the end. I guess the plan was to sit up all night until the mouse was fooled??? And bang it to death???? I kindly told him to sweep it up and that would not really work. The white bits are mostly paint - have I mentioned the remodel? 
OLDEST SON: Created a bowl trap. Hmmmmm. I just said okay. See the small piece of cheese in the middle? I found it interesting that he came up with this approach.
MOMMY WITH COMMUTER HUSBAND: How could this fail? Says "Guaranteed!" right on the package. 
Trap was set with Peanut Butter. Think perhaps that hole in the wall could be part of the problem?%%$#?!!@
NEXT MORNING: Cheese was gone from Oldest Son's trap but alas the mouse was not caught.
5 DAYS LATER: No mouse in my trap either. Huge Sigh.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Embracing My Flatness

I get to wear these cute kinds of shirts now!
I am 17 months beyond my bilateral mastectomy (BMX.) 

I HAD breast cancer:

  • DCIS - Ductal Carcinoma In Sutra
  • Noninvasive
  • Intermediate to High Grade
  • Found in routine mammogram with follow up stereotactic biopsy

My treatment choices meant:

  • No additional types of cancer found in the final pathology report so no oncologist and no chemotherapy
  • No radiation and no tamoxifen (hormone drugs) because I chose a BMX (versus a lumpectomy)
  • No more medical procedures or risk of additional infection because I chose no reconstruction

I am lucky, lucky, lucky for so many reasons.

I do have shoulder issues which I believe to be tied to the breast cancer surgeries. I have an orthopedic appointment this month. Oh well, that is life. It will not kill me.

I have fully and comfortably embraced my flat chest. 

I enjoy the beautiful scarves - most of which were gifts from all the caring people in my life. However, the Texas heat is not always conducive to extra layers and I do not attempt to camouflage what is just not there either. Frankly, no bra totally works for me and I can wear certain shirts now that would have not have worked with my not-so-small breasts before BMX.

I have not completed genetic testing yet. That is hopefully the final chapter ...

Sunday, July 6, 2014

A Shabbat Filled with New Experiences

Saturday Afternoon - July 5th

Me with a matter of fact voice " ... well it is a different kind of place ..."

Oldest Son with a half smile and air of mischief "That describes most places you take us." 

Previous Friday Evening - July 4th

We chose a unique way to celebrate July 4th this year. Some background is required.

Etgar 36: Here is a description from their website CLICK HERE FOR WEBSITE
Etgar 36 is dedicated to developing the future Jewish political voice by taking Jewish teens on journeys throughout America, developing their identities, and empowering them to get involved politically and socially to change the world.

The Etgar trip is not a religious trip, rather, it is a Jewish identity experience in which the participants will discover how, and on what level, Judaism relates to them as American citizens. They will see America through Jewish eyes.

35 Jewish high schoolers start in Atlanta and travel through the South up through California over to Chicago and down through Washington, DC finishing in Greenville - CLICK HERE FOR CITIES
The itinerary is remarkable CLICK HERE TO VIEW WHAT THEY DO

This journey defines what I love about Judiasm. It is not about telling Jews what to think but instead it teaches how to think and more importantly how to question the status quo.

The Etgar 36 Dallas stop included a JFK exploration at the Sixth Floor Museum and Conspiracy Museum. They also met with a right to life organization and later in another city they will meet with NARAL, a pro-choice organization. These curious teens will experience first hand the rhetoric and be equipped to make up their own minds.

Beth El Binah: Here is a description from their website CLICK HERE FOR WEBSITE
Beth El Binah is a Reform Jewish Congregation welcoming people of all backgrounds. We recognize that all men and women are created in b’tselem Elohim, in the image of God. In Hebrew, Beth El Binah means “house of an Understanding God.”

Beth El Binah was founded as a synagogue with an outreach to the GLBT community. We became a congregation in 1989 and joined with the Union of Reform Judaism in 1992. Today we have a very diverse membership which reflects the evolution of our community.

The Etgar 36 group was hosted by Beth El Binah Friday night for Shabbat dinner, service and a spectacularly candid discussion about marriage equality and challenges in the GLBT community. Later in the trip these kids will hear from a group that is against marriage equality - again supporting the notion of educating young minds with all viewpoints to empower them to stand up for their chosen beliefs.

Commuter Husband, Oldest Son, Youngest Son and I Were There Friday Night. We attended with another Temple Emanu-El family whose son is an 11th grader at our kids' same school, who are in our Chavurah group and who know one of the Etgar 36 boys (from NY) participating. I learned about Etgar 36 in a Tablet magazine article and a series of coincidences led us to be together this July 4th.

The group of 50-60 sat in a crooked circle at the Oaklawn community center as we celebrated with a short Shabbat service. Even in this simple setting, the prayers and songs of our Reform Judaism created a comforting connection.  After the service, listening to the vibrant and colorful discussion about GLBT issues of the day was sad, encouraging, infuriating, informative, surprising, racy and often humorous. We were privileged to be part of this learning experience. Open minds create open hearts.

Ark holding the Torah and Ner Tamid (Eternal Light)
Saturday - July 5th

Saturday brought another kind of exceptional adventure. Commuter Husband and I took the boys and 3 of their friends to Burger's Lake in Fort Worth CLICK HERE FOR WEBSITE

Burger's Lake is a spring fed, sandy bottomed swimming hole with diving boards, trapeze swing, slides, picnicking, etc. I went there when I was a kid! It has not changed much. The clientele is not high brow but more of lower to middle class families having simple fun that families have enjoyed for decades.

This was a Saturday that was celebrated the way Shabbat is intended - cease work, enjoy your family and be in nature ...
Youngest Son jumping off the high dive - it is quite high!
Our 5 boys playing tether ball - see the trapeze in background?
Commuter Husband manning the picnic table.
Saturday Afternoon - July 5th

Commuter Husband to Oldest Son " ... that is what I love about your mother she takes me places I would never go ..."

My Experience Junkie alter ego got a HUGE Fix this weekend. I love, love exploring new ideas and places in the world with my family. 

Friday, July 4, 2014

Early Adolescence

Yesterday in the car on the way to soccer practice:

Youngest Son asks a question but it was more of a statement "You had a good day?"

I respond with an actual question "Why do you think I had a good day?"

Youngest Son responds "Because you're playing the music loud."

I respond with interest  "So when I play the music loudly that means I had a good day?"

Youngest Son confirms "Yes."

Youngest Son was able to interpret my nonverbal cues showing increased cognitive development around logical inference. Uh Oh.

Tonight as the family arrives home late and prepares for bed:

Oldest Son says to all "Okay everyone get to bed."

Oldest Son reminds me in his deep voice "Hurry up to bed."

I look at him quizzically.

Oldest Sons declares "I want everyone to be in a good mood tomorrow. Everyone needs their nine and a quarter hours of sleep."

I look at him quizzically again.

Oldest Son more emphatically "You get up early and do not get enough sleep. I do not want you to be grumpy tomorrow."

Oldest Son has observed the impact of lack of sleep for me and is attempting to change a result he predicts will occur. Oh my.

I am now parenting boys in early adolescence (ages 12-14.) I am not just Mommy anymore. They are starting to understand things at a more complex level. And that parents have talents and weakness and strengths and oddities and on and on ...

I am scared and amazed at the same time.