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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Bar Mitzvah 2010

It's been more than a year since this awesome day, I am so grateful to watch the amazing men & women you are all growing up to be... just wanted to remind you of the blessing that I wish over all your lives :)


Today you are encircled by family, friends and community – some of whom have never even met you, and yet were willing to make the effort to be here with us. We are all here to witness and celebrate with you, as you represent our trust in G-d, our hopes, our dreams. You are the promise. We watch you embracing the Torah, the cornerstone of our faith, with joy and comfort, knowing that you will strive to live by the values it teaches. 
Our promise to you today is to be there for you always, in joyful times and to wipe away your tears, to support you, to teach you (even when you don’t want to heed our lessons), & to guide you through life’s challenges and prospects.
Our prayer for you today is for a long life filled with peace, health, happiness and purpose, surrounded by family, friends and community. It is our hope and dream that you will turn the best days and the worst days of your life into a medley of meaning and joy. Cherish life and make each day full of purpose by enriching the lives of others with a smile, a kind word or a good deed. Remember that all G-d really requires from you is your just actions. It really is pretty black and white – it’s about mitzvot, it’s about your deeds.
My Grandma Mahota was a woman full of wisdom, she often mused “wouldn’t the world be so much better if everyone followed the golden rule?”. And so that is the advice I offer to you - when in doubt guys, remember what Yeshua said “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.
In the words of the great American Poet Bob Dylan, I offer this blessing over all of you;
May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young

May you grow up to be righteous
May you grow up to be true
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you
May you always be courageous
Stand upright and be strong
May you stay forever young

May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
And may your song always be sung
May you stay forever young.

This I believe

Monday, November 28, 2011


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Birth stories for my birthday!

The process of motherhood

Every woman’s road to being a mother is different, none is easy. Mine starts at a young age, when my greatest concern was the love of my boyfriend (bf then, soon to be my husband). The last thing I wanted to do was have children, I saw motherhood as a thankless job, and I really wasn’t interested at working at any job –especially a thankless one. But as fate would have it, in my first year of college when my worldview dictated that humanity was not only depraved & worthless but hopeless to boot - it was no longer just me I had to be consumed with worry about on this doomed planet, but a tiny infant too.  Being the card carrying member of NOW & NARAL that I was at the time, I was well aware of my rights and the fact that I did not have to become a mother, I had a choice….but due to the aforementioned boyfriend whose greatest dream  it WAS to become a father, it was motherhood for me. During a time when I gave God no credit, blessing or praise in my life – He saved my ass countless times, how He saved both my children from the jaws of death at their birth-  happens to be what I’m most thankful about.

Things started off fairly ordinary, as they always seem to; extraordinary is usually something you identify later. My first and second pregnancies had more than one thing in common, they both resulted in the births of boys of whom I can easily say “this is my son-of whom I am most proud”, and during both I suffered (as did they) from a mysterious illness called preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is one of those things that happen to the female body that every doctor has a different theory about. The simplest is that the woman’s body is rejecting the fetus as “foreign”, instead of as with a normal pregnancy where an antibody of some sort gets produced & the body accepts the little alien invader. My body reacted by sending my blood pressure to heights of 220/180 and swelling to 3xs its normal size, retaining enough water so that the pressure on my brain caused vision loss for the last weeks of my second pregnancy and was not restored until Ben (baby #2)was almost 6 months old.

During my first pregnancy (which at the time I wasn’t so excited about) I spent my first and second trimesters studying Philosophy & Children’s literature, getting a little more uncomfortable with each passing day in class, but also more excited and hopeful about my new life as a mother. By my third trimester, I was on bed rest-my left side to be specific, with a restricted diet and increasingly uncomfortable and sick. SICK. Morning sickness lasts –I’ve been told- only for the first 12 weeks….well, my experience was a little different, vomiting & headaches were a regular part of my days – I lived on salt-free saltines for a lot of the time. At 37 weeks my blood pressure, in spite of the yummy diet of tasteless crackers & ultimate excitement of bed rest, started really creeping up and upon the advice of my midwife –I induced at home with Castor Oil.

 Here’s what I learned- NEVER INGEST CASTOR OIL. Yes, it can start labor naturally, however it’s like you are Linda Blair from the Exorcist –not pretty. Upon getting to the hospital, I was given a Pitocin drip (thanks anyway castor oil), hooked up to the monitor and left in the care of my 19 year old boyfriend & mother. Praise God my mother knew how to read the fetal monitor because just a couple hours later, she noticed it was registering no heart rate for the baby. When the nurses & doctors finally understood what was going on, I was given a full spinal block and rushed into the ER, although they intended on an emergency C-Section, there was not enough time. My placenta had torn away, my family was told there had been a placental abruption, I was bleeding internally and my baby had been without the life giving blood/ oxygen for almost 10 minutes –possibly longer. Doctors gave me a fourth degree episiotomy (look up “episiorectoprotomy”, yeah-it’s as awesome as it sounds) & using forceps (although he was not even fully descended into the birth canal) pulled Nicholaus Vincent Grace into this world. Nicks first APGAR score was 1, he was so blue-he was almost black-he just barely had a heart rate and no respiration. His next APGAR was 3. Nick was watched for seizure activity which began within 1 hour of his delivery.

While in recovery, this news was delivered to me by my midwife who was accompanied by a priest (not her usual companion, so a little disarming to say the least).  I was told the baby was being taken to the Neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Strong Hospital, I was being released - but needed to sign a waiver to do so as they would have preferred to have kept me due to the loss of blood & risk of infection from the procedure they had used to (as the pediatrician had described it to my Grandmother) “rip the baby out”. Although it didn’t sink in until they had left the room, they were telling me my son would most likely not make it through the night. He did. The first day at Strong, we were told not to expect him to make it through the day… with the little glued on leads all over his head/ EEG they could detect that the seizures were not stopping, regardless of the medications they were pumping him full of, they were doing all they could, but again expected little to no response.  

Within 48 hours the seizure activity stopped, we were told not to hopeful; that he would ever have normal brain activity was a long shot. On the third day, as Nick breathed on his own, a highly respected neonatologist told me Nicholaus recovery was miraculous and could be described in no other terms…at that point he was still expected to have some possible developmental delays and/or learning disabilities – Nick at age 16 is an unstoppable force, bright, strong with no disability –and a heart to do the will of God. The enemy made an attempt on his life when he had no way to protect himself, I am grateful to God that He can do all things –in spite of what the world says is a certainty, God can make a way.

Baby number two soon followed, I had been assured that Preeclampsia rarely strikes twice, all would be well. So, on our wedding night & throughout the honeymoon in Old Forge, we - without apprehension we tried for another baby & were successful. At my 8 week appointment, my blood pressure was taken and I was told to lay on my left side (I began to cry immediately). I was put on bed rest at home, not an easy task considering I had a 10 month old...within in a month I was put in the hospital, my blood pressure continued to creep up, so I was given a cocktail that included Magnesium Sulfate (a wonderful drug, that helps you to keep your baby BUT makes your flesh feel like it’s being eaten by fire ants). NO TV, NO lights, limited visitors- NO STIMULATION, I was also only allowed to sponge bathe– so I was boring and smelly.

 By week 20, my vision (from the mag sulfate & pressure from water retention) was very blurred – blessedly, I couldn’t see the state I was in. When two of my aunts had come to visit, one had not seen me in a few weeks-she took one look at me and ran from the room with an “Oh my God!”…I said to my other aunt, how bad is it? And she responded with her usual candor, “Well, you have no neck and look a lot like a frog –kind of scary…but it’s really the smell that’s most overwhelming.” Great-I thought, boring, smelly & scary.

 At 27 weeks into the pregnancy, they could no longer control my blood pressure; my organs were showing signs of stress, so the decision was made that the baby (who had been given steroid injections to help his lungs develop quickly) would be delivered. Benjamin Charles Grace was born crying, breathing on his own and weighing in at 2 pounds 12 oz. against the odds, as healthy as could be. I spent another week in the hospital, waiting for the swelling in my brain to recede & my vision to return, Benjamin spent almost 90 days in NICU, we didn’t hold him until he was more than a week old, just had to admire him through the glass of his incubator– sleeping & eating, a tiny- but perfect little boy, gaining weight like a champ, making all the ladies love him right from the start.  Ben is now a great big 15 year old with size 12 feet & a ginormous heart, the “son of my right hand” as his name aptly means.

By age 20, I had nearly died (twice), had almost lost two children and recovered from blindness – & In spite of medical professionals assuring me that the survival of myself & my children was nothing short of the miraculous – I still refused to believe, what proof was there that God exists- how is God different than luck? And WHY would He have saved US- who were WE? And BTW, If He was GOD - couldn’t He have prevented me from being sick to begin with? What purpose could all the pain have served, did He enjoy tormenting infants & mothers? That was the God I was supposed to praise & worship? The Jesus road was a narrow path lined with weak minded individuals in my opinion – I was far from interested – there was a far better & cooler answer I was sure.  Over the next 15 years I embarked on a journey that not only answered my questions, but proved to me that there is a reason for the suffering and that there was & is no cooler cat than Jesus Christ. The process of Motherhood introduced me to my savior & for that I am eternally grateful.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Just Breathe

Stay with me
Let’s just breathe.

Practiced are my sins,
Never gonna let me win, aw huh
Under everything, just another human being, aw huh
Yeh, I don’t wanna hurt, there’s so much in this world
To make me bleed.

Stay with me
You’re all I see.

Did I say that I need you?
Did I say that I want you?
Oh, if I didn’t now I’m a fool you see
No one knows this more than me
As I come clean

I'm a lucky man to count upon both hands the ones I love.
Some folks have one, some folks have none. <3

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Why Me?

When Bad Things Happen To Good People

"We acquire the strength we have overcome." – Ralph Waldo Emerson
WHY ME? Who hasn’t asked this question?  Life is unfair, we learn this from an early age – cheaters win & don’t get caught, and those who work the hardest don’t always get ahead. Good people contract terrible diseases through no fault of their own. Children die. There must be some answer to the seemingly senseless way that that which we love is torn from us, a reason and a purpose to our despair, hurt and pain. My Grandmother had an uncommon strength and an unparalleled wisdom, she never asked “why me”. She did not ask when she was picking cotton in the Oklahoma heat before the age of 12, she didn’t ask when she had to leave school (her favorite place) to go to work in a greasy diner in Texas at 14. When she was just 17 and lost her own Mother to an unexplained illness and just weeks later divorced an abusive alcoholic husband and  fled with her young son across the country to find safety and start a new life on her own – she did not question the cards she had been dealt. When I asked her why she wasn’t angry about her lot in life, or when I complained about the unfairness & difficulties of my own, she would say, “We don’t live in God’s perfect creation, we live in the one where human beings have free will…bad things happen to good people Jennie Lenny, read the Rabbi’s book”. And so I now recommend it to you---"When bad things happen to good people" (see below).

I miss my Grandmother, last December the Alzheimer’s which she so bravely struggled with for so long finally won and took her from us – talk   about a bad thing happening to a good person. BUT, she would have asked- what are you going to do with the pain? 
Be grateful, be strong – LEARN. When times are hard, when you have made the wrong choice or the right one and still failed, when it seems life could not be more unfair – remember, 
God had to give His own Son to right the wrongs of this creation.
It’s not about what you have done, but what HE DID and what you will do with it.

When Bad Things Happen to Good People
By Harold S. Kushner (1981)--notes by Doug Muder (1997)
·  Introduction, Why I wrote this book. Kushner wrote this book as a reaction to personal tragedy--his son Aaron had premature aging, which he died from. This provoked a crisis of faith for Kushner, who is a rabbi. He wrote this book for people "who have been hurt by life", to help them find a faith that can aid in getting through their troubles, rather than making things worse.
1. Why do the righteous suffer? A summary of all the too-easy answers to the question of human suffering, and why they are inadequate.
2. The story of a man named Job. Kushner presents his theological framework in the form of a re-interpretation of the story of Job. He lets go of the notion that God is all-powerful in favor of the notion that God is good.
The next four chapters flesh out Kushner's basic ideas by looking at three different causes of human suffering. In each case he takes the position that God does not cause the suffering and could not prevent it.
3. Sometimes there is no reason. This chapter covers random, circumstantial suffering, being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Kushner attributes the orderliness of the universe to God, but holds that the ordering of the universe is not complete: Some things are just circumstantial, and there is no point in looking for a reason for them.
4. No exceptions for nice people. Some suffering is caused by the workings of natural law. There is no moral judgment involved--natural law is blind, and God does not interfere with it. God does not intervene to save good people from earthquake or disease, and does not send these misfortunes to punish the wicked. Kushner puts great value on the orderliness of the universe's natural law, and would not want God to routinely intervene for moral reasons.
5. God leaves us room to be human. Some suffering is caused by the actions of evil people. Kushner re-interprets the story of Adam and Eve to make the point that the ability to choose between good and evil is what makes us human. For God to interfere with our ability to do evil would make all of us less human.
6. God helps those who stop hurting themselves. Some suffering we cause ourselves by the way we handle our initial suffering. We blame ourselves, or we take out our anger on the people who are trying to help us, or on God.
The second to last chapter answers the question: Given that God isn't all-powerful, what good is He?
7. God can't do everything, but he can do some important things. If God didn't cause our problems and can't fix them, why pray? Two reasons: The prayers of others can make us aware that we are not facing our problems alone. And God can give us the strength of character that we need to handle our misfortunes, if we are willing to accept it.