It's Sunday morning and I should be getting ready to go on my annual Passover solo hike but instead, I am at my computer for what will probably end up being the better part of the day as I sit here trying to put together this blog. I have always gone on a hike by myself if not the first day of Passover then at some point during the 8 day holiday every year since moving to Colorado in 2016. And before that, I would find a way to be alone for at least a few hours every Passover as another one of my many ways to honor my mother's memory. When living in Florida, it usually meant finding a place that was away from the heat and humidity to be alone for a few hours. Many times I drove to the beach if it wasn't going to be oppressively hot and walk along the water's edge getting lost in my thoughts.
The last time I saw my mother lucid was two days before Passover in 2005. She was in a hospital in Little Rock trying to recover from an intensive amount of treatment for multiple myeloma which included chemo, full-body radiation, and a stem cell transplant. I have told this Passover story every year since she passed away somewhat unexpectedly 3 weeks later and while I have made my peace with her death as best as anyone can, I still find this particular Jewish holiday a bittersweet one no matter when it falls on the Hebrew calendar every year.
Before leaving the hospital to head back to Tampa where I was living at that time I was trying to put together my shopping list for the next day upon my return to prepare for about 50 people who would be celebrating the second seder at my then marital home the day after.
Yes, 50 people.
Yes, I did volunteer to host the second seder as I do every year because I happen to love all of the rituals and meaning behind this holiday more than any other.
And yes, I knew I was going to be in Little Rock up until 2 days before but I planned and catered events in less time when I worked in the food industry in New York 2 decades before, and my ability to harness all of my crazy energy and intensity has never wavered through the years.
I am not a religious Jew, but I happen to find a lot of joy in the symbolism of the season...the rebirth, the renewal...none of it is lost on me when the first signs of spring appear. The baby cows and sheep that are all around Colorado right now come well before the first tulip peaks through sometimes still snow-covered soil. This particular photo was taken one year ago this week it seems but I have seen many a similar scene driving around this year as well...
Meanwhile, my hyper-focused ADHD brain kicks into really high gear when needed and I got off the plane in Tampa back in that spring of 2005 around 10 am with my shopping list in hand, dashed into my neighborhood Publix and was home by 11:30 where I began chopping, mixing, dicing and slicing for the next 10 hours. The following morning I hustled my kids off to school, a round trip of about 90 minutes in the morning rush hour traffic...sigh...and then spent the morning and early afternoon setting tables around our lanai, doing all of the final food prep, got my kids from their school when luckily the afternoon pickup at 3 pm only took about 45 minutes roundtrip but still, so little time to spare before our guests were to arrive around 5:30.
I remember going through the seder feeling such a sense of warmth and community as I was surrounded by family and friends who knew what an emotional few months it had been dealing with the death of my grandfather in January, an ongoing legal battle with my first husband and, of course, my mother finding out her cancer had returned and the subsequent treatment that wasn't going as well as planned. Before the first matzo ball was ladled into a bowl I thanked everyone for coming and sharing that I was bound and determined to create/manifest the most impactful season of renewal and rebirth ever.
I wanted my mother to be "reborn" and ridden of cancer...FOR...EV...ER!
I wanted her to make the "matzo crack" (chocolate-covered matzo that is so incredibly addictive hence the use of "crack"). She knew that recipe by heart and was able to give it to me verbatim when I suddenly realized I didn't have it in my culinary arsenal while still sitting in the hospital room that last day, the last time I saw any sparkle in her eyes or smile on her face. She ALWAYS made that delicious yet, I'm going to say it, constipating snack. Sorry, it is what it is and Jews have clearly suffered far worse throughout history and yet we still choose to eat unleavened bread that basically creates cement in our digestive system for a week.
Anyway, despite how easy the matzo crack really is to make, I just had come to rely on her for it along with many other holiday traditions and general life stuff. I currently have two Ziploc bags of it along with a giant matzo kugel for tonight's seder that just came out of the oven, a recipe equally near and dear to my heart.
The first time I ever had this kugel was my freshman year in college when my friend brought some back from her family seder in Erie, PA. Her mom graciously gave me the recipe the following year when I was living in an apartment and I invited a few friends over to make it. And as someone who has taken great pride through the years in making sure to document as many things as possible, here is proof that I really did make the kugel sophomore year. Clearly our hair and clothes alone screamed 1980s but the kugel still looks and, more importantly, tastes the same...
So, yes, I miss my mother terribly at this time of the year and, of course, my friends that I have celebrated with through the past 4 decades, and my emotions tend to get the best of me even under whatever "normal times" means anymore.
Last year Passover happened to fall in April, about a month after the start of the pandemic and we were still grappling with how to navigate our lives especially during the initial lockdown. And I was grappling with being alone for the first time ever on Passover since we weren't allowed to congregate. So I did the best thing I knew to do...I asked my family to do a Zoom seder around 5 pm MT on what was a gorgeous spring evening here in Colorado. This was my view at one point...seriously, I may have been alone but, come on...this is a view? It will never get old no matter how many Passovers go by...
Little did I know that while preparing my seder "picnic" where I was living at that time that what happened at that very moment would really change the trajectory of my life on some level. My housemate came home and was clearly agitated thinking I was breaking the pandemic rules by going to someone's house for a seder. She didn't believe me when I told her what I was really doing, completely lost it, and essentially kicked me out.
Yes, in the middle of a pandemic.
And no, she wasn't going to let movers help me actually remove everything from the house.
So, yes, I was understandably a bit freaked out.
But I knew there was no arguing with her so I did exactly the same thing I did that Passover before my mother died...I went into what she always referred to as my Action Girl mode. I got myself to Chautauqua Park, a beautiful spot that is both always crowded but ever so peaceful at the same time, laid out my seder spread, dialed into Zoom, put on the best happy face I could muster, and waited for every member of my immediate family's face to pop up one by one.
And then I started to cry.
I initially told my family it was because I was just so happy to see everyone and be able to enjoy such a beautiful evening together yet still apart.
And then the truth came out...I was about to be homeless...in the middle of what was only described as one of the most unprecedented times in my life for sure.
At first, my family joked a little about who was going to "take me in". I know they meant well, meaning, they didn't want me to go down any "OMG why is this happening right now" rabbit hole but there was really nothing funny about the situation I had found myself in.
We agreed that we should finish our familial banter so I could go watch the other event happening that evening, a rare Super Pink Moon as it rose above the Front Range horizon from a vantage point up the road from Chautauqua. I figured there was nothing more I could really do that night to find temporary housing before making the permanent move out of the house I was being forced to leave.
My brother called me shortly after 9 pm and we talked about my options but none of them involved staying in Colorado. I spent the following day talking to a few friends I trusted with all of my heart and soul to keep my situation on the "down-low". As much as I share on social media (it's a lot I am fully aware of), this was not something I wanted or needed the entire internet to know about...or at least not while everyone was panicking about how the virus was actually being transmitted. I was scared and sad and for the first time in my entire life, I felt lonely. I've been alone before and can certainly handle it but I never really allowed myself to feel lonely. There's a difference and it's not who I am and anyone that knows me will corroborate this truth about me. I am an extrovert to the max.
Sitting in my room that day, though, was the loneliest I ever want to feel...EVER!!!
I admit that I was somewhat paralyzed most of that day. I couldn't make any decisions at all. I was relying on family and friends to really do it for me. But by the next morning, I still didn't have a real plan. And then a friend called and said "You have to go to stay with your brother in LA. You have no other options and you need to be around family."
And there it was, the punch to my gut that I had been feeling all week surrounding the memories of my mom hit home in the most uncomfortable way I could ever imagine.
I really did need my family.
Truth be told, I really needed my mother but that was obviously not happening.
That said, her ability to bring our family together like her mother always did, especially in times like this, was something that did not die with her. My brother and sister-in-law took a giant risk in bringing me into their home in the midst of so much uncertainty surrounding COVID19 and I will be eternally grateful to them.
I made what became the start of my real pandemic journey by myself, leaving in the middle of the night during one of Colorado's crazy late spring ice/snowstorms, crawling on I-70 with my orange tire pressure light on and nowhere to get air because forget about nothing being open, it was too cold for the air thingys at every gas station I stopped at between Boulder and Vail to be operating. It took me almost 6 hours to get to Glenwood springs, more than twice as long as it usually does where I finally found a place to get my tires checked and filled.
It was smooth sailing the rest of the way to LA from a driving perspective but the only way I really even remember the drive at this point is to look back at my photos and some saved text messages. I did apparently have the wherewithal to stop at the Colorado-Utah border and take this selfie. I think my expression says it all. I wasn't happy I had to leave but I was going to make the best of whatever was waiting for me in LA.
I probably shouldn't admit this but while my physical being was in that car for 18 hours, I cannot tell you where I was mentally. Well, I can imagine because I spend a lot of time most days inside my head, and trust me, under the best of circumstances my head can be a messy place.
Yes, I am aware that doesn't bode well for me as a professional organizer. It's not the first time I have admitted this and it won't be the last. But I am, like most people, doing the best I can each and every day to be a productive and responsible adult. I just happen to have a lot of "stuff" on any given day that I store up in that tiny space in the hopes I will be able to tackle every last detail before going to bed.
Some days my hyperfocus superpower goes full throttle and I amaze even myself at how much I get done.
After beating myself up for not getting as much done, I just rewrite my mental and physical to-do lists which I am proud to say my mental list can now be boldly displayed on my giant physical dry erase board that I finally got up on my wall over my desk a few days ago. Yes, the photo is intentionally blurry because some of the action items are related to clients or myself that are personal and not for internet consumption but it is definitely going to be a very valuable organizing tool for me moving forward.
It is literally in my face and I cannot ignore what is on there. I mean, I can but I won't. I will, however, obsess over it to some degree every morning scanning it for the action items I must do that day vs. the next and beyond.
But I digress...
I returned from LA almost two months later but not before a temporary stop for a week in AZ that was intended to position me ultimately to be closer to Telluride to help my son who was planning to leave and ride out the pandemic back in Tampa only for him to decide when I was already in Flagstaff that he was staying put. When I arrived back in Colorado right after Memorial Day I stayed with a friend who graciously offered for me to live with her until I found the place I have now been living in since September.
Six months later, I really didn't imagine we would still be dealing with the pandemic. And even though most of my friends have been vaccinated, we are still being uber careful and having a seder al fresco this evening.
Last night, though, while most of my friends were with any family they have living here, I was able to hang out with two friends having the best version of the first night of Passover we wanted to muster after what was a very emotional week for us here in Boulder. I was already feeling the familiar emotions of the season starting to stir inside me last weekend when I was preparing my Passover shopping list and planning to stop at the King Sooper's in Table Mesa after an organizing session with a client on Monday who lives nearby.
Yes, THAT King Sooper's.
And, yes, as I stated in the It's Just Stuff weekly #WhatsOnYourMindWednesday blog this past week, I anticipated being at that store right around the time of the shooting. But call it fate, divine intervention, whatever...my client canceled the night before and I ended up heading in the opposite direction on Monday to a regular client in Golden since I had actually missed 3 days I would have normally been there after deciding almost two weeks earlier to leave before what was labeled as #snowmaggedon2021 and went to Santa Fe for 6 days.
But before I had even received the news about the shooting I received a phone call from the attorney for the same client in Golden who manages all of his financial and legal affairs. He was questioning the amount of money that was about to be spent on a significant amount of remodeling and redecorating, a project I had been more or less put in charge of by my client. This is where my hyperfocus and attention to detail really comes in handy but the attorney wasn't satisfied with my answers and was on a plane the next morning to come to see for himself the scope of what my client was hoping to do.
Did I feel attacked?
On some level, yes. But I understood the attorney's responsibilities.
I just wish he hadn't been so quick to accuse me of doing anything that wasn't in the best interests of our mutual client. He had never met me and, even though I was sending him weekly updates with everything I was doing, he did judge my character and integrity when he called on Monday around 3 pm.
While I was on the phone with him for almost an hour my phone notification sound was dinging almost nonstop but I couldn't look to see what was going on until I actually got home, pulled into my garage, and saw 63 text messages had come through in the span of the call. That's more than one every 45 seconds based on the length of the drive. I may get a lot of messages throughout any given day but I am not that popular.
As I quickly scanned the senders' names, it became abundantly clear something terrible must have happened. While many of the messages were from one chain of texts with a group of friends here, the vast majority were from friends and family across the country.
"OMG Beth are you ok?"
"Mom, where are you?"
"Just heard about the shooting in Boulder..."
I immediately tried to put together what had happened in my head but then I saw a name I hadn't seen in almost 6 years, the name belonging to my ex-husband's first cousin's wife in NJ. We hadn't had any communication since 2015 but, suffice it to say, it stirred a lot of emotions for me. My ex-husband's son who is mentally ill had threatened to kill me and my head went right back to the day when I read his threat on Facebook. I have spent a lot of time since then letting go of those very raw and frightening memories but if you have ever been in a similar situation you know that there will always be PTSD triggers that will be thrust upon you when you least expect it.
There have been too many other mass shootings that have brought up my past, but I have found a way to process all of the insanity in the world most days and I live what I think is a very emotionally healthy life.
Last Monday, though, I was a mess and I won't apologize for it. Unless you've been living under a rock you now know that 10 lives were lost...senselessly. In my opinion, there is no reason for assault weapons to be something anyone can buy. And, also, in my opinion, we don't do enough in this country to support those who are truly struggling with life whether deemed mentally ill or not.
But those are topics I cannot even begin to debate right here and now.
I mean, I can, but I won't.
This blog is already long enough.
More importantly, I simply cannot do it today...or this week.
I need to breathe...for my own self-preservation and survival.
And I know I need to breathe for those that took their last breath on Monday, March 22nd, 2021 at that King Sooper's store, and hope there is something I can do in the future to make sure their last breath will never be forgotten.
This week, though, the best I can do is to try to process what happened.
Boulder has been changed forever by this event just like every other community across the U.S. that has had to bear witness to these tragic mass shootings. But Boulder is an extremely connected community that I have been in awe of how much support it provides to its citizens even before the shooting.
I had to go into my neighborhood Safeway grocery store Tuesday morning to get some meal prep ingredients for a client and as I drove into the parking lot I saw this Rudi's Bakery truck with this message on the side...
I couldn't help but start to cry. But then as I walked into the grocery store, I saw some daffodils and decided to get a bunch to take to my client to do exactly what the side of the truck said..."Spread Some Sunshine". The store was understandably very quiet because who wants to be in a grocery store the day after a mass shooting took place in another store just a few miles away.
When I got to the register the cashier was one that I see often and I could tell she was trying to put on her best customer service smile behind her mask but clearly was thinking about what happened less than 24 hours before. I asked her how she was really doing and her response was, "You know, not well like everyone else." At that moment I decided I needed to spread some sunshine her way and handed her a daffodil. It was the only thing I could think of to do and I know while it was not going to make her feel safer I would like to believe it at least made her feel a little better.
Then having the opportunity on Tuesday afternoon to be part of a Zoom call with my fellow Boulder Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors along with several of the Chamber's professional leadership team was the beginning of many events this past week that I have participated in to try to heal.
Sitting outside at 8 pm last night, lighting a candle and honoring the memories of the 10 lives lost so senselessly, something the Boulder community decided would be one way for us to grieve together for 10 consecutive nights, I took 10 very long, deep, almost painful breaths every one of those lives lost last Monday and tried my very best to remind myself of what I heard during a community vigil on Wednesday night...the meaning of life is love.
So I will do my very best to live and breathe each and every day with all of the love in my heart and hope that this spring will really bring about the renewal and rebirth we so desperately need in this country. I don't know what else I can offer but I choose to believe if we can all get our collective you know what together, we may be able to turn the terrible tide we have been experiencing.
I simply have no other words right now but I will end with what Dr. Jill Biden said during the White House virtual seder online a few nights ...
"Passover is a celebration of Jewish life but the message is universal."
Peace, tolerance, and love.
That is all, but it is, of course, so very complicated to get.
I truly hope we can, in fact, get it all someday but for now please be safe and be kind always,