Friday, December 17, 2010

Remember what is important.

(Jude, the stuffed santa hamster my husband Dave bought me at the hospital gift shop last night)

Yesterday, I went into the hospital for what they term a "minor procedure." It was scheduled as an outpatient surgery, and they said it was no big deal. The risks, overall, were minor, and the surgeon has done thousands, I'm sure. And as I prepared for the "procedure," I was a bit nervous but not terribly upset about what I was having done. I was, however, concerned about how I would react to the anesthesia.

Turns out, my premonition was dead on.

When they brought me out after the short procedure, the first thing I did was throw up. That was unpleasant enough, and I did it twice. This was still in the OR. Then they wheeled me into post-op recovery, where they removed the oxygen and tried to get me coherent. At this point, I could not move my limbs and could not control my muscles to draw a breath. I was not getting air. Most frightening, however, was that I could not tell them what was going on, as I had no bodily control. It took them a moment to realize what was occurring.

In those few moments, so many thoughts were racing through my head. For one of the few times in my life, I was actually contemplating the reality of death head on.

You know how they say your whole life flashes in front of your eyes when you face "the end?" That's not quite true, at least not in my case.

My first, and most important thought, was of my wonderful husband Dave. He consumed my thoughts at that moment. In fact, I can't remember thinking about anything else.

They had me flat on the bed, and had to reintubate me with oxygen. Slowly, they were able to reverse the effects of relaxation drugs in my system, and after about 20 minutes I guess (time is vague), they took my off oxygen. Once the panic was gone, my mind was clearer, but it still focused on Dave.

It has been a tense and stressful year for me this year, with much to think about and much uncertainty.

The one constant, however, is and always has been My Dave. And for that, I am truly, truly grateful. With Dave (and our pets) in my life, the rest are all minor speed bumps to be negotiated along the way.

Love, family, friends. This is what is truly important. And what better time to be reminded of the basic important things in life than now, in the midst of all of the holiday frenzy.

I made a vow, last night, to take a moment (or 20) every day not only to recognize what is truly important in my life, but to let them know it as well.

Oh, and "Jude," the santa hamster, is named for a reason. Jude, of course, is from a Beatles song, but also is the patron saint of children. And are we not, all, children at heart?

So Jude now has a position of prominence on my desk, and is watching as I write this.

Here's to what is truly important, and may I continue to be blessed with the love and caring that surround me at this moment.

Carpe Diem.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Dancing through the Depths of my Mind

Last night I had several souls dancing their way through my brain.

This is not a unique experience, per se. I often, especially as the moon approaches its full phase, open up psychically and seem to invite visitors into my mind.

Usually, however, they appear one at a time, and make their presence known before they start knocking around in the cabinets of my cerebellum. You know, they ring the doorbell before barging in, just in case they might be catching me in my birthday suit.

I must have been wide open last night, for I had not one, but several visitors clunking around in my sacred space. It took me a while to sort them out and identify the individual forces at work there.

One was a familiar visitor, an old friend who periodically appears and likes to camp out in the place I call my "junk pile" - this is the home of my short term memory, where he pulls out random ideas, images and symbols to admire and evaluate.

"Red velvet. France. Chinese food. Turquoise."

This is how a typical encounter with Jack might sound, a one-sided litany as he dug through the rubble he discovered.

"Yes, Jack," I would answer, "But you're in the trash heap again. It's all just junk."

For Jack, however, this rubbish heap was a comfortable - and safe -place to rest.

So Jack was curled up in the trash pile last night, while two other entities poked and prodded in other - more significant areas of my brain.

Though I never identified either clearly, it became obvious that the first was a soul searching for guidance and stability. He sat towards the back of my head, just behind my right ear, scratching at me in much the same way that my poodle, Monte, does when he is desperate for attention. His need was deep - achingly so - and it fatigued me greatly as he attempted to draw from my strength to find his way.

The third force had a more sinister sense, and settled deeply into the subconscious portion of my mind, as if it were a spy, digging for forbidden information. This third force snuck in on the heels of the second, stealthily, and was much more tentative in its probing. It eventually retreated, with resignation, without finding whatever it had hoped to discover.

These visitors, each in their own spot, have an interesting effect upon my head. The first sensation is a sort of heaviness in my head, a slight pressure, in the place they enter. As they begin to explore, my head begins to buzz with energy, and it feels as if there are fairies or small animals trodding on my brain. It feels a bit like a series of goosebumps across the inside of my head. The longer the entities remain, the higher the energy levels rise. And once these forces enter my mind, it is often difficult to force them out until they are ready to go. Last night, Jack was the last to leave, snuggling in for many hours before finally letting go and slipping away into the night.

Ultimately, the biggest effect of these visits is that they sap my energy and steal my sleep. Today, I feel like the walking dead. I have often theorized that this is precisely why they come.

In times of high energy, I broadcast to others with psychic abilities, and they rush to take advantage of the available energy. Jack used to tell me that when my energy is at its peak, I transmit like a beacon, to all those who can read it. I imagine my brain as a sort of psychic gas station. Last night, I had three eager "customers" pull in to top off. While they were there, they danced through my head, poked and prodded, and left no corners unexamined.

And as I finish writing this post, in has crept Jack once again, to hang out in the junk pile of my mind, curling up in the corner just like the family dog snuggling in front of the hearth.

Now, I need a nap!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Several Holocaust Poems.

(The Ghetto Wall in Krakow, Poland)

I had another episode last night and today, where I felt overtaken by spirits who wanted to be heard. Out if this experience, came several new poems, which I have included in this blog. I will let them speak for themselves.

The (Un)natural Law of Race

The genetic tree
Has twisted roots
Driven deeply into the past.
Social Darwinists
Dig out the rot
They believe have effects that last.

Eugenic science –
Imposter beliefs –
Guide the policies of the state
Cleansing of the blood,
Curing the ailments of her people.
In hopes that it is not too late.

Misguided in thought,
The Germans complied,
And after these thoughts
Were carried out,
Millions had died.

The slippery slope
Eugenics led
Had great long-term effects.
It had at its core
The lofty goal of
Eliminating all defects.

Purity of blood,
Racially pure,
This was Hitler’s call
And then in the end,
Policies led
To Germany’s fall.

(the former killing center of Belzec, in Poland)

ABCs of Death

Auschwitz and Appell
Dachau and Dehumanization
Einsatzgruppen and Experimentation
Hitler, Himmler, and Heydrich
Lagers and Lebensraum
Mengele and Monsters
National Socialism
Piles of corpses.
Queues of prisoners
Rations of Bread
Schutzstaffeln and Selections
Unterwertige, the Undesirables
Yiddish prayer
Zyklon B

(the Memorial at Dachau, outside of Munich, Germany)

Life Unworthy of Life

Hadamar, Hartheim, Sonnestein,
Places of horrors past,
Those whose images last,
Now mingling and blending through time.

Here the victims took final breath
Never to rest in peace,
Whose suff’ring never cease,
Immortal pain, even in death.

Euthanasia was the label,
Justifying killing,
Victims went unwilling
To their deaths upon the table.

Injection, pill, or starvation,
Perhaps a whiff of gas,
Is how their deaths would pass,
All to further Hitler’s nation.

“I’m not guilty,” all would argue,
Another bears the blame,
For this genetic game,
"For Hitler’ Reich these deeds I do."

So if the perpetrator’s role
Eliminates their guilt,
Their argument was built
Upon their victims’ loss of soul.

If not the doctors, then, I ask,
Who therefore bears the blame
In Master Race’s name,
To carry out this evil task?

Perhaps we all should share the weight,
For euthanasia’s cast
For generations past,
Whose crimes of hate will not abate.

For who decides the worth of man
And who is better dead,
When valued life is led,
Or whose whole future we should ban?

When mortals play the role of god,
And choose the path of fate,
An evil incarnate
Over the human streets shall trod.

(Shoes taken from concentration camp inmates)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Dreamweaver's subtle language of the self

(Altar of the Church of the Nativity in Erie)

I have been suffering from a series of disturbing and related dreams for weeks now, so I thought it was time to write a post about dream symbolism and their messages.

Sunday, we enjoyed the Dinner in Old Russia at the Russian Church of the Nativity here in Erie. After the meal, we went into the church itself, and I spent quite a long time admiring the chapel and taking photographs. The stained glass windows in particular struck me, and reminded me that I need to be a bit more reflective myself.

(Stained glass window at the Church of the Nativity)

Perhaps it was the vivid blue of the glass, or the simplicity of the designs in the windows, but whatever it was drew my attention immediately, and kept me fixated on those windows, even as I struggled to move away and take in the splendor of the iconography that adorns every available space in the chapel.

I even stopped and lit a candle, a ritual that I do not often complete, but which I felt compelled to perform on that rainy Sunday afternoon.

(Prayer Candles at Church of the Nativity)

The three of us (me, my husband, and my father-in-law) were the only ones in the chapel at the time. My father-in-law discovered the alms box, where donations are accepted for the candles. He stated flatly, "I'm going to light a candle." And, in that moment, I knew I needed to do the same.

So I lit a candle. And I lit it for all the suffering in the world, especially those who have been the object of tormenting and teasing in their years of development and adolescence. I thought about the recent victims of bullying who have given their lives senselessly, both those whose names made the nightly news and the many, many more whose names did not see the public eye.

And the action, the lighting of the candle, also turned my attention inward, to my own experiences, and my dreams of late.

Though the subject matter of the dreams varies, there are common elements. First is the ever present element of water. Water represents emotion, and in my case the sense of being overwhelmed by emotion and not knowing what direction to turn. As the dreams have progessed, so has the size and power of the water in them. Most recently, I was swimming in (and against) the ocean, in order to reach the bathhouse, which was located offshore and only accessible through the water. What a clear message that sent me! I need to resolve my emotions, but I can only do so by pushing THROUGH the emotions themselves. Quite a spot, I'm sure.

Another common element has been the presence of a young girl, often in distress. In one dream, I watched a young girl walk into a lake and drown herself, while I and others stood by pondering her intent and wondering if we should stop her until it was too late. In another dream, I was in charge of a young girl, trying to comfort her, but instead my actions made her more distressed. In a third, the young girl was the daughter of my best friend, who was very upset and concerned that she could not dry off (she was freezing cold) and I was trying, unsuccessfully, to help her warm up. These images all seem to point to my need to nurture, but the feeling that I was not doing a very good job of it after all. It reflects my sense of insecurity and lack of confidence that I am, in fact, making a difference in the lives of those I touch, both figuratively and literally.

And underlying all the images and the messages, is the most subtle and also the most subversive of them all: the idea that I am not worthy, that I am inferior, that I do not deserve to be happy or successful.

And these feelings have very deep roots, going back to my childhood, to a childhood much like that of those for whom I lit that candle in the Church of the Nativity. But in my case, it was not just in the school yard that I experienced denigration of my self, but in the bosom of my family, at the hand of my paternal grandmother.

So, as I fight to achieve stability in my life and figure out my path, my dreams are digging deeply into my past and revealing those (I thought) long-resolved feelings of insecurity and fear, and shining them over the movie screen of my dreams over and over again, coming at me like the proverbial two-by-four to pound me into submission.

And yet, the glimmer of hope remains, as I struggle to translate this twisted language of dreamland, that I will not succumb, as I once might have, to these feelings of inferiority. Because now I have more strength and more love in my life than ever before. And with the help of my loved ones (both human and furred), I will conquer these challenges to my weary brain and move past the images of failure into the brighter ones of success.

Dreamweaver, weave your magic. But tonight, remember, I am no longer interested in wallowing in the past oceans of despair, but would like to soar to the new heights of self-awareness and control. Oh, and while you're at it, you can take the migraines with you, too.

(Ceiling and image of the iconography in the Church of the Nativity)
Here's to happy dreams, and a happy self.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

An Affirmation

(the historical map that hangs over my home desk)

Yesterday, I had a totally affirming moment with a student after my last class of the day.

The interchange validated what I do on a daily basis, and it made me feel like I was flying.

Yesterday, we were discussing the Armenian Genocide of 1915 (which did, in fact, take place) and the modernization efforts of Mustafa Kemal in the emerging Republic of Turkey in the post-war years.

After class, one student came up to talk to me. He is from Somalia, originally, and his family fled when he was just a child to avoid the violence there.

His first comment was, "I really am enjoying this class very much. I appreciate that you let us discuss things and voice our opinions and come to our own conclusions. I'm a senior, and I had been avoiding my history requirement, because I dreaded taking it. I thought it was going to be like high school, where you just threw a bunch of facts at us."

And I knew, in that moment, that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing in this life.

I am opening young minds to the possibilities.

I am charging them to become independent thinkers, to use evidence to draw their own conclusions, and to follow through on their thoughts with actions.

He went on to say that he is committed to making the world a safer place, so that things like this can not take place ever again.

He has a police background, and is working to go into full-time law enforcement.

He told me that as they were fleeing from Somalia, he asked his mother why people do such horrible things. He said, "How can this happen?"

She replied, "All that is necessary for evil to occur is for good men to do nothing." (a very famous quotation, by the way, from Eleanor Roosevelt).

And he told me that is why he is determined to go into law enforcement.

I told him we need more people like him in our world.

This thoughtful, intelligent, determined young man is going to leave his mark on our world. I can see that very clearly.

And he let me know, in no uncertain terms yesterday afternoon, that I have left my mark on him.

I feel honored.

And I flew.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Tales of the Tall Ships

(The Bounty)

This weekend the Tall Ships tackled the Erie docks for a spectacular festival showcasing these marvelous sailing vessels.

There were six ships here all weekend: The Bounty, the Niagara, the Lynx, the Roald Admundson, the Unicorn, and the Pride of Baltimore II.

We spent a delightful day on Dobbins Landing, soaking in the history and romance of these impressive ships.

My personal favorite was the Bounty, a ship built as a replica of the original Bounty in 1960 for the Marlon Brando film "Mutiny on the Bounty." This ship has also made appearances in other films, including the recent "Pirates of the Carribean" films.

This ship simply oozed romance, power, and history. Belowdecks, the woodwork gleamed. The red leather in the captain's office glowed. And we got a real glimpse of the life the sailors led as they took these ships into unknown and often dangerous territory.

(the rigging of the Bounty)

The rigging and flags on the Bounty took my breath away.

We also were able to board the Niagara, whose home base is Erie. This is a replica of the ship from the War of 1812, the flagship of Oliver Hazard Perry. It is also an awesome vessel.

(the Flagship Niagara)

Belowdecks, one has to duck in order to move through the cramped quarters. (and if I have to duck, as I stand at only 5'1" tall, you know that the ceilings are indeed low!). Aboard the Niagara, the cook was in the process of preparing lunch for the crew, in the tiny galley, and let me tell you, lunch sure smelled good!

(flag on the rigging of the Niagara)

The third vessel that we had time to tour was the Lynx, a much smaller ship that the Bounty and Niagara. Based out of Newport Beach, CA, the Lynx is an interpretation of a naval schooner, approximating the original Lynx built in 1812, which was among the first ships to defend recently won American freedom by evading the British aval fleet that blockaded U.S. ports.

(the rigging of the Lynx and the Niagara, Lynx in foreground)

The Lynx, though small, was also impressive, as we were informed that she can travel up to 12 knots under sail. A beautiful ship, indeed.

(view through the gunwhale of the Lynx)

We also took the opportunity to go to the top of the Tower on Dobbins Landing, to take advantage of the spectacular panoramic view of the ships from above.

(the view from the tower, Niagara on the left, Unicorn top right and Roald Admundsen lower right).

The weather was a perfect Fall day, with plenty of sunshine, a gentle breeze, and temperatures hovering right around 70 degrees. I could not have asked for a better overall experience, as I let go of everything but the sensation of the sailing ships around me.

And it reminded me, again, of the significance of hands on education, and the importance of seeing "how it really was."

All in all, the Tall Ships Festival in Erie rates a huge FIVE STARS out of FIVE. I hope they repeat the experience many times.

(powder barrel aboard the Bounty)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Ready or Not, Here I Come!

Today was the first day of classes for me.

As many of you know, I was approaching this day with a great deal of trepidation. How would the students respond to me? Would they KNOW I was denied tenure? Would they treat me differently? Mock me? Scorn me?

I was a bundle of nerves. Raw energy. Ready to be labeled a failure before I even began.

And I walked into my classroom at 7:50am this morning to find two thirds of the class already there. Many greeted me with a cheerful "Good morning!" I responded in kind, sounding much more confident and upbeat that I really was.

And I proceeded to the podium to open the computer and get set up for class. Of course, I was having technical difficulties (par for the course at my institution).

As I was working, I glanced around the room, registering faces and scoping the students to gauge the tenor of the class.

And I heard a bright voice ring out "Are you ready for us, Dr. Kern?"

Following the voice, I found a female adult student, smiling with bright eyes, gazing intently at me. "Are you ready, Dr. Kern? Ready for us?" She repeated.

And I smiled back at her, broadly, and responded "yes, I am! Are you ready to be back?"

And in that moment, I knew I was, indeed, ready. I have always been ready. For the classroom is exactly where I belong.

And this morning, in that 8am class, I had one of the best class sessions ever. I felt alive and vital and on top of my game, and the students responded. My passion for history and for teaching shone through all the crap and crud of the past year, and everything fell away except that passion. The students felt it. They grasped it. And I reveled in that moment.

That student, with her casual charge, "Are you ready for us, Dr. Kern?" reignited me.

So, despite the difficulty of facing my colleagues on a daily basis, and the stress of being in a place where SOME of my coworkers don't want me, I will have a good year.

Because it's not about them. It never has been.

It's about the students. It always has been, for me.

The rest of my day went well, too. I had two other good classes (though not as good as that first one), and I had a visit from a student, interested in World War II, who just stopped in to chat about his interests.

All in all, a highly successful first day back.

The first of many, I hope. It's time for my to fly, and teaching gives me my wind.

So watch out, world. Ready or not, here I come!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Headlong into the wind....

(our newly remodeled home office)

If you have been reading my blog, you know that I've had a rough time of things regarding my career. This year marks my last year at my current institution, and I admit that I am facing the beginning of the year with a great deal of trepidation.

It will not be easy.

Let's face it, it will be an extremely stressful situation, to go in every day with a smile pasted on my face, pretending that I have not a care in the world. Just thinking about going back has had me sleepless or with nightmares for weeks now.

Meanwhile, I need to figure out where I go from here.

That's not to say that I don't have ideas, or haven't been thinking about options.

Believe me, I have.

Life, however, must cooperate with my dreams. So this year, I need to be extra sensitive to the opportunities that avail themselves to me, and grab for the golden ring. In fact, one particular opportunity made itself known to me just this week, as if a sign from above. I will be following up on that avenue, rest assured!

I know that I will overcome this bump in the road.

And I know this, because I have the greatest support system in the world, waiting for me at home.

And this is how I will make it through this year.

With a newly remodeled home office space, to make working pleasurable!

And with these smiling faces and warm cuddly bodies to help make the world disappear, if even for a few hours each night.

Our sweet, adorable Miss Scarlett...

And our old man, Monte, who I swear is at least 50% cat himself...

(and our two elder cats, who remain a bit camera shy....Sulu and Lucy).

I will endure. I will survive.

And I will thrive.

Thanks to the ones who've got my back. Oh, and of course, most of all to the best warm cuddly body of all, who can always make me smile.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Hana's Story

(my sketch of Hana)

This must needs be a multiple part post. It's a bit unnerving to me, to write about Hana, because it is so close to my soul. She is so much a part of me, that it is like exposing myself when I write about her.

But I promised, so here goes.

Hana's story is complex.

I have written here before about my Holocaust dreams, dreams that started when I was a child of only about 4 years old. Over and over again, I dreamt horrible things, images of the atrocities of the Holocaust. When I began to have these dreams, I had no idea what the Holocaust was, or what any of the dreams meant. I only knew they frightened me, and that I felt as if they were not merely dreams, but memories.

But how could they be memories?

As I grew older, I began to understand what I had been experiencing. It was not until I was in my mid-30s, however, that I comprehended their full significance.

I was having dreams from a past life.

The first past life that I fully uncovered was that of Rachel, a Russian Jewish woman, who was killed in a pogrom in Russia in the 1890s. She was married to a man named Yakov, and they had a beautiful daughter, Sarah, who also perished that day in the pogrom, despite Yakov's efforts to save them.

As I began to delve deeper into my past life experiences, I re-discovered Hana.

(The town square at Kazimierz-Dolny)

Hana was a 10 year old little girl, from the town of Kazimierz-Dolny in Poland. This was a quiet market town, about 2 hours outside of Krakow. She had a lovely life before the war, adored her father and was the apple of her mother's eye. They had a small farm and her father sold milk and produce in the town square every week.

One night, as I opened myself up to her memories, a flood of names rushed at me. I believe that her last name was Skibiskova, or something similar. She also was very fond of a man named Pulli Eckstein, from the village, who served a grandfatherly role for her. Her father, Wladek played the violin, and her mother Elsabet was a strong woman with broad shoulders and a huge heart. Her maiden name was Rawkow.

Their life was peaceful and calm, until the Nazis arrived.

Her family was rounded up, along with all the other Jews in the area, and sent to the camp at Maidanek, where Hana would perish in the gas chambers. She was captured by two Ukrainian brothers, Anton and Marko Danilovich, who were aiding the Nazis with the persecution of the Jews.

Once in the transport, Hana was ripped from her parents, and she became frantic to find them again. At the camp, a female Nazi SS guard took Hana roughly by the hand and began to walk her down the Black Path towards the gas chamber. Hana had her red ball in her hand, but dropped it along the way and was worried about finding it again. Inge, the guard, distracted Hana, singing songs and telling stories, and promising that Hana would find her parents once more at the end of the walk.

Instead, Hana found blackness.

Hana would perish, along with about 100 other young women, in a gas chamber at the back of the camp.

The dreams I had, starting with age four, were all various versions of Hana's memories. Most of them revolved around a huge door being shut on me, and my screaming in fear at the guards who were closing them. I also had repeated dreams about dying inside the gas chamber. This is most likely the source for my claustrophobia.

All of these memories came to me, repeatedly, before I made my trips to Poland and to the camps. Once there, especially at Maidanek and at Kazimierz-Dolny, I felt Hana everywhere. These experiences only solidified my conviction that I was Hana. Over and over again, I saw what she saw, felt what she felt, experienced what she experienced. And, ultimately, as I stood on the grounds of Maidanek, I knew when, where, and how she perished.

Her story has come out in bits and pieces, in the form mostly of poetry, which I will share here on this blog. And more of her story will also emerge, as I haltingly begin to let the memories tell themselves here.

Please help me remember Hana, and all the Hanas of the Holocaust, to ensure that such tragedy may be prevented from ever happening again.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Taking Care of the Self

Lately, my dreams have been out of control.

I usually have vivid, detailed, and often bizarre dreams that are filled with meaning, and I learned long ago to listen to my dreams and what they are telling me.

Lately, though, I'm being overwhelmed by them.

Though the subject of the dreams varies, the underlying meaning does not: my life is out of control.

To the outsider, nothing is noticeable. Life goes on, and I seem calm, collected, and on top of things.

And for the moment, this is true.

But my need for long-term control is driving me nuts. Because, as I've written about here earlier, as of May I will not have a job. And that knowledge is driving me insane.

So much so that I am driven to control the aspects of my life that I can, indeed, control.

For instance, it explains my rabid desire to finish painting this summer before I go back to school. Originally, once I had finished the TV room, guest room, and bath and hallway in the basement, I was going to take a break from painting until at least Christmastime.

But now I have a bee in my bonnet to paint our office. You see, it's the last room I can paint on my own, without hiring someone, in our house. So, now I want it done.

Because it's something I CAN DO and thus I can control the outcome.

It's not fear, really, that is getting me. I have this sense that, ultimately, things will work out and I will be fine and that I will be meant to move in whatever direction comes next.

It's the uncertainty, though. That's what gets me.

I hate not knowing.

I hate not being able to determine my own path.

And my dreams keep reminding me that, in fact, I do not. For instance, the other night, I dreamt that I was in charge of getting a living history display up and running in a neighboring town. I was in a van with several others, driving full tilt down a highway over the mountains, with the doors of the van flung open and us struggling to keep inside. Behind us followed a Canastoga Wagon pulled by 6 horses, and a hitch team of a variety of farm animals (including pigs, goats, cows, and a mule). As we came down the mountain, suddenly it was covered with snow (lots of WHITE imagery in my dream - highly significant) and the wagon lost control and wound up plowing into the bank and flipping over. The animals behind were in danger of being crushed.

The interpretation of this dream is simple: the items in my charge were wildly out of control and there was nothing I could do about it.

So, the question is how I can wrap my brain around this dilemma and move beyond it. Obviously, I have MONTHS to go before I will know where my life will lead me next. How do I ease my troubled mind and let go of this need to control?

I think I am finding the answer, right where it has always been, in the pool. As I swam yesterday, I let myself go and let the water support me, let it take me where I needed to go, and let its energies fill my soul.

The angst is still there, admittedly, but its power is lessened. Hopefully, with more time in the water, I'll become strong enough to let go of the control completely and go where life needs me to be.

How will you take care of yourself today?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Another spiritual visitor

(my sketch of Elena)

I have been thinking a lot about Hana, since I promised that I would tell her story here.

Hana's story is, in many ways, my own story. You see, I was Hana in a former life.

So her story hits me very very close to home. It is highly emotional to experience and retell it.

So, her story is reluctant to come to physical form.

In the mulling and thinking, however, I opened myself up to the other side. And last night I had another encounter, one that I am able to talk about now.

Last night, I met Elena.

I can always tell when spirits will contact me. I get very restless, and edgy. I feel as if I need to write, but don't know what. And the room gets cold.

Last night, it started with a face in my mind. A woman, probably in her 50s, with long black hair, dark eyes, and strong angular features. Elena's face. Her face was so vivid in my mind that I had to draw her.

I am not an artist. Not by a long shot. Mostly, I draw stick figures and flowers.

But I had to draw Elena. (I have also drawn Hana...but that will wait for her own post).

I drew the sketch and felt something so powerful from it that I had to share it with my friend, who also has psychic abilities.

She, too, was deeply drawn to the image.

Then, I sat back, and opened myself up to see what would come.

The first thing I saw was a small, white-washed cottage nestled in the deep snow. There was a tendril of smoke coming from the chimney, and all was quiet all around.

I could feel the cold and hear the crunch of snow beneath my feet. I smelled the wood smoke coming from the chimney.

I was alone.

I was Elena.

I/She was watching the cottage, closely, and I could feel her sadness. I/She was yearning for something there, inside.

Suddenly, I/she was running, being chased. Tried to run, but fell, tripped on an exposed tree root. I/she cried out, but there was no one there to hear. No one helped her.

And then.... she was .... cold. Gone.

But within that memory lay another one. A memory of Boris. Her man. I saw him carry her into the cottage in her arms, both of them happy and laughing. Her arms were wrapped around his neck and she kissed him as they entered.

Happier times.

Elena had been looking for Boris, hoping he was still at the cottage.

He wasn't.

It was 1917. Russia, outside Minsk, I think.

Elena was killed by Revolutionaries. Boris was in hiding from these same men.

She was searching for him.

Elena didn't realize she was dead. She has been searching for Boris all this time, camped out in front of that little cottage in the snow, getting colder and colder, and waiting for him to return.

I called my encounter last night a "psychic wrong number."

Elena was looking for Boris, but got me instead. I helped her come to understand that she had passed, and so had Boris, and that she needed to let go and accept it.

Some spirits have a hard time with the passing over. They don't quite understand how to do it.

Last night, I helped Elena make the transition.

And hopefully, once she did, she was reunited with Boris again.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Past Life Musings

I was cleaning this past week, and came across a poem I wrote in June of 2007, after I returned from one of my trips to Poland. As I reread the poem, a flood of memories and emotions flooded over me, and I was awash with psychic sensations that I had managed to "tuck away" for so long. So I figured it was time to write a post about this particular episode, and its significance for me.

I've written here, a little bit, about my past life experiences with Hana, the little girl who died in the gas chamber at Maidanek.

In 2007, I was preparing to go to Poland again, for a conference on the Holocaust. I had been having some Hana dreams, which was to be expected, since I was going to be immersed in the history of the Holocaust on my trip.

What I was not prepared for, however, was a series of OTHER dreams, very vivid and haunting, that would connect me to a different past life.

In these dreams, I was a young man, with fair hair and a light beard, dressed in tights and a tunic, with a sword at my side. I/He was searching desperately in the depths of a castle - A building I knew with all of my heart, but also had never physically seen before. These vivid images came to me repeatedly in the two weeks before my trip.

Staunchly, I put them out of my mind (well, at least I ignored them), and prepared for my trip to the camps. I spent 2 weeks in Poland, in a very emotional, turbulent tour of four of the former Nazi killing centers. I felt Hana over and over again. I was overcome by these Holocaust images and memories.

And yet, it did not stop there. We returned to Krakow, and I had a free day before I was to return home. So, I spent it as a "normal" tourist, and decided to visit Wawel Castle.

THIS I felt I could handle. This was normal history, revolving around power and glory and land. So I walked to the castle from my hotel, and set out to tour it.

Before I even entered the gates, however, I realized that I knew this place. I knew it in a way that was beyond the realm of the everyday. Though I had never physically been to this castle before, and did not know its history, as I walked in the gates, I KNEW it.

Sensations began to overtake me. I heard voices and saw images. I was transported in time and became part of the earlier events.

I found my way to a bench in the courtyard, out of the way, so that I could record these sensations and try to make some sense of them. I made notes in my journal, and sat, still, listening and absorbing, for almost an hour.

Then I got up and walked around the castle. And I came to a tower, and a wall, that hit me like a ton of bricks (sorry, no pun intended there). And I knew that this was the place from my dreams, and suddenly I knew what had transpired in this place.

When I returned home, I penned the following poem, born out of the images I saw at the castle.

Castle Siege, 1267

Amidst chaos and confusion,
My soul struck out,
Penetrating the dark bowels of the tower.
Iron keys dangled from my hand,
their metallic taste
Lingering in my mouth
From the moment I clamped them there
To free my hands.
Darkness swallowed the hall,
The doorways blacker holes
in the sea of pitch.
A faint torchlight glowed
in the distance,
And I made my way
to its timid embers.
Voices bellowed,
Men, women, and children cried out,
Bodies rushed in panic on the levels above.
I smelled charred wood and stone,
felt the rush of heat
from the flames that licked
the roof of the cathedral,
sending its tendrils
even down here, below ground,
in all its fury.
The siege is on,
Today men will die in defending our honor,
and I must make my way to you,
My love,
to be reunited,
even if it be in death.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Ringo Starr, Rants, and Raves.....

Last night we went to see Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band in Cleveland at the Nautica Pavilion.

The music was AWESOME.

Ringo just turned 70 years old this year. SEVENTY. On stage, he looked FORTY. He was beyond amazing.

He played most of my favorite Ringo tunes (including Honey Don't - my all-time favorite Ringo song!) And I had a great time with the music.

His All-Starr Band is made up of names from other hit groups, and each player gets a feature to do his own stuff. I was pleasantly surprised by these others (we didn't know who they were til we got there).

The band included Rick Derringer (the McCoys), Wally Palmar (The Romantics), Edgar Winter (White Trash), Gary Wright (known for "Dream Weaver"), Richard Page (Mr. Mister), and Gregg Bissonette.

They played, among many other songs, "Hang on, Sloopy," "Kyrie," "Dream Weaver," and of course "I Get By With a Little Help from my Friends."

As I mentioned above, the music was IM-PRESSIVE. Song after song, they had us all singing along, clapping our hands, and loving every minute of it.

(Dave and me outside the Pavilion before the concert)

(My husband, Dave, however, ever the ultimate Beatles fan, said "Not enough Ringo songs." LOL)

It was a great celebration of music. So much for my rave.

Now on to my rant.

I HATED Nautica Pavilion.

It's not really that large a venue, so you would think it would not be hard to manage. I guess Cleveland doesn't have much experience there. (You'd think they would, being the home of the Rock and Roll museum....) Although, we have been to several concerts at the Wolstein Center and at the Quicken Loans Arena, and they were handled BEAUTIFULLY!

The staff seemed to have absolutely no clue about their own arena. Three different ushers stood at the BOTTOM of the bleachers and told us "your seats are up there, on the right." (they were actually to the left) I watched ushers over and over ask "what seat are you sitting in?" They were totally clueless.

This meant that many people wound up sitting in the wrong seats, in a sell-out crowd, and so they would have to move when the real ticket-holders got there. The bleachers are so narrow that it is virtually impossible to simply stand up to let people pass by. It was a comedy of errors, truly.

And the bleacher seats were so small, I was sitting with my arms hunched in my lap all night. Hard to move to the music when you're that close together. And the music made me want to MOVE. How can you not move when you listen to these songs?

We also bought bottled soft drinks during the show, and were told that they could not give us the bottle caps. I thought this was particularly odd, and had wanted a bottle versus a cup so that I could reseal it and be sure not to spill any during the concert.

So I asked WHY she couldn't give us the bottle caps. Her reply? "So you can't throw the bottle caps on the stage during the show." WHAT? What kind of crazy-ass concerts do they have at this venue that people throw bottle caps at the stage? Now, I admit, my concert attendance is limited, and I have been to far more classical concerts than pop or rock ones, but still. Has our society degraded THAT far that we show our appreciation for artists by pelting them with plastic? I was appalled.

So, in summary, last night was a mixed bag. I absolutely LOVED the music, but HATED the venue. I guess it's a good lesson for us for the future. And if you're thinking about buying tickets for a concert at the Nautica, let this serve as fair warning to you!

But hey, I can only hope I look HALF as good at 70 as Ringo Starr does.

Rock on, Ringo!

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Lessons of Las Vegas and LOVE

We just returned from a short trip to Las Vegas.

Let me start by saying I never thought I'd like it. I hate crowds and noise, I'm not great in heat, and I find gambling boring.

What was I going to do in Vegas? For four and a half days? In temperatures soaring well about 100 degrees Fahrenheit?

But this was our anniversary trip, and we were going to Vegas, specifically, to see the Cirque du Soleil LOVE show, based on the music of the Beatles. My husband, Dave, is probably the biggest Beatles fan who ever took a breath. (you think I'm kidding...) So, I pinned on a huge smile, said "That sounds great, honey!" and away we went.

Meanwhile, I was searching for other things to do while we were there. Things that didn't involve the glitz and glamour of the strip.

And I found myself actually enjoying our trip to the land of Sex, Sin, and Vice. The city that never sleeps (though we did, quite a bit).

The best part of our trip was, beyond a doubt, the LOVE show, which was BEYOND amazing. We had had a number of people tell us it was great and that we had to see it. So I was expecting great music (hello? The BEATLES? Could it be bad?) and maybe some cool artistic tricks along the way.

I was in no way prepared for the experience we had.

I was.... utterly speechless.

And for me, who prides herself on being able to choose just the right words, being speechless is a rareity.

From the first moment the lights dimmed and the action began, my jaw dropped and stayed that way until about 2/3 of the way through the show. I finally had to close it so I could recover.

Tears formed in my eyes, and were there until the finale.

I had no idea which way to look at any given moment. I was overcome by the emotion and beauty of the work. I was simply awestruck by the abilities and fluidity of the players in the show. To call them "dancers" or mere "acrobats" does not do them justice in any sense of the word. They moved their bodies like no one I have ever seen before. It was beautiful, and was expertly choreographed to the songs of the Beatles.

The most beautifully choreographed piece was "Octopus' Garden," during which they had about a dozen different acrobats and puppets flying through the air, as if they were floating through the depths of the ocean. It was breathtaking.

The show as a whole served as a sort of chronicle of the Liverpool Boys who would become the Beatles. It highlighted their rise to fame, and showcased the most famous characters from their songs. Both highs and lows in their lives were represented, perhaps the most poignant moment being the death of Lennon's mother, to the tune "Hey, Jude."

We laughed, we cried, we were embraced by the work.

We had not known what to expect when we saw the show, but we walked out of the theater with our hearts blown wide open and ready to get back in line to see the second show. That experience will stay with us for a long, long time to come.

Of course, it was made more special because it was our anniversary celebration, too. We were all dressed up, and had excellent seats. And halfway through the show, the cast came out into the audience, and one of them stopped in front of me, took my hand, called me "beautiful lady with the beautiful smile" and kissed my hand. Now THAT was amazing!

The show was well worth fighting the crowds, noise, and decadence of Vegas. I would even go back to Vegas, just to see LOVE a second time.

The immortal words of the Beatles were certainly true for us, in regards to our Vegas trip.... "all you need is LOVE, LOVE, LOVE is all you need." For us, to make it a perfect trip, all we needed were those perfect seats to the perfect show, LOVE.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Cycles and Reflections

I've been thinking a great deal about cycles lately.

Life cycles, of birth and death.

Seasonal cycles, especially today on the Summer Solstice.

Monthly cycles like those of the moon, or our own personal cycles.

I've been musing of late over what they all mean to us, in the bigger picture.

Some cycles are more difficult to take than others. Death, for example, often strikes us very hard at our core. We mourn the physical loss of our loved ones, and regret their absence in our daily lives. It is often difficult to remember that they live on in spirit and in our hearts, when we have had the privilege to experience their three-dimensional presence in our lives.

Other cyclical changes remind us of our passing through the greater life cycle, and hint at our inevitable demise at the end of our own cycles. The aging process is not always subtle nor kind. Yet, in these cyclical changes we also should remember that there is wisdom and honor with each new phase.

Of course, we most often glory in the beginnings of cycles: birth, spring, the starting anew. We should remember, however, that there can be no beginning without ending. The cycle can continue only because it ends and is renewed.

Our lives are a continual pattern of cycles, of ups and downs, of heights and depths, through which we traverse and make our way through this world. And it is the combination of these highs and lows, beginnings and endings, that make our lives so glorious.

For each cycle that passes, a new one begins, and with that new cycle comes new wonderment, new knowledge, and new experiences. All of which would not be possible without the passing of the former cycle.

So, today, on this Summer Solstice, let us say goodbye to Spring and thank her for all she gave us, while also welcoming the new season into our lives, in anticipation for all she will share with us over the coming months.

And remember, cycles are what keep us going. Even the life and death cycle. If we embrace the natural flow of life, including her cycles, we will be rewarded with rich and wonderful experiences that will fill our souls.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The power of water....

(the beach on Marco Island, after a storm, with the waves a bit wilder than normal)

I have written here and here on this blog about the fact that my element is water, and that it is a pretty powerful tool for me in tuning into my own personal energies.

Today's post, though, goes beyond the power of water as my personal element, and addresses the greater power of water, and nature in general.

I have long agreed with the Romantic poets and artists, who sought to teach us that we should be in harmony with, not in control of, nature's forces. It is the fool who thinks that he can take on Nature's fury and win.

I'm being reminded of that lesson yet again, as we are in our third week of efforts to fix a leak in our basement. Turns out, it is ground water, seeping in through the foundation wall. Well, seeping is a misnomer, because when it rains, the water pours in like a siphon.

We have no idea what the real source of the groundwater is. The topsoil source could be a half mile away somewhere. We'll never know.

So we are reduced to fixing the leak INSIDE the house.

But this post isn't about our construction issues. It's about the power of water.

Water will always find the path of least resistance, and water is one of the most ferocious damaging hands of Mother Nature.

Just think about the recent headlines: Flash floods tore through a campground, killing at least 18 and wounding dozens others. Tropical storms and hurricanes in Latin America left huge sinkholes in their wake. And even the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (a huge political black hole that I do not wish to address at the moment) is being exacerbated by the forces of the tides and streams of the water itself.

Let us not be fooled. No matter how calm and placid the water may appear on those calm, sunny days, it always holds the power to destroy. IF we do not respect it.

Therein lies the true beauty of nature. To be held delicately in her hand, caressed by the sun and gentle winds, or even to be tickled by gentle waves at the shores of her waters, while knowing that at any moment she could destroy us with a gentle flick of her wrist - THIS is the tantalizing allure of Nature.

And that, truly, is the source of water's power for me personally. To know that even as it washes over me and purifies and invigorates me, it could also snuff out my energy altogether, leaves me exhilarated. It creates in me the deepest sense of respect, and leads to heightened awareness, not just of the water but of the world around me.

What will you respect today?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Renovations and Restorations

We had a water leak here at the condo, and as a result, we are doing some renovation work in our basement entertainment room. While the leak and the damage were frustrating, I'm finding it invigorating to do the renovation. The hard stuff (dry wall, pouring a concrete pad upstairs) we contracted out, but I'm doing the painting of the room myself.

Yesterday, I finished the first wall. That was the hardest wall, painting around lots of shelves and edges and small spots. It took me about 3 hours to do that single wall.

Of course, I got (unwanted) input about the process from all sides, telling me the "best" way to approach the task.

But as I made progress along the wall, and saw the new, clean shine of the paint appear (it's essentially the same color as the old paint), I felt a huge sense of satisfaction.

Sometimes, we need to renovate.

As I wrote about here, we do periodically need to clean house, figuratively and literally.

We need to mend the broken pieces, deep clean the carpeting, touch up the paint job, top it off with new throw pillows and an area rug.

And when we have finished that project, we can rejoice in the clean, crisp results that make us smile and feel joy.

(This was the Renova Spa at our resort in Jamaica, where we went for our honeymoon last year)

And just as we need to do periodic physical renovations of our surroundings, sometimes we need to do some personal renovations as well.

The Spa, I believe, was aptly named. RENOVA. A place to renovate the self.

And I have been doing this type of renovations lately, as well. I returned to swimming, after a long hiatus, and found it to be completely rejuvenating and restorative.

I trimmed the anxieties and stress from my life, making some conscious decisions about just where and how I would be exerting my (admittedly limited) energies.

I have begun to revel in the many, many blessings that surround me on a daily basis.

I have rebuilt the house of myself, brick by brick, new paint job (in my brightly painted nails, that I talked about here), new exercise program, new attitude, and overall new sense of joy and happiness.

Life is good, oh so good, once you take the time to do the renovations.

How will you renovate this week?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Our elemental needs ...

Each of us is composed of four essential elements: water, fire, earth, and air. Our astrological signs also determine our primary and secondary elements. For instance, as Pisces, I have water as my primary element, and air as my secondary element. Earth and fire fall to positions of lesser importance for my entity.

My husband, Dave, on the other hand, a Scorpio, is an Earth element, followed by water. That's why my totem is a frog (water and air) and Dave's is a turtle (earth and water).

Although I have understood the concept of our primary and secondary elements for some time now, and always knew that I loved water, for example, it was not until very recently that I realized just how fundamental these elemental needs are to our very existence and our internal balance.

I wrote here about my rediscovery of swimming as a form of exercise, after a frustrating experience with Yogadance. As I mentioned in that blog, when I began the Yogadance class I was excited and energized at the thought of getting moving again. I thought it would be good for me. And yet, as the months passed, it was taking a toll on my body. And I couldn't figure out why. I figured, exercise was exercise. It had to be good for me!

And then the light went on.

Yogadance was not working for me, because it is an EARTH-based form of exercise. EARTH.

I need WATER.

I need to feel as if I am floating through life, immersed in its life-giving fluids, propelling me on. I am the dolphin, kicking and playing through the waters of life, frolicking in the depths and then bursting through the surface to take on air and submerge once more.

That is why earth-bound forms of exercise don't work for me. Aerobics, YogaDance, the treadmill, all seem to have me dragging my feet, as if mired in the mud. For after all, what happens when you add water to earth? You get mud.

And while mud can be useful for some ventures - for creating foundation bricks for example, which is why Dave and I work so well together - it does not suit exercise or vitality.

The air element is best suited for outdoor activities, especially those that get off the ground. They get into rock climbing, bungee jumping, sky diving, anything that gets AIR into their lungs and all around them. They are the thrill seekers.

The poor fire elements have it most difficult. There are very few forms of exercise that entail fire. Firewalking? This is most challenging for those of fire. My closest friend is a fire element, and she would concur. They have to stoke their fires in other, less direct ways.

For me, as a water element, the water not only sustains my body, but it clarifies my mind. When I swim, I find a new acuity that opens me wide to the world around me. It's as if a blindfold is removed, that had filtered out all but a tiny stream of light in my daily life.

So, this frog will continue her water-based exercise patterns, healing and rejuvenating all the way.

And she will leave the earth-bound forms to those who are better suited to them. Oh, and if you earthies out there what to try my pool, be sure you don't leave any mud behind!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A baptism, or I FINALLY listened to myself instead of everyone else giving me advice

This morning, I experienced what I might call a baptism in my new approach to life. Big changes have been coming for a while now, and I knew they were going to happen, I just didn't know when.

The other day, I took the leap and began to make those important changes.

I wrote here about my love of the water and how it purifies me, beyond the physical exercise of it. I vowed then, back in March, that I would return to swimming.

Yet, when I returned to the "real world," somehow that vow slipped away from me. I got distracted.

In January, I started taking a Yogadance class, mainly because it was being taught by a friend as a new venture, and I wanted to support her, and I thought it would be good to move. And I stuck with that class for months.

I thought is was good for me. The music was fun. I was exercising. How can that be bad?

But gradually my back, knees, and ankles were becoming worse. My arthritis was kicking up. I was in constant pain. I came home from every class exhausted and wanting only to sleep. My mind shut down. Yet, like a robot, I kept going to class.

Now, please, understand. I am not saying that Yogadance is no good. Far from it. Everyone has different needs. And watching the other women in that room, I know that it was good for some of them.

It just isn't good for me.

And this morning, for the first time in nine months, I returned to the Y to swim.

It was beyond amazing.

After a nine month hiatus from swimming, I plunged in and swam thirty laps. THIRTY. That is what I was doing when I was in my peak swimming routine a couple of years ago.

And when I emerged from the water, my brain was on fire with electricity, and my back and joints felt better than they have in years.

I have come home.

Home to my beautiful, life-giving water.

And I plan to return to those waters regularly, probably four times a week all summer long, to drink from their spring of energy, and replenish all that life saps away.

I am reborn.