Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Mirror of a Beautiful Soul

This is a reflection of a gutte neshuma, a beautiful soul; a tribute not only to the loving mother and Bubby now physically untouchable, but to her her son who loved her with a brimming heart and lives his days worthy of a lifetime of nachas, joy and blessings, for any mother. 

The gathering of men at 6:30 am on a random Monday morning, packed side by side, numbering over thirty...this is the reflection of an honorable man, a kind soul, a pure and spiritual son living his life righteously.  they showed up to ensure the required men for the morning prayer service, far in excess of the required ten.  

They showed up to say "Here I am, here for you, here to pray along side you, to prop you up in these times of grief, and join my voice with yours to share your pain. They showed up out of respect, to act as a witness, to pay homage to your beloved mother, but mostly to the man, son, father, leader, doctor, friend, uncle, and brother that you have become that indisputably would make any mother ache for such a son.

It was a full house last night, friends gathering from all stages of our lives, all corners of the city, touchstones from different eras throughout the evolution of his life, from fresh-faced doctor to spiritual leader, from work-all-day young doctor to a man who invests more in his soul and spirit than in the stock market, who leads his life guided by age-0ld wisdom and rituals rather than ego-driven wordly desires. Crammed with only a sampling of lives that his has touched, it was a community standing there with open arms ready to walk along side during saddened days, listen to stories while sipping coffee, and simply be a rock for the shakey legs of an orphan. They showed up as a physical reminder that he is loved, cherished, and never alone. 

Community doesn't happen by luck or get created merely by the address of your home.  This sort of network, where they rush in to help before even being asked, where food overflowed and arrangements are taken care of without request is the greatest love gift.  It's born from decades of leadership, passionate volunteering of time and money for his vision of a vibrant Jewish community, a healthy family, and the ability to wrap all those he loves in a bubble to protect them from any and all pain and suffering.  

It's born from years of willingness to endure growing pains, make sacrifices, and humbly admit that there's always more to learn, more to do, more to improve upon, becoming a man any mother would clamor to claim as her own.

She would have been so proud.  She was proud - from the moment her first born son was born. It's a lot of pressure being the son that all hopes for a new and better life are pinned upon.  It's a lot of pressure to make up for the pain of all of those murdered senselessly; to hold the dreams of a new future, a life worthwhile of surviving, the meaning in parent's days found in the birth of a son born in freedom.  She was proud...proud of his success, of his family he created, grateful for the gift of grandchildren, and mostly, proud of her first born son who holds up his entire family with both hands and an open heart.  She had to have rested easy knowing that her beloved moishe serves as a pillar in his ever-widening circle, living a life worth emulating, and serves as a role model to more people than he will ever realize.  

She knew all along what a good husband, father, son, and brother he was, as do the rest of us lucky enough to know the man behind the doctor and businessman facade.  Sometimes it takes us longer to recognize what everyone else can see. The reflection in his mirror can become warped and the precious crucial gem that we all see gets skewed by the chatter in our brains. 

So today, while the mirrors are covered and he spends the day uncomfortably shifting on a low, hard mourners chair, his community will act as his true mirror-image - the validation of a mother's greatest wish - to raise a menche, living a life of torah and meaning, with honor, spending his hours healing, supporting, giving and loving those within arms reach.

We gather to pay tribute to Tosha Rene Bottner, his mother, my last remaining grandparent, but the reflection in the mirror tells the story of why it's standing room only in this ample sized house. It's the pair of glasses that portray the true man that we all can see and adore. 

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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

House Lust

My apartment finally feels like a home - at least inside the walls. Yet, a sad disappointment of what i was actually looking for.  I need outdoor space to garden and a yard where i'm allowed to leave out a chair.  I want to sunbath with my puppy in the morning rather than sit inside because I have no patio.  We'll skill complaining about schlepping laundry and heavy groceries up the never-ending flight of stairs and glide right into the drawers that don't glide at all, or the nonworking deadbolt, sure to ease parental anxieties.

Regardless, is it worth packing up this place that I just spent two months perfecting? Is it worth the hassle of getting out of my lease? It might be a xanax-craving event but would it be worth it?

That answer is clear.  As long as I can remember, its that one question that strikes panic in my heart.  "What are your dreams? What are your goals? What do you want to do with this life?"

AAAAHHHHH. Time to hide under the covers.  How did i miss that class? Where was I when they taught dream creation? How is it that i draw a blank when it comes to dreams and aspirations? What is wrong with me that i don't have a burning passion to be something, go somewhere, accomplish some great feat? I don't itch to travel or yearn to do any profession that offers an income seeing as what I love more than anything is writing, and that's not such a great monetary 5 year plan.

My answer to the dreaded question? There is only one and it's remained steadfast for as long as I can remember. I yearn to own a home.

A sanctuary I can create with produce planted lovingly from the garden and hand-tended jasmine lining my walls.  I drool over a sun soaked backyard where I can write and play in the grass with my puppy.  I ache to paint walls without wondering if its worth it since i'm just going to have to paint them back white when I move, or be able to mount my tv on the wall without worrying about repairing the damage when my lease is up.  Staunchly against reality television, I've crossed over to the dark side when it comes to "love it or list it", "house hunters" and "property brothers", sure that i'm now fully qualified to just knock down that wall and rip up the old carpet to reveal gorgeous hardwood floors.

My one and only dream is to own a home of my own, my security insurance policy and the sense of grounding that occurs knowing I have a place to call home for forever.

Home is my safety zone - where i get to shrug off labels, expectations, facades and stiff jeans and ease into pjs and exhale. Rooms filled with meaningful objects and set up exactly to my liking allow my eyes to rest anyway and still feel an unmatched sense of peace.

It's not the same renting a one bedroom apartment. Not the same when your music competes with the neighbor's tv, and i worry about the noise from playing fetch with Gracie for my downstairs friends.  Not the same when you must become a quarter whore for laundry or park in an alley behind your building. Forbidden from painting, planting, and upgrading, i'm left feeling like a house guest, powerless to do any improvements other than replacing the faucet head of my sink.

Perhaps its stupid, but even just walking to my own mailbox where i could actually send and not just receive mail makes me smile.

I'm a nester.  I can't help it.  I arrived in phoenix at 7:40 last night and by 8:04 was fully unpacked and transformed the room into my own.  I can't help it. It's something about belonging, finding space to breathe, and the calmness that ensures from everything in it's rightful place.

At heart, i'm a small town girl ironically living in LA. I was happier living in Buffalo Gap, middle of nowhere texas, pop. 637 including the actual buffalo i lived next to. With its two restaurants, one movie theater, and 24-hour walmart, i was perfectly happy and entertained. I like the quiet life, living outside and spending days with the sunshine, friends, and my four-legged shadow.

So that's it. I might wish to publish a book or expand my professional organizing business. It'd be nice to travel to luxerious beaches or explore foreign lands.

But ask me what I ache for? There's only one answer.

A home-base to call my own.

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SURVIVOR: To remain in existence and continue to function.  To live on.  To prosper.

In every way, Bubby Rene was a true survivor.  Not merely choosing existence, she came to this country and built a full life.  She would have fit the bill just by continuing to breath in and out.  She would have complied by she lived a quiet, shut-down, closed-off life.  

But she didn’t.  

Bubby Rene was a survivor by definition, living out loud with uncontainable love.  She prospered, swimming in nachas from even the smallest moments of joy. My short, soft, perfectly coiffed Bubby couldn’t lavish us with enough kisses and cottonpj’s, meatloaf or kishkas.  She wasn’t simply a bystander in her life, but rather a full-fledged participant; always ready with a meal at the drop of hat lest we feel a twinge of hunger and unclasping any complimented piece of jewelry before we could finish to try and give it to us.

She taught me the definition of love.  It’s pure love to know that Bubby Rene would be waiting outside on the balcony, sometimes for over an hour, just to have the first glimpse of our arrival, before she rushed to the front door to listen for footsteps.  She defined it in the way she hugged so tight and smothered my face with enough kisses to wash it clean, in the exorbitant number of photos of her children and grandchildren.  She defined love with the gleam in her eye any time the names of her children were mentioned.  

I miss my bubby.

Then again, I’ve missed her for a long time.  I don’t remember the last time I heard her admonish me “Don’t touch the hair” in her thick polish accent or was enveloped in a squishy hug.  It’s been a long time.

But Bubby Rene was a true survivor, even when it seemed like there was no good reason to anymore.

She lived on, no matter what.

She lived on because for every second that she could, she would breathe for those she loved who never got the chance.
She lived on because it was worth it somewhere, somehow, for another second with her family.

She lived for those she mourned, and those she loved.

I will forever be blessed to have had her and been loved by her.

If the motto is “We must always remember, We must never forget” She doesn’t have to worry.  

Bubby Rene, you are unforgettable.  I love you forever

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Monday, January 6, 2014

Lamed-vav Tzaddikim

In any generation, there are thirty-six of them, who through their goodness and virtuous acts, hold the world together. You probably wouldn't recognize them in their various disguises stopped at the red light or pushing the shopping cart in front of you, but they are there, quietly grasping dropped edges so that our world doesn't start to fray.

 36 righteous ones, Lamed-vav Tzaddikim.

Well, I've sussed one of them out.

She thinks she's nothing spectacular as she volunteers to help at the hint of a need.  She doesn't even know her true identity while she "mims" you with the perfect thoughtful gift "just because I love you." She lives honestly and kindly, tending the souls of those she loves with the ultimate attention to detail.  She has magic hands, deftly carving her designs so that from a blank canvas emerges a masterpiece of beauty.

She hasn't yet parted seas to my knowledge, or drawn water from a rock.  She doesn't have cool super-powers or the need for a phone booth to morph into an alter-ego.

But just spend an afternoon with her and it becomes clear you're in the presence of greatness.

They say that you never know who these 36 saintly creatures are, never know when you might have the good fortune to bump into one of them on the sidewalk, so you should treat everyone you meet as if they had that potential. Out of the 35 that are left a mystery that is.

The last one is safely at home, recharging her batteries, before resuming her job as mom, wife, sister, aunt, friend, artist and healer; sprinkling small kindnesses and transforming her corner of the world as instructed.

If you're lucky, you might stumble across a Tzaddik in your lifetime.  If you're unbelievably blessed, you might be born to one.

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Thursday, January 2, 2014

Arrival at grown-up milestone ETA 2:05

It just hit me.  I've been distracted with arranging pick ups and delivery and worried about squeezing in cleaning between the removal of the old and the arrival of the new. 

But suddenly i realized I'm crossing "GO" and passing a grown up milestone. For the first time, I'm not lying on my parents' old teal couch, lugging one up the stairs from "the guy on craigslist" or salvaging it from the side of the road. For the first time, my tush will be the only one that's plopped down so far on it's cushions.  A brand new couch will be arriving shortly to Wooster Street...try to contain your excitement.

This is a big girl couch: smokey gray, soft and long enough to stretch out on for a lazy sunday snooze. 

What the hell is it doing in my apartment??

I'm used to being transient, on a first name basis with movers, and decorating like a starving student.  While it does breed creativity (did you know a drawer turned on it's bottom can be used as a shelf and storage?! I'm used to browsing the aisles of Goodwill and scrubbing paint stains from flannel pants for my "fixer-upper" furniture.  I'm used to honing my "cheap" radar, always fearful of the unrealistic, totally needs to be gotten over, rainy day when i'm living out of the box my sofa came in.

Again, definitely a place for cheap and creative, especially when you want things that can be painted, traded, and replaced if you change your mind.  But there's something about a couch - it has the home smell...you know, the one that you can't smell but other people say your house smells like you (hopefully in a good way). So perhaps this couch will actually belong here.  And if i can resist the urge to keep it covered in plastic like Bubby Rene taught me, just to keep it clean, then it will actually be a beautiful comfy piece of furniture in this apartment I'm trying to make a home.

So it's a big day. 

But then again, i have to admit, it's a lot easier to pass growing up milestones when the couch is a gift...I'm not sure i get to count this as some internal accomplishment or soul-growing improvement...

Still, i did manage to overcome my inner stupidly fearful child and accept the gift - does that make a difference?

Either way, ETA 2:05 PT.

I'll be unavailable for the rest of the day...I have a date with the couch. 

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