The cause versus The faith

2 Oct

As an update and continuation of my last post…

After numerous attempts to try to reach out to different people within Susan G Komen and trying to get ahold of Nancy Brinker herself, I am happy to say that she herself actually called me. I had a 15 minute conversation with the founder herself in which I was able to express my concern with regards to the 8 Race for the Cure events being held on Yom Kippur. To my surprise, she was only aware of 1 (the one in Houston which has gotten the most negative coverage). She asked me to share with her which the other cities were, which of course I had no problem rattling them off as I had been sending letters to those local affiliates to quesiton their decision to hold the event on the 4th. Before my phone call with Mrs. Brinker, I had received a call from the Chief Marketing Officer for Susan G Komen whom I have gotten to know as he is on event at every 3 Day. He was very compassionate and told me that they are now putting a policy in place that states that the local affiliates have to get prior date approval from Komen headquarters prior to the scheduling of their Race for the Cure event to prevent this from happening again. I joked with him for a moment about the fact that he was able to move an entire 3-Day in Philly because of Yom Kippur, but was shocked that local Race for the Cure events couldn’t do the same. He laughed and actually shared that thought.

Back to the phone call with Mrs. Brinker, she expressed her sincerest apologies numerous times. She wished me and my family a Shana Tovah (Happy New Year). She also wished me an easy fast for Yom Kippur. And then she thanked me for the over $8K I had raised for the San Diego 3-Day thus far. And she mentioned how impressed and thankful she was that my partner and I had both raised over $8K so far as crew members and thanked us for our dedication. Now I assume she got that information from the CMO at Komen, but the fact that she took the time to know those details made that phone call a little more special.

Now onto the real reason I decided to write today. Where does one draw the line between supporting a cause and following their faith? It cannot just be a matter of convenience. I read articles yesterday from people in our region who are Jewish and are trying to figure out how to address being able to watch the playoff games that the Orioles and the Nationals would be playing in. Someone commented and said to DVR the games, a person came back jokingly and said “I can DVR Yom Kippur?!?!” This isn’t a holiday that just pops out of no where. While yes, it is not the same day each year such as Christmas Day, or even the same general day, like Labor Day being the first Monday in September, it is a date that you can find out the day for well in advance (which was one of my points to Komen, along with the warning that Yom Kippur falls on a Saturday again in 2017). Yom Kippur is the HOLIEST day within the Jewish faith, one that is honored with a 24 hour fast, one that is spent in services, it is the Day of Atonement where we atone for our sins both against G-d and others, it is the day we are inscribed into the book of life for another year… how does any of that sound like a holiday that should be treated as matter of convenience by anyone of the Jewish Faith? With the understanding that we are not to do anything to our bodies that may harm them, there are those that must refrain from a full fast as it would be harmful to their bodies. There are those that have no choice but to work or could possibly lose their employment, albeit sad, that too I understand all too well. Here is what I don’t understand however, Jews that say “I’m going to take this year off” or in the case of this blog entry, those that are in training for a 3-Day that will not take one Saturday off to attend services and to fast in lieu of doing a training walk… they are choosing to put the cause over their faith (my opinion). Perhaps it is because I CHOSE to be Jewish. I was not born into a Jewish home, is it possible that my thoughts are different? I FULLY understand that cancer does not take a day off, but either does G-d.

Enough rambling, my thoughts are all jumbled in my head as to why I feel the way I do and so that is why I figured it was best to just write it here where very few if anyone reads.

The Cause vs Faith

The Cause vs Faith

Faith vs Komen

16 Sep

I am finding myself needing to choose. I no longer feel like I can have both after the discovery of what Komen has now done. I have written the following letter to Susan G Komen in hopes of having my feelings read, I also sent it to Nancy Brinker’s facebook page via private message, although I am certain it is not her that keeps that up to date, I did feel that I at least tried. My letter reads as follows:

Dear Komen Staff,

I am curious if you can give me some details as to why you decided to host Race for the Cure events in 8 cities on the holiest of Jewish holidays, Yom Kippur? It is not possible to say that you did not know it was going to be Yom Kippur when planning the event, as it is possible to give you the dates for the next 5+ years of when the Jewish holidays will take place, ESPECIALLY the High Holy Days. Does the Jewish community mean that little to Susan G Komen? Your founder, Nancy Brinker and her sister Susan Komen were born into a JEWISH FAMILY. How can this not matter? How could this just be “overlooked”? I have participated in the Race for the Cure as well as completing 8 Susan G Komen 3-Day events and coming up on my 9th. Because of Komen research and grants, I had more time with my mom before cancer stole her from me. Because of Komen, Bridget Spence had 8 more years with her family, got to marry her college sweetheart and got to make an impact on more lives that anyone will ever realize. However, it is things like this that make me shake my head and question if I am participating for the right cause? Now you can just ignore this and feel like you are just losing one individual in participation and that may be true, but I also take with me a passion greater than you know for this cause, for Komen, but without my FAITH, I am nothing. I reiterate again, you planned 8 Race for the Cure events on the holiest of holidays in the Jewish community… 8! What will you do to change my mind that Komen is the right place to keep my passion and my fundraising and my efforts?

Sincerely yours from someone who truly does believe that Everyone Deserves a Lifetime,
Lori Ann Olson

I am feeling both infuriated and defeated and lost all at once. This feeling is horrible.

A race we can all win…

20 Mar

We all come to earth with different talents that get us different places. Some people are born better at learning. Some people are born with athletic gifts. Some people are lucky enough to be born with that particular body type that is marketed to us as “attractive.” But there is a limit to how much we can change about our appearance and our raw talents. Not all of us will compete in the Olympics, earn PhDs or win a beauty pageant. Sometimes we just can’t be faster or smarter or prettier. It is just not possible because it is not in our DNA.

But all of us can be kinder, more patient, more generous, more humble, more meek. That is the kind of perfection that each of us can improve on, and that is exactly the kind of perfection God asks of us. And itis in our DNA because we are all sons and daughters of God.

That makes the pursuit of perfection a race everyone can win because it is not about competition and all about self-mastery. God does not compare me to others. He compares me with who I was yesterday. He doesn’t care if I am better than someone else, he cares if I am better than who I used to be.

January 2, 2014 ~ 21 Habits of happy people

2 Jan

The following was sent to me by a friend, a fellow 3-Dayer… I find these incredible and add these to my thoughts of how to live 2014.

21 HABITS OF HAPPY PEOPLE:

1. Appreciate Life

Be thankful that you woke up alive each morning. Develop a childlike sense of wonder towards life. Focus on the beauty of every living thing. Make the most of each day. Don’t take anything for granted. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

2. Choose Friends Wisely

Surround yourself with happy, positive people who share your values and goals. Friends that have the same ethics as you will encourage you to achieve your dreams. They help you to feel good about yourself. They are there to lend a helping hand when needed.

3. Be Considerate

Accept others for who they are as well as where they are in life. Respect them for who they are. Touch them with a kind and generous spirit. Help when you are able, without trying to change the other person. Try to brighten the day of everyone you come into contact with.

4. Learn Continuously

Keep up to date with the latest news regarding your career and hobbies. Try new and daring things that has sparked your interest – such as dancing, skiing, surfing or sky-diving.

5. Creative Problem Solving

Don’t wallow in self-pity. As soon as you face a challenge get busy finding a solution. Don’t let the set backs affect your mood, instead see each new obstacle you face as an opportunity to make a positive change. Learn to trust your gut instincts – it’s almost always right.

6. Do What They Love

Some statistics show that 80% of people dislike their jobs! No wonder there’s so many unhappy people running around. We spend a great deal of our life working. Choose a career that you enjoy – the extra money of a job you detest isn’t worth it. Make time to enjoy your hobbies and pursue special interests.

7. Enjoy Life

Take the time to see the beauty around you. There’s more to life than work. Take time to smell the roses, watch a sunset or sunrise with a loved one, take a walk along the seashore, hike in the woods etc. Learn to live in the present moment and cherish it. Don’t live in the past or the future.

8. Laugh

Don’t take yourself – or life to seriously. You can find humor in just about any situation. Laugh at yourself – no one’s perfect. When appropriate laugh and make light of the circumstances. (Naturally there are times that you should be serious as it would be improper to laugh.)

9. Forgive

Holding a grudge will hurt no one but you. Forgive others for your own peace of mind. When you make a mistake – own up to it – learn from it – and FORGIVE yourself.

10. Gratitude

Develop an attitude of gratitude. Count your blessings; All of them – even the things that seem trivial. Be grateful for your home, your work and most importantly your family and friends. Take the time to tell them that you are happy they are in your life.

11. Invest in Relationships

Always make sure your loved ones know you love them even in times of conflict. Nurture and grow your relationships with your family and friends by making the time to spend with them. Don’t break your promises to them. Be supportive.

12. Keep Their Word

Honesty is the best policy. Every action and decision you make should be based on honesty. Be honest with yourself and with your loved ones.

13. Meditate

Meditation gives your very active brain a rest. When it’s rested you will have more energy and function at a higher level. Types of meditation include yoga, hypnosis, relaxation tapes, affirmations, visualization or just sitting in complete silence. Find something you enjoy and make the time to practice daily.

14. Mind Their Own Business

Concentrate on creating your life the way you want it. Take care of you and your family. Don’t get overly concerned with what other people are doing or saying. Don’t get caught up with gossip or name calling. Don’t judge. Everyone has a right to live their own life the way they want to – including you.

15. Optimism

See the glass as half full. Find the positive side of any given situation. It’s there – even though it may be hard to find. Know that everything happens for a reason, even though you may never know what the reason is. Steer clear of negative thoughts. If a negative thought creeps in – replace it with a positive thought.

16. Love Unconditionally

Accept others for who they are. You don’t put limitations on your love. Even though you may not always like the actions of your loved ones – you continue to love them.

17. Persistence

Never give up. Face each new challenge with the attitude that it will bring you one step closer to your goal. You will never fail, as long as you never give up. Focus on what you want, learn the required skills, make a plan to succeed and take action. We are always happiest while pursuing something of value to us.

18. Be Proactive

Accept what can not be changed. Happy people don’t waste energy on circumstances beyond their control. Accept your limitations as a human being. Determine how you can take control by creating the outcome you desire – rather than waiting to respond.

19. Self Care

Take care of your mind, body and health. Get regular medical check ups. Eat healthy and work out. Get plenty of rest. Drink lots of water. Exercise your mind by continually energizing it with interesting and exciting challenges.

20. Self Confidence

Don’t try to be someone that you’re not. After all no one likes a phony. Determine who you are in the inside – your own personal likes and dislikes. Be confident in who you are. Do the best you can and don’t second guess yourself.

21. Take Responsibility

Happy people know and understand that they are 100% responsible for their life. They take responsibility for their moods, attitude, thoughts, feelings, actions and words. They are the first to admit when they’ve made a mistake.

Begin today by taking responsibility for your happiness. Work on developing these habits as you own. The more you incorporate the above habits into your daily lifestyle – the happier you will be.

Most of all: BE TRUE TO YOURSELF.

20140102-173827.jpg

January 1, 2014 ~ Happy new year

1 Jan

Happy New Year!

Some of my goals for the new year include the following:

– Finish my degree by December
– Move in with my partner
– Continue growing in my faith
– Become a better photographer
– Live life to the fullest

Those are my bigger ones.

2013 was a big year of change for me… and most of which was positive. I reflect back and smile.

As the photo below shows (which is art in my bedroom), “Dream on Dream on until your dreams come true”, “Every journey begins with a single step”, “Every day holds the possibility of a miracle”… I believe in all of these… and hold them close to my heart.

Inspirational Wall Art

Inspirational Wall Art

Love Will Always Win Lyrics – Garth Brooks

21 Nov

Love Will Always Win Lyrics – Garth Brooks

Hold on like there’s no tomorrow.
There can be no sorrow,
Right here where we stand.
And living only for this moment
All we’ve ever wanted,
Is right here in our hands.
And some will say that we’re sure to fall,
Try and build their walls between us.

No way over it, no way around it.
If we want it, we have to go through it.
Fight for a love and the world tries to break us down
But the world will bend,
An’ the fight will end.
Love will always win.

Hold on till we see tomorrow,
There is time to borrow,
Till we own our own.
Walk on and our hearts will lead us.
But our hearts will need us,
To be steady and strong.
So we can stand and face the fire.
Burning higher and higher.

No way over it, no way around it.
If we want it, we have to go through it.
Fight for a love and the world tries to break us down.
But the world will bend,
An’ the fight will end.
Love will always win.

No: we know that a rainbow waits,
Beyond dark skies.

No way over it, no way around it, no.
If we want it, we have to go through it.
Fight for a love and the world tries to break us down.
But the world will bend,
An’ the fight will end.
An’ the world will bend,
An’ the fight will end.
Love will always win.

Why I have chosen Judaism?

12 Nov

Beit Din
11.12.13

“Pray as if everything depended on God. Act as if everything depended on you.” I heard those words the first time I walked into Temple Solel on March 23, 2012… first time in as long as I could remember that I had felt a sense of peace… certainly the first time since my mother had passed away in 2010.

I have kept a blog over the past 16 months during my “Year of Jewish Life”. Some of what I have written below comes from those writings, some comes from my journal entries during my Intro to Judaism class taught by Rabbi Bernstein. The last 16 months has been a TREMENDOUS year of growth for me both spiritually, emotionally and physically.

Having not grown up with any particular religion, the only time I went to church as a child was when my grandfather (mom’s father) was in the country from Greece. We went to a Church of Christ church down the street from our home. Papou (grandfather in Greek) was a big Greek Orthodox. When my mom came to the United States on her own at the age of 18 she wasn’t as strict with herself in going to church, especially in trying to learn the English, going to college and becoming a U.S. citizen. When her and my father married, they didn’t have a common religion and religion was not important to my father and therefore my brother and I were not brought up in any sort of faith. In high school, I went on my own (without my parents) to a Disciples of Christ church and stayed there for about 7 years. Felt good to believe in something… but then with what seemed like the blink of an eye that was gone with a 15 second portion of a sermon… a guest speaker one Sunday uttered the following words, “the opposite of homosexuality is not heterosexuality, the opposite of homosexuality is holiness”. I had admitted to myself and to a few close friends just a few weeks prior that I was gay. So at the age of 22, I felt that my world had crashed, I was discovering myself and at the same time learning that G-d didn’t love me (at least in the eyes of that man that spoke that day). I walked out of that church and never stepped foot back in.

I spent the next 11ish years lost… sinking deeper and deeper… and everytime I thought I had hit rock bottom, I was wrong. I got involved with prescription pain killers for the better part of those 11 years… being able to mask the addiction because I could be completely normal on them because my body was so used to being on them, but at least I didn’t have to “feel” both physically and emotionally.

Then in January of 2012 I started looking into different religions… going back in my memory to the Comparative Religion course I had taken and remembering that the one that interested me the most was Judaism. I began to do some research on the religion, not telling anyone of this as I didn’t want to be swayed in any particular direction, but rather wanted to come to any sort of realization by myself. I purchased a book called “The Jewish Book of Why” and found it fascinating… wanting and yearning to learn more and more. By mid March I finally reached out to a friend who I knew was Jewish and asked if I could possibly attend services with her one day… she asked no questions, didn’t hesitate and said of course. March 23, 2012 was the first service I attended at Temple Solel. I found myself at times in quiet tears during the service… not tears of saddness, but rather tears from feeling a sense of peace. Being able to “take a deep breath” for the first time in what seemed like forever.

Learning, studying, talking, listening about Judaism has been incredible. I believe in having the Beit Din and going into the mikveh, it will complete what my heart feels now and has felt for over a year, that Judaism is a part of me, it is part of my identity, it has become such an incredible and important aspect of my life, and the peace I have found from it is something that is truly indescribable.

I continue to look forward to studying, to learning, to becoming an active part more so in Jewish life. I have no worries about people knowing I am Jewish, I feel so much like it is a part of me and find peace and pride in that.

A random note, I am adopted and have often wondered what my biological parents are in terms of their faith. Is there a chance they are Jewish? I have always felt this strong connection to the Holocaust, dating back to the moment I learned about it while studying in school. I did extra research on my own, felt such a connection, still do as a matter of fact. I felt that I needed to throw that out there.

I mentioned above about the addiction… I made a decision on Sept 1, 2012 to get clean,.. no more drugs… and I can say that today I am more than a year drug free. It hasn’t been just a spiritual journey, but an emotional and physical one as well. It has been about becoming whole… becoming a better person.

I would like to end with a portion from the Mishkan T’Filah that I heard when attending services was the following:

May the Door of this synagogue be wide enough to receive all who hunger for love, all who are lonely for friendship.
May it welcome all who have cares to unburden, thanks to express, hopes to nurture.
May the door of this synagogue be narrow enough to shut out pettiness and pride, envy and enmity.
May it’s threshold be no stumbling block to young or straying feet.
May it be too high to admit complacency, selfishness and harshness.
May this synagogue be, for all who enter, the doorway to a richer and more meaningful life.

That is exactly what this journey has become for me, the doorway to a richer and more meaningful life… I feel that I have found peace, I have found belief in a higher power, I believe I am loved by G-d, I believe that I am a better person today than I was 16 months ago and a better person that I was the last 35 years of my life. This journey has brought forth so much change in my life, and all for the better, I have found myself in this journey, I have found that I am a good person, that I am worthy of G-d’s love, that I am worthy of being loved, that there is a fellowship of people who have now become family for which I am eternally grateful and blessed.