Hello, 2014! You’re Looking Mighty Fine.

Hello, 2014! You’re Looking Mighty Fine.


Friends, Family, and Loved ones,

I am sorry for being so out of the loop — we’ve been going through a time of transition, and can’t wait to tell you all about it! Since I don’t know exactly where to start, I think I’ll start from the beginning…

All of you know that Jonathan and I spent the year in Israel last year, and at some point throughout that adventure, we decided we wanted to spend more time here. Like, move here. So we did. After months of bureaucracy, waiting for the Israeli Consulate to end their four-month long strike, and a photo finish to the plane (literally a photo finish: my visa came in on the Thursday before the flight left…on Monday), we made it to Israel.

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Fresh off the plane and only a little worse for wear. Our row had two toddlers in it for half the flight and then the row behind us inherited them..I’m not sure which was worse.

Somehow, we’ve been here for three months. I’m going to do my best to fill you in on what they’ve had in store for us. (Hint: it includes a puppy!)

For the past three months, we’ve been renting a small apartment in Har Nof, the same neighborhood we lived in last year – actually, right across the street from our old apartment. It’s quaint with “American” fixtures, meaning nicer ceramic tiles and crown molding, which aren’t considered standard by any means for rentals here in Israel. It’s not where we’re going to be long term, but it’s cute, comfortable, and we’ve made a semblance of a home here for the short while we’re here. We (finally!) found a long term apartment, across the next street, complete with a large porch and extra bedrooms we’re planning to move into in the middle of February. Until then, we’re using this apartment half as storage and half as living space — and missing a proper kitchen.

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This is it – in all it’s glory. If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with?

We’d only been here about a month when someone mentioned to me that they saw a puppy on facebook that was found abandoned on the street. Since they weren’t allowed animals in their apartment, I went home and discussed (re: begged) with Jonathan about getting a dog, something we’d been wanting to do for a long time, but never felt settled down enough. He told me, “Go get him (at the time we thought she was a him) before I change my mind,” so off I went to Hebrew University, where I met the dog who would later be called Lucy, once we unwrapped the towel she was swaddled in and saw she was in fact…a she.

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She was as shocked as we were!

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Loving on some yogurt as big as her head…

Lucy was tiny, only 4 weeks old, malnourished, and covered in fleas. I ran to the store and bought some goat’s milk and a baby bottle, which I fed her by hand, and tried to feed her some scrambled eggs, which she didn’t have much interest in. She slept the entire night (I woke up a thousand times to check on her), and in the morning discovered yogurt, her all-time favorite food. After trips to the vet, vaccinations, and two months of TLC, she’s a little demon, alternating between snuggling and chewing on my shirt-sleeve to get my attention as I’m typing this right now. Oh wait, now she’s asleep.

case in point.

case in point.

We love having Lucy, but we definitely underestimated the amount of responsibility involved in adopting a 4 week old puppy. Let me spell it out for you: basically, puppies can hold their bladders for 1 hour for every month they are alive, plus one hour. That meant that little Lucy could go a whopping 2 hours between being taken outside to go to the bathroom, or she would pee wherever she was. So for about one month, we’d set alarms for every 2 hours to take her out in the middle of the night, and make sure we never left her alone for longer than that. Then, the 2 hour rule got expanded to 3 hours when Lucy got another month older, except for one week that she was sick and had no control over her muscles at all. Thank goodness we tricked her into thinking her antibiotics were treats. Now, Lucy is an energetic, healthy, three and a half month puppy who keeps our hands and hearts full, and guards our home with her surprisingly loud bark.

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guarding our home from invited and uninvited guests.

Other than Lucy and our house-guest as pictured above (Simba, courtesy of our friends S&B), we had another amazing surprise so far in Israel – SNOW! I’m going to save the details for another post about what it’s like to experience a blizzard in a country with no snow plows, but I couldn’t resist adding a sneak preview of what’s to come…

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and that was the first day…

So, now that I’ve told you about our living arrangement and our new addition, what else occupies our time? Work. Which we do a lot of.

I LOVE my job. I work at a seminary called Baer Miriam, where I serve as the eim bayit, or house mother. This role entails everything from kissing boo-boos to studying with the girls, leading seminars, and even teaching a class for college credit, which I will be doing next semester. The best part of it all: inheriting 40 or so 18 & 19-year old pseudo-daughters for the school year. The girls keep my life fun and busy, with plenty of drama to boot. As someone who was a bit of a drama queen in high school, I think it’s a perfect fit.

I also work for another company called Pearl & Clasp, a luxury jewelry company that specializes in custom pieces, necklace clasps, and pearl restringing, where I am the Social Media Manager; meaning, I do freelance writing for fashion blogs and business websites that make mention of the business, and manage the facebook, google+, and twitter accounts for the company. This job helps me itch my writing bug, which also makes me feel guilty for not writing here, something I hope to change.

As for Jonathan, he’s putting his degree to good use by cooking for a girls’ school in our neighborhood and is trying to start his own personal catering company, Jerusalem Catering. He’s also studying a half day and helps me with pretty much everything (my girls call him Mr. Carly), so we’re definitely keeping busy. We’re also writing a cookbook with 52 cholent (overnight Shabbos Day) recipes. I’ll keep you posted as we’re looking for people to test out recipes in kitchens other than our own.

I think that pretty much sums up the past three months in 1000 words. I’m going to try to update more regularly (I’m starting to sound like a broken record) to keep everyone included in our life overseas.

Happy New Year, everyone! Especially Mom, Dad, Mom Mom, and Becca, who I miss very, very much and hope to see soon, even though you’re turning my bedroom into a gym. And Chelsea – can’t forget her.

 

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A Little Peace and Thanksgiving


Baruch Hashem, it’s been quiet here for the past week. We all had a few mixed feelings when the cease fire was announced last week, because we partially wanted Israel to just go in and finish the job they started, but thankful that we wouldn’t hear the wail of the siren in the coming days.

We were unhappy for several reasons. First of all, Hamas learned some lessons during this war that are not beneficial to Israel. Primarily, they learned that they can fire over 1500 rockets into Israel in an 8 day period and not get so much as a potch (smack) on the wrist. They also learned that Egypt (see below: the real winner of the “war”) and the United States will push for a cease fire and try to get Israel to not ‘invade’ by foot. (I put the word invade in parenthesis because can a country ‘invade’ a part of their own borders? Would the U.S. be ‘invading’ Puerto Rico? Arizona? Just something to think about.)

Egypt really won this war because the world recognized their leader (an open member of the Muslim Brotherhood) as a vital contribution to the “peace” process between Israelis and Palestinians. No surprise that less than a week later, he declared himself a dictator by saying that none of the courts can contradict any decision that he makes as leader.

As for the amount of quiet we’ve had, there’s still some unrest along the Gaza/Sinai border, and not all of the soldiers that were called up from the army have gone home. Most recently, there was some distress on the Gaza/Israel border (see above comment for why I sigh/roll my eyes while I write this) and Israeli soldiers were needed to calm down the situation. We haven’t had a siren in Jerusalem, and I don’t think there have been sirens in the south since the day after the cease fire either.

Even throughout the whole ordeal, we weren’t fearful. I’d be lying if I said we weren’t afraid, but we weren’t full of fear. A friend of mine, who I’ll tell you about in a second, almost found herself outside during the second siren, because she had to go to the butcher. Once the siren was over, she ran out, and while she was waiting for the butcher to ring up her food, she let out a sigh, almost as if she’d been holding her breath the whole way there, afraid there would be another siren. The butcher (a Chassidic man), told her it’s okay to be scared. He said, “You can be scared because it’s scary. But to be paralyzed in fear is not good. To not do things because of the fear is bad.” In other words, being paralyzed because of fear makes you think that you are in control. To be aware but unparalyzed is to see that you are most certainly not.

We’re coming to visit America next week for two weeks, and my mom asked me if we’d had a conversation about not going back because of the war. I told her no. She asked if we would be having that conversation — and I told her it wasn’t in our radar. That it was a conversation that would not happen.

There is a clarity that comes from being in a time of crisis. Over the past week, we were scared, but we still felt safe. We’d have to be idiots to not feel safe after seeing all of the miracles that happened all over Israel. To say that over 1500 rockets fell in and around highly populated cities all over a country that’s the size of New Jersey and only six people died is miraculous. A bus blew up in Tel Aviv and only injured some of the people on board. That rockets aimed at the holy city of Jerusalem landed in Arab territory; there’s no other way to understand it. The army might say it’s because of the Iron Dome, that they are strong, and able, but we know that it’s because there’s a greater “Iron Dome” out there, looking out for all of us. We have to hold on to this clarity.

These are all things to be thankful for. Since Thanksgiving is not a holiday in Israel (not even in Har Nof, which is made up of A LOT of Americans!), our group of friends from Philadelphia decided to get together for a Shabbaton and eat Thanksgiving-themed food. Everyone made a dish or two, and it was a lot of fun. Jonathan and I made the turkey and gravy, and others contributed stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans and onions, butternut squash soup, and salad. For dessert, we had our choice of either lemon meringue pie, pecan pie, pumpkin bread pudding with a dulce de leche sauce, or chocolate chip cookies. To say that we were full at the end of Shabbos would be the biggest understatement of the year, probably.

Throughout the whole experience, all I could think about is how grateful I am that all of our best friends got the opportunity to come to Israel at the same time, and that we’re all quite literally in this together. Just to give you a little bit of background: In college, I met two girls who very quickly became my best friends. They are now here, in Israel, with us. One of those girls, Hannah, is married to a guy that I grew up with, from kindergarten through college. Obviously, he’s here too and he is one of Jonathan’s best friends. Another one of our very good friends from college is here also, along with one more couple. And we all went to college together. Now, we’re all in seminary together. Quite literally, Hashem gave us this incredible support system in college as we were becoming more observant together, and continued to give us this support system through getting married (for some of us, and for others, soon!), and now, going to Israel.

So when we want to go to the supermarket and have to take those four buses to do so (and to share a cab home!), there’s someone to do it with. When we want to go shopping for a skirt, or for gifts for family and friends, there’s someone there. Need to vent? Not a problem. Missed a class? Here’s the notes. And all coming together for a meal that we all had a part in was a beautiful materialization of that reality. And it was a lot of fun.

We missed our family and friends in America, but we’re lucky to have a kind of Philadelphia, mismatched, quirky, and fun family here. And a lot of things to be thankful to HaKadosh Baruch Hu for.

I’ve Been Slacking


In the blog department. I apologize greatly for that, but it’s really exhausting to live here.

Amazingly exhausting, that is. The lifestyle here definitely took some getting used to — there’s no such thing as Target or Wal-Mart, and in order to get the food for the week it usually requires a trip to the shuk (I have some pictures), the supermarket (I have some more pictures) and the Makolet (think corner store, but a little bit more variety), with one or two more errands thrown in between. No one has cars, but there’s always traffic somehow, the bus system is GREAT, but taking buses everywhere is crazy because the bus drivers are army reserve members that  drive like they are STILL in the army, and you have to take a trip to about 5 stores ALWAYS to get everything that you want.

For Sukkot, that meant A LOT of shopping, and a LOT of stores, but we are so excited that we got to have our first Sukkah here in Israel! We had 11 of Jonathan’s yeshiva friends over for a meal, so we certainly had a full house, erm, Sukkah!

Our first Sukkah! The roof is made from palm leaves that enable you to still experience the elements, and we decorated it with etrogim (esrogim, or citron fruits), grape vines, and plastic pomegranates that were realistic enough to fool the bees!

To prepare for sukkot, we went to many different stores, and I finally got to take some pictures of the shuk (open market)! We got there really early, by 8:15 in the morning, but it was already packed with people buying food for the holiday.

A store only for nuts!

And one that only sells olives and pickles!

Soon, I’m going to go back to the shuk and take pictures as we eat our way through it, and do a blog specifically on the foods of Israel, but that’s for another day :-)!

On our way back from the shuk, we were getting off of the light rail to transfer to a bus home when someone suddenly yelled out to Jonathan and ran up to him to introduce himself. Turns out, because they looked so much alike, he wanted to know if they could possibly be related. This man, Gilad, has some American family that he never got to meet and wanted to know if Jonathan could possibly be his long-lost cousin. After they shmoozed for almost an hour at the bus stop and on the bus, it turns out that they certainly are NOT related, but they do look alike.

Jonathan and his new “brother.”

We also went to the supermarket, which was even busier than it was last time I showed you a picture. See?

This was the supermarket on Thursday afternoon, before Shabbos and Sukkot. It was so crowded, you had to walk to the back of the supermarket to make it to the other side, and you couldn’t even choose which check out line you wanted to use — whichever aisle you were in dictated that decision for you.

During this pretty sizeable break from classes, we were also able to travel to the south to visit a lot of Jonathan’s Aunts, Uncles, and cousins. It’s certainly been a busy break, and one filled with lots of food! His aunt Mazal told us she was only going to prepare us a snack, and when we got to her house there was a feast — four courses including fish, steak, wings, soup, and dessert. My waistband was not happy with me by the end of this trip.

Jonathan and Mazal at our feast!

We also made pizza in this awesome pizza oven at Jonathan’s Aunt Aleeza and Uncle Moshe’s.

At the end of this trip, we were definitely ready for the respite that Shabbos brings — I don’t think I’ve ever napped so much on one Shabbos before! Now that break is over, and I’ve gotten A LOT of Hebrew practice and we got to travel quite a bit, we are ready to get back into gear at school. I’m going to be doing a new education program, where I learn a curriculum for teachers in Jewish Day schools, which I’m really excited about.

I’ve got more to update everyone on, so stay tuned!

Jonathan and Me all ready for Shabbos at his Aunt Aleeza and Uncle Moshe’s house.

Weather Patterns


I really wish that I was sitting by a lake right now typing on my laptop instead of in my office, closed up on the 24th floor of a building.

Notice I said lake, not beach. I’m not a beachy kind of gal. I much prefer a woodsy waterside, without sand (I HATE sand), with lots of rocks and preferably, a quiet dock that I can sit on. With a book, or a notebook, or nothing at all.

One of my favorite memories comes from a weekend aside a beautiful body of water like the one I described — it wasn’t a lake, but a bay in Maryland, and my best friend took me down there for the weekend. Her mom, mom’s friend, my friend, and me loaded up the car and trekked all the way down to the Maryland bay (after one episode of car-sickness). We stayed in a beautiful lakeside cottage and spent all weekend antique-ing and next to the water. The sun didn’t come out once; we ate roasted chicken and garlic as we watched movies next to the floor-to-ceiling window panels; and we went swimming in the bay on a cloudy afternoon.

I just breathe better when I’m near fresh water.

Most days, I don’t even get to venture outside. But today, I couldn’t resist the sunshine (and I couldn’t put off my need to return a dress to Macy’s any longer!) so I decided to go outside.

It really feels like March, doesn’t it? It’s really insane to think that this time last year I was slipping and sliding down city streets in boots not equipt enough for icy conditions. And the year before that, the whole closed just a few weeks ago due to the biggest snow-storm to hit Philly in almost 15 years.  Jonathan and I were stuck in my house with no cable, no internet, and just enough heat to stay warm. We walked to the corner store to get six-packs of beer and my roommate made a snow angel in the middle of the street.

Tomorrow is groundhog day – a funny tradition, when you think about it. A groundhog sees his shadow, and the winter lasts an extra six weeks. The groundhog doesn’t see his shadow, and spring comes early. Except where there’s shadows, there’s sun. And the groundhog doesn’t even know what a shadow looks like.

When the weather patterns, we make memories. Sunny days like today remind me of Spring, of a promise for more.

I just never thought I’d see that promise February 1st.

p.s. If the groundhog sees his shadow tomorrow, it’s going to be a bad year for Punxsutawney Phil!

Computer Blues


My lack of blogging for the past few days can partially be blamed on the weekend (hey, who says writing isn’t work!), a headache that I can’t seem to shake, and lots and lots of sleep (I never said that my excuses would be good ones!).

In reality, I’ve been doing a lot of introspection, including writing 8 pages of what I hope will be the beginning of a childhood memoir. Not about all of my childhood — who would want to read that! A memoir of the five summers I spent at camp, which I picture as something much more like a series of short stories interspersed with some rambling. Or that’s what it looks like it will be to me.

Hey, write what you know – right?

Anyways, I can’t see straight from looking at the computer all day, so I’m going to keep this short.

But I just wanted to check in to say hi. how are you?

The Space I’m In


Don’t you wish that our brains had a magic “off” button? One that you could just hit when you wanted to sit in silence and just be without the stream of thoughts rushing by? For some reason, my thoughts always take the persona of the New York Stock Exchange in Times Square — digitized digital words flying by faster than I can put them into sense. Digital is so much more…severe than analog.  Letters lose their curves; words lose their softness when they are forced to confine to boxes; pixellated particles of thought.

Sometimes, usually at the worst times, my brain just turns on and won’t stop – I can’t make the thoughts slow, or change, and as soon as I break one thought’s downward or side-ward spiral, another one takes over and sweeps me away again.

But aren’t my thoughts what separate me from my body? What forms the bridge between the two? Without them, would I be able to engage my body, ask it to move, or stretch, or breathe deeply?

For me, associating with my body is somewhat…painful. Difficult. Irritating, to say the least. For as long as I can remember, I don’t remember my body every really working the way it was supposed to work. Looking the way that it’s “supposed” to look. Fighting against illness the way that my mind wanted it to.

The challenges associated with my body led me to take medication that poisons it — it was working too well, fighting against itself. Failing to recognize the “good guys” from the bad, and putting up equal ammunition against both of them. The overachiever inside me given flight.

In reality, my body functions, albeit not at full capacity. It does what it’s supposed to do (slowly), absorbing nutrients, creating new cells, discarding waste, pumping blood, taking in oxygen, releasing carbon dioxide.

It does what it’s supposed to do.

But it doesn’t explain why my best friend, mother, and husband still need to stop me every once in a while to say, “Ani Lo Guf.” I am not my body. I am thought. I am air. I am something divine, taking up space in a protected shell. What I am does not have physical confines. If we could just take off our bodies like we do our shoes…..

It would all make sense.

The Torah tells us that Adam and Chava didn’t have skin or bodies the way that you or I do. They had light. Light covered by a sheer substance most clearly resembling our fingernails – but not adult fingernails. The soft, malleable, baby fingernails that bend and shine and reflect light. They didn’t require tissue and muscle and blood to keep the light in their eyes alive — they were souls wearing shoes made of translucent fingernails.

I’ve spent the past few days grappling with what it means to be a soul wearing a body. To dissociate myself from the size of my thighs or stomach and to realize that I need to feed my soul more than my body needs to be fed at the same exact time. And to feed my soul, I need to realize what it feels like just to occupy this space. To get to know my body from the inside out, rather than from the outside in. That looking in a mirror won’t teach me what it feels like to let the light leak out.

New Year, New…Shoes?


So, it’s official – it’s a new year. 5772.

Ever since I can remember, Rosh Hashanah has always been one of my all-time favorite holidays. Something about the warm, sweet challah dipped in honey, the sweet honey or Jewish Apple cake dotted with sour raisins, the smell of brisket roasting in the oven…

For some reason, all of my holiday associations center around food.

Rosh Hashanah always meant the beginning of something. The beginning of the school year, the beginning of fall, the beginning of a beginning. This year, I celebrated with an entire new family, but missing one of my family members as well.

It was really beautiful, and made me really look forward to hosting our own Rosh Hashanah seudah at our house. I can picture the tablecloth, the centerpiece. I can see the simanim we would giggle over before stuffing our tummies full of yummy food. I can see the meal going on for hours.

Looking back at the past year, I almost can’t believe how much has changed. How much I grew. How much Jonathan grew. We went from taking walks and drinking Starbucks Hot Chocolate to packing lunches (for each other) and paying renters insurance. And I really couldn’t be happier.

A lot of things are changing; Jonathan got a new job working for Campbell’s soup, which he loves. I’m in school and working, and I’m starting to find time to breathe. We’re talking about travelling, about buying a house. We’re dreaming together. And I’ll take the beginning of a life of dreams anytime. L’Shana Tova, all.