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Joy Serves G*d in Joy as a passionate performing percussionist, poet, publisher, photographer, publicist, sound healer, spiritual guide, artist, gardener and Gemini. "Ivdu Et Hashem B'Simcha" -Psalm 100:2 ....... Joy Krauthammer, active in the Jewish Renewal, Feminist, and neo-Chasidic worlds for over three decades, kabbalistically leads Jewish women's life-cycle rituals. ... Workshops, and Bands are available for all Shuls, Sisterhoods, Rosh Chodeshes, Retreats, Concerts, Conferences & Festivals. ... My kavanah/intention is that my creative expressive gifts are inspirational, uplifting and joyous. In gratitude, I love doing mitzvot/good deeds, and connecting people in joy. In the zechut/merit of Reb Shlomo Carlebach, zt'l, I mamash love to help make our universe a smaller world, one REVEALING more spiritual consciousness, connection, compassion, and chesed/lovingkindness; to make visible the Face of the Divine... VIEW MY COMPLETE PROFILE and enjoy all offerings.... For BOOKINGS write: joyofwisdom1 at gmail.com, leave a COMMENT below, or call me. ... "Don't Postpone Joy" bear photo montage by Joy. Click to enlarge. BlesSings, Joy


Ways I Have Honored the Soul of the Deceased, 
Marcel, Menachem EliMelech

by Joy Krauthammer
July 2012

Since Marcel, z"l, died, I have consciously continually honored his memory, his Neshama, in all traditional ways.
It is important to me to traditionally have a Jewish child NAMED after a deceased loved one.
Marcel's and my daughter Aviva Leba is named for my mother, Libby, z"l. With traditional wisdom of naming, I spoke to my rabbis and daughter and son-in-law of the importance of a baby's name and Neshama.

One week ago when I was visiting (during a major hurricane and, oy, a week-long blackout) Marcel's first grandchild, when baby Maya Sage was two weeks old, her parents accompanied her to her local synagogue, when Torah was being read. Aviva and baby had a traditional MiSheberach prayer said for them, while Brett had an Aliyah. Aviva benched gomel.
At the Torah, Baby was given the Hebrew name of Maya Nechama, named for her grandfather, Menachem, z'l. Amayn.
Maya Sage is also named for her other 3 grandparents, whose names begin with "S".
Maya peacefully slept the entire time, not requesting her regular milk meal.
Baby Maya Sage will also soon have a Simchat Bat, a large joyous celebration with friends and family.

This naming act with Marcel's name, is the final remaining act that could be done in honor of Marcel. 
He must be smiling in Shmayim.
~ ~ ~

I ensured that Marcel had a proper Jewish burial, with Tahara, Shomer, and Tachrichin by Chevra Kadisha, and I designed and ordered a kosher casket.
I paid for a pleasant cemetery plot in a Jewish cemetery.
I arranged for rabbis and honorary pall bearers that Marcel would like, as we had discussed years before.
I arranged for a funeral time so that disabled brother could come in time.
I arranged for the Mourner's Kaddish and a Minyan in full accordance with Jewish law and tradition.
I arranged for males in different cities to regularly say Kaddish.
For Marcel's levaya / funeral, I wrote a loving invite letter to all.
I arranged funeral procession through a fire-lit memorial garden so that Marcel's Neshama could find comfort.
I had traditional mourning rites with Kriah / a torn garment and ribbon.
I sat Shiva and covered mirrors. (I walked around the block.)
For viewing by mourners and guests, I arranged tables of Marcel's memorabilia and photos of him.
I arranged for shiva meals for guests, and for us to be hosted at friends' home.
I arranged for obituaries for Marcel. I had Marcel honored in the press.
I answered all condolence correspondence and shared with his friends, family and colleagues.
I give Tzadakah in Marcel's name.
I donated a bronze memorial plaque in Marcel's name at Chabad.
I had a candle lit in a synagogue (Chabad) every day for the first year, in honor of his departed soul.
The candle is lit at Chabad on every yahrzeit and every yiskor. I go 5 times yearly to say Kaddish.
Marcel's name was also recited in synagogues across the globe, Maryland, Boston, New York, Scottsdale, and Israel at Hadassah Hospital.
I purchased Marcel's Bar Mitzvah Parsha to be written in a new Torah at Shomrei Torah Synaogue.
Additional Parshas were also written by his mother, and by Aviva at her shul.
I planted purple iris flower-filled gardens in Marcel's name at LA's Barlow Respiratory Hospital.
For Marcel, I very carefully and conscientiously designed, and purchased a beautiful Matzeivah / gravestone, and also a pillowblock/a head stone.
Marcel had requested only a standing granite stone, per family history; I had to settle for a flat stone, trying to appease his Neshama. I make sure the grounds are kept up, in perpetual memory.
I arranged for and led a loving Hakamat Matzeivah unveiling full ceremony, with friends and family present.
My Mitzvot increased in his name, and I inspired my daughter to do the same.
I studied Torah in the name of Marcel.
Books were donated in the memory of Marcel.
Each year In synagogue during Pesach, Shavuot, Shemini Atzeret, and Yom Kippur, I have recited Yizkor/memorial prayer.
Every year on his Yahrzeit, I say prayers in shul, and at Marcel's grave, recite Psalms.
I regularly visit the gravesite. I invited his friends to visit.
I place a pebble on the gravestone to mark my presence.
I prepare pebbles for others to leave their mark.
I call our daughter from the gravesite and on speaker have her say hello. (My daughter visits.)
I plant by the gravestone.
I clean the gravestone of debris.
I paid for the gravesite to be cared for, without weeds or overgrown.
Marcel's gravesite has a bench to sit on. Colorful trees to enjoy and many flowers. Hawks soar overhead the hills.
I created a filled website in Marcel's memory.
I have scanned photos of Marcel for family, friends and website.
I created a large memory book for Marcel.
For Marcel's first few Yahrzeits, in his memory, I organized and played at musical events.
In Marcel's name, I created and donated Hope art for a Holocaust quilt.
In Marcel's name, I created Memorial Flame cards to comfort the bereaved in their own losses.
A new baby, Maya Sage Nechama Sivan, has been named in Marcel's memory. Amayn.
I made a generous contribution to that naming synagogue for Marcel's Neshama and baby name.
In Marcel's name, z"l, I stood up for him and fought for Tzedek / justice until met.
For Marcel and his mother, I speak weekly to her for Shabbat.
I encourage that baby Maya visit Marcel's mother.

With love and traditional loyalty,
a new Bubbie,
and widow (Yes, 6 1/2 years later, I've now used the "w" word)
~ ~ ~


Fear Over Still Waters

Joy Krauthammer

Around two decades ago, I was invited to a party in Topanga Canyon. I arrived at night to the address, and found the very steep private driveway down the canyon was not for me to encounter with my car. (I won't even drive in San Francisco hills. I wouldn't even ride my snow sled. Hmm, ski, maybe. At least skiing, I would be rescued if needed.) I parked on the main Canyon sidewalkless Santa Monica Mountains road, and carefully trekked down the dark scary uneven dirt drive. 

On the property, I then faced the tree log needed to cross over the rain-filled unwelcome stream to get to the party house. Oy vey. I had driven all this distance to the party in new agey Topanga with mostly strangers, and now I would not even be able to attend because for some reason I had fear and could not fearlessly access the log to cross over. Alone in the dark, I stood there a long time.  Aha, another woman, several years older than I, arrived maneuvering down the drive. I knew her. She was afraid and would not cross over on the log. I extended my hand to her, and led the way.

Not long after, a similar situation presented itself; On a high rocky hilly narrow path, on the way to a waterfall and lake for a day time mikveh / water purification ritual, with a spiritual group of women being led by Yehudit Goldfarb-- fear struck. Being careful walking and hesitant, I was toward the end of a long single line of women. I noticed that one woman was more leery and slow than I, and ready to turn back before reaching our goal. I reached out my hand and led the way, for both of us. She was grateful. We made it. I joyously played in my first divine waterfall.

Once upon a time, I was on an Arizona Highway's fine photo tour. The group walked through Oak Creek Canyon's wide stream to photo the Sedona magnificence on the other side. I could not cross, and remained alone without taking photos.  All I had needed to do was remove my shoes and use my tripod as a walking stick, and I could NOT do it. I couldn't cross the water. I was a city girl from cement lined NY. Manhattan puddles were never this large. What was the fear?

Now fearlessly, I kayak out in the Pacific Ocean. If I get stuck in winds, a tow boat comes and with a long rope, rescues me. Alone, I kayak to distant motus / little islands in the South Pacific islands of Tahiti, and I return in joy. Sometimes I snorkel alone around large croppings of coral in the Mediterranean Sea in Eilat, Israel, or boat to distant islands in the San Juan Islands, or ...

I have learned to trespass my own boundaries.

A biblical story on transcending stuckness:
Nachshon ben Aminadav, at the Sea of Reeds, is the hero of the Exodus story that began 7 days earlier. This leader of the Israelites has come to identify someone as an initiator. Nachshon, brother-in-law of Aaron, was willing to step forward into the Sea of Reeds up to his nose, toward greater freedom for all our People, and then the Sea split. Nachshon is a model for each of us. There are moments when we are the one, the 'Nachshon' who transcends stuckness and for others, leads the way. 

Joy over Sedona's waters
© Nadav Sklar

Digital kayak photo collage by Joe Rudy

KAYAK story at:
~ ~ ~


excerpt from Joy's Story 2003



- Joy Krauthammer

While at summer spiritual retreat, Kallah, my globe trotting, 'pink' friend Gayle, decided to join me on my continuing voyage where I was going kayaking to Washington's San Juan Islands in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. I felt good that I had inspired Gayle to try this sport and we recited a Shehechianu/new 
beginnings prayer. While waiting for the ship to take us over the next 
morning, we got to see more of the cute town with resident, Liz, and 
view her co-housing community.

I drummed a few hours by the water's edge with the local Bellingham
 Sunday drummers. They saw me with my camera and requested that I use 
their leader's digital camera to capture them for their website. This 
artist won't receive any photo credit but I was pleased to shoot dozens 
of photos and then watch the sun set over the water. I was a happy 

I became aware of an older drummer, somewhat paralyzed, with closed 
fists, sitting on the grass with his wheelchair next to him. From the 
distance, sixty feet away, I could see that he was struggling to dress 
himself, with no results. I went over, and put on him, his long socks and 
each pointy cowboy boot. Others lifted him back into his weathered
 chair. Drummers share universal heart-drum beats like prayer.

Gayle and I met people wherever we went and shared stories. It is a small
 world, "separated by six degrees". After long days of water sports, we
 enjoyed ice cream cones, shared good fresh fish meals, and listened to a 
community country music concert in front of a 100 plus year old farming 

It was so much fun traveling on the ship over from the mainland that we
 went quickly back on it (after finding our B&B--that is a separate horrific story), 
to go whale watching. We did watch whales frolicking right by us. I 
jolted in surprise seeing these huge black and white mammals unexpectedly 
rise up next to us and I was unable to shoot the camera. I did not need 
my binoculars.

Just like when I rode the Washington State Ferry (when I'd camped out in 
the Olympic National Forest), Gayle nor I ever sat down inside or outside 
on our carefully chosen seats on the top deck on the ship. Rather we were 
always standing at the edge, CATCHING THE THRILL of the fresh breeze and 
captivating water at the boat's very cold front or back, as close to the 
water as we could be. We loved it so much that we went again the next 
day; we were kayaking in between the whale watching.

Kayaking in the San Juan Islands at Roche Harbor there were seals bobbing 
in and out of the water. Floating atop a bed of kelp, I pulled up right 
out of the water where they were floating, an arm-load several feet long 
of smooth, thick, out-stretched hand-width wide, leafy seaweed-bull kelp 
with a big bulbous form at one end, and I ate some. This kelp grows a few 
feet a day. It felt so weird, and it was fun taking crunchy bites out of 
the dark green multi-toned portions, leaving a defined sculptured effect.
 Tasted like briny miso soup but I was not in a restaurant. A new 
experience! I FELT LIKE AN ENCHANTED SEA GARDENER. I always sow and reap 
and eat the fruits out of my own garden at home but this was definitely 
different. Maybe I need to put in a pond. I could plant a lotus.

CROSSED BEFORE. True, the water trip was with a guide, but Gayle and I kayaked across 
four channels and under bridges to other little uninhabited nearby 
islands. We tried really hard to paddle with a rhythm, in unison. It's
 easy to go in circles.

This time kayaking among the San Juan Islands, WITH MORE SELF-CONFIDENCE, 
I took deep breaths and paddled really quickly wanting to cross and 
safely, avoiding big boats, other kayaks and rocks. Since that trip 
(July 2003--last month) I have been able to kayak alone to other little islands
 and back.

On my first trip alone and back to a little island from Jackson
 Beach near Friday Harbor in San Juan Island, I paddled so fast (beating 
time records, I was informed) because I had fear (of what?). The impetus 
was not to only paddle along the not so scenic shoreline; I WANTED BEAUTY 
and to enjoy the miracle of nature. I SUCCESSFULLY BROKE AWAY from shore,
 and WAS ABLE TO ENTER THE OPEN BODY OF WATER to paddle out and beyond to 
another enticing island. (These thoughts remind me that when I used to 
snow ski, I felt similar feelings and urges, although I went to places I 
was not prepared to go. (Ask the Ski Rescue Patrol.)

Following that short journey, I have since kayaked between other little 
islands but with great enjoyment; leisurely turning around, LOOKING BACK
 AT FROM WHERE I HAD COME, photographing, and then continuing. I even try 
to paddle the kayak with my bare hands, and with my feet over the sides 
or feet straddling the oar--hoping it does not fall overboard when I am 
shooting scenery. I love the touch of the water and keep dipping in and 
splashing water on myself. Yes, it felt cool on my warm body but it was 
as if I NEEDED TO MERGE MORE WITH THE WATER even as I was above the

Since I wanted a photo of myself in the kayak, I leaned all the way back, 
catching my feet, the oar and surrounding vistas. SEE PHOTOS! (I've 
noticed that Aviva also takes a picture of her feet in her self-photos. 
My sister, Faye, tells me she also did the same. Does that make us a 
foot, feat or foto family?)

One year ago I was unable to accomplish that kayaking feat; In Big Bear 
Lake, on a good weather day, I was too afraid to go beyond the middle of 
the lake to the other side. Several years ago in Sedona, Arizona, I had 
been unable to cross a stream walking in the water with my 
camera, and with tripod as a support, on an Arizona Highways photo group trip.
 ( Thus, I missed the photo shoot). Alone on a log on another Sedona "vortex 
exploration" journey I could not cross over Oak Creek. A friend encouraged me. Yet, interestingly when confronted with a similar 
situation in rainy Topanga Canyon, where I could not walk across a log at
 night, I WAS ABLE TO EXTEND MYSELF and guide another concerned person 
over the water. We both made it to the party on the other side.

I used to stand on the grass over the ragged coastal cliffs at Big Surs' 
Esalen each August following my summer retreat week. Looking down at the 
ocean, enraptured, intensely trying to "hold" the waves, ABSORBING THE 
WATER in my memory, in every cell of my body so that the beauty and 
healing energy I needed would remain with me. Each wave was unique. The 
water is therapeutic in helping me to SHIFT VIBRATIONAL FREQUENCIES AND 
emotional and physical.

(Knowing from experience, that when I returned 
home from a retreat where G*d has prepared me with rejuvenation, 
inevitably another acute medical, emergency crisis with husband Marcel* would 
begin immediately. I TRY TO BUFFER MYSELF between retreat and 
home, with a long slow drive down the breath-taking awesome Pacific 

I thank HaShem for sharing the waters with me. Erev Shabbat at Esalen, I
 would IMMERSE MYSELF and take a mikveh/ritual bath in the cold Pacific
 Ocean. Lately, I have been less intent in trying to keep the moment
 reachable--maybe because I have been blessed more with being immersed in 
the water than only being above it. NOW I CAN MORE EASILY LET GO OF MY 
NEED TO "HOLD ON."  Conversely, for a few years I HAVE MAINTAINED A 
PSYCHIC ARK (like Noah's), to keep me above turbulence, for smooth 
at home to remind me of peaceful places. 

PS * Husband, z"l, died January 2006.                                                 
~ ~ ~

Transcendence in the South Pacific
August 2003

- Joy Krauthammer

After the Washington kayaking trip in July, I was transformed. I even 
swam and snorkeled alone, amongst exciting, colorful tropical reef fish
 of all shapes and sizes, giant purple, and blue wavy lipped clams, spiny
 sea urchins and yucky deathly to me--tubular shaped black sea cucumbers. They are 
found between small coral atolls, sand islets/motus formed on reefs, and 
lying off larger islands in French Polynesia in the South Pacific. I 
marvel at the magical underwater world.

Swimming alone off a white sandy sheltered beach shoreline from one 
seductive motu to another, I would step onto the deserted motu--these once 
in my mind mythical islands--with no others around, play with coconuts 
under palm trees, TOUCHING AND KNOWING I had reached land. 

I have read, "It is not trespassing when you cross your own boundaries." 




I feel great empowerment and I am proud of myself. 
To gain confidence for the solo snorkeling, I first kayaked alone from 
one palm tree-fringed motu to another and back. Being careful, I did not 
get stuck in coral and rock filled shallow water. (I had no 'travel buddy' to know if I was stuck anywhere, on this South Pacific journey.) I love the warm, 
intense turquoise blue, crystal-clear, calm, salty lagoon waters of 
Raiatea and Tahaa (sharing the same sheltered barrier reef), of the 
Leeward Islands of the Society Islands. Easily floating on my back, 
swimming and playing, I turn like a seal. I experience the mysterious, 
mystical temple of my universe. 


Looking upward from the water, in a sense of wonder, entranced, I see 
imposing high mountain rims, ridges and ranges; an extinct ancient 
volcano. Clouds intriguingly float and hang within its majestic peaks. I 
acknowledge from its realms, the spirits of the ancestors. 
~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~

digital collage by Joe Rudy

I don't see my personal story about snokeling in Eilat. Around 2000, Moshe Tov, Sara Leya and I were in Eilat to enjoy some snorkeling following a trip with others to Petra in Jordan.
I saw in the distance an outcropping in the Ocean. I hoped that there would be colorful fish way out in the water.  To get out to the coral rock, I would have to swim far from the shore. I wanted to swim around the entire rock, and I did, but that meant I would lose sight of the shore. That was scary to me. It took courage for me to surrender sight of the shore, and swim. 

"Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore."

—Andre Gide



© Joy Krauthammer


by Joy Krauthammer

Moe was redeemed today. I named Moe when I rescued him at Lake Balboa. I didn’t really name him; The Compassionate One, G*d, named him, and I moved quietly out of the way to receive his name on my lips and present it to Moe as I looked at his eyes. (Not  really into them, because they didn't look back at me.) Moe needed a healing name.

I’ll tell you how I got to meet and rescue Moe, a turtle, but first an introduction to a blessed day.

Yesterday, on her first yahrtzeit / death anniversary, I walked around Lake Balboa in memory of a dear friend, Lisa, z’l, and recalled our shared sweet walks together at the lake. (Lisa loved turtles and collected them until her 90th birthday, when she died. "Turtlina" was introduced to all Lisa's visitors.) This story, RESCUING MOE, is in memory of Lisa, my friend. May her memory be for a blesSing.
You can read my earlier photo story on the blossoming Cherry trees in www.sephirathaomer.blogspot.com.

Japanese Cherry (Sakura) Trees © Joy Krauthammer
In amazement and gratitude, walking yesterday, in one area alone, I counted 59 newly planted, staked Japanese Cherry trees, in addition to the hundreds already grown and magnificent.

Walking past the life guard station, I stopped and asked a big favor of the life guards, and they agreed to assist me on my return visit.

After six years of NOT kayaking (one of my very favorite water sports in the universe) – due to ‘bum’ knees, leaving me disabled for all this time in varying degrees of agony-- TODAY I went kayaking at Lake Balboa. Yes! I made it to the edge of the water, crossed the threshold of fear of pain, believing I could not carry a kayak, nor sit properly, and with emuna / faith, and receiving chesed / kindness from 'life-guards', I stepped in. I felt the joy of the lake.

The Lubavitch Rebbe, zt'l, whom I met four decades ago, said, "Joy breaks through all barriers."
Thich Nhat Hanh (whom I have studied with) would have loved my joyous smile for the three plus hours I was in joyous kayak mode. The Buddhist monk says we must exercise our "smile muscles" and believe me, today my inner smile was plastered on my face. I was in heaven.

I earned and have a "qualified park patron" license to kayak in the Los Angeles parks' system. The few hours of deep smile include: Looking for and finding all my personal kayak gear (purple fanny pack, fingerless gloves, water hat, water shorts, water shoes, sun glasses, UV sun-shirt, sun lotion, water bottle on a strap, lipstick on a cord, water proof license case, and snack), half an hour to drive to the San Fernando Valley’s Lake Balboa (no passport needed to heaven), time to get from the life guards-- my kayak and comfortable gear (seat, back rest, hole plugs, the best oar, and life vest) with two hours boating on the lake, and then surrendering the gear, and driving home.

This day was amazing: March 17th, 2010 and 85 degrees with intense blue calm skies. The park’s renowned Japanese Cherry trees totally surrounding the lake were blossoming pink like crazy in the new heat, following lots of needed rain. The mountains were clear.

Today, the two on-duty life guards, Eduardo and Andy, heard my leniency plea – for them, not me, to shlep the desired kayak down to the water from the boat house. I was so grateful for their mercy, knowing the excruciating leg pain I would suffer (having little knee meniscus remaining) if I even tried to carry one end of the boat. The two men liberated me so that I could have the freedom to enter the water and kayak to my heart’s content. I have been slave to my disability. Could they ever know the depth of this importance for me, that I could finally ask for the favor, for assistance?

Getting into the long, slim yellow kayak, my chariot, I had to remember which part of my body hits the boat first, without tipping it over into the water. Made it! (My dry clothes were waiting in the car.) I paddled out alone into the middle of the serene beautiful lake filled with water fowl and large fish, and I chanted out loud, the prayers, "Modah Ani" and "Shehecheyanu". * I praised The Source of All BlesSings for the beauty.


When I sighted and picked up the first piece of floating trash in the water, in my gratitude I decided that I would clean all the debris from the lake. (I really don’t know how to relax.) Not so much trash, I wrongly thought. Along the edges of this man-made 27 acre lake there were floating styro foam cups and food containers, plastics bags colored both white and black with potentially dangerous handles, baggies, soda cans, countless junk food snack bags of every size for potato chips, crackers, ice-cream cups, candy wrappers, an orange, etc. (I reported other sightings to the lake staff.) There was so much, as I skillfully maneuvered my boat forwards, backwards, and in circles to catch garbage, that I stopped examining to see what I had caught. I'd like to think most had probably blown in and was not consciously, nor carelessly dropped. (There are lots of large trash bins and lots of park visitors.) The most dangerous item to our lake environment's creatures was the long thin fishing line I brought up along with a glass bottle.

In two hours of kayaking and strategically balancing myself, I reached out my arms and oar as one (kind of like a bow and  arrow), and as far as I could stretch (and not topple), juggled individual water soaked trash items balancing them to stay on the end of my oar to get them into my boat (adding water to the inside of the boat.). With my two paddling trips to the life guard station, I delivered a lot of garbage. I knew I was doing a good clean up mitzvah / good deed. The lake is large with coves, and ecological reclamation streams. Not all the lake is visible at the same time as you walk it or boat it, so when I thought I’d finished, I found more junk. One mitzvah begets another.

As I kayaked along the perimeter of the lake, I would fish for the trash. That was fun because I would wave to the small toddlers on the winding walk-way, and talk to the adults walking their dogs or photographing. They must love seeing a bright kayak rhythmically gliding past. One elderly lady walking with a cane in one hand, and a younger woman supporting her other arm, with a great sense of humor, closed and turned her hand, and in my direction, stuck out her thumb, to ‘hitch’ a boat ride. We three laughed.

© Joy Krauthammer

© Joy Krauthammer
Always loving the scenic spot, I kayaked to the small rapid white waterfall. I passed the quacking white, and female brown ducks, colorful male mallards, smaller speedy black coots, and honking Canadian geese, ganders, and two elegant white swans. No diving for fish pelicans or stately egrets today. Large leggy and long necked dark cormorants were high in the trees and in the water.

I paddled past a protected wire fenced area for duck breeding, an ecological sanctuary for babies, where there were three turtles sunning themselves.

© Joy Krauthammer

The smallest turtle, size of a stretched out hand, scampered, disappearing quickly into the water from its resting spot on a dry wooden plank. As I got closer, another turtle took a dive. The third and largest turtle stayed in place basking in the sun while I was several feet away, and I decided to quickly reverse direction and move on. It totally thrilled me to see the turtles in wild life because I had never seen them while kayaking or walking in Lake Balboa. I thought to myself yesterday when I noticed the surprisingly large carp fish swimming, how divine it would be if there were also turtles. I am always a captive turtle audience and get so excited when I swim with them.


Along Lake Balboa’s perimeter, I kayaked past a rectangular metal grill, at least a yard wide and a foot in height, reaching from the green grassy meadow’s curb down into the water. Much debris and many fallen leaves were caught, stuck in the lower end of the grate as the recycled/reclaimed water flowed into and past it all and down a drain. I stopped and stared. I wondered what I saw and thought as I got closer, I recognized something; an animal, stuck. With concern I paddled closer. I didn’t want to believe it was dead. I called a man over from the grassy area. "Dead," he pronounced, bending down over the edge, looking at the turtle, its visible upper dark curved shell the size of my fully outstretched hand.

The instant I saw the non-moving turtle’s head slightly above water, its top shell, and barely visible front feet, pushed backwards, I knew I was going to save it. The thought that the turtle could be dead was more than upsetting to me, thus it would not be so. Ever so gently with an end of my long double tipped oar, I nudged at the turtle’s shell, hoping to release the whole body from the lower grill. NO movement. Nothing. Stuck. Still. Over and over and finally with the stranger helping me for that moment, we released the turtle from its bondage and I had him life-less on my oar. Hmm, in Hebrew, oar, or ohr means "light."

I looked at him, and believed that I would resuscitate this turtle. "What’s your name?", I asked out loud. "MOE", that’s his name, Moe, I heard. Why the name Moe? I thought to myself, simple short name came quickly to me for a small squat turtle, not moving, showing NO life. Immediately I placed Moe into my kayak and lifted my oar of 'light' to briskly paddle towards the life-guard station. In the distance, anxious, I could see a guard wearing the red shorts, and called out his name, waving to him to come toward me, which he did as I continued to paddle. By this time, like a cry, little Moe was regurgitating silent bubbles of water from his now slightly open mouth. I watched his black beady eyes. His head moved a little, as did his right webbed flipper, flat foot with claw toes. Was it a spontaneous movement, although not alive? Moe was alive. Did I ever doubt it? Relieved, I watched as Moe pulled in his head a teensy bit into his shell, and then stretched it a wee bit again to gurgle out more water. Poor thing had been drowning at the drain.

Oh, Moe. I realized why I had called him "Moe". G*d named my turtle Moe. Moe is for Moses, of course, the biblical baby pulled out of the Nile's bulrushes by Batyah, Pharaoh’s daughter,* with her long, miraculous "out-stretched arm." Her arm like an oar of light. Miriyahm, haNeviah, --Moses’ sister who later danced and sang praise to G*d at the Yam Suf, place of faith, had been protectively watching baby Moses until he would be rescued. It all made sense. It was G*d’s Divine Presence, The Liberator who watched over Moses and Moe. And for Moe, I know that Motek is an affectionate name for 'sweet one'. And Modah ** is for 'thanks' to G*d, the way I begin my morning prayers. Clearly, this was "Moe".

© Joy Krauthammer
With Eduardo now standing by me at the bank of the lake, I shared with him our rescue story and Moe’s name. Shall I paddle and deliver Moe back to where the turtles are, or can Moe recover more fully and be nurtured by the life guards and be nursed back to health? "He will bask in the sun here where we can watch him, and then return him," said Eduardo. I felt ambivalent and hesitant about Moe being turned over to another. He thanked me using my name, Joy,-- for rescuing Moe, and doing my other cleaning good deeds. I left Moe, the rescued turtle, in the hands of the life guard, to be later released in liberation.

I paddled out with my outstretched arm and oar of light to clean up more trash. I paddled past the lone turtle on the plank a distance away on the opposite bank of the lake. My heart felt full. (It reminded me of how I had rescued a tumbling fresh water turtle a few years ago from the salty rough Pacific Ocean waves.)
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It makes sense that my time at Lake Balboa began yesterday, 1 Nissan, 5770 on Rosh Chodesh with Chodesh Tov blesSings for the new month of Nissan. This is the first of the month of redemption for the Israelites who went from Mitzrayim / slavery, narrow constricted places to their freedom, as they passed through the Yam Suf, the waters that separated them from the Egyptians, who had enslaved them. We celebrate Passover this month as if we ourselves are experiencing our own freedom and expanded consciousness, and with recognition of the Merciful Holy One.

May Moe, the rescued turtle, and we be blessed to have safe and clear journeys as we travel through our bondages to our liberations and redemption. May we be blessed to be present for others in our lives.

I called Lake Balboa’s life guard station, and life-guard Andy said he believes that little Moe is having a good time in the water and without any predators.

* "She called his name Moses, as she said, 'For I drew him from the water.'" - Exodus 2:10
** Modah Ani, a praise to G*d. "...You have returned my soul within me with compassion.
Shehecheyanu, praise to G*d for "sustaining us and bringing us to this time."

Another Turtle story by Joy Krauthammer:

More Lake Balboa:

© Joy Krauthammer

© Joy Krauthammer

Self-Portrait © Joy Krauthammer

PHOTOS by © Joy Krauthammer, joyously kayaking in Lake Balboa.
 Japanese Cherry trees, ducks, geese, coots, and turtle at Lake Balboa.

Joy's life at LAKE Balboa:

STORY ~ Moe the Turtle:
2 POEMS ~ Cherry Trees:
PHOTOS ~ Lake Balboa




 - Joy Krauthammer

Ducks ate matzoh, challah and bagels in my back yard spa. Ducks arrived during Pesach, so matzoh was the menu, but as the holiday ended, so did the duck food. They would waddle close to my back door after swimming in my 'duck pond'. I closed the door when they visited because just like my visiting 'lounge lizards' (which you can read about elsewhere), I didn't want ducks in my house. They became intruders in another space. There were mostly two ducks, but sometimes a third would fly on over with them and settle into the spa.  The male duck truly cared for the female duck. He would watch for her safety when she swam.  He would watch over her while she ate, and only then take for himself.

I felt that the ducks trusted me because after many visits, as they would come closer to me, and closer to my door. That felt good to me. I would sit on the ground on their level.

When the ducks first arrived I excitedly called my sister to tell her of my gift. I must have been quacking on the phone. My sister tells me that her husband recorded my phone message for posterity because it was so funny.  She played it back for me, and she was right. I do get very excited and happy.

During the spring season of 2005, when my husband, z'l, was paralyzed at home, I truly believe that G*D sent these creatures to me so that I could laugh. Laughing is so important. When I was a Caregiver Angel Warrior, and writing on a State sponsored blog for caregivers whose loved ones had brain injuries  (99% Alzheimers, but my LO [Loved One] had metastatic brain cancer), I and a few other humorists were laughing so hard at what we had transforned from daily tsuris into laughter to get us through, that a couple others on the blog complained so badly, we were asked to leave by them. Other caregivers missed us so badly we were begged to return, only after forming our own site which was filled with joy.

I was ordained the QUEEN DUCTRESS of the JOY DUCK CLUB.   Yes, there were other members. We web bound Caregiver Angel Warriors created this club because we liked to laugh, and that helped to keep us sane during truly difficult times. (G*d also had sent the Painted Lady butterflies to me, but that's another story, written as a poem found in Sephirat HaOmer poems.)

With a patient, when incontinency is present, diapers are needed and DUCT TAPE is helpful to hold down the little sticky diaper tab on the patient, because the tabs never stayed and the diaper, like a duck, would fly open. So from DUCT we got to ducks and quaking, and shared lots of duck jokes (who knew there were so many that we'd make up). Our humor didn't fly in that zone because were were told that "CAREGIVING IS SERIOUS." One other caregiver related to me and sent me a present of purple duct tape because she knew I loved purple. Duct tape is usually yellow.

We few caregivers were saved by our laughter.  The regulars serious ones must have missed us because I for one always gave more helpful caregiving tips than anyone, because I had more experience with more issues, after so many years.

At the same time we were quaking, so were the ducks living on Federal government property in DC, and everything came to a halt to care for the ducks that decided to reside on the front lawn of a DC Federal building. It was in the NY Times with photo

For awhile, I was the Queen Ducktress of the Joy Duck Club. Yes, there were other members. We web bound Caregiver Angel Warriors created this club because we liked to laugh, and that helped to keep us sane during truly difficult times. G*d also had sent the Painted Lady butterflies to me, but that's another story, written as a poem. (In Sephirat HaOmer poems.)

The ducks returned the next spring season. This time I was not so filled with chesed and generosity of housing. I was tired of not being able to enter my own spa because the ducks did all their ADL in the spa. That's "activities of daily living", and it includes 'going potty'. For awhile I didn't think the ducks were very nice around here, because I constantly found strange black droppings by my back door.  I admit it took a year, but I finally realized the black items were normally green succulent leaves near my porch that had changed color and dropped. Not duck poop after all.  I didn't extend the hospitality any longer the second season, and the ducks flew their coop. I reclaimed my spa and my challah and bagels.

Ducks swimming in Joy's spa
© Joy Krauthammer

Ducks lounging by Joy's spa
© Joy Krauthammer




- Joy Krauthammer


Oh! Ann recognized me from an hour or so earlier when I organized the spontaneous take over of the Men's Room because the Ladies Room line in between conference sessions was way too long, and I did not want to wait!  Years earlier in my MBA program, I had learned a lesson: "Where there is a need, fill it!" The few men cleared out and the Men's Room was ours! We filled it! Another guy did come in and used a stall but we needy women mostly ignored him. No waiting! (See photos)

Immediately prior to the Art Therapy workshop and at the end of the Poetry Therapy session at the UCLA all-day conference, "ON THE EDGE OF CHAOS: FINDING flow & resilience THROUGH Creativity & the Arts",  I think we had also just experienced 'performance art' in the Men's Room.

During the Poetry Therapy session I shared the few words that my husband, z"l/obm would speak about in his own life filled with metastatic brain cancer. 

"I don't want to live; all I want to do is die. Take a gun and shoot me." Bam!
Marcel would say this to me, to friends, and even to strangers upon introduction when he was asked, "How are you?"

The workshop had been given by Dr. Robert Carroll, a poet and psychiatrist who focuses in his field on brain cancer patients, giving them the ability to express their thoughts and feelings through poetry. I wish that for a moment when I chose this workshop to attend, that I had recalled (having heard him speak before) Dr. Carroll's focused specialty, and realized how I could again react. Hearing him refer to a UCLA Neuro-Oncology symposium on brain cancer held in this same building, put an immediate unpleasant feeling, a straightening jolt in my body, alerting me to the traumatic past.  The PTSD was unwelcome. As if only yesterday, quickly my mind went back to 1988, 25 years earlier. Only a few buildings away in the hospital, Marcel, from two post-brain surgeries, had been comatose for three months on life-support, and filled with medical tubes.

Dr. Carroll recited his own personal medical poem "What Waiting Is".  Bedside, I had waited daily for three months in the UCLA hospital for Marcel to regain consciousness. All the other patients with head-bandages, got up and left after their five days post-surgery. Not us. While Dr. Carroll stood and recited his poem, I sat forward and catching his eyes, I looked straight at him intently listening, not looking at the poem on paper. I related all too well to "waiting" through all the difficult medical experiences and two-dozen surgeries. When the poet MD was through reciting, I wanted to respond with my own writing and insights on the blank paper in front of me, but there was no time for our group to write.

I had shared out loud that I felt it was a great gift to teach Poetry Therapy, and offer people a cathartic opportunity to express themselves. (In the early 1970's I had known Dr. Jack Leedy, founder of Poetry Therapy, because we worked in the same Brooklyn hospital.) My husband for the 18 years of his cancer (no adjectives suffice) didn't write about it emotionally, but only to keep a hand-written factual medical journal in a little book; Lots of details. Only once Marcel complained to me, when pain was so bad, and that he otherwise would never tell me about the pain so as not to upset me. Instead of writing about the pain, or living life with cancer and treatments, Marcel loved humor and wrote jokes.

What I had wanted to share in session after hearing the poem about "waiting", is that when in the ICU waiting room, it does not matter what culture, race, or religion one is; Black, White, Asian, European, Jewish, Arab, what wars are fought between peoples-- we are all present for our loved ones, waiting in cold rooms for hours, overnight, days, weeks, months, with others waiting in fear, horror, stress, concern and love, in the unknown, maybe with tears, maybe with visitors keeping us warm. We embrace the stranger. We feel for the stranger. We empathize with the stranger.  We hear each others' stories. We hear their foreign languages. See their foreign outer garments.  We are all in the same small waiting room and we wait. Maybe we have ethnic snacks to share. Maybe we recognize others (even our own internist because their grandma is sick/dying) and we learn of their loved ones. Maybe we even keep up those bonds formed in the ICU when our loved ones die and are buried, and we even see the others' loved ones'  gravestones and artifacts left in love. We remember our humanity, and it didn't matter how different we are on the outside, but that our hearts and souls have been touched by love and compassion, maybe tribal commonalities, and maybe even by fun colorful socks.
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