Archive for September, 2013

Jesus, too much or not enough?

Monday, September 30th, 2013

I moved down the street from First Grace, a church that brought together a white and black congregation after the 2005 Federal Flood and has the best marquee in town.


I’ve been isolated in my head too much lately and I desire community. When I started working at Off the Record in 1999, I met people I admired and enjoyed and they made work seem like a nonstop party. Then some of those people left, some were changed by money and success, and some remained dear but grew distant.

I’m not going to lie to you, I’ve been through a lot of changes in my life in the last decade and with those changes I’ve seen in myself the ability to give up on people and situations that no longer fit my evolution, but in the wake of all that has been left behind and the reframing of what is, I’ve wanted to once again work, think, and play with people that nourish and nurture as well as challenge me and feed my soul.

The church on the corner, First Grace, has intrigued me, but what would I, a Jew be doing in a church, I ask you? Well, the synagogues in this town are old school and don’t have much ALEPH about them, as in what Rodger Kamenetz writes about in the Jew in the Lotus –   ALEPH is about Jewish renewal and about embracing spirituality not just doctrine.

I was speaking to another mother about this and she said that she wishes she could find that temple too but when she went to First Grace all she found was too much Jesus.

For the first 50 years of my life, Jesus was not at my table, but now I listen and find myself open to many aspects of spirituality that I would never have considered in the past. That doesn’t mean I want to go to church though, no more than it means I want to be davening in a temple.

My best Sunday mornings have been spent on my bike riding to the lakefront or at the Zen Center down the street meditating and participating in the dharma talks afterwards. I don’t ever feel as if it is too much Buddha, but then again I never mistake Buddha for God.

I walked Heidi into City Park this morning just as the rain started falling and there in that space, with the raindrops bouncing off the dark waters of the lagoon, where two swans bent their long graceful necks to preen their feathers, I found God once again and my place of worship.

Last night, I had turned off Luther – the mini series on BBC that I’m trying to catch up on so I can see the current third season – because as it usually does, this episode began with disturbing violence. I finished my New York Times, and went to bed reading the Inward Revolution, which I started a few days ago. I closed my eyes in the silence of my empty house (Tin was sleeping at Tatjana’s) and I felt discomfort with the quiet.

I spent the next thirty minutes slaying dragons – much like Tin had done in school this week as they are re-enacting the story of Michael and his slaying of the dragon to teach early childhood kids about battling their own dark demons as the light fades from our days.

There in City Park, as the demons receded, I found a fortune cookie fortune that someone had dropped on the ground: “Do you see difficulty behind every opportunity, or opportunity behind every difficulty?”

Quick – answer that question – I knew my answer without any hesitation. I see opportunity.

I continued to walk through my spiritual landscape with rain drops falling on my hairless head – as I approached the bustling intersection, I noticed women running and to and fro getting out of the rain, protecting their hair, and I smiled.


This morning, I asked someone to partner with me on my new venture and the answer was a resounding yes. I don’t know what would be too much Jesus or not enough in my life, but I do know that finding what fits your individual life, your own soul’s needs, and letting that in to feed your spirit is what every devout person seeks.

I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.  ~John Muir, 1913

Tiger mom and her cub

Sunday, September 29th, 2013

My maiden name is Namer, which means Tiger in English. It’s a Sephardic name. So when people tell me I’m strong, I have to remember where my roots are – I’m a tiger by birth.

I’m coming down off a weekend in the life of the mother of a four and a half year old – we started with a playdate in Destrehan – stopped first at the grocery to pick up balloons but Tin changed his mind and asked if we could bring donuts instead – so we got a dozen hot glazed donuts and Tin held them the whole way there sort of in disbelief that he had twelve fresh donuts in his hot little hands.




Destrehan segued into Tin’s first soccer game, where he put on shin guards and grabbed his soccer ball and went to join the team after he finally let go of my hand. He kept coming back to the bandstand for water and telling me how hard he was playing out there and asking me, “Are you watching me?”


Afterwards, we ran to the Community Bookstore for their 30th anniversary celebration and picked up Twelve Years a Slave, which I hope I can read before seeing the film, and then we came home to crash.

We woke this morning to another playdate with a friend who is Tin’s equal in energy and range and his mother is my equal in age and disbelief.


Once we cleaned up that mess, we were off to see Tin’s first movie in a real life movie theater – which was Planes – and it was less crazy than I had feared and we actually had a fun time. Similar to when he saw the piñata on his 4th birthday and thought it was his present, he thought the commercials, not even the previews, were the movie and he said, “This movie is good!”

As well, he couldn’t believe his good fortune to have not only popcorn and a Sprite but also some M&M’s – he kept looking for the catch. There was none – sometimes you just have to be bad to the bone to feel good to the core. And (ahem) obviously, I’m not a Tiger Mom.

The downside to this child-centric weekend is that when we were headed over to his other house this afternoon for our weekly transition, he got sad, told me he was sad, which made me sad – but instead of trying to fix it or say anything to assuage the sadness we were both feeling, I kept quiet and we just sat there with our sadness – the upside is that he shook it off a few minutes later – once again proving himself to be resilient and adaptive – good skills to have in his adulthood.

I do believe he is going to be okay – it’s always us adults I worry about more than the kids.


The source

Friday, September 27th, 2013

I’ve been walking around the bayou these days with Heidi – a dog is always a great motivator for taking long walks. The bayou has been beautiful as of late, the weather one to two degrees north of Africa hot and the sky blue and filled with puffy clouds as if it were summer. We head from our new house down the neutral ground and hit the mouth of the bayou where there seems to be a lot of activity – one neighbor has added a pool, one house is going up on the old funeral home lot, the two empty lots that were sold are still vacant but are neatly mowed – all in all it’s as if we never moved away.

Meanwhile, in my new neighborhood there is a ton of activity – there are three dumpsters lining the street – the steel is up on the new school, the house across the street that was being renovated is almost done, a new fence has been put up in back of the house directly across from me – this house is going to be added to the India House’s hostal inventory.

Heidi and I have a routine we’ve established, we walk from here down to the bayou and cross the Magnolia Bridge then make our way into City Park where the Big Lake path is well used and the path beyond is starting to be frequented by more serious walkers and runners.

And then there’s us – we are not exactly fast walking and not exactly moseying – we’re sort of gliding.

We keep running into friends from one end to the other that often results in long pauses to our walks, which I don’t mind, it’s nice to catch up with everyone, but there are days when I’m seeking solitude and that seems to be hard to come by on the bayou.

Yesterday, I was gliding along feeling the sunshine instead of cowering from it, and I thought about all the ways and back that I’m blessed beyond belief. I have walked this bayou under such incredible states of mind – from 2003 until now, from the tumult of being torn between two lovers to the utter despair of losing my mother, I have traversed a well worn path in my heart one side joy and one side sorrow. And I thought about each of the incidents that gave rise to each as I walked almost as if the last eight years of my life were passing in front of me.

Here I am, I said to myself almost in surprise, I am still standing – remarkable.

I thought about the trials and tribulations that had me going around in circles and how meaningless each of them seem now – it fed into my pithy adage machine that spits out all these great feel goods sayings – this one says this too shall pass.

As I walked along the grass, nicely mowed, there were fish jumping out of the water – plop plop plop. I closed my eyes and continued to walk forward and I felt the gentle wind at my back.

There are many stories we tell ourselves about ourselves – you should have, you could have, why did you, why didn’t you – but the best stories are the ones we tell ourselves about finding happiness against all odds.


God’s Song [sung again and again]

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

I was speaking to a friend today at the grocery store, he said to me during his darkest moments of bipolar-induced schizophrenia and about to lose his over two-decade career, he called out to God and said, “I’m Joe, God, not Job. Joe. Not Job.”

I had just told him that God must be bored with me again, dangling lightning between my eyes, just seeing if I would snap.

So I say, “I’m Rachel, God, not Job. Rachel. Not Job.”

Another friend quotes a Randy Newman lyric to me –  “Lord, if you won’t take care of us/Won’t you please please let us be?” And I hear Etta James’ rendition in my mind of God’s Song:

God’s Song

Cain slew Abel Seth knew not why
For if the children of Israel were to multiply
Why must any of the children die?
So he asked the Lord
And the Lord said:

“Man means nothing he means less to me
than the lowiliest cactus flower
or the humblest yucca tree
he chases round this desert
cause he thinks that’s where i’ll be
that’s why i love mankind

I recoil in horror from the foulness of thee
from the squalor and the filth and the misery
How we laugh up here in heaven at the prayers you offer me
That’s why i love mankind”

The Christians and the Jews were having a jamboree
The Buddhists and the Hindus joined on satellite TV
They picked their four greatest priests
And they began to speak
They said “Lord the plague is on the world
Lord no man is free
The temples that we built to you
Have tumbled into the sea
Lord, if you won’t take care of us
Won’t you please please let us be?”

And the Lord said
And the Lord said

“I burn down your cities–how blind you must be
I take from you your children and you say how blessed are we
You must all be crazy to put your faith in me
That’s why i love mankind
You really need me
That’s why i love mankind”

~ Randy Newman

I’ll take God in a can

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

Someone sent me a link to the Flow Market that provides immaterial things to a needy public.

This morning I woke from yet another restless night of sleep – my thoughts are running rampant, what if, what would, what should? All night long.

I went to sleep reading Inward Revolution: Bringing About Radical Change in the World by Jiddu Krishnamurti. The book is yet another and ever present reminder in my life to stay in the present – the now.

This morning, I meditated and tried to still my thoughts. Tin woke from a sound sleep and began his moaning about going to school. He asked: What day is it?

Mom: It’s Hump Day.
Tin: I don’t want to go to school on Hump Day!
Mom: Know what happens on Hump Day?
Tin: What?
Mom: Well, who has a hump?
Tin: A camel.
Mom: Right, so we’re on a camel, riding on its hump and we’re in the desert and what do we see?
Tin: Sand.
Mom: [wow] Right, so are riding in the sand and there are dunes of sand everywhere and we come upon an oasis and what kind of tree do we see?
Tin: Palm. Palm trees.
Mom: [wow] Right, and we see a cool spring and we stop to drink and see other animals, what are they?
Tin: Horses.
Mom: Right, so we get off the camel and notice that its hump has gotten all mushy and soft and deflated. What makes the hump hard?
Tin: Water.
Mom: [wow] Yes and food because the hump stores fat and water. Now, let’s get ready for school.
Tin: I want to go to the sand.

It’s called diversion. Don’t focus on the moaning about yet another school day, but on something that is far more fun, more lively, more creative. It worked on a 4.5 year old who was able to call forth images that he learned not yesterday, but a year ago in a book, and so if it works for him. It could work for you.

You don’t need God in a can, you need to flip the thought script.

I can’t, it won’t, what if? – well no, not quite – try this instead: I am and then fill in the blanks.
Manifest your destiny.
Try this one: I am God in a can.

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The Laughing God

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

I’m obsessed with elephants – well yes I am – the collection of elephants in my house should be a hint. After spending time at the Riddle’s Elephant Sanctuary in Arkansas in 2006, I realized up close and personal that there is absolutely no way to anthropomorphize an animal the size of a building. There is nothing cute and cuddly about a prickly skinned animal who could care less if your bones are crunchable. And the truth – and this is true – elephants are prejudiced – they like their own kind. As a matter of fact, they love their own kind.

That’s why today when I was watching this video about a black dog and an elephant, I couldn’t help but smile and think about Loca in heaven playing with an elephant. And it also made me wonder why that girl in the bikini was riding the elephant and why anyone would want to go see these exotic animals in Myrtle Beach where they DON’T BELONG.

I think about elephants a lot and have a deep affinity for these creatures, but I’m not delusional like the one woman who was at Riddle’s when I was there who started kissing the hind quarters of a big mofo male elephant. I worry about elephants because people are stupid and they are being poached to extinction – these magnificent creatures are being killed for their tusks to make ivory tchotchkes for a growing ignorant population in China that demands them. Please stop you ignorant idiots – the world does not need more tchotchkes, it needs more elephants.

Meanwhile, as I thought of elephants and Loca in heaven on this, another steamy rainy afternoon in New Orleans, I began to think – Monday started with an arrow pointing downhill as I got news of a loved one in crisis – and I became convinced that God is bored again and is stirring the pot – which brought me full circle on elephants as one of my favorite Hindu gods is Ganesha – the remover of obstacles – the insanity of Ganesha is Ganesha puts the very obstacles in your path that you pray to him to remove – just to mess with you. It’s all sort of insane and absurd.

Had it not been raining, Tin and I might have gone outside to eat our dinner as a nod to Sukkot to contemplate the universe that is bigger than us and our problems – instead we lit a candle, said Tin’s verse from school and let out a deep breath.

We pray while God’s laughing. I need to remember that and try not to think too much.


Why we are here

Monday, September 23rd, 2013


“People don’t live in New Orleans because it is easy. They live here because they are incapable of living anywhere else in just the same way.”
~ Ian McNulty, A Season of Night: New Orleans Life After Katrina

The Hand of God

Sunday, September 22nd, 2013

I’ve been pretty upset about this Food Stamp debacle that Congress has presented to us. I can’t imagine what would go on in anyone’s head that would think at a time when this country cannot feed all of its children – 22% live below the poverty line – that it would even consider cutting $40 billion out of this program.

I spent the morning sending a tweet to each of the 271 Republicans who voted for this shameful act. They sicken me. We are talking about feeding the poor, for godsakes, where is your soul, people?

Simultaneously, I had been watching Season 1 and 2 of Scandal, which is all about the machinations of Washington DC, while I was reading Annie Lamott’s Operating Instructions about the first year of her son’s life.

The juxtaposition of all of this information left my mind swirling and my heart aching.

As I tweeted each of those Republicans – I saw their faces – majority male, and all white, and they looked like the enemy. The freaking enemy! I had to just back away from the ledge because my animosity was mounting.

I’m not a bleeding heart liberal, unless it comes to kids, and for them – cutting the food stamp program? Why?

Evil, petty, racist assholes – each and everyone of them and I am going to back away from the ledge right now because I do believe Fortuna’s Wheel is already turning. By 2043, whites will be a minority, and whoever is breeding white children today, you better hope that people of color show your prodigy mercy — there is going to be hell to pay for your sins of today – keep that in mind.


Wonder Woman gets a make-over

Saturday, September 21st, 2013

Tonight Wonder Woman decided for the umpteenth time in months that she was not going out. Instead she stayed home and finished the last episode of Scandal that ended with a Darth Vader-esque moment. Then she picked up her book and read. I am not sure why I [read: Wonder Woman] have become so un-super-hero-like these days – it could have something to do with not drinking – I mean I was supposed to go to a party tonight where everyone would be having cocktails and the truth is that standing around talking to people who are having cocktails when you are not just isn’t that much fun – really. The other night I was supposed to attend a birthday party where again everyone was having fancy shmancy gin cocktails and again, I just wasn’t in the mood – I preferred my book and early to bed.

My mood these days is all about chill-axing when I’m not working on one of my myriad projects – that is all I seem to want to do with myself when I’m not with Tin or working. And with Tin, well it’s always showtime.

So maybe the weeks when he spends the night at Tatjana’s are just recovery weeks for me and that is when going out just seems redundant to the nonstop entertainment I’ve had when I’m with him. Who knows – maybe it’s that I’m 54 and he’s 4 and therein lies the answer to everything about this complete reframing of my super hero status.

And Wonder Woman has taken this whole concept just one step further with a complete wardrobe redo – Wonder Woman has a new outfit and it is much more fitting as you can see:


So seeing how she is being much more practical in her super hero life, it all just makes sense that my fantasy life is filled with practicality as well. I took a break from my back-to-back episodes of Scandal to go over to visit with Tin and give him a bath. As soon as he was in the bath, he decided it was showtime – as usual – and so the shower curtain became the stage curtain and he donned exfoliating gloves and a wide-toothed comb to become Señor Walrus. Ta da:


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Maybe this is all I need – plus a wardrobe change – to keep it real.

The Relationship Spectrum

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

There are many people on the relationship spectrum in my life these days. I spent Saturday with two couples who are lovely and loving. I’ve also spent an inordinate amount of time recently with couples where the men are unfaithful and the women deceived or disenchanted or both. I’ve spent hours and evenings with people longing to be in a relationship but caught in a trap of desire and revulsion.

Across this spectrum I’ve seen only one constant and it was written on the marquis at First Grace this week: