Friday, December 23, 2011

at the last minute this year, my mom asked me to "say something about the holiday" at the family hannukah party. i found some writings i had put together when i was pregnant with dimas, tweaked it a bit and came up with this. it comes out of searching for the deeper meaning behind various traditions and celebrations of the winter season and to understand what's important for our family, with its mixed background. i hope anyone reading might find something meaningful from it too.

hannukah is the festival of lights. we see light everywhere during the winter holidays. almost all religions and cultures display lights at this time of year. this is rooted in nature. in a cold winter, when days are shorter, people look to light and the warmth of the sun to get through it.

the idea of light in the darkness has a deeper meaning of staying hopeful in the face of despair. like the story of the macabees who were triumphant against oppression and reaffirmed their faith in the miracle of the oil lasting eight nights. the ideas of faith, rebirth and rededication, which mirror the changes of the seasons, are the most important of the holidays. sustaining faith and hope in the face of doubt, fear and confusion, are what give us all our deeper identity. beyond being men, women, parents, professionals or any religious label, our spiritual selves are what truly define us.

this identity isn't grandiose or dogmatic. it's a focus on the simple things. helping friends, community building. encouraging someone to go for their dream or supporting them through a painful experience. showing patience with your kids, or setting firm limits with them. feeding our bodies and minds with healing nourishment.

rising above in trying times. seeing everyone as a divine creation, and knowing we are all transformational. we are all on a journey. to give voice to this, our deepest identity, we must not be afraid of seeking. victory of the spirit, is to never give up hope and to continue to grow our faith.

happy holidays to everyone and a beautiful, new year to come!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

thoughts on work

work. what is it for? what does it mean? why are we always trying to avoid it? doesn't honest hard work build character and make you feel good? growing up, i had a bad relationship with work. in a perpetual game of hide and seek, i was constantly in search of how to manifest what i wanted while avoiding doing too much of the work myself. only when i was "tricked" into enjoying it, did i relish the fruits of my labor. i don't think i'm alone on this. americans of the past few generations tend to have this kind of attitude. rich or poor, the goal is to achieve the status of not having to work. thats why we rationalize having a "service" culture. we're too busy. its too hard. we deserve better. why should we? its just too much "work."

i have realized that this issue of work is bigger than i thought. it shapes the way we think and act and make most of our life decisions. somewhere in history when we stopped growing, raising and slaughtering our own food, and making our clothes and homes, we also lost a connection to working for our basic necessities in a direct way. although i would be the first to say i love the modern conveniences of our lives, i recognize that with them, there is a loss of our sense of purpose and of personal capability. it creeps into our spirit starting at a pretty young age and haunts us into adulthood.
i am speaking from my experience of course. but i don't think i'm the only one. so what should a person do about it? we are just born into this life, we didn't create it right? well, most people reading at this point, know what i'm trying to do about it. cleaning my own house, teaching my own kids, raising chickens, attempting to grow some of my own food. i'm trying to create a life for my family that nurtures self ability and limits the need to purchase everything, from food to happiness. a life that turns shopping as a passtime into a thing of the past.

i have been on a mission to discover how to do this and to seek out others who feel the same way for inspiration and support. thankfully, a lot of people have understood this for a long time. there is a pretty well advanced network and plenty of resources already in place. more and more people are starting to realize these connections and have begun to make changes. in fact, growing up in the bay area, i'm a bit of a late comer to the sustainable-organic-slow food-locavore-urban homestead-off the grid movement. i feel like i'm going back to my roots. my mom lived a lot of these principles, albeit quietly. she used to drag me to the berkeley farmers market as a teenager. i remember spending the whole time agonizing over some angsty self concerned drama, while she thoughtfully chose fresh organic healthy foods for our family. well, better late than never right?

i'm definitely not ready to move to the country and run my own farm. i deeply enjoy the small changes i've made. i want the community of an urban life, while continuing to push further past my old habits. my old anti work attitudes that leave me feeling empty and crappy about myself. i want to relearn that working hard, but smart, is the way to create a rich, self sustaining life.

for me its never about being perfect. or judging others who aren't doing "as much." its about challenging myself, searching for fulfillment. growth. enjoying the process. keeping a balance. laughing at myself, sharing what i learn and making it fun and exciting.

there is a bigger picture to it as well. i see these changes as creating a wave that will shift the direction the world is going. it has already begun. i want my kids to live this life starting young, while they're soaking it all in. so they can take it further, where ever that will be, when they come of age. i want to be with them, while they navigate through the sometimes chaotic world we live in, full of mixed messages and confused ideas. work along side them and help to facilitate a love for learning and a love for working hard to create your own reality. help them understand who they are in all of this, and that their identity is not what they were born into, but what they, literally, work to make it.

"I’m not against consumption; I’m against consumerism, which is the particular kind of consumption where we try to meet our emotional needs and show our status through our stuff. If you’re cold, get a sweater, no problem, I’m not against that. But if you think you’re better than the person with an older sweater next to you, or if you have eight sweaters while someone is cold next to you, or if your sweater was made at the expense of workers using toxics, pesticides, and heavy metal dyes, those are a problem." Annie Leonard - Environmental Activist

links: -my post was inspired in part by this article -Institute for Urban Homesteading in Oakland (classes)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Celebration and Peace

each year at the holidays i go through a similar feeling. what am i celebrating? as the years go by, i'm starting to catch a stride. i'm always reminded by the weather and early dark, that in its essence, this time of year is about light in the darkness. physically and spiritually. this seems to be part of everyone's traditions. the rest is how one chooses to express it. Giving of yourself, singing, dancing, cooking, decorating and giving thanks to life. these are things i try to do all the time, but the holidays help to amplify them.

we were invited to several hannuka events, starting with a cozy and festive dinner at my parents and ending with a bang at our neighbor's annual hannuka party. delicious food, guitars and singing and a room full of chanukkiyahs, lighting up the night.
we went caroling around the neighborhood with friends, attempting to revive a fading tradition. we had live instruments (two guitars, bongos and a clarinet) and sang a variety of modern songs with messages of peace and faith. inspired by and melding the parrandas tradition with caroling and making it our own. we ended at a neighbor's house who invited us in for eggnog and cookies. it was pretty cool.
we celebrated christmas eve this year, by doing the american jewish tradition of a movie and chinese food (roy's first time), and then the puerto rican (and most latin american) tradition of celebrating and opening gifts into the night. (to be fair, it wasn't a true puerto rican christmas eve without an all night blowout party.)
next was new years eve. a personal favorite. i've been missing the crazy dance all night parties of years past in jersey. we've been trying to bring that back since we moved to cali, but haven't gotten there. this year was kinda awesome. it was a small gathering. new and old friends. everyone that came brought a real celebrative spirit. it was a magical night.

next was three kings day. el dia de los reyes magos. this is a new one for me. it remembers the three kings that brought gifts to baby jesus. the traditions vary. the night was mellow but exciting. i made pastelon (puerto rican lasagna). we had a sweet bread with marzipan. we left grass and water for the kings camels and awaited a surprise. a sign, a gift? the kids fell asleep and roy and i stayed up until almost 2am putting together a casita made of wood, that rita had sent earlier in the season. the morning was spent discovering and doing major detective work. razi was determined to understand how this happened. she's somewhere between believing in magic and needing to logically find the truth. its awesome to listen to her mind work.

speaking of mythical stories. the story of santa claus is bugging me a bit. razi believes in him and i won't halt her creative mind. i just don't see this one as teaching much. its kind of weird. a fat dude with a long white beard coming down everyone's chimney... is this a myth worth continuing? on the other hand, its a shared story among our communities.

the other thing that pulls at my better sense, is the extensive gift giving. with all their birthdays clustered around this season, the kids get too much stuff. the house is filled with more clutter and so are our heads. gotta nudge this tradition in a better direction during these important spiritual markers of life.

the girls birthdays were separate this year, as they requested. roy found a new creative joy in making pinatas. i grew up with this mexican tradition in cali, but its a new one for him. razi had a fairy themed party. her pinata was a full feathered hawk. hawks are enemies of fairies, so smashing it to bits was appropriate.
liris' was a bug theme. she helped make her pinata. a paper mache abstract ladybug.
dimas' birthday rounded out the party season. we are all burnt out on parties by the time his comes. i feel bad and i promised myself he wouldn't get the leftovers this time. i made a new recipe of coconut cupcakes and roy made a truck pinata, which the kids all decorated with paint.

we have probably 7 parties in 3 months. each festivity brings me closer to exhaustion and true relaxation. how does this relax me? you're probably wondering. well, the constant flow of parties, that hustle hustle celebrate cycle, pushes me out of the controlled day to day grind and into a different zone. my exhausted focus on celebration brings on a calmness.
i love this time for the lights, the food and for pushing me into the zone.

ps. i made my first brisket and first pernil this year!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Trees and Pees

we recently visited the green gulch zen center and farm near muir beach. it was so amazing and beautiful. thoughtful and full of loving hard work. rows of gorgeous vegetables and nooks of secret gardens.

we walked down toward the beach and saw some horses. One of the stallions took a large pee which was quite a sight. we reached the beach just as the golden hour of sunlight was hitting. it was one of those times that i think i was just as excited as the kids. i remember how important it is to be in nature. how it fills you up and awakens the senses. i remember what a miracle life is and I'm humbled to be part of this place.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

growing children

last night we watched old home movies and i couldn't believe how much the kids have grown in just one year! it reminded me how precious each day is and how important it is to adore them and laugh with them on the regular, because they will be grown up in flash.

seeing each of my kids as a baby was so intense. knowing them the way i do now, even at these tender ages, their personalities are dancing and loud. looking back at when they were just born, those personalities are in there, just barely visible. so subtle. hidden by their struggle to grasp this new world around them mentally and physically.

having all the kids home with us is such a cool and different experience than how i grew up. it's almost like summer vacation all year long. grownups are still working, but the kids are free to go about their days, learning and interacting in their own rhythm. raziah has become a defender of her own learning. she pushes back if someone tries to force something onto her that's dull or dry or condescending in tone. she adores super hero comics, the library, collecting eggs from her chicken and carpentry.

liris has gained a more defined sense of self, apart from big sister. she changes clothes four to five times a day, loves to play rough and tumble and can remember the words to any song. she cooks macaroni and cheese and has begun to teach her little brother the ropes.

dimas said a four word sentence last week. he LOVES lollipops and jumping.

Monday, September 14, 2009

bathroom conversation

recently, in the bathroom at roy's workplace, liris had to make a poop and brought up the fact that talking about going poop is embarassing. why do you think that is? i asked. because its a bigger thing coming out of a small hole. i see. mom, why did they make the body the way it is? who made our bodies like they are? god designed our bodies, i said. and then she proceeded to think aloud about what god had in mind when he, then she, was designing. is god a he or a she? i asked. its a he AND a she. she stated, with confidence and authority.

i love my job.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Back In Full Effect

Its been more than a year since i last wrote and we are still in alameda. our big moving plans were redirected, as plans often are. i have grown tremendously nonetheless. it seems my adventure morphed into a more inward search. I found myself in an adversarial role; with myself, my kids, my husband, my lifestyle.

my new road is a slow, winding one. quieting my mind to listen. trying to live in abstract more than intellect. removing plans, lists and hurriedness. (well maybe not lists, yet...)

we unenrolled razi from school after her first year in kindergarten. to allow her room in her days for the same. most people recognize it by the label homeschooling. we're still trying to find the words that schooling, life learning...

i wake up feeling excited again, like when i was young. curious about what the day will bring. i see how my relationship with my life is how my children model the way they interact with the world.

the other day we went to look for a kids cookbook and found ourselves at the mall. it was hot and they were getting hungry. whining & dragging of feet began. how did i end up here? i thought to myself.

lets sit down on this bench to rest, i said. we sat. they stopped whining and trickled over to the landscaped patch of shrubs and flowers next to bed bath and beyond. 45 minutes later, they were laughing and running through the lavender, crouching in the reeds. acting out an intricate game of make believe. i sat thinking and listening to the light rock permeating from the courtyard speakers. we ended up going home with "fanny at chez panisse" a story of a girl growing up in her mother's restaurant, with her favorite recipes at the end.
we want to try the blackberry ice cream from scratch!

stay tuned.