Saturday, December 31, 2005

Next Year in Jerusalem

(Apologies to those who don't believe in celebrating the secular new year. Deal with it).

Jacque, Miguel and I are about to go to Yerushalayim to meet up with more friends and celebrate the end of 2005 and beginning of 2006. Being Cara, I find it impossible not to reflect on the past calendar year.

2005 didn't start off so well. At the end of December/beginning of January, Liz told me that her tumor was back and growing quickly. I took a vacation to California a week or so later, and remember talking to my aunt about how much I wanted to visit Liz, and wanted to get Tabitha to come with me. February was insanely busy at work, and I just counted down the days until I could go see Liz.

March was the visit to Pittsburgh with Tab and Paco. It was the last time I ever saw her or heard her voice. I was supposed to visit again in early April, but she was too ill by then. Then it was Pesach, and she was gone. April was hell.

The summer months were a combination of dealing with my grief and planning for Israel. I left my job in July and went to Disney World for the first time. I studied for the GREs and decided which graduate schools to apply to.

September 1st landed me in Israel. After a week of traveling, I came to the kibbutz. I've made some very special friends, and can actually have conversations in Hebrew. (Though, since this shabbat was only Jacque, Miguel and me, I think I've spoken more in Spanish).

And now it's about to be January 2006. Like always, I have no idea what this year will bring. I certainly had no idea at 00:00am, 1/1/05, what 2005 would bring. Looking back on the past year, the only thing that really jumps out at me is Liz. I know there were other things that happened, both positive and negative. But all of them are overshadowed by losing my friend. Maybe that will change in time, or maybe 2005 will just remain in my memory as the Year I Lost Liz. It's too soon to tell.

In any case, I wish all of you out there a happy New Year, full of family, friends, and only simchas.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Week in Review

A quick list of the cool things I've seen in the past week:

* Sufganiyot are everywhere. Better than the ones we get at my shul in Chicago, not nearly as good as the ones I've learned to make from scratch.
* No Christmas jingles in stores.
* Chanukiot in hotel lobbies, hospitals, coffee shops, public squares, and even in pubs.
* Did I mention no Christmas jingles?

A quick list of the strange things I've experienced in the last week:

* A cab driver who insisted on mimicking American, British and Indian accents.
* A cab driver who seems to have Tourrettes and kept jerking his head to one side every 30 seconds while driving.
* Roman soldiers, Renaissance ladies and SS officers roaming along Ben Yehuda...and then singing Chanukah songs.
* A giant Pokemon figure dancing in the central bus station with a giant teddy bear.

Other updates: Sam and Jake have returned to the States. I went to Eli and Miryam's Chanukah party in Tel Aviv, where half the people seemed to be from our Chicago chevra. I held a newborn (as in, less than 48 hours old). I made 70 sufganiyot, and am currently in the process of making another batch. I don't have to work in the kitchen again until Tuesday.

And today is Allan's 25th birthday. Happy birthday, Allan!!!!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Nes Gadol Haya Po

Nun, gimmel, hey, shin...the letters on the dreidel in America. They stand for nes gadol haya sham ("A great miracle happened there"), and they also tell you how many pieces of gelt you've won or lost when actually playing a game of dreidel.

The coolest thing about being in Israel for Chanukah (other than making sufganiot from scratch in class last week) is realizing that I'm "there". Dreidels in the HL don't have the letter shin, they have the letter pey, which stands for the word po. "Here". A great miracle happened here.

While I'm really sad about not being with my family for Chanukah, I find it thrilling to be "here". That said, this will be the first Chanukah of my life where I won't be lighting the chanukiah with my parents and brother. I'll have to sing our songs to myself. And this year I'm using a different chanukiah. Liz's parents gave me a beautiful chanukiah that had belonged to Liz, and I brought it with me so that she could be with me when I light them. It's something else that makes this Chanukah so different from the ones before.

It would be very easy to be a bit down about being so far away, between missing my family and missing Liz. Somehow, though, the change from sham to po is making the entire difference. It reminds me how special Israel is, and how lucky I am to be here for this year. Nes gadol haya po...

All Clear

The pinkeye is gone. Both my eyes are back to normal, and I don't have to put any more drops or goopy medicinal creams in my eyes.

Quick update on the life of me: I was in Tel Aviv for two days hanging out with Jake and Sam, who are visiting the HL for a week or so. Life on the kibbutz continues to be crazy. Twelve people have now left the program. It really is like a game of Ulpan Survivor, except that instead of a million dollars the winner gets a working knowledge of Hebrew and the satisfaction that they somehow managed to make it through this maze of insanity. Like Camelot, tis a silly place here.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Pinkeye and the Brain

My left eye is almost all better now. Instead of being red and goopy, it's now just a light pink and tears up a lot. I guess that eye got a bit lonely, though, because it decided to give the infection to my right eye as well. So I'll need to go back to the clinic today and get more medicine.

At least I have a warm, caring person to look after me- our madricha/aym bait (house mommy-type person) cares more that I haven't been able to work in the kitchen for almost a week than that both of my eyes are now infected. I didn't feel like explaining to her that pinkeye normally takes a week to clear up. I just nodded and said I'd go back to the clinic later today. Really, though, I'm touched by her concern. It makes me want to poke her in the eyes and find out how much she enjoys having pinkeye.

Monday, December 05, 2005

I Feel Like A Leper

To complete the impression that this is summer camp, I've somehow managed to contract pinkeye. Never in all of my years as an actual camper did I end up with pinkeye, but that lucky streak is over.

For those who haven't experienced the joy of pinkeye, I can tell them that they're really missing out on a great time. First there's the pale yellowy goop that crusts and tries to seal your eye shut while you sleep. Then there's the constant tearing-up and more yellow goopiness while you're awake. Last, just to complete the experience, there's the highly contagious nature of pinkeye, which means you're not really supposed to touch anyone or anything. People who've had pinkeye nudge their chairs just a bit father away as soon as they see your pink, irritated, watery, yellow goopy eye. I'll probably have to wash off the keyboard with rubbing alcohol as soon as I'm done here. I wash my hands so many times a day that they're becoming dry and in need of lotion.

This is all very annoying, and very lonely-feeling, and no one is permitted to give me a hug. The only upside is that I get a day off from work tomorrow (which means I'll get to sleep in, and have time to work on grad school and fellowship apps).

Friday, December 02, 2005

Chodesh Tov L'Kulam!

And a merry rosh chodesh Kislev to all of you!

Kislev always makes me think of my grandparents, a"h.

In November 1932, in a town in Germany by the name of Fuerthe, my grandfather and grandmother went for a walk in the afternoon. At one point in the conversation, my grandfather turned to my grandmother and asked, "Fraulein Strauss, what Jewish month is it?" She replied, "It's Kislev, I think." He then responded, "Then here is kiss, and here is lev (heart). Will you marry me?"

And she said yes.

One Visa Down...

Can someone explain to me how it's already December?

Time flies by so incredibly quickly here. I think the fact that it's still 70 degrees and sunny may have something to do with the fact that I still think it's September. I've been here three months now. I can speak in Hebrew in the past, present and future tenses. I can even give a few commands. I'm learning enough vocab that I'm almost able to express myself and develop a personality in Hebrew. And the ulpan is now half over.

Sometimes I feel like all of this is just a dream. I have these bizarre moments of cognizance, almost as though I'm looking at my life here through a microscope or as though it were a TV show. This is not real life. This is a bubble outside the normal realm of existance. I wonder what I'll think and what I'll feel when I leave the ulpan, or when I return to America. How will I remember all of this in retrospect?

At the same time, so much of my life in America seems like it was a dream. Life here is so different that it makes my life there seem almost surreal. The challenges I faced there are not the ones I face here. When I go back to America, will I think of my life here as somewhat surreal?

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Eich Omrim "Gobble Gobble" B'Ivrit?

Happy Thanksgiving to all the Americans in my world.

This is my first Turkey Day outside of America. Have you ever tried explaining Thanksgiving to someone from another part of the world? It's pretty difficult, especially when talking to someone British. They learn about the pilgrims from an entirely different perspective. Their education also places much more emphasis on the diseases that came with the Europeans and killed off the Native Americans. So the Europeans here find Thanksgiving to be a somewhat hypocritical 'holiday'. The Israelis can't understand why Jews celebrate secular holidays. And I've given up trying to explain American football.

We had thought about trying to make Thanksgiving dinner here in the ulpan, but the difficulties proved to be insurmountable. I'm also a bit under the weather today, so I don't really feel like eating much of anything. Still, I wish I could be in Chicago, enjoying my cousin Mike's deep-fried turkey (mmmmm....deep-fried turkey) and spending time with my family.

Time to go nurse my headache and dream of turkey, mashed potatoes, and pecan pie. Gobble gobble!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Love Shack Or Loony Bin?

Today was crazy. There's really no other word for it. Either Friday's full moon took a few days to have its effect on us, or someone spiked the eggs at breakfast, but something just was not right in the Love Shack this morning.

Let's start with the fact that someone stole a laptop, camera and wallet...all from one room, and didn't go into any of the others. The door to the room in question had not been locked; both girls had left their keys on their desks. The thief also took their keys.

Then the 55-year-old Ukranian in my kita, who rarely speaks above a whisper, completey snapped and started yelling at one of the girls in class for speaking to her friends in English while the teacher was helping another student. Yelling wasn't enough, though. The Ukranian then took the girl's waterbottle, and poured water all over her.

And let's not forget the boy who's planning on doing his giur in six months, who showed up this morning without his kippah or tzitzit. When asked why, he answered that he got bored of them. He didn't say this in Hebrew or English, though. He apparently forgot all of his Hebrew and English, and has decided that he will only speak in his native Spanish. "No puedo hablar en ingles," he says to me ("I can't speak Engish.") This would be more believable if he and I didn't study the parsha hashavua every shabbos in English using an English translation. He also refused to speak anything other than Spanish during class, and insisted that either the Brazilian girl or I translate into Spanish for him.

All is quiet at the moment. Either the craziness has passed, or this is just the quiet before the storm. I'm almost afraid to wonder how today could get stranger...unless someone reports having seen elephants sitting down to tea in the middle of the olive fields.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Quick Pre-Shabbos Update In the Life of Me

* We had a tiyyul to the Golan. It was amazing. I have incredible pictures that I will post online as soon as I buy some blank CDs, so that I can transfer the pics from my computer to one with internet access.
* Seven people have now left the ulpan since the first week. One went back to America, one to France, three to Yerushalayim, one to another kibbutz (I think) and one to Bet Shemesh to live with her olim hadashim parents. There was also a Swiss guy who was only supposed to be with us for a month, so he doesn't really count among the people who've left or been kicked out. A new guy from Bulgaria arrived today.
* Today is my maternal unit's 60th birthday. Ahd mea v'esrim! (Bis ein hundert und zwanzig)
* I don't like shabbat on the kibbutz. I only plan to be there the one shabbat a month when I'm not permitted to leave. Last week I was with Eli and Miryam in Tel Aviv. This week I'm in Yerushalayim. (I was going to stay at the Heritage House, but Yankel hooked me up with a friend of his who lives across the street from him in Nachlaot.) Next week, I'll probably go back to Tel Aviv, or possibly to Bet Shemesh.

Most importantly, I'm happy and I'm healthy. More to come (when I'm not racing to get ready for shabbos).

Sunday, November 06, 2005

A Very Lonely Unbirthday

Yesterday was (would have been) Liz's 24th birthday. It was also her mother's birthday as well. It's been on my mind so much lately, though most of those thoughts are the same ones I've had ever since Liz's health began to deteriorate so rapidly. I had the same thoughts on my own birthday, not knowing that she would be gone only two days later. What is this number, "24"? What does it mean to be 24 years old? It's so young. There's so much that I haven't done. There's no way that I've accomplished whatever it is that Hashem put me here in order to accomplish. Why did He cut short the life of someone so talented, so good, so beautiful on both the inside and the outside, when she would undoubtedly have accomplished so much? The world was a better place with her in it. And why am I still here? What makes me so deserving? Why should I reach that 24th birthday and Liz shouldn't?

I know that I will never know the answer to any of these questions. That doesn't stop me from asking them.

This shabbos was such a strange one for me. In some ways, Friday was more difficult emotionally, as I was dreading waking up on the 5th and remembering that Liz wasn't turning 24 that day. There were very few ulpanistim here for shabbos, which was something of a blessing. I didn't have to talk to people. I stayed home and davened on my own in the morning, because I felt like I just needed the private time with Hashem, my tefillot and my thoughts. After lunch, I came back to my room and learned on my own. Naturally, I cried on my own as well.

It wasn't being on my own that made me feel so lonely, though. It was not having anyone to talk to who was also remembering what November 5th used to mean. It was being 7 hours ahead of Pittsburgh and not being able to call Jon and Veronica (Liz's parents). I longed for the comfort that's only come with talking to my college friends. I wanted Tabitha or Mark or Allan or Paco or Mikey or Macraild or Helen...or any number of my friends from WashU who are on the other side of the world. I wanted my mother and father and brother and sister-type people who know me and love me and have been helping me cope.

I stayed up until it was late enough here that shabbos was over in Pittsburgh, and then I called Liz's parents. Talking to Veronica was everything I needed. Today I got an email from Nisha, one of Liz's high school friends. I need that contact so much these days. Jacque is the only person here who I've talked to about Liz, but it's so hard to convey to a new friend just what someone means to you. Anyone who ever met Liz doesn't need that kind of explanation.

November 5th has come and gone. It's another reason why November is my least favorite month. This shabbos, November 12, is my grandmother's secular yahrzeit. It's something else I can't convey to people who don't know me and don't understand how important my grandmother was to me. I find myself grateful that I have my own room. I don't mind being alone with my thoughts. It's the loneliness that comes from being far away that makes this so hard.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

A Room of One's Own

Ilana Sheinit (more commonly known in the Love Shack as "Gingi" since people distinguish the two Ilanas by saying "Ilana m'anglia" and "Ilana hagingit") moved out today. Being 27 years old, she decided to leave the Love Shack for the peace and quiet of the giur building. She's actually not sure if she'll be happier there, since it will probably turn out to be too quiet, but she wants to give it a try. I think more powerful forces are at work, and that I'm simply not meant to live with girls named Ilana.

I'm of two minds about having my own room. On the one hand, the privacy will be lovely. No one will be in my room unless I want them to be there. I can close the door and do my own thing. I can talk to my family in the morning and not worry about waking up my roomate. I also pushed the two beds together, and now have a double bed. There are definate perks.

On the other hand, Ilana and I got along very well, and having her as my roomate gave me someone over the age of 18 to bond with. (There are a couple of girls around 21, but they're not really people to whom I feel I can open up.) She's also fairly learned and takes yiddishkeit seriously. We would lie in our beds at night and discuss Torah. No joke. (Ok, so maybe other nights we would talk about shtuyot as well. We are normal, healthy girls, after all). It was really wonderful having someone to discuss and debate with at any given moment. I think I'll have far fewer of those conversations without her living in the same room as me.

(Note on the title of this post: In college, I had to critique Virgina Woolf's "A Room of One's Own". I hated it with a passion, mostly because I found her logic incredibly flawed. I thought the title fit my post better than it fit her book.)

Sunday, October 30, 2005

What I Think About in the Shower

A year and six days ago, Liz was in Chicago with me. Having been given a clean bill of health by the doctors, she came on a celebratory "Woohoo, I'm Done With Chemo!" visit. That weekend also coincided with my friend Michelle's birthday, and so Liz and I went dancing motzei shabbos with Michelle and some other girls. Two weeks after that, Liz celebrated her 23rd birthday. One month after that, the tumors had begun to grow again. Four and a half months after that, I stood by her graveside.

On Rosh Hashana, Kevin mentioned something that has really stuck in my head. It's something I had thought of before, but it stuck me particularly forcibly this year. On the Yomim Noraim, in the Netane Tokef, we say that only Hashem knows what will happen in the coming year: who will live and who will die; who at his appointed time and who before it; who by fire and who by water; who by the sword and who by wild beasts; who from hunger and who from thirst; who by earthquake and who by plague; who by strangling and who by stoning; who shall rest and who shall wander; who will be tranquil and who harassed; who will be at ease and who afflicted; who will become poor and who rich; who will be brought down and who raised up. Looking back on the year that's just ended, it seems so easy to understand this. We know who has been born, and who has passed away. We know who has celebrated simchas and who has suffered misfortune. The Netane Tokef, however, is not about the year that's ended. It's about the year that has just begun. We don't know what the year will bring. How could I have known what 5765 was going to bring? What will this new year bring?

Last year, during the Yomim Noraim, I was praying for Liz's recovery. Only a few weeks after the chagim, it seemed as though those prayers had been answered. During Sukkot, Gila announced her pregnancy. Who could have foreseen that in half a year's time, I would celebrate Azriel's birth and bris, and two weeks later fly to Pittsburgh to mourn Liz's death? It's been six months now. That six month mark coincided almost exactly with the dates last year that Liz had been with me in Chicago. Somehow, it seems particularly cruel. This time last year, I thanked Hashem for her recovery. Everything was fine. She was talking about going back t graduate school. She would have been in school again by now. Instead, I'm mourning her with a grief as raw and painful as it was in April. The only difference is that now it's been even longer since I've heard the sound of her voice.

This coming Saturday would have been her 24th birthday. It weighs on me, and I have no one here that I can really talk to. No one here knew her. No one here can possibly understand what she was to me. Everyone who did know her, and who does understand, is on the other side of the world. I never knew how lonely grief could be.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Chagim When 'Homeless'

With the chagim over, and the moadon completely empty, I finally have a bit of time to describe the chagim in Israel. There are many other things I also wish to blog: the trip to Yad Vashem, life in the Love Shack, and today marking six months since Liz passed away being at the top of that list. I'll just start with the chagim, and see what kind of time I have before dinner.

This was my first year not being with my family for any of the chagim. Spending Rosh Hashana with the Aaronsons in Bet Shemesh was the closest thing to a Chicago-style Rosh Hashana that I could manage, and it was wonderful. I can't remember ever being in a shul where everyone davened and sang with such kavana. The walls seemed to shake with their voices. It really was beautiful.

Yom Kippur on the kibbutz was everything I needed it to be. I spent most of my time in shul, and my free time on my own, thinking about this, that and the other. Forgive me for not sharing my private Yom Kippur thoughts, but they're really just between me and the Big Guy Upstairs.

Sukkot was both wonderful and disappointing at the same time. It went by really, really quickly. I spent the first yontiv in Tel Aviv with Eli and Miryam, and had a phenomenal time. They have some crazy British friends, and we all know how much I like crazy British people. The only downside is that I somehow managed not to make it to shul in the morning, and so missed Torah and Hallel for all of yontiv. It doesn't feel like yontiv when I don't go to shul. Shabbat Chol Hamoed was a very unique and special one for me. I went to my Yemenite ulpan teacher in Rehovot and spent shabbos with her family. Not only did I speak Hebrew for 90% of shabbos, but I also experienced Yemenite davening for the first time. It takes getting used to, to be honest, but it sounds really cool.

Simchas Torah was in Yerushalayim. Like the rest of Sukkot, it was both wonderful and disappointing at the same time. Not having a shul of my own meant that I didn't really know where to go for hakafos in the evening. My ulpan friends and I all went to Bukharia for dinner, to a meal hosted by the same Gerer chasidische couple that I had two shabbos meals by last August. The meal was lovely: close to a hundred people in a room, and the men were singing the entire time. The only downside is that we had to leave the Kotel before the singing and dancing really got underway in order to get to Bukharia on time, and got back to the Old City after everything had died down. Simchas Torah night for me felt more like a particularly fanstastic shabbos. The morning was a different story. We were directed to a tiny Carlebach shul (sorry, Daddy) in the Old City, and danced three hakafos there, until they broke for kiddush. The women's side was tiny, but we used whatever space we had for dancing. I loved it. Then we went down to the Chabad of the Cardo, where the boys had a great time. Unfortnately for your truly, the Chabad women didn't do anything but sit there and eat. The funniest moment was probably when an old rabbinic-looking person came to the women's side and announced, "We're looking for a wife for David Stern. Any eligible young lady should step forward!" Since he didn't bother pointing out which one was David Stern, though, none of us stepped forward. I spent my afternoon sitting in a park wit Jacque, talking about life, Judaism, my grandmother and Liz. It's probably the first time I've ever cried on Simchas Torah, but somehow it didn't seem inappropriate. All in all, it was a good yontiv...but I found myself missing Bais Abe.

Looking back, I think that what I've really missed is the familiarity of my Tishrei routine in America. I like knowing where I'm going and what I'm doing and where I'm davening. Everything this year was just so different from what I've known. It seems strange to me that I should find anything negative in spending my chagim in the Holy Land. I've wanted this for so long. I think I would have enjoyed it far more if I'd had an apartment in Yerushalayim, and didn't feel like I'd been wandering aimlessly looking for somewhere to go to shul.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

All Joking Aside...

I've been to Yad Vashem once before. It was on my birthright trip three years ago, and it was only a little over a month since my beloved Grandma, a"h, passed away. The timing of the visit to Yad Vashem probably could not have been much worse. Still coming to terms with losing the most important person in my world, I was suddenly faced with photos and mementos that recalled the stories of Nazi Germany that I grew up hearing. It made me even more vividly aware that I would never again hear her tell me those stories, and that she was another part of the Shoah that was gone forever. Another memory, left to others to carry on. I was a complete emotional mess, and it was one of the more horrible experiences of my life.

A few days ago, I found myself in a conversation about Yad Vashem, and I said that I wasn't ready to go back yet. Someday, I said. I think it's wrong to stay away forever. But not yet. Not for me.

Tomorrow, we're being taken on a tiyul (ie, field trip) to Yerushalayim. "Yay!" you might be thinking. After all, why would anyone not want to go to Yerushalayim? They might not want to go if the tiyul is starting off with a visit to Yad Vashem. The thought of going back just pulls up all of my memories from my first trip. It makes my grief over my grandmother feel as fresh and as raw as it was three years ago. But I can't not go. It seems disrespectful to my grandmother, and to every other Jew whose life was destroyed or uprooted by the Shoah, to avoid going back simply because it's painful. It's supposed to be painful.

That said, I'd rather be working in the kitchen tomorrow, shoving kishke up the tuchas of a dead chicken. I'd even rather be stuffing it up the tuchas of a live one.

A Tale of Two Ilanas

When our heroine (giggle, chuckle, snort...she said 'heroine') first moved into the Love Sack, she was put into a room with an 18yr old British girl named Ilana, henceforth called Ilana Rishonit. They got along perfectly well. Indeed, it would have been hard not to, as Ilana Rishonit was scarely ever actually in the room. Still, they became friends and had a good time whenever they happened to be in the same place.

The shifting and moving of boys and girls to and from the Love Shack and ulpan giur caused a vacancy in the room of another 18yr old girl. Ilana Rishonit decided that, given how little she was actually in the Love Shack, it would save her much time if she lived with the other 18yr old girl. This would make it more efficient for them to be typical 18yr old girls together. The moving out of Ilana Rishonit (which, at the time of our story, is only half complete) caused a vacancy in the room of our heroine, which was immediately filled by a new ulpanist...named Ilana. Ilana Sheinit is a 27yr old American. So far, she and our lovely heroine get along just fine. However, it will take our heroine a few days to once again grow accustomed to sharing a room with someone else.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Eighteen Again

For some reason that I just don't understand, everyone who meets me for the first time in this country assumes that I just finished high school. In Chicago, people assumed that I was older than I really am. Now I've suddenly lost six years of my life. At first it bother me, but now I'm thinking of it as a fantastic opportunity. I never got to take a year after high school to come to Israel. Now I can pretend that this is my post-high school year. A few people here have also assumed that I'm a chabadnikit, which I really don't understand. I don't think I have that chabad aura at all. I'm getting a kick out of being eighteen again, but there's no way I'm becoming a chabadnikit (no offense to the chabadniks in the audience, of course). Silly Israelis.

Life in the Love Shack continues to lose its summer campiness. We're getting three new girls next week, though, which will shake up the group dynamics once again. The few guys in the ulpan giur are moving into the Love Shack, in order to make room for more girls, since we don't have space for the new girls. Some of the "older" girls are therefore moving into the ulpan giur. Being one of said "older" girls, I was offered a room in the other building, but I turned it down. As frustrating as the children can be, I don't really want to separate myself from the group that drastically. And, as conceited as this will sound, there are few other people in the Love Shack with the ability to keep the peace. I kind of feel like it's in everyone's best interest if I stay put. That, and I don't want to be so far away from Jacque and Dan-Dan. I'd miss too many funny moments. (Digression: Major shout-out to my paternal unit for giving me such an appreciation of British humour. I'm single-handedly restoring the reputation of America which Dubya has destroyed. Now people know there is such a thing as a clever American.)

Someone told me only a few moments ago that they hate it here, and hate living with all these people and never having the anonymity of a big city. Stranglely enough, I disagree completely. When I want to feel alone, I go for a walk by the cotton fields (very pretty at sunset, btw) or find someplace to lay on the grass and watch the stars. When I want company, I have a house full of people who (surpise!) all like me. I love it here. I walk down the road singing happy tunes, consciously aware of how happy I am. Yesterday I went to Yerushalayim for a few hours to pick something up from someone who's going back to the States on Sunday. He was so unhappy that he's leaving, and I was reminded of last August, when I was at Ben Gurion, on the phone with my paternal unit, crying because I didn't want to leave Israel. I couldn't help but think, "I get to stay! I get to stay!". I thought about it for much of the bus ride back to the kibbutz. It makes me grin every time.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Month In Review

I've been here a whole month now. This is the longest that I've ever been in Israel and I'm so incredibly happy that I'm here. Life on the kibbutz is a bit of a bubble, though I go into Tel Aviv at least once a week, so it's been a fairly easy transition thus far. Still, I find myself falling into a routine with work and class, and I'm speaking Hebrew far more and far better than I would have imagined a month ago.

This is the best decision I've ever made in my life. Every day that I'm here confirms just how badly I needed a change from my life in America and the easygoing nature of kibbutz life is the perfect remedy. I've made friends with people I would never have otherwise met, and, in my quieter moments, I have a chance to really examine the person that I've become and the person I want to be.

That said, life is not pure bliss. I miss my family, and not being able to talk to them whenever I want is very hard on me. I miss my friends, and I wonder what's going on in their lives and whether or not they miss me. And I miss Liz. Somehow, being over here makes her feel even farther away. It's probably because no one here knew her, and in America I had my WashU friends only a phone call away when I needed to speak of her. I have a picture of Liz and me on my desk here, and every time someone asks about the girl in the picture, I have the chance to tell someone else about my wonderful Liz. Most of the time, though, those stories remain locked in my own head, and I have no one to share her with.

Tomorrow I'll go back to Bet Shemesh, and spend Rosh Hashana with the Aaronsons. This is the first Rosh Hashana of my life that I won't be with my family. I knew it would be difficult, but not quite this difficult. Still, I'm glad I'm here. So very very glad that I'm in Israel and that I get to stay here for many more months. I don't know what the new year will bring for me. I know that the past year was one of the most difficult I've ever had, particularly the last half of it. Ending that year in Israel lets me end it on a high note.

I don't know if I'll have a chance to post tomorrow. In case I don't, a shana tovah u'metukah to all of you. May this year bring us together only for simchas, and may I see all of you here in Israel.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

I Smell Like Chicken

This post was supposed to go up over a week ago, but the Internet in the moadon was down, and this is the first chance I've had to blog. There is so much that I want to say, but I don't want to hog the computer, now that it's finally working again.

Apologies to those of you whose visions of me working in the fields, milking cows, or feeding chickens are about to be dashed to pieces. I work in the kitchen ("mitbach" b'ivrit), and I love it. I work on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7:00 until 2:30ish. Usually I chop vegetables, or shove rice up a (dead) chicken's tuchas, or some other preparatory task. Sometimes I get to crack eggs or scrub large pots. I'm on my feet the whole day. I love it. The people are very nice, and I never get bored. I think I'm one of the few people who's truly happy with my job. The only downside is that I usually smell like chicken fat by the time I come home, and I'm often covered in a few different types of food shmutz. It's a small price to pay.

Life is starting to lose it's "summer camp" glow here in the Love Shack. People are realizing that we're here for 5 months, and we've had a few altercations. It's not too surprising that I usually end up calming someone down and helping to smoothe things over. There's no way that everyone here is going to last 5 months. There are some people who may not last many more weeks. At least when I get weary of playing mediator, I can go into my room and close the nice heavy door. I did that for all of shabbos afternoon.

Overall, I'm incredibly happy here. I'm making friends with some fascinating people from around the world. Right now, I spend a large chunk of my down time with two absolutely absurd British boys named Jacque (pronounced Jack...he's French, but has been living in England for the past few years) and Daniel, aka Danny aka Dan-Dan. I don't think I've ever laughed more in my life. Describing how we spend our time would take far too long, so I'll only say that it includes baked beans, a shopping cart and a small dog.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Ahoy, Ye Landlubbers!

Avast, me matey, it be September 19th at last! The day we scallywags of the sea call International Talk Like A Pirate Day. This year, it really be international, as I be here and Velvel (and his scurvy wench) be in America.

So lift a cup of grog and sing "Yo ho!", me hearties! Else I'll make ye swab the deck like the filthy bilge rat ye are!


Shabbos was great. Motzei shabbos was better. Sunday I started ulpan and ate falafel. Now it's Monday, and I'm taking a break from class. Tomorrow I start work.

I'll provide details soon, but I need to let someone else use the computer.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Foreign Policy Announcement

Cara's World Ministry of Foreign Affairs hereby declares Spanish to be an official language of business. This policy went into effect as of 9:00am this morning, when yours truly found herself called upon to help translate instructions into Spanish. My services as translator (luckily, I'm only the lovely assistant as far as translating is concerned. My spanish is too rusty for me to do a good job on my own) will also be needed on shabbos, if any of the South Americans come to the parsha hashavua shiur tomorrow afternoon.

My nine years of spanish are proving increasingly useful. Not only can I make friends with the South Americans (who already like me because I play futbol), but my closest friend so far is Luciana the Brazilian, and we can switch into Spanish when we want to speak without the children understanding. I never really thought that high school would come in handy. I also never thought I'd come to ulpan to practice my spanish.

Israeli Humor (Or Lack Thereof)

Yesterday was the first "real" day here at the United Nations. By 6pm, we had nothing else to do, and I was facing a very long night spent with the little American puppies. I've found that the Europeans and South Americans, even the 18 yr olds, are much more mature than their American counterparts. So neither the idea of going into Ashdod with the children or staying in the Love Shack was particularly appealing. Luckily, my phone rang. Last week, at Sam's Tel Aviv birthday party, I met his friend Isaac, who teaches at the Technion. Isaac was in Tel Aviv with some friends, and was planning on going to a comedy club, and invited me along. After dinner, I hopped on the (very cheap!) bus to Tel Aviv, and arrived at the tachana hamerkazit 40 minutes later. Isaac picked me up, and we began the adventure of navigating our way through Tel Aviv by car.

Tel Aviv may be the most poorly designed city that I have ever been in. Now, I am very much accustomed to one way streets, but in Tel Aviv, you'll have three streets in a row where you can't turn right. Then, when you finally turn, you're on a street that soon curves in the opposite direction from the one you want, and in three minutes you're in a totally different neighborhood with no idea how to go back to where you started. We finally got to the club, but the show was canceled. So we hopped back in the car and went to the other comedy club. The show started at 10:45, and featured six stand-up comics that each had about 15 minutes. After a brief intermission, we went back in for another six comics. The show ended around 2:30. I understood about 25% of what was said. Since I was also very tired, I came very close to falling asleep a few times. Only the fear that the comic would see me and make fun of me in front of everyone kept me from taking a nap.

Israeli stand-up is not quite my kind of thing. Even without the language barrier, most of the comics were very vulgar. Ten of the twelve made jokes at some point that involved farting or taking a shit. There was one woman comic who was so unbelievably crude that I was a bit embarassed that she was Jewish. Everything was either a swear word or a reference to genitalia and procreation. A few of them were actually very funny. What I found most amusing, though, was how Jewish the jokes were. You don't have stand-up comics talking about streimels and sufganiot in the States.

Isaac drove me all that way back to the kibbutz afterwards, dropping me off around 3:30am. I'm running on four hours of sleep and two cups of coffee, so it's time for a pre-shabbos shluff.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Welcome to the Love Shack

It's all quiet in the madhouse right now. Everyone is either taking a test to determine whether they'll be in Kita Aleph or Bet (aka, beginners or intermediate class) or they are trying on work clothes. Since the computer is actually free, I'm using it while I have the chance.

Yesterday was primarily spent meeting new people as they arrive. We have people from Italy, France, Spain, England, Sweden, Holland, Venezuela, Brazil, Colombia, and Canada. I may be forgetting a country or two. Many of them are 18-20, so I'm actually one of the older ones here, which I was not expecting. With only a few exceptions, everyone seems pretty friendly and some are actually funny. Even the few exceptions seem like they're basically good people, who just happen to be particularly annoying. But since we'll all be here for 5 months, I'll need to learn to be patient. I have a roomate now- she's an 18 yr old Londoner named Elana. I think we'll get along just fine. We just need to decorate our room so it doesn't look so institutional.

I've been placed in Kita Bet, which is what I was expecting. I know there are a couple of girls who speak Hebrew fairly well on the program, so they'll be in my class. Other than that, I don't know how advanced we'll really be. Classes will start on Sunday. Today and tomorrow we'll be taken around the kibbutz and given our work assignments.

Generally, the ulpan house, aka the Love Shack, is utter chaos. Twelve people will be watching TV, while another plays the guitar and someone else turns on some music. Right outside the moadon, the Europeans will be smoking their cigarettes. This may be the only moment of quiet that this room will experience until shabbat. I don't mind the chaos. There's usually someone doing or saying something funny. The only thing I find irksome is a couple of American teenagers who have no concept of volume control or self-censorship. They say whatever they're thinking, and they say it loudly. Maybe that works for some people, but I don't need to hear some girl I just met screeching that she's a virgin at the top of her lungs three times in a row. TMI, people! Neither of these kids speaks anything other than English though, so when they get too annoying, I just switch to Spanish and talk to the South Americans.

So welcome to the Love Shack, the multilingual capital of Cara's World for the next five months. Who needs the Real World? MTV doesn't know what it's missing...

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Kibbutzwatch- Day One

I made it to the kibbutz today, after spending four nights in Beit Shemesh. Taking the bus was remarkably easy. I think it only took abut 25-30 minutes. Getting my stuff from the bus stop to the kibbutz was a whole other matter entirely. The kibbutz is only about 2km away from the bus stop, but I had a backpack, a small travel bag, and a 65lb duffel on wheels to shlep in the hot mid-morning sun. I got about halfway, stopped to take a breather, and then hitched a ride the rest of the way. The very nice Israeli person who drove me wasn't familiar with the kibbutz itself, though, so I was dropped off at the first official-looking building. Another nice Israei person then took the backpack and small bag on her bicycle to the ulpan, and I followed slowly behind with the duffel.

There are about 10 people here so far. The guys are all American- two are 18, one is 28, and I don't know about the fourth. There might be a fifth lurking about, but I'm not sure. As for the girls, I've met a 28 yr old Brazilian who's in the process of converting, and an 18 yr old girl from the Netherlands. There's also an Australian who's converting, and a fifth girl who I haven't actually met yet, but have seen going in and out of the moadon.

I've unpacked my stuff, and am trying to find something to do with myself. I may go in to Ashdod tomorrow. I was told that they would give me towels, but that doesn't seem to be true, so I need to go buy some. Tonight there's a wedding on the kibbutz, so I'll most likely go, although I've never crashed a wedding before. I may have to add that to my list of virgin experiences.

Virgin Experiences

Here's a brief list of the things I have done for the first time since being in Israel. Some of them may be things that I'd done in the States, but doing them here is a different experience, so I'm including them anyway:

1) Going to Eilat
2) Parasailing
3) Riding a banana boat
4) Having roast duck in passion fruit sauce
5) Spending more than four hours in Sam's company
6) Riding a train
7) Tremping
8) Doing laundry

I think it's a pretty good list, given the short amount of time that I've been here. Soon I'll post a brief list of things that I just don't get about this country. Right now, the top of that list is men who roll the bottom of their shirts up to their chests and walk around thinking it looks sexy.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

The View From Beit Shemesh

I love this part of the country. I love looking out the window and seeing the hills rising up behind the houses, particularly as the sun sets and the white walls of the houses turn rosy and orange. I'll stay in Beit Shemesh another night or so, as I try to figure out the easiest way to get me and all of my stuff to the kibbutz.

I have yet to encounter anyone here who voices support for the disengagement. Opinions vary as to what will happen now, and whether the IDF will soon be rolling right back into Gaza, and whether we ever will actually give up the Shomron, but so far I have not heard anyone say that they think the pullout was a good idea. Then again, the only Israelis that I have had this conversation with have all been dati. I don't know if that's making a difference. I've heard that a number of settlers from Gush Katif have relocated to kibbutz Yavne, so I may soon have the chance to hear their thoughts in their own words. The only argument that I've had on this subject has been with Sam. He thinks he won, but we both know that I conceded nothing.

I feel like I should be having some very deep and interesting thoughts about my life right now, but I really have no coherent thoughts about being in Israel. I have no idea what to expect when I get to Yavne. I have no mental image of what the kibbutz will look like, no sense of what ulpan will be like, no expectations of what the people will be like, either the other ulpan students or the kibbutzniks themselves. All I have is a vague sense that this year is one day going to be a very important chapter in my best-selling autobiography.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Last Days of Sam

We got in to Tel Aviv around 7:30 or 8:00 in the evening on Wednesday night, and went back to the Yamit Park Plaza to pick up the bags we'd left in storage. Then we walked down the beach to the Carlton and checked in. They gave us lemonade while we were waiting. I think the Carlton was the nicest of the hotels that we'd stayed in, followed by the Dan Panorama Eilat.

After checking in, we went for dinner at a Chinese restaurant called ShangriLa with Sam's friend Yael, and then went for a drink at one of the many bars on the beach. They all look exactly the same, except that each has differently colored cone-shaped lights dotted around the chairs. We walked past the red cones and the green cones, and ended up at the blue cones. Our server was either a complete moron or on some very powerful mind-altering drugs, because the service was the worst I have ever experienced in a bar, and that's saying something in this country. There were hardly any people there, so its not like he had a good excuse for never coming back. We had a good time anyway.

Thursday was a very busy day, as it was Sam's last full day in Israel. We met up with his friend Ron for an amazing steak lunch at El Gaucho. Then Sam went to see his baby cousins and I went off on a mission to get a cell phone. While spending time with Sam's baby cousins would have been much more fun, I didn't think I'd be able to find time to get a phone later in the day if I'd tagged along. My mission was successful, and I now have a phone of my very own.

We met up again later on, in time to get ready for dinner and the first of Sam's four birthday parties. We had dinner with Sam's friends Michal and Isaac, and Isaac's brother Michael, and then went to a rather swanky bar on the beach. This one didn't have colored cones, but it was decorated almost entirely in orange. It wasn't a political statement, though. I think the Orange cellphone company had something to do with it. Dalia, Itai and Yael joined us, as well as some other friends who I didn't get a chance to really talk with. As it got later, the party thinned down to the 5 of us who'd had dinner together. We went down to the water and hung out on the beach for a while, and then went back to the hotel. By the time Michal, Isaac and Michael left, it was around 2:30am. Sam was determined not to go to sleep at all, so that he'd be able to fall asleep the minute he boarded the airplane, so we did our best to keep him up. Of course, this meant that I was also up for most of the night, but it was a willing sacrifice. I think we fell asleep at some point, but it couldn't have been for more than an hour or so, because we were definately awake when the sun began to rise.

This morning was pretty much just packing up and shipping out. We got Sam to the airport 2 hours before his flight, and I continued on my journey to Beit Shemesh, where I will stay for a few days. Now, however, it's time for a little pre-shabbos shluffy.

I Heart Eilat Part 2

When people have asked Sam and me what we did in Eilat, the answer that always pops out is, "What didn't we do?" On Tuesday, we went to talk to the woman at the attractions desk in the hotel lobby, and found an amazing deal of parasailing, tubing, kayaking and banana boating, all for only 180 NIS. SO that's what we did.

The banana boat was first. For those in the dark, a banana boat is actually a very phallic rubber floaty thingy attached to a boat by a long rope. There are handles spaced out evenly on top, and places to rest your feet on each side. It fits seven or eight people, sitting one behind the other. The boat pulls the floaty thingy, a.k.a. banana, and you try not to slide off. We were deliberately flipped over a couple of times, which was great. The funniest part of being flipped turned out to be this Israeli chick who was completely incapable of pulling herself back onto the banana and kept sliding back into the water.

Then we went tubing. Now, I had been tubing before, back in my summercamp days. In the Wisconsin Dells, tubing meant sitting in a tube and being pulled by a very fast boat. In Eilat, tubing means lying on your stomach (two people at a time) on a raft-type device, holding on for dear life while a maniac behind the wheel of the boat tries to see how far you can fly off and how hard you can smack the water when you land. I was laughing and praying and cursing the driver simultaneously. It was awesome.

Then came the parasailing. At this point, I have to give Sam major kudos for agreeing to try this, because he hates heights. It was phenomenal. You look down at the water beneath you, and it just looks so impossibly blue, and the sun makes the surface sparkle with golden shimmers. If you tip your head back and close your eyes, you feel like you're flying.

We took a break for lunch because I needed refueling, and walked around for a bit before we went kayaking. We both got in the same kayak, and rowed ourselves out a little bit, and then we let ourselves drift. It was so peaceful. I can't tell you what Sam was thinking, but I don't know that I was thinking much of anything, and it's a rare moment when my brain shuts off during waking hours. I just laid back in the kayak and listened to the water and the wind and completely relaxed. It was bliss.

Wednesday morning we checked out of the hotel room, and then I went to the Marine Park by myself so that Sam could get some work done. I loved it. I spent over an hour in the underwater observatory taking pictures of fish. I've never seen so many different types of fish before, or imagined that they could be so colorful. I loved it. After communing with the fishies, I met up with Sam again and we went back to Tel Aviv for the last few days of the trip. More to come...

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

I Heart Eilat

Sunday night was uneventful, so let's fast forward, shall we? Monday, Sam and I hopped on a short flight down to Eilat, arriving around 1:30 in the afternoon. We checked into the very pretty Dan Panorama Eilat, and then decided began the "What shall we do now?" discussion. After viewing the tourist pamphlets in the lobby, we decided that the time had come to introduce Cara to snuba.

Unbelievable!! For those unfamiliar with the ancient Mayan water sport of snuba, it's a cross between scuba and snorkeling. You're given a breathing regulator, which is attached to a raft by a 20 foot tube. Then you go under water and swim around, looking at the fishies and coral and pretty things that don't exist on the surface. Getting put into a wetsuit was an interesting experience. I felt like a cross between a burrito and a penguin. They stick a hose into the suit to wet you down before you go into the water, and since the water was warm, it pretty much felt like I'd pisched in my suit. It was very hard not to start giggling. Sam had much better composure than I did.

The actual dive defies description. We took underwater photos, so once I have the digital pics, I'll try to post some for you all to see. The colors are amazing. It's hard to believe, when you look at the surface of the pretty blue sea, that there's so much going on right below the surface. We swam through a school of purple and orange stripped fish. I saw a long silvery fish that looked like a strip of polished sheet metal. I have no idea what the names of all the plants and fishies are, but I'm suddenly very interested in marine biology. Are those pink bundles related to flowers, or do they just look like flowers? What do the fish eat? What predators live down there? I can't wait to snuba again sometime.

By the time we got back ot the hotel, cleaned up and made ourselves pretty, it was time to eat. We found an amazing Chinese restaurant a short walk away, but it wasn't open for another 30 minutes. Being incredibly resourceful individuals, we walked to the beach and had some tasty fruity alchomoholic beverages while we waited. Then we went back for dinner. I had the roast duck in passion fruit sauce, while Sam enjoyed the filet mignon and sweet potatoes. was so yummy! Why can't we have food like that in the States?

In the evening, we wandered around and simply enjoyed. The weather at night is absolutely perfect. Now it's Tuesday morning, and Sam is being very patient while I post. So I'll leave this here and go figure out what we'll do with today.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Deep Thoughts (Or Lack Thereof)

This is my first real chance to post, and I have no idea what to write about. I'm in Ra'anana at the moment, at Gila's sister's home. Esti left me here to play on the computer while she picks the kids of from their first day of school. I suppose I should just start writing about the trip so far, and see where that takes me.

The flight from Toronto to Tel Aviv was pretty boring. This was the first time I didn't have my own little TV screen in front of me, and I now really appreciate the luxury. Watching "Miss Congeniality 2" is not my idea of a pleasant way to make the flight go by. So I read the DaVinci Code instead. I liked it, but I really don't see what all the fuss was about. The first half was surprising, but it got fairly predictable after that. I certainly don't understand why everyone told me that I simply had to read it.

We got to Tel Aviv around 11:00am, and went straight to the hotel. Since I was hungry (didn't eat much on the flight...Air Canada's food was pretty bad), we went and got falafel. It seemed like a good thing to eat as my first food in Israel. After that, it was off to the beach for a bit. We didn't do anything special for dinner. We were supposed to meet up with some of Sam's cousins, but they bailed on us last minute. When we got back to the hotel, Sam ran into some fraternity brothers from U of I, and we ended up going out with them until we needed to crash. The bar was actually a very cool place, and somewhere I'd really like to go again, but I doubt that I could find it.

Friday morning we left for Yerushalayim, arriving around lunchtime. We stayed in the Jerusalem Tower Hotel, and I would not recommend it to anyone that I'm fond of. They have no idea how to run a hotel. This was also my first experience doing shabbos meals in a hotel, and I found it to be rather strange. I'm used to having shabbos meals in someone's home, not being served by a waiter. I can wait a while before repeating the experience. Shabbos was pretty tame. We went to the Kotel shabbos evening, because Sam hadn't been there yet. I'd been there earlier in the day, since Sam needed to get some work done and I didn't feel like staying indoors. Shabbos day was beautiful, so we met up with some of Sam's friends and just wandered around the city. I ran into Navit and Sarah, who will be living in Baka for the year.

After shabbos, Sam and I went to Har Nof to have dinner with his charedi cousins. I probably shouldn't have been so amused by it, but I was. They're very, very sweet, but if we weren't all from Chicago, I don't know what we would have talked about. I did give Sam's cousin a run for his money when he started giving a vort about Rosh Chodesh Elul (by the way, chodesh tov to all!), but I'm not sure if that impressed him or frightened him. After dinner, we went out for drinks with the same friends we'd wandered about with that afternoon.

Now it's Sunday. Sam is in Tel Aviv working (he has a business meeting this evening with some uber-important people), and I'm in Ra'anana, simultaneously spending time with Esti and staying out of Sam's way. At some point today, I may even get myself a cell phone.

That brings you all up to speed. I wish I had some deep thoughts to share, but I'm really just in tourist/vacation mode right now. The strangest thing about being here is that it doesn't feel strange to be here. I'm sure that will change once I get down to the kibbutz. I can tell you that I'm happy that I'm here. People have asked me, "Why did you decide to come to Israel?" and I usually answer, "Do I really need a reason?" It just seems to make sense to me that I'm here and staying for the next several months. I can also tell you that I can't wait to begin ulpan. The only thing that frustrates me right now is having to keep saying, "Lo medaberet ivrit" and "Lo mevina". My comprehension of what's being said is already improving, but I can't respond.

That's it for now. Tomorrow we head down to Eilat, so maybe I'll be able to regale you with humourous anecdotes about my first attempts at snorkeling and scuba diving.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

First Post from the Other Side

Here I am, in sunny Tel Aviv, in a hotel room on the beach. I've had my first falafel, and it's just about time to go swimming.

For those who are curious, the flight was fine. Air Canada was very friendly and efficient. The kosher food might have been the worst I've ever had, but they got me to Israel and that's all that really matters.

Tomorrow I'm off to Yerushalayim for shabbos. I don't know if I'll get to post, so if not, a very merry shabbos to you all.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Last Post This Side of the Atlantic

Good-bye America. I'm currently in the Land of the Canucks (and I in case I thought I was lost, Ijust saw a man-sized moose dressed like a mountie), waiting for my conecting flight to Tel Aviv.

The adventure has begun. Stay tuned for details...

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

That Toddlin' Town

Today, I was sitting and waiting for the bus- something I have done innumerable times. I waited at that bus stop when I was a little adolescent Cara, going to Michigan Avenue to meet up with friends. I waited at that bus stop when I was a teenage Cara and didn't have a ride to school. I waited at that bus stop as an adult Cara, going to work, or going out at night. The thought went through my brain that in a week's time, I won't be waiting for any more buses at that bus stop anymore.

As I was waiting for the bus to come back home, two tourist mothers and their tourist daughters were standing and looking at a map, trying to figure out where they were in relation to the Sears Tower, and how to get there. Overhearing their discusson, I pointed them in the right direction, and gave them a few options for getting there. As they walked away, I realized two things: first, I'd forgotten that there was a bus that would take them directly to the Sears Tower, and two, that in a week's time, I'm going to be the tourist wondering which bus to take to my destination.

I love Chicago. Knowing that I'm leaving has made me realize just how much I love this city and what a Chicago girl I am. I've been spending so much time saying goodbye to my family and friends. How am I going to say goodbye to the city itself?

T-7 Days

By this time next week, I'll have left Chicago. I'll be waiting in Terminal 2 of the Toronto airport for my flight to Tel Aviv.


Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Life Update

Well, the GREs are over. I got a couple of numerical "scores" that won't mean much of anything until I get the official letter in the mail, which will tell me how well I compare to the other poor schmucks who had to take the same test.And they still won't mean much of anything unless I manage to get my act together and start applying to grad school and fellowships and whatnot.

Now that I'm not spending my waking hour doing algebra and geometry problems or trying to memorize the definition of 'peripatetic,' I don't have too much to do. Other than take care of a puppy, start my grad school applications, make frustrating phone calls to the evil beings who are in charge of my student loans, pack up my belongings, finalize the details of my trip to Israel, and begin making my good-bye phone calls and social outings.

I leave two weeks from Wednesday. It's a strange thought. Last night, I couldn't fall asleep being I was mentally going through my closet and trying to decide what to bring, what to leave here, and what to give away. Then I started thinking about shoes. Then I realized that I should probably talk to someone about such practicalities as getting a cell phone and whether or not it makes sense to open an Israeli bank account. Which then reminded me that I have to talk to my bank here.

Why did I ever think that I would have nothing to do once the GREs were over?

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Adventures in Puppysitting

Given that the past week has been so totally devoid of excitement, I was not at all prepared for the following events of this weekend:

1) Walking outside at 6:30am shabbos morning to walk the dog, only to find one of the neighbors passed out and snoring on the porch. At least I knew he was breathing.

2) Coming home from today's early afternoon study session (not to be confused with the early evening study session, which is to take place after dinner) to find that the puppy had gotten into my laundry and strewn clothes about the floor, and chewed up one of my favorite shoes. I'm not talking itty bitty teeth marks. I'm talking about bits of shoe here, there and everywhere, the lining ripped off, and the heel maimed beyond repair. And these weren't just any shoes. These were my super-comfy, super-cute black strappy sandals, suitable for work (not that I have to worry about that anymore), shul, and a night out on the town. These were the ultimate summer sandals. A girl doesn't find a pair of shoes like that every day. But at least now I have an excuse to go shoe shopping next week.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

When Time Stops

The incident I'm about to write about actually happened a little bit ago. I just haven't really felt like blogging it until now. Even though this is my space to write about whatever is on my mind, I'm often reluctant to post anything that might be perceived as depressing, because then people think that I'm depressed. I'm not. Far from it. But I do occasionally have less-than-jolly experiences, moments or thoughts.

Lately, they tend to be Liz-related. I miss my friend, and sometimes the pain of that grief hits me so hard that it's almost a physical pain. Usually this happens when I'm alone, like when I go to bed at night or when I'm in the shower (some people sing; I think). I don't mean to imply that it hits me everytime I go to sleep or take a shower. Most of the time, I'm perfectly fine. Then suddenly the horrible realization that she's gone, and how long it's been since I heard her voice or saw her smile, smacks me in the face. I start reliving it all over again, and it feels as though no time at all has passed. I remind myself that this is normal.

Not too long ago, I went out with some college friends to a WashU Alumni happy hour kind of thing. The last time that I had seen one of them was the week after I'd returned from Pittsburgh in April. I assumed back then that he knew, because everyone else that was out that night had known. My assumption was wrong. On this night, not too long ago, I sat at the bar with this friend, and had reason, in the course of a conversation that I can no longer remember, to make reference to 'when Liz was really sick.' He responded by asking me how she was doing.

Time stopped. I don't know how long I sat there, staring at him. It probably was not really that long, but it felt long to me. I know that I didn't handle the situation very well. I was too shocked and shaken to think of a gentle way to let him know. He felt terrible, I felt terrible. That almost physical wave of grief threatened, but I wasn't alone this time. I was in a crowded bar. All I really wanted to do was go into the bathroom and cry, but I didn't want to risk making any kind of scene. I prefer not to cry in front of people, and didn't want anyone to notice that I was upset and ask what was wrong. So instead, I had to shove all those tears and the aching grief deep, deep down, until I was home, alone. I remind myself that this is normal.

GRE Word of the Day


It's almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy. It's impossible to use the word 'grandiloquent' correctly in a sentance, either written or spoken, without coming across as rather grandiloquent.

In other GRE news, I hate algebra. If Train A leaves Boston at a speed of 62 miles per hour and Train B leaves Los Angeles at 73 miles per hour, does it really have anything whatsoever to do with how good of a social worker I'll be?

Monday, August 01, 2005

Lazy Summer Days

Strangely enough, I feel like I have less time to blog now than I did when I was employed. Maybe I'm just lazier. Or perhaps blogging was an escape route when the daily grind was driving me nuts. Now that I have all the time in the world, I never seem to find myself spending much of it in front of a computer.

Florida was awesome. I got to see Cirque de Soleil and the Magic Kingdom. I saw Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. And now I'm home, spending my days studying for the GREs and taking care of Big Brother and BBG's adorable puppy.

I'm really bored. Is it time to go to Israel yet?

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Travel Advisory

This blog is currently enjoying the heat and humidity of Florida. Today it's Miami. Tomorrow, it's off to Orlando to hang out with Winnie the Pooh and Tigger.

For those who are interested (and did not see me on shabbos), I did indeed donate my hair. The new 'do is short, sassy, and takes a bit of getting used to...kind of like me.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Big Deep Breath

I just made an appointment to finally cut my hair. Over 10 inches of hair. The last time I cut off that much at once was when I donated my hair in November 2002, right after my grandmother, a"h, passed away. I've been letting it grow so that I can donate it again, and now that time has come.

I hate getting my hair cut. I dread it. I dread it so much that I almost hung up the phone in the middle of dialing the salon. Now there's no turning back. Unless, I "accidentally" "forget" to show up for my appointment.

At least I know that some little girl somewhere will be able to enjoy my hair as much as I have. Now all I need is someone to come to the salon with me and hold my hand while they hack it off (my hair, that is. They're not going to hack my hand off. I don't think).

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

A Very Special Guest Post

Liz's parents, aka Jon and Veronica, aka Mom and Dad S, have asked me to post the following on their behalf:

It has been a little over two months since Liz died. We still cannot believe that our precious, loving daughter is no longer with us. There remain many things we do not understand, but there are at least two that we do. First, our daughter was blessed to have known each and every one of you. Second, we are happy that we had the opportunity to be with many of you at her funeral, some of you for the first time, even under those circumstances. Each of you has a strength of character and a moral grounding that will guide you through life well and true.

We know that from time to time you will remember Liz. When you do, we hope that a smile will come to your face and a warmth will enter your heart as you remember the good times with her and the special person she was. Through remembrance, Liz will always be with us. We hope that your memory of Liz will serve, in some measure, as an inspiration to each of you.

You have been kind and generous to our family. We hope you will stay close to each other and that you will have the opportunity to share many joyous times. If from time to time any of you would like to tell us what's going on in your lives, or if we can ever be of help to you, we would be happy and honored to hear from you. Our new email address is:(Management edit: ask me for it- if I post it here, they'll get lots and lots of spam.)

Be safe.


Jon and Veronica Schmerling

If anyone would like their new email address, regular address or phone number, just drop me a line.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Little Pig, Little Pig, Let Me In

Back in my college days, when 90% of my closest friends were male, I never felt that my guy friends were not open with me. We talked about everything. Some of them told me way too much. But I don't remember feeling like they were holding back or keeping a certain emotional distance from me.

Out in the real world, the opposite seems true. While my guy friends from college are still open and honest with me, guy friends that I have made since them don't seem to be. I haven't quite figured out why this is. Is it that we were spending time together around the clock in college, making emotional distance more difficult? Have I changed? Do my newer guy friends think of me differently than my college friends? Is there something that I'm missing.

When a friend continues to keep you at an emotional distance, you start to wonder 1)whether you really know this person at all, and 2)why they won't let you in. At what point do you say, "Hey, we've been friends for [insert period of time]. If he's not opening up to me by now, he never will"?

This isn't a question of romantic involvement. There is a particular friend I have in mind while writing this, but there is nothing romantic between us. Besides, if there ever had been potential, it's been completely starved to death by lack of emotional sustenance. I just can't sustain an interest in a guy who shuts me out. This is a question of friendship and communication, and what you do when you start to wonder how much is really there after all.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Weekend Report

Last weekend actually started on Thursday. Saying this makes me miss my college days, when every weekend started on Thursday. Sometimes even Wednesday.

Thursday was Emily's bachelorette party, orchestrated by yours truly. I took my obligations as maid of honor very seriously. First we met up at a chocolate lounge and told funny Emily stories over fondue, bonbons and champagne. Then we relocated to Howl at the Moon to drink copious amounts of alcohol and sing along with the dueling pianos. (Note: the pianos don't actually duel. Unless you're under the influence of some very strong drugs, and then they might. Or maybe they'll start dancing with purple wombats. I hate when that happens.)

While the party was a smashing success, I've already learned the hard way that my little anecdotes don't make good stories for people who weren't there. So I'll spare you. Suffice to say, the bride had a good time.

Shabbos was more social that I had anticipated. I ended up going over to my friend Gabe's for lunch, but I still managed to get in a few hours of good shluffy afterwards.

As soon as shabbos was out, I raced over to Emily's, and spent the next 24 hours in fully wedding mode. After making lists of everything that needed to be done the next morning, we watched a few episodes of Sex and the City, and actually got a good 6 hours of sleep.

The wedding itself was lovely, and Emily was a beautiful bride. There's no such thing as a wedding that goes off with a hitch, but all of our hitches were relatively minor so it didn't matter too much. I got to wear my Pretty Pretty Princess dress, which is now retired to spend the rest of my life in a closet. I also managed to make the groom teary-eyed, in a good way, during my speech.

All in all, a phenomenal weekend. Mazel tov to Emily and David Wheeler! I'll see you for Pesach, IYH, in the Holy Land.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

To Blog or Not to Blog

When my life is very busy and my brain full of very important thoughts, my blogging tends to dwindle. When it seems like nothing much is happening in my life at all, I find plenty of things to blog about.

I haven't been blogging very much in the past few months. Since Pesach, to be precise. I know that this blog probably has not been the most interesting read since then, and I apologize to those who come here looking for entertainment. The truth is that the things I think about most are the things I can blog about least.

I am still trying to come to terms with losing Liz. Every day, I look at the picture of the two of us that I keep in my bedroom. She and her mother were in Chicago on a very, very cold winter day and I met them downtown. I think we're 19 in that picture. That was five years ago. I look at that picture every day, and I ask myself the same questions: Where are you now? Where did you go? And then the most painful question of all...why did you have to go?

This Sunday will mark 2 months since she passed away (I still have trouble writing those words, let alone saying them), and I'm still very much struggling to accept that I will never talk to her or see her again. Sometimes I forget that she's gone. I didn't realize until yesterday that I still had her email in my address book. The simple act of deleting that email address somehow took on tremendous significance, as though I were eliminating my connection to her. Irrational, I know. Even knowing it was silly, it still took all of my self-control not to close my office door, put my head in my hands and cry.

As I said, this Sunday will mark 2 months. This Sunday is also the wedding of my best friend from high school, Emily, and I am the maid of honor. It's very strange juxtaposing the two. It's a pretty strong reminder that life and love go on. Knowing it doesn't make it easy.

The bottom line is, don't let the blog inactivity fool you. I'm here, and my world is actually a whirlwind of activity and emotion these days. I just haven't really felt like sharing.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Ode to Technology

Background: I loved summer camp (overnight). The weeks I spent there every summer were some of the best in my entire childhood, and the friends I made were some of the truest friends I've ever had. I was so happy back then. But once the summer camp years ended, it was harder to keep in touch. We all went to different high schools in different parts of the Chicagoland area (translation: I lived in the city, and they all lived in various suburbs) and then different colleges.

Today I got an evite for an event I can't go to. Somehow, one of the girls I met my very first day of overnight camp at the age of 9 also got that evite...even though she didn't know the people who sent it. But she saw my name and recognized it, and sent me an email. I wrote back, and then excitedly signed online to tell one of my best friends (aka The Only Girl From Camp I'm Still In Touch With). She told me that another of our camp friends had emailed her a while ago, and forwarded me the email.

So now, thanks to the wonders of and AIM, I'm now able to be back in touch with two people that I have missed very much of the past eight years. Thanks, technology! (And an honorable mention to Al Gore for inventing the internet, without which none of this would have been possible)

Wednesday, June 15, 2005


* One week from Thursday is my best friend's bachelorette party (planned by Yours Truly)
* One week from Sunday is my best friend's wedding.
* Three and a half weeks from now, I will be unemployed. (This means I have three and a half weeks to finish everything I've been doing for the past two years)
* Four weeks from now, I'm going to DisneyWorld.
* 8 weeks from now, I take the GREs.
* 11 weeks from now, I leave the country for the better part of a year.
* Sometime in those 11 weeks, I apply to graduate school.

Starting to feel a little panicky...

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Yet Another Reason Why I'm Proud of Being a Jew

Warning: Biased perspective. Deal with it. This is my world.

At the top of a article, there is a picture of a wounded man, his left leg a bloody mess, lying on the ground. Standing above him, with a hand placed gently on his head, is another man in uniform. The caption:
An Israeli soldier comforted a wounded Palestinian on Tuesday after a mortar explosion in Ganei Tal that killed three people.

Yes, that's right. An IDF soldier comforting a wounded Palestinian. If the roles were reversed, somehow I strongly doubt a Palestinian "soldier" (or should I call them "militants" like the Times does?) would have comforted a wounded Jew.

And while I'm on the subject of yesterday's attack, let's take a moment to admire the logic of Islamic Jihad. From the same article:
"The dead were two Palestinians and a Chinese laborer, and the wounded were Palestinians from Khan Yunis, all sitting at a metal table in a greenhouse sorting fresh chives into bundles tied with rubber bands. Two were injured seriously, two moderately and one slightly. They were taken to an Israeli hospital in Beersheba for treatment.

Islamic Jihad took responsibility for the attack, calling it retaliation for the death of Palestinians, including one of its commanders, at the hands of Israeli forces."

Let's see if I've got this right: Islamic Jihad is retaliating for the death of Palestinians by killing more Palestinians (and non-Jewish workers)? And the ones that they only maimed...they're being taken care of by Israelis.

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Way to go, Islamic Jihad! You sure showed us!

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The Bush Dictionary

This weeks's Stupid Comment By A Stupid President:

Gitmo detainees are "people who hate America, people that have been trained in some instances to disassemble, that means not tell the truth."

Dissemble means to deceive. Disassemble means to take apart. Unless the dictionary editors have been lying and disassembling to us all along.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Random IM Moment of the Day

Cast of Characters:
Adi- Buddy who used to live in Chicago and made aliyah a couple of years ago.
Blog- Blog

Adi: I thought of the name "Rodney" today and then thought of you...but I have no clue you know?
Adi: it was the weirdest damn thing
Blog: My cat is named Rodney
Adi: Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!

Weekend Report

It's been a long time since there's been anything of interest to report here in Cara's World. The springtime thawing of the social life seemed to have been delayed by a late frost. Now, however, it truly seems to be summertime and the social life can come out and play. Since this past 3-day weekend was jammed full of people and places (within the city limits of Chicago) and things, it'll be easiest to do a general summary. During the period between Friday and Tuesday, I...

...ate steak with my paternal unit, shot tequila, went dancing, watched the Cubs win, tasted Moroccan soup, saw Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and decided the book is far superior, made chicken stir-fry, walked several miles, watched Spirited Away and loved it, didn't see Star Wars III, had ice cream, and got kisses from Li'l Dino.

There are two unanswered questions which continue to plague me:
1) Why would a man get frisky with a woman in a (male) gay bar/club? It is a truth universally acknowledged that gay clubs are safe zones for women.
2) Meatloaf would do anything for love except that. What is that one thing which Meatloaf will not do?

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Bright Shiny Ball of Maybe

I'm in a fantastic mood. The best part is that I'm in a fantastic mood for no particular reason. It's probably just the euphoria of seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and the growing feeling of anticipation as my big move comes closer and closer.

It's all about the possibilities. They seem limitless right now.
So maybe I still have 7 weeks left of work. But after that, I'm on vacation (and I'm going to Disney World!). Maybe my social life has been a little tame lately. Well, it's summertime, and that means the winter hibernation is over. Okay, so there's no guy in my life right now (and there hasn't been for a looooong time). I'm going to a country full of nice Jewish boys, so there very well may be one. He may even be the one. Maybe there will be lots of them (I don't know if that's refreshing or terrifying).

The possibilities just seem endless, and I'm loving it.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Yesterday evening, I stood with Li'l Dino (a.k.a. Cutest 2-year-old this world has ever seen) on a balcony, looking out onto the busy street below.

"Are you watching the people?" I ask.
Li'l Dino nods his cute blond head and tells me, "The people are driving the cars."
"Where are they going?" I ask.
Li'l Dino stops and thinks for a second.
"To Israel," he replies.

Monday, May 16, 2005

The Nakba of International Media

I normally leave the political commentary to others in the blogosphere. It's not that politics don't enter my world, but more that I don't feel the need to share my opinion on it very often. Today, I'm departing from this Cara's World policy, because I feel like it.

We just celebrated Israel's 57th birthday as an independent Jewish state. Jews across the world mark the happy day in various ways. (I went out to a Yom Ha'atzmaut party, though I think it would have been more appropriate to cock a snook at all those out there who still wish to shove me and my people into the Red Sea.) Why do we celebrate? Because for the past 57 years, we've had a country and an army of our own, and every Jew has a place to call home.

Of course, we can't expect our enemies to celebrate with us. What we call "Independence Day", they refer to as "Nakba" or "catastrophe". They've spent the past 57 years trying to strip us of our independence. The international media loves to forget this. With their usual selective hearing, they often publish whatever makes the Jews look bad and the Arabs look good. They've done it again.

Today's newspapers have articles about settlers protesting disengagement and all the havoc they are causing. The papers do not have articles about Abbas (also known as The-Guy-that-Israel-is-Expected-to-Negotiate-With) referring to the establishment of the State of Israel as "the Nakba". Other gems include the statement that "On that day, a crime was committed against a people, who were uprooted from their land and whose existence was destroyed and who were forced to flee to all areas of the world." Qurei (a.k.a. Another-Guy-that-Israel-is-Expected-to-Negotiate-With) was quoted as saying, "our wound is still bleeding 57 years later." Clearly these are men who respect Israel, and are therefore reliable partners for negotiation. Yes, I can see why Israel is expected to trust them. (Note for the stupid people: that was sarcasm) Oh, and by the way, I'm pretty sure that the State of Israel was created precisely because the Jews had just suffered horrible atrocities which attemtped to destroy their entire people and scattered them to all areas of the world. I'm also pretty sure that the Arab countries tried to finish the job the day after Israel was created. So forgive me if I cannot see the establishment of a Jewish state as a "crime".

What does the American media say about these statements? And I quote:


That was the sound of silence. They pick out the happy-sounding quotes, where Abbas obligingly tosses out words like "peace," "security" and "stability". The NYTimes uses the headline "Abbas Says Redress for Refugees Is Key to Peace". Now, that particular article does mention Qurei's statement, and then attributes it to the security fence. Call me skeptical, but I don't think that's exactly what Qurei was referring to.

The real catastrophe is not the existence of a Jewish state. The catastrophe is that so much of the modern world is deliberately wiping its memory clean of any recollection of the necessity of having a Jewish state.

Happy Happy! Joy Joy! #18

Mazel tov to Big Brother and BBG on their graduation from law school. You both looked great in the goofy black robes, silly black hats, and long purple hoods. I'm glad we captured the moment on film.

Monday, May 09, 2005

I Heart My Friends

One of the few positive aspects of the past few weeks has been the vivid reminder of why I loved college so much: I have awesome friends. The lack of responsibility and free-flowing alcohol were really just fringe benefits. My friends were what made those 3.5 years in St Louis so phenomenal. I've spoken to and email with so many of those wonderful people in the past few weeks. Some of the people I've been talking to are individuals who I had been close to, but lost touch with. Some are people I had never gotten to know very well. It doesn't seem to matter how close we were in college. Circumstances have brought out the best in everybody. I keep realizing over and over again how lucky I am to have gone to WashU and become friends with these people. Even Allan and Mikey.

In contrast, I just had a bizarre little Friendster experience which reminded me why I disliked high school, and the people in it, as violently as I did. I got a friend request from a guy I haven't spoken to since I was 19 or so. We had been friends, in that "he liked me but didn't want to be seen with me" kind of way. My high school was full of people like that. Still, when I got the friend request, I thought, "Cool. Maybe he's grown up enough to put all that high school bullshit behind him," and accepted the request. When he wasn't added to my list of friends, I figured that Friendster malfunctioned, which it frequently does, and so I sent a friend request to him. Imagine my surprise when my friend request was declined. After all, he tracked me down.

So, I have only the following to say...

To that particular high school classmate: Grow up, man.

To my college friends: You rock.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Glimmer of Sunshine

I got home last night to find a nice large envelope from the Kibbutz Ulpan Program. Inside that nice large envelope was a nice letter informing me that I've been accepted.

I start ulpan at Kvutzat Yavne on September 15. All I'm missing is the airline ticket.

I am now officially going to Israel this fall, for a minimum of five months.

Monday, May 02, 2005

The Unsent Letter

May 2, 2005

My darling Liz,

When your father called me last Tuesday, I was just sitting down to write you another letter. I was going to tell you all about my weekend, and the first days of Pesach. I was going to describe the new outfit I had bought, and tell you about the friends who had come over for seder. Now I can’t seem to remember any of those details. I can only think of you, and of the days that have passed since I learned that you were gone. Three days ago, I stood in a cemetery in Pittsburgh, surrounded by people who love you dearly. Now I am back in Chicago, and something in me just needs to write one last letter.

In my other letters, I told you as much as I could about where I’d gone, what I’d done, who I’d seen, and what I’d thought. It seems silly to do that now. Am I supposed to tell you about your own funeral? I can’t do that. I don’t even like reading or writing the word ‘funeral’ because it looks so cold and final. I don’t know how to adjust to the idea that you’re gone. How can there be a world without you in it? I keep remembering the most random little details: the short-lived crush you had on one of our mutual friends, the little stuffed moose that you kept in your car, the pair of red leather boots I’d wanted to borrow but had nothing to wear them with. I see you so clearly in my mind- in the bakery, on your sofa, in your studio, at the old house, at the new house, in my room. I hear your voice and your laugh. So many tiny memories and moments keep coming back to me, reminding me what a precious gift I’d had, and overwhelming me with the feeling of loss that such a gift is gone.

There are so many things that we just don’t say to our friends. Did you know that I thought you were the best of all of us? I don’t know anyone else who was so close to perfection. I can’t imagine ever meeting someone like you again, and I am so grateful that our paths crossed six years ago, and that we became friends. I know you will never hear this- after all, where can I send it? Yet somehow I hope that by sending it off into the Internet void, you will hear me anyway. I love you so much, my dearest friend, and this will never change. Now you will always be young and beautiful and perfect, and I will always treasure the years that we had and the memories that we made.

All my love,

Friday, April 29, 2005

There And Back Again

I'm home. And I'm heartbroken.

I have so many thoughts and feelings swirling around inside me that I had fully intended to post. Maybe I will in the coming weeks, but it's too soon for me. I can say that the service was beautiful and a true tribute to the miracle that Liz was. I can say that I am beyond grateful that I went to WashU and made such friends. I would not have been able to get through the past week without them. May we all meet again soon under far happier circumstances.

Anything more than that will have to wait. My grief is simply too raw.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Baruch Dayan Emet

Liz passed away this morning. The funeral will be Thursday morning.

Contributions may be made to Washington University, Elizabeth S. Schmerling Endowed Scholarship Fund, Campus Box 1082, One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO 63130.

Call me for details. I probably will not be blogging much in the foreseeable future.

Another Pesach Older

So yontiv is over, and now I'm 24. Many thanks to those who have wished me a happy birthday, particularly those who called days in advance because they wouldn't be able to call on yontiv. (Special shout out to Moose, because it makes him happy. And because he not only called before my birthday, but after as well.)

After the first seder, when the guests had gone home and the table cleared off, I climbed into bed around 2:00am, and started thinking. I'm 24 now. What does that mean? Does it mean anything? Of course, everything means something these days. How can I really celebrate turning 24, when I know that Liz will never celebrate her 24th birthday? On the other hand, doesn't that give me even more to be thankful for, that I'm healthy and surrounded by family and friends on my birthday? How do I reconcile these two very different emotions?

As I lay there, unable to sleep, I wondered... what if I only had 36 (or 24 or even 12) hours left in this world? Have I done everything I want to do? Everything I'm supposed to do? Have I been the person that I want to be and should be?

Of course I haven't. I'm only now beginning to feel as though I can start being that person. There are so many things that I want for myself that I could not possibly have had a few years ago, like a home and family of my own. I'm only now at a place where those dreams may become a reality. Yet I am so painfully aware of how quickly life can be snatched away and, consequently, how precious every moment truly is.

I don't know how to celebrate my birthday this year. So instead of presents, I'd rather that you make a donation to the American Cancer Society in honor of Elizabeth Schmerling. I'd much rather celebrate Liz.

Less than an hour elapsed between my posting this and receiving the phone call from Liz's father. Please make donations in memory of Elizabeth Schmerling. I'd still rather celebrate Liz, now more so than ever.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Last Post Before Pesach

I love Pesach. I always have. Maybe that's because Pesach always seemed synonymous with Birthday when I was little (although I've never been less enthused about my birthday before. There's just nothing very special about turning 24). Maybe because I get to see so much of my family. Who knows? Whatever the reason, I love Pesach. I don't even mind the cleaning. I feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment when I'm done, and the whole apartment is shining and gleaming.

Since I will be too busy cleaning and cooking for shabbos and yontiv for the next day and a half, you will all have to do without me until Tuesday or so. For those curious about my life at the moment:

1) I'm fine. Just not very chatty.
2) I sent my Kibbutz Ulpan application in today. I have yet to figure out a)why they need 4 passport-size photos of me, and b)why passport photos always come out even less flattering than driver's license photos.

A chag kasher v'sameach to you all, wherever you may be. Spend some time with people you love. There's no better way to celebrate.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

[Insert Applicable Post Title Here]

I haven’t posted much lately. I haven’t been very talkative in general lately. It’s not that life hasn’t been full and busy, or that I don’t have anything to say. I do, but I don’t know how to say any of it. Most of the time, I don’t particularly feel like trying. Whenever I am pondering serious issues, conundrums, dilemmas, or just having deep thoughts (the real kind, not the Jack Handy variety- though I have a disproportionate amount of those as well), I prefer to keep them to myself. Someone I know once told me that I’m elusive and evasive. Yes, yes I am. But only about the important things in life. It’s really just a personality trait of mine, though I don’t know if it’s a good one or not.

I’ve never been good at sharing my innermost thoughts. I suppose one might even say that I’m not very good at sharing the innermost Cara. Lately, I’ve been wondering why this is, and I think it often comes down to reciprocity. Why should I make myself emotionally vulnerable to someone who isn’t making himself or herself emotionally vulnerable to me? Why let someone else in, if they’re still going to block me out? Of course, this reciprocity rule isn’t a hard and fast one. I certainly have friends who let me in, and I don’t always want to explain my thoughts and feelings to them. This I can’t explain. I can only apologize, and ask them to bear with me.

Why is it that I expect my friends to bear with me when I’m feeling uncommunicative, and yet have so little patience (at the moment) with those who are uncommunicative with me? Probably because I know, and my friends know, that this uncommunicative, anti-social phase will end, and that I will share when I’ve worked things out in my own head. It’s easier for me to ask friends to be patient when everyone involved knows that patience is only required for a short period of time. It’s harder to be patient with others when you have to wonder if there will ever come a time when they finally open up to you. Besides, I generally prefer to talk about other people's problems or thoughts than my own.

Are my expectations for friendships too high? By friendship, I don’t mean ‘casual acquaintance’ or ‘drinking buddy’, but a true friendship. Do I expect too much of the people I care for? Is it unreasonable for me to need occasional reassurances? I don’t think it’s a self-esteem issue. I know I’m fabulous. I’m good enough, certainly smart enough, and people generally like me. But why should I need reassurances from some friends, but never need them from others?

Sometimes I feel like giving up. I rarely give up on people. I can think of very few people on whose friendship I’ve turned my back, and each time it was the result of very particular, very trying circumstances. I’ve never felt like giving up simply because I’m frustrated. I can’t make myself not care about someone, even if I wonder how much that person actually cares for me.

Simmering beneath every single jumbled thought inside my busy little brain is Liz. If anything, I am more aware than ever of how precious friendship is, and how much sentimental importance even the most casual, trivial-seeming incident can one day acquire. For so many years, I have said that life is all about the people in it. Knowing this, there is no way that I can let go of anyone who has touched my life. Knowing this, it hurts that much more when it feels as though I’ve been let go of. Maybe I’m just over-sensitive right now. Maybe everything will seem different in the morning. Maybe I just need to be a little more patient with everyone. Including myself.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Weekend Update

Shabbos night: Went to shul, played in the playroom with the rabbi's daughters, had dinner with the parental units and Big Brother, and went to the shalom zachor for Joe and Gila's extremely cute baby boy. People seemed to enjoy (read: inhale) my pecan pie. People also seem like to quote Billy Crystal when they see pecan pie.

Shabbos day: Overslept. Got to shul, and ended up talking with an old friend about some very sticky personal issues. I can only hope I said the right things. Turned down a lunch invitation, went home to enjoy a nice quiet lunch at the parental abode, and then shluffed on the sofa for 4 hours. Had an ice-cream sundae at shalosh seudos.

Motzei shabbos: Stayed home and amused myself with my laptop and a book.

Sunday: Slept in. Went to the bris of little Azriel Yaakov, hereby dubbed "The Wizard". Played with the rabbi's daughters and Adin. (Why is it always so much more fun hanging out with kids? Or, rather, why is adult chit-chat so mind-numbingly boring?) Spent time with Big Brother. Went out to dinner with the parental units, Big Brother, and BBG.

All in all, a nice quiet, relaxing weekend. Me likey.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Living for Liz

The past few days have been much easier for me, even though Liz is still declining. I was at dinner last night with one of my best friends from high school, and she asked me, "How have you come to terms with this?" I thought about it for a moment, and then found my answer.

I haven't. I'm nowhere close to coming to terms with any of this. Yet something has changed, something that has enabled me to be cheerful and not to constantly break down and weep. I don't know quite how to describe it.

Every day seems busier, more full of things to do. Every day, I write a letter to Liz, telling her all the details from the day before. Last night, as I tried to answer my friend's question, I realized that now, no matter what I am doing, part of my brain is taking down details to put into the next letter. It's as though I'm writing into a diary, but the diary is named Liz. She can't go out to the movies, or to baseball games, or walk in the rain. But I can. And I can tell her all about it, in as much detail as possible.

She is never far from my thoughts. The sorrow, the fear, the confusion, the anger- they are not gone. They have simply been pushed aside, left on a backburner for the time being. When I first had to cancel my most recent trip to Pittsburgh, I asked, "How can I go to work, or go out with my friends, knowing what she is going through?" Now I seem to have found my way. I keep going, because the more I do, the more I have to share with Liz.