Monday, December 19, 2011

Are You Where You Want to Be in 2012?

Photo credit by: Kim Eisenstein

by Stephie Goldfish

Looking back over this year, 2011, it sure has been a year of people on the move. Courageously leaving her practice here in Raleigh, one of my doctors moved clear across the country. I myself have moved about three times this year—back home to WV, to Nashville, TN, and finally back to Raleigh, NC—all within four months. Some of my Facebook friends, who’ve lived in stability most of their lives, are trying to find their place, knowing that it’s not the actual place that makes one stable, but have feelings of upheaval and the need to move to a place where they will be most comfortable and content within themselves.

It’s also been a year that has shaken things up all over the world, with all the events that took place in the Middle East and elsewhere and even here in our country with the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Even my psychiatrist, who can’t very well pick up and leave her practice here in Raleigh, has gotten involved. I would join forces, too, except I don’t really have anyone who’d bail me out of jail. And if you’ve ever ridden hand-cuffed in a police car and taken to the police station, it is a scary experience.

I’ve heard it said that people are instinctively moving around in 2011 to be where they need to be or should be or really want to be when 2012 ushers in what some think is the End of the World.

During this time of year with Christmas upon us makes me think of how Mary and Joseph were in transit during the birth of Jesus. In fact, Mary and Joseph had nowhere to rest for the night and slept in the stable where the Inn travelers kept their horses. Yet, God was with them. Jesus’ name means, “With us is God.”

That’s what comforted them then and that’s what comforts me now during times of upheaval. I often reflect on Jesus’ life and for most of it he never had a settled or secure place to rest his head or to call his own. But Jesus knew that his heart and sights were not on fleshly but spiritual interests. He cared about the human condition and he wanted to spread good news to everyone he encountered.

In 2012, some think that we are going to be wiped off the face of the earth. Whether it happens or not, I know that God has everything and everyone in his care. He’s even made a promise and he intends to keep it. In 2 Peter 3:9, it says regarding His promise: “God is not slow respecting his promise, as some people consider slowness, but he is patient with you because he does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.”

So, we’ve all got less than 12 days before we bring in the New Year 2012. When the ball drops in New York City—the city that never sleeps—and when the acorn falls in Raleigh, North Carolina—the City of Oaks—are you where you want to be in 2012?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Review of Rumors

by Stephie Goldfish
Rumors of Water: thoughts on creativity & writing
by L.L. Barkat

I’ve never met L.L. Barkat in person—I don’t know if she’s blonde or brunette, short or tall, or whatever. Someday I hope to meet her in person, but I feel I’ve come to know her writer’s soul through her writing and her blogs. Sharing what she thinks, feels, and believes about creativity and good writing is easy to be found in her latest book, Rumors of Water: thoughts on creativity & writing.
I had learned early on that L.L. was writing a new book, and I even shared some thoughts to her cover designs, along with some other fellow bloggers. The cover design includes a detailed floral design by her youngest daughter, aka Lovely Laughing Lady.
One only has to know L.L.’s passion for tea and her love for her daughters to understand why such a book began as Rumors.
There are many lessons I learned of a mother’s love and deep devotion to her daughters as much as lessons about her commitment to her art of writing and how she shares this with those around her.
L.L. gives us a glimpse of how the story unfolds in the first chapter:
I have been trying to write while raising my girls. I have been struggling. There are days I feel wildly creative; there are weeks when I feel ground down and completely spent. I am trying to show my girls that creativity is theirs for the taking. Sometimes it seems to be. Sometimes I feel the road is so long they will never get where they’re trying to go.
The mother-daughter relationship is intricately woven into a beautiful tapestry of creative lessons taught and creative lessons learned. From the opening poem by William Butler Yeats, “The Stolen Child”, to L.L.’s last words of the book, she honors her girls as well as her passion for the writing life.
One sees that, as a mother raises her daughters, and guides them, it is still God who makes them grow in ways we only hope for and, sometimes, as the title suggests, we have to live by faith—to see it all through.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

And I'll Remember You...

written by Stephie Goldfish

This poem is dedicated to one of my doctors who recently moved away to be closer to her children and to move on in her own spiritual journey of life. She is a wonderful person, dedicated doctor, and devoted mother. In the 3 1/2 years that I got to meet with her, she helped me in a way that words can't express, but I wrote this poem about her to try to convey my gratitude.

I'll remember you,

And other silly things that remind me of you:

Like White Grand Cherokee Jeeps.

And Ice-Cream Cones at the Dairy-Queen in Cary.

Roses blooming at The Raleigh Little Theatre Garden.

And Lotus Openings.

Beautiful Pedicures in the Cold of Winter.

And a Safe Haven to Share My Deepest Thoughts.

Birds in the Windows Sitting, Singing, and Listening.

And Guardian Angels as Tall as the Empire State Building.

Psychology Today Magazines.

And The Road Less Traveled.

Calm Breathing.

And Big Blue Eyes.

Laughter of Children Playing Outside.

And the Silence of Unspoken Words.

A Mother's Love for Her Son and Daughter.

And Compassion and Empathy for Her Patients.

Tears Flowing Down.

And Hearts Lifted Up.


And... Independence.

In my therapy, I've searched for a feeling of home. At times I thought I had that, but when I met her, I felt like I had come full circle. She showed me symbolically and literally what a Mother's Embrace should and could feel like. She put her arms around me and I am home.

Photo credits:

Thursday, October 6, 2011

In the Face of Death, Follow Your Heart

written by Stephie Goldfish

“Almost everything—all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure—these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.” ~Steve Jobs

Three years from turning thirty, I came to an awakening about my life—where I had been, where I was at that moment in time, and where I was headed. It all hit me like a head-on collision. I’ve never been the same since. I wondered, at that time, why now, and not then?

I mean, hearing the news about my congenital heart disease at age 17 should have been enough in itself to cause me to bow down and not want to go for my dreams. Then, it wasn’t so much a feeling like my life was over; instead, more a feeling of being vindicated after all those years of wondering what was wrong with me.

What the medical team said to me then was that I would know my limitations. They said that I should be able to go on to art school, since being an artist isn’t as strenuous as being a doctor, marathon runner, or construction worker. They also said that I could die instantly, in my 20s, 30s, 40s, or later. They didn’t know, but they said usually people with my specific congenital heart defect might begin to experience more problems in their late 20s to early 30s.

With all of this in the back of my mind, my twin sister (also a very talented artist) and I went on to art school in Pittsburgh. I had begun receiving a small SSI check and I got help with the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation in Pittsburgh to attend school. The amazing thing was they provided transportation to and from school each day. They let my sister ride with me as I needed help some days carrying the heavy artist’s portfolio.

It wasn’t easy, but we both graduated at the top of our class. We followed our hearts to New York City where we began working in computer graphics.

Life has a way of creeping up on you and before I knew it I was in my late 20s—almost 27 years old. Maybe I had subconsciously known I was heading into that time of life when the doctors said things “might” start getting bad. Call it prophetic or whatever, but I just broke down emotionally. I began to fear dying. I felt the urgency of death and felt the fragility of life.

I still do.

I am 46 years old now, almost three decades after my diagnosis. I still struggle with feelings of failure and lost hopes and dreams. But what I’ve learned is that you can’t live life worrying about whether you’ll be here tomorrow, next week, or next year. I’m learning to live in the moment.

I’d like to say to those who are struggling with life and their CHD: Live life and love life to the fullest. Follow your heart and it will lead you through the many seasons of life.

As a tribute to Steve Jobs, and to everyone facing death, I am reposting this article. This was originally posted on August 30, 2011 over at the Adult Congenital Heart Association's new blog.

Photo credit:

Friday, September 30, 2011

Letters from Mom: A Tuesday in 1988

Dear Steph,

     Kim came home after talking to you. She told me you had lost weight, a size 7. Why don't you call Dr. S. and ask him about this. We love you so much.

     If working is too hard on you just stop and come home let us fatten you up. Ha. Like Debra she would come home skinny and I'd feed her good. Then she would go back.

     We miss you and it's so hard being so far away. Money isn't everything. Being happy and feeling as good as you can. God, sweetheart. I'm lost for words.

     I just want you to know that if you want to come home and rest. We have just as much don't we, when we are here as there.

     I know you love J.G. and want a life with him, an apartment. His mom needs him, etc. You can't even get married. Come home to West Virginia. Put Jehovah first. We will too!

     I love you so much. I don't like to pressure you. But I just want you to know we want you to come home if you want to.

     Life is so uncertain it seems to everyone and critical times hard to deal with. Earth is in it's darkest night.

     The dawn of the new era will come very soon, the millennial reign.

     I've always heard it is darkest before the dawn.

     We need to forget the world and flee to Jehovah. If no one else wants to go then leave them behind to make their own choice of life or death.

     This is our only hope. Not to be limping on two opinions. Trying to do good in the world is next to impossible.

     The world measures success on your $$$!

     Although money is needed to support us, if we humble ourselves and go back to the basics of life, this is more important than gaining the whole world. You know what I mean.

     Sure it is hard no matter where we are but to be free from being a slave to the world of Satan -- How great it will be to be truly free. Right. Romans 8 Chapter.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


written by Stephie Goldfish

At the crossroads of the world where paths take many directions

God looked down and heard my cry bringing me to you and you to me

If my prayers were answered it's not a coincidence that our paths crossed

What is so strange is that I was with you for a while but we each had to move on to our destinations

And that's when I met you

Who knows how long our stop will be this time

After our paths have crossed will you still remember me as I'll remember you?

Photo credits:

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Pruning and Shearing God's Little Things

written by Stephie Goldfish

Her words cut me like a dagger. Maybe mine did her.

I said to her, I need my space, and she moved over on the other side of the couch, I said, don't you know boundaries, she said, I used to rock you to sleep, I said, maybe that's what's wrong with me, and she said, don't you know you shouldn't say things like that to your mother, and she continued, you're suppose to honor your parents.

And she said, it also says don't be exasperating your children.

She said, I'm 73 years old, and she said, no, mom, you're 74, and she asked, how old will I be nine years from now, and she continued, shoot, by the time you start receiving your pension benefit, I'll be...

And she said, dead, maybe.

It hurts like a dagger. All these words thrown and flung about without thinking of the consequences.

I'm sorry, mom, for what I said.

I do need my space, but it's not only space from you I need. I am just like that. I can't be in close proximity with hardly anyone. Even when I would lay down next to him I felt like I was smothering.

She is outside digging up the weeds around one of her small pine trees. I came in and sat on the bed. I am writing. She came in and laid down trying to rest.

I said, her words hurt me, maybe mine did her too.

There was silence.

He began kneading the soft blue blanket like he's playing on the piano and then curled up next to her.

I said, I can sit here and mull over the hurt, but instead, I prayed, a long, silent prayer for forgiveness, for thankfulness, for long lives, and for kinder words spoken to my mother.

I went outside to see about her, worrying about the heat, and there she sat in the grass and dirt working on her pine tree, pruning so diligently, shearing so carefully.

The strong fragrance of the pine caught my breath. I stood for a moment and just breathed.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Congenital Heart Disease Tests: 6-Minute-Walk

written by Stephie Goldfish

As a young girl, I often watched shows like the Bionic Woman in admiration of the ease and speed with which she moved. I dreamed of running a marathon, even though I had trouble running one lap around the track field. I had hope in modern medicine and what the future might bring.

Some of the medicine and technological advancements that have been discovered since 1983, the year I first was diagnosed with my heart and lung problem, require being seen by medical doctors and scientists who specialize in my specific heart and lung physiology, which is usually at a medical facility located in large metropolitan areas, such as New York, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Raleigh/Durham.

An example of why I choose to be seen at a major medical facility or clinic that specializes in Adult Congenital Heart Disease is because of the new medicines and treatments that are researched and developed. These tests and medicines prescribed for me there are routine, but may not have even been heard of at most other hospitals.

One such test that is routinely given every three to four months for my congenital heart and lung disease is called a 6-Minute-Walk Test. This test measures my pulse rate and oxygen saturation (O2 Sat) in a short span walk lasting a total of six minutes. The test measures how much oxygen I’m getting and how fast and low the O2 Sat drops upon minimal to mild exertion.

In preparing for the 6-Minute-Walk, I make sure I wear comfortable shoes and clothes. The technician straps a pulse-oximeter reader to my forehead and I carry the monitor around my neck so it is not in the way when I walk. An EKG test is done before and after the test. I’m hooked up to a small tank of oxygen which I pull while walking. I am started on 4 liters of O2 and the technician increases the O2 as I walk and as my O2 Sat level drops. I look almost like the Bionic Woman when all the apparatus is hooked up, but hardly match the speed and distance.

When I begin the test my O2 Sat is around 85%. And, as the picture shows, my O2 Sat dropped to 57% upon completion, and probably went even lower during the walk.

This specific test is used to see how my O2 Sat drops during exertion and to see how the medicine I’ve been prescribed is working. The goal is to have my O2 Sat level as high as possible on exertion, and with the new medicine I'm prescribed and with oxygen therapy my O2 Sat has improved.

Anyone in the medical field knows, or any patient knows, that when an O2 Sat falls under 90% it causes alarm to the nursing staff and doctors, so when you have an O2 Sat falling below 85% is even greater cause for concern. So using the oxygen with medicine therapy helps the heart from over working and thus prevents me from going into complete heart failure sooner than expected.

Doctors don’t know how my body uses such low oxygen, but over time my body has compensated and I’m used to it. It’s normal for me, but hardly normal at all. Isn’t it amazing what our hearts can do?

After the 6-Minute-Walk test at Duke University Medical Center, which has an Adult Congenital Heart Clinic, my doctor, Dr. Terry Ann Fortin, was concerned because I have been having trouble keeping up with my regimen and routine of taking my medicines and using my oxygen. Dr. Fortin specializes in Adult Congenital Heart Disease and also specializes in Pulmonary Hypertension (secondary) that comes with some Congenital Heart Disease. I had been worrying about my vitamin D levels, but Dr. Fortin sat with me and told me straight out that I am most likely going to die from congenital heart disease and pulmonary hypertension and from NOT using my oxygen, not vitamin D deficiency. And since I've been sort of unsettled in my living environment over the past five years, she also told me to get somewhere and take your medicine and use your oxygen, because taking the medicine and using the oxygen requires consistency on a daily basis.

I am happy to report that since my last appointment I have been maintaining a better routine, and hopefully I will pass my next appointment with flying colors.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


written by Stephie Goldfish

Fragile, handle with care, thirteen boxes
shipped across the USA by bus three or
four times in a lifetime wear down the
soul, sitting in corners, collecting dust

Do not bend, photos, mailed with
hundreds of letters through snow, rain,
sleet, and heavy wind, but how do you
keep the spirit protected from the pain

Hearts are bound to be broken and spirits
are certain to be crushed and bent, but
loving deeds and words spoken at the
right time surely do mend

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Moving Mountains and Hearts

written by Stephie Goldfish

When I first was diagnosed with a large Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD) with Eisenmengers Physiology at age 17 in 1983, I finally understood why I was always so blue. And, after the numbness wore off from knowing that surgery was not an option for my heart defect, unless I were to have a complete heart and lung transplant, I set my heart on graduating high school with High Honors and going on to Art School in Pittsburgh, PA, and graduating at the top of my class in December 1985.

Being an artist has helped me work out my creative energy, but also it has enabled me to work out some of my fears about living with a serious heart and lung problem. In one of my last quarters of Art School, the professor gave us an assignment to create a painting about a subject either close to our hearts or universal in scope. So, I painted the painting below of what I imagined my heart to look like from the inside. I remember showing ideas to my professor and I told her that I wanted others to know that with God's help I would be OK, thus, the spiritual light coming in from the "blue side".

"Stephanie's Heart", Oil Painting, 1985, by
Stephanie Hodgson aka Stephie Goldfish

It was during this time in Art School that I began to wonder if I was the only adult out there living with congenital heart disease (CHD). I often wondered if I’d ever meet anyone as blue as myself.

I moved from Pittsburgh to New York City for my first job as a computer graphic artist, and basically lived and worked there for twenty years.

It wouldn’t be until many years later, with the Internet and all, that I’d come upon a group of adults living with congenital heart disease that share congenital heart stories. As I said, I had never met anyone as blue as myself, and then I met her — Karen Klein McNulty, the first President and Co-Founder of ACHA (Adult Congenital Heart Association). I met Karen at a luncheon with several other ACHA members around 1999-2000. I was amazed at the devotion with which Karen showed in helping others like myself meet others who share congenital heart disease. She was there with her mother, Mary Kay Klein, who is just as devoted to the ACHD community. Karen had an unrepaired defect and a similar heart physiology that I have — Eisenmengers — that causes cyanosis and shortness of breath. Suddenly, though, Karen’s life was cut short on August 31, 2005, at only age 30.

When I first met some from the ACHA community, in 2000, I felt like I had come full circle, yet the circle was ever expanding. In particular, I met Amy Verstappen, who is the current President of ACHA, through a few informal luncheon meetings in New York City, and she had such a vision for the ACHA community. ACHA’s success is because of the dedication that Karen and Amy have spent bringing together the community of ACHD patients and top adult congenital heart specialists in the world.

The first ACHA Conference I attended was in the summer of 2005 in the New York / New Jersey area. I remember that day so well. I had been going through a separation from my now ex-husband. I was feeling sort of emotionally raw, having been out of touch with everyone at ACHA, and I was feeling isolated and sad. However, at the conference, I met some of the best doctors for my specific heart physiology and defect.

Dr. Gersony and his daughter, Dr. Deborah Gersony, were at this conference. I introduced myself to Dr. Deborah Gersony, and she mentioned I could see Dr. Erika Berman Rosenzweig, whom I had heard that morning with Dr. Michael Landzberg in a breakout session on Eisenmengers. Both Dr. Deborah Gersony and Dr. Erika Berman Rosenzweig are affiliated with Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City, and they had just opened one of the first ACHD clinics, so this seemed like a good choice.

One-on-ones with renowned ACHD doctors are a highlight of most conferences, which I had with Dr. Michael Landzberg, the Director of the Boston Adult Congenital Heart (BACH) and Pulmonary Hypertension Service. He also suggested that it would be to my benefit if I saw the doctors at Columbia's Adult Congenital Heart Clinic. He mentioned, though, that the team I was with at Mount Sinai Medical Center is a smart group of doctors, specifically Dr. Martin E. Goldman, who has been my favorite cardiologist since 1988. And the painting above is actually hanging up in the Cardiology Board Meeting room at Mount Sinai Medical Center.

I did go for a consultation at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in the spring of 2006, and since I hadn’t had a Cardiac Catheterization since 1983, Dr. Erika Berman Rosenzweig performed another one to get a new baseline of my heart pressures. She suggested some new medicine therapy, but as I had planned to move to North Carolina, she said perhaps that the team at Duke could start me on one or two of these new medicines.

Having come from a long history of seeing so many ACHD specialists and all the fellows in training, I appreciate that I have a team like the ACHA staff and volunteers spearheading the care we as a community receive, and ACHA has been expanding in great ways.

I participated in the ACHA Lobby Day in February 2006, held in Washington D.C., and I was so impressed with the organization, the care, and work it involved. They even supplied a shuttle bus for us so we wouldn’t be in the cold weather or have to walk long distances. We moved hearts that day in Washington D.C., and eventually got new laws passed for our benefit.

ACHA has been helpful in establishing a platform for the ACHD community to come together from all over the country and world to meet topnotch professionals and others like me that share similar stories about their hearts.

ACHA has given me a new perspective to look beyond age 18, 30, or 50, but also to have a quality of life that we may not have had without their advocating for us, as many of us with CHD live well into adulthood.

Still, I am sadly reminded that I am the exception; one who has out lived the doctors’ expectations.

I am grateful to ACHA and Amy, and humbly thankful to Karen who was more than just her heart defect:  Karen paved the way for us. Her work and legacy at ACHA lives on today. Yes, Karen, Amy, and ACHA have moved mountains and hearts.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wordle Poem 101: Purple Heart

written by Stephie Goldfish

T.S. Poetry Press offered a creative challenge to make a Wordle Poem. My Wordle Poem was inspired by two of my favorite poets whom I met through the The High Calling:  L.L. Barkat and Marcus Goodyear.

This wordle poem was also created in honor of my own heart and all the hearts that battle a war—physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Breathing Lessons

written by Stephie Goldfish

Today, I have both sliding glass doors open to let in fresh air. The doors open to a sunny view of the garden and I hear the water bubbling in the fountain.

I lay down after having wanted to write. I had gotten discouraged after I told my sister, Kim, not to read aloud. She, at the same time I was going to write, had wanted to read aloud from the Bible, Psalms 83:1-18. But I got upset.

“Don’t read out loud,” I said, “It will distract me from what I want to write!”

So I ended up lying down, and my sister went to the other room to read.

I felt bad.

“What have I got to say that’s more important than Jehovah God?” I thought.


Lately, when I lie down and try to sleep, my breathing has become labored. I start making sounds, as I am closer to sleep, which sounds like someone crying, or more like dying.

Last night, Kim woke me up and she was scared to death.

“Steph, you need to put on your oxygen!" she said. "You’re scaring me the way you’re breathing. It’s the worse I’ve ever heard you breathe. It’s worse than grandma’s used to be, and it’s worrying me.”

“Would you like me to get your oxygen tubing for you?” she asked.

And she went right away to get it for me, cleaning off the area with alcohol that goes into my nostrils. I immediately felt relief, and my breathing was quieter, and I no longer made gasping sounds.


Today, as I lay down, I was back to my normal labored breathing and making sounds, as if I wanted to cry. And something reminded me of my brother, Michael. When I was there with him at his deathbed he was breathing laboriously, making the same sounds similar to mine.

I opened my eyes, and felt a little sad, and wondered if this is a sign of impending death.

One moment, while I was with Michael, his nurse had come in and tried to make him more comfortable. And I asked her about Mike’s position of his arms and hands. I worried whether or not they were in a comfortable position.

And his nurse said, “He likes to keep his hands and arms in that position,” but she didn’t know why.

He had his arms folded on his chest. One of his hands was up around his neck, and was pushing on the area around his esophagus. It seemed this was helping him to breathe easier.


I continued lying down, and my breathing became once again labored.

So, I thought of going to put on my oxygen cannula, but felt too tired to even move. I immediately thought of trying to do what Mike had done, and I positioned my hands near my throat and esophagus, and I pushed in. I at once felt relief. My heavy labored breathing stopped.

I quieted down, and felt peaceful. I could easily breathe now.

I thought of Mike and how he must have been trying to get air and find comfort and relief from the gurgling sounds and pressure on his lungs and heart.

And this revelation comes as a sad note to my heart and soul.

Am I slowly dying, in a real physical way, as we all are dying, really, in a physical way?

But this scares me too. I know that there are things that will help me to live longer, and help me have a more quality of life.


I got up to write this down.

Kim came in from where she had been reading. She began making her another German hotdog.

And, in her sardonic sense of humor, trying to break the ice after our breach, said, “Van Gogh at Saint-Rémy!”

I breathed a sigh of relief, and we both began laughing out loud.

Sharing a PlayDate with Laura over at The Wellspring

The Wellspring
Also, linking up with Cheryl over at Culture Smith Consulting in her Simplify Journey.

Culture Smith Consulting

Friday, April 8, 2011

Building Upon a Solid Foundation

written by Stephie Goldfish

Here is the church, here is the steeple, open the doors and see all the people.

As children, our Aunt Velva taught us all how to make a church out of our hands. We'd clasp our hands together, then pull up our two pointer fingers to make the steeple, open our thumbs as if opening church doors, and then, while hands still clasped, twist them up and move all our fingers to reveal “all the people”.

This lesson is simple: God’s fellow workers, his people, are his temple.

Although the place of worship I attended growing up was not called “church”, but called Kingdom Halls, I knew that it wasn’t the actual building or actual place that gave me a sense of place or belonging, it was the friends or people.

Because of moving so many times in our young childhood and adulthood, having a place to call home or being attached to one specific place, seemed odd. My twin sister and I attended sixteen different schools from first grade through twelfth grade. We each of course had a built-in best friend, so adjusting made it easier for us.

The main reason for our adjusting, though, was that we were taught about God and his loving ways from the time we were babies.

This education about God and his righteous principles was the only constant we had in our lives. We learned how to pray from an early age, read the bible, and give demonstrations from the bible, and tell others in the ministry about our faith. Most everywhere we moved, when we were older, our mom asked those who shared full-time in the ministry to study the Bible with us, and we developed very close relationships with these different ones.

When we were little, my sister and I got into fights, as siblings do, but our mom, instead of punishing us, she, instead, made each of us read a story from a book about the life and ministry of Jesus, and we’d read the corresponding scriptures from our own personal copy of the Bible. After we’d both finish, mom would have each of us tell the other what we learned, and then we hugged and made up.

We grew up without a father, and sometimes we’d cry and say we wished we could have a dad. Our mom instilled in us a deep love for God helping us to see that He is our heavenly father.

However, not always having a consistent place to rest our head, sometimes was wearisome. Sometimes we stayed with our grandmother in her small one bedroom apartment, and although she loved us very much and we loved her, it was hard to be all over the place at times throughout our lives.

And when we moved we couldn’t always take all of our belongings, so we never grew attachment to things.

I think also we grew accustomed to saying goodbye to others knowing that we may not ever see them again. We grieved in our own way, because sometimes we never even had a chance to say goodbye.

Although, I don’t have a physical family of my own with children, I am learning to love what I do have, and not focus on what I don’t have, and focus on now and tomorrow.

I have recently, through Facebook, been in contact with some of my relatives whom I have not seen in such a long time. This has brought a sense of belongingness, rootedness, knowing that those who’ve known me as a babe still care about my well being, as I do theirs.

I am learning to be grateful for the advantages I did have growing up. It was adventurous sometimes. It made me less scared of new things, places, and people. We experienced so many things that it made us more open and understanding.

Someone once told me and my sister that we’d be good missionaries, because of all the places we traveled and the people we met, and because of being adaptable to various circumstances.

So, I think that what keeps someone who has lived and grown up in one “place” having a sense of rootedness and belongingness, would be the same for those who have lived in multiple places. It requires building a spiritual foundation, relying on our heavenly father for strength and guidance, becoming familiar with comforting Bible passages. Learning its truths and principles are important, because God’s laws and principles are universal, and will guide us through the most difficult times of our lives when the storms of life hit us.

This post was prompted by a question my friend
Jennifer asked me after I commented on her story There's No Place Like Home over at The High Calling.

What about you? If you or someone you know is in a similar position, what do you feel works to create a sense of "place" and "belonging," even while on the move?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Black Bird At Day Break

written by Stephie Goldfish

Black bird at day break
You talk and you talk

What time is it?

Time to examine my life
and realign it to what
I know is morally and
spiritually correct

Black bird at noon, at midday,
You talk and you talk

What do you see?

I look to the future
in order to see how
my current behavior
will affect it

Black bird at evening, at night-time
You talk and you talk

What path do I take?

Now's the time to be
that better person
I know myself
to be

Black bird at day break
You talk and you talk

Time to walk the way of life
I was meant to walk

Saturday, April 2, 2011

When Someone Is Dying

written by Stephie Goldfish
What do you say to someone who’s dying; he who’s passing from the earthly over to the heavenly realm?
I tried to find some words that were comforting or at least appropriate for something as major as Death.
I have never been before someone in their final hours, except the time my Grandmother died, yet I was out in the lobby with my mother when my Grandmother took her final breath, with my twin sister and aunt by her bedside.
I fumbled out, “It’s OK, Mike,” and “We love you, Mike.”
I prayed silently, as well as openly with him. I, even in my anxious, nervous way, asked him, “Mikey, you want to watch the latest news on CNN (he was always up on the latest Breaking News headline), and I laughed inside at the silliness of such a question when he was going through a most pure and lofty event as his final hours.
My twin sister and mother had been there before he died, but my mother couldn’t bear to see her first born like he was, so my twin sister took my mother back home.
I can’t believe I was there when he spoke his last words and that I was the last earthly creature to hold his hand, to kiss his forehead when he was ready to pass over to the hands of God.
He formed words trying to tell me some things, like when he said, “Maw maw.”
Were others there too; to assist him in this Rebirth, this shedding of the earthly life into a New Life? It made me feel as if he could see our Grandmother right there in front of him.
Is this how it is in the end; like so many think; our passed loved ones waiting for us in order to welcome us into eternity with the One?
I’d rather believe this than not. I do know that this earthly life is not all there is, and God is infinity, and we are made in His image.
Mike had asked me several times during his last hours for the time. And, as the first morning light began making things clearer and clearer, I would let him know the hour, the day, and made sure to remind him it was the first day of spring. I painted a vivid picture of the view outside his French glass doors which opened onto a veranda that overlooked the Ohio River and the new span bridge that goes over into Proctorville, Ohio. The sky had grown silver over the night, but it was still a beautiful view, and the birds were singing a new song.

Michael took his last long exhalation at approximately 8:30 that Sunday morning. And as simple as death can appear to be, he went peaceful as most people say happens at death.
About four weeks before, Michael had hopes of seeing another spring. When I first heard this, I wrote a poem thinking of Michael, but also about the last stage of our life here on earth, when we move from the winter season of death to the spring season of Life Everlasting.
Yes, Michael lives to see another spring.

Another Spring
written by Stephie Goldfish

He's grown dry, like in
the winter season when
dead trees fall down.
Just as a desert that is
barren of water, his tears
have all dried up. Like a
river bed emptied after
a drought, it's hard to
swallow and wash away
his pain. His heart has grown
cold without the warmth
of nurtured love, just as
the land lays destitute
and vegetation becomes
scanty after the harvest
has been reaped. Like a
forest in flames, his nostrils
breathe fire from the burning
air. Yet, relief comes to him
with the blossoming of
a new Spring, when the snow
and ice has melted away
the cold and bitterness
of his heart, and rivers of Life
flow through him once again.

Today I am sharing this poem and story and linking up with Cheryl over at Culture Smith Consulting. I've been away for a few weeks, but I am happy to be back.
Culture Smith Consulting

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Love Life and Live Life to the Fullest

written by Stephie Goldfish

“Therefore, the way I am running is not uncertainly; the way I am directing my blows is so as not to be striking air…” ~ Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 9:26)

Lately, I’ve been thinking of my life and what I’d leave behind for others to remember me by.

“What would you like for your epitaph to read?” she asked me.

I had to really think what I would want people to remember about me. Would it read something like:  Stephie Goldfish, one of the best artists to come out of West Virginia, or Stephie Goldfish, loved life and lived life to the fullest?

And I know why she asked me that question. Not for me to dwell on the morbidity of my death, the eventuality all of us face, but for me to stop and think about my past, present, and future direction.

I’ve been kind of in limbo over the past few years, coming to terms with living with a serious chronic illness, which has made me have to stop working secularly, and the fact that I can and want to do so much with whatever time there is left.

I’m left with so much time on my hands that most everyone I know says they would love to have my life or at least my time. They say they know exactly what they would do if they were in my position:  Move to the beach and make art, visit every art museum, write a few novels or write poetry, take walks in the park, sip tea and read books, and watch movies all the time. There is no end to their ideas.

There is a play that I saw back in the summer of 2005, called “Score”, which was a one-man show about the life of Leonard Bernstein. It told the story as if he had come back to life and had been given an opportunity to tell us all how to live our lives. I learned something so powerful from the play: that we have very little time left, and to do all we can with what time is left, and to learn from one another.

In the play, he also said to be aware of those times called twilight times, in between being awake and in deep sleep, because epiphanies will come to us, and he said to note them because they are important.

A few days after seeing “Score”, I was lying down and, in this twilight state, I heard a voice say as clear as day, “to have loved life and lived life to the fullest.”

I woke straight up and wrote that sentence or fragment down. I felt it would somehow be relevant or useful in the days to come.

And so, I find myself, almost six years later, questioning my life and life choices.

I don’t want to be seen as someone living life uncertainly and, at the same time, I don’t want to be seen as someone living life to the fullest without any thought or direction.

My friend Cheryl, over at Culture Smith Consulting, coincidentally, speaks of a Semi-circle LifeShape, which she describes is “used to illustrate a healthy rhythm of abiding and bearing fruit. Rest and Work. Pruning and growing.”

In her post, Cheryl speaks about the first commandment that God gave us, which is to be fruitful and to multiply, and in her post suggests that it isn’t just about biological reproduction, but also includes work and purpose. And this idea has given me something to think about. As Cheryl says, God cares about what we do with our days.

Last Monday, my sister and I were feeling so overwhelmed with trying to decide whether to move back home to West Virginia to be closer to help family or to try to give New York City “one more try” or whether we should just stay put for the moment.

Instead, we treated ourselves to a day of rest and relaxation.

We jumped in the car and drove out towards Jordan Lake.

Near Jordan Lake is a place called Fearrington Village, which has one of my favorite bookstores, McIntyre’s Books, and some other unique shoppes and a café.

This was one of the sanest days either of us has had in a while, and it brought me closer to what I feel I want to be doing with my days:  having quality days, where they are filled with peace and quietness, not necessarily quantity days, where one has little time to slow down the pace.

I want to bring more of these days into my life. Today is one of those days where I don’t feel rushed or pulled in any direction. I’m learning to simply be in the moment.

Related posts:  Nurturing FriendshipsSimply Grounded

What about you? Have you thought of simplifying your life? If you’d like to join in on the discussion, join us over at Culture Smith Consulting where we will be discussing how to Simplify our lives.

Culture Smith Consulting

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Nurturing Friendships

written by Stephie Goldfish
“I swear to you there are divine things more beautiful than words can tell.” — Walt Whitman
I waited at Starbucks a few minutes before I was to meet Laura for coffee.
I brought along my John Bradshaw book I’ve been reading called RECLAIMING VIRTUE: How We Can Develop The Moral Intelligence To Do The Right Thing, At The Right Time, For The Right Reason, and I brought the tiny book gift I got Laura based on the theme With God You Are Not Alone, a theme that Laura so graciously writes often about at her blog and in her books she has written.
Laura entered the coffee shop and at once our eyes met and we smiled and hugged each other.
Laura had also come with some reading material that she shared, one book by Ann Voskamp called One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are , and the new book of poetry by Maureen E. Doallas, called Neruda's Memoirs: Poems. Both of which I anticipate on reading as well.
And my heart settled down and we talked and drank our coffee. It was such a blessing to meet Laura this time after so many years, and after a couple of missed attempts to meet each other this past year due to various circumstances on my part.
Laura and I came back in contact with each other once more nearly a year ago through Facebook, emails, and The High Calling.
Our history goes back to 1995/1996 where I had seen Laura for psychotherapy for a short time after I had moved back home to West Virginia for a while to regroup and recuperate. But I lost contact with Laura in 1996 after I had moved back to New York City.
One of my stories about our friendship was among the many stories listed in the “We Are Real” stories where I wrote about Laura, and how she and I first met, and recently came back in contact with each other. You can read the first We Are Real story here: Think of Laura.
In Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Pyramid, oxygen, water, food, clothing and shelter are the basics we humans need to survive.

According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Pyramid, we must have each need satisfied, starting with the first level where we find our most obvious needs for survival, such as air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sleep, etc.
When these lower level needs of physical and emotional well-being are satisfied, then we are concerned with the higher level needs such as belongingness and love needs, esteem needs, and self-actualization needs where we seek personal growth and our experiences peak.
At the same time, Maslow also recognizes that when things that satisfy our lower level needs are removed or brushed away, we are no longer concerned about maintaining our higher level needs.
This is about where I stand on my journey to simplify and ground myself.
At this time in my life, I find myself in sort of yo-yo effect having moved up and down the ladder of Maslow’s Pyramid reaching peak experiences such as when I was in art school or first moved to New York City for my very first computer graphics job in 1986.
I know that when things seem out of control or I’m feeling ungrounded, it’s the basic needs that I have been neglecting, and thus, the higher level needs, such as nurturing relationships, take a back seat.
Maintaining balance is so important, and you are bound to failure if you have not mastered this first level, and to move on to another level where one finds success in relationships will almost always result in failure.
The third level in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Pyramid is where one finds that belonging, being part of a group, where, through love and affection, friendships can be nurtured.
And for a few moments, sitting, talking with Laura, time stood still, and I was transported to a place where all of this doesn’t matter. For Laura knows brokenness too, yet, to me, she is one of the most whole persons I’ve ever met.

Laura is such a beautiful spiritual soul, that, being in her presence, I felt at ease and relaxed, and I didn’t worry so much about where each of us are on our journey of life.
And I realize that it’s only through grace of God that any of us are even breathing.
The words of Walt Whitman above are so true; words alone cannot tell all that was felt there at our meeting. I did have a sense that Laura was sad, but I didn’t know at the time that she had just lost a dear friend.
It felt so grounding to be in Laura’s company, and I hope that we will be able to keep our friendship nurtured and some other friendships that have been waning.

Related posts:  Simply Grounded

What about you? Have you thought of simplifying your life? If you’d like to join in on the discussion, join us over at Culture Smith Consulting where we will be discussing how to Simplify our lives.

Culture Smith Consulting

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Standpoint of Orphans

"The form of worship that is clean and undefiled from the standpoint of our God and Father is this:  to look after orphans and widows in their tribulation, and to keep oneself without spot from the world." — James 1:27

The child in her
wanted to
be tucked in bed
at night by her mother,
but she knows
it's too late
for lullabies and
bedtime stories.

The child in him
wanted to
run into his father's arms
and be held,
but he stopped
running and holding
on to a fantasy
that someday he'd return.

The children of the world
want to grow up
to be just like
their parents,
and maybe
that's the reason
we need to take care
of our orphans.

Please join us at The High Calling for a Random Acts of Poetry this week with the theme being about orphans.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Simply Grounded

written by Stephie Goldfish

I began the road to recovery this week. It began with a simple discovery of getting to my deepest feelings, and finally realizing the fact that not being grounded has led me to a chaotic and unstable life over the years, but even more so over the past five years since leaving NYC. These deep feelings I’ve been running from have kept my life in turmoil, and have not led to living a life of simplicity.
My friend Cheryl, over at Culture Smith Consulting, invited me just a few days ago to join her in her Simplify Blog Project:  Simplify being her theme for the project through Lent.
The definitions of SIMPLIFY and GROUNDED are different but work together harmoniously:
Here is the definition of SIMPLIFY:
to make simple or simpler: as
a: to reduce to basic essentials
b: to diminish in scope or complexity : streamline <was urged to simplify management procedures>
c: to make more intelligible : clarify
Here is the definition of GROUNDED:
: mentally and emotionally stable : admirably sensible, realistic, and unpretentious <remains grounded despite all the praise and attention>
So, I made a list of things that I think will help simplify my life or, specifically, ground me.
§  Having a feeling or sense of connectedness with like minded (creative) people:
o   Like at The High Calling / Friends and Family / My Twin Sister
o   People who enjoy doing similar things together
§  Coffee, museums, walking in the park
§  Reading creative work
§  Viewing beautiful art
§  Listening to inspiring music
§  Reading from the bible
§  A tree can only be grounded if it has strong roots:
o   So having roots means having a sense of belonging to a place or community
§  Like work, school or volunteering
§  Church / community
§  Being among writers like my friends Laura, Cheryl, L.L., Jennifer, Maya
§  Neighbors
·  Getting to know them personally
·  Helping out a neighbor in need
§  Being creative — having Energy to create:
o   Writing (Nonfiction or Fiction) / Essays, Short Stories, Poems
o   Workshops — Maya Stein’s online workshop
o   Continuing Education Courses
o   Art — drawing, painting, making things
§  Having Sunlight and Water makes a Tree Grow
o   Being around good Energy — people who are positive
o   Having space to grow
§  Example the Oak tree and the Weeping Willow tree (they cannot live side by side because one hides the sun and one takes all the water).
§  Having my OWN identity:
o   If it means going separate places to eat, live and having separate friends
o   I’d like to live in my own “space” — not be identified “totally” as The Twins
o   Having my own means of transportation
o   Having my own life — less worry about each other
o   Standing solid and separate, yet not being competitive
o   Seeing our own value and qualities, as well as seeing the other’s value and qualities
o   Not feeling jealous of my sister and her not feeling jealous of me
§  Being organized and clean
o   Keeping house in order/clean/organized
o   Showing up for myself and the world

During the weeks that follow, I'll be going into more detail on some of the things listed above.

And along with my friends, we hope to really make some changes that will make our lives have more clarity and simplicity.

What about you? Have you thought of simplifying your life? If you’d like to join in on the discussion, join us over at Culture Smith Consulting where we will be discussing how to Simplify our lives.

Culture Smith Consulting