Shana Tova! – Happy Jewish New Year from Penny S. Tee

For Jews, it’s the year 5,777 – sounds lucky : ) New Years’, whether Jewish or secular, always make me reflect on the year gone by. How about you?  I look back over the past 12 months, and then toward what I would like to happen in the coming year.  The theme I chose this year for a personal development group I belong to, has been to stay present and bring as much Peace as possible to myself, in order to share it with others : )  As always, this is a work in progress, but I definitely feel this is going in the right direction.

According to Jewish tradition, “Three books of account are opened on Rosh Hashanah, wherein the fate of the wicked, the righteous, and those of an intermediate class are recorded. The names of the righteous are immediately inscribed in the book of life and they are sealed “to live.” The intermediate class are allowed a respite of ten days, until Yom Kippur, to reflect, repent and become righteous; the wicked are “blotted out of the book of the living forever.” Hopefully, after the 10 days are up, we’ll all be inscribed in the book of life. 1  Oey, 10 days to get my act together.  Whether or not you believe in this, I think it’s always a good practice to reflect on how we are using our days on this earth – after all, they are finite and we just don’t know…

I’ve spent the last year writing and researching my book, “Blasted from Complacency.”  It’s the account of our trip to Israel, in the summer of 2014.  Our family was on vacation in Israel, when we found ourselves touring extraordinary, historic and religious sites interspersed with cowering in bomb shelters. The beautiful, sunset reflected on the water in the picture at the top of this blog was taken on the day we arrived.  We were on the deck at the Tel Aviv Port overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.  We had gone there to enjoy Shabbat services.   The natural splendor and comfort in community amongst so many other Jews – for once we weren’t a minority.  Here finally in Eretz Israel (the Land of Israel), the Peace-filled setting belied what was yet to come.

It’s been frustrating for me that my book’s not finished yet.  However, I remind myself it will be completed within its own time, and the timing will be just right.  I’ve been researching more about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the places we visited and also the craft of writing.  As I learn more, I revise, revise, revise.  If you are a writer, you get it : )  To help me with this, I recently joined a writing class, taught by an accomplished author, Maralys Wills.  I think if I have a weekly deadline to write 10 pages a week, sooner than later hopefully, it will get the job done.  It reminds me about my marathon running days – it’s one foot in front of the other and as long as you keep going, you’ll get there : )

An added bonus to going to temple last night was seeing our fellow travelers from our trip.  One family we have known since the kids were in Mommy and Me and the other we met on our adventure.  My son’s long-time friend ran over to him and she gave him a big hug, exclaiming, “You’re so tall!”  He hears similar comments often.  Since our trip he has grown 4 ½ inches and now is over 6 ft.  It’s the difference between 13 and 15 ½ years old.  The other Mom and daughter also commented on his height and positively on his hair – the long curls were gone except for the natural wave on top.  We’ve always let his hair be his choice.  It was a good night for him, and a great night for us as parents – beyond seeing our friends.  My son gave me a gift he probably won’t understand until he has a teenager of his own.  I’ve commented in previous blogs about the predictable issues in parenting a teenager.  It can be as difficult as its reputation, and we have a great kid. I can’t imagine what other parents go through.  However, last night he communicated loud and clear, and he didn’t even have to utter his usual grunts.

During the service he sat between my husband and I. As the congregation began reciting the prayers, he reached his long, lanky hands out to each of us, to hold.  My husband and I looked at each other, both pleasantly surprised, and smiled.

For my son and I, we were in the sanctuary where we had shared our B’nai Mitzvah (A Bar and Bat Mitzvah) together, already nearly 3 years before.  Sitting next to him reciting prayers once again together brought me great joy, as he glanced at me with a playful sparkle in his eye, as we sang out the prayers in Hebrew.  He reached out to hold my hand several times, and put his arms around my shoulders or used my head as a chin rest while standing – well, I was in mom heaven.  Now I know my son quite well, and realize beyond his sharp intelligence, and looking deep down past his teenage angst – he has a heart of gold. We just don’t get to see it in real time very often and I’m relegated to his childhood memories of the cuddling of days gone by. Let’s acknowledge his ability to show his love for us openly without the usual teenage privacy restrictions – what a great way to start the New Year!  As we left the synagogue, my husband whispered to me, “You had quite a night!”

A few special things this year also occurred associated with my writing.  One was having the opportunity to have part of my book read on the Grand Horton Stage in San Diego, through the Memoir Showcase.  Another, was joining Publishers and Writers of San Diego and Orange County.  I have learned quite a lot about the business of writing from their meetings and I’ve become their official scribe for the Orange County chapter : )  Finally, I started Writers4Writers, a writers’ support group. I wanted to be around my peeps : ) Writers as a general group are smart, thoughtful and for me loads of fun.  If you live in Orange County, CA, write or would like to – come join us, it’s FREE.

Jean Houston, my beloved teacher, says we should look for repeating patterns in your life.  She calls these fractals.  What are yours?  One for me, is learning.  I look with great joy upon the many classes and lectures I’ve taken throughout this year.  My son just doesn’t understand me – “Mom, why do you take classes when you don’t have to?”  Hopefully, he’ll appreciate why some day.

I’ve been studying with Jean online for a couple years now. She has helped me grow in many ways.  She’s had an amazing, learned and thoughtful life and has taught in over 100 countries. It’s been a privilege to have had the opportunity to actually speak with her on a few occasions. I know, I sound like a groupie – how typical for me, that it would be for a teacher : )  She has studied a wide variety of people from indigenous tribes to those we would like to think civilized.  Her mentor was Margaret Mead and her passion is the possible human. I hope you’ve heard about her and if not, look her up – it will be well worth your time. I couldn’t help smiling a while back when I discovered her late husband was Robert Masters.  He was THE Masters of the well-known Masters and Johnson team who did all those studies on sex.  No wonder she has such a joyful presence : )

My mind wanders next to family and friends – how blessed I am to have them in my life. I’ve been married to my husband for nineteen years.  I was a ripe old maid of 41, when I got married and 44 when I had my son.  I was long past my mom’s hopes I would ever find someone, let alone be blessed with a child.  What those people who are closest to us teach us about ourselves is priceless, if we have the courage to listen.  I’m grateful for their presence in my life.

I’ve always believed friends are family you choose.  I have been seriously blessed with many friends whether from places where we worked, traveling the road of parenting together, temple, joining personal development groups, friends of friends enlarging my circle, college days or even relatives – my cousin is both my confidante and also writes : )  I hope you enjoy many friendships too.  Find the ones who you have fun with, can be your cheerleader, and also those who provide loving, honest feedback : )  The people who will tell you what you need to know, even when it’s difficult to hear.

I’ve noticed many new things I learned over the last several years have become practices, the backbone of my life, such as meditation.  Starting my day off amongst the trees listening to the brilliant, Peaceful voice of Deepak Chopra – well it’s a great way to begin the morning.  This year I even tried Jewish meditation at a Meditation Retreat with our temple.  It was especially significant because it was my birthday and my husband who hadn’t been into meditation took the time off from work, to join me : )

During the last few years of intense personal growth, I remember being overwhelmed at times by so many new concepts introduced by a wide range of teachers.  Some I had difficulty understanding because they were so foreign to my beliefs that I had grown up with, or had never heard about before.  I read books or took classes recommended by Oprah and others : )  However, I remained open and in retrospect, have assimilated much of what they taught into my life – not like the Borg (a nod to my Star Trek addicted boys at home : ), but with conscious effort to understand and make a choice to accept or not.  Another concept I’ve strongly identified with is what happens when you are in the “flow.” Many synchronicities have occurred in my life and at this point I notice, and am grateful, although I’m not surprised, as I used to be. Nonetheless, it doesn’t diminish the special opportunity of the chance meeting with people such as Patrick Blythe, the Director of the Art of Reconciliation for Coventry Cathedral in England.  Who knew my curiosity about art during a birthday weekend romp in Palm Springs with my friends, would lead to a heartfelt friendship?

That’s my Jewish year in review.  I hope your year was also filled with Love and Peace.  To my family, friends, and teachers, I am grateful to have you in my life.

May you be blessed in the coming year to be healthy, keep loved ones close, make and keep friends and do what you love.  May Israel move closer to Peace, and may both sides find the strength to see and want to understand The Others’ reality.  Amen.

As always, I hope you Join Me On My Journey…