OyChicago blog

A Host of Oscar Advice

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02/26/2015

A Host of Oscar Advice photo

I have watched the Oscars since I was a kid, with my mother as a guide. She was the one who taught me how a movie wins because other nominees split the vote, and explained why certain people win or not regardless of how well they acted in a particular movie (e.g. this man is very old and this is his last chance; people thought this woman should have won many times so this is a make-good award, etc.).

And I have seen many hosts — Billy Crystal being the best, of course. Well, having Neil Patrick Harris disrobe in front of billions just to get a laugh made me think the Oscars jumped the proverbial shark this year. Harris already did the Tonys and had to step it up for the Oscars, but what’s left for the Grammys or Emmys? So here are my humble suggestions for next year and beyond, regarding future hosts.

The Duo Oscars
Most Oscars are presented by a man and a woman who have nothing to do with each other. Well, in these Oscars, presenters would be duos — male/female, male/male or female/female— who have acted in at least three movies together. Tribute could be paid to bygone onscreen couples or duos. And for the “In Memoriam” section, the presenters would be those like Dan Aykroyd and Jerry Lewis who have survived their long-time showbiz partners. Musical numbers would be performed by well-established duo acts like Hall & Oates or Simon & Garfunkel.

The Family Oscars
Taking further the idea that presenters should be somehow connected, in this version, the presenters would be actually related! They would be parent-child pairs, like Kirk and Michael Douglas, or siblings, like Maggie and Jake Gyllenhaal … or husband-wife couples, like Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick. The musical numbers would be performed by family acts like Heart or Van Halen.

The “Stop Confusing Us” Oscars
Certain performers are confused by the general public. Well, here’s Hollywood’s chance to set us straight. One presenter pair would be Bill Pullman and Bill Paxton. Another could be Emma Watson and Emma Stone, or Ellen Burstyn and Ellen Barkin. And not just those whose names are confused, but look-alikes, or act-alike pairs like Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnon. Music would be performed by other confuse-ables, like a duet with Jeff Daniels and Jeff Bridges.

The Stupid Star Tricks Oscars
Remember the Stupid Pet Tricks shtick on David Letterman? So for the Oscars, have the presenters come out and show us some non-acting-related stunt they can do, like juggle or yodel. When Jack Palance did one-armed push-ups, it made Oscar history. Also, the Golden Globes have been stealing the Oscar spotlight with their irreverence, so this could be Oscar’s way to corner the viral-video market for a week instead. So many actors have side bands, it would be easy to find five to do the musical numbers.

The Star Trek Oscars
William Shatner and Patrick Stewart, of course, would co-host. The casts of all five series would serve as presenters. And, despite what Shatner said on Saturday Night Live — “It’s just a TV show!”— Star Trek is also one of the longest-running film franchises ever. So those who have been in any of the 12 Star Trek films, going back to 1979, could also present. (I suppose a Star Wars Oscars would also be possible, if they could find enough women in those casts to present).

The Kevin Oscars
The hosts should be Kevin Kline and Kevin Spacey, since they can both sing and the opener requires that. Presenters should include: Kevin Costner, Kevin Pollack, Kevin Bacon, Kevin Nealon, Kevin “Hercules” Sorbo … with Kevin McHale being one of the musical performers (he’s Artie from Glee). Every time a Kevin comes out to present, Spacey and Kline should interrupt him with warm greetings of “Kevin!” and walk over to for a round of introductions: “Hi! I’m Kevin.” “Kevin, this is Kevin.” “Nice to meet you, Kevin; have you met Kevin?”

The Eddie Murphy Oscars
Murphy was supposed to host in 2012 but stepped down because of something impolite a friend of his, who was supposed to produce the show, said. But Eddie should be asked again. There was nothing he did, personally, to disqualify him, and he should not be punished for sticking with a friend. Oscar should ask him to host again.

Other solid hosts could be: Jay Leno (let loose, he can be biting), Jim Carrey, Sandra Bernhard, Jimmy Fallon, Tiny Fey, Seth Meyers, Amy Schumer, Patton Oswalt, Kristen Wiig, Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell … or Mel Brooks, why not. Hey, he’s only 88!                      

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The Ugly Side of Competitiveness

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02/27/2015

The Ugly Side of Competitiveness photo

By nature, I’ve never been a competitive person. In fact, people who are competitive make me nervous. Whenever the tense aura of competition seeps its way in, I’m usually the first in the group to silently retreat.

When I lived in Argentina during the past several months, one thing that surprised me was the relations between Argentine women. The women I would see ordering wine at a restaurant or waiting around for the bus seemed confident and self-assured, lounging comfortably in matching 5-inch platform heels and generously giving each other kisses on the cheek. They seemed to lack a competitive streak that often characterizes female relations in the States.

For instance, at Centro Hebreo Iona, a Jewish primary school in Buenos Aires where I was teaching, the girls in fifth grade were no older than 10, but every time I’d walk into the classroom, they’d huddle excitedly around, telling me not about themselves, but instead about each other.

“Go ahead, Cami!” little Romina would insist, nodding persistently at her friend. “Show Jessica your cartwheels!”

Camila would blush at first and politely decline, but within minutes she’d be doing gymnastics around the room at the insistence of her friends.

As proud as I was of the fifth graders for their maturity, it also made me realize what I lack in the interactions with my own friends. I may not be madly competitive, but I’m still plagued with the standard vices of jealousy or pride. How often do I praise their accomplishments? When do I encourage them to show off what they’re really good at?

Sure, competitiveness has its benefits, but when competition turns ugly, it often makes one do ugly things.

A couple years ago, public relations executive Justine Sacco was relaxing at JFK Airport, killing time before her flight to South Africa. Bored, she scrolled through her Twitter feed and decided to post: “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS! Just kidding, I’m white!”

She thought it was clever. The rest of the world thought it racist.

By the time her plane landed 24 hours later, Justine was not only disgraced and fired from her job, but also publicly sneered at on an international scale. Her Tweet had gone viral, and she had transformed from a relatively obscure New Yorker to the global epitome of white privilege and ignorance.

One question that comes to mind is: Who circulated this Tweet? Justine had fewer than 200 followers, barely a touch in the vast world of social media. How did her Tweet, tucked into the discrete shadows of Twitter, suddenly burst into the spotlight?

It was a writer for Gawker Media, one of her followers, who was delighted to catch a PR pro in this awful fumble. He not only reposted her tweet to his 15,000 followers, but also continued to bully her for months after the incident. Was he just a bystander, eager to fight against racism online? Or was he simply an opportunist, grasping at the chance to topple a professionally successful woman in a similar field?

What about the hordes of Twitter followers, who felt the need to vilify Justine so publicly? Wouldn’t it achieve their purposes better to simply message her privately, and explain their outrage to her that way? Or did these Twitter mobs attack Justine just to show off how unlike her they themselves were?

In a similar move, when Patricia Arquette received an Oscar for Supporting Actress in Boyhood last weekend, she launched into a speech calling for wage equality for women. Backstage, she further expanded on her comments, and made several unfortunate remarks, including a plea for “gay people and all the people of color that we've all fought for to fight for us now.”

There are several options of how to respond at play here. One would be to deride Arquette as a detractor of intersectional feminism; another is to acknowledge that while she misspoke afterward, she also made several important points during her speech, and then point out that if there is any confusion about whom “feminism” encapsulates, then here it is: it’s all women.

Correcting Arquette is helpful and necessary — viciously attacking her is not. Yet many articles did exactly that. Does making a public mockery of others actually help anybody? Wouldn’t it be more helpful to teach others (privately) why they are mistaken, or how they misspoke? Isn’t this public mockery just … self-serving?

In Judaism, pride is regarded as a very serious vice. In fact, the Talmud goes as far as to claim that “God and the proud man cannot reside together in the same world.” Understanding that there is a larger plan, outside of yourself and your own world, is key to being humble. Making a public mockery of someone else’s misstep isn’t making progress — it’s simply a way to enhance your own pride in knowing that it wasn’t you who made the offensive comment.

In the case of Patricia Arquette, several feminists turned on her, decrying her as the epitome of what she was trying to fight against. Instead of correcting Patricia, her critics simply blasted her and placed themselves on a higher pedestal.

Did this sort of competitiveness among women help feminism? I shouldn’t think so. If the girls at Iona are any sort of example, it’s working together and encouraging one another that leads to progress. The other, the sort of prideful behavior of angry Twitter mobs, helps nobody, least of all the causes we’re all supposedly fighting for.

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The Write Goal

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02/25/2015

The Write Goal photo

Resolutions come and go, but at the start of 2015, I side-stepped my traditional resolutions for a straight-up GOAL – an enormous yet startlingly simple goal to guide my way through 2015; something to hang my hat on whilst wading through my 28th year. Mixed metaphors aside, I promised myself 2015 would be the year dedicated to “Writing More.”

“Writing more” means, “Write every day,” “Write something I love,” “Write something different than anything I've attempted before” – the list goes on.

So far I'm making good on this admittedly attainable, yet daunting task. I visit my digital archive of unfinished Google Doc jottings and half-stories with a purposeful frequency. It contains nothing overly significant, but working little by little on fine-tuning whatever skills I keep in my creative writing arsenal. In dedicating myself to this sort of goal, I thought it important to look outward in order to stay motivated and you know, not give up. So, I joined a writing group; I started volunteering at a creative writing non-profit; I continued to read voraciously about writers, writing, how to write, how not to write ... you get where I'm going.

The writing group is new for me and I find it incredibly helpful. I've invested hours in National Novel Writing Month only to come up short, but not without a few thousand words, a beginning of sorts. I asked myself, “What's missing?” Perhaps I'm lazy (likely true). Maybe I'm busy, maybe I lack focus; maybe I'm prone to over-thinking, obsessing over those 50,000 perfect words. Attending this small writing group on the North Side the past few weeks clued me into a couple of ideas quickly. Don't fight it, write it – no one is perfect, so why be so ridiculously arrogant to believe that any 50,000 words I ever churn out will be anything more than a quirky, evolving, imperfect work-in-progress? That, and writing in the company of other like-minded, spirited individuals makes the solitary act of mining one's brain for words, worlds and characters far less lonely of an endeavor.

At the tail end of 2014, I signed up to volunteer at 826CHI, the Chicago satellite of the national youth literacy non-profit/writing and tutoring center/publishing house 826Valencia. Founded by one of my favorite authors, Dave Eggers, I wanted to see what it was all about. This place is the real deal. It's the warmest space, complete with massive bookshelves, student work on display in every corner, even a huge wall you can WRITE ON! (Dry-erase board paint is an incredible invention.) Words do not do 826CHI justice, but I've learned so much about writing from taking time to craft poetry and stories with students of all ages in this Wicker Park oasis. This past weekend, myself and the other volunteers witnessed fourth and fifth graders write poems inspired by a musical piece, choreograph a dance based on the emotions of their writing, and perform for their parents. I am so grateful for the opportunity to play even the smallest part in some of the magic created at this place.

It's not a secret that a better reader makes for a better writer, and I'm hoping what I'm reading lately  helps to write with more pizzazz, truth, sophistication, heart, etc. If you are looking for a great book about why writers write, why writers read, why writers are the way they are, peruse www.brainpickings.org. Maria Popova's curated corner of the Internet is nothing short of stunning. Read any post and find a new book to pick up from the library. It's that simple. Over the seemingly endless expanse of the Internet, there is no shortage of brilliant literary-minded websites, filled to the brim with masterful suggestions, reading lists, commentary – easy access to whatever your little corner of the world might be. I'm currently enjoying Ten Years in the Tub by Nick Hornby, a compendium of 10 years worth of columns featured in The Believer magazine. The monthly column highlights everything he read in any given month, brought to life by his wonderfully accessible commentary. Hornby is a delight. The columns are pithy, hopeful, wonderfully funny and packed with a lifetime's worth of book suggestions.

Here's hoping that a GOAL has more staying power than a resolution ... and to spring being just around the corner.  

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Moroccan Chicken

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02/24/2015

Moroccan Chicken photo 1

Sometimes, people misconstrue the terms healthy cooking or clean eating with “flavorless” and “lackluster.” But it does not have to be this way. And my cooking certainly never is. It is a rare day in my house that we do not eat healthily. Even our late night snacks (plate fulls of lean nitrate free turkey breast and tomato and cuke slices) tend to be quite delicious and healthy.

Let’s be honest, it’s tough to stay healthy and eat clean if your food tastes like overly processed cardboard. So I like to keep things spicy and exciting in our meal plans. Like all moms nowadays I do not have all the time in the world to cook anymore (sad…so very sad.) I do, however, have some pretty great standard recipes that I can always go back to and whip up in no time.

Initially my mother- in-law made this dish. (Try and imagine this with the best Russian accent) “Heere Mila trrry this. It iz new dish I saw on Russian televizion. Verry oold recipe, but very seeemple and delicious. They call it Morooocon chicken.” I tasted it. And smiled. It’s my mother-in-law…I am not upsetting her. I tasted sweetness and stringy chicken and that was it. I so wanted to like it. But it was lackluster. She is an amazing cook, but this for some reason was not hitting the spot. I am thinking it was just a cruddy recipe. It was decent…but it lacked some…SPARKLE. And I…well my dear friends…I have lots of sparkles.

I decided to truly make this a Moroccan style chicken, concentrating on all the fragrant spices of the region. Moroccan food has a great deal of bright flavors and intoxicating spices. I also wanted this to be something that I can whip up on a weeknight when I did not have much time. After a few tries and adjusting the spices and the cooking times I ended up with a dish that I am proud to call Moroccan. It has all the gorgeous colors and flavors to make our tummies rumble and our eyes gleam.

Being the wonderful daughter in law that I am, I brought it over for my MIL to try and she was flattered that I based my recipe on hers (based being the operative word here). She was instantly a fan and asked for the recipe. I told her to check the blog :)

NEWSFLASH: THIS IS VERY FREEZER FRIENDLY!

Moroccan Chicken photo 2

Moroccan Chicken

Ingredients

2 Pounds of Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs or Chicken Breast; Cut into Large Pieces
¾ Cup Dried Apricots, Roughly Sliced
¾ Cup Dried Prunes, Roughly Sliced
1 Spanish Onion, Diced
3 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
2 Tablespoons Cilantro, Roughly Chopped
Juice of One Lime
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
3 Garlic Cloves, Minced
1 One-Inch Piece of Ginger, Minced
1 Tablespoon Smokey Paprika
1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
⅛ Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
1 Teaspoon Cumin
1.5 Tablespoons Turmeric; The turmeric gives this dish its distinct yellow color
½ Teaspoon Sumac (optional)
½ Tablespoon Salt
1 Tsp Pepper
Pinch of Red Pepper Flakes

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 450-degrees and oil up a medium sized casserole dish. Feel free to use a foil pan for easier cleanup.

We are going to start out with some chicken breast and boneless chicken thigh pieces cut up into large bite size pieces.

Place those pieces into your casserole pan (don't mind me, I apparently did not mind doing dishes and used a bowl instead.). Add you turmeric, nutmeg, cinnamon, paprika, cumin, minced ginger, minced garlic, salt, pepper, lime juice, balsamic vinegar and cilantro.

Toss and combine and let stand for at least 15-20 minutes or even overnight.

In the meantime, slice up some dried prunes and apricots. You do not need to get fancy. Just slice them up so they are similar in size.

Dice up an onion into medium dice.

Place about 1 tbsp of olive oil into a large pan and add in your onions. Go ahead and let the get nice and sweaty for about 3 minutes.

Now add in the sliced dried fruit, salt and pepper and a cup of water. This is going to do two things. 1. it will hydrate the fruit so they get beautiful and plump. And two it will make the sugars come out of the onions, allowing for an easier and faster caramalization. (note: I will be doing a demo soon on how to easily caramelize onions.)

Moroccan Chicken photo 3

Allow this mixture to boil until all the water is boiled out and the water has evaporated completely.

Moroccan Chicken photo 4

Now, add this mixture to your marinading chicken. Toss to combine, careful as the mixture is hot (you can of course cool the mixture, but I don't have that sort of time).

Place into the oven and bake uncovered for 15-20 minutes or until chicken is tender.

Garnish with some extra cilantro. I served this up with my favorite lemon infused couscous and it was a hit.

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Three tips for managing and prioritizing your time each day

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02/23/2015

Three tips for managing and prioritizing your time each day photo

When I share with people how much I am doing, they often ask how I get it all done. I am a father and a husband and spend quality time with my family. I stay home from work with my son two days each week, probably my biggest job. I volunteer with several organizations around DC. I grow my own coaching business, 100 Reasons to Win, which includes coaching individuals, preparing presentations for existing clients and having meetings with potential new clients. I run a meeting every week for Weight Watchers. I travel regularly for work and for fun. I blog for Oy!Chicago.

It is a lot to manage, and I would be lying if said that I don’t get behind on a couple of things here or there. However, these three tips have helped me to deliver the most important projects on time, especially when it really mattered. By the way, I purposely chose three because if you are already struggling with time management, you really don’t have time to comb through a list that is much larger than that. Practice these three first because they are easy to implement and will make an immediate impact. After that, you can schedule some time to contact me for more help.

Have a to-do list but really only commit to three things

If you are “To-Do Lister” and love to make yourself long lists for the day, keep doing it. If you never write out a list, start doing it. Find a system that works well for you; keep it on a notebook; keep it on a sticky note; keep it on a whiteboard; write it on your hand; yep- there’s even an app for lists. Everyone will have a different way that works for them. Everyone will also struggle to finish every task, every day.

My advice for each morning is to choose the three tasks from your list that must be completed that day. Pick the three items, and only three, that you know will result in the most serious consequences, if not completed by day’s end. Anyone can start and finish at least three items on a list. If you get to more than that, awesome, but you always know the most important items will be crossed off the list. If you finish three things each and every day, you’ll have 21 things done each week and 84 tasks brought to completion each month. That’s a productive month that only took a three per day commitment.

Calendar everything

You are staring at the computer, working on an important spreadsheet for a conference presentation later in the week. Carrie chats you and asks, “Can we meet to discuss the Stamper account?” You don’t really love spreadsheets and Carrie is just so much more fun to be around than Excel. This would be a perfect excuse to put that spreadsheet off for later.

Wait a minute- put it off and then what? Find yourself staying up late in your hotel room the night before you present crunching numbers for that blasted spreadsheet. Now you show up for the presentation, tired, groggy and wishing you had started to work on that spreadsheet much earlier. All of this so you could hang out with Carrie!

Or you could take a breath and try this- switch your calendar to fifteen minute increments. Put all of your important tasks right into your calendar. It will remind you to get them done and it will remind you not to overschedule yourself. As for Carrie, how about this instead, so you don’t abandon the time you intentionally set aside to get your work done:

“Actually, I am on a deadline and trying to finish up something else right now. Would tomorrow morning at 10:00 work for you, or can we check in first thing next week when I am back from the conference?”

Be realistic when setting a deadline

It’s always better to under-promise and over-deliver. I know the feeling, though. A request comes in from your boss or customer. They ask you how long before you can get that report updated, that project completed, that presentation ready to go. You feel the pressure to tell them what you think they want to hear. You don’t want to let them down before you even had a chance to get started.

“I’ll get that to you right away,”  

“It should all be ready by C.O.B.,”

“It will be waiting on your desk first thing in the morning,”

Will it? Is it realistic to get all of that done in that amount of time? When a deadline hasn’t been imposed on you by someone else, why not give yourself that extra hour, day or even weekend to put on those finishing touches? Why not pause before blurting out the first offer that comes to mind? You might even consider adding more time to give yourself a buffer if/when something more pressing pops up. Nobody will be mad if you get it done early, but it will be hard for them to forget if you consistently turn things in late.

Here are a few alternative responses that may help set you up for success:

“It will be a challenge to get to that today. Will tomorrow work for you?”

“I can have that to you by Monday. Will that work for you?”

“This week is looking really full right now. If I get it to you next week, will that give you enough time to review it?”

With that, I am crossing this article off my to-do list. In case you are wondering, it was on my calendar and it was on my must do for today. I just have two more to go and plenty of time left to get them done.

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60 and Magnificent

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02/20/2015

60 and Magnificent photo

“Brush your teeth.”

Yes mom.

“Call me when you get there.”

Yes mom.

“Do you think it’s a good idea to go out tonight with a cold?”

Probably not …

Where would we be without our moms? I, for one, would have questionable oral hygiene and still be suffering from a cold. As some of you know, my wonderful father turned the big 6-0 in January. Well, just around the corner, my mom had her 60th birthday in early February.

Her birthday was a blast. We dined at Formento’s, which is a yummy Italian restaurant in the West Loop. (If you go there, get the Timpano Formento. It was delicious!)  At the end of the evening we feasted on a birthday cake that was a replica of a Hermes Birkin bag – very fitting for my mother who’s a fashionista.

Because of this momentous birthday, (and because Dad got his own post) I wanted to highlight what I love about my mom:  

Her endless  support

I’m lucky to have a mother who has stuck by my side through all my questionable and outlandish decisions. Although she hasn’t agreed with all my life decisions, she’s always made it clear through her actions that she’ll love me no matter what. What more could you ask of a mom?

Kindness

I rarely ever hear my mom talk badly about anyone or anything. If a movie receives a 20% on Rotten Tomatoes and is deemed terrible by the rest of society, she’ll still say it was a very good film. I appreciate her positive energy because it’s refreshing. We live in a world that’s filled with negative opinions about everything, so it’s nice to be in company you know will always be kind.

Wisdom and intelligence

My mom is a beautiful woman, but what makes her most spectacular is that she’s extremely smart. Though she watches more reality television shows than her 24-year-old daughter, she knows what’s going on in the world because she watches the news and reads newspapers. I admire that she can balance her interests in popular culture and hard news.

I’m only one of the many who is drawn to my mom for her loving kindness, and she has deserved this month-long 60th birthday celebration. Happy birthday, Mom, and to many more!    

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My somewhat failed Chicago wintry day off

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02/18/2015

My somewhat failed Chicago wintry day off photo

I lost the battle. I failed. I can’t believe this happened to me, but last week, I let the Chicago weather win.

I have always been a proponent of eating ice cream in the winter and not staying inside like a hibernating bear for half of the year. “It’s not too cold — you’re just not wearing enough layers,” I’ll often quip.

So when I took a Tuesday off of work recently, I thought I’d show the world how it’s done. I bought myself a pair of ice skates and figured I’d carry them around the town, showing off my clearly-I’m-an-amazing-ice-skater-if-I-own-my-own-skates bag, and skip the long skate rental lines at the new Maggie Daley ice rink. I’d go to a museum — or three! — since most of them happened to be free Tuesday anyway. I’d attend a free concert at the Chicago Cultural Center. I’d enjoy a macaron and a cup of chai tea while reading a book. I would show Ferris Bueller how to really spend a day off in Chicago.

I started my day with a make-your-own rice bowl lunch at Freshii downtown with two of my dearest friends, Alyssa and Sarah, and we had a great time.

But then, sadly, the weather got the best of me.

I walked to Maggie Daley Park, ice skates on my back, ready to show off my skating skills (I can skate forwards and backwards without falling). I arrived at the rink at 2:30 p.m. and saw on a sign stating that even though the ice rink was open from 12-8 p.m. that day, it was closed from 2:30-3:30 p.m. (and a few other hours throughout the day) for Zamboni cleaning. For an hour?

I was too cold and even a bit too tired to go to the nearby Art Institute, so I tried the Chicago Cultural Center. Nothing too interesting there (and their free concerts appear to be offered every day but Tuesdays).

So then I went to a cute little French bakery and treated myself to a few French macarons (raspberry, honey almond and brownie flavored) while reading my book.

At 3:30 p.m., when the Zamboni supposedly finished its cleaning session / joy ride, I ventured outside. And as much as I love Chicago, as much as I love ice skating, and as much as I wanted to show winter that it’s not the boss of me — I just couldn’t do it. My ears were cold, my fingers were cold, and I swear my bones were cold — so I gave up. I walked a few extra blocks in this cold to a bus and headed home.

I’m not proud of what happened. I wanted to show everyone how great Chicago really is, even in the middle of February, even in weather that matched my age (yup, it was 28 degrees all day), even when you’re by yourself on a day off. But my warm, cozy apartment filled with hot chocolate, a fleece blanket, and 10 unwatched episodes of “New Girl” was calling for me and I answered the call.

Next time, Chicago winter, watch out — my ice skates and I are coming for you.

Until then, my ice skates and I might do some research on public skating times in indoor ice rinks.  

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72 is safe

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02/17/2015

72 is safe photo

If you’re looking for the greatest team in NBA history, look no further than Randy Brown, Jud Buechler, Jason Caffey, James Edwards, Jack Haley, John Salley, Dickey Simpkins, Bill Wennington, Ron Harper, Steve Kerr, Toni Kukoc and Luc Longley.

Oh, and that Jordan guy, his buddy Scottie and some wacky-haired worm.

I’m talking of course about the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, owners of the best regular season record in NBA history at 72-10. Not only did the Bulls only lose 10 regular season games, but they only lost three playoff games on their way to their first NBA title since Michael Jordan’s return to the court.

So, why are we revisiting this other than the warm feeling it gives me to think back on those glorious days? Because while teams will continue to get close (see this year’s Golden State Warriors, coached by a member of that team, Steve Kerr) I believe this record will never be broken.

There was no such thing as a “rest day”

During the Bulls’ 72-win season, Michael Jordan played all 82 regular season games. So did Steve Kerr. Kukoc played 81, Harper played 80, Pippen played 77. At no point did Michael Jordan decide he suddenly needed two weeks off like LeBron James did this year. Phil Jackson wasn’t benching his stars on the second of back-to-backs. He had his best players there and playing almost every night. And while resting your stars tends to lead to losses to teams they should not be losing to, teams don’t seem to mind anymore because, well, reason number two…

The regular season doesn’t matter anymore

Somewhere along the line, top tier teams started to figure out that they could coast a bit in the regular season and find a new gear in the final two months heading into the playoffs. This was not the way things were in the 90’s. Teams played hard and played to win every game. Seeding mattered and so did regular season awards. Stars were stars night in and night out. Which leads me to my next point.

Everyone wasn’t a star

The Atlanta Hawks should have had all five starts on the East All-Star team. Many other teams have 2-3 all-stars or future all-stars/hall of famers. There were less stars in the NBA in the 90’s, and the quality of reserve players has improved greatly. Teams then only had one, maybe twp top caliber players. Now so many teams stack their roster with all-stars, the competition is greater and there are more great teams to compete with. No one team is unbeatable.

And finally the biggest reason the Bulls’ record will never be broken.

They had the greatest player to ever play the game…and he had a massive chip on his shoulder

Coming out of retirement during the 1994-95 season, Michael Jordan was still shaking a lot of the rust off. Jordan only averaged 26.9 ppg, his lowest since his second year in the league. The Bulls struggled to a 45-37 record and were eliminated from the playoffs in a devastating series against former Bull Horace Grant the Orlando Magic. It had been a long time since Jordan and the Bulls went to the playoffs and didn’t go home NBA champions. Michael Jordan did not take losing very well. He came back the next year and averaged over 30 ppg on his away to his 8th scoring title, the league’s most valuable player award, All-NBA first team and All-Defense first team.  Michael Jordan was not going to be denied two years in a row. If he was going to come back to the NBA, he was going to return to being the best in the game. The unique circumstance that saw Michael Jordan briefly retire, return, struggle and return to glory is something I don’t think we’ll see again.

And thus, the 72-win Chicago Bulls will forever be the winningest team in NBA history.

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You like me, you really like me

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02/16/2015

You like me, you really like me photo 1

The author, with Sally Field.

I decided we were going to get a dog. I do things like that. I occasionally decide. They’re really more like proclamations. I’m swift and definitive. Decision making within my relationship is both my super-power and my fatal flaw. My decisions rarely make any sense and are mostly designed to keep my husband on his toes.

I had no real reason for deciding we would be dog owners. Andy had not said that he wanted a dog and I had never experienced successful pet ownership. I grew up on a farm. All of the dogs that I had growing up were run over by tractors. The odds were definitely not in our favor, but c’est la vie.

I started by randomly taking a wrong turn at Target so we would end up in the pet aisle shopping for mini-doggy tutus. I progressed to pointing out dogs everywhere we went and eventually stepped up my game with a weekly email campaign. I attached random pictures of dogs to emails and I’d send him links for different dog breeds. This is where my push began to get concrete responses. “We can’t get a Jack Russell because this says that they rely on a high level of exercise and you know we’re lazy.”

He was right of course, we aren’t active, but where do you find a dog whose favorite activity is watching The Gilmore Girls for hours on end? I dug deep and focused my research, which led me to reruns of Sex and the City. When Charlotte found her dog Elizabeth Taylor, I discovered the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

Wikipedia describes Cavaliers as being excellent lap dogs for the elderly. Perfect. I had found our match. Well, except for the part where now I had to actually find one. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels aren’t everywhere. You can’t pop down to the ASPCA and pick one up. I scoured the Internet. I joined chat rooms, list serves, email associations, and bizarre dog clubs.

My work eventually led us to a stranger’s front porch. We stood there for a moment dumbfounded. Should we be here? We don’t own so much as a houseplant. You know we’re going home with a dog. Shopping for dogs isn’t like shopping for pants. There’s always a dog that fits.

The front door flew open before we could take in a breath and we were motioned into the house and introduced to two remaining puppies. This was going to be harder than I thought. How do you choose one over the other? Sir! I can’t choose! I cannot choose! Andy and I took turns playing with each of the dogs trying to figure out what to do. How exactly do you shop for a dog? We certainly had no idea.

Somewhere in the middle of managing my anxiety, I realized that I had been gifted the right partner. I had gone catatonic the moment we entered the room, and my husband had turned into the world’s most charming person. He was performing a Broadway musical in an effort to prove us dog worthy, while I sat in silence. That’s how he works. He picks up where my crazy leaves off.

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The happy family.

We chose the girl. The thought of a dog throwing his leg up and marking every inch of our apartment was what got us out of Schaumburg. The next several days were full of cursing my name while mopping up urine and picking up poo from every surface in our home. That’s the price of parenthood, I suppose.

I was scrubbing the kitchen floor when I realized that our dog needed a name. I’ve never felt so much pressure in my life. All I knew was I wanted to name our dog after a celebrity so I could say things like, “Hugh Jackman will not stop humping my leg!” It was a rerun of Soap Dish that got us to the finish line. Who doesn’t want to spend their life with Sally Field?

I now find myself waking up in the middle of the night to make sure Sally is breathing or driving across country for vacations so that she can come along. A couple months ago our family was gathered together to light the menorah for Chanukah while Sally was safely crated in our bedroom and all I could think was, “What would Sally think of this?” I think that means I’ve become a crazy dog person. 

Finding Sally has taught me that I am in charge of building my family. Jewish families come in all shapes and colors and sizes. Mine happens to have two dudes and an Oscar winning dog. You can build your own however you like. The early days of poop on the floor seem like a lifetime ago. My days are now filled with the pitter-patter of little doggy feet and I wouldn’t change a thing. I can’t imagine our life without Sally Field. That’s not something I expected. The older I get the more I understand that the best things in life aren’t.

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What is Love?

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02/12/2015

What is Love? photo

Love is a verb. It’s not a passive experience. Love is an action we have to take, to inculcate and breed. It doesn’t “just happen.” Initial infatuation, fantasized romantics and the projection of ideals, those “just happen,” and they wear off over time too. But true love takes time, involvement, energy and a lot of effort.

What does that effort look like? Interestingly, the loving relationship between man and woman is referred to biblically as “knowing.” Knowing someone breeds loving them. Well, at least it can. It depends on what we get to know about them, and more importantly, which aspects of them we focus on.

We live in a world where the more simplistic relationship (i.e. superficial) appears more glamorous than the deeper reality is. The cute person we see in edited pictures on Facebook and Instagram is more alluring than the real person behind them. Can we find getting to know them, and them getting to know us, to be a truly loving and rewarding relationship?

Ultimately, this requires what Judaism calls the “good eye.” Ever heard of the “evil eye?” It’s the same thing, just the opposite. Having a “good eye” is when we take an active effort to see the good in someone else. But that’s easier said than done. We live in a world where everything we see and do has to be “new and improved.” Every item we own becomes outdated within a few months when a new and improved model comes out. We can no longer enjoy our phones, cars, computers, etc. from two years ago. They’re obsolete. We are frustrated with every feature they are missing.

That may work fine for technology, but for people, and especially in loving relationships, it’s a severe fallacy. We don’t have software upgrades on character development. We have to process life organically. And so in a relationship, when we apply the “perfection perspective,” our perception becomes warped. We lose sight of the gem of a person we have a relationship with. With people, there is always a surplus of good and not-as-good waiting to be seen. The choice of where to focus is ours.

Remember the story of Adam and Eve? The snake, the apple (it wasn’t an apple, by the way), the curse, the banishment from the Garden of Eden … it ends with Adam naming his wife, Eve. It’s a naming ceremony. That’s a funny conclusion, no? Even more peculiar, the Torah actually tells us why he named her Eve (Chava in Hebrew), because “she is the mother of all things living (Chai = life).” What’s funny is that she isn’t exactly a mother yet. She hasn’t birthed anyone!

But if we take the story a little deeper, we realize an important lesson. He was seeing potential in her, a beautiful trait within her that he was tapping into. They had just been through some rough times together. He could easily have gone into a nasty cycle of anger and frustration with her and everything that happened. But he didn’t. He used the “good eye.” He was seeing good in her, and he wanted to share that with her. Through this name of affection, based on the innate good he saw within her as an eternal maternal persona for all existence, he shared with her a deep love and knowledge of not only who she was, but also who she would become.

True knowledge of another person is to see their essence along with all their potential for the good, and that is essential for true love.

This piece was inspired by the Love, Dating, and Marriage Dinner Series Rabbi Josh and his wife Laura have been giving throughout February. The series is a project of Chicago YJP in collaboration with JCC 20s & 30s and the Center for Jewish Genetics.)  

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Beneath the Helmet

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Documentary tells the real stories of IDF soldiers
02/11/2015

Beneath the Helmet photo 1

Most American Jews have an incomplete picture of what life is like in the Israeli army.

I learned about the Israel Defense Forces through my Israeli summer camp counselors who would dress in their uniforms and run us through pretend drills. At a young age, I knew that every Israeli citizen was required to join the army at age 18 and that I was glad I wouldn’t have to do that when I grew up.

By the time I turned 18 myself, I was well aware not every Israeli went into combat. On my Birthright Israel trip through Shorashim, I got to know the Israelis on my bus and began to understand how different any one person’s journey through the army could be.

What I never got a sense of, however, was what it is really like to be a soldier in Israel, and not just in the sense of the experience, but the mental and emotional experience of swearing an oath to defend the Jewish homeland. Beneath the Helmet provides that missing perspective.  

A documentary following the 200 days of training for a new unit of combat soldiers aspiring to be paratroopers, Beneath the Helmet: From High School to the Home Front highlights the complexities of the young men and women in uniform simply by telling their full stories.

Beneath the Helmet photo 2

The film, which debuted in Chicago at the Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema last fall and returns for two local screenings this month, features a number of soldiers but focuses mostly on Eden Adler, a first lieutenant in charge of a staff of commanders and sergeants training the fledgling soldiers.

What’s fascinating right away is how young Eden is to be entirely in charge of these soldiers, which we are reminded are just teenagers. Yet he’s not some stern, stereotypical military leader figure. While he demands a lot from his troops, his primary focus is to nurture them and to see them succeed. The familial nature and brotherhood of the entire structure of the unit is actually quite refreshing to see and humanizes the characters in a way people of all ages will understand. The adversity they face in this film is less so the training but rather accepting and owning their responsibility and the unknown that comes with serving one’s country.

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Given that this movie is tailored specifically to people around the world who know very little about the IDF, it doesn’t take a lot of “conflict” or “action” to keep things interesting. Director Wayne Kopping and writers Baruch Goldberg and Rebecca Shore instead focus on finding moments that will help the audience relate and build empathy for the soldiers in the film. When the soldiers jump out of a plane for the first time, for example, it’s not a defining moment in the story, but you feel as if you experienced it with them.

Beneath the Helmet also captures a diverse set of characters and story lines. One soldier, Mekonen, is from an Ethiopian immigrant family that depended on him working to get by; another soldier, Oren, is from Switzerland and made the bold decision to move to Israel to serve in the army while he was at the age he felt he best could. Although Coral is a female commander training lone soldiers, a justifiable complaint that could be levied against the film is that the subjects are overwhelmingly male.

Some will undoubtedly suggest that Beneath the Helmet is a poorly disguised lone soldier recruitment piece. Although anyone who goes in thinking the army is big, scary and every man for himself will be proved wrong, the difficulty is not simply glossed over, and neither is the understanding of the ultimate risk that lies on the other side of finishing training.

There’s a hidden educational value in the film that should be more of the focus, namely the way it will provide non-Israelis with the perspective they need to have conversations with not only each other, but also with Israeli peers, about the realities of IDF and what it means to serve. Military service can be a daunting cultural gap between Israelis and people from other countries not required to serve. Beneath the Helmet definitely helps bridge that divide, making it a tool that can strengthen the bonds between Jews in Israel and Jews all over the world.

“Beneath the Helmet” screens at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 18, at Anshe Emet Synagogue, 3751 N. Broadway, with guests First Lt. Eden Adler and producer David Coleman. Suburban screenings will be held at 7:00 p.m. and 7:45 p.m., Monday, Feb. 23, at AMC Northbrook Court, 1525 Lake Cook Rd., Northbrook. Get more information or tickets.                                  

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Be my (many) valentines

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02/10/2015

Be my (many) valentines photo

Any Hallmark aisle, Zales commercial, or Facebook newsfeed will tell you that Valentine’s Day is for lovers. But even for those of us still searching for our beshert — our lives overflow with love. 

Psychology experts agree that one of the biggest indicators of happiness is strong connections of any kind with one another. If that's the litmus test, then I’m one happy lady.

So here’s to my many valentines.

Happy Valentine’s Day,

To my old college roommate who would scour Chicago with me in search of the city’s best pad thai, who shares my 10.5 shoe size, and whose daughters call me “Aunt Cindy.”

To my parents (together), who want more than anything for their children’s lives to be filled with joy, because that’s the definition of being great parents.

To my older sister, who I’ve always idolized and looked at as the “Arthur Fonzarelli” of siblings — so cool — and yet she’d do anything in the world for her annoying little sister.

To my late Grandma Tessie — the ultimate nurturer — who made the best salmon patties, and who upon every visit to her apartment would hand her grandchildren a black comb, pink footy socks, a shower cap and Luden’s Wild Cherry Cough Drops, the sum of which could fix any wrong.

To my dad, who I’m lucky was the first man in my life and has been there for me for every day since — and who makes the world’s best Trivial Pursuit teammate, knowledgeable about all subjects, from biology to geopolitics to Sylvester Stallone movies.

To my guy friend in Colorado, who always manages to sense when I’m having a bad day from hundreds of miles away, and send me an uplifting text, paired with the perfect emoji, to turn my mood around.

To my three little nephews, who make me happy every time they smile, sneeze, laugh, dance tell me a joke with no punch line, and find magic in the mundane things the rest of us take for granted like the El train, the produce aisle at the grocery store, or even dirt.

To my loving, hilarious Long Island-based grandparents, married 68 years. When I recently asked them their secret to a happy marriage, my grandpa replied, “Don’t go to bed angry,” and without missing a beat, my grandma chimed in with, “and only go to bed with each other.”

To my childhood best friend who I first met while treading water in the JCC swimming pool the summer before kindergarten.

To my longtime Chicago friend, who I was introduced to because we were both working and living in the same building, and didn’t know it. She makes me feel like I have family in Chicago, even though mine live out of town.

To my newest Chicago friend, who asked me out on a “girl date” after meeting me in person for two minutes at a Passover break-fast; we clicked so fast you’d think we’ve known each other 10 years, not 10 months.

To my mom, who’ll sing Yiddish folk songs to her grandsons for hours on end if it will make them smile, who has taught me to always join in a hora at any simcha, and insists that labor with me — a 9 pound 11 ounce bundle of joy —“wasn’t really that bad.”

To the family who I grew up across the street from, and spent as much time in their house as I did my own — sharing Shabbat dinners, competing in Super Mario Brothers tournaments, and playing kickball in the backyard. Jewish Canadian transplants, their sensibility matched ours to a tee. We were related not by blood, but by love.

Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone. Hope all your days are filled with love.

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Literally falling in love

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02/09/2015

Literally falling in love photo 2

For the woman I love, I jumped out of a plane at 14,000 feet.  

It's the biggest leap of faith I've ever made. Now I've done some pretty crazy things for love. I've gone camping (on purpose!), I've woken up before 7 a.m. (also on purpose!), and I even once wore a pair of brown loafers (not on purpose!).

But when my girlfriend asked me to take her skydiving for her 30th birthday, I pointed behind her and said, "What in the world can that be!?" and ran away.

While running, I thought to myself that I would do anything for love, but I won't do that. And then I did. Because I ran out of breath and she caught up to me. I told my girlfriend, let's call her Winter, because that's her name (I'll give you a moment to get all your obvious comments out of the way. You done? Great. Good. On we go!) that I would of course jump out of a plane with her and drop at terminal velocity for what will easily be the longest 60 seconds of my life and hopefully not be the last 60 seconds of my life.

Truth be told, it really wasn't that difficult of a decision. Remember, I had already gone camping with her and that was in tents. Good night everybody! Heh heh. See skydiving had always intrigued me but I never had anyone to do it with nor did I care enough to find someone. Well that someone had already found me and it turns out I had been dating her for over a year and had loved her for even longer.

I decided to do copious amounts of research prior to the jump (copious is a word which here means: read one article) and learned that when you jump, you really don't get that stomach drop feeling that you get while riding a roller coaster. So when the time came to actually go skydiving, I was actually looking very forward to it.

Winter was actually more nervous than me. Although my body didn't get the memo and wouldn't stop sweating. I learned this when my instructor who was tied to me told me I needed to stop sweating. Once we were at the jumping point, Winter went first and let me tell you, there is nothing quite like the experience of watching someone you love plummet out of a plane at 14,000 feet. That's one time you really see gravity in action which is a heavy situation that weighs down on me whenever I think about it. As far as my jump goes, there are few words to describe the exhilarating feeling of freefalling at 120mph, all the while screaming, "I regret nothing!!!"

Literally falling in love photo 1

Warning: this is about to get very sappy. I didn't even spill molasses so that's saying something. You have been warned.

Without Winter, I would have never gone skydiving and shared that wholly unique and incredible experience with her. It's absolutely wonderful that I can do such amazing, exciting activities with my best friend who just so happens to also be my girlfriend. Pretty sweet deal. She is an adventurer, a thrill seeker and an all-around amazing person. Why she is dating me, I have no idea.

The phrase 'opposites attract' is especially true for us because she is an extrovert and I don't want to talk about what I am. But because of this, I feel like I can do literally anything with her by my side. Like jump out of a plane for example.

Literally falling in love photo 3

What I wish everyone could experience is having the special someone that makes you an even better you. (You're already amazing because you're reading this). It doesn't even have to be a significant other. It can be a friend, a sibling, heck, it could even be you talking to yourself! For me, having an accountabili-buddy, as I like to call Winter, makes me able to do all the things I could never do by myself. She causes no stress to the point I forget the stress that should be accompanied activities like jumping out of a plane. It why when we did go skydiving, I wasn't scared. I wasn't nervous. I was happy. I was confident.

When I jumped, I was literally falling in love.

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43 and Counting

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02/06/2015

annice feb 15

The airport security guy was huge, at least 6 ft. 4 in. and a good 275 pounds. When he stopped me as I went beep-free though the metal detector, I was confused.

“So.” He growled.

I looked up at him smiling. “Hello! How are you?” I knew I sounded overly gleeful and guilty as my mind began to frantically recall my packing process. Full size Toms toothpaste tube? Sea salt spray in an offending over 3-oz. aerosol? A kidney to be sold on the black market? No. I was sure I had left those all safely at home.

“Sir?”

“So. What do you know about Jimi?”

I realized he was looking at my shirt with the iconic Jimi Hendrix headshot.

“Purple Haze …?” I replied weakly.

“Everyone knows ‘Purple Haze’ – name another one.”

“Uh, I don’t know…”

“Where was he born?”

“Uh, California?”

“Seattle.”

“Oh! Yeah! I knew that! I went to Seattle this summer and visited that Museum where they have all the Rock and Roll Hall of …”

“You need to know more about Jimi wearing that shirt.”

“Well, to be totally honest, it’s my kids T-shirt.” I lied.

He raised his eyebrows, well trained in deception detection. “Your kid’s T-shirt, huh?”

And with that I was summarily dismissed. My face burned. It was like Jimi himself was rolling his bloodshot eyes at me. I felt like a total poser. My camouflage pants didn’t help the situation. I tried to shake it off. It was an impulse purchase! I thought Jimi would help make me look hip and young – the emphasis being on young seeing as the day before I had turned 43 years old.

Being newly 43, the timing of being called out was especially painful. (And the fact that I was seduced into my purchase of the iconic image mainly because it had been located in the juniors department and it fit, just made it all the more worse.) It was then I realized the level of desperation I had sunken to in an effort to cling to my fledging youth.  It’s true. I’m getting older, and I’m starting to feel it in my bones.

So what’s a girl to do? I’ve talked about it before – I have my limits. No knives, no needles. I’m not looking to lift my boobs with anything other than a bra. 

I blogged about aging right around when I was turning 39; I reread it initially to not be repetitive. I was complaining about the usual – dark circles, wrinkles, brown spots, wanting to be a redhead (“fiery” I specified) once I began to gray … I still have all of those things going on, plus additions (like, the gray is actually starting to happen.) 

Rereading who I was four years ago doesn’t feel much different than who I am today. My spirit still feels young even though my body might be betraying my age. So after the four-year review, I’m starting to rethink my embarrassment and create a do-over in my mind. 

“So. What do you know about Jimi?”

“He was hot, played the guitar, died tragically young of an overdose.” (This much I know.)

“You need to know more about Jimi wearing that shirt.”

“Not really. Last time someone told me what I could wear was when I was 3. I can wear whatever I want. I’m 43 and free!”

And with that I would flip my fiery red mane, tighten my grip on my hot pink carry on and saunter confidently in my own wrinkled, spotted and saggy skin wearing my Jimmy, er, Jimi Hendricks T-shirt like I had every right to – because I do. 

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To Naomi, always at the right time

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02/05/2015

Rivka Naomi

For two weeks, the midwife expected me to call at any moment to meet at the hospital, so the day she finally gave up on predicting, you decided to enter, unrushed, yet rushing to be here all the same. Calm yet exuberant.

My body, breathing steadily, walked outside to hail a cab, and realized with abrupt surprise that a cab would not do. To everyone’s chagrin and disbelief, I insisted on an ambulance, and proceeded to launch into intense contractions the moment we took off. “They’re one on top of another,” I heard one frum (observant) Hatzalah (emergency medical worker) man note to another.

“Imminent delivery!” They yelled as they hurriedly rushed me into the hospital on the stretcher, bypassing all fantastical triage rooms galore, and I grinned, inwardly. What a fantastic way to come into this world: ” Imminent delivery!!!”

“Pant!” intoned my midwife, rushing to my side.

“Breathe deep!” disagreed my doula.

And I, caught in the middle at a most inconvenient time, grabbed onto the latter and relaxed through the most difficult of it all, except it wasn’t.

When you came out, crying, I didn’t mind the screams.

“Don’t worry,” they assured me—which I wasn’t—for you were alive.

Squirmy, alive, and—it’s a girl!

“A girl!” I laughed. ” Wait until my husband hears!” (He was still checking me in.)

“Is she healthy?” I asked anxiously.

“Yes,” they assured me again, smiling. She was.

So a year goes by and while all the stories of “they grow up so fast” are true, so are also the untold stories of “they grow up so slow!”

What a slow, difficult, beautiful, opening year.

Just beginning. It’s just beginning. And we’re all, finally, starting to coalesce.

You, me, sister, abba (Dad).

Your laughter and your silly grin, your funny dances and your excited squeals. The way you will do everything cautiously in order to avoid being hurt, yet the way you climb ferociously over everything.

You add everything to the rhythm and the movement of our life.

It’s just beginning, Naomi Rachel. It’s just beginning.

Welcome to our world.

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Workout Anywhere: Mini Bands

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02/03/2015

Squeezing in exercise throughout the day is a great way to fit in some fitness. One simple way to fit it in is with mini-bands. You can buy them from Perform Better or your local sporting goods store should carry them. I like them because they are inexpensive, easy to use, and portable. I’m usually the odd ball trainer at the gym with one band wrapped around my wrist like it’s a fashion accessory.

Check out my short video (yes, that’s me with a beard) with a few easy exercises you can do anywhere.

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Winter 2015 Jewish Sports News

 Permanent link
02/02/2015

Winter 2015 Jewish Sports News photo

Congratulations to Super Bowl champions the New England Patriots, whose owner Robert Kraft and star receiver Julian Edelman (who went for over 100 yards receiving in the Super Bowl) have shown considerable passion for Israel. Kraft donated Jerusalem's major football field and Edelman was seen repping an AIPAC button on the sidelines this season. The Patriots also have Nate Ebner, a special teams player who recently saw his Ohio State Buckeyes win a National Championship.

In the NFL coaching carousel, after losing his job for struggling to command his team both on and off the field, former Chicago Bears Head Coach Marc Trestman has landed in Baltimore as the new offensive coordinator of the Ravens where he will work closely with Super Bowl-winning QB Joe Flacco.

Offensive linemen brothers Mitchell and Geoff Schwartz had solid seasons for the Cleveland Browns and New York Giants, respectively, while backups Gabe Carimi (Atlanta Falcons) and Brian De La Puente (Chicago Bears) saw action as well.

In basketball news, the season began with three Jewish players and we are down to one. Omri Casspi, despite injuries, has played well for the Sacramento Kings, while both Gal Mekel and Jordan Farmar look to catch on with new teams after being cut.

Jewish head coach David Blatt's Cleveland Cavaliers are beginning to show signs of life; the team made several trades adding role players and increasing the depth on the bench. The Cavs have won 10 straight games as of Jan. 31.

In the NHL, add Andre Burakovsky of the Washington Capitals to the list of hockey MOTs. Also, Jason Zucker is proving to be an up-and-coming player for the Minnesota Wild with 16 goals on the season including a game winner in mid-January. Mike Cammalleri is also having a strong season with 16 goals and 7 assists.

In baseball all eyes are on the youngsters. Joc Pederson saw a little bit of action at the end of last season for the L.A. Dodgers. We are hoping he is a breakout star this year. Also, Rob Kaminsky (St. Louis Cardinals) and Max Fried (Atlanta Braves) are rated in the top 100 prospects. Fried is a former top pick and the main piece in the trade that sent Justin Upton to the San Diego Padres. All three have a chance to be major stars in the Bigs.

Detroit Tigers Manager Brad Ausmus will also be on watch as the Tigers made some moves this offseason.

It was a busy offseason for Jewish Major Leaguers who joined new teams. Check out TheGreatRabbino.com for more information.

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