Tuesday, May 25, 2010

HOW ...

It is two weeks and a day since my mother passed away. I had not anticipated how my world was going to change.

I have lost a lot of people who I was very close to over a number of years. I have lost a brother, a cousin almost the same age as me, numerous friends the same age as me, and friends who were younger than me. What I find in the passing of my mother, and what has made this different from all these other losses, is that there is no tragedy in this. My mother’s passing, as sad as it is, is in line with the natural order of things. I find this comforting and the emotions so much easier to manage than the chaos of the other losses. At those times, I felt like I didn’t know on any level what was happening other than feeling like it shouldn’t have been happening. I never knew where to put those emotions and it took a long time for that chaos to shift to calm. There has been no chaos in this for me. There has and is a lot of calm in this for me. But what I am overwhelmed with is the hugeness of my sadness. I honestly cannot articulate this in any better way. I have never experienced this kind of huge sadness ever before in my entire life. I have expressed it to a number of people by saying that I feel like I have been hit over the head with a wok and I am trapped in the “boing” sound.

At the same time as all this sadness, however, I am experiencing an equally deep sense of gratitude. I am grateful for the fact that through the enormous generosity of a family friend and the help of members of my immediate family, we were able to meet my mother’s request of keeping her in her own home as this is where she wanted to be at the time of her passing. We were able to give her this. How do you ever reciprocate this kind of generosity? Betty was her personal care giver for well over a year. Twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, this kind and generous woman was there for my mom and by being there, made it possible for me and my sister to put our heads down at night knowing our mother was in good hands. How does one ever reciprocate this kind of kindness?
Two and a half years ago, Pauline was given a prognosis of 6 months (without treatment), to a year. With her incredible strength and faith in living her G-d given days, she opted for no chemo or any other treatment. Having seen the suffering that other loved ones endured in their fights against cancer, Pauline’s journey can only be described as miraculous. While this made her illness like a slow train coming, as a result of a fall a week prior to her passing, we believe internal bleeding suddenly brought on a turn for the worse and with no warning, from one day to the next, it was clear that the beginning of her end process had begun. This took a mere two and a half days … after two and a half years of being the “healthiest” terminally ill person I have ever seen. Although sudden, we were all still fortunate enough to have our chance to say our goodbyes. We were all able to be at her side when she wanted us there most. We were able to linger in her home after she was taken away from us. As DDTF and I drove out of the parking area in her apartment complex, I said to him that I was feeling so much gratitude about being able to walk away from her home, rather than from an arbitrary hospital room. Through the indescribable help and care from the Compassionate Care Hospice organization, we were guided through this process in such a way that Pauline’s physical comfort and pain management were of priority over that two and a half day period. I felt so much gratitude that Pauline did not have to have tubes and needles and machines pulled out of her tiny, little body at that time. How do you give back on this level?

I had not given much thought to how I would be or what I would feel when my mother’s final moments approached. I am very much a heart centered person. I feel things first, then I think about them. My feelings and emotional responses to life are never pre-meditated. I cannot anticipate how I am going to feel about things before they happen. I trust my instinct to guide me through and I know my intellect will play its part in dealing with my choices as I go through them. It was because of this that it was moment-by- moment for me and when I felt in my heart that I did not want to see my mother actually pass away, I knew it was ok to feel that way. My sister, her husband, Betty and DDTF were there. I placed a photograph of Pauline with Ross on her bed and a photograph of my late brother on the bed, too. I hadn’t planned that or thought about, it just happened that way for me. I said my goodbye, and I left the room. It felt to me that everyone followed about fifteen minutes later, but DDTF said it was no more than about two minutes prior to her final breaths that I had left the room. It ultimately doesn’t matter what that length of time was. How it happened felt totally ok for me.

I will always remember the feeling in my heart at 1:12pm on May 10th, 2010. Two months short of her 87th birthday, my darling mother transitioned from this world to where I believe is her final resting place. I also believe she is reunited with the many people she has loved and yearned for, for many years. What I have felt since then, is that it was only at that moment in time that the cord between me and my mother was cut. Be it a play on words or not, of course I am aware that it was cut at birth, but it feels to me that this was the moment where the disconnect actually took place – not a minute before. The transition is then from that physical connection to what we speak of and describe as her now being in my heart and part of my soul for ever. What I also feel is that I came hurtling into adulthood in that single moment. It is now my turn to be the elder in my little family. So, for me there is clearly profound re-adjusting and re-aligning to do.

I had not made any decisions about the extent to which I would observe the mourning laws and rituals. What I can say is that I felt a need to DO something to express the feelings of my huge sadness, and the most comforting thing for me was to be as observant of my traditions that the extent of my knowledge allowed.

If I look at the questions I have raised in this short period of time -
How does one ever reciprocate this kind of generosity?
How does one ever reciprocate this kind of kindness?
How do you give back on this level?
- I say what my young child said to me after saying goodbye to his Bobba. He said, “Mommy, we just have to do as many mitzvahs* as possible every day to honor Bobba’s memory.”
That's how! My instinct tells me it really is that simple.
My Beloved Mother
Pauline Blumberg
July 10, 1923 to May 10, 2010
From Lithuania to New Jersey, USA
and so, so much in between!
May Your Deal Soul Rest In Peace For Ever
*in its simplest form: a meritorious or charitable act – a good deed

Monday, March 08, 2010


The video clip you can watch here is the motivation for this post.

I didn’t get to see INVICTUS and am waiting for it to come out on DVD. I have said many times here that I am not a political thinker and I don’t even understand the rules of the game of Rugby. I do however remember the day South Africa won the Rugby World Cup in 1995. DDTF and I were living in Amsterdam and watched the game on TV. From the first game played, I predicted a win for South Africa.

The best way I could describe why I was so certain South Africa would win was by saying, “We had to!” It made no sense for any other country to win the Rugby World Cup as far as I was concerned.

I haven’t been back to South Africa in going on eleven years now. Friends and relatives who do visit more frequently tell me of the demise of the country as we knew it. Stories in the news and more personal accounts in emails of the crime, violence, failing infrastructure etc. are frequent and ongoing.

In spite of all this, I would love to be there for the Soccer World Cup. Whether the story told in IVICTUS is accurate or not, whether it is realistic or not, this clip captures for me what is the heart and soul of the place I call home. I can’t be any more specific in describing it because for me it is all in the feeling.

What comes through so clearly in this clip is something I believe in very strongly. While actions speak louder than words, anyone can do anything. We can extend gestures to others and we can do things to and for each other, but what matters most is what is at the heart of those actions. While the things we do can be seen by others, our motivation behind those actions are at the source; in that place where no-one else can see or hear what you do, except you. It is therefore imperative to keep that place true to yourself and the people around you. The essence of who you are lies in what you do when no-one else is watching and in the thoughts and emotions you have that no-one else can see or hear.

In the context of the South African spirit that is depicted in this clip, I believe South Africa will prove itself to be a perfect host to the Soccer World Cup and I am confident that every international visitor will leave there with a little spark in their hearts of that African magic that I believe will always exist.

Friday, March 05, 2010


My friends, Audrey and Rick went off to Florida about six weeks ago. They will be back next week. I undertook to take care of some of their house plants during this time.

I sent Audrey an email with a pic of the one plant. The following email exchange unfolded:

From: dawn
Date: Monday, February 8, 2010 3:19 pm
Subject: IMG00234.jpg
To: audrick

Hello, Mommy and Daddy.I'm alive but I do miss you.

Your Plant x x x

From: audrick
To: dawn
Subject: Re: IMG00234.jpg
Sent: Feb 8, 2010 7:07 PM

Hello Planty!
To tell you the truth, we haven't thought about you for a frikkin minute!
Love & kisses,
Mummy & Daddy

From: dawn
Date: Monday, February 8, 2010 7:53 pm
Subject: Re: IMG00234.jpg
To: audrick

Dear Mummy and Daddy,
Not sure how I feel about that but I can tell you I'm getting quite attached to the skinny kid. The large, round woman, not so much. Next time Mum, write and tell me how you really feel!
Love your child,
Planty. Xxx

From: audrick
Date: Tue, 09 Feb 2010 15:03:01
To: dawn
Subject: Re: IMG00234.jpg

Dear Planty,
We hope our previous comments didn't damage your self esteem or root system. It's just that the plants down here are so much better than you.....what's a parent to do? Maybe the skinny kid and large, round woman can adopt you permanently.
Mums & Daddy

From: dawn
Date: Tuesday, February 9, 2010 10:08 pm
Subject: Re: IMG00234.jpg
To: audrick
Although weakened by your last email, Mumsy - I think I am still well rooted. While I appreciate your honesty (*sob*) telling me the plants down there are nicer than me sets a new record even for you Mumsy, dearest! Perhaps the large, round woman IS a better option for me. For some reason that I am still trying to get to the root of, she keeps looking at me and saying, "You call yourself a plant - and what the f*ck you so happy about, anyway?" I think sucking up to the skinny kid might be the way to grow. Please tell Dad I say hi.
Planty xoxo

From: audrick
To: dawn3
Sent: Thursday, February 11, 2010 9:22 AM
Subject: Re: IMG00234.jpg
Ya know, Planty, your whining is starting to get on my nerves. You're starting to act like Daddy. I would think that this is a genetic trait, but he's not green. Besides, it looks like you have it pretty good there. The large, round woman put you near a window and the skinny kid waters you. For f*ck's sake, what else do you want?
Just one question though...where's the bald-headed guy?
He's supposed to be taking care of you, too. Jeez.....is it asking too much to go on vacation and expect people to take care of everything at home for you??????? For only 6 weeks?????????
Love & Kisses & Hugs,
Mummy and Daddy

Sunday, February 21, 2010


This is the year that Ross turns 13 and becomes Bar Mitzvah. Throughout this school year, he attends the Bar (for a boy) and Bat (for a girl) Mitzvah’s of all his classmates. In some instances, DDTF and I are invited as well.

At each service, there is a program that describes the activities of the shul we are attending, the service, and various other aspects about the event and the child being celebrated.

At a recent Bat Mitzvah, there was a poem in the program that brought tears to my eyes. I sat there thinking about the love we all have for our children. I looked around the shul which was filled with a mix of people. There were people there I consider to be friends, some mere acquaintances and others I had never seen before. We were however all united by several common threads; our heritage, an understanding of what we were there for and of course, wanting only the best for our children as they move toward their futures.
I am not sure why, but I also found myself thinking about how quick people are to judge others. We form opinions about people without any knowledge of what goes on in their lives. I find this interesting because we all go about our lives wanting, needing and striving for the same things: Acceptance, love, to be respected and quite simply, just to be seen and appreciated. It’s unfortunate how easily distracted we are from what is important to us and how quickly we forget that each person may feel the same way as we do.

As soon as I could get Ross’ attention, I called him over to me and just held him close. I was sitting behind the last pew as I was in my wheelchair. I was so grateful in that moment to have this child who has an amazing ability to move through life and not be hindered by my restrictions at all in a world that can be overly harsh at times. I closed my eyes for a while and listened to the Hebrew commentary, none of which I understand because I don’t read or speak Hebrew yet it takes me to a place I enjoy very much. I thanked my G-d for my blessings and I thanked my body for sustaining the process of bringing this child into my world.

This evening, Daniel and I had all our children at home for the first time in almost two years. Somehow, through hardship and the deepest of hurt and lack of understanding, the togetherness of a family ultimately makes the most sense. To quote someone whose name I can’t recall right now, “To find peace, you have to find all the pieces”.




I wish for you to be a
person of character
strong but not tough,
gentle but not weak.

I wish for you to be
Righteous but not self-righteous
honest but not unforgiving.

Wherever you journey, may your steps be firm
and may your walk in just paths
and not be afraid.
Whenever you speak, may your words
Be words of wisdom and friendship.

May your hands build
and your heart preserve what is good
and beautiful in our world.

May the voices of the generations of our people
move through you
and may the G-d of our ancestors
be your G-d as well.

May you know that there is a people,
a rich heritage, to which you belong
and from that sacred place
you are connected to all who dwell on earth.

May the stories of our people
be upon your heart
and the grace of the Torah rhythm
dance in your soul.

Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

48 ...

On Sunday 1/31 DDTF celebrated his 48th birthday. For those who don’t already know, DDTF is Daniel, my wonderful husband. I could get all schmaltzy and soppy and list an A-Z of positive and colorful adjectives to describe him, but for those who know him, that won’t be necessary. DDTF stands for DAN DAN THE FIREMAN.

Soon after settling into our new town when we arrived in the States, Daniel came home one day and told me that he had stopped in at the local firehouse and signed up as a volunteer. Ours is one of many volunteer emergency services. I was shocked and had mixed feelings about it. My first reaction was that as far as I am concerned, the idea is to run out of a burning building and not into it by choice. He was adamant though that this was something he wanted to do and felt that the knowledge he would gain from his training as a medical first responder would also stand us in good stead in terms of my disability. (I tend to throw myself at the ground from time to time involuntarily so I guess living with a first responder is quite a plus even though I have begged him to go to beauty school and get a hairdresser license!)

Being part of a volunteer department extends way beyond answering 911 ambulance and fire calls. These men and women go through ongoing training programs, attend drills, serve their community with all sorts of events. The department hosts an annual family festival which boasts one of the best fireworks displays in our county. They deliver fire awareness programs in the public schools and more. There are families in this department whose lives revolve around the firehouse, its members and its place in the community.

Memorial Day Parade 2009 - Second from left Assistant Drill Master DDTF in charge of the Color Guard.

(Pizzeria in background is to confirm that we are in a small American town. Volunteer fire fighters and pizza go hand-in-hand.)

What amazes me about these people is how they take it in their stride. To wake up out of a deep sleep in the middle of the night or early in the morning and rush out on an ambulance call certainly gets the adrenaline going. To come home a short time later knowing that you have just played an integral role in saving someone’s life has to be a most humbling experience.

I feel honored to be able to talk about my husband this way. I feel blessed to be his wife and I am grateful for him being the father of my children.

These pics show the two life saving awards that DDTF has earned.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


You might notice a trend over the next month or two that leans toward the number 50. I am turning 50 this year and it is on my mind a lot. I am not having any kind of crisis about it. The best word I can use to describe how I feel is DISBELIEF. Saying that in and of itself seems somewhat silly as it is very real. I think that being the youngest child in a family of three children with substantial age differences between the siblings, has always kept me feeling distinctly young. I am not suggesting that 50 means old on any level, but as the youngest child, 50 always seemed very grown up.

One of my uncles always spoke of his desire to retire at the age of fifty. I can recall the night his 50th Retirement Party was held and watching my mom get dressed for the occasion. This also had a big impact on my perception of fifty being a very serious adult age.

Having a Bucket List at 50 seems a bit premature. I have however found myself thinking that there are some things I should have done by the age of 50. It is totally in keeping with my modus operandi to leave things to the last minute so jumping out of an aeroplane and swimming with dolphins are certainly not going to happen before March 28th.

Life does however present us with all sorts of opportunities every day if we are willing to see them. I am making a concerted effort to be more conscious of the things that happen around me through which I can achieve some things that in retrospect I will be pleased about having done by the time I was 50. After living in the USA for almost nine years, being an AVON lady is one of those obvious things. I enrolled and am enjoying the process of building a little business that is growing month by month.

Catching up on my friend Angel’s blog, I read about a writing competition. Angel enters these frequently and her courage to do so inspired me to participate this time. Using a photograph for inspiration, contestants were invited to compose a short fiction (or poetry) piece no more than 250 words in any genre or style. I have never considered myself to be poetic and from the length of my blog posts, it’s obvious that I am not very good at writing very short stories! I tend to lean toward the more verbose side of things. I decided however that having entered a writing contest is definitely something I want on my ‘Done by 50’ list. I went to the site, looked at the photograph and wrote down my spontaneous reaction. You can see my entry here. I am entry number 185.

I headed this post SMILE because when I do something a little out of the ordinary or something that feels a bit risky, when I go to tell DDTF about it I always start with, “Don’t laugh, but I just want to tell you that I ……” In realizing that, it made me smile, so don’t laugh, but if you want to check out my entry, you can click here.

This is my Uncle prior to his retirement, my late cousin on his right knee, my sister in front, and that's me under the bow and hat!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


IN an email from a friend:

Alert Levels
The English are feeling the pinch in relation to recent terrorist threats and have raised their security level from "Miffed" to "Peeved." Soon, though, security levels may be raised yet again to "Irritated" or even, "A Bit Cross." The English have not been "A Bit Cross" since the blitz in 1940 when tea supplies all but ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorized from "Tiresome" to a "Bloody Nuisance." The last time the British issued a "Bloody Nuisance" warning level was during the great fire of 1666.

The Scots raised their threat level from "Pissed Off" to "Let's get the Bastards." They don't have any other levels. This is the reason they have been used on the frontline in the British army for the last 300 years.

New Zealand has also raised its security levels - from "baaa" to "BAAAA!" Due to continuing defense cutbacks (the air force being a squadron of spotty teenagers flying paper airplanes and the navy some toy boats in the Prime Minister's bath), New Zealand only has one more level of escalation, which is "Shit, I hope Australia will come and rescue us".

Australia, meanwhile, has raised its security level from, "No worries!" to, "She'll be right, mate". Two more escalation levels remain, "Crikey!', "I think we'll need to cancel the barbie this weekend" and, "The barbie is cancelled!" So far no situation has ever warranted use of the final escalation level.