The Bliss Blog

The Bliss Blog

The Milkman’s Daughter

Tonight, as the Yahrzeit candle flickers, honoring the 4th anniversary of the passing of my father Moish Weinstein, I have perused piles of pictures that represent several generations of my family. Parents,  grandparents,  my sister, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews all interwoven in each other’s lives. Some remain in body, some long since passed. Tears and smiles as I feel both fragile and strong, resilient and tumbling into renewed grief. A repository of memory, I’m the family matriarch of my immediate clan since my mother Selma died in 2010. At 53, I am grateful to have had my parents for as long as I did (84 and 86, respectively) since both of my grandfathers died before I was born and my parents became ‘adult orphans’  by the time they were in their mid-40’s.

I have written about my parents several times in the Bliss Blog since they have been such influences in my life that extends to every aspect. I was raised by people who lived their spiritual practice, not only by attending synagogue, but taking an active role there. My mother was in the Sisterhood and my father led the Tallis and T’fillin Club on Sunday mornings at our shul and was a man ahead of his time, since he welcomed girls (having two daughters that he raised as whole, well rounded individuals, not limited by our gender) to come to the breakfast of bagels, lox and cream cheese. He stood up to the sexist rabbi who when I came home from college for a Friday Night service, would not include women in the minyan…not that it changed the man’s mind, but I was grateful that my father was willing to tell him that his daughters should count.  The guys I grew up with still remember that my dad taught them to box. He had been a Golden Gloves boxer in the navy and loved introducing kids to the pugilistic art. When my sister and I were young and would battle it out verbally, he would put gloves, head gear and mouth guards on us and tell us to go at it. We swatted at each other and I say that it is a good thing I am a pacifist, since I could have developed a mean right hook.  When we would fall throughout our lives, whether it was from a bicycle, roller skates, a sled or from emotional heights, after making sure we were ok, he would encourage us to get right ‘back in the saddle’. He was a blend of tough cookie and marshmallow, growing up in South Philly (think the neighborhood where the character Rocky Balboa lived) and getting culture from marrying my mother who insisted this meat and potatoes kid eat vegetables as a condition of their marriage.

My father worked throughout his life as both a milkman and bus driver. My sister is a red head and the joke was that she was the milkman’s daughter; because, of course, she is. When he and my mother got engaged, he proposed to her by asking her to go the fridge and pour him a glass of milk. On top of the bottle was the engagement ring. I think he had run the idea past my grandmother to get her blessing. The interesting irony was that my grandfather had also been a milkman, but my father had never met him, since he died when my mom was 18.

When my parents were married 25 years, Jan and I threw them a surprise party (see picture above). I’m the one with the long hair on the left, next to my cousin Renee, her daughter Jennifer, my dad, my cousin Jody and my sister Jan. The day was filled with laughter and love, the ripples of which expand forward another few decades, washing ashore to this moment. Being with his daughters and nieces was among his favorite joys and he cherished his relationships with my cousins who dubbed him “Uncle Milky”. Even after he changed careers to become a SEPTA busdriver, the name stuck, since “Uncle Bussy” just didn’t have the same ring to it.

I was reminding Jody today that she and I had arrived in time to their South Florida home to be with him when he made his transition, holding his hand, reading to him from his favorite prayer book.

Trembling strength to sustain me, this tough South Philly street corner kid remains a fixture in my daily life, accompanying me in the car, singing along with his enthusiastic if not in tune voice. He is most especially present at the gym; his home away from home even nearly 20 years post official retirement as he worked and then worked out there even after the Parkinsons took over where he now cajoles me “Come on, doll baby, one more rep.” And so, borrowing his endurance, I oblige.

 

http://youtu.be/8A4W_iO2pB0  Milkman, Keep Those Bottles Quiet by Ella Mae Morse

Light As A Feather

 

On Friday night, I joined a group of 50-something women that refer to ourselves Yoga Chicks, at the sweet little haven of a studio called Anahata Yoga in Harleysville, PA. The sanskrit word anahata is the name for the heart chakra; that place within us that resonates with love and compassion. We gathered for an evening (and some stayed over) of laughter and play, silliness and snacks…hummus and veggies, decadent brownies and organic greens, tea and multi-grain crackers, dark chocolate truffles and olives…what a combination, just like us…sweet and salty.  Married, widowed, divorced, some moms, all with mothering instincts, with accumulated wisdom and life experience that we willingly share with the world. Creative types all, exhibiting audaciousness that has had us thrive in the face of some pretty major challenges.  We value our connections with women and for months had been planning a time removed temporarily from daily responsibility and remembering what it was like to be giggly teenagers. The daughter of one of the women asked if we were going to stay up, ‘talking about boys’. She answered that we probably would and we did. The subject matter,  as we sprawled on the hardwood floor scattered with colorful bolsters and yoga mats and blankets, ranged from relationships and sex, to children and careers, body image and self esteem, yoga, passions and pursuits, what we would do if we won the mega millions lottery, doing angel card readings with a Doreen Virtue deck, and a game that most of us had played at slumber parties in our youth. Nope, not ‘truth or dare’, since it would have been way too easy with this group in which there is likely not to be TMI (too much information). We played Light As A Feather, in which someone lays down in the middle of the group with the others around her, with two fingers each underneath the person at different points. Attempting to lift her, very little movement takes place. One by one, each woman said that words “She looks light as a feather.” and then “She feels light as a feather.”, followed by “She is light as a feather.”  and finally “Let us lift her.” Each time, with the barest of a touch, the woman in the middle was raised up to 6 inches or so off the mat. That was so, regardless of body size.

It felt heavenly, to be levitated through the merging into group consciousness and a sense of lightness that permeated my body. To what do I attribute this phenom?  Our thoughts are so powerful and we can be open to suggestion. It is much like an experience I had when at 30 years of age, I did a firewalk. Logic would dictate that walking across hot coals, would leave scorches on the soles of my feet. Not so, as I walked twice with nary an ouch.

How many times a day do I forget how tapped in I am to experiences and people around me? Only a gazillion times, do I immerse myself in emotional distress; but fortunately only shortly until I shift gears and lift my thoughts and feelings to higher place. What areas of your life call out for lightening up?

Wishing you light as a feather life experiences as you celebrate your relationships with your cherished friends.

http://youtu.be/h4tNFPXjNB0 Women Honoring Song by Deva Troy

 

Godspell

When Godspell debuted in  the 1970’s, the theme was ancient, but the production was of its time….with a colorful cast of hippie-esque singers and dancers in celebration around Jesus. Quite ‘Woodstock era’  in costume and make-up with the central character opening hearts through parable and by example of love and light with (if memory serves) a heart embellishing his face. Based on the Gospel According to Matthew, the play which was made into a movie in 1973, winds its way through the last days of Jesus. The songs were written by the amazing then 23 year old Stephen Schwartz who would later go on to pen music for Wicked.  Clearly he was ‘defying gravity’ with both musicals.

This past weekend, I travelled to New York to see the latest Broadway version at the Circle in the Square theater with my friend Barb. The last time I saw a performance in the round was at the long gone Valley Forge Music Theater, so this was a treat. The stage was bare, except for a ladder and an open panel from which water was gently bubbling. Anticipation mounted. I had, with delight, watched the movie version of the play whose name is connected with the word ‘gospel’ which translates to ‘good word’. To frame this experience for you….I was raised in a Jewish home, attending Hebrew School until age 16 and the Jesus who is portrayed here was not part of my paradigm. I was curious and my parents encouraged my exploration, allowing me to go to church with friends, but was reminded that our family’s beliefs and practice were different. As I watched the movie and also productions of Jesus Christ Superstar,  throughout my life, I was (and still am) puzzled by the concept of blaming humans for the crucifiction of Jesus. In the Garden of Gethsemene, he is in dialogue with God and agrees, if reluctantly, to die. In Godspell, Jesus speaks of the prophecy of the ending of his corporeal existence. The historical Jesus was a practicing Jew and called Rabbi by his disciples, so again, it is at odds with anti-semitism in the name of One who came to teach peace and love. When I began studying A Course in Miracles in the 1980’s, I had persistant headaches, because it felt like it flew in the face of my upbringing. It wasn’t until I recognized the compatability of the loving words of Jesus that encouraged open hearted acceptance, trust in the God of my understanding; the perception of which has undergone major metamorphosis over the years, that the headaches dissipated. When I became an interfaith minister in 1999; ordained through The New Seminary in New York, I embraced the teachings without the ‘hellfire and brimstone’ attitude that sadly accompanies some beliefs held by people who claim to be followers of the teachings. Nothing I have read and nothing I witnessed in Godspell, reflect hatred of any kind. Even when Jesus is speaking about the need for some behavioral change, he is not spewing venom on anyone. The word ‘sin’ is derived from the Hebrew word ‘het’ which means to miss the mark, like in archery.

Returning to the play…. it is updated for modern times, with cultural references that would have had us scratching our heads and saying “Huh?” 40 years ago. In the opening scene, the characters bustle about on stage, carrying iphones; talking and texting,  with labels on their clothing or backpacks or briefcases with names of philosophers with various opinions on Life, The Universe and Everything.  I smiled with recognition at the additions of L. Ron Hubbard and Marianne Williamson. Later on, political references are made that reflect the current presidential campaign.  In two of the dance pieces, the Macarena and Chicken Dance were added to the choreography, What fun!

When one  of Jesus’ followers offers him wardrobe options, he turns down the stereotypical white robe, a vivid purple one, and a  Superman shirt (an homage to the original costume in the 1970’s version). His choice is an unbottoned light blue baseball shirt with the #1 on the back and the word ‘co-pilots’ on the front. Now THAT is a Jesus with whom I can resonate! He offers his disciples a red carnation that they pin on to their own costumes which include a lime green bowling shirt, a purple short cropped military style jacket,  a silvery tutu that floated above a pair of glittery high tops, an orange and white numbered jersey  and pair of short pantaloons and bandana over pig tails,  a t-shirt under suspenders that reads ‘We’re here’, a leopard print set of tights and sleeveless vest that exposed a set of biceps that I endeavor to have, and one costume that I totally lusted over, which was a rainbow colored corset and filmy skirt over kickin’ cowgirl boots. It seems that the flower represented the love that Jesus was scattering and would be a recognizable symbol of their connection to him. At the end of the play, they give them to each other and to him, perhaps as a ritual of affirmation of their shared sense of community as family of choice. I was moved by the way Jesus held space for his disciples to truly shine, reflecting the quote “Greater things than these you shall do.”

The youthful cast which includes recognizable actors such as Hunter Parrish as Jesus (from Weeds), Telly Leung (from GLEE),  Anna Maria Perez De Tagle (from Hannah Montana), Wallace Smith  (from The Lion King) who played the dual roles of John The Baptist and Judas,  as well as Uzo Aduba who, I had never seen before,  and reminded me in voice and appearance of one of my favorite musicians…Tracy Chapman, join together with a score of other talent who seem tireless as they dance, sing, splash water, bounce and leap on mini trampolines embedded in the stage, scatter confetti,  and  run up and down the aisles encouraging audience participation.  The musicians who were seated about the theater, add their voices to the production pieces as well. I found myself wishing for an opportunity to get up on stage and dance with them. Barb and I were sitting in the ‘catbird seats’ since we got last minute tickets an hour or so before the show, so there was no way to do that even if we could…..until…as they were announcing intermission, a voice invited us all to come up on stage to join the cast, so my intention came to be. I was able to stand next to Lyndsey Mendez,  the actress wearing the desired costume and the ooohhhh and ahhh factor was even better up close. The musicians continued to play and  I joyously ‘sweat my prayers’ in the midst of others who were engaged in similar worship. An unihhibited towheaded little boy was moving to his own beat and doing a wonderful job of it right next to me.

Throughout the rest of the play, I found myself moving through laughter, tears,  and heart swelling contemplation of my spiritual practice and the ways in which I could embody the messages in this ‘good word’ that expressed with holy humor that indeed we are each The Light of The World.

www.godspell.com

http://youtu.be/NL4aFn1DxGE Montage from the musical Godspell

 

Who Has Your Night/Day?

 

Tonight I saw a message from a friend who spoke about a mini-disappointment and commented “This is so not my night.”  I jokingly responded “So, I want to know whose night it is and who has YOUR night?”

As I am writing this, I am listening to my favorite Sunday night radio show on WXPN (Gene Shay) and am being serendipitously serenaded by John Prine.

That’s The Way That The World Goes Round

I know a guy that’s got a lot to lose he’s a pretty nice fellow but he’s kind of confused

he’s got muscles in his head that ain’t never been used

thinks he own half of this town

starts drinking heavy gets a big red nose beats his old lady with a rubber hose

then he takes her out to dinner and buys her new clothes

that’s the way that the world goes ’round.

That’s the way that the world goes ’round you’re up one day and the next you’re down

it’s half an inch of water and you think you’re gonna drown that’s the way that the world goes ’round.

I was sitting in the bathtub counting my toes when the radiator broke water all froze

I got stuck in the ice without my clothes naked as the eyes of a clown

I was crying ice cubes hoping I’d croak

when the sun come through the window the ice all broke

I stood up and laughed thought it was a joke

that’s the way that the world goes ’round.

 

http://youtu.be/q0HafJzbCBA

The reality is that sometimes things go according to my ‘plan’ and sometimes even better than I imagine at the time.  Even when they don’t exactly play out by my whims, I have been able to reframe the circumstances and make lemon meringue pie out of the lemons. My friend Harmony would say “Don’t judge your life by how you feel in this moment.” Feelings are fleeting…heck, life is fleeting. I never know from one moment to the next what will happen or who will show up in response to my shout out to the Universe.

Today, I offered a workshop called Spring Awakening at an interfaith community called Sacred Pathways. I had no clue how many people would be there, and true to occasional chattering monkey mind form, I was doing a number on myself prior…”What if no one shows up? What if only a few show up?” It reflects a longstanding issue I have had and have no clue where it came from, since I always felt supported by my parents and extended family and evidence has usually borne out that those thoughts are pretty silly. Like most speakers, I have felt disappointed when things have been cancelled or postponed for low registration. Fortunately it hasn’t happened often. It has me questioning what has me believing anything other than that the Universe has got my back (and front and sides, top and bottom) and I am infinitely held and carried along on a most of the time, gentle tide. To my delight, a dozen fun,  curious, creative souls showed up to play and learn together. Laughter, a few tears,  ideas for growing ourselves, stretching some comfort zones, sprinkling love about, seed planting, symbolic gardening puncutated our afternoon. Because we teach what we need to learn, my lesson about fearing a lack of support had me laughing in its fake fierce face.  I would like to think that I am so done with those snarky  simian sneers, but I imagine that spiritual amnesia may kick in and The Divine will ‘smile’ patiently and indulgently remind me that it is ALWAYS my day.  And so it is <3

 

 

 

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