Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Woah buddy. Day 1.

My reaction from the first day of teaching has changed a lot since I first finished. I was really stunned that I managed to get and pretty much maintain control of the classroom (and, thank Gd the principal and assistant principal also witnessed this). Probably, they were just trying to behave on day 1 and I'm sure there's a lot more yet to be thrown my way in terms of behavior, but it was a welcome relief. My first-day-on-the-job nightmares (literal nightmares) were definitely a lot worse than what my girls threw my way.

So my goals were:
Establish authority
Maintain order
Learn as many names as possible

And according to those goals, I did pretty well. I know almost all their names at this point. I was pleasantly surprised how naturally the discipline part came to me. I was unpleasantly surprised how much more difficult the TEACHING part was! Concepts I thought I had studied to death and drilled into my brain disappeared into thin air once my explanations were questioned. Oyvayvoy. I'm trying to give myself a bit of a break, seeing that I'm coming in not just mid-year, but in some cases mid-CHAPTER! Next year (if I make it there!) will, I think, be much easier on the educational front.

New goals for today? (Not sure this is a good idea.)
Get the last of their names down
Start to establish routine
Do a better job teaching the ideas
And a lot of out-of-classroom stuff: talk to other teachers about resources, curriculum, and worksheets.

Oh, and what's the biggest difference between my just-out-of-the-classroom-I-can't-believe-I'm-alive high and what started a few hours later?

I am exhausted.
Beyond exhausted.
Everything hurts.

When they said in theater school that to star in a Broadway production, an actor's body had to be up to the level of a marathon runner's... that was for sure serious. And I am for sure not up to snuff on the physical front.

So the final goal of today:
Conserve energy wherever possible!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Big changes!

New season, new year, new job.

For those of you more in the loop, this might be something of a surprising transition. Yes, I did just start a job right after Sukkos. Yes, I was doing something I believed in and I loved my coworkers.

But, in short, my job was not working out. The hours and commute were just too much for Omri and me, who felt like we were never seeing eachother and I hate hate hated sitting in front of a computer all day (she writes, typing on her computer on her day off). For the first time in my life, I had lower back pain that I couldn't blame on a fancy night out in 4" heels. A cubicle is not a good excuse for lower back pain. My shoulder-Whitney was shaking her head at me.

We decided it was time for me to start looking elsewhere and I wound up re-connecting with the principal of our local private girls' middle school (by local, I mean two blocks away). She *just so happened* (thanks Hashem) to need a teacher... immediately.

Which means tomorrow afternoon I will be beginning my stint (or career, stay tuned to find out!) as a 5th grade teacher. Forget a summer of intensive TFA training or two years working towards a master's. Nope, initiation by fire seems to be the plan.

Thank Gd I happen to have a lot of friends who are or were teachers. From upper-middle private to religious Jewish to inner-city, I've gotten a range of perspectives and a lot of repeated and reinforced advice. You can bet you'll be getting more calls from me.

Despite the utter terror everyone says I ought to be experiencing, I'm stoked. I am excited to be around 10 year olds, who are smart and funny but still act like kids. I'm excited to be back in a school environment, to feel the buzzing energy encased in a consistant schedule. I'm excited to have the autonomy of working with my own class, deciding how to present material, what projects to work on, what science experiments and art projects. I'm excited to be spending half my day preparing in my living room and only 4 hours a day in the classroom.

I'm not so thrilled about two weeks of being a drill seargant, but I've done it before and I can do it again. And after those two weeks, Gd willing it'll be really fun.

Ok, so back to dividing my multiples of 10, reading up on 5th grade literature and deciding whether the science project will be a poster or diorama....

Wish me luck!

TED du jour (courtesy of Full Color Living): Bill Gates on the work being done in his philanthropy. The first 8 minutes he discusses Malaria, then he speaks beautifully on America's educational system.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


I'm about to do my final read-through of my first real life paid article before sending it in to get pulverized by Maralyn, the editor at Cheapism.com. Scary stuff, but kinda exciting! Since our only working computer is being used by my husband's job search, what else would I be doing than blogging?

I'm also going into the city in about an hour to sign my contract for my real, full time job. More details once I'm getting started.

Ok, so back to blogging... my fellow Atlantic Theater CompanyActing School alumna, Faryn, has an awesome blog (actually, she has two websites, but I think I gain calories just looking at her delicious bakery website) which makes me jones for Brooklyn like nothing else. Admittedly, my two experiences living in Brooklyn were sketchy at best, but there's something really cool about a borough made up entirely of your generation. Or at least, those who are not trendy 20-30 somethings at least have the common sense to hide in a less populated pocket. Living in Williamsburg I started fantasizing about hipster hunting, but I almost miss the skinny jeans living in NJ. Ok, that's a lie, but I do miss the bikes. People don't bike in the suburbs. They drive. And except for the absolute fabulousness of going grocery shopping and having a TRUNK to take your groceries home in, I prefer public transit or walking. Or biking.

I guess it's a typical issue for a (relatively newly) frum 23 year old married chick. I'm 23. But I'm married. There are some fabulous perks to living in the suburbs, like peace of mind or access to a car. And living in the second largest BT community in the world means having great conversations with highly educated, worldly people who still have the same fundamental beliefs. But I still feel too young to be cast out into the suburbs.

When people ask how I like Passaic and I say I like being near the city but I wish it wasn't so hard to get to Brooklyn and they look at me like I grew a second nose a la Ionesco and ask, "what's so great about Brooklyn?" I can't explain it to them. Then again, this coming from a girl whose celebrity crush is this guy

...and I can't defend that either.

Can you cure my suburbaphobia?? Well that's what the comments section is for, silly!

blog stumbling

It's always a nice surprise when you find out someone you know or knew, however briefly, has a blog. Then you find nice things like this

Oh, The Temptation from Steve V on Vimeo.

Thanks to Marina.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Working from home!

Ok so if you haven't seen it from facebook or Twitter, I've started working with this up-and-coming website called www.Cheapism.com which I'm really digging. Every article I research for, html code (did you know I was such a geek? I didn't), or just browze is well written and definitely applies to life as a 20-something, recently married, penny-pinching, college-loan-paying-offing chick. It could be a good combo... making money learning how NOT to spend it! Omri's doing it too, and digs it, although he understands the complicated stuff better than I do. It's awesome to be home with him although I have to resist the urge to bake just because the kitchen's there.

...but if I need new appliances, I can find the best and cheapest one! ;)

Expect tons of awesome new articles to come! Let me know if you're planning on making a new purchase and wanna see some expert advice, I'll talk to the man upstairs for ya!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Cooking for a boy...

...is hard.

Our first meal here, I decided to make us a nice dinner. I made a lovely fish dinner from a cookbook my mom gave me ages ago. I served it with salad. I was cooking for two, so I doubled my portion.

Big mistake.

About ten minutes after the meal, Noach starts to look uncomfortable. In his nicest, "I love you but" voice, he asks, "we-we're not having... anything else?"

Turns out that two girl portions does not a marriage feed. He doesn't even eat two of what I eat. It's more like three. It's crazy! Boys are so... different!

It hasn't gotten much better. I cook what I think is a ton (so that I'll have extra to freeze for later) but he still finishes it all! And generally the only times I entered the kitchen were to do either something fancy, like baking, or something so simple I wouldn't serve it to Noach. So every meal-literally, breakfast, lunch and dinner-turns into a three or four course extravaganza. It's crazy.

We did just do a massive shopping trip in the Costco produce section so we have lots and lots of fruits and veggies to eat up. We signed up for a CSA in North Jersey but it doesn't start until the 21st. We're very excited to see what crazy fruits and veggies we end up with! I don't know how to cook kale, do you?

So anyway, I'm still working on it. We definitely have enough baked goods to last us (I bake under pressure, a la Izzie Stevens), but I need main courses and side dishes. That are quick. And preferably freezable. And healthy. And don't have meat or potatoes, which we don't really eat.

Any ideas?

Sunday, July 5, 2009


Noach (alias: Omri, my husband) and I just got back from a really nice Shabbos in Monsey. Seeing a deer on Shabbos is just cool. Walking through the forest to get to shul is also pretty great. And the family that invited us, an older couple that Noach used to work with, were adorable... like having an extra set of grandparents. And I think they enjoyed having some young blood around to change up the conversation.

Beyond that... I had trouble with the size of everything. How is it possible people in Israel make do with an apartment and here we all need museums? It's so cut-off and private. And this coming from a classic introvert who likes nothing better than to be alone! But not REALLY alone, which is how I feel in a huge empty house on a huge empty lot on a huge street filled with more of the same. I can't imagine living somewhere like that and not getting the "keeping up with the Joneses" mania. I didn't get this from the people... that's just my reaction to the size of everything. But I have pretty well-documented rich people phobia. Maybe THAT'S why I feel so much more comfortable in Israel.

I'm also starting to understand the warnings about The Chutz better. Everyone always says, "don't go to Brooklyn or Monsey and think you're not living in galus." I couldn't believe anyone would actually make that mistake. But all Shabbos, I only saw two people who weren't Jewish. And I didn't see any Jews who weren't frum. That's crazy. And there's such a weirdness about it. These people shouldn't all be here. All these Jews, and so badly needed in Eretz Yisrael. And they have the ability to make the move, at least financially. It's so weird to be in America and feel like it's just all Jews. Because it is so not.

One fact always ringing in my mind is that a few years before the Shoah, a Jewish Englishman was in charge of the "Palistinean authority." Any Jew who wanted to make aliyah was allowed. And nobody did. They still had money, they still had prestiege, and they had no reason to suspect that the world would go crazy and blood-thirsty in a few years. Granted, Israel was very different then. Scattered, small communities and nothing close to the opportunities we see there today. But today we look back and shake our heads and think, "if only they'd gone when they had the chance." Today we are PAID to go to Israel. (B"H for Nefesh b'Nefesh. Here is Aish's 1 minute video on them.) They give us the flight. They help us find jobs, communities, ulpanim, apartments. They practically help us pack our bags. And yet we still have the chutzpa to stay.

I'm loving Passaic. Everyone here is growth oriented, giving, warm, and very spiritual. But I would love to know why Noach and I are in the position that we are in. I feel exiled from Israel. I think back of memories in Israel and it's as if we were living in color. Here we're in sepia. And living in color was draining, for sure. The fear was real and the stress was real, but the connection was so much more intense, and the love and joy was so much more full.

I guess that's just where I am right now. Really Missing Israel. A Lot. It comes in waves.
And while I don't really wish not being in Israel on anyone, thank Gd I get to go through this with my husband. Noach has become my channel. He is so plugged in spiritually, I just need to sit and listen to him to be inspired. It's as if he still has one foot in Jerusalem, and he's been here longer. I don't think he feels that way. I remember being on the phone with him after he'd been home a few months, and him telling me how you could feel the difference from here to there. That it was palpable. I remember my heart sinking, as I was already full of fear about the move back to the States.

Maybe I should just refocus on the piles of laundry and stuff that need to be decluttered from this house. Noach's friend Meir always says how a mentor of his said that you have to be zoche to live in Israel. So maybe this time can be about building us up to be people that don't just take from Israel but find a way to give to Israel.

Ah, before I go. Wedding pictures are up. Our photographer, Max Orenstein did an incredible job capturing an incredible day. Here are his highlights. Here's one of my favorites:

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Aish Heroes of Israel/Zichron Yaakov

Aish.com has a 1 minute video series called Heroes of Israel. I highly recommend watching! These videos are beautiful and inspirational... and TRUE, which is always nice :)

Home again sick. Back to the blog and the internet...

It's been bothering me that I wasn't able to put together my dreams of living on a coast in a home with big windows in a place with good weather with my dream if living in Israel. I know this is a beautiful country, so it bothered me that when I wanted a visual home-in-ten-years fantasy, I always had to turn to American shorelines.

Thank you, Nefesh b'Nefesh. Their communities page helped me brainstorm and come up with a new home fantasy. Today I fell in love with Zichron Yaakov. It actually reminds me a lot of Sarasota, just in the right country. The houses are beautiful, and, because they're not in Jerusalem, not quite as expensive as I would have thought. It was exactly the boost I needed to re-focus on a long-term goal of coming back here to stay.

Some of the images I liked:

Monday, June 1, 2009

We can paint the walls!!!

This changes everything...
Our landlord sounds really nice. And she is easily accessible over email. What a nice change!

Rabbi Royale Schonbrun

By the way, check out this book! I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to proofread it and it is being gobbled up everywhere! It was so cool to be in Manny's yesterday (popular Jerusalem bookshop) and see it not just in the store, but displayed in three different parts of the store! Even cooler was seeing three of my friends buy a copy :)

One week to go...

One week (minus one day) left in Eretz Yisrael
Three weeks (minus one day) until my WEDDING!!!
And, of course, I wake up sick as a dog today.

Guess that means it's time to update my blog.

So. We have pictures of our apartment in Passaic, NJ. (See the new design? That picture up top is the Veterans Memorial Park in Passaic, a few blocks away from our apartment! I love it.) It's a nice apartment, but very very basic, and it's going to need some major decorating to suit us for a year. I really want this to be a nice place for us to live.

Here are the pictures we have so far:

The kitchen:

The living room and front entryway...

The bedroom (hard to tell apart from the living room in the pictures because they look exactly the same to me. I think the living room just has one window opposite the front entry but the bedroom has two.

And our bathroom (which I happen to think is pretty adorable already.)

Challenge #1 is going to be the catbox. First, we're just going to have to be cleaning it all the time because I refuse to have a gnarly smelling home. I'm also gonna have to vacuum a lot. (Oh, that reminds me, I should register for a vacuum!) I guess I should just accept that up front. But kitty is worth it. So here are the options...

A. Shove it in the bathroom. I'm not crazy about this idea because first, I'm not sure there's space and second, we only have one bathroom so that means guests tripping all over it.

Or B., put it in a cupboard with a secret entrance and it'll be disguised. I think I'd do this in the front entryway so that it's not near food or dining things.

Here's the idea that basically I want:

Gorgeous design, handmade... with shipping, over $400. Just not going to happen. But maybe I can get a cheap Ikea cupboard and just cut in a catdoor? It needs to be big enough for the catbox in the picture because that's the kind I have. The magical automatic catbox :)

Here's another of their products, about $100 cheaper:

Omri's been buying some second-hand furniture and is right now on his way to Rochester to get all our STUFF which is really exciting. Plus we're getting his futon from college and probably some other stuff I just don't remember...

Friday, March 20, 2009

it's getting so official...


Being engaged means...
Lots of cookies and dancing
Finding out that people think nice things about you
Finding out that people think nice things about him
Not sleeping... either out of busyness or oh-my-gosh-I'm-getting-marriedness
Cognitive dissonance
Smile headaches
Forgetting about just about everything you have to do
Being able to plan approximately 10 minutes ahead of you
Needing some Grey's Anatomy and a cup of hot coffee!!!

Monday, March 9, 2009

New things and old things...

I love PostSecret.
I want to live in Israel.
Every Jewish holiday intimidates me as it comes, but I love it once it arrives.
I miss connecting to my davening.
I love our teachers.
I'm engaged now and I'm still not used to having a ring on that finger.
I'm in hiding from family politics.
I miss yoga.
And painting.
There is nowhere in the world that compares to Jerusalem.

Friday, February 6, 2009

25 Facts email going around facebook...

Ally tagged me..

Rules: Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it's because I want to know more about you.

1. I can't believe I'm actually doing this. I was supposed to be having my overseas web-cam chat with my mom but she's not answering her gchat right now so...

2. I really really love having long mornings. Getting up and writing and davening and having a good breakfast with a nice cup of tea or coffee and maybe some yoga or a long walk to school... love it. But it only happens about once a month.

3. My current dream involves moving to New Jersey. I don't know what, specifically that says about me, but I don't think it's good. At least it's a part of New Jersey that's commutable to NYC.

4. I have been with my boyfriend Omri for over two years. He lives down the street and learns in yeshiva there. It's total chance that we're so close, but I'm incredibly grateful because we get to see a lot of eachother.

5. I have about five different careers I'm interested in. Which I think means I'm not really interested in any of them. It's good that I don't need to make any big decisions as of yet.

6. I found out I was Jewish when I was 12. Now I'm an orthodox Jew living in Jerusalem.

7. Even though I've kept kosher for years, I still have to write down what time I can eat dairy again on my hand when I have meat for lunch.

8. I hate eating meat for lunch. When it's my home, it will be largely parve with a bit of dairy throughout the week with meat only on Shabbos. But I'm cheap, so I eat what they give me in school.

9. Israel has changed me in some unexpected ways. Like, I don't really like shopping anymore... it weirds me out that people just go spend money because they're bored. When I came home to visit family in Florida for two weeks over winter break, I almost cried from culture shock in the Atlanta airport.

10. I love studying Torah, but lately I haven't enjoyed learning the weekly Parshas. It really frustrates me and I'm really grateful we have a Parsha class because otherwise I don't know how much I'd really study them.

11. I used to get really depressed when I wasn't acting. I don't get that way anymore, but I will be excited when the year is over to so some kind of theater again... although probably not anything like what I used to do!

12. I love cooking. I also secretly love cleaning, and when I'm alone I sing the songs that the Disney princesses sing when they're cleaning. They're catchy, what can I say.

13. I like infants better than toddlers. There's something so incredible about connecting with someone who has no power of communication but just wants to cuddle and love on you and be comfy. Oh, and poo and spit up.

14. I love fruit so much that I will sometimes eat cake (which I don't particularly like) instead of fruit because I don't feel I've earned the fruit.

15. It wasn't until college that I realized that some people don't eat salad before dinner every night. I also learned there that some people regularly eat dessert after dinner.

16. I love bread. Can't get enough of it. When I was little, I used to eat all the restaurant bread until mom told me I'd fill up on bread then once I got my main course I was so sad that it wasn't as good as the bread. But once I ate a good amount of my main course she'd let me go back to the restaurant bread. We never ate white bread at home, that might be partly why...

17. I love helping people get ready for Shabbos. Last week I was out all Thursday night helping cook and clean, then I went back again Friday morning, then to someone else in the afternoon, and then back to my friends' to finish up. It winds up making me have to rush to get myself ready in time (and sometimes I don't manage finishing everything I wanted to do) which I know isn't really ideal but I feel like Shabbos is so much sweeter when you have to work for it. And these days, since I always eat out, I don't get to do much work for it.

18. I'm good at talking my way out of speeding tickets.

19. I love living in Israel. I'm not sure I can handle America any more after living here. And I've only done just over half the year.

20. I just got invited to the facebook group of my girl scout troop from when I was little. I didn't really keep up with anyone from Marblehead when I moved to Florida so it's kinda cool to find these people again. And I'm gonna tag some on this so that we can catch up :)

21. I love going to Disney. I'm glad my mom lives in Florida. So far I've always gotten to go to Disney on my Florida trips. They've still all been free. Hopefully that will continue! Kim and I used to go to Disney like once a month. Maybe more. I think we memorized all the rides. We'd try to find cute employees to talk to because we were bored of the rides and needed something to entertain ourselves.

22. I love wine. I'm so happy that kosher wine has evolved. There's some really impressive stuff out there. Friday night is red wine night and Shabbos lunch is white wine night.

23. I like wearing jewelry but I can't buy it. I get totally overwhelmed by all the choices and they're all so similar. So I like getting jewelry as a gift because then I don't have to think.

24. My boyfriend's parents send me the sweetest, cutest gifts ever. For Chanukah I got a gorgeous bracelet and Chanukah socks!

25. I love to entertain but I don't like being a guest at a big party unless I came with someone. I get completely overwhelmed.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Trip to Eilat and the Negev Desert!!!

(I have a bad habit of posting twice in a row. Just under this is my post about my trip home to Florida, Rosh Chodesh Shvat, and Michelle's Vort... so don't neglect it just because I have a bad posting schedule please!)

One of the things that was pointed out to me this year that's particularly incredible about Israel is that, unless you have personal ties outside the country, you never really have to leave. Want history? We got it... the best, oldest, and richest in the world. Want culture? Whatever you want... museums, culture, dining, it's all here and you can have it--kosher or treif, whatever your preference (I hope kosher). Want a tropical vacation? Eilat's beaches are some of the best in the world. Or you can check out Tel Aviv's beach. Nightclubs, hiking (desert mountains or lush tropics, your call), more activism and community service than I've ever seen, more PhDs per capita than any country in the world, advanced technology, great education, oceans, lakes, deserts, SKIING even. The holiest and the most secular. All in a country that would fit inside New Jersey.

I don't even want to think about comparing the offerings of Israel to those of New Jersey.

I'd never been to Eilat before and I was completely blown away. First off, from one mountaintop (where Lynn gave a shiur on emunah [faith] and we said the whole book of Tehillim [Psalms]) we could see Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia in one eyefull. Insane.

The trip really should not have been called the Eilat Tiyul but "Eilat and the Negev" because we spent most of our time hiking in the Negev desert. Now, I thought, oh, MRC "hiking" is nothing. Usually their version of "challenging" means "maybe don't bring grandma." But this was more like scaling a cliff. There were for sure times I just couldn't look down because we were literally climbing a peak and it sloped down at as much as an 80 degree angle on either side. Two hours of it. The second day the hike was just as long but less climbing and more walking and it was also incredible. The first hike was in Machtesh Hagadol ("The Great Crater") and the second day was in the Eilat mountains. Let me see if I have some good pictures to illustrate:

This one gives you a good idea how steep the hike was. Say hi to Sarah! Note the Rabbi's daughter barely hanging on just behind her. This hike was like an advertisement for hiking shoes with good traction. I have no IDEA how we didn't just keep slipping right back down. (If you click the picture you can see it larger... some of these are hard to see so small.)
How gorgeous is this? I can't believe how tiny we are!
Again, showing steepness. Note that this is not the "climbing" part, this is just the straight up walking part. The climbing, which was about a good third of the hike, required pulling ourselves up with our hands.
A break on our way up the mountain. Notice what we are about to climb, in the top center of the picture. THAT'S why we're taking a break!
Amazing view.
The way back down was a lot easier, but still... insane.
Teeny tiny sem girls on a huuuuuge boulder.
This is from the second hike. More walking, more breathtaking views, a bit less rock climbing.
Me and my shnookums after the second day's hike. We did it!
Note that my pictures are only from when my hands are free and I'm not about to faint... so the hike was a lot more intense than even this!

After two days of really hard hiking, it was so incredible to be on the beach, lying out. Leia and I were beach buddies and we had an amazing time. We got Heinekens, laid out in the sun, then went SNORKELING!--so amazing--then got ourselves some ice cream while we dried off. Perfect beach day. They played music over the loudspeakers and it was all just us girls in our own private bit of beach.

Then we went to the Eilat Hesder yeshiva, Ayelet Hashachar where we heard Rabbi Rothkopf talk about his experience of bringing Torah to a totally secular, separated (by miles of desert) town. The whole place is very small and it's had a religious explosion. What's really cool about it, he told us, was that you have all these different "branches" of Orthodoxy all getting along there. Someone could wear a Nachman kippa, daven Chabad, and donate to Hesder while learning at yet another yeshiva. That's not something you see in a lot of places... it's really incredible.

After a trip like that all I want to do is make aliyah. This country is just so incredible, you can't help but love it. And I know that any possibility is far off in the future, but it can't hurt to start thinking now! I definitely got a nice wake-up call when I found out that my old roommate, Noelle, has moved to South Africa to continue her work with Keep a Child Alive (check out her blog at http://sanibonasouthafrica.blogspot.com/). And here I'm hesitating about the time I'm spending here, the Jewish homeland, when the best, most life-changing part of my life has been growing and developing as a Jew? Where people actually SPEAK the holy tongue and the greatest Torah minds walk the street with you? I literally had these insane dreams about it last night and couldn't even function this morning because it was getting to me so much. I stayed home and did what I always do when I'm stressed. I did my laundry.

My trip "home," and then my return "home"

Ok before I post about my trip to Eilat I wanted to get up some great pictures from my trip home!

Here's one of my dad and stepmom at Animal Kingdom beginning the safari ride (a family favorite).

That's me and my momma (we're color coordinated... how cute!).

And me and my amazing big brother!!!

The trip home was great. I also have some really cute pictures of braiding challah with my mom and tickle wrestling with my big brother. My family is so incredible and loving and we laugh so much when we're together... it's such a blessing. And it was really amazing to see how everyone was so open and accepting of my new way of living my life. A lot of "liberal" families don't really keep with the whole philosophy... they're more concerned that you agree with them about their political views than that everyone has the right to their own. But, thank G-d, my family is just happy to see everyone doing whatever gives them meaning and joy.

I got back and in short order it was Rosh Chodesh Shvat (the first of the month of Shvat)! We had a beautiful little Rosh Chodesh breakfast in the Beit Midrash (study room/library/classroom). Rebbetzin Karlinsky gave a beautiful shiur about Shvat. She said that all winter we are working and working on ourselves and our faith and connection to G-d and not necessarily seeing the fruits of our labours. But in Shvat, which is generally a month where lots of rain has collected (unfortunately it has been a very dry winter so this didn't apply so much this year as it does usually) you don't have to go dipping so far into the well to gather water. And so it is with our spiritual lives. We have filled the "wells" with that work and now we can just skim off the surface and feel the spirituality permeate our lives and bring us joy and a deeper connection. She gave over the shiur with so much simcha and love that it was a really lovely morning.

Finally, my roommate Michelle had her vort (engagement party). The Rosh Yeshiva and Rosh Midrasha both spoke and we danced and had a great time. Here's a goofy picture of us doing a slow-mo dance because the boys were singing a really weird song.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Time's moving on...

Back in Israel.

Sick again. Boo.

But learning has been really really amazing. I have definitely gotten a little rusty on my text skills and need to work on that but that just takes time. We had an amazing shiur today on why evil exists that was basically a kavanah lecture in disguise. I didn't think that I was really enjoying her class but then as soon as it was over my friend and I looked at each other and were like, "woah. She just answered so many questions." It was a really good feeling.

Then we got a teaser of an impromptu shiur on the different sects of Orthodoxy which ended very quickly after getting a very funny handout comparing Chassidic to Yeshivish and Modern.

It's very weird to think that Omri will be going home so soon. I'm for sure still trying to process that. And I'm not doing very well. I'm just trying to think of all the reasons it makes sense for me to be here and him to be back in the States. I can focus more on my learning, on my friendships, I can travel more... Oy I hope I come up with some better excuses.

Friday, January 9, 2009

My Mom's Book... or, why I'm the luckiest daughter ever

My mom's book is out!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It's so exciting! I can't wait to read it again! And again!

And yes, that's her real name :)

Mom's book is about finding your true life purpose and living a fully realized, inspired, joyful life. She uses wisdom from many different sources and her extensive life experience from all her work with career counseling and working with large organizations. It's both inspirational and enjoyable to read--and also very practical. It's a great book for someone looking to just tune up their quality of life a little bit. A lot of what she found out with her research (she did a lot of personal interviews, my favorite part of the book) was very surprising and good to read. But I won't give it away... you'll have to buy it and see for yourself!!

My stepfather and I went to go see her speak yesterday to the local community (same place where I saw John Loftus speak--post about that below). She's a fantastic speaker and it was so great to see the way this talk came together.

I found her talk very inspirational. At one point she spoke about identifying your purpose, passions, and strengths. She gave really great ways of seeing what these things are for you.

One idea she used with purpose was--"What bothers you most about the world?" which her teacher used to say to her. I think it's funny because a lot of what bothers me is similar to her. People not being fully self-actualized. People buying into the advertising brainwash and trying to find happiness by fulfilling made-up needs. A lack of beauty in the world.

Her talk reminded me of a shiur I heard about finding your life purpose. G-d is like a contractor who puts skilled craftsmen on a building site. If the craftsmen know their stuff, they don't need the contractor on the phone all the time telling them what to do, step-by-step. He can just give them a basic layout and they'll know what to do. (The analogy being Contractor is Gd, craftsmen are Jews, and the layout is the Torah.) Sidenote: her book is from a non-religious perspective, but draws from wisdom from many sages.

dding in what my mom's saying, I came up with my own analogy: how annoyed would you be if you went an hired craftsmen (Jews), gave them a toolbox (strengths), and put them on an empty building site (their purpose), and they went and tried to use their hammer to dig a garden. The hammer doesn't really work, it's won't be particularly fulfilling, and if I was the contractor, I'd be kindof annoyed. But when we open our eyes and see what we love, what we're good at, and where we want to see change in the world, that's how we fulfill our life's purpose. (And to do this, buy her book.)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

John Loftus... rockstar

I went to an AMAZING speech this week given by John Loftus. He's an Irish Catholic from Boston (yay) who worked for the CIA and got so disillusioned that he wound up calling them out on all the stuff they were doing wrong. He wound up leaving and becoming the lawyer for whistle-blowers who want to do it legally. He was such an impressive speaker, talking about the ridiculousness of some of the moves our government has made and the real history of groups like Hamas, which was founded by the Muslim wing of the Nazi party. He gave the whole breakdown and history of the various terrorist groups around Israel. It was insane.

Loftus also spoke about the American "news" and how frequently major networks fall for propaganda and sell it as news. Makes you wonder where to look to get your news...

He does a radio show and talked about some of the news agencies that give unbiased, researched reporting. Of course, I couldn't catch the name of any of them. What do you go to? I no longer trust any American news stations, or CBC, BBC...

John Loftus also wrote a book called "The Unholy Trinity: The Vatican, the Nazis, and the Swiss Banks" that I'm dying to read (secret obsession with the Vatican, as an ex-Christian) and he also wrote a book called "The Secret War Against the Jews" which, of course, would never be accepted if it was written by a Jew but he's Irish Catholic YAY!

Check out this incredible man at http://www.john-loftus.com/

or www.intelligence-summit.org for his non-profit organization.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Should I stay or should I go now...

Here in our little home in Sarasota, FL, much conversation centering around my imminent flight back to Jerusalem... and whether I'll be on it.

My mind changes about, oh, every day. It's just dangerous enough to completely freak out my mom without actually being dangerous enough to be a deterrent for going back. My friend Malka says I should stop trying to make the decision emotionally and decide *intellectually* what it is that I'm looking for in these next few months.

Number 1 is easy: proof of Judaism. By hell or high water. My best friend says she'll go storm the Polish consulate for me to get the long-lost birth certificate I need. This girl will do anything to be able to get drunk off bubbly at my wedding ASAP. This is why we love her. If the Poles are uncooperative, it's a full conversion for me (*sound the death walk*).

Numbers 2-200 are harder. Learn to keep a kosher kitchen. Connect artistically and get inspiration. Grow. Be challenged. Find direction (I think I'm starting to sniff it out, believe it or not). Figure out what issues I have with frumkeit and address them. Read. A LOT. Get in better shape. Eat more fresh fruits and veggies. See theater.

I learned this Shabbos that I can do the challah, the kugel, the cholent, and the chicken (as long as nobody turns off the oven while my food's in it). Oh, and the carrot cake was bomb. The 6 braid still alludes me completely and I need something more exciting that I can cook.

I got SO BURNED OUT in Israel. And of course. The class schedule is intense, and my situation is already stressful. Plus... it's Israel. But I'm losing focus over here and I don't think it's just that I'm on vacation.

And I miss my friends. And my bed. And my books. And my black fuzzy boots. And I want to see everyone that's now engaged.

Ok I still haven't done anything intellectual. I'll have to go work on that...

Or shower.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Shabbat Shalom!

Happy Friday!

I love having this opportunity to look back on my week. I can't believe last Shabbat I was in Jerusalem. Omri and I were supposed to be in a Jewish settlement in the West Bank but wound up, on Friday afternoon (which is insanely late) changing our plans because our host was unwell. I was a little happy to be changing our plans because coming back from the Gush and getting to the airport all motzei Shabbat (Saturday night) made me very nervous. Turned out that we went to war with Gaza over Shabbos and, although I know my host and his town is fine, it would have been a security nightmare to get back into Jerusalem in time to get to the airport!

Now I'm home. The first two days I was here I had huge jet-lag and was watching the news every five minutes. It was stressful and miserable. Finally my brother broke me out of it with a huge amazing heart-to-heart (he's so good at that) and we all had a big talk--my mom, stepdad and Ben--about how it was so hard for me to make them go out of their way to accomodate my religious needs (like keeping kosher and Shabbat) on top of how difficult those things were for me the first time back, making my way around an un-kosher kitchen. They listened and reassured me that they knew it would be a little work but they were happy to do it. They are all really amazing loving people. I feel a lot better, despite needing to email my halacha (Jewish law) Rabbi about two times a day to ask how to fix a mistake. Hopefully he will get a break now!

I'm forcing myself to not make a decision about whether to go back. I feel that it would still be safe if I was willing to stay in my neighborhood and not go to the mall anymore. I think that Omri would be happier at home which is hard for me because I think that right now I'd really like to be in Israel. At the end of the day, I don't have enough infomation and I need to see what this operation in Gaza looks like in about a week. It's hard to let such a huge decison remain undecided but its probably a healthy exercise for Omri and I who generally prefer to decide everything years in advance.

Yesterday mom and I went to the seaside to tovel my dishes (dunking them in open water which makes them kosher). It was fun and goofy and she took great pictures which I'll post up after Shabbat! She said she was wondering what passers-by would think we were doing and she decided the most likely answer they'd come up with was that we were homeless lol

Today I cooked a huge Shabbos meal for everyone. It was SO much fun. Here's the menu:
1st course: gefilte fish, homemade challah, hummus, and salad
2nd course: chicken soup with noodles
3rd course: potato kugel, roasted chicken with veggies, baked sweet potato
4th course: homemade healthy carrot cake

And there's cholent for tomorrow!

I LOVE LOVE LOVE cooking all day. It's so relaxing and rewarding and fun. I can't wait to have a house of my own to operate like this.

Ok time for a shower and cleaning.

All my love,


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