OyChicago blog

Becoming a 30-something

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08/30/2013

Cheryl Jacobs photo 2x

The big 3-0 is looming ever close. I only have a month and a half left in my 20s. Sad. I’m handling it the best way I know how— running away to a foreign country for the big day. I figure that if I have to enter this next decade of my life, I can do it in gluttonous style. I’ll be drinking good wine, eating gelato, pasta and pizza in beautiful northern Italy! Five pound weight gain and turning 30 here I come!

So with such an auspicious birthday close to the horizon, I thought it was apropos to revisit one of my old blog posts, “My bucket list” and see what accomplishments I can tick of the list and a few new ones.

So let’s see…

Swim with the sharks? Nope.

Perfect my Spanish? Not really.

Write a historical fiction book? Definitely not.

Live in a city other than Chicago for a year? Almost. Jason got offered a job in Honolulu with his old company, but we ended up turning it down. So – no.

Become a bigger risk taker professionally? Yes! I can tick-off one item on my bucket list. While I’m really enjoying my new job, it definitely required a serious amount of risk taking to leave my old job. And this new job has been full of wonderful opportunities to grow and take charge of my work and career.

Two articles this morning really caught my attention for very different reasons. The first I’m sure many of you have read by now was about “The 9 Nanas.” A group of fabulous ladies who have been pooling resources for three plus decades to secretly help people in need in their community. These do-gooders didn’t even tell their husbands about their secret work! They started at 4 a.m. each morning while everyone else was sleeping and only got “caught” in the act of helping when one husband noticed some large withdrawals from the family bank account. Today, the nine nanas have contributed nearly $900,000 to making a difference in their own community. They continue to help unsuspecting individuals while retaining their anonymity— that is till today when they went viral. You can read the full story here.

With so much negative in the news these days, it’s always nice to hear about the good. These women prove that selfless individuals do exist and that everyone can make a difference, especially when we pool our resources and come together as a community. Sounds familiar … JUF … the power of collective giving … ?

The second article was simply a list of islands I’ve never heard of before that I now want to visit. If you share my travel bug, you might be excited about this list.

So in honor of turning 30, I’m inspired to add two more items to my bucket list. Visit a remote island and complete a secret project that helps someone in need. Now if only I can get item No. 11: bake a delicious cake and eating the whole thing myself without feeling guilt.

See you on the other side of 20-30 something! 

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Holy Affleck, Batman!

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08/29/2013

Holy Affleck, Batman! photo

If anyone’s happy that Miley Cyrus has claimed every headline on the Internet this past week, it’s Ben Affleck. Affleck’s casting as Bruce Wayne/Batman in the forthcoming Man of Steel sequel tentatively titled Batman vs. Superman was the dominant form of our collective social media ire for the entire weekend. Then Hannah Montana twerking with Teddy Bears and depicting sex acts with a foam finger happened.

I’ll admit: there’s plenty of need for public discourse regarding Cyrus’ performance and more than what’s needed on Affleck’s casting. Personally, however, I’d rather talk about the latter – because I am a nerd. Also, I am a Jewish nerd, and as we near Rosh Hashanah, I find myself inclined to defend the heck out of Batfleck.

When news of Affleck’s casting as Bruce Wayne broke, word spread fast and the early reaction was exceedingly poor. It appeared as if most people had suffered societal amnesia. Scott Beggs on Film School Rejects put it best:

Try to picture this: it’s ten years from now, and Ben Affleck has shaken off the hatred he earned for signing up to play a superhero by carefully choosing his acting and directing projects. In a rebound of public opinion, he’s delivered several trenchant performances — fulfilling the potential he showed back in the 90s — and crafted several prestigious films that prove his salt as a storyteller. With that, welcome to 2013, ‘Daredevil’ haters. It’s good to have you here.

Are Affleck and JLo still together? How long do you think we’ll be in Iraq for? And gosh, this band Coldplay is really catching on.

The real question is where is this Affleck hate coming from? Less than six months ago he was the toast of Hollywood, winning a Best Picture Oscar for Argo while the masses cried out against his snub of a Best Director nomination. He has worked tirelessly since 2006 to get to this point, refusing action and romance roles and gravitating toward dramas and thrillers, not to mention launching his feature directing career, which resulted in three excellent movies in three attempts (Gone Baby Gone, The Town and Argo). Gone, baby, gone were the disastrous years of 2003 and 2004 when he starred in Daredevil, Paycheck, Jersey Girl, Surviving Christmas and yes, the national punch line, Gigli. Gone was the pretty boy image of Armageddon and Pearl Harbor. Gone were the Kevin Smith days and attempts at lesser comedy.

Except not, apparently. The news of Affleck becoming the fifth actor to portray Batman on the big screen immediately snapped everyone back to the Daredevil days. I get the thought process: Affleck was once a superhero, it turned out badly, ergo, Affleck should never play a superhero ever again, let alone Batman, coolest of superheroes. That said, I find this logic … faulty.

First of all, if you’re still sore about Daredevil, get over it. Daredevil was not going to be a great superhero movie independent of Affleck. Daredevil was bad because it was Daredevil (and because Colin Farrell played a bald dude who throws knives), not because of Ben Affleck. Also, it has a 45% on Rotten Tomatoes, meaning, on average, 45 people out of 100 liked the movie on the whole.

Second, I know fans are particularly sensitive to who gets cast in superhero films and we especially don’t like it when someone who played one superhero plays another. But for every Halle Berry playing Storm and Catwoman, there’s a Chris Evans who played the Human Torch and went on to become Captain America. It’s about the film and its vision, not the actor and his or her reputation. Heath Ledger as the Joker? The star of A Knight’s Tale, 10 Things I Hate About You and Brokeback Mountain? The Internet was not happy in July 2006 with a heartthrob type being cast as a legendary villain. You tell me how that went.

I personally feel intrigued by the casting thanks to what Batman vs. Superman director Zack Snyder had to say about Affleck’s casting, which should give you a sense of his vision:

"(Ben) has the acting chops to create a layered portrayal of a man who is older and wiser than Clark Kent and bears the scars of a seasoned crimefighter, but retain the charm that the world sees in billionaire Bruce Wayne."

Let’s play the “what if” game for a moment. Let’s pretend the 1997 film Batman & Robin didn’t exist, and news broke that Snyder had cast George Clooney as Batman in Batman vs. Superman. Replace “Ben” in Snyder’s quote with “George.” What do you think the dominate reaction would be? Inspired? Brilliant?

Affleck has reinvented himself and few in the public spotlight can do that and succeed. Hate to mention it again, but look at Miley Cyrus. Image and perception are tough to improve; the response to Affleck’s casting proves as much. Even for those of us far, far removed from Hollywood, reinventing one’s self takes a lot of reflection and even more courage. People will say things and they won’t easily – if ever – forget you used to be a certain way. Affleck was clearly unhappy with his career choices. He did something about it. And to think of it, reinvention is something Bruce Wayne knows a little bit about.

On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we are called to return to ourselves. We are called to think about the person we’ve been and the things we’ve done. We take on the challenge of self-reflection in order to renew ourselves and our sense of purpose, to redefine who we are and who we want to be. And we ask others (and one particular Other) to look beyond what we’ve done and to support us in this new year as we try to be the best version of ourselves.

You don’t have to like the Affleck casting. Maybe you’ve never liked him period, and now he’s been cast in a movie you think you’ll like. You have every right to be skeptical from now until July 17, 2015; who’s to say a Batman vs. Superman movie will even work? But Affleck’s past won’t have anything to do with it. No one, not even a public figure, wants to be criticized for their past mistakes, especially when they’ve done so much to move beyond them.

Forgive Daredevil. Forgive the hotshot astronaut playing with animal crackers on Liv Tyler’s belly. Forgive whatever Gigli was about. Forgive yourself, and forgive your closest people for their past wrongs. Then move on with an open mind and open heart – and go become Batman.

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Reflecting on more than five years of Oy!

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08/28/2013

Oy!Chicago 1

There's no Oy! without you.

Libby, my co-founding editor, and I wrote those words on the About Oy! page over five years ago, in April 2008, when we first launched Oy!Chicago. (I guess technically, there's no Oy! without yo!, but I digress). It was so exciting to see this vision come to life: an online space for Jewish conversation among Chicago 20- and 30-somethings—a place where Jews my own age could say what was on their minds, share their life experiences and engage with one another.

Since then, many things have changed in the world, in our community and at Oy!Chicago. From my perspective, one of the greatest and most rewarding parts of all of this has been watching as our bloggers have taken on new challenges and careers, traveled to amazing places, gotten married, started families and so much more. How cool is it that we have this all documented through Oy!? Many of our bloggers have been with us from the beginning, others have moved on, and lots new faces have joined our team. I have had the privilege of working with three incredibly talented co-editors—Libby, Cheryl and now Steven. Over the years we have had a total of 50 regular contributors, plus countless guest bloggers—that is a community in and of itself!—and reached more than 250,000 unique visitors.

Through all the changes and redesigns and new writers, one thing has remained constant: There is no Oy! without you. Without your input, comments and participation, Oy! is just oy….

Last night, our team of bloggers got together to reflect on how we're doing and to brainstorm what comes next for Oy! as we move into the new year. I left the meeting feeling inspired and reinvigorated—we've got some great stuff coming up on the horizon.

It also inspired me to write to all of you—Oy! readers, friends of Oy! readers, Oy! bloggers past and present—to ask you what you think.

What is your relationship with Oy!?
What would you like to see on Oy!—what would get you commenting and sharing more?
What stops you from commenting on posts?
Do you want to get together for more events?
What else?

Please tell us by commenting below, answering our short survey or emailing me privately at Stefanie@oychicago.com. Seriously, tell us what you think—I promise, we'll listen.

And lastly, I want to invite you to contribute to Oy!, as a guest blogger or a regular monthly contributor. We are always looking for new bloggers to join the Oy! team—you don't have to be a professional writer or a professional Jew, just a Jew-ish Chicagoan who has something to say and brings a unique perspective. All our bloggers are volunteers, but they get great exposure, an opportunity to write about what they love and the chance to be part of our awesome team.

And remember, there's no Oy! without yo(u).

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Snot a Big Deal

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08/27/2013

Snot a Big Deal photo

I’ve never been a fan of the first day of school. I’ve never been a fan of the first day of anything, really, be it camp, a job, college classes, online classes, or even classes I’m teaching. It’s not all bad, though – I do love the scent of brand new school supplies and being the center of attention for a few fleeting moments as my mom forces me to pose for awkward first day photos. (And it doesn’t matter that we’re in different states. Thanks a lot, Skype.)

Speaking of my mom, she’ll never let me forget that day when I came home from school (I think it was in third grade), threw my backpack across the room in a dramatic act of nine-year-old rebellion, collapsed in a heap on the floor and proclaimed that I hated school and was never going back.

Anyone who knows me realizes how laughable this is, considering I am and always have been school’s number one fan. If I could join some kind of cheerleading squad and do cartwheels celebrating school, I would. But I would not do them for the first day. I would do an anti-cartwheel, in fact. I’m not entirely sure what that would look like, but it would not be pleasant.

While a lot of people get excited being in new environments and meeting a bunch of new people all at once, I get fairly terrified. Not necessarily of the actual environments or people, but of what could be coming next in regards to them. That day in third grade, for example, I was seated next to this gross boy who picked his nose all day long and stuck his snot along the side of his desk, almost like he was leaving a trail in case he got lost coming back from the water fountain or something. His desk was next to my desk. I was not thrilled. And so my brain went, “Emergency! What if you’re stuck sitting by him ALL YEAR? What if you accidentally touch his snot and get some kind of snot-related infection and DIE? What if all the other kids think it’s YOUR snot and don’t talk to you EVER AGAIN?”

I’d make myself so nervous about the future of the snot (and the future of everything else) that I’d wreck the day and come home horribly freaked out by things that had not actually happened yet, and probably never would.

Now that I’m older and wiser and know that I get like this when in new situations, I’m able to spot the warning signs and get a grip before things spiral out of control. Still, even as the teacher, there are always what-ifs that freak me out. Luckily, they’re not usually snot-related anymore (now I control the seating chart [insert evil laugh here]) and now, I’m motivated to deal with them. Setting my concerns aside and consciously deciding to wait to worry about them if/when they ever actually happen makes me a good role model for my students and a far less annoying person for my mother to deal with at the end of the day.

If you ever find yourself getting bogged down by a gross person (or a scary boss, terrible selection of food, ginormous textbook, man-eating syllabus, etc.) on your first day of something, try to take it with a grain of salt. Sometimes things appear like they could be a little scary. Sometimes they actually are scary (I think we all know that ginormous textbooks aren’t messing around), but a lot of the time they’re no big deal. By focusing so much on Snot Kid (who only sat by me for that first week, thank goodness), I missed a lot of opportunities to notice amazing things about third grade. But don’t worry – I was still doing cartwheels for it by the end of the year.

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“Be Brave.”

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For Rosh Hashanah
08/26/2013

“Be Brave”. photo

In my mind, the words circle in a constant loop as I look out onto the river, look across at the Marina City towers. Everything is calm, save for the butterflies in my stomach. Every change is a leap of faith, big or small. You trust you’ll land on your feet. You take stock in your competence, your strengths. Deal with your weaknesses later. It’s time for a change.

Hands folded in my lap, I sit on my balcony and try my best to be brave, to adopt my mantra. It’s the night before starting my new job. For one reason or another, transitions aren’t my strong suit. I’m not good at navigating the in-between. I’m neurotic, what can I say. I have shpilkes, that’s for certain.  

I’m always anticipating the end or the beginning of things. Often I’ll try and picture the future as a map … plot out the points, delineate a new path or two, but as we all know, that’s all for naught.

Thinking about the days ahead, I feel a bit frenzied when I consider entering a new work environment, the lone new staffer. I consider navigating the sea of undefined expectations and wonder if I made the right choice, to leave a job that suited me as well as it did, for a job that is more out on a limb for me,  but I have faith will be satisfying, challenging and fulfilling.

I shake my head, shake the feeling. I remember a few years ago, sitting on my bed in Grenoble, France, recalling a time when I felt very much the same. I’d just moved across the ocean; some would argue without thinking it all the way through.

Thinking about finding new friends, jumping through bureaucratic hoops, working in a school environment, which I hadn’t done before … the totality of what I took on by myself seemed overwhelming those first few weeks. I remember, clear as day, a point where I didn’t feel scared anymore. Sitting on my cheerful white and yellow polka dot comforter, holding myself together. “Be brave.” It was the only resonating thought. I didn’t have a choice. And so I was.  For me, it’s all about energy and patience. Taking time to learn about others, alternating taking the lead and going with the flow.

Moving toward the Jewish New Year, there’s so much “new” to think about: new family members, new jobs, new things to celebrate, new tasks to take on. It’s a good time to realign and regroup.

Last year was a busy one. It was a whirlwind of adjusting to city living, a reverse commute, trying to make time for this that and the other. So basically, nothing too out of the ordinary. I look forward to taking advantage of the extra time I have in my day to refocus, to tackle some things I haven’t been brave enough to tackle in the past; to invest some stock in the power of positive thinking and hope for the best; do something that takes me out on a limb; do something that makes me nervous.

Here’s to a sweet new year, and here’s to figuring it all out along the way.

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13 Jewish Lessons from Popular TV Shows

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08/23/2013

13 Jewish Lessons from Popular TV Shows 1x

Who needs Hebrew school when you have cable?

 

1. There’s Yiddish 101 on The Nanny…

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-Where is Miss Fine anyway?
-Oh, she's upstairs getting "farpitzed".
-What does that mean?
-You know, dressed.
-I thought that was "farblandzhet".
-No sir, that means 'confused'.
-No man, that's "farcached".
-Then what's "vershimmelt"?
-...I think that's her uncle.

A classic show that also offered lessons in Jewish cuisine…

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And even Jewish dating.

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2. Glee has a few good lessons on Jewish dating, too…

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As well as Jewish music.


3. For Jewish history, we can rely on accurate modern retellings by our Friends…

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4. And by everyone’s favorite talking babies…

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Full video

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5. To master the intricacies of Jewish geography, there’s Girls

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Full video


6. And Will & Grace

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Full video


7. And Rhoda

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Full video


8. Whose parent show, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, also deserves a mention for tackling anti-Semitism on 1970s network TV…

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9. And while we’re on a more serious note, Grey’s Anatomy’s Dr. Cristina Yang-Rubenstein’s Judaism may seem like just a punch line…

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But she actually teaches the Seattle Grace gang about sitting shiva in a pretty moving scene:

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Full video


10. On the lighter (and maybe less sensitive) side, Raising Hope serves up an entire Judaism primer in this 2-minute musical number:

And inspires viewers to “Rock the Torah” in this one:

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Full video


11. Need a little more guidance? Sex and the City will help you talk the talk…

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And walk the walk.

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12. Weeds will help even the youngest learners understand scripture…

 


13. And if all else fails, just remember…

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Whistleblower

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08/22/2013

Whistleblower photo

During my first week of college freshman year, I received a plethora of campus maps, activity and club lists, some guidance on picking courses, condoms and a rape whistle. For four years, I dutifully carried the whistle on my key ring.

At 18, I entered into a then-unknown world in which drinking in excess was the norm, and a woman’s safety was up for grabs. During one of my first nights of the university’s “Welcome Week,” which was essentially a week of ongoing partying with campus-sanctioned events sprinkled in, I witnessed a girl passed out unconscious on the front lawn of a rumbling, party-filled house with no one to speak for her. I called an ambulance and they arrived with haste, thankfully. That same night, I found myself repeatedly calling and checking in on my new friend, as she had wandered off drunkenly with a guy she’d just met.

I did not always make the perfect/safe choices I could have during my time as an undergrad. However, as a young girl on campus, I often feared for my safety at night. Call it Jewish paranoia or call it good sense, I spent a lot of time managing and negotiating travel after dark. Whether I needed to get home late from a night of studying at the library, or wanted safe passage after a night out with friends, maintaining my safety was a chore. I developed a mixed routine of calling a late-night safe cab, making friends walk me home or talking on the phone with friends or family until I got to my apartment. After dark, a college campus becomes a silent war zone for women; much of the same can be said for women living in urban areas such as Chicago.

I am no stranger to living in an urban environment, nor am I a timid resident. I prefer urban environments and always have. During college, I studied abroad and traveled around Europe with little hesitation. I’ve lived in Chicago, proper, for several years after college. However, I’ve had numerous moments in the past several years in which my heart has leapt into my throat with fear or panic from sketchy encounters.

In a recent RedEye opinion article entitled, “Take women’s safety seriously,” contributor Niki Fritz examines women’s safety on public transportation in Chicago and her feelings around the lack thereof. Fritz recalls a ride on the “L” in which she witnesses a nearby passenger touching himself in her presence.

“Panicked, I jumped off the train five stations before my stop,” Fritz said. “I felt violated and scared—but also kind of initiated to the ‘big city.’ This was what my mother warned me about; this was part of being a woman in Chicago.

“As Chicago comedian Ever Mainard explains in a memorable joke,” Fritz added, “every woman has that moment on the ‘L,’ walking home or waiting for a bus when they see someone suspicious and think, ‘Welp… this is it. This is my rape.’”

Similarly, while I was abroad, I took a spring break trip with a friend through France and Spain. One night, after our late arrival in Nice, we settled into our dilapidated French hotel and scoured the nearby area for a restaurant. We were surprised to find that parts of Nice—a well-known, luxury resort destination—had some rough neighborhoods. We found a small, empty bistro near our hotel and sat down for a tired dinner. In the middle of eating, my friend alerted me to the strange man outside of our restaurant window, touching himself while we ate. To this day, I will always remember Nice’s glittering pebble beaches, its beautiful buildings, and the man who joined us for dinner without an invitation. That sense of “violation” that Fritz describes is still palpable.

Just last week, I walked through my neighborhood alone in the early evening to pick up some take-out. A suspicious-looking man crossed my path and seemed to be walking to an apartment building. I passed him and turned back to look and noticed he’d changed directions and was now walking behind me. I began envisioning his attack and my demise. I sped up to walk close behind a couple strolling down the street. I thought to myself, “They’ll hear me when I scream.”

Embarrassed, I recalled the story to a friend the next day, and she shrugged and said she’d had similar moments. She said intuition is a powerful thing, and it’s worth following. I was both comforted and disturbed to learn I wasn’t crazy.

I’ve had many discussions with female friends, in which we negotiate which neighborhoods are safe to walk late at night, which “L” stops can be ridden alone after dark, and when it’s time to call a cab. Each of us, it seems, sets artificial time deadlines in which we won’t roam freely alone in the city at night.

Women are in a constant dialogue with each other, themselves, and their environment about how to keep themselves safe. Unfortunately, much of the public discourse surrounding rape and violence against women is not directed at helping women, but rather blaming them. If we’re not blaming women, we’re reminding them to be gatekeepers for men’s behavior or to avoid men who can’t control themselves.

“I also felt this creeping kind of shame,” Fritz said. “Despite knowing that some dude jacking off on the train had nothing to do with me, I kept asking myself what I did wrong. Should my neckline have been higher? Should I have had a male chaperone? Should I make sure I’m dead bolted into my studio before dusk?”

Similarly, I button myself up, clutch my cell phone, my keys (a weapon) or pepper spray, walking briskly with hope and an appearance of purpose.

Fritz laments bits of advice warning women to keep their eyes open or refrain from taking public transportation alone at night. I agree with her. Authorities (and our loving parents) are advising women to avoid danger. However, this advice fails to address the bigger problem at hand: We continue to live in a society in which it’s OK for women to be afraid.

As Fritz said, “Instead of asking women to ‘protect themselves,’ we need to end rape culture: the mentality that makes women’s bodies public property, things to be commented on, touched and violated in public.”

While we can “blow the whistle” on individual cases witnessed at “L” stations and on street corners, a bigger discussion needs to take place. This discussions needs to take place early in schools; women and men need to be taught early and often (much like Chicago voters) about what it takes to make society safe for women.

I wish my university had handed both my female and male classmates that whistle freshman year with instructions to raise some hell. 

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I Survived My First Summer Not at Camp

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Tips for how to stay sane when life leaves you campless
08/21/2013

I Survived My First Summer Not at Camp photo 1x

My first summer at camp in 1999

There are few, if any, things that I adore more than summer camp. If you have read any of my previous posts, you know this as I am pretty confident that I mention it in at least 95 percent of my pieces. This summer, I had to deal with the (almost) always inevitable summer that any camp-obsessed person dreads more than the summer ending---the first summer spent not at overnight camp.

Most of my friends said their goodbyes to the days of making friendship bracelets, lunches filled with crazy dress up and singing in the dining hall, and those cliché yet perfect nights under the starry sky sometime between our high school years and the summer that they "needed" to get their first internship (you know, in order to be successful and have a career and all that jazz). However, I stuck it out for the long haul: eight years as a camper and six years on staff.

Unfortunately, one aspect of initiating yourself into the real world and the work force is the absence of a summer break. Unless you are really smart and decided to be a teacher or another profession that gives you summer break, being a working person means summer now lacks something that has always been there for me in the past: two or more months spent in a euphoric bubble separate from the real world.

I Survived My First Summer Not at Camp photo 2

Starting pretty much the day that summer 2012 ended, I really thought that the majority of the following summer would be spent in hysterics. Dramatic? Most definitely. True? Shockingly not as much as I anticipated. This summer had its high points and low points. Chicago in the summer is wonderful (as I had heard), but there were of course times when I missed my summer home. Organizing spreadsheets and expense reports does not compare to planning programs for campers. Eating some sort of lame makeshift salad at my desk doesn't even come close to eating camp’s famous grilled cheese and tomato soup in the dining hall. And even worse, when it rains in the real world, there is no rainy day schedule.

There were many FOMO (fear of missing out) moments, but in the end, I made it. Here are my tips for all camp-obsessed individuals on how to survive your first summer in the real world (or at least how I managed to do it):

Change into casual clothes the second you get home from work
Is one of the many highlights of the season of summer being able to live in Nike shorts/leggings and white v-neck t-shirts? Of course. So, the second you get home from your place of work, change into casual attire. Thank me later.

Go to as many concerts and cool events as possible
This is helpful because then you can think to yourself “but if I was at camp, how would I be able to see [insert band/artist that you have seen multiple times, but you continue to use as justification to why your summer is “still unreal”].” It kind of, sort of, mostly works, sometimes. At least it did for the "Legends of Summer Tour".

Travel
I had my first summer weekend in NYC and fit in a road trip to Cape Cod. Try to take solace in seeing new places during the summertime.

Immediately exit any location that deems it appropriate to play camp songs on repeat
If you are as lucky as I am, your place of work will somehow, seemingly have every camp song on loop playing in your communal space every day. I swear if I had a dollar for every time I went to go to grab a yogurt and heard “Wonderwall” fading into “Drift Away” it would constitute as a pretty generous summer bonus.

Make sure to watch your favorite camp movies often
It is hard to not feel infinitely better as Beth does roll call for “David…Ben Gurion?” at Camp Firewood or as Lars congratulates Mr. Simms for being the fattest kid in camp. This truly always makes me smile.

Visit camp
Visiting three times in the span of 10 weeks may have been excessive, but I'm over it. With all this being said, I hope that this summer ritual doesn't become a trend, but if it does, I guess it's time to channel Destiny's Child and "keep on surviving".

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Gone, Gone, Gone

 Permanent link
08/20/2013

Editor's note: Jamie was brave enough to share her story of learning she had breast cancer with Oy! last month. You can read that story here and follow all of Jamie's posts on her blog, J-Strong.

Gone, Gone, Gone photo 1

It happened. As much as I knew it was coming, it still seemed unexpected and definitely unwelcome. Sunday brought LOTS of shedding, enough to the point of buying a lint brush. I still thought I’d have a few days, but when I woke up Monday morning to a pillow full of hair and a tingling scalp, I guess I knew it was time. Luckily, my wig fitting appointment was scheduled for that afternoon.

The thing is, I thought we would just be picking it up to be proactive. I got in the shower with my phone playing music on shuffle per usual. I washed everywhere else there was to wash until I could no longer avoid getting my head wet. The second the water hit, my hair started falling into the tub in clumps. As fast as the clumps were gathering, so were the tears streaming. I’m not just talking a calm cry; I’m talking a full-blown, uncontrollable meltdown.

What made the sobbing pick up pace was when I stopped to breathe and realized what song was playing in the background. It was the same song that came on the radio the night I received my diagnosis. It is the song that has had the ability to make me crumble every time I’ve heard it since that day. But the thing is, I love the song! I haven’t removed it from my phone; I don’t skip to the next song when it comes on.

I am a firm believer that everyone needs a good cry once in a while and that it solves nothing to bottle everything up. The fact that I barely cried in the early weeks of learning I have breast cancer was so unlike me. I am an incredibly emotional person. I cry watching commercials, I cry in job interviews … you name it – appropriate or not – I’ve cried. The fact that I wasn’t letting it all out was beyond me. I’m not sure if I was trying to be strong; it’s one thing to put on a brave face in front of others, but I wasn’t even letting myself cry when I was alone. It was strange.

That is why, subconsciously, I think I let “Gone, Gone, Gone” by Phillip Phillips stay on my playlist. I think I wanted it there to force the tears out. The day after my diagnosis, my husband and I went to see Phillip Phillips perform as part of my birthday present. Lucky for me, a concert is a great environment to let it all out with nobody noticing – not even Joe. But you better believe that when that song came on I bawled my eyes out.

Don’t take me the wrong way. It isn’t even about the lyrics. I know I am going to be around for a long time to come. Nobody needs to worry about loving me long after I’m gone, gone, gone. But that night driving home from teaching dance (and answering the doctor’s phone call in the bathroom before proceeding to teach the rest of the class), when you get in the car and such a song comes on and you know you’re headed home to tell your fiancé at the time and parents that you have cancer … well, it’s certainly a song that will move you to tears.

So anyway, standing in the shower exactly four months to the day I was diagnosed, the same frickin’ song playing, I let go. I can’t even keep count of how many people have told me it will grow back. I know that it will, but that doesn’t make it suck any less. When you stand there with the water beating down on you and watch it all fall out and physically feel it doing so, it sucks. Nobody wants to be bald. I couldn’t even look in the mirror.

Now I am definitely exaggerating. For what was falling out, I told my mom it was 75 percent of my hair. I still had plenty, but it was starting to come out from the roots on top and it was devastating. I lied around watching TV for a little bit (my new guilty pleasure Devious Maids distracted me for a while). I finally had enough of feeling sorry for myself and decided since we had time to kill before my wig appointment, I would get dressed, throw on my Cubs hat and head to the mall for a bit. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the energy to get much shopping done. We went to McDonald’s and even a large Diet Coke didn’t taste good to me. That never happens.

The appointment wasn’t so bad. Before we even got started, the women insisted on seeing pictures and hearing about the wedding. Without hesitation, we kept talking as she cut what was left of my hair and shaved the rest. I had a G.I. Jane moment and didn’t even mind how I looked. It was not nearly as bad as I had anticipated. I felt like a bad ass and I still even felt pretty. Not enough to the point to walk around proudly with a bald head, but still.

Prepping the wig was a different story. It was such a process. They put it on your head wet so it starts to mold and they start cutting and shaping. I couldn’t remember where my hair had parted or where my bangs started and how long they were. I was not at all helpful in making the wig look like me. I was getting anxious because once it was ready and I would take it off and try putting it on, it wasn’t in the right place. I was frustrated from trying too hard. I know I will begin to get used to it, but for now, I just feel like I am wearing a wig and therefore when I look in the mirror, that is what I see. At least I have found a new accessory to shop for. Bring on the hats.

Gone, Gone, Gone photo 2

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High summer and High Holidays

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Yom Tov menus get a hot new makeover
08/19/2013

Jewdish photo

Before you start preparing your favorite chicken soup, brisket with all the trimmings and other standard Rosh Hashanah fare you might want to check the calendar. It is still SUMMER and still hot!

Yep, the holidays are early this year and while I really do know that technically the holidays are exactly on time, but due to some quirky issues of the Jewish calendar, they are falling during the summer and the heat will be on.

Jewish holidays are usually the time the time when we remember family and past holidays. One way we do that is through food. We make family favorite recipes and the flavors and smells take us back in time. We recall family members and the good times we had with them. I love that about food and that is probably one of the reason I love my job. I can conjure up memories just by cooking recipes. This year, I cannot imagine a hot bowl of chicken soup and heavy brisket with potatoes. It is just too much with Midwest summer heat and I am looking forward lighter, brighter flavors.

This year will be different. I am going to create some new traditions. I am looking to the farmer’s markets and the weather to guide me to a delicious and flavor packed holiday season.

The High Holidays could not come at a better time for produce. The stalls will be overflowing with eggplants of all colors and sizes, tomatoes with flashy names, and colors to match like Purple Cherokee, Green Zebra, and Hillbilly. I can’t wait for the plums. They come in shades of purple, green, gold, and burgundy with floral sweet-tart flavor and luscious texture.

YES! The holidays are early and the food will be amazing and the memories lasting.

New Year and New Age Borscht

This vegetarian and healthy chilled borscht utilizes seasonal summer produce. The stock is a quick do-ahead flavorful vegetable stock that is loaded with flavor and bright-gorgeous ruby color. The veggies are healthy, crunchy, and delicious. This soup is a perfect way to start the new year and celebrate the season.

The stock can be made up to 5 days before serving and can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator.

For the stock

1 pound beets, peeled and grated
6 celery ribs, chopped
¼ cup chopped fresh dill
2 red onions, chopped
1 bay leaf
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
Several parsley stems
Several basil leaves
8 cups water

1. Place all of the ingredients in a large saucepan or stock pot and bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered for 45 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow to steep for 30 minutes.

2. Strain out the solids, pressing on them to get all of the liquid, and discard. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Chill the stock.

For the soup

2 pounds mixed beets, (red, candy stripe and golden-all easily found at most farmer’s markets and produce driven markets)
2 cups stemmed and finely chopped Tuscan kale
1/2 cup best quality extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 cups chiffonade-sliced red cabbage (cut into very thin ribbons)
1 cup thinly sliced celery
2 apples (your favorite variety), cored and cut into very thin julienne
1/8 teaspoon celery seed
2 large ripe tomatoes (go crazy here and use colorful heirloom tomatoes!), cut into dice
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper
Suggested garnishes: pomegranate arils (seeds), celery leaves, fresh basil leaves

Preheat oven to 350

1. Drizzle oil on the beets and wrap each beet in foil. Roast the beets in the preheated oven until tender and a fork can easily pierce the beets.

2. Cool the beets and then peel off the skins. Cut the beets into small dice. (the beets can be stored for up to 3 days before serving)

3. Before serving: Place all of the ingredients for the soup in a large mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper and toss with olive oil and lemon juice.

4. To serve: mound the soup ingredients in the center of each soup bowl and pour the chilled stock around the mound. Garnish with Pomegranate Arils and celery leaves.

Slow Braised Chile Spiced Lamb Shoulder with Apple-Beet “Butter”

When the heat is on and summer is still in full swing, I crave big, bold flavors. This tender, mouth-watering lamb is just the ticket to usher in the holidays. The lamb practically cooks itself while you sit back, relax, and prepare for the holidays. The whole dish can be made up to three days before serving. The lamb can be braised either in the oven or in a slow cooker.

Serves 8

1 3-pound boneless lamb shoulder
Olive oil for browning
1 large red onion, sliced
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
¼ cup water
4 ancho chilies, stemmed and seeded (ancho chilies are not spicy or hot! They are earthy and fruity, with flavor similar to a peppery raisin or plum)
6 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons cumin powder
1 tablespoon sweet smoked paprika
2 teaspoons coriander powder
¼ cup best quality extra virgin olive oil
1 bottle fruit red wine
2 cups chicken stock
Bouquet garni of fresh parsley stems, thyme stems, rosemary sprig
Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper

1. Place a large sauté pan, lightly coated with olive oil, over medium high heat. Pat dry the lamb should and season with salt and pepper. Brown the shoulder on all sides until dark and caramelized (about 5-7 minutes per side). Transfer the lamb to a rack and cool.

2. Add the onion, carrot and celery to the same pan (you may need a bit more oil) and sauté until browned. Be sure to season the vegetables with salt and pepper.

3. Heat the water in a small saucepan with the ancho chilies until the water comes to a simmer. Turn off the alt sit for about 15 minutes.

4. Puree the chilies and water with garlic, brown sugar and spices in a blender until they form a loose paste.

5. Place the lamb shoulder and vegetables in a casserole or Dutch oven. Rub and coat the lamb with the chili paste and stir any extra paste into the vegetables. Allow the lamb to marinate in the paste for at least 2 hours at room temperature or overnight.

6. Preheat the oven to 325 or slow cooker to HIGH.

7. Add the wine and chicken stock the roasting pan and cover with foil or lid , Braise the lamb for 2 ½ hours. Uncover and continue roasting, adding additional stock or water to prevent scorching and occasionally spooning juices over the lamb, for an additional 2 hours until the lamb is tender and very dark brown, or place the lamb, vegetables, wine and chicken stock into the insert for the slow cooker and cook for 5 hours until a fork can inserted can be pulled out easily.

8. Transfer the lamb to a cutting board and allow to rest. Strain the roasting pan, discarding the solids. Skim off the fat and reduce the liquid to a glaze. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

9. Cut the lamb into 2-inch chunks and pile onto a platter. Dollop with Beet-Apple Butter (see next recipe) and serve.

Apple-Beet "Butter"

This “butter” is a gorgeous and flavor packed thick puree that dresses up braised meats, poultry, and fish.

1 pound red beets, scrubbed and trimmed
1½ cups apple cider
¼ cup honey
2 tablespoons grated orange zest
Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper
Preheat oven to 350

1. Drizzle the beets with olive oil and wrap the beets, individually, in foil. Roast until very tender and a fork can easily pierce the beets (about 1 hour).

2. Cool, and then peel the skin off. Using the largest holes of a four-side grater or the medium shredding disk of a food processor, shred the beets.

3. Place the shredded beets in a heavy saucepan with the apple cider, honey and orange zest. Simmer gently over low heat, stirring often, until very thick, about 30 to 40 minutes (or longer, depending on how thick you want it). Let cool. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Sweet Corny Cakes

Hold the potatoes! Yeah, I know, Meat and Potatoes. But we live in the Midwest and it is corn season. Take advantage of local sweet corn and serve these do-ahead cakes with the braised lamb. The cakes will sop up all the juices and are the perfect vehicle for the tender meat.

Purchase the best tasting sweet corn from a local farmer’s market. The corn will be picked fresh and within hours of appearing at the market. I urge you to make the corn cakes the day you purchase the corn. The sweet sugars in the corn begin to convert to starch immediately after picking. For the best flavor, buy local and cook fast!

3 cups corn kernels (from about 6 ears of corn)
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ cup water
2 large eggs
1 medium red pepper, cut into small dice
½ cup chopped flat leaf parsley
2 teaspoons chopped jalapeno (optional)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly cracked pepper

1. Puree 1 cup of the corn kernels in a food processor or blender. Combine the pureed corn with all if the juices with the corn kernels and set aside.

2. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Add the water, eggs and corn mixture. Stir to combine but do not over-mix. Add the peppers, parsley, and salt and pepper.

3. Heat a large sauté pan or griddle, lightly coated with olive oil, over medium heat.

4. Add about 2 tablespoons of the batter to the pan per cake. When browned on 1 side (about 3 minutes), gently flip, and continue cooking on the other side. Transfer the cakes to a parchment lined baking sheet.

5. The cakes can be reheated before serving in a 300 degree oven until hot and can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days before serving.

Easier than Pie-Plum Galette

Rustic tarts are the way to go for summer desserts. They are delicious and do not take tons of time to put together or bake and you can take advantage of the seasons best produce.
For many home cooks, a pie crust is the final frontier. Pie and tart dough just frightens them. The thought of rolling out a crust and fitting it into a pan without tearing it is enough to make die-hard cooks—well, it is enough to make them purchase a store bought crust, even if they know it won’t taste good!

Fear not! This crust is supple, tender, homemade and easy as pie. C’mon people, gather your rolling pins and fearlessly roll that dough. You can do it!

The secret to a supple and easy to work with dough is the addition of an egg yolk. The yolk makes this dough very forgiving and manageable.

1½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp. granulated sugar
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
11 tablespoons very cold, non-hydrogenated shortening (I use Earth Balance)
1 large egg yolk
3 tablespoons ice cold water

1. Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or if mixing by hand, in a medium bowl). Cut the shortening into 1/2-inch cubes and add them to the flour. On low speed, mix the butter and flour until the flour is no longer white and holds together when you clump it with your fingers, 1 to 2 minutes. If there are still lumps of butter larger than the size of peas, break them up with your fingers. Run a spatula along the bottom of the bowl to loosen anything stuck to the bowl. (If mixing by hand, mix with a pastry cutter or two forks until the butter is mixed into the flour as above).

2. In a small bowl, mix the egg yolk and water and add them to the flour mixture. On low speed, mix until the dough just comes together, about 15 seconds; the dough will be somewhat soft. (If mixing by hand, add the yolk mixture to the flour and mix gently with a fork until the liquid is well distributed. The dough will still look crumbly and dry.

3. Dump the dough onto a clean counter and work it with the heel of your hand, pushing and smearing it away from you and gathering it up with a bench scraper and repeating until the dough comes together and is supple). Turn the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap, press it into a flat disk, wrap it in the plastic, and let it rest in the refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes (or up to four days) before rolling it out.

4. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Line a heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Remove the dough from the refrigerator; if the dough is very firm, let it sit at room temperature until it is pliable enough to roll. On a floured surface, roll the dough into a round that’s about 13 to 14 inches in diameter. It’s all right if the edges are a little ragged. If you can’t get a roughly round shape, trim the dough so that it’s a rough circle and roll the trimmed scraps back into the dough. Transfer the dough round to the baking sheet and put it in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.

For the filling

2 pounds ripe plums, pitted (I prefer Stanley Prune plums for their shape and amazing flavor)
½ cup sugar + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
¼ cup cornstarch
2 tablespoons apricot preserves
Preheat oven to 350

1. Cut then plums into halves lengthwise. Toss all the ingredients, except the apricot preserves, together. Arrange the plums on the rolled out galette dough, leaving a 3 inch border around the edges.

2. Start at one side draw the dough toward the center, leaving the center open so the plums show. Keep gathering and adding pleats to the dough. It is ok if the galette looks rustic!

3. Sprinkle the sugar all around the dough (this makes the galette sparkly).

4. Bake for about 45-55 minutes or until the fruit is bubbly and the dough is golden brown. Brush the galette with the apricot preserves and allow to cool before serving.

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A taste of home

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08/16/2013

A taste of home photo1

Sometimes it’s cold, I’m stressed, I’m sleepy, I’m sore, and I’m hungry – and all I want is a little comfort from my mom.

Luckily for me, I have the best mother in the world – one who recognizes that sometimes comfort comes in the form of food in small, frozen packages.

I call them Estee Meals, but I might as well call them “a taste of home.”

A taste of home photo2

When my brother and I moved into our own apartments, my mom, Estee, found herself cooking for only herself and my dad. She began freezing the leftovers in small plastic food containers – and so as not to cause any surprises, my mom labeled each container with the date and the contents. “8/2/13: Chicken, broccoli, couscous.” If my dad came home late from a synagogue board meeting and wanted to heat up a quick dinner, his so-called “Estee Meals” were there waiting for him to microwave.

I love to bake, but my cooking skills have yet to be fully developed. My mom recognized this, together with my hectic schedule and long commute to work, and decided to set aside a few of my favorite meals and put my name on them. I can keep these ready-to-go kosher meals in my freezer and heat up one of these meals wherever I am.

These meals save me time: I can go to the grocery store one less time, or I can run out the door without having to throw together a sandwich. They save me the stress of trying to figure out how I’m going to get protein into my stomach this week. They save me from some major headaches.

Living on my own, having a big-girl job, and being a real “adult” is nice – but we all have those days where all we want is a hot meal from our mother. These Estee Meals remind me that even though I am an independent person in a swanky high-rise apartment, I am still somebody’s daughter. Somebody still cares for me and worries about me when I cross the street or cross the country. Even at age 26, I am still my mother’s baby.

Should I “grow up” and start making my own meals of broccoli, turkey, and orzo? I will. I promise. Soon. But I’m not totally ready to give up the comfort of a frozen lunch from my mom.

My mom always says that the reason her cooking is so good is that it’s “made with love.” Of course – every parent cooks with love for their children. But now, as a young adult trying to make it on her own, I find myself warmed up on the inside every time I heat up a lunch that originated in my mom’s kitchen.

As Rosh Hashanah approaches, many of us 20-somethings turn our thoughts to family, homemade meals, and tradition – and I look forward to sharing High Holiday meals with my family. But weeks after the holidays, when my mom’s “Friday Night Chicken” and matzah ball soup become a distant memory, I am sure that I will have several plastic containers of leftovers in my apartment freezer that I can open and re-heat, and I’ll be comforted by my mom’s cooking. 

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Posture Perfect

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08/15/2013

Somewhere in the world a mother is ordering a child to “Stand up straight!” Is it that easy? Can you simply stand up or sit up straight to fix your posture?

Yes, you need to be aware of your positioning if you really want to fix it. Along with exercises and stretches, you can improve your posture. The picture below details great seated posture, and you can read the accompanying article here.

Posture Perfect photo 1

Step 1: Listen to your grandmother

I slouch. It happens, and because I’m a trainer, I am lucky enough to have every single coworker point out when I slouch. I welcome that feedback. It helps me to realize I need to sit up or maybe just stand for a few minutes. If you stay in one position too long, that’s not good, especially if it’s sitting. You want to avoid rounding your shoulders and bringing your head forward. If you work at a desk like most of us do, chances are this picture happens to you:

Posture Perfect photo 2

Grandmother Guide:

- Place a mirror on your monitor to catch when you slouch
- Stand up throughout the day
- Switch your positioning
- Walk, get water, see a coworker/client
- Buddy up, have a coworker tell you when you’re slouching

A lot of people are moving toward standing desks. Standing is better than sitting, but if you’ve ever worked retail or taught, you quickly learn that standing too much can lead to an assortment of other issues. I like the sit-stand desks best, where you can vary the height of your desk throughout the day.

Step 2: Exercise

Walking is a great exercise that generally does not hurt your posture. Now this is not millennial walking, also known as “walking while texting” (WWT). If you wear dress shoes or heels to work, I recommend bringing a pair of walking shoes with you. My coworkers make fun of me because I have a few dress shoes in the office and commute to work in florescent yellow gym shoes (I shop for comfort).

There are simple exercises you can do in the office or almost anywhere to ease tension and improve your posture if you are healthy enough to exercise:

1) Belly breathe. Sit up straight, place your hands on your belly, inhale deeply though your nose, feel the air fill your diaphragm, hold for a few seconds and exhale through your mouth.

2) Shoulder rolls. With your arms at your side, lift your shoulders up, back and down, and then in the opposite direction. I usually do 20 rolls in both directions.

3) Wall press. Lean against a wall, facing away from wall, with your feet shoulder width apart, place the back of your arms against the wall and press toward the ceiling.

4) Wall clocks. I think it will be easier to watch this video

5) Push up holds. Hold yourself in a pushup position and hold yourself up for 20 to 45 seconds without letting your head, back or hips sway. If this hurts your wrists, you can perform the exercise on your forearms.

6) Hip lifts. Lie on your back, knees bent on the ground, lift up hips and slowly lower. I do this exercise 15 to 20 times.

If you are really interested in improving your posture I recommend doing these exercises every other day. There are many other postural exercises. Pilates is a great way of strengthening your core and improving your alignment. If you have access to a class or one on one session, try it out and let me know what you think.

Step 3: Stretching

The fitness world loves to debate stretching. Some view it as a waste of time, arguing that increased flexibility leads to injury. In my opinion, it depends on the individual and the type of stretching. Below, I’ve listed a handful of stretches I like to do often. If you experience any discomfort, stop the stretch immediately.

Hip stretch (I do not use my hand when I do this stretch)
- Door stretch. Place your arms at a 90-degree angle against a door opening, bring one foot forward and lean toward that foot.
Hamstring doorway stretch
Calf Stretch

Do you have a favorite adjustable desk, exercise or stretch? Send it my way, and don’t forget to stand/sit up straight! 

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Bring Something New to the Table

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08/14/2013

Bring Something New to the Table photo

I know how a calendar works, but I’m still having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that Rosh Hashanah is just around the corner. It feels like someone hit the fast-forward button when we weren’t looking. I’ll forgo my panic about time slipping through my fingers and try to focus on something seasonally appropriate.

I should probably be getting a little introspective. Maybe I should think about how to change and grow and improve in the New Year. I’m definitely thinking about that stuff for myself, but I’m also thinking about how the idea of renewal could apply to my dinner plate.

What I’m talking about here is a refreshing of the holiday dinner menu. Think about it. How can we really get renewed and refreshed if the menu never changes? I’m not suggesting a Rosh Hashanah taco night, though that could be fun. Did I just hear someone faint? I’m not talking about total menu anarchy, but would a little change hurt anyone? What if a delicious surprise appeared next to your brisket this year?

Don’t get me wrong. There are food traditions that go with the holidays that I treasure. I love apples and honey and if brisket had a mouth I would kiss it. The list goes on and on. I just wouldn’t be mad if we got brave, threw a wrench into the holiday menu machine and watched as something new popped out. Fried Chicken, perhaps?

Maybe it’s just my family who keeps strict holiday menu rules? I doubt it. In the spirit of the holidays, I have a challenge for us. Let’s bring something new to the table. Maybe that means a Rosh Hashanah fish boil or maybe it means something a little more personal. My plan is to bring a surprise side dish to dinner and see if anyone other than my mother-in-law notices. I’ll probably bring a little taste of summer, like this Panzanella Salad that I am currently obsessed with.

Martha Stewart’s Italian Panzanella
(Adapted from Everyday Food Magazine)

1/4 cup red-wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 cans (15.5 ounces each) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
3 cups large cubes country bread (5 to 6 ounces)
1 pound plum tomatoes, cut into small pieces
1 English cucumber, thinly sliced crosswise
1/4 medium red onion, very thinly sliced
4 ounces Parmesan cheese grated
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn

In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar and oil; season with salt and pepper.
In a separate large bowl combine beans, bread, tomatoes, cucumber, onion, and cheese, then cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Just before serving, stir in basil.

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Going the Distance in the PresenTense

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08/12/2013

andy running

I have written about running a few times before (The Last Run Down the Lake, Runner's high and 4:23:12) because running has changed my life. It has become more than a hobby and piece of my identity. For me, being a runner is about taking steps to get farther and faster in life. The blood, sweat and tears I put into the sport push me to accomplish more in my day-to-day life. However, this fall I will be running not just to change my life, but the lives of others. 

I am running the Chicago Marathon on Oct. 13 to benefit an amazing organization called PresenTense. That is 26.2 miles through the streets of my kind of town, sweet home Chicago! PresenTense is where community and entrepreneurship meet. It is a global enterprise equipping passionate people to address communal challenges in the present tense. They have a presence in 10 cities across the U.S., Israel and Russia, including my former home, Chicago, and my current home, Washington, D.C.

I want to also add that throughout my training, though I am not an official team member, I will be thinking of my friends on Team JUF that are out there running to raise money and awareness for the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago. JUF is one of the largest not-for-profit social welfare institutions in Illinois and the central address of Chicago's Jewish community. I plan to donate to Team JUF (and I hope you will too).

As far as PresenTense goes, while working at The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, I coordinated the launch of the DC PresenTense Fellowship in 2012 and I train new fellows as a PresenTense Social Start Trainer. I have experienced firsthand how PresenTense programs empower individuals with new ideas for social change to make a difference in their local communities. PresenTense invests in people: innovators, entrepreneurs, community leaders, educators, and thinkers. They support and are supported by hundreds of volunteers and community members around the world, and they rely on donations to make those investments possible.

Over 400 innovators with ventures that benefit their local communities have been a part of a PresenTense fellowship.For example, Jill Zenoff of The Gan Project was a PresenTense fellow in 2012, providing a source for sustainable agriculture in Chicago. Elizabeth Weingarten from Washington, D.C. launched Tribelle in 2013 to help female Israeli artisans gain access to a broader market for selling their jewelry. Other projects have involved improving religious school education and sending underprivileged communities used sports equipment for school athletic programs, just to name a few.

When you visit www.100reasonstowin.com/marathon you can find a place to donate and learn more about helping to spread awareness for my race and other ways to help the organization.

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Royally Inappropriate

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Shoftim
4 Elul 5773 / August 9-10, 2013

08/09/2013

Dan Horwitz photo

I don’t know if you heard, but apparently a royal baby was born in England recently. How fitting that in this week’s portion, Shoftim, Moses provides the framework for the Israelites appointing a king over themselves (the one whom God chooses of course) should they choose to do so once having conquered the Promised Land.

We learn that the Israelite king may not have too many horses, wives, silver or gold, and that he must have a copy of the Torah nearby at all times, which he must make a habit of studying regularly. Eventually, this allowance resulted in the coronations of our ancient kings, including Saul, David, Solomon, etc.

Ultimately, we learn that even though an allowance was created for instituting a monarchy, God was not thrilled that the Israelite nation decided that it desired a king. Hundreds of years later, in response to the prophet Samuel asking God whether or not to appoint a king per the wishes of the Israelite nation, God responds: “Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not be king over them.” [1 Samuel 8:7]

God is upset that the Israelite nation feels to need to have a human king, given that God’s own kingship should have been sufficient.

I struggle with the adoration and attention being given to the British royal family. Aside from the fact that America was founded as a reaction to the policies (and arguably the existence) of the British monarchy, monarchies inherently suggest that simply based on birth, some human beings are inherently better and worth more than others. This runs directly counter to the principle enshrined in the U.S. Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal.”  Granted, while at the time of the Declaration that statement did not include women or minorities, it has (thankfully) since evolved.

The royal wedding cost British taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.

Our contemporary understanding (informed by the Western liberal tradition) of what it is to be a human being and which truths we hold to be self-evident, coupled with our tradition’s emphatic statement that human kings are not pleasing to the Divine, should dissuade us from glamorizing an institution whose very existence runs counter to the spiritual ethos of both.

This week, consider making a contribution to HIAS or the Ellis Island Foundation in honor of the new royal baby.

This Shabbat, reflect on the Divine spark that resides within every human being, regardless of what family she or he is born into.

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What New Moms Really Want

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Six gifts new parents secretly wish for that will make you their best friend.

08/08/2013

Holiday Traditions photo x

I know that for many 20- and 30-somethings, it seems like everywhere you look, people are having babies. Pregnant women are swarming Chicago’s streets, and you can’t glance through your Facebook newsfeed without seeing a new baby (or five). Long before I had a baby of my own, when a friend would have a child, I would pop over to a baby boutique and get a cute outfit, a blanket or a stuffed animal as a gift, or if I was really on top of my game, I’d check out their registry and get the new parents something they needed.

Now that I've had a child of my own, I realize those are all viable options for supporting new parents and welcoming new babies. But what no one tells you – the gift giver – is that there is another list of great gift ideas, a secret list of things that newbie moms pine for, but more often than not, don’t have the courage to pipe up and ask their friends for.

You can’t register for these gifts, but if you could, I’m sure these would all have been at the top of my list. So, Oy!sters, I’m going to clue you in to the secret wishes of new moms, so that the next time you have a friend or colleague welcome a new baby, you can win the MVP award by offering the family one of these:

1. A home-cooked meal… or any meal that they didn’t have to cook themselves. 
For the first few weeks of Colin’s life, I was proud of myself if I could manage to microwave and eat an entire veggie burger without some distraction. Cooking didn’t truly resume in our house for an embarrassing number of months, and that meant that too often I ate over-processed foods or spent far more than I’d care to admit on take-out. I had several friends who were thoughtful enough to bring food along when they came to meet C, and it was the sweetest thing I could have ever hoped for. Whether it was a casserole, a chicken dinner or a box of Chewy bars, it was all thoroughly appreciated.

If you like to cook, make something simple that freezes well. If you don’t, pick up sandwiches or even some snack food that is healthy and easily consumed one-handed, since it’s rare for brand new moms to have both hands free. If you’re out of town, send a gift card to a fabulous local restaurant that you know delivers. Bring a large enough amount for dinner for two – either her hubby will eat the other half, or she’ll have leftovers for the next day as well. If you want to go the extra mile, take the lead and establish an account on a site to help coordinate meal delivery (like Take Them a Meal or Care Calendar) and spread the word to all of the couple’s friends via email or Facebook.

2. A hot shower without the baby watching/a blaring monitor. 
Visiting a new mom and meeting the new peanut is always fun. Seeing and snuggling a new baby and catching up with a new mom pal is wonderful. The only thing that could make the visit better?

If baby is sleeping when you get there, mention you would happily watch/hold him or her for as long as she needs to take a relaxing hot bath or shower. Mention, of course, that you’re not saying this because she looks filthy, but because most of her showers are rushed and she has to be attuned to the baby’s needs. Send her off and let her know you’ll give three loud knocks to the bathroom door if there is an emergency, but otherwise, she should enjoy the time to relax with baby safely cared for in the next room.

3. An hour or two of free babysitting/mommy’s helper-ing from a trusted friend. 
There is nothing like an extra set of hands when you need them. While some moms are comfortable leaving their kiddo with a sitter or trusted friend right away, others are more wary, even with the most trusted of friends. Offer to watch their baby while they run an errand or two, or while they take a much-needed break for dinner with their spouse or a mani-pedi. If they aren't ready to leave the babe behind, let them know that you are available as an extra set of hands, whether it is for a trip to Jewel, a visit to Buy Buy Baby or her post-partum follow up visit at the OB’s office (you’ll hang in the waiting room with her tiny bundle of joy, of course).  If she doesn't want either of these things, you can even offer to run her errands for her – just grab her grocery list and credit card and voila – best helper ever.

4. A cleaning lady. 
This one is tricky because of course, a cleaning lady doesn't come cheap. I spent the first eight months of Colin’s life making pathetic attempts to keep up with the housework. I couldn't keep up with the never-ending laundry pile, the bathrooms were a fright and our floors were in constant need of a good sweep and mop. What I would have killed for (ok, maybe not killed for) was someone to come in and just do it. Finally, we gave in and hired someone to come every six weeks for a deep cleaning, but in the early days, I would have loved it if our group of friends had chipped in and gotten us a visit from a cleaning person. Or offered to clean. Or to watch the baby while I cleaned so I didn't waste precious nap time cleaning instead of resting.

5. A dog walker. Or dog sitter. Or dog entertainer.
Getting out of the house with a baby involves quite the learning curve for new moms.  Add a leash with a hyped-up puppy at the end of it, and the first few weeks were truly just tough.  We had a dog walker for the first couple weeks to help with the mid-day walk, but the most amazing thing one of my friends did to help was to take our dog out for a few play dates to give her some much-needed exercise that our short strolls around the block weren't adequately covering. Eventually, she started taking Kenzie for slumber parties every now and then so we could have a bit of rest from the walking and the pup got a huge dose of love and affection.

While this is not remotely the same, I can only imagine that if I were writing about a second child instead of a first, this would read “someone to take my older child(ren) for a fun adventure that is extra special for the big sibling(s).”  Since I have no expertise in that department, I will just say that if my dog could notice the decrease in attention with a new baby, I’m sure that older siblings need that extra special time even more!

6. A beautiful picture of their child not taken with an iPhone. 
I was so sad looking back at our photos from the first two months of Colin’s life to realize that 95 percent of them were blurry, grainy, poorly focused shots that my groggy self had carelessly snapped.  If you have any photo skills, bring your camera along when you visit a new baby, and if mom approves, take some cute photos of the little one that you can send along later via email. Oh, and while I would never insist that mom stays in the picture, offer to take one of them together that you promise to share with no one but her, in case she hasn't been able to take many pictures of herself with the baby.

New and expectant mamas – if you covet any of the following things and are afraid to ask, I wrote this to give you an out.  Just casually share this link and maybe your friends will catch the hint and surprise you with one of the incredibly helpful things listed. And gift givers, congrats on becoming the best. friend. ever.

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Two Charms

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08/07/2013

The following is an excerpt from a piece first published on The Quaker, an online literary journal. Oy!Chicago has the permission of the author to republish it. To read the piece in its entirety, follow the link at the bottom of the post.

Two Charms photo

I watched my grandmother take her last breath. It was a Thursday night.

Bubbe—as we had come to call her, once she got past the point at which all Jewish grandmothers decide to give in to their age and allow their grandchildren to call them by this Yiddish term of endearment—had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer just two months before. Bubbe, by then, had come to represent trips to Florida, hunts in the flea markets, and shelves of chatchke—the Yiddish word for useless stuff that manifested at Bubbe’s house as china figurines. She also made the fluffiest matzo balls this side of the Dead Sea. By that point, she always called us her “sweet girls,” all four of us bearing different combinations of our mother’s features. I’ve never seen a pair of cheek bones rise higher at the sight of me than when I walked through the door to find Bubbe at the sink, shaking the gold bracelets on her wrist, jingling like chimes, prepping some sort of meal to “put meat on our bones.”

She had always told me I was a good Kfesser, the Yiddish word for eater, and my love for food and cooking grew with every lesson she taught me. She also told me what a Kvetch—a complainer—I could be, so I stayed mindful of my humility and my blessings.

I sat in a hospice room on that Thursday night surrounded by my sisters—Abbee, 23, Rachel, 25, Jackie, 27. I’m 21 now, and as a frightened 18-year-old, I endured my first real loss that night. I know it was a Thursday because the weekend before had been my senior prom, and that Saturday was the last time my grandmother ever saw me. Thinking back on that afternoon, I realize she could not have passed away with a better final memory of me. My makeup perfect, my hair all done up in blonde curls. This was the way she had always liked me to look. When I look at photographs of her around my age, she exudes the glamour of the 1940s.

I had chattered nervously to her as she smiled, taking me in. I had kissed her forehead and rushed home to put on my emerald green dress and her favorite ring. She lent me her emerald ring. I cherish it, but haven’t worn it since. I’m not materialistic, truly. I’d rather spend an entire day outside in the dirt and leaves, rolling around with my horses in muck boots and a worn flannel jacket, but sometimes pieces of jewelry can hold more memories and moments than any scrapbook or failing human mind.

In the hospice room, a few of my cousins—a whole generation older than my sisters and I—lined the wall with their parents, my mom’s brothers and their wives, while my mother held her hand.

Mom had been the one to drive Bubbe all over the state for second opinions and alternative treatments. Mom had been the one praying, begging for her life, and Mom had been the one who spent the time, cherished each moment, and savored each meal and meeting just in case it would be the last. After her divorce from my father, I don’t think my mom ever took for granted even the briefest second she spent with someone she loved, in fear that it would all be over in the next minute. My mother is the strongest woman I know, and I think she’d say the same about her own mother, my Bubbe.

We had been watching her a few hours before she took her final breath. The rain fell onto the asphalt outside where the rest of Skokie, Illinois had fallen into a normal night’s sleep. The nurse told us we should take a walk outside. She said usually, mothers wait until their children have left the room to pass on. We all agreed, however, that, if we were talking about Bubbe, she’d want an audience, so we settled into our positions around the room.

She had spent most of my mother’s childhood playing hostess, and she had made the perfect 1950s housewife. She never left the house without her hair and makeup exactly perfect; she even vacuumed the floor in a dress and heels each morning. She had always had her hair “done,” and she had her eye makeup tattooed onto her face, the only exception she accepted to our religion’s taboos. Bubbe had my grandfather build a bar in the basement, separate entrance included, so her friends could drink cocktails and play billiards without interruption from the children. They were jitterbug champions in the ‘40s. They entertained every chance they could, and we were sure she relished the attention.

As we gave her our most focused attention in the hospice room, her breathing became shallow, and we waited, and watched. For a few moments, her breathing sped up, her chest rose, back arched as she struggled to breathe in short, airless gasps. We simply watched, and I can’t be sure now what we might have been watching for.

Why is it that family members rush home when they hear a loved one is about to die? Is it to say a final good-bye? Is it to witness God entering the room? Is it to sneak a possible peek at what it’s like to be gone, really gone?

When the doctors had first diagnosed Bubbe, my mom’s brothers, Bruce and Steve, teamed up to convince my mother to put her in the hospital full time. My mother had just moved her parents back to Chicago from Florida, and she didn’t want to put them through another residential adjustment. She bought them a spacious, first floor condo to compensate my grandmother’s inexperience with apartment living. She had lived in a house since the day she left her rigid mother’s apartment when she married, and she wasn’t willing to give up her own domain. Watching her pace back and forth from her bedroom to the kitchen in their apartment was hard for my mother. Her mom already was a domestic goddess stuck in a cramped quarters, so throwing her into what she would have seen as a prison cell would strip her of her final peace. After Steve and Bruce lost that fight, they withdrew all monetary and emotional support, and left my mother to carry the burden. As a result, their late presence—along with that of their children who followed the tug of their parents’ purse strings—was profoundly unwelcome. We had been there every day after school, had witnessed every doctor appointment, and watched her struggle to make it through every difficult day. We wanted to cherish our last moments with her, alone. They, however, had arrived mostly to ease their consciences. My grandparents were modest people, they didn’t leave behind any real money, but my mother made sure my sisters and I would receive Bubbe’s most meaningful relics.

I watched her chest rise again, deeply this time as she took in a louder breath, like a short gust of wind entering the car window when opened on the highway. Her chest fell, and I watched it there, waiting for it to rise again. She looked no different, if perhaps more peaceful even than before, but her chest didn’t rise. I waited, I didn’t blink for fear I’d miss it. All I felt around me was everyone else’s breath stop; they were waiting too, watching. For a few moments, the room became uncomfortably quiet. My mother broke the silence with a cracking sob and my sisters and I fell beside her—a heap of weeping women had just seen their fierce leader fall.

Continue reading on The Quaker.

 

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Zucchini Soup

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08/06/2013

Chicago might be questionable in the winter, but when it comes to summertime it is hands down one of the best cities in the country.

Encouraging this strong opinion is the abundance of awesome farmers markets. Almost every neighborhood has its own special twist. With my crazy chef schedule I find myself wandering the city while most people are sitting at a desk. One of my favorite things to do on those off hours is to stumble into the Green City Market. I get way too excited over the wide variety of perfectly ripe seasonal fruit and vegetables and end up with too many on my hands.

A great solution to savor the summer harvest, besides pickling and making jams, is to make soups. I love making zucchini soup. It utilizes all my fresh and local purchases and I find it is a great summer soup. I make it in big batches and freeze it to enjoy in the winter time as well. It is full of nutrients, low in cost, and virtually fat free.

Before I moved out into the big bad city, I was lucky enough to have a small garden at my parents’ house. I found zucchini to be a great crop for the amateur farmer. It involves low maintenance and grows great in Chicago’s summer climate. The herbs in the soup are also easy and fun to grow at home. I took an old wine barrel that was cut in half, and made it a small herb garden separate from my vegetable garden. I actually found a few of the herbs like mint and rosemary to not only last well into the fall, but they also came back the following summer on their own.

There are so many variations to this soup. I like to take advantage of the farmers’ knowledge to really get a feel for what is in season as the summer months go on. In August, besides zucchini, you can find in-season bell peppers, corn, broccoli, cabbage, beans, pears, peaches, berries, grapes and more. The same technique can be used, but bell peppers and a few pears can be substituted for zucchini and maybe leave the dill and basil out and instead add thyme and a small amount of mint. If it is 90 degrees out I may even serve this soup chilled with a few cucumber balls as a garnish.

Zucchini Soup photo

Zucchini Soup

Ingredients

1 T grapeseed oil
3 large onions chopped
6 garlic cloves roughly chopped
6-8 med zucchini with skin, ends trimmed cut into chunks
1 T each fresh parsley, dill, and basil chopped
7 c chicken broth
salt/pepper to taste

Preparation

Heat oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add onions and garlic. Sauté until translucent about 5-7 min
Add zucchini sauté 3-5 min. Add herbs sauté an additional 2-3 min
Add broth, bring to a boil, and let simmer 25 min covered
Blend until smooth. (you can transfer to a blender or I like to do it directly in the pot with an emersion blender
Season with salt and pepper

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Life after JUF, Part 2: Back to Birthright

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08/02/2013

Life after JUF, Part 2: Back to Birthright photo

I finally made a choice. I’m happy to share with all that after a lot of thought and consideration, I am officially a JUF layperson and a member of a brand new committee with a super long name, The Back from Birthright Israel Committee.

This brand new JUF committee is tasked with connecting Birthright Israel trip alumni living in the Chicagoland area to each other professionally, through Jewish life and culture, volunteerism, and philanthropy.

It might sound a bit vague, but since we are new, part of what we will be doing over this first year is figuring out our exact mission, our goals for moving forward and our place in the Jewish community. We’ve also only had one meeting so far and that was in a bar (my kind of committee) and it was more of a get-to-know-you than a let’s-get-down-to-business kind of affair.

We do know that will be throwing an awesome party just for Birthright alumni at some point in the next year along with hosting holiday events and volunteer projects. We are also tasked with helping with trip recruitments and making sure that the next crop of Birthright participants have the same amazing experiences that we all did on our own trips.
Speaking of our trips, joining this committee has really brought my Jewish communal experience full circle. If I had never gone on Birthright in 2006 and not had such an amazing and fantastic experience, I never would have come home, rethought my life, quit my PR job and spent five years in the Communications department at JUF. It feels fitting to be volunteering for a cause that initially spurred my whole interest in the Jewish communal world. Funny how things work out like that.

Our first official meeting is next week, so I’ll have more to share in my next blog post. You can be sure I’ll keep you updated on our work as we move forward, and encourage you to attend our events and parties.

In the meantime, if you are a recent (or even not so recent) Birthright alum looking to get involved in the Jewish community in a larger capacity now that you are home from Israel and don’t know where to start, have I got the person for you! You’ve probably heard of her: Elizabeth “JUF” Wyner. You can reach out to her at elizabethwyner@juf.org or go friend her on Facebook to follow her posts.

As JUF’s Young Adult Engagement Associate, and the brain trust behind this new committee, Elizabeth spends her days (and nights) engaging and following up with Birthright participants upon their return home. She’s an expert at this stuff and can help anyone find their right fit. Frankly, she’s the reason why I joined this committee. So give it a shot, reach out to her, come to one of our programs—what do you have to lose?

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Ode to the Housekeeper

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08/02/2013

Ode to the Housekeeper photo

The mess whirls around me, taunting me,
Subtlety grating on my every nerve
I have nowhere to look or step
Thinking is virtually impossible
Except for the incessant downtrodden and angry assaults on my greater incapacity to do anything.
I sink further and further into desperation; feeble attempts to clear the air achieve dismal results, and then
She arrives.
Quietly, without the awareness that she is a lifesaver, she comes.
I apologize for the mess, she shrugs (ah, that feels good)
and gets to work.

Her decisions astound me; 
without my formal housecleaning training, my attempts to clean are trial and error, small in their efficiency
I marvel at her decision to put a towel under the dish rack. Hot water for dishes! I kvell. Of course.
And at once, I become Powerful. Rich. In control.
Life slows down to a pleasurable pace as I watch her work. Life is good, my body reminds my mind, and my eyes relax in their sockets.
The air is clear, I breathe in clean, disgust does not follow me at every step, annoyance has left me behind at every corner.
And I know that every success I have after that, particularly that day, will be be in part to this humble, barely English speaking, young woman, who has cleared my mind, lifted my spirits, and reminded me of the exaltedness of my condition of existence.
The glory of a clean home. And for only $10 an hour, what a bargain, what a mitzvah.

Trying to understand this deeper, I muse: Perhaps that is what we are meant to be in this world.
Us, the small, seemingly insignificant souls compared to the vast greatness of the universe, the heavens and angels and Infinite Wisdom that towers over us, the thousands of years of perspiring humanity upon whose shoulders we ride

Yet we, the present day cleaning women, doing the microscopic things that are the ultimate gateway towards colossal change,
giving Gd the ability to breathe more deeply (so to speak), clearing the air, reorganizing the world so He shines through.

Tiny and almost invisible, yet ultimately monumental, must be the contribution of our scrubbing in this world.

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The Grown-Up’s Guide to Lollapalooza

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10 Tips for Having Fun at Music Festivals (Without Wondering if it’s Socially Acceptable to Take a Napping Break)
08/01/2013

The Grown-Up’s Guide to Lollapalooza photo 8

As I stood watching the headliner at the Taste of Chicago a few weeks ago, I suddenly realized something was horribly wrong.

The band was great, but – my feet were tired. My back was aching. I was hot and shvitzing; the music was loud and I could barely see the stage; the gosh-darn kids behind me were tossing around a beach ball that could hit me and my friends at any moment and make us spill our drinks.

I was about to tell them to pipe down and get off my lawn when it hit me—I’ve become old.

I don’t know when it happened, but somehow I have recently turned into a boring adult. Gone are the days of PARTY PARTY PARTYYY when I could stand outside for hours in any weather, unfazed, rocking out until my ears were ringing and my throat was hoarse, all in the name of the “experience.”

No, sir, not anymore – I surveyed my closest friends and the verdict is in: these days, when it’s 100 percent humidity outside, all we want to experience is air conditioning.

But alas, despite the undeniable appeal of planting myself on a rocking chair in my living room for the rest of the summer with a Frank Sinatra record and a stack of knitting, I decided that moment at the Taste that I couldn’t give in to my inner grandma just yet. Surely, I thought, there must be a way to partake in these “young folks” events without being curmudgeonly.

And so, just in time for Chicago’s biggest music festival, after weeks of careful research (and even a successful test run at Pitchfork last weekend), I bring you: Jessica’s 10 Tips for Having Fun at Music Festivals (Without Wondering if it’s Socially Acceptable to Take a Napping Break).

Read on, fellow grandparents at heart, and then get this party started! (But please, be a dear and keep it down – Bubbe’s resting.)

1. Dress for success.

The Grown-Up’s Guide to Lollapalooza photo 2

I’m not saying show up in orthopedics and compression stockings (though, hey, I won’t judge), but maybe leave the 5-inch wedges and strappy bikini tops at home this time. Tom’s or Converse sneakers are great trendy-but-durable options. Wear something you’ll be comfortable in for several hours, and be prepared for rapid weather changes. This means loose-fitting, breathable fabrics, flat shoes, a hat, and a lightweight poncho in your bag.

Another tip you might not have considered in college: don’t wear anything you wouldn’t want your boss to see you in. Not only is it possible you could run into coworkers at the event, but also, note that by entering festival grounds you typically give permission for your photo to be used in promotional and media materials. You might not want to show up on the cover of RedEye in your booty shorts. (Or maybe you do – I’m just saying.)

2. Carry a small pharmacy with you.

The Grown-Up’s Guide to Lollapalooza photo 10

Us old folks have ailments, and it’s hard to get your groove on when you have a migraine or can’t quite digest that spicy vendor food like you used to. It’s a good idea to bring small, single-use packages of any common OTC medications you use frequently, like Advil or Tums. Other necessities: water (you’re allowed to bring in two sealed bottles), sunscreen (reapply, reapply, reapply – nothing says “prematurely aging” like wrinkles from too much sun!), hand sanitizer and of course, earplugs.

3. Make a plan.

The Grown-Up’s Guide to Lollapalooza photo 11

Confer with your festival buddies and make a plan of attack for who you want to see, and when and where to meet up if you go separate ways. It will be much easier to have this all laid out in advance than to try and figure it out on the fly when you’re surrounded by a gazillion people and have to yell in each other’s ears to talk (if this isn't already the norm for you). Related: Make sure your cell phone has a full battery before you head out.

4. You don’t have to see ALL THE BANDS!!

The Grown-Up’s Guide to Lollapalooza photo 3

This one is key – and for me at least, was the hardest to wrap my mind around. But when I realized that just because I paid for a three-day pass doesn’t mean I have to see every single band that is playing in order to get my money’s worth, my whole world changed. It’s seriously revolutionary: you can actually have more fun if you do less. Focus on the artists you really want to see, and save your (let’s face it, limited) energy for them. If you’re already pooped out by the time your favorite band comes on at 9 p.m. … what did you really accomplish?

5. You don’t have to go to the ALL THE AFTER PARTIES!!

The Grown-Up’s Guide to Lollapalooza photo 4

See above. We’re old now. We can only handle so many hours of partying per day. I mean, if you get invited to some truly amazing after-party and you want to live it up all night long, go for it, but then do yourself a favor and maybe skip the first couple acts the next day? You will have more fun if you’re well-rested. (It’s true – Bubbe knows best.)

6. You don’t have to power through RAIN OR SHINE!!

The Grown-Up’s Guide to Lollapalooza photo 5

PHOTO SOURCE: VH1.COM

The lesson I’m getting at here is really all about the concept of sunk costs. The beauty of being an old fogey is you don’t have to prove how “hardcore” you are anymore. There’s no reason to power on through lightning and hail just to “get your money’s worth.” If you are having a miserable time, and there’s an option of not having a miserable time by leaving, choose that option! It will be liberating. Also, the Apple store will not replace your iPhone because it “got wet.”

7. You don’t have to drink ALL THE BEER!!

The Grown-Up’s Guide to Lollapalooza photo 9

See No. 2 – our bodies aren’t the machines they once were. It’s not as easy as it used to be to stand outside in the heat all day throwing back the brewskies. The trick is to avoid dehydration, not induce it (remember, beer dehydrates you). Also, you can have beer next weekend when you’re not surrounded by sweaty people in 80-degree weather. Keep in mind that unlike when you went to a music festival in college – this time, you are over 21! (Lots over!) You can drink beer any time you want, you cool adult, you. So take it easy.

That said – you DO have to drink ALL THE WATER!! If the refill lines are too long, just suck it up and buy a new bottle. You have a job now. You can afford it.

8. Bring a towel or blanket, and plan to camp out if you want to get a good view.

The Grown-Up’s Guide to Lollapalooza photo 6

You won’t want to push through the throngs of teeny-boppers vying for a spot. (I know this is hard to accept, but … you are no longer a teeny-bopper.)

9. Or, shift your expectations and don’t bother trying to get a good view.

The Grown-Up’s Guide to Lollapalooza photo 1

SOURCE: Z1035.COM

Be happy with having ample breathing room in the back. Take it from Patrick Swayze – this is your dance space, and that’s their dance space.

10. Embrace your inner old person and just go with the flow!

The Grown-Up’s Guide to Lollapalooza photo 7

Don’t be embarrassed if the words, “I want to leave early to beat the crowds” tumble out of your mouth, or even if you decide to just skip the whole shebang this year. It’s better to take care of yourself and tend to your needs than to “power through” and spend the whole time kvetching. And after all – isn’t doing whatever you want the best part about being a grown-up, anyway?

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