Archive for November, 2013

What is the reason for the season?

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

During Passover, the youngest child asks, why is this night different than other nights? But this holiday season all of us are asking why is Hanukkah falling on Thanksgiving creating Thanksgivukkah. The answer my friend is so complicated it makes my head burn but the short answer is:

The quirk of Thanksgivukkah is that the Hebrew calendar, which follows the sun and the moon, and the Gregorian calendar, where Thanksgiving sits on the fourth Thursday of November, has aligned this year so that the two holidays are on the same day for the first time since 1888, 25 years after President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a holiday.

You cannot imagine the stress of trying to celebrate both holidays and in my case add on a friend’s son’s bar mitzvah in the same week – Oh Brother Maccabee! Not to mention, this year, the Dangermond household has decided to also include Kwanzaa in our holiday celebration. Look out folks we have just ramped the winter holidays up to a new level here and it starts today. So grab your book of matches and let’s start lighting some candles.

I post this* [below] every year as a reminder of what Hanukkah is, but if you look at how Hanukkah overlaps with Thanksgiving – they are both holidays that offer thanks for our bounty and for the cornucopia of our bounty’s elements, then you can’t help but see that Kwanzaa, a holiday initiated by African Americans to celebrate the cornucopia of an African heritage brought to bloom on American soil overlaps as well. Hanukkah and Kwanzaa are about remembering who we are in the diospara. Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa are about how grateful we are to be surrounded by loved ones who bring light into our dark days.

This month is Native American History month. The irony that there is only one month each to celebrate African American contributions to our culture as well as Native American is in and of itself absurd. What is even more absurd is that Native American History month falls during the same month as Thanksgiving, which for many Native Americans is seen as a day of mourning. How telling of human resilience that when asked how do Native Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, most will say they spend it in the company of their families and loved ones around a meal.

The fact that all of these holidays so wonderfully overlap to create a reason for the season is what is making me joyous this holiday season – I’m giving thanks that we got through another hurricane season here in the Gulf South; I’m thankful President Obama has opened doors in Iran; I’m grateful for my son and having the privilege of watching him grow; and I’m grateful that we were able to buy a house after letting go of the dream house that I built after the 2005 Federal Flood. In our house, we have decorated for both Hanukkah and Thanksgiving, the Hanukkah bush stage will morph to our Kwanzaa table and the blue lights will be replaced by red, green and black cloth. The menorah will give way to the kinara.

In the end, the message is the same, in this family of color, we celebrate oneness, our cornucopia of difference that has given birth to who we are. With love, I would like to thank you for reading and joining us on our journey. And by all means, proceed with love.

I’ll leave off with a quote from Mourning Dove who was born in 1888, the last time Hanukkah and Thanksgiving joined together on our calendar:

…… everything on the earth has a purpose, every disease an herb to cure it, and every person a mission. This is the Indian theory of existence.
~ Mourning Dove Salish 1888-1936


The story of Hanukkah is the story of religious freedom. In 168 BC King Antiochus (pronounced an TIE uh kus) the 4th, who inherited his kingdom from Alexander the Great, set up an idol in the Jewish temple and ordered Jews to worship it. He was a zealous Hellenist and wanted all people to follow Greek ways. A revolt led by Mattathias and his son Judah the Maccabee to overthrow Antiochus raged with the odds against the Jews; they were ill-equipped and vastly outnumbered [think the Saints or David & Goliath or Rocky). But the Jews were fighting for their homes, their faith and their freedom as the Syrian mercenaries were not. So, in the winter of 165 BC the Jews were victorious and marched into Jerusalem.

The first act was to clean the temple and get rid of the idol. When they arrived, there was only a single flask of oil to light that should have lasted one day. It miraculously lasted eight.

Later, to commemorate the victory, candles were lit for eight days. There was an interesting dispute between the followers of Shammai and Hillel (Hillel and Shammai were two leading rabbis of the early 1st century BCE who founded opposing schools of Jewish thought, known as the House of Hillel and House of Shammai). Shammai advocated lighting the eight candles moving downward to a single candle. Historians believe Shammai’s basic view was that the glory of Israel lay in the past and there had been a steady downward trend among the Jews. Hillel’s followers foresaw a glorious future for Judaism. Symbolic of their faith and hope, they advocated a rising crescendo of light. Of course, they prevailed. Today the candles are lit from left to right.

The basic issue of the Maccabean struggle was religious freedom. The Jews fought for their right to worship God in their own way. Not long after the victory, war broke out again, this time Judah was killed in battle and the new colossus, Rome, bestrode the Middle East. The Hebrew state [Israel] was crushed until May 1948. It is interesting to speculate on what this victory of the spirit has meant in human history. If Judaism had been destroyed in the second century before Jesus, would Christianity have come into the world, or Mohammedanism? Both were products of Judaism and both derived sustenance from the living Jewish people.

photo copy 4


Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

The confluence of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah along with the arrival of cold and damp weather as well as all of this happening at the same time as my friend’s son’s bar mitzvah is enough to make anyone discombobulated.

As I approach the holidays or rather as the holidays encroach on me, I’m taking stock of how things are at this very moment. I have not had a glass of wine or any alcohol for three months. I managed to decorate the house for each holiday from Halloween to Hanukkah. I’ve been cooking up a storm and enjoying my new journey into gluten free.

So when I think back to where I was last year at this time – out of my mind – and where I am now – at peace – I’d say that whoa, what a difference a year makes.

My life had started rolling like a little ball accreting into a bigger ball until I could not even face myself in the morning. And then I tugged on a few main arteries and watched the whole house of cards tumble in on itself. Done. I was done, done, and done.

What ensued was a major reframing of my life that took away the foundation of my dream house, my career, my hair, my relationship, my pets, and the memories and dreams that had propped me up. None of them came with me into this new life. Not a hair on my chinny chin chin.

I thought about this recently when I was trying to figure out why there is always so much collateral damage along my journey and serendipitously I opened up a book that a woman had written about Black Angels. She made Black Angel cards to go along with the book of interpretations and divination. I opened the book to The Changer.

You are transforming the foundation of your soul.

You are transformation manifested in a human soul. You embody change from deep within. … Primarily, your divine work is creating a metamorphosis in others’ values and beliefs. … People can be uncomfortable with your evolution, and thus you may frequently suffer the loss of friendships. Transitioning from an old self to a renewed self is a serious practice for you. … Sometimes you get tired of transformation, but you can’t step out of it because it’s your nature.

Tomorrow is the first night of Hanukkah, Thursday is the first time Hanukkah and Thanksgiving have been at the same time since 1888 and it won’t happen again in my lifetime. Saturday, is the four year anniversary of my mother’s passing and it’s my friend’s son’s bar mitzvah – he was just a tiny baby and now he is ready to take on his own sins. Next week, we will have the first Hanukkah menorah lighting at the Spirit House. The following Friday, we will celebrate Tin’s homecoming anniversary (4 years).

The earth is spinning and where once I was accreting and accreting then I changed course and started shedding and purging and now I do believe I’ve reached a nice body weight – something I can live with inside and out. I’ve taken my time to rest and renew. It’s kept me from writing as much and it has brought me to reading too much. My monastic habits have suited me during the second half of a year that was fraught with so much change in the first half that not even those closest to me could keep up with where I was at any single moment in the advent of my new life.

Every year, I get to know more about who I am. Each upheaval offers me an opportunity to renew. Even traditions can alter and morph. This year, we will celebrate Kwanzaa as well as all of the other holidays – why not? – why not make every day from now till the end of the year a celebration? Bringing light into the darkness and giving thanks for our bounty.

I just continue to believe in the best possible outcome in the best possible world.

I think I’ll let the mystery be

Sunday, November 24th, 2013

A 14-year-old and I were talking about boys and it was an interesting conversation. She was explaining to me that boys are weird. And of course, I gave that knowing nod in allegiance with our girl-ness. But then I offered her another explanation and that is think about the boy/girl dynamic from their point of view.

I had thought about this earlier when Tin had been watching Toy Story for the first time and Woody calls a meeting at the beginning of the movie and Bo Peep sidles up to him and says, “Hey, I can get someone to watch my flock later if you’re free,” causing Woody to blush and become completely discombobulated.

I thought ha, does it take a woman to be brazen to get a man to ask her out or what?

So this is where my young friend finds herself – asking this same question and the answer I gave her was imagine how hard it must be to be a guy and protocol says you should be the one to ask a girl out and how many rejections can one guy take in his lifetime? I certainly, as brazen as I am, would not venture to put myself out on a limb to be rejected even if I had never been so before but only feared I might be so.

It takes cojones made of kryptonite to rally to this cause. My young friend was receptive but still not convinced that boys have it harder than girls until another friend in his late twenties came over and joined our conversation. He said, “Who wants to be rejected? There are so many women who are really nasty as if not only do they want to reject you hands down, but they want you to know that you are completely worthless as well.”

So today I am grateful for all the men who have dared to greet me. It must be no easy task because as one long time source of mine told me, “Rachel, gal, you are tough,” (read: as in what man would ever go out with you). Well he was wrong then and he’s wrong now, he only knew me in business where I can be tough, but I’m actually mush – complete mushy mush – and not tough at all in my personal life. But I guess I have a demeanor that makes me appear to be capable of ball-breaking feats.

My young friend left feeling as if perhaps this boy/girl thing is a universal issue – and maybe not one that is only “her” dilemma. My 20-year-old friend left still puzzling over anything women-related from the get go. And I am left thinking, ah hell, I’ll just let the mystery be.

When is enough enough?

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

I have a voice in my head or voices shall I say. They tell me things. For instance, no matter how ahead of the game I remain in my work, these voices tell me it is not enough. No matter how clean my house is, it could always use more. No matter what I’ve done to keep myself in shape, healthy, and fit, my voice tells me that it’s not good enough.

These are the voices in my head. They are amplified under any sort of stress to the mind or body.

I am a relatively happy and confident person, so these voices or harpies in my head are incongruent but they are entrenched.

At meditation on Sunday morning, we had our dharma talk afterwards and the topic was Emptiness. The underlying theme is that chaos exists and we have to learn to create emptiness and steady our thoughts so as not to succumb to the allure of chaos.

The harpies that hide behind every nook and cranny in my mind are always on alert whether I’m aware of them or not and they always come out and try to tear me down. It’s not good enough, they tell me, you, you’re not good enough, or my favorite because it has an apocalyptic feel to it, it will never be good enough.

This morning as I went through my exercise routine and thought about how I feel like I’m getting back on track after a long illness (read: two weeks), I started chastising myself but another voice was answering, “What? I was supposed to stay on track while sick?”

My head harpies are good for one thing and one thing alone – to invoke fear. Fear that no matter how hard I work or try or force myself that I’m on the brink of annihilation. Thankfully, I have the other stronger voices in my head telling the harpies: “Namaste Bitches.” But on days when I’m coming out of a period of illness, my resolve is weak and they find their way to the podium and begin their assault and it is then I feel defenseless.

What I’m aiming for – is to bury those suckers. Because enough is enough. And so today, I am lighting a candle to ask my ancestors to help me over this hump – they gave me these glorious genes, now I need help to goose the low flame once more.

Heal thyself, Woman

Saturday, November 16th, 2013

I’ve spent the last seven days in the trenches of a head cold almost-flu-like disease that Tin had caught at school and suffered one minute of a sniffly nose from and then passed to me in which it became the most infectious disease of the year. I told a friend of mine in California who is a life coach about my subsequent laryngitis and she said, “Laryngitis is when the words are blocked in your head and won’t come out.”

How appropriate that I needed one more reminder I’m not spending time on my book that I’m writing (or not).

When my hair started falling out in March of 2012, another spiritual healer type friend told me that hair loss meant humiliation and wow, how spot on this metaphysical reading of illness was back then because it had coincided with the loss of my work, my fear of losing my house, and not providing for the many animals and persons who had grown dependent upon me to perform like the one-trick pony I had become.

I don’t own any of these books that show the correlation between physical illness and emotional lack but when a friend was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, someone told me this illness is the manifestation of not having been nurtured. And while yes, I have grown more spiritual and metaphysical in my thinking of late, I still approach most of what comes my way with a high degree of skepticism.

Which brings me to dreams – my head cold led to subsequent sleepless nights as well as the neti pot becoming my BFF for days on end. It also helped me dig deeper into Rodger Kamenetz book, The History of Last Night’s Dream. To say that my and other’s dreams have fascinated me from time before time is an understatement. I have served as interpreter of many a person’s dreams. But a romp through Kamenetz’s version of why we dream completely changed my perspective on what it is that dreams are telling us.

I am haunted by certain dreams that I still can’t shake – the most profound being one I had in the summer of 2011 – a nightmare while in Spain that bordered on a revelation/hallucination/a work of art. I was in a small economy car headed across a bridge over water, when suddenly the stable bridge became a rope bridge that was swaying in a tempest, the entire landscape turned into Gotham at the Sea, with the white-capped waves reaching swells of magnificent proportions and the bridge undulating more and more until I got to a point where I could clearly see the bridge just stopped, ending into the storm tossed sea and a landscape of black and grey. I shuddered and backed up, putting the small car in reverse and cautiously headed backwards.

When I woke from that nightmare/dream I was shaken to the core. My natural dream interpretation skills kicked into action and I could have sworn that this dream was a state of the union. My job and livelihood was coming to an end. My foundation was undulating underneath me. And I saw no way forward. It all made sense to me then even though I still am fascinated by the almost immersion into a giant canvas painted in charcoal and ebony that I was moving through. I kept scratching my head about the end of the bridge – I back up. But why wouldn’t I back up, it was freaking scary to go off the bridge into the tossed sea? I mean, who would do that?

Towards the end of Kamenetz book I started to realize something profound. In many times of transition in my life and upheaval I have had a similar nightmare, one where I am in danger. This manifests itself into two different types of dreams. One is a dream where I walk out of my house and into the street at night, but suddenly I’m very far from my house, and the street is not just dark, it’s pitch dark and I am suddenly in a not good part of town and to get from where I am to home requires me to walk through dangerous areas and I am utterly alone. While the landscape of this dream shifts subtly with new geographies, the dynamic is always the same. In the other dreams, a more creative touch is applied as I am killed or about to be killed in a myriad of ways. One is I’m Princess Diana in the back of the limo and the limo driver turns out to be the killer who pulls over under a freeway and takes out an elaborate leather choking device and puts it on his arm like a tefillin and then begins to strangle the life out of me. This is only one of many ways I’m about to die in these dreams. And similar to the dark street dreams I’m on my own.

In Kamenetz book I found a key to get inside my dream and change that device. He talks about how dreams have a pathology and once you identify it, you learn more about yourself than most waking lessons provide in a lifetime. My pathology, I realized, was that in every situation where I’m in danger, I’m alone and more importantly, I don’t think anything of that being the problem. I’m alone because I never seem to call out for help, I never seem to ask anyone to show me the way out, and I always think in the dream that I have to figure this out myself or I’m doomed.

Just in this last week of illness and coming to the end of Kamenetz book, the worm turned in my dreams. I dreamed the other night that I had walked out of my house and was going to get something and then wound up on that dark street, in that bad neighborhood, only this one was really bad because it housed an infamous criminal and yet, the first thing I did was turn to a young girl walking her black lab and ask her for help. She smiled and said, “Sure,” and then she told me that she had gotten her dog from that very criminal and began to tell me the history of the neighborhood. She walked me home, and suddenly the dark eery landscape softened and became a place, a place I wasn’t scared to be in (read: because I wasn’t alone).

I went back to other dreams that have proliferated my nightscape since I moved to the Spirit House, where I’m holding children, babies or toddlers, or speaking to people with toddlers, and I came to realize they were all trying to help me learn more about myself in an unencumbered way. The child’s way is not blocked by the adult’s fear. These weren’t babies as in my wanting more children in my life, but rather as Kamenetz says in his book, the child in the dream is a gift who helps you learn your soul’s path:

… First you must encounter your predicament, and see your opposition; this is the first gift of the dream. Then you can find the essential image of the soul; this is the second gift. Finally, as the child you explore this imaginal space and learn from the archetypes; this is the third gift.

Seeing as a child removes the stacking fears that we as adults have accumulated in our life. Acknowledging and accepting, not removing or eradicating, fear in my life has helped me tremendously. I owe learning about fear to my being able to move up a rung to a level that still invokes a touch of altitude sickness in my gut, but each moment I am able to hold my eyes wide open for any length of time, I’m blessed with a view.

And this ain’t no ordinary view, people. Because this ain’t no ordinary life.

Another Saturday night and I ain’t got nobody

Sunday, November 10th, 2013

I went last night to a friend’s fundraiser for girls in Ghana who are unable to go to school. This is part of a long trajectory she has taken in the form of raising money to help women in Ghana. The fundraiser was billed as a Nina Simone evening as Simone worked in clubs to pay for her own classical piano lessons without telling her mother, so with the same fierce determination my friend is helping women who might be the next Nina Simone reach their potential. As she got up to speak, she got choked up as she recalled the challenge of starting this business years ago and she thanked her dad who had flown in from California because he helped her set up the program. Afterwards, we watched a film her husband had put together of the women in Ghana applying for the program.

I left and went to a friend’s 40th birthday party across town. She told me her friends all got together and bought her and her husband a dishwasher because their’s hadn’t worked for seven years and when her friends overheard her talking about it, they decided to put in together and buy her one. Now those are friends with benefits.

photo by Josh Brasted

This morning, I woke at 3AM with my head cold and laryngitis and thought my brain would explode. Tin woke up late, thankfully, but then when I tried to lay down again, I became his human trampoline. Seeing how there was nothing else to do but get this boy some activity, I tried to figure it out – a) couldn’t do a playdate because I couldn’t speak to the mother; b) he didn’t want to go to the zoo or aquarium, c) amusement park!

So C it was – we went over to City Park’s Amusement Park and he rode all the rides and some pretty hairy/scary ones at that! I was impressed by his utter indifference to heights and fear, which was good because I was incapable of going on spinning rides in my condition. I had to ask one guy if he would take Tin on the Ferris Wheel because I was so dizzy I couldn’t go up there. So he was able to ride even the rides that required an adult.

As we were exiting, a petite, older Asian woman with a tiny baby in a stroller asked me what my name was – when I told her, she said her name is Rosa and she would start praying for me if I didn’t mind. “I don’t mind at all.”

Tin and I strolled over to Morning Call and sat outside on this fine, beautiful day, and Tin ate beignets loaded with powdered sugar and I had a cup of delicious cafe au lait. A very tall and large man walked over to our table and said to me with conviction, “It’s all going to be good, you hear.” And he spoke to me as if he knew me and knew what my definition of good might be, so much so, that I just nodded and said thank you.

Everybody needs somebody sometimes, it’s just the way we are designed.




Go away blackest, darkest night

Sunday, November 10th, 2013

Friday night was the Lantern Walk at Tin’s Waldorf school. This was his/our third year doing the ritual and it has become so ingrained in him as an annual that he thinks of the Lantern Walk in the same list as Hanukkah, his birthday, his homecoming anniversary, etc. We sing songs and make a paper lantern from the painting that the kids do and then on the night of the Lantern Walk, the kids carry the lanterns in the darkness of the evening around the school and back inside for a puppet show about a lantern that helps light others’ way.


Like Hanukkah, like Diwali, like Christmas and Kwanza – these are all rituals to help us tolerate the darkness that descends on us this time of year. It warms our soul, which in turn warms our heart.


Go away blackest, darkest night
Go away
Give way to light

Dreaming of Robert Glasper

Sunday, November 10th, 2013

My surge in activity landed me with a horrible head cold and laryngitis – thank goodness I’m a writer and not a singer is all I can say. Thursday, I went to see the Robert Glasper Experiment at the newly renovated Civic Theater. And because it was a school night and my babysitter is in high school, I had to leave just as they were warming up. I’m not the only person/parent who has trouble seeing live music anymore – 10PM start time is just too late especially because it said he was coming on at 8PM and especially for those of us that depend on our sleep to thrive.

Robert Glasper just came out with Black Radio II – the first CD, Black Radio, is fantastic and if you buy no other music this year, this is the one you need to buy. As Glasper says on II, “90% of what is on the radio is whack” – so he’s raising the bar too many notches to count.

I went with a friend who also has young children, so it was with our heads hanging that we left and went to our cars 40 minutes into their set.


I came home and got in bed and dreamed of Glasper – sitting at the keyboards grooving out here in New Orleans. All was not lost.

You don’t know anything

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

I have to remind kick myself every day in order to remember that I don’t know anything because I don’t. When your mind gets anxious, it’s because you are worried about the outcome of something – the trick is you think you know the outcome and you worry, but the truth is that you don’t know it – you haven’t met all the people in the world, you haven’t been to all the places in the world, you haven’t read all the books or seen all the movies or danced to all the sweet music the world has to offer, so relax, there is nothing to be anxious about – the world is unfolding.

The past 48 hours I’ve been dealing with some nasty stuff, but while that was all going on, so were a number of wonderful things – good news on a friend’s diagnosis, another friend completed her last round of chemo today, and a bevy of new people entered my life when a friend posted my Transracial Parenting site on her Facebook page.

We are on the constantly evolving train journey to wonderland – and the icky parts come only from resistance to the ride. Those who clearly see that the reign of terror is over are more scared than ever – that would be those who are rich beyond measure as well as those who are ignorant beyond baseline.

So people – celebrate not knowing what is coming and open up to what is here.

Entering the season of self

Sunday, November 3rd, 2013

I was sitting on a blanket in the sun today and I was telling a friend how I had developed the art of serial monogamy without missing a beat – yet there were always flashes of time when it was just me. At 20, on a ferry going to Ship Island, I leaned back and watched the Gulf gently toss us to and fro – I was light and giddy and perfectly unattached. At 24, sitting on the back steps of my shotgun apartment ($265/month) on General Pershing after divorcing my first husband – smoking a cigarette and drinking coffee under the shade of a very old pecan tree – I was there, by myself, at peace. It wasn’t until I was 47, divorced from my third husband, before I had the next glimmer – and that was riding a bike in Mississippi counting roadkill in my head – I was there, by myself, content.

So now at 54, I am digging the solace of me, myself and I. Even though today, the woman speaking to me said she had raised her two children all by herself and never in a million years would she have thought she’d be single for this long. I told her I always had someone when I left someone and she said, “That’s not about them, that’s about you. You had not found peace inside of you.”

Au contraire, I told my French friend, I had found it, but it was fleeting because I couldn’t sit with it – I was not calm in my youth. I had wild romantic notions and lustful loins and I only envisioned myself as a semicircle, incomplete.